First of all, thank you to everyone who commented on Part 1, especially the “lurkers”. I’m so glad to have you as friends now! Lurk no more, y’all! Welcome back for Part 2. I’ve been in bed with the flu the last four days and it has been awful but really amazing time for me to think a lot.
Ready for what’s next? Here’s the ironic thing about the title of this series. I don’t believe in traditional goal setting. It doesn’t work for me. I look back at old “goal lists” and most of those things didn’t happen. I honestly forgot about those goals and better things ended up happening instead. Things I never expected. I also look back at things I worried about and 99% of those things never happened either! Coincidence? No. It’s a giant reminder that I am not in control. God’s plans are always better and much bigger than mine. I can make all the plans I want, but we never know what will happen tomorrow. You can choose to see that fact as terrifying or downright exciting. I choose the latter. Especially now, because there’s a lot of uncertainly in our lives at the moment. Some of you know that we’re still waiting to hear about Ari’s job here in Chapel Hill. He interviewed for a permanent post-fellowship position at UNC and we really really really want to stay here. We love our church and I love the way things are going with my work and we love where we live. But, we don’t know if staying here is what God wants yet. This has forced both of us to let go and trust a whole lot. “There are far better things ahead than any we will leave behind.” In doing Steps 1-3 of this process, I found so much peace about it all. I saw so clearly how God has provided exactly what we need at just the right time. The best is yet to come. This year was a perfect example of that for me (more on that in a sec).
If you’ve just joined us in this process (Part 1 is HERE), one word of caution. Do not write down 2013 “goals” yet, OK? (If you already did, trash them for now.) Stay with each step, one at a time, and I promise the “goals” will appear on their own, like lightning bolts! The purpose of this process is for you to find clarity, a plan and a blazing passion for the year ahead! I’m already so inspired by everyone’s progress so far. If you haven’t started yet, it’s never too late. There is nothing magical about January 1st. But, there is something magical about the day you choose to change for the better. There is magic in the day you make that decision that changes everything.
OK, so let’s evaluate Steps 1-3. I feel a little naked sharing all of this and I’ve never shared my own entire process, but this year taught me that part of my purpose is to share truth and help others through my entire journey of mistakes and successes. Fair warning, I am not proof-reading this. Here goes!
Step 1: Evaluate what DID work in 2012.
(I love this 2013 print above that my friend Amber made. Thank you, friend!)
1. The biggest thing that changed my life for the better is something I still pinch myself about and it has been about 10 months since it happened. You probably saw me talk about the “impossible” happening early this year and it did. Sorry to be vague. I’ve shared it with a lot of the Making Things Happen alum, but the timing isn’t exactly right for me to share it with everyone yet. Someday, I can’t wait to tell you the whole story of how God changed every single thing in our lives. Everything.
2. On the heels of that miraculous thing, our marriage completely changed. I shared a little about this in my engage12 presentation because it filtered into everything we did this year in business, too. Y’all, I don’t even know how to type about this and I’ve never blogged about it before because it’s too big for words. In short, we got honest with each other. And sorry for the religious wording, but it’s exactly what happened – we confessed our sins to each other and our hearts were healed. Ari came to me one afternoon, in tears, and told me that in order to be closer to God, he knew he had to make things right with everyone in his life and he had to tell me things he had done in the past that were hurtful to me. Oh, my heart……. and I’ve been sitting here for 10 minutes not knowing what to type next because it’s indescribable. We both told each other every single painful thing we’d been holding from each other, even those things we always thought “would be better if we just didn’t say them ever”. I don’t believe in holding anything from a spouse anymore. Nothing. Marriage is about becoming ONE. Humbling yourself and being so vulnerable with each other that you let the yucky parts of yourself come out is hard. But, trust me, it’s more difficult to face them yourself than for your spouse to hear them. [And as an aside, I’m not advocating you rush to your spouse and confess your deepest secrets right away. Seek wise counsel. We did. Pray hard. We did that also. Read God’s word. We did that too. Then, do what God puts on your heart.] This process for us was really hard. We had both done some hurtful things and, for a long time before I was pregnant, felt like room mates. Ships passing in the night. There were a lot of tears over several weeks in this process. But, we both knew that to be closer to God and each other and to have the best marriage possible, we had to start with truth. We wanted the kind of marriage that God designed – thriving, whole, joyful and passionate. And, as a result, we slowly started to learn what true love was. Real lasting imperfect but thriving love. We have a marriage now and a friendship and a shared purpose. And it changed everything. That is why I made the Love Never Fails prints because I have seen those words in action. Love never ever fails. Yes, there is a lot more to say here but I think you will see the fruit of it in the rest of this…
3. Ari started calling his dad every week and now talks to his parents often. Gracie loves to Skype with them. This has been one of the most miraculous blessings this year. His dad is a composer and has written some truly beautiful pieces for Grace that I know she will cherish when she is older too.
4. Grace. That’s all. Just her. She worked : )
5. I put the months that followed Grace’s birth on both my ‘did’ and ‘didn’t work’ lists because going through postpartum depression, changed me for the better in more ways than I can count. I survived and thrived because of my experience.
6. I wrote a lot of notes to self to help pull myself out of depression. One of them struck a chord with a lot of people, apparently, and has been shared over 1,000,000 times on various social platforms. Blew my mind a little. I wrote this because I wanted more for my life. More of the good stuff. More of what matters.
7. Seeing Grace grow was one of my greatest joys. I saw God in her every day in every smile and giggle and hilarious encounter. And there were many. Like the time I had to wrap her bum in a hotel towel because she had a diaper explosion and I had no diapers or wipes on hand. It was pretty funny. There were at least a hundred moments like that this year that made me grateful to be her mom.
8. We found our solid core in business and everything changed because of it. You can read our Southern Weddings 2012 Year in Review here. Finding our core is what I did my engage12 presentation on. Small is the new big. We got very specific about who we are and who we are not. It made business easier and it made us more profitable. We started the Sweet Tea Society, the Blue Ribbon Vendor Directory and a whole host of new features and many in the works. We changed from being a blog about southern weddings to being a southern lifestyle blog for brides. We started focusing on what really makes a wedding southern – the culture! This year, we decided to get out of the office and get our hands dirty. We spent our summers doing what we called “Southern Doins” – exploring the local farms, swimin the swimmin’ hole, picking tomatoes together. Kristin even milked a cow! Unless your calling is computer programming, it is unlikely that you will find your passion and realize your fullest potential sitting behind your computer. We wanted to soak up every bit of why love in the South is so magical so we could then turn around and translate that on paper. Right outside our office walls, the magic ingredients came to life through hot boiled peanuts and long front porch chats with neighbors. To our surprise, the #southerndoin hashtag caught on like wildfire, too. Our readers jumped on the opportunity to explore the South, and to get out and enjoy life with their loved ones, just like we did… which was exactly our core point.
9. In all of this, there was a period of about 4 weeks this spring that I couldn’t sleep. And, for once, not because of Grace. It’s hard to give you a formula as to how this happened, but God put it strongly on my heart that it is my responsibility and calling to show His Kingdom in the pages of our magazine and to inspire brides on the blog with the same. Diversity was pressed firmly on my heart. But, not diversity just for diversity’s sake. You see, at my church, there are no minorities. There isn’t one group of people – white, black, hispanic, asian – that greatly outnumbers the other. And there is a whole lot of love between those people. LOVE in action. I realized that inherent in real love lives diversity and family and JOY and that changed how I see our purpose. For years we sought out diverse content, but were always left frustrated because of the lack of submissions. So, after reading this post and truly praying on this a lot and having at least a dozen staff meetings brainstorming about it, we set out to make a magazine about marriage and family and what matters most. In that lives diversity. One of the highlights of my life was having 30 friends from my church as a part of our Family Heirloom shoot. It was a day I’ll never forget!
10. So, the other thing that came from all of this was a new friendship. I somehow stumbled on Casey Chapell’s instagram feed, wrote her to say hi and the next thing I know, I’m hugging her, her husband, my other new friend Kristin and Casey’s four amazing adorable adopted little one’s at the heirloom shoot. All of this happened because God has also put adoption strongly on my heart for the last couple years. When I saw Casey’s Sunday Stairs photos, my heart leapt out of my chest! Ari and I have talked about adoption and are waiting till we figure out where we will be living next year (more on that shortly) to take action and start the process, if that’s what God wants.
11. I am going out of order here, but at the very start of 2012, with a newborn in my arms, I was pretty freaked out. Suddenly, I felt like I had to evaluate everything I was doing to make sure I was being as responsible as possible in planning for Grace’s future and our family. So, that’s what I spent my maternity leave doing. I went through every inch of our finances – business and personal – and crunched numbers. I had to figure out how I was going to work less to be with Grace and make more money to support our growing family, plan for the future and pay for the nanny I needed to have in order to be able to work. Phew! In short (get ready y’all), I made a budget for both business and personal in Mint (read Em’s post on budgeting too), hired an accountant who came to my house to teach my Quickbooks and has done my payroll since, set a weekly date on my calendar to reconcile expenses and categorize things in Mint, sat down with Ari and went through everything weekly, read The Total Money Makeover with Ari, worked hard every week to cut our food budget (at the time we were spending over $1200 a month on groceries!), started recycling, gutted the house, had 2 huge yard sales, sold a lot of things on Craigslist, threw a ton of stuff away, made bags and bags of donations (my motto when getting rid of things: YOU CAN’T TAKE IT TO HEAVEN WITH YOU), got rid of cable and Xbox live, and thanks to Dave Ramsey, I decided to buy my car at the end of my lease. And then a tree fell on it. No really, it did. Maternity leave was busy, y’all : )
12. I made a new schedule and only did client work on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. Monday and Friday I worked on larger projects or things life tasks in the morning and then spend the afternoons with Grace. There were several Mondays and Fridays that I used to prep client work, but I didn’t take calls and I didn’t answer emails.
13. I didn’t read the entire New Testament in order, like I had hoped, but I did read a lot of the Bible this year. I memorized a lot of scripture. Maybe I’m cheating in saying this now, but reading the Bible will always be on my goal list.
14. No social media on the weekends has always been revolutionary for me. When marriage and life started to really cave in, I pulled in the reigns and took a good long hard look at what was holding me back from my best life. If you do only one thing in this post, stop using social media during the time you could be with your family or doing other things that fire you up. And if you don’t think it would make a difference, then definitely try it. I loved my friend Val’s post about her experience.
15. I had a giant tax bill last year. I guess you could look at it as a great thing that 2011 was very profitable, but paying the amount of taxes I paid felt like I was dying a little. So, this year, I sought lots and lots of advice and got smarter with taxes and investments. That feels good now.
16. We streamlined our company. In the beginning of 2012, after evaluating how much money we needed to earn versus expenses and payroll and the much smaller time I was able to work with a baby, I cut back on hours for some of our part time employees and made some hard changes. It was not fun. I didn’t like downsizing at first, but I had to be strategic in order to grow. Fast forward to a few months later and we ended up making those part time employees full time, everyone got a raise and we even hired a new lovely lady that I adore. It was a great year in business and for our team.
17. On that note, I feel very appreciated as a boss. I love our team and worked hard to strengthen my leadership and individual relationship with each person this year.
18. Having a great lawyer came in handy on many occasions. Having trusted people to support your business is essential to business health.
19. Ari and I laughed a lot. After changing over 2500 diapers (yes, we counted it up), being pooped on, peed on, thrown up on and watching countless hours of Nick Jr, you learn to laugh. A lot.
20. I breastfed for a year. I am actually still breastfeeding. It has been a life change. I have pumped on airplanes, in public with my Hooter Hider on, in the car, in my office, in restaurant bathrooms… everywhere. I spent an average of 3 hours a day for the last 14 months, sitting with my Medela Symphony. There were huge blessings in this besides a happy, healthy Gracie. It taught me to be still multiple times a day. It kept me home a lot. It made me grateful to be able to make milk. It made me realize more that my life is no longer mine and that is a good thing. Yes, I can’t wait to return the pump soonish and I will have a party on that day, but for now I am grateful.
21. Susan. Oh, Miss Susan. I could write a book on how she has changed all of our lives for the better. She has helped me raise Grace, keep our family together, keep my life organized, feed my spirit and has truly been a part of our family. She deserves and entire post, but I will simply say that she is genuinely our angel, much more than our nanny.
22. I could not have done this year without my closest friends. Gina, Emily and Natalie have prayed me through so so so much this year. They were involved in ALL of this I’m writing and I love them so.
23. I gave all but two pairs of my heels away and stopped caring about times I wasn’t wearing makeup. This may seem insignificant, but it’s more reflective of my heart change. I gave away the old in great favor of the new.
24. Church. Stay with me here, those of you that cringe when you think of church. I’m not talking about a building. I’m talking about a place where you go to meet with people who share your heart and teach you through their ACTIONS, not just words. A place where what matters most is focused on constantly. A place where it’s OK to be imperfect and vulnerable. A place where Ari and I found true friends who shaped our lives and Grace’s. Too many to name! I would not be who I am, nor would any of this change have happened, without the example and prayer and giving hearts of the people in my church. I could not do any of this on my own and the times I tried in the past were not even half as productive. We became active in our church and also joined a family group (a small group of young married couples) that meets weekly and checks in on each other and serves each other and that definitely worked. Trust me, there were many times I didn’t want to participate. I had every excuse not to – no sleep, a baby, no sleep, too much work – but, committing to going always paid off. My heart changed because of our church family.
25. I finally got my teeth cleaned. : )
26. I connected more with my sister, Kathy. And she connected more with my Dad. And my Dad’s heart was happier in all of this.
27. Ari and I wrote love notes to each other. For 10 months, Grace would fall asleep around 9pm in our room, which was about the time Ari fell asleep and I had to stay up till 10 to pump. So, I would write him a little love note at night and he would write me one in the morning. Since we didn’t see each other much between baby and work this year, those love notes meant the world. In doing this exercise, I realized that we stopped doing them. They worked, so I started again last night. : )
28. I cooked Thanksgiving dinner all by myself. This wasn’t planned. My family was set to come in town and, at the last minute, had a family emergency and had to cancel. Thanksgiving Day was also Grace’s first birthday and Ari ended up being on call, so I was pretty sad. But, then I decided to make the best of it. I made a really really good meal from scratch – turkey, sweet potatoes, mashed turnips, green beans and stuffing. Ari got home just in time for dinner : )
29. On that same day, Nancy and Will went completely out of their way to bring me pink lemonade, flowers and a sweet card for Grace’s birthday. Their friendship was one of the biggest gifts this year, hands down.
30. I made a lot of new wonderful friends and mended a lot of relationships. I said “I’m sorry” a lot and tried my best to be a good friend. I know I failed a lot at this too, but I consciously made changes to be more giving and to see my faults. I pray this continues.
31. I cooked more and have recently wanted to learn how to make some of my favorite dishes that my mom makes. My mom writes an amazing food column, teaches French cooking classes and inspires me to have more fun in the kitchen! Here is her latest article on black-eyed peas for New Year’s!
32. The other thing that worked this year was having more great conversations with my mom. I call her every morning. I love you, mom!
33. I started painting again. My dad always wanted me to be an artist. My paintings will be in my new shop that launches soonish.
34. I worked on my new brand all year. Literally all year. It’s a beast of a site and it’s still not done yet, but it will be soon.
35. We made a truly remarkable magazine that lights my heart on fire.
36. Making crazy ideas come to life worked this year. I love that about what we do and I love that about our team!
37. Our circulation increased by 50%. Remarkable.
38. Living by the motto that done is better than perfect. That definitely worked this year.
39. Listening. That always works.
40. Admitting when I was wrong. That always works too.
41. I started using Instagram. I was late to the Instagram train, but now it’s my favorite. I have loved using it as my photo journal and I have met a lot of new friends there too!
42. I bought a really good vacuum. With a little one, this was huge for us. A wise investment. I ended up buying one for my mom too, I love it so much.
43. Making Brands Happen was fabulous in 2012. Hard work, but we did what we set out to do – take less clients, enrich the experience and knowledge base of our clients, help to change their lives from the inside out and give them the tools to have strong businesses. There is a lot still to refine and lots I want to add in 2013, but I’m really proud of what Emily and I did this year and I am more so proud of what our clients did this year.
45. The Making Things Happen Tour was really incredible. Over 700 people have joined us over the last four years. I am so grateful for that journey and all the friends I’ve made because of it!
46. With Grace and lots of other factors, I stopped going to the gym. As a former personal trainer, this felt awful to me. So, we bit the bullet and cancelled our gym membership and bought a used elliptical on Craigslist. Best decision ever.
47. Times of solitude worked.
48. Dance parties worked.
49. Spending more time outside worked. Grace loves the slide!
50. Ari and I pray at every meal together and Grace loves saying Amen. It’s really cute. But, much more than that, we’ve seen God working in our prayers. I made a two lists in our kitchen, one for Prayers and another for Answered Prayers. I’ve designed some for my new shop in gold foil that will be available soon. I love them. It has helped us see so much to be grateful for!
OK, that’s a lot and there is so much more, but I really wanted to see these things in black and white and remember them as I pray on my 2013 vision. I encourage you to list yours here in the comments for accountability and even list new ones if you already commented on the previous post. Reading everyone’s comments really helped spark my thoughts.
OK, next up!
Step 2: Evaluate what DIDN’T work in 2012.
1. A lot, but it all follows the same theme. What didn’t work in 2012 was any time I worried. I worried about what people would think of me and my faith and whether or not they would see how much I have truly changed or if they would even like the change. I worried about business and money and marriage and sleep and about being a bad friend and I worried about being a bad mom.
Everything that didn’t work ended up being a blessing in disguise of course. God changed me in these challenges.
2. My hormones (PPD and lots of mood swings when I first started breastfeeding).
3. I got no sleep. Really. And that most definitely did not work well for any aspect of life. I went from a blissful 8-9 hours in pregnancy to about 3-6 hours most nights for an ENTIRE YEAR. I think there were 5 nights I got 8 hours of sleep and that was because we went in the Making Things Happen Tour. The day Grace finally consistently slept through the night (in her own room!) right around her first birthday, was miraculous for us. She now sleeps from about 10pm to 7am. PRAISE THE LORD!
4. I spent far too much money on things I don’t need (mostly at Target). Now, some of you may laugh at that because you know what I mean. But, deeper than the surface spending is a void I try to fill. I don’t buy a lot of frivolous things, but I most definitely buy things I do not need. This year, Acts 2 has been pressed on my heart. The Fellowship of the Believers became ver clear to me and I found myself reading it often. Sell your possessions and give to the poor. I sold a lot of stuff and gave a lot away. There’s a whole lot more to give though. I have too many things.
5. Grace doesn’t have any play friends. She goes to Kindermusik every week and we’ve had a handful of playdates with friends, but nothing consistent. And Grace LOVES people. She loves when we have family group, loves church and loves when we have friends over, but no one is her size. She needs friends.
6. I wasn’t able to purchase southernweddings.com. I tried multiple times. I will keep trying : )
7. Our Southern Weddings site has been in need of an shiny new update. It’s in the works. This is important to me because I want to reach more people in profound ways. I want to inspire brides to focus on what matters and technology holds me back a lot.
8. I haven’t done anything with Bliss Event Group, my event planning company. We did our last wedding last year and I haven’t taken any steps to sell the company. I have no time for it or to train someone to run it and I don’t have much of an interest in that as a revenue stream anymore. I think it might be more effort than it’s worth, so I may just take down the site and celebrate 10 awesome years.
9. We haven’t been good about blogging for Making Brands Happen. We also are in major need of a website update. When business is busy, these things take a back seat. Updates, new brand transformations and blog posts are coming.
10. Travel with Grace didn’t work. Flights were fine. Car trips and overnight stays were too complicated.
11. Not having family nearby was really hard this year.
12. Any time I didn’t stop to pray, be still and know that God has a really great plan didn’t work.
13. Any time I was really controlling didn’t work.
14. Any time I was too busy didn’t work.
15. Any time I let my ego lead instead of my humble heart didn’t work.
16. Any time I judged someone else, gossiped, or didn’t forgive didn’t work.
17. Any time I looked at my phone instead of Grace didn’t work.
18. Any time I was jealous of what other people have or compared myself to other’s didn’t work.
19. A lot of people gave far more to me than I gave to them.
20. Lastly, and most importantly, times I didn’t trust God and serve others didn’t work.
STEP 3: What fires you up? + Pinterest Vision Board
Here is part of my computer desktop background below. These are the things that fire me up.
My Pinterest board. OK, this is a tricky step because Pinterest can really be the black hole. There are a lot of materialistic things on Pinterest and stuff I don’t love. I found it really challenging to come up with a board that truly focused on my heart. So, my board is a work in progress. We’re going to come back to them and I’ll ask you to refine them once we finish our 2013 visions and goals. I’ll also be doing a roundup of everyone’s Pinterest boards once we’re done, so be sure to post yours here!
And now, your next steps!
STEP FOUR: What are the three biggest lessons you learned from what DID work? Write them out here in the comments or anywhere you can see them in black and white… unless you love to write in hot pink! : )
STEP FIVE: What are the three biggest things you learned from what DIDN’T work? Again, write them out. I encourage you to share them here.
STEP SIX: What is your 2013 VISION? What kind of life do you want to live this year? Where do you want to be when you’re 80? WHY do you do what you do? What is your mission? What is your CORE? Friends, you are going to have to think long and hard about this one and I have a fun task for you to do while you’re at it. DO more of what fires you up. If dance parties, hugging your kids, laughing with your husband and doing good things for others fires you up, DO those things today.
Physically do some of the things you want to see more of in your life and do them TODAY. Not all of them, just some of them. Do what you can. See what happens when you physically start living the life your heart really wants and then write down what your 2013 vision is. Get connected to what matters most to you. Love on people. Take your time with this so you can see clearly what matters most. I will also be praying about it. For my step six, I’m going to go do some of the things that fire me up today and then I’ll report back to you tomorrow with my progress and your next steps. Encourage others to join us in this too (surrounding myself with friends who are in the same boat as me has been so vital!) and use the hashtag #MTH2013. Making Things Happen in 2013, here we come!
To quote my friend, Mitch:
You need to have a vision for where you are as a person.
Everyone ends up somewhere, but few end up somewhere on purpose.
You have to have a focus. Focus helps you know what NOT to focus on.
If you have a vision, when times are tough (and they will be), it gives you peace and hope and passion to move forward.
Where there is no vision, the people perish. Proverbs 29:18
Traditional goals get forgotten. They can be overwhelming if they aren’t connected to what matters. They can make life busier. I don’t want a new to-do list for 2013, I want a PATH. Goals with a solid well-thought-out vision behind them HAPPEN. They simplify life. And, as I found out this year, the clearer my vision gets, the more good I see in life and the more happens for other people, too.
Happy NEW year, friends! Steps 7 and 8 tomorrow. You are going to love them : ) Go celebrate what went well in 2012 and all the good to come!
P.S. Remember to comment to WIN! To further encourage you to get things rolling for the new year, I’m giving away a seat to our Powerful Branding Webinar Series that starts on January 16th AND one of these gold foil Make It Happen letterpress desk prints above that will be available in my new shop coming soon. I will pick a random winner once we are done with all 10 Steps, so make it happen!