Shining the light of God's word into our confused world.

Month: July 2016

Still Leaning: A Mid-Year Review, and Looking Forward

Image via UnsplashOne thing I always hated about having a corporate job was performance evaluations. Not that I didn’t appreciate the feedback, or the subsequent raise, but the whole process was nerve-wracking, and also served to remind me that I was valued for what I did (and how well I did it), not for who I was.

Since I’ve been my own boss for the last seven years, regular performance evaluations are a distant unpleasant memory, nearly all but forgotten about, especially this year as God’s been working to remind me that He values me not for what I do, but for who I am, and that I don’t have to work to earn my place or strive for advancement in this life He’s given me.

So it may seem odd that, here at the half-year mark, I felt compelled to pause and look back over my progress so far this year and carefully plan my agenda for the next six months. Not so much to evaluate my performance, whether as a writer, a freelancer, a wife or just a person, but to make sure I’m on track with seeking first His will and leaning into what He’s doing in my life (in case you forgot, my One Word for this year back in January was “lean“).

The first half of the year was pretty full. It was certainly productive — I wrote most of a whole novel, revised two more of my own novels and a novella, released two of those into the wilds of the Amazon, edited a novel for a client, and wrote more freelance articles than I can keep track of.

But more importantly, I’ve had some pretty major spiritual breakthroughs as God’s been helping me release my iron grip on the steering wheel of my life, surrender more and more control to Him, and embrace the person He made me to be. I think the biggest breakthrough was the realization that I had bought into some lies about myself that the enemy has been speaking to me my entire life, and coming to a place of deep healing over my past, rejecting those lies and embracing God’s truth about me (I wrote in more detail about those breakthroughs here and here).

Another major theme of this year so far has been growing more fully into who God created me to be and understanding that I was made this way, with this personality and these specific talents, giftings AND limitations, for a purpose. Understanding that I was made on purpose to be a dreamer and a thinker and an introvert and a slow processor, and that by embracing these things about myself and honoring them I honor Him.

So what will the next six months hold?

I can’t say for certain. I expect these themes to continue. I know there are specific things that need to be done, including finishing my current novel and getting it revised in time for the August deadline, and gearing up for the launch of my debut novel in October. There are things I want to do–other writing projects I want to work on, and personal and household projects–and things I hope to do, including a steady stream of freelance work.

But one thing the last six months have taught me is that it’s best to hold my plans loosely and look to Him to direct my steps and establish my work. During my break the last two weeks, I spent a lot of time praying for direction for the next six months, but rather than a specific agenda, I was given some guidelines for going forward:

  • Stay surrendered. Keep leaning into what God’s doing. Build altars, not stages. Build benches, not cities.
  • Don’t fear the future. Remember it’s in His hands. Focus on each day as it comes.
  • Don’t focus too much on making money. Trust God to provide as you do the work He directs you into (this is a big deal. As a freelancer with an unsteady income, money has always been the driving factor in choosing what I work on, but that hasn’t really gotten me anywhere good, so I’m ready to try it God’s way).
  • Forget “should.” Figure out what works for us and do that. No comparing.
  • Do only what you can do (this is a principle I picked up from Loving My Actual Life — similar to my philosophy of “just do what you can do and leave the rest to God”).
  • Just keep writing and leave the results to Him.

It will be interesting to see what the next six months will hold. To be honest, I’d hoped back in January that this would be the year our lives finally turned a major corner for the better, and six months in, with circumstances much the same now as they were then (albeit attitudes and perspectives have changed), I’ve been a bit disheartened. But I’ve been receiving a lot of encouragement lately that things will get better, it’s just going to take more time–time in which we need to be yielding to the work He’s doing in us to prepare us for what’s next. Because I think that what’s in store for us is going to blow our minds.

Have you paused for a mid-year evaluation? Do you have the rest of the year mapped out? Any big breakthroughs or accomplishments this year so far that you’d like to share? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

In love,

PS – Linking up this week with Holley Gerth and Missional Women!

PPS – Want to get a friendly and casual letter from yours truly in your inbox once or twice a month? This bi-monthly(ish) letter to friends of the blog is a little more personal, a little more intimate, a little more silly — a place to share the things that don’t quite fit here. Sign up and get a special link to my must-have tools & resources page!

Daydreamer Dispatches

What I Did on my Summer Vacation

And I’m back!

I suppose that title should really read “Summer Break” since “vacation” connotes actually going places and doing interesting things instead of just hanging around the house being as unplugged and lazy as I could get away with for nearly two weeks.

I didn’t plan to be “gone” for quite so long, but my first attempt at a break two weeks ago was thwarted when my freelance writing assignments came in a week earlier than anticipated. So I had to postpone my break to get those taken care of, which I can’t say I did entirely without grumbling, because y’all, I was powerfully tired. But I sucked it up and got ’em done, and was rewarded with an even longer break than I’d originally anticipated being able to take.

And boy howdy, did I need that.

Anyway, today it’s time to get back to the grind, so I’m trying to ease my way  back into work/writing mode with this here blog post. I’ve got another freelance assignment due this week, which I hope to be able to get done this afternoon so I can spend the rest of this week finally, actually finishing my novel instead of talking about it ad infinitum.

Which is to say that not a lot of noveling got done over the break as originally planned. After hustling to get those articles written I needed an extended break from writing, too. So other than a little bit of journaling, and spending a couple of hours untangling the knot of my book’s messy climax, and assembling interview questions for this week’s assignment, I gave myself permission not to write.

Turns out I really needed that, too.

So how did I spend the last almost-two-weeks?

What a lot of my break actually looked like

What a lot of my break actually looked like

Other than spending the first weekend mostly camped out on the couch re-watching the Lizzy Bennet Diaries on my tiny phone screen, it wasn’t entirely lazy and unproductive. I spent most of the days indulging in the things that make my soul happy. This included a lot of reading, a lot of crafting, and a lot of sitting around just dreaming and thinking. It also included a lot of afternoon naps with my husband and dog, and some deep conversations with my husband, and snuggling up beside him to watch some movies. Yesterday it also included forgetting my dietary restrictions and indulging in premium hot dogs (on Hawaiian bread buns–those are SO worth the higher price tag) and chocolate-chip-oatmeal-cookie bars with chocolate & peanut butter ice cream. I’m feeling the effects today but it was worth it.

One of my craft projects - click the picture to get to the pin

One of my craft projects – click the picture to get to the pin

Oh! We also finally made it to the library and renewed our library cards (somehow we’d gotten deleted from the system entirely and had to get new cards. No wonder my website login no longer worked! On the plus side, any fines we owed got deleted along with our accounts). I was able to install the library’s e-book and audio book app on my phone so now a whole new world of book-imbibing possibilities is open to me, which makes me ridiculously happy. I came home and jumped online and added just about every book ever mentioned on What Should I Read Next to my wait list.

I also checked out a ginormous copy of Outlander, so now I’ve started down that long and winding rabbit hole. I didn’t realize there were so many of those books, but now I suppose I’ll have to read them all (and then watch the series). Good thing I have a library card.

I also spent a lot of time praying and planning my areas of focus for the rest of the year, but that belongs in another blog post.

All in all, it was restful and satisfying, and it broke the pattern of rush and hustle that was beginning to creep back into my life. Going forward, I’m going to do my best to be more intentional with my time and energy, and make time in my day for these things that energize me and bring me joy. But again, that’s fodder for another blog post.

What about you, friend? Did you get to take a break recently (even if only a long holiday weekend)? Got any vacation plans coming up? I’d love to hear about them in the comments!