Mental Post-Its

Thoughts, Notes and General Mental Mayhem


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My First Personal Retreat

me timeI’ve taken several vacations by myself, but New Year’s Day marked my first personal retreat. And it was time. Actually, it was way overdue.

At the end of last year, I was exhausted in every way, and had chosen RENEW as my word/theme for the year. I really wanted to cling to that word, but needed a catalyst to help get me there. So, I used some hotel points to get away. I knew if I stayed home I’d find too many distractions.

Rome, Georgia, ended up being the destination. And I was able to check in early and check out late, to maximize my stay. I had my computer, a few books, and a ready heart. (And, of course, a change of clothes.) I’d already been collecting resources that I wanted to work through, but as I predicted, ending up following a few rabbit trails, too.

My original intent was just to spend the night and fit in all my retreat activities into that 24 hour period. But I was tired and kept stumbling upon new resources so I ended up extending the retreat through the weekend, at home. Being able to focus at the hotel proved to be a great starting point, though. It gave me the energy and determination to keep up the work . . . but there may have been a pedicure and couple Netflix breaks. I mean, come on, we’re talking about 72 hours here. I’m not a monk.

These are the primary resources that I spent time with:

They are awesome, and I’d recommend any of them. They greatly enhanced my retreat, and I believe, came to me at just the right time.

There are also a few (hopefully) regular practices that came out of this weekend, which I believe will help to keep me RENEWed during the year. The first is The Five Minute Journal, mentioned above. I hate journaling, but this one was recommended on a podcast I listen to, and it sounded like something I could do. It’s just a couple bullet points to answer each morning and evening, and there is an introduction that shows the reasoning and science behind the questions. So far, even in my most groggy morning state, I’ve been able to keep up.

The second is meditation. I’ve tried it before, and failed miserably. My mind is constantly going 90 miles an hour! But like journaling, I know the benefits and want to reap them. I need to be able to clear my mind and listen in silence. That will do me a world of good. And meditation is one of those things that kept popping up around me in various ways at the end of the year, so I knew it was time to try again. The blog post mentioned above by Rick Warren also speaks in-depth to the practice. (Funny note: I have a book called The Will Power Instinct that I started several years ago. But the first chapter says that you have to be able to meditate for 10 minutes to continue the book in order to get the most out of it—so, yep, I’ve never finished. Maybe this is the year!)

The third is, well, to borrow another Rick Warren-ism, purposeful relaxation. The second half of that blog post was what I actually went online to find, and strangely, it was paired with meditation. I’d heard him speak on the topic before at a conference, and couldn’t remember exactly how it was phrased. I love the way he puts it: divert daily, withdraw weekly and abandon annually. Honestly, it’s going to be hard. I’m a multi-tasker. But for me, one of the best ways to do this is to unplug for a while. I’m usually connected even when I travel, so there is usually a nagging feeling that something needs my attention. It’s going to be a hard lesson to learn, and hard to fit into life when there is always something pressing. However, as he notes, if Jesus felt the need to do it, I should too. So, I’m trying to weave more of this into my life.

And that’s it! That was my personal retreat. It was wonderful. Another lesson that came from this time was just how valuable it was, and that this is something I should continue however I can. I usually try and fit books and articles and podcasts into the busyness, but having this dedicated time for it, with a specific purpose in mind, was well, RENEWing.

The reality of life hit me hard just after my personal retreat. Of course it did. Of. Course. It. Did. And it was frustrating because I wanted to keep the good vibes going. Life was interrupting my zen! But I realized that I wouldn’t have been prepared for it without this retreat. So, it’s already served me well in ways I couldn’t predict, and I guess that’s just another reason I should continue.

First one down, hopefully many more to go.

 

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My Word for 2016

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RENEW. Sorry, I just couldn’t hold it in! I’ve been bursting to tell you that my word for the year is RENEW!

It came to me almost instantly about a month ago. In the car that morning, I thought it was time to start thinking forward to 2016, and it just popped in my head. And I knew immediately that it was right. (Strangely enough, it was also written on the mug of a co-worker I sat behind in staff meeting just an hour later!)

In coming to the end of last year, I was exhausted . . . mentally. After dealing with chronic illness for three and a half years, I know what physical exhaustion is. But mental exhaustion was settling in fast, and I was kind of panicking. Thinking of this word, though, gave me hope. Shortly after, I met with my mentor, Holly. A mentor is someone everyone needs in their life, and Holly has blessed me immensely. She comforted me, encouraged me, supported me, and then empowered me with some Bible passages she’d just read earlier that same day. It was no chance that we met that morning.

Isaiah 43: 16-21 MSG

Forget about what’s happened;
    don’t keep going over old history.
Be alert, be present. I’m about to do something brand-new.
    It’s bursting out! Don’t you see it?
There it is! I’m making a road through the desert,
    rivers in the badlands.
Wild animals will say ‘Thank you!’
    —the coyotes and the buzzards—
Because I provided water in the desert,
    rivers through the sun-baked earth,
Drinking water for the people I chose,
    the people I made especially for myself,
    a people custom-made to praise me.

This is one of the scriptures she read to me that morning, and now it is also my verse for the year. I think it paints a beautiful picture, and one that will bring me comfort this year.

And I’m a little surprised, considering where I was just a few weeks ago, but I’m actually excited this year is starting. There’s just something special and enticing about “new.” And now I feel better prepared as well.

Coming very soon, I’ll tell you all about the personal retreat I took this weekend to RENEW and recharge. It was the first of its kind for me, and I would not have been ready for 2016 without it. It definitely helped get me on the right track. Maybe it can help you too.

For now, though, I’m just going to enjoy my (RE)NEW YEAR.

Do you have a word for the year? If so, I’d love to hear it.

And you can read about last year’s word here.

____________________________________

So, what is all this word for the year business? So glad you asked! I love telling people about it. Basically, a few friends and I started this tradition a number of years ago. It’s a way to look at the year intentionally and proactively in the beginning, rather than only coming to the end of a year and reflecting. We think the latter is more of a reactive stance, and should be more helpful. So, we wanted to set a tone for our year that would help us get where we wanted to go.

This tradition was reinforced again for me a few days ago when I started my Five Minute Journal. It was recommended on a podcast I listened to and sounded really interesting, so I ordered it and started on January 1.

But here’s a snippet from their introduction:

There’s a small part of your brain called the reticular activation system (RAS) that turns on and off your perception of ideas and thoughts, and determines the lenses through which you look at the world. When you take an action like buying a new car, you’ve taken a major step in redefining your possessions and your RAS changes to accommodate your new acquisition. And everywhere you go, your RAS will gently remind you of this change by pointing out others who have the same car as you.

When you write ‘What would make today great?’ (one of the daily questions asked), you’re taking a step to influence your RAS to point out and engage in activities that would make your day better. You’re building new pathways in your brain that allow you to ‘see’ what you can do to improve your well being every day. You’re creating a new program in your mind that naturally leans to improve your happiness. Doing this consistently gives you consistently better days. It’s that simple.

Voila! And you thought I just made this stuff up. 😉

And I discovered as I prepared for 2015 that there are a lot more people who utilize a word for the year. If you’re interested, here are two other great resources to help get you started:

One Word That Will Change Your Life

My One Word

Wishing you a wonderful 2016!

 

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Frame: 2015 in Review

Gosh, here we are. The end of the year. Are they speeding up or is it just me? It was a little over a year ago when I picked my word for 2015: FRAME. And wow, what a year it’s been!

There were two uses for this word when I chose it, both as a noun and a verb. I wanted to use FRAME as a way to get a better picture of what I want my life to look like, and also to help me put margin around things that I wanted to focus on. So how did it hold up?

As with all things in life, most of it is lived in normalcy of the day-to-day, and then there are these other distinct moments that helped to shape it as a whole. I can definitely say that FRAME helped me put it into perspective. And having my verse on the bathroom mirror, Matthew 6:33, where I see it each day, was a good reminder to set my priorities rather than having someone else set them for me.

One of the things I love to do is travel. And I was absolutely able to do more of that this year. I went to Nashville (twice), Chicago, INDIA, Minneapolis, Seattle, Irvine, Indianapolis, New York City and Washington DC! And I’ll finish up this year in Texas. Even though some of those were work trips, I managed to squeeze in some fun and friends. But being able to travel more this year was one of the absolute highlights.

As you can imagine, India was another one, which combined my love of travel with my love of social justice. I went with two friends to visit this beautiful and heartbreaking country where one of my friends has a program that helps girls complete their college education. It was the experience of a lifetime. I am forever grateful to those who donated to this trip so that I could go.

I was also able to do some more freelance writing and consulting, which makes me very happy. Some of the writing was based on my experiences of working as an event marketing director, and a lot of the consulting was in the arena of marketing and communications, but to further assist in social justice causes.

I love to learn, so additionally, I’ve had the privilege to participate in three book launches. One of those was unofficial, because it was a friend’s book, and two were as part of an official launch team. And along the lines of learning, I was able to attend a number of conferences again this year. I love attending conferences! I already have a few booked for next year that I’m looking forward to as well.

And I was very excited to cut down on my debt this year, despite some of the things above. My plan is to be debt-free next year, and I am counting down to that time! It will be a game changer for me.

I also made more progress with my health, which I am so grateful for. It’s been three and a half years of chronic issues. I never could have imagined it would be this kind of journey, but it has become part of a new way of living—at least for now. It’s a very slow process, but I have great help from my naturopaths and the support of my general practitioner, and I look forward chipping away at it again moving forward. I can’t wait to be healthy again!

Of course, not everything went as hoped or planned. I accept that will always be the way it is, but yes, it still stinks. There are many things to work on, and learn, and plan, and do. So, as a head’s up, I can tell you that next year’s words won’t be “nirvana” or “perfection.” But hey, where’s the fun in that?

So, these are the highlights. FRAME made for a good year. I’m sure I missed a number of things as I look back over 350+ days. There were other great causes, celebrations, conversations and connections, as well as seemingly ordinary hours that stacked up to create the last 12 months. There are things I’d trade, do-over and totally do-again. But, in the end, I tried not to waste any of this precious time. And that is the best I can ask of myself.

“Without reflection, we go blindly on our way, creating more unintended consequences, and failing to achieve anything useful.”Margaret J. Wheatley


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My Word for 2015

466850191Well, 2015 is officially underway! Can you believe it! I work in event marketing, so we’re always a year ahead on the calendar. But nevertheless, when said year shows up on my doorstep, it still seems pretty surreal.

The New Year means a lot of things to a lot of people: new goals, new diet, new budget, etc. For me, one thing is always consistent. It means a new “word for the year” or theme. I love everything “new” (and a theme) so it’s always an exciting time for me to choose my new word. I usually start thinking about it sometime in November.

My word for the year is a very cherished tradition. My friend Daron had the idea to take a word and use it as a lens to view your year. Post where you can see it regularly, and it helps guide you navigate each day. This way you can look at a year proactively, instead of coming to the end of the year and only reacting to what happened. You engage your year more along the way. So a group of my friends and I have done this for years, sharing our word and accompanying Bible verse, checking in with each other throughout the year to see how it’s going, and then evaluating at the end. It has changed my years!

For 2015, I had an idea in mind, but couldn’t quite figure out how to articulate it. I came up with the word in December, but I had to let it marinate for a while to see if I’d keep it or find something more suitable. But as the end of the year came to an end, it seemed a good fit. And that word is FRAME.

Weird, huh? Yeah, I thought so too. It was out of the ordinary for me. I always try to pick a verb because I like the notion that it keeps me in motion, moving forward. But FRAME allows me both a verb and a noun—a two-for-one kind of word!

The original idea came from the concept of “margin” which I’d loved since my friend Mark retaught an Andy Stanley sermon series on the subject years ago. Create space, or boundaries, around things like time, money and relationships to allow for a buffer when the space is pushed beyond what you’re comfortable with. It’ll help you bounce back, or not make decisions you’ll regret. That’s kind of a lousy explanation, but hopefully you get the gist. So, “margin” became part of my group’s vernacular. It’s something I’ve since striven for, with sometimes good and sometimes not so good results. But I keep trying!

This past year really pushed against my boundaries, though, so I decided to make them a priority for 2015. I could take 30 minutes to explain the theme, and even make gestures to emphasize it with my hands, but until I came up with FRAME I couldn’t really condense it. And who has room for a soliloquy on their bathroom mirror?

FRAME gave me what I needed. And at the same time, in noun form, I think it helps me form a picture of what I want 2015 to be. See what I did there?

So, FRAME it is. And I think it’s a keeper. I’ve already started putting it into practice, and it’s doing it’s job. I’m really looking forward to the year ahead, and time to invest in this word along the way. Even though I don’t know what’s in store, I know it will allow me to give 2015 the perspective it needs.

And speaking of perspective, that leads me to my Scripture. I think this verse sums up how to FRAME my year.

“Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need.” – Matthew 6:33 (NLT)


 

Typically, I just choose my word through prayer, Scripture, contemplation and conversation, but this year I came across a few resources that were fun to incorporate. I actually had no idea so many people did this same “one word” thing! So, I wanted to list them here for you in case you’re interested in starting this tradition and want a little guidance. The last few are just some great advice for ending one year well and starting the next one strong.

  • One Word That Will Change Your Life – I stumbled across this book when someone posted about their four-day reading plan with the YouVersion Bible on Facebook. Their book only takes about 45 minutes to read, and I suggest it as an accompaniment to the reading plan. The reading plan on its own is a little abrupt to get the full effect, in my opinion.
  • My One Word – This book is about four hours long, and is great if you want more direction, stories and Scripture.
  • Andy Stanley’s Breathing Room series – You can watch or listen via iTunes to this four-part series on finding margin in your life regarding time, money and relationships. He teaches this now and again under different names with a little different emphasis, but I found this one most helpful for where I am right now in life.
  • 9 Actions You Must Take to Reach Your Biggest Goals by Rick Warren – This two part article is exactly what you’d expect from Rick Warren, practical and wise. A good read.
  • Preparing for a Fantastic 2015 – I came across this blog a couple of years ago during my SIMPLIFY theme. This couple sold all their stuff to travel the world. They talked about cutting the clutter to follow their dreams, and well, that was about the only sales pitch I needed to follow them. 😉 I include this post of theirs, however, not because I think everyone should follow their dream, but I really like how they take the time to sit and evaluate their year with a specific process. And of course, as a married couple, I could see the benefit of doing this with a spouse to get on the same page. So, an extra bonus there for you duos.

Hope your 2015 is off to a great start! May you find joy, and a little margin, in it over the next 11 and a half months.


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My 2014 Theme

I’ll be honest. This was a hard one. 175739981Last year, my word came so easily to me. It felt right, from the start. This time, I had the word knocking around in my head before the end of the year, but I really needed to sit with it. I still feel like I need to sit with it.

I normally reveal my theme for year earlier in the month, or at least try to. But this time, I just didn’t feel prepared to write the post. I’m still don’t feel like I’m ready, but maybe that’s why I need to. I need to get it out there. I need to start using this lens to look through the next 11+ months. It’s not necessarily that I feel rushed to put the info out there, but then again, January is, of course, the best place with which to start the New Year. As Maria Von Trapp would say, “Let’s start at the very beginning; a very good place to start.”

I really liked the momentum I’ve built over the past two years with SIMPLIFY and PRIORITIZE. I wanted to continue in that vain. I wanted to continue whittling down until only the things I needed were present. (Well, maybe what I needed, and an extra pair of cute shoes.) But then I thought, after you prioritize and simplify, what comes next? Well, for me, it will be CLARIFY.

I’ve been sort of writing this blog post all day. I was trying to think of why I’m hesitant to put the old proverbial pen to paper. And I have one ugly thought: I’m scared. I don’t think I’ve ever had that feeling before when dreaming up my word for the year. Actually, I’m not sure I’m having it now. But it could be. Perhaps it’s just indigestion from this cleanse I’m on. I’m still in the exploration phase, as you can see. Maybe I’m scared of what will be revealed, or what it means for me next. I don’t know. So, here I am, word vomiting for all the world to see. You’re welcome.

But there it is: CLARIFY. My 2014 will be trying to find answers to questions I have, and very likely, answers to questions God has yet to plant in my brain. My plan is also to continue narrowing down my stuff, physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually. I honestly have no idea where it will lead. And even more honestly, that is sort of exciting to me.

There you go, 2014. Let’s CLARIFY together and see what happens.

Psalm 37:23-24

New Living Translation (NLT)

23 The Lord directs the steps of the godly.
He delights in every detail of their lives.
24 Though they stumble, they will never fall,
for the Lord holds them by the hand.

Why this verse? I thought of others like it and the older, more famous brother, Jeremiah 14:29. But this one won out because I really liked how the two verses fit together, and I really love the second one most of all. I like that it’s honest in that I will stumble, but still comforting. And unlike cousin verses, it describes less God Omnipotent and more Immanuel, God with us. He’s in it with me.

So, bring it on 2014. We’re ready.

For those of you new to reading about my tradition, every year in January, some of my friends and I determine “words for the year” or themes. We use our theme as a lens throughout the year, much like a a guide. We feel it leads us to be more proactive, or intentional, with our lives and time. It is loosely based on the Jewish Day of Atonement, Yom Kippur. Whereas most people only seem to look back on the year after it has passed, we allow this to help us look forward as well. We believe it helps us not just allow life to happen to us, or pass us by as we often describe time, but to be active, thinking participants.