Despite my blogging absence for most of 2016, I couldn’t not post a Year in Review as it’s become quite the tradition (  2012 and 2013 and 2014 and 2015 ). To make sure things don’t get stale, I’ve revised the questionnaire (inspired by this) and, if you’re like me and ready to plan for 2017, ask yourself these 31 questions. As for my 2016 resolution list, I’ve abandoned ship. I’ll save you a lot of time by saying I succeeded on a little and failed miserably on a lot. Check back soon for my 2017 goals.

What activities made you lose track of time?
The usual suspects – Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest. I’ve become quite the avid reader of blogs and websites for Christian leaders and ministries about community outreach, personnel development, and marketing for churches. My pastor/boss knows when I’m awake late at night because I’ll forward links to his email.

For what do you deserve a pat on the back?
Back in July, I wanted to pull my hair out because potty training Kamden was a frustrating chore but I’m happy to report he is wearing big boy underpants all day, every day. Even at school, he naps without accident. Kamden sleeps 12+ hours at night so he wears a nighttime Pull-Up and dry in the mornings. I can’t help but think the difference maker was staying home for days so he could run around buck naked and the potty chair was kept in the middle of the living room floor! I finally upgraded to a smartphone on September 15, 2016. My beloved flip phone broke in half and I’m now an Apple iPhone owner. I will admit, it’s insanely convenient. Yesterday (December 29), Husband hugged me from behind, making me jump, and my Oakley sunglasses fell off my head and broke into four pieces. Instead of getting mad, we laughed. But he did buy me another pair because I can’t be without sunglasses.

In which area(s) did you thrive?
I fall more in love with Husband every single day. He infuriates me at times, gets on my last nerve for the most stupid of reasons, but he makes me laugh and loves me deep and wide. He even laughs at my jokes when they’re not funny. Kamden is, well, he’s Kamden. He’s got just enough of his Mommy and Daddy to drive us crazy, all while developing his own quirky personality. I think I’m doing a pretty good job at this mothering gig, it’s one of my favorite titles. Of course, and I’ll get to this more later, I am thriving at work too. I’m blessed to have a position that is not only close to home and provides a Christian education for my child, but it is the place where I worship each week, find solace in a chaotic world, and receive kindness from folks who treat me like family. I’m grateful. Studying and teaching God’s Word is a passion of mine and a talent that continues to develop. I’m surrounded by patriarchs and matriarchs of the faith who mentor me, challenge me, and encourage me towards Bible literacy.

In which areas did you struggle?
I am at my heaviest weight. I could say it’s a struggle but if I’m being completely honest, it’s simply not a priority. I suspended my gym membership months ago and I don’t eat like I should. It’s totally mental. I know what I need to do, but I don’t want to do it. So I use a myriad of excuses and busy myself with other things. If I remember correctly, the word I chose to focus on in 2016 was BALANCE. Well, chalk that up in the ‘fail’ column because I don’t think 2016 has been balanced. I’ve eaten an unbalanced diet. I’ve spent extra hours working when I should have been playing. Some friends have become acquaintances while others are more like family. I’ve said yes when I should have said no, and I’ve said no when I should have said yes. Balance is hard!

Where and how did God work in your life this past year?
How does someone adequately respond to this question? I am continuously amazed at God’s handiwork and presence in my life, as well as the lives of those around me. It’s incredible to think of all the encounters and circumstances that have occurred over the last 12 months to prepare me for where I am right now, right at this moment. In case I haven’t said it yet, I absolutely LOVE my job at First United Methodist Church in Joshua, Texas (I say FUMC Joshua for short.) My title is a mile long (Director of Discipleship and Outreach Ministries) and my to-do list is longer, but I was made for this. Every day, I have the opportunity to combine my formal education (Bachelor of Science in Journalism and Public Relations, minor in Marketing) with my passions (discipleship, mission outreach, Bible literacy, and social media) at a growing church in a developing community. Our church is not perfect but we are constantly striving to love God, grow in grace, and serve others. God continues to bless us through JUMPS, Kamden’s preschool conveniently located at the church. He attends five days a week and has the most dedicated, talented, and loving teachers. My office is located across the hall from The Chapel and I receive the sweetest gift hearing 100 tiny voices singing “Jesus Loves Me.” This year, I’ve watched friendships blossom while others have withered. The older I get, the more I realize I’m not interested in chasing after anyone who does not want to reciprocate friendship goals. I’ve grown distant with some because our priorities have changed. I’m a deeply relational person. I long for authenticity and genuine connectedness. For the few who “get me,” I’m eternally thankful to God for sharing them with me and I pray I never taken them for granted. One of these “get me” persons is Jenny, also known as The Prairie Californian. She and I have known each other virtually for years and communicated through Facebook, email, text messaging, and Skype. On September 29, 2016, we met in-person for the first time when I picked her up at DFW Airport. She came to Texas to attend the Women of Joy conference with me (plus 20 other ladies) in San Antonio. Many years ago, in 2008, a friend/colleague/pastor/mentor told me to read a book called The Shack by William Paul Young. I finished it hours later, changed forever. I’ve read it numerous more times since and even met the author. Fast forward to late-2016 and I receive an email at work inviting FUMC Joshua to host a pre-release screening of the movie before it’s released to the public on March 3, 2017. Because the book is so powerful, I jumped at the opportunity and the church is, indeed, hosting an event on March 2, 2017 at a local theater. But on December 15, 2016, as group host and church ministry director, I was invited to see The Shack for a pre-pre-screening! Let me just say this: THE. MOVIE. IS. PHENOMENAL. Very rarely does a movie do a book justice, but this one does! I signed a release saying I wouldn’t post a review or share too many details but if you are living and breathing in March 2017, go see this movie! If you’re nearby and want to see it early with me, message me for details.

What three books had the greatest influence this past year?
Women of the Word
by Jen Wilkin, Seamless by Angie Smith, and The Shack by William Paul Young

Who are the best new persons you met this year?
Tonja, Deanna, Mike, Karen, Matt, Rachel, Jennifer, Sydney, Ellen, Gabrina, Robbie

What was your favorite place you visited in 2016?
In April, I flew to Dayton, Ohio for the “Change The World” conference at Ginghamsburg Church. The event is for ministry leaders with a focus on spiritual growth, community outreach, discipleship, administrative practices, and leadership development. I’ve been afforded the opportunity to attend many different conferences but this was one of the best, and I’m looking forward to returning in March 2017.

What did you do that was meaningful for others?
I coordinated a supper club for a family of six when the husband/father had knee surgery. I wrote an epic recommendation letter for Kirsten. I took pictures for distant relatives before my great-aunt’s cancer treatments began. I donated clothes and baby items to a friend in need. I led three Bible studies. And I told a couple of little white lies in order to orchestrate a surprise 80th birthday party and dinner for a longtime church member. It was wildly successful and totally worth the effort seeing Louis’s face when we walked in with balloons and a birthday cake!

What topics did you most enjoy learning about?
Leadership development, digital marketing (especially advertising and promoting on Facebook), community relations, and improving administrative practices for churches. Though I am not facilitating or leading the classes, I oversee Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace University at church. This money management and Biblical stewardship program has been changing lives for many years and I got to witness it for myself as friends and church members radically changed their financial futures. I’m fortunate to be married to someone who is very skilled at managing finances and planning for our future, something I’ve taken for granted, but watching and learning FPU from the sidelines has been helpful.

What was your favorite compliment that you received this year?
I’m always appreciative of compliments when they regard Kamden and his behavior, especially at church, school, or in public. I also appreciate compliments from Husband when he affirms my role as wife and mother. Personally, my favorite compliment came from someone at church who said she believed I was the happiest, most passionate worker she had ever known. Someone else said ‘thank you for teaching and sharing your gifts’ at the conclusion of a Bible study last summer.

How did you celebrate your birthday, and how old were you?
I celebrated my 33rd birthday with an ugly Christmas sweater dinner party at TruFire Kitchen & Bar in Southlake, Texas. My mom was in town so she joined the party of shenanigans too. We had an incredible evening of great laughs and stellar food, drinks, and service. Another “virtual” friend I’ve known online from blogging and social media lives near Southlake and surprised me with a quick visit. It was great to finally meet her in person and hug her neck.

What do you want in 2017 that you did not get in 2016?
A really good bra.

What do you want to remember about 2016?
This was the year Kamden developed leaps and bounds. He is talking more, which is a blessing and a curse, and doing extremely well at school. We also savor the moments he wants to sit beside us and read books, Kamden is definitely a fan of books about trucks, construction equipment, and farm animals. Husband has been at his place of employment 10 years. Thanks to the power of social media, I sold the Toyota Camry in just hours. I met two virtual friends, Jenny and Regina, in person. My title as stay-at-home mom came to end August 22, 2016.

Before you go, leave a comment about your favorite memory from 2016. Or, if you posted a “year in review” on your blog, give me the link so I can read it!