Moving Forward in 2014

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Last week I shared with you what worked best for me in 2013.  I want to be a person who learns from my mistakes and is encouraged by my progress.  I also want to prayerfully consider my plans and goals, and make sure they are in alignment with the word of God and his plans for my life.  I was amazed at how quickly these goals for the year came to me.  True self-reflection often points us in the right direction.

If you haven’t set goals for 2014, don’t feel like it’s too late.  January 1st is a great time to begin working toward changes, but really there is no better day than today.  Jimmie and I used this guide from The Art of Simple as a launching point.

So, here they are!  My goals for 2014:

Personal Goals:

Develop in the following areas:

1. Be present.  Whoever I am with deserves my full attention, whether it is my family, a friend, someone at my job, or God himself.  I want to eliminate distractions and focus on whoever I am with.   I want to be conscious of the beauty and blessings that surround me, whether in nature or in the life God has blessed me with.

2. Be intentional.  I don’t want to simply hope for the changes I know need to come about in my life or in the work I do.  I want to plan better, set goals, and be accountable for my progress.

3. Be joyful.  I need to smile and play more, especially at home.  A daily gratitude journal will help me focus on the gifts that God gives me each and every day.

4.  Relax.  My stress levels have been enormously high.  I need to set realistic expectations for myself.  I need to focus on my priority list and nothing else.  I need to take time to decompress.  I may need a massage from time to time to relieve the tension I carry.

Learning Goals:

1.  Read at least two books per month.  One should be spiritually edifying.  Use Goodreads app to keep track.

2.  Complete at least four Kay Arthur Bible Studies.

3.  Learn to use my camera in manual mode.

Physical Goals:

1.  Maintain a paleo lifestyle the majority of the time.

2.  Slowly introduce running into my lifestyle.

Marriage/Family Goals:

1.  Take time to relax.

2.  Go out on occasional dates.

3.  Have family devotion time at least two nights per week.

4.  Take a family vacation.

Accountability:

To stay accountable in accomplishing my goals, I will:

1.  Use my weekly calendar to schedule study times and devotion times.

2.  Schedule a monthly check-in with Jimmie to go over our progress.

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These do not include my goals for Gathering.  Thankfully, we have frequent leadership, team, and launch meetings in which we set goals and keep one another accountable.  It is also my goal to devote my time and energy to each item on my priority list.  These are just a few things that stood out to me as needs in my life.

What about you?  Do you have any resolutions?  Any goals for 2014?  Do you have any thoughts or advice for me in reaching my goals?  I would love your feedback.

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What I Gather About 2013

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This year on January 1st I sat down with my husband and spent several hours discussing the ups and downs of 2013 and setting goals for 2014.  After a long break from blogging, I thought this would be a good time to share some things that worked for me in 2013.  Soon I will also share some goals I have for the coming year.

Health:

1.  The Paleo diet.  Nothing in my 32 years of existence has brought about more positive changes in my body than our radical change in eating habits.  I’m reluctant to call it a “diet” because we have become so accustomed to eating this way that it feels very natural.  I have more energy, have lost nearly 30 pounds, sleep better, feel alert and don’t have any digestive issues.  Several weeks of eating cruddy, sugar-laden food at Christmastime left me feeling bloated, tired, foggy and depressed.  This Paleo lifestyle is here to stay.

2.  The Whole 30.  Thirty days of saying no all sugar and processed food did wonders for my sugar addiction.  I was amazed at how little I craved foods I have always craved after even a week of adhering to the Whole 30 plan.  I highly recommend The Whole 30 for anyone who needs to reset their nutritional habits or kick their sugar addiction.

3.  Food.  Who am I kidding?  Food always works for me!  There were some clear winners, though, in 2013…. foods that I rediscovered or helped me meet my goals or made the Paleo lifestyle a breeze.  My favorites?  Brussels sprouts, eggs, dates, Lara bars, bacon, prosciutto, greens (especially kale, spinach, and beet greens), chicken sausages, pistachios, sweet peppers and organic ground beef.  Yum.

Books:

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1.  Bread and Wine  by Shauna Niequist.  I can’t recommend this book enough.  It inspired me to open my home and my heart to friends, neighbors and even strangers.

2.  Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.  I am a huge Kingsolver fan and this book didn’t disappoint.

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3.  Prototype by Jonathan Martin.  I closed this book feeling more beloved by God.  My eyes were opened to the way God sees and loves me.

4.  The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern.  This was such a fun book, full of whimsy and mystery.  I couldn’t put it down.  Thankfully I read it on vacation and was able to read all hours of the day and night to finish it!

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5. Saturday by Ian McEwan.  This book was beautiful and descriptive and made me want to become a novelist.

Personally:

1.  Transparency.  It has been a challenge blogging about some of my biggest struggles and insecurities, but I have found it to be extremely therapeutic.  I find myself working through my feelings as I write them out for the world to see.  Thank you to all of you Rachael Gathers readers, for your e-mails, comments, phone calls and shares.  You let me know that I am not alone and I draw so much courage and encouragement from your stories.

2.  Letting go.  This has been a  year that forced me to recognize that not everyone is going to like me, approve of me, or support me.  I will admit this has been a hard lesson to learn, but it is an essential lesson for us all.  I have found great peace and comfort in the love and acceptance I find in Jesus Christ and am trying not to care so much what everyone else thinks.  

Spiritually:

1.  Reading through the Bible in a year.  I didn’t quite finish on time, but I am almost done!  While this doesn’t take the place of Bible study, it was really good for me to be disciplined about reading the Bible nearly every day.  The app I used on my iPhone was extremely helpful in this regard.

2.  Creating a list of priorities.  This may have brought about the biggest change for me this year.  I didn’t see a drastic change in my behavior immediately, but rather a change in my thinking.  I began to think about what is important in my life based on time spent in prayer and study.  This has allowed me to evaluate many aspects of my life and begin to say no more often.

On the Blog:

Being flexible.  I am a very goal-oriented person, so I have felt a huge amount of frustration at not being able to plan posts better.  With my family, job, planting a church, and various other commitments, I have had to come to terms with blogging when I am able.  I try not to pay attention to stats and just enjoy posting when I can.  Mostly I enjoy the comments and feedback from all of you!

With that said, here are my ten most popular posts from 2013:

1.  Gathering Ideas for a Shabby Chic Bedroom

2.  A Gathering of Recipes for Crowds

3.  Gathering for a Shabby Chic Baby Shower

4.  A Gathering of Goodwill Finds:  Kitchen and Dining Edition

5.  I Gather a Letter of Love (Happy Birthday, Jimmie!)

6.  A Gathering of Goodwill Finds:  Dress Edition

7.  A Gathering of Bible Study Methods

8. Gathering Delight

9.  What I Gather About Chelsea

10.  What I Gather About Women of Valor

Many of these were popular thanks to Pinterest.  Thanks to those of you who pin my blog posts!

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There is a look back at some of the things that worked best for me in 2013.  I can’t wait to share with you some of my goals for 2014!

What about you?  What did you learn in 2013?  Was there anything that really worked well for you?  I would love to hear about it!

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What I Gather About Whole 30

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If you had asked me a year ago if I would ever drastically change my eating habits, I would have laughed.  I probably would have laughed the way I do now when people ask me if I plan to start exercising.

I love food.  I savor every bite of quality food.  Restaurants are my happy place, especially if we are talking Indian restaurants, authentic Italian, or hole-in-the-wall heavens.  If you ever find me sitting at Mediterrano Cafe during a weekday lunch buffet, you will find a glowing Rachael.  Don’t even get me started on desserts and chocolate.

But when my husband came home with news of pre-diabetes and a warning to lose belly weight, I knew something had to change.  Just because I was never overweight did not mean I didn’t have a problem with food…. more specifically, an addiction to sugar.

So we began Our Wheat-Free, Almost Paleo Diet.  Our friends joined in with us and the results were immediately noticeable.  As we progressed in the changes in our eating habits, I began researching The Whole 30 program.  It looked like something that would be beneficial to our families, especially right before the holidays, so we jumped on board and are now on day 24.

I don’t like to focus on weight, but to give you an idea of the transformation, I will tell you that I have lost 25 pounds since July (13 since we started Whole 30), Jimmie has lost about 30 pounds, and even Ava has lost 10.  I find myself with a substantial increase of energy that typically lasts throughout my entire day.  I have noticed a difference in mental clarity… I don’t feel like I am ever walking around in a fog anymore.  I also think I have fought off illnesses in a shorter time frame than typical of this time of year.  Jimmie is also completely off of his medicine for diabetes.  The crazy thing?  I don';t miss the foods I used to eat.  Occasionally I will have an emotional desire to eat ice cream or pizza, but physically I am satisfied with the foods we are eating.  And the recipes are GOOD!

I never want to push a lifestyle onto anyone.  If you want more information about the Whole 30, see the link above.  I am frequently asked, however, about why we are doing it.  More than that, I am asked…

What do you EAT??

So I want to give you our actual meal plans from our first four weeks.  I have provided links where available.  Anything with an * next to it refers to a recipe from the NomNom Paleo app for iPad.  I highly recommend this app, whether you are a Paleo enthusiast or not.  Every single one of her recipes has been fantastic.  We aren’t so scheduled with our breakfasts, either, so first I will give you some ideas for healthy, Whole 30 approved breakfasts.

Breakfasts:

Bacon and eggs

Lara Bars (apple pie, cherry pie, or cashew cookie)

Coffee with Paleo creamer

Egg muffins

Deviled eggs*

Hardboiled eggs

Avocado baked eggs

Egg and veggie scramble

Coconut balls

Sweet potato and chorizo hash

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Week 1:

Lunch 1: Tuna salad salad, nuts and sliced peppers

Dinner 1: Garbage stir fry*

Lunch 2:  Tuna salad salad, deviled eggs

Dinner 2:  Mahi Mahi, sweet potato fries, salad

Lunch 3: Pastrami and pepper roll-ups, guacamole and pepper slices, fruit

Dinner 3: Bacon burger with sautéed onion, mushroom and green pepper, salad

Lunch 4: Chicken salad salad, Paleo trail mix*

Dinner 4: Beef and tomato stew*

Lunch 5: Leftover stew

Dinner 5: Cobb salad (hb eggs, grilled chicken, bacon, avocado, cucumber, tomato)

Lunch 6: Pastrami and pepper roll-up, cucumber salad, trail mix

Dinner 6: Asian meatballs*, mashed cauliflower*, salad

Lunch 7: Leftover meatballs

Dinner 7: Grilled chicken, roasted broccoli

Week 2:

Lunch 1: Crab BLT salad*

Dinner 1: Chocolate chili, sliced avocados

Lunch 2:  Leftover chili

Dinner 2: Pork burgers on greens*, sweet potato fries, roasted zucchini

Lunch 3: Spicy tuna cakes*

Dinner 3: Grilled chicken, salad

Lunch 4: Pastrami and pepper wrap

Dinner 4:  Pork roast* tacos

Lunch 5: Leftover pork, cucumber salad

Dinner 5:  Broiled salmon, roasted broccoli, sautéed greens

Lunch 6: Bacon and guacamole “sandwiches*”, slices peppers, fruit

Dinner 6: Frittata muffins, sweet potato hash, bacon

Lunch 7: Leftover frittata muffins

Dinner 7: ?

Week 3:

Lunch 1: BLT egg salad

Dinner 1: Garbage stir-fry*

Lunch 2: Spicy tuna cakes*, sliced peppers

Dinner 2: Chicken sausage skillet meal

Lunch 3: Leftover chicken sausage skillet, trail mix

Dinner 3:  Shredded chicken taco salad

Lunch 4: Pastrami and pepper wrap

Dinner 4: Spicy Tunisian shrimp*, roasted broccoli

Lunch 5: Bacon-wrapped chicken tenders, sliced avocado

Dinner 5: Chipotle chicken soup, sliced avocado

Lunch 6: Leftover soup

Dinner 6: Pork chops, roasted zucchini, roasted mushrooms

Lunch 7: Brunch, bacon and fried eggs

Dinner 7: QDoba,( meat, lettuce, guacamole)

Week 4:

Lunch 1: (Brunch) Chicken sausage and peppers, fried egg

Dinner 1: Crispy smashed chicken with salsa*, bacon topped Brussel sprouts*

Lunch 2: Leftover chicken, cucumber salad

Dinner 2: Big O Burgers*, cabbage steaks

Lunch 3: Cobb salad

Dinner 3: Chipotle chicken soup, salad

Lunch 4: Pastrami wraps, tomato salad

Dinner 4:  Crock pot Italian beef over spaghetti squash

Lunch 5: Leftover Italian beef

Dinner 5:  Chocolate chili, sliced avocados

Lunch 6: Leftover chili

Dinner 6: Tilapia, baked sweet potatoes, salad

Lunch 7: Prosciutto muffins

Dinner 7: ?

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Whew!  If you are counting, that is 28 days.  We haven’t decided on our last two yet.  This is just a glimpse into how we eat.  We have eaten at QDoba a couple of times, but otherwise haven’t eaten out at all.  For snacks, we eat nuts, fruit (I especially like dates), veggie slices, fried eggs, or avocados.  We are also able to drink coffee and tea, as long as there are no added sweeteners.

What do you think?  Could you ever do this?  Have you ever tried The Whole 30?  I would love to hear your thoughts.  If you have any questions about recipes or about my experience, please contact me or ask in the comment section!

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Missed any posts?  Here are the latest:

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What I Gather About Priorities

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