1st year in review…

Well, it’s been over a year since I started embrace/refrain.  I definitely faded down the stretch of 2012, but that is mostly due to starting a web-design company over the last couple of months.  Still, I did 9-10 embrace or refrain projects and wrote around 60 blog posts.  Not terrible for year 1.

Some thoughts on the past year:

  • Starting new habits is hard work, but definitely worth pursuing.  Taking habits that are beneficial, but not part of your routine…. to part of your daily or weekly routine takes patience and persistence.  A month gives you a good start, but many times it isn’t long enough to get something fully ingrained as part of your daily life.
  • In our over-stimulated, thing-driven western culture, fasting (or refraining) from things like foods, entertainment and typical conveniences is a great practice.   My favorite project of this past year was staying away from wasting time on the internet.  I got so much done and spent my time so much more efficiently that month.  At first, I kept a lot of that momentum, but after awhile, my old habits crept back in.  I probably need to do that fast at least once a year.
  • Writing is hard work.  I give a ton of credit to bloggers who post creative, original content on a weekly basis.  It takes a ton of time, determination, and creativity.  I thoroughly enjoy writing, and find it incredibly beneficial, but it is still difficult.

And moving forward….

  • I really enjoyed doing this experiment of 1 project a month over the past year.  However, there were months that life was just a bit crazy to be pursuing an embrace or refrain project and writing about it on a regular basis.  So I was successful with it some months, and others not at all.  In light of that, I plan on continuing this year, but on lighter schedule.  My hope is do to 5-6 month-long projects over 2013.  I’ll start them when it works as opposed to figuring out a project for the beginning of each month.  I’ll probably get my first one going in the first couple weeks of February.
  • My second favorite project of the past year was the month I attempted to blog everyday.  That month forced me to write about a greater variety of interests beyond the original embrace/refrain idea.  Since then, I have continued to to do that on a sporadic basis and I’ll continue that in 2013.

Lofty Goals – May in Review

Apparently, I tend to set goals that are a bit beyond my reach. I started this blog in the middle of last December.  In the four and a half months before May, I had posted 31 times. Then in May, I set out to post everyday.  I would have doubled the blogs post count had I succeeded! In retrospect, it would have been more realistic to shoot for every other day.  I ended up posting 19 times in 31 days.  Some thoughts on my month of blogging:

  • I didn’t reach the main goal, but I actually feel like it was a very successful month.
  • I really enjoyed blogging on a regular basis.
  • I struggled to think of content at times, but embracing daily blogging forced me to write about new and different things.
  • Knowing that I was going to be writing on a regular basis caused me to pay a little more attention to all that was going on around me.

Overall, it was a great exercise.  I’ll slow down the pace a bit, but I’ll still be trying to post 3-4 times a week from this point forward.  Hmmm… is that goal too lofty?

Life Skills and Blogging…

Day 2 in my attempt to blog every day this month.  One thing has been consistent with my Embrace / Refrain project:  each month I am trying to learn and better myself as I work at self discipline and pursing better practices for life.    Today I read a fantastic post from Joshua Becker over at Becoming Minimalist about the life skills he has learned from blogging.  The post is worth a read, but here is the list minus decsriptions:

  • Writing.
  • Risk-taking.
  • Being Entrepreneurial.
  • Networking.
  • Selling.
  • Taking criticism.
  • Being observant.
  • Reading.
  • Promoting others.
  • Promoting self.
  • Balancing.
If I gain skills in half of this list over this month and the rest of this project, I’ll consider it a huge success.

 

Daily Blogging?

I just sorta threw this out there at the end of my post about momentum:  What if I blog every day in May?  On one hand, I like the idea of writing everyday.  I think it will force me to look for things each day worth writing about .  It might cause me to reflect a little deeper about everyday realities and current news events.  On the other hand, I wonder what the heck I will write about!  Certain days will be no problem.  I might see something really cool, or maybe just have something on my mind worth writing about.   But what about those days that, well… are just normal.  When nothing special happens either in my life or the news and nothing in particular comes to mind;  What then?

Over the next week or so, I will be trying to brainstorm ideas for those days.  I want to get a list of things to write about so that I have a bit of a “bucket” to pull from once I get into the thick of everyday posting.  The blog is going to look a bit different, though.  Up to this point, all my posts have been directly tied to my experiment with embrace and refrain.  I am going to need to go outside of those boundaries into some uncharted territory (for me).   I am excited to see how this goes.  Here are a few things that pop into my head in terms of categories:

  • Sports:  I love sports and the NFL draft is coming up this week!  I am a big DETROIT sports fan, so I might post about the Lions draft and maybe about the early MLB season with the Tigers.
  • Learning Web Development / WordPress:  Over the last 8 months, I have been learning as much as I can about web development and WordPress.
  • My new profession… adventures of a stay at home dad.
  • My experiences as a Youth Pastor:  Before my recent switch, I worked in youth ministry for 12 years.  There might be something in those 12 years worth writing about…
  • Apps, iPad, Apple, etc:  I’m an Apple fanboy… what can I say?
  • Embrace / Refrain Updates:  I continue to work on all 3 of my first 3 months practices at lesser levels.
  • Things I’m thankful for:  My wife writes a daily list of 5 things she is thankful for.  It’s a pretty cool thing to do.
  • Politics:  Nope…  not going there.
  • Photos:  My own quirky version of Instagram!

Well… that’s not a bad list for starters.

Momentum

As a youth pastor for 9 years, I experienced both positive and negative momentum.  If we had a few student leaders (not by title, but by practice) who were genuinely excited about our group and what we were up to, the group would take off for a period of time.  On the opposite end, if we had some prominent students who were negative about the group, it could really kill any momentum we seemed to have.  I think we often tried to spiritualize those realities when we tried to explain them, but maybe it was just a practical reality of momentum.

This year the Detroit Red Wings were one of the best NHL teams early on in the season (if not THE best).  After several injuries, toward the end of the season they went on a huge slide.  Just before the playoffs they got most of their players back, but they never regained the momentum they had earlier in the season.  They were just ousted from the playoffs after getting dominated by the Nashville Predators 4 games to 1.

It’s not ministry or a professional sport, but apparently small-time blogs are effected by momentum as well.  Early on in this project, I was genuinely excited.  The blog was new, it was fun, and it was something I had wanted to do for some time.  I posted regularly for the first 3 months.  Toward the end of the 3rd month, I had a couple of really busy weeks, followed up by a family vacation.  I lost momentum.  When I got back, it was stinking hard to even open up WordPress and start writing again.

April ended up being a wasted month in terms of the blog.  I tried to salvage it about a week and a half in, but I never really got any traction either with practicing the first 3 months habits or writing about it.  Admittedly, it’s pretty hard to write about something you’re not working on!  Without trying, I ended up refraining from embrace/refrain for April.

When our momentum was down in youth group, we would look hard at some things we could do to get the group excited about our community.  It didn’t always work, but we didn’t just sit around and accept that our groups momentum was going in the wrong direction.  We did something about it.  The Red Wings will definitely be busy in the offseason trying to correct the slide that happened at the end of this season.  They will work hard to change their momentum.  In the bigger picture of life, ministry, work, family, etc;  this blog isn’t that big of a deal.  However, I do want to finish out the experiment that I set out to do at the end of 2011, as I have already seen some great benefits from trying to work on better habits and discipline.  I need to do some work on getting that momentum back.

I think May will be an embrace of blogging. I will try to post as often as possible.  Do I shoot for every day?