2021 Year Review & 2022 Goals

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“It’s a Wonderful Life”

REVIEW OF 2021’s GOALS:

1. READ THE BIBLE EVERY DAY. As always, this is easier said than done. This year I’ve decided to start out by reading a chapter of Isaiah, John, and Romans each day. Will you join me?

Not even close! Complete failure. BUT, I certainly was in it and grew in my understanding of it. Was blessed with twice-a-month Bible study in Genesis with men from our church, Christ Covenant Fellowship. We had healthy discussion.

2. MEMORIZE ROMANS CHAPTER ONE: This has been a goal over the last 5 years, and quite frankly I’ve dropped the ball. I need some accountability on this. ASK ME!!

Again, just didn’t prioritize it. I’ve got plenty of excuses, but memorizing scripture is worth prioritizing and I need to do a better job. I did review various memory verses that I lost exact grasp of over the years as I met with a young man on a weekly basis.

3. SERVING MY WIFE: Ashlee has settled back into photography quite nicely since we’ve returned from China, and I suspect that she’ll continue to expand her expertise and possibilities this year. I’m looking to help her in any way I can. I’ll also try to help out in schooling with the girls a bit more. I might have to slow down on the cooking a bit, regrettably, as I’ll be working up on Liberty’s campus 5 days a week.

Well, as suspected, Ashlee got a lot of wonderful work this past year, and has increased her photography skills all the more. Ironically, fixing meals still continued to be a way for me to serve on a large percentage of days. I wasn’t able to help with the girls much in schooling this year, as I got slammed with a lot more PHD work and renovation work than expected. That said, I did get the opportunity to commute to Liberty every week day in the Spring with Emeri and every week-day in the Fall with Tyne. It has been a blessing to be able to help my older daughters transition into their college years.

4. SERVING MY DAUGHTERS: As I mentioned before, I’ve appreciated my drives to the university with Emeri, and I look forward to those continuing for the time being. I’m also looking forward to getting Tyne graduate in May, and then started up at Liberty in the fall. Tyne and Gareth will also probably try out for this spring’s theatrical offering as well. It’s my goal to spend a bit more coffee-date time with the girls this year, as last year I was intensely busy in the academic world.

Unfortunately the “coffee time” just didn’t happen. I did go out to eat with them a few times this past year, but it’s easier said than done to carve out time that fits everyone’s schedule. That said, I did actually spend more time with Cardin, but she also requests the most time….which I’m not complaining about. My time with Gareth was very limited, as she was often out helping Ashlee with photography when she wasn’t doing school work or practicing the piano. Another major investment that Ashlee and I made in Cardin’s life was to encourage her to audition for a child role in OLIVER! (as in Oliver Twist). She made the cast and got to be an orphan child and a daughter of a well-to-do citizen. She poured herself into the performance (her first acting opportunity ever), and she did a wonderful job. Our investment in Gareth’s piano endeavors paid off this past year, as she is showing herself to be truly gifted at the piano. She had her first recital this past fall, and did marvelously. Life has included a whole lot of transporting of daughters over the past year, but I’m extremely thankful for the opportunity.

5. HEALTH-WEIGHT LOSS-WORKING OUT: Annnnnnddddd here we go again. Looking to get in some running/work outs at the gym at least once a week…hopefully more. Starts this week. In a bit of honesty, I have to admit that I reached my highest weight ever this past month…230. Thankfully I’m already on my way back down as we’ve returned from our holiday trip out west, but much effort is going to have to go towards disciplining myself in eating habits. The goal is to lose 5-10 pounds a month until I get down to about 190…then I’ll reexamine whether I need to keep dropping it or not. I haven’t been 190 in over 15 years…so I’m a little concerned as to what I might look like 😉

As always, I started off the year well, and had good moments in the summer and a few in the fall, but I simply didn’t stay consistent and didn’t lose the weight I wanted to. Actually, I stayed between 220-227 for the majority of the year, which caused me to have to slow down on my running for a while because I was damaging my feet. Finances and convenience issues didn’t help my eating habits, as I desired quick and easy while on campus during the school day. I took sandwiches for a while, but I tried to refrain from bread and so I fixed myself on Taco Bell (I know…) and Asian stir-fry. I drank a lot more sodas this year than the last couple, so that was not a step in a healthy direction. 

6. FULL-TIME UNDERGRADUATE TEACHING/MENTORING POSITION: Still looking for this opportunity this year, but I am excited that God has already granted me some more on-campus teaching opportunities and has continued to provide consistent online opportunities.

Whether I should have or not, I got my hopes up for a full-time faculty position that opened up at Liberty this past summer. I was one of only two individuals that was interviewed for the position, and I didn’t get it. I stay pretty resilient with most challenges in the job arena, but this set of events was like a rollercoaster of disappointment. I’ve been “not chosen” on countless job applications, but never for something that was seemingly so close to obtaining. That said, I was still greatly blessed with the opportunity of teaching two on-campus sections on the capstone course in Interdisciplinary Studies, and I was also given the opportunity to be the subject matter expert (person who writes the curriculum and guides other teachers) for another online ethics course. I also started meeting with more young men this past year, going through studies with them, thus fulfilling a bit more of my desire to mentor.

7. WRITING: I’ve already cranked out one post this year (earlier today), so I hope to crank out some relevant culturally engaged writing this year that rivals my best past years.

-Podcast: I’m not promising anything, but it has been on the radar for the last few years. I’ve been encouraged by several folks to start one, but I needed to find the headspace and time. Maybe 2021 will be the year.

This was definitely one of my slower years in terms of blog writing, but understandably so. My writing efforts when almost exclusively into my PhD work, and it doesn’t look like that will change much in the future. Didn’t ever get a podcast up and running either.

8. EDUCATION: This year is a big one (not that the others haven’t been). The goal is to write a journal article for publication and then write an acceptable dissertation proposal. Hopefully I’ll have started the dissertation writing process by the end of the year. You all can be praying that my travels to Belgium for the doctoral colloquium are not restricted come September.

Unfortunately, this past year was filled with drama in my PhD. I worked very hard on my publishable journal article and the dissertation proposal all through the late spring and summer, and then present a paper in the online Colloquium for my institution. I was asked to refine those two works after submitting the rough drafts in, and that is when my advisor and I came to a disagreement on the direction that my research should go. I’ve been very flexible in the content of my research over the past 4 years, but we both apparently came to a hill on which to die. After some consultation with the administration, I was blessed with a new advisor (one that I had initially desired to study with when I first applied to ETF). This development has probably set me back 4 to 5 months because of the transition time and reframing of my research according to my new advisor’s advice. But, remain grateful to be in such an outstanding doctoral program at a well-respected institution.

9. SACRA DOMUS: Just not sure where this is going. It could be something to hang onto or rebrand or let go of. I’ve also played around with the idea of starting a fellows program loosely related to Sacra Domus that focuses in on the content of my doctoral studies..i.e. Bonhoeffer and systematic theology. But, we’ll see. It’s not high on the priority list at this point.

Nothing developed on this issue this past year. I post on the Sacra Domus website from time to time, but no significant developments in the vision for this.

10. TRAVEL: Traveling overseas once this year with Ashlee. It was our hope for Ashlee to accompany me to my doctoral colloquium in Belgium this past September, but that was obviously derailed because of COVID. We’re hoping that the opportunity opens back up this fall, and thus we can take that 20-year anniversary celebration 2 years after the fact.

My doctoral colloquium was once again regulated to an online experience, so Ashlee and I were not able to travel to Europe together this past year. In addition, the absence of a full-time job and COVID restrictions kept our traveling down to a minimum. Although we were able to visit my mother in Tulsa and Ashlee’s family in Texas this past year. Also, in an answer to prayer, my brother gifted me his old Volvo SUV this past fall, the only catch was that my mom had to fly me out to Colorado so I could drive it back to Virginia. It was a good excuse to see my brother, who I had not seen since April of 2016, and to meet his new wife. I also got to stop over in Tulsa on the trip back to attend my cousin’s wedding.

11. COMMUNITY & CHURCH INVOLVEMENT: For two years we’ve been in an odd place in our church community. Our transition to and from China, and some hard decisions concerning our involvement in a prior church community before we left, has left us fairly uninvolved in a specific church community over the last couple of years. We recently landed on a community we can sign off on, and we plan to invest in that community in a way that corresponds to our traditional level of involvement. We also plan to continue our involvement in our neighborhood, as we continue to meet new and long-time residents. We had a great neighborhood Christmas event prior to leaving for the holidays, and I’m hoping we can continue to grow as a community of neighbors in 2021.

There were good developments on this front. We have really enjoyed getting plugged into this newly formed church, Christ Covenant Fellowship, and we have begun the process of starting a small group. I also led a small group study over C.S. Lewis’ Four Loves this past fall, which was fruitful. Additionally, we have made even better friends with acquaintances in our neighborhood, and I got to go fishing with my next door neighbor, as we’ve been talking about it for a long time.

12. READ A FICTION BOOK: This might be a silly or surprising goal to some of you, but I haven’t read a fiction book (other than a children’s book to the girls) since probably 2007. I know…..that’s disturbing to many of you, but my world has been saturated with non-fiction reading requirements for a very long time now, and I’m a slow reader who has a large family. Reading fiction just hasn’t been on the priority list for a long time.

But!…I recognize the value of it and hope to get back into the habit of reading them more often….like one a year 😉

Well….I waited until the last week of the year, but I’ve just started Kim by Rudyard Kipling. I’ve loved Indian culture ever since my visit there in 2014, and I’ve always wanted to read the classics that relate with India.

13. RENOVATION: I want to help Ashlee with at least one renovation project on the house this year. We’ve got plenty of small projects that need to be taken care of, but Ashlee and I want to make a few larger changes that might bring greater value to our old home. Time and money are always a factor, but we’re hoping that we can get something done this year.

I didn’t know what I was getting myself into with this goal. Ashlee ended up figuring out a way to do a refinance for our house that included a cash-out that funded a fairly large renovation process. Even after the renovation, we still pay a lower mortgage than we did prior to the refinance. So, in the midst of my attempts to continue writing for my doctoral work, I also had to help oversee and participate in the demolition of a couple of walls, the installation of a new kitchen tile floor, the installation of new kitchen cabinets and a kitchen island, and the installation of an HVAC system. This was all a great added value to our house, but it was also a significant distraction to my doctoral work. But, I’m thankful for the work that was done and the added value for hospitality and family enjoyment.

Thank you to everyone who helped make 2021 a wonderful year.

GOALS FOR 2022!

1. READ THE BIBLE EVERY DAY. I started out pretty consistently this past year, but then started to waver after a month or so. So, this year I’m going to shorten it to one chapter of Isaiah and John each day.

2. MEMORIZE ROMANS CHAPTER ONE: This has been a goal over the last 6 years, and I’m still dropping the ball. I commitment to this has to be strengthened.

3. SERVING MY WIFE: Helping her out with photography and schooling the girls is a bit out of the question, I’ve learned, but I certainly can continue to make the dishes and meals a priority. In addition to this, I need to be more creative in initiating dates with her. We don’t have much money, so I need to come up with some enjoyable things to do on the cheap. It’s my hope to take a vacation with just her and me this next year.

4. SERVING MY DAUGHTERS: I’ve got to do a better job of prioritizing this as well. My goal is to commit to one lunch/coffee/dinner date with one girl a week. Being accessible to talk is always something I’m pretty good at, but I need to be more proactive with them. I want to try and start playing tennis with the older girls and maybe basketball with Cardin, as she wants to try her hand at basketball this next year. I also need to work with Cardin to get her ready for baptism this year. She’s been wanting to get baptized and we’ve been holding off for various reasons, but I think this is the year! I want to help Gareth continue to excel in her piano skills and possibly in another theatrical performance or two.

5. HEALTH-WEIGHT LOSS-WORKING OUT: So, things didn’t work out quite like I would have liked in this category last year, and thus I find myself still hovering (or sinking) between 225 and 230lbs of late. This has got to change. I picked up a work out partner for a few weeks this past fall, but I became dependent on whether he went or not, and thus I simply didn’t go if he canceled. The goal is to work out at least once a week, but hopefully 2 or 3 times a week starting this next week. Another goal is to do 22 pushups every day, no matter what. Losing 40 lbs in one year is a lot, so the new goal is to get down to 200 lbs by the end of the year. I also need to get back in the habit of not drinking any sodas/pop/coke…whatever you want to call it. Additionally, I’d like to get a 3-mile run time down to 24 minutes this year. That’s a significant goal, but certainly possible if I lose the weight and keep a working out each week.

6. FULL-TIME UNDERGRADUATE TEACHING/MENTORING POSITION: As I stated earlier, I came close to being granted this desire, but the Lord chose not to grant me it just yet. But I’m still praying and hoping for this development this year. I’m hopeful that it works out with Liberty, but I’ll be keeping my eyes open for other opportunities as the Lord guides. Thankfully, the administrators at Liberty that I work under are granting me significant online work. While not the end goal, it does provide significant flexibility and time for me to work on my doctoral work.

7. WRITING: I’m simply not going to be able to write for pleasure the way I’d like to, as my primary writing goal this year will be to make significant progress on my dissertation, once the proposal has been approved. A blog post might develop here and there based on life and world issues, but it’s just not going to be a priority.  

-Podcast: A podcast is still a possibility, but it will probably be in conjunction with someone else if I do it.

8. EDUCATION: As stated above, the primary goal in my education this year is to get my dissertation proposal and publishable journal article approved by the doctoral committee and then begin work on my dissertation. This has got to be a significant focus this year, as I don’t want to be working on my PhD until I’m 50….although that’s increasingly possible.

9. SACRA DOMUS: Again, not sure where it’s going and it’s not high on the list…but I’ll continue to post things on the Facebook page from time to time and I might start a monthly discussion group related to biblical, theological, and ethical topics.  

10. TRAVEL: Traveling overseas once this year with Ashlee. As last year, It was our hope for Ashlee to accompany me to my doctoral colloquium in Belgium this past September, but that was derailed once again. We’re still hopeful that we can take an extended trip to Europe around my Colloquium for our 20-year anniversary celebration….now 3 years after the fact.

11. COMMUNITY & CHURCH INVOLVEMENT: We will be leading and hosting a small group for our church community, which is very exciting for us. I also plan on continuing the mentor relationships that I started last year and develop some new ones out of our church and Liberty. I also want to get out fishing again with my next door neighbor and continue to develop closer and broader relationships with those in our neighborhood. In addition to these, we are also looking to get involved in some volunteer work at the food pantry/community kitchen downtown.

12. READ A FICTION BOOK: As I stated above, I started reading Kim by Rudyard Kipling this past week, and I plan to keep working on that over the next month or two. I’m a slow reader, but I can get lost in a book from time to time. So, here’s hoping I finish that one and then jump into one of the Joseph Conrad books I picked up last year.

13. RENOVATION: We still have to install the transitions from the new tile kitchen floor to the wood dining room floor and install some thresholds as well. If I get some full-time work, the goal is to also try and put up a new fence in the back yard. I think the built-in bookshelves in my study will have to wait for another year.

14. HUNTING: I picked up a full hunting/fishing license this past summer in order to go fishing with my neighbor, but the hope was that I would get the opportunity to go deer hunting this fall and winter. I was able to go once, thanks to a friend from church, but I this next year I’d like to make that a couple of times at least and to actually shoot a deer. We slaughter the deer ourselves and use every ounce of meat that we can.

15. LANGUAGE: It’s not imperative that I learn German for my doctoral work, but I would like to pick up a working level of reading German in order to engage primary sources more efficiently.

16. HIKING & SKIING: I’d like to get outdoors with the family more often this year. We definitely have access to hiking trails near us, and we need to prioritize getting out there more often. But I’d also love to take our family snow-skiing this year. We’ll see how it goes.

As always, I hope that you’ll check in on me in relation to these goals, hopes, and prayers. I’m hopeful that 2022 will be a safe, fruitful, and blessed year for my own family and yours. Happy New Year!!

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