Annual Goal Setting

Every year, JT and I take time in January to do annual goal setting. Typically, we go to our local coffee shop and sit for a few hours to talk, brainstorm, dream, and push each other to do things with the upcoming year that neither of us thought were possible.

We've found Michael Hyatt's blog post on goals to be very helpful, so I'll share a snippet here with you:

  1. "Keep them few in number. Productivity studies show that you really can’t focus on more than 5–7 items at any one time. And don’t try to cheat by including sections with several goals under each section. This is a recipe for losing focus and accomplishing very little. Instead, focus on a handful of goals that you can repeat almost from memory.
  2. Make them “smart.” This is an acronym, as you probably know, and it is interpreted in various ways by different teachers. When I refer to smart goals, I mean this. Goals must meet five criteria. 
    1. Specific
    2. Measurable
    3. Actionable
    4. Realistic 
    5. Timebound
  3. Write them down. This is critical. There is a huge power in writing your goals down even if you never develop an action plan or do anything else (not recommended). Henriette Anne Klauser documents this in her fascinating book, Write It Down and Make It Happen. When you write something down, you are stating your intention and setting things in motion.
  4. Review them frequently. While writing your goals down is a powerful exercise in itself, the real juice is in reviewing them on a regular basis. This is what turns them into reality. Every time I review my goals, I ask myself, What’s the next step I need to take to move toward this goal. You can review them daily, weekly, or monthly. (I review them weekly.) It’s up to you. The key is to do let them inspire and populate your daily task list.
  5. Share them selectively. I used to advise people to “go public” with their goals—even blog about them. But in his 2010 TED talk, Derek Sivers makes the compelling case that telling someone your goals makes them less likely to happen. Now I counsel people not to share them with anyone who is not committed to helping you achieve them (e.g., your mentor, mastermind group, or business partner).
Some of our friends have asked for the worksheet we use for our goal setting. It's rather simple, actually, so I've listed it below for convenience. We go through personal goals, then use those same categories and set goals as a couple. In the past, we've put as many as 4-5 goals under each category. This year, we limited it to 1-2, per Michael's advice above. It's actually nice to simplify our goals a bit! 

OUR MAIN GOAL: Health (insert one word/phrase that describes your goals here)

Macy - Personal Goals
  • Spiritual

  • Recreational

  • Professional

JT - Personal Goals
  • Spiritual

  • Recreational

  • Professional
    • PhD

    • Work
Marriage Goals
  • Spiritual
  • Recreational
  • Financial
Hopefully you find this helpful! Stick the goals somewhere in your house (inside a cabinet, written on your bathroom mirror, etc) where you'll see it often and be reminded of them throughout the year.

Here's to a successful 2014!


How God Has Dealt With Me Through Suffering

In times of suffering you flee from what brings pain and run to what brings comfort. Suffering, in a way, shows us the core of who we are, where our hope is and where we find security.

This past Wednesday, February 27th, marked the 1-year anniversary of my brother, Samuel Ray Sinclair, being diagnosed with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia (ALL). I remember exactly where I was when I received the news. My heart sank and my thoughts immediately went to how I could best love and support my brother in this moment. I quickly called him and tried to be the supporting and loving sister that I know he needed, wishing I could be next to him in Houston. Wishing I could be present. I remember affirming him in our shared hope in the Lord and that God would only bring this upon Sam to lead others to come to know him. Sam agreed, as tears streamed down his face in fear of the unknown. Little did I know how much God would do in the next 72 hours in order to bring glory to His name.

Sam was quickly rushed to M.D. Anderson in Houston, where they started on chemotherapy and a multitude of tests to determine the best treatment plan. It wasn’t long after, that literally hundreds of people started to arrive at the hospital. Sam was one of the most well connected people. His passion for relationships and loving on people is far more than I can ever or will ever know. They were there to be present with him during this time of suffering. I remember calling him again the next day and laughter and joy were in his speech. He was loved on so much by his friends and my parents who were constantly there with him.

Friday morning, March 1st, Sam complained of numbness in his lips and fingers and was quickly rushed to receive a CAT scan of his brain.  Just prior to the scan he said, “I think I’m slowing down…” which is lovingly ironic because he was always going full speed.  He then slipped into a coma, induced by a brain bleed. Mom and dad rushed to the hospital and soon called with the news.

I was stricken with fear of the unknown. “This can’t be happening”, I thought to myself. Immediately, I pleaded with the Lord to work a miracle. Not knowing any specifics or what was going to happen, my husband, JT, and I hit our knees in prayer. We got on the first plane out of Louisville and my other brothers, Chris and Charlie, also got on the first plane to Houston from their respective cities.

The entire way traveling to Houston I couldn’t stop listening to piano hymns while reading Psalms. I started with the first chapter and just read and read and read. I knew nothing could bring more clarity or comfort.

After arriving to the hospital, we quickly realized that Sam’s condition was irreversible. He was going to die. We gathered around his bed, sang hymns, shared memories, talked to him, wept in anguish and prayed. I’ve never experienced such utter pain in my life. It didn’t even feel real. I held his warm, strong hand and pleaded with him to get up. We all did.

At 11:10pm on Thursday, March 1st, 2012, my brother Samuel Ray Sinclair, age 31, passed away. The Lord had kept Sam stable just long enough for us all to be together as a family and have a few hours together. Oh, how sweet the Lord is. Even in those moments of gut-wrenching pain, I could see God’s grace.

It was gracious for Him to give us time together as a family. It was gracious for Him to allow my parents to be with him the last 48 hours of his life. It was gracious of Him to surround Sam with hundreds of friends. It was gracious of Him to save my brother from his sins!

As we left the hospital that night and in the days after, I remember repeating to myself over and over, “God is in control. God is in control. He is our only hope.” I just couldn’t wrap my mind around what was happening or going on, but that is the truth I had to cling to. I remember asking my closest friends, “Please pray for joy among the saints as we rejoice at the grace of God in my brother’s life. May God grant us peace and grace to face the days ahead.”

This was and is my hope: Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.

Christ will one day return and He will speak the same words we spoke, “Sam, get up!” and Sam will rise! Oh, that I will be able to see him again!

The suffering of losing my brother has reminded me of my depravity and the certainty of sin’s curse—death. I hate death. I hate the pain and despair it brings. But for me, it does not stop there. I know where I place my hope and in whom I am secure. Christ will come again and restore all things and that is the day that I long for. But until then, I press on and run the race God has laid before me—that I might make much of Him and glorify Him in all that I do so that others may come to know Him.

This past year has been one of much heartache and joy. I never knew how much I’d need my husband, our church, our friends, and our family. They have surrounded me, poured love out on me, been present with me, and prayed for me. Suffering really is meant to be shared among community. They have prayed for the peace of God which surpasses all understanding to guard my heart in Christ. It has.

The pain is not gone and at times, Sam’s death doesn’t feel real. But the one thing I know is real is my constant comfort and hope.

Christ has died. Christ has risen. Christ will come again.

“What was lost, God will restore.” – John Piper

Samuel Ray Sinclair
May 29th, 1980 - March 1, 2012

Sinclair Family Picture, Christmas 2011


Our Kitchen | My favorite room in the house

We started this house project less than a year ago. Some have said we're crazy on how much we've done within our first 10 months of being homeowners. Honestly, we're exhausted after one project, only finding ourselves one weekend later say, "What's next?".

This spring we finished the outside with our yard and then the deck... with one major final project left before we were really to "entertain". The kitchen.

JT and I tend to agree on almost everything. And when it came to the kitchen, that pattern continued. We walked into the tile shop to pick out our back splash, looked through the entire store without saying anything, ended up on the same aisle, and both pointed to the same exact tile we like. Weird. Same thing happened with our counter top as well. It's almost as if we're becoming more like each other over these last 5 years of marriage.

Color scheme, textiles, knob handles, fixtures.... you name it, we agree. And it's awesome!

This was by far one of the most rewarding projects we've done so far. I literally come home everyday and smile when I see our kitchen. What a fabulous space for baking and cooking and entertaining and creating great things to be enjoyed by anyone who wants to come over.

I love cooking and I love people in our home. So this by far is my favorite room in the house :)

Let's start with a few pictures of what our house looked like when we purchased it.

Carpet. Linoleum. Wallpaper. Faux Butcher-block countertops. Soffit. Enough said.

Original Appliances (except the microwave). Thankful they all still work. And yes, we recycled them.

Our realtor, Cindy, signing our paperwork to put our offer in. Please notice the awesome rose window in the top left corner of the kitchen. "Beautiful stained glass" some would say... but not for the kitchen.

And this is after we painted the walls and put in new floors. It helped... but we still had so far to go to update this space. 

The cabinets were in fantastic condition and all of the bottom shelves slide out with ease, so we knew we'd keep them. We definitely scored on the savings by painting the cabinets white as opposed to purchasing new ones. In order for the soffit to be removed, we had to take down the upper cabinets.

Then after the lighting was redone and soffit was removed (the backsides had to stay due to plumbing and electrical being hid behind them), we had to repaint the ceiling. My cousin Alex was in town the weekend we wanted to do this... so free labor it was! She was up for it and was a great sport... thanks Alex! Couldn't have done it without you :)

Then it was time to put the upper cabinets back on and start to paint the doors and the cabinets. Because I've received this question many times already, I'll go ahead and answer it here. We used liquid sander to give all the doors a rough surface for the primer/paint to adhere to. Then we primed once and painted 2 coats of semi gloss white paint, straight out of the can, no special color. Trick to painting doors so that there are no streaks from the bush is to get all the cracks and seams with your brush, then have your partner go behind you with a roller and paint all the flat surfaces. Wish we would've known this tip before we did all the doors in our house 6 months ago :)

JT putting the cabinets back up.

After one coat of primer.

Painting the cabinet doors.

All coats are finished and the counter top and sink are removed. We painted the soffit the same color as the cabinets to draw the eye up to the ceiling.

After waiting 2 weeks for Home Depot to fix our counter top and reinstall it (it was wrong the first time and they did everything to make it right), we were able to start putting our kitchen back together.

Pendants were hung, glass was installed in that beautiful corner door, appliances were installed, counter tops were fixed, and everything went smoothly.... all we had left to do was the back splash. We laid the tile on Friday night, grouted on Saturday, and by Saturday night we were a little sore and frustrated that it took us so long. DIY videos and TV shows make this look way easier than it is. Travertine is a porous tile and grout majorly sticks to it. Ouch. Our arms and back were so tired after that project was finished. By far one of the hardest things yet in our DIY adventures. I could write a few paragraphs on it, but let's just say that was a great sermon illustration for JT come Sunday.

Laying the tiles.

Cutting the tiles.

Grouting. Enough said.

My back already hurts just having to look at these pictures again. Let's move on to before and afters, shall we?







Whew. We're done and it feels good. And really... this time I think we're done.... at least till next year! The bathrooms still need to be updated, but nothing that can't wait at least a few more months :) 

I realize I still haven't posted before/afters of our entire house.... somehow we missed that after we moved in. But I promise that's to come. 

If you have questions on how we accomplished anything in the kitchen, feel free to post them in the comments. We're an open book and would love to give advice/tips! 

Now hurry up and come over for dinner. We'd love to have you!


Weeds, Bushes, Forests: Our Yard... Then and Now

Growing up my parents taught me more DIY skills than I fully realized until I became a homeowner. My mother has an AMAZING green thumb. She can get anything to grow and knows exactly how to care for plants. Why did this skill not transfer to me? I'm not quite sure. I even had a hard time keeping indoor plants alive in college.

Ever since we took ownership on September 30, 2011, I've been resisting the task of tackling our yard. It was over-grown, not cared for, and ugly.

Good thing my husband has experience with landscaping from his high school summer jobs. I would be totally lost without him.... and also paying our neighbor's son $20 to mow our yard :) Seems reasonable to me!

Well, after much work, encouragement from JT's dad, Jack, and more sweat than I care to describe, we've almost completed the transformation of our front, side, and backyard!

Let's take a look at where we started in the front yard on the day we took ownership:

Let me just stop right here and tell you how much I DESPISE cedar. 

Absolutely hate it. So you know that bush was the first thing to go from our yard! A nice man and one chain saw later... and it was gone :) Happy day.

Now for the forest... I mean backyard.

Seriously. No maintenance in 1 yr will do serious damage to your yard. 

Right about now I'm laughing hysterically at how crazy this yard looks. I can't believe it was this bad! As my grandaddy used to say, holy cow.

Here's the planter to the right of where I'm standing when I took the picture above:

Well, after we cleaned all the dead trees, weeds, bushes, ivy, leaves, rocks, pebbles, and stones, we've got one tree left, a Japanese Maple, and a beautiful patch of dirt to till and plant some grass.

Before I start showing pictures of the final product, it's important I share some of the hard work that went into it. Jack came into town one weekend, stocked our garage full of great yard tools, and then helped us slave for two days outside. It was glorious. As Jack says, "You know you've done a good days work when your fingernails hurt at the end of the day."

This next picture is of the right side of our house in the front. Notice the extremely massive holly tree on the far right. The branches are so overgrown it's taking over the ground and turning yellow from an iron deficiency. The bare bushes in the middle are Burning Bushes. They turn bright red in the fall and are beautiful.... and completely overgrown, like the rest of our yard. Those bushes are roughly 8 feet tall in this picture and we've now cut them back 50%. Also, please notice the far left of the picture. There's an evergreen bush there and it's all the way over and touching the Burning Bush. Towards the end of the blog you'll see the final picture of what we've done to spruce that area up.

Crab grass. My grandfather hated crab grass and I married a man who also hates crab grass. At my grandfather's funeral in February of this year, we quoted how he always said, "Nothing can separate us from the love of God... not even crab grass" :)

JT raking 11 bags full of crabgrass out of our yard. Ugh.
Keep up the good work, honey! 

Now to the backyard. After we had some hired hands chop down trees and haul of debris, we were left with this:

Raking leaves, hauling rocks to the front yard to put underneath the bushes, and then chopping down the rest of those bushes in the backyard and we're left with a clean slate. 

After JT tilled the ground and cultivated it for grass, we added 50 bags of top soil manure to the backyard in order to laid our grass seed down. 

After you scatter the seed, it's time to water.... and wait.

The Parable of the Sower now has a whole new meaning for us. We're not farmers by any stretch of the imagination.... but you can imagine what it would be like. 

I took pictures over the next few weeks so you could see the growth. It's amazing to see how much it works! And it was SO much cheaper than laying sod. And rewarding too.

Now back to the front yard, our Dogwood tree started to bloom!

So we're now finished with planting new plants in the front and growth is coming in on our bushes, etc. We decided to keep the center area of our yard and plant a new Burning Maple tree... which we're told can get anywhere from 20-50 tall... so future homeowners, you're in for a treat in about 10 years! Look past this center area and you'll see the right side of our house... let's take a close look in the following pictures. 

 JT reused our pavers from the back on the side so that now we can get around the side of the house easier. And all of that is new grass planted by seed only. Amazing.

And remember our holly tree? We trimmed it up and planted grass underneath. Wonderful! 

Front of the house on the left.

Front door and my planters.

 Front yard on the right side of the door.

Now for the before and afters :)







Yes, those are hydrangea bushes... my fav! We have strawberries planted and they're actually producing fruit! Can't wait to reap the harvest. Also, since this picture was taken, those bushes have almost doubled in size and I've also added 3 tomato plants to that planter. Can't wait to enjoy my tomatoes! I planted Big Boy, Cupid, and Fourth of July tomatoes. 

Slowly but surely... I'm developing my green thumb.


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