I don’t like these “year in reviews”….

This entry is part 1 of 11 in the series 2011: A look back A look forward

…but I do see the value in them – so I’ll add my own to the mix!  What is the value?

  • Gain appreciation and cultivate gratitude for the great stuff that happened to you in the past year.
  • Reflect on what you can learn from the past year.
  • Plant seeds of motivation for what’s possible in the coming year.

When I started writing out my year in review post for 2010 it began turning into a book.  Not good.  Too much editing.  But then I realized, it’s a review of a whole year, of course it’s going to be longer than my typical post.  So I broke it into a series of posts.

Why would you want to read this? That’s a good question.  I will confess that I’m writing this year in review and look ahead mostly for my own benefit (see points above) but I also believe there will be some value for my readers.  For one thing, it will give you some insight into the mind of a developing leader (and entrepreneur) and more of the things that matter to me.  At the very least it could get you thinking about what matters to you.  So without any more banter, let’s get started shall we.

being entrepreneurish…

This entry is part 2 of 11 in the series 2011: A look back A look forward

Is that even a word?  If it isn’t, you read it hear first!  Let’s continue the series I started yesterday:

What I wrote last year: As part of paying down our debt I’m going to start trying out different ways of monetizing some of the things I do on the internets.  I’ve already started somewhat by doing some custom work related to my Organize Series Plugin for WordPress but I’m planning on expanding on that by releasing some custom add-on plugins for Organize Series that will not be free.  Along that lines, I’ve been following this discussion on Weblog Tools Collection because it helps me consider how I might go about doing this.  Been thinking about bringing classy ads to my blog too.

What happened:

After a LOT of hard work (much more than I anticipated) and frequent long nights,  OrganizeSeries.com went live in early October.  So far things are going well, not as well as I hoped but nevertheless I’m at least paying for the costs of hosting my websites.  Another great thing that happened along with Organize Series this past year is that I gained some extra freelance work and supplemented my income that way (many thanks to the clients who contacted me and gave me the work!).  Finally, as you’ve noticed probably already – there’s no ads to my blog (yet).

What I learned: Here’s the cool thing.  Organize Series is something I’ve been developing for nearly four years now (before WordPress it was actually a PHPNuke module!!) and I’ve basically honed my skills through working on it.  I love the fact that what had been just a hobby is now turning into a great little business on the side that’s helping my family with some of the financial goals we have.  Organize Series also lead to some great freelance work that I never advertised for or went looking for.  All I had (and still have) is a little option on my contact form for people to express interest in hiring me for development work.

The lesson for me this year is that with a little creativity it is possible to turn a hobby you love doing into something that can bring in an income too.  The bonus, because I love doing web development I VALUE EXCELLENCE in whatever I do, so my clients and Organize Series users can trust that I will work hard for them.

The difficulty of course has been struggling to balance my time with my full-time job (pastoring at a great church in Waterloo), my family, and now my part-time freelancing business and OrganizeSeries.com on the side.  This is something I’ll be continuing to work on in the coming year.

The other lesson is that getting to this level in my development skills and to the point of making money with it did NOT happen over night.  It happened through hard work and learning through lot’s of reading, lot’s of experimenting, and lots of DOING (or in the words of Seth Godin, “shipping it“).  The hard work is WORTH it because it’s something I love to do.  Also, these skills are granting me the ability to do some work for two organizations I really love supporting (more about that in a future post).

So, what hobbies do you have that are making you better at doing something?  Is it something that you can make a little bit of money off of?  Are you doing that now?

The deeper question for my spiritual readers, could it be possible God has given you the love for this activity/hobby because He has something in mind He wants you to use it for?  What are you doing with it?

measurables…

This entry is part 3 of 11 in the series 2011: A look back A look forward

I will admit.  I’m kind of a stats freak.  I like keeping track of things and seeing changes happen.  Even though that is something I like though, I’m not into blogging for the numbers.  Still, to me, numbers are cool.

With that said,  as I continue my series on “Looking Back, Looking Forward“, this post flows out of what I wrote at the beginning this year:

I plan on posting more frequently here at UnfoldingNeurons.com – I think there is room for more Canadian Tech and Ministry bloggers out there.

What happened:

In 2009 I wrote and published 123 posts.  In 2010 I wrote and published only 46 posts.  So I guess I failed in this task.  Here’s some other 2010 stats (I told you I like numbers!):

  • The month I published the most posts in last year was February.
  • Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday tied for the days of the week that I most often published a post.
  • In 2010, all my posts were commented on 95 times.  Of course, the majority of comments were made on any posts I made related to my Organize Series plugin.

coaching

This entry is part 4 of 11 in the series 2011: A look back A look forward

This post continues the series I’ve been writing on as a part of my year in review.  Here’s something else I wrote last year when thinking about the year ahead:

One of the highlights in the past year for me was taking some training on being a leadership coach.  Every now and then I think we come across something that as individuals we really connect with as something we’re created to do.  Coaching is one of those things for me.  I’ve decided that I’m going to pursue the path to becoming a certified leadership coach as it really jives with what I believe God created me for.  I’m starting off this year by leading my church pastoral team through a peer coaching course and I’ll also be attending another training session myself.

lurking vs. joining the conversation

This entry is part 5 of 11 in the series 2011: A look back A look forward
In the continuation of the series I’ve been writing this last few days, here’s something I wrote as a part of my New Year’s post at the beginning of last year:
I’m going to comment and interact more on the internets.  Confession: I’m a lurker.

What happened :

I’m still a lurker for the most part although I have got involved in more discussions than I did the previous year.  I even have a few posts on this blog that grew out of comments I made elsewhere:

guest blogging

This entry is part 6 of 11 in the series 2011: A look back A look forward

Let’s keep going on this series shall we?  Here’s what I wrote around this time last year:

On that note, it’d be an awesome honor to be invited to be a guest blogger on one of the blogs I read. Dunno if I have anything to offer, but still it’d be cool.

What happened

I still think it’d be an honor to be invited but it didn’t happen.  Well, that’s not entirely correct.  I didn’t get a specific invitation – they have given a general invitation to all their readers to contribute (and get paid too!) – I just haven’t taken them up on it (yet).

What I learned:

Aside from the fact that I’m obviously not as in demand as a writer as I thought I was (sic), this is a good example of waiting for something to happen that needs your involvement to happen.  In other words, there are some things in life that won’t happen until you take steps towards it happening.  Honestly, when I wrote about becoming a guest blogger last year I wasn’t really expecting that I would get invited, it was more of a “it would be cool if..” kind of a statement.  Realistically, if I really wanted to be a guest writer on ChurchCrunch I would have wrote an article and submitted it to them.  They had already extended the invitation.

This made me think, “this is like our relationship with God sometimes”  We pray things like, “Hey God, you know it would be really cool if you took care of my debt and blessed me with wealth” and do nothing.  Sure, God could do amazing things like that, but more often than not he’s waiting for us to act on things he’s already told us to do. In other words,

  • you’re asking for financial blessing – how are you spending and stewarding what you have?
  • you’re asking for a better marriage relationship – what are you contributing to the relationship?
  • you’re asking for increased influence – what are you doing with the influence you already have?
  • you’re asking for a raise – have you been faithfully working in the job you’re doing now?

God parted the Red Sea, but Moses had to lift up the staff first.  God stopped the flow of the Jordan River, but the priests had to walk into it with the Ark of Covenant first.  God knocked down the walls of Jericho, but the worship team had to lead a parade around it first.  God will give you a new nature, and an incredible relationship with him past the end of time, but you have to receive the gift of salvation through Christ first.

What are YOU doing with what you have?

(incidentally, today I read this article by Stephen Furtick that approached this idea from another angle,  he knocks it out of the park!)

pro-bono

This entry is part 7 of 11 in the series 2011: A look back A look forward

This post continues the series I’ve been writing as I reflect on 2010.  This has been neat thinking through some of the things I aimed for in the New Years post I wrote last year and what actually happened.  Let’s continue:

I hope to continue volunteering for some great causes (along with continuing the work I do for vohmalawi.org and vohzimbabwe.com).

What happened

I still continue to support both Villages of Hope in Malawi and Zimbabwe  along with developing and maintaining their websites (pro-bono, you knew you’d find out the reason for the title of this post right?) .  This continues to be something I LOVE doing.  Here’s why:

  1. Anything to do with web development is ice cream to me. I like ice cream.
  2. These two organizations are doing incredible work in providing hope and a future to kids who have little of both.  They’ve captured my heart.
  3. The people working there have sacrificed much to get there and continue what they’re doing.  I want to do what I can to make their job communicating things a little bit easier.
  4. There’s IMMENSE satisfaction knowing that you are using your skills and abilities to contribute to making a difference in the world. I know God smiles at the work I do for them.

What I learned

I’ve had to be a good steward of my time.  There are so many things I want to do but there’s only 24 hours in a day and I have to be careful of the things I choose to do.  Sometimes that means choosing what I won’t do.  In order to keep doing the websites for these folks I have had to choose to cut back in some other areas of my life.  Which is okay (reread my list above for why).

There have been different points through the year where I’ve had to revisit this important principle when I realized that I was taking on more than I should and not letting things go (that may be good, but not better than something I want to add to my life).

I challenge you to take a look at your gifts and abilities.  Is there something you are giving them to, that makes a difference in the world?  There’s nothing like it.  I’d love to hear about it!

Oh and another thing I wrote last year:

I may be going on a trip to Siberia this year.  Yes, that’s crazy.

Yes it was crazy.  I didn’t go. It was one of those things I had to say no to.  This February I’m going to Malawi (to the Village of Hope there actually!!) and I may be going to the Ukraine in April.  You’ll hear more about these in the future.

what matters

This entry is part 8 of 11 in the series 2011: A look back A look forward

Been away from here the last couple days, but now I’m back.  Let’s continue this series shall we?  Last year I wrote a “looking forward” kind of post for some of the things I hoped to accomplish, change in the coming year.  This year I’m writing a series of post reflecting on that list and what happened in 2010.  Here’s the next item on the list that I wrote:

I’m going to continue working on being a great Dad and husband to my family…if I fail at that, then it doesn’t matter what else I succeed at.

What happened:

A work in progress!  I think I’m not doing too bad, but I know I could always do better.  One of the hardest things for me in the past year was balancing my time.  Between my full time job at my church, the freelance work I did, and my work on Organize Series, it’s been a challenge spending the quality time needed to be a good husband and father.  I know I could have done better – correction: I know I MUST do better.  Why? Because it’s one of the few things that really matters.

There are some things I’m doing to get better at this and I’ll hopefully write a blog post about it at some point.  But for now, I’d love to hear from you, my readers about what you do to make sure you are investing quality time for the things that really matter in your life?  So let me hear it in the comments!

memory work

This entry is part 9 of 11 in the series 2011: A look back A look forward

It’s time for another post in this series.  Here’s another thing I wrote last year around this time:

I’m going to be memorizing scripture through the year along with others in my church family who are joining in the journey (I’ll be posting about this sometime in the next two weeks).  My 8 year old daughter is also participating and when I sent her an email (yes she has email – I’ve introduced her to the Google Behemoth)  to tell her that I’m doing it too she replied, “Neat. Bring it on Dad”.  The gloves are down.

What happened:

I’ve been memorizing every scripture every week and have about 38-40 scriptures memorized  REALLY well and probably the rest I’m still working on.  I’ve used a variety of tools to help me with this through the year but have settled on this iPhone app.  Unfortunately my daughter didn’t have the stamina to keep up with her Dad (of course, at 9 years old, she’s got enough stuff going on!)  BUT the cool thing is she is reading her Bible every day and goes out of her way to show me the latest stuff she’s reading.  I love it!

What I learned:

  • You may think you can’t memorize stuff.  But you can.  It still amazes me when I review the verses that I can even recite them from memory.
  • Having scripture memorized enhanced my prayer life.  There have been so many times when I’ve been praying for something and a verse came to mind that “fit in” with what I was praying.  Powerful.
  • Another benefit is that I’m finding when I read the Bible, the overall themes are more apparent because of the scripture I’ve memorized.  I find myself thinking, “hey, that sounds familiar to something over in_______”, where the blank is a scripture I memorized.
  • Memorizing scripture has helped improve my memory overall.  This was unexpected, but I am finding that I’m remembering things easier than before.  Names come easier.  The coding I do goes quicker because I’m not having to look up functions as much.  Remembering I locked my van door is easier (those who heard me talk about that in a message I spoke last year will know what I’m talking about).

All in all this has been something that I’ve found to be a VERY beneficial discipline.  Have any of you had experience with memorizing things?  How has it worked for you?  What benefits have you noticed?

getting in the Word

This entry is part 10 of 11 in the series 2011: A look back A look forward

I’ve been away from here again for a few days and it’s turning this series I’ve been writing into a month long reflection.  Nevertheless, I am determined to finish this! So let’s continue (if you’re new to this series, you can click here for some context).

Here’s what I wrote last year:

I love YouVersion.com and thanks to the many Bible Reading plans they’ve made available, I’m going to be reading through the Bible (again) this year.  If you don’t read the Bible, you should – it’s one of the best things you can do (and the digerati team behind youversion has made it so easy!) My wife and I are working through a plan together as well.

What happened:

I made it halfway through the M’Cheyne plan that I was working on.  Kind of bummed I didn’t complete it but I try not to be religious in my Bible reading (otherwise it becomes a chore, it should never be a chore!).  My wife and I didn’t complete the reading plan we were working on together either (Blended) – so many days where we just collapsed exhausted in bed together.  I’m missing this though so I want to get back on track with another one this year.  Now that we both have iPhones it should be easier to work together on this.

What I learned:

About myself:  I work best with routine, but need to change it up once and a while.  Otherwise it becomes just that, routine instead of reward.  There IS NO SET FORMULA for when, where, how, or how much you should read!  YouVersion has REALLY helped me with breaking the shackles of routine.

About  my spirit:  Spiritually speaking, the Word of God is “soul food” for me.  I definitely feel it when I go any extended time without just reading the Bible with an open heart and spirit, expecting to hear from God.  There’s almost an edginess, and dullness that exists in my life without it.   Not only that, but I have found that my creative output goes down as well.

What about you?  How does reading the Bible affect your life (or not)… and why do you think that is?