END OF MONTH 1, DONATION RECEIPTS, QUARTERLY REPORT, W2s, & SOMETHING CALLED A NEWSLETTER! January is a grueling month for non-profits. It's when donation receipts have to be mailed out in addition to finishing the bookkeeping for the previous year. It's also when W3, W2s, and quarterly reports are due. And, in our case, it's also when the entire year of public events and a majority of our private events are (or should be) planned out. With each public event that is planned out a website link has to be built with all the relevant information so potential participants can make decisions and plan accordingly. In order to have the relevant information for the website that means the entire trip (or at least a majority of it) has to be planned out. Have you ever planned a 2 day, 5 day, 7 day, or 9 day vacation? That's a whole lot of planning to get done in just a few weeks. And since our private trips take on a slightly higher level of urgency than our public trips that means that public trip planning, link building, and advertising sometimes has to get bumped back a few days or a few weeks. As for 2015, we have had a surge in our private trip bookings so it posses good problems for me. Since most of our ministry revolves around private events I pretty much drop everything I'm doing when a pastor or youth pastor or group leader signs their group up for a private event. I answer questions, make recommendations, help narrow down dates, create contracts, type overly long detailed emails (I like to give more information than is sometimes needed), and then I put in a lot of hours attempting to plan out the perfect trip. Now that's a lot of things going on in the first month of the year. Now add to that an enormous undertaking of something we are calling 52 Days in which we are striving for highly productive work days to go towards other areas of improvements & developments and you start to understand why I'm putting in 18-20 hour work days in each day. And I haven't even mentioned that I also taught a discipleship group once a week, attended educational seminars, attended 3 funerals, spent quality time with family & friends, met with numerous people for breakfast & lunches, hosted 2 back-to-back retreats, flew to Alabama for a short family trip, and took time everyday (at least 15 minutes) praying and reading God's Word. I have had so much sleep deprivation this month that I started to hallucinate while sitting in front of my computer. For the first time in my life I have fallen asleep (for about 10 seconds) with my eyes wide open while working at my desk. The amazing thing is how great my attitude has been. It's not unusual to experience a little irritability with so much sleep deprivation and heavy workloads, but I only remember 2 quick instances when I got slightly frustrated.. This may sound weird, but I feel like I'm passing so many tests. Not testing from God per se, but sort of like the unexpected testing that happens when you go skydiving and land in the middle of the ocean and get tested to see what's in your character when you're in over your head. Of course, this is nothing compared to real testing like facing a terminal illness or the losing a loved one. But, in context of my little world, I feel like I should be very cranky and moody, but I'm so delighted to see how strong my character, attitude, and fortitude have been during one of the most grueling months of my entire life. In the not so great words of the not so great Charlie Sheen, "Winning!". I say all of that so that I can brag on God for a moment. I know that I'm winning because Jesus is my strength. I know I'm enjoying the difficult moments because I haven't missed my daily time with God in nearly 3 months. As Zechariah 4:6 says, "'Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says the LORD Almighty" or as Jesus said in John 15:4-5 says, "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing." There are no truer words than those. Soooooooo, it's the end of one of the most demanding months of my life and we have made so much progress. We still have a loooooooong way to go, but I'm savoring the progress. One little bit of progress that is HUGE to me is that for the past 5 years I've wanted to mail out a newsletter with our annual donation receipts, but I've been too swamped with the January workload. BUT this year I was able to complete a brief 2 page newsletter sharing GTD's updates and plans. I almost didn't make it to the post office in time, but thanks to our hard working employee - Jessica Marie - and my awesome Mom (Margaret Ann) volunteering I was able to get it mailed out along with our quarterly report with 30 minutes to spare. That was a nice victory! I followed that victory with some nice family time with my cousins at their softball game in Clearwater, and then tonight I was able to complete our W2s & W3... followed by this blog entry (I haven't missed one yet during our 52 Days!!) before the clock strikes midnight. This is a great way to end the month! And this is a great way to start the next month. We are really plugging along well. I look forward to all that God is going to do in February. And finally I want to thank all of the donors that we just mailed donation receipts to for 2014. We had 85 donors who donated a total of $55,072.18 to GTD last year. It was the 6th largest amount in 19 years of ministry!! Thank you, thank you, thank you! We are blown away by your love, support, and generosity! God bless you!!