Intentionality

Intentionality is a philosophical concept defined as “the power of minds to be about, to represent, or to stand for, things, properties and states of affairs.” – Standard Encyclopedia of Philosophy

What does it mean to be intentional? Both in my daily comings and goings as well as an overall approach to life? How do I dig deeper to lead myself, and those entrusted to me, with greater awareness? How do I shape my personal, relational, spiritual, and physical goals in a way that pushes my boundaries?

These are all questions I’ve been grappling with as I set goals for the year ahead. What am I hoping to accomplish in 2020? How do they shape who I am today, who I will become, and how that impacts those around me? Existential much? You betcha.

As February unfolds I’ve been thinking and praying over the word* that will shape this year and intentionality has hit me over and over again. No matter what goal I set, no matter the topic, the theme presents itself. As I increase my self awareness the importance of being both conscientious and proactive comes to the forefront. And there’s no better word to summarize those two concepts than the word intentionality.

*A special thanks and shout out to Pastors Jeff Thompson and Ed Ollie for challenging me to pick a word to guide me through the year.

So what are some of the areas in which I want to put intentionality in action? Here’s a small sample:

– Relationships: more time with God, my family, and friends

– Waste: minimize use of plastics, compost. invest in reusable and refillable products, buy less, make more, switch to “the cup”

– Health: eat the rainbow, run weekly, strengthen my core, take daily vitamins, uphold the sabbath

– Finances: take control, make a budget and stick to it

And that’s just a handful! So where to begin?

To be intentional requires a magical mix of elements: awareness, attentiveness, and discipline. I hate that last one.

To be aware means constant re-education on the topic I’m unpacking. Whether that’s health, sustainable living, relationship building, or another area I’m looking to grow in, I have to be in-the-know, all the time. That can be exhausting but the alternative is going around blindly and becoming complacent. Awareness also includes doing a regular self inventory so I know where I stand in my quest for greatness. Just kidding – it’s not about ego – it’s about self accountability.

And that leads to attentiveness. This one’s tricky because I love “newness.” I’m like a magpie spotting a shiny object on the ground. “Ooh, ooh, forget my flight plan there’s something sparkly down there!” This includes the excitement of adding a new bit of decor to my home as well as the thrill of a new idea or endeavor. So remaining attentive to the goals I’ve set is crucial if I hope to stay on track. One of the ways to increase my focus is by having a plan which includes developing routines and checkpoints to keep me in line. If the goal is to eat a wider range of colorful foods, for example, than being impulsive will result in immediate failure. I need to make a weekly meal plan before I pick up groceries and that plan needs to be specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound. Recognize this as a S.M.A.R.T. goal? That’s because you’re of so clever!

Ugh. Discipline. Lack thereof leads to the demise of many goals and resolutions. Developing good habits starts with the painful realization that success requires having a plan (see above), focus, and a community to keep you on task. That can be a friend, family member, coworker, your cat, or as in this case, a blog post. Over the course of this year I will be sharing my goals and progress updates here each month. And I will be doing it with intentionality.

Do you have a word that’s guiding you through 2020? If so – what is it? Share below!

2018 in Review: Changes

Driving down a familiar road made me think about where I was exactly one year ago. It’s really amazing how much can change in 365 days.

In January of 2018 my heart was shattered. My dear Peanut succumbed to prostate cancer, I was still separated from my husband, and I found myself living back with my folks driving 4 hours a day just to get to work. Everything in life seemed to be regressing instead of moving forward. I found myself at the bottom of a valley. Wasn’t I supposed to be doing better by now? Why did I keep moving backwards? Why did things continue to unravel around me? But God had a plan and His timing is always good.

So there I was, living with my parents, running a marathon on weekdays and spending each weekend in an emotional coma. I was burying myself in books, music and prayer just to get through the day. I didn’t know what road I was on, which direction it led, and who was on it with me. But God knew. In the last 12 months the most extraordinary things have happened to completely transform the trajectory of my life. What a difference a year makes!

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Here are just a few of the highlights.


Spring: Home Sweet Home

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I had always dreamed of owning my own place. A nook that was all mine, to do with as I pleased. No landlord, no lease, just property. A place where I could nest, without restraints, that I knew could be mine for however long I’d like. It’s the American dream after all.

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Learning to Abide

a·bide

əˈbīd/

verb

1a :  to bear patiently b :  to endure without yielding 2:  to wait for :  to remain stable or fixed in a state


I am fast approaching the one year anniversary of what would signal the dissolution of my marriage of 10 years. The last 365 days have been both joyful and harrowing, exciting and discouraging, successful and defeating. Yet, through the ups and downs, hilltops and valleys, one constant remains: God.

I came to faith just shy of 18. I’ll have to come back to that story at a later date as it’s a doozy. Fast forward 15 years: I’m 33 and have suddenly become a single mom. Not the way I would have planned things. But you know what? 15 years ago, God knew. He knew that I would become a prodigal shortly after coming to faith. He knew that I’d fall in love, marry an unbeliever, and have a beautiful little boy in my early thirties. He knew that one day I’d wake up in bed, alone, still wearing my wedding ring. He knew.

I, in contrast, am far from knowing much, but this I do know:

God is with me. He always has been, and He always will be. And the thing He wants most from me in this season of life is to abide.

But what does that actually mean? How do we live out a life that waits on God to move? How can we remain steadfast when there’s so much uncertainty, so many questions? How do we endure when faced with the unthinkable?

In these last 12 months I’ve learned that the Lord doesn’t just want a surface-level encounter with us, He wants us to go deeper than we’ve ever been. To have an intimate relationship with us. To achieve this level of closeness we first have to develop spiritual disciplines to create a solid foundation of faith. Praying, studying the Word, and meditating on it. That’s the winning trio right there. When your emotions are overcoming your rationality, when you’re drowning in defeat, when you just don’t feel like getting out of bed, it’s these three things that will reorient your gaze off of yourself, off of your circumstances, and straight onto God.

This is where abiding begins. Leaning into the Lord, everyday, throughout the day, one-on-one.

What do those daily disciplines look like in my life? Here’s a snapshot:

My alarm goes off at 5 a.m. (and/or my cat steps on my face – whichever comes first). I flick on the light. I grab my Bible and I flip to the latter Psalms and, out loud, read a chapter that ascribes praise and glory to the Lord. I then close my Bible and say a prayer of thanksgiving. Then I begin the daily routines of life.

Now, push ahead to the end of the day. August is in bed, the critters are settled in, and I’m washed up and in my pajamas. My phone is now in airplane mode (which drives friends and family crazy – sorry!). I get down on my hands and knees (it’s amazing what a posture of submission can do for a prideful soul) and pray aloud. I confess my sins, my slip-ups, my shortcomings. I acknowledge His awesomeness, His goodness, His God-ness. I thank Him for the blessings of the day. And then I ask. I pray for friends, for family, and of course, for myself. Then I settle under my covers and hop into the verses or book that I’m studying at the time. And then, before putting my Bible aside, I meditate on what I’ve read. And then I pray again. 

Phew! That seems like so much when typed out – but when you consider how much of our day is spent eating, texting, talking, typing, driving, what is it to spend 10 minutes in the morning and 15 minutes in the evening with our Creator? It’s really a drop in the pail, isn’t it? But it’s these very spiritual disciplines that time and time again reorient me towards the Lord. I start my day out with Him and I end it with Him.

And that, my friends, is how we learn to abide in the Lord. Because when He becomes the center, no matter what happens to you, or who happens to you, you see things through His eyes. You find rest in knowing that He is with you and that He knows your future. So when asked how it is that I’ve gotten through the last year, this is how I now answer, “I learned to abide in the Lord.”

What are some of the spiritual disciplines you’ve developed that help you steer towards God and away from your daily struggles? What does abiding in the Lord mean to you?

Suddenly Single

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Life has a way of surprising us, doesn’t it?

Six months ago I was minding my own business when WHAM! Something sudden and awful destroyed my marriage. The what, who, hows and whys are something to explore on another day, but suffice it to say, I was shattered. After a decade of (what I thought was) wedded bliss, and almost 14 years of intimate friendship, the man of my dreams descended on a very different, and dark, path. It was the middle of summer, the city was exploding with life, energy, and happiness, and I lay on the floor of my living room sobbing as he walked out the door. I was suddenly single. What’s more, I was suddenly a single mom.

The build up to that moment was three months in the making. I was preparing my heart and soul for what seemed inevitable. The break up to end all break ups. No one expected this. Not even me. And perhaps being caught off guard was in itself a blessing. I was the best wife and friend I could be, and everything seemed peachy keen, so this sudden turn was a complete surprise, but I had a clean conscience, knowing I had truly always offered the best of myself.

But breakups are never easy.

When you spend so much of your life living, loving, and growing with someone, only to find that they were not the person you thought them to be, it is devastating. And what’s worse are the endless questions that build up in your brain. You wonder, “Was it me? Did I do the wrong thing? Get the wrong hair cut? Was I not affectionate enough? Had I made the wrong comment?” But in this kind of scenario, you quickly realize, it’s not about you. It’s about someone else being deeply troubled and lost. You realize that, in God’s grace (yes, grace!), you’ve been given a life raft by being left behind. You were rescued from a sinking ship.  Continue reading