Tuesday, September 16, 2014


I recently did a mental inventory of the people I most look up to, respect, and want to be like when I grow up.  Among the qualities of being great encouragers, faithful missionaries, loving parents and spouses, truth speakers, adventurers, secure in their own skin, self-aware, and super funny, the common trait I noticed was “intentional.”

What does that mean? 

I have a couple of friends who spent the last several months organizing a trip for a bunch of us to camp at a weekend music festival outside of Seattle.  They went to great lengths to create space for friends to connect, have an adventure, and listen to some great music.  Another couple of friends who live out of state sent me flowers and cookies on my birthday to let me know I was remembered and loved, even from afar.  For another birthday, a friend planned an entire day of thoughtful adventures and activities that we could enjoy together.  A couple of weeks ago, people traveled from near and far and changed around work schedules to attend my installation service.  Nothing could’ve been more affirming to me than people intentionally choosing to be part of my life, and even better, inviting me into theirs.  I think especially for a single person, who doesn’t yet have a spouse that has chosen her or him every day for life, it can be among the most valuable gifts in the world to know that someone has gone out of their way to choose you.

Intentional people do things—do life—with a purpose, on purpose.  The relationships I have with people who are intentional about choosing me are the most encouraging and flourishing and I am so grateful.

I think of Jesus.  He was so incredibly intentional.  He knew why he was on earth.  To speak good news, to set captives free, to heal the sick, to be one with the Father, to live perfectly, and to redeem the world.  He did it all so beautifully.  He made time for people.  He also made time for rest and prayer.  He kept the point, the point.  He spoke truth and showed great love.  Intentional didn’t seem calculated or with ulterior motive, but simply purposeful in being grace and truth.

In my not so distant past, I found myself in a less than thriving season where I was in survival mode.  The only goal I had was getting through the day.  Even though insight and encouragement from a counselor gave me new tools and perspective, I couldn’t shake the funk.  I couldn’t see beyond the dark cloud I was under.  Complaints ruled my thoughts and conversations.  I replayed days and conversations in my head and knew I didn’t like who I had become or how I felt, but wasn’t sure I knew how to do anything else.  Through some encouragement of Shauna Niequist’s book, “Bittersweet,” I was challenged to find gratitude.  So I made a choice.  One small decision to find one thing at the end of each day that I was grateful for, write it down, and put it in a jar on my nightstand.  It was a very small thing.  To be honest, those first few days, I resented the exercise and told myself I didn’t have the energy for it, but I did it anyway.  After awhile, I found myself writing a whole list each night.  I’ve watched this one small decision I made one day turn into a progression that has altered my attitude and heart.  One small choice to be intentional added some sense of stability to my world and set me on a path of increased health and joy.

When we live without some sort of intention, we can easily wind up in a place we never wanted to be without even realizing we were heading there.  Even if it’s making one choice per day to be intentional, that can be the choice that takes life in a new direction.  And not just any direction, but one that you have decided is beneficial and where you want to go.

There can’t be too many intentions at once, otherwise we set ourselves up to fail and be overwhelmed, but I’ve come up with a few for this season of my journey of living life to the full as a Jesus follower.

1.)    To be an awesome friend and family member.
I am an auntie, a godmama, a sister, a daughter, and a friend to folks in a variety of ages and stages.  More than most anything in life, I want to kick butt at being those.  I want to be present for important days and times.  Because many are far away, I want to make a point to reach out from a distance when I can’t be present.  I want to follow up on what loved ones share with me.  I want to remember them in prayer and celebrate the gift of those God has placed in my story.  I want to be intentional about making it a priority to have time with them.  I want to be intentional in how I affirm our relationships and who God made them to be with my words and actions.  I want to risk my cool points and relational control to ensure that my family and friends know I love them, see Jesus at work through them, and that I have their back.  The relationships that I feel most validated by are the ones who have been intentional in valuing me.  I love being chosen, especially by a perfect, loving Heavenly Father.  I want to give my people a glimpse of that promise of God’s choosing, by letting them know I choose them.

2.)    To be an encourager.
I have high expectations.  I can be a critic and even cynical at times.  I believe, though, that God has called me in my roles with work, church, family, and friends, to be an intentional encourager.  Proverbs 16:24 says, “Gracious words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones.”  Paul talks multiple times in his letters about the importance of encouragement.  We, simply by speaking life and truth to each other, give each other courage to face whatever it is coming our way.  We have the power to strengthen and empower others with choosing to speak words that build up and not tear down.  In a world where sarcasm is celebrated all too often, I want to be an encourager who is intentional about her words and that they be used to affirm and encourage.

3.)    To write.
It’s been set aside for far too long.  I’ve wanted to write, but haven’t made it a priority.  It’s one of my “hobby activities” that has taken a back seat to a summer of transition, travel, and "too much going on".  But it’s time to be intentional.  Writing allows me to discover how God has placed blessings and love throughout my story, much like a child finds Easter eggs that have been carefully placed for their finding.  Hobbies are important—they add health and balance to life that can easily be consumed by career and activity.  More and more, I believe that some of our greatest vocation points are found in our hobbies—they space we have to do what we love with freedom and allow for our God-given gifts to produce something free from pressure or for compensation.  I think some of the most powerful movements, beautiful works of art, and dynamic communities have begun that way.  It’s time to be intentional – acknowledge this is something I want to be good at, a gift I want to steward well, and do it.  That and I have a “before I’m 30” bucket list item to achieve. ;-)

I always hated goals because I was afraid of what would happen if I didn’t reach them.  The pressure that accompanied them would weigh me down and sometimes even leave me paralyzed.  Now I’ve realized being intentional isn’t about arriving.  It’s simply taking one step in the right direction and celebrating the progress found in the journey.  I’m not yet where I want to be, but I’m not where I was before.  Or as Paul said in Philippians 3:12, “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already arrived at my goal, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.”  One thing is for sure, when you’re intentional about something, even if you miss the mark, you’re going to be much closer to the bulls eye than if you didn’t aim to hit it.

For the sake of your vocations and obligations, those you interact with, and your own wellbeing, I challenge you to make one intentional choice today.  Choose where you want to go and do it on purpose.

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