If you’ve been around here this summer you might have noticed it’s been more quiet than usual. That started out not necessarily by accident, but as a matter of life. Kids are home and life is loud and writing takes time. And the more time I took away from my desk, the more time I found for life. The living. The soft little bodies that occupy my home; the books that live on my bedside tables. Honestly it took me awhile to ease into being comfortable not writing so much. I’m a doer by nature and when I commit I tend to go all in. But if I’m honest there were some important things that I could see were suffering. My own spirit called out for a break. An identity outside the margins of production. And it’s good. More balanced. Far more free.
But this doesn’t happen naturally. We live in a culture so driven to produce, perfect and achieve…and then numb from whatever consequences come our way. I sat on the dock with a friend who shared a dozen stories of people turning to drugs, alcohol and secret relationships to dull the pain of life. I know at least a half dozen stories I could add to the list.
In fact, we’re headed down a long, dangerous road to nowhere. So instead of putting life on cruise control, I’m trying to be very intentional. Here are 5 things I’m being very intentional about:
1. Hard conversations: I went through a difficult relationship situation recently that taught me the importance of fully talking through issues, even when they’re hard. In today’s world it’s easier to text or email instead of actually picking up the phone. But relationships are complicated and emotions are tricky. Social media has diluted the reality of every single life and nothing is clear anymore. It takes very little time for things to spiral to the point where they no longer even make sense. Had I reached out and called this person and explained my actual thoughts and feelings it could have prevented – or at least lessened – the eventual fallout. But it’s hard! We’re wired to seek pleasure and avoid pain and hard conversations set us up for rejection. But real relationships often require awkward and emotional conversations. If they don’t, they’re probably not real. Right now I’m learning to lean into the hard conversations and tackle them sooner rather than later.
2. Rest: I don’t do things halfway. When I sign up to do something there isn’t really an easy option to back out or quit. There isn’t an option to do it if I’m not going to do it well. As I live and learn I’m beginning to understand very personally that sometimes our greatest strengths can also be our greatest weaknesses. Sometimes in our effort to “succeed” at whatever we’re aiming at, we forget to rest. To actually inhabit the days of our lives. Earlier I shared 7 ways I’m learning to cultivate rest. You can find it here.
3. Listening to my heart: Have you turned on the news or scanned your Facebook feed recently? Me either. As much as I hate to say it, it’s all become so toxic. Over the last few years I’ve slowly pulled back from the craze of our culture. Quite simply, there’s not a lot I see worthy of attention. So instead of tuning into a newsfeed, I’ve began really tuning in to what I’m feeling in my own spirit. As awkward as it might be sometimes, I’m finding it tends to be counter-culture. It tells me to go against the grain. Sometimes it leads me to feel weird and alone and completely irrelevant. But where that once scared me half to death, I’m now finding it completely frees me up. I get to be who God created me to be, even if that is counter to what passes for normal these days.
4. Making time for family: I’m blessed to say my husband and I are enjoying the best season of our marriage. After almost twelve years we’re either extremely lucky, or we’ve hit our sweet spot. As tumultuous as life has been in other areas I can truly say it is God’s radical grace that He gave me this husband of mine. These boys of mine. This family of mine. For me, family isn’t merely limited to flesh and blood, but the people who make up the tapestry of our life. It’s the simple things we’ve started doing together that are creating the deepest, most memorable bonds. In relationships, love is spelled T-I-M-E. I need to make more of it for the people who matter.
5. Changing my mind: Part of listening to my heart and learning to cultivate rest has meant giving myself the freedom to change my mind. I recently committed to doing something that soon after began to cause high levels of anxiety. It wasn’t the healthy anxiety of pushing through a fear, but the kind that stemmed from the deep conviction it wasn’t the right path. It was hard, and it took time for me to get there, but I’m learning hard conversations aren’t impossible, and when I found the courage to change my mind, I was gifted with grace.
Life is hard. We live in a strange time, in a strange place, where our world doesn’t even feel our own sometimes. Lost in the culture where normal seems anything but, we have to be really intentional about who we are and how we’re going to live in alignment with that when things get messy. Because things will get messy. So how do we live with integrity when the reality is numbing just seems so much easier. For me, it’s about pursuing relationship even when it’s hard; rest; staying in tune with my own heart; making time for family and friends who matter, and giving myself permission to change my mind when I need to.
What does it look like for you? How do you stay intentional in your life?