how do we live a life of intentionality

HI recently wrote an article for Fave Lifestyles, and wanted to expand a bit more on my thoughts on being purposeful and living with intentionality. Of all of my coaching conversations over the years, I find that many of our challenges and disappointments come from a lack of having a clear understanding of where we are headed. Perhaps this will be an encouragment to you as well.

Four decades before founding Evoke Ministries, life looked a bit less structured and purposeful than it does today. As I moved from childhood to early adulthood, I began to slowly recognize that some of the “truths” that I had grown up with didn’t necessarily line up with my personal life experience or points of view. Increased knowledge, and an expansion of circumstances, brought new light to things once held dear; thoughts and values once hidden in the subliminal, came to light as life brought with it fresh revelation. Later, as a new mother, I began to challenge myself in my “why’s,” and began actively pursuing intentional parenting. I spoke with mothers who had gone before, read books, took courses and considered how my choices as a mom could shape my son as an adult. There were certain core values I knew I wanted to instill, and I carefully weighed my decisions as a parent, against those end goals for my child. Today, my mantra is,  “We do not get what we deserve. We get what we are committed to.” (Ronnie Doss)

Over time, this approach has served me extremely well as an adult; not just as a parent, but in my relationships with family, friends and in marriage. While we cannot control the choices of others, we can always choose our responses to them. We ourselves can cultivate the atmosphere we want within those relationships. Living with intentionality in our decision making and word choices, as well as our attitudes, also helps in identifying which relationships may not be best for us – whether in that moment or long-term. Life (and therapy!) have taught me that there is nothing more powerful and life-giving than choosing how, and when, we respond to the people and situations in our lives. What we nurture and what we put aside, greatly determines the atmosphere and culture we establish in our homes and for our daily lives. Intentional parenting does not come by default but by design. 

We must be willing to consistently learn and grow; challenge ourselves. “Do my choices speak to the destiny I want for myself? My family? My children?” I have outlined a couple of questions/statements which I often ask of myself and my clients, and  hope they will bring some clarity and encouragement to you as well. 

What is my end game?

As women we can sometimes forget that our emotions are meant to be indicators of something being out of balance, not a decision-making force. A solid pause and a reminder to think about where I am headed, and where I want to lead, will do wonders in not only making a better decision, but will also help us to maintain a sense of peace in our spirit and balance in our relationships.

Walking through my divorce, I struggled with being kind. Over the years, he and I have often been confronted with opportunity to choose long term goals over short term emotions, but the fruit of our decision to honor one another, even when we didn’t see eye-to-eye, has resulted in two very well-adjusted adult children who never feel they have to choose a side. I have also seen in all its splendor, the result of grown children raised by divorced parents with no strategy other than self indulgence and righteousness. 

Where am I headed?

When working with my coaching clients, I often encourage them that we don’t parent, or relate, from where we came from, but to where we are going. Just because mom did it this way, or my ex didn’t like that, doesn’t mean we respond in the same manner in the relationships we have today. In my family growing up, our world was full of do’s and don’t’s, and emotional outbursts if we didn’t line up with expectation, but there was little training in critical thinking, practical application of life skills or relationship skills, and zero margin for error. As a parent, I work really hard to communicate effectively while still maintaining a set of expectations. I don’t punish my kids with chores – they do them because we are a part of a team. When a child makes a mistake, they understand that there will be natural consequences because in life there are always natural consequences. Learning now that the value of honesty maintains healthy communication and trust sets them up to be honoring of the truth as an adult. Teaching them that we are in control of our emotions and decisions, establishes accountability for choices as adults, which will hopefully keep them gainfully employed and healthfully married.

Do I trust I’ve established a solid foundation?

Often as women, when we see others choosing a path which violates our personal, relational, or familial expectations, we can perceive the need to continue to correct; whether it’s a child, spouse or even friend. Our job, however, is not to control, but rather to help stir up one another’s strengths, to evoke the greatness within them, while helping them to effectively manage the weaknesses. When we feel the need to manage another person’s choices, it’s vital we revisit if we have done enough to communicate our message clearly. If we have, we must allow bandwidth for free-will and not take the decision personally. If we have not, it’s ok to grace ourselves and gently, but firmly, reestablish those parameters. Our position is to lead and guide, not control and micromanage. 

I remember once receiving a late night call to come pick up a child. I was angry, hurt and disappointed, but when we sat down together, it was most important that I calmly reestablish the expectation, let them know there was a consequence, but focus mostly on the safety concerns and my expectation moving forward as they continue to be a part of our family community. They already were quite clear on why I was upset, I didn’t need to repeat myself again. Reminding them that I still loved them, and that as an adult, the consequences would be bigger were they to make the same choice again, did more to cement our relationship and ability to trust one another than I believe any other response would have. To this day I see the evidence of their knowledge of my expectations, respect of those values, AND, personal responsibility for the decisions they make that I may not appreciate. 

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day ??? of the corona lockdown

This week we have had protesters in the streets, prisoners released, a speech by our governor which literally said nothing and leaving even his fans scratching their heads, keyboard warriors at the peak of their passionate performances, and weary mamas finally resting in the truth that perfection is unattainable and yes, your child really is hungry. Again.

Even those decry video games are joining their children, and teachers who scream restrictions on screen time are communicating with their students almost entirely through computer and online sources. Truth be told, my son has never loved school more, nor been more motivated to just get it done and stop pushing back. Somewhat miraculous, actually.

Personally, this has been a roller coaster of epic proportion. My husband and I lost vital sources of income at the very start of the pandemic, and just as suddenly as the bottom fell out, provision arrived. The weeks which have followed have looked a little more like a crazy sitcom than real life …

lost jobs

provision

family challenge

gift card in the mail (anonymous)

diabetes diagnosis for our cat

another gift card and our utilities paid off

internal family strife

struggling with new job

obtain second new job

crazy hormonal and emotional crash

relationship mayhem

cataracts diagnosis (in both eyes!) for me

overwhelming PEACE.

I salute my friends who have received the endless emo texts and Marco Polos – to say that I have never cried so much as I have in the past three years or so would be an understatement. The constant release, forced confrontation of inner turmoil, and extreme relief in God’s most persistent and tangible presence has been recipe for more healing, growth, hope and emotion than I ever could have anticipated.

The darker the world, the brighter His light.

To say we will never again return to normal is truth. To say that some have lost everything, even life and loved ones, is unbearably true. But I must also admit that the truth of it is that the Lord never leaves us forsakes us. I was recently speaking with someone who stated they knew God would care for them, that they wouldn’t ever lose their home or declare bankruptcy or anything. I paused.

For you see, my marriage was more than tenuous for over a decade; we lost two cars, two homes, declared bankruptcy, my husband nearly died…and this was all in the midst of excruciating relationship challenges on EVERY front. To most, my confession that God is good might look strange. Insane, even. But there are changes which have occurred, generation curses broken, lives healed, eyes opened, moves and new relationships and job opportunities which never would have happened had things worked out and God “showed up” the way I would have preferred.

In this season as well, I believe we all have opportunities – to evaluate, assess, identify and take ownership of our spiritual, relational and emotional well being. We are ripe for perspective shift and primed for breakthrough. Jehovah Rapha is the Lord Who Provides, and El Roi is the God Who Sees. Our God is with us, He is watching, He is waiting …

for us to let it go and let Him in.

For those of you in lack, I am praying a blessing. For those with something to share, ask the Lord today who you are meant to share with. If you have power to help – do so. If you have only your time – pray. But most of all, whether it’s making up for years of lost nap time….a decade of not taking care of your body or your skin or health or marriage… perhaps a book you never read or a letter you never wrote, please don’t miss this opportunity. For tomorrow will never be the same, and neither should we.

the corona chronicles – just a little better

It’s been a bit over six weeks since the schools closed in Washington State. Businesses are closed, people are out of work, convicts in one of our state facilities rioted so many have now been released, schoolwork at home has become a whole new set of procedures as teachers continue to do their best to put into our hands the tools we need to teach our kids, people are becoming increasingly hostile, many are using this time to exalt personal agendas, politicians are putting their strategic gain above the people who pay their salaries and honestly….

I am exhausted.

As a mom, I cannot tell you how many times I have watched the responses of those around me and thought to myself, “where is their mother??” I suppose I should include fathers as well, but we all know that mamas generally set the tone and expectations. It is glaringly apparent at which developmental stages in life some of my peer’s parents simply gave up and gave in. For those who clearly did not receive the lesson about reaping what one sows, it will be a long season of relearning and pain for many as the next generation is growing up entitled to the whim of their emotions, justified in the dishonor of those around them, and completely unable to see past the immediate agenda in front of them.

There seems to be no “and.” Most Americans seem to operate under the misguided belief that one must always stand with an either/or perspective. Digging in heels and defending the deplorable because our party put it into place. Believing that if others believe A, they automatically believe B. Operating from the position of us vs them and completely unwilling to create margin for another perspective. Never before in my 48 years have I so greatly doubted the capacity of humanity.

And never before have I appreciated the forgiveness and grace of God more.

I used to read scriptures about liars and thieves, the selfishness of man, depravity of heart and rot of societal morality, and honestly, just didn’t fully comprehend that the Word wasn’t referring to any more than a select few. So clearly to me now, however, it is all of us. Stubborn, prideful, indulgent … It’s honestly so gross, and I struggle as I watch the world continue to plummet. We have centuries of history lessons, endless learning opportunities, countless books, podcasts and communicators, to guide us into a more altruistic and kind culture, and yet we are.

In the mire.

The most amazing thing to me is that even when things ARE handled appropriately, or the end result is what most of us would agree is a win, we STILL can’t be grateful for leadership or value the absolute truth that we are all struggling together. And have succeeded together. No, America today seems more staunch in its inherent nature to despise and convict than ever before.

I am saddened by this new reality, and yet heartened by those who are choosing to live more boldly in their grace and authority in this time. Those who would choose to finally shed the veil of complacency and truly chase hard after the altruistic and compassionate love of Jesus. Stepping out from behind predictable pews and cozy coffee dates, many are spending hours in the Word alone. Praying. On their knees seeking godly truth and revelation. Serving others. Reaching out in ways they never have before. Connecting with those in need. Lifting one another up in godly admonition. Suddenly discontent with their Christianity being merely a nice weekly addition to their schedule, many are now needing their Christ to be closer than their very breath…

every. single. day.

I am tired. I know you are, too. But my sincere hope is that in and through all of this, we might somehow come out different. Stronger. More centered. Possessing more clarity and hopefully, somehow, more gracious to others. I am not yet certain how, but I can only imagine our Lord, in His infinite wisdom and divine plan, will find a way… For now, I will be grateful for another opportunity to manage this just a little better than yesterday.

the corona chronicles – the force

It’s been a week since our governor made the announcement that our students would finish out the 2019-2020 school year from home. To be perfectly honest, it still makes my stomach churn and a lump begins to form in my throat every time I think about it. It’s been 7 days since I have blogged as well – to be frank, I have been a bit blue.

As a person who always hopes and seeks the blessing and the breakthrough at every turn, it’s a tough pill to swallow when you realize that this is our reality – high school seniors not finishing up their year with friends, athletes missing their last season before college, or ever, little missing precious time with friends, teachers and admin who have worked so hard to establish trust, kids with abusive homes not having a safe space to go …

Then there are all the financial challenges. Adult issues. Lost wages. Bills piling up. Compounded with the truth that many are gaining and using this season to promote their personal, professional and political agendas while Americans are suffering…

It’s sobering. Angering. And, there is nothing we can do.

But is there? Is there a silver lining? In the past week I have had some very interesting conversations. Dialogue which has forced me to once again face some challenges I have been avoiding. Feelings and inner workings that I find a little harder to escape in the multiplied hours spent at home. Somehow it seems more difficult to ignore and stuff emotions at home.

I am facing the truth that I need to work on myself. To prioritize. To deal with and face some things which have been out of balance for a while. Most of my excuses and opportunities for denial have been sufficiently shattered, and I find myself alone in front of a very, large, mirror.

Glaringly large.

For three days now I am wallowing – sadness. disappointment. woundedness. I have been unwilling to face the truth that some people don’t truly want relationship – they want a scapegoat for their own issues. Some really cannot offer more than they do, and it’s my own unmet expectations that send me reeling. My leniency in holding those around me accountable for how they treat me has reached a boiling point and there are no more lies to hide behind. No more busy days affording me a little more time to pretend.

This past week in my bible study we studied Sarah in the old testament. What stood out to me so clearly today was that when God promised Z, the expectation what that first obedience looked like X. We simply cannot go about our lives consistently in a manner of disobedience and lazy self indulgence and expect God to move. When Abraham and Sarah were called out of their home, and into the land God promised, they left ALL they knew – family, culture, possessions, comfort, patterns and habits that had brought them to where they were. To leave meant learning new ways of doing everything.

Therein lies the promise.

Change is massively uncomfortable. For all of us. And yet without change, without growth, without shedding those things which no longer serve us, we simply cannot reach forward and move to the next thing the Lord has for us. While this season is so very hard some days, it absolutely is the greatest opportunity that I have probably ever had thus far to take the time and create space for God to lead me into new things.

Let us be strengthened, shaken up, stirred to new things. Re-prioritize, regroup. May we recognize the season we are in and face each day with a fresh hope and clear perspective.

May the force be with us all.

what’s in your basket

Every Easter parents hide brightly colored eggs for their children to find. The Jewish people present them on their Seder plate for Passover the week preceding Easter. Cultures all over the world use eggs to represent new life.

The Saturday between Good Friday and Easter, Christians are set squarely in between the day Jesus died on the cross, and the morning when millions believe he walked out of an empty grave. Having rolled away a stone that took many men to erect, women in mourning were presented with their slain teacher; his image blurred by the tears in their eyes and the grief in their hearts. 

Today, we are again hovering – in indecision, perhaps sadness, in a state of uncertainty. For my entire adult life this day has been one of preparation. Dividing candy, filling baskets, setting out spring outfits, and dinner preparations in anticipation of the friends and family who would be joining us for a feast after church the next day.

Not this year, however.

The followers of Jesus felt let down. Confused. Devastated by the loss of their teacher, and the man they believed would set them free in this life, would become King on the throne of their nation. Saturday brought with it more questions and doubt than they could possibly even begin to process. Similarly, many facing uncertainty and fear, unbelief and maybe even a shaking of their faith, wait for tomorrow, completely unaware of what tomorrow looks like.

What, my friend, is in your basket?

Am I still anticipating tomorrow? Still looking forward to the promise of a risen Savior? What will be in my basket this year? Eggs and outfits and fancy napkins … or joy, hope, grace and mercy, a prepared heart ….?

What do I truly believe about Easter?

About its power and potential? Is it true He is alive? Could it be that He died with me on His mind? Is there honestly life after death? Does a life with Christ really mean I can find healing, health, hope, and fullness in THIS life?

Let today be a day of reconciliation, open to moments of clarity. Do not lament what is seemingly lost, or saddened by distance between loved ones, but embrace the truth of our spiritual connection to one another.

And with Him.

the corona chronicles – dross

Tears come at least once a day for me now. Just a moment of release. I am safe. We have food. We’ve been blessed in more ways than I can count. All my kids, here and in their own homes, are healthy and well with all they need. My husband is working from home. We are WELL.

And this is still hard.

With every school email. Every prayer request. Every time there is a reminder of this most unprecedented of times, I have a moment. Perhaps you do as well?

I was speaking a few days ago about dross. The bible mentions dross, the impurities that rise to the top of silver as it’s being purified, quite often, and the Lord is referred to as a silversmith. There are some interesting points in the manner in which a silversmith operates, but the essential premise is that when the heat is turned up as the silver is being purified, the impurities, the flaws, that rise to the top are referred to as dross. The silversmith then takes a skimmer and removes it, the heat is turned up again, and the process repeats itself.

Who we are in crisis, is spiritual dross.

In seasons like the one we are in, who we are rises to the surface. A Christian or not, our truest self becomes apparent…

We are judgy ….. or gracious …

Opinionated …. or kind ….

We use words to edify and encourage …. or snark and dissonance …

Hoarding vs giving … fear vs faith …

Self-promoting or life giving …

The silversmith knows the silver is done when he can see his reflection in it. Likewise, we are now given a divine opportunity to fully recognize and submit to the truth of who we truly ARE. Are we true followers of Christ; walking in hope, grace, kindness, generosity, forgiveness … or do we still find ourselves stumbling over anger, fear, frustration, depression, anxiety, blame …

When we are honest with ourselves and our Heavenly Father, repenting of those things which hurt and hinder us, He is faithful to skim the dross from our hearts and minds and bring us to new levels of faith and spiritual maturity. There is now therefore NO condemnation in Christ Jesus – do NOT feel condemned or chastised, but rather encouraged and inspired by the opportunity to face your weaknesses and fully embrace the process of being refined by the Creator’s fire and loving healing.

…being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ … Philippians 1:6

the corona chronicles/abundance

Yesterday wasn’t a great day in iso. It was rainy, work was a mess, I was knee deep in emails and Zoom calls and new school-at-home rhythms, and had more than one unsettling conversation. By the end of the day I was 100% done. This morning I woke feeling still a bit weary and let down.

This morning, however, I ALSO got to experience one of the sincere blessings of this season of social distancing. One of many.

A dear friend and her hubby and two girls cooked all day yesterday for their friends and they delivered it to our front door. So much food, all the fixins, and a sweet note of prayer and blessings written on the bag FULL of food. It was overwhelming, to be honest, and we just feel so loved on. In times like these, we get to see more of who people truly are – more of who we are. People serving one another, speaking words of life and encouragement in social media circles, friends calling and texting to check in on how we are all doing, restaurants and caterers delivering food to hospitals for the staff, individuals sewing masks for first responders, business owners changing their production to make hand sanitizer and making donations to help with all that needs to be done to care for our communities.

It is a beautiful thing.

What are you sharing today? Each of us has a unique gift, therefore a unique opportunity to love on others in our own way. What an amazing opportunity to live our faith out loud – to use what we have to bless others. As a unit, as a community, we are complete when we each share from what we have. May you live in abundance today!