I wanted to write today about something I’ve been trying to grow in lately, using three recent examples.
If you take yoga classes, sometimes the teacher will invite you to set an intention at the beginning of the class. It’s a way of using your breath and movement to focus your mind. Ever since having kids, and especially now having three small kids at home, I often feel like I’m losing my mind, or maybe specifically losing my focus. I struggle with being interrupted both mentally and physically by my kids. So, yoga has been a way to take a deep breath and quietly focus.
Since my first class, I’ve been using the same intention. I mentally recite the fruits of the Holy Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control – during my class. These are the promises of submitting my personality to Jesus and letting his Spirit lead instead of my own. I’ll be honest, that many days of parenting don’t look like these attributes. I’m often quick to anger and frustration and selfishness. It’s humbling to lie on my yoga mat and think of how far from the mark I am. Sometimes it’s been such a bad day, that I can only focus on the first three – love, joy and peace. So much of my personality as an introvert and a highly sensitive person can seem incompatible with parenting. But it also allows me to see my need for Jesus and remember my gratitude that he covers and forgives all my shortcomings with grace. I long to be more loving, joyful and peaceful throughout the day. I long for my actions to be filled with kindness, goodness, and gentleness. So, I’m taking an hour or two a week to intentionally shift my gaze back towards trusting what Jesus promised he will do, if I simply keep in step with the Spirit.
I’m not a big picture person. I am the girl who can follow steps A-Z and get it done, but casting vision and starting new projects doesn’t come easily. Give me the details. As a mother, I sometimes feel drowned in the details of the day – the diapers, the crumbs, the nap schedule, and the whining. I would say for the past six months I’ve had this nagging feeling that the day-to-day was causing my husband and I to miss an opportunity of seeing the big picture of parenthood. We have been surviving each day, catching our breath after bedtime, and being woken up at 6am to start all over again.
We want to be great parents. We want to create a family that is tight-knit and safe and so much more. So, I’m really glad we started reading a book called, Belonging and Becoming: Creating a Thriving Family Culture, with some of our close friends. We’ve been discussing the book first as a couple and then as a house church each week. To be honest it’s been like therapy. For an hour a week, we get to think big picture and cast some vision for our family. I’ve said this before, but so much of the early years of parenting is about keeping your kids alive and turning them from little cavemen into people. You just want them to use pleases, thank you’s, utensils, and toilets. But at some point it shifts and you begin to hope for more – like depth, trust, and honesty. Those aren’t easily won.
The second chapter of the book asked us to develop a mission statement for our family. Zach and I put it off for awhile because a) that seemed so business-y and possibly unnecessary and b) it was pretty intimidating. We aren’t naturally mission-statement people. But with our group’s meeting looming that afternoon, we began to brainstorm words which were important to us as a family. There are so many good things a family can be about, but we’re all limited. We can’t do everything. What we discovered is that most of the words we picked are already at the foundation of our family, but they had never been acknowledged out right. We didn’t come up with anything super poetic, but focused on 5 words that were most central to our hopes and goals for our family.
Once we met with our group, we realized that what seemed inherent to us is often different than other families. Going around the room each family had an individual vibe that was so uniquely, beautifully their own. There were also a few things that were common to all of us – like loving one another well. I loved listening to the way my dear friends are shaping their families and how they will each craft their own way of impacting their kids and the world. This little piece of intentionality has been enormously helpful to Zach and I. We have already used it to make a few family decisions and I feel more grounded as a parent and as a couple even in the midst of the daily work of parenting.
One of the things I’ve come to expect during Zach’s tax season is the space I have for Lent. I miss Zach fiercely during busy season, because even when he can be home, he’s often fried mentally from the long hours. So, it sounds weird, but I feel like I am fasting from my best friend. Ok, really weird. Anyways, our church traditionally has had a women’s book study during Lent, and the community and wisdom from that study has become something I really look forward to. This year, the study didn’t happen for a few reasons, and so I’ve been floundering a bit during Lent. But last week, on a whim I grabbed King’s Cross, and it honestly feels like the first time I read Mere Christianity. It is an excellent book that goes through the Gospel of Mark and spells out Jesus’ kingship and why he had to go to the cross.
I also started listening to some of Susie Davis’ podcast Dear Daughters and a sermon series from her church, Marriage 101. I feel like she is mentoring me from afar, something she calls being a “spiritual mama.” Even though I’m missing the time with women in my church, I’m so grateful for the internet and listening to really practical wisdom about being a woman, a wife, and a mother. I would highly recommend it.
How are you trying to be intentional? Are you a natural goal-setter and vision-caster? I’d love to hear if there are any intentional shifts in your life that you’re working on right now.