I loved the idea of a single word to guide my year rather than looking to resolutions that I either couldn't keep or really did not want to but felt an obligation to at least try. I had a hard time choosing a word that did not sound like a flippant Christian cliche' and yet I ended up going with one of the trendiest of buzz words. Intentional.
What I have learned over the last several weeks, however, is that being intentional is not as much about what I am doing, but rather about what I am not doing anymore and where I am drawing boundaries. To be intentional also involves putting away the old, tired things in our lives that now weigh us down and moving into the freedom that comes with saying "No, thank you."
Maybe it is my Midwestern upbringing. Maybe it is the pragmatism of my Swedish heritage. Maybe it is the insecurity that has plagued me throughout most of my life and that I inherited from generations before me. I took every opportunity that came my way. If someone asked me to do something, be something, say something...especially if they were in authority, had been around longer, or I admired...I did it. I took it on. Hard work yields success. Being the go-to person means you are needed and wanted. No...in fact, it often means just the opposite.
I still believe in hard work. I still believe in going the extra mile. I still believe that striving to do and be the best you can be is a noble cause. But in this season, I am stepping away from the addition that is the need to prove my value by what I do.
I wouldn't be where I am today without these attributes. They have sustained me when I was tired and weak and just wanted to give up. They have helped me advance and achieve--to be recognized. But they have also caused me equal amounts of door mat living and expectations that I cannot meet. So I have started to say no.
I have said no to things that I had once thought I must achieve. I have stopped apologizing for the things I do well and I have started to ask for help where I am weak. I will not allow other's insecurity and their unmet needs drive mine. And boy does it feel good!
I am seeing more clearly in the last six weeks that I have been given gifts and gifts are to be cherished and not used up before their time. When I was a child, my mother would spend hours of time and energy focused on getting my brothers and me to appreciate the things we had been given and to take care of the things we had. Lessons on picking up my clothes and handling my special things with care are not about those things at all. They are really about my life.
I won't lie and say that these last few weeks have been free of pain or that I have not been scared out of my mind about the conversations I have had in order to take care of my things, those special gifts, me. I have cried a thousand tears publicly and privately, but I am no longer scared of that either. It is not weakness, it is physical release of those things which don't belong in my life.
There is no amount of money, titles, or accolade that could take me back to where I was just a little over a month ago. Over the next few days I want to lay out specifically some of the areas that I have learned to remove the yoke of yes and find the freedom of no. I want to also address some of the challenges this intentionality feeds...particularly my need for control.
There are new (to me right now) disciplines and other goals I look forward to setting. There are other opportunities I have longed for and missed out on because I was drowning. I can't wait to see what God is going to do with me in the next six weeks. Reporting on them and fleshing out the journey is just one of those new things I look forward to being a part of my year of intentional living. One day, one moment at a time.