I was asked recently what trying to live intentionally was like. In my last blog I spoke about having ‘hope’ as the word for this year but having intentionally as my word for last year and I have been thinking about what last year looked like for me with the word intentionally as my focus. How did this word shift things, if at all? And what I can say is that it helped me shift two things: my thoughts and my perspective of time, mainly, how I spent my time. Firstly, time. When I embraced the whole concept of ‘intentionally’ as my word and started thinking about it more, I started to question why I was doing certain things: why was I doing something that I didn’t want, or have to do? Was I wasting away the hours playing a game on my phone, or reading a book or just staring into space? What was I doing with my time and what was I getting in return for it? Was I spending time in prayer and reading my bible? When I had a few spare moments was I stopping to pause and pray and reflect or was I using up every spare minute of my day with mindless activity? None of this activity is bad in and of itself, but being that time is so limited most days, was it the best use of my time and was it helping to bring me peace and joy?
This line of constantly asking myself if I was being intentional with my time helped me to shift some priorities and spend my time on things that really mattered; time with family and friends; time reading things that were good for me and that would nourish my heart and soul; time sitting in silence with a coffee and my thoughts; and most importantly, time with God. Was I being intentional and making time for God or was I just doing the obligatory daily bible reading without going any deeper? And because I was asking these questions of myself, I had to get honest about things because at the end of the day, what is the point of trying to delude myself into thinking I was doing something or being intentional about something when I wasn’t? We need to be honest with ourselves about our own behaviours so that we can best the best version of who God made us. And so, I became intentional about being honest not just with myself but with God. He knew all the thoughts and feelings that I had anyway, so I may as well acknowledge that and acknowledge Him in it.
And this led to how the word ‘intentionally’ impacted my thoughts. Our thoughts have power. They influence our emotions and actions and our heart. What we say and do stems from our thoughts, yet we often let our mind camp out in negative thoughts and memories and fears, which in turns starts to bring about sadness and bitterness and fear. Well, for me anyway. Maybe you don’t get impacted that way, but I realised that it wasn’t enough to get intentional about my actions, I needed to get intentional about my thoughts as well, because that was what was impacting and influencing me most. And so, I started to get intentional about my thought patterns and let me tell you, it was hard work.
When I started to pay attention to my thoughts I realised that I had a lot of negative thoughts. Thoughts of past hurts and current wounds and future fears. I would sit and reflect on things people had said and would wallow in that, and that always ends badly, especially when you don’t talk about it with people and keep it in your head. So, I created some accountability for myself and told some people of the thoughts and fears running through my head so that they could give me an objective perspective. I picked a worship song that became my go-to song when I couldn’t get thoughts out of my head. I wrote scripture in places that I could see it so that when thoughts go too much I could easily see the truth written before me. And I would pray. Goodness me, I prayed and talked to God and raged at Him so much last year. And I wouldn’t take any of it back because sitting in communion with God, having those moments when you pour your heart and soul out and feel His peace in return are worth it. despite the pain I had to go through to get there, it was worth it to be able to sit and hear from my Creator. To feel His peace and presence. To receive His promises.
Being intentional is essential. I may have chosen another word this year but ‘intentionally’ is still in the back of my mind. It is still a word that influences my actions and guides my decisions. And if you have chosen that as your word for the year, let me encourage you to embrace it with everything and commit your intentions to God. Let it be your guide for your actions, because if we are being intentional and making space for God and for people, we will live a fulfilled life.