Intentional Living

photo of me: by Emily @ Chatting At The Sky

January is always a time where I reflect on what I want for the new year. Invariably, I decide I want to live a “more simple and intentional life” than I did the year before. The question of how to live simply and intentionally in a fast paced world full of enticing options is quite fascinating to me.

We can do more in less time, apparently, but often it feels like we might be doing more of what we never knew we needed to do and missing out on the things we wish we had more time for. That is pretty messed up, if I do say so myself.

Why do we do that to ourselves, and can it really be avoided?

For those of us who are online, you might feel the pressure to do more of what everyone else does — and do it in less time. And, not only do we have the pressure to do more (often because of all the online input showing us how much everyone else is apparently doing), but if we are a blogger, we feel compelled to take additional time to document our every move. And to make a busy life even more crazy, we are now able to follow the every move of dozens or even hundreds of other people on our computers and TV screens.

Is that progress? Or are we driving ourselves insane? I’ll let you answer that question for yourself.

When our grandmothers created a knit blanket or baked a pie, they did it in the peace and quiet of their home. They didn’t feel the need to talk about it with hundreds, but perhaps simply shared their recipe or creation with their neighbor across the fence. They didn’t photograph it, they didn’t Photoshop it, they didn’t create the step by step tutorial with diagrams, sketches, and links to 30 other similar tutorials, promote it online or beg for people to come see what they made.

Did Grandma need 100 thumbs up and glowing comments on her creations to feel fulfilled? Or was she just happy to have provided warmth and nourishment for her children? Did Grandma need to spend time researching 1,000 different decorating ideas before she could decide on one for her home? Did Grandma have to cart her three kids around in the mini-van five nights a week to Greek class and baseball camp and dance workshops?

Grandma was not interrupted all day by endless options and activities, beeping phones, blaring TV sets, texts and emails, Facebook messages, or twitter chats.

And, somehow I think my Grandma was fine without all the wonderful things we have now.

She probably still felt overworked, tired, lonely and even frustrated like all women seem to at times. She had her own set of things to deal with. But I know my grandma was never tempted to karate chop a computer and throw it out the window because it froze when she was uploading photos of her pie. She probably just pulled a hand written recipe card from her card box, baked and ate the pie, and that was the extent of the experience.

A constant stream of conversation

Are we raising our expectations and pressure on ourselves each year to keep up with MORE than we SHOULD?

Yes, we are connecting more than our Grandma did. I enjoy connection — to an extent. We are sharing more ideas, maybe earning a living, adding beauty to the world, learning things we never knew before. I enjoy those things and even rely on them at times.

My business and ministry actually depend on lots of connection, and I am blessed to know so many wonderful people online who make my life better in so many ways. There are lots of good people and opportunities online! But as a wife and mother, I have to ask myself what my goal is and where my priorities are. Do I need to participate in everything that is available to me?

I can’t really change the world I live in but I CAN make intentional choices every single day, every hour, and even every minute for how to spend MY time within the context of my family’s needs, priorities and obligations in life.

In order to live an intentional life, I need to wrestle over the small choices I make each day.

Every single choice I make takes away from my daily allowance of available time.

We all have the same number of hours in a day, where are all our hours going? Minute by minute, our time is being spent on something. I want to be more intentional about what I choose to do. And, frankly, what I chose NOT to do.

How might you incorporate the concept of more intentional living this year?

Come join me at The Inspired Room, where we talk about more than just decorating, we talk about creating authenticity and purpose in our life and homes.

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  1. 1

    Thank you thank you thank you! I have been thinking about this alot lately! I am getting an iphone this week, which will be great but I will have to be intentional about how I use it and what I do with it as I know I am one to spend time on less important things! Thanks for Putting into words what I was feeling, hopefully it will help me to act with intention :)

  2. 2

    Such a great post with relevant questions.

    It’s amazing how easy it is to get “sucked into” the communication world with the convenience of connecting to the masses. But, I often question if my own children are going to turn to me in 10 years and say, “Mom, when we were growing up, you were always looking at the computer instead of paying attention to us.” Oh, I don’t want them to say that!

    Everything in balance. And in-control. And with intention. Excellent encouragement.

    Specifically, for me, I am trying to make a habit of closing my laptop when one of my kids or husband comes into the room. Robin @Pensieve gave me that idea, and I have been loving it. Though it’s harder to do when I am just “almost” finished with what I was working on . . . argh. The tension continues.

  3. 4

    Melissa, this is one of the best posts about living purposefully I’ve ever read. Honestly :)

    I’m going to link to it from my newsletter this week as it’s what I talk about but you said so much better.

    I often think about how much we’re really connecting with people through all the social media??

    I went on a course last year about networking (real live networking :) ) and she said something that stayed with me – even though we have on average 65 Facebook friends, we only truly connect with about 6 of them on a daily basis. I have 800-odd but I take the essence of that statistic – I’m only meaninfully connecting with a really small % of friends.

    Fantastic post and wonderful questions.

  4. 6

    P.S. LOVE the photo of you with the laptop and the 2nd photo made me feel exhausted :)

  5. 7

    My focus for the year hits two points: Blessing and Being. I am learning to speak blessings over my children and others. And I am learning to “be all there”–specifically NOT multi-tasking, but giving my full, undivided attention to the person speaking to me, or the task at hand.

  6. 8

    I was going to post a comment but am instead going to be intentional about cleaning up the breakfast dishes! :-)

  7. 10

    Just back from Blissdom and already feeling behind–this is just what my heart needed to hear! Thanks, friend!

  8. 11

    Thank you for sharing. I try hard to not get on the computer when I get home from work and my daughter is still awake. It is definitely nice being unplugged on the weekends. Thanks again for sharing.

  9. 12
    Debbie Grace says:

    Thank you.

  10. 13

    I am being almost merciless in CUTTING OUT input that is good, but just adding clutter to my thoughts. Trimming my Google Reader subscriptions. Limiting FB time to TWO 5-minute sessions a week and not during my peak creative time.

  11. 15

    Thank you for the reminder…I don’t have to play the KEEP UP game with everybody else! I sometimes think… if only I had been born earlier, I don’t seem to fit into this world of technology but guess Grandma had her challenges as well. Enjoy your day!

  12. 16

    Melissa…I just love your heart and your passion to live intentionally! What a great and timely post for ME and so many others. Thank you for saying it so beautifully! xoxo Mel :)

  13. 17
    Charlotte Stevenson says:

    This is a great post. I REALLY needed to read this today! Thank you!

  14. 18

    I’ve been ruminating on the same thoughts lately.
    You are a blessed confirmation.
    In fact, I plan to “fast” FB for the forty days before Easter
    (which is huge for me – I check in 3-10x a day).
    I’m already looking forward to it!
    Thanks for sharing your heart :D
    -|<@ren

  15. 19

    This is so good, Melissa. So good. You are so right. Every single minute we are faced with a choice and we have choose to spend that minute (hour, day) intentionally. Thank you!

  16. 20

    Love this. You are SO right. And the vision of Grandma karate chopping a computer for freezing during a photo upload (oh, how I’ve been there) made me literally laugh out loud. As a blogger, but also just as a person, I try to be intentional by choosing to keep some things private. We often share too much in this connected world. Intentionally keeping some things private – foregoing the need for recognition for everything! – keeps me sane and happy. Most of the time :)

  17. 21

    Great post.
    My husband and I were wrestling with GOD pushing us to get to know more young families in our church. we are SUPER busy. I know everyone can say that, but it’s true. I was having a hard time giving up our only free moments to WORK by being hospitable. We decided to make our call from GOD at this moment our JOB. For the next couple years, we WILL be intentional about our job from GOD every day and seize every opportunity to build the relationships that GOD has put in our path.
    Thanks for being relateable.

    • 22

      That is wonderful. We feel the same way, always so busy. And when I realize that I could have spent a good hour on any given day wandering the internet thinking I was “relating” yet also feeling “too busy” for people or activities in my own real life circle…something is wrong. I love that you are making relating to the young families in your church INTENTIONAL. It makes the other choices much easier!

  18. 23

    Yes, yes, and YES, Melissa! Thank you for bringing to light something that I have been thinking about for a long time.

  19. 24

    Love this. Now, to apply it.

  20. 25

    Hmmmm yes Lord I’m listening! Just declared a hiatus from FB for the very reasons you wrote about. Thank you for this post. xo

  21. 26

    Wow, Melissa. What a thought provoking post. I have decided that in 2011 I will spend at least one weekend a month at home. I know that sounds odd to a lot of people, but when you work outside the home, have five children, three grandchildren and various friends and family members to invest in…it gets a little more difficult than it sounds. Most people don’t understand when I turn down invitations to do “fun” things to stay at home…and my husband doesn’t understand why I don’t stay home most weekends…so, here I am torn by other’s expectations. Intentional living…quite a concept!

  22. 27

    “In order to live an intentional life, I need to wrestle over the small choices I make each day.”

    such wisdom here. thank you!

  23. 28

    I started this year cutting way back on TV. It was sucking up my time and I didn’t even realize it. Wonder of wonders! I now have more time to read. Oh joy! I’m reading Tsh’s book, “Organized Simplicity.” It’s a great resource for figuring out what really matters.

    I love your example of our grandmothers who made pie and quilts and dresses and canned fruits and vegetables. It was always out of necessity and I’d imagine that not having all of the exterior input – comments, likes, and virtual high fives – allowed our grandmothers to focus on what mattered most.

    And…I love Marilyn’s practical examples above. Two five-minute facebook sessions a day! Wow!

  24. 29

    I’ve been thinking a lot about that lately! And I totally agree. Thank you for that affirmation and challenge to find balance through being intentional!

  25. 30

    For me, intentional living is finding a way to weed all of the time-consuming nonsense out! All of the junk that keeps me busy, but doesn’t make me productive.

  26. 31

    Such good words. A friend and I were discussing this just yesterday after my near meltdown at the thought of having to tell people there is no way on God’s green earth that I will be able to tutor them even though I would love to. I just don’t. have. the. time. Or the energy. My Bible study has slid the past two weeks because I HAVE been helping them.

    Thanks for these wonderful words Melissa. God knew they were exactly what I needed to read this morning. You have NO idea. :)

  27. 32

    So funny – this has really been on my mind lately too. I even wrote my own post about Intentional Living! http://aquietstrength.blogspot.com/2011/01/intentional-living.html

  28. 33

    LOVE this!

  29. 34

    This was so good! I love to write and feel blessed to get paid to do it, but blogging feels like such a chore at times. Your words made me think this afternoon.

  30. 35

    Great food for thought – somehow, ‘how busy you are’ has become a status symbol. When you ask someone how they are – the new reply is “I have been soooooo busy!” – that is not what I want to hear!! I want to know how they are have been – sad, happy, overwhelmed, overjoyed, blessed. Simple but intentional sounds real good to me!

  31. 36

    Dear Mandy, I have been blessed…a hundred times over everyday!

  32. 37

    ok.. 1st, I just went to Voyage website. Very cool. And noticed that you have a 9 yr old Luke and I have a 9 yr old Luke. I feel closer to you already.;) I’m gonna pray for your Luke too. I love the pic that emily took of you in those too cool shoes. I am so privileged to live in the same town and go to the same church as she. Her Man leads my girl… (when she goes). love her.
    So wanted to be at Blissdom, but couldn’t make it happen this year. Next year, I’m there even if I have to walk and stay in a room all by myself. Maybe we’ll meet.
    Thanks for this great post.
    I too enjoy connection. love it. But missin the “grandma time” sometimes too.
    Looking to have both. And happy when I get it.
    Simple. Searching for Simple.

  33. 39

    Oh my how I can relate. Intentional, simple, where less is definitely more!

  34. 40

    I think this is your best post ever! I’m printing this out and putting it in my homekeeping binder. Thank you!

  35. 41

    so what are you trying to say? ha! i think it is brilliant and is really hitting home for a lot of people. balance- and don’t we have to “be still & know that I am God”……. hard to do while being sooooooooo connected! thankyou!
    working on time in the great outdoors with my family at – Adventurez In Child’Rearing!

  36. 42
    Carolyn says:

    I really needed to see this written down and staring me in the face.

    I struggle with my desire to stay connected to friends, to record special moments through blogging, to document and take pictures, and to comment, and to reply, and to chat on facebook to encourage or check in with a friend,and to check if anyone responded to a post, and on. and on. and on.

    I have been thinking lately the very thought you alluded to – what am I lacking in my own life that calls me to depend on that connection with others so much?

    Definitely a very real reminder to the gentle nudging my conscience keeps returning to… simplify and be intentional about who I have right before my very eyes and within my walls (4 young boys and a great husband ) and a home that is full of constant needs and organization and preparations.

    There is a time and a place for everything – facebook and blogging need less of mine!

    Thank you!

  37. 44

    I love this, Melissa! This is just what my heart and mind needed to read. Thank you for this gentle “kick in the pants” to keep first things first and to just say no to all those small things that add up to big wastes of time! Bravo!

  38. 46

    Thank you so much for this. I often feel like I am rotting away spending so much time on such unsatisfying things such as the internet. I think to myself, what am I doing for eternity? NOTHING! I recently deleted facebook for now to refocus my life as a mom and wife. I don’t want to miss out on the little moments with my children, and most importantly I want to change and become more like Christ, and let me tell ya, facebook and being connected to the internet isn’t helping that! I want to live INTENTIONAL too.

    Katie

  39. 47

    Ohhh boy. I’ve caught myself missing personal activities because the ‘blog kept me too busy.’

    Know what? I’m going to bed instead of browsing further. :) This is just what I needed! Nighty night, all! And thanks Melissa. Glad you said it for me. :)

    Donna

  40. 49

    Wow. Well said Melissa. I like the grandma comparison…times were so different then. I like to think that I’m progressing, but it is a constant struggle of the small choices.

    I’m ready to take a few days off the computer and just wrestle with my kids or something. Thanks for sharing.

  41. 50
    Hannah@ A Quiet Spot says:

    This really spoke to me today. Thanks for not pulling any punches. :-)

  42. 51

    Hmm I have been learning about intentional iving this past month and it really catches me when my guard’s off. I do not realize how much of my life is “wasting away” with little unneccesaries until I journal at the end of the day. “Have I served or ministered to anyone in the past 24 hours?” And then the realization/conviction begins to deepen of who I am really living my life for. I go to a Christian university and since I am in a Christian environment I just assumed that I must be living my life for Christ because I follow the “rules” and have devo time and if I get my homework done, I even pray for others. NO, no no I am learning that kind of living is wasteful because it only revolves around myself.

  43. 52

    Hi Melissa-

    This post is probably one of the best I have ever read – you hit the nail on the head especially with the comparision to our grandmothers. Every single item you have brought up here has gone through my head a thousand times since I started my blog. I try to edit out what doesn’t work for me, but sometimes it is hard when you see others succeed by being everywhere. I think it is just human nature to want to try our best – but is that being our best? – stressed and doing it just because you are supposed to or others are doing it – No. I think we all have to realize that success is about being ourselves and standing out in the crowd with confidence. I have learned to protect every minute of my day or else I will go crazy. Living happily and authentically is more important to me than the using up my precious time to update the world in everyway possible.
    My best- Diane

  44. 55

    L O V E this post – so true. I don’t think keeping up with everyone under the sun and hoping some of them care enough to keep up with you is what having “Life to the FULL” is all about by any means. Social media has it’s advantages, to be sure, but as with anything else that’s ‘good’ in life, it can also be dangerous if not adequately kept in balance. I think social media is a huge tool to tempt one into the vice of idolatry – of self. caring so much about how WE appear, etc. It’s really fruitless – chasing after the wind.

    Here’s another post that I really resonated with along these lines:
    http://www.itakejoy.com/714/
    title: “Social Media is like a fickle boyfriend…”

  45. 57

    WOW! Exceptional post! So my heart!

    This is the time of year I also reprioritze. Such a blessing to stop and take a hard look.

    We are our own worst enemy in making our lives more complicated than they should be.
    Bless you Melissa, this so needed to be said.
    Hugs!

  46. 58
    monique says:

    “I can’t really change the world I live in but I CAN make intentional choices every single day, every hour, and even every minute for how to spend MY time within the context of my family’s needs, priorities and obligations in life.”

    The truth is that you DO change the world you live in by the choices you make! We all do. Mindfulness in all that we do is the key. We are under no obligation to answer the call of the computer, phone, etc. They are there for our convenience – not the convenience of others. Hard to ignore, and of course, we do have obligations to honor, but we are in control of our tools – not the other way around.

    I’m old enough to have lived in that world you described as your grandmother’s, and believe me, there were other things to contend with. no less urgent, but nevertheless, all our choices at the time as well!

    So it all comes down to, as it always has, in where we spend our time and attention. No matter whether it is answering the cell phone, or sprinkling our

  47. 59
    monique says:

    “I can’t really change the world I live in but I CAN make intentional choices every single day, every hour, and even every minute for how to spend MY time within the context of my family’s needs, priorities and obligations in life.”

    The truth is that you DO change the world you live in by the choices you make! We all do. Mindfulness in all that we do is the key. We are under no obligation to answer the call of the computer, phone, etc. They are there for our convenience – not the convenience of others. Hard to ignore, and of course, we do have obligations to honor, but we are in control of our tools – not the other way around.

    I’m old enough to have lived in that world you described as your grandmother’s, and believe me, there were other things to contend with- no less urgent, but nevertheless, all our choices at the time as well!

    So it all comes down to, as it always has, in where we spend our time and attention. No matter whether it is answering the cell phone, or pasting S&H Green stamps, how and where and in which manner we make our livings and take care of our lives, we create the world by our choices!

  48. 61
    Susanne says:

    I loved this and it really spoke to me. A friend of mine refuses to talk on the phone; she’d rather text for hours on end. It saddens me. There is so much more to life than sitting on the computer.

  49. 62

    Ahhh. Love this post, Melissa. Makes me want to quilt in the dark and eat an apple pie. For real, great reminders…especially after coming off Blissdom :)

  50. 63

    Oh, ugh. I’m having such a hard time with this right now. I enjoy my projects, the community I have found online, the inspiration I get from the art of others, but you’re absolutely right. Where is the REAL, in person connection in my life? And how do I go about making more of that? Sometimes I feel as if we’d all be better off without the internet, even though I am so utterly dependent on it now (like who even owns a phone book anymore?).

  51. 64

    I really love this post! It’s so spot on and the questions raised are so relevant! Thank you for making us all THINK!!! ;) xoxo

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