Intentionality

Intentionality – the fact of being deliberate or purposive. (Google Definition)

Intention – a determination to act in a certain way (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Not long ago I had an interview for a position as an orientation leader for my university for the upcoming 2018-2019 school year. The interview was very laid back and consisted of three parts: an impromptu speech, a group activity, and a one-on-one interview. We rotated in groups and I just so happened to be one of the last people to take part in the one-on-one interviews. While I was waiting for my turn to go in I was thinking about my transition into college and what advice I would offer first-year students based off of my own experiences. This wasn’t my first time thinking about this, but I figured giving it some extra thought might be helpful considering there was a very good chance I would be asked a similar question. Luckily for me, that was one of the very first questions I was asked.

At first I wasn’t sure. There is a lot I would want to tell a person making such a large life transition, and a lot that I wish I would have known, but nothing I was thinking of seemed good enough. But then I remembered a quote that I had read in The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst: “Today’s choices become tomorrow’s circumstances.” I have this quote written on my calendar in my dorm, and beneath it, in bold letters, I have written, “BE INTENTIONAL.” So, when the interviewer asked me what advice I would offer a new student, I said that I would tell them to be intentional with their choices. It will be so tempting and easy to do what you want without putting much thought into your decisions because you finally have that extra freedom you never had before… I mean, you’re in college, right? But only so much time will pass before you realize that these decisions you’re making aren’t paying off in the way that you hoped they would.

As I was talking to the interviewer, I felt as if I were giving myself advice more than anything. I dedicate a lot of time and energy doing things that I know (or at least hope) will put me closer to a goal that I hope to achieve. Being intentional with my choices can be really easy when it comes to large scale decisions, but what about the smaller things that I do with little thought? Things such as the way I communicate with others, the music that I listen to, or even the people that I surround myself with seem to happen automatically, but maybe they shouldn’t.

A few days ago I asked a friend how you can know if you’re on the path that God laid out for you and she said that as long as you’re being intentional and praying about all aspects of your life – big or small – you’re on the right track.

Today’s choices become tomorrow’s circumstances, but each day is full of thousands of choices… how intentional are you being with yours?

Epidemic

There’s a lot of commotion going on in the world right now. With opinions that differ in more ways than one and people butting heads over the desire to be right, I feel as if there’s been a dwindling of hope spreading across the nation – an epidemic of moral losses as everyone searches for a political gain. But the problem doesn’t lie outside of us – it’s not something we can put limitations on or negotiate – the problem lies within us.

I have a thing for encouraging shirts. No matter where I’m at, if I see a shirt with an encouraging or optimistic phrase on it, I have to buy it. It all started when I bought a shirt that says, “peace starts with empathy.” This shirt is my favorite, because it reminds me to be empathetic (understanding or compassionate towards experiences or people without having firsthand experience) no matter what the situation is. I think this world could use a lot of empathy right now. We seem to have collectively looked at the world, pinpointed a problem, and settled on the quickest and “easiest” solution possible, but the only reason this “solution” seems easy is because it doesn’t require any real change within us – it leaves all of us free of guilt while also leaving us free of change. But we can’t have both.

We need to change. Not laws or legislation, us. We need to be more responsible with our actions, more careful with our words, and more generous with our hearts. We need to make a point to reach our hand out every chance we get instead of stepping over all the people who have fallen and expect them to be okay. We need to get rid of this, “pick yourself up by the bootstraps” mindset and start helping others – the change may start within ourselves, but an individualistic mindset will lead to individualistic actions, and this world is in desperate need of collective actions.

Stop giving people reasons to feel alone. Stop giving people reasons to believe nobody cares. Stop giving this world reasons to lose hope. Let’s start a new epidemic – start filling yourself up with empathy and spreading light and love everywhere you go. The world is too dark of a place to keep it all inside.

It is well

When I was in high school I was very active in band and choir. I played clarinet for roughly seven years and I sang in the choir for two. In my time in the music department, I’ve heard and played a lot of songs that have spoken to me on a level that can only be reached by music or literature. However, no piece has touched me more than “On a Hymnsong of Phillip Bliss” by David Holsinger. If you have ever heard the phrase, be it in song or poem, “it is well with my soul,” this song is inspired from the story behind that phrase.

In the late-1800’s, a man was planning a trip for he and his family to go to Europe. Right before the time of departure, the man was needed in Chicago and had to stay in the states to take care of some business, but he decided to send his wife and daughters on the ship to Europe as planned and he would follow them later on. However, after a few days, the man received a phone call from his wife who had landed in Europe informing him that the boat had been struck during its journey and sank within minutes – only she and a few survivors had made their way safety, his daughters not being a part of that few. Soon after, the man got on another ship to join his wife.

The story goes that as the ship was sailing overseas near the point where his daughters had drowned, the man was overcome with grief but turned to God. Here he was, in the midst of heartache and despair, turning upwards to God and saying, “When peace like a river attendth my way / when sorrows like sea-billows roll / whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to know; / it is well, it is well with my soul.”

I played this piece at least once a year for three years in a row, and every time I played it I found myself in tears. There’s something unbelievably powerful about a faith so strong that it can give you peace at a time where peace seems unthinkable. I know everyone goes through heartache and they experience pain on different levels than the ones around them, but how often, in the midst of that hurt, can you remember turning to God and thinking that it is well with your soul? For three years now, this song, this poem, and this story, are a constant reminder to me that while trials may come and hardship will bear it’s way into my life, I know I will always be reassured of God’s support in my helpless state and it will always, always, be well with my soul.

Seasons

Were taught that there are seasons

Like winter

Summer

Fall

And spring

We’re told that we should love them

Because of the wonders that they bring

Winter brings cold

With snow that gleams and shines

While Summer brings the heat

From a sun that feels so fine

Fall brings cozy sweaters

And kids in costume on Halloween

Then spring brings a breath of life

And opens our eyes to the beauty that should be seen

There are seasons of our life

Like there are seasons of the earth

The seasons of our lives

Are unpredictable from birth

We can only guess

What season we’re in

Be it winter, summer, spring, or fall

But they each bring some clarity

To help us understand

The purpose behind our call

I do not know

What season I’m in

And I could probably never tell you

When it started or when it will end

But I have learned to laugh

And I have learned to dream

I have learned to appreciate

The little things

But after all I have learned

Be it good or bad

Learning to love

Is a skill that I lack

I know what Love is

And I know that it’s there

And I know my heart is full of it

Ready to be shared

But perhaps I am in winter

Or maybe even fall

A season where life is waiting

And beauty will soon cover all

I am not sad about this

Because I know the breath will come

And just like the warmer season

Life will flourish under the sun

I feel the heat already

And I can see the beauty coming near

But for now I will enjoy the season I’m in

Because I know God’s timing will be clear

To you, with love

To you,

I hope you do not feel discouraged on days where love is put in the spotlight. I hope that seeing heart-shaped everything and couples going the extra mile does not put a damper in your mood or cause you to scrunch your nose and walk away. I hope the bright pinks and reds do not cause you to shade your eyes and turn towards the shadows. I know it’s days like today where everything becomes a constant reminder of all that you don’t have. And I know that reminder feels more like a hit than a hint, but I hope you do not feel hurt. I hope you never use your lack to feel bitter towards someone else’s gain.

It seems to me that this world is full so much negative that a day dedicated to love itself can’t even be appreciated. The everyday mumbles are no longer shushed and the groans grow louder because as more love is shown, more hatred is shown with it. The holiday becomes too “commercialized” as it picks at our every insecurity and fills the lonely with a sense of dread and the not-so-lonely with a sense of urgency to do more. But if we could take this holiday, commercialized or not, for what it’s worth and just simply love, maybe people on both ends would be better off.

MLK Jr. said that only love can drive out hate, so why is it that on the day where love shines the brightest, the darkest shadows are formed? The sooner we stop feeling sorry for ourselves and happy for others, the sooner light can spread until it’s filling every nook and cranny that plagues this world with shadows. Even if your heart is broken or you have never known a love that has defined love itself, let the love that you do know or the love that you do have pour out of you. You get out of life what you put into it, so if you put in light and love, you will receive exactly that.

I tell you this with love.

Happy Valentine’s Day.