Living Intentionally {To Stephanie on her 31st Birthday...}


Dear Stephanie:

Today is your very own personal New Year. Reflect. Ponder. Plan. Dream. With intention

Remember when your dad said following God had been the greatest adventure of his life? You sat and listened and thought, I want same kind of adventure. Only it'll be your very own. God's continuing story through your life for this chapter. Prepared and planned by God. Woven together with the unique threads that He laid out in your life. Remember when you were afraid of living life without your dad? God reminded you He is your father, as He was your dads. He's been faithful, as always

Let's not miss out on your adventure. You've been distracted. God was clear about that the other day in His Word. 1 Peter 4:1-3. It's time to live with resolve. Like Jesus did. Enough time has been wasted. Live the remaining time for God's will. Because you're prone to squirrels and shiny things, those eyes need to be fixed. Fix your eyes on Jesus. 

Leave behind control. Move towards trust.

Enough time has been spent trying to do things your way. I'll save you the suspense. It always ends the same way. Not as good as His way. Thankfully His business is buying back your mistakes. But remember, there are still consequences. The people who pay are often the ones you love most. They miss out on His best when you choose otherwise. Please don't forget this.

When you're surprised, He's not. Not by your one thousandth mess-up or your circumstances. He is faithful. He loves you. His ways are perfect. His timing is perfect. He doesn't drop the ball. He doesn't forget things. He redeems everything. Nothing is wasted. Trust Him in everything. When you relinquish control, you get to rest in Him. Being in control is what He does best, not you. Do it His way. What He tells you in scripture. It's always best.

Leave behind certainty. Move towards faith.  

You tend to think that you need to understand everything. You don't. For it to be a step of faith means you don't know. You can not know and still go. Remember when you heard, "You always say, 'God first give me the plan then I'll go?' But He wants you to step out in faith"?  Stepping out in faith has not gone wrong yet. And it won't. You know what you tell your little people? Trust and obey. It's the same for you. When you try to grasp at certainty, attempting to understand what could happen, how it might work out, and when it might work, you waste time. Simply do what He asked you to with what is in front of you right now. No sense in getting ahead. He'll take care of the rest. He always does.  

Leave behind competition. Move towards championing. 

You used to be scared of people who were like you because what if they can do it better? Here's the thing: God is BIG and so is His kingdom and so are His plans. He's very creative. Even the woman who is most similar to you is not the same. Therefore God has unique callings. He wants to reach wide with both of you. All of you. The kingdom is big enough. He is big enough. Get obsessed with cheering people on. Champion them. Encourage them to follow hard after Jesus with everything.

Don't be content to go it alone. Ask if anyone wants to go with you. Go together. Things always get tough along the way. People will stumble and fall. You need to throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles and run with perseverance the race marked out for you. Fix your eyes. Run hard. Stay in your lane (thank you Jennie Allen) and go together. 

Leave behind mindless chatter Move toward continual prayer.

Talking gets it out. Prayer gets it done. You've talked until you're blue in the face. You talk to process and to think aloud. Those are all okay. But listen, it always goes better when you've talked to God first. He's the only One who can filter your thoughts, attitudes, ideas, perceptions, feelings, words, and conclusions through the Truth. The safest place for your raw emotion is with Him. Let Him do some filtering and healing before those careless words hurt people you love. He doesn't need your solution or conclusions. He has them. Go their first. Trust me, it's best for everyone. 

Leave behind fear. Move toward boldness. 

You didn't even know you were afraid. Leaving behind fear is new because for the better part of three decades it was hiding behind procrastination, competition, criticism, and excuses. If you must fear, fear standing before God one day and finding out you missed out on the abundant life He died to give you because you were too dang scared. Believe boldly. Pray boldly. Speak boldly. Live boldly. Love boldly. Boldness will come from knowing the truth. 

Leave behind exhaustion. Move toward rest. 

You are most effective when you operate from a place of rest. Rest isn't doing nothing. Rest is productive. God is restoring your body as you rest and refreshing your soul. Lord willing, you are approaching the 1/3 mark of this race. Pace yourself.

Rest isn't only sleeping and being still. When you play, you rest, when you create you rest. Treat that body like a temple. You need actual sleep. That 10:00 bedtime that's been eluding you for years, get to it (clearly tomorrow). Be disciplined because there are things to do, works to walk in. If you're too tired to get up early to be in the Word, and too tired to enjoy your season and the people in it, you're too tired. Rest. The morning starts the night before. Build it into your rhythm. And don't forget to be a little still. 5 minutes a day. It'll remind you that He's God and you're not. Basic stuff. 

Leave behind criticism. Move towards love.

It's not your job to find everything wrong with the situation. I know your desire is for the best: to be the best, to find the best, to not miss out on the best. There are things that could improve. But in the grand scheme of things, they probably aren't all deal breakers. The way to inspire change is not to come being a highlighter of error. Love people. Love the Light. Love the Truth. Love your neighbor as yourself. This is much easier when you are kind to yourself. When you are critical of yourself, you'll be critical of your neighbor. 

Leave behind perfection. Move towards progress.

Perfection is heaven. You're on earth. Make progress. Stop thinking you have to go back to the beginning until you get it right. I think you've started over in Genesis enough times. Find that dusty book mark somewhere in 2 Kings and just keep going. All those blog drafts? Those are times you tried to make it perfect. It didn't happen. Make progress. With habits, make progress. With writing, make progress. Aim high, but let's be real. This is earth, and you're not Jesus so you won't do things perfectly.  His grace is sufficient. Don't expect the thorns in the flesh to disappear. They didn't for Paul and they probably won't for you because, listen, HIS GRACE is sufficient. Make progress. 

Leave behind procrastination. Move toward purposeful productivity.

Now you know it was because of fear. God has set you free. Remember that He who calls you is able. Take a deep breath and say yes one moment at a time. When task get overwhelming, break them up. Small chunks. Make lists. Remember how much you love lists! Lists are your BEST FRIEND. And pretty planners. Jesus has your to do list. If you aren't busy with His work, you get distracted by your own seemingly busy but unimportant tasks. Create. Remember you are most alive when you are doing what you were made to do. 

Leave behind self-sufficiency. Move toward the gospel.

The great exchange: Jesus in my place. He loved you enough to die for you. He paid for your sins. Bore the weight of your sin, shame and guilt. The righteous for the unrighteous. Put to death so you could live. By his wounds you are healed. Once for all. NEVER get over this. Never move past it. Only go deeper into it. The places in your life that are stuck might be because you're stuck in self-sufficiency. If anything starts with, If only I try a little harder.... STOP. Replace it with, "I can't" but Jesus you can. Life must be preceded by death. The more you can't, the more He can. And He will.  

Leave behind stuffed. Move toward margin.

Space is good. You used to be afraid of space. It's okay. Everything doesn't need to be full. Space leaves room for spontaneity. Margin leaves room for reestablishing rhythm. Margin leaves options. Everything needs margin because you're going to get it wrong sometimes. Margin will help you find the beat again.  

Keep moving forward with your eyes fixed on Jesus, resolved to do His will.

Oh, and watch out for squirrels! 

Only by grace,