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Spiritual Practice of Parenting: Being Intentional

March 6, 2013

Way too frequently, it feels like my life is running away from me.  I struggle to stay on top of everything I need to do (laundry….supplying my family’s nutritional needs….cleaning….getting kids to and from school), those things that nourish me (reading of fiction and nonfiction…quiet time…exercise…creative endeavors…time with friends…time with Curtis), and those things that have snuck into my to-do list that I mistake for necessary (most everything on the computer except for a few random “business things” and writing)).  Too often, as I’ve said over and over, I find myself rushing and feeling frantic.  It’s so easy to be sucked into that mode of operating.

Unless.

Unless.

Unless I am intentional.

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Intentional was one of those words that I heard thrown around a lot in college and immediately there after.  There was the supposed intentional community I lived in college, which was really this awesome old house on campus a bunch of us lived in, with the intent we would share meals and chores with each other (we didn’t—oops.  We were the slacker house and coincidentally, the year we lived there was the last year it was used as intentional community house).  In my year of Voluntary Service, when we shared incomes, a house, and a couple of cars.  We talked frequently about making intentional choices.  In that time, I noticed the word intentional being used more at church as well.  We were to be intentional in our relationship with God.  I attempted to be intentional in all areas in my life.

Being a parent is a bit interesting.  (How’s that for an understatement?)  As I leave the fog of having a small litter of small children, I realize I need to relearn so many of the things I learned years ago.  In my survival mode with three kids under the age of the five, I forgot the word intentional.  It was replaced with the word sustain.  I attempted to sustain the life of my children and my own life.  That was it.  Nothing intentional, solely survival and sustenance.    When I started reading again a couple of years ago, it was the beginning of my relearning.  Many of the lessons I needed to learn where the same ones I’ve heard for years, however, this time, I approached them with a very different perspective.  My own self-centeredness has diminished a bit over the years.  I am more capable of changing my plans and being flexible to adjust to whatever is thrown at me.  I am also a bit less spontaneous and “light”–parenting has added an extra weight to my outlook on life–I have three people depending on me.

We are not meant to go flying through life with our eyes closed.  How can we be grateful when we’re too busy?  How can we see God in the world around us, in others, when we are looking only at ourselves?  How can we see what we are called to be, how we can be God’s hands and feet, when our head is buried in our own calendars?

What being intentional means is this–asking myself questions, frequently.  Does this honor my kids’ needs?  my husband’s needs?  our family’s needs?  my needs?  Have I invited God into this moment?  How am I making space for God to come into this moment?  What do I hope I (we, they) get out of this?  What is my motivation for doing this?  Do we have the resources to do this (time and money)?  What do I hope my children learn from this situation and/or my actions?

It’s amazing the difference it makes.  Being intentional means on our hectic afternoons that by chance, all our activities landed on, we don’t need to rush.  Being intentional means I’ve planned the menu and Madeleine’s homework schedule so Thursday afternoons, which have ended up too full, aren’t hectic.  We have time to eat and talk and get dressed for soccer without rushing.  Being intentional means on the evenings Curtis is working late or has something scheduled, I’ve planned an easy meal I know the kids will love.  Suppertime may be later than usual (I always mean to have it earlier, but it NEVER works that way!), but it’s enjoyable.  We light the candle for Curtis and have a calm dinner, because I haven’t rushed or fussed over something too elaborate.  Being intentional means noticing the sunrise in the morning and the warm afternoon sun.  DSCN0339

I notice when I stop moving with purpose or intent, the world threatens to throw me off.  I am more susceptible to franticness and stress.  I yell at the kids more.  I become a bit manic.

I have enough time to get it all done.  I do.  Sometimes, I make the time by being organized. (Which, despite how it sounds, organized does not equal intentional all the time.  There are times when being organized prevents me from being intentional–life becomes a to do list–attempting to check everything off my organized list as quickly as possible.  That is not intentional.  That is harried and makes no space for God.)  Sometimes I make the time by being sure I have my quiet time with God each day.  The time in prayer reminds me what is important in each day and my purpose.  My purpose is to love God with all my heart, soul, and mind and to love my neighbor as myself.  Not moving through life rushed, frees my heart, soul, and mind to love more fully.  I hope by allowing God to give me enough time, I am teaching my children the same.  God is enough, God will be enough, and God always has been enough.  Love all the time, no exceptions.  Sometimes, I make the time to be intentional by doing nothing–for thanking God for a sick kid that clears my daily calendar or weather that prevents me from leaving the house.  I observe that Sabbath God instructed us to take.  Sometimes, I am intentional by not multi-tasking.  I sit down by myself for lunch and just eat, noticing the bites I take and savoring them.

Then, those times when I lose sight of God, my intention falters.  I stop, and ask forgiveness once I’ve slowed down sufficiently to find my way back.

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