The Cardigan

I have a favorite cardigan. It is beige, looks good with everything (everything? YES. EVERYTHING.), and is dry clean only.

Since I've had it for a few years, I've either taken it to be dry cleaned semi-regularly or, discovering it was a bit past time for a cleaning, wore it anyway (sorry anyone standing next to me - but it matches everything!)

Last night I was doing laundry and, instead of putting the cardigan in my bag for a trip to the cleaners, I threw caution to the wind and tossed it in the washer with the rest of my stuff. 

Why? I have reached the point in life where the cardigan, like most other things, is subject to a cost v. benefit analysis. Do I appreciate the cardigan? Yes. Do I value it enough to dry clean it every week? No. The cardigan is of value to me only if it is easy to launder. 

Living intentionally forces the cost v. benefit analysis daily, because when you decide that every action you take must have known intention behind it, you begin to question everything that you do - including laundry.

Sometimes living intentionally means we don't have the outcome we thought we wanted. For example, when I laundered the cardigan regularly, it came out just fine on the other side. Win! So I rode the tide of victory into the rest of my laundry and washed my dry clean only black pants, only to find it shrunk them by a full inch in length.

Fine, so sometimes living intentionally means you end up with a pair of cropped pants instead of ankle pants. But the choice to no longer spend money and time on dry cleaning because the cost outweighs the benefit is an intentional one, and my life is better for it. I don't live a dry clean only life - by choice.

drycleanonlynope

Book recommendations

Several times a month I'll get a get a real genius-level insight and say to myself, I really ought to write a book about that - only to discover a Google search later that it has already been written, and written well. On the upside, I never run out of good books to read. Here's a short list of what I've been thinking about and reading about lately.


Being Offended

Last year I decided to simplify my life and no longer be offended. I was already hard to offend (or oblivious to offensive intent, may be a better way to describe it), but making the conscious decision to let go of being offended - even by really offensive stuff - was like a deep, cleansing breath for my thought life. Brant Hansen already wrote about it!

slow Living

I've been inspired by both Shauna Niequist and Erin Loechner to slow down. Shauna has published a book of essays about her road from hustling for a living to making the choice to say no to more so she can say yes to the life she wants (sounds familiar!) and Erin has shared a unique memoir about her life so far. Both are definitely worth checking out.

Productivity

Although I firmly believe that hustle and busyness are unhealthy, productivity is not. Don't be tricked into thinking that just because all your hours are filled and you're pushing yourself to get more done you're actually producing quality work. My friends at the Yellow Collective recently sent out this book by Steven Pressfield. His insights highlight the difference between unproductive busyness and productive work habits. 


Slow

When I say hustle, how do you react? That word was big last year. And the year before, as a matter of fact. I think no office supply line catering to "girl bosses" is complete without a mug or planner with a big, sparkly hustle across the front. I don't know about you, but when I see it, I shudder.

I'm ready to slow down, guys. For the past few years my life has been nuts. I finished grad school and acquired a baby* and launched a business with some dear friends and that is while I was working full time and pastoring a church part time.

So instead of a new year's resolution this year, I just chose a word. I thought I was being clever, but according to almost everyone I've talked to this is already a thing. No problem--I'm not known for being clever, but I am known for being too busy, so the word I chose was slow.

Slow.

Maybe some of you are just beginning your year(s) of living busily. You're in my thoughts and prayers. Seriously.

For me, and for my family, this year I want to focus on spending time together that doesn't involve worries of what is left undone. I want to be able to fold laundry without resentment and cook meals that take a while and plant a garden that I have time to tend and write more than 9 blog posts a year. I want to be fully present with whoever I'm with, even if that means I see fewer people. Quality over quantity.

It took me a while to get to this place, but it came on the heels of a couple realizations:

I have to respect who I am and who God made me to be

I don't have the emotional capacity to handle the relational intricacies of intimate conversation more than once or twice per week. I believe as a minister and believer I'm called to engage in it, but it drains me. In the past I considered this a shortcoming and "powered through". This is strange, but at times I felt my entire body vibrating with the effort it took to stay engaged and emotionally available to the person across from me. I hope it helped--but my heart and energy weren't in it. Now I know being reserved and having limited relational energy is just part of who I am, and accepting who I am is much more empowering to my ministry than pretending to be someone else. If you're like me, pick one or two days per week that are your meeting days and don't overbook yourself! Just because someone asks to meet "this week" doesn't mean they need it to be this week. They would rather see you calm and refreshed and available to listen than haggard and preoccupied.

Time feels faster as you get older, so be intentional

It's true. We perceive time to move faster the older we get. Look at it this way: when you're a 6 year old, one month makes up a much larger percentage in the timeline of your life than when you're a 35 year old. That's why when I was a kid Christmas seemed to take forever to arrive, but as an adult it always seems just around the corner. Every day that passes is a day missed, if not lived intentionally. Be intentional about how you schedule your time, how you spend your time (think: mindless activities), what you think about, and who you spend your time with. Last night my son wasn't feeling well and all he wanted to do was cuddle, but all I could think about was unfolded laundry and unwritten Bible studies. Then I realized, all my son wants to do is cuddle with me. What a privilege. Intentional living adds a new perspective on to-do lists. It also gives you the room to say yes to the things you want to make time for, and no to the things you cannot or will not make room for in your life.

Even if it seems late, I encourage any of you to choose a word or a phrase or a resolution to guide you for the year. Here's to a happy, productive, and intentional 2017.

 

*Adoption story coming soon - these are harder to write than I thought!