Family Mission Statement – Part 6: Intentional
Parenthood especially, has caused me to rethink how I value time. “They won’t be young forever.” “Blink and they’ll be in college!” All things I’ve heard from practiced parents. Time can look very different depending on the stage of life you’re in but one of the things we’ve been challenged with for a while now is being intentional with the time you have – So much so, that it became the next part of our Family Mission Statement.
Imagine two lives. One being the planner who is always focused, driven, ahead of schedule, prudent, goal oriented, and has days, weeks, and months set on the calendar. Now, think of the partier who is always unpredictable, extremely social, unplanned, usually not on time, carefree, adventurous, relaxed, and seems to lack a general sense of direction. Take those two lives, throw them in your stock pot, stir them around, and you have what we would aim for as the perfect stew of intentional living.
See, intentional living, for us at least, is not living in one extreme or the other. Yes, being intentional means having things thought through and striving toward achieving a greater purpose and goal. But it also means enjoying the people and the journey along the way! If I could sum it up in a simple statement, living intentionally means seeking to add value to every situation life throws at you.
How do we add value?
I learned a lot of things working a couple years in construction. Perhaps the one lesson that will never leave me was that my boss would not accept the word, “problem.” He would only give his input to the situation if I approached it in a positive light instead calling it an “opportunity!” I can’t say I always appreciated this in the moment but I took away a very valuable life lesson that I won’t soon forget.
We decide what to make of our life situations. Indeed, every situation that comes at us is an opportunity and the path we choose is based on our individual response. I am faced with two options; despair or hope. Despair causes me to see the problem. Hope causes me to see the opportunity. Choose hope!
One of the most substantial breakthroughs for us in consistently choosing hope has been creating a family mission statement. We have talked before about how this mission statement has been a filter for us to make wise choices that help give our family a consistent sense of meaning, direction, and value. In turn, this impacts everything: job, relationships, free time, education, hospitality, possessions, faith, finances, wellness, habits, and goals. We seek to add value to each through the filter of our mission as a family.
I’m not sure anyone would keep reading if I delved into all those things, but here’s a few examples of how we aim to live intentionally.
I’ve been challenged by the idea of friendship in recent years. Most recently because that’s been the topic of discussion this semester for the high school youth group I help out with at church. It was a very powerful moment recently when another one of the small group leaders called out each of the guys in the room by name and followed with, “I love you.” It can be challenging to get high school guys to respond but this simple gesture seemed to shock the group out of their stereotypical and likely shallow view of what a real friend is. I was just as surprised to hear several of them repeat, “I love you” back as I was leaving that night.
Intentional living within community means not settling for the mundane and surface level interactions. This experience with these high school men was a good reminder that we have a natural bent to settle for the low hanging fruit of friendship and we need to regularly call ourselves to a greater purpose and depth in our relationships. It is crazy the studies that are out there showing the benefits of living in community with others and equally, the detriments of not. People add value to our lives. Intentionally invest in the communities you are a part of.
Our experience has been that finding community is often challenging. Especially finding community that shares your same values. The term finding a “tribe” has resonated with us in this pursuit. Your tribe should share your values, while moving you toward your goals, and allow you to utilize your strengths, skills, and passions for the good of the tribe. Challenging to find – yes. But don’t settle for the mediocre in relationships. Find your tribe!
I have talked a bit about our budget system before, but having a budget has been an invaluable tool we could not imagine living without. In college a friend/mentor sat down and taught me a simple way of tracking our money we call the “envelope system.” Really it is exactly as it sounds – we designate a specific amount of cash each month that is filtered into physical envelopes for set spending categories. When the money runs out, you wait until next month. Or, if you’re like us you sell things, do work on the side, or come up with some other creative form of additional income. Either way, the key is you don’t spend more than what’s budgeted.
This attentive tracking of dollars in and dollars out has equated to an extremely intentional approach to our finances. It may sound no fun and restrictive, but this is in fact one of the areas we experience the most freedom as a married couple. We always know where we are moving financially and make the decisions together.
If we have financial goals, the envelopes give us a sure way to get there. If we need to create a new envelope category, we can easily calculate if we have the capacity to add it. Or if we don’t, we can adjust other categories accordingly to make room… which is what it usually looks like for us 🙂 I could write an entire series of posts on this topic alone, and it’s something we are extremely passionate about, so please ask if you want to know more!
Somewhat tied into budgeting, consumption is another prime area for intentional living. Every item we bring into our home is an opportunity to live by our values and do things sustainably. For us we try and focus on products that are non-disposable, locally sourced, quality made, and safe for our family and the environment. Think cloth napkins instead of paper, naturally produced cleaners and detergents free of chemicals, or even just looking for something used instead of buying new.
I have to spotlight one of my favorite household items here; our Berkey water filter! I’ve been disappointed by many of the name brand filters that are inexpensive upfront but require routine filter changes that both add to the trash heap and really gouge your wallet over time. The Berkey is a finely crafted, stainless steel thing of beauty. It will proudly display well in any home and I am confident this thing is built well enough to be passed down to our grandchildrens generation and beyond. Plus, not only do the filters last for 5-10 years, but they utilize a process that leaves the beneficial, naturally occurring minerals in water while only filtering out the bad. Money well spent upfront that will more than pay for itself in the end.
These are the types of decisions that we mean by being intentional in what we consume. If you believe the last thing world needs is more cheap hunks of plastic, then don’t buy more cheap hunks of plastic! It may take some effort, but there are more sustainable and cost effective options out there than what is right before our eyes at the local big box store. Think non-disposable. Think heirloom products. Think sustainably!
Stacking Your Life
A good way to wrap all this up is a concept of intentional living that has challenged us beyond belief. Not to be confused with multitasking, stacking your life first calls you to consider the tasks or goals you want to accomplish in a given day or week. For us these things include making income, gathering food and preparing it, family time, community building, moving our bodies, being outside, keeping up our home, and sleeping. Stacking your life means stacking as many of these things together as possible. For example, almost every Saturday last summer we would walk together as a family to the local farmers market, buy our produce for the week, and carry it back home. In a 2-3 hour time-span we were able to gather food, have family time, build community, move our bodies, and get outside!
Life has a tendency to become very compartmentalized. An hour at the gym here. 45 minutes grocery shopping there. These become very narrow pursuits that accomplish a singular task. We’ve often found that with it comes a “get in, get out” mindset. Stacking your life is a call to take off the blinders of our menial daily tasks and view all of living as an opportunity to live out your values. We learned about stacking your life here, and since I can’t do it justice in this short blurb, I would highly recommend you read into it further.
Stacking your life can become extremely powerful when it moves beyond the basic into more major areas of life. What does it look like to stack my kids play dates? What does it look like to stack my vacations with an area of need or service? What does it look like to consider a career that stacks your true values and passions? I would encourage you to really look further into this concept. When you start applying it to your basic routines, I am confident you will be amazed by the endless potential you will find to add value and intentionality to your life.
Hopefully some of these broad topics can help guide your own journey toward intentional living. You can quickly see how choosing to live intentionally is more of a lifestyle than a series of segmented decisions. Remember our planner and our partier? Intentional living is not one or the other – it’s finding the middle ground of each so that all of life’s situations, moments, experiences, and lessons are maximized. Don’t settle for the ordinary outcome life provides without intentional effort. Join us in choosing a lifestyle of meaning, direction, and significance. Join us in living intentionally!