Intentionality (noun) – done with intention or purpose; intended
This is the word my church has designated for 2018. I know that God is speaking this word over me as an individual as well. Last year the word was “transition”… 2017 was definitely a year of transition for me. I had no idea on Jan. 1, that it would be at all. Life was going well, and I felt very happy and full of joy and contentment. Little did I know that 2017 would be one of the scariest years of my life. I started experiencing health problems… something I have never had to deal with before. For me, my health and my physical strength was something I could always count on. No matter what was going wrong in my life, I knew I could go throw some heavy weight around in the gym, and I would feel better… at least temporarily. Working out has always been an outlet for stress, but last year I couldn’t. My body became very weak, and I was living with chronic pain… walking up the flight of stairs to my apartment was too much some days… I would literally stand at the bottom of the staircase, and give myself a pep talk “one step, now one more, keep going, you can do it…” as I pulled myself up by the hand rails to the top, where I could enter my apartment and collapse until my next client. My brain wasn’t working properly either. I couldn’t remember simple things… like exercises! I had to set reminders on my phone for everything, like to go to work… because I would literally forget what day and time I needed to be there. I was afraid to go places with my daughter, because I was afraid I would leave her somewhere in public because I forgot she was with me. It was really scary. I didn’t know what was happening to me… I felt as though I was going crazy, and in some ways I was. It made me depressed, and withdrawn from the world. I finally sought medical treatment from a naturopath that I trust. It turns out my body was having an autoimmune response of some type, everything was inflamed – including my brain, and my tissues were attacking themselves… with the help of my doctor I have been able to stop this response, and I have since almost completely recovered with diet, supplements, and lifestyle changes. I’d say I’m about 95% of where I was before in terms of strength, energy, etc. I’m also pain free for the most part, which is a true blessing. Going through all of this really scared me. I’m a single mom, and the sole provider for me and my daughter. There was a point where I honestly didn’t know how much longer I would be able to work, as my job is pretty active. Even if I changed careers to a desk job, my brain was not functioning properly enough to take on a new endeavor. But, during it all, I never lost my faith. In my weakest moments I would thank God for my blessings, and I knew that He would use me, and this experience, to help others… that idea, as well as my daughter, are what kept me going “one step, now one more…”. I knew that my suffering in that moment would be for the greater good, and I would become stronger because of it. It was not punishment from God.
I took every opportunity to learn anything I could about human physiology, beyond what I learned in my biomedical science program at university over a decade ago. Learning more in depth about how the body is truly interconnected in every organ system, as well as emotions, environment, etc. helped me to feel more empowered in my situation. Instead of feeling like I was being sentenced to a life of chronic pain and immobility, I was able to take the reigns and give my body what it needed to heal. I learned how to calm down and just “be” a little bit better. I learned that being healthy is more than just diet and exercise… being truly healthy means nourishing your body with the food God intended us to have, as well as nourishing your soul the His word – the food for our spirit. Being healthy means honoring your body by not only exercising it, but also letting it rest, when needed. (I mean God rested on the 7th day… us mere mortals need that too ;)) Being healthy also means a sense of gratitude for every situation – even the difficult ones… this is what makes us not just live, but actually thrive!
I’ve always been a “go, go, go” type person. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead” used to be my motto, but this year I definitely transitioned into a calmer, less type-A person that actually listens to my body and honors what it is asking from me. So, moving from the year of transition into a year of intention… This year I intend to use the knowledge I’ve learned to help others, as I do believe this is truly an epidemic plaguing our society… from poor food choices, to inadequate stress management, and punishing our bodies instead of honoring them as the way God intended.
1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship.
2 Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
Romans 12:1-2 NIV
I also want to be intentional in my actions to honor my spirit and my mental health. To stop doing the things that don’t feed my soul, and to live a life that is honorable to God. I grew up in the Lutheran church, but there was never any faith in my home… it was all about religion. Acting the way we should in public. “Earning” our salvation through acts. Deserving punishment from God for when we faltered… growing up this way planted a deep root of shame and unworthiness in my soul, as I could never be “enough” on my own… no matter how “good” I was. I stayed out of church for a decade because of this, but God never stopped pursuing my heart. Luckily for me, He led me to my current church, where I have learned about faith, grace, and unconditional love that doesn’t need to be earned. How wonderful to finally have the weight of the world lifted off of my shoulders! Now because I know my Heavenly Father loves me this much, I want to be intentional in my actions this year (and beyond) to honor His will, so I can receive the blessings He has in store for me. I still struggle with feeling worthy of His blessings, so this year I want to be intentional about changing my mindset from “earning” God’s blessings by following His will, to knowing I am worthy of not only His blessings that He has prepared for me, but I am also worthy of the behaviors that align with His will instead of self-sabotaging behaviors that ultimately make me feel guilty and ashamed. I intend to be more proactive in incorporating God, and His word, into every aspect of my life.
I will admit that I am scared to let go of what I’ve always known, because it is comfortable… but one thing I have become quite good at over the years is facing my fears and conquering them… life begins outside of your comfort zone. Losing my physical strength this year made me really focus on my spiritual strength… which I believe was God’s way of preparing me for the moment where I finally let go of my life, and fully live a new life in Him.