Posts Tagged 'Intentionality'

The (mostly) Universal Marriage Quirk*

Circa 1979

Turns out that the thing that most attracted you to your spouse in the first place is often the same thing that drives you the most crazy!

Let me show you a few examples….

Spontaneity is so fun when dating…making decisions in the moment for what’s next, ready anytime for a fun adventure.  You really like that quality in your spouse until it is time to PLAN something or to pin down details.

A “free spirit” personality can stand out in a crowd of conformists but becomes  frustrating when the wisest choice becomes to go with the flow.

Creativity is a delight to observe whether it is in the arts or crafts until mundane tasks get neglected too often.

Athleticism is a real draw unless sporting events fill your entire social schedule.

Careful with money can feel over-restrictive when you just want to have some fun.

Gorgeous can involve very high-maintenance or expensive services to preserve that beauty.

Sensitive can flip to moody.

Hard worker sometimes feels like someone’s always at the office.

Next time you feel an annoyance coming on, try to flip it back to the “other side.”  How does this thing that bugs you, serve you?  Can you look deeper and find the original trait and give thanks?

It helps to look at your own foibles through the lens of finding the strength on the other side too.  I haven’t yet identified just which of my attractive traits keeps my cabinet doors open all the time but I’m sure there is a connection!

Hope for the Best,


* I am celebrating my 47th anniversary (August 18, 1973) all year and will be sharing a few popular marriage posts on Thursdays through August.

Shelve the Fiction: A Fasting Story.

I love to read. I mean, I’m not one of those fanatical readers who polishes off a few books a week but a short stack a month is my style.

Usually I go for inspiration in the day-time (non-fiction) and entertainment at night with a steady stream of (mostly) historical fiction by my bedside. Reading is my TV and I am never without my bedside novel. In fact, the next one is always waiting in case I finish one before I get to the library.

But not this month.

Our church announced an opportunity to fast from “something” for 33 days to invite God to do something bigger in our national church and in our personal lives. An ancient practice, fasting has been a spiritual discipline for eons for people of all faiths. The idea is to set something you want aside for a period of time for something you want more. Usually it is food of some sort but can also be something else you are particularly attached to.

Like Facebook for some or YouTube or shopping. Or reading novels.

When the idea was first presented, I must admit I thought, “Didn’t we just do this for Lent?” By the next day, though, I was ready to jump in and began to scroll through the usual food give-up list. Frankly, it felt stale. If I am feeling deprived in some way, I want to engage with it, not feel same old/same old.

Brushing my teeth that evening, where many good ideas germinate, I felt a nudge to shelve the fiction for a month. This I knew was not from me.

The night before the fast began, I stayed up late trying to finish my current novel, but sleep took me down. I’ll have to wait until July 1 to find out what happened next. I put a hold on my requested list at the library and gathered up a pile of inspirational books I collected to read “at some point.” I’m on the second one now, it’s going kind of slowly.

Fasting works best when one substitutes prayer for the given-up thing. Sometimes I forget to do that. My long experience with God has taught me that he rarely works according to how I advise him to so I’m trying not to get too specific with an outcome for this fast. It has to be a no strings-attached deal. I’ll give up novels, but you don’t have to reveal all your plans.

Like celebrating at the end of Lent with a chocolate bar or a glass of wine, I’m looking forward to finding out what came next in my novel but I’m OK with waiting. I threw in a bit of the food thing too but find it is easier to do that part. Nine hours on my monthly train ride without a novel is a long ride.

I can say at nearly the halfway point…something’s going on. I hope to define it a little more in the days ahead.

Have you ever fasted from anything?

Hope for the best,



10 Ways to Make Intentional Choices about Everyday Stuff (Part 2)*

Our summer plates.

Last Thursday I reminded you that Intentionality doesn’t mean you start a whole new set of behaviors.  Thank goodness!

All of  our to-do lists come with a few slots already filled in each day so just paying attention to the ordinary daily round is a fine place to start making some fresh choices.

Here are five more everyday areas to make intentional choices.

  1. Dinner.  So easy to get in a rut here with the same old chicken.  Most of us own a cookbook.  Looked at it lately?  Need a change-up in your dinner plates?  I like to change them throughout the week.  Could you try something new one in seven dinners?  Trade cooking with another family? Intentionality trumps dinner-dread.
  1. Exercise.  Most of us at least say we went to incorporate more movement.  Do you get bored?  I sure do.  Try mixing up your movement with a new class, different time of day, fresh venue like a new gym or running path or at minimum, change your music.  I find an exciting read on my Kindle keeps me on the treadmill.  A personal trainer can help you jump-start to a new level.  Super simple: wear a pedometer at all times.
  1. Reading.  I enjoy a few favorite authors and can slip into only reading from that small pool.  Deciding ahead of time to choose a new author or genre each season can open up all sorts of new perspectives.  Even a two familiar to one new author works.  Try a new-to-you author this summer and let me know what you read.
  1. Talking and listening.  You know the powerful experience of a conversation just taking off into a timeless zone?  Sorry, those generally can’t be scheduled but providing an opportunity to engage in a variety of topics can often open one of those doors. Resources like provide questions for getting started or just write your own. Check out 10 Ways to Start a Dinner Conversation
  1. Bedtime.  I did write a whole post on this if you want to check it out Do You Need a Bedtime Ritual? but since this event is a daily occurrence, you might want to make some new choices about your bedtime this season, your pile of books by the bed, your summer PJ’s, your bedtime prayers.

Feeling inspired?  Me too.  Gotta go find something new to make for dinner tonight!

Hope for the Best,


*adapted from previous post.

Love in the Kitchen

love-is-all-1402028-mI can hear my husband clinking around in the kitchen. He is emptying the dish rack because I forgot to again, or actually, I didn’t notice it was full. Darn, I missed that chance to do one of the few things I know he likes in the household maintenance department, an empty dish rack.

So simple, why can’t I remember? Believe me, my husband has few preferences in the kitchen. I could tell him five nights a week that we’re having PB & J for dinner (I don’t!) and he would be grateful. He washes dishes, cleans the stove, sweeps the floor and occasionally tries to bring order to my random fridge shelving method. (There is no method.)

About 25 years ago I read an article that said to pay attention to the little things that are important to your spouse in the household. I bravely asked him what was important and he hesitated a bit then came up with, “Let’s keep the garbage can where it belongs.” Back story: I tended to drag it out from under the sink and keep it by the stove so I could clean up as I messed up but never put it back. “I like to have Grape Nuts and bananas on hand.” I usually remember that but not always. “Empty the dish rack when it is full.”  That’s it.

He never mentions anything except I know the dish rack thing bugs him.

So I’m going to try harder. I know he will have grace for me if I don’t and after all, it is just a dish rack but yet so much more.

Emptying the dish rack is a way of saying I Love You, your preferences are important to me, I want to serve you in this small task. Back in the dating days I had a practically a PhD in what was important/interesting/valuable to my boyfriend-now-husband. I don’t want to lose that knowledge by not using it.

What little things are important to your spouse? If you don’t know, be brave and ask.

Hope for the Best,


The Real First Day of Summer

Today is one of my many “Favorite Days of the Year”, the day after Memorial Day. Maybe because my birthday heralds the official opening day on June 21, summer stands on my platform for the gold medal year after year.   Visions of lingering days, stacks of novels, endless barbeques, and afternoons at the beach entice us all winter long.  No other three months seem so full of possibilities.

When our four kids were young, we took them out for breakfast the last day of school to the best place in town to plan the months ahead. “What do you want to do this summer?” was the question posed.  Over breakfast, we planned the summer. Each child brainstormed ideas for summer fun including train rides, amusement park trips, major league baseball games, shopping excursions and more. So fun to fantasize the possibilities without the constraint of logistics.

Every item is duly recorded, on a napkin, for future reference. Next we asked them what skills or interests they wanted to work on in the summer and what they assume is a reasonable expectation for chores. We come home to unpack backpacks and plan the first steps towards summer goals.

Now that they’re gone, I am still planning summer, this time for me (and usually Tom.)  Once again, it all seems possible in that moment.  I mark up the Ravinia calendar with lawn concerts I want to go to, pencil in neighborhood festivals, dash to the library with lists of summer reads, cut out new recipes for the grill and try to keep a copy of the best al fresco restaurants in the city in my purse. Like a kid writing a letter to Santa, I want it all!

Just like with my kids, all the plans don’t come to fruition but reaching for more than could fill my days assures that enough will land on the calendar to satisfy my summer longings.

Maybe my exuberance is a throw-back to kidhood when summer really did seem endless… although I think I am having more fun NOW.  Something in the alchemy of the warmth, the light and the melody of the ice cream truck calls my name.  I answer every time.

96 days till Labor Day.  Let the enchantment begin.


I spent the past few days in my hometown visiting my Mom.  I get there a few times a year, often with one of my grandchildren in tow, but this time it was just me.

We sat in the high school gym for my nephew’s graduation.  Pomp and Circumstances always makes me cry.  Lots of memories from that gym of cheering our basketball team on, waiting for an invitation to dance to “Cherish,” wondering where we would all end up.  I don’t know the end of most of my classmate’s stories.

In the evening I strolled through the old neighborhood, pretending the same people still live in the houses.  Did I ever really sit and talk to them?  I wish I had another chance to not be in such a hurry.

The second day I met an old friend for breakfast at a local spot still standing since my growing up days.  She is one of a handful of friendships from high school that spans into the present…we talk about much more than “Remember when?”

My mom and I headed out in the afternoon and she still tells me to bring a jacket just like she always did.  I no longer remind her that I have navigated through many seasons of life and know how to decide if I am cold.  I just grab the jacket, happy that she is still around to mention it.

That evening I walked by my old school and church.  My class was the first one in the new school.  It’s not new anymore!  Both the church and school have different owners but I prefer to think nothing has changed.

The last day I chose my walking route to end up at the cemetery where my dad and grandparents are buried.  It was my parent’s wedding anniversary and I saw the date engraved on his stone along with his birth and death and my mom’s birth date. One last line to fill in.

Mom and I met a distant cousin for lunch.  Last time I saw her was a long-time-ago family reunion. Our grandparents were siblings. Maybe we will be Facebook friends and I will get to know her again.  After lunch we rounded through some of the old shops I like to visit and then it was time to pack for the train.

All aboard for the 4 ½ hour trip back to Chicago.  I love the rhythm of riding the train and watching the state of Illinois roll by in the setting sun.

I hope there are still many trips back home.

10 Best Days

A friend of mine mentioned a novel she liked called, “The 10 Best Days of My Life.”  I wasn’t crazy about the book but I loved the concept of reflecting on 10 best days of my own life.

Now if you would ask my children, they would tell you I often use the expression, “That was the BEST day!” …so I found it a fun challenge to call out which ones really stand out as the best of the best in a lifetime of days.

I decided to ask Tom before I thought about it too much…”What have been the best days of our life together?”  40 years provides a lot of candidates for the honor.  We quickly listed our wedding day, the birth of each of our four kids, their two weddings, the day each of our three grandchildren came into the world.  That was 10 right there!

So we took all those off the table and started coming up with 10 other best days.  We didn’t always agree on if a certain day made the top 10 but we enjoyed the reminiscing.

Then I looked back over my own life for “Best Days.” Like my birthday for one, fabulous time with friends, the day my first book arrived off the presses, my personal retreat at the ocean last year and First Communion Day pictured below, one of the most splendid days of my childhood.

I decided to keep my top 10 list somewhat fluid…SOME of the top 10…just too hard to pin down for all-time certainty.

Try it!  When you nominate your top 10, celebrate each one,  give thanks and start looking for the next one to add to the list.

Hope for the best.

Sacred Sojourn

A year ago today I boarded a plane for one of the most transforming five-day adventures of my life.  Tom didn’t come along; neither did any of my kids or my friends.  My destination was a beach but it wasn’t a vacation.  I brought a few changes of clothing, a couple of books, and a boatload of expectation.

Ever since I read Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s classic, “Gift from the Sea,” in an earlier season of my life, I have longed for a chance to go off alone, take stock of where I have been in my life and look ahead to what is next.

Last May, through a confluence of opportunity, provision, and what I could only describe as God’s invitation, I received my own Gift from the Sea.   The five days in God’s exquisite company have shaped every day since then.

What happened there is my story but you have a story waiting to be written too.  The only requirement is to get away, invite God to show up, and be open to respond.

Don’t worry, my first fifty or so personal retreats were 24 hours or less in length.   This was the first time I took a plane or even crossed state lines.  Trust me, a lot can happen in a short amount of time close to home, just not usually AT home.

Here is how to get started:

  1. Choose a day or evening for your personal retreat.
  2. Decide where to go:  Retreat center, hotel, public garden, cabin in the woods.
  3. Determine your primary agenda: Prayer, rest, listen for God, read/study.
  4. Design a loose schedule for your time so it’s not all a blank slate.
  5. Show up with an open heart and expect to encounter God in a deeper than usual way.
  6. Repeat often!

Any relationship benefits from concentrated, consecrated time. Try getting away with God and, in the words of CS Lewis, be “surprised by joy.”

Have you taken a personal retreat?

Bach at Bedtime

I like going to bed before 10:00.  Most of my family, especially my husband, calls that “early.”  I call it normal.

So I surprised everyone, including myself, when I bought tickets for a concert last Friday night that started at 10 PM. Before you get too excited…it wasn’t a rock concert or hot new gig at a jazz bar, although maybe I will try that next time.

Bach kept me up last Friday night as in Johann Sebastian.

For the past thirty-three Springs in Evanston, Tom and I noticed the banner ads go up and come down for “Bach Week.” A seasonal festival of classical music held in early May each year.

Bach fits our shared interests, we even included one of his pieces in our wedding, Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring.  But we didn’t have time for Bach week as we headed to our kid’s schools most nights in May for the plethora of end-of-the-year activities, and besides, it was expensive.

After all these years of not RSVP-ing to all the around the town invites for the concerts, it was barely on our radar screen this year until something caught my eye in a brochure.

This year, a new concert debuted for Bach week.  The word, “candlelight,” was in the title and that intrigued me right away.  The price was half the cost of the rest of the series so I was further enticed.  Then I noticed the Bach Week Candlelight Concert started at 10 PM.  Past my bedtime.  Out of my routine.  On the other side of my comfort zone.

Writing a blog about intentionality certainly causes me to think about my own…all the time.

Did I intentionally want to go to bed “on time” or hear Bach by candlelight on a lovely evening in early May?

I impulsively clicked “buy now”and texted Tom my intentions…to choose spontaneity over routine, new experience over same old-same old, missing sleep over missing magic.

It was a good choice.

Music exquisite, ambiance sublime, and, to add to the delight, champagne and fine chocolate freely offered to add to the wonder.

I almost proclaimed to Tom… “we will return every year to Bach week”... but perhaps another serendipitous opportunity awaits the first Friday in May next year.

I don’t plan to sleep through it.

Where are your comfort zones nudging you?

Basketful of Holy Books

Every morning I make my way to an old overstuffed flowery chair in my living room.  My family calls it “Mom’s Prayer Chair” and I am the only one who ever sits in it.  Could be because one of the legs wobbles but so far it holds up well.

In front of the chair is a wooden footstool made by one of my children in junior high…years ago.  The stool is ample size to hold a mug of tea and an English muffin on a blue and white saucer. I usually like quiet music in the background to add to the the ambiance.

Next to the chair is a burgeoning basket of books, I call them my Holy Books.  One by one in a prescribed order, I pull the books out. Some I read, some I write in, and when all the books are back in the basket, I am ready for the day.

Here is what’s in the basket these days:

First out is Jesus Calling by Sarah Young.  A one-page devotional that always seems to speak into just where I am.

My cornflower blue journal is next.  I write a brief account of the previous day.  More on this in a future post.

The next book I pull out is whatever writing is currently feeding me spiritually.  These mornings I am slowly re-reading One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp as it was so life-changing on the first read.  In the summer it is always one of Madeline L’Engle’s nonfiction works.

My white small 3 ring binder/prayer journal is next.  First I page through the pages of photos of my family as I pray for them, then I write my prayers from the place my heart is at each day.  More on that later too.

Last out is my well-worn, deeply underlined Bible.  I pick up where I left off the day before following a plan to read it through in a year-each year.

Sometimes there are other books visiting the basket but these are the mainstays.  In a few weeks I will transfer the books to the summer basket and carry them, and the tea, outside to my wicker chair on the deck for the outdoor chapel.

Handful of books, heart-full of transformation.

What’s in your basket?

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