As I write this, I’m sitting at my computer, listening to Yo Yo Ma’s Prelude from his Unaccompanied Cello Suite, feeling the breeze from my open windows and feeling completely, utterly, summerfied. The weather is beautiful. The birds are singing. And, I’ve been steeping in a steady brew of relaxation for about two weeks now. Life is good.
I’ve had such a good summer, and as I’ve been thinking through and preparing how I was going to wrap up my #LifeOnPurpose series, I also reflected on the amazing things I got to experience and learn throughout the process. I feel like my brain is on overdrive with thoughts and ideas, but I’ll try to reign it all in for this post so that it isn’t 5 million words long. (You’re welcome.)
I guess the place to begin is at the beginning, so I will start there and, as Dr. Suess says, go til the end.
My #LifeOnPurpose challenge was born out of a very hectic, stressful and challenging year that culminated with the longest, coldest winter of my life. As summer rolled around, I couldn’t shake the winter blues and was worried that if I didn’t do something quick, the summer would come and go without me ever truly taking advantage of the great things that the season holds. Thus, the #LifeOnPurpose challenge was born. For the following 40 days, I challenged myself to do something each day- no matter how large or small – to slow down, notice my surroundings, and be intentional.
The challenge was, in a word, challenging. It surprised me how difficult it was to purposefully be purposeful each day. I was shocked to realized how routine oriented I was with my life, and I’m not talking about getting up at the same time or remembering to unload the dishwasher each day! I had slipped into a complacent lifestyle where, to be honest, I was doing the basics of survival, but not much beyond.
What does that mean? It means I wasn’t really doing the things I love to do. I wasn’t making the effort to try new things. I wasn’t being intentional about creating meaningful experiences for myself, my family and my friends. I wasn’t trying.
Through my #LifeOnPurpose challenge, I reached out to others. I created fun experiences for my family. I took the time to make interesting and innovative meals. I slowed down to do things that I enjoy, even if they didn’t “fit” into my day. I explored old sites with new eyes. I enjoyed treats that I normally avoid. I considered what my family and I needed emotionally, spiritually and physically, and then found ways to meet those needs. And perhaps most importantly, I tuned into the person God made me to be, and made sure I was daily being that person.
These were all conscious decisions that required deliberate actions. This project took work. A lot of work. And yet, here I am at the close of summer and this challenge, feeling the most refreshed and inspired that I’ve felt in a long time. I’m talking years. I was reflecting on these emotions and trying to get at the root of how I felt, and why. Then, yesterday, I came across some notes I had jotted down a few years ago and I experienced that feeling that you only get when your emotions and your understanding perfectly align. I read:
Know how to engage and disengage.
Ok, that might not sound earth shattering to you, but to me, that was exactly the lesson that my #LifeOnPurpose challenge taught me. In the beginning of this challenge, I had to work to engage. I had to brainstorm ideas, give myself pep talks, and work hard at engaging with people, ideas and activities. As time went on, however, the opposite was true.
I distinctly remember sitting at my desk one day, waiting for the boys to wake up from their naps and for my husband to finish a project, and personally feeling so incredibly frustrated that we weren’t doing something meaningful. I had all these great ideas that I wanted to pursue for my challenge, and there I was just waiting. What I realized later that night was that I needed to find the right balance between engagement and disengagement. In that moment earlier that day, I shouldn’t have allowed the desire to do something in the future to derail me from enjoying the present.
So where does this all leave me now? This coming year holds some pretty big things for my family — some exciting, some scary. I know I’ll have to come back to the lessons I learned this summer time and time again and remind myself at times to chill out and simply enjoy the moment, and at other times, to quit being so lazy and go create something memorable. I believe that we were never meant to live a life of extremes. We all need a balance between engaging in ideas, activities and those around us – and simply being present and enjoying life as it is.
Where I am today is also thanks in part to a wonderful trip my husband and I took to Baltimore to celebrate our anniversary. It was one of the most fun, refreshing experiences I’ve ever had, and it was the perfect way to end my challenge. Together, we explored, ate, and experienced life according to who we are. It was fun to reconnect and rediscover who we are as individuals and as a couple, and it breathed fresh life into us.
Life’s challenges never go away. We will always have responsibilities. And sometimes, we face really hard things. But we get the unique opportunity to choose how we respond to those things. For me, I’m ready for what’s next. I’m excited for who God is making me to be, and I’m ready to respond with the right attitude-whether it be to engage or disengage-to whatever is coming my way.
PS All this inspiration has helped me come up with some new ideas and topics for His Girl Friday. Change is on the horizon! Stay tuned.