Intentionality

Intentionality. Intentionality. Intentionality.

Is it just me, or does it feel like “intentionality” is the unofficial buzzword for 2014? It seems to be everywhere! I am almost to the point where I am sick of hearing it; the word just feels so…vapid. (Personally, I prefer the word “deliberate,” but that’s just me.)

I was having an internal dialogue…with myself… (1. Redundant, I know, and 2. yes, I actually have internal dialogues…several times a day. Hey, I never claimed to be normal!)

Anyway, I was having this back-and-forth debate inside my head just now when I realized: wait a minute. Maybe I am hearing and seeing this word over and over and over because God wants me to pay attention to it. AHA! Perhaps He has been trying to get my attention so I would focus on the meaning of “intentionality” this entire time! (Dear Heavenly Father: the lightbulb has finally turned on. You know how thick my skull can be! I apologize for taking so long.)

All of that elaboration just to say this: I am decidedly going to sit and think about how I can begin living my life with–you guessed it!–intentionality. My hope is that focusing on being intentional will help me work towards achieving my current goals and desires.

This is guaranteed to be an interesting ride. I hope you will stick with me through the ups and downs! What are you doing to live intentionally?

“What Do You Want?”

Today’s journal entry was inspired by this post over at (in)courage, by Holley Gerth.

In the post, Holley discusses asking the question, “What do you want?” After reading the post in its entirety, I sadly realized: I have not stopped to ask myself this question in quite a while. Sure, I think about things I “want” any day of the week, but they are superficial, material things. Handbags, shoes, books, stationery, journals, decor for the condo, a spotless home, jewelry, a new car. I need not go on, you get the point. I mean, who doesn’t fantasize about these sorts of things on a regular basis? Yet, it has been longer than I can remember since I sat in pensive silence to think on what I really want. What does your heart, mind and soul truly, genuinely desire? What a question! So then, after reading Holley’s words, I took the time to process the question, allowed it to sit awhile, and then aimed to list out my answers.

Here are a few real, genuine wants of mine:
–restored health
–to be completely free of facial pain
–more physical energy
–no more panic attacks
–to once again feel smart, intellectual
–friends and genuine connection with women here in Chicago
–a true sense of belonging
–to better learn Scripture and the teachings in the Bible
–a deeper relationship with God and Jesus Christ
–have less fear
–more confidence, courage and a stronger sense of independence
–to be more physically fit for my current health and future preventative benefits
–to be able to go to a live music show (I used to do this all the time before getting sick and I LOVED it) and really enjoy it without experiencing any panic or anxiety
–to serve the less fortunate and under-served in my community as best I can

Over the next few days, take some time to think on the question, “what do you really want?”

Note: I am not an affiliate of (in)courage, I simply enjoy the writing of their contributors and reflecting on same.

Answered: An Opportunity to Help

If I had to choose the most important lesson my mother has taught me, it is to have compassion for those less fortunate. Growing up, the act of giving back to the community was demonstrated so clearly by my parents. When I was much younger, before my brothers were born, my mom would convince me to part with toys I had moved on from by saying, “you will feel a genuine sense of happiness when you give to those who have less than we do.” The elementary-aged me was skeptical, but went along with letting go of my toys and clothes that no longer fit. In middle school, Mom and I joined National Charity League, a mother-daughter philanthropic organization, which I had the pleasure of serving in until graduating from high school. As the years have passed, Mom’s words have rung true: helping others makes my heart so happy in a way that nothing else does.

For a number of months now, I have been wanting to volunteer at an organization in the city. Ideally, I would find an organization that will allow me to use my native Spanish to somehow help the large Hispanic population in Chicago. What I am embarrassed to admit is that, despite having expressed my intention to volunteer to several different people, I have not started researching potential volunteer positions in earnest.

As God would have it, yesterday I received communication from a client I worked with during my time as a paralegal. This lady is near and dear to my heart; she and her husband are Mexican immigrants with three school-aged daughters. After addressing matters of business, we would oftentimes continue to chat, sharing small bits of our personal lives here and there. She has hosted my husband and I for a meal at her home. Recently, she has come to mind more times than I would like to admit; each time I put off contacting her, which led to a sense of mounting guilt for continuing to not act on my urge to reach out. When I heard from her yesterday, I knew it was time to rekindle our friendship. We caught each other up on recent happenings in our lives, then she shared the biggest news of all: her seventeen year-old daughter is currently pregnant, in her third trimester. It was all I could do to choke back the tears–I know this family does not have much, and now, adding a mouth to feed and a young mother… After she uttered the words, all I could think was, “this is it, this is my opportunity to help. Thank you, God.” We hung up and I immediately began making a mental list of all the items families with newborns need, and what small amount we could afford to chip in to purchase items on this elaborate list.

I poured my heart out to P about this last night, as tears also poured from my eyes. What a change of perspective! Despite my compromised health, God has given P and me blessings beyond measure. P is wonderful and of course encouraged my philanthropic spirit while gently reminding me that we remain a one-income household–we can give, but there are financial limits. We have decided to help in small ways, within our current constraints.

This morning I began my service to this family by saying a prayer for them and the baby on the way. My heart is filled with joy.

Three Years a Chicagoan

I am a Chicagoan. There, I said it. For the record, “Texan” rolls off the tongue much more nicely than “Chi-cah-goan.” The word looks, sounds, and feels so foreign to me even after 1,095 days.

On March 24, 2011, I boldly set off on a life-changing journey: I relocated from Austin, Texas to Chicago, Illinois. Today I celebrate three years of being a Chicago resident, one of my proudest accomplishments.

That fateful day, the majority of my belongings were packed in moving boxes and loaded on a freight carrier. The items I had deemed “essentials” were crammed into two medium-sized suitcases, and my most beloved possession–my kitty, Theodore–was comfortably loaded into an airline-regulation sized pet carrier. That morning, my friend Kim came over to my apartment to assist in supervising the movers, cleaning my empty apartment, and seeing Theo and me off to the airport. I remember the intensely mixed emotions–I had never lived outside the state of Texas, and Austin had been my home for the last six years. In Austin, I flourished socially and professionally; I had a group of close friends I considered family. Geographically, I was close enough to my childhood home and family in Houston that I could pick up, drive back on a whim and return to Austin within the same day. Looking back on it now, I am amazed by the fact that I was not more afraid than I honestly was three years ago. I was nervous and anxious, yes, but more than anything, I was excited. I was much more focused on moving forward and seeing what Chicago had in store than on the life I was leaving behind. In no way does that mean I was not going to miss my life in Austin, it simply meant I genuinely felt moving to Chicago was what I needed to do. The impetus was so strong, I was almost consumed by it.

So much has happened in these past 1,095 days. So much. I survived heartbreak, death in the family, loneliness, homesickness, snow and subzero temperatures, public transportation, loss of friendships, family illness, acute physical pain and recurrences, surgery to remove an osteoma from one of my sinuses, and “Chiberia 2014”; I met the man of my dreams and through him, many wonderful people who have welcomed me into their lives and repeatedly shown me kindness; I became engaged and planned a wedding while working full-time and undergoing pain management treatment; I got married and became part of the most loving, caring, and great Christian family I have ever known; I resigned from a rewarding yet high-stress and intense job after two and a half years of service; and, most recently, I have begun to see that I am strong, resilient, and blessed beyond measure. My experience here in Chicago has taught me numerous lessons, and I continue to learn every day.

Sometimes I still get goosebumps when walking downtown, not from the chill, but from knowing I bravely relocated with merely the contents of two suitcases and my Theo to a city I had desperately wanted to reside in for so long. I still feel amazement when walking around the city, taking in the wondrous architecture, feeling so small. And I still giddily smile every time I see the Chicago skyline–the giant buildings that remind me, I did it, I moved here.

Don’t get me wrong, I miss so many of those I left in Texas. Recently, homesickness has reared its ugly head. I have felt lonely and isolated. Not a week goes by that I do not daydream about moving back home to Houston, starting a new chapter as a family, and showing my husband what life in Texas has to offer. I am certain that some day, my dream will become a reality. Until then, Chicago remains my home–I have newfound resolve to seize life’s opportunities here.