How to Live an Intentional Life
I think every single one of us has things in our lives that don’t look like we want them to.
We don’t have the community we wish we had, we’re unhealthier physically than we ever thought we’d be, our relationship with God isn’t as close as we wish it was, our relationships never seem to work out the way we hope they will.
(Please tell me I’m not the only one who’s found themselves in one (all!) of these places.)
A few years ago, I was taking a walk around my favorite park in Nashville, taking a sort of inventory of my life: How’s it going, what’s going well, what would I like to see change? And as I did, some flowers next to the trail caught my eye.
Now — I have to stop here and tell you that the analogy I’m about to share would be WAY better if I was one of those girls who has a really beautiful garden.
Unfortunately, I am totally not that girl. In fact, my husband Carl and I had a slight disagreement that morning over how to water our succulents (which are only alive because he’s been taking care of them). If you were in my house that morning, you would have heard this quote verbatim, “I’m right, you’re wrong, because I’m a great plant dad, and you’re a neglectful plant mom.”
I died laughing and then agreed. I am a terrible plant mom.
But seeing those flowers reminded me of basically the only thing I know to be true about gardening: If you want a particular thing to grow, you need to plant that particular seed. The kind of seed you plant dictates what kind of plant is going to grow. And that’s true every time!
You wouldn't plant a cucumber seed and find tomatoes growing out of the ground. That would never happen. It's impossible. If you plant tomato seeds, you get tomatoes. That’s just how it works.
This is such an obvious thing in gardening, right? (And trust me — if it's obvious to this terrible plant mom, it's obvious!)
But this principle is also true in our lives.
The seeds we plant in our lives turn into something, and if we want something to exist in our lives, those are the kinds of seeds we have to plant.
There’s a direct correlation, but if you’re anything like me, you don’t always think about it that way.
Right after Carl and I got married, we moved to Nashville — a town where I didn't know anyone but him. The truth? I’ve never been so lonely in my life.
Don't get me wrong, our first year of marriage was great. BUT, a great husband doesn’t replace the need for great girlfriends.
I was desperately lonely, crying about it on a regular basis, wishing more than anything that I had some friends in this strange new city.
But for the longest time, I didn’t do anything to change it.
I got a few invitations from friends of friends, but I felt so awkward and nervous about it, I made up excuses and said no. Instead of immediately joining a church and a small group (a great way to make friends!) I dragged my feet and stayed home.
I was crying about my lack of friends and desperately wanting it to change, yet the seeds I was sowing weren’t going to grow friendship anytime soon.
The Quote That Changed my Perspective
Around that time I heard a quote that I just can’t seem to forget. It said, “A year from now, you will wish you had started today,” and that got me thinking. I realized that if I kept going on the path I was on, in a year nothing would have changed. If I didn’t start reaching out, and purposefully planting some friendship seeds, friendship just wasn’t going to grow.
So I took a deep breath, and even though I was still afraid and totally intimidated, I started planting seeds.
I said yes to invitations, joined a small group, started a weekly girls’ night with some acquaintances I’d recently met, and made a goal of going to coffee with one new girl a week.
Community didn’t show up overnight, but it did start to grow. And today as I was walking around the park, I was marveling at the fact that over the past 3 years those seeds have grown into really beautiful friendships. I have people in this city that really know me and love me. And it’s because I started planting (and watering, and tending, and investing in!) what I wanted to see grow.
But it’s not just friendships that have grown up in my life. This correlation is true in so many other areas as well.
One of the things I want in my life more than anything else is a deep, connected, intimate relationship with God. And one of the things that helps me connect with Him the most is spending time with Him each morning. Well — to tell you the truth, there have been seasons in my life where I honestly haven't made that a priority. My alarm would go off and I'd lay there for an hour, scrolling through my email, and even worse, scrolling through social media. And after awhile I found myself frustrated that I was 1. Feeling totally distant from God, and 2. Feeling totally overwhelmed by comparison.
I wanted to see my relationship with God grow and thrive, but those aren't the seeds I was planting each morning. Instead, I was spending tons of time looking at other people's lives on social media, and (I know you've experienced this too) comparison shot up like a weed.
It wasn't until I stopped spending so much time on social media (I really try to turn it off first thing in the morning, at night, and on the weekends!) that comparison stopped growing so much. And as soon as I started sowing seeds of spending time with God each morning again, I started feeling closer to Him than ever.
There is such a direct connection between the decisions we make, and the things that develop in our lives.
It happens with how we take care of our bodies, in our relationships with God, with our career, in the goals we want to achieve, in how we spend our money. If we're always putting things on our credit card without thinking, we're not going to get out of debt. If we're constantly eating cheeseburgers and never working out, we're probably not going to have a 6-pack (says a girl who knows from experience).
But the opposite is true as well.
What Seeds are you Planting Today?
If we're honest with ourselves about where we want to be a year from now, and each day take a small step in that direction, our goals and our dreams and the lives we want to live are absolutely possible!
We’ll get to reap what we’ve sown. (I’ve included some ideas to help you get started at the bottom!)
And so that’s what I was thinking about that morning as I was doing a little inventory of my life. I was looking at what I had in my life, and noticed how those seeds I started planting a few years ago really had grown up into things I was so proud of and grateful for. In so many ways I was living the life I wanted to live — and a lot of it was because I had been sowing seeds on purpose to help me get there.
And I was looking at what I was doing — trying to be really honest with myself as I examined what I'd been sowing, and asking myself if that would get me closer to where I wanted to be, say, a year from then. I looked at how I was spending my time, and my money, and who I was investing in, and how I was taking care of my body, and what I was up to those days. I tried to imagine what those plants would look like a few years from now, and asked myself what I might need to do differently so that my life a few years from then looked like I hope it would!
And that’s the conversation I want to invite you into today.
What seeds are you planting today and what are they going to look like a year from now?
Are there seeds you’re planting today that are going to grow into things you don’t want in your life?
What do you want to be true about your life a year from now, and what seeds do you need to be planting today in order to make that a reality?
When we make small intentional changes today, it can change our whole lives down the road. It had for me, and I know it can for you too! We can do this, friends! We’re in this together!
P.S. Just in case you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed, I want you to know that these areas of our lives won’t (and aren’t supposed to!) change overnight. We’re talking about planting some different seeds, not growing a forest all at once. It’s as simple as taking one step in a different direction, doing one intentional thing that over time will lead to where you want to go.
Here are just a few resources to get you started:
- If you’re single and want to really use this time to grow, and heal, and become the woman you want to be, and set yourself up for the kind of relationship you’ve always wanted, check out my course Love Your Single Life! Doors are closed right now, but will be opening back up soon. And if you pop your name on the waiting list, you’ll be the first to know when they do!
- Check out this blog post, where I talk more about how to make big changes in your life just one small step at a time!
- If you’re looking to go deeper in your relationship with God, check out this Bible study from Angie Smith. It’s a totally doable study (and she’s hilarious!) but the best thing about it is that it takes you through the whole Bible from start to finish! (And it’s not a zillion years long. I don’t know how she did it!) She helps you really get the story as a whole and see how it all fits together. I’m halfway through it and have just been loving it. You can pick up a copy right here!
- Is one of the seeds you’re wanting to plant a seed of health and fitness? I totally hear you. Mine was too. Two things that have helped me along the way are that I got a FitBit (this is the one I have!), which quite literally helps you get healthier one step at a time, and I’ve also been doing online pilates classes with my friend Robin. I can’t recommend her enough! (You can also check out these two conversations I had with Robin on the podcast: Girls Night #2: I'm not in the Shape I Want to be in, I Don't Feel Confident in my Skin — How do I Change That? and Girls Night #87: How to Simplify Your Health and Fitness Routine (so it’s Actually Doable)