Monday, April 07, 2008

Keeping Intentionality

These are beautiful posts by Elizabeth at In the Heart of my Home:

I always like the way she gets to the heart of the issue. The issue, what's important, isn't a sterilely immaculate house but rather a radiant home. It isn't something that would wow the people at House Beautiful but rather, a haven and shelter for the husband and family.

What are our true priorities? What is keeping us from them? What can we do to restore balance and intentionality? I think these questions apply to all areas of life.

I have been thinking along these lines recently. I am one who can get trapped in organizational systems very easily. I often end up finding them a distraction in themselves.

What I've been doing recently to help in this area -- actually, two things, and they are both simple though not always easy:

  • One, an examen in the evening. What slipped through the gaps today? Where did I fall short of what I ought to have or done? If there is a whole crowd of them, I just pick the top three or five. Then, crucially, rather than beating myself up for it -- What can I do to prevent this next time? Francis de Sales says that vehement self-reproach is a trap.
  • Then, when I wake up or when I have a moment of free time -- a simple list. What are the top five or ten things to focus on or do today? Not the ordinary things -- most of those are already set in the course of the day -- but the things that I have been putting off, things that aren't urgent but that would enrich our lives, things that keep slipping off the end of my normal lists, things that get done haphazardly.
I have all kinds of systems but these have been the most flexible and the most direct. They get me past the "logistic" level (which is important but only in a mediate-level way) to the real things that are emerging day by day, things that have not yet been codified because our family has not arrived at this particular stage of life till now.

  • Twenty-three years ago I was graduating from college and planning a wedding.
  • Twenty-two years ago we were preparing a welcoming nest for our first son.
  • Eighteen years ago I was learning to be a mom of three under four, and taking my first steps as a Catholic confirmand.

And so on. Every year, different responsibilities, different themes -- integrated and continuous in many ways, to be sure, but also distinct from each other.

I've always longed for one simple solution that will fit all those, but the truth is, it seems that the most enduring rhythm is the one that preserves what's essential about the old ways and also embraces and builds on what is new.

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