For the last few years, I have made it a point to spend some time on/around my birthday praying, meditating and thinking about what goals I want to work towards in the upcoming year/season. I try to look back at the experiences I've had, the accomplishments and the struggles, and weigh them against what I want to do/be when I "grow up" and come up with a few goals I can focus on in particular. I call these goals "intentions" because they aren't so much goals that have a beginning and an end but are more things to focus in on long-term that act as guidelines for me. They also give me a way to keep applying the Word into my life in practical ways, because honestly, I hate going to church. (Working on that ) For example - last year's intentions were: Intentional - Don't leave it all up to chance (I love to be spontaneous and can put off the hard stuff with the idea that I will do it when I get the chance... Which I never do.)
Focused - Make time and place (goes along with leaving things up to chance or not thinking things all the way through). Clear - Take time and make the effort to be clear. (I have a tendency to just start talking off the cuff or not think about what I am actually saying which sometimes gets me into trouble). Compassionate - Remember the heart, theirs AND MINE. (Boundaries can be really hard for me and when I get stressed over crossed boundaries, I get mad at the other person and forget to consider that they might not be intentionally hurting me. I also have a tendency to forget my OWN heart and just "take one for the team" instead of standing up for myself. I forget that my heart is as important as anyone else's since I - just like them - am a child of God. I need to honor that.) Courageous - DO IT. Take the leap. (Honestly, I can be a big fat chicken.) Connected - With God, creation, family, friends and community (I forget to do this. I can get into my own head and just happily live there and forget to be connected with my people and then get mad when I am lonely. In addition, connecting with God AND community is part of my "re-entry" into church.) Then at the end of the year, I go back and kind of evaluate how I did - just write down what things I did that fit those intentions. (I am happy to report that last year, I did pretty good.) This year as I sat meditated and prayed over my intentions, these words kept coming at me:
Engaged, Focused, Compassionate, Courageous, Balanced. I wrote them down, prayer doodled over them, and just let those words percolate for a few days. Then, one night (late, of course), these three phrases just HIT me:
Focused Engagement, Courageous Compassion, and Balanced Compassion. Focused Engagement - As I am getting a lot better with setting and keeping healthy boundaries (a huge step after learning that it is even ok to HAVE boundaries and not just allow everyone access to my heart to beat it up), I am seeing a tendency to swing completely the opposite extreme and just disengage completely when I am dealing with a difficult person. I see that outside of unhealthy and abusive relationships, I need to stay engaged but be focused about it so that I don't wind up being overwhelmed and feeling the need to flee. I want to be able to stay engaged in focused ways that benefit both them and me.
Courageous Compassion - Staying engaged with some people I love but who can be hurtful and chaotic is incredibly anxiety producing for me and it takes A LOT of courage for me to even make eye contact or talk with some of them. But as I have been praying and meditating on the Word, this keeps coming at me: Perhaps you are here for such a time as this. I'm not Esther, but I do see that God has equipped me and placed me in many situations where He has used me as a tool. As much as I would LOVE to just drop and run from ALL of these really difficult people, I am getting a very clear sense that is NOT His plan. Not for all of them. He made me smart, feisty, sometimes even funny, and deeply compassionate for a reason. Balanced Compassion - I have had a MASSIVE tendency to have compassion for others and yet be my own worst critic, harshest judge and anti-cheer leader. So this goal reminds me that I have to give MYSELF at LEAST as much compassion as I do others. Because, like I said before, I am a child of God and deserve my own love and respect as much as anyone I offer mine to.
This journey is just beginning and I'm eager, if not a little terrified, to see how it unfolds.