Intentionality, Mental Health, transition

The Best Intentions

In my new career working at a university I get this weird thing called a “Christmas Break”. The concept is slightly foreign after nearly a decade of working in a church where the end of December and beginning of January were some of my busiest weeks of the year with all the Christmas activities often followed by a young adult trip.

Heading into 12 days away from work, I wanted to use the time off well. I wanted to be intentional about resting, being renewed, spending time with people I love, and preparing for whatever crazy things 2nd semester might hold. After a week in Kansas with family, I headed back to Nebraska to enjoy five days, at home, with nowhere I had to be an nothing specific to do. Yet, I didn’t want to waste that time. The concept of intentionality kept popping up again and again.

On a whim the week before I had ordered a 52-week journal that focused on a different theme for each week. Topics range from patience to productivity, healthy boundaries to guilt and shame. However, as the journal arrived in the mail and I opened up to the first week, I almost laughed at topic #1: “intentional living”. Perhaps this theme of intentionality was a bigger deal in my current life than I first thought.

I began filling out the first page thinking about the week ahead…. goals, gratitude lists, a section for prayer. But I stopped when I got to a prompt to write out an “intention” for the week. While I’ve considered the concept of intentionality a lot (and even spent a whole month in 2012 blogging about it), I don’t know if I’ve ever focused much on the shorted version: “intention”. I actually went and looked it up in an online dictionary. The first definition describing “an aim or plan” helped me figure out what I might write as my intention for the week. But it was the second definition, a medical one, that caught my eye:

“the healing process of a wound” 

Exploring a bit more, I found this related explanation:

“the manner or process by which a wound heals” 

My first thought: “this doesn’t just apply to physical wounds”.

Minutes before this discovery, I had just gotten off the phone with a friend, celebrating some miraculous healing that had happened recently in her life. And when I say miraculous, I don’t mean it happened overnight or without any effort. Rather, it’s been months that have gone into years of hard, dare I say intentional, work. It brought tears to my eyes to know, in her life and mine, that intention truly is the process by which a wound heals.

I then thought about many conversations I’ve had this semester with students struggling to overcome hard things in their past or current lives. As a culture we’ve adopted this mentality that “time heals all things”, and yet, so often, time passes and our wounds still keep bleeding out. Every once in a while the circumstances of life allow for those hurts to scab over a bit and we think everything is better. However, the slightest situation can rip it clean open again when we least expect it. Time, with intention though… intentionally processing what has happened, intentionally caring for ourselves, intentionally doing the things that bring true long-term healing not a temporary fix… that helps shift our wound into a scar.

I don’t think it’s any mistake that God brought this theme into my life for this season.

Practically, I already knew I needed to focus in a be more intentional with the time God’s gifted me in this season. However, this second definition reminded me of the other areas where some healing has started but needs some intentional attention.

I think of the physical healing journey I’ve been on since November of 2017 when I got the news that something wasn’t right with my thyroid. What a joy it is to now be in an overall healthy physical place, but there is still some emotional healing that needs to take place from the trauma of that experience in order to move on and enjoy my body for what it is.

I’m reminded of the grief that sneaks in when I least expect it over having left the incredible community I enjoyed for nine years in Buffalo and moved to Nebraska this summer. I consider the situations where I hurt people in that transition process and need some intention to fight for restoration. I want to be intentional about investing in a new community here. I desire to let gratitude be the intention, the process, by which the wounds of that move heal.

Intention. Intentional. Intentionality. Intent. 

All of these come from the Latin root intentio which means ‘a stretching out’. The healing intention may not be easy, stretching us outside of our comfort zone, but the process it worth it. Intent implies deliberateness and focus. As I look ahead, I want the season before me to be filled with just that. I want to be intentional with my time, with my relationships, with my healing, with my hope. I pray that my deliberate focus may lead to healing intention in others as well.

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