“I feel like time goes so quickly. How do you live intentionally in the busyness?” for the New Year period?

What a great question. Interestingly, this is a question I have asked myself almost every year since I became a Christian when I was aged 16. I may not have used the word “intentionally”, but I have battled against busyness for a long time.

I have written countless lists filled with things that I “must” or “should” do in a new year. I have had lofty goals of getting fit, slim, a tidy house, an organised life, better relationships with my husband and children, a spiritually fulfilling devotional life and I could go on and on….

It seems to me that being busy is a perpetual problem that is not going to go anywhere fast. I am yet to meet someone who does not use the word “busy” when they talk about their life. There are so many “good things” we can fill our lives with aren’t there? And then there is all the stuff that most of us loathe – the domestic chores, the cleaning, the shopping, the organising and the washing – they do need doing, even if with reluctance.

What does your 2017 calendar look like? If it is like mine, it is already filled with events related to church, work, family and friends. Does the thought of adding anything more to that schedule threaten to unnerve you as you contemplate how on earth you can do life differently – perhaps more intentionally in amongst this busyness?

Is there an answer to this dilemma? What does it really mean to live an intentional life? Did you know that before 1960, this word was hardly used and its use has grown exponentially between then and today? When I use this word intentional, I am meaning thoughtful, purposeful or deliberate.

I am not sure that I have any easy “quick fix” answers to this question. However, I can say that I have attempted to do the following things which have helped me fill my days in a different way, I would like to say intentionally:

  1. Use the prayer of Moses: “Teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.” (Psalm 90:12). Our dilemma is not a new one – even Moses struggled to fill his days intentionally, so he prayed an amazing prayer which you will find in Psalm 90. It is not a prayer that is answered overnight, but over time, as you pray and ponder what Moses was getting at, it provides a structure to see that our time, our days, those moments of busyness are not ours but the Lord’s. As we begin to grasp this, we begin to make wise choices.
  2. Use the prayer of George Whitefield: “Give me a deep humility, a well-guided zeal, a burning love and a single eye and then let men and or devils do their worst!” If you are brave enough to pray this, God will answer it.
  3. “Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8). Cultivate small habits – reading a short devotional over breakfast or first thing in the morning, reading a Psalm last thing at night. Habits take a while to form, but once they become habits, they become part of your DNA and you begin to do them without having to be reminded. Cumulatively, such small habits will help you meditate on God’s word and get to know Him better.
  4. Develop the habit of thankfulness and praise to the Lord – each night write down one thing that you want to thank God for. Use the Psalms to help you offer praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.
  5. Are there things you can remove from your life? Some examples:
    • A year ago, I stopped using FaceBook. Notice what is in front of you rather than what is happening in a world far removed from you.
    • About six weeks ago, I figured out how to switch off all notifications on my devices which means that I only look at work emails in work time and can choose when to look at my personal email.
    • Put your phone away, so it is not permanently attached to you.
    • Can you not “multi-task? Perhaps you can go for a walk without listening to a talk or to music and notice the birds singing, the trees rustling, see that flowering gum blossom and smell the lemon scented gum. Or can you sit on a bus or train and look out of the window and notice what you are passing? Or notice your fellow passengers?
  6. Notice the blessings that are in your life right now in front of you – whatever they are – and give thanks to God for them. Ann Voskamp writes beautifully and eloquently on this in “OneThousand Gifts”.
  7. Expect the unexpected or the spontaneous – embrace it as a God-given – whatever it is. It may be that we are trying so hard to live an intentional life that we fail to notice or attend to that person or situation that God places right before us – He is giving us an opportunity to respond with love or compassion.

Don’t expect instant change with any of these suggestions. They certainly don’t slow time down. However, they begin to help you put your time, your day, your schedule into God’s arena and make wise choices. They will also help you see God’s hand at work. You will find that your heart begins to sing a song of joy and delight at seeing and tasting of His grace daily – even in the hard and dark places.

Do you have a question to “Ask Sarah?” If so, submit it here.