Tag Archives: BeIntentional

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Here it is February 11...almost Valentine's Day and this is my first post of 2016. That should give you some indication of how life is going right about now....fast. Very, very fast. Juggling homeschool, housework, health, parenting, church responsibilities, kids' activities, and well, life in general tends to eat up a giant portion of the day (and sometimes the night)...every day. 

Oh, don't get me wrong...after a 16-month battle for my life, I'm soaking up every moment of actually living it. Still, a crazy and overwhelmed schedule tends to leave this type-A-deadline-driven, perfectionist feeling stressed, anxious, and terribly, terribly behind.

I am learning--yet again--that being is better than doing. That's a difficult lesson for this over-achiever. I like my lists. I like to check things off my lists. And I like my lists done before I go to bed.

Your type-A streak might not run as deep as mine, but I’m guessing you can relate to my feeling of being overwhelmed. Life is crazy. Life is hectic. Life happens at breakneck speed. But here's the crazy irony of it all: If we don't stop to simply be in God's presence, we'll never become who He intends us to be.

Be Still and Know That I am God...Compassion That Compels | www.thereisgrace.com

I'm privileged to be sharing the lessons I'm learning over at Compassion That Compels today. Won't you stop over there and join the conversation? And while you're there, check out the incredible ministry that Compassion That Compels provides for women battling cancer. Do you know someone who is facing cancer? Encourage them in their battle by sending them a Compassion Bag, or support the work of Compassion That Compels by shopping at one of their sponsors.

 

 

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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While the calendar does not yet officially say it's summer, it's officially summer break around here. That means a lot of resting, a lot of relaxing, and a lot of fun! Now that my brain has had a few days to shift into summer break mode, I've realized we need to get back to being intentional about some things around here.

Thankfully, I've managed to keep my focus on the big things like Bible reading, prayer, and community, even in the midst of a crazy spring schedule and a book launch. (I'm not saying it was perfect, but those areas remained my focus when life got crazy!)

One area we definitely need to regain focus around here is being intentional with our food. I don't know about you, but when schedules get crazy, we tend to default to quick and easy foods. And if I've learned anything in my food journey, it's that quick and easy food doesn't typically translate into healthy and nutritious.

To eat is a necessity, but to eat intelligently is an art.” -La Rochefoucauld | thereisgrace.com #BeIntentional

This post is sponsored by De Nigris USA.

Although I still consider myself a novice when it comes to nutrition, I have learned a lot over the last year. Perhaps the greatest lesson I've learned is that if this girl--who used to live on Diet Pepsi and animal crackers--can make some healthy changes, anyone can!

If you're wanting to make some simple changes for your health, here are 7 quick and easy steps to get you started and help you #BeIntentional with your food:

1.  Read labels. This is the most important thing you can do for your health. Don't stop at skimming the calorie and fat content, either. Pay special attention to the ingredients. Yes, this is tedious and time-consuming, but the only way to know what you're eating is to, well, know what you're eating. Profound, I know.

2. Choose food with the shortest ingredients list. As a general rule, the shortest list will be your best option. And always choose the list with the most ingredients you can recognize and pronounce.

Don't eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. ~Michael Pollan

3. Take baby steps. Don't try to change everything at one time, or you'll end up frustrated. Start with one thing: Cut out sugar (that one will be big enough!). Or commit to avoiding unfamiliar ingredients (that one will save you from a lot of yucky stuff!). Maybe you can start by making your meals at home, from scratch, and choosing simple, whole foods as snacks. Determine your first step. When you're comfortable with that one, move on to the next.

4. Make simple swaps. Here are a few easy ones you can make the next time you go shopping:

  • Swap sugary, flavored yogurt for plain yogurt sweetened with honey and frozen fruit.Swap flavored chips (they have an abundance of additives and preservatives) for simple corn or potato chips seasoned with salt. (Yes, the oil isn't great for you, but one step at a time....see #3).

7 Ways to Be Intentional with Your Food #DeNigris1889

  • Swap salad dressing for some quality olive oil and vinegar, like DeNigris vinegars. Did you know vinegar has many health benefits and medicinal uses? It's great for treating things like sinus infections, sore throats, and even acid reflux! Plus, it's super high in cancer-fighting antioxidants. You can even clean with it! DeNigris has a selection of vinegars and other products, plus great recipes. Be sure to check them out!
  • Swap sweetened applesauce for unsweetened. Do apples really need extra sugar?!
  • Swap soda for sparkling mineral water flavored with a little fruit juice.
  • Swap heavy veggie dips for salsa or guacamole.
  • Swap sugary granola bars for homemade protein bars.

5. Make time for food. Being intentional with your food will take time. It will take time to read labels and find alternatives. It will take time to prepare food (oh, the time you'll spend chopping veggies!). And it will take time to see a difference in the way you feel and look. But your health and your happiness are worth the investment, so don't give up!

Our food should be our medicine and our medicine should be our food. ~Hippocrates

Here's proof that we do still eat out...and that my kids still have the occasional Cheeto! ;)
Here's proof that we do still eat out...and that my kids still have the occasional Cheeto! 😉

6. Choose the best options available. Life isn't perfect. Even with the best intentions, you'll eventually find yourself at a dinner party or a potluck with no idea what's in any given dish. Or you may have no other option for dinner one night than a fast food drive thru. Survey your options and make the best choice you can. Choose real food with the least ingredients (hint: focus on simple meat, veggies, and or fruit.) When in those situations, I try to remember this advice:

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. ~Michael Pollan

7. Give yourself grace. So you caved and raided the cookie jar at midnight last night. Don't beat yourself up, and don't throw in the towel. Show  yourself grace and move on. Focus on the things you are doing right and keep moving forward!

For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing. Luke 12:23

It won't always be easy, but things that are truly worth it are rarely easy--and your health is definitely worth it! I will let you in on a little secret: the more you stick to it, and the more changes you make, the better you'll feel. The better you feel, the less you will desire to go back to your old habits. You are creating  new habits, a new lifestyle, and eventually a whole new you!

BeIntentional-250

What can you do to #BeIntentional with your food this week? What additional resources do you recommend to someone wanting to #BeIntentional in their eating habits? Share your thoughts in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

 

More Great Reads to Help you #BeIntentional in Food:
What's Wrong With Our Modern Diet?
Jumpstart Your Health with the Whole 30
Begin Your Journey to Whole Food
Understanding Your Food
30 Day Clean Eating Challenge
In Defense of Food by Michael Pollan
The Omni Diet by Tana Amen
The Bulletproof Diet by Dave Asprey

 

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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It's been a few years, but I still remember the look of pain in my daughter's eyes. She came home from first grade in a bit of a funk. When I asked what was wrong, she explained that some kids at school had called her a name.

Instantly, I felt my inner "Mama Bear" awaken. WHAT?!?!

Defying every impulse I had to call the school and chew someone, anyone, out for letting some second-grade hooligans hurt my baby, I calmly asked,  "What did they say?"

Her eyes filled with pain.

"I can't tell you. It's a bad word." There it was again...Mama Bear Rising. It took a few minutes longer this time, but I managed to control my it.

She reluctantly agreed to whisper the offensive word in my ear. She leaned close and whispered a word that is simply not allowed in our home..."Stupid." Then I saw tears fill her gorgeous brown eyes.

I held her close and assured her she is not stupid. I don't think she's stupid. Daddy doesn't think she's stupid. Most importantly, Jesus, who created her, absolutely does not  think she's stupid.

"Do you think you're stupid?" I asked. She shook her head. "Then it doesn't matter what anyone else says, does it?" The waterworks came then.

"But it still hurts!" she cried.

Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless #BeIntentional | thereisgrace.com

And she was right. The old playground saying, "Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me," is quite simply a lie.

Words do hurt. Whether they're simply said without thinking, for a good laugh, or out of raw emotion in the heat of an argument. Once they're said, they can never be taken back. They can be repented of, even apologized for, but never taken back.

Kids are notorious for being outspoken, a little clueless, and sometimes rude. They are, after all, kids. They are also remarkably resilient. It didn't take long for Little Miss to bounce back and dive, carefree, into her latest art project. But those words will stay with her for a long time. The next time she is called something unkind (and let's be honest, it will happen), it will hurt a little more, because hateful words have already left a tiny wound.

I'd like to think that, as adults, we know better. We know to think before we speak and weigh carefully our words. But if my life is any indication I'd have to say that's not always the case.

Words kill, words give life; they’re either poison or fruit—you choose. (Proverbs 18:21, The Message)

That tells me that (1) my words have the power to bring life to someone or bring death to their spirit, and (2) that I have the power to choose.

If words can bring life or death, we should at least consider the power in them before we let them tumble out of our mouths. If I held a high-powered weapon, capable of killing with a single shot, I wouldn't wave it around or shoot it off aimlessly. You'd better believe I'd be extremely careful in how I held it, carried it, and transported it. I'd refrain from using it, except when absolutely necessary.

Maybe that's what the writer of Proverbs meant when he said:

Watch your words and hold your tongue; you’ll save yourself a lot of grief. (21:23)

Careful words make for a careful life; careless talk may ruin everything. (13:3)

Observe the people who always talk before they think—even simpletons are better off than they are. (29:20)

Knowledge flows like spring water from the wise; fools are leaky faucets, dripping nonsense.(15:2)

The more talk, the less truth; the wise measure their words. (10:19)

For me, it's a daily struggle, and it's worse when I'm tired, stressed out, or overwhelmed. (Who isn't all of those things most of the time?). But I keep at it. Why? Because I want my children to realize the power of their words.

I want them to understand that they possess great power in their words. And with that power comes great responsibility. 😉 Their words can bring life or bring death. They should be chosen carefully...used wisely.

Maybe our grandmas had it right after all... "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all!"

Let your conversation be always full of grace... (Colossians 4:6)

BeIntentional-250How do you strive to #BeIntentional with your words? Share your ideas in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

More great reading to help you #BeInentional with Your Words:

The Words We Say

 

 

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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It was Valentine's Day...our first Valentine's Day together.

We had been on dozens of dates by then, but this was Valentine's Day. I agonized over the right outfit, mourned the fact that my hair didn't do exactly the right thing, and tortured myself over whether to wear heels or flats.

He showed up on my doorstep in freshly-ironed dress pants and a crisp shirt and tie. Behind him, his SUV glistened, the result of hours spent washing, waxing, and Armor-Alling. He opened my door, and whisked me off to a magical night of Italian food, soft candlelight, and sparkling conversation. This was the stuff dreams...and jewelry commercials...were made of.

At the end of the evening, he handed me the most beautiful card. I soaked in every word, vowing to remember them all. Then I noticed a simple, hand-written note at bottom of the card: "Happy Valentine's Day! I love you, Steve." Every other word tumbled right out of my head as my eyes lingered on those three little words, "I love you." I read them again, "I love you."

I looked at up at his face, waiting with anticipation. He opened his mouth and out popped those same words, "I love you." That was the first time he'd said them to me; I floated all the way home and didn't touch ground for days.

Intentional Marriage: an effort to loving intentionally in marriage | www.thereisgrace.com

Fifteen years, two children, and a cancer battle later, our dates look a little different. Now Valentine's Day is just as likely to include a trip to the grocery store or a couple of basketball games as it is an evening out on the town. We are living the dream in a vivid state of reality, complete with sick children and temper tantrums.

These days our love is not all about butterflies in my tummy and stars in my eyes. It's not about dress pants and shiny tires. Because when the stars fade and the butterflies give way to sleepless children, job stresses, medical crises, and lost love ones, your marriage needs to be built on more.

After 15 years, his "I love you" can still make my heart soar, but now I hear it just as much in the things he does as in the words he says. I hear it when he tells the kids to kiss me goodnight and sends my bone-weary body off to bed, even though he's had a long and stressful day himself. I hear it when takes my van and brings it home with a full gas tank, freshly washed and vacuumed. I hear it when makes a special trip to the store for my favorite chips...just because.

The truth is, my husband does a much better job of being intentional about me than I do about him. Too often I let life get in the way. I get too easily distracted by taking care of the kids, the house, my health, and many other details of life that I forget to #BeIntentional about the one who means the most to me. So I am going to #BeIntentional about changing that.

I just need a little nudge every once in awhile to not take for granted the most important earthly relationship I have. You too? I thought so. So I just happen to have a couple of great resources that will do exactly that...and I'm giving them away for Valentine's Day!

Intentional-Marriage-Cover-3D-200-pxIntentional Marriage: The Art of Loving Your Husband is a 31 day devotional by my friend Crystal Brothers. In this simple devotional, Crystal gives you 31 practical ideas for focusing on your husband in a day-by-day format plus date night ideas and conversation starters. (Read more here.)

 

For Women Only: What You Need to Know about the Inner Lives of Men by FWOShaunti Feldhahn will open women's eyes to what the men in their life - boyfriends, brothers, husbands, and sons - are really thinking and feeling. Men want to be understood, but they're afraid to "freak out" the women they love by confessing what is happening inside their heads.

Enter to win both books below! (Contest ends Friday, Feb 13 at midnight!)

A successful marriage requires falling in love many times, always with the same person. ~Mignon McLaughlin

a Rafflecopter giveaway

BeIntentional-250

What do you do to #BeIntentional in your marriage? What additional resources do you recommend to someone wanting to #BeIntentional in marriage? Share your thoughts in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

 

More Great Reads to Help you #BeIntentional in Your Marriage: (Follow the #BeIntentional Pinterest board for these and other resources.)
What Love Is...Really
For Better or Worse
How to Fall in Love Better Than All the Love Songs
[Love Looks Like] 2:07a.m.
The Time I Got an Electric Griddle for Mother's Day
Building a "Real Marriage" {a review}
Trouble With Focusing on Your Marriage
10 Secrets to a Successful Marriage
Making Marriage a Priority
58 Tips from Marriage Coaches

 

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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Church is not a new concept to me; I've grown up having to #BeIntentional about it. That's what you do in a pastor's family...someone has to be there to turn on the lights, open the doors, clean the bathrooms, and teach Sunday school. We didn't just go on Sundays, either. During the week I did my homework, practiced piano, and played hide and seek with my sisters in the sanctuary while my parents prepared for the next gathering.

Church was literally my home away from home.

My husband's experience was different. His family attended church regularly, but the 45-minute, one-way drive made it a little more difficult to be there every time the doors were open. When we got married, it took us awhile to figure out what our commitment to church would look like. I routinely felt like I wasn't doing enough, while he was happy to be more committed than he'd ever been. We had begun to settle somewhere in the middle when everything changed.

When we walked through the most difficult months of our lives, we began to understand more deeply the impact a local church can have on a family. At a time when it would be harder than ever to commit to attending church, we determined to #BeIntentional about it.

Intentional community

Many times, we showed up emotionally drained and physically exhausted from the toll cancer takes on a family. We were weary, but we went, not out of a legalistic obligation to a building. We went because, quite simply, we needed it.

We needed the worship—not just the lively music, but the atmosphere alive with adoration of a Savior and expectation of what He would do.

We needed the Word. We read the Bible daily, but on those darkest days when our faith faltered, we needed to be reminded that God is for us and fighting on our behalf.

We needed the community. Our large church grew even smaller and more intimate as people stopped to tell us they were praying for us, or offered to bring us a meal, or sent an encouraging note or e-mail. We needed every single one of them who came alongside and stood with us in faith.

Let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another (Hebrews 10:24, 25)

We needed connection. Everyone needs a support group, but as Christians we need more than a network of well-meaning individuals. We need to be connected to a body of believers.

For where two or three come together in my name, there I am with them. (Matthew 18:20).

Week after week we found those things and more; we found the hope to make it through the coming days.

We continue to #BeIntentional about gathering together with other believers, even as we settle into our "new normal," because we realize that church is not just for the hard times. Yes, it's in the hard times that we need community, but if we only seek community when we need it, we will end up with a group of highly needy individuals who do nothing but take from others.

That's not God's plan:

The way God designed our bodies is a model for understanding our lives together as a church: every part dependent on every other part, the parts we mention and the parts we don’t, the parts we see and the parts we don’t. If one part hurts, every other part is involved in the hurt, and in the healing. If one part flourishes, every other part enters into the exuberance. You are Christ’s body—that’s who you are! You must never forget this. Only as you accept your part of that body does your “part” mean anything. (1 Corinthians 12:25-27, The Message).

I realize that not everyone has fond memories of church. I'm sure someone reading this has suffered a terrible wrong in the name of church or Christianity. Please understand this: That God's heart breaks over your pain. If you will allow Him, He will heal your pain and show you how beautiful His plan can be.

We are so grateful for the ways God used others in our journey. Now we look forward to God using us to help others as we continue to #BeIntentional about church and community in 2015.

Christianity is a personal relationship. It is not a private relationship.  ~Larry Osborne

BeIntentional-250Is there a group of believers with whom you already do life? How can you #BeIntentional in connecting with them? Or, do you need to #BeIntentional about finding a group and connecting? What is holding you back? Share your thoughts in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

More Great Reads to Help you #BeIntentional in Community: (Follow the #BeIntentional Pinterest board for these and other resources.)

What Starbucks Taught Me About Church
When You Need Community
3 Reasons to Attend Corporate Worship
10 Signs You Belong to a Great Church
Behind the Stained Glass
Five Benefits of Faithful Preaching
When Grace is In the Pulpit
Finding Hope in Community
When Worship is Our Lifeline

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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Growing up in church, I did a lot of praying.

I learned to bow my head, close my eyes, and say all the right words. I could pray quietly and reverently or passionately and intensely. We prayed before meals. We prayed at bed time. We prayed at church. We even attended prayer meetings--gatherings for the specific purpose of prayer. If there was one thing I knew how to do, it was pray.

But too often, prayer often fell somewhere in the "if I can get to it" category of my to-do list. After all, if I didn't get around to praying today, there was always Sunday. Then my world was shaken.

Suddenly, my only moments of refuge from the storm were my moments in prayer. Connecting with God on a daily basis became my top priority. It's funny how a crisis will quickly put things into perspective. I no longer worried about when I'd get the laundry folded or if my floors were swept. I wasn't concerned about the format or volume of my prayers, or even the words I used. In fact, many times my prayers were reduced to the emotional ramblings of a crumpled mess.

If praying only with others is the extent of our prayer lives, we will be reduced to emergency- or obligation-only prayers. | thereisgrace.com

Jesus--who was somewhat an authority on the subject--had a lot to say about prayer.

When you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you. (Matthew 6:5,6)

Jesus isn't saying we should never pray in public. He's saying prayer should be, first and foremost, a personal, private priority. Yes, we should pray with others and for others (see James 5), but if that is the extent of our prayer lives, we will not see much in the way of spiritual growth. We'll be reduced to emergency- or obligation-only prayers.

Think of your closest human friendship. It's probably the result of many private, intimate conversations. Imagine the relationship you'd have with your spouse if your only conversations were in front of others! Just as our human relationships grow through personal conversations, we must #BeIntentional about having consistent, private conversations with God in prayer.

And when you pray, do not heap up empty phrases as the Gentiles do, for they think that they will be heard for their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matthew 6:7, 8)

If God knows what you need before you ask, why pray? Here's a hint: It's all about relationship. God wants to have a relationship with us. Prayer isn't about checking the box on a spiritual to-do list or bringing a laundry list of needs to God. Prayer is the point of connection with God through which our relationship with Him grows.

Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.  Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil, (Matthew 6:10-13

While there's no "magic formula" to prayer, Jesus--in His infinite wisdom--gave us a guide. Personally, I think He knew I would need a little help! Having a plan, or a guideline, helps me to #BeIntentional about prayer. I don't follow a model every time I pray, but for those times when I need a little nudge, it's a great way to give my prayer time some focus. What better guideline than the way Jesus himself taught us to pray?

Our Father...hallowed be your name: Begin by praising God for Who He is and what He's done
Your kingdom come...will be done: Remind yourself that God is Sovereign...over your life and your circumstances.
Give us this day: Lay out what you need from God...in your life and the lives of others
Forgive us our debts: Ask God to search your heart and reveal areas you need to change/grow (this is also where you can ask God to help you forgive those who have wronged you)
Deliver us from evil: Pray for protection over your family and loved ones.

It's ironic that something as simple as prayer--having a conversation with God--can be  quite difficult to accomplish. It's too easy to allow the urgent tasks of my day (children, cooking, laundry, etc.) to crowd out the important things (Bible reading and prayer). That's why I'm determined to #BeIntentional about prayer in 2015!

My biggest concern for this generation is the inability to focus, especially in prayer ~Francis Chan.

BeIntentional-250How do you plan to #BeIntentional about your prayer life in 2015? Share your ideas in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

More Great Reads to Help you #BeIntentional in Prayer: (Follow the #BeIntentional Pinterest board for these and other resources.) 
The Power and Privilege of God's Children
When Prayer Comes Out of the Closet
The Circle Maker by Mark Batterson
The Prayer that Changes Everything by Stormie Omartian
Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer by Max Lucado?
Prayer: Experiencing Awe and Intimacy with God by Timothy Keller

What are your favorite resources on prayer?

 

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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I don't remember the issue--I was a teenager, so there were any number of them to choose from. Something, somewhere, contradicted what I had been taught and threatened to shift my entire worldview (or so my 15-year-old mind reasoned).

So, I did what I had always done...I went to my dad for advice. I'll never forget his response: "What does the Bible say about it?"

My deep, adolescent response was something like, "I dunno," when I was really thinking, Huh? I have NO IDEA what the Bible says about it! That's why I'm asking you...THE PASTOR!

I'll never forget what he said: "Why don't you find out and then we'll talk about it."

That one response rocked my 15-year-old world. I had always relied on my dad for answers to deep Biblical questions--I would ask, he would answer, and I would go on with my life. For the record, I was fine continuing that arrangement!

Since it was the Dark Ages (before Biblegateway.com), Dad gave me some passages to look up, and I went to work. I studied the Scripture, formed my own opinions then, just like he promised, we discussed it. It was a lot more work than our previous arrangement, but it taught me a valuable lesson that followed me into adulthood:

Reading the Bible Intentionally #BeIntentional | thereisgrace.com

We each have a system of beliefs and values that influence every decision of our life. If we do not intentionally build those beliefs on the foundation of Truth, they will be influenced and shaped by other influences (culture, obligations, family, friendships, etc.). Or worse, we'll end up swept along the path of "least moral resistance."

As Christians, we often end up building those values on what our parents taught us, what our church teaches, or even what we've come to justify in our own minds. Those things may not be wrong, but in the end there's only one Truth on which we should build any belief: What does God say about it? (as in, What does the Bible say about it?)

Here's the catch: In order to do that, we have to read what He has to say. (Revolutionary, I know!)

It sounds so simple, so why does it prove to be so difficult? If we fast-forward about 25 years from the scenario above, you'll find I had allowed the daily demands of life to crowd out my regular discipline of Bible reading. I had rationalized that I could coast on what I had "already stored up" through years of Christian school, Bible college, and working for a Christian publisher.

But when you face a situation that shakes you to your core, you tend to go back to the basics. So over the last year and a half, I've discovered that my spiritual life is strongest when I feed it a steady diet of God's Word.

Honestly, I still struggle with it. I have to #BeIntentional about not allowing other things to crowd out this vital component of my spiritual life. It's not easy, but things of great value rarely are.

That's why I'm committing to #BeIntentional about reading God's Word in 2015 with this simple plan:

When: The time has varied over the years--as a young adult, I would read late at night before bed. When I worked full-time, I would routinely read on my lunch break. Now, with two active kids in the house, I try to get up early and spend at least 15 minutes reading my Bible before the rest of the house stirs. With an early-riser in the house, that doesn't always happen! On those days, I rely on extra grace and plan a specific time later in the day for it.

Where: There is a specific spot in front of our fireplace where I like to settle in to read. I keep my Bible, a devotional, my journal, and a pen within reach. Settling into that spot triggers my brain (even when I'm still half asleep) to focus on what I'm about to do. And since I am NOT a morning person, I need all the help I can get!

What: I need a plan. If I don't have some sort of idea what I'm going to read, I'll spend the entire time flipping through my Bible in search of random passages. I've done all types of plans--chapter by chapter, topical studies, etc. It doesn't matter how simple or complex the plan, but I've found it is helpful to have one! There are hundreds--probably thousands--of reading plans available today in every format and on every topic imaginable. You can find a one-year plan here, or shorter plans here or here .

And for you "non-readers" out there...if the thought of sitting down with a book (of any kind) makes you break out in a cold sweat, no worries! Download the YouVersion app and listen to the Bible while you go for a run, clean the house, or fold the laundry. Or find a devotional on Audible  or Christian Audio and listen on your commute.

"If you feel uncomfortable in the Scriptures, and inadequate in the art of Bible reading, the single most important thing you can do is make a regular practice of reading the Bible for yourself."  ~David Mathis, Bible Reading is an Art

BeIntentional-250How do you plan to #BeIntentional about reading your Bible in 2015? Share your ideas in the comments, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter.

More Great Reads on Reading the Bible Intentionally:
Bible Reading is an Art
3 Tips for Better Bible Reading
The Bible: Fact or Fiction? 
Don't Just Read the Bible for Yourself
Finding Hope in God's Word
3 Reasons Moms Need to Be in the Word
Thirty for 30: A 30-Day Bible-reading Challenge

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Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.

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It all happened in the same week. I was officially pronounced "cancer free" then a few, short days later I lost my mind...over a pair of gloves.

We were running late, yet no one was following the simple instruction to "please move more quickly." The whole scenario escalated until it resulted in a wild-eyed mom (who will remain nameless) barking orders at her startled children as she threw backpacks and lunches in their general direction then forced marched them, in a huff, to the waiting vehicle.

Then it happened: A sheepish voice squeaked from the backseat, "I forgot my gloves."

For a moment, I considered foregoing the gloves, but with Missouri winter setting in, and a wind chill of 26, the child had to have gloves. I slammed the door and stomped back into the house to retrieve them. Back in the vehicle--gloves in tow--we were finally off to school.

Then it struck me: I would not have reacted this way a year ago. At this time last year, my mental and emotional energy was focused on one thing: victory over cancer. That meant regular, daily, time in God's Word to hold tightly to His promises and regain control of my thoughts and emotions. It meant "little" things like lost gloves and hurried mornings didn't faze me. There were bigger mountains to climb, bigger giants to slay--I was battling cancer for cryin' out loud. Who cared about forgotten gloves?

Here I was a year later, the words "cancer free" still ringing in my ears, and I was already back to the same ol' me. I had kicked crazy to the curb, and it had bounced back and rolled right over me!

While I was thankful that life was returning to normal, I didn't like that I was falling back into the same habits. In the midst of the battle, I had been intentional about so many things--faith, priorities, commitments, even my attitudes and emotions. As a result, I had grown in many of those areas. Was I seriously going to go back to the same old habits and struggles as before? I sure didn't want to! The trial I had faced brought me closer to God and took me deeper in my faith.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. (James 1:2, 3)

If I was going to hold on to all I had learned over the last year, I would have to Be Intentional about it. Focusing on the important things had been easy when the rest of the world stopped--when others were bringing meals and shuttling our children about. Now that life was returning to "normal," I would have to work at it.

Finding intentionality in things that matter most | thereisgrace.com

Since I'm pretty sure intentionality isn't something I struggle in alone, I'm inviting you on the journey with me. And what better time to do it than at the New Year?

Over the next few weeks, we'll be exploring intentionality in many areas of life--spiritual, physical, and emotional. In addition to my regular posts, I'll  write once or twice a week about an area in which I'm learning to Be Intentional. I'll be honest about how I've failed or where I need improvement (as if you expected anything less) and share things I've discovered along the way. I'll also recommend resources I've found helpful or that come recommended by others I trust.

This isn't a one-sided conversation, though. I want to hear from you, too! I want to know how you've learned to be intentional and what has helped you along the way. Share your favorite tips and resources in the comments or join the conversation on social media (use the hashtag: #BeIntentional)

What areas do you need to Be Intentional in?

signature-1Like what you've read? Sign up in the sidebar to receive blog posts via e-mail and get a FREE printable of 10 Inspirational Scriptures. It's as easy as that! Don't forget to follow me on Twitter and Pinterest, too!

Plus: Read the full story of my journey through cancer to healing in Unshakable: Finding Faith to Weather the Storm. Available now at Amazon.