My Word of the Year for 2021 was “Intentional.” (You can read my January 1 post about the choice here.) And now, as 2021 draws to a close, it’s time to look back over the last twelve months and reflect on how I lived that out or didn’t.

Unlike most of my previous Words of the Year, which I often totally forgot about for months at a time, LOL, this year–perhaps because I prayerfully chose it rather than waiting for God to just bash me alongside the head with it–it actually provided direction for me.

I wanted to be intentional in my relationships, in my time, in my writing, in my rest, in my health and eating habits, in reconciliation.

I actually began the year by getting intentional with my space. I am not an organizer. And the four of us live in a modestly sized house, where we not only homeschool, but from which my husband and I both work. That means this house is crowded with materials from 12 years of schooling and also the “stuff” for two different offices. I had been, since we moved here in 2013, working at the kitchen table. Which meant clearing my work off the kitchen table every evening. It was getting ridiculous. I had been dreaming of an office, a desk of my own.

Then I looked over last January and realized that there was a desk sitting in front of the window. It was technically Rowyn’s desk, there from our early homeschooling days. It was beside a bookshelf full of schoolbooks. It had been completely taken over by junk and cats, because Rowyn never actually used it. So…why couldn’t I?

The first few weeks of January I spent completely rearranging the kitchen to allow me to take over that space for my work. AND I LOVE IT. I now have a view out the window instead of at the stove. I don’t have to move my computer multiple times a day for school and dinner and other food prep. I actually have a place for my research books and Wacom tablet and notebooks with weekly goals and accomplishments. My beautiful Tiffany lamp (the first and best thing I ever won! LOL) is sitting on the corner. I have a lovely purple-wood bowl that my uncle made holding my lotions and lip balms. The school bookshelf has now become my bookshelf (because Rowyn’s school is independent this year too, so all his books are in his room.) This has been a huge blessing to me, and a decision that has impacted every single day of the year.

I also cleaned out and organized the cabinets, countertops, and pantry, which have continued to be great choices too. 😉

I’ve intentionally established routines for a lot of things that otherwise got pushed to the margins–everything from when I make and freeze the week’s supply of pancakes for Rowyn (did you know that grains impact blood sugar less when they’ve been chilled/frozen and are then reheated?? The results are pretty amazing!) to when I check on/purchase/pack up tea party supplies.

The intentionality with relationships was hit or miss with me, I admit. My days are so exhausting and busy that it’s often bedtime before I think, “Oh shoot, I meant to call so-and-so.” Sigh. And some of the progress I did make isn’t to my credit so much as the other person’s. My mom and I now have a standing lunch date for the first Monday of every month. My best friend/critique partner Stephanie and I have been faithful about meeting up either in Zoom or Meet or via Marco Polo every Friday to report on what we’ve done that week in terms of work. And what I love about that is that it also helps us combat discouragement in those weeks when it seems like nothing got done. Inevitably, we did way more than we thought!

I also started last January determined that I would stop borrowing time from my writing and author-career work to do other people’s projects. This is something I’d been doing a TON. The morning hours–which were supposed to be for my work–were constantly becoming time to design or edit or upload for WhiteFire. Things that needed done, but those hours are my best for creativity, and when I gave them to other projects that don’t require as much of it, simply because they felt “pressing” to me…well, my own work kept getting de-valued. I wanted to put a halt to that.

And I’m happy to report that I have. Those morning hours have been spent almost exclusively on my own work this year. I have brainstormed stories and written them, I have written bonus content for book releases and newsletter subscribers, I wrote a 19-page detailed synopsis for the book I’m working on right now, I’ve set up a new store on my website…all sorts of great stuff that happened because I was intentional about it. Makes me so happy!

Rest…this remains crucial to me. I get up at 5:30 every morning, and I’m going at least twelve hours a day, often more. It’s exhausting. Combine that with the physiological effects of stress from my son’s diagnosis, and I was beyond normal levels of exhausted by summer. I was being deliberate about preserving hours of the day and week for resting, yes…but it wasn’t enough. I woke up every morning barely dragging myself out of bed, and I could have fallen asleep again at the drop of a hat at any point in the day. So I made some radical changes to my diet (more on that below), improved my energy, and am feeling SO much better. I still have to be intentional about resting, otherwise I tend to push too hard. But now those evening hours are more a blessing and less a blur. 😉

I admit that the first half of the year, I wasn’t intentional at all about food choices or exercise. It was haphazard, based entirely upon what I had the energy for…which wasn’t much. So in August, my husband and I started the Keto diet to see if it would reset my metabolism, and it has been amazing for us. I’ve lost the extra dozen pounds I had put on, I have energy again, and my every food choice has to be deliberate. Because I get so few carbs in a day, I’m making sure they’re good ones–veggies and nuts, mostly. Because my calorie intake has been greatly reduced, I’m making sure there are no empty calories in there, and generally choosing leaner proteins. I expected this diet to be a burden…honestly, I love so much about it. In the new year we’re going to transition from strict Keto to Low-Carb, which will double our carb intake and then lower fats and proteins accordingly, and I’m looking forward to more veggies and fruits and the occasional bite of pasta or rice or potatoes. But I’m so grateful we decided to do this!

David and I also instituted a daily walk. We actually just started doing this in September, upon realizing that one of our favorite things about vacation in the Outer Banks is that we take long walks on the beach every day (usually twice a day). It’s a time when we not only exercise, we talk. We brainstorm. We dream. Well, this year, one subject of that brainstorming was how to bring it home with us. So now, every morning at 7:30, we go out and walk for 45 minutes. Not only is it a time to keep our bodies in shape and get our blood flowing for the day, it’s a time to communicate. To dream, to brainstorm, to talk about ideas, and to plan out our day and week. This has been so amazing! We weren’t sure how long we could keep it up with temps and weather turning wintry, but so far extra layers have served us just fine. =)

And finally…reconciliation. When I used that word in my post on January 1, I intended it in several forms: racial and ecumenical, primarily. It has long grieved me that there is so much division within the body of Christ. We are meant to be one Church. One body. Working in true unity–which means harmony, multiple notes, many differences, but no war among those members. More and more as I watch the world around me, I am so sad to see continued strife, selfishness, and blatant hatred among those professing to be Christians. My brothers and sisters are attacking anyone who doesn’t agree with them–verbally, and even threatening it physically. We are valuing our own wants above others’ needs. And we recognize no authority to tell us we’re wrong.

For years, all the work we’ve been doing in writing and film and conversations, has been aimed at ministering to people with this lens in place. To helping each other see fellow believers as Christ does. To challenge preconceived notions and really think things through. And a long questions for us was not only “How do we do this?” but “Where do we do this?” We’d always just kept doing it wherever we were. But in late October, we made the difficult decision to change churches. Not because we didn’t love the people we served beside for the last sixteen years, but because we could no longer ignore the call to pursue our faith in a place with more structure and which embraced longstanding tradition. And honestly, the moment we made the decision, more joy flooded our souls than we had ever known before. We’re now following God’s path for us in a new location, and we’re loving every moment of it. We’re viewing the subjects we’ve discussed a million times through a new lens. And several times in the last couple months, I’ve sensed spiritual shackles releasing. I know that sounds weird…but it’s true. When I consider certain things that I’ve long had hang-ups or confusion on, it’s like there’s suddenly clarity, or at least peace about it.

So all in all, this has indeed been a year of intentionality, and it has taught me things I intend to carry with me in all the years to come. Though it’s been a year with its challenges, it’s also been a year with so many victories and blessings. When I look back on it, I can now smile at the strides I’ve taken. And I’m so looking forward to where God leads us from here on out!

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