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It’s OK to Be a Little Less Intentional

The Chokehold of Intentionality

Our granddaughter, Charleston, flings her right hand in the air these days like Queen Elizabeth at a polo match and pronounces: “I hate Pop-Tarts. I hate Pop-Tarts.”

I feel you, Charlie girl. And it’s okay, because Pop-Tarts aren’t good for you anyway. But the incident reminded me that there’s a word (not food) that I hate these days, and I hate it like a little girl all dressed up in a sequined yard sale gown, fluttering her fingers, tiara bobbing on her fluffy blonde head, telling the world what she doesn’t like.

It’s no one’s fault, but I loathe the word “intentional.” Sometimes it’s this idea that every single step of my life, every conversation, every appointment, every book I read, every decision I make—must be strategic—strangles the very life out of me.

So when two young moms seeking to be more intentional asked me to have coffee with them to talk about how to engage the refugee community, I had to stifle my inner 3-year-old princess. I have liked and admired these women since I met them, so of course I would meet them for coffee.

Then I think about my intentions as a neighbor to our refugee friends, and I am caught in a familiar intentionality chokehold, reminded of my own under-performance. What can I tell these two earnest young women when a quick inventory of my last few months shows a life that doesn’t reflect its own intentions? I started a non-profit business that is all about welcoming refugees, about creating a place of refuge for them right here in Clarkston, Georgia. Refuge Coffee Co., with much intention behind it, has kept me from doing what I love most: intentionally engaging the people I am committed to serve. It’s even kept me from having as much quality, intentional time with my children and grandchildren and a host of other people. What’s up with that?

I am tempted to blame the business or the busyness it has imposed on my life. But the truth is, I failed at intentionality long before I started a non-profit.

Maybe it’s just the pressure of living a responsible adult life. Maybe it’s the oldest-daughter-syndrome. Or that I am the product of a Christian culture that tells me I must painstakingly attempt to live each segment of my life, my wife-lover-mother-grandmother-daughter-friend-servant-neighbor-leader life, with brow-sweating effort. And that it should all look effortless.

Maybe it’s just the pressure of living a responsible adult life.

I’m comforted by the memory that Refuge Coffee Co. was born out of an immediate obedience to a dream I am 99% sure God gave me. Immediacy does not come naturally to me. I have, however, observed a unique version of immediacy here in Clarkston. I’ve noticed that people from other cultures come to our truck for coffee or tea and end up staying for hours. They talk and play chess. They offer to buy you coffee. They laugh about the appointment they will be late for because they haven’t left yet, and then they stay on. This forces me, in the gentlest of ways, to sit and stay on with them. Maybe it’s immediacy that we need to be intentional about—living in the present, the right-in-front-of-us that is right now. Like Jesus talked about in Matthew 6:31, “Then Jesus said, ‘Let’s go off by ourselves to a quiet place and rest awhile.'” He said this because there were so many people coming and going that Jesus and his apostles didn’t even have time to eat.

We used to tell our kids a true story about a man who yelled to his son across a playground to “Come here right now!” The son went to his father and because he obeyed, the rabid dog that had been approaching him just beyond the child’s line of sight did not attack him. And then we’d tell the boys what this story meant: that immediate obedience, to us and eventually to God, was good for them.

Truthfully, life really should be lived for God’s intentions, not my own. His intentions + my obedience = untold mysteries and wonders. I miss the wonders when I get addicted to my own series of intentional action steps written in black ink and highlighted in yellow in case I forget them or, worse, avoid doing them. Not that this is all bad. I will continue to make these lists and…ugh…be intentional. But I want more than that.

More begins in the immediate moment when I obey God’s intention. And His intentions are always for my good, unlike Pop-Tarts.

It’s no one’s fault, but I loathe the word “intentional.”

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Kitti thrives when making new friends with refugees, teaching them the art of coffee, and continuing to raise her tribe of kids and grandkids.

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