{A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}

Sometimes we get so focused on the destination that we forget to look down and see where we are RIGHT NOW (and what’s beneath our fast moving feet).  Slow down today.  Be mindful of everything around you, not just what’s ahead of you.  That’s intentional living.

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Being intentional is easier said than done. It’s easier imagined than executed. So here’s where we inspire you every week with a simple picture and a few words. Think of this as a chance to help you realize the simplicity of intentional.

Be inspired. Allow gratitude and joy and beauty to sneak in with every intention. And then won’t you come back and share your moment with us? Or leave a link in the comments to your blog where you celebrate {A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}.

Nature Study: Cicadas

I love the sound of August in Texas.  I walk outside into still damp heat and hear the loud hum of cicadas all around me.  It marks the peak of the summer season for me.  It’s so hot and sticky and loud and it almost makes me agitated but there’s something magical about the song these cicadas are singing.  And it’s just as I get used to their raucous music that they disappear as quickly as they came.  Summer ends and so does the daily serenade.

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My first encounter with a cicada was years ago when I discovered its exoskeleton hanging on a tree in my front yard.  At the time I knew nothing about cicadas, mistakenly calling the thing a locust, the crop eating, Bible swarming insect that is native to Europe and not even found in America.

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Cicadas, on the other hand, are gentle creatures who don’t bite or sting.  They simply hatch, burrow underground to grow and then emerge only to mate and die.  Most cicadas have a life cycle of 2 to 5 years, but some have 13 or 17 year life cycles.  But that knowledge came much later for me.

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My interest in cicadas was peaked when I read David Rosenberg’s book Bug Music.  The idea of periodical cicadas and their growth underground captured my imagination. Rosenberg’s poetic description only sparked my interest more, “It’s the slowest sonic beat in the animal world. It’s a sound that can be used to mark the phases of a human life. It’s a mathematical conundrum, an unearthly wonder of animal sound. The cloud of insect music you can barely recall. When you last heard it, you were just settling down. The time before that, you were a teenager. Before that it was the year you were born. The next time you hear it you might be a grandfather. This time the song arrives, you are smack in the middle of your journey through life.”

I can only imagine the surprise of early colonists when the cicadas appeared, seemingly out of nowhere.  Governor William Bradford said, “… all the month of May, there was such a quantity of a great sort of flyes like for bigness to wasps or bumblebees, which came out of holes in the ground and replenished all the woods, and ate green things, and made such a constant yelling noise as made all the woods ring of them, and ready to deaf the hearers …”

Last year we visited the Oso Preserve on a Tuesday morning and joined in on a guided nature walk.  The cicadas were loudly humming and the nature guide that morning was full of cicada trivia.  He taught us which cicadas were making which sounds.  Here in South Texas we have annual cicadas (as opposed to the 13 or 17 year periodical cicadas).  Annual cicadas have a life span that typically spans 2 to 5 years but because they appear every summer, they’re considered annual.  The kids and I were fascinated.  We began trying to identify the summer backdrop noise everywhere we went.

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We recently attended a porch talk out at the Oso Preserve and had the opportunity to learn about some common cicadas here in South Texas and how to tell the difference between males and females.  It was a fascinating talk complete with resin casted cicadas and sound recordings to train our ears.

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The males are the noisemakers.  Most insects that make noise do it by stridulation which is the act of producing sound by rubbing together certain body parts.  Crickets and grasshoppers use stridulation.  Not cicadas.  They have membranes in their abdomen, called tymbals, that allows them to make noise.  ThoughtCo explains it as follows:

The adult male cicada possesses two ribbed membranes called tymbals, one on each side of its first abdominal segment. By contracting the tymbal muscle, the cicada buckles the membrane inward, producing a loud click. As the membrane snaps back, it clicks again. The two tymbals click alternately. Air sacs in the hollow abdominal cavity amplify the clicking sounds. The vibration travels through the body to the internal tympanic structure, which amplifies the sound further.

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Cicadas are true bugs.  True bugs are an order of insects that have a probiscus, a long tube-like mouth.  Cicada is a latin word meaning tree cricket.  Cicadas are notoriously bad fliers, often bumping into things.  They remind me of the armadillos that we saw at South Llano but unlike armadillos who have bad eyesight, the cicadas faulty flying appears to be linked to the design of their wings.

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The life cycle of the cicada is truly fascinating.  The female cicada makes a groove on the tree branch where she lays her eggs.  The eggs hatch and the cicadas look like tiny white ants.  Once the young cicadas are ready, they crawl out of the groove and fall out of the tree and burrow themselves underground where they feed on tree root sap and stay for a period of time…anywhere from 1 year to 17 years.  When they’re ready, they crawl out as nymphs and finish their metamorphosis.  The nymphs crawl to a nearby tree where they shed their exoskeleton.  Now adults, the males begin to sing to attract females.  They mate, lay eggs and the cycle begins again.

 

There are over 100 species in the United States, with at least 50 of those here in Texas.  Some of the common ones seen down here in the south include the Scrub cicada (Diceroprocta azteca), the Little Mesquite cicada (Pacarina puella), and the Superb Dog Day cicada (Neotibicen superbus).  Texas does have periodical cicadas but they’re seen mostly in north east Texas.

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For more information regarding cicadas and to hear the different species, be sure to check out Cicada Mania!

*I am fortunate to have amazing naturalists here in my area and some of them were consulted in writing this post, including Texas Master Naturalist, Justin Quintanilla, and Caleb Harris, education coordinator at Oso Preserve.  Caleb led both the guided nature walk and the porch talk…guided walks are an ongoing event that take place on Tuesday and Saturday mornings; porch talks are a summer thing that happen on Wednesday mornings…there are still a few left this summer so be sure to pop out there and soak up the knowledge!  Websites I used to research cicadas have already been notated throughout the post.

{Being intentional is so much easier done when we slow down and really look around us.  Personally, we spend a lot of time in nature, partly because we follow a Charlotte Mason education, but mostly because it keeps us intentional in our thoughts and actions.  I invite you, in these Nature Study posts, to join us in our intentional journey…to train your eye to be observant, to relish the intricacies of the amazing world we live in and to spend more time with the people you love stopping to smell the roses, so to speak.  If you are in the South Texas area (Corpus Christi and the surrounding cities), then you’ll find these nature lessons tailored perfectly to you and your family…see if you can find what we’re finding!  If you live somewhere beyond our beautiful little corner of the world then use these lessons as a springboard…see what we’re observing, allow yourself to be inspired and then just get out there and be intentional, observant, and grateful for all the little surprises right outside your back door.}

 

Intention

I am overly aware of my incessant talking.  Even as I speak, I ask myself to stop.  The words spill forth regardless.  I am good at talking.

I wish I always had the right words to say.  The words to tell the world that nice matters and kindness is king.  But sometimes I don’t.  And so I just keep talking.

About stuff.

Homeschool and cooking and laundry.  The complications of raising children and balancing a marriage.  Living in South  Texas.  Things I know something about.  Because life?  I’m just not an expert on that topic.

Sometimes I try to just be still.  To sit and wait.  To listen.  I’m somewhat terrible at it.  If I stop momentarily then my mind begins racing with ideas of what I should be doing.

I remind myself that stillness and quiet matter.

Because it is in the stillness and quiet that I can connect to my actual thoughts.  Not the thoughts that spill out incessantly but the thoughts that form my soul.

And so I sit.  Quietly.  Often impatiently.  But persistently.  And my soul delights in the stillness.  I breathe in.  I breathe out.  I stop.  It is good.

We’re all busy distracting ourselves.  That’s the reality of a culture that lives with smart phones and overcrowded schedules.

It’s unintentional living at its worst. 

The way we wake up and our feet hit the floor and we’re slammed into the first moment of the day without any quiet, without any stillness.

But it doesn’t have to be that way.  We get to choose.  We can flow along with the mainstream culture and hide in busy, distracted ways from the thoughts that connect us to being human or we can choose to stop.  Breathe.  Be still.

It only takes intention.

{A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}

Life with intention is often found in the details.  Slow down today and notice every little detail.

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Being intentional is easier said than done. It’s easier imagined than executed. So here’s where we inspire you every week with a simple picture and a few words. Think of this as a chance to help you realize the simplicity of intentional.

Be inspired. Allow gratitude and joy and beauty to sneak in with every intention. And then won’t you come back and share your moment with us? Or leave a link in the comments to your blog where you celebrate {A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}.

{A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}

“In return for our discriminating and loving observation, Nature gives us the joy of a beautiful and delightful intimacy, a thrill of pleasure in the greeting of every old friend in field or hedgerow or starry sky, of delightful excitement in making a new acquaintance.”  Charlotte Mason in Volume 4: Ourselves

When was the last time you stopped and observed Nature?  Take a few moments today to soak up that “joy of a beautiful and delightful intimacy.”  You deserve this intentional moment.

Being intentional is easier said than done. It’s easier imagined than executed. So here’s where we inspire you every week with a simple picture and a few words. Think of this as a chance to help you realize the simplicity of intentional.

Be inspired. Allow gratitude and joy and beauty to sneak in with every intention. And then won’t you come back and share your moment with us? Or leave a link in the comments to your blog where you celebrate {A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}.

{A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}

At first glance, this looks like I snapped a photo at the wrong time.  The truth is, I didn’t notice the Daddy Longlegs at first either.  Sometimes it takes seeing the world through our children’s eyes for us to notice the details.  And life is all about the details.

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Being intentional is easier said than done. It’s easier imagined than executed. So here’s where we inspire you every week with a simple picture and a few words. Think of this as a chance to help you realize the simplicity of intentional.

Be inspired. Allow gratitude and joy and beauty to sneak in with every intention. And then won’t you come back and share your moment with us? Or leave a link in the comments to your blog where you celebrate {A Glimpse into an Intentional Life}.

A Glorious New Year Awaits

Yesterday was New Year’s Eve.  I had planned to sit down and reflect on the year that was and the year that is to come.  Instead I spent the day on the couch shielding my eyes from light and trying to block out the noise of my rambunctious children while I nursed myself back to health from an annoying virus.

I thought about the day.  It had been awful…not just because I felt miserable but because I let my misery drive my actions.  I had barked at my kids, shooed them away, and tried my best to ignore them.

Some days are like that.  There are good days and bad days and days in between.  There are days we reflect on as we lay in bed at night and wish we had done everything differently; there are days we look back upon with joy and gratitude; there are days that thankfully end when our heads hit the pillows; there are days that drag into the next.  There are wasted days and thoughtfully spent days.  Joyful days and sorrowful days.

Years can be that way, too.

Some years are amazing; some are rough.  Some start out rough and end beautifully.  Some years we claim to be our best ever while other years passed by uneventfully marked, but no less lived.

But the beauty is that just as each new day offers a new beginning, so does a new year. The new year brings us each a gift…a book with our name on the cover, followed by 365 pages.  365 blank pages just waiting to be filled by the way we choose to live.  365 opportunities.  365 pages just waiting to be written.

Some days, some years, they just seem less intentional.  Begun without a clear direction of where we’re headed.

I’ve never been a huge fan of resolutions but I do love the idea of living with intention.

The root word of resolution is resolve, which, by definition, means to decide firmly on a course of action. On the other hand, intend, by definition, means to design something for a particular purpose.

I delight in that thought…to design something for a particular purpose.  It sounds poetic and lofty without the weight of a firm decision.  My mindset morphs from something to struggle beneath to something to strive for just by changing a word.

When we choose to live with intention, we open up a whole new world to ourselves.  No longer do we get to the end of our days wondering where those 24 hours went or look back at the month and rack our brains wondering what we did this month.  When we live with intention, we live in this moment, with purpose.  And living with intention, at its simplest, is being an active participant in our own lives.

It’s about this moment right now and how this moment will set the path for our future days.  While the past tends to influence us, it doesn’t dictate a path for us, so don’t waste time wallowing.  We are only promised this moment right now and when we live it with intention, that intention helps us stay the path that we so desperately want our lives to follow.   Living intentionally isn’t the same as carpe diem.  Carpe diem is a Latin phrase meaning seize the day, but the meaning is meant to apply to the present only; to not be concerned about the future, whereas living with intention is living with a purpose.  Living with a purpose implies that it isn’t just about the here and now, but it’s about purpose for all things yet to come.  All 365 days yet unlived.

It’s January 1st.  I’ve managed to do the dishes, wash the clothes and take a nap.  I still feel miserable.  This certainly isn’t how I wanted to write the first day of 2019, but there’s still something intentional about using this time wisely, both to heal and to think.  I don’t want 2019 to be the year remembered for the shows I watched or the Facebook feed I scrolled through.  I don’t want to wake up this time next year and wonder where my 365 opportunities disappeared to.  I want this year to be remembered for the intentional moments.  The moments I lived with purpose.  What are your intentions for 2019?

And Then There Were Four

Having my first kid was love at first sight.  I was in awe of that tiny little bundle.  Those ten little fingers and ten little toes made me weak in the knees.  I spent hours just staring at him, marveling at the wonder of life.  He and I, we meshed.  He moved into crawling and walking and still it felt as if this new heart of mine, this mommy heart, beat solely to the rhythm of his.

Then along came baby #2.  Less than 2 years after the arrival of #1.  And it was fun.  Now I got to introduce my first to all the amazing things that make babies so lovable.  I still had energy and patience and somehow I survived just fine on little sleep.  I adored both boys.  I marveled at every new thing they did.  I soaked up all the “Mommy watch this” and the “Mommy hold me.”  I loved being needed.  Tears and meltdowns felt like par for the course where I was able to soothe and restore.  I had this whole Mommy thing down pat.  Life was more chaotic than with just one, but I was good at it.  And I loved it.

Less than 2 years later, #3 arrived.  2 years after that, #4.  And suddenly I was knee deep in crowd control.  Being a Mommy didn’t feel nearly so fun and while I still was in love with each of my babies, there wasn’t a whole lot of time to reflect on the wonders and marvels of little life.  I hardly had time to stare at one before another needed my attention.  I was over here treading deep water just trying my best not to sink.  The first couple of years of #4’s life?  A complete blur.  When did she start walking?  What was her favorite bedtime story?  I’m ashamed to not know.  I’m sure I wrote it down somewhere but the moments aren’t carved into the essence of my heart the way they were with the first one.

Realizing I can’t remember some of those moments because I was moving through life in a daze?  That’s a sobering thought.

I don’t tend to hang myself with guilt or beat myself up with regret.  But I do tend to let my past guide me.

These relationships I have over here?  They’re not just important to me.  They’re my lifeline.  These kids might temporarily be mine before they head off into the wide world but they are my saving grace, my road to sanctification.

How will I possibly live with myself if I don’t nurture the little lives that I labored to bring into this world?

My littlest one is almost 4.  Life has slowed down considerably for me.  We can actually travel and not have to listen to screaming thirty minutes in.  No more diapers or nursing babies.  No more meltdowns eagerly awaiting naptimes.  I’ve got two boys that I can’t remember the last time they asked me to pick them up or hold them.  I only hear “Mommy watch this” occasionally these days.  My once upon a time toddlers now help around the house and ease the workload of this busy mama so life doesn’t feel so overwhelming.

But I’ve spent the past few weeks looking at them wondering how the last few years impacted our relationships.  I know I was here physically, but my goodness, mentally I was exhausted.  Some days I felt like I had nothing left in me to give.  I can’t honestly say that I paused long enough to listen to each of them.  There was always so much laundry and cooking and cleaning and the minute one began to talk, another began to cry.  I literally spent the last few years divided, not really giving fairly to any of them.

Of course it doesn’t help that on top of all my own self-induced responsibilities, I also had the distraction of an outside world.  Text messages, social calls, Facebook groups, the world of internet.  It all moves so fast today.  So very fast.

So how do I nurture the relationships that give me purpose in such a fast paced world?

I have a vision of what I want our relationship to look like twenty years from now.  And so I choose.  I choose to slow down.  To stop and savor.  To be intentional.  Intentional in my plans.  Intentional in my conversations.  Intentional in the moments I share with these darling little beings.  Intentional because that’s how a goal is met…one intention at a time.

If you want to be a pro soccer player someday, you train.  Intentionally.  You don’t spend your days eating bags of potato chips and greasy hamburgers.  You don’t take weeks off  to stay indoors reading books about soccer.  You play soccer.  It’s one training session at a time.  One intentional day at a time.

Relationships are no different.

Sometimes those intentional moments require a complete break from the fast paced beat of our everyday lives.  Sometimes it’s as simple as turning off the phone.  Other times it’s as simple as choosing them over some imagined priority.  It’s always as easy as looking into their eyes when they’re talking to me.  Listening to them when they express themselves (even when that’s done through a cascade of tears or a fit of anger).  Holding them even when they think they don’t need to be held.

Those things pressing into me from every side.   Most of those things will still be there tomorrow.  They’ll still be there twenty years from now.  But these relationships I’m building?  That’s happening now.  And I have to choose.  If I want those to look like I imagine in twenty years, then I have to choose to be intentional today.