Read an Excerpt
the Intentional WomanA Guide to Experiencing the Power of Your Story
By Carol Travilla Joan C. Webb
NAVPRESSCopyright © 2002 Carol Travilla and Joan C. Webb
All right reserved.
Chapter OnePrep Steps
HOW CAN I DISCOVER THE POWER OF MY LIFE STORY?
Key Verse: We pray for you all the time-pray that our God will make you fit for what he's called you to be, pray that he'll fill your good ideas and acts of faith with his own energy so that it all amounts to something. (2 Thessalonians 1:11, MSG)
If I live intentionally, being true to my own personality, serving out of my God-given giftedness and calling, I no longer feel a need to envy anyone else's career, marriage, ministry, talents, or mission.
The day I (Joan) jotted these liberating words into my journal, I sighed with relief. I was forty years old. Believing this truth gradually changed my life. Although I rarely voiced envy, I was secretly disappointed that others had fulfilled their dreams but I had not. I longed to live out the purposes and desires that God had planted deep within my heart. Yet I was afraid.
Would God (and others) think I was selfish if I took the time to nurture my interests and gifts? Could God use my past experiences and accomplishments (even though some were not what I had wanted to do) to help me determine how to live moreeffectively today? Could I be certain that it was God who was encouraging me to make changes in my life?
During this questioning time in my life I watched Carol Travilla teach a Sunday school class at Wooddale Church in Eden Prairie, Minnesota. I stepped beyond my apprehension about what she might think of me and telephoned her, asking her to meet me for lunch. She agreed. Although she did not know me, she listened intently to my story. I told her about my recent decision to walk away from my business and shared how burnout had left me feeling empty and confused. I shared my desire to escape from the people-pleasing and action-obsessed lifestyle that was so familiar to me. I told her that I wanted to live for God-courageously and intentionally.
Friends Mentoring Friends
Several days later Carol telephoned to ask me to do some interior design work at her office. Our relationship began. As weeks turned into months and years, I learned that Carol had experienced difficult growing times, also. She identified with my passion to live "on-purpose" for God. Our connection grew into a friendship that Carol describes as "iron sharpening iron." We have a stimulating, motivating effect on one another. Carol is an extrovert, energized by interaction with others. I am an introvert, gaining strength and vitality from my alone times. We mentor and sharpen one another and therefore have become wiser, more intentional women.
We believe women can help each other develop into the persons God designed them to be. We have witnessed and experienced this exciting mentoring phenomenon in our own relationship and in the relationships of other women. We have come to understand that many women want to learn, share, and live intentionally, but feel too busy with their jobs, families, homes, church, and volunteer work to become involved in programs to develop lengthy life-purpose plans.
A Reusable Five-Step Process
In response to this obvious need, we have developed a process for helping one another learn to live meaningful, intentional, and God-honoring lives. You now hold this process tool in your hands. We hope to reduce the mystery and intimidation that often accompany trying to determine what to do with your life. Our interactive workbook offers you an inviting, practical, and reusable five-step method for:
Recognizing the power of your personal life story and God's goodness in developing your story Discovering a next-step action focus for intentional living right now-in your current life stage
You may have the desire and time to delve more deeply into the topic of designing your personal life goals. If so, you may use this workbook in conjunction with other helpful manuals and technical books on the subject.
We wish we could share with each of you personally, but because that is impossible, we designed a way for us to work together. In the pages of this interactive workbook we share our own experiences, as well as the stories of friends. We will guide you as you gain clarification about:
Who you are now: your present roles, temperament, and life stage. Where you have been: your past experiences and accomplishments. How knowing who you are and where you have been helps you experience the power of your life story, develop a current life focus, and become intentional about your personal and spiritual growth.
How learning to appreciate God's goodness in producing your unique life script can help you love Him more.
It is our prayer that you will find joy and direction for living intentionally at each season of your life.
What to Expect
Each time you complete the exercises in this workbook, you will gain new insight about your current life stage and help in making wise choices for right now. There is no limit to the number of times you can work through this process. Here's what you can expect to do as you work through this reusable five-step process:
Step One: Come As You Are Today
In this step, you will complete exercises that help you answer the following questions:
What is good about my life today? What concerns me about my life right now? What is lacking in my life? How do I want God to help me?
Step Two: Celebrate Your Yesterdays
In step two, you will complete exercises that help you answer these questions:
Is there power in my life story?
What have I enjoyed throughout my life?
Who has influenced me during my life?
How have my past experiences shaped me?
Step Three: Commit It All To God
In this step, you will complete exercises that help you answer these questions:
What are my unique characteristics and preferences? What is God teaching me about myself? How can I commit it all to God?
Step Four: Consider Your Choices
In step four, you will complete exercises that help you answer these questions:
What are my opportunities and options?
What are my current roles?
What are my unique stressors and supports?
Step Five: Clarify Your Next Steps
In the final step of this process, you will answer these questions:
What holds me back?
How can I join God in living out of the power of my life story?
What action step will I take?
Committing to one action step at a time leads to an entire lifetime of purposeful living. It helps you take personal responsibility for your own growth and assists you in deciding how to spend your time and energy right now.
Throughout this workbook, each time you are asked to finish a sentence, respond to a question, or complete an exercise, you will see the following symbol:
[??] 1. As you anticipate working through these steps, begin by completing this sentence: I am interested in becoming focused and intentional because ...
[??] 2. Complete this sentence: At this stage in my life, I look forward to ...
We suggest that you ask another woman to join you in experiencing this five-step method for becoming an intentional woman who lives out of the power of her story. You might meet for breakfast (before work) or during your lunch hour to share your answers and inspiration. Or you could start a women's focus group at your church, with your neighbors, or with the mothers of your child's classmates. If it's impossible to meet face-to-face, you might consider doing the exercises on your own and then connecting for interaction with another woman on the telephone or via e-mail.
We have designed the exercises and tools in this workbook to be flexible. Perhaps you or your group would like to do one step per week for a six-week study. Or maybe you would like to use the book in a Sunday school class or weeknight setting. In this case, you may wish to spend two weeks on each step, making it a twelve-week program. Or you and your friends might choose to do all the steps during a weekend retreat. We encourage you to come just as you are today and join us on this lifelong adventure of becoming an intentional woman.
If you're using this workbook on your own, you're still not alone. Throughout the book you'll find boxes containing the real-life IW (Intentional Woman) stories of others who are traveling with you on this road.
Part B: WHAT IS INTENTIONAL LIVING, ANYWAY?
"I feel so unfocused and disorganized!" said Laura. She had just been downsized from her job, moved to a new city, and was trying to decide whether to get married again. "How can I manage all this change in my life and still commit to a new relationship?" she asked. "It's hard for me to be intentional. I wonder what in the world that is, anyway."
Perhaps, like Laura, you wonder what we mean by the term "intentional woman." An intentional woman works at becoming proactive instead of just letting life happen to her. The opposite of being intentional is being haphazard or purposeless about your thoughts, decisions, and actions-merely reacting to life's unexpected circumstances.
The intentional woman with a heart for God has a sense of God's purpose for her and is living true to her personality and giftedness. She accepts what she cannot change about her season and circumstances, making courageous and deliberate decisions about the things she can change. She is not self-absorbed to the point of leaving others out of her life, nor does she live her life through or for others. The attitudes and pressures of other people do not unduly influence her. She is focused and directed, not floundering or driven.
Because today's Christian woman is too busy just to keep adding to her already overwhelming to-do list, it's understandable that she might ask the questions, Why should I spend energy trying to live intentionally? Why is it important for a woman to clarify her aspirations, discover and develop her God-given abilities, and make intentional plans about her next steps?
The Key Reason for Living Intentionally
The key reason for living intentionally is to glorify God as the person He created you to be. In honoring your uniqueness, you come before your Creator and Savior with freedom and integrity. When I (Carol) was a child, I remember being taught that the "chief end of man" is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever. I sensed that my Sunday school teachers thought this was an important principle, yet it was confusing to me. What did they mean? And how was I supposed to accomplish this directive?
As I matured in my faith, I realized these instructors were trying to tell me that the ultimate purpose of every human being-man, woman, or child-is to praise and honor God with the life he or she is given. Gradually, this principle made more sense to me. It meant accepting my uniqueness-the way God created me-and pulling out all the stops to develop my gifts and use them deliberately to serve God here on earth.
Integrity grows as you allow God to guide you in becoming more honest with yourself, others, and God. Then you can live each new day to enjoy, honor, and worship God as the person He designed you to be.
Four Benefits of Living Intentionally
Benefit One: Develop Confidence And Self-Respect.
Many women long to connect with their possibilities. Because you are reading this book, you are probably one of these women. God created you with unique temperament traits, interests, and gifts. You have past experiences and potential accomplishments like no one else.
As you cooperate with God and accept responsibility for your adult choices, emotions, and behavior, you take positive steps toward living intentionally. Once you believe that you can change the things about your life over which you have control-in addition to accepting the things you cannot change-you are on the way to increasing self-respect. You gain renewed self-worth when you stop blaming your circumstances, family, or friends and start making on-purpose decisions about your immediate and long-range future. When you stay committed to the lifelong pursuit of knowing God and yourself better, you can enter each new day with confidence.
Benefit Two: Gain Focus And Direction.
I (Carol) felt anxious and overwhelmed until I understood the positive aspects of my high-energy and divergent (scattered) way of thinking and living. I felt I was not good enough, not organized enough, and never accomplished enough. When I began to appreciate and accept my fun-loving, people-oriented personality, I gained focus and purpose. I became intentional about using my style to glorify God and serve others.
Benefit Three: Concentrate On God's Idea For Me, Not Someone Else's.
It's important for a woman to discover who God created her to be, and consequently, what He designed her to do, because if she doesn't learn and act on that knowledge, then she will probably end up living someone else's intent for her. It might please the other person, but it will leave her feeling restless, dull, and unfulfilled-disconnected from herself and maybe even from God.
It is sad when we women think and behave as though God's creative idea for us is not enough. We can become more influenced by what another person thinks or wants than by what God purposed. The subtle message is, God, You must be wrong about this. I just can't trust You to do what is best for me.
A woman who lives to please another person may think she has valid reasons for doing so. I (Joan) certainly did. One of my motives for living this way was that I thought God wanted this from me. I read the Bible and knew it directed me to be loving, kind, accepting, and giving. I wanted to obey the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. (See Matthew 7:12.) I did not want to act selfishly or appear unloving. So I hid what I liked, what I really wanted, and what I believed to be right for me when it did not coincide with my husband's ideas.
Benefit Four: Avoid Burnout.
Eventually, this way of life led me into burnout. I felt dead inside. Still, I tried so hard to make everyone happy. I wanted to please God, but my actions proved that someone else was more important to me than God.
I slipped deeper into depression, overwork, and exhaustion until I reluctantly admitted, "I do not want to live this way any longer." Although uncertain about just what to do, I began to be honest with God about my thoughts, emotions, and needs. In turn, God slowly started revealing myself to me. I found I had some misconstrued ideas about how to be a loving and giving person. For the sake of peace I had ignored what God had showed me about myself and instead had adopted my mate's concept for me. I ended up where I didn't want to be.
It startled me to realize that someone else's opinion and agenda pulled more weight with me than God's did. I was hurt and sad that I had unintentionally treated God so poorly. However, my genuine pain gave me the motivation and courage I needed to change my direction and pursue God's intention for me. This is what He had wanted from me all along.
A Biblical Example: Peter's Purpose
We can avoid burnout by focusing on God's purpose for us as individuals. Jesus' interaction with Peter helps us understand this truth.
[??] 1. Read John 21:17-21 (printed here). In the third paragraph of this passage, what did Jesus ask Peter to do?
[??] 2. What was Peter's final response to Jesus in the last paragraph?
Jesus cooked breakfast for Peter, James, John, and a few other disciples. After they finished eating, Jesus started a one-on-one conversation with Peter. "Peter, do you care about me more than all the other important things in your life?" asked Jesus.
"Oh, yes, Lord," answered Peter. "You know I do."
Excerpted from the Intentional Woman by Carol Travilla Joan C. Webb Copyright © 2002 by Carol Travilla and Joan C. Webb . Excerpted by permission.
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