Monday, February 24, 2014

Intentional Relationships

Some friends of ours recently joined an "intentional community".  What is that, you say? When my dad first heard about it he jokingly called them hippies.  But, when googled this definition comes up:  Intentional Community is an inclusive term for ecovillages, cohousing communities, residential land trusts, communes, student co-ops, urban housing cooperatives, intentional living, alternative communities, cooperative living, and other projects where people strive together with a common vision.

Some communities are a little more on the extreme side of things. But there are some that are just a group of people wanting to purposefully live their lives together.  Our friends' community was founded by David Janzen and inspired by a verse in Acts:  " All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave according to what each one needed." - Acts 2:44-45   In theory, I can hardly see fault in that.  But practically speaking, I know with that lifestyle will come unique challenges.  Natural Life Magazine shares some of the pros and cons of raising children in intentional communities.  But says ultimately: Despite the potential difficulties and the undoubted challenges, being a child or a parent in community brings many rewards, and it is an option well worth considering. And The Offbeat Home shares the benefits and challenges of communal living on their blog.  She ends her post with: In closing let me say that I love this lifestyle and hope to live in community until old age. I don't understand those 90 year olds who want to live alone in their own house until they die. I love living around children and young adults, it keeps me flexible and up to date, it gives me a place to share my stories, my skills, my time and my gifts. It makes me smile to hear the children laughing uproariously as they jump on the trampoline. Life is good!

I certainly am not sharing to say anything either way - for or against intentional communities.  I think that living that kind of lifestyle is a matter for each to decide for them-self.   However, for me personally, I would rather have my focus be on intentional relationships and less on the logistics of actual cohabitation.  I don't like the idea of the politics involved with having shared living space or shared money.  I know a lot of people who make poor financial decisions and it is easy for me to detach from that because its none of my business.  But if we were all using the same piggy bank then I would think it was my business how they spent "our" money and I don't want to be in that position.

True friendship multiplies the good in life and divides its evils. Strive to have friends, for life without friends is like life on a desert island… to find one real friend in a lifetime is good fortune; to keep him is a blessing.

This year I am working on building relationships and that takes a lot of work and I have to be intentional about making playdates and girls night outs,  making phone calls and mailing birthday cards, and taking meals or babysitting to make that happen.  

Fun Cheap or Free is doing a series called Focused in 2014 and made this February - Focus on Relationships Calendar for their readers.  They have suggested activities and things for you to do to build relationships all month long.  I love this!  There are some really helpful suggestions.  Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project shared 7 tips for making new friends.  If you think about it there a few key things that should be used to build and strengthen relationships:

be kind - go out of your way to genuinely compliment people and be encouraging.

quality time - be purposeful about planning get togethers with friends and family.  I know we're all busy, but we need to prioritize and make time to spend with those people who are important to us.

communication - find the time to call or email loved ones that don't live close by.  And don't forget that communication is just as much (if not more) about listening as it is talking.

give & take - bring a meal or babysit for someone you know could use the help AND don't be afraid to let people help you in return.

expect ups & downs - its ok to have times when you're disappointed or even angry at one another, we're all human, we will make mistakes.  Forgive and move on.

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work: 10 If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!- Ecclesiastes 4:9-10

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