By: Ashley Nilsson
Living intentionally has been a concept that has been popping up around me for the past few years, it’s becoming a more mainstream way of life that helps us deal with the constant busyness prescribed by our culture at large. I thought this was a new concept that I would have to figure out and study, but as I delved deeper into the way to live intentionally I realized it has really been something I was raised in from a young age, I just didn’t have a name for it.
When I was 5 years old and about to enter Kindergarten, my parents realized they had a choice, either to put me into public school like so many others or to follow what they felt was their calling from God and teach me at home. My mother has a teaching degree and had seen how the public school system worked. She came in contact with many homeschooling families around that time and knew that this was the road she was called to go down. She has homeschooled my 4 of my 7 siblings and I from kindergarten through 12th grade. Next year she will celebrate her 25th year of homeschooling (yes, she is still at it with my my three youngest siblings and yes she is a saint!)
This “unique” upbringing taught me to value family time, creativity in play, and how to invest in my passions. Our home was centered around learning and allowing each of us to explore the things that perked our interests. I developed my deep and abiding love of sewing and creating from the tender age of 7 years old while reading “The Little House on the Prairie.” I was given a Little House themed craft book and sewed my first 9 patch quilt and bonnet that I wore until it fell apart. Over the years I had several teachers and classes that taught me to be the seamstress I am today. Now I get to share that knowledge as a sewing teacher myself and I am forever grateful not only to the many people who shared their expertise with me, but also to my mother for recognizing that this extracurricular activity was worth pursuing.
I was allowed time and access to teachers who helped me to pursue my varied interests like my talent for music with piano and singing lessons, my affinity for the written word was grown with dedicated english tutors, and my love affair with all things France was deepened with french lessons. If there was anything my mother knew she couldn’t teach us, she found someone who could. She covered all of our math, history, and science needs, but the creative arts she farmed out so that we would get the best we could out of our instruction. I had a well rounded and varied education that set me up for a very successful college career and gives me a high appreciation for independent learning.
These values that have been ingrained in me since I was a child have spilled into my life as a mother and wife. Cooking meals is how I show love and sitting together as a family to share a meal I’ve made are some of the happiest moments of my life. My three year old daughter constantly amazes people with her vocabulary because my husband and I value talking with her and teaching her how to communicate with our world. Putting down our phones or letting the chores wait because its “family snuggle time” is my favorite way to show our daughter that she matters and that spending time together is more important the many tasks we have to accomplish. I want my daughter to have the time to explore her world and her surroundings. To play outside and make up games because she’s bored. I want her to have memories of building towns out of sticks, jumping in mud puddles, and exploring a creek bed in springtime like I do. Making those open ended spaces of time available to her and to our family is what I think of when I envision the life I want to create for my family. We strive to put our family first, sometimes that means sacrificing things we’d like to add to our busy schedules, sometimes that means doing things that are very difficult so that the whole of the family is supported and cared for, but at the end of the day my husband and I put our family and its needs first.
When I began to hear this idea of “intentional living” I immediately started looking for the formula, the checklist I had to tick off in order to say I was “living intentionally.” But as I sat down to write this piece, trying to measure myself against all of the other Mama’s and intentional living gurus, it dawned on me that I’ve been living this way since I was 5 years old. The values of taking time for yourself, slowing down, choosing with purpose your activities and using your core values as the guiding light for your life have been so ingrained in me that I almost forgot they were there. This is just how I was raised.
By no means is my family or I perfect at this. I remember times of chaos as my mother attempted to keep the schedules of 8 different children in check at one time, but what was at the heart of our family and what I want to keep at the heart of mine, is this: our time is precious and we get to choose how it is spent, so let’s spend it well.