Living with Intention in a Chaotic World

January 31, 2014 | 19 comments

A beautiful woman sat across the table from me every week throughout our study on the Book of James. I spied on her, sneaking glances over the top of my workbook as she tilted her head and flipped through the Scriptures with carefree ease. It was as if she could find Ezra as easily as Genesis. I noticed that she had one of those fancy new Bibles with QR-codes on the pages.

Plus, she’s got great hair. And a gorgeous smile. And I’m tempted to be a little jealous.

The Good Book says Moses came down from the mountain with a shiny face, because he had been in the presence of God. Call me crazy, but I get the feeling that sort of thing still happens in 2014. If you took one look at this woman, you’d believe it, too. You can’t buy that look at the Clinique counter.

This woman wears her love for Scripture on her face, and let me tell you: she lights up an Iowa country church’s fellowship-hall when she starts talking about the Lord.

I rested my chin on my hands and thought to myself: I want me some of that.

Someone read a passage from 1 Peter, and then, she put her hands flat down on her Bible, and gasped out loud, as if this was the first time she’d ever read such a beautiful thing in all her ever-lovin’ life.

Even though – and I’m not exaggerating here – it was probably the 651st time she had read it.

Just so you know, she’s been at this Bible-reading thing awhile. Did I mention that this beauty queen is 91 years old?

Meet Almarie.

(She’s got that high-tech Bible because she’s worn out so many of her other Bibles.)

Almarie’s countenance changed, though, when we began discussing a certain passage that tells us that without deeds, our faith is dead, flat-lined, lifeless, pushing up daisies.

The sparkle in her eyes faded, and the corners of her mouth drooped a bit. What could a 91-year-old lady in an assisted-living complex practically do? she asked.

We could tell she felt a bit frustrated,  so we reached across the table with our words and our hands to assure her:  You have been, and continue to live a life of intention — right where you are. 

It’s easy for any of us to believe otherwise. Isn’t it?

Isn’t there an Almarie in each of us? We’re looking across tables, even at Bible studies, comparing notes and assuming that everyone else has got this whole thing about life on Planet Earth figured out. The culture is hawking the idea that  “living intentionally” means making a name for yourself, climbing higher, adding another line to the resume. We might think it means seeing our names on the Great Big Book of Who’s Who.

We get things even more twisted up, thinking that’s what God wants of us, too. Like He’s tallying up our “success” on a dry-erase board in the Throne Room. Like it’s all some big contest.

Living intentionally can’t be measured by scorecards. Or good deeds. Or by the ladder rungs beneath our feet.

It’s like what Tsh says:

“To live intentionally, we had to make intentional choices. And if we really wanted to live slower, … it would mean living contrary to what the American culture surrounding us declared was normal. It would be hard, but living well doesn’t mean not doing hard things.”

Notes from a Blue Bike: The Art of Living Intentionally in a Chaotic World

Sometimes the hardest thing we can do … is to stop DOING so much. Our culture places great value on our busy-ness, like our worth lies somewhere between the lines of our calendar boxes.

Living intentionally means FIRST knowing that my worth isn’t tied to my deeds, or my chaotic schedule, my grand to-do list, my tally of works, or my right to tell people, “It’s been a busy week.”

Living intentionally begins with listening for the call of God on your one beautiful life. Living intentionally means laying down our own agendas — trading our “to-do lists” for more “to-be lists.” 

Almarie knew that. She’s lived that. But that night at Bible study, she needed a few girlfriends to remind her. (Don’t we all?)

A few minutes later, Almarie told us about what happens at 3:30 a.m. Every. Single. Night. The sparkle returned to her eyes as she spoke:

“The Lord wakes me up. Every night, He wakes me up. When I go to bed at night, I am so happy because I know He’s going to wake me up at 3:30.”

When God rings, Almarie answers. She gets out of bed, picks up her Bible, walks to her easy-chair and starts reading where she left off the night before. She reads, and she prays. For a whole hour.

“The Lord brings people’s names to mind as I’m reading,” she said. “I know when I’m done, after about an hour, because I feel such a peace come over me.” She shook her head, like she didn’t quite know how else to describe such a holy encounter.

“And then I go right back to bed, and I don’t wake up ’til morning.”

Intentional. Beautiful. Holy.


Notes From a Blue Bike, Tsh Oxenreider

This post is part of the Blue Bike Blog Tour, which I’m thrilled to be part of.

To learn more and join us, head here

Notes From a Blue Bike is written by Tsh Oxenreider, founder and main voice of The Art of Simple. It doesn’t always feel like it, but we DO have the freedom to creatively change the everyday little things in our lives so that our path better aligns with our values and passions. Grab your copy here.



by | January 31, 2014 | 19 comments


  1. Sharon O

    so beautiful I love the old seniors, my own mother in law had her prayer time every morning at nine and she didn’t waiver, not a phone call or a knock on the door would stop her. Time with God was important to her. She is now living with him.

    • dukeslee

      What a legacy. Thanks for sharing, Sharon.

  2. Tsh Oxenreider

    I love this, Jennifer! What a great story about such a legacy. There’s something generations past understood well that’s so hard for us to comprehend; that life is so much more about being than doing. Thank you for sharing this today. Love it so much.

    • dukeslee

      Thank you for your kind words, and mostly for your example, Tsh. You’re leading the way. So excited for your book. If my plane lands in time in Austin, Deidra and I will see you at your book-release party! Woot!

  3. Jessica

    This is so beautiful! Almarie is such a wonderful example of an intentional life. I also love the idea of a ‘to-be’ list!

    • dukeslee

      She is a delightful woman. Beautiful, in every way.

  4. ro elliott

    living intentional no matter our age…my dad is 89…He has gained strength spiritually with each passing year…he too wakes up from about 1-2 each night…he says it the best time for him to meditate with God. As I have turned a big corner…God has planted a deeper desire…to finish stronger than when I started…living more intentional now…hopefully will only make it easier with each passing year.

    • dukeslee

      To finish stronger than when I started… GOOOOOD stuff right there, Ro.

  5. David Rupert

    I love that she’s thrilled to wake up at 330 am. That’s what you call a saint! and “when God rings, Almarie answers.” There are many times I turn off all the phones at night — or when I’m busy. Do I do the same with god? “Call me later”

  6. floyd

    Awesome tribute to a beautiful lady of God. Those are the type of people that are to be revered and looked up to. What a wonderful gift from our Father she is… Well done, I’m inspired as if I were studying with you.

  7. Lori Tintes Hartmann

    Now this is absolutely beautiful and amazing! So here I’ve been beating myself up because I can’t do things for people like I used to because I have chronic pain from a neck and skull injury and have some other health issues that cause me to be exhausted and we are raising 2 grandchildren. I keep saying when I feel better or when they are older I will..but in the meantime I spend time praying for people. When I am up at night in pain, I pray for people that I know and don’t know that live with pain, have trouble sleeping because of it and pray for those that have health issues. It doesn’t seem like much in comparison to the things I used to be able to do but you have made me think differently about this now. Thank you for encouraging me today! PS Please give Almarie a hug for me!

  8. Karin Madden

    Jennifer, this is awesome. I don’t quite know how I ended up here today, but I am grateful. As I started to read about Almarie, I thought of my mom. She is 84 and she has Alzheimer’s. I was worried a few years ago that she wouldn’t understand the things I told her I was learning about God, but then Micah Campbell (from Proverbs 31) reminded me that God speaks to us all – no matter the state of our minds. Please tell Almarie that though she sits in assisted living and wonders what she can practically “do” – she just “did” for me. She reminded this military wife and mom of 6 that when God wakes me at 3:33 am (and He does!), all I have to do is “be” with Him. Thanks for sharing Almarie here.

  9. Ginger L

    That was absolutely beautiful…What a wonderful saint to look up to on this journey. Thank you so much for sharing – that helped get my weekend off to a meaningful start!

  10. Rachael

    I have an Almarie in my life. Her name is Jean and she is just precious. I want to be like that when I am 90…radiate God’s glory from being in His presence. I have already started practicing drawing near:)

  11. pastordt

    Beautifully done, Jen. I’m working my way thru Tsh’s fine book now and hope to join the tour by the first of the week. Love to read about this saint/friend of yours. smooches to you.

  12. suzie Treloar

    Jenn this is so wonderful. In an age where we don’t give near the reverence to our elderly peers that we should. There is so much wisdom there. I want and pray for an Almarie in my life and I want to be her to someone else now and when/if I go on to be her age. Thank you my Haiti friend 🙂

  13. Paula Gamble

    Oh, I LOVE THIS! Precious Almarie. Wow. What a sweet soul and her deep love for Jesus is so inspiring. And that He wakes her up every morning to pray and pour His peace over her is so beautiful. It’s like He enters her room and puts His hand of approval on her and just smiles at her, and says, “that’s my girl! Look at her. Isn’t she beautiful?” How Jesus loves us even in our little corners of the world – He meets us right where we are. And even if we never leave our room or home, we can do His work. How sweet are Almarie’s prayers to His ears. Precious offerings.

  14. Constance Ann Morrison

    I want to be like Almarie when I grow up!

  15. Amy Bennett

    Almarie is a wonderful example of living life with intention. Love this post, Jennifer.



  1. How to Write Creative Book Reviews - Kindred Grace - […] Example: “Living with Intention in a Chaotic World” a review of Notes from a Blue Bike from Jenn… […]

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest