Because Showing Up is Half the Battle.

My new season of life has meant scaling back on a lot of things. You’ve probably noticed how limited my blogging has become in the past six months. Entering this phase of life has also seen cutbacks in almost every area of my time. Less coffee dates with girlfriends. Less volunteering. Less free time. Less saying “yes.”

But in my exhaustion, I think I ended up scaling back WAY too much. The first few months it makes sense to pull back when your main goal each day is to survive and maybe shower. But I’ve put a lot of my relationships on hold and I’m ready to jump back in.

Lesson learned: Facebook and Instagram are no real substitutes for actually being present in relationships.

There are definitely positives to be found in social media. I can connect and share with hundreds of friends and acquaintances at one time. I can literally watch my college roommate grow with her children in California. I can stay in the loop with my childhood Girl Scout troop. But there’s no real substitute for a phone call, snail mail, or in-person communication. I just skyped with a friend I hadn’t seen in almost ten years. I met her daughters and we laughed and reminisced for over an hour. It was so much better than writing “I miss you” notes on a social media wall.

I have a list of excuses a mile long for choosing ease and convenience over authentic and present:

“They didn’t send me a card last year, so I guess we are phasing that out.”

“I’m sure they are out to dinner with friends celebrating. I don’t want to interrupt.”

“A text is less intrusive.”

“I don’t think adding one more person will make the event that much more special.”

“They won’t even notice I’m not there.”

This weekend I flew to San Antonio to attend my cousin’s wedding. I was in the state for less than 24 hours. My husband stayed with the baby, we juggled schedules, and just decided I should go.

I love all of my cousins. That alone is incentive enough to attend a family wedding. And sure, Grant flew to Arizona to come to my wedding a few years ago. And also, he was in an accident three years ago that makes his very presence on this earth a miracle. Every indication pointed to making this wedding a priority.

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 preset

I spent less than 5 minutes total conversing with Grant this weekend. There were lots of guests at the wedding and I know he would have understood if I couldn’t have attended, and yet every challenge to be there was worth it.

I am so glad I went.

**But trust me, this is not a bragging moment, because I deeply regret NOT going to several other life events for friends and family.

Sometimes I let the excuses win out, and that’s a shame. I’m trying to think of an instant when I regretted showing up. I honestly cannot think of a single instance.

My surprise 30th Birthday party was just about the best of all my birthdays. The thoughtfulness of my husband was evident. He kept an incredible surprise, planned the event, and ordered the food. The gifts, cookie cake, and even favorite restaurant didn’t touch my heart that evening, although they were all wonderful. My tears fell that evening when I looked at the wide array of friendships represented in the room. I was astonished that several knew no one but me and yet they still came. Their presence was a huge gift and meant more to me than any wrapped present on a table.

Loving well may take extra time and effort, but it is always well worth it. Loving well doesn’t have to be poetic, perfect, profound, or even alliterative. ;) Simply be there.

This week I hope we all take the time to show up.

Send the card.

Make the call.

Surprise them.

RSVP.

Clear your afternoon.

Invite them to lunch.

Ask them into your mess.

 

You won’t regret it.

“Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.” (Romans 12:15, NIV)

Following,
Ginger

Step #3: Limit Distractions

season

I sat staring at the screen for several minutes.

The boxes were doing their little dance as the dark xs taunted me. Surely deleting the apps wasn’t THAT big of a deal, but the longer I took to make them vanish, the more I realized I was addicted to distraction. Sitting in waiting rooms, that two minutes before the oven timer goes off, while rocking my daughter to sleep… anything that could be a mindless activity begged for the glow of a small screen and updates from the world around me.

 distractions

I’ve been thinking about making a big technology change for the past month. Conviction about the amount of time spent pinning, scanning, and promoting took root in my heart and wouldn’t let go . The dinner table and church have always been technology free zones for me, but I began to wonder why I wasn’t willing to carve out sacred spaces in every area of my home and life. I don’t want my daughter growing up staring at the back of my phone.

It’s easy to talk about wanting to make changes, but so much harder to do. When I first started journaling about this series, 12 Steps to Keeping our Hearts in Tune, I listed out “limit distractions.” I wasn’t sure what it would look like, but I knew it definitely involved less screen time. A majority of my work requires time on the computer and posting through social media, so the practical how to make this happen appeared nearly impossible.

There is nothing wrong with social media at face value. I’ve just watched it become an area of temptation in my own life. It can keep me from prayer and time in the Word. It would have me substitute deep friendships for casual connections, compare my life with others, and ignite jealousy, worry, self-righteousness, and the need to please. Why do I turn to this thing, this technology like a drug?

I have to post this!

I wonder what I’ve missed in the past 3 hours?

My food looks amazing. People should see this.

My Bible Study on Nehemiah hit the nail on the head.

Making changes in our lives can be hard, but it’s our refusal to change the places God is asking us to change that keeps us stuck on the dismal merry-go-round we’re too afraid to jump off yet too sick to stay on. We hold on tightly only to pass by the same old stuff exactly where it was at the last time we swirled past… Reading through the Jew’s public confession and their commitment to do things differently has reminded me of how vital follow-through of obedience is to our repentance. (Kelly Minter, Nehemiah: A Heart that Breaks)

I knew what I had to do when I read Kelly’s words and the response of the Israelites in Nehemiah chapters 9-10.

stepStep #3. Limit distractions.

I can tell you with conviction that  following through in obedience is already tuning my heart only five days into the process.

I deleted them.

Good-bye Twitter. Good-bye Facebook. Good-bye Pinterest.

They still exist on my computer, but there’s something SO freeing about not having them on my phone. I’m not forbidden from checking or using them, I’m simply removing the distraction that was affixed to my hand. Now my phone is a camera and a telephone. My time with my daughter is WITH my daughter. I don’t read a passage thinking about which verse I’m going to stop and tweet.

These 5 days have been WONDERFUL. I wonder why I was too scared to try this sooner… the fear of boredom? I was addicted to distraction.

I just pulled up Facebook for the first time in three days. I scanned for 4 minutes, liked a few things, and then I was done. I closed my computer and got back to living my life … not so I could post about it or Instagram it, but just so I don’t miss out.

I talked to my husband about this distraction craving. We’ve determined to keep the TV off completely at least 2 nights a week. We spend our time relaxing and decompressing in a different way. The appeal is already wearing off and I couldn’t be happier.

Those are some of the ways we are actively removing distractions this season. I know this could look differently for each of us, but the challenge remains: if you want your heart to be tuned to sing His grace, limit the distractions that keep you from experiencing your own life and hearing from the Lord. This time is too short and too precious to spend it living vicariously through anyone or anything else.

“Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.”

– Robert Robinson, 1735-1790

 

Following,
Ginger

To catch up on the rest of the series:

Tune My Heart

Step #1. Demonstrate Gratitude

Step #2. Today’s Manna

 

Almost July

Hey Friends –

Sorry this isn’t the most exciting post you will ever read. This is just a reminder for  those of you who have been following along through Google Reader.

Google Reader is vanishing from our lives on July 1st. (Why Google Reader instead of Google+, the world will never know.) I wanted to suggest a few other alternatives for keeping up with the blogs you follow (cough, including this one), just in case this is news to you.

1. Subscribe via e-mail. Check out the column on the right side of the page and you will find a little box that reads “Subscribe to Blog via e-mail.” This one is super easy. Enter your e-mail address and receive posts to your inbox any time there is new content on this site.

image

2. Feedly“Feedly is a lovely, easy-to-use service for two categories of people: those who once used Google Reader, and those who’ve never heard of it. Because if you’re still starting your morning with a zigzag through a standard set of Web sites, you’re wasting time and energy. Feedly is what you needly.” – David Pogue, The New York Times

3. BloglovinBloglovin’ helps people discover and follow their favorite blogs. Today bloglovin’ has over 1.5 million members. The good news is that Bloglovin’ offers a really simple feature for importing the list of blogs you currently follow on Reader into your profile with Bloglovin’.

4. Have you found something else you like? Please chime in the comments section.

And speaking of July – this is the month I’m due to deliver a baby. Potentially even in the next week. (WHAT? Yes.) I will do my best to get back to blogging when I can, but I will more likely post little tidbits on my Facebook page until life is back to “normal.” Here’s the link if you want to stay in the loop. Just like the page and select “get notifications” under the LIKE.

Happy Thursday!

Ginger

#AmIpretty

heart

I mentioned yesterday my concern about the LIKE ME aspect of social media. I’ve been thinking about for a while but it has really come to a point as I consider what it will be like to the mother of a young woman in just a few years.

After I speak at schools and conferences I end up with lots of new young followers through Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. I’m honored that you/they have any desire to see pictures of the chalkboard in my kitchen or the thoughts I share in 140 characters. But I’ve also noticed how few young people utilize the privacy settings available. Even though I live a fairly public existence on-line, I am very careful and cautious about the personal information that I do share. The majority of my teen friends on Instagram typically have a thousand followers. When I asked them about the account they could tell me to the precise number of how many people were following and liking on that day.

And then I saw this piece on Good Morning America.

I don’t know about you, but I find using tags like #hotornot, #beautypageant, and #amIpretty to be alarming, to say the least, especially when that’s being asked by young women to friends and even strangers.

Has Instagram become a self-esteem meter? Are we, in essence, asking Social Media to tell us that we are pretty?

I know I’ve only addressed teens at this point (none of my friends in their 30’s are posting “selfies” every day), but I want to acknowledge that the world of “likes” can be a dark addiction for any age. When we seek the approval of our peers to the detriment of our contentment, that’s a dangerous place to be.

So do we toss it all out the window in hopes of finding a cure? Maybe. I definitely admire people who take a step back from Social Media or who have never wandered into the format. But personally I find value in being able to connect with my friends and family who are so far away. I love seeing pictures of weddings I miss. I treasure the baby pictures. (I’m going to try to not go overboard when I’m a mommy. Hold me to it.) Facebook is one of my favorite ways to send my brother a laugh and let him know I’m thinking about him. But I also know that comparing myself to others is a real option when we are all checking out the “best-foot-forward” images of our idealistic lives.

So here’s my challenge to all of us. A few questions to consider before you post:

1. Why are you posting this picture? I try to ask myself this each and every time I hit “post.” I let this question lead me to really consider my motives. Is this true, noble, lovely, or excellent? (Sometimes it’s just funny, and that’s cool too.) Am I looking for an emotional shot in the arm through likes and comments? Am I seeking emotional empathy through a website?

A lot of times I will sit with a photo for 20 minutes and then decide not to hit post. Perhaps I’m over-thinking everything, but in a world that tells me to post everything, I just have to put my foot down and sometimes say NO.

2. Is this humor at the expense of someone else? There’s laughing WITH someone and then there is laughing AT someone. I post funny and ridiculous video clips on my brother’s timeline all the time. It’s our little shared love language. But I’m also careful not to let that humor spill over into being mean. Screaming goats = funny. Celebrities embarrassing themselves while drunk = unkind.

3. Am I posting out of anger? I’ve blogged about this one before. If we are to be known as a people of love we should really be slow to post. May our words (typed or spoken) bring joy and encouragement to anyone listening or following.

“Watch the way you talk. Let nothing foul or dirty come out of your mouth. Say only what helps, each word a gift.” Ephesians 4:29, MSG

4. Have I checked my security settings lately? I had to throw this out there. Be careful about geotagging your location. With whom are you sharing your daily routine and schedule? I don’t want to become someone overtaken by fear, but at the same time, I want to be smart and protect the privacy of my family. Who can see your pictures? Why do you need them to see your pictures?

5. Am I looking for social media to boost my self-esteem? Even if you won every Instagram beauty pageant and received 300 likes on your next post, my guess is that the high would only last for so long. The “likes” of others can never fill us up. Genuine peace and contentment come when we love ourselves without the approval of others. But true self-worth is found when we see ourselves through the eyes of our Creator.

“The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart.” 1 Samuel 16:7, NIV

At the end of the day, my hope and desire is to run everything I present to the world through this filter…

Am I saying this now to win the approval of people or God? Am I trying to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be Christ’s servant.” Galatians 1:10, NIV

Following,
Ginger

LIKE ME

Are we living for likes?

Tumblr. Instagram. Snapshot. Twitter. Facebook.

There are so many different avenues to get your face, life, and thoughts out for the whole world to see. There’s something exciting about connecting with so many people, but I think there’s also a hidden drug in the midst of all this “self” content.

Has your day ever been made or broken by likes or comments? Does your self-worth swell and blossom with every new follower? In just five short years we have become a like-obsessed society, myself included.

This week we are going to discuss the pitfalls and positives that social media has to offer… and why it matters.

LIKE

I’m curious. What’s your social media media of choice? What do you check first when you log on each day? (My typical order: E-mail, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Flipboard, and then maybe Pinterest.)

Following and hopefully learning,
Ginger