When Facebook Becomes Your Default

I didn’t realize until I decided to give it up, to take a break for a while. 

Come evening when the world began slow and eyelids started to droop, I decided to put my phone DOWN. Enough is enough. 

And that’s when I noticed it. The quiet moments. The precious lulls in time I had rushed to Facebook to fill. 

As I lay in my bed that night, phone firmly placed on the nightstand instead of my palm, I honestly wondered to myself: well, now what do I do? What do I do with these slivers of time before sleep that are no longer spent staring into a 4.7in window?

Sad, but completely true.

And I began to wonder, if we are compulsively running to Facebook (or Twitter or Instagram or games or Netflix binges or anything else, for that matter) throughout the day…

When do we think?

When do we pray?

When do we listen to the still, small voice of God, if we give every quiet moment over to Facebook?

When do we read, something other then articles about the latest shooting or the 9 Signs You May Have a Leaky Gut or 5 Ways to Repurpose Baby Food Jars? I would read all those kinds of things, thinking I was informing myself and somehow improving my quality of life, but in reality, all I did was add to my already existent health anxiety and create more mental work for myself. 

Repurposing baby food jars? Ain’t nobody got time for that. Seriously.

When do we read, say, the Bible, or something that qualifies as real literature to enrich our lives?

When do we connect with our family without distractions?

When do we stop and listen to the tall tales of a two year old, however crazy sounding they may be, and get an uninterrupted glimpse into her creative little mind?

When do we roll down the window in the car on a summer drive and simply take in the smells of fresh cut grass and charcoal grills, notice the wildflowers, and feel the warm sun on our face, if we never look up?

When do we really talk with our husbands, after the kids are all asleep, so in ten years we still have a clue about the person sitting next to us on the couch?

Because if we're honest about it, there are things that steel our time—reinforce it, build it up, make it better and stronger and firmer, in the Lord and in relationship with others; encourage talents and gifts; help others—and there are things that steal our time—rob us of precious moments, productivity, and sleep that we can never get back.

We only have so much time here, so much time this day, and it’s so easy to waste it. It’s so easy to waste it without even wanting to because it’s become a bad habit.

Laundry that doesn’t get folded, craft supplies that never turn into gifts, books collected that never get finished. That’s just me, and that’s really just the beginning.

I know God is calling me to better things, more fruitful things. Things that I really do want to spend my time on, except I keep getting tripped up by the easy, the available. So Facebook will no longer be my default, and we are parting ways, at least for a time. I may deactivate my account sometime in the near future, but for right now it will just sit idle, collecting notifications.

Instead of checking Facebook at stoplights, waiting to turn left, I'll focus on the road and talk to my kids.

Instead of pulling out my phone in the evening or multitasking during Netflix, I'll look my husband in the eye and talk to him about things that matter.

Instead of plugging in during bath time, I'll sit and watch my kids play.

I'll sit on the front porch, enjoy the breeze, and marvel at the fact that everyone but the baby can ride a bike without training wheels now. I'll wonder where the time has gone and make sure from here on out that I'm not too distracted to notice it slip on by.

I'll stop looking so often at a small 4.7in screen that I fail to see the entire world right in front of my face.

I’ll still be here, though, rambling about my usual stuff and posting pictures, so you know where to find me if you need me. I’d love to connect with you all in the comments, through email, or better yet, in person!

I hope you have a great day, and if you want me to know what you had for lunch, what you’re doing with your kids today, or that you’re pissed off at your husband about something, you’ll have to text me, because otherwise, I won’t notice.

And that’s not such a bad thing.

For the Days Following Easter: Because Real Life Doesn't Look Like Your Perfect Family Photo

The photos started popping up around mid-morning Easter Sunday, as folks nationwide were making the journey to church. Apparently, Easter also has the lesser-known title of National Family Photo Day, second only to Christmas, just in case some of you missed the memo. No greeting cards necessary, however—a simple Facebook post will do.

“Easter with the family!” They say. #happyeaster #heisrisen #lovemyfamily #soblessed

And as I scrolled down the feed, gazing at the abundance of matching pastels, parents holding their babies, and smiles plastered on faces all around, I started to wonder. What if those pictures were instead a sheet of stickers, and I could reach out and peel back their faces to see what was really hidden underneath? What would I find behind the mom and her baby, the couple holding hands, or the smiling children lined up in a row?

Not-So-Happy Easter photo, followed by real life hashtags. #thismorningsucked #iyelledoverstupidthings #theonlyonethatlikesmenowisthebaby #smilingforthepicturewouldseemlikeajoke #butitsnotfunny #letsgotochurch #thankGodhe'srisen #reallyneedthattoday

On the way out the door, I snapped this one of my kids as we jumped in the car to head to church ourselves. Before I realized it was Family Photo Day, of course. I told them to “Smile! It’s Easter! Say Happy Easter!”

Why do we need to take a stupid picture when you can’t even see our outfits? My daughter protested.

Ya, Happy Easter, my son said, with sarcasm dripping from his lips. And their faces said it all.

Because the reality was, it had probably been anything but.

Oh, I tried. I really did. I did my best to have everything set out and ready ahead of time so we wouldn’t have to rush. I was up early and made every effort to be present with the kids and finish getting the house prepped. But within the first hour of being awake, I had to apologize more times then I had fingers on a fist to shake at them.

I lost it over spilled milk and bubbles, got frustrated with missing socks, failed to see the strides of obedience and helpfulness and focused on the mistakes instead. I asked forgiveness, but sometimes the hurt lingers, and so does the stress. It hangs in the air like the smog from a burnt dinner, and it’s hard to fan away the stench. Hours later even, it’s still noticeable.

The devil is in the details on Sunday mornings, and even more so on the Holy Days. He’s like a shark circling in the water, and he can smell the blood of desperate, wounded souls longing for their Savior. By time some of us make it to church, we are utterly exhausted from treading water, just trying to survive.

I dropped the kids off in class and then poked my head into the classroom across the room to see a dear friend sitting on the floor, caring for the little one in her charge.

How was your morning? I asked her.

It was…rough. Really rough. She replied with a nod as she brushed the hair behind her ear, her head hanging now from the weight of the guilt.

I know. Mine too.

Sometimes it’s all you can do to make it there in one piece.

As I stood in the back of the sanctuary, soaking in the worship and doing my best not to burst into tears on the spot, I wondered to myself, almost aloud, why don’t we talk about it??

Amid the toddlers pulled right out of a magazine ad, the delicious-looking family meals and the color-coded ducks in a row, why doesn’t someone say that even Easter Sunday, particularly Easter Sunday, is hard? Any mention of this thing called "real life" seems to be mysteriously absent from all the festivities.

Don’t get me wrong—its not that family shouldn’t be celebrated on Easter—heck, it’s probably one of the few times a year that everyone is dressed up, coordinated, and early enough to pause for a rare moment together. A memory that you will look back on and probably treasure for years to come. I totally get it and even tried to pull it off myself. "Tried" being the operative word there.

And not that there shouldn’t be joy and celebration, worship and praise—our Savior has risen from the dead! But I wonder, as the world looks at our lives—at our photos—if they think they have to be polished and pristine to darken the door of a church. That only perfect looking, color-coordinated, pretty people go there. The ones who have it all together. The ones with all their kids in a row, smiling, and a picture to prove it.

And with the weight of that image on my chest, I was finding it hard to breathe. I for one don’t measure up, but that, my friends, is the beauty of the Resurrection. Because I don’t have to. Christ came down to earth, lived a sinless life, and died a horrible death on a cross for me because of his great love. Not because I did anything for him or because I deserved it or because I showed up at church on Easter Sunday in my best dress.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:6-8

So I guess I’m here to tell you that it’s okay.

It’s okay to have an Easter Sunday, or any Sunday for that matter, that totally sucks by 9:00am. The kind of day where you’d rather just crawl back into bed then face another minute. And it’s okay to talk about it. You don’t have to feel guilty about it, or ungrateful, or hypocritical, or like a total jerk of a Christian.

You're not. You just simply suffer from something they call "being human." We all do.

In fact, if you were to peel back the stickers and peek under the smiles in those perfect family photos, I imagine that you’d find many a crappy Sunday morning hiding there. 

Tenth Avenue North

I’m Tired I’m worn
My heart is heavy
From the work it takes
To keep on breathing
I’ve made mistakes
I’ve let my hope fail
My soul feels crushed
By the weight of this world

And I know that you can give me rest

So I cry out with all that I have left

Let me see redemption win
Let me know the struggle ends
That you can mend a heart
That’s frail and torn
I wanna know a song can rise
From the ashes of a broken life
And all that’s dead inside can be reborn
Cause I’m worn

Mommas, Hide in the Bathroom: The Ankle-biters Are Coming

I started this post quite a long time ago, and it has sat unfinished for almost a year. My husband has been away at various meetings in the evening this week, so I have spent many an hour by my lonesome with the children. It has brought some of the chaotic musings of times past back to the surface, and I decided that now was as good a time as any to send it out into the world.

So, here's the deal: being a mother of young children is hard.

I've been doing a lot of reading about this topic lately, and I've found that the majority of the information out there only serves to make me feel like more of a failure then I already do. Articles about gently and tenderly tucking your little ones into bed at night, holding them in an embrace as they tell you of their hopes and dreams and fall asleep, nestled in the security of your arms...

Those people must only have one child, because clearly, there's not enough of me to make that possible, even if I wanted to.

Here's how bedtime usually goes at my house: 


I simply cannot handle any more craziness. Did you brush your teeth? Check. Do you want to wear pajamas? No? Okay, you can sleep in your dirty school uniform. Read books? No, we don't have time for that tonight. Maybe tomorrow. Hug. Kiss. Dear Jesus, thank you for this day {and thank you that it is now over!!}. Amen. Goodnight. I love you.

{Insert kids not actually going to bed here because they are getting up to poop and tell on each other for pooping and otherwise not going to bed, along with potential yelling and consequences that may follow}

What am I doing wrong??

But it's not just the perfect bedtime moms. There's the super-crafty ones, or the super-spiritual ones, or the super-organized-clean-and-tidy ones, or the homeschooly ones, or the I-would-never-feed-my-children-McDonald's-ever-or-anything-else-unhealthy-make-everything-from-scratch ones. Not that any of those things are bad, but I tend to walk away feeling like I should be doing a much better job than I am. After all, they seem to be able to. And I wonder, what exactly am I doing wrong? And more, what is wrong with me that I can't seem to live up to this "standard?"

With 4 kids ages 7 and under, I feel like I'm in survival mode the majority of the time. I feel ashamed about my mothering skills more days then not, and what's more, I feel ashamed that there are times, many times, that I do not enjoy mothering. Because some days are just hard.

Can I say that out loud?

There are days that feel like you are under siege in your own home. The ankle-biters are coming, and they're preparing to attack. They will invade your life, your time, and your personal space. They tell you when you can sleep and when you need to wake up. They exponentially increase the laundry load by their mere existence. They tell you when you can sit and take a break, and when you cannot possibly sit all day long. They multiply the time it takes to leave the house and the stuff you will need to bring with you in order to do so.

They will confuse you by moving things around the house and by "hiding" important items like phones and car keys. Their volume will be stuck on high when you need to have a two minute phone conversation. Unless the bathroom door has a lock, they will insist on being in there with you, making sure to comment on the fact that you are pooping. They will refuse to eat vegetables, have kicking, screaming tantrums in public, and tell the woman in front of you in the checkout line that they can see her butt crack. Loudly. 

Good Lord, it's a wonder any of us are still sane! As mothers, we are called to lay down our lives for our children. And we gladly do, day after day. Some days with joy, some days just because it needs to be done. Being a mother is hard work, it can quickly leave you on empty if you're not careful

It certainly has its rewards and blessings, and Lord knows I wouldn't trade it for anything. I love my kids, and I love spending time with them and watching them learn and grow and experience life. But I can look back on some dark times along my mothering journey and say that I haven't always enjoyed it. I've struggled with postpartum depression, anger, stress, and loneliness along the way. 

I distinctly remember feeling like I was suspended in a sleepwalking existence. I wasn't fully awake, or fully alive, but I certainly wasn't getting any sleep, either. I had no thoughts, no genuine facial expressions. Just fog. Pregnancy brain that never fully retreated, hormones that took forever to even out, and a life that most of the time resembled a carnival, where the bell of my Strength Tester was constantly being rung, and I was overpowered once again.

Having gone from a carefree, passionate young twenty-something to a stressed out mother of four in about half a decade, I often described myself to my husband as a shell of who I once was. A Mom-blob, as I so eloquently put it.  A visceral mass that just sits there, neither growing nor shrinking, not moving forward or back. Hanging in the scale of time, merely trying to survive and hold shape.

Looking back, I realize that I lost myself here and there along the way. You see, mothering is only supposed to be a PART of our identity. We were women with our own lives, hopes, dreams and goals before that sweet little baby came along, and with their birth, being a mother became part of who we are. But the issue with being a mother of small children, especially several of them, is that a lot of the time, it takes ALL of us. It's all-consuming, exhausting, and doesn't come with personal days.

And I've come to realize that the hardness, the fog, the crazy hormones and stressful bedtimes are all…normal. It's a season of life, and it doesn't last forever. We can spend so much of our time beating ourselves up for all the ways we feel we could've done better, when the reality is, life with little kids is hard.

It just is. And you don't need to beat yourself up for the way things are.

I thank God that His mercies are new every morning, and He promises that if we seek Him we will be ever more transformed into His image and likeness. That His grace covers even the worst days, and for hope that tomorrow can be better. I also thank Him that He can be found when we seek Him with all our heart, even if it's from inside the walls of a rather mundane existence. I'm thankful that there's joy in the mess, and that your heart can be full even when life is crazy.

I thank God that even though the days can be hard, they don't have to be synonymous with badThat hard can be good and full of blessing and worth every ounce of time and effort that you pour into it. Because hard work and loving people well, especially little people, is never, ever a waste. That, dear mommas, is a life well-lived, one day at a time. Even if it means you need to hide in the bathroom sometimes. 

August 6: Confessions of a Crappy Christian

Do Christians say crappy? I guess I just did.

It all started when I felt The Lord prompting me to talk about obedience.

Obedience, y'all. The thing that I demand from my children on a regular basis with only moderate success. I should've known I was in for a ride.

When you start peeling back the many delicate layers of the onion that is obedience, you find that, underneath time, below money, and beneath the service layers, you eventually get down to the core--what's in your heart. Sometimes it's contents are surprising, even to the most steadfast believers.

I've thought many times about uttering this struggle, whispering the hard truths into the still of the night, but I couldn't seem to let the words slip out. They got caught on the massive lump forming in my throat, bound tightly to my insides by thick strands of guilt and failure. 

Even now as I begin to cut them loose and let them fall freely onto the page, my eyes well with tears, my heart with shame. When I opened the kids devotional book to read from it at lunch and saw the verse for the day, I knew. It was time.

Fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. Romans 12:2 (MSG)

I didn't actually read the devotional book to the kids at lunch, as they had all already left the table. But it still broke my heart in two, so I suppose it served it's purpose. I do really well with family devotions sometimes, and then I'll open it up to find that the last time we read one was in March, and it's now August... First confession.

And then there's my devotions. I've never succeeded in surpassing 20% completion of my bible reading plan on my phone at any one time during the course of the year, thanks to my love/hate relationship with the "Catch Me Up" feature. If we were to judge by that alone, it means that out of 7 days in a week, I read my bible about 1.4 days. It's not even a crazy read-the-whole-bible-in-a-year-plan, either, which, by the way, is also something I've never done. It's a chapter a day at most, alternating between the Old and New Testaments, and yet, only about 1.4 days a week do I get around to it.

I don't only read the bible on my phone or exclusively for that plan, but even though there's other reading going on in there, I won't try to make the severe deficient look better for my sake. Surely, I want to. But I won't.

Now onto prayer, as this all hasn't quite been embarrassing enough. When I was a young mom, I survived on prayer because I didn't have time for anything else, or I felt like I didn't. But something happened along the way and now prayer is a struggle for me. I've gotten out of the habit, and when I have time to think and reflect, I usually choose to do other things like ponder concepts or write or check Facebook. 

Mini-collage assembled and posted online with witty commentary and life lessons learned? Check.

Time spent talking to the God of the Universe? Anyone? Anyone??

I know that prayer changes lives and hearts and connects us to the living God, that nothing good in this world is accomplished without prayer from someone somewhere, but I rarely steal away time to sit at His feet. I don't often pray for my children. I don't often pray for my husband. I don't often pray for friends, family, or the world with its endless troubles and unmet needs. 

Reality seems more harsh when it appears in black and white. And yet there it is.

I've had this chronic problem since I became a Christian over a decade ago. Really, I've had this problem my entire life, but it only became an issue when I gave my life to Christ. The problem is: MYSELF

And because I've had this problem my entire life, at this point in time, after 30+ years, I mean 29 years, it's quite a BIG problem. You're talking to a girl who incessantly pushes the snooze button in the morning, who is always late, whose house is a mess, who doesn't exercise or like anything that remotely requires hard work or stick-to-it-ness. It's a real quality. And I don't have it. Unless something comes easily or naturally to me, I don't do it.

I spend so much time on this problem of MYSELF that it has become my focus: what is God going to do with MY life? What has He called ME to do? I know He has something great in store for ME, but how is He going to do it? When? How can I make it happen now? If I can just think of the next great idea, write the next bestselling book…

Your real, new self will not come as long as you are looking for it. 
It will come when you are looking for Him. 
~C.S. Lewis

So the only solution I can see to this problem of MYSELF is to have less of it. Less of myself and more of Him. Fix your attention on God. You'll be changed from the inside out. No more pining, no more plotting, no more taking matters into my own hands. He doesn't want my time or my money or even my service more then He wants my heart.

I know He loves me just as much now as He ever will, and that because of Him I am enough, but I also know that He has great plans in store that involve making me new. God-sized plans and God-sized dreams. Dreams that will only be birthed through the hard work of discipline, the pain of death and the complete and continual surrender of MYSELF. There's a gap between where He wants me to go and where I currently am, and the only way to bridge that gap is with Him. More of Him, less of me.

I long to inspire and encourage women, to show that the Almighty God of the universe can work through any one of us, no matter our qualifications or history, with just a simple YES, a step of obedience in faith. That He created you exactly as you are with everything you need to accomplish His purpose for you. That He longs for you to be free and live abundantly for Him. But I have to do the hard work myself first. I have to live it before I can teach it. I have to model it before I can encourage it. I have to walk through it before I can lead.

That’s why my cup is running over. This is the assigned moment for him to move into the center, 
while I slip off to the sidelines. John 3:29-30 (MSG)

I wanted to share this because I don't think I'm alone. I hope that as stigmas continue to change in the church, we would all be more free to be on the outside who we truly are on the inside. That it would be okay, even encouraged, to speak about all kinds of struggles, including and especially struggles in our walk as a Christian. We can only encourage each other as far as the honesty reaches, and I hope my honesty was able to reach out and help someone else today.

P.S. I know we aren't focusing on ME anymore, really we're not, but Confessions of a Crappy Christian--that would make an awesome book title, no?? See, I can't even help myself. But I'm not pining or plotting. I'm not.


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