Back in early January, as some of you may remember, I began a 40 day journey called Read, Pray, Move: A 40 Day Strengthening Journey for Mind, Soul and Body. Today is Day 38. Through the daily readings and other suggested lifestyle changes, I have established some daily and weekly routines, learned different ways to shop for and prepare food, lost a bit of weight, and gained confidence in my ability to establish healthier habits. While I have not yet reached all my goals, I am definitely stronger and healthier physically and spiritually than I was when I started. More importantly, this experience has given me a framework that makes sense to me in terms of making needed changes in my life. Continue reading
First of all, I love Facebook. I do not think that Facebook represents the decline of civilization, the root of all evil, or the single most likely factor to destroy our children. I love Facebook! Facebook is fun and I have had a blast getting in touch with childhood friends, spying on my teenagers, finding out the latest news, looking at pictures and generally plugging in to my culture through this new phenomenon of social media. During the recent snowstorm here on the East Coast, FB was a fabulous way of connecting and commiserating while we were all stuck in our houses….even when our power was out, many of us went on FB on our phones! It was fun to see everyone’s snow pictures, to share our snow totals with friends in warmer climates, and to generally stay connected with my community. I did not decide to take a break from Facebook because I think Facebook is bad. Furthermore, I do not think everyone else, or for that matter, anyone else should give up Facebook for Lent. In fact, I have no opinion whatsoever about your relationship with Facebook.
So why then, you ask (at least one of you,) did I decide to take a break from Facebook during this season of Lent? It’s really none of your business.
Just kidding!! I chose to inform my Facebook friends of my “status” for Lent so that noone would take it personally if I don’t respond to their friend request, their comment, their awesome pictures, their inspirational message or any other overtures of interaction that may be directed my way. Before I disappeared, I thought I would alert anyone who checks their Newsfeed every day JUST to see what I am doing 🙂 Since you (Neil) are interested, here is why.
In my Protestant background, the observance of Lent is largely left up to the individual. We are not required to observe any particular dietary restrictions and noone really talks that much about “giving something up” for Lent. In my church, the youth actually tend to take the lead on the discussion and observance of Lent. Their media fast during Lent last year actually gave me the idea of “fasting” from Facebook this year. In past years, I have been more likely to add a spiritual discipline during Lent, rather than give something up.
For me, Lent is about preparing for the re-birth and renewal of the Resurrection. As Easter approaches, I like to take inventory of where I am in my journey with the Lord. What is working as I seek to hear His voice and see His glory in my day to day life? What gets in the way of me seeing Him at work? My experience tells me that where there is lack of peace in my life, it is there that there may also be a lack of obedience. What spiritual disciplines bring His will and word into greater focus…prayer, study, sabbath rest, worship, fellowship? And where have I blurred that vision with distractions that draw my gaze elsewhere? Am I missing opportunities to be a blessing because I am rushing through my life with my spiritual eyes shut?
As I consider those questions, I naturally had to consider how I use my time. Because I do not work outside the home, I have a large degree of flexibility in how I plan my days. Taking care of my family, fulfilling my volunteer obligations, serving in my church, spending time with friends can all be done in the order and with the priority that I choose. Because of that, I often find myself “working” without any clear deadlines. It is awfully easy for me to get distracted by things that, if I thought about it, are not a priority for me. And that brings us back to Facebook.
Facebook, FOR ME, is a huge time waster (re-read my first paragraph if that statement causes your to feel defensive or protective of FB.) FOR ME, much of what I do on Facebook is useless. While I love connecting with my friends, I have to honestly admit that 75% of the time that I am logged into my Facebook account is primarily a vehicle for procrastination…again, FOR ME. Checking the FB newsfeed numerous times a day has become a habit that is no longer about community or connection, but rather a way of putting off folding the laundry, paying the bills or other mundane tasks that I may be putting off. And FOR ME, that procrastination contributes to me feeling too busy, too rushed, and spread too thin when that really isn’t the case at all. So time management is one reason I am taking a break from Facebook.
The second reason is really more important. FB, FOR ME, can serve as a shortcut for my attempts to meet really important needs in my life…ways in which I take care of my emotional and spiritual well-being. Because I don’t work in an office and my kids are gone all day, I am alone a great deal of the day. I have my afternoons at the Lamb Center and occasional meetings with church committees or school obligations, but I spend a lot of time alone. Alone is good…sometimes. I think sometimes I go on Facebook to connect to friends and find fellowship when what I really need to do is call a friend to meet for coffee or lunch. FOR ME, it is like being really hungry and choosing to eat a candy bar instead of sitting down for a healthy meal…it satiates the hunger for the short term, but it doesn’t really provide much nutrition. Yes, FB can be part of community, but it can’t become a substitute for community. It is a shortcut, a quick fix for my need to connect to friends, for my need to share my thoughts through my writing, for my need to see into my children’s world. Disconnecting from FB for a while is my way of choosing to do my connecting face to face during this Lenten season. Face to face with my family, face to face with my friends, face to face with myself through more writing, and face to face with God through more study and prayer.
My blog automatically posts to FB, so many of you may actually be reading my ramblings on FB and I love that!! And I still get all my FB email updates, so I am not completely cut off. I would love to hear your thoughts or comments about your relationship with Facebook…what are the good things you get from Facebook and what are the not-so-good things? Also, what are the ways that you observe Lent that you find most meaningful?
Yesterday, I updated you on a couple of areas where I was finding some success. Important things like winning my fantasy football league…more specifically, beating my sister in my fantasy football league. Today, it is time for true confessions.
When we decided that one of us was going to work outside the home to bring in income and one of us was going to stay home to take care of children…and then we determined that we would rather live on a business executive salary, rather than a social worker salary…I became responsible for securing the appropriate healthcare for our precious girls. You know, taking them to the doctor and the dentist for regular check-ups, getting them their immunizations, etc. So, mostly I have done that…particularly in the early years when I was still afraid that I was going to break them and when the peditricians were mostly still older than me. In recent years, my husband and I have debated the importance of flu shots (he always gets one, me rarely.) Finally, a couple of years ago, one of the girls got the flu and I vowed to get the whole family flu shots from then on. And I did….for one whole year.
So, here we are, another winter season upon us. Steve and baby girl have had the flu shot. Me and big girl have NOT had the flu shot. The reasons for this are myriad, but all boil down to my worst habit, procrastination. And now, guess who is miserably sick with the flu? You got it; my sweet 15 year old is on her 4th day of fever. In fact, she performed the last performance of her first play at her high school with a raging fever of over 102 degrees. I feel horrible, as you might imagine and secretly hope I get the flu as well, just to share in her suffering. Ok, that is probably a bit melodramatic, but she is SO sweet and never complains and well, I just feel awful for her!! In reality, I know that me being sick with the flu will probably torture all of them more than me, so I am actually washing my hands until they bleed in an effort to NOT get the flu, but you get the picture!
So, here are just a few of the other things that I feel guilty about in terms of my performance as mom of these two precious girls: I always mean to do family Advent devotions each Christmas season and don’t, I want my kids to see Europe and they haven’t yet and conversely, they live with way too much affluence and privilege and we spoil them, they aren’t learning how to handle money in a healthy manner because we always forget to give them their allowance, they both have messy rooms and I don’t stay on them and make them keep them clean and they will probably both have roommate issues in college and when they get married, I don’t play enough board games with them, they don’t have enough responsibility, they have too many activities, I never had them try another instrument, I let them quit piano too early, I’m not teaching them to recycle, I haven’t mailed the thank you notes that I made them write after Christmas (sitting on my desk for almost a month now,) neither of them eat enough vegetables, and we totally sucked at being the Tooth Fairy. That is just a really short list of the first things that popped into my head…I am quite sure that I could come up with another couple paragraphs if I took a little more time.
Anybody else? Fellow mommies, what provokes your Mommy guilt?
And no comments from any daddies about how guilt is a waste of energy and then all sorts of advice about how to fix it. This is about venting…us girls need time to process!
Last Friday, my hard drive crashed…completely gone…nothing left. We had a computer guy out Saturday who confirmed that our hard drive was indeed kaput. All my files gone…PTA files, Stephen Ministry files, kids school stuff, bible study files, emails, email address book and, worst of all, all my pictures. Luckily, I had backed up most of our pictures. Unfortunately, I am using the word most instead of the word all. Because of my procrastination, I had not yet backed up any pictures from 2006. Yes, 7 months of pictures completely gone. I know, couldn’t you just cry? Believe me, I did.
So, Saturday afternoon, I bought a new computer. Generally, this would seem like a pretty exciting purchase and, believe me, I am incredibly grateful that we are able to just go out and buy a brand new computer, but I was perfectly happy with my old computer and it was all set up just the way I liked it. It had all my “stuff” just where I wanted it…all the files I might need some day, a thousand or so emails that I might need one day (no, seriously, I had over 1,000 files sitting in my Inbox,) all the email addresses of every one that I had ever cooresponded with in my whole emailing life, in case I ever needed to email them again. I even had some of my blog entries saved in a file on my hard drive. Seems like, if I needed all this stuff so much, I would have backed it all up, huh?!? And I had intended to do just that….someday….when I had a free minute…
So, alas, I have spent my first kid-free week starting over. Reconfiguring email, setting up our financial stuff, retrieving copies of missing pictures from a variety of places, re-creating documents, etc. etc. I am hoping that I have learned my lesson about backing up important data and maybe even a lesson about procrastination. Although this has been a HUGE hassle, I have to admit there is something kind of cleansing about starting over. Cleaning out, starting fresh, deciding what is really necessary…I wonder if I can orchestrate some kind of “crash” of my closet?
The girls and I have talked a lot this week about fresh starts. September has always seemed more like the beginning of a new year than January, probably because I have almost always lived around school schedules. I always get a new calendar/ day planner this time of year to coincide with the beginning of school. As the girls and I have gotten our school supplies for the new school year, I have to admit that there is something energizing about those empty pages…so many options, so many paths from which to choose. We have talked about the new year being a time to make new, better habits. We have talked about the opportunity to manage our time more wisely, to make better choices, to open our hearts to the possibility of new friends. A fresh start allows us the gift of a second chance, should we feel the need for one.
And really, isn’t that the beauty of a life of faith? Every day is a fresh start, a chance to do it better this time, an opportunity for a second chance, an occasion to open our heart in a new way. Our God is a God of second chances…of fresh starts…of cleaning out and starting over.
I spent a LONG time today at Tysons Corner Center; a huge mall here in our area. I was looking for a black skirt and white shirt for my oldest daughter to wear in a choral concert on Saturday. Believe me, this is the wrong time of year to be looking for anything black in children’s clothing, so I went into A LOT of stores. Of course, I have known about what she needed to wear since January…another example of my procrastination! Anyway, this particular mall is outside of the usual one square mile in which I normally live my life, so I don’t often go there. I happened to be in that area for another purpose this morning and I knew that, if it isn’t at this mall, it simply doesn’t exist. I have never been a big fan of this mall, because it is SO large, but being the committed, caring, loving AND procrastinating mom that I am, I braved it in search of the perfect choral costume for my precious songbird (and I needed to shop for bras…sorry guys, we are all about the cold, hard truth here at Grace Notes 🙂
Before I give you my observations about my time in the mall, I need to explain the context of my experience. I am participating in a Sunday School class at church on the Emerging Culture. This class is an opportunity to examine the ways that our culture is changing and the role of the church within that changing culture. So, while I may have looked the part of the suburban mom hunting black gauchos and underwire bras, I was actually an undercover sociology student examining the emerging culture as evidenced by the mass consumerism of an upper-middle class mega mall. How’s that for spin?!?
Two primary things struck me as meaningful today; one in a good way and one in a somewhat alarming way. The first thing I noticed was the number of different languages being spoken around me. I think I may have been one of the few people in the mall today who only knew one language, including many of the employees. And the languages were diverse…people of Asian heritage, European, Middle Eastern, African. As transportation and technology connect us, our world is getting smaller and we are truly becoming a global community. Because we are all products of the environment in which we grew up, we must learn to expand our vision of who we are as a people and that vision must include considerations of different backgrounds and worldviews. As I have said before on this blog, we American Christians are more than a little arrogant about creating God and Jesus in our own image…in spite of the fact that Jesus likely resembled our Middle Eastern neighbors much more than my blond, blue-eyed family!
The second observation I made today in my visit to the mall is that I need to get out more. I am either getting really old or I am just terribly uncool, but I just don’t get a lot of the styles available for sale these days. While there are certainly still plenty of lovely things available for women of my age :-), I was struck by how much of the mall was clearly marketing their wares to the 20 something population. I went into one store in particular where I truly felt like an alien from a distant planet. I walked around for a while marveling at the displays and smiled because it reminded me so much of a dear 25 year old friend of mine. While she and I connect on many levels, including our love for Jesus, I was reminded in looking around that store that we perceive the world very differently in many, many ways. She, like many people her age, finds very little in the traditional church that speaks her language. As the church, we have some choices to make and some challenges ahead in empowering her generation to be bold in their faith. Part of that challenge is in learning to understand their world.
Although I THOUGHT I felt like an alien in the 20 something store, I had not yet experienced alienation until I entered Victoria’s Secret (remember, the bra hunt?) Keep in mind, that this is the same VS that made national news several months ago because of its raunchy window display. After much pressure, the store changed its displays, so I saw the “cleaned up” version today. Now, I consider myself a pretty open minded lady…I am definitely on the liberal end of the Christian spectrum in many ways and I was often seen as a little too wild to fit in with the “religious” folks in my youth (maybe now!)…I don’t shock easily and I am not offended easily. However, I was shocked by what I saw at Victoria Secret. The signs, the images, the mannequins all spoke to me of the degradation of women to nothing more than objects for sexual amusement and domination… offensive to me as both a Christian and a feminist. That those attitudes exist doesn’t shock or surprise me…what surprises me is that the marketers for VS have found that this type of display sells bras and that people are neither offended or concerned to find this in a suburban mall. What really intrigued me was that noone else in the store seemed the least bit concerned…which gets me back to the part about needing to get out more! Arrogantly, I often forget that much of the world does not think like I do!
I was listening to a CD on the way home in which the speaker reminded us that we need to get out of our Christian cocoon. As I listened to her speak, I realized that is exactly what I had experienced at the mall! I spend the majority of my life around people just like me…30 or 40 something, middle class Christians. We make a lot of noise about taking the good news of Jesus Christ out into “the world,” but how in the world am I going to tell anyone out in “the world” about this incredible, loving God that I know if I can’t speak their language? As Christians, we often bemoan the crumbling values and faltering morals that we see in the world around us, yet we don’t ask ourselves how it has gotten that way. As my friend Neil often says, whose responsibility is it to bring light to the darkness? Is it the fault of the darkness that it is dark, or is it the responsibility of the light to shine light into the darkness? As the Light, we can’t sit back and shake our finger at the Dark, blame it for being dark and then stay as far away from it as possible. What was it Jesus told us about being the Light of the World?
So, what do we do with this? Frankly, I don’t know entirely, but for me personally I think it has something to do with not spending all my energy trying to be a Light in places that are already fairly well lit. It is very warm and fuzzy here in my well lit corner of the world, blogging my little ideas for my friends who also live in well lit places…all of us secretly feeling superior to those folks who live in places more dimly lit. As soon as those folks from different cultures learn to speak our language… as soon as those young people grow up and learn our language…as soon as the dark quits being dark…we’d be glad to tell them all about the Source of our light. We are right here, safe and warm, waiting….
I would like to talk about procrastination, but I think I will do it tomorrow.