on the outside, looking in

Last weekend my little family of three went on a get-away trip to San Antonio.  We had a great time and made an effort to keep our phones put away except for a few snapshots here and there.   We didn’t even verbalize set phone-rules, we just wanted to be sure we enjoyed each other more than we enjoyed our technology.

Here are things we noticed:

  • our conversation was focused on us, not on what we saw on Facebook
  • our kiddo thrives on adventure – even if it means taking a different path than we did to get to the same place
  • we actually had productive conversations about our parenting goals and family goals
  • we laughed.  a lot.
  • we didn’t miss our phones

Here is what we noticed at other tables in restaurants:

  • the people dining hardly looked at each other
  • heads hardly ever looked up from phones when servers brought their meals
  • phones were still in one hand while eating with the other
  • often the only conversation that occurred was in reference to someone showing a picture on his/her phone
  • KIDS are glued to tablets and phones

I remember my husband saying, “I’m glad that’s not us – I’m glad we don’t have our phones out.”
And I remember thinking, “Today.  I’m glad we had the willpower to put them away today.”

 

This video impacts me every single time I watch it and it reminds me to have a healthy respect for my phone.  There is a time and a place to use your phone.  Exercise some willpower and learn the difference.

It’s hard.  It’s SO hard to create a healthy distance from technology when it’s everywhere AND when almost everyone in our circles is using it as well.  Our kids are growing up in this new environment, and it’s our responsibility to set good examples for them.

With a smartphone it’s hard NOT to:

  • answer that work email so you can show that you’re a team player
  • text a friend with something funny your kid just said instead of laughing with your family
  • look up that web address immediately after seeing it advertised
  • check the weather/traffic … over and over again
  • post the family picture you just took on Facebook/Instagram/Twitter and so on
  • play a game instead of sitting idle for 5 minutes while you wait in line
  • check Facebook. again. and again. and again. and again.
  • post a great quote on Twitter instead of really enjoying and soaking in that book

iphone

Several weeks ago, my friend Lauren posted this link on Facebook – I know, the irony of it all, but stay with me here.  It’s basically a challenge to see how long you can go without picking up your phone and here’s the gem of it all… the minutes ticking by while your phone sits idle, is rewarded to people who don’t have phones.  In fact, they don’t even have water.   Read more here, and take the challenge.

Do some good to yourself, your family, your boundaries, and to total strangers who can’t ever repay you.

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10 Steps to becoming a cool TechNO-mom

Tomorrow I am speaking to a group of moms about the dangers and joys of technology in our lives.  I’ve shared my Candy Crush addiction issues before, and I’ve shared my pledge not to text and drive.  Today I have to be honest and say, “I’ve screwed up.  Again.”

Dude.  It’s HARD to keep good boundaries with technology.  It. Is. Everywhere.  I can’t even go buy toilet paper at Wal-Mart without a screen waking up and sharing a commercial about how much softer the new blah blah blah brand is and if I wave my hand below the screen I will receive a coupon for $1.00 off.  SHHHHHH!  I’m ON THE PHONE while I’m shopping.   Sorry, is that annoying?

I’m also on the phone while I’m cooking.  I’m checking Facebook while I’m waiting for my meeting.  My phone alerts me that my troops are ready for battle while I’m IN the meeting —- well, I just let the cat out of the bag with that one.

My husband and I are trying out a unique and probably frowned upon method of hovering in a less helicopter fashion.  We both play Clash of Clans now, and so does our son.  And we have our own clan.  No, you can’t join it unless we know you in person and we have had an actual conversation with you.  See what we did there?  We are giving our son the freedom to have this game that has group messaging capabilities but we are IN the game with him.  So if something fishy is goin’ down, we’ll be the first to smell it.

Our son is 11 and he doesn’t fully understand how big and scary the world can be within these “fake” micro-worlds of online games.  But we do.  So we go there with him.  He gave out too much information in the first clan we were in and mom and dad might have gone a little ape….schmidt.  We deleted the game on all devices, we panicked, we had conversations, we fretted… and then we realized — WAIT — this isn’t teaching him anything helpful!  So we all got back in the game, but it’s different this time.

What are we to do as moms and dads to keep this whole technology thing under control?  We have smart phones, ipads, tablets, computers, laptops, netflix, dvd’s, cable TV, DVR, XBox, PlayStation, Wii, and who knows what else….   How do we find a balance? It doesn’t matter how “smart” the device is, it’s only as intelligent as the user.

Step 1: Let your kids have screen time in moderation.

I recently read an article written by a doctor who said that NO kids under the age of 12 should have any screen time.  None.  Zip.  Zero.  Zilch.  Kill me now, just go ahead and torture me.  If I told my 11 year old son that I was taking away ALL screens for the next year until he turns 12 it would be an all out war zone in our house.  And honestly, the very next thing he would say (after the moaning, wailing, and tearing of the “sackcloth”) is — “But we use screens ALL THE TIME at school!”

You got it kid.  You sure do.

This is the world in which our kids are growing up.  This is their new norm.  It was NOT the norm for us as kids, and some (like me) still struggle to figure out how to use it wisely.  But if I don’t figure it out soon, I’m setting my son up for failure.

I’m going to give him screen time.  Period.  Some days I will totally use it as a baby sitter – which is wrong and horrible and you can leave me nasty comments if you want to — but I’m being honest.   But for the most part, screen time will be in moderation.

We tried setting up a hard and fast “one hour a day” rule.  That didn’t work out so well because if I got busy cooking dinner or on a work phone call or whatever, the hour turned into 70 minutes… and then 90… and then why are we even keeping track anymore?

Then we tried saying “you can either play on screens before dinner or after dinner – but not both.”  And that didn’t work out so well either because some days were basketball days, some days we were at the grocery store, some we didn’t even eat until 7:30 and so on.

So now, our rule is “yes, you can go play on screens until I say it’s time to turn them off.”  Doesn’t that sound silly?  Guess what?  For OUR family, this method has worked the best.  And there is no longer any danger of tearing of the sackcloth.

Start the conversation with your spouse and your kids.  What does “moderation” look like in your house?  How will you implement that?  Just note that “family time” does not consist of your entire family being on their screens in the same room at the same time.

I would love to know what is and what is NOT working at your house — be honest — judging isn’t my department so you don’t have to worry about that!

k, just a minute!

photo from: http://www.weightymatters.ca/
photo from: http://www.weightymatters.ca/

If you’re a parent, you’ve seen these faces before.  They are most likely planted in a “device” as the carpool kids call it — ipad, iphone, tablet, blah blah blah.  My son LOVES Minecraft and he builds some pretty amazing things on that game.  But there’s a problem with it all.  No matter what else is happening, all he sees is that screen.   I can holler “dinner is ready!” and get a weak response of “k, just a minute!”   I can holler “the cookies are done!” … same response.  I could scream “FIRE!” just as a test — but that would just be mean (and sorta funny, I mean … yes, what a terrible thing to do to your child).

It’s annoying isn’t it?  To be ignored?  It can be downright maddening.

So I wonder how God feels when I make my schedule all nice and neat in my calendar app, make a to-do list on my February pad of paper (OCD jokes are welcome — I agree, it’s funny…. but it IS February so let’s use the correct pad of paper mmmkay?), and then it happens.

  • A friend texts and asks if we can have coffee so we can talk about real life stuff that’s happening. So I check my calendar.
  • I experience something or feel something and I immediately have a blog post idea in my head so I jot it down — and forget about it.
  • My husband walks in the door from work and tries to tell me about his day, and I am completely consumed with trying to knock out every last item on that to-do list (you know, the February one!).

I wonder how many times God has gotten really excited and hollered “FRESH COOKIES!” and I completely ignore Him because I’m so focused on my device/list/agenda.

I wish you could get the full effect of my cursor sitting here blinking at me for the past 4 minutes while I re-read that last sentence over and over and over again.  It makes me feel ashamed.  I mean, didn’t I just learn this lesson?  Haven’t I already gone through this obstacle course and realized that God’s way is always better in the long run?  So how did this happen again?  How did I get so busy with things that don’t matter in the end?

I don’t know.
But I did.
And He’s been hollering at me but I had my headphones on so I could watch Heartland on Netflix while I sewed.

So now what?
Well, that February pad of paper needs to go because it’s filled with things that *I* want to accomplish and zero things that God wants me to accomplish.  And it’s time to get back into prayer and let Him guide me.

In the 4th chapter of Esther, I love this line of scripture, “Who knows if perhaps you were made queen for such a time as this?”  Mordecai basically said, “Yo, this is going to be dangerous and isn’t exactly what YOU had planned — but what if this is exactly what GOD had planned for you?  What if He made you queen for such a time as this?!?!?!”

So my question for you today is — What has God perfectly positioned you for at this moment in your life, but instead of saying “pray for me, because I’m ALL IN” like Esther did, you’re hollering “k… just a minute!” from your place of comfort?

Chance are you know what “it” is.  So on the count of three, let’s crumple up the lists on the February pad of paper.

1, 2, …. NO, you cannot copy it into your phone first! … 3!

waiting, waiting, waiting… and worn out (Part Two): learning to be still

In the Fall of 2011, I had to wait over three months to get in to see a specialist.  A reputable one.
Notice the word “wait” — it’s a pretty important word.

In that time I had no medications available because I didn’t have a solid diagnosis.  I did a lot of research and decided to try a clean diet to see if it helped.  I ate only lean meats, vegetables, nuts, and fruits for over three months.

The end result?  No change.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  Nil.  And every other word you can think of that means the same thing.  My pain remained the same.

What did I learn in those months of waiting to see a specialist?

  1. I learned to slow the heck down.  My sister emailed me a link explaining The Spoon Theory about a year prior to my physical issues.  If you haven’t read it — you must.  It isn’t just for people with chronic illnesses, it is applicable for ALL of us.  I noticed that I couldn’t keep up with the mad raced pace of society around me and you know what?  I was TIRED of trying.  I didn’t want to go to this party and that one, to this lunch, and that girls night out.  I wanted to be home with my family!  We started playing board games with our son, taking family walks, going to the park together, and more.  The more time I spent with my family, the more I CRAVED it!  I didn’t want to crowd them out again by filling my calendar with other things.
  2. All I needed, I already had.  The biggest revelation came in the form of realizing I didn’t “NEED” people the way I thought I did.  I had a husband, a child, two sisters, parents, four nieces and a nephew with whom I hardly spent any time.  On holidays, I was more concerned about seeing my friends than I was about spending quality time with my own family.  That revelation stung quite a bit because my husband had been hinting at it for several years but I just wasn’t getting it.  I can appreciate that people don’t have family around them and their friends become their family — more power to you, seriously — but I didn’t fit in that category.  I plain and simple had a family that I was ignoring.
  3. God was (and still is) in the details.  While I was busy moving and grooving, I longed to see God in the daily things around me — but I didn’t have TIME to see God.  I had things to do, people to see, emails to write, phone calls to answer, social events to arrange and attend, blah blah blah.  The only way I would see Him in the details is when He would do things like this to get my attention:
    But once I slowed down, I started seeing him in people at the grocery store.  I saw Him in the mailman when he would bring all of our mail to the door along with a package.  I saw my husband making room for Him in his heart and mind.  I saw Him in scripture, in the abundance of food we have available to us, in the warmth of the heater, and in the clean water I took for granted.  He was (and still is) EVERYWHERE.  But I had been too busy to acknowledge Him.
  4. I needed church.  I used to be someone who would say, “but why do you HAVE to go to church?  I can worship and read the bible at home just as easily as I can in church.”  But I never followed through.  I never cracked open my bible  before I started attending church.  Pastors go through years of classes.  They read books constantly. They have knowledge that I realized I could tap into!  It was completely worth an hour of my time to listen to them pick apart scripture and to learn what certain things meant in the bible.  I NEEDED that nourishment just as much as I needed food and water.  When left to my own devices, well — that’s exactly what I would do — get on my “devices” (which is what the kids at my son’s middle school call iPhones, iPads, Kindles, and so on).  I would easily fill my time with other things, none of which were God-centered.
  5. I had become selfish. I stopped seeing my husband’s needs and my son’s needs, and even the needs of people around me because I had become completely consumed with NEEDING an answer for my physical pain. I felt odd.  I felt like I no longer fit in anywhere.  But you know what?  I did that to myself.  I was thinking about my pain 24/7 – and if you’re in pain I know what you’re thinking: “How can I possibly think of anything BUT the pain that is agonizing me all day and all night?”  Honestly?  That’s something you have to figure out on your own.  But I know it isn’t healthy for you.   I wanted so badly to give God the glory by being someone He could use, even while I was hurting — but I was so inwardly focused that He could only use me in teeny tiny ways.

So how do you slow down and not become selfish?  This is going to knock some of you off your rockers — so put your seat-belts on:

Resting, being with your family, and seeing God in the details
does not make you selfish – what you allow to consume your thoughts
and drive your motivations could be what’s making you selfish.

After reading this list – what is something that you know you need to change but you just haven’t followed through? Be Brave.  I dare you.

but I can barely remember my own name!

My husband is a history buff.  He knows names, dates, places, and all the carnage that ensued from wars.  He knows heroes, villains, and the colors of their capes.  He remembers things he read and he remembers how to get to someone’s house without having to look it up each time.

I can barely remember my name.  No seriously, I’ve been married for 13 1/2 years and I still sign with my maiden name … often.  I can’t remember phone numbers.  I certainly can’t remember historical dates (don’t try to charm me with your catchy little tunes because I will still mess up the dates).  I can’t remember what I’m supposed to get at the grocery store, or which day is crazy hat day at school.  Oh my gosh, I’m HORRIBLE at remembering birthdays – except for my sister’s because it’s the day after mine.  Thank you God for planning that out so nicely for me!

So why on EARTH would I try to memorize scripture????
I’m literally giggling out loud as I type this — because it really does seem like a waste of time for someone who can’t commit things to memory very easily, right?

My friend Anne pretty much told me straight up that I was going to memorize scripture this year.  And she had good reason for being so pushy (in love of course).  When scripture is committed to memory it changes things.  It changes our perspective.  It changes our prayer life.  It changes the depth of understanding that we have in regards to who God is and how to see Him in our lives.  And one of my favorite things is that it changes the way we help others.

I’ve been known to say stupid things to people who are brokenhearted or going through awful things.  Yes, some of that is human nature, but a lot of that stemmed from the fact that I didn’t have scripture on the tip of my tongue so I floundered like a fish out of water when I was asked things such as, “Why did God make this happen?”

But just yesterday a friend of mine was struggling through a high stress situation and guess what I was able to do immediately?  I was able to text this to her:

Cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares for you. 1 Peter 5:7

I didn’t have to fumble through typing and erasing and typing again and wondering if what I was saying would be in alignment with what scripture teaches.  And I didn’t have to Google “stress, scripture” to find just the right verse.  I KNEW that I knew that I knew that God cares for her and that she could make the choice to give her anxiety to God.

So how does a Forgetful Frances go about memorizing scripture?  Well of course I have an app for that.  Yes it cost me money, and yes it was worth every penny.  As you know I struggle with spending far too much time playing on my phone.  You’ll be happy to hear that I am doing VERY well when it comes to games – I’m down to 1 game and I hardly ever play it anymore.

Instead of keeping zombies from eating my brain, when I get the urge to reach for my phone I open my Scripture Typewriter app instead of my Plants vs Zombies app. #dontjudge  I have learned about 22 scripture passages this year.  I know this isn’t mind blowing and people have probably memorized entire books of the bible in the time it took me to learn 22 passages —- HOWEVER, since Betty isn’t invited to this party I am pleased to share that I am very proud of myself!

If I can do it, I’m pretty sure anyone can.

Do you memorize scripture?  What motivates you and how do you commit passages to memory?

don’t be a copycat…foo!

photo (13)

If Mr. T could sum up this bible verse, this is how I think he would say it,

“Don’t be a copycat, yo! I pitty the foo who doesn’t use what God gave ‘um!  Don’t be lookin’ at whut yo neighbor’s got – look at what YOU got!”

If Mr. T ever returns my calls, I’ll let you know for sure how he interprets this scripture passage.  But since he has like 27 body guards and a pit bull, I’m guessing he isn’t interested in chillaxin with me.  It’s cool.  I don’t need Mr. T, I already have peeps! (this is another perfect example of my sweet husband shaking his head and wondering if he should laugh… or run.)

When I read this verse is makes me cringe — which typically means there’s something I’m doing wrong or there’s something that I know I could be doing better.  Here are the top 3 ways I interpret this verse and see myself screwing it up:

1. BUY IT: Ads are everywhere.  Even on people’s clothes.  Buy this!  Feel GREAT about yourself and buy yourself this new pair of jeans … because you’re worth it!  This technology will make your life so much better!  Don’t miss this show, everyone is talking about it!  Buy your kids this expensive brand of athletic clothes – even Pro Athletes are wearing this stuff!

    • “Don’t copy the customs and behaviors of this world…” —> riiiiiiiight.  So, don’t buy a new car when mine starts to smell like a tween boy (and all of this little friends too)?  Don’t go get those jeans with the bling on the pockets so I look like every other cute mom in town?  Don’t get my TEN year old son an iPhone even though his entire middle school is filled with kids who have iPhones, iPads and everything else?  Sigh.  But…… I don’t want to be WEIRD!
    • Are you a Christian?  Yeah – you’re going to be weird not simply because of what you believe, but because of how your beliefs are telling you to live.  Tithe 10% of your income.  Give until it hurts, and then keep giving.  Feed the hungry.  Serve the poor.  Love your neighbor (yeah, the weird dude with tats and a Mohawk).
    • So are you doing these things or are you copying the customs and behaviors of this world?  I know… I have work to do too.

2. EVERYONE thinks this way!: I am completely disappointed in myself because I am about to do exactly what I said I would NEVER do when I was 13.  I’m about to quote my mother.  Can we have a moment of silence please?……  Thank you.  My mom used to say, “Why would you ever want to be like everyone else?”  Dangit.  She’s right.  Clearly with this demented sense of humor, God never created me to be like everyone else anyway.  Do all your friends say, “I’ll pray for you” but they probably never do?  Do they judge the moms who aren’t blinged out and talk trash about them behind their backs?  Do they talk about “that kid” and shelter their kids from her instead of being the weird one and trying to reach out to her parents?

    • “Let God transform you by changing the way you think…” —> But I like how I think.  It has worked for me for all these years, so why change now?  Has it?  Really?  You never feel guilty after you gossip?  You never wonder what the frumpy mom is really like?  You’re proud of teaching your kids that they are better than everyone else because they “never” have behavior issues?
    • Are you a Christian? We already discovered that you’re going to be weird – so deal with it so we can move on.  I’m waiting….. DEAL!   Ok, I can see it’s going to take awhile for that to sink in so let’s just keep going.  When you change the way you think, and what you deem important in your heart, your behavior will instinctively follow.  If you’re a Christian you should be constantly picking apart the things that Jesus said … why?  Because you’re a FOLLOWER of Jesus Christ!  If you follow Katy Perry, you know everything about her —- right?!?!  So why don’t you give Jesus that same amount of attention???  He tells us how to live by God’s life rules, but it’s up to us to let those rules change the way we think.

3. If only I could see God’s plans!:  I’m so sick of everything going wrong!  What is God up to?  Why is this happening?  Why can’t my husband find a job?  Why does my kid have ADHD?  Why…. why…. WHY?!?!?!

    • “Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect.” —> FINALLY, I can know God’s will for me!  It’s about time.  Wait, what?  I don’t get to see the whole plan? Well that’s not very good, or pleasing — and it’s far from perfect.
    • Are you a Christian? Reading the bible and going to church aren’t going to solve all your problems… but here’s what will happen.  The way you think is going to change.  You won’t be able to help it.  Jesus will be seeping into your soul like a gentle rain over dry, cracked soil.  And here’s where the good happens — you feel His presence.  And then the pleasing happens —- you learn to shush it up so you can hear when He whispers to you.  And then the perfect happens — you obey and find that He loves you so much that you can hardly believe how much He loves you.

And then … all the customs of this world?  They don’t matter to you anymore. The blingy jeans?  You could care less.  That frumpy mom?  You hear God calling you to talk to her and find out what’s happening in her life.

It’s not about what you wear, what you have, where you live or what you drive…  it’s about who you know and who you follow and who you are striving to become.

I know Jesus.
And that’s who I choose to follow.

just … stop.

image (2)

 

When I was a kid my mom didn’t use the phrase “time out.”  In fact it was a phrase typically used at basketball practice or when my dad would scream at the TV during a Hawkeyes football game (yes, I’m from Iowa — no, I’m not an Iowa State fan — but for the record, I don’t root for the Hawkeyes either).  Honestly, I don’t even remember my mom shooing us away so she could take a “mommy time out” and search for her sanity.  She was pretty even keeled.

She sighed more than she yelled, but for the record I would have preferred yelling.  Sighing just leaves you hanging … like “what is she thinking?”  My mom rolled with the punches and went to band concerts, volleyball games, softball games, basketball games, plays and girl scout meetings.  I’m one of three girls; we were involved in a lot of stuff!  I also don’t ever remember her complaining that she didn’t have time for herself.

Why am I sharing all of this with you?  Because I can’t help but wonder what has changed.  Now I constantly hear these words coming out of my mouth, “If I just had an hour to myself!!!!!” … interesting that I never finish that thought, I just leave it hanging… kind of like my mom’s sighs.  (my sisters are making our mom’s sigh-sound as they read this — that’s how impactful her sighs were!)

I’m calling a time out on myself.

I refuse to read another book about what I should be doing until I figure out what I’m going to STOP doing.  I think the first thing to go is this belief that I have to have an hour to myself especially when everyone is home from their busy days — says who?  God gave me this great kid and amazing husband and all I do is crave time to myself?!?!?!  Um… that’s a bit twisted.  Afterall, I couldn’t wait to get married, and I prayed and prayed that the infertility treatments would work despite my medical issues so that I could have a child to love and care for — and sorry for my transparency but, I think I’m sort of pissing it all away. (I take that back, I’m not sorry for my transparency)

I love my phone.
You guys know this already. And though I am temped to give you a list of things justifying my idolatry towards this piece of technology, I will just let it be.  Even though it’s killing me a little inside.

But do I LOVE my family?

So what if I don’t get to the next level of Candy Crush (for the record, I have not touched Candy Crush since I gave it up for … well not Lent but for Jen Hatmaker… I mean for ME).  So what if I don’t get a pedicure.  So what if I don’t finish reading all the posts on Facebook.  So what if I don’t gab with my friend for an hour about all the funny things that happened this week.

Moderation is the key… I dislike that word, it reminds me that I have to eat in moderation and that bugs me because I love food.

Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.

I think it’s incredibly important that we model good friendships to our children and that we go out and enjoy ourselves with friends when the opportunity arises.  I think it’s incredibly important to have time away from our spouses so that we have fresh and fun things to talk about.  I think it’s important to stay connected to long time friends and even current friends — but ya’ll — I’ve been doing it wrong.  It should be God, family, friends (and everything else).  So an hour in the morning reading scripture or my bible study books?  Totally legit.  Or an hour having coffee with a friend while everyone is gone doing his own thing?  No problem.  An hour on the couch scrolling through Twitter while my son is glued to the television…. dude.  Right. Between. The ii’s. (for iPhone and iPad… see what I did there with the…. see the i’s… nevermind)

I know I just blogged about this the other day, but this whole idea of having a list of things I am going to STOP doing seems much more inviting than a list of things I am going to START doing.  It reminds me of New Year’s when everyone has these lists of cool things they are going to conquer, and by February they don’t even know where the list is.  I don’t want to be that person.

So what are you going to stop doing?

I have another game to delete from my phone, I can tell you that right now…
Siiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiigh.