Tag Archive | insight

4/2/13: Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters: Facebook is NOT real life

I gave up Facebook for Lent. I felt that I needed to do this because in the months leading up to Lent, Facebook had taken on a new dimension for me. I found that I was spending hours reading every article, watching every video and reacting to every divisive thing that I saw. Facebook debates were quickly becoming vicious, and even the “safe” ones, the ones among friends and like-minded people seemed to result in misunderstanding and hurt feelings. They certainly resulted in frustration for me. I was checking constantly…from my computer to my phone, regardless of where I was. I needed to know the latest thing that someone had posted on the last topic that had upset me. It just wasn’t healthy.

On the Sunday before Ash Wednesday, my daughter sang in church. She read Scripture aloud and I was moved to tears. I took a few pictures and videos and decided to end on a high note, a few days before Lent actually started. I posted those pictures and a video and signed off. In order to avoid temptation or the possibility of clicking on it by habit, I deleted the Facebook app from my phone. I soon realized how much of a reflex it had become for me to type Facebook in my computer browser or go to that app.

It turns out that I really didn’t miss it. The stress of dealing with all the drama was gone. I was still aware of it because even though I wasn’t on, occasionally, I would hear about a Facebook “battle” and I could feel the wobbly feeling in my stomach that I had become so familiar with as the “someone is wrong on the internet” button was pushed. What a relief that I didn’t have to go fight that battle, that I COULDN’T go fight that battle.

What did I learn from all this? During my Facebook fast, I learned that not only has Facebook become a stressor for me, but it had also become a crutch. I realized that there were people that I interact with on Facebook and although I may run into them at a school function or something, I had absolutely no other way to get in touch with them. I didn’t have their email or a phone number. HOW ARE THEY GOING TO FIND ME TO GET ME MY GIRL SCOUT COOKIES??? (Facebook fast crisis #1: true story). There isn’t necessarily anything bad with using Facebook as the primary mode of getting in touch with someone, but the result was an unwanted DEPENDENCY on it. (Dependency on technology could be a whole post by itself).

What I really learned didn’t become apparent until Easter afternoon when I logged in again for the first time. It took me 30 minutes just to get through the news feed updates for about 1 day. I clicked on an article that someone had posted on some political or religious topic (can’t even remember what it was) and after reading a couple of sentences, I realized that if I let it, Facebook could suck my life away. Before I was done with that first login, an hour had passed…an hour I had intended to use for something else, an hour that was gone forever. What had I gained in that hour? I got to see some cute Easter pictures, which was nice. I got to get caught up on all the nice birthday wishes that people had left me. But other than that…I gained nothing. I didn’t get smarter. I didn’t become a better person, wife or mother. I didn’t learn anything new about the hot topics of the day that I hadn’t already heard by spending a few minutes listening to the news. The cute cartoons and shared pictures didn’t give me new insight into people or myself. All that happened is that I donated another hour of my life to Facebook. Dependency is the Facebook game. And Facebook is winning.

I realized then that the personal interactions I had over Lent with people far superseded anything I could get from Facebook. I learned that in order for people to feel “safe” discussing a highly charged topic on Facebook, a closed group was important. And closed groups tend to attract people who think similarly, and although valuable and interesting in some ways, also tend to create a group think atmosphere that ends up being more about my ego than a personal interaction would be.

I learned that you cannot possibly get to know someone by what they post on Facebook. We present a different persona to the “public” world than we present in our daily interactions with people. Life is glossed over and reduced to the latest accomplishment of our children, the latest vacation picture or what I had for lunch. The things that are really important to me, that really matter…my STORY can only be known from spending time with me. That time can be virtual, but it isn’t Facebook. Before you get upset, I’m not saying that the things we put on Facebook don’t matter, because when I see a picture of someone’s child and it makes me smile, that is good. It just isn’t real life. It isn’t the same as being in the same room as that child and hearing the giggle first hand and being a person that they KNOW.

At one point during the 40 day hiatus, Mark and I were talking about this and he said that Facebook is evil, and he wasn’t jesting. At first I thought that seemed over the top…but it made me think. Is it really good? Is it good that I have too easily replaced personal interaction with a computer screen? Have I judged someone or jumped to a conclusion or reduced someone to being not much more than the latest political/social stance they have taken? Have I let Facebook replace personhood with snippets of a life that may not even be real? Unfortunately, the answer to all of those questions is yes. I have done all of those things. I have done them because I confused Facebook with real life and it just isn’t so.

I am not giving up Facebook altogether, because at the end of the day, I enjoy those pictures of people’s kids, and seeing what my distant cousins are up to, and seeing what kinds of quirky posts my beautiful goofy daughters put out there. I like sharing ideas about my latest project (natural cleaning products) and Facebook is a convenient forum to do that. I like being informed about school activities and parent groups and other organizations that use Facebook pages as another avenue of communication. I like having another place for my blog to live (after all, MAYBE I’m going to start using it again). But I am limiting what shows up on my news feed. I am not going to be watching videos and reading controversial articles and digging into whatever stance my friends may be FOR or AGAINST. I’ll leave those things for real conversation. At this point, I’m not re-installing the app on my phone. I can still access Facebook through the browser on my phone when I want to, but it is just inconvenient enough, less easy to navigate that I will be more deliberate about it. I am not going to turn my email notifications back on. I just don’t need THAT much notifying and I certainly don’t need any more reason to spend more time.

Please remember that what gets posted on social media is not the whole of you, and it also isn’t the whole of anyone else. It is just a snippet, a glimpse, a piece. Real life is more than that.

So…this is Christmas

In an effort to return to writing, and to break my writer’s block, I am going to work on  a series of posts that may be atypical.  At the end, perhaps you will have gotten a glimpse into some of the deepest parts of my heart, and perhaps they will allow me to again return to sharing it with you.

For many weeks, I have been doing my normal holiday thing, which means I have been feeling decidedly NOT normal.  I don’t feel excited about the holidays.  I don’t necessarily feel pressured by them either, at least not in terms of the effort it takes to pull them off.  It isn’t the extra activity or shopping or planning that get me down.  What affects me is the pressure to feel festive, joyful, excited, “Christmas-y”.

When people learn that I have not been bitten by the Christmas spirit, there are regular check-ins.  “How are you feeling?”  “Has the spirit found you yet?”  “Are you feeling better?” “But your name is JOY!”  If you are one of those people who are checking in, don’t worry…I know that your questions come from your concern and love for me and your desire to help. I know that, so please don’t feel bad when I tell you that those questions make me feel worse.  I have been reminded about how blessed I am (as if my problem was that I didn’t realize that I live a life of abundance), I have been instructed to go feed a homeless person or buy a gift for a needy child or DO something for someone.  Surely those things will make me realize that I have nothing to be un-festive about.  And again, I know that those suggestions come from a good place and that the people who suggest them genuinely want to help.  They too, should not feel bad when I tell you how much worse they make me feel.  Because now, not only do I feel uncommonly Scrooge-y, but I feel like I must be ungrateful too.    The truth is that although I have been known to grump out an occasional “Bah-humbug”, my problem is not that I feel ungrateful or unblessed or any uninspired by the birth of my Christ.  It is really just the opposite in fact, which only complicates the mess that I have created in my head as I try to sort this all out.

I also know that I am not alone, and that although there are many of us who feel this way at the holidays, the world doesn’t quite know what to do with someone who doesn’t love Christmas.

Every year, I feel inadequate and frustrated and alone.  I feel guilty that my melancholy might steal some of the happiness that my girls feel at the holidays, because I have raised them to pay attention and to notice when someone is hurting.  I feel bad that my family is subdued in their celebration out of some kind of watchful deference to the pain they feel for me.

Eventually, I succumb to the ritual decorating and Christmas music listening…and I have to admit that my beautiful tree full of ornaments, each one with a special memory or sentiment attached, the white lights, the handcrafted tree skirt, my childhood stocking, and the steady arrival of all the gifts I ordered online (I may succumb to shopping but I will NOT go to the mall!!) start to peck away at me, and I become more content.  My decorated tree becomes one of my favorite sights and that is good.

But how do I process the rest?  What about the painful memories of childhood hurts and adulthood rejections that inevitably return at Christmas?  How do I convince myself that I won’t allow the past memories to rob me of my present memory-making?  What can I DO with the sadness and the loneliness that the sadness creates? How can I make sense of all of this so I can move past it without feeling inauthentic?  How do I enjoy the holiday without feeling that by doing so, I have not somehow committed some kind of whitewashing of the pain?

To be continued.

8/22/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – You are not that girl anymore.

You are not that girl anymore.

This covers so much territory and it really is about the hurt child in all of us.   “Old tracks” play on auto loop and tell the story of who we used to be.  We tell ourselves constantly that we are still the forgotten daughter, the “smart one” (aka NOT cool), the overweight, underweight, clumsy, acne-prone girl who boys didn’t like.  We are still the self-conscious girl who starves herself to feel in control, the girl who sleeps around to prove that boys like her. We are still the girl who failed at marriage and screwed it all up.

That is the story we tell.  That is the story I tell.  That is the story of “that girl”.

I have spent the better part of my adult life in an argument with that girl.  The grace that God has abundantly bestowed on me, as evidenced by the bountiful joy in my life, is often overshadowed by the lies that I allow that girl to tell.

If there is one thing that I want you to know about your future and who you are, it is this. You aren’t that girl anymore.

You aren’t the girl who got rejected by friends and therefore feels unlikeable.  You are not the girl who boys don’t like because you don’t look right or wear the right clothes, or act cool enough.  You just aren’t that girl.  No matter how many times that story plays in your head, no matter how many hurts you encounter, those hurts don’t make the girl.  You are so much more than that.  You are the delightful, beautiful girl who loves people and is loved in return.  You are the girl who works hard and does her best.  You are the girl who learns from her mistakes and works things out.  You are the girl who isn’t afraid to get back up after a fall.  You are the girl who is loved beyond measure and has so much to offer the world.

You are the girl who really believes she is a princess and expects the world to treat her with princess-like care.  You are the girl who is so convincing that you can talk a friend into picking up dog poop so you don’t have to.  You are the girl who runs races through pain and doesn’t quit.  You are the girl who does her own thing, makes her own style and doesn’t just follow along.  You are the girl who knows that being smart is a gift and works hard to honor her gift.  You are the girl who laughs so much and long that she gets a belly ache and always cares about making other people smile.

When I look at you, I see all the beauty and possibility in my life.  I forget about my “that girl” and can remember that my mistakes don’t define me and the stories that I tell myself can make or break me, but it is my choice.  I see in you the truth about God and His love and know that Truth is so much bigger than the lies I tell myself when I put my track on auto-loop.

When your confidence is shaken, and that girl tries to make an appearance, shake her off.  She is not your truth and you are not that girl.


This post was inspired by two pastors in my life.  Last Sunday, Steve North shared part of his emotional journey as he learned the truth about the man he is and the man he used to be.  In his poem, “Becky’s Thunder” he described the moment when  another pastor, Becky Przybylski, helped him see  that “You are not that man anymore.”  Listening to his story, I realized how much I let my own past tell me lies about who I am today.  I let “that girl” beat me down with the mistakes that changed the course of my life.  I continue to accept the guilt that girl heaps on, perhaps as punishment, perhaps as atonement and in the process, I forget who I am today.  I forget that those mistakes have shaped me, but they don’t define me.  Steve’s message helped me to  remember that the girl I am today has learned and grown and been blessed by those very mistakes, and that my life provides evidence every single day that God forgave me long ago and continues to prove it by pouring His grace into me.

God truly does set the brightness of our today into the dark mortar of our past so that we can see the contrast that He brings to us.

Thank you to Becky for being Steve’s thunder.  And thank you to Steve for being mine.


For some time now, I have been struggling with this thing called discernment. It makes me cringe a little every time I hear it. And despite my unease, I have used it to describe myself. “I have the gift of discernment.”

Discernment – discrimination, acuteness of judgement and understanding (synonyms: judgment, perspicacity, penetration, insight) (dictionary.com)

Based on the definition, it seems like a pretty good trait to have. So why does it make me so uncomfortable? I think the answer is that it assumes too much and since as human beings, we often inflate our perception of our own gifts, it can often go too far. I do believe that some people have been blessed with the gift of insight. I even believe that I am one of those people. Because that belief and this post may end up being in opposition, it is only fair that I start by using myself as an example before I talk about others.

In the last few years, I have just started to see how my gifts have been developed and how I am (hopefully) using them to help people. I tend to be able to talk to a person, hear a story and quickly see what might be driving their behavior, what might be going on with the other people involved and offer an observation that allows them to think about the situation in a new way. When this happens, solutions seem crystal clear to me and when I choose to share my observation, I am often told that I hit the nail on the head. So far, so good right? The problem occurs when I am wrong or when I might be right but the person isn’t ready to hear it, or when I haven’t listened enough, or when I project my own junk onto the situation. ALL of those things can and probably do happen with the same frequency that the alternative occurs (just ask my daughters), yet I still have a tendency to pat myself on the back for knowing so much about people.

I think true discernment is SO much more than being able to see into a situation quickly. It also means knowing when to shut up. It means knowing when it is time to look in the mirror instead of telling someone what is going on with THEM. It means listening. To truly understand a situation, I first have to know the person, or at least enough about what might be making that person tick, that I can factor in their history, their fear, their heart.

One of the biggest mistakes that I have made is in assuming that I know more that I do. It has taken some bumpy relationships and bruised feelings for me to see that I can only see what my personal lenses allow me to see. And like any gift, in order for it to be truly realized, this gift requires work and practice. Great athletes may have been given a gift of natural athleticism, but it is only through extremely hard work and dedication, that those gifts are turned into something marketable (worth something to others). The same is true of musicians, artists, scientists or ANY other success story. The gift is just the start that God gave us. And when I presume that the gift of discernment is any different, I risk so much, I know that I talk when I should be quiet. I know that I project my history onto other people’s stories. I know that I am often too sure of my opinion. Like anything else, I need to practice.

Now I’ll talk about discernment in a broader context.

How many times have you heard a right wing “news” anchor tell you what the motivation is of the person on the left? How about the reverse? How many times have you heard a straight person tell you what motivates a gay person? How many times have you heard a non-Christian tell you what Christians believe? How about Muslims? How much does the collective “we” presume to know about what motivates Muslims in this country, or what is in their hearts? I know that some of these opinions may be shaped by our collective experience in the last decade, and those experiences are valid data points for judgment. But they aren’t the only data points. When we assume the rest based on our gut….or discernment, what happens? When does discernment turn into hate?

And what about the things I know because God told me? How can anyone argue with that? Believe me, I am the first one to tell you that God has touched my life, and has used some pretty powerful ways to get me to see the direction that in hindsight seems blessed by His hand. I do believe that God speaks to us, sometimes very directly. But how is it possible that I can be so certain that God is telling me one thing, and another Christian can just as confidently tell me that God has told them the exact opposite? How is it possible that I believe that loving a homosexual means accepting who they are, accepting that God made them and believing that their worth as a Christ follower is not defined by who they chose to spend their life with. And another Christian feels equal passion for his belief that the only way to love a homosexual is to save them from their “sin”? What if we both claim a gift for discernment? If one of us has to be wrong, what does that say about the other things we believe God has told us?

In the last year, I have heard people tell me with conviction that the earthquake in Haiti was God’s punishment for voodooism, and that more importantly, they believe this because the Holy Spirit made it known to them. I have heard people say that the east coast earthquakes were because of the fight for marriage equality and/or rampant homosexuality. These people believe as strongly as I do that they have the ability to discern what God wants. Discernment? In this case, I think that discernment becomes a club and “God told me” is the ultimate conversation ender. Is that really God? Does He really speak softly to only a few people so they can use their newfound discernment to beat people down and judge them? And how about all the casualties in those natural disasters who are Christians? As someone aptly asked me, “Does God have bad aim?”

It is funny how most of the time when I hear, “God told me” it is in the context of something that could easily be seen as unkind or is a judgment of someone else’s sin. Whether I call it discernment or disbelief, I just don’t see it. And I don’t know what to do with it, because I know that the people who are saying it believe it with their whole hearts, and I believe that they are also trying to follow God’s direction. So are my signals crossed? Are theirs? And even worse, as I type this, I realize that I am guilty of the very thing I accuse them of, because I have decided they must be wrong because God has spoken a different message into my heart.

I have been struggling with this post for some time because it feels incomplete. There isn’t a conclusion. I don’t have the answer. I do know, however, that when I am the most sure of what is right, I am most at risk for missing the quiet voice of God. When I am busy telling people what their problem is, telling them what they should do, and bestowing on them the wonderful benefit of my discernment, I need to tread softly. I need to wait. I need to pray that the right words be brought to my lips. If I am to claim the gift of discernment, I also have to claim the responsibility that goes with it. I have responsiblity for the words that leave my lips, for the hearts that those words are spoken to, and for knowing when it is best not to speak.