Tag Archive | Lessons

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.

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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.

6/1/12 Today’s Advice to My Beautiful Daughters – Make room for others.

This post is inspired by a message delivered by the amazing Pastor Becky last Sunday…a message that I needed to hear.

Life is full of lots of roads.  There are the regular city roads, with just enough room (most of the time) for free flowing traffic in either direction.  There are super-highways with multiple lanes of speeding cars and there are the small winding roads and paths, the narrow ones with just enough room for one.

It is on the narrow paths that we really have to pay attention.  We have to take turns, look for ways to let others get by, and even lend a hand to get over a particularly bumpy, steep or difficult part.  It is on the small narrow paths, the ones that can seem treacherous and scary, that we learn to make room for others.  We can’t just speed through oblivious to who might be walking or riding beside us.  We have to pay attention, be mindful, share the space.

When  you find yourself on a narrow path, turn down the music and turn off the distractions and just pay attention.  Pay attention to the people around you.  See who needs help and who needs a little extra room.  Step aside to let someone pass.  Lend a hand to someone who needs a boost.  Look around to see the hand outstretched in help to you.  These paths are narrow, but they don’t need to be traveled alone.

When you are frustrated by the slowness, the bumpiness and the general difficulty of the narrow paths, ask God to give you the feet for the path.  Instead of impatiently asking for the path to be cleared, ask instead that you be equipped to handle it.  Because the narrow paths really do have the best views and you don’t want to miss out.  So make room for others, and enjoy the beauty together.

The last picture is taken on a path in Hocking Hills, OH.  This particular path is on the property where Mark and I got married.  It is a beautiful place.  And this particular path is the perfect metaphor for the paths that are best when shared.  The views have been pretty good so far!

The Things They Didn’t Tell Me

When you have children, there is a wide range of wonderment and fear that you have at each stage of life. I remember bringing my oldest daughter home from the hospital and the abject FEAR that we were going to mess her up. We thought the nice nurses and doctors had lost their minds in allowing the absolutely clueless parents to take this little baby home….without any help…or any idea what to do. Neither of us had ever been around a newborn before. None of my friends had babies before me and our parents lived 600 miles away. What were we thinking??

Then, as we got the hang of things and even managed to occasionally eat at the same time (which was a milestone past remembering to eat at all), we started to relax a little bit. And even though she was not a happy baby, our cluelessness served us well because we had nothing to compare it to. Mobility was the next fear to be overcome, then talking, and then at some point we decided we were skilled enough to add another child to the mix.

Our second daughter was born and by this time we had parent swagger. The nurses weren’t telling us anything we didn’t already know and we just wanted to get home to start life with her sister. Our second baby slept all the time instead of screaming all the time like her older sister, so of course, we panicked a little bit and thought maybe something was wrong with her. By this time, we had a little experience observing other newborn behavior so the fear was short-lived and we breathed a sigh of relief that with this baby, things would be so much easier.

Enter the blissful period. Of course that is how I remember it NOW and it might not have any actual correlation to how I felt at the time. But the way I see it, the next 13-15 years were just the easy years that were preparing us for the all dreaded teenage years…with girls! And puberty! And the boys that would inevitably come sniffing around our little beauties! Those years included a divorce, moves, job changes, death and various other emotional hurdles that seem like a piece of cake compared to navigating parenthood through the minefield that comes with raising teenage girls.

But here is the thing. The challenges are totally different than I expected. And I prepared! I read books. I threatened to WRITE books, such an expert was I. I had all the answers…for all things… from the sex talk, to drugs and alcohol talk, to the oft expected teenage deception, lying, screaming, disrespect that I had been warned about. I had my books and I was armed for battle. So how is it that in all the reading and expertness that I had under my belt, I missed the fact that parenting had the potential to break my heart and bring me to my knees? And most disconcerting, that the heartbreak would be for reasons I wasn’t prepared for at all? Me…not prepared!?!

I’m actually one of the lucky ones. My kids have always been very respectful. We have ingrained in them a belief in the merits of kindness and respectful discourse. That doesn’t mean that they don’t disagree and sometimes express that disagreement enthusiastically but I can’t ever remember a time when they were downright rude or course with any adult, me included, at least not in the way I have seen in other teens. My kids generally like to be in our company. They enjoy family vacations and family activities and just hanging out. In other words, I have it pretty good.

None of these things make my kids immune to being teens, and to making the mistakes that teens are prone to make. The problem is that I have gotten the idea somewhere along the line that I can somehow protect my kids from doing the dumb things that I did, prevent them from learning lessons the hard way and experiencing the pain that I felt from those hard lessons. And even as I reflect back on my own mistakes and see the value in the lessons that I took away from those mistakes and their consequences, still I have to resist the urge to be a helicopter parent who swoops in and performs the rescue. At the end of the day, seeing my kids experience that pain makes me relive it a hundredfold. The helplessness and heartbreak sometimes feels like it will be my undoing and none of the books prepared me for that. In all the warnings about “just wait till they are teenagers” not once was I given ample preparation for this feeling that my heart would be living outside my body in the form of my daughters and every fracture in them would break me wide open.

There are times that the pain of the consequences, some natural, some imposed by me, is too much for them. When I see them experiencing that pain, I want so badly for it to go away that I have to tell myself over and over that I am doing the right thing. I have to remember that parental perseverance is rewarded in the long-term, but often not in the short-term. I have to accept the consequences of my decisions, which often include disharmony, sullenness and the chill of the “ice out” when one of my little girls stops talking to me. (When there is disharmony, I always long for the little girl years when they loved me no matter what, and would crawl in my lap, and when my hugs and kisses were enough to heal their hurts.)

But even today, as I struggled for reconciliation, in the midst of one of the biggest ice outs I have had the displeasure to live through, I learned something from my daughter. After two days of crying and longing, we talked, and she taught me something really important. So pay attention…this is something you will want to remember.

She taught me that teenagers aren’t so different from the rest of us. Sometimes they don’t say what they mean…just like us. And just like us, they expect us to know what they really meant and not just what they said. Let me give you an example of our behavior to compare this to: When a woman goes on a long rant to her husband and he repsonds with “I see” he really means, “I have no flipping idea what your problem is or why you are mad at me.” When a husband asks his wife what is wrong and she responds with “Nothing. I’m fine” she really means that he is in the doghouse and better know why without her telling him. Similarly, when a teenager tells us, through word or action that they want us to go away or leave them alone or give them space, what they really might mean is, “Come after me. Love me. Don’t give up. I’m confused about all these crazy emotions and I need your help.” And I can tell you that when the dialog makes that truth come to light, it is the kind of thing that takes the shattered pieces of a mother’s heart and stitches it back together.

I do NOT have all the answers (despite my book collection of expertness), but I do know this: My kids need me, even when they don’t know it and especially when they say they don’t. And as much as it breaks my heart, it is not my job to protect them from mistakes. It IS my job to pursue them until reconciliation is reached, no matter how long it takes. The reward for my pursuit may be that my broken heart will be healed by the power of a girl’s smile, hug and “I love you.”

So all you parents who are following this, I will try to continue to blaze the trail with a string of mistakes, and I will share them with you in the hopes that the sharing might help you avoid some of them (which will leave you plenty to make on your own). Assuming my heart can withstand all the shattering and stitching, I know that my reward will be demonstrated by the love of two little girls who will one day grow into the incredible young women that I know they can be.

Maybe it is time for me to accept that even though I feel like they may just kill me sometimes, the best things are the things that the books didn’t tell me.