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Avoiding White Noise like it’s White Sugar

2 Feb

My new years resolution for 2017 was to go a year without scrolling social media and the warplike vortex that can be the internet.  I liken it to mind sugar: it’s addictive and sadly can become degenerative.  I am only a month in, but I have already gathered a few thoughts to share.

For the past few years, I’ve continually ignored a quiet voice in my head that has counselled me to quit my continual scrolling of social and other mindless media.  I am obsessed with Dallas Hartwig’s mantra: more social, less media.  I wish I had coined it!!  (Ironically, I learned about it on Instagram.)  

These media are somehow drawing us in over and over.  How else would I know that the kid who sat next to me in seventh grade science had a ham sandwich for lunch today?  Or that a kangaroo can in fact put someone’s dog in a headlock?  What about the psycho hose beasts continually trying to draw fire politically?  Or all that heartwarming humblebragging.  The majority of it is just white noise!  Lately it seems to be getting louder, too.  

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I keep reading and scrolling and shaking my head…Then I go back for more the next day.

But here is the thing:  I am ready to think my own thoughts again.

So, my 2017 is a world where my phone is exclusively a conduit info/communication, and not my window to look out and see the chaos that is flying around.  I have untethered myself from it, and at home it’s plugged into a wall where it belongs.  Here are the top things I have noticed so far.  (Know that there are dozens of other good things.)


 

Where scrolling used to be: blank space to hear more from God.  That was my primary objective for the resolution.  A year devoid of heedless scrolling should certainly increase communion with the Lord.  It’ll take time, as previously I avoided spending any time alone with my own thoughts.  My wise friend and author Monica Swanson recently published some simple meditation cards.  Take advantage of her hard work!!  They are a perfect countermeasure to the scrolling, a handy tool for beginning meditation, intentionally clearing the mind, taking action to unplug.

 

Authentic outreach.  We have a neighborhood FB group which generally takes care of most social connections and meetups around here.  The other day, a new neighbor moved in.  I wrote my contact info onto an index card, and then actually walked a few blocks to hand-deliver it.  Honestly it felt awkward, like I was sticking my neck out.  Normally, I would have just clicked “add” and kept scrolling.  Because, you know, we can just message one another.

 

I have been reading a lot more.  I think part of why we tend to scroll and scroll is because it’s an honest endeavor to become better informed.  Reading is such a rich way to indulge the mind, grow us academically, increase empathy and compassion, and expand our horizons far beyond the instant-gratification internet media.  Get back into it with me.

 

 I don’t say “Just a minute” to my children quite as often.  HUGE.

 

The added quiet space in my day has made me feel more patient as a motherwhich is what I have been praying for.  Has this been part of the answer this whole time?  Oops.

 

I have a predisposition for feeling lonely.  It is chronic and I know it is mostly those mean voices in my head…but still, it’s one of my biggest hangups.  When I am especially suffering, I turn to scrolling to stave off my despondent feelings, but it doesn’t work.  Ever.  It’s a false sense of community for me.  Now that I am no longer scrolling, I am taking action to identify some effective antidotes to solve my chronic lonely feelings.  Blog post to follow….

 

I have five pairs of eyes on me at all times.  I don’t want my kids to think that scrolling is just what you do all day if you don’t have anything else to put your hand to.  No.  I want to model a different existence to them.  Scrolling is no way to live your life.

 

Journaling.  Such an organic, authentic way to document my thoughts, feelings and personal growth.  My journal is blissfully filling up again.  It’s tangible, tear-stained, raw.  I can go back into it and observe quantifable personal progress.  I began a commonplace journal as well.  It’s a beautiful way to catalogue memorable literary quotations.  You know, the stuff you dog-ear or underline, the snippets you read twice because they are so rich.  Copying these passages by hand allow them to sink in all the more.  I learned about commonplace journalling via Sarah McKenzie.   Look into it.  

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My scrolling-free time is wide open to pray for people who I am supposed to be praying for (kids & hubby), and for those I have told, “I will pray for you!”  These people who need intercession have come to the forefront of my mind far more often.  It’s notable that when I’m prayerful toward people who unnerve me, my attitude changes toward them.

 

Sometimes after closing out a mindless media scrolling session, I’ve come away thinking “uggggggggggghhhhhhh I feel dumber now.”
It is so empowering to take charge of what enters my mind and heart

vet it to meet my needs…
ensure it doesn’t increase strife in my relationships…
cause me to lose focus on my calling.
Nothing I am consuming with my eyes will make me dumber, angrier, more insecure, or further off my rails.  I can see that our society is clambering to feel empowered again, and perhaps this might be one step in the right direction.


 

Social media can be such a fun and uplifting place, and I have gleaned plenty from the things my people have shared.  It is important to stay relevant with the culture.  You’ll see me on FB/Insta a little bit because they are useful communication tools for groups I am involved in, and I still want document my favorite moments.  I am not set against the social media; however, I would like to set myself apart from it.  Please don’t be offended if I am not “liking” your stuff.  It’s not you, it’s me.  

I need a retreat from the hivemind.  A long one.

Maybe not-scrolling will be the new paleo.  I would love that.  🙂

Leigh

 

p.s.  Because scrolling-without-ceasing is now our culture, there is a market for a “swipe and feed.”  When I first saw this, I felt my heart ripping out of my chest.  Where do I begin?  Responding to this photograph would require a whole nother blog post.  

swipe-and-feed

Why I No Longer Pray for Patience in Parenting

5 Dec

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I don’t learn my life-lessons that quickly.  Wouldn’t it be nice to just read some instructions in a book, the close the cover, walk away and say to myself “got it, I will never make that mistake again.”  I usually have to walk the road–the long way–for any lessons to truly internalize.  This is a story about one of these long journeys.

Over the years I’ve been searching incessantly for patience in my mothering.  I have poured over parenting books and scripture, and I have prayed the same prayers over and over.

“Lord give me patience.”

“Lord, please let me respond in patience.”

“Lord supply me with the patience I need to answer them properly.”

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When it comes to bad kid-behavior, I am so predictable in my response patterns.  There are three levels: normal voice with a calm tone, outside voice with a serious tone, nuclear explosion.  
Normal. 
Serious…
Nuclear.

 Sometimes I can stay on serious-mode for three or four iterations, until I remember that I haven’t used my nuclear setting, and then they get a double portion of nuclear, which is followed by a brief period of time when I about black out.  Figuratively.  And to top it off, there is that back-blast of guilt and grief that always knocks me over. Anger in parenting is such a nasty cycle.

 

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There’s probably more than one reason my clever three-level correction plan hasn’t been working.  For one thing, I have allowed very irritating behavior to proliferate without giving it actual correction beyond verbal chastisement.  (Although, we recently completed a “manners boot camp” that truly changed things around here, and I think it will have lasting results…)  But aside from that, I’ve usually hovered over the old “give me patience” refrain in hopes that it will be the magic solution to fielding all the drama going down around me.

I’ve been living with constant waves of disappointment in them and myself.  It’s pretty difficult to enjoy my children in this craziness.  A couple of days ago, I asked the Lord why I don’t have any patience after all my begging for it.  And I got an answer so strong in my spirit that I knew it could only be His voice.  It said:

Stop asking for patience all the time. 
You should be asking for eyes to see the good.

For me that was a mic-drop.

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This whole time, I’ve been begging for patience to help me bear the horrible childish behavior in my home.  I’ve been waiting for a bunch of stand-alone good moments to add up and outscore the seemingly zillions of irritating moments…and the tally remains askew day after day after day.  It would be irresponsible of me to just “have patience” with the sin.  It would be damaging to overlook it–I do have to hold them accountable.  But since I have had this shift in my prayer/thought life, there is a peace that settles over these exasperating situations.  

  • To see the good, I have to look for it intertwined with all the sin. 
  • Good things are alive amidst the turmoil. 
  • In order to see the greatest amount of good around me, I gotta remember that it will be happening at the same time as the chaos is going down.

I have been missing it.  No longer.

He is bringing the good things before my eyes in droves.  I won’t spell them out for you, because they are personal to my experience.  But rest assured, in the heat of the bad moments, the morsels of good rise to the top and neutralize what would become an otherwise nuclear situation.  

And I think He has given me a mini-glimpse into how He sees.
Beauty is everywhere and it is enmeshed with all the ugliness that exists here on the Earth.   

But let’s not simplify it.  He redeemed the bad.  My personal life is a mire, so only through the lense of the Cross can He see the good that is here.  May I never forget that the restored relationship was so crushingly costly to Him.  I am enjoying a lifetime of approval that I SO did not earn.

So while I must still sort through all the nasty habits in my home (which include my own!) it’s coming from a much less irritated place.  My hair-trigger nuke dropper is under far better control. 

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In an effort to journal my development of eyes that see the good, I have been listing my children’s good deeds in my journal/iPhone notes app.  When I look purposefully, it’s much easier to see their kindnesses in action.  (They don’t jump out at me…because good acts are far quieter than the crazy-chaos-naughty acts.)  When I see it, I jot it.  After a couple of days, I have a lengthy list of their good moments in front of me, and this warms me to them.  Love can keep a record of rights, can’t it?  

One time, I even did a little ceremony at dinner by openly recognizing each child’s list during the week.  They didn’t know I was watching.  They were so proud of themselves and each other, and I could tell it was satisfying that their kindnesses did not go unnoticed.

It hurts my heart that I have not been congratulating them very often for the unseen/unheard good acts.  

Also, I am going to use my Instagram from time to time, using the hashtag #eyespursuinggood.  You’ll know that when I have posted an #eyespursuinggood pic, it’s because it was a moment of testing.  I am NOT here to brag on social media about my beautiful life. On the contrary — it will be because I am currently eyeing something good in order to diminish something bad that’s just gone down.

Will you join me?  If you are already my Insta follower, then this is what the tag is about.  If not, let’s add each other and get our eyes set on seeing good things.

I am humbled to have made progress in this area of my motherhood journey…I had to take the long road on this one, but it was worth it.

Leigh

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I have a beautiful walking path beside my home. #eyespursuinggood

Getting my body back vs. Getting enough gym-time

8 Nov

I love me some pregnancy and newborns.

But the three year game of pregnancy redlight-greenlight has trashed my fitness and body image.  Since the miscarriage of 2013, I  have had two more children.  I avoided super-high intensity training while pregnant, opting to keep it simple: walking, a few body weight movements and trying to eat sensibly.  But truthfully, my fitness is at zero, maybe even below zero.  I don’t really ever remember a time I’ve been at zero…I have never gone this long without devoting myself to physical activity and regular gym-time.

Here I am now.  Five kids.  Homeschooling.  Hubby working hours that nearly break us both.  House to manage, dinner to make.  Gym-time is pretty much at the bottom of my list of daily priorities.  Why?  Because even though the real me

(Pause.  The “REAL ME” is now a completely notional figure because I will never be the “real me” again…age is getting its way with me, kids are steadily increasing in needs, speed of life is red-lining.  Sounds like its time to renovate who the “REAL ME” is.)  

As I was saying.  The real-me would rather be having gym-time two hours a day, five days a week.  Actual-me is needed by kids and friends and husband (<–not in that order!).  My people.  They need me.  These relationships will suffer if I put gym-time above them.  

Missing out on the hallowed time in the gym/box/garage, causes a nagging grudge to form and grow.  It’s my favorite way to cash in my me-time.  I keep slipping into false thinking that hours of gym-time is the only way to “get my body back.”  

My internal dialogue keeps screaming YOU WILL NEVER REGAIN YOUR FITNESS!!  (Why does our internal dialogue lie so much?  I was born with a voice in my head that absolutely hates me.)  

Anyway, I have to answer it back with two things.
1.  Getting lean takes nothing more than an intuitive diet.
2.  Having zero gym-time doesn’t mean I can’t exercise.  

Every iteration of exercise (even as short as 4 minutes!)  is a deposit in my strength account.  Diet is what controls body comp.  Gym-time is not part of this formula.  What a mindsaver.  Diet and exercise have two different objectives and let’s not get them mixed up.
Diet is for leaning me out.
Exercise is for the 10 foundations of fitness.

I will eat for energy.
I will lift to be strong enough to help people move stuff.

I will eat to enjoy the experience of food. 
I will run so that I can play anything with my kids and grandchildren.

I will eat responsibly so that I look my best in formal dresses.  (Dang it anyway that I have to wear these dresses so often!!)
I will WOD with my man, because it’s our favorite way to spend our free time together.

I will eat if my stomach growls.
I will exercise because the endorphins are such a welcome respite.

I will not eat if I am not hungry.
I will do push-ups and pull-ups because it is the fastest way to tone my arms.  

I will eat to keep my mood in check. (NO HANGER!)
I will do sit-ups because my abs would like to permanently hang out at the 5-months pregnant position.

I will eat without hang ups about timing, amounts, or macros
I will jump rope to rehab my pelvic floor.  (Sorry dudes, this is what happens when your uterus is basically a clown car.)

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So even though gym-time is at an all-time low, my stress about it is also pretty much gone.  I train when I can, and I am getting incrementally physically stronger.  Eating mindfully will bring about the body comp changes I need to see.

I am mentally weary from chasing empty obsessions…and assigning impossible expectations on things that are circumstance-dependent, like getting enough gym-time.  Food is fuel.  Exercise is physical strength.  Period.

Faith and healthy relationships empower.  Faith and relationships award us with heart satiety.

Am I the only one who has been stuck in the wrong mindset in this area?  It only took me until I was 36 and 11 years into motherhood to be at peace about it.  

Thanks for reading,
Leigh

 

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