Things I'm Organizing In 2021 (+Video Chat)

 


Ah, January!  The month when we all suddenly get the urge to organize and plan our lives.

Really though, every January I make a plan to get things organized.  Sometimes my goals work out and I do make improvements, like the year I finally developed a morning routine.  Other times my best laid plans for...well, planning better, fall through.  Whatever happens, I will always love that fresh feeling that January brings.  In fact, I am probably even more motivated to get organized after a roller coaster of a year in 2020.

These are three things I'm planning on organizing better in 2021:

Photos

For the past couple years I have been printing up the year's worth of photos in December, including the best ones of each of my kids to put into a little album for their stockings - and I take a lot of photos each year.  It is a pretty huge project to sort through an entire year's worth of photos, get them printed, and get them into albums.  In fact, I didn't even finish the kid's albums in time this year.  

I'd like to handle photos differently in 2021 - my goal is to print up photos at the end of each month.  This would help spread out the cost, and also keep me on track with only choosing the very best photos to print. (In December, I found myself getting a little lazy in the 2020 photo sorting and selecting too many to print - I was just tired of staring at a screen and wanted it to be over!)


Home Management 

This year in my everlasting quest to find a planning system that actually works for me, I am attempting to organize my own home management binder.  One thing I hate about planners, and that has hindered me from finding a planner that works for me, is that I hate wasted pages.  I hate them so much that if I feel too many pages are being wasted in my planner, I end up throwing the whole system out.  I am hoping in printing up only the types of planning pages I'll actually use, I can create my own planner/organization system that works for me.  I am focusing on these areas:

-Cleaning Routines

-Meal Planning

-Budget Planning

-Address Organizing

-Blog Planning

I particularly wanted to focus on getting more organized with household chores and such, because I think I've been in a "survival mode" when it comes to homemaking for so many years (with all our babies and toddlers) that I have really become dysfunctionally disorganized in some areas.  

My kids are older now, and I'm realizing I don't have to be in survival mode anymore - I actually have the time and energy now to do homemaking well.  I want to do that for my family - I think it will make for a peaceful and more relaxing home environment for Derek and the kids, and it'll help me be a better servant to my family, which is something I feel the Lord is calling me to focus on in this stage of my life.

The Kids' Drawings

All these years I have been putting my kids best drawings in keepsake boxes that I have scattered around the house, but I have had no method of organizing their drawings at all.  I write the name of the child, and the date, on the back, stuff it in a box, and forget about it.  

I didn't even really think about there being another way until Christmas, when my grandmother gave me a keepsake binder with a lot of special papers she had collected over the years. It was a very special and sweet gift, and it also made me realize it doesn't matter if keepsake papers are put into a beautiful scrapbook, with decorations and photos.  They are just as special and beautiful when using a simple organization system like a binder with page protectors.  

So this year I am going to sort the kids' art into binders, and create a separate one where I can keep the notes and pictures they make for me.  It's a more compact way to store things, and this way those papers can be protected better while also creating a better way to actually look at them occasionally!

I am excited to have a plan for becoming a little better organized in these areas in 2021!  We shall see how it goes.  Are you focusing on any areas for improvement this year?

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I also made a chatty video about everything I just wrote about, but I tacked on a little mini book haul at the end if you are interested in watching!



Books I Read In December 2020


This year I am hoping to do a monthly recap of what I'm reading, to be posted before the 15th of each month (at least that's my goal).   I haven't been tracking my books in Goodreads for a while, instead I had been writing notes about my books in my bullet journal, with intentions of sharing on my blog each season.  However, last year at the beginning of each quarter I'd find myself a little overwhelmed at the thought of writing about that many books, and I'd procrastinate and never share.  I am trying to be more organized about my reading in 2021, and part of that will be recording and sharing my books each month with all of you!

So, the first installment of my little series will actually look back on what I read in December.  Last year was not a great reading year for me, since I was too distracted by the news to keep on track with my reading.  In December I course-corrected a bit and finished a few books!

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Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock - I read this on audio, and I have to say the audio was great.  The story is about a grumpy taxi driver who is roped into driving around an older lady with dementia who is trying to set up her granddaughter.  There is obviously a light bit of romance.  It's also Christian fiction, so there was a message about the taxi driver coming back to his faith, but it was pretty subtle.  The driver was meant to remind you of a character like Luke in Gilmore Girls, and I have to say I enjoyed it!  I love me a good grumpy character.  Content Note: Clean.

A Marriage Carol by Chris Fabry - This book is not my usual style, but I was in a Christmas-y mood and decided to give it a try.  A couple is on their way to get a divorce, but they get in a car accident and the wife finds herself at a mysterious cabin exploring Christmases past, present, and future.  I don't usually enjoy reading books about people having marriage problems (I just find it depressing), but this one was cute overall, with a sweet ending. Content Note: One reference to a honeymoon activity, ahem, but overall clean.

Last Christmas In Paris by Hazel Gaynor - Listened to this on audio as well, and it was so wonderful.  Probably my favorite book from December.  This is an epistolary novel, in which a British girl writes letters to her brother and childhood friend as they head to the front lines of World War One, and the childhood friend writes back...and love blossoms, though neither one knows because of lost letters and other drama.  I loved it so much, and it had the added bonus of being a World War 1 book, which fits with my personal study project!  Content Note: Mild cursing.

The Two Towers by J.R.R. Tolkien - This was a re-read for me, one that I've been working on for months but finally finished in December.  The last quarter of the book is always the best, and I flew through it once the storyline switched back to Frodo and Sam.  

Red Queen by Vivtoria Aveyard - Interesting fantasy/dystopian book, in which society is divided into those who have red blood, and those who have silver blood accompanied by super-powers...until a red girl mysteriously discovers powers of her own.  Of course there is the obligatory love triangle.  I really enjoyed this book, but weirdly I also disliked the main character.  I thought she was judgmental and a little whiny - she almost felt entitled, which was ironic since I think the silvers were supposed to be the entitled ones.  I'll probably try the next book because this one was quick-paced with an interesting plot, but I'm not sure if I'll like how it turns out.  Content Note: A lot of violence, some kissing.

Deceived No More by Doreen Virtue - A great testimony book written by a women who was previously a best-selling New Age author, before Jesus saved her out of the New Age.  I find New Age testimonies really fascinating, and I thought the author did a great job of rooting this entire book in Scripture and pointing the reader back to Christ and what He has done to save us.  I loved it!

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl - I read this one aloud to the kids.  I had never read it before, and is so often the case, the book is much better than the movie!  A few rude names throughout, but since I was reading it to the kids I just committed those.  Good morals in this book about not cheating, not being rude and spoiled, etc.  My kids loved the book, and begged me to read another chapter every time I put it down.  That's how you know it's a winner!

Raising Men, Not Boys by Mike Fabarez - I am very picky about the parenting books I read and recommend.  I don't like many modern parenting books, because they seem to me to be an endless list of to-do's that leave me feeling like I'll never be an adequate parent.  This book offered practical parenting suggestions, but in a way that was based upon biblical parenting principles.  The book focused on the gospel and leading your kids to Christ, and then covered bigger concepts like a good work ethic, good money skills, discipline, etc.  It wasn't so much about a list of things to do as about refocusing as a parent, and I appreciate that.  I got a lot of good ideas from this book that don't feel burdensome, and I already have plans to implement some of it in the new year.


That's it for my December reads, and I'm already hard at work reading for January, so hopefully I'll have another good list to give you in a few weeks!  

Did you read anything good in December?


A Happy Review Of A Rough Year



This time last year, none of us knew how much of a roller coaster 2020 would be! Despite it being very stressful from a political and world events perspective, on a personal level there are still blessings to be found as I look back on it now.  I have written one of these yearly recaps every year for the last 12 years, and I will continue because it is an exercise in gratitude.  It's a way to count blessings that may not seem as obvious, because even in hard times, the Lord's grace to us is there when we look for it.

January



January was a relatively quiet month.  We started out the year with a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, and a horrid cold that last for 2-3 weeks for me and Derek (knowing what we know now...well, we wonder what that was, because we haven't gotten sick since).  Then we settled back into our school routine. At this time I was attempting to take a step back from our co-op, because it was turning out to be harder on our family than I thought.  We did squeeze in a trip to a local historical museum with one friend, and a hike with another, along with a date night for me and Derek!  We saw 1917, which inspired me to start my World War One personal study project.



February


February started off with a flurry of snow days, including one storm that dropped over a foot of snow on us.  In the middle of one of those storms, the girls went to a daddy/daughter event with our church, all bundled up in princess dresses and snow coats.  We also had the first of many car problems that would plague us in 2020 - a new transmission was installed, though we are not even sure if the transmission was truly the problem.  We also celebrated Wyatt's birthday, a very bittersweet one for me as I realized he is halfway through his childhood now.  We made valentines to give to our cousins and friends, and spotted a tiny bit of greenery poking through the dirt in town.  We enjoyed a family hike at a local state park. I also had a girl's night out with some friends, and we discussed the rumored virus.  I remember saying I didn't think it would be that big of deal...hadn't we made it through several other varieties of flu - bird, swine, etc - just fine?  Joke's on me I guess.




March 


This month started out like every other March I ever remember - brown, muddy, a little boring.  We got out and enjoyed the warm weather, and saw our friends one day at a McDonald's play place, were I was informed that if I didn't want to run out of toilet paper, I might want to grab some, because it was selling out.  I was honestly shocked at this, very surprised at the level of panic.  A few days later we went to a train museum with my sister, and the next day we snuck in a trip to the library and stocked up on books. Our co-op was cancelled for the week (little did we know it would end up being cancelled the rest of the school year). The day after that almost everything was shut down, including our church.  We had the first "church at home" of what would end up being way more Sundays than I thought.  As our opportunities to get out of the house dwindled more and more, we worked on letters for our family and friends, and I learned how to make whipped coffee.  At the end of the month our governor issued stay-at-home orders, but I still went out for takeout scones in my car every Friday, and it was a much-needed outing.  We also made it a point to go on hikes as much as we could for exercise and fresh air.  People weren't meant to stay inside all the time. 




April


Finally in April I stopped obsessively checking the news for changes, and realized I just had to live my life. Derek started building a playhouse for the kids, and I continued with visits to our local coffee shop for takeout, found several fun projects for the kids, and enjoyed some unseasonably warm weather which we celebrated with going out for grocery-store popsicles - eaten in the car.  Easter came and went, and it's the first Easter ever that we didn't start the day by going to church. The kids were especially disappointed that we couldn't do our usual sunrise service, but we did still enjoy an egg hunt at Grandma's house.  We celebrated Clyde's birthday as he turned 6 years old!  I usually try not to rush the summer vibes, but this month I did.  In my mind, everything would be better in the summer.   Later in the month I organized a photo scavenger hunt for the kids that we did from our car, as well as weekly family movie nights and Sunday school "parties" through Zoom.  We all had cabin fever, but we tried to do little things to make the best of it.

On The Blog: Certainty



May



The weather started to warm up, and we enjoyed more days running around at parks and going on walks.  Mother's Day ended up being a favorite for me - we went on a nature walk with Derek's mom, had a picnic lunch overlooking the mountains for me, and then visited my mom in the afternoon.  We finished up the school year earlier than expected, thanks to having so many Saturdays at home with nothing to do but school.  I had the kids pick out some books for summer, and we finished the school year with donuts.  Derek installed a greenhouse on our porch and started growing various vegetables and flowers.  At the end of May the beaches in Texas reopened, and we took a road trip to spend a week in Galveston.  It was a perfect refresher for our family - I don't think I realized how stressed I was about all the pandemic stuff until we got away for a few days.  Though it was an eventful trip, with a problem with our beach house and an ear/throat infection that required an urgent care visit for antibiotics, we mostly just enjoyed the water and pool and restaurants.




June


We got back from vacation at the start of June, and I determined we were going to have a good summer even if it wasn't totally "normal".  But the parks opened, and our church reopened for in-person services, and just those two little things made a huge difference.  I made a big summer to-do list that included hikes, playing in creeks, craft projects, and lots of summery food.  We also planned an ocean-themed birthday party for the boys with our friends and family, after delaying it for several months! Derek and I got out for a date that involved mini golf and takeout, and we went fishing for my birthday.  We celebrated Derek on Father's Day.  And overall we just enjoyed the warmer weather and the break from school.




July



We found some fireworks to watch on the 4th of July, which I was so grateful for since so many shows were cancelled.  Then a week later, Derek surprised me with a weekend getaway to a Gaylord resort for our 12th anniversary!  We enjoyed the night away and getting to lay by the hotel's pools without worrying about anybody not being able to swim.  We also made the trek to our county fair, which included a free circus show and rodeo events.  I was so proud of our little county for continuing with the fair, since so many counties had cancelled theirs.  We had a couple hikes with friends and did more at-home summer activities like sidewalk paint, homemade play dough, and local sightseeing at historical sites and national monuments.

On The Blog: Homeschool Curriculum Chat Series - Science, Language Arts, History, Math, Bible



August



We started gearing up to restart the school year in August, but not before we sent off the summer with a little more fun - campfires (before wildfires got out of control and a ban was instituted), porch camping, and finally a trip to Arches National Park and Black Canyon Of The Gunnison! It was a beautiful trip, even though it was short.  It was a trip that felt truly energizing instead of just stress-relieving, as our vacation in May had been. Derek finished up the summer with getting the roof on the kids playhouse, while we had our first day back to school.  Wyatt started 4th grade, Gwen started 2nd, and Clyde started 1st.




September 


We had some wild temperature swings in September, including a first snow!  But overall it was a fairly mild month, and we spent time outside studying plants as we learned more about botany for our homeschool science.  We also ended up taking a weekend trip to Nebraska for Derek's cousin's wedding.  It was lovely, and I read quite a lot of my World War One book in the car.  The kids started Awana at church, which gave them a regular outing, and gave Derek and me almost weekly date nights.  At the end of the month we celebrated Clarice's 5th birthday!  



October


October always brings a lot of fall fun with it, and this year we managed to squeeze in a trip to a corn maze, and a fall hikes at the peak of color.  I took our annual fall family pictures at my parent's house.  Derek started gearing up for hunting season, and I started teaching the kids how to embroider (we're still working on it).  We took a trip out to our friends' ranch and had a lovely visit with them, as always.  I also flew out to Montana with my mom for my cousin's wedding - it was a whirlwind trip, but I'm so glad we went!  At the end of the month we went target shooting, and I went deer hunting for the first time in about 8 years.  I got one on the first morning, thanks to my great hunting guide (Derek)!  We celebrated Georgiana's 3rd birthday at the end of October!  We also did our little Reformation Day activities that have become a tradition for us.




November


Derek spent several weekends hunting in November, so we didn't do too much at the beginning of the month.  We voted on November 3rd, and then I spent the rest of the month obsessively reading the news and being stressed about the dubious election results. We visited with friends, kept plugging away at schoolwork, and just enjoyed time at home.  On Thanksgiving we enjoyed seeing our family and thanking the Lord for getting us through a very unusual year.  Then we cooked a second Thanksgiving dinner for our own little family, just because.



December



Even though this December was just as busy for us as any December is, it somehow still felt more relaxed.  We enjoyed a trail of lights with my family, a Christmas party with my extended family, a Christmas party with our Sunday school class, a winter hike, and a trip to see my grandpa.  Even though restaurants were targeted for closing indoor dining this month, we still went out to eat on the patio or in outdoor tents during our Awana date nights. The kids and I decorated a "night tree" with dried fruits and popcorn for the deer, and we read a lot of Christmas picture books to go along with school.  We visited a train museum with friends on Christmas Eve eve, and it was so nice to have a field trip after having so few this year! We went stargazing in the mountains, the darkest place we could find, to see the "Christmas star", a connection of Jupiter and Saturn.  We somehow managed to squeeze visits with both sides of our family in on Christmas Eve, and then we enjoyed a quite Christmas Day at home, opening presents, playing games, and watching movies. In the week between Christmas and New Year's I became aware of some invasive privacy policy changes to Instagram, and after a year of censorship and activism on the part of the big tech giants, I'd had enough. I prepared to say goodbye to Instagram and Facebook, probably for good. (You can find me on Parler and MeWe now!) We celebrated Derek and Gwen's birthday after Christmas, with my girl turning 8 years old!  We finished off 2020 with a family movie night at home, which seemed an appropriate and comforting end to this crazy year.







Even though last year was a rough year, I am so thankful for the way the Lord has carried us through, and the way He has blessed our family this year with time together and fresh perspectives on what really matters.  I want to remember that as we head into 2021!



The Year Without An Instagram



(Note: This week I am sharing a few things that have been brewing in my heart about social media this week.  This is the latest installment.)

As so many people did, about a week ago I deleted the Instagram app from my phone.  

In case you missed it, there was a lot of buzz about the new privacy policy, which basically allows Facebook and Instagram to be more blatant in their efforts to spy on you and interfere in your life (I'm exaggerating, but not that much).  From my perspective, the reactions seem to be frantic "get-this-thing-off-my-phone-now" mixed with a side of "but-what-will-I-do-without-Instagram?"  Either that or people just shrugged their shoulders over the Big Brother vibe with an "eh-what-can-you-do?" and went about their merry over-sharing way.

For me, I don't know what category I exactly fall into.  What I can say is that I wasn't panicked.  As I have been sharing my hoarded drafts of posts on this topic, you can probably tell that this move has been brewing for a long time for me.

For the last couple years I took a break from social media over the month of December.  Both times I came back with a fresh perspective on what I was actually doing on social media, and how that habit of checking my phone was affecting my life. Especially after last year's break I realized how addictive Instagram had become for me, that this was a problem.  Still, I didn't feel ready to give it up, and the chaos of 2020 made it difficult to envision cutting ties.  But my unease remained.  

I first started paying attention to Instagram in 2013, when I was pregnant with Clyde.  Back then, it was a fun adjunct to blogging, a way to keep up with people, blog friends and in-person friends, who I really liked and cared about.  Somewhere along the way, it morphed and changed though into something else.  

Instead of enhancing real life relationships, it started to take away from them.  Instead of being an occasional check-in, it started to become a habit.  Instead of sharing, it became curating.  Instead of being a fun way to connect with blog friends, it (almost) killed blogging.

Until, here we are, in 2020, and I find I haven't really enjoyed Instagram in a while.  I have stayed on.  I have escaped into the app in moments of boredom.  I have felt the emotional boost of likes and comments.    I appreciate the artistry of a well-curated feed, and I like seeing my pictures in a little grid.  But I don't enjoy it anymore.

I don't feel good about the way I reach for my phone too often through the day.

I resent the time it takes away from other hobbies, like reading and blogging.

I feel guilt (conviction?) over the attention it steals from my family.

I struggle with the constant opportunity for comparison, only a flick of a finger away.

I hate the yucky feeling I have when I wake up from scrolling and realize I just wasted 20 minutes of my life that I'll never get back.

So no, when Instagram announced it's new invasive policies, I wasn't panicked.  It was the final straw, but I was already sliding that pack off the camel's back before.  

Maybe it's time we rethink some of these platforms.  Maybe it's time we adjust the way we use them.  Maybe we should spend more time thinking about the way social media has impacted us as a society, the way we interact with each other, in negative ways.  Maybe it's time we demand a righting of some of the wrongs.  I'm glad the conversation is starting, because I think even a social media enthusiast may have that sneaking feeling, deep down, that something isn't right here.  Social media isn't going away, but maybe it should change.  We need to figure this out.

For me though, I'm looking ahead to 2021 as the year without the 'gram.  My first in seven years.

A couple months ago, as I was brainstorming post topic ideas, I wrote this down:


"Title: Finding The Balance: Setting A Different Kind Of Social Media Goal 

- my goal is to figure out a way to get instagram off my phone for good."


This has been on my heart a while.  I have known something needed to change, I felt that conviction in my heart.  This is the time.

And I have to tell you something.  I didn't realize how much of a burden Instagram had become for me until the last couple weeks - these fresh and bright weeks when I haven't been on it at all, and don't intend on going back, and realize I don't even miss it all that much.

I feel lighter.

I feel free.

(I broke out my fuzziest sweater and most Christmas-y cup this morning, before we take down the tree this weekend.)

But what can we do instead of Instagram?

I write this little add-on to my post fully knowing that there are some of you who can't give up Instagram. Some of you run businesses that would suffer greatly if you deleted Instagram, and if you have reservations regarding the app and are simultaneously earning an income with it, I can't imagine your struggle.  I hope you find work-arounds for some of the privacy violations, and I hope you can find ways to diversify! It is difficult to be locked into a platform for financial reasons.

But for those of you who are like me, just average users with a small following - there are other ways to connect with people online.  

Parler - I've been on both Parler and MeWe for a couple months, and my experience with these new (and growing) platforms has been good thus far.  They don't use the addicting tricks that apps like Instagram and Facebook use, so in that sense they feel a lot healthier (think old school Facebook and Instagram before the algorithms ruined them).  They have much better privacy policies (especially MeWe), and on Parler specifically there is a small but busy homeschool community popping up.  If you aren't quite ready to give up social media all together (I'm not either), check them out.

Blogging - Good old-fashioned blogging is still a thing - despite my lamenting Instagram's killing of blogging, it's not truly dead.  I've been trying to keep it alive here for years, along with many other people (a few of them in my sidebar).  Back before social media took off so intensely, people took time to write out their thoughts long-form on a blog, and there are a lot of benefits to communicating this way.  Anyone can do it (really).  You don't have to write anything important or profound.  You can treat it just like Instagram if you want to.  It's your blog!  I hope we see a little resurgence of the classic casual blog in the wake of this social media disillusionment.  (I also wrote a post about how to start a casual blog, if you're interested.)

Newsletters - There are some great email newsletters out there, and it's a fun way to keep up with your favorite blogs and businesses right in your inbox!  I'm planning on reviving my newsletter in the new year (with maybe even some freebies for email subscribers - I'm thinking it over).  If you are interested, you can sign up here, or in the box at the bottom of this post!


I may turn this section into a longer post if more ideas present themselves, but I just wanted to tack this on to point out that Instagram is not the end-all, not if we don't want it to be.  We have options. 

This is nearly 2021, after all.

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Thanks for letting me get all these social media thoughts off my chest, friends.  I needed to clear the air as I look ahead to a brand new year.  Social media has played too big of a role in my life for too long, and I've been praying for a while for the Lord to show me a way to find a balance or get out of it.  I'm excited to see what the future looks like for my little family, and this blog, unburdened by the social media giants.  

I think it's going to be good.

Happy New Year's Eve to you!


Honoring God Through Social Media Use



Do you think we can honor God through our social media use?

The obvious answer is yes, but I want to just consider this a little carefully today.  Because I’m not sure it is such an easy yes as it first seems.


I certainly think it’s possible to use social media in a way that glorifies God, and I used to follow people on Instagram especially that from what I can see do this very well.  I’ve been personally encouraged in the past by several Instagram accounts, and challenged in my faith.  I think lots of people put out content that is glorifying to God and encouraging to fellow believers, and that’s a good thing.


Where I think this gets a little stickier is on a personal level, when we ask “Am I glorifying God with how I’m using social media?”  That question is not just a question of content.  It’s a question of the heart and how we go about getting that good content up.


If I’m shushing my kids so I can record a video for Instagram, is that glorifying to the Lord?


If I spend five minutes in God’s word and an hour on Instagram each day, is that a godly use of my time?


If I check my phone when I should be focusing my attention on the story my husband is telling me, is that glorifying to God?


If I feel a little spark of pride when I tell people about my social media successes, numbers, sponsorships - even if I tack on the verbal equivalent of a #blessed hashtag - is that glorifying God, or is it glorifying me?


These are trickier questions.  I’m not answering them for anyone else.  It certainly is possible that a girl who has gained tens of thousands of followers has a pure heart in doing it for the Lord.  Even if she doesn’t, the Lord can be using and working through her posts and following, despite rough areas that He’s still smoothing out.  


For me though, I am starting to be convicted that my time is so much better spent looking into the eyes of my children, looking at the pages of God’s word, looking at the inside of my eyelids while I pray.  And if social media is taking time away from those more lasting pursuits, I need to reevaluate.


All the verses that are coming to mind as I think about how I need to be spending my time are things that are done quietly, in the hidden places of my heart, and especially within the walls of my home.


Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful. Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. 

Colossians 3: 15-17


All of Matthew 6 gives examples of doing our good deeds in private, with a heart to glorify God only.


Therefore, when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men.  Assuredly I say to you, they have their reward.  But when you do a charitable deed, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, that your charitable deed may be in secret, and your Father who sees in secret, will reward you openly. 

Matthew 6:3-4


And Colossians 3:2 says this:


Set your mind on things above, not on things of the earth.


Paul reminds the Thessalonians to continue to grow in love to one another, and:


...that you also aspire to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business, and to work with your hands, as we commanded you.

1 Thessalonians 4:11


I will be honest with you right now and tell you that the particular weaknesses that Instagram, and social media in general, brings out in me personally, are not compatible with what God calls us to in these verses.  Social media in general is all about doing your “good deeds” in front of men.  It brings my mind right down to earthly things, to the most insignificant of earthly things, like how many people care to follow me on Instagram, or how my shirt will look in a photo.  It’s not minding my own business well, and often it takes my focus away from letting the message of Christ dwell in me richly and letting His peace rule in my heart.


Someone will bring up this verse to me:


In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in Heaven. 

Matthew 5:16


And we are called to “let your light shine before men”, but it seems to me that should be an unconscious thing - because in the very next chapter Jesus warns not to pray, fast, or give to the needy on the street corners where everyone can see.  What we shouldn’t hide is the fact that we are believers, and any good that Christ is working in us should be an offering of worship to God alone.  There is a difference in doing our good works out of love and obedience to God, and doing them to look righteous to other people.  Our good works are not to be done to be seen by men, but to be seen by God.  If men happen to see you glorifying God through your obedience and service to Him, knowing that you are a Christian, that can bring more glory to God because of the work they see God doing in you.


I think people, generically speaking, can honor God through social media, and God can take even the broken and sinful ways we sometimes participate in social media, and still use it for His own purposes and glory. But when a person realizes that the ways they have typically used social media have been more self-glorifying than God-glorifying - well, it’s time to make some adjustments.  


To close out these thoughts on how to navigate the modern-day street-corner that is social media, let me just say this.


No one will know when you put down your phone so you can love your family better - but God will know.


No one will see how you set restrictions on your social media apps so you can focus on praying before your kids wake up - but God will see.


No one will hear the conversation you had with your child about salvation that you treasured up in your heart instead of sharing it on Facebook - but God hears.


No one can estimate the value of countless moments that you spend, quietly, pouring your heart into serving your family and friends with your phone pocketed, in leiu of pouring into Instagram - but God weighs those things.


He sees what is done in secret, for the glory of none but Him - and someday He will reward you openly. 



 


Is Instagram Necessary For Bloggers?


(This week I want to share a few posts that have been sitting in my draft folder for a couple months.  I wrote these a while ago, but just didn't feel like I was ready to share my thoughts yet.  But as I am looking at making some big changes regarding my personal use of social media, I thought this was a good time to share the things that have been stirring around in my mind. This post was written in October.)

Instagram came on the scene right when blogging was at it’s heyday, and the general advice at that time was that every time a new social media platform came on the scene, you snagged up your username.  So when Instagram arrived, I did the thing that good bloggers do - I jumped right on and snagged up my personal username, and my blog username.  Instagram seemed like a good platform for connecting with readers in a new, personal, and instant way.  It was fun, at first.


But over time, I don’t know…it seems like Instagram, in combination with other social media platforms, kind of killed blogging.  


I get why it happened.  Instagram was so…easy.  At a time when all the bloggers who seemed to know what they were doing recommended that you needed to get away from free platforms, buy a domain, set up a custom website, make sure your content looked professional and had pinnable images…Instagram required so much less effort and technical know-how to get started.  People started “blogging” on Instagram - it was quicker, and you didn’t need to sit down at a computer or know html code to do it.  That’s where the readers, old and new, seemed to be.


Anyway, fast forward ten years, and here we are, where it almost feels like an old-school blog is obsolete, unless it’s accompanied by a much-more-active Instagram account.  


And I hate that this is the way it is now.


Those of you who follow my blog account might have noticed I was putting more effort into my blog Instagram account for a few weeks there in September.  I’m not sure what prompted me to do this, aside from thinking that maybe I could get people to hop over and read my blog if I put a little more effort in.  But I think there was a part of me that was also trying to figure out if Instagram was the new blog world - if spending a little more time interacting on Instagram might bring back that old sense of connectedness that I had previously found with old-school blogging.  I wanted to see how much effort it took to reach new people on Instagram with my public account, and if it was a good medium for finding that reciprocity that we bloggers used to enjoy.  You know, returning comments, reading each other’s blog, linking to each other in the sidebar - all that was so fun back in the day.  I guess it was an unconscious experiment for me.


After two weeks of complete dissatisfaction with the amount of time I was spending on my phone, my sweet husband took time to listen to my discouraged ranting about Instagram. I was discouraged because as much time as I was spending on Instagram, something was missing for me, and I always left it feeling dissatisfied.





Derek’s social media philosophy is “this is why I am not on Facebook/Instagram!”  But he took the time to hear me out and listen to my struggles.  While I got Facebook under control last year, I wasn’t sure what to do with Instagram.  Because it seemed to me Instagram is necessary for bloggers these days.


As I started to talk with Derek about it, though, I started to question my own assumption about that.  People say if you’re a blogger, you need to be on Instagram, but I’m not sure if that’s always true.  Maybe it’s necessary for bloggers who want to earn an income through sponsorships - a lot of the sponsorships are on Instagram right now.  Maybe it’s necessary for bloggers who need the numbers to show to sponsors.  Maybe it’s necessary for bloggers who want a big following to achieve other goals.


But I’ve never really blogged for the numbers, and that’s kind of what I hate about Instagram.  No matter how much you try to connect, in the end so much of it is just a bunch of people chasing numbers - numbers of likes, numbers of comments, numbers of followers.  Numbers of dollars that you make off all that.


Don’t get me wrong, I know and follow plenty of girls who I think want to use their influence on Instagram to truly connect with people and bring glory to God.  I admire some of those Instagrammers I know, and I don’t think there is anything wrong necessarily with putting in the effort there if that’s what you want to do.


But I’ve realized I don’t want to put the effort into Instagram.  I’m not trying to earn money.  I don’t need a big number of followers to feel significant.  And likes are nice, but I don’t want that to be what I write for.


I have met many friends on Instagram over the years that I appreciate, that have turned into connections outside of the platform, and for those girls I am grateful!  But unfortunately that doesn't happen very often.  And fortunately there are other places to keep up with people online (like...blogs).


So is Instagram really necessary for bloggers today?  I guess it depends on what your goals are.  If your goal is to try to reach the biggest number of readers possible, you might do well to focus all your energy on Instagram.  


Or you might dig into your stats like I did and be surprised at what you find.  While I might get a few new people reading my blog through Instagram, the stats show it’s not a significant number.  I stepped away from trying to earn money from this blog a long time ago, because it sucked the joy out of it for me.  Because of that, gaining Instagram followers would just be an exercise in obtaining bragging rights, at the cost of time I could spend doing something more fulfilling.  




I just want to write, and I believe the people who really count will still come around to read.


And even if they don’t, I enjoy writing on this blog - I’ve always enjoyed it, just for the sake of writing, and sharing my thoughts with people who care to read them, and having a space on the internet that feels like it’s only mine, without it demanding my constant attention.  It’s okay to do something completely disconnected from the numbers, for no other reason than to enjoy doing it.  I think we forget that sometimes.


Stars Write His Name


What is the instructive lesson to be learned from this first syllable of the angel’s song? Why this, that salvation is God’s highest glory. He is glorified in every dew drop that twinkles to the morning sun. He is magnified in every wood flower that blossoms in the copse, although it live to blush unseen, and waste it sweetness in the forest air. God is glorified in every bird that warbles on the spray; in every lamb that skips the mead...Do not all created things extol him? Is there aught beneath the sky, save man, that does not glorify God? Do not the stars exalt him, when they write His name upon the azure of heaven in their golden letters? ... Do not all things exalt Him, from the least unto the greatest? But sing, sing, oh universe, till thou hast exhausted thyself, thou canst not afford a song so sweet as a song of the incarnation. Though creation may be a majestic organ of praise, it cannot reach the compass of the golden canticle – incarnation. There is more in that than in creation, more melody in Jesus in the manger, than there is in world on worlds rolling their grandeur round the throne of the Most High. Pause Christian, and consider this a minute. See how every attribute is here magnified. Lo! What wisdom is here. God becomes man that God may be just, and the justifier of the ungodly.

-Charles Spurgeon



On Monday, we trekked to the darkest corner of our mountain town, the darkest place we could think of, so we could get a look at the Christmas star. Every twenty years or so, Jupiter laps Saturn as they hurtle around the sun, and to the naked eye they look like one bright star.  

The sky was pitch black, and the stars showed their faces one by one, outshone by a waxing moon and two planets skipping through the sky.  And as I looked at all that, I couldn't help but remembering the words of silent night in the quiet.

Son of God, love's pure light

Radiant beams from Thy holy face

With the dawn of redeeming grace

Jesus, Lord at Thy birth

Jesus, Lord at They birth.





For all the glories of the night sky, all the praise they pour forth night after night to their Creator, more glorious still is this - that God became a man in the person of Jesus Christ.  That He humbled Himself to an undignified birth in a stable, and to a hideous death on a cross, to reconcile us to Himself.  As Spurgeon says, all of God's great attributes are on display in the manger.  His justice, His mercy, His love that we could never deserve.


"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him.  For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation.

Romans 5:8-11


This is the beauty of Christmas.  This is true peace, the peace with God that is offered to us through the God-man whose birth we celebrate. This is love, that while we hated Him, He offered us Himself, even to die in our place, to take the punishment we deserve for our offenses against Him.  What mercy is that!  This is hope, that He conquered death by coming back to life, alive on His throne forevermore! He reaches out His hands to us now to give us eternal life in Him when we trust in Christ alone. And this is joy, that when we turn, repent, trust in Jesus for our salvation - that we are reconciled to our Creator, that we are rescued from wrath, that we are forgiven and washed clean, that He now calls us friends. 

"In faith, there is joy." As Spurgeon would say.

I hope you find that joy and feel it more strongly than ever this Christmas, even in this dark year.  Like the stars and planets showing off in the inky blackness of the sky, the light of His birth shines always bright into our darkness, if we open our eyes to see it.


"The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, upon them a light has shined."

Isaiah 9:2


Just in case I don't get a chance to say it again before Friday, a joyful and Merry Christmas to you, friends!

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