For When You Feel Insignificant



I typed out these words on my phone this morning, intending to post them to Instagram - but they ended up being more blog-length, so I wanted to share here.  I hope you'll forgive this slight bit of blogging cheating this morning - I am still recovering from a successful hunting trip over the weekend!  more on that later in the week.  Happy Monday, friends!

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 “Whence, as I said before, the Word, since it was not possible for Him to die, as He was immortal, took to Himself a body such as could die, that He might offer it as His own in the stead of all, and as suffering, through His union with it, on behalf of all, bring to naught him that had the power of death, that is the devil; and might deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.”


-Athanasius, On The Incarnation


“There is a pattern and a lesson here. As we read the lives of men and women who have been strategically used by Christ in building His kingdom, we note that the names of those through whom they were brought to faith in Jesus Christ are often forgotten or lost. But their significance is in calculable. God delights to use the hidden and the forgotten.”

-Sinclair Ferguson, In The Year Of Our Lord


This morning I read these beautiful words from Athanasius about Jesus’s sacrifice to save us from our sin and give us life - followed by these poignant thoughts from Sinclair Ferguson. Do you know the names of the people who brought some of the church fathers to faith in Jesus? I don’t.

Sometimes it’s hard to see the impact of our work, whether we are doing any good. Most of us will never be well-known outside our circle of friends and family. We make meals, we give our best effort at work, we keep our houses clean and comfortable. We smile at the grocery store clerk, we encourage a friend, we serve at church. We pray for the salvation of our children, we try to point them to Christ, we try to witness to others of His goodness when we can. But it can still at times all feel a little insignificant.

My grandma and grandpa were brought to faith by a door-to-door salesman who saw my grandma was searching and started a conversation. I don’t know his name. I’m pretty sure he isn’t in any history books. But a whole family came to faith in Christ because he was faithful.  Generations will be affected for Christ because of someone whose name is now lost to us.

It may be that no one ever knows your name. We’ll live in this little blip of history, and then fade away and be forgotten. But that doesn’t mean our work for the Lord is insignificant. He is using us greatly, though we may not always see it. 



Celebrating Reformation Day: More Resources

(Pretty frost on the trees this morning - it's cold out there!)


A couple years ago, we started celebrating Reformation Day.  I wanted my kids to have a greater sense of their heritage as Christians, a greater idea of their place in the history of the church and how God is working through His church down through the ages.  And since we don't celebrate Halloween, Reformation Day also seemed like a fun and worthwhile thing to celebrate instead.

I wrote a few posts about how we celebrated Reformation Day, some of the resources I like for teaching kids about Reformation Day, etc.  Well, I'm always looking for more books and resources to add to our collection, and I found a few that I wanted to share as we get ready for Reformation Day next week!  If you are looking for some resources for teaching your kids about church history, or just want to learn more about the Protestant Reformation yourself, here are a few more to add to your list.


Little Pilgrims Theology Free Lesson - I just came across this free lesson plan for a Reformation Day study with your kids!  If you would like Reformation Day to be a family event, and you have kids in upper elementary, this would be something to check out. We are planning on working through this lesson together next week! I also listed a bunch of other family resources in this post.

Ligionier's Reformation Day Playlist - The 500th anniversary of the Reformation was in 2017, and even though I somehow missed the fanfare that year, a lot of great resources were created to mark the occasion - including this playlist from Ligionier Ministries by speakers at a Reformation Anniversary conference.  (Ligionier actually has a bunch of Reformation Day playlists, but I liked this one because it had longer messages.)  I've listened to a few of these messages the last few weeks, and they are so inspiring.  Highly recommend checking these out in the week leading up to Reformation Day - I'll be listening to more of these messages too!

Luther: In Real Time Podcast - Ligionier Ministries is also putting out a real-time podcast following the events of the Reformation on the dates they happened historically!  The first couple episodes are already out, and I can't wait for the October 31st episode that I'm sure is coming.

In The Year Of Our Lord by Sinclair Ferguson - This is a book I picked up to read in honor of Reformation month - each chapter covers a century of church history, giving some info and stories about church heroes of that time.  I also love that it includes a hymn from each century at the end of the chapter.  I think this would be a great "highlight" study of church history from the very beginnings of Christianity until now, and it's great as a lead-up to Reformation Day!


You want to know something?  Our foray into celebrating the Reformation was almost a one-year occasion.  The first year I came up with a few ideas for celebrating, and in my book, it didn't seem like anything too special.  The next year we were particularly busy that week, and I thought we'd probably just skip any special marking of the day that year.  

But my kids didn't forget.  

My oldest reminded me that Reformation Day was coming, and they all told me how excited they were to celebrate and learn about Martin Luther again.  So I threw together a haphazard celebration that they thought was amazing, and I'm so glad I did.  Because they were right.  Even if it's not the 500th anniversary, Reformation Day is worth marking.  Protestants tend to be a little historically untethered, as if there wasn't any church history between the disciples and the last hundred years.  And it's so unnecessary, because we have rich history to root us, firm historical ground to stand on.  

Reformation Day is a day to remember the heroes that came before us, men who believed in God's Word and stood up for what it said, even when it might have cost them their lives.  It's a day to take courage from their bravery, and to thank God once again that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, apart from any merit or works of our own.  When that truth sinks in, when we trust in Christ alone for the salvation of our souls, and realize that He exchanged our filthy rags of sin for His pure-white righteousness in the eyes of God - well, that truth can set you free.  It's a beautiful thing, worth all our gratitude and thanksgiving and praise, to the glory of God.  

That's what the Reformation is all about.  It's not just about the historical roots of what Martin Luther did that day - it's ultimately about the most glorious gift of what Christ has done to save us.  That's worth celebrating every day, but Reformation Day is a good opportunity each year to turn our eyes to Jesus anew.

Three Years Of Bullet Journaling: How I Do It

This year I started my second bullet journal.

I was almost due with Georgie, my last baby, when I first heard of bullet journaling.  I have always loved the idea of planning, but I've never been very good at the execution.  For years I would buy a new planner in January, with grand plans of all the ways I would use it - and by February I would get stuck.  I don't know if it was stress paralysis at the thought of messing up the pretty pages with my scribbles and eraser marks, or the lack of things to put into it, or just a problem of disorganization that was so great, even a nice planner couldn't fix it.  But I would always hate that half the planner ended up empty, the unused pages like an accusation.

So when I heard of bullet journaling, and how it didn't matter if you fell off the planning wagon because you could turn the page and start over at any time - well, I was sold.  I loved the idea of no more unused pages!

Bullet journaling in general is a system that allows you to keep track of the tasks you need to accomplish, and it combines it with a calendar and a diary.  Everyone agrees the system of bullet journaling this way started with Ryder Carroll (and you can find out more about it here).  However, a lot of people have used bullet journaling in many other creative ways - that's where you start to see all these super-artistic bullet journaling spreads (that might be inspiring, but also intimidating).  

If you are interested in looking into bullet journaling, I really like the book Dot Journaling by Rachel Wilkerson Miller (look, there's a cheap used copy here!).  She makes bullet journaling feel really doable for not-very-artistic people (like me).  This is the book I originally stumbled across at the library that made me interested in bullet journaling. I also wrote originally about bullet journaling here.

Since I am approaching my third year of bullet journaling, I thought I'd write a little bit about it here.  I don't use my bullet journal like anyone else probably, and that's the beauty of bullet journaling - you make it what you want it to be!  I thought I'd share some of the different types of pages I've done over these last three years.

Calendar Pages - The most obvious use for a bullet journal is to lay out a calendar grid and use it just like a planner.  While I've done calendar pages periodically in my journal, I mostly just insert those pages when I am looking ahead to a particularly busy month or season.  It helps seeing everything laid out so I know what I am hoping to accomplish, and it keeps me on track.  But then in slower seasons, I just skip the calendar pages - no use doing a calendar for a slow month when I'll hardly need it,

Budget Pages - For a while I was keeping track of my monthly budgeting in my journal, but I couldn't quite find a layout I liked that looked clean.  Most of my budgeting pages end up messy.  I might try these again as we are on a tighter budget the next few months with furlough days with Derek's work.

Diary Pages - I go through stages with diary pages - sometimes I'm really good at documenting each day, and then I'll fall off and not write anything for six months.  I notice in particularly stressful stages of my life I tend to fall off these.  But, when I do remember to write a couple lines each night, it's nice to be able to look back and see what things we were doing over the last year.






Reading/Watching Pages - In my new bullet journal I created a couple pages to keep track of what I have read so far this year, as well as a page to document the World War One resources I discover.  I've also done  book progress pages, and pages to keep all the quotes I liked from certain books.  I love looking back on these!  It's also motivating to see all the things I've read and learned over the course of the year.

Memory Pages - These are the pages I'm most proud of.  When I think of some memory I want to record, sometimes I'll muster the creativity to create a bullet journal spread, and they always bring a smile to my face when I flip through them later!  When I first started journaling, I created a page after Georgie was born, and I love looking back at what I wrote.  Earlier this year I had a little inspiration, and I created a page with the bottles of my favorite perfumes over the years, and what those scents remind me of.  And then there are little pages for the seasons, like a "first signs of spring" page.  These are the pages where I sometimes get a little creative and add some color to my journal.


Surprisingly, the original way of bullet journaling - as a to-do list, with a system for organizing your tasks each day - is not something that has stuck for me, at least not right now.  Somewhere along the way I dropped using a bullet journal as a way to organize my to-do's, and started using it to just record things I wanted to keep track of, things I wanted to remember.  I might go back to the traditional bullet journaling system eventually, but for now I am enjoying working with the types of pages I listed above.

Do any of you use a bullet journal?  How do you use it?

  

An Unscheduled Non-Break


Homeschooling this year started out so very well.  I was surprised how well it was going actually.  The kids were excited to learn, we were flying through our work each day, and we even got ahead in a few subjects.  

I might have gotten a little over-confident, because the last few weeks have been a bit of a disaster when it comes to our school.  Between a few family items (purchasing a new car because our old one broke down, flying out of state and coming home more exhausted than I thought, dealing with a cold), we have been running to catch up to normal all month.  We are still managing to get our essential work done, but it's taking all day, peppered a generous amount of exhaustion, with a sprinkling of bad attitudes (from me and the kids).  It just hasn't been great.

(Derek and the kids in the corn maze we visited a couple weeks ago!)

This got me thinking a bit about my homeschool scheduling.  There are a couple scheduling systems that I am aware of for homeschooling.


Year-round homeschooling - This is where you do school all year round, with pre-planned breaks sprinkled in.  The breaks can be anytime you want really, but one method I've heard of is the "sabbath" or term model (every seventh week you take off).  I think some people also do two months on, one month off, or they just take random breaks throughout the year for vacations or trips.

Traditional school schedule - This is where you follow the traditional schedule of school in the fall, winter, and spring, with the summer off.  There may be short breaks sprinkled in, but the more breaks you take during the year, the longer your school calendar goes into the summer, so days off are usually kept to a minimum.


We have always done a traditional school schedule in our homeschool, with one big break taken every summer.  I prefer it this way, because where we live the weather is the nicest in the summer, and I want us to be able to enjoy it.  I also enjoy having a long break in the summer to really get my plans settled for the next year.

The problem with following a traditional schedule is that over the summer, you can sometimes get out of "school mode", and you may need a little time to gear back up to a full load once the fall starts.  Then once you are into full-on school mode, it can become a little monotonous and feel like the breaks are so far away.  It's easy to start getting discouraged, or to get in a rut.

That's about where we are right now.  The novelty of a new school year has worn off, some of our good habits are slipping a little, and we're all just...tired of school.

Because our state requires a certain amount of days completed each year, and because I don't want to not take a break in the summer, our option to take a week off is limited.  But, I have found an alternative.

We are taking a term break without really taking a term break.

And what I mean by that is that every 8-10 weeks this year, I think I will plan to have a light week of school.  Instead of taking an entire week off school and losing those days, we are going to take a week off of just certain subjects.

During our semi-break week we are taking off math and reading instruction while I reevaluate our daily schedule a little bit.  We are continuing history and science (our "fun" subjects) - so we are still doing school each day, just not all our usual subjects.  I am hoping this slight break from our usual school routine will give me some space to figure out what I need to change to keep our school days fresh. It will also give us a rest from parts of our work so we can refresh our attitudes when we get back to our full days in November.

This plan will also be a benefit to our school schedule because it allows us to catch back up in some of the subjects where we fell behind (science and history are the subjects that get dropped when we have a rough day).  We had a little wiggle room in our yearly schedule with math and reading, so we should still be able to finish those subjects "on time" as well.  

A great thing about homeschooling is the flexibility to play with our schedule like this.  I love that when we are all getting in a school rut, I can schedule a small, desperately needed break (non-break?) to give us some breathing room.  I love that I don't have to stress about falling behind in certain subjects, because I can switch some things around and it will all even out in the end.  Homeschooling equals so much freedom for our family when we are going through a rough patch, freedom we wouldn't have if we were attached to an external school schedule.  It's truly a blessing.

If you homeschool, do you follow a traditional schedule?  Or do you change it up?


Our Cleaning Routines And Habits

 

Someone once asked me how I "do it all".  Five young kids seems like a lot, and I think they were wondering how I keep the house running, homeschool the kids, and still find time to blog and read and all that.

My answer to the "how do you do it all" question is the same now as it was then - I don't.

At that time especially, I let certain things around the house slide in order to fit everything all in.  But the other day someone made a comment about how I manage to keep my house so clean, and I realized that somewhere along the way I got back on top of the housekeeping. For the most part.  I still feel like I don't keep the house as clean as I would like it to be, but for having five kids it's not too shabby.



(I would show you better pictures, but the thing that has to slide now is this blog - taking pictures takes time!  Maybe I'll do a quick house tour on Instagram later this week.)

Anyway, I thought I would share a few of my (very basic) cleaning routines and habits that have helped our house not be the disaster you might expect it to be with five little kids!  


Sweep the floor and do the dishes every day.

For me, I feel pretty good about the state of my house if there isn't visible dirt on my wood floors, and if the kitchen sink and counters are reasonably clear.  After every meal I wash the pots and pans immediately  and clean out the sink, and I think that helps me never have too much of a disaster in the kitchen.  I usually end up sweeping once a day, usually sometime in the morning while the kids are doing bookwork.  There is a lot of dirt in the mountains!  These two things are the bare necessities of cleaning for me.


Have the kids pick up their toys at set times during the day.

Every morning before breakfast I ask the kids if their rooms are cleaned up and if their beds are made.  I also ask them to clean up toys before lunch and/or nap time (I only have one kid who still naps, but nap time is still clean up time).And then I'll have the kids pick up before dinner so everything is reasonably clean before bed.


Straighten up clutter before bed.

Before Derek and I head up to bed each night, we usually start the dishwasher, pick up any toys that were missed, and straighten up the living room.  I'll straighten up the books in the school room, put any stray dishes I find in the kitchen, and just generally do a quick declutter.  Since we do this every day it usually doesn't get too bad, so this takes us maybe 5-10 minutes.


Vacuum and clean bathrooms around once a week (or as necessary).

Over the course of a whole week, I'll usually do a quick vacuum job and rotate through cleaning all three bathrooms.  Sometimes these things need to be done more often, but I get to these chores at least once a week.


Dust and wash windows every 2-3 weeks as part of a whole-house cleaning day.  

These chores are usually part of a whole-house cleaning day every 2-3 weeks.  Some people rotate through different types of chores each week on a looping basis, but I like to have the whole house clean at once in a while.  So every few weeks I'll do a good declutter and try to clean as much of the house in one day as I can.  I try to do this before we have guests over for dinners too (though that doesn't always happen).



Do a little bit of laundry every day.

Laundry is the one chore that never ends.  I usually throw a load in at least once a day, and then the clean/dry clothes sit in baskets until I get a chance to fold them.  I hate folding laundry, so I'll usually save it up and do it all once a week, when I have a mountain to deal with and it's very overwhelming (but at least I can do it while listening to an audiobook, right?).  Thankfully Derek helps me so much with the laundry though - when he has time he will fold a bit of laundry each night, so sometimes I don't have to tackle my weekly mountain of laundry!

And one final thought that helped me a lot...


Realize that real people live here.

When I was first married, I used to get very uptight about keeping the house looking good all the time, until I realized that I do not live in a show home.  A real family lives in this house, real people.  Real children eat at that table and spill their food sometimes, those real books stacked in the corner are really being read, a real dog leaves his hair all over everything, a real toddler is potty-training.  Though I still breathe easier in a tidy house, and I try my best to make sure our home environment is generally clean and comfortable, I've loosened up my standards somewhat.  Better a happy family in a messy house than a stressed-out family in a show home.  There is a little made-up proverb for ya.



How do you handle housekeeping routines?





Sunday Quotes Vol. 3



 

"No human being should learn from another. Each individual should develop his own powers to the uttermost, not try to imitate those of someone else."

-Agatha Christie, via Hercule Poirot, Lord Edgeware Dies

I read this quote yesterday, and it really amused me.  No human being should learn from someone else - that's not a view you hear often, is it?  I don't think I totally agree with that part, but I think what it's getting at is to not compare with someone else.  I like the sentiment of playing to your own strengths and talents instead of trying to imitate someone else's.

Speaking of quotes and books, I'm going to a library sale today!  Any authors I should look out for?

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Here's the maybe-schedule for the week!

Monday: Our Cleaning Habits And Routines

Tuesday: Find Yourself A Hobby: Photography

Wednesday: Instagram And Bloggers: Some Thoughts

Thursday: Reading: Pastime Or Hobby? 
(Note: A blog friend raised this question after my hobby post, and I had already written this topic title! It's a question, that.)

Friday: Bullet Journaling: How I Do It

Saturday: Thoughts On Family Culture



The Value Of Creating Tangible Things


My grandma on my dad's side died when I was around nine years old.  I remember crying at her funeral, but I don't think I fully realized at the time what I lost.  

My grandma was a really neat lady by all accounts, and I remember that too.  I remember her pulling out the toys for us to play when we went over to visit, and I remember going over with my mom one day to make a fall wreath craft together.  I remember her funny magnets on the fridge, and her glasses, and her big welcoming smile.  

I wish I would have had a chance to know her as an adult.  I won't really get to know her until I meet her in Heaven.

But here in my living room, I have two blankets she crocheted.  The stitches are intricate, and the colors are bright.  And I feel like even though I lost her before I was old enough to really know her, I have something of her every time I look over and see her blankets in the corner.

I was thinking about her blankets the other day when I was mulling over the value of hobbies.  One reason that I define hobbies as an activity that produces something is because of those blankets.  There is something valuable about a hobby that allows you to create something tangible, something to pass down.  Something your descendants can point to and say "My great-grandmother made that."

I have other things around the house that have been made for me.  I have hand towels and table runners and baby blankets that were crocheted for me by dear ladies in the church where I grew up.  I have quilts my mom made with me when I was a kid, the baby book she covered in fabric and decorated for me.  And I have wooden bowls, a gorgeous cutting board, and the quilt rack that holds my grandmother's quilts, all made by my grandpa.

All these things make me think that I need a hobby that creates something that my kids can hold in their hands.  I need to print these writings into some sort of book.  I need to print the photos I take.  I need to finish that baby blanket I started knitting years ago, I need to stop thinking about learning to embroider and do it.

Because sitting under my grandma's blanket while I read a book, I realize, there is something special about passing down something tangible.  Scripture tells us we can know things about God by the things which He made, and I think there is a sense in which that is true for us humans too.  I never got to know my grandma as an adult, but even now I can know some things about her by the gorgeous blankets she made.

Material things aren't as important as people, but they can remind us of people we love, they can remind us where we come from.  Holding something in our hands isn't the same as knowing the person who created it, but we can know something about the person by the things they made.  Tangible things aren't everything, but they aren't nothing.  There is value in creating something you can touch.

And this also reminds me not to get too caught up in this digital world.  My grandkids may not ever look up my Instagram account or blog, but they will flip through albums of pictures I took, or read words I wrote on a page, and maybe if I take the time, they can do those things while snuggled under a blanket I made too.


Do you have anything that was passed down to you?  Or have you made anything you can pass down to your kids?


Books That Help Me Find Joy In The Small


 

This whole week has been a difficult one for me - nothing big, just a lot of little struggles and failures that have thrown off my whole mood.  

As I was sitting in my room this afternoon, trying to decide whether to write anything today, or what I could write, or whether to scrap this whole project, I was reminded of a book I read once that encouraged me to see the small things in life that truly matter.  And when I started to think about that book, and a few others, I was also convicted again of my rotten attitude that has been adding to my troubles this week.  

The attitude of the heart - such a small thing, it seems, but it really is everything.  I can do the "right" things, the things I am supposed to do as a wife and mom for my family, but if my attitude is terrible that will sour everything.  And is my service to my family really of value in God's sight if I do it with a grumbling heart?  I can say with confidence that's a hard no.

Anyway, as I work on an attitude adjustment, I think the first book I need to go to to refocus is God's Word - verses and principles I've learned from my Bible is what the Holy Spirit was using to convict me this afternoon.  

Maybe I need to read the story of the Israelites grumbling in the wilderness again, or just remember that in everything I am supposed to give thanks - especially in those moments when I am tempted to grumble instead of recognizing the blessing it is to have a family to take care of, a house to clean, children to teach. And I know I need to remember to turn to Jesus with my struggles and sinful heart attitudes, because He is the one who saved me and can help me overcome those sins now.

As I am working on an attitude adjustment today though, I thought I'd also share a few of those other books that I remembered, the ones that have made me appreciate the value of small things - especially the small thing of choosing to serve my family with love and joy and gratitude, with my eyes fixed on the glory of God.  Have you read any of these?



936 Pennies: Discovering The Joy Of Intentional Parenting by Erin Lynum – This book is all about how the author filled a jar with 936 pennies to remind her how quickly the weeks with her children were going by. This book was a good reminder to make the most of every little moment that you have with your kids. 

Loving The Little Years by Rachel Jancovic – I read this book when my kids were babies, and it was very impactful on me at the time. It has been years since I read it, but I know it made me appreciate those small years so much more. I think it’s time for re-read! 

Roots And Sky by Christie Purifoy – This book made me appreciate little things in my life because the writing in it was just so beautiful! That’s the main thing I remember about this book. I don’t remember the points the author made so much, and it’s been a few years since I read it so I don’t know if I would still think the same way about it.  But I still recall the gratitude I felt when I first read her beautiful words.

You Who? by Rachel Jancovic - This book was a case of reading the right book at the right time for me. At a time when I felt very discouraged, this book made me think about my work in the home in a new way, and the value of serving others, even when it’s not something the world tells you is important.

Beyond Bathtime by Erin Davis - I read this book when I had just one very little baby, but I still remember how this book elevates motherhood.  I need to re-read this one too, because I'm sure it would still have encouragement on the importance of the work of raising kids.

Teaching From Rest by Sarah McKenzie - This is actually a homeschool book, but I am 90% sure this is where I first read the cathedral illustration that I mention in this post I wrote about when wiping faces doesn't feel satisfying (maybe I need to re-read my own words here).  McKenzie has a way of making you realize how the things that seem small can make a big impact.

Glory In The Ordinary by Courtney Reissig - I read this book in the year or two after I quit working as a hygienist, and I love how Reissig emphasizes the ways in which work of all kinds is glorifying to the Lord!  This is on my re-read list too.


If you have any good book recommendations along the same vein, send them my way!

Are Social Media Breaks Effective?


I am a big advocate of taking a break from social media.  As in, deleting the app from your phone for a set period of time.


Every December for the last couple years I have taken a break from social media.  Both times it has been a great reset, and I return refreshed and ready to set some boundaries.  However, if I’m honest, the effectiveness of those boundaries has varied.  Sometimes I set a rule or limit for myself that ends up being way too easy for me to cheat on, and I fall right back into old habits.  Sometimes my willpower lasts for a a couple months before those old, well-worn patterns start to re-emerge.  


It’s easy to dismiss slightly unhealthy social media habits as if they don’t matter - but they do matter.  Why else do we even feel a need to take social media breaks?  We know that social media can suck away at our time, at our lives.  That’s not really a small thing, is it?  It’s well worth the time to figure out how to combat the pull toward wasting time on social media.


Social media breaks can be so useful for clearing your mind.  There is a sense in which social media acts on our brains like a drug - we get a little dopamine hit every time we get a new notification on social media, and it keeps us coming back for more.  Social media breaks allow your brain to…for lack of a better word…detox from that loop, so that you can make decisions about your social media use with a clear head.


Did you get that last bit?  


You detox so you can make decisions.





Social media breaks by themselves are limited in their usefulness, in my opinion.  You might gain a little space during a period where you want that time back (new baby, the holiday season).  You might feel refreshed while you are off it - you lose that “yucky” feeling, you waste less time, you realize how nice it is to not have that opportunity for comparison constantly within reach.  But the second you upload that “I’m back!” post, you’ll be right back where you started.  UNLESS, you use your break to come up with a plan.  


This is how I handled my social media break last year.  I didn’t just take a break to get back a little time and attention for my family during Christmas (though that was a nice perk).  I read books about social media and found resources for creating digital boundaries.  I sat around and thought a lot about what I liked about social media, particularly Facebook, and what I didn’t like.  I made some really hard decisions and developed a plan, and when it was time to get back on, I followed through on those hard choices.


And I have to say, I’ve never been so satisfied with my Facebook use as I have been this past year.  I don’t feel sucked in by it like I used to, and the thought of giving it up for good isn’t even so crazy.  


But…that’s because I made some actual changes to my Facebook account that allowed me to be successful, and I kept the Facebook app off my phone.  If you take a social media break, but don’t use your break to be 100% honest with yourself about your social media use, how it’s negatively affecting your life, and how to change it - your break, in the long term, is probably going to get you exactly nowhere.


I know this because that’s what happened last year with Instagram and me.  With Facebook, I emerged from my break with some really clear ideas about what I wanted out of Facebook, and what specific steps I needed to take to make it what I wanted it to be.  I did not take the time to be so self-reflective about Instagram, and I have to say that this fall, I find myself right back where I was last year - hating how Instagram is sucking so much of my time, but unsure how to fix it.


You know what I’m going to do?  I’m going to make some obvious adjustments right now (why wait until December?), and then I may very well take another social media break, this time focusing my attention on Instagram.  I need a game plan, and I need time to sort it out.  That’s the key to having an effective social media break - coming up with a plan while you’re away.


Have you taken breaks from social media?  How long were your breaks?  Were they useful for your habits longterm?


Most Days You Have To Choose

If there's one thing I've learned in life so far, it's that you rarely can have everything you want all at the same time. Each day is filled with so many choices.  And these choices, though they might seem small, really aren't - they lead to habits, they are the sorts of thing that make memories, they create the whole environment of the home.  

All these little choices.  Will I wake up early to read my Bible before the kids get up, or will I get extra sleep and read later?  Will I let everyone sleep longer, or get them up to start school sooner? Will I clean the house or make a fancier dinner?  Will I read a book or watch a movie? 

My motherhood experience from the beginning has also thrummed with the tension of sanctification. Will I read our science book with the kids over lunch or escape to eat my lunch in quiet for a minute?  Will I hurry the kids through their schoolwork so I can check some items off my to do list, or will I exercise patience even if it's taking longer than I wanted?  Will I sacrifice that last cookie and split it with the kids? Will I hoard my spare time to myself or put some aside to give my full attention to the story my girl is telling me about the exploits of her stuffed animal?  

Will I hide away in my room to type up the pre-planned blog post for today, or will I settle on the couch to watch a show with my nine year old who is skipping Awana tonight because he thinks he might be getting sick?

So many choices.  You can't have everything you want all at once.  You must choose.  

Some golden days, or even seasons, when everything goes smoothly, I might briefly experience what it's like to have it all, to do everything I planned to do.  I think I've learned that these days are so rare as to be almost mythical, and I'm starting to accept it.  Most days I have to choose.  Am I going to lay down my life - my wants, my schedule, my plans, my feelings - in order to consider others, my family, as better than myself?  Am I going to follow the example of my Savior, or go my own way?

I don't always choose right.  Maybe it'll take my whole life to truly learn how to die to myself.  But tonight, I'm going to go rub my sick boy's feet.


What Happened To Hobbies?


This week I want to start a conversation here about hobbies.  Hobbies, in a lot of ways, seem to be in decline.  I want to talk about why that is, and also why it is a worthwhile thing to pursue a hobby.  I don't think hobbies are insignificant or meaningless, and I want to see if I can articulate my thoughts on the subject.

First, let's talk about what a hobby is.  This would be my definition:

A hobby is an activity that is done for enjoyment and produces something, and is not done on a professional level in exchange for money.

I'm defining a hobby this way because I think once an activity is done in exchange for money, it becomes a business or profession.  That's not to say that it's any less worthwhile if you get paid for your hobby - in fact, I think if you can turn a hobby you enjoy into a profession, you are a very blessed person!  And I think that even if you make your hobby your business, it can still be a hobby in essence if there are aspects you still do purely for the enjoyment of it (for example, if you have a photography business, but you still take photos that you aren't getting paid for, just because you love it).  But if your hobby is turned into a business, and you now only do it on a professional level, that changes the dynamic a bit, I think.

The other part of my definition is that an activity qualifies as a hobby if it is producing something.  An activity that is done for enjoyment and does not produce something would be a pastime.  Pastimes can certainly still be a valuable and enriching use of time, such as reading or traveling or playing sports (though I'm sure you can think of a bunch of pastimes that are really wastes of time too!). Pastimes are fun, but hobbies have to involve creating something.

It's not a perfect definition, and a lot of things are hard to categorize, but let's just work with it for the sake of this post.

I don't think there are a lot of people, especially young people, doing hobbies that are just hobbies anymore.  Personally I think there are two reasons for this.

1.There is a lot of pressure to "go professional" with your hobbies.

I think there is this idea in our culture right now that if you are producing something, it's not truly valuable unless you are making money from it.  

I find this a lot with blogging for example.  I tend to avoid telling people that I have a blog, because there is a sense in which running a blog is looked down upon if your blog is not a certain size and bringing in an income.  Personally, I reject that view of blogging.  Writing is certainly producing something, and practicing translating your thoughts into the written word is a worthwhile pursuit in my book.    Blogging and writing is not worth less because you decide to keep it in the hobby category instead of going professional with it.  

Photography is another personal example.  I enjoy photography and creating beautiful portraits of my kids at the different stages of their life.  I enjoy paying attention to the light and capturing a candid moment, just for the fun of it.  It adds a lot of happiness to my life and is a way of keeping my memories.  Is that worth less because I'm not earning money from it?  I don't think so.  

I also know, because of photo sessions I've done for other people, that turning photography into a business would completely change the game for me.  There would always be aspects that I enjoy, but adding the stress of setting up an actual business and pleasing customers changes it from a hobby into something else.  

It's okay to consider carefully whether "going professional" would steal the fun out of your hobby.  And if you think it would, it's okay to reject the pressure to go professional.  It's okay to have something that you do purely for the joy of it.





2. There are a lot of ways to waste time these days.

I think another reason why hobbies, true hobbies according to my imperfect definition, are on the decline is because there are so many distractions and time-wasters in this day and age.  And I'm saying that with no judgement, because I spend 2-4 hours per day on my phone. 

I know that even if I threw my phone away tomorrow, I wouldn't all of a sudden have a 2-4 hour chunk of time on my hands.  The time on my phone is spent in snatches.  But if I didn't have that distraction constantly pulling at me, would I be able to finish the essential tasks faster?  Would being more efficient allow me to be able to schedule more time to produce something of value, instead of scrolling and consuming on my phone?

It probably would.  And insert whatever distraction you want here, it all applies.  Watching videos.  Listening to podcasts. Checking social media. Who has time for hobbies with all the things we could be watching or listening to?

Note: Somebody will say that social media or podcasts or Youtube can be a hobby, but I want to make a distinction - those platforms are not hobbies, but they can be a way to showcase hobbies.  Writing and photography is the hobby, and that is showcased on Instagram (or a blog).  Making videos is the hobby, and that is showcased on Youtube. And think about the podcasts you listen to - a lot of them are based around the speaker's hobbies or interests, aren't they?  You should take ownership of the actual hobby - writing, photography, producing videos, speaking about something that interests you - and don't minimize what you do by substituting the platform for the skill.  (And if all you do is consume or re-post on those platforms - that's not a hobby according to my imperfect definition, remember?)

Just to clarify, I don't think there is anything wrong with spending a reasonable amount of time doing the things I mentioned above.  A lot can be learned from podcasts and videos, and I would never fault someone for checking in on social media and using it to interact with family and friends.  But there is something important in producing something, instead of alway just consuming.  Constantly consuming without ever using what we glean to produce something...well, I don't think it's good for the soul.

I think about the older people I have known in my life, the ones I've known who are free from the pull and distraction of technology because it wasn't something that had become a habit for them.  Most of them had hobbies, or pastimes that were worthwhile.  Most of them produced something that can be handed down to their children and grandchildren.  And so many of them were/are truly interesting and happy people because of it.

I think we are missing something with all these distractions, something small perhaps, but nevertheless significant.  I think we need to get back to hobbies.

Do you have a hobby? Do you agree with my definition? What do you think, is there a decline of hobbies in the younger set?

(Note: Dennis Prager's video about hobbies is what first started getting me thinking about the subject, and he has an interesting theory about why they are in decline!)

Sunday Quotes | Vol. 2

 

"It's been my experience that you can nearly always enjoy things if you make up your mind firmly that you will.  Of course, you must make it up firmly."

-Anne Of Green Gables

 

Don't you just love Anne?  Lots of good quotes in those books, aside from the obligatory October one!

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As you read this, I am flying back from a quick trip to Montana for my cousin's wedding!  It's a whirlwind trip and I'm sure I'll be exhausted, so we'll see how my 31 Days Of Small Things project goes this week.  Here are some of the topics I'm hoping to get to (if you paid attention to the schedule last week, you know I probably won't follow this - but having it written out helps me to stay at least a little on track).

Monday: What Happened To Hobbies?

Tuesday: The Value Of Creating Tangible Things 

Wednesday: Are Social Media Breaks Effective?

Thursday: Our Cleaning Habits And Routines 

Friday: Find Yourself A Hobby: How To Start Dabbling In Photography

Saturday: To be determined...



A Trip To The Pumpkin Patch

 


She sat in the back of the truck, crunching on animal crackers and drinking apple juice. The wind rustled in the corn across the road, and through the leaves of the trees overhead. Five mini pumpkins were clutched in five small sets of hands, booted feet swinging off the edge of the tailgate while we took a break.

This is the best day ever,” she said to no one in particular, the breeze catching her curls.





I glanced over at Derek, and and his eyes were smiling too. It had been a pretty great day, chasing our five little kids through a corn maze, trying not to let them get lost. Hitting dead end after dead end, discussing what we should do next and whether that path was really part of the maze or just a cheater path cutting through the rows. Finally spilling out of the corn into a field of pumpkins. Watching the kids run off to find the most perfect one. 
















The reality, though, was that Derek and I were completely exhausted last weekend, after three late nights and three days spent out of the house. Our car had broken down recently, so we have had to take two cars to get anywhere for the last week.  We almost didn’t go to the corn maze, but it was our only day this month when we could. 

But sitting there with our snacks in the back of the truck, I was glad we had made the effort, even when a myriad of small things might have stopped us. It was a worthy trade for the excitement in their faces, and one small declaration of the best day ever, one sweet memory made. 

Small things that really aren’t small at all.





I hope you all are having a lovely Saturday!
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