Getting off ‘the facebook’

So on Monday, I deactivated my Facebook account. Shocking I know! I still have an account for work purposes so I’m not fully free of it but from a personal and social point of view, it’s gone. I did it for a few reasons, the biggest being the need to simplify and to stop the incessant noise that is social media.

Keeping in mind my word for the year, I’m looking for ways to rest in all aspects of my life so that my whole being is leaning towards that rest and not just my physical body. I’ll admit, it felt foreign at first, to not have the meme’s, the satire, the cute and fluffy videos, the ‘connection’ to people I know. But oh my goodness, to not see every latest political disaster, every cause that needs my immediate attention, the spiritual posts that remind me how far short I fall (constantly!) – to just have quiet has been bliss! And to realise how often, when I had a few spare minutes, I would pick up my phone and just trawl Facebook mindlessly…well, it’s embarrassing to admit but it was A LOT. Now, instead of reaching for that button on my phone, I can just sit and think, refocus my mind on God, say a short prayer of thankfulness and allow my mind to….rest 🙂

It’s funny too, I now have more coffee dates with friends set in my diary after removing myself from Facebook. See Facebook gives us the impression of connection and community (and I do think there are circumstances in which that connection and community are very real indeed but that’s for another post!) but often comes up short. Nothing, nothing, can replace face to face connection with other people. People may not be able to tell from a status or online chat how we are really doing – put us in front of each other though and you can tell if that smile doesn’t quite reach their eyes or if their hands are shaking or their shoulders are slumped.

We need to actually see one another in order to really ‘see’ one another.

So am I advocating for everyone to get off Facebook? I guess I am! But I’m also realistic and know that the likelihood of that is pretty slim 🙂 I wasn’t disciplined enough to just cut down and limit my usage but maybe you are. All I know is that in our current world, we are generally overloaded, stressed and feeling isolated. Seek real connection. I dare you.

I did it!

Yesterday, I took my last photo for the Grateful 2016 book 🙂

The book is so full it won’t close. And it’s representative of the year which has been full to overflowing too! And as I flick through it’s pages, with dodgy polaroids, crossed out words and often indecipherable hand writing, I truly am grateful for 2016. It hasn’t been the easiest one, by far. It has challenged me, caused me to look at myself with stark honesty and it has shown me that, aside from God, I really am capable of nothing. He has sustained, comforted and been by my side through the adventure of this year.

And as I look down the barrel of 2017, there are things on the horizon that scare me, things that I know will bring me joy and plenty of ‘normal’ life in-between. Perfect 🙂

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One or many

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Last night on the Gold Coast, a 16 year old lost his life to fatal stab wounds.

On the same night, the terror attacks on Paris. Many lives lost and the complete (and certainly justified) outrage and horror that then ensued on social media was inescapable. Meanwhile, a teenage boy is murdered and there is no noise.

The pain of loss knows no circumstances. The loss of one among many or the loss of one only is the same for those who mourn them. Grief, such an intimate and acutely personal reality, is not lessened because of a collective majority. Grief is grief. Loss is loss.

Those who love the 16 year old from the Gold Coast are right now going through the same anguish as those who’ve lost loved ones in Paris.

There’s been such an outpouring of support for France – declarations on social media about not hating Muslims, changing profile pictures to reflect the French flag. What does any of that really do?

It was the same after the Syrian refugee crisis. So much ‘love’ on social media. “We’ll accept them!” was the cry. Yet many in our own countries, cities, suburbs, remained homeless, unfed and unnoticed, despite our fervent proclamations of generosity and goodwill to our fellow man.

Instead of thinking so ‘big’, how about we start thinking ‘small’. Personally, I can do nothing that will actually alleviate the pain of those in France. But I can take flowers round to the elderly lady who recently lost her husband of 60 years and sit and listen to her memories. I can pick up groceries and have a coffee with the friend who’s recovering from a miscarriage. I can listen to the heartache of the loss of a marriage. I can stop and buy a homeless person a meal. I can buy hygiene products for women on the streets. I can support the mother standing by her child in court. I can visit a lonely neighbour. I can do a million and one things right here.

It’s easy to change your profile picture, to write a status update of support. Harder to get our hands dirty, stand alongside people and quite literally feel their pain with them.

It’s time we stopped being conscious of what our online presence looks like and start focussing on the very people we are surrounded by every day. We need to change our thinking, not our profile picture. The pain of that family at the Gold Coast is the same pain felt in France. The distress of the Syrian refugees is the same as the mother in Brisbane with nowhere for her children to sleep at night.

We are capable of so much more than simply showing virtual support. Let’s start showing it.

Potatoes, life and s**t

Potato plant

If you’re a long time reader of this blog, you’ll know we (usually unsuccessfully) dabble in gardening. And if you’re a bit of a gardener yourself, you might know that the above is a potato plant.

This is the second time we’ve grown potatoes. One of the reasons I love it is the excitement of the excavation when it’s time to harvest. Fossicking through the dirt searching for the treasure of a beautiful homegrown potato – bliss!

For those of you who aren’t aware, the best way to grow potatoes is to pile dirt that has a healthy dose of animal excrement in it on top of any sign of life you see coming from the seed potato that is buried deep in the earth. And repeat. And repeat a couple more times.

I popped out to the veggie patch (please be aware that I use that term extremely loosely) and noticed a few green shoots poking their heads above the dirt. I promptly covered them over.

And it made me think about how much that’s like life. Sometimes when we feel we are beginning to grow, another pile of s**t lands on top of us and we need to push our way through it to the sunlight. And then just when we get over that, it happens again.

But, like the potatoes, all that dirt and s**t, is helping good stuff grow deep down in the dark and hidden layers. It’s encouraging more growth than if those piles weren’t thrown on top.

So next time yet another pile of s**t is thrown on top of you, just think of the potatoes growing big and wonderful, ready for harvest and enjoyment at exactly the right time 🙂

 

The challenge of parenting adult children

Our daughter has safely arrived in Nepal and by all reports, is already having a great time 🙂

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Watching her walk under that ‘departure’ sign by herself was a very hard parenting moment. But we did it! Waiting to hear from her after the plane had landed that she was with staff and at the hotel was a very long two hours. But we did it!

In the lead up to her trip, the various responses about it to us as parents has been interesting to say the least. We’ve had people look at us like we are the most irresponsible parents in the world, others who just shake their heads and say they wouldn’t allow their child to do it, those who’ve just said they wouldn’t be able to do it, and those few who thought it was fantastic.

I chatted it over with a wise and wonderful friend of mine and worried that if something happened to her, and we knew we could have stopped her going, we would never forgive ourselves. She said, “Stopping her from going would have been an abuse of your parental power.”

That gave me so much comfort in the days before her flight. Although we probably could have talked her out of it (I think!), there is no way we should have. Whenever we’re given the privilege of an invitation by our adult children to weigh in on their decision making, we need to be mindful that it is just that – a privilege. We don’t have any right to say what they should do once grown. We need to give them that unconditional love – regardless of whether that decision is going to make us uncomfortable by stressing us or causing us to worry.

We’ve already had a bit of practice with this, since our 24 year old son will never, ever have a nice safe job in an office and a house in the suburbs five doors down from us. He has always sought an ‘unsafe’ life and has never shied away from doing ‘the hard thing’ either. Not that he is reckless or risk-taking for the sake of it, quite the opposite. His decisions are calculated and thoughtful. But they are not ‘safe’ from a parental perspective.

Too often we view our children as possessions, something to be proud of and shown off to our friends. And we are far too often worried about how their decisions affect us, rather than them.

We need to take a step back sometimes and check where we are coming from. Are we advising them based on our fears or their best life, whatever that may look like?

Our children are not ‘ours’. They are their own. And the more we realise that, the more peace we will have, no matter what they decide to do or where they decide to go to do it.

Do the hard thing.

To say my brain is a bit frazzled of late would be an understatement and the events of today have only served to prove it.

My 11 year old daughter had try-outs for a sport after school, meaning that she needed to be picked up later than usual. So I planned my day around picking her up at the appointed time. As it was raining, I figured the try-outs would be in the massive auditorium her school has. I turned up, the hall was full of seating and NO STUDENTS.

Now, I should point out right here that one of my children not being where they are supposed to be at any given time is a major panic button for me. Throw any other crisis at me and I am rational, logical, calm. I am generally your ‘go to girl’ for anything – except if one of my children isn’t where they should be.

I began, as you can imagine, to run (something I typically avoid at all costs). I ran to the sports office, frightening, I suspect, the poor teacher sitting quietly at his desk, frantically asking where my daughter was. Then I ran to the main admin, rang the buzzer about 13 times and started going into all those ‘staff only’ places. Then I ran to the middle school admin block and then I ran when I saw my daughter patiently waiting for me.

If you’ve ever lost a child in a shopping centre, in a park, anywhere – you will know the feelings that swept through me as soon as I clapped eyes on her. I cried. Which made her cry. Which made me cry even more. We hugged as though we’d been separated for months instead of just one day and only an hour and half more than normal.

You see, I missed the call on my phone to tell me try-outs were cancelled, and forgot to call the number I hadn’t recognised back when I got home. I didn’t look at the two emails telling me the same thing.

Because my head is full and it’s making me scatterbrained.

Because in one week, one of my children will be hopping on a Nepal bound plane and won’t be on the return flight for eight weeks.

Eight. Weeks.

She is going with a great organisation. She will be doing all sorts of wonderful volunteering activities. She will be having the time of her life. And I couldn’t be more excited for her.

At barely 18 years old, she is stepping into the life God planned for her. She is stretching her wings. Stretching her faith.

She is bold. Brave and gutsy. “I want to do it because it’s hard. Because I don’t want a ‘safe’ life. And what are we doing if we’re not helping people?”

And this mama’s heart is breaking and bursting with pride all at the same time. Her bravery inspires me. Her courage gives me courage, urges me to rally and not get stuck on ‘what ifs’. If she’s brave enough to go, I need to be brave enough to let her. If her faith is big enough at 18, mine surely better be at 43.

So how’s this mama going to cope with an eight week trip to Nepal when a simple time mix up sends her into a flat spin?

I guess I’ll just have to take my lead from my now grown up baby – be brave. Do the hard thing. And have faith.

……I might have to add a little wine to that list though 😉

 

 

But everyone else is doing it!


Speeding ticket

Just recently, I received a lovely yellow ticket from a man in blue on the side of the road. It’s my second speeding ticket in the 25 years I’ve had my licence, which is not bad in the grand scheme of things. I’ll leave it to you to decide if I’m a great driver or just very lucky 😉

As I sat there after handing him my licence, I felt the car rock with each car that went past. Judging by the amount the car moved, I think I could safely say that not many others knew or chose to abide by the fact that it was, indeed, a 60km/h zone. I would not be the only one to go home with a yellow piece of paper that day, I suspect!

On the way home, I thought about how many cars seemed to be speeding past me and I started to get angry. Why weren’t all of them getting a ticket? Out of all the cars going over the speed limit on that road that day, only a small percentage would pay for it. And the fact that I was one of them didn’t sit well.

I started to feel that it was so unfair that I now had a fine and loss of demerit points, while others were going to get away with it. And as I drove, I noticed every slightest traffic infringement – evidence that it wasn’t just me who did the wrong thing, so why could they get away with it while I got caught!?

We have a tendency to do this throughout life, don’t we? We base our behaviour more on those around us than on the actual standards for living. We might treat our spouse horribly but justify it by saying, well, at least I’m not having an affair or beating them. We are impatient and yell at our kids but tell ourselves that at least we’re providing food and clothing for them. We clock off work early but fill out our time sheet to reflect otherwise and defend it by comparing ourselves to the workmate who steals company stationary.

We can’t rationalise or excuse our behaviour by comparing it to the lowest denominator. How many of us have said to a teenager “Just because everyone is doing it, doesn’t mean it’s right.”? Yet, so often, we think things are okay for the very reason that ‘everyone is doing it’.

The fact of the matter is that I received a speeding ticket because I was speeding. End of story. The fact that people speed every day and don’t get caught has nothing to do with it.

We must decide for ourselves what our behaviour and actions will be and live accordingly, rather than looking at what everyone else is doing and lowering our standards to be the same or even just slightly better.

Our behaviour is our responsibility, no-one else’s; just as we can’t control other people’s behaviour, only they can. I think we need to mind our own business a bit more, in the right way. If we concentrate on what we know to be right and good, it’s much easier to maintain the level of living that we desire, instead of being swayed by what we see others doing.

Love is bittersweet

A dear friend of mine is facing tragic news about a loved one. In telling me the news, something she said brought even more tears to my eyes for its sheer beauty.

“We’re just trying to keep things normal at the moment, you know, doing all our usual things. We don’t need to suddenly focus on spending time doing special things together and savouring every moment because we’ve always done that.”

And it’s true, the relationships I see that surround this friend are close, connected and full of appreciation and love for one another. It’s real, not saccharine in any way, and it’s beautiful.

So many people don’t realise they need to do the special things now. They wait until an impending disaster looms before seeing that it’s the people who matter. They wait until the news that they are going to lose someone they love hits them right between the eyes before they begin to value them above work, money, success or security.

How refreshing, how heartbreakingly wonderful, to know people who get it and live like it. It’s been a reminder to me to live in the moment more; to appreciate, really properly, those around me; to not wait until I only have weeks, months or a couple of years to enjoy and delight in those I love and who love me.

There’s a bittersweet sadness that comes from losing a loved one you are thoroughly invested in. It makes it harder that they are going but there’s such enormous comfort in knowing you gave it all you had, that you loved without limits or conditions. Bittersweet but completely worth it.

Are you wasting time working, accumulating things money can buy, on the false notion that there is time later for relationships? There is truly nothing more devastating than knowing you’ve been focusing on what doesn’t matter and doesn’t count at the expense of those around you who might be gone in an instant.

You might live to a ripe old age, and all your loved ones too, then, how wonderful to have lived a life rich in love, full and brimming with joy because you relished it. And if you don’t, or if a loved one doesn’t, you will know you sucked the very marrow out of life for however long you had together.

Don’t place value on things that don’t deserve it.

Don’t wait. Live the special moments now. And do it with all your heart.

Important conversations

The other day, my eleven year old came home with the school-set task of writing a speech on cyber bullying. One of the benefits of being slightly skilled with words is that one’s children deem it useful to have one read over their work; and this has the added benefit of me being very up to date on what they’re studying at school.

I was startled that at eleven, she had been shown a video of a girl who had ended her life due to cyber bullying. I was already formulating my complaint to the school, deciding which teacher to take it to first etc etc. And then, as the discussion went on, I realised how thankful I was that she had been given this assignment. It had paved the way for a great conversation on cyber bullying, its effects and sometimes tragic consequences.

It’s scary to talk about these issues; issues like suicide, self-harm, depression, eating and anxiety disorders. They make us afraid; as though talking about them and acknowledging their existence will somehow beckon them to our door. Sure, we all know in our heads that talking about these issues actually reduces the chances, but in our hearts, it’s still scary.

It’s confronting to hear these words coming out of my barely pubescent daughter’s mouth. And part of it, actually, nearly all of it, is that I don’t want her to see this ugly, awful, nasty side of life – of people. I don’t want her to be confronted with the cruelty that is cyber bullying and the devastating ramifications of it all. I want her to still believe that bad things don’t happen to good people, that “it will never happen to me” can be true, that if we just all try hard enough to get along, peace will reign. And I want to believe those things too. Oh, how desperately I want to believe them.

By the end of the conversation, we had talked about the reasons why bullies bully, why it effects some people more than others, and, importantly, what to do and how to feel if it ever happens to her. We talked about what to do if we see someone being bullied. We talked about social media, its dangers and its benefits. We talked about when to believe what someone is saying to you or about you. We talked about who to believe and who not to believe. We talked about remembering that God made us and that His opinion is the only one that matters. We talked about how hard it is to remember that sometimes. We talked. And we talked.

What started out as a conversation about an assignment, became one of  the most important conversations we will have.

And the real kicker at the end?

“I love talking to you, Mum. Especially about things like this that really matter.”

Some conversations are hard to have; have them anyway.

 

 

Turning up

Today we went to a funeral. And that’s probably all I can say about that fact right now. It’s too tender and raw to put into words on a screen. But I will soon because writing…well, it’s kinda my thing and how I process life, in case you hadn’t noticed.

But, having said that, my husband made a comment after the service that has been rolling around my mind. He wasn’t disrespecting anyone by this question, more a wondering about us as humans. He said, “People turn up to funerals but who of them turn up during life?”

There’s all sorts of reasons to go to a funeral; some of them are right, and some aren’t. It got me thinking about the people whose funerals I would go to, should I hear of their passing. It goes without saying that I would go to the funerals of family and close friends, but what about those I maybe haven’t seen in awhile, or have lost touch with, or who I share a past with but not so much of the present? Those who I don’t brush up against week to week; relationships that time has eroded, or distance has separated.

You see, as a wise friend once gently reminded me, some friendships have seasons, and it’s okay to let them go and the letting go doesn’t void the friendship or the lessons and blessings received within it. With other friends, neither time, distance or lack of interaction can dim the love and catch ups that are months or even years apart, seem like just a day from the last one.

Today challenged me to, if not rekindle relationships, then to at the very least let people know what they meant to me and how they contributed to my life. After all, standing at their funeral may support their family and give evidence of my love and thanks but it won’t impact the person who has passed.

Don’t stand at a funeral thinking of missed opportunities and regretting not seeing more of that person, or telling them how you felt. Imagine standing at a funeral, free of guilt and regret, with nothing left unsaid. And the beauty of it is that it wouldn’t just change how you feel at the funeral, it would change how you feel in life.