Monday, July 31, 2017

Summer Break from Social Media

On June 12, I went quiet. What some might call a radical decision, I decided to go off social media for the summer. For me, this meant instagram and facebook.

As stated in my instagram post from that day, I sensed some things were coming to a head in my life, and I needed the space to process it all.

The break did indeed offer that space, and I'm jumping on my blog to journal some of the observations I made during the last two months I have *mostly* been off of social media.

I say "mostly" because I did hop onto facebook and instagram to check my notifications.  Like it or not, if one has had, in particular, a facebook account for any length of time, it can actually be logistically challenging to pull the plug entirely.  For some people, facebook and/or instagram is their only point of contact for me.  I receive a number of invitations via facebook and learn quite a lot of community happenings via this medium as well.  It makes a complete removal from fb not impossible but unattractive for sure.

Also, about a month into my break, I started to go onto instagram just to look up specific people and "catch up" on their life...well, their instagram life anyway.  :)   So, a cheater I am for sure. But, this actually worked well in helping me make some observations about myself which will in turn help me to set individual boundaries that will serve me in the long run in my social media use.

So, here are a few things I observed during my break.

1. Less cluttered mind
The first two weeks I was off social media, I found my mind less cluttered with both the joyful and mournful events of others' lives and more fully engaged in my reality.  Sometimes, this actually felt selfish and self absorbed. I am an incredibly relationally-oriented person, and oddly enough it felt self centered at times to not be in touch with others' lives.

Nevertheless, the break was absolutely needful because this summer has not been the relaxed, carefree season that most associate with summer.  It's been hectic and full of unexpected emergencies, mild disasters and ongoing health issues.  I really needed to be fully engaged--mind, body and spirit--with my small, little life here on Montford.

I was more attentive to the needs of my home and family because I wasn't also simultaneously cataloging the needs of others. If you're not an empath, you may not understand this. If you are an empath, you are totally nodding your head, and may want to consider a social media break yourself.


2. Timing of checking others' accounts is crucial
My "cheating" ended up revealing to me how important it is for me to be intentional about when I check social media. Do I have the emotional capacity and the physical time to process through and respond to something I may see or read in a way that is honoring to God and to those I follow on these accounts?

If I'm at the end of a stressful day with my children or in the middle of a conflict with my husband, it may not be the best time to check instagram where I may stumble upon someone else's well dressed, smiling children being rewarded for their hard work at school that day or a couple's anniversary smooch shared in front of the Grand Floridian hotel.

If I am waiting on hold with a doctor's office, is that really a good time to scroll facebook where I could learn that someone's loved one has suddenly passed away?  Do I really have the time to respond well to that information at that time?

For me, this is important.  There are real people on the other end of our social media feeds. Many of them are people I know in real life and who I have a deep affection for or at least respect. To quickly "like" someone's post or write, "praying" on a post where someone has just shared heavy news does not set well for me.


3. I benefit from those I follow on social media, and I missed that.
Over the several years I have been on social media, instagram especially,  I have curated a specific group of mostly women who really do minister hope and inspiration to my soul through their feeds. While away, I missed their input.

4. I love to communicate via this medium.
In addition to being a highly relational person, I am also a highly communicative one.  I missed the outlet social media provides for me to communicate not only the events of my life but moreso my thoughts and feelings.

Stepping away allowed me to evaluate my own feed. Of all the noise in this sphere, I want to set myself apart by providing a feed that will be encouraging, uplifting, soaked in solidarity for those in similar seasons or stages of life and always, always pointing people to Jesus.

With all this in mind, I am ending my break from social media.  But, I'm doing it with some clearer and more helpful boundaries in place to make it beneficial rather than the bane of my online presence.



Tuesday, April 04, 2017

Still Waiting

I'm 40 years old and still waiting.
Waiting for my children to apprehend all I am trying to teach them, all the ways I have laid out before them how it is to live a godly life, full of meaning, purpose and joy.

I'm 40 years old and still waiting.
Waiting for my time to come, my time to shine in the fullness of what I believe God has put so clearly and passionately on my heart to do.

I'm 40 years old and still waiting.
Waiting for a complete healing of chronic health issues for which I have tried many remedies and interventions, all of which have brought some relief, some comfort but not full healing.

I'm 40 years old and still waiting.
Waiting for prayers I have prayed for many years to be answered.
Waiting for dreams I have dreamed for many years to see their fulfillment.
Waiting. Sometimes I don't even know all I am waiting for; I just know I'm still waiting.

In her book, "Still Waiting," Ann Swindell talks a lot about waiting, and shares a message of hope for all of us who are in the waiting room of life.
And, frankly, I don't know anyone who isn't waiting for something.

Ann beautifully weaves her personal story of waiting with the biblical account of the Bleeding Woman (Matthew 9:20-22), both women knowing the ache of waiting on God for healing.

What I appreciate most about Ann's book is that she did not wait to write it until she experienced full healing, until her wait came to an end.  No. You see, Ann is still waiting.  And, there is something so incredibly God-glorifying, hope-giving, and satisfying to my own heart to read words of hope and to be pointed rightly to the Source and Giver of both hope and healing from one who is still waiting herself.

This lends such credibility to the strong, sure message Ann conveys in "Still Waiting."

In her book's chapters, Ann breaks down the effects waiting has on one's soul, mind, body, and relationships with others and with God. She discusses how waiting makes one weak, broken, is costly, claims one's identity, feels offensive, brings shame, feels like suffering, and is risky.  She concludes her book with a chapter entitled, "Hope for the Waiting Ones," but Ann does an effective job at sprinkling hope ALL throughout the book.  You don't have to wait until the end for a strong dose of hope.

If you are waiting for anything or anyone and want to wait with hope, I strongly urge you to get your hands on Ann Swindell's, "Still Waiting."

*I wrote this endorsement to help spread the word about Ann's book, not solely or even primarily because I was chosen to be a part of her book launch team, but because I have been encouraged deeply by her words, believe strongly in the message of hope about which she writes, and appreciate greatly the skillful, artful way in which she presents that message. I did receive a copy of "Still Waiting" at no charge in order to read it before its official launch.


Tuesday, February 28, 2017

To honor Rare Disease Day, 2017

Initially, the OB said he was bruised from the birthing process which I found odd because he was pulled out along with his twin, via emergency C-section.

The next day, however, we met our pediatrician who proceeded to clarify for us that our son, Judah, was not bruised but born with a permanent birthmark called a Port Wine Stain (PWS) covering 40% of his body, most of his face and skull, and carried with it the possibility of an accompanying rare syndrome known as Sturge-Weber Syndrome (SWS).

Five days after Judah was born, we drove to Johns Hopkins where skin, eye, and neurological evaluations confirmed Judah had two of the three markers for SWS: skin and eye. Neurological involvement was then unknown and since has been ruled out as much as medical knowledge can provide that assurance.

It is still essentially unknown if Judah will remain free of neurological involvement, but to date we are grateful God has not asked us to walk through those particular hardships.

Nevertheless, the challenges we have faced these past twelve and a half years have all drawn us closer to God, to each other, to our community of friends and fellow Christians who have more than done their part in shouldering this burden with us.

And by burden, I mean the surgeries, the procedures, the endless quest for a cure, the countless crossroads we have come to where decisions have had to be made on Judah's behalf--something that has at times evoked significant anxiety, self doubt and near paralysis as a mother.

But, never, never do I or have I seen or felt Judah a burden. He is such a delight to our family and all who know him.

He is a joyful, outgoing, intelligent, creative, opinionated, strong, compassionate little man who feels deeply, loves sincerely, sings sweetly, perseveres, has so many dreams for his future, is ambitious, and a conqueror.

I love this kid whose rarity exceeds his diagnosis of SWS and extends into his person-hood, his infectious smile and warm hugs.

I look at his red face everyday, left side more full with hypertrophy from the genetically mutated proliferation of blood vessels, and see nothing but a handsome gift from God.

Friday, January 27, 2017

I am not an evergreen

All throughout my yard, evergreens are planted next to flowering shrubs or trees that lose their leaves and stand bare through the winter months.   While the evergreens have the same, stately fullness of needle or leaf, same depth of the color green, the flowering bushes and trees look naked, fruitless.

I love peering out to my yard in the dead of winter, amidst its cold, sometimes gray, low cloud hanging days to see streaks of green, round orbs of color.
Something lives!
Something thrives when all else appears lifeless.
I love these evergreens because they are ever green.

I am not an evergreen.

Like my flowering bushes and trees, I languish during the winter. The cold, the lack of sunshine, illnesses that relentlessly creep all converges at once. It wears me down physically and wears on me spiritually.

I have long despised my frailty. I have wondered why I am so easily undone. I've analyzed and evaluated how to grow more stout,  more steady, more stately – poised – like some of my evergreen friends.

Without fail, I fail. I fall prey to external circumstances that weaken my resolve, steal my smile, and drain my liveliness.

I am learning to wait. I am learning to live fruitless and bare. I'm learning to not feel shame in my nakedness and nothing-to-offer seasons. These are the seasons of simply standing still, staying rooted, bearing the cold wind.

Fruitfulness and color will come.
For me, it's not the season.
It's my winter, and I'm not an evergreen



Saturday, January 21, 2017

January

gloomy, gray days
when will the fog lift?
for an ice storm?
into a bank one drifts

illness after illness
squeeze life and laundry
into the cracks
between runs for antibiotics

fill the diffusers
pump the fluids
wash hands
daily probiotics

make bone broth
take immune boosters
lots of vitamin C
and hand sanitizer

cover your mouth
don't share food
wonder why one well sibling
is in school

wafts of lysol
drinks of ACV or hard liqor
to tighten up
a loose stomach

postponed plans with friends
finally cancelled 'til spring
sickness circulates
keeping track of meds

rest
hot tea
blankets
lots of TV

This is January.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

Why #adifferentway is going to be the Almengor way through 2017

We Almengors are a family of mantras. It is mostly my husband’s doing, but I am agreeable to it because I love having a focus or goal, and I love words yet am less concise with them than my husband. Verbosity is my game which does not work so well when trying to convey the heart of a matter quickly. 

When in the midst of our everyday, sometimes frantic life, communicating the goal quickly is necessary, skipping the lecture, preferred. So, for 2017, Lawrence and I have chosen a mantra of #adifferentway because we are now living in the era of the hashtag, and we have fully embraced it at our house. I unashamedly love the hashtag movement.

A different way. What does that mean for us? Let me try to flesh that out here.

Lawrence and I read a book last year that influenced the two of us greatly called, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” by Peter Scazarro. We were impressed with how much of an impact our families of origin, culture and the experiences of our childhood have had upon our marriage, parenting, friendships, and relationships within our extended family.  And, we realized there are now patterns of behaving, speaking, and reacting to situations that just are not in keeping with what we see exemplified in the Bible by Christ and other followers of Jesus.

We are passing these sins and habits onto our children. They are now 12, 12 and 9 and giving full expression to some of the sinful ways of their parents. Oh, how difficult that is to see sometimes.
In some of these behaviors, we are simply stuck after years of wearing down a nice, deep rut. We know love is patient and kind, but the tone of our voices still sounds so sharp and even cruel at times.  We know we want to embrace a godly sorrow when faced with our sin, repent and ask for forgiveness from God and from each other, but goodness, that stubborn pride of ours just doesn’t want to hear it in the moment especially. 

So, we came up with a prompt of sorts: #adifferentway.  We learned that in the heat of a “moment,” it’s harder to hear, “You are wrong and need to repent,” and easier to hear, “There is a different way through this. You can choose a different way.”

When we say #adifferentway, we mean that
  • ·        You are not enslaved to this all too familiar way of responding
  • ·        You are not defined by this pattern of speech or way of behaving
  • ·        You are able to choose in this moment the godly way through
  • ·        You are able to ask for wisdom and grace and receive it right in this moment
  • ·        You are able to change

Like a flick of a rubber band around one’s wrist, #adifferentway will become for us a jolt out of some ruts we have laid over the years. Or at least we hope so.

#Adifferentway also makes room for us to keep exploring and trying on new ideas and routines. Where we, for years, have enjoyed family night on Fridays with pizza and a movie, we are going to try using some of those Friday nights to play games together.  Watching a movie every Friday night was good for us as a family for many years. It was easy for us as parents who, by the end of the week, were bone tired from raising and home educating young children.  And, it also built within our family a cache of common stories to refer back to, inside jokes, and one-liners. And we will continue to watch good movies for this purpose.

But, our children are entering a new season of growth and development, and it seems a good time to step up our game in pursuing them relationally. We *think* we are ready to take on the potential mire of playing games together for the new level of growth that might afford us as a family and as human beings.

Another area we are exploring #adifferentway is in how we educate our children. We are currently in our 7th year of homeschooling, and aside from one year for the boys in Kindergarten at a private school, my children have never known anything but home education.  We may continue down this road, but we are going to at least explore what it might look like to educate #adifferentway.  I am working on a few shadow days for my kids to experience at a handful of local schools.  I don’t know what will come of this, but we are stepping out and choosing to investiage #adifferentway.

On a personal note, I want to grow in communicating God’s story in my story by way of writing and public speaking. To do this, I know I need to be a voracious reader except that I am not. L  I kicked around the familiar plan of upping my reading intake but #adifferentway occurred to me, and I am choosing that instead. This different way is in keeping with the doer God created me to be versus the sit and read volumes of material person I am not. 

Instead of doubling the amount of books I read in a year, I picked five influential, time tested authors of whose material I will ingest this next year. Curious?  Comment and I’ll let you know who made my list. J

So, 2017, whatever you may hold for us Almengors, we are choosing #adifferentway.

Where we have worn down ruts of reacting, we are resolved to forge new paths, ones that will honor God and each other.

Where familiar routines no longer serve us, we are resolved to do the hard work of beginning and reinforcing new routines that will further our growth and joy.

Where common held practices do not line up with who you have made us to be, we will not try to fit our square self into a round hold but are resolved to conjure up #adifferentway that will accomplish the same goal.

How might you choose #adifferentway for your 2017?
If you think of any ways, I would love to hear about it and cheer you on in your pursuit of #adifferentway.