chess

It was last week ago when I saw the news. I follow a popular food blogger on Instagram, she has over 150,000 followers, and she was telling us that Instagram is switching to an algorithm-based feed as opposed to a chronological-order one.

And I could feel a sinking, twisting feeling in my stomach.

My guess is you fall into three groups of people. You use Instagram and are annoyed by the supposed-changes to make the platform more like Facebook. You use Instagram (or don’t) and don’t care. You have no idea what I’m talking about.

If you’re in team three, I promise these words are not about technology, and I promise I am not offering tips about how to beat the algorithm, and I also promise to limit the use of the word algorithm starting now.

This is about social media and the sinking feeling in my stomach. 

Because this is what went through my head in the seconds after reading the food bloggers post: Who will see my work now? I was just getting started. She has tens of thousands of followers, and she’s concerned she will lose visibility, influence and business? I have no hope. 

I quit social media last August. I had just heard about Periscope, and it hit me: There will be a new social media platform every few months. There is absolutely no way I can keep up with this, but more importantly, I don’t even want to. I was not wired to try to draw attention to who I am and what I do through platforms. Why did I start writing? I wanted to tell stories.

It was true for the little girl I was in a small Filipino town when the stories were imaginary and scratched out by shaky cursive on lined paper. It was true when I reported and wrote for my university newspaper about favourite professors, changes to curriculum and the sexual habits of Christian young adults. If anything, blogging has been one of the weirdest writing phases because the storytelling has been less about other people and more about myself, but it is still storytelling. Writing and reading stories has always been my first love, and I realized in August that using social media to generate attention for my stories was soul-draining and creativity-killing work for me.

Then we moved to Australia, and there was no time to write or to do anything other than keep my sons from killing each other, making sure there were chicken nuggets and fish sticks in the freezer, and taking a shower once a month. But after a while, I missed Instagram. I missed taking photos. I missed sharing quick thoughts. What changed? I stopped looking at Instagram as a means to gaining greater influence, and I started seeing it as a new expression of creativity. I have very little time these days to write and photograph, but the ideas in my head have not stopped. When I have no outlet for my ideas or my creativity, I become cranky at best, angry and frustrated at worst. Instagram provided me with a space to share thoughts immediately when I didn’t have time to develop it into an essay. It let the thought fly away, my head was clearer, my afternoons were happier.

But still there it was when I saw her post last week. The twisting. The sinking.

The thoughts came back to me in the days that followed, Who will see my work now? What chance do I have?  No matter how much I focused on creating, I was still motivated by who saw my posts and how it impacted my blog stats. Maybe you’re on Instagram and you have thought it as well? Maybe you have no idea what Instagram is, but you’ve been making baby steps toward something you want, a new project, a degree, a promotion at work, a relationship, but something came up unexpectedly and you feel left behind and confused, like someone switched the plan, and you don’t know what to do next.

autumn

I don’t have answers, but I’m sharing here what I am telling myself.

Platforms come and go but people last forever. If you aren’t into social media, just substitute your thing for platforms (degrees come and go but people last forever, houses come and go but people last forever, etc.). I come back to this truth because it is my boundary line. People are eternal, and the investment I make in a person’s life is always an eternal investment. I may do that through a warm meal or a blog post, but the destination is ultimately the same, I want the life I’m interacting with to experience the love of God and the beauty of truth. How we make our investments is up to us and based on our unique wiring, but these deposits are worthy of our time, attention and love.

If something sparks fear, it needs to go. Fear, insecurity, comparison, none of these things are healthy fuel for a life of creativity, purpose and meaning. Our car runs on unleaded fuel, and it will die if I fill it with diesel (I think, I’m out of my depth here with a car analogy). We were not created to be motivated by fear. Your life was made by love, it is redeemed by perfect love, it is given purpose because of love, and you were made to run on love, and perfect love casts out all fear. For me this may mean quitting Instagram again, I’m not sure. For now it means ignoring all calls to turn on notifications and liking posts I don’t like for the sake of having it show up in my newsfeed.

Trust and workWho will see my work now?  I can trust that whomever needs to see my work will see it. The end. There is enough attention to go around. There is enough space in the world for me, there is enough space in the world for you. There is space for us to share our lives with each other.

It is the system of this world to make everyone, absolutely everyone, feel like their life is lacking. Scarcity drives our purchases, our values, our politics and our economies.

Radical trust is the only way to fight against the scarcity written into the fabric of our societies and our thinking. The radical trust that our lives are in hands that are bigger, stronger and good. The radical trust that my life and your life has a purpose and no person, platform or algorithm can get in the way of that. 

So whatever you think about Instagram, here’s to a life free from fear and lack. We have everything we need. Because we have everything we need, we can create, we can live, we can love. We can do our work. Find the people who need your investment. Invest yourself. Let go of fear and go all in with people. Loving people is worth it. Trust that you have enough. Do the work you’ve been given to do. One day Instagram will be gone, the only thing twittering will be the birds, and we will teleport ourselves into each others’ living rooms, but the investment we made in each others lives will remain forever. So here’s to each other and a life not dominated or controlled by social media.

Now it’s your turn: What do you need to let go of? Where can you invest your life? And if you want to share, how are you processing social media these days?

I’m linking up with Jennifer and the #TellHisStory crew.

flowers

A few weeks ago, I bought flowers for myself for no reason. I like having flowers around. I like looking at them, I like trimming the stems and arranging the blooms, pulling out my vases excites me, having a spot of beauty where I can rest my eyes during the day brings energy and strength.

So I’ve started buying myself flowers. Weekly. It’s now part of the grocery shopping experience.

Flowers felt like an extravagance in the past, but more than that, it came with expectations. That someone else was going to by me flowers. My husband, friends, people who are coming over for dinner.

I see myself as a person who knows what she wants and goes to get it, but somehow when it came to these small things that bring beauty, joy and ease to my life, I treated myself as a consumer and not a creator.

I could consume beauty by joyfully receiving flowers, watching a movie or reading a book, but I couldn’t take ownership for my love for beauty by creating what I longed for. There is a bigger story here about writing, but for now I am sticking with the small lesson. I was created by God, who is the source of creativity that cannot and will not end, and I was given creative strength because my creativity points back to the goodness and beauty of his creative strength. I do not have time these days to hole away for days writing, I cannot paint a masterpiece for an art gallery, there is no time to perfect any creative skill or talent.

But I can do small things every day that remind myself that I am a creator, I have ownership for my life, someone else is not responsible for my desires. For now it means I stop to paint with my boys, I print pretty printables with truth about identity and daily work, I sweep my floor, I make my bed daily, I chop parsley and scatter it on top of soup. These are simple actions that transfer my creative mind into my daily work, it keeps beauty filling my life, and it helps me to keep going.

And for the days when there is no time for anything else, it helps that my vases are full of flowers.

For you there’s a story as well. What do you want to create? What is an idea that has swum around in your mind for a while? Maybe it’s more than an idea? Maybe it needs a life of its own? What small thing can you do this week that would say to yourself and the people around you that your creative self matters?

I’m linking up with The Grove at Velvet Ashes.

Velvet Ashes: encouragement for women serving overseas
 

Right now, I’m trying to capture moments of beauty and change over on Instagram, so head over there and follow me if you want to see more. And if you want to read blog posts right as they are written, scroll down and subscribe in the form below. I’m glad you’re here.

camping

Camping with small kids is doable and a lot of fun. I like a bed under my back, and I like not sleeping in the same room as my kids, so the idea of a tent, squished next to my (cuddlesome) two-and-a-half-year-old who likes to wake up at 5:15am, was less than attractive to me. But we live in Australia now, my parents are here, my sisters and their hubbies, and it was determined that we should go on a holiday all together. The truth is that it was amazing. We camped for two nights, and not once did I hear a little person whine about when they get to watch Jake and the Neverland Pirates. The boys played with dirt, sand and water, we ate two-minute noodles and drank hot chocolate. My back still feels out of whack, but write it down in the books: Camping may be the easiest family holiday we’ve ever had.

schedule

Bite-sized goals are changing my life. I didn’t make resolutions this year, but I had two goals for January: No eating at McDonalds for the boys and I, and I will wake up before the boys. We had zero fast food until last weekend, and I’ve woken up before the boys more than I used to. It was a boost, a good one. So I made a list for February. It was a bit longer and required more of me; I would have to organise my kitchen drawers, and figure out how we are storing our books. But it got done. Midway through the month, when I didn’t want to do anymore (the bookshelves, our bedroom), I saw the things I had done, and thought, keep going. You can do it. I’ve made a list for March, and hopefully this new trend of goals for each month will continue bringing small changes throughout the year.

photos

I love taking and sharing photos. It had been months since I picked the “big” camera up, but I had been watching golden hour for days with longing. I paid attention, picked up the camera and snapped a few photos of the boys and our yard. It felt clunky at first, I had forgotten how to use the settings, but it still felt good to come back to the camera. I’ve been posting again on Instagram, too, and you can follow me over there. It’s met my need to share what I’ve been learning when I don’t have time to blog and also to capture moments of beauty.

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don’t like choices, but I pretend like I do and this stresses me out. Here’s what I mean. For the past few years, I’ve felt an unspoken pressure to find new cute (and cheap!) places where I can grab a cup of coffee or catch up with a friend. Moving to Melbourne made it worse, there are great cafes around every corner, and I never wanted to be at a place that had (gasp) less than inspiring ambience or (shudder) bad food. (Hashtag firstworldproblems.) But what this meant is that the slivers of time I had to myself were full of internal pressure: Should do this, should be there, should see so and so, and instead of being able to unwind my mind and my soul, I was getting more and more wound up. So I’ve eliminated some choices. There are several cafes in our neighbourhood, I chose one, and every chance I get for 30 minutes or more to myself, I go there. I order the same thing – a small mocha – and I journal, read, make lists, or read the newspaper. It has made the time I have to rest that much more restful. 

I’m linking up with Emily P. Freeman today and lots of others who are sharing what they learned in February. It’s a wonderful way to chronicle the small and big ways we grow, change and learn, and I love it. Right now, I’m trying to capture moments of beauty and change over on Instagram, so head over there and follow me if you want to see more.

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Hello from the other side. And yes, I’m listening to the radio again, and Adele! Apparently she’s been around for years, but I’m only hearing about her now. Send help fast before I get a reputation as the least cool mom at kindergarten.

The last you heard from me we had arrived in Australia, living with family, getting over jet lag and gastro. A lot has changed since then. On February 1 Husband went back to work, and my oldest started kindergarten. And now I’m still listening to Taylor Swift via Ryan Adams’ cover album on Spotify while sitting on our deck watching our chickens forage for food. We are all growing up.

I know, I know, I had you all at chickens. We are pet owners, much to our boys’ delight, and the chickens’ dismay. I suppose one day they will stop trying to pick them up, throw balls at them and hit them. I blame the chickens. The boys keep expecting them to interact, like a toy that moves without  batteries to replace. Obviously chickens are the Perfect Toy, except that they run away and only want to peck for things in the ground. When we moved into our house (the chickens came with the house), we had three eggs a day from the three chickens, a few weeks ago we were down to two, and in the past few days, it’s been an egg a day. This is their way of protesting? Any chicken experts out there who can educate me?

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We first walked into what is now our house 17 days after we first arrived in Melbourne. We were supposed to see a yellow weatherboard house, and I wrote the story in my head, we leave one yellow house for another one. I had looked at the photos for days. But the inspection was cancelled unexpectedly for yellow house, and we drove on to a plain, brick house instead. I had taken five steps into the house when I knew it was ours.

When we are lost, we will look to the past to guide our way. God’s hand took us to the Yellow House in Sweden, and he made a nest for us within those walls, and I thought he would do the same thing in Melbourne. But he had a new thing for us, it is brick  and there are chickens, and it is good because it came from him. What is he doing in your life? Are you looking back and wondering why he doesn’t provide the way he provided for you in the past? He’s doing something new for you, too. A new way of working, a new season to live in, a new taste of his grace, a new need for his help.

Do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and a stream in the wasteland.

I’m linking up with Jennifer today.

crying

It is perhaps the revelation every parent comes to at some point. I can’t take the pain away. But you try, the baby falls over and you swoop in to pick her up. The toddler runs too fast for new feet and smashes a knee, your kisses make it all better. Is there anything a regular parent wouldn’t do to take the pain away from their child?

Our kids have their own ways of processing our in-betweenness right now. One of them remarked the other day, Maybe we will never find a car or a house or a job. He wasn’t even talking to us, just sort of throwing the thought into the air. And we see their unsettledness in the night waking, the tantrum throwing. Tonight he asked me if we could go back to Stockholm and buy a house there. Every day I see evidence of their hurting hearts, and everything in me wants to rush in, say the words that sound good, do the thing that will make the tears stop, and take his pain away.

But I’ve done almost nothing. I’ve sat there, reflected his words back to him and rubbed his back. Not because I think it’s the best thing for me to do, but because I have no idea how to fix this, and authenticity is something I aim for as I love my kids. And I know that there is no real answer in the in between we are in right now. We are waiting, waiting and waiting some more. I don’t know when we will find a house, I don’t know that everything in our shipment will be as it was when it left Stockholm, I don’t know if my sons will be happier here than they were in Stockholm. I have no idea, so I do the only thing I can. I nod my head, and I listen. I pray he knows there is a safe space in me for all of his emotions.

Maybe I’m looking into the future to a time of broken hearts and girls, to jobs lost or exams failed or friendships betrayed, and I can see the truth: I won’t be able to do anything about it. There is a deception about these little years, the feeling that I can do something, I hold the keys to their health, happiness and security. But I do not. I am not their healer and provider. 

And there is yet another side to all of this. My boys have no idea if we will ever get a car or a house or find work because they have no memory of having to search for these things in the past. They got carried to car seats, they ran around a house they loved. The work involved in finding these things? They knew nothing of it. I know we will find a car and a house even though I have no idea how or when these things will materialise.

I’m doing some tantrum-throwing, too, not in public of course, but into my pillow, words poured out to God, Why? Why does it have to be so hard? Why does it have to take so long? When will my life get back to normal? When will my children stop waking us up at 6am? 

I wrote several weeks ago about wrestling with God, and I am still living in that place right now. One morning a few weeks ago, the boys were stirring and getting up around 5:30am, way too early for us and way too early for them. We lay in bed and prayed, and I don’t mean just prayed, Husband and I begged God to make the boys go back to sleep. They didn’t, they woke up, the morning was unpleasant. We were unpleasant, and there has been a lot of this. Many, many prayers thrown at God, without the answers we hope returning to us. And there is profound pain in this process, it shows me the things I long for, why I long for them, and why it hurts when things don’t go as I want them to. But there have always been answers, even if it is not the answer we hope for, God has spoken clearly in the middle of our questions, there is a light leading us on this path. It is a path that shows us daily a bit more about who God is and he is showing us who we are as well. 

This is what I am trying to say: I need to let my boys face the pain in their lives because this is teaching them something about life and about God, something that is necessary for a long-term life of health and wholeness. I could give them words and things and experiences that numb their pain, but that only trains them to turn away from pain and toward what they can consume to take the ache away. It is a set up in the direction of addiction and escape. They need to know that experiencing pain is a normal part of life, and that our God will be their companion in the middle of it. And while it is tempting to speak my promises to them – think something along the lines of We will find a house soon! It will be amazing! – turning their hearts toward God’s promises gives them tools for the futureJesus is with us, he will never leave us, he has good plans for us, he will take care of us, those who trust in the Lord are safe. These things are true.

Every day that I live this out with them, I am giving myself another gift. The daily reminder that I am God’s child, and he doesn’t come to take away my pain. He comes to redeem it. Redemption is not escape or numbness. It is an exchange, it requires a total and complete acknowledgement of what happens, it is never ignoring the bad. I have lived this year after year for over a decade now, and I see it in story after story in the Bible. Deep pain, profound human failures, and a God who sees it all. He didn’t make it go away, he hung on a cross in the middle of our pain and experienced it.  God knows the pain for the hurt that it causes, and in his time and in his way, he exchanges it for something beautiful, he turns it into something we cannot imagine. Only God can do this. 

Beauty for ashes. The oil of gladness instead of mourning. A garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. So that we may be oaks of righteousness, his planting, that we may stand forever in strength and beauty, smiling at the future because we know we are in safe hands. 

Now it’s your turn: What pain in your life do you need to face today? What do you need to believe about who God is to help you do this? 

I’m linking up with Jennifer and Holley today.