I think that most of you probably know by now that I love the internet. Like, a lot. The internet has done some pretty awesome things for me. I met my husband on the internet. I've met friends on the internet. The internet has enhanced friendships that I have in real life. And I love blogging to write. Having a little space here to air out my soul has been incredibly life giving for me. Plus, I'm alone, or without adults I should say, a lot. Motherhood can be isolating. Moving to a new city can be isolating. And I've done both of those things over the past couple years, but through those transitions, reading about what others are going through on their blogs or social media makes me feel a little less alone, a little less isolated.
And, oh that Instagram. I feel like it deserves a category of it's own. I love using Instagram to document the ordinary, mediocre joys of life. My pictures are not the highlights reel of my life though. My highlights would be telling Salem bedtime stories in the dark as he falls asleep. Rocking and nursing Judah and smelling his soft, blond hair before I lay him in the crib. Cuddle-talking with my husband and just saying there and being present with him until I feel close and reconnected again. Getting up while it's still dark, making coffee as fast as I can and being with my Lord, my Sustenance before the rest of my people awake. Meeting with two of my dear friends every Thursday night to talk vulnerably about what's really going on, encouraging each other and spurring one another on. Conversations over the phone with my close friends and family that live far away, hearing the sweet sound of their voices again. That's what my highlights reel would be. But those things are never Instagrammed. It's too precious and too sacred. They're mental treasures I carry with me but a photo on a little square wouldn't do those moments justice. But, it's not my lowlights reel either though. My dirty dishes, the tantrums in the grocery store, the heated discussions I've had with my husband, relationships that just aren't panning out the way I'd like... nobody sees that either. The stuff that's somewhere in between is what's Instagrammable for me. Oh, and seeing what you guys post. I love getting little glimpses into people's day, while remembering that this might just be what is somewhere in between their highlights and lowlights too. I love finding out about creative writers or businesses and seeing their beautiful, and even God-glorifying work. I love connecting there, but when it actually is connecting. When it's mindless scrolling, or just keeping myself "in the know" of what all the other creatives are up to, Satan sneaks in and ever so slowly starts sucking the joy and peace and life right out of me. Those little squares quickly become a stage for a talent show, in which followers are applauding and giving standing ovations in the form of likes and comments. I set down the phone, come back to my extremely normal life with my sons, and try to make them some lunch and play with trucks and pretend like everything's okay when in the back of my mind I hear this voice saying, "what have you made lately? what inspiring ideas have you put out? you're creative too, you know, but you just have these kids with you 24/7 so you can't DO as much. Nap time. Bed time. Preschool. Those are your chances. stop making excuses and get out there and hustle. this is you using your gifts. this is you being more then just a mom. get going!"
There have been many days, where in my heart I've felt my children are a handicap to my creativity. Where I'm physically sitting, trying to color with them and teach them shapes and letters, but in my mind I'm drafting my next blog or trying to craft a story. And in those moments, I feel absolutely discontent and joyless. I'm not in the moment. Not present. Wishing I was some where else doing something else, yet feeling guilty for not enjoying time with my kids while they're little. My strength to care for them was completely zapped. I was impatient and short fused, and not the Spirit-led mother I want to be.
I've been trying to figure out this complicated dance between using my gifts and nurturing my creativity, while staying content and joyful as a mother. It seems like two are often at odds with each other. The more I seek to grow in my gifts and cast vision for the future, the harder it becomes to stay content in the present and faithfully tend to what I've been given right now, the two little boys I get to mother. When all these thoughts we're a tangled up ball in my mind, God completely shook me up with this verse when I wasn't looking for it. I read, "My grace is enough; it’s all you need. My strength comes into its own in your weakness. Once I heard that, I was glad to let it happen. I quit focusing on the handicap and began appreciating the gift. It was a case of Christ’s strength moving in on my weakness. Now I take limitations in stride, and with good cheer, these limitations that cut me down to size—abuse, accidents, opposition, bad breaks. I just let Christ take over! And so the weaker I get, the stronger I become." This verse has been on my mind and heart for days and days. And when I do surrender, surrender my creativity to God, surrender my writing to God, surrender my mothering to God, all of those things start to feel less like handicaps to each other and more like gifts that I get to steward. I begin appreciating all those things in my life rather than seeing them at competition with each other. And most importantly, I feel more true joy, peace, love, patience, kindness, goodness and self-control than ever before. And after reading that verse, the Lord put it on my heart (read: slammed it on my heart). Lindsey, you NEED boundaries. Boundaries online. Boundaries in time for writing and time for mothering.
And so I did, yet it is extremely hard to do and stick to. I've been tinkering that what feels like a good boundary with the use of social media/phone for months, since I know when I've been using it too much, discontentment in my present calling of mothering slips in. Do I not use it the days I'm with my kids non-stop? Do I use it every other day? Social media free weekends? What's a good rhythm that allows me to do something I love (writing, connecting online) that also helps me keep my heart in the game of motherhood? This is personal to me, but I'll share what I've found in case it helps anyone else.
- It has to be more than one or two days off the phone/internet to really recalibrate my heart for motherhood. A week feels good. Two days doesn't feel like enough.
- When it is a day I'm allowing myself to use the phone, I sign out when I'm done. Did you know you can sign out of Instagram and Facebook so that the next time you open the App, you have to sign back in? This way, I can pause before being bombarded with posts and think, "Do I really want to be doing this right now? Do I really need to see a few posts while I wait for the soup to warm up in the microwave?" Usually the answer is no, and when I have sometime to log on while my kids are napping, I actually enjoy it more and the time is intentionally spent.
- The moment that discontentment starts to creep in, delete those Apps as fast as you can, girl. Don't wait until it gets really bad. Run to Jesus, like right now. Stop and get a little crazy and tell him out loud that you're weak and that you need him. Tell him you need his grace right now. Turn on whatever worship music you like and just start praising him. You can't be a discontent grumbler and praise God at the same time. Your kids need YOU. They need a Spirit-led mama. I'm sorry if this hurts, but the internet doesn't need you. Your kids do. People will find someone else's blog to read. Those that really miss your online presence will reach out another way, I promise. But your kids can't find another mom. It's you or nothing, so in grace, choose to do what will make yourself the best mom you can be to them.
- Set up your email signature to let people know when you're available or change your bio if you think it's needed to let people know that your not social media-ing this week, so they can find another way to reach you. I've had reservations about doing this at first because I don't want to sound self important or like I'm too busy for people, which isn't true, but through trial and error you'll know what healthy boundaries are for you. Healthy for me is less time glued to my phone, but people in my life know my heart, and know they're welcome to come over or connect in another way.
You may need boundaries in a different way than I do. In fact, you probably do. What is that thing that can easily become too much of a good thing for you? Do you currently have boundaries in place?