Saturday, November 30, 2013

Holding on to Gratitude

Thanksgiving was a couple of days ago here in the United States and I’ve discovered that with each passing year, this holiday becomes more and more my favorite.  Most other holidays have a commercial component to them now and each one involves gifts except for Thanksgiving.  

Even though each year Thanksgiving grows on me on a bit, this year I think I finally understood why.  In church on Thanksgiving Eve, we were challenged to list all that we were thankful for out loud.  Pastor assured us to go on as long as needed and to not be shy.  As I started to say those people that I was thankful for I realized that after a short time, I could no longer speak.  Tears streamed down my face because how can you thank a great God who owes us nothing for everything we have?  I am breathing right now because he allows it.  Where can I even begin?  Pastor encouraged us to start small and continue to live a life of gratitude.  I was profoundly moved by this. 

Where do we begin?  First, start with our smallness – start with the fact that we are dust and then thank God for life and health and air to breathe.  Maybe family is next and then possessions.  But here is the tricky part – thanking him for pain and loss and all that challenge us in this life.  This is not easy, but if we are still breathing, that means that God has a purpose for us and he promises to be with us to help us.  

While the concept of constant gratitude is something I have been studying for nearly three years, I realize that I have much to learn and will probably never get it right in this life.  But starting somewhere is all we have to do.

The food is gone, the family has left, and I have almost recovered the kitchen from the madness.  The kids want to decorate for Christmas.  Me too…but I’m hesitating a bit.  Looking around at the simple orange pumpkins, cornucopia, leaves, and grasping the gratitude for just awhile longer. 

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Love Personified

I keep listening to the Jars of Clay song Skin and Bones from the Inland album which speaks of love being people - both the object of love and the action of love.  Recently I read that love is a person and his name is Jesus.  This means that love is not a feeling or action – but a person.  A person embodied in what love really is – all actions flowed from love of others, love of the Father, love always at the forefront, love as the focus, love personified.  And isn’t that what we all need to learn?  Love is who we should aspire to be – love is “skin and bones”.  It’s not a theory or a concept, science or philosophy, but an embodiment of us acting out our highest calling. 

I think of my days at home.  I express love through doing things for others – “acts of service” as a famous author describes it.  Checking off the to do list all in the name of love.  But are these tasks received as acts of love? 

Maybe it is not enough to show love in the lists, but to be present and hear and touch and hold and whisper into a little ear and play “This Little Piggy”.  For my children, being present – “quality time” is likely one of the few love languages they understand.  Love towards my children is my presence fully engaged and focused on them in the midst of the everyday tasks and experiences.  And as I come to this realization, I remember how much I have to learn. 

Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Facebook Fast – Thirty-One Days

I wake up blurry eyed and foggy and fumble to turn the alarm off my phone.  Before I even sit up, let the silence sink in, or turn on a light, I login to Facebook.  What am I missing that happened in the five hours since I last logged in?

One of the kids asks me a question, but I don’t hear them as I scroll through the newsfeed – blue and white glow discoloring my face.  She asks me three times more, “Mom, mom! Can you hear me?  You need a time limit for your phone, just like you give us.”  I hear her this time and put it down.

It’s October 1 and I’m reading the latest rant over the government shutdown and Obamacare as my federal government employed sister sits at home wondering her fate.  Suddenly, a wave of anger envelopes me.  Livid that I’m wasting time reading garbage from arm chair “politicians” insisting on an opinion they know nothing about. 

I leave a couple of posts on groups and my wall that I’m logging off – for the whole month of October.  I sign off cooling my heels over ice water. 

Oh, I’ve logged out before for a whole month – did it just last June, but it didn’t lose its hold on me.  I logged in ravenous consuming Crackbook oblivious to the dissatisfaction and frustration that continued.  I trudged on for more than a year, unchanged and unrelenting.  I meant to write about it back then – to share with the world the revelations uncovered from a month “disconnected”.  The truth was the epiphany never came.

This time was different.  The first couple of days, I pondered my struggles with the blue and white frames.  I remember signing on for the first time over four and half years ago under the guise from family and friends to stay “connected”.  It was fun finding old college friends and grade school pals that I had not spoken to in over 30 years.

Months go by and our third child is born.  While I wish I could remember vividly the times I snuggled close and gazed into her perfect sweet face, I barely can.  The memories I recall are thumbnail pictures scrolling by, blue letters, red notifications delighting me.  I’m ashamed at these cheap excuses for memories.

When I stopped working to be home with our kids, I craved any type of adult interaction.  My phone stayed logged in, I stood at my laptop in the kitchen until my legs ached, relentlessly scrolling, devouring “social interactions”.  In reality I was feeding my addiction, barking at the kids when they interrupted me, recoiling at my shallow existence.  I was terrified to admit it – I envisioned the audience at a 12-step meeting.  I stand trembling before them.  “Hello, my name is Jennifer and I’m a Facebook addict.”

The vision fades and I step away for short bursts…a week here, a week there, holidays, birthdays, many Sundays.  But I always wake up the next day and I log back in – as if I had never left - returning to where I left off. 

After the first few days of this fast, I get an email from my “dealer” – I am missing notifications.  Sorry Crackbook, I can’t do that.  I delete the message.  Again, an email – two days later.  I ignore it.  After day five, I get an email  On day eight, I unsubscribe.

By day 15, I don’t think about Facebook anymore.  I have a big announcement I want to share, so I login quickly to post it.  I do not look at notifications.  I do not look at the newsfeed.  I realize in despair that I don’t ever want to login again and that soon I will have to decide how to manage this.

The world seems brighter and calm and there are no distractions to keep me from reading a book or playing a game with my children…some of them old enough that they have stopped asking me to do those things.  Is it because I hardly reciprocated?  Because I wasn’t listening?  I shudder at the thought.

My eight year old asks me to sit with her and talk.  I’m floored and honored and my phone is not on my person and I do not hear it and I am fully here with her in this place.  I hug her and count her freckles while I tell her that I will always listen and for once I really am and please tell me God that I have not missed too much!

October 31 rolls around and I wait.  I do not login until nearly 11pm on November 1.  Most of the notifications are not worth reading and I can’t get past the second item in the newsfeed.  I start hiding things like mad in a desperate attempt to focus on those people that drew me to this “connecting” tool in the first place.  I don’t login again for a couple of days and I don’t think about it and I’m not drawn in and is this what normal life is like?

I close up my laptop having spent just a few minutes – but a few minutes more than I wanted.  I walk out into the living room where my sweet four year old is singing and dancing and I take her hand and join in.