Here’s a Balance Tip: Get off the Internet

The other day after all the children had left for school, I took the dirty breakfast dishes and started loading them into the dishwasher. My mind was full of the day’s obligations, so I had not noticed that I failed to unload the CLEAN dishes prior to loading the dirty ones.

Awesome.

As I was retrieving the milky bowls and the buttery knives, I chuckled at myself and thought, “I need to make this a funny Facebook status or work this into a blog post.

To which I immediately responded to myself: “Oh my GOSH, Sandy. Who the flip cares if you loaded dirty dishes in with the clean ones!?! Do you need to live out your entire life on the Internet?”

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Later that night, as I was drying Elliana off after her bath, she asked, “Mommy, do you have time to read to me tonight?” In response, I let out a big, giant, overly dramatic sigh. Like it was the most inconvenient thing for my child to ask of me at that moment. How DARE my 7-year-old ask me to read to her in bed, when, clearly, I’m exhausted.

In my defense, Jon had been out of town for days, and I was depleted. But to my discredit, I had spent countless minutes, no hours, throughout that very day checking the number of likes and shares on a Facebook status I posted earlier. A Facebook status about (wait for it) being a good mom.

“We’re connecting dots with people who may as well live on Pluto, while trying to avoid the ones planted right next to us.” ~Beth Moore~

Did you ever just look at this whole social media hoopla and see it for the absurdity that it is? Did you ever scroll through a feed or click on a blog and wonder what the heck you were doing reading about the mundane details of someone’s life you hardly know, or don’t know at all?

Have you ever just wanted to disappear from the whole thing and live your life quietly? As in, OFF LINE? Like we did way back in the 1990s? I mean, truly—get off line completely?

After living my life ON LINE for the better part of seven years, the thought occurred to me: I want off.

And, thus, began a week of deep introspection, soul-searching and prayer.

See, we’re heading into the holiday season. It’s always a busy time, but I’m grasping a little more tightly to it this year, because it’s a year of “lasts” for us:

…the last birthday Elliana will have in this house.
…the last Thanksgiving I’ll cook in this kitchen.
…the last Christmas we’ll gather in this family room in pajamas and hot cocoa.
…the last few months the neighborhood kids will ring our doorbell, run through our yard and make a beautiful mess of our basement.

Each year about this time, I take a break from blogging, unapologetically. I considered that maybe my thoughts of potentially disappearing are just the result of added pressure of building a new house. Lord knows, that alone would be a valid reason. Maybe I just need to disappear for the holidays, and revisit everything in January.

But then, I thought: In January we have to get the house ready to sell. And February, it will go on the market (have you ever sold a house with kids? It’s Crazy Town trying to make it look like you don’t live there when, in fact, you do.) And March we will start packing. And April we will move. And May we will be wrapping up the school year with programs and exams, while also integrating into a new area of town. And June begins summer—when I often take another break from blogging, unapologetically.

And then, it hit me: in two and a half years, I will launch my oldest daughter into COLLEGE!!!!!

College?

When I started this blog, she was 8.

I’m not quite sure, but I’m now wondering if maybe all these thoughts are more than pressure from building the new house. Maybe God is nudging me to focus elsewhere for a season.

“So believe in life cycles and seasons. They are real. Therefore, when the days get shorter or it’s time to change, you will not think ‘something is wrong’ but you will accept the change as readily as a farmer accepts the turning of the calendar. Then you will be able to end the previous season’s appropriate activities and move to the next. Endings are easier to embrace and execute when you believe something normal is happening.”

~Dr. Henry Cloud, Necessary Endings~

Here are some of the questions I’m asking myself:

What if I spent the next year pouring myself into God’s word instead of poring over articles and newsfeeds? What would THAT look like? And what would that do to my levels of peace and patience? How would that change my attitude and my thinking? How much more effective could I be as a mother, a friend and a writer?

What if, rather than spending the next year continuing to build my blog audience, I spent it building my home (not just my new house, but also, my HOME)?

What if, instead of wondering how to work humorous or encouraging thoughts into a post, I work them into a real conversation? What if I took my dedicated writing time and used it to write personal letters of encouragement? Or write in the journals I’ve purchased for the kids? Or write truth and affirmation on the heart of a friend over coffee? What if, for a season, instead of looking for ways to encourage an audience of on-line connections, I direct all my efforts into the connections I can touch and see and hug and hear?

What if God is drawing me away from distractions so He can create something new in me? Something that I might miss, if I don’t disconnect myself?

What if, instead of living a public/viral life, I lived a private/quiet one?

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others. (I Thes 4:11-12 NLT)

Lately, I’ve seen a lot of my favorite bloggers write posts of apology for not keeping up with their blogs. Their guilt is palpable. They apologize for an irregular posting schedule because they are doing things like (gasp!) taking care of their children or traveling or keeping real-life work or volunteer commitments.

I always think, “How silly! Don’t apologize! Go take care of your people! You don’t even know us!”

Yet, as silly as it is, I get it. I, too, feel a deep sense of responsibility to you all. If I don’t post something here, I feel the need to come and explain. When I deactivated my Facebook account for a few weeks this summer, I wondered every day what people were thinking about my absence. I feel a responsibility to you, even though I only know the names of maybe 10% of you. I know you are real people with real needs, sitting across the screen drawing encouragement from something I’ve lived and written. I have never taken this lightly. I would never want to be irresponsible with the opportunity God has placed before me to serve you.

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This is such a jumbled post. I’m sorry. It’s not like me to write such a messy essay in the midst of all my messy thought processing. Normally, I would wait until I have a neat and tidy solution, a decision, a life lesson…

I don’t. I just felt like I needed to put it out there. Just in case, I disappear. Which is quite possible.

(Don’t miss the irony. Needing to “put it out there” in a post about refraining from “putting it out there.”)

(And also, don’t miss the fact that I did, in fact, work the dirty dishes thing into post. Score!)

(Or that, if I do disappear from the Internet for a year, I have already considered how it would be killer content for a blog series when I return.)

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Finding Eternal When You Can’t Slow Down

October 1st.

That was the last time I sat down to write in this space or have more than one minute of alone time. For the record, in order for me to think coherent thoughts and figure stuff out, I need regular blocks of writing time and alone time.

Therefore, I’ve been a little crazy lately.

Two weeks of master bath renovations, while a sick child missed an entire week of school, at the exact same time I was attending appointment after appointment to make selections for the house we are building, because: THE PLUMBERS AND ELECTRICIANS ARE COMING!

Mix in there an all-day pumpkin patch field trip and an anniversary get-away that doubled as a new furniture and light-fixture shopping weekend. Oh, and also, answering dozens of additional emails and home visits from Craig’s List people, as I sell off the old furniture that won’t fit into our new house.

My world has been a blur of choosing between maple and oak, graphite and brownstone, bullnose and ogee, venetian bronze and brushed nickel. Single handle, double handle, 4 inch or 8 inch, center or side mount (faucets). Four inch or 7 inch, prefab or stained-on-site (flooring). Seven feet or 6.5 feet (shower head). And infinite choices of carpet and tile and paint.

There are two kinds of people in the world: Those who care where their shower drain is located (center, left or right) and those who have never, in all their lives, noticed the location of a shower drain.

Prior to last week, I would not have known which I was. But I can now say, without reservation, I am of the people group who neither cares about nor notices shower drain placement.

And I promise you, every time I am presented with a question such as, “Where would you like the shower drain?” and I respond with, “I don’t really have an opinion about this—do whatever you think” (the diplomatic version of “I don’t care.”), several people will tell me all the reasons I MUST CARE about this.

In addition to all the aforementioned New House Hoopla, I also have the three kids I’ve always had, with all their dentist appointments, doctor appointments, orthodontist appointments, homework, laundry and daily eating needs.

This is, by far, the busiest season I’ve had since we adopted our youngest daughter seven years ago (which you may recall, was also the exact same season I ended up in therapy and on antidepressants).

I realize a lot of people love this pace. They love scheduling their days down to the minute. They find the running and the choosing and the shopping and the comparing exhilarating. I know these people exist. Some of these people are my actual friends. Some of these people are my actual husband.

But not actually me.

Paddling frantically at this pace makes me feel like my little boat is sinking. I start looking around for things to throw overboard so I can float again.

Social media? Gone.
Meticulous eating plans and extended workouts and Facebook accountability groups? See ya later.
Classroom volunteer? Maybe next month. Or next year.
Leg shaving, eyebrow plucking, fingernail trimming? Look away, I’m hideous!

It sounds like I’m complaining, but I am not complaining. I am very, very, VERY thankful to have the luxury of custom building my own home. Most people never get the opportunity to do this. I never dreamed I would be one of them. It’s a blessing to get to design my dream kitchen, for sure.

But here’s my confession: As much as I know this is a blessing, it’s hard for me to embrace the eternal value of light fixtures and granite counter tops. Especially when I was very content in the home we currently own. And especially when I have to repeatedly turn down time with a friend so I can select cabinet handles. It feels upside-down to me.

All I keep thinking about is this:

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.” (Matthew 6:19-20)

And also, this:

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.” And he told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’ “Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’ “This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12: 15-21)

In my head it ends up looking like this:

BUILDING A NEW HOUSE = SANDY IS A FOOL.

Construction

So, I’ve been pouring all this out to Jesus as I rush from appointment to appointment with my bushy eyebrows and chipped fingernails to build my foolish bigger barn.

Here’s what He spoke to my heart:

1. This is just a season. It won’t last forever. I WILL have well-groomed eyebrows again, bless God.

2. God uses stressful seasons to reveal and remove junk in my character. Never pleasant, but always necessary. Let Him work out the junk.

3. Jesus was a carpenter. God in Flesh could have chosen any profession, and He chose to build houses and furniture, of all things. This is when I know Jesus is talking to me, because I never considered His line of work as anything significant, until now.

4. With every appointment, phone call, text and e-mail exchange, I’m not only encountering carpet samples and light fixtures and kitchen appliances, but PEOPLE. Real-life HUMANS. Humans who have families and friends, trials and pain. Humans who desperately need peace and joy and hope. People who need Jesus. What could be more eternally relevant than that?

So, lately, instead of dreading the appointment and rushing through the encounter, I’ve decided to notice the people. To embrace the people. To show Jesus to the people.

In the last three weeks, I paused in the midst of every single appointment to take the time to get to know the person serving me. I learned that one of them used to compete in triathlons and loves a glass of bourbon. I learned one celebrated a 5th wedding anniversary while another is finalizing a divorce. One attended a daughter’s college graduation the same week another took her daughter to Disney World. Tuesday, I spent thirty minutes talking to a contractor, who showed me pictures of his children, his home and his native country. Last night, I listened as the people who bought my rocking chair from Craig’s List told me about their jobs, their home and their new grand-daughter.

I’ve determined that every appointment for house selections is divinely orchestrated so Jesus can love people through me.

This feels eternal to me.

When I have a second to digest it all, I’m excited about my new house, even in all it’s detailed, scheduled craziness.

But, would-to-God that I honor The Carpenter in the craziness.

That, rather than running and rushing over everyone and everything, I’d stop and notice the person in front of me, and thank them, ask questions and offer peace. I pray I offer them The Prince of Peace. So that when this life is over, and I stand before the Lord, He won’t say, “You fool” but rather, “Well done.”

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