(Free printables available here.)
While mulling over what this year's Lent choice would be, I was eating through so many feelings, mainly with birthday cake golden Oreos and Mini Eggs. My finger joints hurt and swell when fed too much sugar, and giving it up would be the obvious choice. My hands would feel better, my jeans would fit better, dot dot dot. But when I truly thought about it, I didn't need to sacrifice the treats. I needed to make space for God to deal with the feelings that the treats were feeding.
For me I find such beauty in so many aspects of social media. Strange to think that back when I was a high school leader social media didn't really exist. A few kids had MySpace accounts, but that was the extent. We called each other on the phone instead of texting. Now I catch up on their lives through Facebook and Instagram, many are married, have careers, even children. It is so crazy to see them live their lives, and I sometimes wish we were all still crammed on the couch of my first house, eating cookies, laughing, asking tough questions, crying, growing...
I needed space for the tough questions, the crying, the growing, the stillness. I make little time for stillness these days. Counters to clean, emails to reply, laundry to fold, kids to pick up, tantrums to calm, friends to text. The few moments in between seemed to be filled with the underlying feeling that I needed to check up on what was happening in my Instagram feed. Or click over to another silly Buzzfeed link. Without the stillness small things that I had never previously struggled with started scratching at my heart. Silly things would irritate me, in the way Comic Sans irritates me. Irrational things (too many hashtags for instance) would make me irrational. I was feeling left out. I was losing focus on the beautiful parts of social media that I once loved.
I made a scary decision at the end of January. Social media would have to go. It both terrified and thrilled me. Some days I wish that Ash Wednesday would come early. Other days I wondered if I could even survive. The fact that I was questioning the survival was confirmation alone that I needed to give it up.
I've alluded to the fact that this past year has been hard, and it has been very hard. Time and time again I have sat down to write why and I just could not. There will be a time to share, but for now our story is still being written. Walking away from the distractions of other lives has let me spend time living the one that God has set forth for me.
I want to love this life. To dig in to the change, the mess, the work. I don't want to feel the need to retreat from it while distracting myself with the constant stream of others. I don't want to stuff it full of perfectly staged pictures and golden Oreos.
This study on contentment by Shauna Niequist was instrumental in coming to where I am trying to be now. Please carve out some time to listen. I promise it will be worth it.
I won't mention how I secretly want to be her best friend. Or how financial aid ruined that dream for me. Nor will I mention how I met her the other week and petted her arm. Yes. Petted. Like a cat. I did that. And I'm not really even a hugger. There is photographic proof. That is a story for another day.
For today I want to be be who I am and be where I am.
As Lent concluded this weekend, I don't have any grand lessons to share. I am still struggling with so many things. If anything, I needed to know that I didn't need social media. That being Amish for a small time is freeing. That quiet is beautiful. That I am truly not missing out on anything. I will continue to post pictures, because there are always beautiful and wonderful and memorable things in the midst of the hard things. Instagram has helped me document them. My favorite thing about it has been scrolling through my feed and remembering the moments that I might have been too tired/ worried/ busy to recollect. While this year has been difficult, it also has been phenomenal.
I want to leave behind the feeling the underlying compulsion to check my feed. I also want to have grace when there are things like too much hashtaggery. Mostly I want to find a joyful, honest, and encouraging place as we all face this hard thing called life together.
Be who you are.
Be where you are.
I'm right there with you.