(Free printables available here.)

A dozen or so years ago, when I was leading a small group of high school girls, we all decided to give something up for Lent.  It wasn't a practice taught at church, but we saw benefit in the sacrifice, in the effort to create space for God in the lack.  We chose desserts, and supported each other through the strawberry shake, chocolate chip cookie, and Lucky Charms cravings.  When it was all over, we celebrated over way too much Easter candy.  Triumph that we survived the forty or so days, although not really changed.  Sugar was my go to Lent project each year since then, mainly because I am insanely addicted to it, and in general my body hates it.  A little reset usually was accompanied by a few less lbs. as well.  Sadly, still no real change in my heart or mind.

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.




24 Comments

  1. So good. Thank you for sharing. (And if I ever meet you be forewarned that I would totally pet you like a cat, too.)

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  2. Lovely and honest! (good thing I was stalking IG so I could be led here!). Haha.

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  3. Love your honesty...I too, gave up FB for a long while...and you know what I figured out? I'm happier without and am truly thinking of canceling it altogether. I found that it made me more depressed....seeing friends who have lost weight, when I couldn't. Friends who's kids are blessed with children and whose lives are all together...when mine are not. One day I thought "here I sit, watching other people live - while I'm just sitting here" so I gave it up.
    Trying to focus more on the stillness...as it says on my wall "Be still, and know that I am God"

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  4. I can relate. I had a miscarriage in October and had to unplug because every belly picture and pregnancy announcement and whatever else was just a dagger in my heart. I only unplugged for a few weeks, but hot dang was that liberating. It helped me heal and stop comparing my loss to my friend's gains. I still struggle from time to time with it (I'd be due in a month and a half) and there is nothing more freeing than walking away for a bit. No shame in the struggle.

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  5. julie, i value your honesty and vulnerability. I'm guilty of vegging with IG or FB instead of being who i am, and being where i am. i need to be intentional again about finding balance.
    i'm sorry you're struggling, but i also thank God for what he is shaping in you through it. he's always at work... always working all things together for good. last year was a hard one for me- physically, emotionally, relationally, financially hard... but God. i'd live it all again because the things he worked out were so worth it. hugs.

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  6. Praying for you ! Praying you will find peace and joy for the road that is ahead of you!

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  7. Bravo Julie! Thank you for sharing your heart. I agree with the above commenter, I would totally pet you like a cat if we ever met in real life.

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  8. i've missed you and can relate in many ways. i also hung out with jess so i feel like i know you now, too. xoxo.

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  9. I have missed you, but I am so glad you were able to rest. So glad. I'll be praying for you as you walk through the trial. Love you.

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  10. "I needed to know that I didn't need social media." Yes. You are a gem, Julie. In a social media sea of false pretenses and facades, you are the real deal. You always have been. And you need to come back. My kids are bored and egg roll o'clock was so lame today.

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  11. Hello Julie, So glad to see you here! I have burnt out on facebook and the time it's taken away from my family and friends. I replaced pinterest with instagram (that was how I learned of this post). I've loved your posts here because of your beautiful way with words and fantastic sense of humor when we all know as moms, you certainly need one! Sending happy thoughts your way!

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  12. So glad you testified as to your giving up social media for Lent.... I have MS and am a grandmother of 19. When we found out that I have another auto immune disease...... It just about did me in.....it is sarcoidosis.... I was on high dose prednisone for a year+ and gaining the weight and losing the ability to sing in church was awful! but I found I had much more prayer time.... Lots from Facebook and friends who would let me know they needed prayer there. I found I could encourage many there and feel my loneliness ..... I had to stay away from everyone due to low immune system. Making hand made art and drawing ... That I found on Pinterest .....has helped along with special people like you who share their life and encourage me ! I cherish your email and you!

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  13. yes, yes and yes! i just stated to someone about becoming amish/mountain woman/hippie child... i am terrified what the world wide web will do to my children! i need to, quite literally, stop and smell the roses!

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  14. Girl, you have always been the real deal. Always. That is why I am still here, hoping you will post.

    What I missed about your Instagram is that your feed is a little slice of gratitude heaven. Because of you, I've thought a lot about how I could post one photo a day and make it count. What is beautiful in my day today? WWJP? (What would Julie post?)

    I feel like I could write a novel about all of the good things you bring into my life by being on social media. From salted caramel cupcakes to Favorite Things parties to avoiding Clear hair products, you have made my REAL life better by virtually being a small part of it.

    2013 was one of the worst years of my adult life, and I feel like only now I am reaping the lessons from it. And so in 2014, I have unfollowed and unfriended on social media like a mad woman, paring it down to the people with whom I want to have real connections and who make the world a better place.

    Thank you for coming back to social media. I hope you stay. I can't wait to see what 2014 brings.

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  15. Wow! I certainly wondered where you went! I have missed you! I hope that you will find the stillness you seek!

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  16. glad to know i'm not the only one struggling with this whole over-consumption of social media thing. i want to be shauna niequist's best friend as well....yours to for that matter :)
    thanks for sharing!

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  17. For the record, you have always been one of my favorites to follow and read...and for a long time. I've always wanted to just have coffee with you because I've always sensed you were the real deal.
    Also, I met Shauna in March, and I totally pet her arm (the left one) and she very kindly laughed a bit (though I think she thought I was a bit off). I really, really glad to know I'm not alone in that...but really, I want to be in her dinner club and be her best friend.

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  18. AHHH! I just saw your post of all us girls from Core Groups.... what a trip to see that photo resurface ;) Hooray on kicking the social media habit (at least for a little while). You're the greatest. Love you.

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  19. I've missed your posts SO much! You're so funny, to the point and REAL. Did I mention funny?! Blessings to you and yours.

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  21. I have missed your voice here! Yay you're back!

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