Choices

1/2   What was a conscious choice you made in 2016 that brought life? What was a conscious choice you made in 2016 that decreased your joy?

 A year away from social media meant our second baby girl stock got very little air time. But I still loved quietly celebrating her in photos like this one. 32 Weeks- photo by my mom. 

A year away from social media meant our second baby girl stock got very little air time. But I still loved quietly celebrating her in photos like this one. 32 Weeks- photo by my mom. 

In 2016 I decided to step away from social media. Honestly, I side-stepped more than I completely stepped away. I didn’t post anything on any of my personal accounts but I still glanced at the life and times of my friends. I scrolled through the highlight reel, often wanting to comment but refrained to remain incognito. I posted on Ry’s account to feel like a good mom and occasionally on our work account. Most of the year I still had one foot in and one foot out of the social media pool. The days I stepped completely away- I didn’t miss it and the days I stayed engaged I found my heart gently burdened by fear of missing out, fear of being forgotten, or a fear of not celebrating my friends well. I committed 2016 to be one of rest and thought stepping away from social media would be a wonderful way to spearhead that movement. In many ways it made me present, unrushed and content and I went to bed at night so grateful for those attributes- like new friends I could learn from and count on.  

But missing out on my friends’ simple joys of babies, new jobs, moves, graduations and epiphanies (that are nowadays only shared through social media) made my heart feel far more restless than rested. We don’t live by any family and many of our friends live states (and states) away from us. I think I underestimated how knowing the silly things (like where my mom went for her vanilla latte) really did aid in my connection to them. Real connection in my life starts with the silly, the mundane- even the seemingly superficial. Silly makes room for the depth of connection. It breaks the ice and creates common ground. Seeing the ways Harper’s four-year-old face is changing and growing by looking at a photo on Instagram actually makes my heart long to talk to and connect with her mom. It’s crazy but I have found it to be true.

So, the simple answer (my gut reaction) of the conscious choice I made in 2016 that (both!) brought life and decreased joy was removing myself from social media. I learned more from that one choice than any other choice I made in 2016.

I don’t want to gyp you with the same answer for both. When I ask a deep, 2-part question of someone and they conclude the same answer for both- I feel gypped. I wouldn’t do that to you on the very first question of 2017.

 One conscious choice I made in 2016 that brought life to my soul is so simple I’m a little embarrassed. I decided to listen to my body. Starting in January, I had a run of frequent and horrible stomachaches -ones that sidelined me and discouraged me to my core. I tried changing my diet, getting more rest, and committing to less during the week. There would be moments of victory, but they slipped in and out like breezes or sweet morning scents: intangible and temporary. Then in March, I became pregnant and decided to chalk up any physical ailment to the little miracle budding in my belly. Still, the stomachaches worsened and lasted longer- even after the dreaded first trimester.

 My travel buds.

My travel buds.

It took flying to Spokane, sick and hurting, and confiding in my friend, Emily, to finally realize that most likely these stomachaches were bubbling up from an unnamed source of anxiety and stress. In that moment I felt relieved and ashamed. I had always prided myself in the ability to mentally tell my body what to do. That’s the athlete in me. But for the first time, no matter the self-talk in my mind, I experienced an unexpected physical reaction. I felt helpless, silly and completely weak. But I started talking about it, and found more friends than foes, more comfort than condemnation.

  •   Listening to my body made me realize that my personal capacity to ‘do what I’ve always been able to do’ may be changing. And that’s okay.
  • Listening to my body made me vulnerable with others. It convinced people on the spot that I am far from having everything figured out and that became surprisingly freeing
  • Listening to my body humbled me to admit that something was awry deeper in my soul. And led me to a place of praise for the ways God created us and creatively gets our attention.

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One conscious choice I made in 2016 that decreased my joy is actually somewhat unconscious. So simple. It’s two letters actually. TV. Television can be redeeming: in the news it brings, the education and emotion-stirring stories it tells. But more often than not in my life, it is a time-suck, an energy-suck and even a creativity-suck. I remember reading once that when we watch the Food Network, we actually cook less, thinking that the ‘cooking scratch has been itched’ even though there’s still nothing on the table for dinner. I have come to believe that about the rest of TV. Is it a necessity when I am home alone with a two year old? Lord Jesus, yes. Is it ‘just what the doctor ordered’ when I am sick or recovering? Yes, absolutely. But is it necessary and life giving in the normal, everyday moments? Not really. When I’m tired it makes me more tired, when I’m uninspired it does little to ever truly inspire me, when I’m lonely it does nothing for me to feel connected. Or if I do feel connected, it’s to a fake character on Parks and Rec and let’s be real- as much as Leslie Knope rocks- that’s a little sad.

 One of those times when TV is completely necessary. Thank you Jesus for Princess Sofia and Bose Headphones.

One of those times when TV is completely necessary. Thank you Jesus for Princess Sofia and Bose Headphones.

If joy is the feeling of great pleasure or delight I have to admit TV did little to add to that this year.  So this year, I’m not going to commit throwing out the TV, but instead I’m committing TV to fall forever under the ‘conscious’ decision category. I no longer want this to be unconscious, routine, or ‘what we do.’ Ninety percent of any change in our lives comes first from being aware. So I will be aware of our relationship. And in that awareness I hope to choose ‘off’ more than ‘on’ in the TV’s year to come. 

In John 10, Jesus gives us a warning and a promise: "The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy, I came that they may have life and have it abundantly." 

When the enemy has his way with us we can't help but feel robbed of joy, destroyed of dreams and even dead to hope. But when we walk with our Jesus and set our year around conscious choices of HIM above all else- we will have life. Abundant, radical life. 

Take the time to look back today. What did your 2016 bring? Where did you find life? Where did your joy decrease?  You'll be surprised how it can shape your year to come.

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