Motherhood & Family

Reclaiming My Brain & The Cost of Social Media

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This post is part 2 of a 3 part mini-series on being intentional about social media. Part one is here: Reclaiming My Brain & The Pull of Social Media

I have a friend who makes amazing homemade boba milk tea. It’s delicious and addicting, which is slightly problematic for me because I am highly sensitive to caffeine. Not too long ago, she graciously brought over a pitcher and I drank more than I should have too late in the day. By the last cup, my head pounded with each sip I took. I had trouble staying asleep that night, and laid awake for hours as my mind raced through scenes from the latest Avengers movie. It was completely preventable and totally my fault, but like I said, her recipe is delicious and addicting.

Minus that milk tea event, I’m usually pretty good at controlling my caffeine intake. I know I can’t have any after 3 pm and how much I can take before feelings of dread hit. I think I’ve titrated and found the optimal amount of caffeine I can use to maximize its benefits (better mood, not falling asleep) given its side effects (anxiety, acid reflux, headaches, problems sleeping).

The way I treat caffeine has been a useful reference point for me when thinking about social media. Both have a set of cost and benefits I ought to consider before choosing when, how much, and whether or not to use them, and if I’m not intentional about my usage, there are negative consequences.

The first post I wrote in this mini-series, I asked you to think about what draws you into social media. Having considered its pull, we turn now to face the costs.

It’s Costing You Something

One oft-repeating and popular bit of fake news claims Facebook plans on charging users. It’s not hard to see why people would be alarmed at the thought. It seems almost unethical to get us so heavily invested in the ecosystem of Facebook and suddenly impose a fee. Well, Facebook doesn’t need our money (it gets something else from us— more on that in the next post), but it has always cost us to use it.

I don’t have anything groundbreaking to add to the increasing amounts of research on the problematic effects of our technology. But since I often find others’ self-reflections helpful, I offer a few observations on what I’ve come to place on my social media “cost” column. As with caffeine, social media may affect you differently than it does me, but I hope I can spur you on to consider what your social media use is costing you personally.

The top three costs on my list are: attention, energy, and time.

Attention & Constant Noise

Attention is our ability to focus on a task. This can be a concrete action like doing the dishes or an abstract one like figuring out how to deal with a relational problem. Because we aren’t physically moving from one place to another when we’re on social media, we often think we’re doing two things at once.  But the perception that we are multitasking is an illusion.

Anyone who has said “Uh-huh, that’s great, sure” to their child only to think, “Wait, what did I just say yes to?” has experienced the limit of the human brain’s capacity to pay attention to more than one thing at once. Not only are our brains incapable of focusing on more than one thing at a time, every time we switch from one task to another and back, there is a mental toll on our productivity. Whether at work, in conversations with our children, or in contemplation, there is a cost to constant interruptions.

Uncontrolled and haphazard use of social media shatters our attention to thousands of tiny pieces and effects our ability to meditate deeply on things that matter. Tony Reinke writes in 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You,

“Perhaps the greatest threat we face is that of living with short attention-spans, caught now by one little explosion of surprise, now by another. Knowledge is never actually given to us in that form. It has to be searched for and pursued, as the marvelous poems on Wisdom at the beginning of Proverbs tell us.” Without wisdom, we foolishly get lost in the aimless now, in the explosion of novelty. Without wisdom, we foolishly get unhitched from our past and from our future.

Someone else has written, “Addiction to social media will make you aware of everything and wise about nothing.”

Growing in wisdom, learning and thinking deeply on how to apply truth to our lives, and pursuing a relationship with God require sustained attention. This is what makes planned times of silence and solitude powerful— the removal of distractions. Considering the truth of God and how it comes to bear in our everyday lives takes focused attention.

Listening— to others, and to God— also requires sustained attention. That’s one reason why worship on Sundays, when we meet with God’s people and sit under the preaching of the Word, is so important (and why we ought to resist the pull of our phones during it!) We quiet ourselves and discipline our restless bodies and hearts to receive rich, meaty life-giving truths. Truths we easily lose sight of in the busyness of the day-to-day and can’t get in short Tweets or blogposts.

Creativity and deep reflection are tasks requiring sustained attention and I’ve found they flourish most when I’m not distracted by random tidbits of news, opinions, and entertainment every hour. It is easier to see the hand of God through my day and weeks when I’m not adding to the noise of my life via self-wrought social media interruptions.

As a mom, I may not be able to get regular alone time, but I can give space and time for truths to stew in my mind as I’m working in the kitchen or taking care of my children. When I’m not habitually distracted, I can meditate on the truth of God and reflect on whether my children are flourishing throughout the day. This way, truth can sink into my heart and flow out through the rest of my life. And I wonder whether much of what I blame on mommy brain may be a product not so much of 3 little people pulling on my legs as much as 300 people clamoring for attention on my newsfeed.

Energy & The Emotionally Draining Rollercoaster of The Feed

(Relational weight + Call for a response + Unpredictability) x Endless content = A lot of energy

Sometimes when I’m tired, I just want to plop down on a couch, pull out my phone, and be entertained. In those times, a 20 minute scroll down a social media feed is tempting, but the distractions there often leave me more tired than rested.

I find social media draining not just because there are sad, frightening, heavy things going on in the world. The distinction between social media and a newspaper is behind each article, statement, or share is someone we know. So we’re not just seeing information, we’re hearing a friend say, “You should read this,” or “This is important.”

The relational thrust behind every byte of information increases the weight of impact on us as readers. Not only so, but information is presented to me in a way that constantly calls for a response— whether anger, sadness, social action, or amusement— via Likes, LOL’s, double-taps, and shares. Add to this the randomness of content and the sheer number of posts, and I’m setting myself up for a emotional rollercoaster each time I log on.

The two major loop-de-loops for me here are anger and guilt. Anger is the fuel that drives the most viral and popular social media posts— whether it’s full-out social-media-shaming rage or getting-something-off-my-chest status updates. In life, there are good reasons to be angry, but the anger social media posts invokes is not always necessary. Pastor Jack Miller has wisely written, “Don’t let your emotional life be controlled by the sin you see in others.” Social media is a prime place to hear people’s anger over sin, see people sin in anger, and be controlled emotionally by sin we see in others. I’ve found it way too easy to be caught up anger which doesn’t end when I close my app, and it’s exhausting.

The other emotional cost for me of social media is guilt. Social media serves as a platform. Whether faith-based, humanitarian, environmental, or health causes, everyone has their thing. Over time, without knowing it, our consciences are shaped by the social network bubbles we breathe in, self-righteously thinking everyone should take on our causes and guilty we are not doing more. Those with tender consciences easily fall under what Kevin DeYoung describes as the “terror of total obligation”— the sense we are responsible for meeting every need we see. And with social media, every need, however local or global in scope, is proximate and looks urgent.

Using Facebook for our causes or Instagram to share our passions aren’t necessarily bad things. I use both for these reasons so I’m not advocating a self-centered refusal to care about what’s going on around us. But the emotional and mental drain of social media is a real cost rarely leading me to decisive, productive action. Keeping in mind the responsibilities I am already called to use my energy toward, it’s helpful for me to remember the distraction of social media rarely brings about the rest I need.

Time & Opportunity Costs

The first time I noticed the impact of social media on me was after a cruise with no internet access. Though pregnant and taking care of a toddler, I made significant headway in a book I’d wanted to read. It was a big realization for me as a young mom to see the blame for my lack of time wasn’t to be placed completely on my child, but the way I filled small gaps of free time I was afforded.

Every time we choose to spend time on social media, we are choosing not to do something else. We are choosing not to pay attention, invest emotionally and mentally, or spend our time on someone else. Whether it’s reading a book, spending face time with family, thinking deeply about important issues, meditating on God’s Word, exercising, or taking a nap, we give up opportunities each time we enter our virtual worlds.

Five minutes here and fifteen minutes there add up to a significant amount of time over a week. Each minute is time we don’t get to use again. Tony Reinke writes, “Compulsive social-media habits are a bad trade: your present moment in exchange for an endless series of someone else’s past moments.” When we use social media, precious time is spent looking at other people’s lives. Moreover, in our compulsion to share, we often spend our present moments trying to best capture and display our lives to others.

As Christians, we ask God to teach us to number our days and be faithful with our time (Ps. 90:10).  Our time is short and ultimately is not meant for us to spend however we fancy. This fact alone is enough to motivate us to be intentional about how we are using social media.

For Your Consideration

If our device’s pull-to-refresh function is analogous to a slot machine lever holding out the promise of affirmation, entertainment, knowledge, escape, and more, what are the quarters we’re inserting? What is the bill we’re racking up during our stay at Casino Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.?

Attention, energy, and time are the big three for me. What about you?

After having had some time to think about the pull of social media for you, consider Question 2: What is my use of social media costing me?*

 

 

 

Up Next: Who’s In Control & To What Ends?

*Note: Sometimes, we may not be able to tell what social media is costing us until we take active steps to scale down our use. Like an auto renewal policy, you may be so used to these costs that you don’t notice them. (This has often been the case for me.) If this is you, one challenge is to take a week or at least a few days off social media to see what changes when you unplug. This might even help you get more insight on that first question of what pulls you to social media in the first place.

Also, for those wondering, here’s the milk tea recipe my friend uses.

Motherhood & Family

Reclaiming My Brain & The Pull of Social Media

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I had a Sherlock Holmes moment a few years ago that captures the foggy haze of the mind on momma hormones and sleep deprivation. I was standing in the kitchen, and as I swooped my arm downward, forgot what I was doing. Without stopping mid-motion, I looked at my hand, saw a mug, figured “Ah, I must have been getting a drink!” and proceeded to smoothly finish my task. Any onlooker would not have noticed my mental lapse and I impressed myself at my powers of deduction.

Mommy brain is a real thing, friends. A combination of lack of sleep, increased demands, and brain-altering hormones from past pregnancies, force my mind to run on low power mode all day. In other words, I can push through, but functionality is significantly decreased.

As a mom, I am constantly making assessments about the best use of resources: money, space, time, energy (physical, emotional, mental), and attention. So with a brain that often feels like mush, I’ve been learning that just as I get choosy about what apps I use when my battery is at 2%, I need to be strategic about how I use the limited resource that is my mind. I’ve discovered, for example, that I only have about a 2 hour window each day where I can think clearly enough to write, that at a certain point trying to read is futile, and that I think more rationally when I’ve had a good breakfast. And I’ve realized that I need to get serious about my use of social media.

Many people talk about social media use in terms of time, but as my family has grown, I have become increasingly convinced of my need to reassess how I use social media not primarily because of how I’m wasting my time (though that matters too), but how I use my mind and heart.

A Mini-Series

I know I’m not the only one who has a love-hate relationship with social media– sometimes really wanting to delete my accounts and go off the (social media) grid, other times sucked again into the vortex that is Facebook. So I’m starting a three-post series for those who’ve also found themselves wondering about how to manage their relationships with Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and the like.

I’ll walk through three questions I’ve been finding it helpful to think through regarding social media. I’ve chosen to write them in separate posts to keep them short and to make it easier for self-reflection. And whether you can relate to mommy brain or not, you’re invited to join me in considering your use social media. Maybe you’ve got it figured out and this would be an encouragement for you. If you’re like me and still working through this, I hope these posts would serve to challenge and help you in the right direction.

Coming along? Here goes! Question one for us today: What’s the pull?

The Why Behind The What

As people, there are always reasons behind our actions– a “why” behind the “what” we  do. We never do things “just because.” We make decisions out of our hearts and wills, and they always say something about our desires, hopes, wants, needs, beliefs, and anxieties.  Social media is no exception.

It is part of human nature to want to share things about our lives with others. God made us for communion with him and other people, so it makes sense we’d want to let people know about the things we’re happy, sad, excited, or angry about. Social media taps into that, giving us all a way to instantly broadcast our thoughts to our friends and networks. We get a chance to receive feedback on what we share in the forms of hearts, thumbs ups, comments and retweets. And we connect with others by reading and responding to what they share. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that.

There are plenty of ways social media can be used to enrich our lives, so I’ll say from the get-go I’m not yearning for pre-internet days. I myself have been helped by content shared via and the interactions I’ve had on social media. I’ve laughed at my share of fun videos and cried and prayed through heartbreaking status updates. I love that I can gush over my friends’ children and have them do the same over mine. I know one older woman who prays for people who show up on her Facebook feed.

But if we were only drawn to social media for the good it does for us and others, why is it so many of us spend more time on it than we’d want to admit? There has to be something else in the mix here.

Before getting a handle on our use of social media via self-imposed boundaries or time-limiting apps (apps to control our use of other apps!), we need to understand not only what is good about social media, but what in particular is drawing us to use it as often as we do.

The reasons are vast and vary for each person, so it’s important to know what it is in particular that is drawing me. For me, there can be good reasons I’m signing into social media, like wanting to share a resource I know will be helpful to others or staying connected to friends who are far from me. But more often than not, when I’m signing into Facebook, I’m being pulled by something else and I’m not even aware of it.

My Personal Slot Machine

One analogy that has shed light on the appeal of social media for me is social media as a slot machine. One former Google employee spoke about the pull of our apps as powerful psychological conditioning by variable rewards, and it makes so much sense. (Especially to me since I studied psychology and learned all about B.F. Skinner, variable ratio, and operant conditioning!)

Here’s an excerpt of the article:

The most seductive design, Harris explains, exploits the same psychological susceptibility that makes gambling so compulsive: variable rewards. When we tap those apps with red icons, we don’t know whether we’ll discover an interesting email, an avalanche of “likes”, or nothing at all. It is the possibility of disappointment that makes it so compulsive.

It’s this that explains how the pull-to-refresh mechanism, whereby users swipe down, pause and wait to see what content appears, rapidly became one of the most addictive and ubiquitous design features in modern technology. “Each time you’re swiping down, it’s like a slot machine,” Harris says. “You don’t know what’s coming next. Sometimes it’s a beautiful photo. Sometimes it’s just an ad.”

(Our minds can be hijacked’: the tech insiders who fear a smartphone dystopia)

With social media, it’s the possibility (or promise) of reading something interesting, receiving comments and “likes” (described in the article as “’bright dings of pseudo-pleasure’ that can be as hollow as they are seductive”), or catching up on important relational news that draws us back again and again. Often (and probably more often than not), we don’t find anything– but it’s the varied, scattered times we do that keep us pulling on our personal slot machines. There’s a bit of hope mingled in here, and I think the varied results coupled with the furious pace of ever changing content causes many of us to carry an unverbalized fear that we’re missing out on something (a possible reward) if we’re not up-to-date with what’s happening on our social media networks.

So for me, I’d say, a bit of interest in what other people are posting plus the possibility of positive interactions (whether feedback about my shared posts, hearts on my photos, or responses to my comments) keeps me checking in.

For Your Consideration

For you, it could be something else. You may be on social media wanting to be kept in the loop (plus FOMO) or looking to connect with friends. Or the nature of your job might require you to be on social media. It may be your entertainment or your platform. Your social media use can be born out of love (staying connected), boredom (entertainment), anger (airing grievances), escapism (zoning out), or more.

If you’re like me, your social media use is driven by a host of desires with a few major ones leading the pack. These reasons are not necessarily all good or all bad, but identifying the pull and promise social media holds out for you is important.

Why do you find yourself on social media? What are you looking for when you tap that app? Are you lured in by the possibility of being liked, favorited, commented on? For the feeling of being in the know? Curiosity? Care? Pride? Fear? Homesickness? Discontent? Joy? Boredom? Habit?

We need to know why we’re doing what we’re doing before evaluating whether we need to tweak what we’re doing and how we’re doing it. We need to know the promised and actual rewards of social media before we go on to examine the costs.  So whatever your reasons, here’s the first question I offer for your reflection today on our road toward a wise, intentional use of social media: Why do I use social media as much as I do?

(Next up: What’s the cost?)

Motherhood & Family

Why We’re Homeschooling This Year

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Someone told me recently they’d never heard anyone talk about bacon like I did. I’d said something to the effect of, “I’m ok with it,” but apparently bacon is polarizing subject, typically drawing strong supporters (“Bacon, every day, all day, on everything!”) or vehement opposition.

My daughter is about to enter first grade (how is that even happening already?) and figuring out her education has been a topic of conversation for Jeff and I for a while now. I’ve read through countless articles through the years and have found that homeschooling can kind of be like bacon. People naturally seem to have strong opinions about why they’ve chosen to educate their children in certain ways, (whether public school, private school, or homeschooling) and, naturally, those who take to writing about it have especially strong opinions.

I have strong opinions about many things, including education, but, like with bacon, have found myself on the fence when it’s come to how our daughter ought to be educated. Though we homeschooled last year and will do so this coming year, it’s not a decision that’s been an obvious or simple choice for us.

Though I’ve scoured the internet for a silver bullet for or against public/private/homeschooling, I’ve yet to come across one. What I’ve found most helpful hasn’t been bullet-pointed articles espousing the merits of public, private, or homeschooling, but seeing how other families have come to their decisions. It’s been helpful for me to see their reasoning and process, even if ultimately, our choices differed.

In that vein, I offer a few thoughts for others in our decision-making process as to why we are homeschooling come September.

First, the following are NOT reasons why we’ve decided to homeschool this year. We don’t think that schools necessarily ruin children’s drive to learn. We don’t think all public school teachers have a hidden anti-Christ agenda or that sending our daughter to our local elementary school would definitely be detrimental to her faith. Our desire is not to shelter her completely from the realities of this world and we don’t have any nostalgic feelings about schooling inside the home or about her mom being her teacher.

Secondly, as much as there are unfair critiques of public school systems, I’ve also found most reasons against homeschooling not to be compelling either. “Socialization” is not a concern for me because firstly, we have other opportunities for our children to interact with people and, secondly, because I don’t see socialization in public schools as an ideal or normative standard. And while I understand and have the desire to serve our communities and being on mission, I’m not convinced about that being the main impetus for making our decision about education.

There is no simple line of reasoning about schooling that universally applies to all families. So why have we decided to homeschool? The two main reasons for our family are 1. The freedom to shape our child’s education and 2. This is what works for our family for now. Both of these reasons are subsets of the orienting question, “What is helping our daughter thrive (academically, socially, spiritually, emotionally)?”

Homeschooling first became an option for us even before our daughter was born, when I realized I didn’t have to take the current public school system as the historical norm. Thinking, for example, about how public schools in America haven’t always been expressly secular or that historically, children have been educated in different ways made me start imagining what education could look for our children if we were building from scratch rather than within an already established norm.

Thus, for us, homeschooling appeals to us not primarily because of what we’d like to avoid in the public schools, but out of wanting to proactively build based on what education could be. Practically, freedom in subject matters means we are able include more music and art in our curriculum and focus on building a foundation not just for STEM but liberal arts. The flexibility to work at each child’s own pace means being able to choose an appropriate level of academic rigor. It meant we could spend time last year on world geography and other countries and cultures to intentionally instill in our girls a more global outlook.

More importantly, homeschooling also means we can teach about the world as it is, belonging to and made for God. I am grateful for the instruction I received in the public school system from grades K-12 and in my secular university, but I’ve also been reimagining what education could be like for our children in terms of the freedom to talk about the world as we know and understand it. This is more than just having a class on Christian beliefs and definitely does not mean unnaturally attaching Bible verses to school subjects. Rather, out of an understanding that all truth is God’s truth because our world is God’s world, we believe learning about and in the world is naturally woven into (and ultimately is founded on) the theological. (So, for example, my daughter asked what she warned us was “a very hard question” the other day. “In the beginning there were dinosaurs. But the Bible says in the beginning there were people. How can that be?”)

The public school system where we are is not just a pluralistic environment, but increasingly committed to secularism. (Not all public schools are like this, but elementary-aged children in our church have told me about being prohibited from bringing in their Bible for free-reading time or talking about God with other students.) And while we respect pluralism in the public sphere, we value the opportunity our children have, at least at a young age, to take in what they learn and think from an adult without needing to compartmentalize (keeping their questions about God and Scripture out of the classroom), or filter (wondering if what they learn is true.) We want our children to learn how to navigate being in the world with wisdom and humility, and don’t expect them to be in a Christian environment forever, but for now we value to opportunity to build their educational foundation in a place where there is more freedom in how and what they learn.

Even more than questions about reconciling certain facts here and there (like about dinosaurs and creation), we value the opportunity to incorporate into our daughter’s education the expressed purpose of her learning. I was humbled and grateful a few months ago when she responded to the question “How can you live for God?” with “Doing school!” (I know this isn’t grammatically correct, but that’s how we say “Going to school” here because, well, we’re at home.) As I probed for another, what I felt more fitting, answer, she explained, “No, like by worshipping him with my mind.” Education is not just about learning facts and skills, but knowing why we learn, having the right attitude of humility and faithfulness in our studies, and seeing ourselves as stewards of the minds we’ve been given by God.

Now you may say that all this could potentially happen in a Christian school, and you’d be correct. I actually started looking into classical Christian education after substitute teaching at a school where I was impressed both with the academic rigor and character development in students. But, though we’ve explored some possibilities, logistically this isn’t yet the best option for us. We do have a great community and program we’re a part of that will support our homeschooling. Hence, our second reason for homeschooling, “This is what works for our family for now.”

We are taking it one child at a time, one year at a time. And while this makes it a bit difficult for me since I’m often wondering, “What should we do next?” it’s taken a bit of the weight off to know we can always reevaluate. And the main question we ask then is, “Is she thriving?”

More personally, I’ve come to see that as is often the case when it comes to decision making, God is sanctifying me through the process of deciding whether or not to homeschool. Our fears, motives, and hopes are exposed when it comes to our children. And parents, we are being refined and challenged to be like Jesus here. As we look for answers regarding our children’s education, our hearts are being searched with questions too. Like, what do I really want most for my children? Are these hopes and ambitions godly?  Am I being prideful in my choices? Am I giving into comparison? And am I trusting God with their future? (It took me being awake in the middle of the night, worrying about my girl’s post-college job prospects to wake me up to the irrationality of my anxiety– I was trying to figure out Pre-K at the time!)

Lastly, thinking about our children’s education is also an opportunity for thankfulness. Thankfulness that Christian education is even an option when, as I heard from a friend in China the other day, there are local believers taking huge risks pulling their children out of the public schools so their children can receive a Christian education. And thankfulness for the gift of education we’ve been afforded. The stress of decision-making is actually a sign of blessing– that we have so many good options available to us when many around the world do not have anywhere near this kind of access to education.

That’s it from me for now and we’ll see what we’ll be doing in a year! Do you have any thoughts about education? Or bacon? (Just kidding.)  Leave questions or comments if you do. I would love to hear from you!

Motherhood & Family, Taking Heart

You Don’t Become Superwoman Overnight

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My daughters are not good eaters but I can’t complain, because apparently I’ve never been a good eater either. My dad tells a story of when I was an infant, and how my mom called him at work in frustration after I threw up all the food she’d painstakingly fed me over the course of an hour. I like this story because it gives me a plausible genetic-predisposition excuse for how my girls eat, but more so because it gives me a glimpse of my mom as a first-time momma.

If you knew my mom, you would probably agree with the man who stopped me a few weeks ago at church to tell me, “your mom is a superwoman.” Her capacity for working to serve others and enduring difficulty is super-human. That’s why it’s strange for me to imagine her calling my dad at work about a feeding session, and that’s why I enjoy the Faith-was-a-terrible-eater story so much. It reminds me my mom didn’t become superwoman overnight.

Some of you may be in the thick of learning how to keep a home, be a wife, or survive as a mom. You may be looking at the superwomen in your lives— your own mom, a godly older woman, or a friend with more children— and hang your head in shame for being so weak and struggling so much. I know how it is. Today, I want to encourage you to remember, these superwomen didn’t get there overnight and they didn’t get there on their own.

As a mom with three littles, my daily agenda most days is still usually “make it through the day.” So the just-married and first-time mom stages aren’t so far behind me that I don’t remember how hard they were.

I remember, as a newlywed, being surprised at how much time was spent on food. Pre-marital counseling prepared me for a lot, but I did not expect meal planning, shopping, prepping, cooking, and cleaning to be so taxing. Three meals a day, seven days a week– and repeat again with no end in sight!

I remember the terrible morning sickness of my first pregnancy. I remember being sad because I wanted to have more kids but didn’t think I’d ever be able to make it through pregnancy again.

I remember the never-ending day that was in actuality the first few weeks after the birth of our eldest. The theme of my days were “I need Thee every hour!” because truly, I didn’t think I could make it through the next sixty minutes.

And I remember the struggle of figuring out the dynamics and choices involved with having children and being a ministry family. 

A few months ago though, Jeff and I joked about going on vacation with the baby when my parents took the girls away for a few days, and I wondered at the fact that five years ago, we’d never have thought “Wow, we just have one kid at home— how relaxing!” We are still young parents and far from being out of the woods, but even in the last six years I’ve noticed one important theme as a homemaker and parent— God grows our capacity over time. 

Some may see the repeating tasks of homemaking and child-rearing and wonder if it’s monotonous and mind-numbing doing the same thing day after day. Yes, there is an aspect of repetition and it is important to maintain perspective in the mundane everyday tasks that make up our days. (I’ve written about it here and here.) But I’ve also found great satisfaction learning that though the tasks of keeping a home and caring for children do repeat, over time, we get better at them. In other words, in doing our daily tasks of service over and over, we become more effective and efficient in doing them and grow in our capacity to do more good to love others.

Over time, in the kitchen, our hands move a little less clumsily at the cutting board and we get better at throwing together a meal for last minute guests. At the changing table, we become able to wrestle down the squirming poop-er deftly enough to continue our conversation with the two older kids about speaking kindly to one another. In matters of the heart, we learn to engage our children better, and discern more quickly whether they need a hug, a swat, a nap, or all three (not all at once of course). All of this doesn’t happen because some people are born with super-capacities– it comes because of all the time spent each day in the kitchen, at the changing table, engaging the heart.

To use gym language, God is the perfect trainer and the daily tasks involved in housework and caring for children are our reps. Our Trainer knows exactly how to push us a bit (a lot) past what we feel is possible or pleasant, because not only is he enabling us to serve others now, he is preparing us for the good works he’s planned ahead. God increases our capacity not so that we can gain mastery and control, but because as we do our tasks in love for those around us, he has other tasks and training lying ahead.

Day by day, God is training us in the work he’s called us to not only physically but spiritually. In putting us in positions of weakness, he gives us a chance to recognize our need for his strength and grace in our work. He gives us a chance to see his grace at work in the day-to-day and his wisdom in ordering our days and seasons as homemakers and parents. I think one reason he does this is so that we can testify to his sustaining presence and comfort to give courage to others, even after we have moved to the next struggle.

So, for the newlywed fumbling around in the kitchen or the first-time mom wondering how you’ll get through the next day, know that there is grace for you today. Grace from God to sustain you, and grace in how he is teaching you skills and lessons you will be able to employ in the future for the sake of serving others. It may be hard, and in a sense it’s supposed to be, but trust your wise trainer and gracious sustainer. The same One who has given daily grace to those you look up to is the One who is training you today.

And to the one who looks like superwoman to another, would you consider testifying to her that you didn’t get to where you are overnight? Is there a way you can speak grace and truth into a younger person’s life, apart from the “just you wait and see how it gets worse!” the world seems to offer? Would you remember how God showed you grace in the past, as he continues to do today?

“By the grace of God, I am what I am and his grace toward me was not in vain.” (1 Cor. 15:10).

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” (Eph. 2:10)

Motherhood & Family

And We Are Officially In Over Our Heads

As I write this, our feverish 2 year old is taking a nap, and our 4 year old is getting ready to shovel 10+ inches of snow with dad. Also, there is a little 18 month old buddy resisting sleep (I just came back from finding him in the crib sitting on a large framed map he’d gotten off the wall) and another 2.5 year old exploring in our family reading room downstairs.

A fly-by of these past few months in the Chang home would include finding out we were pregnant, almost pursuing an adoption, grieving through a miscarriage, Jeff’s ordination and transition to full-time work at GCCSI, and welcoming two new foster brothers into our fold. And with these two precious ones, we have entered into the life of four littles under 5, the foster care system, and the journey of caring for special needs.  Yes, we are officially in over our heads.
Continue reading “And We Are Officially In Over Our Heads”