Category Archives: lessons learned

[lessons learned] from #moresociallessmedia

image via Dallas Hartwig

image via Dallas Hartwig

I spent the last month doing the More Social Less Media program created by Dallas Hartwig, co-creator of the Whole30. [Check out and for more info on either.] I have completed one whole30 and am starting another today. I know the profound life-changing effects it can have, so when Dallas started writing about the effects on our health of social media and being constantly plugged in online, I was ready and waiting for whatever program he created next. You should check out his website for the full details, but basically the first two weeks were focused on being more engaged in face-to-face social interactions, and the second two weeks were a fast from social media and screen entertainment. Here are the things I gleaned from this experience.


A couple things to note first:

  1. I purposely did not remove any social media / entertainment apps from my phone.
  2. This experiment was especially difficult for me right now because my second daughter was born mid-April, so I’m currently spending my days [& good portions of my nights] with a newborn. I made the exception that I could read books on my phone when I was feeding her.
me & maya

me & maya

>> Social media and screen time has cost me too much in how I spend my time.

Moment app

I downloaded the Moment app to help me become more aware of how much time I spend on my phone. It was DISTURBING. Granted, let me remind you that I’m staying at home with a small human who doesn’t talk and pretty much sleeps all day but requires one or both of my hands most of the time. Even still, I was bothered by how much I looked at my screen, how often I absently selected social media apps, and how long I mindlessly scrolled through feeds on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and the like.

In the first two weeks, while I was still active online, I could spend upwards of FIVE hours a day on my phone… [One day I even logged almost eight… *hangs head in shame*] Even though these tallies include good activities [like reading a book] and good interactions [like texting baby pictures to my long-distance family], I was disgusted by the amount of time wasted with my eyes glued to a screen. What did spending my time this way cost me? How often did I do this with my toddler playing near me? Did I miss opportunities to see her discover new things? How often did I do this with other people in the room? Did I miss out on fruitful conversations with them? How often did I do this when I could/should be doing other things? What productivity and accomplishments did I forfeit?

The second two weeks were better due to fasting from social media and screen entertainment. My average time on my phone plummeted to under three hours on average [remember that I spend time reading on my phone almost every time I feed the baby, especially in the middle of the night to stay awake!]. One day was even less than an hour and a half, which is what I would like to stay under as baby gets older. But even with the munchkin, that’s a saving of 2-3 hours every day. I cut my screen time nearly in half.

What I noticed in the two weeks fasting from media is that I didn’t really miss Facebook at all. When the two weeks ended, I didn’t feel the need to catch up scrolling on Facebook. I’ve long considered deactivating my account, but I’ve always kept it because it’s the primary/only means of contact I have with some people in my life who I want to stay in contact with. I’ve decided to keep Facebook for now but to limit my time on it.

Unlike Facebook, I did miss Instagram. I spent quite awhile over the weekend catching up on posts. I think it’s because I curate my feed more strictly on Instagram, and I find the posts more useful, educational, and inspiring as a result. I found the first week away easier than the second. I started to want to check it because I missed the good stuff rather than just out of mindless habit. Still, I’ve decided to limit how often I open the app and to place conditions on when I can do so.

And Pinterest. What can I say about my digital magazine clipping collection? I stopped buying magazines years ago for a reason, and that reason applies to Pinterest. It’s a waste of time leafing through [or scrolling through] pictures of projects I’m not going to do, recipes I’m not going to make, and stuff I’m not going to buy. I have found Pinterest to be a helpful catalog of ideas, so I’ll keep it, but no more scrolling; only searching when I want to find something specific, like a recipe or how-to tutorial.


>> Social media has created unnecessary clutter in my life.

Speaking of Pinterest, one of the other reasons I got rid of magazines is CLUTTER. I noticed that social media creates a great deal of clutter in my life. Not physically, but mentally and emotionally.

One [not-really-social-media-but-online] area I was able to decrease clutter was in my email inbox. I unsubscribed from all those unnecessary newsletters, flyers, coupons, and deals. It’s incredible how good it feels to open my email and find relevant messages without combing through tons of junk I’m going to delete before even glancing at it. I now only feel the need to check my email a couple times a day. I wasn’t expecting how freeing this would feel, but it really does feel like weight lifted.

Screen Shot 2016-05-31 at 11.03.22 PM

I also became pickier about who I follow on social media. My feeds were bogged down with posts that are depressing or dumb, some that even incite anger. I don’t need that in my life. Paring down my friends list and who I follow has been a release of emotional baggage. I like the new trend “Unfollow Friday” which encourages you to unfriend, unfollow, and unsubscribe from anything that doesn’t add positively to your life. I will continue to periodically evaluate what I’m streaming into my mind and heart as much as what takes up my time.


>> Social media has significantly influenced how I interact with people.

art by Steve Cutts

art by Steve Cutts

It’s amazing how aware of others’ phone use you become as soon as you aren’t looking at your own. Everywhere you go: grocery lines, doctor offices, coffee shops, every room in the house. I attended the band concert of one of our teens, and the guy next to me spent the entire time on his phone, only occasionally pausing to applaud. It’s sad enough that we don’t acknowledge people on the streets around us, but to not even acknowledge our own children… But I’m guilty of the same thing. I have too often focused on a screen than on my daughter. This realization smacked me hard, and I’ve made a concerted effort since then for my daughter to not see me on my phone. She’s never been allowed to play with our phones, but I don’t want her to see me obsessed with it either. The adage is true: they grow up too fast. And I don’t want to miss it.

One of my favorite outcomes of the media fast was having conversations with strangers everywhere I went. One time I shared an elevator with a guy wearing a Camaro t-shirt. I told him I liked it, and we got into a conversation about our first cars and our favorites. It was fun to talk cars with someone again. I don’t know the last time I did that. [Turns out he has never owned a Camaro, and he was impressed that I know what a Z28 is.]

But the most important thing that came out of this experiment was that it made me more thoughtful about my local tribe and making the effort to spend time with them more often. Due to some difficult decisions for the health and happiness of our family, we left an important community of ours over a year ago, and that left us feeling very alone. It was especially noticeable as we were expecting and then welcomed our second daughter. But it turns out we have a much larger tribe of people than we realized. They are a motley crew from all corners of our life, but they are loyal and serving and upbuilding to us. It takes more effort to spend time with them because we don’t have weekly meetings where we all show up at the same place and conveniently run into each other. We have to call or send a message, schedule a lunch date or weekend hangout. We have to be intentional in seeking them out and making time for each other. But we have learned from their kind and generous examples over the last year, as they sought us out and made time for us. [One friend was on her way home after dinner out, and she dropped by just to see if we were around. She helped me with kiddo bedtime so Shaun could get back into the field to finish up planting, and she ended up staying for three hours catching up! It’s one of my favorite experiences of the last month.]

Sure, social media hasn’t always had a positive influence on my relationships, but I would be remiss to not say how much I missed people with whom I interact solely/mainly online. No one is saying that social media or all of our handheld technology is inherently bad or can’t be used for good. The More Social Less Media program was designed to help us make conscious decisions about how much to use social media because it makes us aware of how we use it and how it affects us. I’ve lived in several different states, and I appreciate how technology and social media networks have made it possible to reconnect with old friends and to stay updated on what’s going on in others’ lives. I enjoy seeing pictures of my friends’ kids and my teens’ prom and graduation pictures. Without social media, I would be completely ignorant of these events; with social media, I get to participate indirectly. It’s recognizing the artificial quality of social media that keeps these digital connections in proper perspective next to my face-to-face relationships, and this is crucial.


>> I love social media. 🙂

Yep! I just have a better grasp on how to use it more effectively and how to not let it use me. In the next couple weeks, I will be evaluating my return to social media and other screen time and creating guidelines for my personal use of it. Maybe I’ll write a post about them.

In the meantime, check out More Social Less Media at and [ironically] #moresociallessmedia on Facebook and Instagram. And if you want to do more reading on the subject, I’ve linked to a few articles below. Let me know of other interesting articles on the subject. Tell me how you use social media and the effects of it you seen in your own life. I look forward to interacting with you here via comments or on one of my feeds!


Some articles on the effects of social media &/or screen time:

13, right now: This is what it’s like growing up in the age of likes, lols and longing

Smartphones: So many apps, so much time

Are Social Networking Sites Good for Our Society?

Gray Matters: Too much screen time damages the brain

words to LIVE by #11 >> on intention & other things

design by danae<><

design by danae<><

when i was a kid, i bought a framed poster at a yard sale with a sort of poem on it. it was titled “how to be an artist” by sark. make friends with freedom & uncertainty. take moonbaths. listen to old people. i loved the long string of random bits of advice, some that seemed silly & some sage. and i’ve loved lists like this ever since.

i stumbled upon the one above by mary anne radmacher within the last year, & i like that hers is particularly practical & practicable.

live with intention. this is one of the greatest mantras for the student of Life. we must be deliberate in soaking up the moments, lessons, memories, & emotions. i’ve written a lot on this topic. walk to the edge. this has literal & figurative implications. in a literal sense, i’ve never needed to be told to walk to the edge because it’s my favorite place to be when outside hiking! but figuratively, that’s another matter. i have to work much harder, taking deep breaths & baby steps, to muster up the courage to come to the edge in life. the challenges & changes. the unknown. but every time i do, i learn that it’s worth it. it’s as exhilarating as the edge of a cliff, looking down upon a vast expanse of nature & feeling on top of the world. listen hard. as a talker, i need this advice on a minute-by-minute basis. even when i’m not talking, i am not always a careful listener or observer. but it’s in listening & observing that we learn best about other people. practice wellness. i firmly believe in a holistic approach to health — body, mind, spirit. i don’t practice it well, so i have much room for improvement. summertime seems a perfect time to work on it for me — with the fresh fruits & veggies in abundance & the hot sun giving me a thirst for plain cold water, with our annual pilgrimage to north carolina to see friends & family & spend a week at bible camp, teaching & learning, healing & being healed. i want to practice wellness better even today. play with abandon. it’s amazing how a child will transform you back to youthfulness. i’ve known this for many years from working with teens, but now taking care of roo everyday, i’m finding a kind of playfulness i didn’t know i was capable of. and i’m kinda loving that part of staying at home with my baby. laugh. this is an easy one for me anyway, but roo increases the laughs in my life exponentially, mostly when she laughs! choose with no regret. i’m not sure what all i think about this piece of advice. i think it’s a pretty loaded statement & one that needs more mulling over… continue to learn. well, you had to know this would be my favorite! student of Life & all. there are things i’m learning on purpose this summer like watercolor painting & cross stitching, & many more lessons on the horizon yet unknown. appreciate your friends. i’m not very good at this & desperately need to be better. it’s not that i don’t emotionally appreciate my friends. i just am not consistent about demonstrating it. do what you love. this one is easy for me because i already do! i work with teens, i help others find their passions, i design, i write. it’s crucial to one’s quality of life, whether it be via your job or hobbies. and i don’t mean “do whatever makes you happy.” i think there’s a huge difference. happiness is a fleeting feeling. love is a stronger motivation, not necessarily an emotion. do what you’re passionate about in life, what you were born to do. figure out what that is & pursue it relentlessly. live as if this is all there is. obviously, i don’t believe this life is it as a follower of Christ, & i don’t want to exclude eternity from our thoughts. but living today as if it’s all i get before i enter eternity is worthwhile indeed. that’s how i choose to take this last statement of advice.

i could write so much more on each of these capsules of wisdom, but these are words to LIVE by, so instead of just talking about them, let’s put them into practice, shall we? i’m going to get off this computer & go play with my daughter before i make a yummy snack with fresh produce from our garden. what are you going to do right now to start living with intention?

words to LIVE by #8

mountains quote[source]

last may, shaun & i traveled to greece for our tenth anniversary, & while we were there, we climbed mount olympus. all 2,913 meters of it. i’ve wanted to see greece since i was a kid, & climbing mount olympus has been on my “bucket list” ever since i’ve known shaun. he lived in greece for a summer in 2001 & climbed it then. we spent two days scaling its heights, & it is without a doubt the hardest thing physically that i’ve ever done except giving birth. granted, i was pregnant at the time [& didn’t know it] which may have affected my breathing capacity! there were so many times i was sure i wouldn’t make it any further. i had a walking stick i picked up at the front end of the climb. it became my bestest friend, & i would not have made it without it. nor would i have made it without shaun’s companionship & encouragement. i kept reciting verses about perseverance to myself, which marginally helped, too. i focused on the end goal — being able to tell the story, making it to the summit & being able to say i did it. when we made it to the refuge on day one after a grueling seven hours, it was the most beautiful sight — the promise of food & REST. i slept 12 hours that night. the second part of the climb is much more rugged & steep than the first half, plus it’s colder & very windy. it’s no hike; it’s a climb. and the term “trail” should be understood as loosely applied here. i was skeptical even getting started on day two, but one step at a time & 3 hours later, we made it to the top.

at the summit of mount olympus

at the summit of mount olympus

there’s more to the story of our adventure than i have time to tell right now, but it was full of jokes [some that weren’t funny at the time!], making friends from faraway places, & seeing amazing sights that are only enjoyed by those who take the climb & make it to the top.

there are lots of proverbial mountains in this life we can climb — the career ladder, various summits seeking happiness or the meaning of life, even many “hills to die on.” so many of life’s experiences can be related to the perseverance needed when mountain climbing & the rewards found at the peak.

but no matter what situation we’re talking about, there are some lessons i learned on mount olympus that i want to share.

1. you’re going to need support. something or someone to lean on. i had my walking stick. i even named it “phil” [derivative from the greek word for friend]. having that “third leg” made all the different in my being able to go as far as we did. i used it like an extension of my body, & several times it kept me from falling. in any mountain climb, we risk falling & failure. this can cause us to give up before we reach our goal. but if we have some support, even if we still fall a few times, we are able to get back up & keep going.

2. you’re going to need encouragement. this can come from the same source as your support, or it might come from something or someone else. regardless, you need to hear “just keep swimming” regularly, no matter how annoying it may get! you need to hear “you can do it” & “you’re doing great.” even if you firmly believe otherwise, encouragement can keep you going despite your inner thoughts. [word of advice: if/when that encourager gets annoying, let them keep saying/doing their thing. you need it whether you want it in the moment or not.]

3. focus on the end goal. when you want to give up in the moment, perseverance is often achieved by remembering why you’re climbing this mountain in the first place. i had wanted to climb mount olympus for over ten years. and greece isn’t just around the corner for me, so this might be a once-in-a-lifetime chance for me. i may not get another go at it. i wanted to get that picture on the peak, to be able to say i did it, to have a good story, to know the thrill of adventure. sometimes i had to focus on this so intently that i missed the scenery where i was. but i wouldn’t have seen most of it anyway had i given up & turned back.

4. take time to rest. climbing a mountain is not a quick walk in the park. you’re going to need to take breaks along the way. there were times the climb was so arduous, i sat down every five minutes to catch my breath. when we neared the summit, we would pick a point of rocks a couple dozen yards in front of us to reach before our next break. and the most anticipated respite was at the refuge after climbing more than half the height on day one. there are no words for the relief & excitement that flooded my body & soul when we finally glimpsed it. i even gained a small burst of energy as we climbed the steps up to the lodge. at the end of day one, i was sore all over & exhausted. surprisingly, i felt completely revived the next morning, not sore at all! [i cannot say the same after day two. i didn’t walk right for two days after mount olympus! but it was completely worth it.]

5. enjoy the top. we reached the top around 10:00 a.m. the second day. we had a flight to athens back in thessaloniki to catch. a two & a half hour drive, plus time to return the rental car & get through security. the climbed down took us five hours. we gulped down our lunch at the refuge halfway. we sped down the curvy roads back to thessaloniki [which caused me to get carsick]. we repacked our suitcases in the parking lot of the airport. we had only time to change t-shirts in the bathrooms to feel semi-human again. but i wouldn’t change any of that because we enjoyed the top. we took our time to feel the wind whipping around us [so strong we didn’t get our good camera out] & to soak up the view, all 360 degrees of it. we relished the triumphant feeling of “making it.” we took pictures. we just sat & were. so take time to enjoy it when you reach your goal, too. relish the achievement, feel the gratitude in your heart, make mental pictures & imprints to carry with your forever.

i say all this as advice for all the mountains in life that we climb. but here’s my parting advice: going back up to the quote up top — choose the mountains you want to climb wisely. make sure you have support & encouragement along the way. make sure rest is available. and make sure the end goal is something really worth it, something you want, something good. there are hills worth “dying on” & there are plenty that are merely mountains-in-the-making molehills. make sure you know the difference. before you start climbing.

a pioneer, a pacifist, & a prodigal

what do a pioneer, a pacifist, & a prodigal have in common? they have each indelibly marked my life in Christ. if they were tattoos, i would be covered head to toe in the ink of their influence.

the pioneer was born a few years after me into the same household, by the same two parents. she is my blood sister. my younger sister. and yet, as she has grown up, she has blazed a trail in the spiritual life that has compelled me to follow. when i was in college and she was still a teenager in high school, i realized she was a mentor to me in the faith. i watched & learned from her how to pursue relationship with Jesus & relationship in a faith community even when your own church lets you down & offers you nothing. i watched & learned from her how to stand up for what you believe in & to challenge your peers to do the same. she was not concerned with converting everyone to believing the same things she did. she just wanted her fellow christians to know why they believed what they believed, rather than to continue being spoon fed by a youth pastor or parents. she challenged her friends, & she challenged me, to take ownership of our faith, our beliefs, our commitments, our actions. i watched & learned from her how to reach out & embrace my friends who were gay. to me, she is an icon for Christ’s love to this group of people so often marginalized & despised by the church. these lessons from my younger sister shaped me so much that they become major aspects of my own identity. one of my own mottos has become to stand up for what you believe in no matter what the consequences might be. [we both learned this from watching our father do it growing up, but it took me watching her live it out to put it into action myself.] we both have a plethora of reasons to be cynical about the church & “have every right” to walk away from it. but we don’t. one reason i don’t is because she spoke so often about her passion for God’s kingdom & reminded me that beyond the ugliness of the church, there is also beauty. her passion was contagious. and now it is my consuming passion. and within that overarching passion, one of my deepest desires is to see the church welcome all people with the love of Christ, making the church a safe place to ask questions & to learn about Jesus, even & especially the lgbt community. anyone who knows me well knows these to be three important tenets in my life, yet so few know to whom i am indebted. to this pioneer in the faith, my younger sister, to whom i ought to have been the example, i am humbled & honored to learn from, to imitate, & to now walk alongside on the fiery path to God.

the pacifist was born a few years after me in a state far away into a family i did not know. we did not meet until both in our twenties [me in my late twenties]. she has become my sister in every sense of the word. we have become family by the blood of Christ & by shared ministry. when i moved to lafayette, my husband shaun was sure she would become my best friend. she & i both anticipated it to be so. while we became friends, it wasn’t until we had a common ministry that we became best friends & then sisters. we have so much in common — love for reading, aptitude for design, obsession with shoes, marriage to farm boys… but it has been our differences that have catapulted me along my faith walk. she’s a pacifist. i am not. she’s an analytical thinker. i am not. she’s a deliberate communicator. i am not. and while i still won’t claim to be a pacifist [mostly because i won’t claim any -ist or -ism], i have come a long way in understanding the nonviolence of our Savior. many of my views & beliefs have been overturned by my exposure to this pacifist sister. she has taught me how to approach people, especially difficult people [as this was our shared ministry — one very troubled young woman], with more compassion & less condemnation, with more calmness & less calamity, with more wisdom & less assumption, with more deliberateness in word & deed rather than with reactionary anger & frustration. she is my go-to editor & advisor in everything because she always takes me down a notch. [or two, or ten!] she brings me back down to the molehill when i’m insistent on climbing the mountain. she imparts godly perspective. i have not lost an iota of my passion but rather learned how to control that passion in appropriate, more effective, & Christlike ways. everything about who i am — my conviction of what is right, my passion for the Lord’s church, & my love for marginalized people — has found necessary balance. not balance as in “not going to far with it.” oh, no! but in balancing goodness [truth] with kindness, balancing passion with compassion, & balancing love for the marginalized with love for those who have done the marginalizing [whether intentional or not]. the pacifist has brought balance to the passionate.

and the prodigal. oh, my sweet, beautiful, messed up girl. the prodigal was born ten years after me, & yet she is as much a spiritual daughter as a sister. she is the troubled young woman the pacifist & i worked with together. we met her as a late teen, having been through a life no one deserves, having never had a real break, having never really understood God. so we worked with her, we met with her, we listened to her, we studied with her, we prayed with her, we took her in, we kicked her out, we cried with her, we cried for her, we fought with her, we held her, we loved her. after months of incessant drama & effort with her, she chose Christ. we had the privilege to baptize her into Christ together. to date, it is the greatest highlight of my life.

as with any new christian, there were ups & downs that followed. by the end of the year, we hit a major downswing. she was walking deliberately away from God in every decision she was making. we told her we would not keep meeting with her every week while she continued to do that. she walked out, & we didn’t see or hear from her for two months. it was agonizing. we were so afraid of what she would do, whether she would live through it, whether she would ever come back to God, to us. i had never understood the parable of the prodigal son so acutely. i am not a parent, so there are many things about being a parent & having a child that i can’t understand. but this is one experience that i do understand & i pray most parents never have to. fast forward: what a hallelujah moment when she came home! we all moved in together to help her rehabilitate & rediscover the life in Christ. it was hard, it was messy, but it was worth it. she changed & grew, wrestled & learned. she wrote beautiful psalms nearly every day. she increased prayer in our home one-hundred fold! i learned from this sweet prodigal how to love someone who has hurt you so badly, how God turns mourning into dancing. i learned a new definition of patience. i learned how to yield to & rely on the fruit of the Spirit within me. i learned so much about how God views, loves, treats me. i learned how i am the prodigal, too. our beautiful, messed up girl is wayward again. prodigal again. still, she teaches me: to love long-distance, to pray without ceasing, to hope in the impossible [because that’s what God specializes in]. it hasn’t turned out like we hoped yet, but i’m still learning that while it was hard, & it was messy, it was absolutely worth it. she was absolutely worth it.

three beautiful women who have written Christ more deeply into my life. what do a pioneer, a pacifist, & a prodigal have in common? they have all exemplified our God in beautifully unique & desperately needed ways. for me, & now, i hope for you, too.

i have written this as part of sarah bessey’s tribute to spiritual midwives & patron saints as we celebrate international women’s day & “the spiritual achievements of women, past, present, & future, who have mattered to us.” i have written about only three women in my life who have made a difference for Christ. i could have written volumes trying to include every precious women throughout my life & through pages of their writing who have blessed me, taught me, challenged me, & mentored me in the faith. to all of you who make this difference, in my life & in others’, THANK YOU. please visit sarah’s post & be encouraged by the stories of other women taking the world by storm & by love. 

words to LIVE by

i remember in high school, my friend becky printed out inspirational quotes & hung them all over her dorm room. one of my favorite senior rites was each senior submitting a quote to be printed by their picture in the year book. over the centuries, many wise & witty people have left us words worth remembering. words that, when taken to heart & put into action, can profoundly influence our lives. and as a student of life, i think it is appropriate to share these wise words & witticisms on occasion [& perhaps to share lessons learned from putting them into practice].

i love this quote, the concept, & i believe in it. i wrote more about it in my lessons learned, volume one. i’m still learning this one, but i find great satisfaction when i embrace the current season of my life & of others’ than when i lament days long gone or become obsessed with the future yet to happen.

my current season is being in my 30s, being married with no children, working in a ministry i’m passionate about, snuggling my newborn niece, & loving on my teens while they’re still close by. my baby rave will one day be able to walk & talk, & i want to enjoy that season when it comes without regretting any missed opportunities when she was still tiny. my teens grow up so fast & leave for college, & while i still love to talk to them regularly & see them when they come home on break, it’s not quite the same. they’re grown & gone. i want to treasure every minute i have with them & make sure i spend it pointing them to God. i want to be truly present in this season because it won’t be here forever.

what season are you in?