Between The Manic and The Mundane – Meaning for moms in 2016
There is a definite spike in activity on social media on New Year’s Eve and New Year’s day. There are the well wishes and funny memes, inspirational messages and likely also other similar blog post about the clean slate or blank page that a new year presents us with. Whatever this new year might hold, I know that for us moms, sisters, friends, wives, women, there is inevitably much manic, mess and mundane waiting for us in 2016. But I am also hopeful for meaning, even in the marvellous minutia of everyday life. This is my list of ways to find it…
- Put technology in it’s place. In 2015 I did something crazy….I stopped receiving emails to my smartphone (que dramatic organ music!). I read a study done by Linda Stone who worked on emerging technologies at both Apple and Microsoft, where she discovered that 80% if people tested held their breath for a portion of the time when opening new emails – a phenomenon dubbed “email apnea”, a condition that disrupts our body’s breathing patterns and knocks out the balance of oxygen, nitric oxide and carbon dioxide. It is amazing to me how the wellness industry continues to grow as we strive for health and balance and at the same time we allow advances in technology that is supposed to be serving us to encroach on our ability to be “present” in our lives and control our time. Tim Harford from the Financial Times coined it when he said “Email is your servant” – it’s not the other way around. “But what about my productivity?” I hear you gasp! Well, I had my email service provider draw a report on the amount of emails I respond to daily AFTER I made this daring move. It turned out to be upwards of 70 per day – no mean feat if you consider I am a work from home mom who only “works” from 8AM to 1:30AM daily. I believe that putting email in its place and not having notifications guiltily flashing at me all day have not only made me more productive when it counts, but it has made me a better wife and mom. Try it!
- And on the topic of technology, click “unsubscribe” more often. When it comes to information, is more really more? If you have serious FOMO, subscribe to something like The Skimm (www.theskimm.com), that will give you an overview of news that interests you. Use Microsoft Clutter and be done with the gazillion things that scream to distract you.
- Stop keeping up with the Kardashians, or anyone else for that matter. Remember that the point of pop culture is to attack your contentment. When you show comparison the door, contentment is will step over the threshold. Look to worthy rolemodels for inspiration, by all means, but don’t let the intragram-worthy moments of strangers dull the filter of your own life. Contentment is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself, but as Paul said – it was a secret, AND he had to “learn” it (Phill 4 v 12).
- Be thankful. Saying thank you to God is a door into worship and a gateway to a more contented life. But what about thanking the people in our lives, a practice I have noticed to be remarkably absent in our modern day culture? I want to do that more this year: When we are invited round to someone’s house, if a friend buys my child a gift, when I sit thinking about what someone means to me, I want to take the opportunity or make the opportunity to SAY THANK YOU. An email, a WhatsApp message, a hand written note. A small token containing two small words that pack a big punch. Studies show that people who say thank you are more successful and it’s a great habit to model to our kids. We should not take the people in our lives and the things they do for us for granted..
- Practice hospitality. I can honestly tell you (and so can all of my close friends and family) that I am an atrocious cook! Praise the Lord I am South African and a “braai” is a perfectly acceptable way of feeding people! But The Good Husband and I have in our 11 years of marriage, regardless of our first home being tiny and our current home being a real work in progress (more work than progress to be frank) made a point of practicing (yes, for some of us it takes allot of practice) hospitality. But in Joburg where I live I have notices how the bussy-ness of our lives and the perceived need for being a perfect and effortless entertainer (damn you Jamie Oliver) has kept people from opening their homes and hearts to others. It’s a tragic loss, not just for our ability to foster friendships and live in community, but also for our children – who can read our priorities based on how we spend what we deem to be valuable, i.e. time and money. I want my kids to know that I consider relationships and people to be our family’s greatest wealth. As Tim Chester says in his book “A meal with Jesus”: “The focus of entertaining is impressing others, the focus of true hospitality is serving others”.
- Do good without posting it on Facebook. We live in a country where we need more people taking the thousand small incremental steps to correcting imbalances and righting wrongs for the sake of the greater good and less trumpeting announcements, pseudo noble action and do-gooding for the sake of how it makes US feel and look.
- Ask more questions…of God. Do you have 1 or 2 things about your faith walk that you wonder about or struggle with. Make it your mission to press into Him in prayer, search Him out on it in His word and wait on Him to answer. God can stand up to your scrutiny, doubts and questions.
- Read good books. I truly believe that if we spent even half the time reading a good book that we do looking at Pinterest our minds would be more stimulated, our hearts more compassionate, our souls more nourished and our lives richer in all the ways that count. No social media feed will do that for you! Make a list of the books you want to read, things that people have recommended to you or that you’ve heard about. If you don’t know where to start, I always try to include a classic (this year it was To Kill a Mockingbird, oh my goodness how I love that story) and something that is non -fiction (like anything from Malcolm Gladwell), something in your area of interest (is it travel, politics, art?). For good fiction I always look to Pulitzer and Booker prize winners for guidance. Be discerning in your choice of Christian books, just because it says Christian or you bought it in a Christian bookshop sadly doesn’t mean it contains any sound doctrine or biblical teaching. My top books of 2015 were One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voskamp, Mere Christianity by CS Lewis, Run with the Horses by Eugene Petersen. But also be sure to read widely, including things that might challenge you, make you question things, contain perspectives you might disagree with and that broaden your horisons and understanding of human nature. This year I read Thrive by Arianna Huffington and I would put that book in this category.
- Plan to persevere. I know, sounds uninspiring and hard. But let’s be honest, trails will come, there is no question about that. I want to remember this year as they come my way that that nothing else (not bible study, not self-discipline, not going to church – all things that grow, enhance and equip us) will mature me other than the things that challenge, purify and solidify my faith and my picture of God. This is why James calls us to rejoice when we face trails of many kinds, because we step closer through them to what God desires for and in us (James 1) . May we run with perseverance the race marked out for us this year (Heb 12 v 1)
- Don’t play it safe. Instead live with greater expectation! It’s in my prayer life that I noticed that I “play it safe” with God, not asking or expecting too much, for fear that I might be disappointed. I have exchanged a sound doctrine for a safe one that has become completely out of sync with God’s true character and nature. In 2016 I want to be more expectant that I serve a great God, that I am part of a great story and that God can and will show up mightily in my life. There is such a vast gap between what we think we can do and what we are called to do – I think as moms we realise this daily. But when I feel overwhelmed by my roles and life I want to remember to be expectant that God can and will do more in spite of me.
- The Maybe Today Motto. I guess a part of living with greater expectation is this motto that I’ve chosen for 2016. Maybe today it will rain in the Freestate. Maybe today that prayer I’ve been praying will be answered. Maybe today I will see that burning bush I’ve been expecting. Maybe today opportunity will knock. Maybe today Jesus will return. This means I want to live with my lamp full of oil in readiness (Matt 25).
- Embrace authentic faith. I hope that in the way I live this year, my kids will be able to tell what I believe in the way I handle conflict, traffic, difficult people, unexpected challenges or circumstances, busy-ness. This, more than any Sunday school activity or bible reading time, will present authentic and real faith to them.
- Be defined by Him. There might have been what some might call “defining moments” in your 2015, things that by their very nature left a lasting mark, a limp, and gap in your life and being. But although they might have shaped you, shaken you, stretched you, I pray that you will not leave it to the harsh circumstances and trails of life to define who you are. May when you went from lost to found, foe to friend to family, orphan to child, death to life be the defining reality of your life and may you continue to press into the One who knew you before you could define you for the full reality of who you are.
What are the practices, principles and perspectives that you wish to embrace in 2016? I pray that Grace will mark your unique and original adventure and that you will continue to be inspired to find purpose in the ordinary.