Well, hello friends!
How has your week been?
I filmed a quick vlog on life lately, since it takes less time for me to talk rather than write! It's a Thursday night, and I want to spend it riding bikes with my brother around the neighborhood followed by a serious game of Trouble. We will probably end our time together by dancing to the cha-cha slide... because all good brother / sister hangouts do.
Oh, and before leaving, I wanted to share one more thing! I had the joy of being the first featured blogger on Sunshine Bloggers: Shine On for this new + wonderful Sunshine State collaboration that Kristyn pioneered! Hopefully this summer I will be able to meet some of these creative bloggers in my area! IRL (in real life) meet-ups are the best!
As I write this, five hours remain until my day off comes to a close. The weekend will then be brought in by a 6 o'clock morning shift and a few thousand marriage conference attendees needing their coffee. Life has sped on by, leaving me with hardly a breath to catch except for the occasional morning one. (Some people must not believe in the brushing of teeth that early. I don't blame them.)
All the busyness has further proved my lack of talent in multitasking or handling schedules. Perhaps it is an art I have not yet learned. In the past year, many others besides myself have expressed how our days seem to be flying, which got me wondering...
What happened to the quieter and slower side of life?
I love the calmness I experience when chirps and warbles are the only sounds to be heard. I love walking around my neighborhood before most people step out their doors or carry trashcans to the curb in the morning. I love watching clouds and pointing out their unique formations. I love sitting in the dirt to smell flowers. I love taking the time to know someone's heart beyond a plastered smile. I love writing without interruption. I love elongating the length of a meal preparation. I love sitting in silence, whether alone or amongst others who are comforted by the same. I love being able to hear God's voice unhurriedly. I love the memories of my Hawaiian days and cherishing all that holds a special place in my heart. I love setting down my phone and penning a letter to a far-off friend.
And I have not done those kinds of things lately. At least not enough.
I am notorious for picking weeds out of grassy areas and bundling them together. Nearly every time, I am instructed, "Those are just weeds, Erika." "Oh I know!" I would chime in, thinking there must be something wrong because I find them to be so enchanting – weeds or not. Similarly, while what I mentioned above could seem like just silly ways to waste my time, I know the value it means to me.
Last Monday, I read from a book that I highly recommend called "Hinds' Feet On High Places" by Hannah Hurnard and felt moved when I saw this paragraph:
"Nothing my Father and I have made is ever wasted," he said quietly, "and the little wild flowers have a wonderful lesson to teach. They offer themselves so sweetly and confidently and willingly, even if it seems that there is no one to appreciate them. Just as though they sang a joyous little song to themselves, that it is so happy to love, even though one is not loved in return."
A smile stretched across my face when I realized there was a reason I loved wild flowers so much. It is quite okay to soak in these treasures and meet with the Creator in them. As I slow down, I begin to notice the details of life that God Himself is behind.
To me, the quieter and slower side of life does not necessarily require a drastic change in schedule, but a renewed heart that views life with vibrance and appreciation. While it isn't wise to say yes to everything, (like I have been), I can say yes to doing a few things that really bring life. And I can say yes to slowing my heart and mind down to praise God for the simplest of things. Like the wild flowers and His still, small voice. :)
And just like that, April is over.
Last month, platters of frustration and exhaustion were stacked above my head, and I had no idea how to handle them in a fanciful manner. (Actually, I don't know if there is any way to manage things like identity theft fancifully...) In April, I made the decision to step back from social media. While this proved to be a beneficial choice, I felt more disconnected than I ever have. Along with that, I allowed lonely feelings to fester, leaving a much too bitter taste inside. Due to event season, I was working about 40 hours a week and feeling unhappier with my poor stewardship each passing day. Complaints were my companion. Even though I would conveniently read from the Bible and feel challenged to press on with patient endurance, I continued without allowing the Holy Spirit to openly work in and through me.
I needed to be nourished spiritually. My soul hungered for the presence of Jesus.
After a handful of meltdowns, I decided enough was enough. Negativity had come uninvitedly and with the violence like that of a stomach bug – emptying me of nearly everything. As uncomfortable as the process was, I am ever thankful that nothing goes to waste. He used this emptying, this hungering, and this groaning to rid me of my selfishness and yet again show me that only my Jesus can satisfy.
Sometimes, all it takes is a good bite of perspective with a side of encouragement. So as we head into May, I am making the decision to chew on His words and soak in His promises – daily. I would not have it any other way!
Stop for a few minutes, and have yourself a pleasant meal with Jesus – over some food and the Word. I pray that you, too, would take a bite of what I like to call perspective salad and experience such grace and refreshment as a new month is ushered in!
Cross-legged and slightly nervous, I sat in the IRS building this afternoon, waiting to straighten out a problem with my tax returns. Coverage on the Boston Marathon bombings replayed over and over. "DEAD" + "ON THE RUN" would burn its way onto the screen and eyes of all ages would shift.
You could feel the tension. The unrest. Profane words jutted through the hall and crept into my ears. We were all waiting to be seen by staff and work out 1099's or W-2's... but we waited also for something else. For more information regarding this tragedy. For answers. For something. All was mostly silent, but the little girl dressed in coral.
At about four years old, she was both inquisitive + adorable. When heaviness dropped in that waiting room, you could hear her questions of innocence resonate. "What happened, grandma? What are the fire truck people doing? Did they find the bad guy?"
The little girl dressed in coral should have been twirling and playing clapping games. But she walked into a place where pain was splashed across a screen and felt deep in the hearts of those waiting. She continued with more questions and received soft spoken responses. The final sentence tugged at my heart.
"I don't want my special grandma to be in trouble..."
Hearing those words tumble from her tiny mouth caused me to nearly lose it. I wanted to give her a hug. I wanted to tell her not to worry. But how could I when there I sat, fidgeting myself? I don't know why innocent lives are continuously taken or why bombs were dropped. Things really are not okay in this world. And they will not fully be until Jesus comes back. (listen to Things Are Not Okay by Jon Thurlow)
Amidst the sadness, the trouble, the chaos – amidst what is happening now or what will happen in the future, I am still confident that my Jesus has overcome the world. During weeks of facing heavy news in my personal life and for my nation, I remember the desperate need for a Savior. On my own, I am no good. None of us are.
To the little girl dressed in coral and anyone else reading, though the trouble is thick, it is not the end of the story. I believe there is hope at hand. It is in Him that I put my trust.
Let us pray with urgency. Even when we don't have the words.
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27)
It's time for my favourite link up! Ashley has this wonderful vlog series called The Girl Behind The Blog that she has been hosting for over a year now, and this month Mackenzie is co-hosting along with her! You should definitely check out the other videos as well. (especially Kiki's because it's her first time and she is such a sweetheart!)
Hope you all are having an incredible Thursday evening.
April 13th was a birthday celebration for someone so special to me: my mommy. For as long as I have lived, I have seen her demonstrate selflessness, devotion, and bold faith. The past few years have been both long and hard for our family in many ways, but she has chosen to remain thankful and completely reliant on Jesus.
At only 24 years old, she married my daddy and moved from Japan to America with a limited understanding of the English language. Thus began a new chapter in a foreign country. The same courageousness carries through to this day. I admire her, love her, and am grateful for her. She is not only my mommy, but a best friend.
It was nice to see her blow out her birthday candles in person since I was living in Hawaii for these past two birthdays. The day was simple and *mostly* sweet – just like her. (just kidding!)
After a little breakfast + gifts at home, we prepared a picnic lunch to bring to a new park. (Sidenote: Seriously y'all, I should own a sandwich shop. Those were goooood.) We learned to never trust MapQuest directions after proceeding to spend an hour in circles attempting to find this wonderful park we had not yet been to. Finally, we arrived at this lakeside pavilion. And it smelled like a horrible combination of dead sea animals mixed with dog pee. When we weren't gagging from the stench, we enjoyed a lovely lunch together and a comedy show from a neighboring squirrel. I snapped a few photos of the beautiful birthday queen by some palm trees when she suddenly began to shriek in pain. Fire ants. Everywhere. Her feet began to blister, which then concluded our picnic at the park extravaganza. We played Uno in the parking lot, ate samples at Sam's Club, found her a cute purse, and engorged on cheesecake.
She was covered in fire ants. Jacob was upset he couldn't play with his friends. Monika was extremely exhausted. I forgot to write a card and complained a lot. Daddy had to work. But despite the imperfect moments – I hope she felt blessed and knew deep in her heart that she is treasured in this family. We wouldn't be here without her anyway!
As I type this, I am reminded of a book she used to read long ago called, "Love You Forever". There is a reoccurring line that says, "I'll love you forever / I'll like you for always / As long as I'm living / My baby you'll be." That is the kind of woman we celebrated. She loves deeply + well. ♥
For the month of April, I chose to bid social networks farewell. Earlier this year I deactivated my Pinterest (gasp!) and stopped using Tumblr, so I only had to take a break from three outlets: Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. But even if I "only" had three, the decision to back away was not much easier.
You see, I have made excuse after excuse as to why I could not lay my online social life down. I believed that I needed these outlets to function, to be included, to stay updated, and to keep my friends.
In the spring of last year, I needed to be on Facebook because it was the way we had chosen to connect with students + answer any questions they may have on our group page, which I was an admin for. Just like I have needed to be on Instagram for certain friends to know I am alive. Seriously – I have received messages from them asking, "Where have you disappeared to?" "Did you fall off the face of the earth?" "Are you okay?" when I haven't grammed my #foodandcircles for a few days. And although I have an absolute love / hate relationship with Twitter, I need to be engaging in conversation or bloggers would forget about me. Right? False.
I am not blaming these social networks, at all. The neatest connections have been made because of them. Ones that I would never trade in. Throughout my six years of Facebook usage, I have seen the way it has evolved and the way it has helped connect others. There are some friendships (new + old) that I can attest to growing stronger because we were drawn together on Facebook and provided with a platform to keep in touch. I love + appreciate this. But somehow, I have taken what was meant to be a gift and let it consume my time, energy, and thoughts.
|A very real picture of what my desk has looked like for far too long.|
I know the solution isn't to cut it all out from my life permanently – I cannot just avoid social networks due to my lack of self discipline. But as I prayed about the messy state of my life two weekends ago, I felt clearly that I was to take a month off from social networks. I may have whimpered a bit. Okay, I whimpered a lot. I need to know what my friends are eating for breakfast and they need to know #WIDN (what I'm doing now), remember?
On April 1st, I wrote in my journal:
"It's really necessary for me to cut out life wasters so that I might find the abundance I've been created for." And I'm pretty sure clicking refresh / reload multiple times per hour, every hour, is a time waster.
I HAVE LEARNED / NOTICED SO FAR:
+ I actually do have time, but it was not being stewarded well.
+ My memory has been significantly sharper because my mind is not being flooded constantly with tweets or status updates. Before, it was on information overload.
+ There are people who I would lose contact with if it weren't for Facebook. This causes me to think about the depth of the relationship in the first place.
+ I am becoming more creative in the way I communicate.
+ The level of my productivity has improved because I have not given into the distraction. I've also been able to write letters the old fashioned way!
Now that I have been gone from the social world for eleven days, I am beginning to recognize the great tool + resource that the sites can really be. But because it was so easily accessible, I took it for granted and went overboard. Like many things in life, I needed to be reminded of its position as a gift – not just something I am entitled to having.
"The real problem of life is never a lack of time. The real problem of life – in my life – is lack of Thanksgiving." // Ann Voskamp, One Thousand Gifts
➛ What are your thoughts or tips on managing your time well + to the fullest on social networks? I would love to know in the comments below! (speaking of comments, I am experimenting with Disqus as of today!)
|I began filming a vlog about this subject, but thought the words + photos would suffice. I was too tongue-tied :).|