Seeking Simplicity One Seed at a Time {and a giveaway!}

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In the last post I detailed my acknowledgement of a social media addiction and the specific steps I have been taking to clear my head.  As these tangible steps have been put into practice, I’ve noticed a fogginess lifting.  I used to contribute the airheadedness (for lack of a better word) to the fact that I have 8 children, and I’m sure this does play a small role, but I do believe social media anxiety has also played a significant role.  Now that my head is clear(er), I find I have time to reinvest in hobbies I haven’t had time for in months or maybe years – such as reading real books again.

The most recent treasure I had the pleasure of reading and reviewing was A Pocketful of Seeds written by Debbie Johnson.  What a gift this book became. At a time in my life where I have been actively seeking to reengage, to be more present for friends and family, to live intently from a soulful place, and this book not only encouraged these desires within my heart, but it also became pure balm for my soul.  Debbie slows you down – which is so good for me with an intense type A personality – and she soothes you with her words which are like seeds being gently dropped into the rich soil of the reader’s heart, specifically 365 “seeds” or daily devotionals – some a paragraph or two, some a little more than a page – but each one realistic while offering simple changes that don’t require tons of time or effort; just small actions to make life more beautiful for yourself and those around you. For example –

June 28 – Hug Your Loved Ones.  Half a page long.  An easy read that’ll take 5-10 minutes and ends with the simple acknowledgement to “hug a relative or friend today.”

I really enjoyed this read, especially at this time in my life where I’m stripping away anything that isn’t an adamant YES! and instead seeking to be more present in everything that I do. Simplicity is the mantra I keep hearing in my spirit, and this book nourished me in the simplest of ways.

As always, when I review a book, you have the opportunity to win a copy as well! Comment here or on Facebook or Instagram with a step you’re taking to be more present in your own life.  I’ll pick a winner next Monday!

 

Just Keep Livin!

Parental Tips to help with Technology Addictions in Children

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I have such a love/hate relationship with all of it – social media, the internet, the world wide web – THE WHOLE KIT AND KABOODLE, especially with the onslaught of doom and gloom and opinions that constantly barrage our minds and souls and suck us dry in our mental capacities because we just don’t have enough brain cells to encompass it all.

As a newbie writer I’m repeatedly told that no one will ever read my words if I don’t have a platform, but as a person, I’m not really into the platform concept!  I’m extremely introverted. I get all bunched up in knots if someone doesn’t agree with me or like me anymore.  I don’t so much mind sharing pieces of my life with the world, but I do mind when strangers begin to throw rocks at my words or my family because they don’t agree with something or they are simply in a pattern of self loathing and decide to take it out on me.

I do participate in the online world in a pretty large capacity especially with shopping as it offers an extremely appealing convenience factor where I live. I order at least 50% groceries online through Walmart of Amazon.  I also order (and sell) lots of kid’s clothes through different apps.  I buy makeup and oils and diffusers and castile soap and mailboxes and pillows and anything and everything that won’t spoil, and I love it.  Not only do I save on gas, but I also save on time and by ordering in bulk I earn free shipping and additional discounts.  Love, love, love this part of the internet.

I also love the accessibility the internet offers for anything and everything.  Yoga classes, there’s an app (or a hundred!) for that. Online cookbooks? Done. Online books?  Got it. At your fingertips.  Want to learn a new skill?  Youtube has you covered.

Social media has also been really good to me for the most part.  I’ve been able to reach people and audiences and cultivate meaningful relationships through this venue like no other but… social media has an ugly down side as well, and it is known as addiction. I never really considered myself an addict until I had my last baby, and I nursed her. A LOT. Like half of my day I had a baby stuck to my chest. When I nursed my other children I sat on the couch and watched Oprah or Ellen or soap operas.  When I nursed Annabelle I stared at my phone, which had the convenience factor of being able to go anywhere with me, and for many (MANY!) nights this ritual went on for hours on end. Scientifically speaking, our social media habits release dopamine, a feel good high, just like drugs or sex or alcohol, and every time we see another like or a positive comment or receive a text, we are feeding into our addiction. Two years after having  Annabelle, (so basically a few months ago), I recognized this unhealthy trait in myself and decided it needed addressing.   I couldn’t go anywhere without my phone or tablet nearby.  What if one of the kids did or said something cute and I had to show or tell the world? What if I had a thought I had to write down? What if someone sent an email? Or a text?  What if another person commented on my photo on Instagram, and I didn’t see the comment within the appropriate two second time span?  Oh my goodness, the world may stop!

Seriously.  My brain was in full blown addiction mode, and this is what I noticed about my behavior.

1.      I was highly anxious.  I believe that with the ability to have social media at our finger tips 24/7          comes also the ability to (unfortunately) know way too much at all times.  My brain was on                absolute overload with the amount of information I was obtaining via social media.  Every                  disaster, every high, every celebrity commenting on anything.  TOO MUCH INFORMATION.

2.       I was suffering from bouts of depression. I believe this stemmed from a lack of being present             in my own life. I couldn’t truly enjoy anything: baking bread, sweeping leaves, watching the               kids play, or reading a book, because I was constantly on high alert with my tablet sitting right           beside me.  What was I missing in the online world?  I was pretty sure something was                         going to pass me by because I wasn’t fully engaged at all times, but in reality, my life was                   passing me by because I wasn’t fully engaged!

3.       I was always running out of time.  Social media is a big honkin time sucker. I found I could               easily spend hours on my phone or tablet – especially while nursing a baby who did not really             enjoy sleeping.

I’m not completely healed of my addiction to social media and the internet in general, but I have found a few coping mechanisms which I have implemented that have helped to rewire my brain back to a semi normal state of being.

1.       Absolutely no phones or tablets after 8:00 pm. The kids all go to their rooms at 8:00 at night.             Some read, some watch a movie, some are actually told to turn out their lights and go to sleep,           but Ryan and I have down time together from 8:00-10:00. No kids, no phones, no tablets.  We           talk about our day, watch a show, and enjoy one another’s company.

2.       I eliminated all social media apps from my phone.  This has been extremely helpful when I’m             on the go.  I’d like to say I never picked up my phone to check out something while I’m in the           car, but that would be a lie. Red light taking too long? Better check out Facebook.  Slow line at           the stop sign?  Good thing I have Instagram to waste time with. Need gas?  Better take these               five minutes to check out Twitter rather than clean out my car.  You get the point. I’m                         considering eliminating my smart phone altogether and buying one of those pay as you go                   deals, but I’m not quite there yet.

3.       I also unfollowed almost everyone on Facebook – including friends and family.  I know,                     extreme, but I didn’t necessarily want to know what perfect strangers (or anybody for that                   matter) did all day long.  I don’t want to be bombarded with news (good or bad) that I’m not               mentally prepared to deal with, and I was sick of forming judgements because of something               that was shared out of context on social media. Now, if I like or comment on Facebook it is                 because I was thinking about that particular person and decided to see what they were up to by           going to their page and investigating.

4.       I narrowed down my social media load.  I like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest but never               really got into snapchat or twitter or a bunch of other ones.  I’m a creature of habit, and when I           figure something out, I tend to stick with it. I decided to focus on the ones that I enjoy and let             the chips fall where they may with the rest.  I can’t do it all.  I can’t be on every social media             platform and still be a present mom, wife, and all around person. 

5.       I turned off notifications.  No more being bossed around by the ding indicating a new text or               email, and I turned the ringer off.  I check my phone for texts and calls on my time. 

6.      We haven’t implemented this one yet but it’s coming for the whole family this Sunday.  We are          unplugging. Phones, tablets, computers, done. Taking a day of rest for our eyes and our souls.            Most of us will be okay with this act but some of us will really struggle (Tate, Caleb, and                    myself). I trust, it’ll be good.  I hope to connect more as a family, enjoy one another, and laugh            together as we watch football or some silly movie.  Stay tuned.  I’ll post on this specifically in            the coming weeks and how we’ve been affected. 

Those are my takeaways so far, but admittedly, I still have a ways to go to get back to a healthy state of mind, and I have crossed a few boundaries in the last week or so as I’m organizing a re-launch team for my book Sunlight Burning at Midnight – which (shameless plug time) if you’re interested in being a part of, fill out this application,  https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSc_Q7rO2BEfqhB1CjSIU4_5TcuUkedvNeGzYlR6pBNK9CfAYw/viewform and we’ll see if it’s a good fit.  I’ll be picking my team on October 30th. Anyone else struggle with any of this?  Any suggestions for what works for you?  Let me know!  I think we could all benefit from a little less media madness and whole lot more mindfulness in our lives. 

Just keep livin!

Love and Loss {And a Giveaway!]

lovedbaby.jpgA baby gone too soon.
A beloved family member diagnosed with cancer.
A dear woman battles emotional and physical abuse at the hands of her husband.
Children beg for food in third world countries.
Ten year old girls lose their innocence and their humanity as they are sold as sex slaves.

It hurts like hell.
It stings
It all falls so painfully short of what we feel this life should be
It aches like betrayal on a massive scale
A world wide scale
And we, humanity, are the victims left in the wake.
A big joke played on all of us
by a bunch of pranksters residing in the Heavenlies.

And we numb the pain with drugs
With wine
With anger
And sleep
Or hurtful silences
Or busyness
Or denial
We numb our cells to the best of our ability
To avoid feeling
To avoid the reality
To avoid the ache
But when the numbing wears off
It still hurts
And we rage against our Creator
Our cells scream
We groan from the never lands
We weep for the lost tomorrows
And forgotten yesterdays
And the vacant presents
And there are still no answers
The Creator is silent.

The baby remains absent
And grandma starts chemotherapy
And the “C” word enters our children’s vocabulary once again
Along with the “D” word in regards to their unknown sibling

And our eyes spill in response to their tears
And children still starve
And that woman still aches for a loving spouse
And girls are raped again and again
And that is the reality of what we call life.
And that is why our hearts ache for something purer
And bigger
And more beautiful
We ache for more
We need more
We yearn for a hereafter
Where all the pain is gone
And every tear is wiped from our eyes
Our hearts scream for some sort of redemption
Something that makes it bearable again
All of creation grapples with the injustice we’ve been served
And we shake our fists in righteous indignation towards the pain we have endured in our fallen nature.
Our souls search through the fragility of our humanity for something deeper.

The “Whys?!” we scream
Why is a Godly woman ravaged by an insidious disease?
Why a baby, an innocent child who has harmed not one, taken so early?
Why!?!?
We scream to the Heavens
To anyone who will turn a listening ear towards our anguish

These were some of the words I wrote in response to losing my beloved baby in December of 2013 http://www.jessplusthemess.com/index.php/my-blog-old/entry/love-and-loss-and-bethlehem .  I felt so incredibly alone, lost, scared, fearful and full of despair and so I hid.  I hid behind words.  I hid in my house.  I hid behind a fake smile plastered across my face that told the world I was just fine.  But I wasn’t fine.  I thought I was being punished for some reason.  I could not understand why God couldn’t grant me the desire for a healthy baby – especially after all I had been through – especially after obeying what he had called me to in blending my family with another family and raising 7 beautiful children.  I deserved this baby!

In hindsight, God used the next 9 months of waiting to become pregnant again as an opportunity to birth something beautiful in my marriage and heart as Ryan and I gained a deeper intimacy through the pain and revelations that preceded the conception of our 8th child who would be our beautiful daughter Annabelle Ryan.  God is good. All the time, but man, sometimes it hurts like crazy to walk in obedience to his plan.

I was honored to be a part of the launch team for Sarah Philpott’s book Loved Baby.  In all honestly, I have never read a book on losing a baby that impacted me quite like this one did.  She is honest. She is vulnerable, and she is realistic in explaining step by step, what to expect, how to process all of the feelings, and how to slowly release the pain and agony to your Heavenly Father as you allow him to help carry your burden; as you choose joy over fear when you are blessed with another child, and it is a choice to be made – wishing “we could be filled to the brim with delight about the new life blooming in my womb. But the little thing called memory prevents us from pure elation,” and her wise counsel, “When fear seeps into our soul, let’s combat it with joy.”

This book will be such a blessing to your life and to anyone you may know who has walked through this difficult terrain, AND…. I have a copy to give away! Comment here (sorry, I know it’s a bit like Fort Knox to be allowed to comment on the blog – you can thank the trolls for that) or comment on Facebook or Instagram about why you would like to win a copy. I’ll draw a winner Sunday evening.

Just keep livin!

PIZZA PARTY!

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The feeling of hopelessness within the world seems to be at an all-time high lately. Between natural disasters, people dying, senseless shootings, and opinion after opinion after opinion on anything and everything because that’s what we do – we hop on our social media platforms and barrage the world with our thoughts – never necessarily having to take ownership for anything because we’re just a click away from deleting it all or logging off.

Anyway…  I needed to do some soul searching due to the information bombardment and what I felt like it was doing to my soul as it was not only sucking me dry mentally, spiritually, and emotionally, it was depriving my family of me – present, engaged, fully in tune me – which isn’t good.  It’s not good for me, and it’s not good for you either.

I took stock as I so often do.  I thought about how the information was feeling overwhelming and causing me to be anxious about life which in reality I really shouldn’t be anxious about because we’re all good. We’re healthy thriving people, and somehow in the midst of this goodness all around me I felt bad because I was overdosing on the negativity of others. We should absolutely be sympathetic towards others and their plights, but there is a fine line. When we continuously process all of the “others” pain and heartache we become stunted in our own relationships as our purpose and ability to be present becomes nonexistent because we’re so engaged in what else is going on in the world. It’s the woman out for coffee with a long lost friend who can’t put her phone down.  It’s the dad at his son’s football game who can’t stop texting someone. It’s the mom checking out Instagram as her daughter banters for attention (guilty). It’s in these moments where we must put the phone down, turn off the Television, or let the battery die on our tablet. Seriously. This is when the “all knowing” has crossed a line. Instead of being able to help the world because of our vast piles of information, we actually hinder the process of joy and kindness as we are no longer able to even display these simple traits within our own small tribes because we’re so consumed with humanity as a whole instead of the individuals within our homes.

I gathered all of these thoughts and made some changes which I will discuss in depth next week, but for this post, you get to be a part of one small change.  We had family pizza night on Sunday. Now, this isn’t necessarily unique in our family as we eat a lot of pizza but what was unique was the process we engaged in as a family to get to pizza night.  Ryan and a few of the kids ventured down to the garden to pick the few remaining tomatoes and peppers from this year’s crop.  Mya helped make the dough. Mabel painted garlic oil on top of crusty bread for bruschetta.  Many hands helped chop up the topping options and make sauce. Annabelle assisted in picking basil from the planter.  It was a community effort as we all pitched in as a family, making our pizzas, being present together on the deck, laughing, eating, and being in the moment which is so incredibly rare nowadays.  

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I’ll have the dough and sauce recipe on the blog in the next day or two and yes, I am slowly rising out of the fog of infancy as my baby is now two and a half, and I plan to digress quite a bit more on this blog if I still have any people interested in my ramblings.  If not, guess we’ll call it a journal 😉 AND – a big congratulations to Melanie King who won the copy of LOVEDbaby!  Message me and I’ll get it in the mail. 

Just keep livin!