26 January 2019

January 2019 Book Review

 One of my goals this year is to stay off my phone as much as possible (see last post) and instead, spend more time engaged with my children. I also want to read more books. Last year, other than the books I read aloud to my kids, I only managed to read a handful of books for myself. My goal is to read 10 books this year.
As I read them, I'll blog about them here.

First up, was a little book that packed a BIG punch.
When I say little, I mean in size as well as in pages. The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness is only 48 pages long. It's more like a booklet and could easily be read over a meal but I'm still digesting it, long after being read. Keller uses 1 Corinthians as the basis for understanding how the gospel gripped and transformed the Apostle Paul.
The result: gospel humility. Or, in other words: self-forgetfulness.
I'm certain I could read this book every year. It's powerful and concise. It's like a sermon that we need to hear often.  

"If we were to meet a truly humble person, we would never come away from meeting them thinking they were humble. They would not be always telling us they were a nobody (because a person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually a self-obsessed person). The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.

Gospel-humility is not needing to think about myself. Not needing to connect things with myself. It is an end to thoughts such as, ‘I’m in this room with these people, does that make me look good? Do I want to be here?’ True gospel-humility means I stop connecting every experience, every conversation, with myself. In fact, I stop thinking about myself. The freedom of self-forgetfulness. The blessed rest that only self-forgetfulness brings."

Next, was Strong and Kind. Honestly, I picked up this book because I found it for only a few dollars.
I've always thought Duck Dynasty was a silly show but I've admired the Robertson family for their uncompromising faith and family values. I didn't expect to like this book. I expected to maybe skim through it and find it to be a bit shallow. Although I didn't read anything particularly new or revolutionary when it came to biblical parenting, I still got something out of this book. It made me think about the character traits we want our children to have and reminded me that it all starts with us, as parents.
I also enjoyed the personal stories. In the end, I grew in admiration for Korie and felt like I had spent some time with a sweet friend.

So, there you go! Two books down for 2019.
I'm working my way through 2 more this month but I've
got an upcoming orphan care meeting I'm organizing at church so my free time is limited right now. However, I'm still hoping to get through at least one book in February!

Have you read something you think I'd like?
Let me know!

17 January 2019

The Subtle Dangers of Smart Phones and Social Media

So, this has become an important topic for me lately and one that I'll probably be writing more about.
Faith and Grace are 12 but in just a couple of months, they will be teenagers. Over the last couple of years, we've noticed more of their peers have phones. Yes, even within our conservative homeschooling community, kids as young as 10 have smart phones.

Last year, I took my kids on a field trip and I'm not even kidding when I say we saw a class of 8-9 year olds on their phones the whole time. In fact, their teachers reminded them to use their phones at their own risk because we were standing on a barge over water.

 The studies are pouring in about cell phone use (and especially social media use) among our children.
We're learning that it can often result in addiction, anxiety, depression, suicide, and overall decline in mental health.

Think about it? Just 10-15 years ago, these were not problems we had to deal with. If kids wanted to "chat" or talk to a friend, they would need to call them from a home phone, go over to their house, or wait to see them at school.

My brother is the principal of an all-girls Catholic high school where he's worked for the last 25 years.
He's seen a lot of changes in that time and recently, he told me that they now have a permanent psychologist on staff. This is the new norm in schools.

It seems to me that its always been hard enough just to be a normal teenager without all those extra feelings that come along with your online social accounts. Not to mention thoughts like... What is everyone else doing? How many likes did I get? Is this photo share worthy? Can I think of a creative caption? Why does my life seem unexciting compared to hers?

I started following this guy named Collin Kartchner a few months ago and he's on a personal crusade to educate parents and save the kids from the dangers of smart phone use.
Here's an example of a post he wrote back in November.

I totally resonated with this post. Maybe it's because I have 7th graders myself or maybe it's because of the recent friend requests I've been getting from their peers.

It doesn't take a rocket scientist to understand that smart phones and social media accounts are playing a HUGE factor in the decline of our children's mental health.
Our girls do not have smart phones, iPads, or any other devices. They use the computer for math but they have no online access. Their math must be done at a specific seat on the dining room table, facing openly for everyone to see. 
We've openly shared with them about the dangers of smart phone usage and to be honest, they notice a big difference in their peers who have phones vs. those that don't.

If your child has a smart phone, and if you're honest with yourself, you probably noticed a big difference in them when they got their phone. You can probably attribute many changes in their demeanor and emotions to that time.

Why is this no surprise? This isn't the first time I've read about tech executives banning the very thing in their home they helped to create for our society's "advancement" and culture.  

Collin Kartchner recently came out with a TED talk. If you haven't seen this already, and you have children, please do yourself a favor and spend the next 17 minutes watching this. I wish I could send it to every parent I know.

Around Christmas time, I made a conscious effort to stay off my phone. I wanted to be more present with my family. I have to tell you, it didn't take long for me to realize that I, too, was addicted to my phone. I was addicted to checking my Instagram countless times throughout the day. I was addicted to scrolling to see what everyone else was doing and posting. My finger was addicted to going to the IG icon almost immediately when I was bored or had an extra minute.

After stepping back for a few days, I began to realize that everything I had read about how smart phones were affecting children was in someway, affecting me, too. I mean, let's be honest? How can it not be, right? Perhaps this was also the reason why I experienced a great deal of anxiety and fear last year? Perhaps this was the reason why I only had 51 blog posts in 2018?

I was talking to a girlfriend and she suggested that I move the IG icon on my phone. I did and now, I don't even know where it is anymore. Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying IG is bad. I still use it to print our Chatbooks. I was simply devoting too much time to it and therefore, day by day, unbeknownst to us, it slowly begins to shape us. Instead, I've been spending time with my kids. Not just being in their presence but REALLY being present with them. Talking to them and having deep meaningful conversations. It's been AMAZING. In 5 years, the girls will be in college. College!! That's crazy to me. They're approaching their teenage years and they need me to be available and wholly invested more than ever. They need their mom.

01 January 2019

Brave New Year

Before I go back and finish up the year with a couple of Christmas posts, I thought it was only fitting to ring in the new year with some reflection. Can I be totally vulnerable here and tell you that 2018 was a hard one for me?

In many ways, I'm so glad to see it go. I started cleaning up Christmas decorations 2 days after Christmas.😐 For more than I care to remember in 2018, I struggled with anxiety and fear (which isn't my norm).
I'm typically a "glass half-full person" who thinks positively and believes for the best. And yet, some circumstances left me feeling desperate and afraid. For the first time in my life, I went to the doctor for some crazy symptoms I was having (convinced I was dying!), only to be told my body was reacting to stress.
Wait, what??  

One of the things I think I can attribute this to is the hysterectomy I had back in March. I've read that the loss of estrogen (whether naturally or surgically) can have that effect on many women.

Call it whatever you like, I'm taking back my brave.

It's not lost on me that I named my blog, Brave Soul.
It's not so much a declaration of who I am, but who I aspire to be, who we're called to be... who I want my children to be.

Can we all just agree that adulting is the pits?

However, John 16:33 tells us,

God does not always promise us easy days. He does, however, help us to overcome them by His power.
There were many, many days in 2018 that I begged God to take things away from me (real or imagined).
Looking back, He did.
He protected. He provided. He delivered.
Because that's who He is.

He has never let me down and He has kept every promise.

I love new beginnings and fresh starts.

With a new year comes new goals and some changes for more living. Purposeful living.
(I'm excited to share about that in the next few posts.)
(Not gonna lie, just writing this post is therapeutic.)

So, how was your 2018?
Maybe you need to kick fear in the face, too? Maybe you need this reminder.

Whatever 2019 brings, let's walk hand in hand with God, doing the next brave thing.

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