Just like a camera lens has to be re-focused to capture a clear image of what’s in front of us, so it it with our lives. I took a long break from my personal Instagram to re-focus the lens so to speak. When I said hello to 2020, I also said hello to slowing down. I realized that I needed a break from the hundreds of people I follow on my personal account to hear what my own voice was saying, to get clarity+focus amongst a lot of questions I was having, and to tap into more of my creativity through my photography and writing, as well as narrowing my focus on using creativity for the church (which has been especially crucial to the current season we are in.)
I started off the year reading two extraordinary books: Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren and The Tech Wise Family by Andy Crouch. Liturgy of the Ordinary is all about slowing down and recognizing that God is as much in the ordinary moments of our lives as He is in the extraordinary moments. As someone who is futuristic/big picture minded, I have to constantly be reminded of this. The little things matter, morning routines matter, making my cup of tea to warm my body up matters, walking outside and being in nature matters, eating good foods and inviting people over for a meal matters and so on. God is in the everyday moments of our lives, and if we learn to be still, and arrive fully to the present season that we’ve been gifted, we will see this so clearly. Sometimes, the best way to practice presence is to unplug from technology. That’s what Andy Crouch writes of. His family takes one hour of every day, one day of every week, and one week of every year to go technology free. After reading about what his family does, I knew that I wanted to do something similar. I had already unplugged from my personal IG, but I knew I wanted to do more+become more intentional with how I handle technology in my everyday life. So, here are some things that I learned+some practices that I established. Maybe they can help you, too.
Take a Sabbath. That includes technology.
I chose one day a week to not login to any of my social networks or watch any media. I didn’t start this until March (just another reminder that it is never too late to start a New Year’s resolution). This is basically me saying don’t wait until 2021 to develop some new habits.
When you take time to unplug, you get time to plug back into old habits.
Morning times used to be my favorite time of the day. But, somewhere between college and now, I lost the routine of slow mornings. I was joking recently with a friend, who had spent the night at my apartment, that I am a torpedo in the morning and she is the low tide. We balance one another out. But, truth be told, I wished I could be more like the low tide, slowly waking up, easing into the day, instead of thinking of the million things that needed to be accomplished before 9AM that day.
So, I forced myself to settle into a morning routine and pick up an old habit from college: slowly enjoy breakfast, sip a steaming cup of hot lemon water, take time to journal, and spend intentional time in devotion and prayer. Have I become perfect at this? No. Sometimes, that time is only ten minutes. Other times, it’s thirty minutes. And, other times, it’s even longer. The most important aspect of all of this is that I wake up before my phone. My phone charges in a different room from where I sleep, so that I don’t check it until I leave for work. (Which, right now, that means I check my phone once I leave for my morning commute from the living room to my WFH setup in the kitchen. My new commute is only 4 seconds, not even enough time for the opening song to a podcast episode to play fully through. Who knew I would miss morning traffic in L.A? Okay, let’s not get too ahead of ourselves. I don’t miss it…yet.) And, as silly as this sounds, I give my phone a bedtime. If my friends try to reach me past a certain hour, they know that they will not get ahold of me. Sometimes, I even send out a text that reads something like this, “It’s my phone’s bedtime. Talk to you all tomorrow!” I highly recommend it.
Make time for what makes you happy and healthy.
The last couple years, my health took a really hard hit due to chronic stress. I’ve shared about this before, but it wasn’t until I learned to slow down, that I was really able to listen to my body+hear what it needed. Since last year was devoted to getting my adrenals up and working again, I hadn’t been running as much as I had been in college. I know that for most of you reading this, running is not associated with positive words, but for me, it’s one of my happy places. I’ve been running since I was eight years old and grew up in a triathlete’s home. While working with my doctor and finding the right supplements to take, I started to get my energy back, and knew that I could start running again, more than just a few times a month. So, with winter fading behind us, I took my running shoes with me to work and started going on sunrise runs. 3-4 days a week. Not only have I gotten my energy back, but I feel healthier and more confident in my own skin.
I started reading more, too. Since I was on social media less, I got to start off the year reading some books that had been on my bookshelf for far too long. So far, I’ve read 23 books. Some of you might be thinking, woah, isn’t that the opposite of slowing down? It might sound like it, but for me, it’s not. Reading+journaling are two things that allow my busy mind and body to sit and rest and just be. Learning to be still with God+taking time to do things that I love by myself has been transformative, to say the least. I would also like to say here that slowing down looks different for everyone. In Emily Freeman’s book, The Next Right Thing, she states, “Did this activity draw me closer to God or push me further from him? Remember, there are no wrong answers. What is life-giving for me may be life-draining for you.” This is why it is so important to ask yourself, what activities are life giving to me? Learning to unplug and slow down allowed me to tap into things that enriched and will continue to enrich my life for the better.
So, what’s next? I’m back on my personal account. But, I have a new perspective on my relationship with technology as a whole, and have developed some new habits that I hope will stick as I reclaim rest in 2020. More than anything, I hope that I will continue to make room to slow down. And, I hope that as a society, we continually learn to do just so.
*Note: I originally wrote this blogpost in March, right before everything went downhill with COVID-19. One minute, I was writing about slowing down and the next moment, I, along with the rest of the world, was being forced to slow down in every aspect of our lives. I had just finished reading Emily Freeman’s book, “The Next Right Thing” when the whirlwind of March hit us. It was so timely. Because with each day that came, I learned to focus on one thing, one day at a time. It’s had a lot of challenges and disappointments as I know it has for everyone. But, I am so thankful for the discipline of just focusing on the next right thing instead of focusing on weeks from now. I am sure many of you are experiencing emotions of frustration, disappointment and fear, but instead of choosing to focus on these emotions and the days ahead, I pray that God continually gives you peace that surpasses understanding. I hope that we surrender to Him every emotion and every expectation that we have for our lives into the hands of God. Even though this season may not be what we thought it would be, today is still so much of a gift. We can focus on His daily provision and reclaim rest in a season of restlessness. I don’t know what challenges this season has brought you in your own life, but I hope you are able to choose courage in the midst of the unknown, that you are able to take each day as it comes, and be still and know that God’s love and goodness sustains us through all things. One of my friends was sharing with me that her mom said, “We have been given a gift of time.” And, I found this to be so profound. I know it may be hard to see the light in this season, but my hope is that you will find one thing, the next right thing, to focus on. In this season where we are able to so easily connect with one another (which huge shout out to Zoom! It’s been so wonderful to connect with my family&friends and re-connect with old friends that I haven’t talked to in awhile), I also hope that we take time to unplug and be intentional with how we spend this extra time that we’ve been given.
And, since I can’t get away from a good C.S Lewis quote, I will leave you with this:
“There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind.”