The Habit of Social Media vs. the Practice of Journaling

Here is the truth of things: I do not have it all together.

Somehow, over the years, the internet has changed and morphed into this place that makes us think we have to live perfect-looking lives. Everything has to be Instagrammable, from your food to your living room to your kids to your "I woke up like this" groggy bedhead peering over your morning coffee. Everything has to be posed and set up for the perfect shot. Even your words.

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But of course, nobody's life is perfect, really. And when you get to an average white, middle-class mom of two who deals with health issues, of course it's not perfect. That's why I don't post photos of my living room. Or dining room. Or really anywhere inside the house. Or my backyard. Oy.

But we feel this pressure that anything you post or share has to be RIGHT because once it hits the interwebs, you can never NEVER take it back. It will always exist somewhere in the ether, so it might as well be perfect.

And so it is that I have found myself unable to journal. In any form. When I was younger, I kept journals all the time. One of my favorite entries was written in a cab from Johnson City, TN to Asheville, NC after my parents' car broke down while we were visiting a college. I wrote page after page describing our crazy cab driver in intense detail, from the way his hair stuck out on one side too his intriguing speech patterns and driving abilities.

I brought my journals to college, where I would sit beside a peaceful little (man-made) stream, talking to God and waxing poetic, marking the page with a small flower or leaf plucked from a nearby patch of earth.

Eventually, I took my journaling to the internet, when my cousin introduced me to LiveJournal. Oh I loved LiveJournal. I loved how I could pour out my soul and share it publicly or keep it private if I wanted to. I met some friends in the LiveJournal community that I'm still friends with to this day.

And then there was a shift.

It was called Facebook.

In 2006, my sister wanted to show me a photo of some hot guy on her campus, and she sent me a link so I could see how worthy of her everlasting love he was.

"I can't see the picture. The link says I have to log in."

"Oh," she said. "Yeah, I guess you have to create an account. It's okay though, it's free."

This was back in the days when Facebook was only for college students, so I had to enter in my school info (thankfully, you know, I quit college the first time 'round and so I delayed my graduation by a few years and was back in school at the time). And voila! I had a Facebook account.

And oh, the journey since then.

You see, Facebook quickly became THE place to be. Back in those days, I was a MySpacer, which was my first introduction to social media as we would recognize it today. I've always been a little slow to jump on bandwagons, so it took me a few years of having an account with this weird Facebook contraption before I started really using it. (Eventually I deleted my MySpace account.)

But once I started sharing everylittledetailaboutmylife on Facebook, it was sort of a snowball effect.

Facebook statuses became my journaling. I word-vomited to the world about what I was eating, where I was going, and eventually the funny things my kids were saying and doing. I posted photos, memes, links to videos and articles, and more. I interacted. I joined groups. I made life-long, true friendships. (See? Social media isn't ALL bad.)

And you know what? I still do ALL of that. All of it. Even today.

But something is missing. And I think it's the private, slow, handwritten daily practice of journaling.

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There's something magical, alchemical even, about forming words onto a page with the touch of your fingers. I say alchemical, because it's transformative. The base metal of your soul changes into something more pure when you unload your thoughts, ideas, worries, and joys onto a page that is always silently waiting to hear you. And it's different than just typing 90 words per minute at a computer screen. (Which, don't get me wrong, I really love doing. I can type without looking. I can hold conversations and type out pieces of a book I'm working on.) But that's almost mindless. And I think that the point of writing in a journal, slowly, by hand, so that your muscles feel each word they shape, is that it is mindful.

When you have to think about how much space you have on a page, how big your writing is, how much writing you want to do, you are more mindful of what you say. Even writing something as simple as, "This morning: tea, Earl Grey, hot. Cardinal and blue jay on my deck banister, probably fighting over a worm. Their song is beautiful. Something about the way the sun was shining on the wood floor set my soul at ease," can be so deeply meaningful. Capturing the little moments, engraved in your own handwriting... Like I said before, it's alchemical.

So this year, I'm trying to get back to journaling. I want to make a practice of it. Not a habit. I believe there is a stark difference between a habit and a practice. Again, I think it comes down to intention. The point of forming a habit is so that it becomes second-nature, and you can do it without thinking. Like taking out the garbage on your way to work every morning. But a practice...now, that is something else entirely, something that requires forethought and effort and intention.

So I'm going to focus more on practices than habits this year, starting with journaling.

Have you ever kept a journal? How do you journal—traditional handwritten journaling, or art journaling? Or something else? Share your tips on keeping up a journaling practice in the comments!

The Journey Begins...Again

A long time ago—almost ten years now, actually—I wrote on my old LiveJournal blog, "God has called me into ministry." I didn't know exactly what that meant back then, and from my perspective now, ten years later, I can see how I was already trying to reframe what God wanted me to do.

I believe that call was inspired by the struggles I was going through as a new child-loss mother. Less than a month prior to that statement, our first child, Genesis Aria Lutes, was born 3.5 months too early to be able to survive, even with the help of neonatologists. To say it was a hard loss would be an understatement. It was the moment that completely changed the trajectory of my life.

The years following that realization and statement took me down a winding road that included more loss in the form of miscarriages, losing friends, and yes, even losing faith to an extent. It also included research, and hope, and dreaming, and ideas, and about twenty different graduate degree programs I was convinced I would someday be part of. There was volunteer work, and creating a community learning center that never really took off, and having two children who did survive, and quitting my day job so I could be a mommy—and also so that I could heal from all the physical trauma that came with high-risk pregnancies and subsequent botched surgeries. There were a lot of struggles, and a lot of tears. There were friends made and lost, and some who became closer than family, and remain so to this day. There were church issues, betrayal, pain, and angst at God.

And through all of this, God still walked right alongside me. Probably at times doing that nice Jesus facepalm I'm sure you've seen around the internet. I know at least one of my friends has probably done this on the other end of our online conversations (or mentally when face-to-face) whenever I shared something "new" that was really a revelation of 10 years ago. So I wouldn't be surprised if Jesus has done this with me too.

 This image originally found here: http://www.city-data.com/forum/atheism-agnosticism/1878932-what-do-atheist-think-jesus-christ-6.html

This image originally found here: http://www.city-data.com/forum/atheism-agnosticism/1878932-what-do-atheist-think-jesus-christ-6.html

For all of these years that I was trying to find my place, and work out my faith, I felt deep in my spirit that God wanted to have a Conversation with me. I capitalized that, because I knew that it would be The Mother of All Conversations, if you know what I mean. And if you don't, I mean, it would be The Call. The Call Into Ministry. The Call Into Ministry Where God Directs Your Every Move And You Go Where God Tells You To Go And Say What God Wants You To Say Conversation.

And I just would not have it.

"Oh, I know what you want to say, God, but I think what you really mean is that I can just be a lay minister and help out in the local church."

"Oh, I know what you want to say, God, but surely you mean that I can still pursue my previous academic interests and my ministry would be to my college students once I have my PhD."

"Oh, I know what you want to say, God, but I think you'll see that I'm very not equipped to do just that so I'll do this little thing over here and we'll just call it even."

And then there were times when I was just like:

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But gradually, I felt my spirit softening, loosening its grip on what it thought God should tell me. I became more flexible, pliable, and eventually I metaphorically lowered my hands from their defensive stance.

And on December 24th, 2017, during a sermon I found quite dry and frankly messy, at a church that was not our own, while my brain went off on a tangent haughtily imagining how I would explain things differently, God broke into my thoughts and spoke.

 

"You will be ordained. You are going into the ministry. I will heal your rheumatoid arthritis and Hashimoto's, and I will give you the strength and stamina you will need to do all I am calling you to do."

 

I sat up straighter and looked around. Was it just in my head? Was it really, really God that just spoke that to me?

I immediately thought like Gideon and after the service told my husband and my friend, "I need a sign. I need to know this was God that spoke." But I didn't tell them what God said.

Didn't matter. They already knew. Because apparently everyone has known, for the past ten years, that God was calling me into the ministry. Everyone except me, maybe. Apparently. Probably.

 
Everybody always seems to know my secrets before I know them myself.
— Katniss, Catching Fire
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So. Here we are, in the middle of January, and snow is falling, and for the past couple weeks I have been consumed with stepping into this new thing, this new identity. And maybe it's not a new identity, maybe it's just a full recognition of who I've always been from the start: a child of God with a voice and a lot of love to give.

So here's to the beginning of the journey. Again. Ten years later. I've finally spiraled back 'round to my starting point, with maybe a little more maturity on this side of things. Hopefully I'll recognize the path fully this time around and keep my feet moving in the right direction.