Families, Children & Marriage, Technology

Beyond selfies: Using Instagram to tell whole-hearted stories

Screen Shot 2015-06-21 at 11.06.29 PMWe flew down the freeways to the beach for a quick dip and some kite-flying. I almost didn’t go – it’s such a hassle to load everything in the van and deal with the aftermath of the sand covered bodies. But when 4 o’clock arrived and we were starting to bicker and still wearing our pajamas, it seemed like a better idea to escape the sweltering-house-with-the-broken-AC and make the trek to the shore. We picked up Chipotle on the way and schlepped our beach gear to the waterfront. We flew kites, chased the waves, and cuddled close as we watched the sun set.

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 7.19.52 AM

It was one of my good-mothering moments, the kind I feel confident documenting with photos and sentimental goobly-gob. I’d pushed through my resistance and come out on the other side in parenting bliss. I’d remembered to pause and savor the sweetness of the moments one-at-a-time.

The day before that, however, was not quite so picture worthy. I’d grumped at the kids for their deficiencies, snapped at the little things, and tried to hide from them/eat chocolate in the bathroom at least three different times throughout the day. You can bet there were no Instagram postings that day!

As a culture that places high value on storytelling, I often wonder how the stories we tell reflect our overarching values. Certainly perfection, glamour, and adventure dominate the vast majority of the motives behind how many present their lives. But what gets lost when we hide mundane moments like when we’re stuck in bed with a cold, mildly depressed, and too worn-out to wash the piling dishes? Where’s the place to remember the late-night conversations about insecurities or worries or dreams? Who do we become when we photoshop blemishes out of our lives?

As a mama who loves writing, photography, and technology, I’ve grown increasingly reflective on how I use these venues for my own growth and reflection. Rather than allowing technology to control me, I’m aiming toward practicing a mindful approach to technology that is both whole-hearted and wise. As I work out how my interaction with technology shapes my soul, one of the most enjoyable practices I’ve developed is using Instagram as means to remind myself of these desires. I love finding ways to weave my faith into all parts of my life, and integrating it with my technology use is just one more way to do this. To clarify, I don’t mean I quote a Bible verse or throw #praiseJesus onto my posts, but I do try to recognize where the meaningful exists as I document days. Here are a few ways I do this:

  1. Document gratefulness. I learned this practice first from Ann Voskamp’s book Ten Thousand Gifts in which she keeps a running list of things she’s grateful for. I tried making a list and lost it before I got to #25. At this point, I thought to myself, “I love photography. I have a phone that I don’t lose. Why don’t I just take pictures?” And voila! Instagram became my unspoken “gratefulness list”. I don’t always explicitly state gratefulness for the object of a photo, but documenting small moments of gratitude in my heart sets a tone for the larger moments.
The day that was brightened immensely by the kitten showing up in my classroom
The day that was brightened immensely by the kitten showing up in my classroom
(I admit that many of these such 'gratitude posts' revolve around food!)
(I admit that many of these such ‘gratitude posts’ revolve around food!)
And occasionally comfy shoes :)
And occasionally comfy shoes 🙂

2. Remember the emotion. My days are jam-packed with all sorts of emotions. While it’s prudent to not overshare, sometimes it’s nice to acknowledge that emotions do exist. Finding symbols that evoke my emotion allows me to share the pieces of myself that are trickier to photograph physically.

coffee cup
“This coffee cup holds such sentimentality for me. I was a young mother, slow to the game of parenting, not at all sure of what I had gotten myself into. We were at an aquarium, marveling at one of these amazing leafy Sea dragons, my little one in my arms when my heart first woke to the beauty of motherhood. Her wonder at the sea overwhelmed me, melting a heart held stoic for far too long. It was in that moment that I awoke to the remarkable journey this mama thing would be – the wonder, the sacrifice, the discovery, the confusion, the hope, the fear, the frustration, the beauty – all priceless gifts of guiding precious little lives toward wholeness.”
Playing chess with my son, and he rearranged the pieces like this. "it's more like our family," he says. #interraciallove #proudmama
Playing chess with my son, and he rearranged the pieces like this. “it’s more like our family,” he says. #interraciallove #proudmama

3. Behold the wonder in the mundane. There’s nothing like pausing to consider the wonder in the ordinary days. When I catch glimpses of such moments, I like to capture them to remind myself to remember the value of the small things.

The day hubby picked me flowers from our backyard because he thought they were "happy"
The day hubby picked me flowers from our backyard because he thought they were “happy”
This place. #speaksmylanguage #whimsy #wonder
This place. #speaksmylanguage #whimsy #wonder
"Raspberries don't last too long in our house!!! #almostgone"
“Raspberries don’t last too long in our house!!! #almostgone”
Cheeseballs requested for the par-tay. I haven't tasted these things for almost 3 decades!! Reminds me of my Grandpa Charlie 😊
Cheeseballs requested for the par-tay. I haven’t tasted these things for almost 3 decades!! Reminds me of my Grandpa Charlie 😊
Smells of home...
Smells of my Grandma’s lilac bush from home…

4. Enjoy a little chuckle. There’s nothing like laughing to remind us of life’s joys…capturing the giggles that cross my path help me appreciate them even more!

Relic from my hometown museum #smalltownlife
Relic from my hometown museum #smalltownlife
chicken butt
LA food adventures
Sign from a book sale
Sign from a local book sale
Me, as a My Little Pony, drawn by a student who *should have been* paying attention but clearly wasn't!
Me, as a My Little Pony, drawn by a student who *should have been* paying attention but clearly wasn’t!

5. Savor quiet space. I love to remember the peaceful spaces I find. Wherever it is, when I stop to savor it’s beauty, I remember its peace in my heart years later.

tree
A luscious tree in Pittsburgh where I paused to pray and appreciate the green.
Sabbath
Relishing Sabbath at the beach on a quiet Sunday afternoon.
Breathing in a rooftop view in the city at sunset
Breathing in a rooftop view in the city at sunset
Hiking through some woods on the top of a mountain. "It's just like Narnia!" my kids shouted.
Hiking through some woods on the top of a mountain. “It’s just like Narnia!” my kids shouted.

6. Celebrate goodness. The news is full of so many tragedies that I find myself preserving stories and words that inspire. It helps me focus on what is also good in the world.

When your nine-year-old son draws a picture of you and writes this: "My mom's name is Jody Fernando. She is an amazing parent. She likes going on long walks in our neighborhood, she likes to drink coffee, and play board games. But her favorite thing to do is travel to places all over the world! However, she does not like to take care of screaming babies and being very cold! She makes me laugh when she makes up jokes. She is a good mom because she helps me in hard times. Most of all, I love her because she is fun to be around. I am lucky to have such a special mom. She is the BEST."
When your nine-year-old son draws a picture of you and writes this: “My mom’s name is Jody. She is an amazing parent. She likes going on long walks in our neighborhood, she likes to drink coffee, and play board games. But her favorite thing to do is travel to places all over the world! However, she does not like to take care of screaming babies and being very cold! She makes me laugh when she makes up jokes. She is a good mom because she helps me in hard times. Most of all, I love her because she is fun to be around. I am lucky to have such a special mom. She is the BEST.”
#priorities
#priorities
Teared up at this ad from the @pdsoros foundation about new Americans who are recent grads and poised to make significant contributions to society. I couldn't help but think of the many immigrant parents I know who have sacrificed their careers, lives, and comfort for the successes and growth of their children #immigrantstrong
Teared up at this ad from the @pdsoros foundation about new Americans who are recent grads and poised to make significant contributions to society. I couldn’t help but think of the many immigrant parents I know who have sacrificed their careers, lives, and comfort for the successes and growth of their children #immigrantstrong

women

Reminders from museums that things DO change, even they are slow going!
Relics from museums that show that times DO change, even they are slow going at times!

To be clear, I don’t ever actually state that this is what I’m doing on my actual Instagram account. I just do it. However, when I have moments to pause and reflect, I find myself scrolling back through my posts, grinning and grateful for the richness of the stories they tell.

swirl

Have you found effective ways to integrate your faith with your technology use? I’d love to hear more in the comments below!

  • For an outstanding podcast on cultivating a more thoughtful use of technology, check out the Note to Self podcast.
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