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.

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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.

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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.

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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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40 kids who got ridiculous detentions and don’t regret it. (This pretty much sums up my year teaching mostly freshmen…)

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Girl wears wrong shoes to graduation, falls hard. (This struck me as particularly funny since I just sat through a looong graduation with lots of crazy high heels.)

Wonder Woman to Justice League: “If I don’t get pants, nobody gets pants.” by Cynthia Sousa.

by Cynthia Sousa
by Cynthia Sousa

An American girl’s guide to kissing by Sarah Quezada.

Kissing. It’s a relatively simple aspect of Latino cultures. When you say hello or good-bye, it’s customary to include a quick peck on the cheek.  Naturally, this practice sends me into a spiral of what ifs, internal dialogues, and a general state of panic.

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To the One who is Left Behind by Marilyn Gardner. 

I know with each parting, that life will never be quite the same and I’m never quite sure I will be able to handle it. I’m never convinced that this time might be the time where I become undone, where I can no longer pick up the pieces of those left behind — move forward when those I love are gone. But each time I do. Each time I survive, and I smile and laugh again, and though it hurts, somehow it’s okay. 

In my imaginary world, family lives right next door by Marilyn Gardner.

So in my imaginary world, family is right next door. This is one of the things that we who live a mobile life give up. We give up family. To be sure, family arises in different ways, community is born out of need and desperation and it’s good community. It’s necessary. But we give up extended family and that is not easy. We give up grandparents who speak regularly into our children’s lives and teach them what it is to grow old. We give up aunts and uncles who, crazy as they may be, each come with their particular gifts and idiosyncrasies; with a collective wisdom born of good and bad choices. We give up the spiritual dimensions of lives lived well in the realm of faith, we give up family dinners, we give up family fights and the subsequent forgiveness and making up. When we live a mobile life it is really easy to decide we won’t work through the hard, instead choosing to ignore people and not reconcile our differences and our hurts.

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Meth lab found inside Walmart restroom in Indiana by Tribune Media Wire.

This is the Walmart where I used to shop. I was not especially surprised.

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How American parenting is killing the American marriage by Danielle Teller.

In the 21st century, most Americans marry for love. We choose partners who we hope will be our soulmates for life. When children come along, we believe that we can press pause on the soulmate narrative, because parenthood has become our new priority and religion. We raise our children as best we can, and we know that we have succeeded if they leave us, going out into the world to find partners and have children of their own. Once our gods have left us, we try to pick up the pieces of our long neglected marriages and find new purpose.

To the well-intentioned but ignorant parents of teenagers by Kayla Nicole.

You may be thinking “I’m smarter than that. I have a facebook and I watch my kids online.” You might have a Facebook. So do I. And so does my mom and my grandma and all of her friends. But you know who doesn’t have a Facebook? Your kid’s friends. I took an informal poll of my 150 students at the beginning of the year, and 60-80% of my students don’t even have a facebook. They connect with each other onKik, an app that allows users to text each other without exchanging phone numbers. They use Snapchat, an app that allows users to send pictures that supposedly disappear forever after ten seconds. They use Whisper, an app that a user can “anonymously” tell their deepest secrets to a vast community of other secret sharers. They use Yik Yak, Vine, Tumblr, Twitter (do you know about subtweeting? you should.), Instagram, Oovoo, WhatsApp, Meerkat, and sometimes even dating apps, like Tinder.

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I am a pastor. Here’s why I don’t want you to pray for me. by Theresa Latini. 

Please do not pray for me unless you are willing to walk with me.

Know me. Hear the depths of my fear or anguish or whatever it might be and let it affect you.

Then let us bring our (not just my) most profound needs vulnerably before God. Please do not try to escape that vulnerability. Because if you do, you have left me, and that is not prayer. It is not communion with God through Christ by the spirit.

What it means to “hold space” for people, plus eight tips on how to do it well by Heather Plett. 

What does it mean to hold space for someone else? It means that we are willing to walk alongside another person in whatever journey they’re on without judging them, making them feel inadequate, trying to fix them, or trying to impact the outcome. When we hold space for other people, we open our hearts, offer unconditional support, and let go of judgement and control.

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The Right Words to Say: On being read as White by Dahlia Grossman-Heinze.

When you meet me for the first time, you read me as if I were a book. Every idea you have about me and every word I say is part of that book.

When you look at me, you will think I am white. I already know this. When you shake my hand and meet me for the first time, you always already read me as white. You will hear me speak English without an accent and think I am white. You will hear or read my last name and think I am white. You read me wrong.

10 images of the Baltimore riots you won’t see on TV by Natasha Norman. 

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Expanding the ways we experience God by Shauna Niequist.

So many people I talk to are trying to find language for what’s happening inside them, and often the closest they can get is that their faith has stopped working. For many of them, I think possibly what they mean is that the tools they’ve been using to experience a life of faith have stopped working.

Confessions of a high church millenial: Is liturgy a fad? by Erik Parker. 

Christian millennials seem to live in this multi-layered world of reading the bible on their iPhone and tweeting in church, while singing ancient plainsong and praying prayers spoken by saints of centuries past.

Until your pride melts by Kim Hall.

What can we do with all our soul trouble? Where can we take it?

The season of Lent says to God’s people: “Bring it.” Bring your dry bones, your numb hearts, and your wrecked and weary souls. Bring your shame and the sin that you can’t shake. Yes, it is too much for you, but it is not too much for God. Only He can create a clean heart and a renewed spirit within you.

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Note to Self: Finding balance in the digital age by Manoush Zomorodi.

Formerly known as “New Tech City”, I’ve been listening to this podcast a lot and HIGHLY recommend it – one of the best, most thoughtful shows around. Check it out!!!

Look Up. (Spoken word on the importance of using technology thoughtfully)

I forgot my phone.

 

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Lenses of a faithful follower.

I do not often feel full of faith. As a matter of fact, I am far more frequently filled with questions of hows and whys and whens and what ifs. I have known those who walk away from faith in the face of such seeming unbelief. I, too, have had my moments wondering if my lack of belief equated an insurmountable lack of faith. When I reflect on what I have found faith to be, however, I am astounded by how much more there is to being a faithful follower of Christ than merely belief.

The puzzle of many homes.

Surely God intended some of us to stay and some of us to go, some to plant and some to tend, some seeds to grow deep roots and others to float on the wind. It is a purpose that we struggle to accept when we leave behind loved ones and familiar lands.

101 culturally diverse Christian voices.

Check out this list of voices from many backgrounds!

And just for fun…. Meet Dumbledore, my pet tortoise. He really likes dandelions and exploring the back yard. However, he does not-at-all like it when the dog gets ahold of him and tries to bury him.

Dumbledore the Tortoise loves Dandelions