Who says? How questioning is actually a good thing.

The other day, my friend Amanda’s Facebook blew up with a photo of her in her new ugg boots, and her implying that she’s tempted to wear them to the school run.
It blew up.

I used to be the kind of person who was okay with going along with the norm.
Oh, that’s how it’s done? Okay. Without a second thought.
We don’t wear that in public? Okay.
Whether it was school, or society or church. Is that how we do it? Okay. Then I’d follow, blindly.

I’m a little less blind these days, and a little less of a follower.

Who says? I think to myself now. Who made the rules?
Why do we do things that no longer serve us, simply because that’s the way they’ve always been done?

Grace Hopper, an American scientist said this;
“The most dangerous phrase in language is, ‘we’ve always done it this way.’”
I think the danger of it is that we stop thinking for ourselves and without realising it, we’ve adopted certain thoughts and ideas—before we know where they’ve come from, or whether they’re even good for us.
We stay immature in our thinking, and our doing.
I think the passage in Romans 12 speaks to this.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

When we’ve begun to question the status quo, but the people around us are content, and wonder what’s wrong with us, and why we’re suddenly so adverse to the bandwagon we find ourselves passengers on… going against culture is uncomfortable and isolating.

Thinking your own thoughts is mostly not a group activity, unless you love offending people.

I remember the first time I used the word feminist in conversation with someone, and I could physically see the shudder of revulsion in the friend I was talking to. I couldn’t understand why—I’d just discovered how radical Jesus loved, and cared for and honoured women, in a time period they were constantly oppressed, rejected and forgotten. I realised that when the Bible talked about men and women both being created in the image of God, and both bringing gifts of equal importance and value to the table, that Jesus was and is and always will be for love and acceptance and equality between men and women. And that it was okay to fight for equal pay, and equal rights for women, and that I wasn’t crazy for thinking so.
She had not only a visible reaction, there followed a verbal one too.
One that downplayed the word feminist, that tempered the reality of today’s oppression for women, that very gently and firmly shut me down.
I was not only confused, but I was indignant and I was a little bit angry.
I understand the baggage that goes along with the word feminist. I get it.
But who says I can’t be a Christian and a feminist? Who says?
Who says that the patriarchy is okay—in society, in The Church, in business?

Since then, I’ve learned to lean in to my questions, and trust that my questioning is a good thing.

Questioning leads us to seek out and search for the answers to our big wonders.
And the answers we discover by ourselves—by diligently holding a sense of curiosity and wonder—are the only ones that seem to stick.
Those answers are the ones that line up with our convictions, that seem to shout a yes to our souls that no platform, podcast or person can give us.
They’re the ones that deepen our faith, confirm our convictions and bring a content knowing that we can answer why it is we do what we do, or think the way we think.
Questioning takes work. And a bravery to dig deeper and not be afraid of finding answers that make us uncomfortable, because they might just change the lens that we look at the world through.

Maybe we’re wrong, maybe we’re not, but we’re each on a journey of discovery and questioning is crucial.

So, who says you can’t wear uggs in public? Who freakin’ says?
I’ll be over here walking my daughter to school in them, shamelessly.

xx

PS my cute little EMU UGGS are the absolute best. I’ve had them for two years and they still look and feel brand new… even after all my school runs 😉 And this is in no way sponsored, but Emu are an 100% Australian made and owned small business, unlike another very well known UGG brand. If you’re in the market for ugg boots, you can’t go past them.

A life without Instagram – what I’m learning

I’m sure you can learn these things, while having a healthy relationship with your phone, and with Instagram.
I know you can, because Instagram never stopped me from embracing slow. You can put your phone down, you can create boundaries, and you can simplify.
However, my deleting it has done what I’d always hoped it would—quietened the world, and generated a bit more colour. It’s given me freedom.
The freedom not to share my life with the world.
And I feel like I walk around with a sweet little secret.
The world didn’t get to see my wandering through the farmers market, my 5:30am writing or my baby girl curled up and recovering from a tummy bug.
Instead of pulling out my phone or running for my camera, I capture it all with my eyes and heart.
I’m immersed in that beauty—the way the light streams in for a fleeting thirty minutes through that window in the morning before it’s gone, the dark lashes against pale cheeks, and the tidy nook with my new-old armchair and journal. I’m describing those things in my mind and as I do I’m breathing heartfelt thanks and gratitude.

There was a day this week where I was up early. I pull up the blinds so I can see the sky transform from black to grey-dawn. This day it was dusted with pink and glowing gold, and as I sat wrapped in a chunky knit throw I realised that there was no need to drag myself from my cosy corner to snap a photo for my Instagram, that I could relax right there and breathe it in. Those moments become sacred, still, and present.
Where sitting in the present becomes the present, the gift.
Where my secret smile and heartfelt thanks is enough, and there’s no need to defile that sacredness by announcing it to the world.

I’m learning that text messages from friends feel so much more personal and sweet than comments on my Instagram photo.
I’m learning that not knowing what’s happening in the world for a few days is a relief (except when you realise a royal baby has been born! Hello Archie!).
I’m learning that there is something holy about just doing the hard things, without telling the world you’re doing hard things.
I’m learning that I have more time to walk outside, check my succulents and warm my toes in the sunshine, and that this fills my soul and provides more inspiration than gleaning inspiration from Instagram influencers.

I’m learning that it doesn’t matter.
That so much more matters than an online presence and a hustle-till-you-drop.
And I’m learning that growth often occurs in obscurity, and anonymity—and growth > being seen.

And I’m sure all of this could be learned and known and acknowledged without the drastic act of deleting one’s Instagram, but I’m totally up for new days, and new ways.

Tell me, what are you learning/growing/knowing these days?
What’s inspiring you?

xx

PS – if you’re a local, and you’re needing to embrace slow, why don’t you come and gather with Amanda and I next month? Each Tuesday we’ll be doing a devotional together – real connection, no screens, coffee and chatting together about how we can bring some slow to our days. Places are limited, you can purchase your ticket below:

https://amandaviviers.com/product/embracing-slow-coffee-and-connect-series/

into outer darkness: I deleted my Instagram

I took a deep breath and said it out loud, “I’m thinking about deleting my Instagram account.”
I’ve said that sentence three times, and the reaction is the same: a big deep breath, wide eyes, and then a conversation that follows as my listener tells me all the ways social media is a time-waster, comparison-breeder, insecurity-feeder. And I would agree, that in so many instances that is what Instagram is to me, too.

For me, it’s always been a place of fast connection, instant-engagement-gratification and quick content production—a little scratch of my creative itch, a little connection, a little community. None of which is terrible. For months, though, possibly even for a couple of years, I’ve had nudges to walk away from that grid of squares, from that Still Small Voice—or was it? Is it just me God, thinking I should? I questioned whether this was just a different, more drastic way of gaining attention? Will I announce to the world in piety that Instagram is no longer worthy of I, Em Hazeldean? What are my motives?

Along those same prayerful ramblings I wonder this: what if no one reads what I write anymore?
What if I do write a book, and no one will know and no one will buy copies because I’ve lost the worlds greatest self-promotional tool?
What if I never know what’s happening in the world?
How will I know which clothes are the most stylish?
How will I know which books are being read and endorsed by important people?
I’ll never know the coolest things to buy, the latest trends in home decor or how my hundreds of “friends” (inverted commas because, lets be real, most of them wouldn’t even say hi to me if I passed them in the shops) are spending their weekends/holidays/kids birthdays.

The more I asked myself these questions the more I realised how noisy that world is for me.
How shallow conversations in real life have become, because we’ve all watched each other’s Instagram stories and don’t need to ask how the other’s week has been. How we’ve exchanged knowing each other’s business for actual friendship. How it’s made me a lazy friend who doesn’t initiate phone calls, or dinner dates or invites for coffee. How, instead of making eye contact with the people opposite us, we can’t drag our eyes away from our phones, from the quick hits of happy squares.

I’m not saying Instagram is terrible.

I’m saying that I want to learn again what it’s like to sit in  a space and really see/feel/smell/touch—to engage and delight and appreciate for the pure whimsy and wonder of it all, not to spend that time striving to capture it for an audience of thousands.
I want to string words together in my journal, scribbling with my favourite fountain pen as I curl up in my ugly, fluffy, non-Insta-worthy dressing gown that my girls chose me for Mother’s Day last year. As the words fall out onto the page, I want to be only concerned with an audience of One, not of what words I can pull out and caption my latest post with.
I want to spend time making eye contact, smile at people, and ask genuinely how they are, without having already seen that their kids have been sick, or they’ve renovated their bathroom, or that they’ve been to Bali.
I want people to show the same interest in me, instead of assuming that I am the sum total of my three Instagram posts that week, which are a poor reflection of the richness of my life.
I want to stop being lazy in my creativity and be brave enough to create outside of 100 word captions, and 1080×1080 resolution. I want to pioneer, to enter the wilderness, to hear the Whisper, and to simplify.

I have this memory of my mum sitting at our forest green Formica breakfast bar, holding a phone that was stuck to the wall with its with curly, kinked tendrils of the phone cord wrapped across her shoulder. Planted there, giving her entire focus to her best friend who lived a few houses down, probably after having already had a coffee together that morning. It’s the only way I can think to describe the life I want to get back to.

I want to lean into simple daily rhythms of life where the underlying messages of my days are not keep up, measure up, climb up.

And I’m scared. So scared.
Scared of losing connection and connectedness.
Scared of losing relevance and relationships.
I joked to the ones I’d shared my intention with, that I’ll feel like I’ve been thrust into darkness…

But a couple of mornings ago I planted dwarf lavender seeds into pots filled with warm, black soil and as I buried each tiny seed I knew—in that darkness they will flourish.

xx

PS – are you here because you noticed I was missing from Instagram?
If so, I’m sorry! I didn’t want to create a fuss, I just wanted to slip quietly out the back door and I’m praying that the connections I had there will find me here, in my little corner of the Internet, writing faithfully.

 

on freedom and instagram

I didn’t realise I was bound but I was.
Maybe even there are parts of me that still am—mostly only the parts that are human.
It was Instagram. It’s tentacles wrapped slowly, silently around the deepest recesses of my heart and taunted me.
I was bound by the need to please and the need for perfection and the need to stand out, and all of these needs were like ropes wrapped around and around me so tight that I was often immobilised from any performance anyway.
I wanted likes and I wanted followers and I wanted engagement and what that really meant was that I was looking for value and looking to be noticed—in the wrong place of course.
And when we’re bound tight by those wants and needs, we often find ourselves in places of comparison and competition.
When I started looking at numbers I was caught up in an inner tornado that swirled around pushing, proving, hustling, comparing, competing.
I’d look at other writers and lament my lack of ability to string words together the way they did.
I’d watch ‘influencers’ and their beautiful portraits, taken by amazing photographers, wearing outfits that looked effortlessly chic.
I’d browse the galleries of wedding and family photographers with hundreds of thousands of followers, trying to pinpoint the thing that I could glean to grow my client base that big, earn that much.
I felt the pressure to reveal my vulnerabilities, overshare my struggles (because that gains likes like nobody’s business).

But pangs of envy didn’t sit well with my soul and I knew I needed something to shift.

”… we no longer find a sense of self through the art of living. Instead, we find a sense of self through performance. We no longer live; we act. We have all become actors in the movies of our lives.”*

I didn’t want to be an actor anymore.

So I began to place boundaries.
Because freedom often comes from setting parameters.
Freedom comes when we can limit, refrain, and control.
Freedom is not always a wide open ‘yes’, but a gentle, soul-caring ‘no’.

I’ve become invested in the idea that what is invisible is the most important work.
That what isn’t seen—the disciplines I impose, the goals I strive towards; the early morning runs along the coast without my phone, the hours spent reading a novel without a curated photo of it, the time spent laying in bed with my kids and tucking them in long and tight with prayers and chats—this is the important stuff.

Character over performance.
Obscurity over fame.
Books over social media.
Purpose over platform.

It’s not always easy, in a culture that elevates performance, ‘influence’ and notoriety.
We are all desperate to be seen and known, but lately I’ve been reading the gospel of Matthew and we can be comforted that as Jesus calls us disciples He sees, and He knows us.
As he was walking by the shore of Lake Galilee, Jesus noticed two fishermen who were brothers. One was named Simon (later called Peter), and the other was Andrew, his brother. Watching as they were casting their nets into the water, Jesus called out to them and said, “Come and follow me…

He notices you my friend, and regardless of your performance, he still calls to you, “come and follow, come and walk with me”

xx

* Mark Sayers book The Vertical Self is cultural commentary + self discovery GOLD.

heart and soul in the here and now

There was a job advertised that I wanted. 
It was perfect. 
And everything in me knew that if I applied for it, I would have a really great chance of it being mine. 
In the space of 30 seconds I’d dreamed of what it would feel like to call myself a ‘content editor’ or an editor at all really, and these thoughts contained all the elation and all the excitement and then all of it was sucked out again as reality fell hard and fast. 
The reality is that I’m still a semester and a half from getting my degree. 
I don’t have a spare 20-30 hours a week or a free finger to spin another plate. 

I study full time.
I walk my girls to school every morning, and I drive every afternoon to pick up my high-schooler. Those three little people take up time, and space and emotional energy as I love them into growing up. I have a coffee every afternoon when the hardest worker of us all arrives home, exhausted, and we tea together in the evening, on our bed with books and Bibles or Netflix or nothing but each other. 
All five of us sit around our kitchen island bench every evening without fail and we eat together a meal that I’ve either poured love and creativity into, or hurriedly thrown into the oven and apologetically plated after. 
I nest our house into a home. My people wear clean clothes, and take full lunchboxes to school daily. 
I’m also sold-out-invested-head-over-heels involved in my local church. I volunteer time and energy and effort and brain capacity into working and serving and creating alongside people I call family. 
See? I don’t have a spare 20-30 hours a week to land a job I would love to spend the rest of my life doing and when I realised that, for that moment, the reality crushed me and I resented my season.

But then, in a burst of glory I remembered past seasons I had wanted to hurry through. 
Ones that I think of now with strange nostalgia, and a deep need to slow the clock and number may days. Number them; not to worry about when they’ll end, but to slowly and intentionally appreciate each one. 

Because right now, summer is fading. The mornings are crisp and cool, and the sun seems dimmer in the day, and I know even the crunchy autumn leaves that adorn the trees in gold will fall and leave the branches bare soon. Seasons come and go and in every single one there is so much beauty to behold. The natural seasons remind me that the ones in my life are not endless. 

So I guess what I am reminding myself of is that whatever I’m doing, I’ll put my heart and soul into, in that moment. Until the season shifts.

xx

threads of jesus

I had the sudden urge last week to clean out a cluttered shelf right at the back of my robe. 
It contained a whole array of things I was keeping ‘just in case’ which were ruthlessly thrown from my perch on a stool down into a big cardboard box headed for the thrift store. 
At the back of this robe though, I discovered a box of old journals dating back to 2004. 
Pulling this hefty weight down from the shelf and onto my bed I intended to flick through quickly, stack them again neatly and return them to their place. 
Instead, I found myself transported back fourteen years, where old seasons of my life replayed before my eyes and became real again. 
My accounts of friendships, of my every day, of work and life as a single young woman who’d just moved in to her very own apartment.
I was cringing awkwardly reading the words of my 19 year old self, as well as feeling again all the emotions that went with the territory of discovering God, and myself, and caring deeply what other people thought, and crushing hard on a boy who was just as clueless as I was, and who played with my heart a little too frivolously. 

I sat for what felt like hours, and still days later it was playing on my mind.  
I was remembering what it felt like to fight with that boy, to feel lost and unsure, and reliving afresh falling pregnant at 20, unmarried, and feeling like my whole world capsized. 

The journals are full of prayers, written to a God I barely knew and my scribbled imaginings of the future that I’m living now
And in this now, on the other side of all those things that didn’t make sense at the time, I see them so differently. 
I see the boy who became my husband and laugh at how little we knew each other then, and how deep a love can go. 
I see the threads of Jesus woven through years of a young girl’s life, all of it leading me to this place here and now. 
I see that the prayers I prayed then, however awkward and cringeworthy were not in vain – that He saw, He heard, He was there, even when I didn’t feel Him.

And it reminds me that in my now when I am unsure of what’s to come, when I try to control flimsy moments in my days, or feel like my prayers are silent in heaven – that He is in control. That one day this will be the past I look back on and I’ll see clearly the threads of Jesus woven through my life as a beautiful tapestry. That He takes my awkwardness, my doubt, my heart after Him, and weaves it together like a beautiful love story. 

You are so intimately aware of me, Lord.
You read my heart like an open book
and you know all the words I’m about to speak
before I even start a sentence!

You know every step I will take before my journey even begins.
You’ve gone into my future to prepare the way,

and in kindness you follow behind me
to spare me from the harm of my past
Psalm 139:3-5

Jesus’ disciples were trying to understand what He was telling them, in the lead up to the cross. They didn’t get what God was doing, couldn’t see His grand plan in the midst of confusion… but in this lead up to Easter, in this Lent season, I want to encourage us that He’s gone into our future to prepare a way! We can’t always see it, but we can trust that He is ever holding, ever loving, ever weaving His love story through our lives. 

God, help me to always remember that You are in control. When life doesn’t make sense, YOU still do. When what happens around us is far from good, you are still Good. Thank you for paving the way to our future for us, and waiting for us there with grace, and for weaving through our lives your never-giving-up love. Amen x

arise, shine

There’s a stillness in the morning that I can’t find anywhere else. 
Daniel is up early for work, and I hear his morning routine played out over our wood floors, and the grind of his coffee. I pull my eye mask down over my eyes and roll over, finding a new cool space in our sheets, while I wait for the sound of the front door to signal that he’s leaving. 
I could go back to sleep now; that restless, dreaming sleep that knows the morning bustle is not far away.
But the early stillness beckons, and my thoughts turn to God. 

My socked feet play out their own morning routine as the kettle is boiled, and a tea bag dropped in a mug, all as quietly as I can muster. The kids will have drifted to a lighter sleep now that daylight has almost come, and I need them to stay sleeping for a while longer yet. 

The birds start early, even before I can see any hint of sunlight – how do they know?

My hot tea sits on my lap as I open the pages of my Bible.

Open up before God, keep nothing back;
he’ll do whatever needs to be done:
He’ll validate your life in the clear light of day
and stamp you with approval at high noon.

Quiet down before God, 
be prayerful before him. 
Don’t bother with those who climb the ladder,
who elbow their way to the top.

Psalm 37:5-7

Sometimes, this is my only slow until the evening tea that bookends my day.  My only quiet. 
And it’s not because I love the hustle, but its because there is always so much to be done. 
I can be mindful of my thoughts throughout the day, and stay in that posture of faith but some days it’s impossible to slow my feet. 
Three kids means I’m the one remembering music lessons, basketball training, birthday parties and home reading folders. That I need to get groceries, plan meals, scrub bathrooms and iron school uniforms. 
In busy seasons of women’s ministry my phone never stops ringing or beeping or tweeting, and I don’t find much space to breathe in between meetings and deadlines. 
In the middle of a uni semester I am literally the girl who runs between classes (why must they put them at opposite ends of campus?!) and juggles family with study, assignments and exams. 
I have all the reasons in the day not to slow down, not to stop, to just keep going and getting everything done. 

But mornings, with their fresh clean air, and the sky that slowly lights up the day – that’s when I can be slow. I can linger over the words of Jesus who tells me His burden is easy, and that rhythms of grace are unforced*. I can ask for strength and peace and know that ‘He’ll do what needs to be done’ as I do what I can in this new day I’ve been given. 

Get out of bed, Jerusalem!
    Wake up. Put your face in the sunlight.
    God’s bright glory has risen for you.
The whole earth is wrapped in darkness,
    all people sunk in deep darkness,
But God rises on you,
    his sunrise glory breaks over you.
Isaiah 60 (MSG)

The momentary discomfort of not giving in to sleep is worth it for the peace that follows, the stillness that’s found, the invited quiet – all found before the daily hustle. 

xx

* Matthew 11 (MSG)