what can happen in 10 months (when you don’t have Instagram)

When I was pregnant with my firstborn, my husband got up in the middle of the night and kicked his big toe. I can’t remember what he kicked it on, maybe it was the corner of the bed or a random object laying in the dark on the carpet. But I do remember being awoken by his shout, and then he probably kicked the thing intentionally, just to teach it a lesson.
The midnight attack of said random-object-or-bed-corner resulted in his toenail falling off a week later.
I joked often after our son was born, that I managed to grow an entire human in the time it took for my husband to grow one big toenail back. It was probably a year before he had a fully functioning toenail (side note: what is the function of toenails I wonder?).

Ten months ago I deleted my Instagram, without any real intention of going back.
I posted this about why, and then this about what I was learning, early on.
It was always about being less distracted, more grounded, and finding ways to embrace a slower pace—without the comparison to a bazillion other lives tearing my eyes away from my own.

The biggest thing I found was that I didn’t need Instagram to be distracted.
Maybe it’s human nature, or just Em-nature, but it seems that I am rather good at finding ways to zone out, check out, and procrastinate, even without my phone in my hand.
There’s Netflix and the bathroom cupboard that needs to be sorted, and five friends who want to have coffee, and books (not a bad thing but can be used as a distraction) and wandering through Kmart looking at things I don’t need.
Surprisingly I found it hadn’t been Instagram that was preventing me from doing anything meaningful, it was myself.
It was me, finding distraction from sitting down to a blank page, and it was me, finding other things to do instead of opening my Bible, and it was me, not taking captive runaway thoughts and letting them go like the string on a balloon.

Sorry Instagram, it wasn’t your fault.

However the biggest habit I broke, by deleting my Instagram, was the first-thing-in-the-morning scroll. This was massive.
I believe the way that we start our day, each day, is important. Crucial, even. And starting my day bleary-eyed and waking up to all the competing noise of social media was like junk food for my soul—easy, fast, but in no way healthy.
I broke the habit. I no longer had anything to scroll, so I’d wake up just like the pre-smartphone days. Hey God. I’m awake. Thanks for another morning.
My eyes adjust to the grey light creeping through the slits in the blinds, I stretch and curl my toes, move to a cool patch on the sheets, listen to the birds and notice changing seasons, changing light, changing me.
Sometimes I play with words or phrases in my mind, string poetry and prose.
Sometimes I reach for my Bible, or my journal. And when my kids rise early and reach for me, I’m right there, present. With them, warm bodied and aware of the absolute gift in front of me and not annoyed that they’re interrupting my covetous craving for that person’s holiday/bedroom/life scroll.

The same is true for night time. We plug our phones right next to our beds, and let the blue light dance in our eyes and we scroll trance-like, instead of seeing the gifts in front of us. Instead of listening to our bodies tell us they’re tired, instead of winding down with a book or with conversations. I’ve broken that habit too. Because the way we end our days is just as crucial.

But, after 10 months, I’m back on the ‘gram.
I missed the connection and the creativity.
But this time there’s intention around what I’m producing, and how I’m scrolling and interacting. Because life is so much bigger than that grid of squares, and I want to live it and feel it: elbow deep in kneading sourdough, snaking on carrot sticks and leaning over homework, saying yes when one of the kids says ‘can we go for a run/play Monopoly/watch a movie together’ and making eye contact with the other person in the room.
I’m back on the ‘gram, but for fleeting moments, and with intention.

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.

Romans 12:1-2 The Message

Come say hi.

https://www.instagram.com/everydayofferings

xx

transitions and transplants

At the time of writing, it is 34 days, 9 hours and 50 minutes until the clock ticks over into a new year.
A new decade.
Twenty years ago, I was 15 and we were entering into a new millennium. I remember feeling the weight of it; there was a sense that I was living in an important time in history.
It was an important time in my own story. At the end of Year 10, I changed schools and ultimately changed the course of my life—the path I followed lead me to find Jesus, and lifelong friends, and myself and the church community where I met the man I would marry, only a few years after graduating.
I sometimes wonder what would have happened had I not made the decision to move schools, to seek a
fresh start.

This year I’m beginning to feel that weightiness again. The brink of a new decade feels heavy, important.
I sense the rapid passing of time, and there’s an urgency and intention that meets me in that space.
Maybe it’s because I’m no longer 15 but 35.
It could also be that this year has been just as transitional and profound as the year I started a new school.
This year has been uncomfortable and thrilling, frustrating and tiring and elating.
For the first time in 13 years, I shifted from the zone of work-from-home mum, to having an outside the home job—no small thing. Then, Daniel started a new job, after being in his job for almost twenty years—all this after he had worked hard for years to get a Diploma, and a Builders license and we’d almost given up hope.
This year has been so full of changes, and transitions and newness and adjustment.

We’ve unravelled and unlearned. We’ve been undone and been re-done and laughed till we cried.
We’ve worked as a team and high-fived each other every step of the way, but, it’s been hard.

A couple of weeks ago I stopped dead in my lounge room—I felt as if I had been slapped in the face.
Transplanting.
There’s a transplanting that is taking place. My fiddle leaf had outgrown it’s pot. It was root bound. I had to find a new pot so that its roots could stretch out, so that it could begin to flourish again.
You see, I’d given it everything that it needed to thrive. It had water, good soil, the spot near the front window with the bright morning light. Regardless of all of the perfect elements, it had outgrown the space it was in, and if I didn’t transplant it to another pot, it wouldn’t survive.
It was in that moment in my lounge room I realised that sometimes we outgrow spaces, and that we can’t keep shrinking to keep ourselves there. We can’t stay small.
We can’t stay in doubt or in fear or in that place of concern for what others might think.
Sure, there’s a bit of trauma with a transplant, my poor fiddle definitely had a little shock.
When I slipped it out of the pot it had been in for too many years, its roots were densely curled around themselves, and so very squished.
The new pot got a load of fresh soil, and I had to forcefully pull apart some of the roots as a reminder—you don’t need to stay small, I know this hurts a bit now, but it’s going to be so much better in this bigger place. (I know you talk to your indoor plants too.)
Now it’s thriving again, unfurling new leaves in bright green, and not drooping sadly anymore.

The transplant is hard. Removing ourselves from spaces that limit us, lid us, and restrict our growth can be a shock.
But we need to remember that there is so much more ahead, in larger vessels where we can flourish.

One of my favourite life-verses talks about living in wide open spaces.
I can’t tell you how much I long for you to enter this wide-open, spacious life. We didn’t fence you in. The smallness you feel comes from within you. Your lives aren’t small, but you’re living them in a small way. I’m speaking as plainly as I can and with great affection.
Open up your lives. Live openly and expansively!
(2 Cor 6:11-13 MSG)

The best thing about these wide open spaces waiting for us, is that He’s gone before us there too.

Things I’m asking myself on the brink of this new year:

What has kept me small?
What do I have to do to move into a bigger wide-open space?
What do I need to let go of?
What needs to be pruned out?

I’m making time over the next month to get honest, to reflect on what has been, and to prepare my heart for what is to come.

xx

(As an aside, my friend Amanda has an amazing resource for those of us who want to intentionally move into a new year with vision and purpose. It’s a workbook called Seeking Clarity, you can find it in her shop.)

adrift, little boat

Are you in a transition season?
I feel you, girlfriend.
Yet when I look back on the last six months, I can see the way that God was weaving and fitting the pieces of my life together, when at the time, I didn’t think they made sense. 
To me they were scraps of paper, half written paragraphs, and unfinished poems. I wondered why; why here, why now, this is not what I expected.
Each day I’d walk from my car to the office and ask God, ‘What do I need to learn in this season? What is it about this place of transition that I need, to be able to enter into the new?’

 Our family has walked so many transitions over the past year. 
Change, even when it’s been much anticipated and excitedly expected, can be difficult. It’s tricky finding your feet when the ground beneath you feels like it’s constantly shifting. Constantly feeling like you’re balancing precariously across an unfamiliar path can be exhausting. I have felt exhausted.

Often, it’s not until we look back on certain seasons that we begin to understand the way they fit. The way that God held them all together—going before us, writing our days together and seeing the end when we couldn’t. He knows the messes we’ll make before we make them, and still He’s willing to hold us, and help us. 

 A friend and I walked this week and she described transition seasons so beautifully. She said it’s like being adrift in the ocean, where the fog is too thick to see what comes next, or which direction to go. When sailors face this on their ships they cut the engines, they pull down the sails and they watch the sky. Because you can’t go full steam in any direction when you can’t see what’s ahead.
They watch the sky and wait. They wait, with their eyes fixed up

 It’s what I did. I watched and waited. I wondered what God was up to, and relinquished those things I couldn’t control. I voiced my hopes, and asked and trusted that He knew what he was doing. The fog was thick, but I knew that if I watched and waited long enough that the sky would clear and the path would be visible. Today, I feel like I’m sailing gently out of the murky waters. The fog is lifting and I’m beginning to see the path I need to take, and why I needed to drift right here into this moment. 

 Today I want to encourage you that whatever season you’re in, you can trust that God holds you. That He goes before you, and that if you pay close attention, you might just see what He’s up to. This poem from Song of Songs has brought comfort to me recently and I wanted to share:

The season has changed,
the bondage of your barren winter has ended,
and the season of hiding is over and gone.
The rains have soaked the earth
and left it bright with blossoming flowers.
The season for singing and pruning the vines has arrived. 
I hear the cooing of doves in our land, 
filling the air with songs to awaken you
and guide you forth.
Can you not discern this new day of destiny
breaking forth around you?
The early signs of my purposes and plans
are bursting forth. 
The budding vines of new life
are now blooming everywhere.
The fragrance of their flowers whisper,
“There is change in the air.”

If you feel like your little boat is adrift on unknown waters, just cut the engines. Don’t be too hasty to make decisions. Stop and still. Maybe put a hand out, let it float in the calm. Before long, the fog will lift and you’ll know where it is you need to go. For now, rest assured that indeed there’s a new day of destiny breaking forth around you. 

xx

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.