3 Things I Learned at a Fondue Party

Women thrive on inspiration and ideas.

Gather a group of women together and it’s only time until someone starts sharing about a new skincare routine or how to quiet a colicky baby. All ears in. The questions begin. “Does anyone have a quick dinner recipe?” “How do I get pet stains from the carpet?” "What book are you reading?" “I just started Whole30 and feel like I’m dying—any tips?” We want answers; inspiration to our daily conundrums. Life hacks to mix up our routine. It’s therapeutic yet productive at the same time. I leave those brainstorming sessions with more (recipes and) gumption for life.

 

We need to be reminded that we're not alone.

"You mean, I’m not the only one who can’t figure out how to curl my hair right?" or "You hate running too?" or "Marriage is hard for you too?" There is a major part of us that yearns for genuine friendship with other women. We desperately need time outside our four walls to ground us again in this common reality: we are all women. All in the same boat. Sure, different stages of life, backgrounds, personalities, and issues. But we all need hope when we feel hopeless, a pick-me-up when we’re down, a hug when we need to feel accepted. We need to feel like our problems aren’t the only problems in the world. We need to be reminded that we are not alone. No matter how many times the lie deceives us—we’re not alone.

We think everyone is cooler than us.

Have you ever had an acquaintance who you’ve admired from afar, thinking of how you could be best friends if only you were as cool as her (maybe that’s just me)? You politely smile and wave in social situations, hoping you get stuck in the same conversation circle as her. Like peering into the in-crowd—she seems unreachable. Then when you finally have an actual a conversation her, you realize she's been thinking the same thing about you all along. We think everyone is cooler than us. Or we believe everyone has it better than us: better marriage, job, kids, body, hair, life. This lie only keeps us further from each other. These fabricated stories ignite the comparison game instead of bringing us together; they will keep us alone. It’s time to put the stories to rest so we can finally connect with each other, the way God intended.

Five Pitfalls of Social Media

Social media is a vital part of the way our culture functions and communicates ideas. In September of 2016, research recorded 1.79 billion active monthly users on Facebook alone. With it, we have incredible opportunities to share ideas quickly across the world. Various forms of social media have been used to rally for causes, plan events, and connect old friends. It’s shown the depths technology can go to build a platform for people to virtually connect.

As a millennial, I’ve grown up with social media as the norm. But over the last few years, I’ve struggled with how social media has changed the way we interact with each other. I’ve frequently contemplated its proper place in my life, and maybe you have too. Here are a few of my qualms about our relationship with social media:

  1. Comparison. It happens when I see a friend’s recent trip to Europe, and she looks incredible in heels (why are my feet so fat?). She looks happy in all her pictures, and her life seems way more put together than mine. Does she not wear sweatpants for leisure like I do? Suddenly, I’m depressed and my life sucks. Ever happen to you? I know it’s not someone else’s fault for making me feel envious nor is it social media’s doing. The struggle with comparison is an issue of the heart. But most times, I leave Facebook feeling worse about myself not better.

  2. Approval. Social media breeds an environment of constantly seeking approval through the content we post. Just look at young girls posting selfies of themselves and hoping for comments like: “You’re so pretty!” “I love your lipstick!” “You look so skinny!” We constantly check our phones after we post a pictures to see how many ‘likes’ we get. It’s natural to want people to like the stuff we put out there, but could we be looking for approval in the wrong place?

  3. Waste of Time. What is the first thing we do in the morning or right before bed? How about waiting at the doctor’s office or in line at the grocery store? How about on the toilet (I can't be the only one)? If there is a quiet moment, we fill it with something. Sadly, many of us are mindlessly browsing our news feeds. We creepily peer into people’s lives, many of whom are acquaintances and drive us nuts, rather than filling our time with things that are actually meaningful.

  4. Pseudo Connecting. Social media claims to do a lot more “connecting” than I’d give it credit for. Sure, it links us to people that have moved away, helps us plan our high school reunions, and allows us share our opinions on politics. But if anything, I feel more disconnected from the people around me because of it. I’ve walked into restaurants and seen families sitting around the table with both kids and parents staring at their phones. I’ve felt isolated while my friends eagerly post a picture of our gathering on Instagram before we’ve even left their house. I’ve had to pause my sentence because the person I’m having coffee with is taking a picture of her coffee cup and posting it so that everyone knows what we’re doing. Perhaps, sharing our every whereabout or reading about what other people are doing is keeping us from truly connecting with those in the same room as us-- those who we really value and care about.

  5. Sacred Moments. There are sacred moments in life that deserve privacy; memories that are for you and the person you share them with. Like waking up the day after your wedding with your new spouse and not feeling rushed to change your Facebook status. Or quiet moments of reading the Bible or at the spa where you’re “resting.” Can we not let those moments be unseen by the rest of the world? More importantly, do our minds ever stop from thinking about how we’re going to craft the next moment for the camera?

In her recent article, Gracy Olmstead says it perfectly: “There’s something beautiful, and increasingly rare, about inhabiting a moment without a thought for its online potency. About loving a place, a person, a dish, a moment for their intrinsic goodness, and not seeing them as a means to a technological or social end.”

Social media isn’t bad, and it’s not the source of our problems. But like most things, when humans get ahold of something great, it becomes more nuanced. We add social context, emotions, and our sinful nature to it. Social media simply provides an amplified platform for us to struggle with the same things we struggle with in real life. If we want the approval from others, we can manipulate social media to give it to us. If we struggle with comparison, social media can feed that. So, quitting social media isn’t necessarily the solution (although some people feel convicted to do that, and I salute you).

My exhortation is to simply be mindful of the role social media has in our lives. Let’s be curious about how we interact online and the content we consume there. Asking ourselves the question, “Why?” before we post or mindlessly scroll through Instagram will keep us honest with ourselves. It will also keep us intentional with our lives. Maybe we'll see the ways in which we run to social media to fill the void. Perhaps we'll notice the way it feeds those areas where we struggle. And let our awareness move us to develop a healthier relationship with social media, one that allows us to live more freely--the way we're intended. 

Life deserves our presence, so do the people we love. When we’re less consumed by our screens, we're free to be more engaged in the {actual} world around us. We can be present in both the high and low moments in life, not just the perfectly crafted ones. When we're truly present, we don't have to constantly prove our life's existence by be conjuring up posts about it, but rather treasure it for what it is: real life.

3 Ways to Find Joy in the Mundane

Two weeks ago, I wrote about how the majority of our lives are spent in the in-between where life feels ordinary and mundane. My petition is that these moments should be celebrated. Here at Flourish, we don’t want to just share big ideas but rather bring them down to real life for you. We always want to be asking the questions, “So what does that actually look like?” “What does that mean for me?” We can talk about big concepts all day but, it’s fruitless if we don't bridge those concepts into our actual lives. As a follow-up to my post The In-Between, what would it mean to really celebrate the ordinary, to embrace the mundane moments in our lives? Today, I’m sharing 3 simple ways to find joy in the mundane:

 

1. Look at what’s around

We spend a lot of time dwelling on our past, worrying about our future, and looking at what everyone else is doing. Our eyes seem focused everywhere else instead of our lives right now. Ask yourself the question, “Who are the people, places, and commitments in my life right now and how can I be more engaged in them?” Here’s how this question influences areas in my own life:

Work- Sometimes I feel stuck in a rut at work, so I find new skills and concepts I can learn in my profession. When there’s down time at work, I work on these projects to grow myself and improve in my job.

Relationships- Instead of spending all my time making new friends (because I love doing this!), I hone in on a few friends already in my circle and pursue them. I send a couple texts to check in, make a coffee date or two, or write someone snail mail (everyone needs a pen pal).

Neighbors- To brighten up our street, I recently bought bright orange mums (my new favorite flower) and placed them on my neighbors’ porches. There is an elderly woman that lives across the street and instead of just laying the mum on the porch, I took the time to knock on her door to check in on her and chat about the day.

My City- For those of us who love to travel, we sometimes forget to discover the actual city we live in. So, I make a list of restaurants and places I wanted to visit in Kansas City and cross them off the list as we try them. It’s fun!

2. Do It Together

Is it just me or do “days off” not actually feel like days off anymore? #chores #adulthood. I used to try to cram all of our chores into one day, but I burned out pretty quickly. Matt had the revolutionary idea of doing chores together (never occurred to me). Since then, grocery shopping has turned into one of our favorite times together. Doing this has made grocery shopping less burdensome, more enjoyable, and adds quality time to an ordinary task.

3. Switch It Up

You know those people that can eat the same thing every day? Not me. I love routine, but I still need variety. One way that I enjoy a mundane part of life like cooking dinner is trying new recipes. For planning purposes, Matt and I keep the base of our diet the same with a few foundational meals to turn to every week. But when I get bored with dinner, I find a new recipe that lets me experiment with different ingredients that I’ve never tried. This provides just the new flavor and variety I need to make meals exciting again.

When we take the time to slow down, we share in the richness that the ordinary brings to our lives. Look around, do it together, and switch it up— you might find that beauty and life are already around you. And if you weren't able to catch the In-Between a couple weeks ago, you can read it here!

What are ways you find joy in the mundane? Inspire us and share below!

The In-Between

I was at a party the other day and a friend I hadn’t seen in a long time greeted me and asked how life was going. I replied, “Good!” Even with extroverted small-talking skills, my mind went blank as to what else to say. I tried to muster up all the different follow-up phrases I could use: “Things are busy!” or “Work is great!” or “Yep, still living in the same place!” I tried to help the conversation by throwing something in the pot to talk about but stood there speechless instead.

What struck me in that moment was that I had nothing exciting or different to present about my life. I had no big news or headline-worthy announcement to reveal: no change in job, shiny house, cute baby, or new marriage. My life looked the same as last time I talked to her, and it made me feel insecure—like I needed to go to Africa and take a lot of pictures, or have a baby, or at least a baby bump so I could talk about my strange cravings at night. I had no show-stopping stories or news about my life to look impressive; my life felt ordinary.

Our lives are dated with really big moments: birthdays, graduations, marriage, moves, houses, kids. We see them as milestones and mile markers through our lives; they show where we’ve been and where we’re headed (and they make great conversations at parties). But what about the in-between? We actually spend most of our lives here.

We spend our time in the little moments where life is steady and routine; a place where Facebook doesn’t see. Yet we try to jump from milestone to milestone as fast as we can so that we avoid the reality that at some point in our lives the dust will settle---and then what?

Our days start looking mundane. Every day, we press snooze at the same time, drive the same commute, go to the same ol’ job. We’re washing dishes constantly (God, please send us a dishwasher), buying toilet paper, and paying off college debt (anyone?). We haven’t moved cities recently, and we’ve kept the same job for 3 whole years which feels like a lifetime. Life has slowed down just enough for us to recognize this truth: our lives are starting to look responsible and grown up and—let’s get real—that absolutely terrifies us.

I’m an advocate for adventure, travel, and spontaneity, I’ve spend much of my life chasing it. But perhaps, deep down somewhere, many of us are just scared of what will be there when the dust settles. We’ve gotten in the habit of chasing new things when we get bored: new destinations, jobs, relationships, experiences. We get affirmation by posting our accomplishments on Instagram, creating a polished look on our life. We’ve put all of our effort keeping our lives exciting and impressive.

Can I be honest? Seeking adventure and affirmation out there can be exhausting. It was for me.

I wouldn’t trade my days of travel, crazy internships, and moving somewhere “just because,” but I’m glad I’ve landed somewhere. My head got dizzy from the constant movement and my heart distracted from the newness. I spent several years avoiding the ordinary parts of life scared of what I might find. While all along, there was beauty surrounding me. I was just too distracted to notice.

As people, we’ve become so obsessed with the big, showy moments that we’ve forgotten the sweetness found in the small ones.

In the in-between we can find joy in commitment, strength in longevity, and peace in steadiness. We get to experience the growth that comes in investing in something and in someone for longer than a brief moment. We can see friends through different seasons of life in both the ups and downs. We get to plant roots, dig our heels in deep, and stick around for awhile even when it gets hard or boring. When we do this we’ll see color and richness, beauty and adventure in the most mundane parts of life. We’ll see life for what is really is.

So when the dust settles, we’ll be here---in the real parts of life—in all it’s beauty and richness. Not forward or behind but right here--- in the in-between.