“Get Off Your Phone!”

The other day I was hanging out with my boyfriend watching Stargate… actually, he was watching Stargate… I was scrolling through my phone. This isn’t the first time this has happened, but he took my phone out of my hands and overhanded it across the room! Then, holding both my hands together in his, he looked me in my eyes and sternly, but with a smirk on his face, said, “Get off your phone.”

Selfishness at the Root of the Problem

At that particular moment I wasn’t interested in Stargate. I didn’t feel like watching it. I wanted to do something else. Out of boredom I started going through my phone, not considering whether it was disrespectful. Most of us don’t realize how often we do this until someone points it out, but it’s not a good habit to have especially when we’re in the presence of another person. In my own experience, I’ve been annoyed with seeing groups of friends or couples at a restaurant or coffee shop on their phones, totally disengaged from each other yet all seated together. It doesn’t make sense to venture out of our homes into our social circles only to consume ourselves in tiny, lonely, palm-sized, digital worlds that allow limited room for face-to-face communication. We’ve developed a terrible habit substituting real interaction with digital convenience. We all experience this distaste for how technology steals away the attention of the people we interact with, yet we all fall victim to the contagiousness of mobile technology.

Communication Issues

Our obsession with mobile devices prevent us from building proper communication skills. While we spend the majority of our days occupied with the fascinations of a little device, we’re unable to interact with people the way we used to before the rise of technology. We even miss out on powerful real life experiences like music festivals and performances because we’re looking at them through our phones! I do it too and I think it’s insane!

We’ve also developed shorter attention spans and impatience. When a stranger sits beside us on the bus and says “good afternoon” we’re more annoyed they’ve distracted us from achieving a high score on Candy Crush, than interested in making friendly conversation. We’re so addicted to entertainment from mobile games and social media that we don’t get enough human interaction and intimacy. We’ve created a self-involved, self-modified digital life where we are in total control of what we choose to see and what we don’t. As a result, we forget how to show respect, listen, understand, relate, empathize and use our words wisely when interacting.

Insecurity and Intimacy

I mentioned how our obsession with our phones prevent us from engaging in human interaction and intimacy. This is a serious and common problem. One thing I’ve observed is the secrecy the online world provides. When you have a password-protected mobile device or laptop, you can keep a lot of secrets. I’ve experienced this and my obliviousness to someone’s secret life, hidden under the veils of the Internet, cost me a lot of time and caused me a lot of hurt. Life online is not on open display. It’s so easy to delete a shameful conversation or revisit a coworker’s photographs on Facebook without getting found out. There’s an ugly kind of secrecy that can develop from the privacy we have from our devices and I think it’s one of the current leading causes of trust issues in relationships. And as if the threat of secrecy wasn’t enough, our constant use of our phones can build a wall between us and the people we love.

When we’re at home watching a movie with our families and we’re browsing through our phones, our body language sends signals that we’re not interested in sharing the experience with our families. Similarly, when we’re on a date, the last thing we should do is whip out our phones to start a texting conversation with our friends. It’s disrespectful and it shows the person we’re with we’re not content with their company. Nothing is wrong with checking our phones, but constantly being glued to it really holds us back from experiencing intimate and special moments. In the end, we’re the ones missing out on life.

The Solution is Simple

Okay so we admit we’re a little too hooked on our phones, so what do we do about it? I say, let’s be deliberate about not allowing it to consume all our time. If you’re not sure where to begin, here are a few suggestions:

– Delete the apps you’re obsessed with and take a break
– Keep your phone in your purse or pocket when you’re out on a date
– Turn your phone on silent and keep it away from your bed when you go to sleep beside your spouse
– Leave your phone in another room during family time, especially at dinner
– Make time each week to sit together and talk, instead of just being in the same space doing different things
– Once a month go on a “retreat” by abandoning your phone and spending the day in nature

Becoming aware of how often and why we idle away on our phones will keep us from getting too dependent on having it as an appendage.

After all, what’s more valuable? Checking my like count on Instagram or watching another episode of Stargate with my boyfriend, regardless of my initial disinterest? I’d say the latter. Quality time together is much more valuable than trying to escape a moment by diving into our phones.

Disclaimer: Stargate really isn’t that boring… my boyfriend is just going through all the seasons. From now on I’m going to eat humble pie and just watch it with him! Maybe when it’s over I’ll get to pick the next show ;).

Thanks for reading!

With Love,

Sarah

A Grammar Lesson in Heroism

I was browsing one of my social media networks when I came across this image:

If that doesn’t shock you, well. Culturally, we have drifted into a pattern of redefining terms based on our confusion of their true meanings, over-exaggeration of situations and events and embellishing things to make them seem greater than they are. We’ve created shortened invented terms like YOLO (you-only-live-once) and LOL (laugh-out-loud), which cause little harm, and use words like “clutch” to express how cool something is.

Despite the seemingly harmless recycling of words, this liberal way we (ab)use the English language has eroded our ability to define and use terms correctly and appropriately in situations when word use is vital. When we take a word like “hero” or “courage” and use it in situations where a person has made a personal decision for their own benefit, we begin to lose sight of the people who sacrifice themselves for the well-being of others. When you watch superhero movies, the heroes don’t become great because they do something out of selfish ambition, they do it for the greater good of mankind and for the safety of their communities and the world.

Here are some fundamental things heroes do:

– Acts of selfless service

– Accomplishes goals to build themselves up, for the purpose of benefiting others

– Does these things despite fears or disadvantages (mental, emotional, situational or physical)

– Rises above a challenge and becomes a greater quality person, and achieves a richer quality of life

It is overwhelmingly tragic how media has become so blind to what true heroism is. In all sense, how does this veteran’s selfless sacrifice and victory pale in comparison with the self-serving change of another celebrity? It doesn’t and it shouldn’t. Glorifying people’s self-serving actions in the name of heroism is wrong. We give too much credit where it is not due and it comes from our obsession with our own self-motivated interests and desires. Even if a person’s selfish action encourages others, we still cannot define them as heroes. Their action may have inadvertently caused inspiration, but they did what they did for themselves and no one else. That does not make a hero. It might make them brave, but we have to use our words carefully.

Call me dramatic but our privileged part of the world is becoming a lot like Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World;” blind in our self-fulfilling desire for entertainment and pleasure. We follow trends, filter our news to nonessential entertainment and gossip, and hop on causes without using our God-given common sense. The fact that I even have to write an article like this makes me realize how consumed we are in the distractions of selfish causes and how unconcerned we are to the real crises happening around the world. As the insightful author of “Amusing Ourselves to Death,” Neil Postman, wrote:

What Orwell feared were those who would ban books. What Huxley feared was that there would be no reason to ban a book, for there would be no one who wanted to read one. Orwell feared those who would deprive us of information. Huxley feared those who would give us so much that we would be reduced to passivity and egoism. Orwell feared that the truth would be concealed from us. Huxley feared the truth would be drowned in a sea of irrelevance. Orwell feared we would become a captive culture. Huxley feared we would become a trivial culture, preoccupied with some equivalent of the feelies, the orgy porgy, and the centrifugal bumblepuppy. As Huxley remarked in Brave New World Revisited, the civil libertarians and rationalists who are ever on the alert to oppose tyranny “failed to take into account man’s almost infinite appetite for distractions.” In 1984, Orwell added, people are controlled by inflicting pain. In Brave New World, they are controlled by inflicting pleasure. In short, Orwell feared that what we fear will ruin us. Huxley feared that what we desire will ruin us.

Attitude Check… For The Ladies

Women are incredible, inspiring, beautiful, nurturing, considerate, compassionate creatures. We love deeply and have the capacity to forgive after endless wrongs, whether they’re from our friends, boyfriends, husbands, siblings, parents or children. Women have emotions that run deep to the core of our being and they motivate us to make decisions and chase our goals. Our emotions are a wonderful gift from God that can be used to change lives for the better.

I’m writing this because I realize how challenging it is to continuously use this gift for good.

I’ve never had an issue with attitude until my 20s. I was very naive and didn’t know much about the harsh reality of the world. I was pretty carefree, joyful, positive and fearless. Now I have days when I struggle to have the right attitude about the things that go on in my life. For example: I currently work as a receptionist; the typical 8-4 weekday shift. It’s not my passion or my dream career but it’s where I can gain a decent income. There are two attitudes I can have toward it:

1) I’m bitter that I studied five years and still can’t get a job in my field, I don’t make lots of money, I dread every day I have to wake up to go to work, I’m miserable and crabby about my life not being where I want it to be; or,
2) I’m thankful I have a decent paying job, I make use of my evenings and weekends to fill my life with activities, learning and fun, and I appreciate the easy, stress-free commute to and from work.

When it comes to attitudes we really only have two basic options: we can be blessed or bitter; positive or negative; grateful or complaining. We can look at it in a light of hopefulness and strength or defeat and weakness.

Emotions can be a cool stream that guides our actions through love, or it can be a raging fire that destroys and hurts everyone around us. I speak from experience when I say it is challenging for a woman to make a decision completely exclusive from how she feels about it. Therefore, we have to practice the right attitude so when we are faced with choices, we don’t let our emotions cloud our judgement.

It is so sad to see women using their emotions as an excuse for mean behaviour:

“He betrayed me so I’m gonna make him jealous.”
“If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.”
“If you can’t make me happy, I’m leaving.”
“I was hurt in the past so you’d better earn my trust, or else.”
“I’m only her friend because she makes me feel better about myself, lol.”
“You’re so pretty [I’m jealous and I talk behind your back].”

I even saw a woman at the mall, screaming at her husband while her baby in the stroller was sleeping. She must have been fed up about something and exhausted from taking care of the child, but does that honestly excuse her behaviour? What long-term effect does her attitude have on her husband and the way their child will understand husband-wife relationships? It only takes a tiny pebble to cause a ripple effect, so imagine what an asteroid could do.

If we really care about how we make others feel (and I think we should), it would be wise to take time alone to reflect and ask ourselves questions like:

  • How do I feel about myself and my life?
  • How does that affect the way I communicate with others?
  • Do I have secret resentment or bitterness about something that happened in my past?
  • Where can I get help to heal from that hurt? (I would suggest sharing it with someone you trust or getting counselling if the issue is severe, praying for healing and perspective from the One who knows us better than we do, and observing self-controlled, wise, loving women.)

I see great potential in women today thanks to our increased opportunity to lead and guide. Women do have a voice and we can impact the world for the better. I challenge every woman to reflect on her attitude as a daily practice, start her mornings with a view of awareness and gratitude (not self-criticism or complaint), and pat herself on the back for every time she triumphs with kindness despite a bad mood. When we do good, God blesses us, and when we come to an understanding of His love and mercy, we can claim the confidence that identity gives us. That means trusting who God says we are and what He says we’re worth: valuable and capable of greatness. I am inspired by women who have extremely unfortunate and difficult lives, yet persevere in a positive attitude. There is always someone in a worse situation with a better attitude.

Someday the children we raise and look after will carry on in the ways we have taught them. Let us be good examples for young women and let us impress the women before us. :)

With love,

Sarah

Playtime: A Serious Priority, People ;)

Today I wrote another handwritten love letter for my boyyyyfrieeendd. At the end of the note I drew two little chibi characters hugging, obviously representing the two of us (high five and peace sign dance if you know what chibi is). Drawing the pictures made me think of how much I miss my childhood.

I have treasured memories of when we lived in a semi and I shared a bunk bed with my sister. I’d come home after a fun and educational day at middle school, quickly finish  my dinner and homework so I could run across the street to play outside with my best neighbourhood friends. I loved those years between ages 11-16, oh, how I loved those years. I spent so much time climbing trees, playing amateur field soccer, riding my bike, rollerblading, skateboarding (more like failing at skateboarding), taking long walks to get slushies from Mac’s, playing basketball, going for adventures in the conservation area, rolling down the hill in my backyard and making dance routines to pop songs, watching Much Loud and solo-moshing in my living room, drawing anime while sitting on the big rock in front of my house, doing cartwheels and handstands, pretending to be a gymnast, and all the other wonderful, creative, fun things I used to do.

I don’t have as much time or ability to do all those things anymore but I realize how important having an active and creative lifestyle keeps your mind, body and soul healthy and happy. When we focus too much on work and our priorities (if they’re not our passion) we can end up overworked and stressed out. After a few years of workaholism we can get really down and feel like life is just passing us by. It’s important to have a balanced life that includes play whether we’re 16 or 61. Staying creative is not only good for our emotions but also for our mental health.

My goal is to keep making FUN a priority. Whether it’s playing pool with the guys, cruising with my best friend, going to the drive-in, getting my butt kicked at bowling with Boyfriend, playing cards and Chicken Foot with my family or spending the day at a park, fun needs to happen! It takes a little planning and effort but isn’t life more than just work?

Summer is just around the corner, peeps. Get off your computers and go outside! Enjoy the rich life waiting for you.

With love,

Sarah

Monster Mind to Care Bear Heart

I’m usually the positive one out of my friends and have been known as such as far back as I can remember. One of the hard parts about growing up is losing your naivety and experiencing hurt. It’s difficult when you want to be optimistic, yet life experience makes you think negatively. Tonight was one of those rare days I was thinking negatively about myself. Sometimes my confidence is low and the emotions behind it makes me feel like I’m turning into the Hulk (yes, lol). I try to focus on what calms me and brings me home but it’s extremely hard, like wrestling my own soul.

I got home and took a minute to consider how my negative headspace could affect the people around me and I realized I had to get back on track. I don’t want to inadvertently bring down the people I love. I want to be consistently joyful but I’m my own worst critic. I want to be THERE: that place where I’m fully confident and I’ve built my character to who I want to be, strong and unafraid so I can give more to others. I want to be perfect but no one is, and I know this in my logical mind, so why do I get moments when I feel like this?

I was looking for some reassurance and comfort and I came across Isaiah 55. One part really helped:

For the rain and the snow come down from heaven and do not return there but water the earth, making it bring forth and sprout, giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater, so shall My word be that goes out from My mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.

I imagined this was a letter to me: I am a work in progress that will come to completion when God is done His work in and through me. It’s okay if I’m not perfect because His love for me is and His plan for me will eventually follow through, no matter how strong I think I am at ruining it. I can’t ruin it. It’s His purpose for me and I will get there.

I read on and this passage is what I want to leave you with. It reminds us that we will have joy. We will experience a blissful happiness that comes from knowing our identity based on God’s view of what we’re worth, who we are and what we’re capable of. If God, even in our messes, can still look down on us with compassion and forgiveness, then maybe we should stop being so hard on ourselves.

For you shall go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and the hills before you shall break forth into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap their hands.”
– Isaiah 55:12

God loves us. He created each of us with purpose and a desire to find and accomplish that purpose. We get lost in the disappointment of our failures but if we try to see how God is blessing us each day, we will find the strength and hope to get through those hard days. Sometimes that means stepping back and looking at our lives. When I look at mine I see how God has delivered me out of hurt and disappointment and lead me to overwhelming love and comfort. He gave me double what I prayed for. When I forget that I remind myself that what’s most important isn’t what I think about myself or what others think of me, it’s what He thinks of me… what He thinks of all of us: that we’re worth it.

With love,

Sarah

Should I Stay or Should I Go: Making Good Decisions about Relationships

Sometimes we find ourselves stuck in situations like unhealthy relationships, and we cannot see the dangers of staying even though everyone around us can. When your parents have a bad gut feeling, or your friends dislike your partner, there’s often a good reason why.

I have experienced and heard several stories of situations like this. We choose to love someone for the good in them, even if the good is undermined by the volume of things wrong with the relationship. We choose to have this narrow view of the person we love because we want them to change. We hope for it and we believe they are capable. This is a good, not naive, thing. There’s nothing wrong in having hope in people, we just have to be smart about who we invest those hopes in.

The truth is, people are who they want to be and they will not drastically change unless they decide to. If they know they need to improve yet choose not to, that is their decision to make but you do not have to be a part of it. If you are willing to improve yourself and set aside bad habits for your partner, they should be willing to do the same. Of course you accept them despite their weaknesses and faults but acceptance is not an excuse for stagnancy. Change is absolutely necessary for any relationship to grow and develop. Another thing on that note: some people cannot change at all. They are either crippled by fear, guilt or shame or simply cannot motivate themselves. If they can’t change for themselves, their family or their friends, what, my dear reader, makes you believe they will change for you? How long have you waited for this change that never seems to come?

As I say this, it’s as if I’m speaking to the person I was before my world turned upside down. I was the person I’m writing to. When I dated boys I used to have no boundaries when it came to love and giving. I would bend over backwards for them. I would pay for things and loan money. I would travel to visit them 90% of the time. I would give elaborate, deeply thought out gifts for birthdays and anniversaries or for no reason at all. Even when they forgot my birthday or went out with their friends on our anniversary I would make them my top priority and let my own needs come secondary. I thought this was what you were supposed to do when you loved someone. I felt I was called to serve and love without expecting anything in return, but I only saw half the picture.

The issue with doing kind and generous things for someone who does NOT return it is you WILL become exhausted, worn out and emptied of your joy, patience and security. When you pour your energy into someone who is like a black hole, sucking in your efforts and letting it vanish away, you are wasting your precious, God-given time.

Let’s be realistic. Life is short. Ask someone a decade older than you and they will tell you themselves. We don’t have much time in this life, and that makes it extremely valuable. Cherish the time you have and don’t waste your years on people who do not understand what it means to love. Love is not just kind words and intentions; it is something active and something people outside your relationship can see. When your love is real, people will notice how you both shine. One of the biggest ways you can really tell if your relationship is good for you is when your family, friends and coworkers tell you it is. If they can see a future for you with that person, you can trust you’re making a good decision.

A tell-tale sign that you are not with the right person is if month after month, or year after year, the people who love you show concern for your relationship and your future. Every relationship has its valleys but if they are constant and ongoing, if there is no improvement or change, you must leave. I tell you this out of love and nothing more. Be careful who you give your heart to because after you have been broken down over and over, it can be a huge burden that takes a lot of effort and time to heal from.

This is why we have friends and family: they help us see things from a view that we cannot see due to our rose-coloured glasses. When you’re in love, you see someone for the good and it’s easy to dismiss the bad unless as a couple you choose to be honest and open with each other about your flaws and your goals to improve.

Here are some things that make up a healthy relationship:

  • Working together instead of against each other
  • Freedom (not fearfulness) to be yourself and have your partner be themselves too
  • Keeping honesty at the core, even if either of you don’t like it at times
  • Doing everything out of love, not your desire to be right or for some manipulative motive
  • Remembering why you’re together in the first place
  • Setting goals for the future instead of letting day by day pass by without intention
  • Taking quality time to learn about and understand each other
  • Being patient with each other, accepting each other but encouraging each other to reach their personal goals and overcome their weaknesses
  • Forgiving each other and making up immediately after every disagreement
  • Seeking resolutions, not feeding conflict
  • HAVING FUN

If the main reason you’re with your partner is because you don’t want to be alone or because you get something out of them, you’ve got a problem. You can test to see whether you love the person or just the idea of them by these simple questions:

  1. Do I love my partner because they add to my life?
  2. Do the unreciprocated efforts I make for my partner starve me of my joy?
  3. What do my family and friends think about this person?
  4. Do the pros outweigh the cons and are the cons something I can realistically live with?
  5. Have my partner and I made any plans about our future together? Do our goals align?
  6. What do I love about my partner? Are these reasons genuine or superficial?
  7. Why am I with my partner?

There are many more questions we should ask ourselves about our relationships, whether it’s the first month or the fourth year. Relationships are important and often take the most of our energy, and this is why we must make good decisions. To make good decisions we should consider this as we date or court. Being proactive about these things can help us avoid a lot of heartbreak and disappointment, and keep us fresh for the person we’re really meant to be with.

We might not be in control of who we fall for, but we can choose who we give our love to.

With love,
Sarah

 

Taking Love Back from the Media

The greatest lesson I’ve learned in my quarter century of life is love is the most important thing in the world. Love has the power to heal broken hearts, inspire people to change, give people the freedom to forgive and the strength to move forward.

I’m not talking about the superficial “love” the media wants us to believe is the real deal; the lustful, possessive, demanding, materialistic, selfish emotion people confuse with real, active love. I’m talking about the love in 1 Corinthians 13 that places love on the highest pedestal, setting it above wisdom, skills, abilities, faith and even generosity and kind deeds. It says all of those things are worthless without love connected to them. The second paragraph talks about what love is and contrasts it against what it isn’t. It seems like common sense but when you look at the kinds of relationships people stay in, it seems there are many people who have the wrong idea of what love actually is, or they don’t have the desire for it.

I think we need to step back from all of our relationships once in a while and revise what love really is, how we have loved and where we need to improve. Everyone enjoys a good song about how love is all you need (The Beatles) or one declaring it’s the one thing that will stop wars, repair broken homes, stop slavery and end world hunger, yet no one ever asks what love actually looks like. How do you get love that can move mountains?1 John 4:8 says “God is love.” All good things come from Him and knowing He loves me and watches my every step gives me the peace to know even when all my plans and hopes fall apart He is at my side, disappointed and hurting with me — I’m not alone. He knows the thoughts of my heart before I can find the words to speak them; no one knows me better. Despite all the darkness in those moments or months or years, there is a light that continues to shine, which reminds me God forgives everyone who has a repentant heart, and those without. He gives His love and forgiveness freely even though none of us ever deserve it. If He can see us as good and deserving of that peace of heart and mind then we should give that same kind of love to others. This kind of love as I have just described is the most selfless, moving, life-changing gift you can give to another person. It’s contagious and it turns heads. Jesus drew massive crowds of thousands of people by being such an example of love, so imagine the joy you could bring to the lives of even just a handful of people by following suit.

Love is something that should be lavished onto others, not held back and reserved for people who try to earn it, not given in small doses to keep someone on their game, not given and taken away like an object and not used to manipulate others into giving you what you want even if it’s to make you feel good about yourself. Love is a constantly-offered gift you give to give to people you like and people you don’t. It will give you peace to know you are good to everyone, you will be a light and an example to everyone who meets you and you will please God.

Love got me through the hardest times in my life and it will continue to do so throughout my life. This life is too short to waste believing in a false MTV version of “love.” It’s more than romance, dates, gifts, text messages and Facebook statuses. It also requires you to have an open heart to receive love and give people the benefit of the doubt. A bitter or prideful attitude will get you nowhere, believe me, I’ve seen it. You will attract love by loving others, appreciating them and treating them like they have value, and gradually things will begin to change in your life for the better. So love! (Zero to a hunnid, real quick.) ;)

With Love,

Sarah

P.S. Thanks to everyone who has been reading these blogs, I really appreciate it!