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In which I get rid of my mobile phone (and learn a couple of things)

After yet another billing squabble with our mobile phone service provider, my husband asked me what I thought about cancelling my phone contract entirely.

And then I died dead of horror.

Okay, so not quite that bad.

But still. My phone? How will I text? How will I call people? How will I check my email when I’m out for the day? How will I find the closest coffee shop quickly? How will I get where I’m going without Maps? How will I occupy my children in church? Will anyone know I’m occasionally funny if I don’t tweet my wit?

Source: 9gag.com via Sarah on Pinterest

 

After a week of looking at our finances as well as our dreams for the future, I realised he was right: the phone needed to go. I don’t work in a traditional job, I don’t drive long distances, I really don’t use it much (or so I thought).

So sure, let’s get rid of my mobile. No big deal. I can totally do this. Right?

I’ve now been without mobile phone access for a month or so. And I’ve noticed a few things

Source: flickr.com via Sarah on Pinterest

 

I used that phone waaaaaaaay more than I thought I did. I had a hand-me-down first-generation iPhone (yes, the original ones with the round corners and no flash on the camera). I prided myself on “having boundaries” with my phone. And yet, that first week without my phone felt like withdrawal. Painful withdrawal.

I’m safer. British Columbia has a strict Hands-Free driving policy. Police will give you a ticket if you are caught with your phone in your hand while driving. And I was sure that I didn’t check my email or my messages – much – while driving. But  my most common time to want to reach for my phone after we turned off the service? While I was driving. I couldn’t believe it. (I thought I was smarter than that.) Apparently I was checking email at stop lights. I was “quickly glancing” at text messages that bonged in while barreling down the highway at 100 km/h. Once my phone was gone, my attention was more fully on the road. Or on CBC Radio (yes, I’ve got an unreasonable crush on Jian Ghomeshi, so what?)

I’m saving money. Our plan was for $50 a month, yet somehow, I always exceeded that plan to the tune of $70-80. By getting rid of our phone, we’re saving a minimum of $600 a year (but it’s probably more like $960/year). Craziness. We have some dreams about being more intentional, counter-cultural, and generous with our money so we’re doing everything we can to get the house in order as fast as possible. This is a seemingly small step that adds up over the years. I had no idea we were spending that much every month on my ability to check email while driving.

I can still use wireless access. Holla! Who knew, right? When we were close to pulling the plug on our contract, I admitted that the primary reason I love and use my phone is Instagram. I have a terrible camera in my phone but I love taking pictures throughout my day, and I love the Instagram community. I seriously contemplated hanging onto my phone for the purposes of Instagram. But then I realised, I can still use my actual phone with wireless access. It’s a bit limiting, absolutely. It takes the “insta” out of Instagram. But I still take pictures throughout my day, and then, when I’m home and on our wireless, I can upload them and still check out Instagram pics.

 

I’m not quite as rude to others. I can’t assuage my boredom at appointments. I can’t decided I’d rather be on Twitter than talking whomever is in the room. I can’t scroll through my phone in church. I can’t hold my phone like a shield at home group.

I feel less accessible. It might come across as a negative but, on the contrary, this is one of the greatest wins for me. Now, when I’m out, I’m out.  It takes away the sense of urgency for my online life. Email has to wait. Responding to comments has to wait. Tweeting has to wait. I have no idea what is happening on Twitter or in my comment sections for huge chunks of my day, and that is a great gift to enjoy.

It’s inconvenient. Totally and gloriously inconvenient. The first day I got rid of my phone, I had made plans to go to the theatre with my sister (Les Miserables, you know it). I waited and waited and waited in the theatre lobby but she never appeared. Normally, I would have texted her in two seconds. But now I waited. I went on a hunt for a pay phone  which was practically an adventure. After I found one, I deposited my quarter, dialled the number and promptly heard the operator instruct me to deposit another $3.60. I hung up. I didn’t need to talk to her that badly. Pay phones have gone up since the last time I used one, which was likely when I was 13 and calling my mother for a ride from the mall after trying on inappropriate and cheap club wear at Le Chateau. I went into the theatre, sat on the edge, and kept an eye out for her. She showed up five minutes after the movie started, apologetic and worried. She had gone to the wrong theatre by mistake, she couldn’t call me, we were both so sorry and relieved. That entire situation would not have happened if I had my phone. But on the flip side, I have become more careful about plans in advance and less prone to being late or cancelling. Without a phone, I have to honour the plans I make with people. Instead of being able to text with an “oops, I’m running late!” pseudo-apology excuse as I was prone for my lack of value on their time, I have to get my bum in gear and get there on time.

I’m both more present and more private in my moments. There isn’t another option than the present moment. I can’t decide to check out on the conversation at hand if I’m bored. I don’t get to “quickly check” my phone while at the playground. I’m looking around the world more, my head is up, my eyes are open. I noticed my surroundings, the people, my tinies, my life again. I’m listening a bit better. I haven’t had to say “I’m sorry, I missed that – what did you say?” quite as often. I actually live the moment instead of Instagramming the moment. I can’t post a status or a tweet from everywhere I am, the temptation to take a picture of my food has disappeared (and everyone said hallelujah) and I have restored a measure of privacy and secrecy I’d forgotten to appreciate or notice. It’s nice to disappear. I like my secrets. Not having a phone has restored some balance, beauty, and perspective to my life.

 

One of my favourites, Heather of the EO, is launching a new podcast called Power Down with a couple of her friends. It’s about finding the balance in online writing/social media life with our creativity and our time. Check it out.

 

 

Continue Reading · consumerism, moments, simple living · 70

In which our gentleness is evident to one first

 

We had a full house of friends the other night. It was a “serve yourself from the stove” kind of evening, and Joseph hollered and crashed dinosaurs together in the living room while the football game blared, tinies danced to music, and crumbs covered the floor. After most everyone had left and the dishwasher was roaring, I collapsed on the couch, overstimulation complete. I’d lost my temper earlier in the day with one of the tinies, and I was still stinging with it.

One young couple remained behind, intending to put their little baby down to sleep at our house so they could stay a bit longer and visit. My three were sound asleep, and the house was dark, just a few lamps lit, and I waited with my knitting in hand, enjoying the quiet while this beautiful young mama tried to put her baby to sleep. But, as any parent knows, many are the plans in a parent’s heart but often it is the baby who prevails. (“Sleep alone in an uncomfortable playpen in a strange house? No, thank you, Mumma.”)

I listened to her sing soft and slow, she has a lovely voice. I couldn’t discern a word she sang, but the sound and melody of a mama-lullaby overheard melts armour, unfurls muscle knots, exhales the lungs, and releases tension. Eventually, my friend gave up to the inevitable with good grace, carrying a bright-eyed small baby back out, and she rocked her girl slow in my old red rocking chair until the baby blinked longer between yawns and lolled back. She said something so wise while she rocked, I wanted to write it down: “Paul told us to let our gentleness be evident to all*, and I want my gentleness to be evident to our baby girl, too, even when no one is around to overhear or notice but her.”

 

*Philippians 4:5

 

Continue Reading · baby, friends, moments, parenting · 35

In which I catch a glimpse of heaven

We drove through the mountains in the snow, holding hands over the gear shift. It was an iron-grey day, a cold swirl of a day, and as we crossed the river coming down from the north, a bald eagle swooped down and low right beside our car. As we reached the other side, the eagle lowered one wing, and arched away, benediction rising. We drove to the base of the mountains, past a herd of bison to the log-stacked lodge. Each sentinel pine on the mountain weighed with snow, slender and distinct, there was just a hint of pink to the sky.

There were pine cones and simple jar candles lining the aisle, holly boughs with crimson berries and burlap laid out, paper hearts hanging from bare branches. At the altar the words “Rise to a better story” prophesy in the blue snow light.

It was a gathering of nations there in the snow. First bridesmaids in cream and gold saris, then Tina appeared in her bridal scarlet and emerald and gold sari, jewels through the part of her hair resting on her forehead. Kupa and his friends, his brothers, from Zambia, from America, from Hong Kong, stood at the front, and Kupa’s eyes were not satisfied with seeing, it’s a good idea to watch the groom’s face for that moment when his bride appears, that look will make you believe in love all over again.

We sang praises to God, we cried, we clapped, we fell more in love, each of us, remembering our own wedding days. When the pastor charged them to be faithful and true, love and honour, and they vowed until death do us part, husbands and wives were catching eyes and smiling. Kupa and Tina got down on their knees and washed each other’s parents bare feet with their own hands, speaking blessing and honour and gratitude to their new mama and papa each. South-Indian Christian traditions enriched the traditional English Christian ceremony: sari draped by Kupa, gold cross tied, seven strands woven, and their vows.

When they were pronounced husband and wife, we nearly lifted the roof off with our cheers. India through Dubai to Canada, Zambia through America, and they found each other, and now we’re all here, drinking wine, and laughing, eating, and celebrating with tears in our eyes, every voice a unique accent of its own.

We all agree that this is what the world should look like – a wedding supper, a global family, saris and dashikis, head coverings and hipsters, good food, thumping music, dancing, tears, and the kind of love that works and breathes and shows up.

These are the sacred moments. And the community gathered to say we see you, we affirm you, we’re with you, and may God give you lots of babies, too. Here we all are in the Canadian west, a big crazy family usually scattered across the earth. The dirt on our shoes was from nearly every continent, but we are family by birth and blood and choice tonight.

We were stomping our feet and whistling loud, kissing and hollering out for more kisses, and then we were also sneaking outside to lean over the railings, men draping coats over women while our breath formed in the darkness, all to watch the moon rise in at Christmas.

Driving home, we agreed, yawning, feet aching, yes, right there, that may have been a glimpse of heaven.

 

Continue Reading · abundant life, friends, journey, love, marriage, moments · 10

In which I hope she remembers, today at church

I can’t carry a tune, but I love to sing. Maybe that’s part of why I love to go to church on Sundays: I get to sing.

But I also  get to watch my tinies dance, I get to hush and chase our baby across the back of the gym behind the folding chairs, I get to hold my son in my arms and sing the words into his coarse blonde hair. I get to hold new babies and give their worn-out, sleep-deprived mamas a rest. I get to stretch out my arms wide in the worship I always feel when I’m walking in the woods, and I get to show my face to the rafters, throat exposed, unafraid. I get to cry and cry and cry, and sing poetry and promises.

Sunday comes and I am longing for church. (Even the typing of that sentence, let alone the living truth of it, is enough to make me laugh at how God has surprised me, my bluff so completely been called.) But it’s true. I remember my Dad used to say, “I’m in the world all week-long, and boy, I can’t wait to get back with my family.” I feel that way: I feel like I can’t wait to hang out with people who love Jesus, people who long to see God’s kingdom come, and His will, done, right now.

So much of our lives in this world feels like exile, and we’re making a home in a faraway land, and so every time I get to be with my people (because the people who love God, these are my people), it’s a lush oasis in the desert, a refill, a taste of living water, a glimpse of Jesus with skin on.

I don’t think we need an institution and a Sunday to find community, no way; but in this season, that’s how it is for me, and I’m okay with that. I’m welcoming the strangeness of it, and rejoicing at the gift of home groups, Sunday afternoon potlucks with chili and soup and the Spirit. Today, I signed up to teach Sunday school because my daughter asked me to do it, and I figured I better say “yes” because all too soon, she wont’ want me teaching her class, and so today,  I’m going to show up. I start in a couple of weeks. I remember how my mother handed out crayons in my own Sunday school class, and something feels right about this decision.

I need the Church, in all its iterations and changeability and failings, I need community in all its difficulty and brokenness and beauty.

I need it because being friends on Facebook isn’t enough when you’re really supposed to be family, and a text message isn’t the same as wrapping your arms around each other, and boldly going to the throne of Grace together, breath to breath.

A song on my iPod isn’t the same as singing at the top of my off-key voice in a crowd as my friend sings the songs of my faith, it’s not the same as stomping my own feet, and a podcast isn’t the same as community preaching, eye to eye with your friends. And commenting on blogs isn’t the same as face-to-face conversation, it’s hard to call someone a heretic to their face.

And talking about or reading about or studying community, and grace, and the radical act of staying put for once in our addicted-to-change, afraid-of-commitment culture, and embracing mess and noise and family and prayer and friendship, well, it isn’t the same as living it in our real walking-around lives, is it?

And so this morning, I get to sing.

And I get to taste the salt of my own tears, and hear, with my own ears, my voice proclaiming the goodness of my God. And I get to pull out my old hankie and press half-moons of mascara into the worn cotton, because it’s so true, He’s been so good to me, and I can hardly breathe for His faithfulness, so I exhale, at long last, exhale.

I get to be reminded of my freedom, and his love and mercy, and then, right while I’m singing, today, bless the Lord oh my soul, my six-year-old, my Anne-girl, she reaches out and holds my hand.

She’s always watching me, and she’s watched me worship for her entire life, and today I could see her, marking this moment, and I thought: if there is one memory she has of me, please, God, let it be this one.

Let her remember this Sunday in a school gym, with a bunch of other misfits, we’re all longing for Jesus, we’re all longing to be seen. Let her remember how we had breakfast and I yelled at everyone for the mess in the house, and I put a stew in the crockpot, and we arrived late at church.

And let her remember how I cried my mascara right off, and how I was such a gigantic mess in my real life but I kept trying anyway because I had stars in my eyes, wild in love, and how I sang too-loud, and clutched my breast with relief at being reminded again how He is faithful. And let her remember that He is enough, because He was enough for her crazy imperfect mama.

And at that moment, then my Anne, she squeezed my hand, and smiled at me, tenderly, like she knew me, like she gained part of her woman-soul before my eyes, and she started to sing right out loud, our voices rising together, her eyes never leaving my tear-stained joyful face.

 

Continue Reading · abundant life, Anne, church, community, faith, journey, moments · 38