Your Silent Competitor

Here’s what I know about me, in the face of competition I know I can’t win, I draw back. I’m not the competitive type who digs deep and goes all in if I don’t think I have a chance to win. Now, I will push hard until the moment I realize there is no winning chance. At that point, I tend to wonder why I’d exert so much energy for 2nd place or worse. I’m not saying this is a good thing or the right thing. It’s just how I operate.

I believe this explains why I have a strong dislike for Monopoly. I can try so hard and play so long and still end up never finding the strategy that wins the game.

Smartphones, screens, and devices are playing silently against us. They have been for many years, and they’ve decided they are in for the long game.

I want to win this game.

Try this experiment

Next time you are in a checkout line, decide ahead of time you will not pull out your phone to pass the time. Look around and count how many people have their heads up. Chances are, you won’t count many. Watch how the clerk interacts with you compared to someone who comes through with their eyes fixed on their phone. I’ve watched this play out, and it’s fascinating. To the ones who are available and ready to engage in conversation, the clerk usually converses. But to the ones who are so engrossed in the world of their screen, the world not right there in front of them, the clerk will often only engage to the extent of, “Hi, how are you today.”

Knowing the competition

The smart phone is a feisty competitor; it nearly always wins. What exactly is it trying to win? Ultimately, our heart, but it starts with our attention. Once it has our attention enough, it will hook us in with its fake offerings of laughter, entertainment, escape, information, newest trends, and world happenings that ding throughout the day and night.

If it keeps our attention long enough, it’s winning. And then it only takes the slightest ding to bring us back to it. The body reacts with hits of dopamine. We feel we need it more and more. All the while, real life, real entertainment, real laughter, real people are wanting our attention.

Who wins this game against the smartphone?

How Can We Compete

It’s the most silent competitor vying for the attention of people. Often it’s not worth the effort to compete against it. So, we go silent rather than try to win against our silent competitor.

When I’m in the company of someone captivated by their phone, I tend to draw inward. It’s hard to compete against the stream of constant entertainment of a phone. While screens feed us news reports 24/7, I have only a few new happenings to offer. Screens provide us a hit of dopamine hundreds of times a day. That’s a hard competitor.

Which Side Are We On?

If we are honest we’ve played on both sides of this game. We’ve been the one held prisoner by our phone. And we’ve been the one on the other side hoping the other person would look up eventually.

While we can’t make people around us put down their phones, we can make a personal choice to be the ones who live free of our devices.

What Winning Looks Like

First, we need to form a picture of what winning looks like.

I love watching Steve and Andrew wrestle. Steve will have total control over Andrew’s arms and legs and pin him firmly. Andrew will call out, “Look, Mom, I’m winning. I’m dominating Dad!” Clearly, he is not winning. Steve has total control over all his possible moves, yet Andrew believes he’s winning. Likely, he knows the truth and doesn’t want to admit it.

This is a picture of our relationship with our phones if we don’t decide to win this game. We can think it doesn’t control us, but our actions tell a different story.

Signs our phone dominates us:

  • We pick up our phone at every ding.
  • Sitting in a room with someone, we find ourselves scrolling or reading online rather than engaging in conversation
  • We pick up our phone without having an actual reason. We feel compelled to check.
  • We check our phones at red lights, in checkout lines, and in any spaces of downtime.
  • Boredom is uncomfortable, and we pick up our phone to solve the boredom.

“All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. “All things are lawful for me,” but I will not be dominated by anything.” 2 Corinthians 6:12

This World Needs More Winners

Our world needs more winners. We need more people to decide they want to live the most abundantly alive, full, and vibrant lives imaginable. This world needs people captivated by simple wonders and able to handle boredom. Some of the greatest inventions known to man came when a human was bored. Ideas are given space to develop when the brain isn’t overstimulated.

Empathy grows when we are connecting with real humans. Screens decrease our capacity for empathy and compassion. They attempt to grow cynicism where God desires empathy.

We must decide to win.

Let’s Call It What It Really Is

Let’s be real. It’s not a game. It’s war. We are in a spiritual battle. Choose to stand and fight. Win against the smart devices that is after your attention, your heart, and your real life. Come back to the place where simple pleasures brought delight, where we paused to take in the beautiful landscape, where we didn’t want to rush away from a conversation, and where a child’s joke brings a genuine chuckle.

Life is good. Real life is worth fighting for. The enemy knows if he gets your attention, he can capture your affections and heart. And because he’s so deceptive, he will let you think you are winning. He will whisper to you that you are dominating, you are in control. The way to overpower him starts with recognizing the enemy and turning his tactics back on him. The name of Jesus is a strong tower. We pray for power and we make choices that over time replace our habits.

It’ll be a fight, but this world needs more winners. We have a Kingdom to run. We can’t run it distracted.

Be Ready So You Don’t Have To Get Ready

I heard a story last year on a podcast that made a lasting impact on me. Not only have I shared it with my boys, but I find I continue to apply the overall lesson to my own life.

Who Are You Becoming?

A mom shared how her daughter left for college, and as many do, began turning to wilder ways. She enjoyed the partying life college offered, the freedom, and the boys. Even though she was raised in a christian home and knew right from wrong, she continued choosing wrong. It was a season of her life marked by heavy alcohol use and multiple sexual partners.

Then one day she called her mom from college, “Mom! I met a boy who is everything I would want in a man. He is the kind of man I want to marry.” She went on to describe this dream guy. He was attractive, heavily involved in the campus ministry, served in the local church, and he was an incredibly nice and genuine guy.

After she shared all about him with her mom, her mom responded, “Honey, that kind of guy is not looking for a girl like you.”

Truth in Love

Ouch. The stinging truth struck her daughter’s heart. She’d been living for the present, satisfying the cravings of her sin nature. The words of her mom felt like the icy bucket of water to the face awakening her to the reality of her life, choices, and who she was becoming. Who she was in that season isn’t who she wanted to be forever, and it certainly wasn’t who the man of her dreams would be searching for.

She decided that day to turn her life back to Christ and follow Him.

Practice Being Today Who You Want to be Tomorrow

I shared this story with my boys recently in the context of looking towards what they wanted for their future and practicing toward those ends.

If they envision themselves in their dream job, what disciplines are they putting into place today to prepare for that?

One day they will have an apartment or home of their own, practice today for how they will care and manage their own home. Start in the small areas the Lord has entrusted. Manage your own bedroom and bathroom well. Complete chores fully. Become faithful with the small.

“His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’” Matthew 25:23

What kind of husband do you want to be? Do you want to be thoughtful, gentle, considerate, selfless? Practice today for the kind of man you want to be. Pray, ask the Lord for help.

Be Ready So You Don’t Have to Get Ready.

Do you dream of that big break, that dream opportunity? Do everything today to build the skills necessary. That way when the opportunity comes, you will already be ready.

One of my son’s has aspirations of building his own business. He has particular areas of focus. I advised him to prepare today by learning the skills, reading the books, listening to the podcasts. In a sense we are preparing our fields for the rain. We are planting the seeds and doing all the work we can in the time of waiting.

“For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10

I heard another story of a college football player who didn’t have much chance of seeing any playing time. He made a decision to practice and prepare as if he were in the starting lineup. When several injuries took out the 1st and 2nd strings, he didn’t have to get ready. He was already ready to step out onto the field. He prepared ahead of time for his opportunity.

God’s Timing

God’s timing is perfect in every way. We have no control over when our opportunities arrive, but we do have control over who we become and what we build as we wait.

Let’s decide today what dreams we have for our future in order that we can wisely decide today what action steps to take to prepare.

 

 

 

 

 

A Safe Smart Watch For Kids

We’ve been a happy Gabb Wireless family for a couple of years now. Two of our three sons had/has a Gabb phone. When our middle son was nearly 16, we allowed him to transition to an iPhone. Honestly, I miss the Gabb for him as much as I knew I would.

Andrew lost his phone a few months ago. He has to use his own money for a phone and decided he could live without one. What we found is that we missed knowing where he was, that he arrived somewhere safely, or simply being able to send him quick messages.

So we bought him a Gabb watch. And I am in love with this watch. I’ve never liked smart watches because they were too connected. The Gabb watch is only what they need and nothing more.

The ease of use is perfect for a kid on the move. He can voice record his text to us. The sound and clarity of the voice calls is exceptional. And the best part, it stays on his wrist.

Through the month of October, you can buy any Gabb devices for 30% off. Use promo code RENEEROBINSON.

It would be a great Christmas gift and you can go ahead and beat the rush and check that baby off the list!

A check in on the year’s goals

At the end of 2019 I made two decisions. First, I would be purposeful in key areas in 2020. Second, I would read 100 books in 2020. This week I decided to check in on these goals to see how I’ve fared as we round the corner towards the final 2 months of 2020. Many of us singing praises to put this year to bed.

I printed off from Ann Voskamp’s website this document titled 2020: This is the Year I Purpose To:

Living intentionally doesn’t happen by accident.

We must decide what we want and where we plan to go. I also believe it’s good to go back and assess. Did we move in the direction we hoped? Did we reach our goals?

Noting progress is important.

I checked in on my Purpose to declarations. A few worth noting:

EMBRACE:

First on my list was to choose something to embrace this year. I chose my curly hair. My hair likes to rebel, and I fight it with blow drying and straightening. This is the year I packed up my styling tools and went all in. This one act added hours to my life each week. I also realized how freeing it was to spend less time in front of the mirror. My hair is healthier. I have only dried my hair about 5 times this year. Miracle.

ENGAGE:

in nighttime conversations with my boys even when I’m tired. Success. I’ve always seen how my boys open up at night, especially one on one. I’ll miss this one day. At the same time, I’ll have plenty of time to sleep one day.

LEARN:

to meal plan better and love the kitchen duties. Ok, this one is a biggie for me. My family loves to eat. I DON’T love to cook. I dislike meal planning and the act of cooking. I don’t love grocery shopping. It’s the one area, if money weren’t a factor, I would hire a personal grocery shopper, meal planner, and chef. My sister sent me a free Hello Fresh box. With that one gift, my kitchen life changed drastically.

Here’s what I love. It’s whole, real ingredients. The meals come with everything you need. Those random ingredients I never have on hand are not a problem anymore. The portion sizes are right on (they even have meal kits for 2!). Seems I don’t have picky eaters anymore. I’m not even kidding. Every meal is devoured. One of my sons recently told me that he loves when I cook a Hello Fresh Meal because he knows it’s going to be amazing. We try recipes I’d never try off Pinterest. One too many experiences of Pinterest fails has me a bit hesitant to spend so much time and money on a recipe that likely won’t live up to it’s Pin.

Ok, now for my favorite. The recipe cards come with step by step instructions. Not like your typical recipe. I mean it tells you literally the order to do each step in, which I have found is priceless for me. These meals are gourmet meals I can have on the table in 30 minutes flat. Even my most simple meals, I’m slow in the kitchen. I’ve discovered I’m not very efficient when it comes to cooking. Often a simple meal might take me an hour. At the end of this post, I’ll link a code to receive $70 off your first Hello Fresh Box. Also I have 4 free boxes to give away.

A discovered theme

I guess a theme for me has been reclaiming time this year. Reclaiming time from my hair, from cooking, and giving it to areas that matter most to me.

Now your turn. Have you noticed a theme in your 2020 progress? Did you set goals, resolutions, or purposes? Is there an area you want to reclaim in your life?

It’s never too early to start thinking about what area we want to focus on. I’m a bit addicted to growth. I love seeing God’s work as we allow Him to stretch and mold us along the paths He’s planned for us.


For affiliate disclaimer visit the About page.

I have 4 free Hello Fresh boxes to give away. First come first served! The first 4 people to respond with your email address will receive a free box.

I also have promo codes for $70 off! Click here to redeem. (You will need to copy the link and paste in a new browser window. The link is not working properly at the time of this post.)  Hello Fresh $70 off

 

 

 

An easier parenting solution to the try hard life

As is normal in most families, or at least this is what I tell myself, we face seasons where peace seems a lofty wish. Siblings bicker more than normal, and we see hints of deeper heart issues needing to be addressed.

I have a stack of index cards filled with verses for such occasions. I’ve been known to pull out a card, read the verse, discuss with the kids, even have them write it several times. But they are getting older, and these methods don’t have the same effect as they did when they were younger. And this leads to me seeking control in an area I have no control.

If you follow me on Instagram, you may remember I posted a picture of a verse I’d written on the chalkboard in our mudroom.

“Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love. Make every effort to keep yourselves united in the Spirit, binding yourselves together with peace.” Ephesians 4:2-3

We gathered for a family meeting recently to discuss any issues we each feel weighing on us. A theme I’ve seen is what feels like a lack of love, which creates fights and hurtful words to be tossed about. After we each shared our thoughts, we prayed and went about our day.

I felt discouraged honestly. God brought to mind my favorite parenting book by Paul David Tripp titled Parenting: 14 Gospel Principles That Can Radically Change Your Family. In his book he reminds us that God never tasked parents with the job of heart change. That is God’s job and absolutely 100% impossible for us.

The harder we try to change a person’s heart, the more discouraged we find ourselves. Only God can change a heart. In his book, Tripp tells us our role is to reflect the Savior and point our kids to their need for a Savior over and over and over again. Not in a preachy, Bible-beating way, but in a way that shows our deep love for them.

As I remembered my role in the lives of my kids, I opened up my lesson for the day with Community Bible Study. This year I’m a core group leader for our local CBS. We are currently in the book of Philippians. In the commentary that day the theme was “Christ – The Supreme Model” from Philippians 2:1-11. This sentence jumped off the page, “The letter reflects Paul’s deep concern about their lack of love and unity, but instead of exhorting them to try harder to be more loving, he directs their attention to Christ as the perfect example of living.”

Well, about an hour prior Steve and I sat our kids down telling them how they needed to try harder to love each other better. Yet, here I sat at my kitchen table hearing the Holy Spirit gently reminding me of a better way. Not only was God showing me that telling my kids to try harder was useless, He was reminding me for myself as well.

Out of my love for Jesus and my kids, I was caught in a try hard cycle. Again. It’s a weakness of mine. I see a problem and want to fix it right away. So I get to work. But when it’s matters of the heart, I simply wear myself out until My Savior whispers me away and gently pulls me back into Him.

He’s so kind like that. He hears my cry, and He responds. He reminds me of how He loves my kids more than I do. They are His not mine. I’ve been tasked to steward this job well in Him, but I’m not responsible for the results.

There’s freedom in understanding this. When I walk in this understanding, fear can’t have its way in my parenting. Parenting from fear and frustration never ends well.

I’ll need this reminder again. But for today I’m grateful I can rest in my Savior. His grace is available in our hardest parenting moments. We simply need to reach out and accept what He’s offering us. He won’t force us. He’s too gentle for that.

 

 

 

 

 

One blip of a moment that showed why simple traditions matter

In our first year of marriage, Steve played on a church softball team. One crisp Friday night, I sat on the bleachers cheering him on. A group of teenagers surrounded me. They were discussing Friday night plans. We had no children yet, so naturally I leaned in to spy on their conversations.

Lighthearted laughter, bantering back and forth. I smiled. I hope my teens have sweet spirits like this one day, I thought. A girl called out to one of the guys. “Hey, we are all going out to grab something to eat tonight. Want to go with us?”

“Not tonight! It’s Friday. Chicken and rice Friday. I never miss mom’s chicken and rice.”

My heart melted right into those hard as a rock metal bleachers. A teenage boy declining a Friday night out to go home to his mom’s meal. Because that is what Friday nights held in their home.

That was a turning point moment for me as a not-yet-mama.

I saw what I wanted to create in our family. I wanted a connected family. One filled with simple, yet meaningful traditions.

Start with the end in mind.

When an architect draws up a house plan, they ask their client what it is they want. The client will tell them their dream home and what they envision. They may say things like “I want to host large parties. Entertaining is important to me.” And the architect will draw up a plan that includes a design fit for their dreams and ideas.

When building begins, the builder works from the plan. The plan lays out the steps needed to reach the end goal and final result. Each step is intentionally taken to create the vision cast by the client.

In the same way, creating a family culture and establishing connected relationships involves looking down the road and deciding what is most important. Then you make a plan. Not a perfect plan. But. A plan.

With our families, we start with the end in mind too.

 

Here are a few ideas:

  • read aloud together. Start early and keep going when you think they’ve outgrown it. We are never too old to listen to stories. Some of my favorite memories are around books we’ve read together as a family. We’ve laughed and cried and celebrated.  We have a collection of memories around stories. It’s a favorite summer tradition in particular.
  • a simple weekly meal – like chicken and rice Friday. Taco Tuesdays are pretty popular. It’s simply nice to have something to all look forward to together. It’s steady and sure. Taco Tuesday arrives each week without much hurrah. Just a regular meal everyone counts on in a world that often is filled with setbacks and disappointments.
  • family dinners – sitting together to eat is important to me. Creating schedules to make that a priority is hard but worth it. For some families this is exceptionally hard. Try for at least one night a week. Or 2 or 3. Just set what works and stick to it.
  • weekly family night- Pick a night of the week for some family activity. Game night. Movie night. Go get ice cream. Again it’s that repeated activity that everyone counts on and looks forward to.
  • holiday traditions – The simpler the better. You don’t have to consult Pinterest and go over the top. Kids are typically quite pleased with less than we adults realize. It really is about the little things.
  • birthday traditions – My motto is always simple. I have a birthday banner from Zachary’s 5th birthday I saved. I hang it for everyone’s birthday. They all expect to see it when they wake up.

We have so many traditions, but they are super simple. In fact, I’d go so far as to say they are so simple, my kids wouldn’t call them a “tradition”. But to me a tradition is something we repeat together and come to expect we will continue to repeat.

My almost 16 year old son was invited to something recently. When he told me, I quickly said, “Go! You should go.” He responded, “No mom, that night is the same one as our annual tradition. It’s a tradition. I don’t want to miss it.”

And my heart did that melting thing it did some 18-19 years ago as I eavesdropped on teens I didn’t know realizing that I wanted to be a mom who created simple moments and meaningful traditions to foster connected relationships.

Traditions are a reminder of belonging. They connect us one to another.

You may remember I wrote a Christmas devotion titled Seeking Christmas. The heart of the book was to provide families with simple family traditions tied to the true meaning of Christmas. While the book is no longer in circulation, the spirit of Seeking Christmas, along with the ornaments and hide and seek activity, are alive and well.

I created Seeking Christmas to counter the materialism and consumerism of Christmas, while simultaneously creating traditions centered completely around why we even celebrate. My kids rarely remembered a material gift from year to year, but they never forgot the simple moments we built into our holiday season.

It was the experiences and activities they asked for. Not the presents.

So here it is. A 7 day Christmas ornament hide and seek activity. 1 ornament a day you hide, let your kids find it. Then you open the Bible together and read the scripture. Over 7 days you unfold a small part of the Christmas story.

It’s simple. It’s effective. It’s a tradition. It’s for the busiest of busy families. It’s made to stand alone or build upon however you choose. It’s flexible. You don’t have to start on a certain Sunday or December 1st.

You can buy the download to create your own ornaments for $1. I will also be loading some printed, ready to ship ornament sheets on the shop so stay tuned for those. I only have a few sets leftover from my recent Pop-Up shop. So grab them while they are here.

 

 

My job is not to make my kid’s struggle easier.

My job is not to make my kid’s struggle easier.

My job is to lean in and point them to the cross.

The struggle is real.

Life is a struggle. If we as parents continue to step in and right their world and make everything fair and perfect, what a disservice we offer them in the long run. Because ultimately we are creating a false sense of reality for them.

In my fierce attempts to protect my child from failure, mistakes, unfairness, and hardship, I elbow Christ right out of the way. I step in and say to the One who wants to be my child’s Comforter, Defender, and Rescuer, “I’ve got this. I’ll smooth this path for him and make it all better.”

Sadly, Christ is left out. Our kids aren’t pointed to the cross. Rather, they begin to see the world as a place that is supposed to be fair and good to them. In reality, this world is fallen and broken. In God’s mercy and love, He sent His son to make it all right. And on this earth, we won’t experience perfection and goodness in all situations. This is when we turn toward Him in faith and say, “I trust in You. You love me. You care for me. One day I will stand with you in eternity and see the world as it should be.”

I had a friend tell me stories of parents calling him when their adult children didn’t get the job. They wanted to know why their child wasn’t chosen. Parents calling the coach and demanding their kid be placed on a team they simply weren’t cut out for. Parents racing to school after the child left homework at home. AGAIN.

It is ok for our kids to struggle. It’s ok for them to fail so they can learn. If we consistently rescue them, how will they ever grow strong?

It’s hard to watch our kids struggle. But if we don’t let them now, while we can talk them through it, they will not be prepared when it really matters.

7 years ago I wrote a post about the importance of struggle. I shared a story in which I struggled to allow my child to struggle. 7 years later, I believe in this more than I realized I would. Click through to read that post with me. The Struggle with Struggle.