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There’s a line in the story of Jesus’ birth that, since becoming a mother, is always popping into my mind. It’s not one people really stop to pick apart or even contemplate why it’s there. A simple little verse that, written in a day LONG before social media, helps guide my online-sharing practices in this technology age.

mary joseph and the babe

Just in case anyone needed a visual, I give you Joseph, Mary, and a very excited baby Jesus.

A brief synopsis of the story, as well as a couple things we know about Mary: She didn’t come from a well-to-do family. Until of course giving birth to Jesus, she hadn’t done anything notable or newsworthy. She was a teenager, engaged and in love with Joseph, who stuck by her side even when she told him this doozy, “I’m pregnant with God’s baby.” Mary and Joseph travel to their hometown to be counted for a mandatory census. Mary is super pregnant and they must have gotten there kind of late because all the inns and extra rooms are already packed full of people. They finally find an innkeeper who allows them to sleep in his barn with the animals. Baby Jesus is born there and sleeps in a feed trough under the most humble of circumstances.
After he’s born, God sends a star to shine over the barn where his family is staying. Angels visit some nearby shepherds to alert them that their Savior is here. The shepherds start rejoicing and spreading the news, waste no time locating Jesus, and bow to worship him as soon as they arrive. Magi (important, well-known wise men) from afar see the star-beacon and follow it to Bethlehem knowing that it’s a big deal. When they make it to the barn, they shower Jesus with expensive, lavish gifts. There is an electricity in the air as the people of Bethlehem start catching on to what’s happening.
If this were me in present time, how would I have reacted to all the fuss? Especially as a teenager. 
The grown men/strangers bowing down to my infant? Document the ordeal in detail to post on Facebook.
The visits from three distinguished kings, offering gold and expensive oils? Uh, I’d for sure name drop. Snap a quick pic for Insta of my wee babe in the arms of my famous visitors (with the fancy gifts in view).
From being a “nobody” to widespread recognition.  Tweet it out and try and develop a following, leaning in to my new-found fame.
But what Mary did is the part that sticks with me: “Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.” Aware of just how special this child and these moments were, she didn’t rush to a news outlet. She pondered them in her heart. I imagine a little half smile on her face as she gets lost in her thoughts.
I know, I know. She didn’t have internet or a cell phone. What would be the olden day equivalent? “She told everyone she met along the road that her kid was kind of a big deal.” Not sure exactly what she would have done if Bethlehem had wifi, but it’s significant to me that this simple line was purposely recorded in the Bible.
I distinctly remember a moment with my firstborn when she was a couple months old where I realized this line would forever serve as a reminder for me. A reminder to save some things just for me. I was breastfeeding her, looking down at the hugest eyes I’d ever seen. It was early in the morning – just before dawn – and the dim light from outside was casting a blue glow throughout the room. She stared at me with her baby blues as she ate. It was serene and wonderful and powerful and a gift. I remember thinking, “Where’s my phone when I need it? The world needs to see how angelic she is. Can I film this without showing any of my…parts…?” followed immediately by a thought that was its exact opposite, “No way. How could I cheapen something so tender and special? What an honor that no one can see this but me. This is a sacred moment meant just for mother and child.”
 
Moms, there aren’t a lot of accolades or awards in our line of work. We don’t get glowing quarterly reviews or raises affirming us of a job well done. In fact, there are lots of daily complaints and criticisms from our little charges. What Mary teaches me is that the sweetest of these moments with my babies are my most valuable rewards. Meant to be treasured and pondered. I’m not suggesting we boycott social media; my parents who live 700 miles away would never go for that! I’m just encouraging you to keep some things just for yourselves, Moms. Your kids are so special and I know that’s why you want to put it out there, but it doesn’t all have to be broadcast. You deserve to keep something untouched, undiscovered, and sacred that you alone can treasure and ponder.
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I don’t like asking for favors. Even small ones. For example: asking a neighbor to get our mail when we’re out of town. Getting the mail is a super easy job. The required amount of activity, deductive reasoning skill and manual labor is quite trivial, but I profusely apologize like I’ve just asked Senora Aurora (next door neighbor) to be the surrogate mother of our next child (that analogy is strictly to illustrate a point! Plus she’s definitely past child-bearing years). Then, when we return and I walk next door to retrieve the collected mail, I am sure to bring four different quick breads, fresh out of the oven, to thank her for the major inconvenience I caused her.

Now, when neighbors ask me to collect their mail? Really, truly no big deal. It is zero percent a hassle. In fact, it’s sometimes nice to have a reason to take a little stroll down the street. I’ve tried to internalize the fact that (hopefully!) my neighbors really, truly feel just as unbothered by little favors as I do so that I can not be afraid to become real friends with them. Because real friendship is built through real life and not just niceties, right? And when I humble myself to be put in a position of debt to my neighbor or friend or family member, usually I am rewarded by their willingness to be equally as vulnerable. Just ask my super awesome neighbor Becky. She fed and watered Frankie the rabbit every day and (in the pouring rain) checked in our chickens multiple times while we were gone over Thanksgiving. She’s one of the sweetest, easy-to-be-friends-with women I know. Now get this. She’s 9 months pregnant. I know. I can see you all shaking your heads. What monster asks their dear neighbor who’s about to pop a baby out to feed their livestock for a week? ME. I’m that monster. I owe her big time and at least 10 quick breads.

Superstar neighbor Miss Becky

Superstar neighbor Miss Becky

My mom and my dad. In my 32 years, I have already drawn out SO many favors from them. Before I ever really realized how much I was taking and even now when I do realize it. When it comes to their willingness to give or extend favor to me, the supply never seems to dry up. Although I know how generous they’ve been with me through my life, I am still never afraid to ask for help. They may be the only two people on this earth whose well of favor I’m not afraid to keep drawing from. Even with my husband Matt, I sometimes still think in terms like this when there’s something I want to ask of him: Ok, when was the last time he went out to play basketball with his friends because there’s a Noonday party I want to go to with my friends. It’s like we think that kindness and generosity are measurable units that we can trade, stockpile, or deplete. And that very well could be true with most humans because many of us are keeping score. NOT GOD. My eyes well up just resting on that truth because He gives and gives and gives generously to all without finding fault.

I stop and pray every time I see a prayer request come through Facebook. This afternoon, there were several prayer requests in a row for major health concerns. By the third or fourth prayer request, I found myself forgetting that God is not keeping score of how many favors I’ve asked of Him. Praying like this: God, I know I’ve just asked for three other miracles, so…well…okay yeah, since I’m overloading You, I’ll be back to pray for this tomorrow when the favor-meter has been recharged. His favor, his love for us, his desire to do good in our lives does not dry up. You can’t ask too many times for too many favors. He can do all that and infinitely more. If I believe (and I do) that He gladly receives my request of Him to heal three people in a row, then why not ask healing for the fourth? I take my own insecurities and misguided conclusions about myself and other people, then I apply them to a God who is just not like me. Praise you, Lord!

I hope I can mature to a place with my people, and surely with my God, where kindness, good, generosity, neighborliness, love, and favor is so abundant in our lives that it passes freely between us, no tabs kept. I pray that we can desire those things with so much fervor that our communities are not so fragmented, fractured, and broken. Thank you to all of you who, like my parents, have let me take more than I have given back without being offended; when you do that, God’s likeness is tangible and precious in your living, breathing example of endless favor.

I saw an article recently on Facebook which lamented how moms “lose a part of themselves” once they become a mother, basically due to the major shift in having to account for and incorporate a child into all of life’s plans versus just accounting for yourself. Several women identified with that feeling, maybe you did/do, too. I want to give some credence to this concept because becoming a parent is a big shock to the system. You get a baby, of course, but you don’t get to sleep or eat or go out, etc., whenever you want to. Maybe you don’t shower for days at a time. Maybe, like me, you had a “postpartum uniform” consisting of the same pair of sweat pants and a breastfeeding tank top. Also, a big robe that I’d throw on for chilly nights or special occasions like company popping over. Just ask Matt. I wore my postpartum uniform for a solid four months, maybe more. The transition can be jarring. That said, I don’t relate to the “lost myself” post for a few reasons. First, I think the whole idea is moot if we stop to consider the fact that not only have we not actually lost any of ourselves, God has miraculously taken pieces of us and multiplied them. Second, feeling lost was not my experience at all. Motherhood is where I found myself. More on that in a sec. Third, and what I want to dissect more than the other two, if you are in Christ, who cares if you lose yourself? Isn’t it kind of the point of following Jesus to lose yourself to find him? To peel back our layers of self-centeredness until we can see only Jesus at our core?

Before I was a mother, I had my faith and my values; they became the foundation for which I lived my life. Things were real and rich and good, yes, but they were also kind of fluid. I was responsible for myself and only myself. I could, if I wanted to, change my mind from day to day about what I believe and being fickle would have had little impact on anyone except for maybe me. When we had Harper, figuring out what I core-believe hit me like a ton of bricks. A wave washed over me when I started parenting. A wave of identity and intentionality. It’s one thing to live your life in a state of total personal impressionability, but when I became a mom it was an immediate and important goal of mine to provide stability, consistency, and dependability to a future generation. I have totally “lost myself” over the last six years in the sense that 2015 Laura is very unlike 2009 Laura. I happen to feel like whatever of me I “lost” was made up for (times ten) in what I have gained through a grander knowledge of God and through finding my identity in Him as I fight the selfishness I’m prone to in order to show Jesus to my family. If I lose myself in becoming a parent, that’s a small price to pay in order to find God. Consider this: Matthew 16.24-26 “24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If any of you wants to be my follower, you must turn from your selfish ways, take up your cross, and follow me. 25 If you try to hang on to your life, you will lose it. But if you give up your life for my sake, you will save it. 26 And what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul? Is anything worth more than your soul?”.

Self-centeredness and self-absorption are things I believe that every human struggles with. We all want to feel important, we all want to be heard, we all want to be well-liked and respected. We worry about our bodies, our social standing, our bank accounts. We all think other people are way more interested in us than they actually are. Selfies are a thing, need I say more? And now we have these megaphones of social media where something we say or show can reach hundreds – maybe thousands – of people in only minutes. Now listen to how sad this is: What do we use these platforms for? We use our platforms to elevate and showcase ourselves instead of God. Try scrolling through your posts to see for yourself who or what you are prone to elevate…I was convicted, maybe you will be, too. I say “Look at me” much too often when I should be saying “Look at God” or even “Look at God in me.” I use pictures or words to subtly communicate, “I am healthy. I am good. I am smart. I am together. I am successful. I am…”. This is so convicting because I am not I AM. But I sure put myself on a pedestal like I AM.

So, this is where losing yourself and finding yourself merge together. Whoever we are or were or whatever – doesn’t matter. Let’s stop trying to hold on so tightly to that person. We have to work hard to change our patterns of behavior in order to elevate God over self; if we do not proactively seek to lose ourselves to find our identities in Christ, we will always default to serving ourselves. What we CAN do is soul search. Pray and read and listen to what God has to say about the identity He wants us to have (hint: it’s going to look like Jesus). It’s very good to be intentional and have direction. Write down and memorize a personal or family mission statement. Here’s a clip of Cortland saying ours. Matt and I pray that our Family Creed will help us focus and re-focus as many times as our culture encourages us to think first and most often about ourselves.

One other quick thing on our personal missions: I have friends who are doing incredible, selfless, mountain-moving kingdom work around the world. I used to get a little jittery when I would hear people talk about feeling called or led to a foreign country, because I’ve never felt that kind of burden and wondered if maybe my compassion-meter was broken. It was as if my belief was that we are ALL called to a foreign country if we’re connected enough to God or are spiritually mature enough to really hear and understand what He’s saying. This belief assumes that, if you’re not a “real” missionary somewhere impoverished, then you’re spinning your life’s wheels. If we dwell for too long in this pattern of thinking, our everyday life here will start to seem inconsequential. But have we pondered the plight of America lately? Our country’s poverty is not for lack of food or shelter or clothes…it’s our spiritual poverty and our level of depletion is crippling. Alarming. Devastating. My burden is for right here at home in the US and, oh boy, do I feel called. There is kingdom work EVERYWHERE here. Don’t be fooled by full bellies and trendy clothes and lots of degrees – people are drowning in wealth, but starving here. Right here. We can do this.

And just in case you couldn’t quite understand toddler talk in the above clip, but wanted to know the words:

Moss Family Creed

Moss Family Creed

 

And goodbye, Facebook. For a month. My sister challenged me to 30 days of Facebook-less life and I’m doing it (she’s Instagram-less). I’m a little bit sad, a little bit scared, and a lot of relieved. I’m sad because I really enjoy perusing the newsfeeds, pictures, birth/engagement/other major life event announcements, and, for less-than-noble reasons, the absurd chatter we’re all accustomed to on social media. You’d think I would un-friend some of these who make me baffled-crazy, reading their status updates; but, alas, my inner drama-mama can’t turn away from the controversies. I’m scared because what if I’m invited to the party of the year and the invitation is through Facebook? Or what if someone breaks up or makes up or something similarly earth shattering like change their hair color? And I’m not around to cyber stalk for details? I’m missing so much of other people’s lives!

Above all else, I’m relieved. Because I’m not missing my own life. I’m not addicted to Facebook – really, I’m not. But I’m definitely preoccupied. You can tell by the way I hover around my computer after posting a picture, update or blog post, waiting for the red notifications to come in. I’ll still be hovering over this published post, you can bet on it. Honestly, I don’t even apologize for that. I’m a stay at home mom. We’ve been a one car family for three years now and we like it that way. However, it means that, unless there’s a doctor’s appointment or other need for me to take the car, me and the little ladies are on foot (or, more likely, double stroller) if we want to hit up the park, grocery store or Target (which, conveniently, are all within a mile of our house). So when I say we’re stay at home, we’re reeeeeally stay at home. I need that social feedback – the comments and smiles in the form of “likes” from friends. Obviously, face to face interaction is optimal, but being “liked” in whatever sense of the word you’re into does do something for me. A good something.

So, that’s it. Starting January 6, unless it’s something directly related to business, I’ll be communicating and/or spying only via phone or email or carrier pigeon over the next 30 days. I’m still going to need that social feedback and interaction, but I’m so glad I’ll be eliminating what is my biggest time-waste.

In other news, Matt built Frankie a hutch and just in the nick of time. He had been living in temporary quarters (a big box on our kitchen floor). Turns out, Frankie is a serious escape artist and for three straight mornings, we had to track him down by following the trail of turds. So we wised up and Frankie got moved to the shower for his overnights. Which is equally as disgusting in the mornings, but much easier to clean. Don’t worry, animal lovers, we’re not kicking him out of the house until the present cold snap has passed. Meaning, he’s probably pooping in my shower as we speak.

Pretty nice digs, if I do say so myself.

Pretty nice digs, if I do say so myself. Good work, Hoon!

Just a girl and her bunny.

Just a girl and her bunny.

When we went out to let him hop around the hutch for the first time, Harper actually asked me to go back into the house so she and Frankie could have “some alone time.” When I peeked my head back out the door, she was singing him songs about being in love. Ones that she was making up as she went, of course. She’s the best.