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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.

Well, I got rather depressing news a couple months ago. Some back story first. When you think of the people in your life – when their image is conjured up by someone mentioning their name – do you have a go-to mental picture for each of them? Let me explain this better. My Grandma Swanson: She’s at her kitchen counter at their old house in Lincoln, bent over something delicious. Maybe homemade bread, possibly rhubarb pie, often heart-shaped sugar cookies, or it could be her own canned jams. Well, she’s either in the kitchen or beating us all in a card game. My sister Caitlin is on a stage being beautiful, singing her heart out and charming everyone within earshot. One Jenna is eating JuJuBees and wearing red sweat pants while the other Jenna dips honey wheat pretzels in oily natural peanut butter – we’re laughing and telling stories. I’m cruising O with Whitney in either her or my station wagon, drinking Lemonberry Slushes – it’s summer and we have not a single care in the world. My mom is sewing or scrapbooking or baking or packaging a gift for someone – she’s doing a lot of different things and none of them require sitting for any length of time! Whether these images have been stamped on my memory due to repetition or due to isolated events that simply made a big impression on me or due to the good feelings that those moments created, they are important because they are lasting.

So, I posed this question to Harper awhile back, “Harper, close your eyes and think of Mama. What am I doing?”

She responded quickly, “You’re working.”

“What kind of work?” (Hoping she’d say gardening or laundry or cleaning – at least something truly productive)

“On your computer.”

Ouch. If you know me and how I feel about technology and social media, this was truly a punch in the gut. And you should know I’m rarely ever doing actual “work” on the computer – I’m typically just making the rounds on Facebook or the blogs. I have a love/hate relationship with screens and have made a conscious effort to limit my time online over the past four months or so. Therefore, I am inclined to defend myself. To tell you about how often we bake or garden or play at the park together. I FEEL like we are constantly logging those quality hours and I FEEL like I’ve drastically cut back on my own screentime. Honestly, it doesn’t matter what I FEEL or even how much quality time I actually spend with them if what they perceive is that I’m hooked to a screen. Perception is reality, yes?

So, to combat my inclination to get lost in scrolling, I moved my entire computer desk to a place where I rarely go during the day – our bedroom. I only recently upgraded to a smartphone a month ago, but I have made myself accountable to my husband to not download apps that devour my precious time without adding any real benefit to my life (for me, no social media at all). I understand that these years are fleeting and I want to be present for them. What’s more, I want to set the precedent in my household of how we hope and expect our daughters to act with technology when they’re old enough to have screens. I’m hoping that, given a few more months of my intentional self-discipline to not be consumed by technology, I will be able to get a different answer from my oldest daughter.

You see, for my children, I desperately don’t want their go-to mental image of me to be hunched over a screen. They deserve my eyes and my undivided attention. I don’t want them to look over and see the top of my head when my smile is how I want them to think of me. When I’m not with them, I want them to remember me and feel happy because my general presence in their lives is inviting and warm, not cold, closed off and consumed by a device. Another thing, I don’t want them to picture me with my phone constantly aimed at their faces, snapping away psychotically until I get a shot worthy of Instagram. If they see me bowing to something, I want to be bowing in prayer and not to a stupid phone. If they think I can’t get enough of something, my unquenchable thirst better be for God’s life-giving Word and not the life-sucking internet.

Harper’s honest answer, although painful and a bit embarrassing, was a challenge. A reminder. A reprimand. A gut-check. But ultimately an opportunity to reroute and start doing things differently. To start creating a mental-image in their memories that I can be proud of and a pattern of behavior that I can live with. If you struggle with this, too, just start with maybe trying to make sure the people around you don’t see the top of your head very often. Eyes are a much better view. If you’re not sure what your people are perceiving about you, then ask them. You are painting your own self-portrait – better make sure your legacy is looking the way you hoped it would.