2020 Year in Review: Comments on the State of Things & the Sorensen Household

At the close of this historically terrible year, it is hard to know exactly what to say in a post that aims to describe how the year went for Mike and me, as well as our current state of mind. But I’ll try. After all, that is why I am writing this post in the first place. To help me process it more. So here it is, our 2020 year in review.

Let’s pull back the curtain and begin, as I usher you backstage into our story.

Blissful January & February

It is sad to the point of being almost humorous to compare the beginning of 2020 to what transpired since early March. The typical “Happy New Year” pronouncements were made, as well as lofty proclamations of having “2020 vision,” for an unprecedented year of growth and fulfillment. The irony of that, in retrospect, is as thick and rich as the eggnog in our mugs.

As February drew to a close, and concerns about the worldwide spread of coronavirus, or COVID-19, were growing rapidly, that is when things changed in a way that few could have anticipated.

March and “14 Days to Slow the Spread”

By the first full week of March, governors around the U.S. were calling for lockdowns and stay at home orders for 14 days to slow the alarming spread of the virus, so that hospitals would not be overwhelmed with people who had contracted COVID.

Taking a cue from Italy, which if I recall, was one of the first countries to have a widespread crisis and significant death toll, governors extended the lockdown orders to include dictates of what businesses were essential, and could therefore remain open, and which businesses were not.

As an aside, I wonder, aren’t all businesses, whose owners and their employees rely on them to make a living, essential to them? How it is the government’s business or right to tell businesses if and how they can remain open?

14+14+30 x the rest of the year

Though the details vary by region, the initial 14-day lockdowns turned to an additional 14 days. Which turned into an additional 30. Then 30 more. We thought for sure things would go back to normal by the end of May.

But here we are in December 2020, and things are very much the same as they were in early March. (Although now the COVID vaccine is starting to make the rounds.) Now, clearly, there are many complicated factors in why that is. My aim is not to turn this post into a political piece or debate any elements of what is going on. While I reserve the right to write about that later, all I aim to do here is to recount how the year has unfolded according to my memories and perceptions.

My initial reaction to quarantine

As I settled into reality in March that we had at least two months of quarantine (which at the time was set to expire at the end of April), I was torn between fear, uneasiness, and delight.

Fear because there was so little known about the virus. The initial models showed a bleak picture. We didn’t know how severe it was, how it spread, etc. So many unknowns warranted a bit of a panic.

My uneasiness stemmed from governors seizing unprecedented, and I believe unconstitutional, powers to decree the state of affairs for businesses in light of the virus. I mentioned my questioning concern about that above.

As an aside, I’m all for taking every reasonable precaution against the spread of the virus. I have and will continue to do so, especially around those that are most vulnerable.

The delight I felt was as a busy, overscheduled introvert who had a massive amount of work and continued education to do on behalf of my business. I wrote about that earlier this year in posts about social distancing, and introverts’ reaction to things opening back up.

Having 4-6 weeks where I was expected to stay home was the perfect excuse to get cracking on my far-too-ambitious list of projects.

The beat goes on. Into May.

Then the lockdowns (at least in my state) were extended through May. With a four-phase plan to open things back up per the virus caseload by county. While I understood the reasoning and complied with the pronouncements, I was starting to get a little cranky about the indefinite lockdown extensions. Were you?

As we were approaching summertime, and a full schedule of pre-booked camping trips, my eyes narrowed with disgust as our Memorial Day plans were foiled due to the continued shuttering of campgrounds.

Summertime is when we cram in as much camping and other outdoor and family/friends gatherings as we can, to take advantage of the short season of beautiful weather in the Pacific Northwest. If you mess with my summer plans, heads are gonna roll, people!

A peek at somewhat normal over the summer

As our area began to move into phase 2, things started looking up. Our June camping trip, teetering on the verge of cancelation, was able to proceed as planned. Wahoo! A relaxing couple of nights on the Oregon Coast with friends was just was our cooped up, overworked selves needed.

The rest of the summer, other than the usual working long hours, included a family vacation, and three more camping trips with friends.

A getaway to Lincoln City over the summer.

Camping at one of our favorite spots in Central Oregon.

 

 

Falls Creek Falls. A great hike when camping in the Gifford Pinchot.

A word of caution

Something I’ve noticed this year, as normal social interactions have been systematically disallowed and mask mandates have become the norm, is this. More and more commercials and other media have reflected the current state of affairs, showing models and characters wearing masks. Something to which most of us have become accustomed.

On quite a few occasions, when watching a movie, video, or viewing pictures from pre-2020, I’ve heard someone else comment, “Oh! They aren’t social distancing!” Or, “Look at all the people in that crowd without a mask on. Yikes!”

While those sort of comments seem natural, they represent a couple of problems. The most obvious is an anachronism. In this context, that means applying current standards and perceptions to things that were created before those standards were in place.

an•ach•ro•nism ə-năk′rə-nĭz″əm
  • n. The representation of someone as existing or something as happening in other than chronological, proper, or historical order.
  • n. An error in respect to dates; any error which implies the misplacing of persons or events in time; hence, anything foreign to or out of keeping with a specified time.

I urge anyone who has found themselves doing that to think carefully about the mental trap into which they may have fallen. This brings me to my second concern, the fact that as a culture we’ve already been jammed enough to even think thoughts like that.

In just a short nine months (at the time of this writing), our entire culture has been turned upside down. We no longer see each other’s full faces, and many are afraid to shake hands, hug, or even be in close vicinity with other people. (For reasons that are understandable, to be sure.)

That is not normal. Yet, it has become accepted as normal. I’ll write more about this soon.

My point in taking this slight rabbit trail is to challenge you to think more deeply about how you might have been affected in this area.

Fourth-quarter: the fall is upon us

Mike and I counted ourselves blessed that neither our regular jobs nor our side businesses have been too affected by the tumult of 2020. My new client inquiries all but halted at the onset of COVID in the spring, only to come back with new vitality come summer.

Similarly, Mike’s watercolor business sputtered for a few months but has been steady for quite a while now. We acknowledge that this is the gracious provision of our Lord behind it all.

As we ponder the many reasons this year has been terrible, we find ourselves staring clear-eyed at the possibilities for the future with a complex blend of emotions.

This year saw not-so-wonderful items such as:

  • The sudden passing of my dear Aunt Linda, who was a wonderful woman of faith in Christ and a source of abundant joy for all who knew her
  • The death of our beloved kitty Velma (the day before Aunt Linda died, no less!), who was only 15 months old
  • A growing disgust with politics, the entire election season, increased volatility on social media, and mounting instances of big tech censorship against voices dissenting from the mainstream narrative
  • Wildfires that enveloped our region in September, displacing many and destroying the natural beauty of thousands of acres

Yet, we are most grateful that:

  • Our lives and jobs have been minimally disrupted
  • We are homebodies anyway, so being forced to stay home was not a big disturbance for us
  • We enjoy each other’s company, which is helpful in light of the above
  • 2020 was our 10th anniversary. We were able to sneak in a quick trip to Miami, Florida to celebrate
  • This year has given us the chance to expand our culinary creativity. Date nights in with home-cooked meals became the norm.
  • After six months with just one cat, we welcomed orange-delight Roger into our home in November
  • We’ve really honed in on being content with the simple pleasures in life, and being mindful of that contentment

The reconciliation

While 2020 will likely go down in history as an irredeemable year of tragedy and loss (and rightly so), we remain hopeful. As we’ve seen a secular worldview come to prominence in the United States, we grimace, but hold on to our faith in God.

As Christ-followers in a world that mostly hates Him, we’ve come to live and be at peace with the tension that comes from existing in a fallen world, where we serve Him, while also simultaneously awaiting His glorious return.

We grieve as we observe all the hurt and pain in the world that results from the sinfulness of humanity. Yet we rejoice in knowing that God is achieving His purposes, for His glory, and all that He wills to accomplish will be made known in due time.

We pray for friends, family, and strangers the world over — that they would come to know the true peace that only comes from a right relationship with the Creator God through Christ Jesus.

With no idea what the future holds, we thank the Lord for each day we have and count our blessings regularly.

What is something you’ve learned in 2020? I’d love to hear in the comments.

Thank you for reading this post!

 

 

 

Posted in Blogging, Culture, Family, Opinion, Political Musings, Relationships | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

In Definition and Defense of the Pro-Life Position

I am a pro-lifer. I have been for as long as I have been old enough to know and articulate the moral principles by which I live. The pro-life position, as I understand it, is this:

We oppose the premature ending of pre-born life. We believe that all humans are created in the image of God, and therefore have a right to life, beginning at conception. Furthermore, we hold that ending the life of a pre-born baby is murder, and is therefore considered a sin in the sight of God, who created that life.

While other pro-lifers might tweak the verbiage a bit, that is the essence. That has been the position ever since the Roe vs. Wade decision in 1973. Even before that. It has remained consistent.

I’ve noticed in recent months and years, that proponents of abortion have made a move to redefine what “pro-life” means. It has not escaped my notice that the most vociferous abortion defenders have begun calling us, “anti-choice” to put a negative spin on the position.

“How could you be against a woman’s right to choose what happens with her own body?”

Cynically played, secular society.

The arguments

An argument that I’ve observed goes something like this:

“Anti-choicers are hypocrites. They only care about the baby until it is born. Once it is born, to a teen mom, drug addict, rape victim, etc, they don’t care about it at all.”

Similarly:

“Pro-life people ignore the problems that follow an unplanned/unwanted baby throughout life. They don’t care if the baby is born into an abusive home, or is in poverty, or suffers trauma as a result. All they care about is that the baby is born.”

I’d like to examine those assertions more closely. But first, let’s take a look at the actual procedure of an abortion.

What is involved in an abortion?

Through the advancement of ultrasound technology, we’ve learned a lot more in recent years about the development of the child during the gestation period than we did when Roe vs. Wade was passed.

For an overview of the baby’s development at various stages, please click here.

For the actual procedure, a clamp or forceps is inserted into the vaginal canal. The forceps are used to rip the baby’s limbs from its body, one at a time. Finally, it’s head is crushed and removed. For more information, please check out the brief video on the home page of https://www.abortionprocedures.com/

Knowing what we now do about how the procedure is done, and that the baby can actually feel pain during the second trimester, I’m going to make an assertion that shouldn’t have to be made, but in this day and age, apparently, it does:

Being opposed to abortion is a standalone position.

Refusing to believe that it is a good idea to tear a human body apart limb for limb does not need to be bundled with any other ideas to be intrinsically valuable.

Addressing the redefinition of abortion

In a moment, we’ll take a closer look at the arguments I cited above. I’ve seen people make these arguments on social media; I am not making them up. In the interest of fairness to people who make those arguments, I am certainly open to hearing feedback on the analysis I am about to provide.

But first, the “re-branding” of pro-life as “anti-choice.” That’s simply a semantics attack that secularists excel at. I’ve written before about how secularists (or progressives, leftists, Marxists — whichever category is relevant) are actively redefining terms. They have been for years. They are good at it.

Conservatives, on the other hand, struggle to catch up with new (often inaccurate) definitions and often get played as secularists use the emotional baggage of the traditional term when they actually mean the redefined term, which has little bearing on the original. But I digress. That is a whole series of blog posts for another day.

Dishonest argumentation

In the pushbacks I stated above, there are some subtle presuppositions that are snuck into the reasoning. Let’s take a look at those.

If a pro-abortion person (or pro-baby murder, to use the “anti-choice” trick), claims that pro-lifers are hypocrites because they only care about the baby before it is born, the reasoning that I’ve seen often assumes that we don’t care about social programs that would take care of the baby, which is often born into disadvantaged situations.

Some examples.

Or …

What is hidden behind these is an assertion that to be truly pro-life, we must also be in favor of costly, expansive government programs such as welfare and health services, funded by tax money, to take care of these children from cradle to grave.

In other words, opposing the mutilation of a human is not enough. To be consistent, we must cheerfully agree to let our tax money go to programs with no oversight over which we have control, which are run by people and departments who we have no assurance share our values, and have no accountability for how they use the money they get from our paychecks.

Do you see the problem with that reasoning?

The overlooked consistency of the pro-life worldview

While secularists may dismiss our views because we do not share their likely worldview that government programs are the answer, pro-lifers are often sneakily consistent in their values. While I obviously don’t speak for all in that camp, I can say by the observation that many people who are historically pro-life do at least one, if not several, of the following:

  • Attend church
  • Give money to the church, which often contributes to programs that care for the needy, including pregnancy resource centers, which support young, often single moms by providing them with the training and resources to bring their child into the world and raise it
  • Adopt children that result from unwanted pregnancies
  • Donate time and/or finances to programs like pregnancy resource centers and other life-saving charities
  • Pray for the deliverance and flourishing of babies who are likely to be aborted, and those who suffer in this world

Worldview issues: faith in God or in government?

The thing is, each of us trusts in a higher power, whether or not we are consciously aware of it. The secularist, as I understand it, generally thinks that the government programs should be the standard for how social work and charity are achieved. More taxes, more programs; it’ll all work itself out.

The religious pro-lifer on the other hand generally trusts in the Almighty and His plan for His creation. We acknowledge that we don’t see the big picture, but we all have a role to play in charity towards our fellow man.

I realize this is a simplistic view, but I am aiming to provide broad strokes.

Both viewpoints rely on the oversight of another to work. So the question is, which is more reliable to achieve their intended purpose – God, or the government?

This could lead to a whole other post or series of posts on the plan and sovereignty of God. But I’ll just leave the question to hang in the air for now.

For consistency’s sake

For each viewpoint to be consistent and free of hypocrisy, they must follow their convictions to their logical conclusion.

The pro-abortionist must, with supreme trust in government, vote for every tax increase and every ballot measure that pertains to social, health, and welfare programs. They must then cheerfully agree as their paychecks become smaller due to greater taxes, and trust that the government programs are actually helping the needy and vulnerable.

The pro-lifer must, with trust in God almighty, give voluntarily and cheerfully to the needs of others, and do as many things from my list above that she is able to do. He or she must then trust in the unfolding of God’s plan and know that their prayers and funds are being used providentially to bring it to pass.

Surely there is room for inconsistency and hypocrisy among holders of both views, but that is the standard.

In conclusion

Since I see the ever-greater prominence of the assumptions in the pro-choice arguments I mentioned above, I felt it appropriate to answer those charges from a pro-life perspective. If I have misrepresented the opposing view, I am open to hearing about how. Please leave a comment.

Otherwise, it is my prayerful hope that this post has given you something to think about, regardless of your view. Thank you for much for reading! I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.


Note: If you are considering an abortion, or have gotten one, and in either case are struggling with your decision, there is help available. Click here.

If you are questioning your standing before God, click here, here, or here.

 

 

 

 

Posted in apologetics, Culture, Opinion, Relationships, Social | Tagged , , , , | 8 Comments

M.I.A. in MIA: Adventures in Miami & South Florida

Do you have a particular vacation style? As in, do you prefer to relax, or are you more of a go-go-go vacationer?

Do you determine in advance which style each vacation is going to be before you go? Maybe it takes some negotiation with other members of your family who have different preferences.

While my preferred style is relaxing, I recognize that some vacations are more suited for that, while others lend themselves to squeezing in as much activity as possible — like when you are seeing a new place, trying to take in all the sights.

For our recent trip to Miami Beach, Florida, we had four full days there. My plan was to have two days relaxing by the pool and the beach, and two days exploring. It ended up being more like 1.2 days of relaxation and the rest action-packed. But it turned out great. Allow me to regale you with some of our adventures by way of stories, pictures, and videos.

The initiation phase

Touching town in Miami (MIA is the airport code — I suspect I am far from the first to use it as a pun) on a Thursday night, we had big plans of renting a convertible sports car for cruising the sunny streets of South Florida.

Reality would have other plans as most of the rental car agencies were sold out of inventory entirely. It appeared that Enterprise had some, and the line was long, just before 6 p.m. when many of them start to close. While Mike held our spot in line, I bounced around to other rental car desks in the area to inquire.

Thankfully, Dollar had a few cars left. So we ended up getting a “mid-sized” car, which turned out to be a Ford Fusion. It wasn’t the convertible or muscle car we were looking for, but we were grateful to have one at all. And a Fusion is a fine consolation prize, so off we went.

The digs

What had sold me on booking a trip to Miami, over against our initial plans of something more exotic like Tahiti, was the fact that lodging was cheap. You can thank hurricane/off-season for that.

If you’re willing to travel there before the weeks of sad, gray rain stack up in the Pacific Northwest, and are cool with the potential of a hurricane, it turns out you can get pretty decent lodging for a stunningly low price.

Our Airbnb rental was a studio apartment in an old building with a great location and view.

The view from our apartment.

With beach frontage and access to the pool, I jumped on it.

Sidenote: the teen from the 1990s in me was extra delighted to learn that our rental was located on none other than A1A – BEACHFRONT AVENUE! (Bonus points if you know that reference.)

Making Miami Beach our temporary home

Our first full day in Miami was the day of relaxation. Mike found us some empanadas and coffee from a local bakery for breakfast (turns out there was a multitude of ethnic bakeries all within walking distance, so sampling the various kinds was a daily adventure), then it was off to the pool.

The weather cooperated for us, with some sun, some clouds, and temps in the 80s as we alternated between napping, reading, and swimming in the chilly pool.

After we’d had our fill of that, we walked across the boardwalk to the beach, and enjoyed the aquamarine waves crashing while observing Florida’s version of seagulls — cuter and smaller than the NW variety, we thought.

Seagulls chilling on Miami Beach.

The high wind whipped up the waves a little too fiercely for a swim that afternoon, so we just stuck our toes in and took in the sights and the sunshine.

We like the nightlife, we like to boogie

I’d always heard about the hip scene in South Beach, and had been curious to check it out for years. So for dinner, we headed that direction, not sure what to expect.

Like with any popular area in a big city, parking was rare and expensive. Eventually, we found a parking garage and set out on foot, looking for some fun and good eats.

It just so happened that in our wandering, that we meandered by Espanola Way – a lively road, blocked off from cars, with several cool-looking restaurants. People sat at open-air tables, with music spilling out into the street from every direction. It was just what we were looking for.

The first place on the corner was a Cuban restaurant called Havana 1957. We were hungry and it looked fun, so we grabbed a table. A full slate of mojito flavors made the decision that much easier.

 

Something I’ve learned in my adventures is to take the time to stop and drink in the moment when you find something special. Also, take plenty of video and pictures to capture it. For those with wanderlust like Mike and I have, it pays to get good at sniffing out the experiences you know you’re going to look back on and smile at for years to come.

Enjoy and document. But don’t let the documentation overtake the enjoyment of the moment. It is a tricky balance.

Venturing North to West Palm Beach

The following day we had earmarked to meet up with a friend of ours that had moved to West Palm Beach a few years back. Since we had wheels and thought it would be fun to explore a different town, we decided to take the 1.25-hour journey north to see her neck of the woods.

It was a somewhat tense, and longer than expected drive, due to our unfamiliarity with traffic patterns, taking inefficient routes, and getting used to the high percentage of maniacs on the road in South Florida. But eventually, we made it, and our friend took on the role of host, showing us some of the high points to see in West Palm Beach.

Chillin’ in West Palm Beach

Clock tower @ Worth Avenue

The imminent threat of torrential rain forced us to modify our agenda a bit. We enjoyed seeing the sights regardless.

We were hoping our friend Sujitha would have a solid local recommendation for a fun waterfront place to have dinner to wrap up our sightseeing. Our hopes were realized as we pulled up to Benny’s on the Beach in Lake Worth — a restaurant perched on an ocean pier with just the kind of vibe we were looking for.

Live music in the bar area made the mood lively, and as the expected torrential rain began coming down in droves, we watched with awe from the safety of a covered seating area as lightning flashed over the ocean. With fish tacos and a Saturday night party setlist from the local musician, we were loving life.

 

Here comes the rain

The drive home is where things got … interesting. We figured over dinner the torrential rain would run its course. Wrong. It continued for hours, drenching us as we rushed to the car. Driving our friend the 10 miles back to her place took way longer than it should have, as most of the surface streets had flash flooding with massive puddles that were deep enough we worried they might stall the car.

What seemed like an hour later, we got our friend home safely, only to begin what would normally be the one hour, fifteen-minute drive back to Miami. It took us closer to two hours, as we had to carefully navigate our way back to the highway.

Partly to avoid traffic, and partly to see some new areas, we got off the freeway at Ft. Lauderdale and drove along A1A South the rest of the way back. Even though it was dark by that time, it was fascinating to take in the sights of all the waterfront towns between West Palm Beach and Miami.

Highrise buildings filled most of the skyline. Untold hundreds of thousands of apartments, condos, hotels, and businesses. It occurred to me that rentals for people seeking a sunny getaway are a big, big market in Florida.

The two big itinerary items: Everglades National Park & The Florida Keys

With more rain in the forecast for our final two full days of the trip, we had some decisions to make. Visiting Everglades National Park and making the drive through the Florida Keys, down to Key West, were the two sightseeing items we really wanted to do.

Sunday was the day we had earmarked for driving through the Keys, but since it appeared the rain would find us, we decided to flip the itinerary and drive through the Everglades first.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect with the park; I just wanted to see the landscape and hopefully some crocodiles and gators too!

Everglades National Park

Selfie at Everglades National Park – “Flamingo” area

(Side note: after our trip to Australia in 2015, I incorrectly thought crocs were only found down under. We learned through an Everglades visitor center host that there is an American species of crocodile, found in the Glades.)

The drive was enjoyable. The rain stayed mostly away, which was nice. Though unfortunately, we didn’t see any large reptiles, we did see some exotic plant life, birds, and manatees.

We nicknamed the manatees the “potato of the sea” because they look like a giant potato had a baby with a hippopotamus. With a slight touch of dolphin mixed in. Do a google image search. 😉

They were a little shy to peek out from the murky waters, but I found that if I made kissing noises, they made more frequent appearances.

A manatee partly shows itself in the Everglades.

An Everglades turtle!

Miami Brewing

Thanks to the assistance of Google Maps, we found an outstanding brewery/winery combo on the way back to grab some lunch and soak in the vibes.

Sometimes a long drive is worth it — Florida Keys edition

An issue where Mike and I differ on vacation preferences is that Mike loves exploring and taking long drives — really long drives. While I see the value in that, as I mentioned above, I prefer to relax. I don’t like sitting for long periods of time, so road trips can be tricky. But since they are essential to discovering new territory, once in a while you’ve gotta do it.

All that aside, driving Highway 1 through the Florida Keys was the top thing on my list while down there. When I saw that Key West was a 3.5-hour drive from Miami, I was not enthused about the prospect, but my desire to go outweighed that.

Plus, having seen enough movies and TV shows featuring portions of the drive, I knew we were in for a visual treat. Not to mention, spending a day in the car with my love is hardly a poor use of time.

The best-laid plans …

So, despite a mixture of rain and sunny skies in the forecast, off we went. We left plenty early to avoid traffic. That turned out to backfire on us. I’ll spare you most of the details, but let’s just say that due to a poorly placed accident at a choke point on Highway 1, we were stalled in such a manner that the trip to Key West took us seven hours, not 3.5!

We considered turning around and going back to our rental for another day at the pool when we saw traffic wasn’t going anywhere. But I knew that if we did that, I’d regret missing out on what I expected to be the highlight of the trip.

Tensions were a bit high when we finally got to Key Largo, but as the ocean stretched out on both sides of us, with the traffic at last in our rearview mirror, my mood improved dramatically.

Since Key West was the ultimate goal, and we were hours behind schedule, we didn’t stop at any of the enticing looking keys along the way. We did take notes of things that looked great to check out should we make it that way in the future.

I was highly anticipating seeing some of the long stretches of bridge, with beautiful water on both sides, as featured in many media productions over the years. My anticipation was not wasted.

We finally got to Key West mid-to-late-afternoon and were pleased with our perseverance. Making our way to the water, we found a vibrant scene: yachts docked in pristine light blue waters, a harborfront walk with trendy restaurants and shops with upbeat music playing, and a vibe that says, “we’re in the tropics.”

Key West, FL

The harbor view at Key West

Key West, FL

Finally in Key West!

To reward ourselves for the journey, we found an oyster bar with outside seating overlooking the water and settled in for a celebratory late lunch.

We were further entertained by the fact that a live daily feeding of tarpons (a big fish with a fin that protrudes making it look like a shark!) took place right in front of our table!

Key West, FL

Lunch on the water in Key West

There were several sightseeing items we had on our list while in Key West. The beach, the lighthouse (a painting specialty of my watercolor artist husband), and the official “southernmost point of the continental U.S.” As it turned out, however, the torrential rains found us not long after we finished our lunch.

Seeing as it was already getting late, we had a 3.5-hour drive ahead of us, and we had learned from a few nights earlier that the rain might last for a long while, we regretfully decided to forego the outdoor sightseeing options and make our way back to the car.

Since stepping out into the South Florida rain means getting soaked immediately, we at least weaved in and out of some shops on the harbor as we made our way back to where we were parked.

On the road again

On our way back to Miami, we made a few stops. Most significantly, a trip over the bridge to Duck Key, which is one I was drooling over on the way past the first time. The tiny island is a charming fishing community, surrounded by beautiful turquoise water, gorgeous homes (most with oceanfront property), and a resort.

From our quick drive through, it appeared that beach access was limited to private property, either from a home or a resort. So no beach ogling for us (the rain had stopped at that point).

But it is good to make notes for what items should be revisited on a future trip. That is one of the primary benefits of scouting trips that require long drives.

I’m pleased to report that traffic was not an issue on the return trip. Upon getting back to our apartment, we enjoyed our windy balcony overlooking the ocean, boardwalk, and pool under the night sky.

All good things must come to an end

The following afternoon we were due to fly home, with an 11 a.m. checkout. Since I wanted to maximize every last bit of relaxation, we got everything ready we could and enjoyed one last poolside hang, and, upon last-minute temptation, a brief swim in the warm ocean before the time came to shower and head back to the airport.

A quick ocean swim (first one of the trip) right before leaving

All in all, the trip was fantastic. Even though there was more rain than I wanted (none is what I was shooting for), and not quite as much relaxation.

There was some talk of not going because it seems the time is never quite right to take time off. But because of that, it is my belief that sometimes you just have to make an opportunity and commit to it.

Thanks for reading my little MIA story. 🙂 If you had the same amount of time in South Florida, what would YOU do?

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Cheers to 10 Years! Wedding Anniversary Reflections

If you clicked on this post, you might be expecting something sappy and sentimental. You know what?

You’re right. There will be some of that.

On October 1st, 2010, I, being Summer Hamilton for the first 32 years of my life, married Michael David Sorensen. After an adventurous 11 months of dating, and a whirlwind 3.5-month engagement, we sealed the deal. It was a joyous day. Hopefully for all involved, but who knows.

Everything about our courtship, engagement, and wedding seemed to “just work.” No tension (OK, there was some during the wedding planning, but isn’t that always the case?), no drama, just two kids in love who got to plan “the party of the century” as I heard it called by at least one person.

I’ll try not to melt your face with too much sentimentality, and offer some real talk also. As if those are at odds with one another.

Pre-marriage thoughts and expectations

As a young bachelorette, I heard a few things about marriage that really stuck with me. The first was this:

When you meet the right one, “you just know.”

That sentiment seemed foreign to me. How can you “just know?” Since my dating experiences prior to Mike were plagued with doubt and marked with a gripping fear of commitment, I was skeptical, to say the least.

After dating Mike for several months, I found that I had to eat those doubts. I didn’t even need a spoonful of sugar to choke them down, because …

I just knew.

Whereas in many previous relationships, I began to frantically look for the exit sign when things started to get serious, with Mike I had a different problem. For the first time, I had met someone that I didn’t want to live without. The thought of losing him terrified me.

That was when I realized that the previous sentiment held some merit after all.

The second thing I heard as a young single gal was from an older married gentleman at work. He said that who you are changes once you get married.

“I’m not the same person I was before marriage,” he said.

That was very unsettling to me. Being quick to assume the worst, I gathered it meant that you find someone who is at their best, to impress you. Then once they have you, you see that they are really just a faker who then reveals all their character flaws, once it’s too late.

I’d seen that happen to people I knew, and I was convinced that it was inevitable to some degree. I’d also seen plenty of people put on a lot of weight once they got married. I filed that away as unavoidable also. More on that in a minute.

In retrospect, those conceptions may have added to my apprehension about settling down.

The reality for us

Now that we have a decade under our belt, which is hard to believe, I see an unexpected, delightful plot twist that has emerged to fill in the mystery of that second idea.

What I didn’t see coming, in the inevitability of married people changing, is this:

That we would change for the better.

The man I’d waited my whole life for, for whom I was waiting to reveal a trollish nature, turned out to become even more wonderful to me as our years of marriage added up.

I do have to give credit where credit is due, however. Just as I prayed regularly before meeting Mike, that our good God would bring me my husband, I have continued to pray for him as we entered into marriage, that He would give Mike an increase in wisdom and skills in “husbanding” and leading our family.

God has seen fit to continually answer my prayers, and I am grateful.

The good, the bad, and the less-than-sightly

It is fascinating to think about how things have unfolded in our decade of wedded bliss.

We have the great blessing of not only loving each other but also liking one another — we enjoy each other’s company. That makes our relationship work well. We often spend so much time in the evenings chit-chatting about life and solving the worlds’ problems, that we sometimes get behind on other things.

We’ve been together long enough to see each other through seasons of great stress, disappointment, and illness. We know there will be plenty more of all that. It seems to come in cycles.

To balance out the lows, our shared love for travel and adventure has taken us to places from our own state to around the world, where we’ve taken in beauty that can’t be adequately captured on camera, and stockpiled memories that we will hold dear until our dying day.

Milford Sound, Fiordland National Park, New Zealand

Syndey Harbor, Australia

Side by side, we’ve endured vacations that go sideways, pouring rain on camping trips, sickness at the most inopportune times, and all manner of inconveniences. We have learned to take it in stride, and realize that it is all part of life.

Sometimes that perspective takes a minute to percolate, in the face of staggering disappointment that often stacks up like dishes in the sink.

As we’ve marched through our 30s together (and now beyond, at least for me), we’ve seen how our youthful metabolisms have crashed, resulting in bigger pants and a reflection in the mirror that isn’t quite as trim as our wedding day.

On a side note, along with the standard wedding vows of, “in sickness and in health, for richer or for poorer, etc.” I wonder if we shouldn’t as a society add,

“In fitness and in fatness.”

I only say it because it’s true.

That element of humanity has managed to catch up with both of us, in varying degrees and timing. But fortunately, we are both committed to working on fighting against the tide so we can try to be healthy for each other. And so we don’t have to keep buying bigger pants.

The adventure of the ordinary

I’ve opined before about how life became more ordinary and less adventurous since being married. In many ways it has. Instead of hiking every weekend like we did when we were dating, we often end up catching up on chores, working on our side businesses, staying in with friends or family. Nothing too crazy.

The latest saga in our adventures, especially in a COVID era, is team cooking. Mike has taken a great interest in preparing delicious meals in the last few years, aided by having produce available from his garden. It has been delightful to see him as he applies his artist nature to cooking, and makes meals that look beautiful as well as taste delicious.

Sometimes we work together on meals, where one of us is a sous chef and the other coordinates the main entree. It is a fun activity to do together and often results in something tasty.

When we do go out to eat, we carefully survey how the restaurant prepares their meals and which ingredients they are using, so we can duplicate it at home. That has resulted in many new frontiers in home cooking.

Maybe all that sounds dreadfully boring to you. 

Not only is that OK with me (after all, it is OUR life, not yours), it is kind of the point: we have found that we delight in simple pleasures and a less packed schedule than our single days.

Conclusion

One of the greatest things about being married to my best friend is that we have a continual companionship that survives the exterior storms of the world. Home, with Mike, is the place I most love to be.

I hope I’ve painted a realistic picture of life. It’s not all sunshine and roses. I mean, life, and living in close proximity with another human is messy. There’s no way around that.

But I am continually grateful that God brought us together: two humans who are ridiculously compatible, who support each other through thick and thin, see the best in one another and spur each other on to keep improving as individuals.

The first 10 years of our marriage has been wonderful. I would be delighted if we had another 40 or 50 more to go.

Thanks for reading my sappy post!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Family, Opinion, Relationships | Tagged , | 4 Comments

5 Things Being a Business Owner Has Taught Me

I can’t tell you the exact date I decided I wanted to start a business. The data nerd in me regrets that because I do love specifics.

It was more of a gradual realization over time. Through a series of jobs where my skill set expanded tremendously, my character was built through the inevitable interpersonal challenges of dealing with other people (of varying levels of difficult personalities), I came to realize that I was most happy when I was working solo to solve a problem. Issue a challenge and leave me alone to chip away at it, and I was content as could be.

Intermix cranky bosses that interrupt, disrespect, change timelines, and place unrealistic demands, with unreliable unemployees and moody coworkers, I realized the nine to five grind was something I could do without. Ironically, while all those factors served to make me a better employee, they also increased my longing to make a living on my terms.

The plot thickens

One thing that set my self-employment desire on a hotter track was a conversation I had with an associate who was helping with staffing at my last full-time gig. She had started her own business and was gleefully living her dreams. In a conversation with her, she confided in me that she wished she had started her business sooner, instead of waiting until her 50s.

That resonated deep within me. I didn’t want to have that same regret in 20 years. So I became more determined to get started sooner than later. That is some brief background into how SummerTime Communications was born.

Now that I am a year and a half into my self-employment journey, I am pleased to say I’ve learned a few things. Learning early and often is the constant path of the business journey, so I know my knowledge will never be complete. However, here are a few things that have helped me navigate the murky waters of entrepreneurship. Maybe they’ll help you too, whether you have a business, a side hustle, or are considering options for a passion project.

#1) Determine Your Ideal Customer or Industry

I was given this advice early on, but I wasn’t ready or able to act on it. I see now that it is quite helpful to determine the ideal type of customer or industry you are looking to serve.

When that is dialed in, so much else flows from there:

  • The look and feel of your website and marketing materials
  • The tone you use in your written materials
  • How you go about doing your marketing
  • On whom you focus your marketing efforts

It all becomes so much more clear when you have an intended target in mind. While I still serve a variety of clients, all of whom I love and appreciate, and will continue to do so, I am pleased that I have narrowed down my ideal customer to small businesses in the outdoors/fitness/wellness industries.

#2) Decide Your Priorities

Figuring out what is a priority can be a challenge. In every area.

What aspect of my business plan should I focus on first? What’s after that? Where do I want to be in a year? How about two or three years? How do I work backward from that to get there?

The same is true for networking. For those of us who choose to invest our time in networking to grow our business, the options are boundless. We have to survey what those are carefully, determine what would be the best fit for our goals, and be decisive in which to get involved.

Very closely aligned with deciding priorities is …

#3) Guard Your Calendar

This one is near and dear to my heart. Why? Because the calendar is the representation of the most valuable resource we have — our time. For that reason, I choose to guard it carefully.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that while I am building up my business to a full-time income, I have a part-time job that takes up 15 hours per week. While it is lovely and necessary to have a steady income, it also limits the amount of time I can use in my business—a double-edged sword.

With that being the case, I have to be extra careful about what I agree to, and how I use my time daily. This has forced me to become more vigilant about scheduling to make sure I am not overcommitting myself, and that I have time left to do things that I need to do for my business and personal life.

A calendar hack I recently learned

I’d found that my list of administrative tasks that were crucial to furthering my business plan was not getting completed. They weren’t even getting touched. Not because I didn’t desperately want to work on them, but because I either didn’t schedule a time for them or didn’t honor the time I had set aside.

Something always comes up, right?

A new networking meeting
A client project
Client meeting
Family emergency
Being tired after meeting all my deadlines for the day or week

The list could go on forever. The result was that I didn’t take the time for my business development.

So the hack I recently learned is to block out chunks of time on my calendar each week that are specifically, exclusively devoted to my current administrative project. And then, the secret is to stick to it. Refuse to let other things take up those blocks of time.

If someone requests a meeting during one of those times, you can simply say, “I’m not available then. How about we do it at this time?”

There are many other calendar hacks that I am learning about and implementing, but that is the most recent and powerful.

#4) Put in the work

This one is pretty straightforward. To get better results, you have to do more. Or at least do better—usually both.

After a few months of dilly-dallying after launching my business, and just hoping clients would magically find me, I decided to get serious about it via:

  • Regular networking – committing to a weekly meeting where I had to pay to be a part of it (BNI)
  • A commitment to regularly invest in my professional growth through conferences, training, and even some consulting
  • I made growing my business a top priority

Recently, I committed to working a minimum of 50 hours per week until the end of the year to see where that takes me in terms of reaching the goals I set for myself in January.

#5) Don’t forget to relax … and don’t feel guilty about it

In the last year and a half, I’ve turned into even more of a workaholic than I was while in salaried positions. When you own your own business, the work is never done.  As I’ve started gaining more clients, I’ve gone through seasons where all I do is work from the time I get up until the time I go to bed.

That can be exhilarating for a short while, but it is not sustainable. As I mentioned above, sometimes I am so beat after finishing client projects that I sluff off the things I need to do for my own business. While I am addressing that through the calendar hack in #3, I’ve also realized –

I need to relax too. We all do.

The entrepreneurial life, at least for me, means working on weekends to get caught up on the things that didn’t get finished during the week. I’m OK with that, but there has to be a limit.

One way I plan for relaxing

My husband Mike and I love to be in the outdoors, hiking, swimming, camping, kayaking, and more. Since ideal weather for that is mainly in the summer, our warm weather months get filled up with outings pretty quickly.

I’ve found myself wrestling with guilt over being gone on multiple weekends, some including Fridays. When I catch myself feeling that, I try to remember two things:

  1. The primary reason I started my own business was so I had the freedom to arrange my schedule the way I wanted. So why would I feel bad when I was doing exactly what I set out to do? That’s crazy talk!
  2. It occurred to me, eventually, that I needed to relax since I was working such long hours. So rather than feel bad, I decided I would use that as an incentive so I could enjoy my time away. In other words, if I can get my 50 hours logged in four days, my reward would be enjoying my outing without feeling guilty. Do you feel me?

I think I might combine #3 and #5 by scheduling time in my calendar to relax, too! If I have it scheduled, it is more likely to happen. There’s some thinking on the fly for you. 🙂

In conclusion

If I remember and act on these five points, I am more apt to be focused and efficient with the way I do business. Which one of these do you have a hard time doing, if any? Is there one that you need to implement? I’d love to hear your feedback!

Posted in Advice, Lifehacks, priorities | Tagged , | 2 Comments

An Overlooked Teaching of Jesus: The Centrality of Repentance

Diverse opinions about who Jesus is date all the way back to the time He was here as the incarnate Word, dwelling among us in first-century Israel.

We see that even while He was in the flesh, there were misconceptions about who He was. This is clear in passages like Matthew 16:13-16.

Not much has changed over 2000 years later. People still remain unclear about who He was/is, what He taught, and why it matters.

In a social media world, many pontificate about what Jesus taught and moralize about how to apply His teachings to our lives today. While there is nothing wrong with that in and of itself, I think we sometimes get off the trail of truth by a lack of careful thinking and analysis.

Since one’s opinion on “who is Jesus Christ?” is literally a matter of life or death, it warrants the most thoughtful, honest examination as we reach our conclusions.

Just as with any fact-finding mission, it is best to start with original sources.

Doing the background work

What words of Jesus were recorded in scripture, by eyewitnesses to his life, who were with him 24/7? That is the best place to start.

What was the context in which Jesus was speaking? (Hint: it was a first-century Jewish audience.) How do His words apply to us today?

Did Jesus reference the Old Testament when He taught? What teachings? What does it mean? Did He present a reverent, coherent view of scripture as a whole?

These are some questions that are appropriate to think through when trying to correctly understand the message of Jesus. Which brings me to today’s subject.

An overlooked central principle of the teaching of Jesus and His disciples: Repentance

To be sure, there are endless ways to misunderstand, misrepresent, or misapply Christ’s message. It is done constantly. Some do it out of ignorance, some out of deliberate intent to be deceitful.

It is quite possible to read His words in such a way that your conclusion is incorrect. This goes back to the principle of exegesis, which is defined as: “critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of scripture.”

Put another way, exegesis is the task of interpreting the meaning by looking at the original author’s context, intention, and audience. We can’t rightly draw conclusions from an ancient text (or any scholarly writing) without doing this important work.

A non-scriptural sideshow

Growing up in the United States in the latter part of the twentieth century, I often heard phrases such as “give your heart to Jesus,” or “let Jesus into your heart,” regarding matters of the transactional nature of salvation. While there is nothing wrong with the sentiment explicitly, I would challenge you to find where in the Bible those instructions are given.

They aren’t. You won’t find that phrase in the Bible anywhere. So why is it so common for Christians to use it?

Doing that mental exercise got me thinking about what did Jesus actually say about salvation? What were His teachings surrounding it, since He is the author of salvation? It warrants a further look.

John the Baptist, forerunner to Christ, preached repentance:

Matthew 3:2, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” v. 8, “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance;”

Jesus’ first sermon

After Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness, the first recorded words of His public ministry, which match the message of John the Baptist, are found in

Matthew 4:17: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

Mark 1:14, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.

A consistent theme in Jesus’ teaching

As the Lord Jesus journeyed throughout first-century Israel during His incarnation, He drew large crowds as He performed miracles and taught with astonishing authority.

When addressing whether some people were worse sinners based on tragedies that occurred to them, Jesus said emphatically:

“I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” – Luke 13:3, 5

On another occasion, Jesus declared His mission as: “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” – Luke 5:32

To expound on that, and to bring home the point, I quote from an article on DesiringGod.org

When Jesus said, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32), he did not mean that some persons are good enough not to need repentance. He meant some think they are (Luke 18:9), and others have already repented and have been set right with God. For example, the rich young ruler desired “to justify himself” (Luke 10:29) while “the tax collector . . . beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ [and] went down to his house justified [by God!]” (Luke 18:13-14).

Therefore, none is excluded. All need repentance. And the need is urgent. Jesus said, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” What did he mean by perish? He meant that the final judgment of God would fall on those who don’t repent. “The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here” (Matthew 12:41). Jesus, the Son of God, is warning people of the judgment to come, and offering escape if we will repent. If we will not repent, Jesus has one word for us, “Woe, to you” (Matthew 11:21).

This is why his demand for repentance is part of his central message that the kingdom of God is at hand. “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). The gospel—the good news—is that the rule of God has arrived in Jesus to save sinners before it arrives at his second coming in judgment. So the demand to repent is based on the gracious offer that is present to forgive, and on the gracious warning that someday those who refuse the offer will perish in God’s judgment.

After he had risen from the dead Jesus made sure that his apostles would continue the call for repentance throughout the world. He said, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47). So the demand of Jesus to repent goes to all the nations. It comes to us, whoever we are and wherever we are, and lays claim on us. This is the demand of Jesus to every soul: Repent. Be changed deep within. Replace all God-dishonoring, Christ-belittling perceptions and dispositions and purposes with God-treasuring, Christ-exalting ones.

In conclusion

Are you familiar with the biblical call to repentance? What is your response to it? It turns out to be quite literally of uttermost importance.

Please leave a comment with your thoughts and questions. Thank you for reading!

Posted in Biblical insights, Theology | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Defining Redefined Words: The Fight for Language

Have you noticed that certain hot-button words in our western culture are actively being redefined to mean something new, that is an aberration from their actual, historical meaning? If you haven’t noticed, it’s time to do so.

Earlier this year, noticing this disturbing trend, I decided to screenshot some word definitions for posterity. I figured I’d use them for some reason sooner or later. Turns out it is sooner.

When news broke in June 2020, that Merriam-Webster was changing the definition of racism, due to the complaints of an individual, I could scarcely believe it. Actually, I could, because I’ve been watching this unfold for some time. But for a dictionary to actually *change* the definition of a word — this is alarming.

I might remind you, that the definition of a word is in most cases immutable, with few exceptions of words that have been updated with cultural shifts, slowly, over time. Generally, a word means what it means. To attempt to change it to is uproot reality itself.

How very 2020 of reality to be uprooted. (For those reading later, 2020 is more than half over, and is going down in history as a year like no other.)

My purpose in writing this post is to simply provide screenshots of some definitions as they have always been understood. I’ll refrain from extensive commentary on this post; it will serve more to establish a baseline than anything else. I may provide commentary in future posts because there is so, so much to be said about all of this.

Historical definitions of hot-button words

Racism: “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s one race is superior.

Rascism

To illustrate my point, here is the modified definition of racism, as of June 27, 2020:

Racism 6-27-20

It’s subtle. But that is how redefinitions work. Subtle at first. More on that in a future post.

Let’s proceed with more word definitions.

Racist: a person who shows or feels discrimination or prejudice against people of other races, or who believes that a particular race is superior to another.

Racist

Bigot: a person who is intolerant toward those holding different opinions.

Bigot

Fascism: A governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.

Fascism1 7-7-20 dictionary.com

White supremacist: a person who believes that white people are racially superior to others and should, therefore, dominate society.

White Supremist

Nazi: a member of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party.

Nazi

Justice: just behavior or treatment; the quality of being fair and reasonable.

Justice

Just: based on our behaving according to what is morally right and fair.

Just

Tolerant: showing a willingness to allow the existence of opinions or behavior that one does not necessarily agree with.

Tolerant

Equity: the quality of being fair and impartial.

Equity

Wrapping up …

I was motivated to put this set of definitions together as a starting point for fighting back on what I see as a war on language that unfortunately many people don’t even realize is being waged.

There are leftist/Marxist cultural change agents who wield a lot of influence, that are actively redefining terms, and subtly building in different contexts around the words they are using. What’s worse, as they weaponize words that we’ve always understood to have a specific meaning, they often equivocate between the traditional definition and the one they are using functionally. And they do so deliberately to cause confusion and lack of clarity.

That is at best, deceptive, and at worst, evil. Any culture that cannot communicate effectively is doomed to implode eventually. And yet it seems that is what the word redefiners want for western civilization.

Is that what you want?

I urge you, if this topic concerns you, to educate yourself on what is happening on this front. When in conversations with people where words like “racism,” “justice,” and “equity” are being thrown around, ask the people using them to define what they mean by them. If you’re using a different definition than the person you’re talking to, you’ll end up talking past each other.

In closing, I’ll offer this quote. Let me know if there are any words that should be added to the list above, or if you have any questions.

“Social upheaval, in other words, presents an opportunity for would-be autocrats to make a grab for power by weakening the foundations of legitimate rule. Those foundations are: piety, family, and language.” – Spencer Klavan, The American Mind

 

 

 

 

Posted in Culture, Political Musings | Tagged , , | 12 Comments

3 Time Saving Productivity Hacks For Writers (and Anyone Else)

Today’s digital world is full of unprecedented opportunity. With that opportunity comes unparalleled distractions from previous eras of humanity. If you’d have told me when I was an acid-washed jean wearing child in the 1980s that come adulthood, I could simultaneously

– be writing on a Word document
– while watching TV
– flipping tabs to check multiple social media accounts
– did I mention a separate tab to play music streaming?
– getting text messages, phone calls and watching Netflix on a mobile device
– all while trying to get actual work done …

… I wouldn’t have even known what you were talking about, actually.

The cost to such ubiquitous, instant access to ANY entertainment we want is …

IT IS A PRODUCTIVITY KILLER.

Some of us are under the delusion that so many attention diversions actually help us get more done. Maybe, for a small percentage of the population with a particular brain wiring, that is true. But for most of us, the distractions slow us down, big time.

Can you relate?

As a writer, I’ve learned that I really need to focus on the task at hand to get any meaningful work done. I’ve adopted three practices that have helped me be more focused while writing. Naturally, they can be applied to any discipline. Here they are

Three Time-Saving Productivity Hacks

1. Keep Phone On Mute 24-7

Does this sound difficult, contrarian, or backward? You mean, silence my phone … all the time? Not just when I’m in a meeting? But what if I miss calls and important texts because I don’t hear them??

That, my friend, is precisely the point.

Why do you need to see text messages instantly? If you miss a call from your boss, maybe that stinks, but you can always call him or her right back. It’s not the end of the world.

The digital era has inadvertently trained us to be at the ready with instant communication. I’m going to make the brazen suggestion that might not always be a good thing. I’m thoroughly blessed to have a lot of fabulous people in my life. That translates into a lot of group text strings that go on throughout the day, every day and night.

I love keeping up with my people, but reading the wacky thing my friend’s daughter said at the grocery store is not something that I need to disrupt my concentration for when I’m “in the zone.” It can wait. So can 97% of mobile communications.

If you’re in a job where keeping in close touch with clients is a big part of your day, this may not be practical. I get it. I make exceptions when I really do need to be attuned to who is contacting me. But most of the time, silence is golden.

2. Put Timers on Social Media Apps

It rocked my world when I discovered that on Android devices, you can set daily timers by the app. That is, you can tell it how long to allow you to use the app before it kicks you off for the day.

It’s no secret that my thumbs navigate to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram instinctively, and I end up spending WAYY more time browsing than is necessary. I found myself wasting too much time on mindless scrolling that I could have been using on any number of more profitable projects. Like writing. Der.

Confession: since at the time of this writing, my state has been under a COVID-19 stay-at-home order, I’ve removed the timers from my apps to indulge in more browsing. Now that it’s been a few months, it’s time to get back to my set limits.

Pro-tip: If you have an android device, you can find this magical option under settings –> Digital Wellbeing.

Screenshot_20200527-092808_Settings[1]

3. Minimize All Other Tabs While Writing

Have you ever sat down to write, only to have your eyes drift to the notifications popping on the Facebook tab? Me neither. So this advice is really only “in theory.” Ha.

All the other websites we frequent and social media services that eat away our time have a way of pulling us away from the tasks that matter the most. So I’ve found that refusing myself the temptation, by not even opening them, is the best way to stay focused.

To prove I’m trying to practice what I preach, here is a screenshot of what I am looking at as I type this.

WPress Tabs Screenshot

See, just the WordPress tab open.

For those of you who are extra sleuth-y, you might have noticed something amiss in that screenshot. The word “screenshot” above. See?

WPress Tabs Screenshot-markup

That leads me to …

A bonus fourth thing, just for you, grasshopper

That is another way I’ve trained myself to stay focused — making notes about things I need to add later to enhance the post. Pictures, videos, links to other articles – those are all things that I can add later, not while I am in the middle of a train of thought during writing.

Despite my best intentions, jumping to find the link to that other article I plan to reference inevitably leads to more distractions. Re-reading the article, clicking other links within it – wait a second! How did I end up scrolling Twitter for 20 minutes?? You get the idea.

Probably the only exception I make is keeping a tab open for thesaurus.com because I do like to mix up my word use. All good word nerds should. HOWEVER, that too could be treated as an item to be banished while writing. I’ll talk more about that in the next post, with EVEN MORE tips for writing more efficiently.

Staggering to a conclusion

If you’re going to conclude, which is inevitable, why not do it in a dramatic fashion – like staggering? (Internal voice says, “Because then people might think you’re drunk. That wouldn’t be good. Don’t stagger.”) Internal voices can be really lame sometimes.

OK, so, in conclusion. Take control of your time by keeping your phone on mute, putting limits on social media use in a way that doesn’t rely on your own perception of the passing of time (It’s flawed. Sorry to break it to you. Mine is too.), and only leave open the tab you are using to write. If your writing is on a word document, even better. You don’t need to have a browser open at all.

What else would you add to this list?

I’ve got a few more tricks up my metaphorical sleeve that I’ll share with you in the next post if you want to read them. What do you think?

 

 

Posted in Advice, Blogging, Lifehacks, Productivity, Professional Development | Tagged , , | 6 Comments

Extroverts, Here is What Your Introvert Friends Want You to Know Post-Quarantine

When the COVID-19 social distancing/stay-at-home quarantine protocols began rolling out across the nation, I saw many social media pleas from extroverts, along the lines of:

“Introverts, please put down your books and talk to us! We’re not OK!”

“Introverts – check on your extroverted friends. We need help!”

Fair and reasonable.

Though I know I obviously don’t speak for all introverts, I’ll set that inconvenient fact aside as use “we” as though I do. Because I may speak for more than you think.

Many introverts answered the plea from our extroverted friends. We jumped on Zoom calls and Marco Polo to check in with you. We even scheduled some, because we recognized the value of staying in touch when we can’t see you face to face.

We even endured to some extent, extra online meetings, because we knew you were lonely. Because we love you. We love you enough to put our book down and chat, when we have no need to.

Here what introverts want extroverts to know as the quarantine restrictions loosen

“Extroverts, please don’t overwhelm us with urgent requests to hang out, multiple times per week, for the foreseeable future.”

For the solo time-loving introvert in your life, not much has changed. Did you get resistance to socialize before COVID-19? Expect the same once it’s normal to be able to hang out again.

An aside: I write this from the perspective of an introvert, even though I am a hybrid “extroverted introvert.” To the uninitiated, I might be perceived as an extrovert based on social interactions. But I definitely need time to recharge in solitude after socializing.

I understand how full-on introverts think though, so I am writing with them in mind.

Extroverts, just as you felt a sincere pang to be with your people when you were cut off, we introverts will still feel a strong urge to manage our social interactions as quarantine is lifted. We ask that you respect that.

Another piece of introvert trivia … seeing y’all on social media, and posting our thoughts there, is energizing to us, and gives us more social fulfillment than we should probably admit. Its not that we don’t want to see you — however, seeing you on social media goes a long way towards filling the gap of not being together in real life.

Keeping that in mind, here are a few ideas to help both personality types love each other well post-quarantine:

For extroverts

  • Don’t overwhelm us with invitations
    As much as we love you, we don’t need to see you 2-3 times in a week.

  • Spread out the invitations to us
    Please, please … settle for one gathering initially, then give us some time to recover.

  • Realize we probably have multiple extroverts trying to see us
    For folks who crave social interaction, scheduling time with people who have a much lesser need in that regard can be frustrating I would imagine. My challenge to you is to realize that we might have multiple people competing for time on our calendar. Please take that into account if we need to schedule something further out than you’d prefer.

For introverts

  • Be willing to overextend yourself slightly to meet with loved ones
    I’m looking at myself here. I want to be willing to squeeze a few more things into my schedule than I’d normally allow if it means showing love to a friend or family member.

  • Let them talk – a lot – without getting frustrated
    They’re going to anyway, remember? So allow them to release pent up conversation that may have been bubbling up inside them for weeks. 🙂

  • Remember it’s OK to set boundaries – and implement them
    If you try to limit your social outings on a given week, great. You’re in good company. If you’re willing to let that slide for a few weeks after quarantine, I commend you.

    However, that does not mean that you have to relinquish control of your social schedule. You can still say “no” to gatherings without feeling bad. Here is an idea of how it could play out:

    As it becomes permissible in your area to gather in smaller groups and perhaps eat in restaurants, you may find that multiple people or groups want to get something scheduled. My recommendation is to decide ahead of time how many “social slots” you have available each week, then begin to schedule them out as opportunities come in.

    When you get offers for additional socializing, especially last minute things, you can say something like:

    “I really appreciate the offer! My schedule is full this week, but how about next week or the week after? I could do (insert a few times you are available in the future).”

    “I have plans then, but could we take a rain check? Thanks for the offer; let’s get something scheduled for later this month.”

    Or, if you want to politely refuse an offer and not schedule it at all:

    “Thanks for thinking of me. I don’t have the bandwidth right now, but I appreciate the offer.”

In Conclusion

Parting words of advice for extroverts and introverts (which overlaps to some degree with planners and spontaneous people – my post about that is here)

Extroverts – if you get shut down by an introvert, please don’t take it too personally. We most likely want to see you, in a fashion and time frame that doesn’t overwhelm our schedule. (Schedule overwhelm exhausts us.)

Introverts – to summarize – be more flexible and generous with your time, roll with it, but give yourself permission to not overdo it.

Is there anything you think I overlooked or misrepresented, for either side? I’d love to hear your thoughts. Thanks for reading!

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On Peace of Mind About Coronavirus

The time in which we find ourselves sure is unprecedented, is it not? In fact, it is unparalleled for many of us under a certain age whose entire lives have been in a well-vaccinated time of the late 20th century.

Those of us who are western Gen Xers, children of 1980s or later, have always lived in a time when epidemics were under control, and life was free of that kind of scare. Polio, measles, smallpox … those were things we maybe heard about as kids, but didn’t have any experience with or category for in our thinking.

Until now.

This pandemic has caught many of us by surprise. Even though, at the time of this writing, we’ve had several weeks to process it and get used to “the new normal” of isolation and social distancing, it is still a shock to our systems. At least to mine.

There is a lot that could be said about the politics behind it, and critiquing the responses of individual governments. Everyone has an opinion about what should be done about it, and how each of us should be behaving in light of what our governments have asked us to do to flatten the curve. I’ll leave the political part to someone else to handle.

My goal for this post is to get to the heart of the matter.

The proverbial heart, that is. The emotional part. Emotions are messy. They are hard to manage, even if you can identify what they are, and why they are causing you to act in a certain way. Many times, we don’t even get that far in the analysis of our behavior.

A global pandemic only complicates emotional responses. When the world as we know it gets turned on its head, and shaken fiercely like a snow globe, what happens next is unknown and unpredictable.

People freak out. Peace of mind about coronavirus seems somewhat rare.

Maybe you’ve encountered some people who are freaking out. Perhaps you’re one of them. If you are, keep reading. I’m about to get to the good stuff.

I used to to freak out a lot more often. I still do sometimes, but I’ve learned something – it doesn’t help me. I’ll go on a limb and boldly assert that it doesn’t help you, either.

I can’t think of a single time that panicking about something helped me in the slightest to achieve a solution. What does come to mind, is plenty of times I’ve squandered precious time in the midst of a panic episode. When I finally calmed down, I still had a mountain in front of me to conquer, I was just lacking the time I had wasted on panicking.

Can you relate to that?

As I’m writing this self-therapy session (thank you for peeking in the windows to offer moral support), I’m thinking of the application to the covid-19 craze in which we find ourselves in this first half of 2020.

I’m not freaking out. Surprisingly, I’m cool, calm, and collected about this whole thing. How is that possible?

An aside, before you get riled up about that outlandish statement. That does not insinuate that I am not taking the threat seriously, or that I am being flippant about the precautions. I am, and I am not, respectively.

Why I have peace of mind about coronavirus

The peace I have deep in my heart is not one that I manufactured due to mindfulness or the reading of some self-help guru. Rather it is through something known as “the peace that surpasses all understanding.” (Philippians 4:6-7)

Through a lifetime of reading about what God has revealed about Himself and His ways in the pages of the Bible, I have gotten to know Him in a more meaningful way. It has changed everything about the way I do life.

In the pages of scripture, I learn that God

Is sovereign over all (Psalm 115:3, Daniel 4:25b, Psalm 135:6)

… Is always accomplishing His purposes (Isaiah 46:9-10)

… Has an extravagant, costly, sacrificial love for us* (John 3:16, Romans 8:35-39)

… The us* mentioned above applies to those who love Him in return

This particular point has been hotly debated for all of human history, and I’m surely not going to settle the matter in one blog post. So I’ll just leave it there for your consideration and pray that you look into it for yourself to determine whether it is correct. I’d suggest starting by reading all of Romans 8-9.

… Provides His children with everything they need (hint: it is a lot less than we think, and not what we think) (2 Peter 1:3, Philippians 4:19, Matthew 7:11)

… Is always with us, giving us comfort through the Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:20, Philippians 4:6-7, 1 Peter 5:7)

Through the years of having these truths worked into the fabric of my heart and soul through Bible reading, preaching, and life experience, I have come to realize that there is no reason to fear.

Make no mistake, I still have fears. Anxiety still gets the best of me — more than I care to admit. Still, the calming promises of peace from God become more normal, the more I walk with Him.

So what does that mean for me?

“That’s great for you, Summer,” perhaps you’re thinking. What about for those of us who don’t have our head in the clouds?

First of all, I’ll let that condescending remark slide and ask you – why are you allowing the troubles of this world to bother you?

Why settle for fear when you can have peace?

Is it prudent to look to fallen, sinful humans for hope, when you can rest in the assurance of the Almighty?

Why shake your fist at God, and ask, “how could You allow this to happen?” instead of acknowledging that everything you have is a gift from Him (James 1:17) and respond with repentance, gratitude and humility? (Romans 1:18-22)

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom,
And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” – Proverbs 9:10

That’s what.

Here’s why I’m telling you this

I write this post because I care deeply about you. Even if we’ve never met. I have a burning desire for you to experience the peace and joy that I have, regardless of what life brings.

It is found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. It’s offensive to the secular mind. Even to a lot of religious minds.

I care about you enough to offend you if it means you’ll honestly examine yourself in light of God’s law and eternity.

Let me know with a comment if you have any questions, concerns, gripes or disagreements. I welcome them all. Thank you for reading!

“Test yourselves to see if you are in the faith; examine yourselves! Or do you not recognize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you—unless indeed you fail the test?” – 2 Corinthians 13:5

“Jesus *said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.”‘ – John 14:6

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