Friday Ramble: Connection

Connection.jpg

Several weeks ago, in another post, I can’t remember which one, I removed two paragraphs because I realized it didn’t fit with the rest of what I was writing.  I held onto those two paragraphs until I had another day to dig deeper into it.  And when I opened up the Word document to jog my memory on this topic, this is what I read:

It’s really, really easy to barrier yourself in this life.  All of our houses have garages that close, doors that lock, fences that border.  Our phones come with a do not disturb function on it and caller id, but before that, we were using voicemail to screen our calls (or was that just me?).  We have been moving towards isolation with furious speed for decades.  We blame the tools of this world – smart phones, social media, the internet – for all of it, but we, mankind, created those tools.

This is not a declaration against social media or cell phones or even the internet.  God is in every connection.  We can’t encrypt against his omnipresence.  We can’t go incognito from his omniscience.  And I believe he works as much in the virtual world as he does in the physical one.  You can’t block God.

This month has been particularly hard for me.  The end of this month will bring the one year anniversary of losing our second daughter.  And just like with our first, the weeks leading up to it have been hard.  Like I said earlier this week, I feel drained by any social interaction, so I’ve chosen to take some time to myself.

Then, I read these two paragraphs and realize how appropriate they are as a reminder. Even when I’m feeling the need to distance myself to work through grief, it is such good news that God remains connected.  And he has made himself known to me – through nature, my dogs, even conversations online with friends and strangers.  It’s so amazing to have people check in at random, but perfectly timed, moments.

So, thank you, friends.  Thank you to those of you who have commented on my blog recently.  You have made my heart smile.  Thank you to those who have sent private messages or small reminders to let us know that you are praying for us this month.  It has meant so much more than you will ever know.  In the midst of pain and grief, I can look to my Heavenly Father who provides for me, and I know that I am blessed.

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Friday Ramble: Adult Guide to YouTube

I’m on the older side of the millennial generation, so I have friends who are avid subscribers to YouTube channels.  I also have friends who may watch a popular video from time to time or use YouTube to find a specific scene from television or movies, or they will look for a piece of music or a how-to video as needed.  But they never actually feel the need to subscribe to a channel.

And I’m here to state my case as to why they should start subscribing.

YouTube Subscribe Button

To be fair, there is this feeling that a lot of YouTube channels seem to target the younger generations – preteens to young adults.  And there are always young people starting their own channels and connecting with people their own age with similar life situations.  However, a lot of the older content creators, folks that have been on the platform for 10+ years, are in adulthood.  Some of them are married and have kids.  So, even though sometimes they do try to present information that would be relevant to the younger crowd, more and more of their content can also broach subjects of more adult-type situations.

While there are a lot of channels that are brand-based, that are there simply for consumable content, there are channels that still strive to build community.  And these are the communities that the younger generations want to be a part of.  I think it’s important to understand what these channels are saying because of the large impact and influence they have over young generations.

But where to start?  Admittingly, when you look on the Trending Videos on YouTube, it doesn’t really give much direction.  There are a lot of brand-focused videos that tend to monopolize these spots because of people who don’t subscribe, merely just watch random videos on YouTube.  If you want more community-driven channels, I can give you a few suggestions.

One of the more important communities to me is the academic/news information type communities, and I have two suggestions in this category.

Philip Defranco

Defranco presents a news show Monday through Thursday that I find pretty balanced.  And he strives to report the news in the most balanced way possible.  He dedicates researchers to the stories so that it will be accurate.  But he also wants community engagement.  He encourages people to share their opinion, and he shares his own as well, but he makes it clear when he is sharing facts versus opinions.  Then, on Fridays, he engages with the community through the comments they make on his videos from Monday through Thursday.  And this is just the beginning.  He is hiring and planning and building an entire news company dedicated to fair and balanced reporting.

Also, I would say this is not safe for young kids.  He does use profanity and his subject material is sometimes of an adult nature.  I do not agree with all of his opinions, but I feel like I don’t have to, to be a part of this community and to get a balanced news source.  Some of his videos have been used in classrooms, especially during the election or during some of the current event segments.  And all of the topics are not completely heavy.  He breaks up the news with a “Today in Awesome” segment in the middle that covers fun videos on YouTube as well as video game and movie trailers that have come out recently.

Vlogbrothers

I know that for a lot of my friends, Defranco may not be their cup of tea, so I give you the Vlogbrothers.  This channel is a must to understand what is going on in the YouTube community.  Hank and John Green are two brothers who make short videos to one another on Tuesdays and Fridays.  John Green might sound familiar because he wrote The Fault in Our Stars and Papertowns, both have become movies.  But John and Hank have done so much more.  John went to Africa with the Gates Foundation to report on the needs and progress of those areas.  He interviewed a teen at a Syrian Refugee Camp.

Hank is big on education.  He runs two other channels on YouTube that are education based and sometimes even incorporated into classrooms across the nation.  They are called Scishow and CrashCourse.  CrashCourse, I’m more familiar with, covers a lot of academic topics and is quite fascinating.  Sometimes the Vlogbrother videos are a little adult in nature (Hank recently did a video about condoms as an example for medical statistics and how we get them wrong), but they are informative and can keep you up to date on their projects.

They have two major projects that I can think of off the top of my head.  Vidcon (in June) is a conference for YouTubers similar to ComicCon (but smaller).  There are panels covering a myriad of topics and meet and greets.  Also, at the end of the year, they do a huge fundraiser for a nonprofit that is voted on by the community.  It’s a great way to engage with people all around.

Other Communities

I realized as I was thinking about this that there are so many other people I would recommend, but this blog is getting way too long and rambly.  But I would like to say that there are so many communities I think adults could really benefit from.  Like BookTube, an entire community where people talk about the books they read or want to read.  Or the ASMR community, which has a lot more to do with dealing with anxiety than it does in feeling all tingly.  I would suggest just putting an interest in the search bar and following the rabbit hole that it leads you to.  You really won’t regret it.

Just make sure that whatever channel you do fine actually still posts on a semi-consistent basis.  And don’t worry if you miss a few or several of their videos.  Usually, if they reference an earlier video, they will link it in the description below.  Happy hunting!

Do you have a favorite channel or community?  Do you want any particular recommendations for where to start in a particular community?

Friday Ramble: My husband

This is going to be even more stream of consciousness than normal. Have fun.

My Husband

My husband turned to me this week and asked if I had told anyone about his birthday. Does the blog count? No, the blog doesn’t count, right?

He doesn’t really like the spotlight to be on him. He is genuinely selfless in that way. He’s eager to help other people and sacrifice his own stuff, but in no way wants to be the center of any kind of attention. I know some people who would love to do that, just to see what he would do, but I’m telling you now, this is not permission to do that in any way.

For some reason, I had this overwhelming desire to seek out all of my old Xanga and LiveJournal posts. There are some blog posts on a website I used to use that are gone forever, but those two sites still had everything from my college/young adult years. Oh man, I was so angsty, you guys. So. Angsty. Maybe I’ll find a good post to share.

But another fun outcome from finding all those old posts was to re-live those first years of dating Michael. All the ups and downs. It made me realize just how special of a person he is to me. We have been through so much as a couple, and I’m so glad I have such a patient, supportive, caring guy to go on these adventures together. And I’m really thankful that he put up with angsty Katy.

I could go on about what a great guy he is. How talented he is with saltwater aquariums. How proud I am of his integrity and work ethic. How grateful I am that he chose me to live this life with.

But he doesn’t like the spotlight, so instead, I will just say, Happy Birthday Michael!

Friday Ramble: Dear Jen Hatmaker

DearJenHatmaker

Dear Jen Hatmaker:

We don’t know each other.  In fact, truth be told, I’ve never read a single one of your books.  I perused that “7” book, but I don’t think I was in the right frame of mind to continue reading it at the time.  Your other books are on my “to read” list, but I haven’t gotten to them yet.

I actually “met” you on a Michael Hyatt webinar a couple years ago.  I really enjoyed what you had to say about influencing others and making an impact.  That it takes work to develop your craft and community.  It also takes humility.  And that we are all connected.  I was hooked.

I started following your Instagram and Twitter (loved your recent travel pictures) and mostly just stayed in introverted lurker mode.  That is until you announced your podcast.  I love podcasts, and since I had already heard you in a similar setting, I knew I would love this.

For The Love Podcast

So, last week, I downloaded your first podcast and went for a walk.  I knew Shauna Niequist by name, but I had never read her books (I have them on my book-et list now).  When you were talking about the table, inviting people in and feeding them, I reflected on the times I felt nourished or was able to nourish others.

Every year, I host an Easter dinner for people whose families are far away.  We live far away from our parents, and since Easter isn’t really a time people get off from work, we used this opportunity to share in fellowship.  This year, I wasn’t able to host, so one of my longtime friends ended up hosting it at her house, and it was perfect.  It has truly grown into something sacred.

But, your podcast definitely challenged me to seek this out more.

And then that shelter question came up, and Shauna brought up those miscarriages.  Here I am, walking through a neighborhood on a bright, sunny morning, and the wind gets knocked out of me.  I didn’t know her story.  I still technically don’t, but to hear how her friends were lifelines?  I get that.

You see, I’ve had multiple pregnancy losses – a miscarriage and two fetal deaths.  And in those moments, you remember who your lifelines were.  And those moments after a loss, that space is also sacred.  Because God makes his presence known through those people who enter into that space with a sense of humility and love.  It’s been almost three years since I lost my first daughter, and I still have every voicemail saved from the people who called that day, the people who mourned with me and prayed for me, not knowing when I would hear it.

And like Shauna, I have become the person others go to.  It feels like I fell into it by accident because I never intentionally sought after anyone.  They came to me because they knew I would listen to them and I would hear them as well.  And I got blessed by those encounters too.

I like that you started your podcast series off by talking about girlfriends.  Community is how we are going to survive the crazy.  And thank you so, so much for those precious reminders.

Katy

Friday Rambles: Respecting the Journey

I began this week talking about something that is quite controversial in the pregnancy loss community, and I guess I’m going to end the week with something that is also quite controversial.

RespectingTheJourney

After I lost my first daughter back in 2014, I was invited into a private group for women of pregnancy loss.  In the first few weeks after she died, I was in a state of shock, and there was this decision of whether or not to give her a name on the death certificate.  For some reason, I didn’t want to do it.  I couldn’t settle on a name, and I didn’t want to (I would end up giving her a name a few months later as I processed my grief).

About a week after I got home from the hospital, I posted this to the forum:

“It has taken me a couple of days to really get my thoughts together of what to write on this post. Last week, November 26th, I delivered my stillborn daughter. Technically, it was at the 24 week mark, but I know she had passed probably about a week and a half earlier, when I stopped feeling her move. We hadn’t really decided on a name yet, and weren’t sure if that was something we wanted to do. Are there people who don’t name their stillborn children?”

I was met with a variety of answers, although most of the consensus was “If you loved your baby, you would have named her.” And I spiraled.  I mean, I slammed my laptop shut and walked away, thinking of how awful of a mother I must be that I couldn’t give my baby a name right then and there.  But then, a beautiful woman responded to all of these other comments this way:

“I really prayed over naming my babies but never felt a peace as to what name to give them, I really hope that doesn’t mean I don’t love them as much as my children here on earth with names. A name is a very special thing and if someone isn’t feeling at peace with naming their child of loss then that is between them and God, I doubt anyone who chooses not to does it without a lot of prayer.”

She gave me the grace and space I needed to heal.  She listened to the pain and courage in my words without judgment, and I learned that day how I needed to treat other women in this community.  Even within the trenches of pregnancy loss and infertility, there is unsolicited opinion and advice everywhere.  I know that these words are coming from a place of hope, but more often than not, they land in a place of hurt.

“Have you tried this treatment/diet/medication?”

“You should go to my OB because they are better.”

“Just have faith that God will give you a child.”

“You should do these things every year to honor your child, if you want to grieve the right way.”

“You should do x, y, and z, if you don’t want to regret it later.”

I know all of these are meant to help.  Just like the unsolicited comments that we get outside of the community.  It’s hard not to want to help, but just because you’ve been through something, it doesn’t give you the right to decide how someone else will go through it.

If this journey has taught me anything, it is to not judge the other person’s pain, suffering, or path.  I have realized that no person has ever shared their entire journey with me.  But I don’t have to know their entire journey to know that they deserve love and respect.  Some parts are too painful to relive.  Some are too shameful.  But I don’t need to understand the entire person to give them the ability to grieve the way they need to grieve, to hope in the way they need to hope.

Every woman has every right to celebrate their pregnancies in the way that they see fit.  I don’t know how long or how rough the road was to get there.  But on the other hand, every woman has the right to heal from their loss or their struggle the way that they need to heal.  I don’t know what obstacles lay in the path of every woman, but I don’t need to in order to know that they are beautiful, valuable, worthy creations of God.  And every road does not end with a healthy pregnancy or a child to raise, but I do know that the faith of these women inspires me each day to live boldly and speak boldly and write boldly.

My friends in the trenches are beautiful, strong, kind, loving, caring women who are grieving while living one day at a time.  They are incredible human beings, and I am so, so blessed that I can call them sisters in this community.

Friday Ramblings: A Collection of Thoughts

ACollectionOfThoughts

I had a conversation with some friends one night this week.  We were talking about feeling self-conscious – first about our bodies and then just in general.  And one friend talked about how she knew someone with a special talent for decorating, and whenever she was around that person, she wanted to be a good decorator too, though it really wasn’t that much of a passion for her in reality.  And in that moment, I had an epiphany.

Maybe part of the competitive feelings I get in the pit of my stomach stem from a desire for the other person to like me.  I want the person to value me, so I want to be good at the things they value, the way they define that value.  Here’s an example.

Me: I heard you like dogs.  I like dogs, too.  I volunteer at the SPCA once a week.

A person I want to like me: Oh, that’s nice.  I volunteer at least three times a week.

My Internal Thoughts: “Am I doing enough?  I thought I was passionate, that we would be able to connect with loving dogs, but I’m not doing as much as they are.  I need to share more things that I’ve done in hopes to meet their expectations.”

Me: Oh yes, I do all these other things as well.

The other person: And I do all of these things.

Maybe at this point, they are relating to me, maybe they are competing, but my own internal struggle is going into overdrive.  I don’t feel like I’m doing enough.  And then, I’m not enough.  And I spiral.

I probably go into a conversation like this with low confidence.  I so desperately want the other person to like me, to accept me, to give me value, that I’m willing to try to live by their rules, their expectations, their standards.  In fact, I’ve been waiting for the book other people seem to have that tells them what is expected in every situation and how to meet those expectations, how to make this life seem as easy as others seem to be living it.

Wherever these elusive rules are, they weren’t given to me.  Instead, the creator of the universe gave me a few standards to live by.  Love God.  Love Others.

And I feel like Love God comes before Love Others.  Cause if you are loving God with all your might, soul, strength, and mind, there’s nothing left but the love God puts back into you to share with others.

So all the rest of it is icing.  And I realized that my definition of things is okay.  How I define passion is okay.  Where my standards are right now, my priorities.  They are okay.  Sure, I could do with some fine tuning, but not through comparing myself to someone else and trying to live by their standards so that one day they might think I’m worthy enough.  Instead, I fine tune in my time with God, in His word, in praying with Him, in Holy discussion with other people chasing after Him too.  He’s been good about making it as plain as day when it needs to be.

And another quick note, I mentioned above that we talked about being self-conscious about our bodies, especially in the summer time when everyone is wearing next to nothing because it’s just so hot.  I talked about my struggle with this last November, but I realize something new about my body this week.  I truly believe we should all take care of our bodies, but the health of our bodies is not depicted by the shape of it.  There are unhealthy thin people and healthy thick people.  Of course, there are also unhealthy thick people and healthy thin people, too.

Our bodies tell a story.  My body tells a story of carrying three babies, even though they didn’t make it to the due date.  I have the stretch marks that prove they existed.  And while I would love to get rid of the lumps and flabs around my body, it tells a story of struggle through depression (of days I didn’t get out of bed or I didn’t care what I ate).  And today, despite the story I’ve been living, I’m still standing.  My body is still strong enough to walk three miles.  It’s still flexible enough to bend and breathe in yoga.  And I am working on loving this body for what it is and where it’s brought me.  I think that’s just as important as the exercise and eating right.  It’s a triangle of balance, not a see-saw.

I’m not completely there with all of these thoughts.  I still have days, weeks, months, and years where I struggle with how I look or with how much other people think I’m worth.  But this is a learning journey, and I’m going to continue to take it step by step.

Friday Ramble: Authenticity

This is probably going to be a true ramble because these thoughts haven’t completely solidified in my head, but there is an edge to them that I can’t get rid of.

So why not just share it with you anyway.

Authenticity

I’ve talked about authenticity and living honestly on this blog.  I don’t think I’m changing my mind about what I’ve said before, but I’ve seen a danger in using this terminology without balance.

Here’s what I’m talking about.

I caught myself the other day talking about “living my truth.”  And for some reason, when the words came out of my mouth that time (because they have come out of my mouth before), they felt wrong, disturbing, like something was off.

And I realized that there is a danger in pursuing an authentic life.  The danger is that I can be focused so much on living my truth that I forget I’m supposed to be living THE truth, that is in Jesus Christ.  I can center my life so much inward that I never look upward and lose all my energy to live outward.

 

But no matter how inward I will go, I will never understand myself or know myself the way God knows me.  He knew me ever since I was knitted together in my mother’s womb.  He knows what will make me smile, what will make me belly laugh, what will make me cry, and what makes me scared.  He wraps his arms around me the second before the heartbreak.  And he doesn’t let go until the panic washes through me.

And God is proud of his creation.  He roots for us.  He’s the father in the stands demanding the coach put his kid in because he believes in us.  We can do it, not because of some secret we have figured out on our own, but because His strength is pulsing through our spirit.  We got this, even if we have no control over whatever this is, because ultimately, He’s got this.

I can’t continually try to get to know myself, to perfect myself, before going out in the world.  It doesn’t work that way.  I thought I had to live perfectly, to know perfectly, to speak perfectly, to engage perfectly before going out and making a difference in the name of Jesus.  I thought it would make it easier.  But I’ve learned that life is way more complicated and messy, and self-perfection isn’t sustainable, engageable, or even effective.  It’s going to take a mess of a person to reach into the nooks and crannies of the world to reflect a light of Jesus in the darkest corners.

And every time I obsessively try to find out who I am, my truth, my way, my light, I forget that there is only One Truth, One Way, and One Light that is Jesus.  I can’t forget that.  He knows the way through this life.  He said it was gonna be hard.  He said we would suffer.  But the only way I will feel complete and whole is through Him.

Again, there is nothing wrong with living an authentic life, a good life, a life lived in truth and honesty and transparency.  I’m all for that.  And I even think that Jesus wants us to live authentically, honestly, truthfully, transparently.  But I also think He calls us to live holy and righteous lives, led by the Spirit (not our own), with our feet firmly planted in His Truth.

What do you think?