Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Year Without Social Media

I’ve noticed that I’m not as friendly to strangers as I used to be.
Used to, I'd strike up a conversation with the person awkwardly standing with me in the elevator, watching the little numbers light up. I used to smile and wave to the people passing by on the street. Shoot, I'd even become like BFF with the old lady behind me in the line at Taco Bell.

But in the past year, I've noticed that those interactions have become few and far between.

I wondered why, but then I quickly realized the reason...

...I got a smartphone. (Yeah, I know, I was a good 4 or 5 years behind the rest of the world, but whatever).

Now that I had instant access to my facebook or Instagram, I found myself constantly, almost robotically scrolling through the news feed any time I had a second of spare time. It became a habit.

This is something I've noticed in friends as well. If I'm having dinner with 5 people, I guarantee there will be 5 phones sitting on the table, just waiting for the next text message or "like" on Instagram. If there's silence, everyone will revert to updating their status or seeing what everyone else is up to.

Nothing irritates me more than someone whose phone is constantly attached to their palm while I am talking to them. To me this screams, "Whatever I'm looking at on my phone right now is more important than you."

Since when did virtual interactions become more important than real ones?

Don't get me wrong, technology is great! There are amazing benefits to facebook and other types of social media. They are excellent tools for keeping in touch with friends who live far away, and for communicating in general. But it becomes unhealthy when we are so addicted to social media that we don't know how to function without it. The number of "likes" you get for a post does not determine how popular you are. Sometimes we just need to live in the moment, rather than thinking, "Oooh, This would make a great cover photo," or, "Wait! I gotta Instagram this!"

I've found myself saying and thinking these things, and's dumb! I want to experience real life and not just document it.

Social media makes communication easy. But it can also make us lazy. When wondering how "so and so" is doing, I often find myself scrolling through their photos so that I can assume what has been going on in their life. Instead, I could just be really old school and call them to ASK how they've been doing.

I'm tired of living my life through the lens of a screen with photos and little sentences on it.
So for 2014, I’m going to try an experiment. I’m going to go an entire year without facebook, Instagram, or any other social media network that comes up between now and 2015. I'm sure I'll check in occasionally to look at my best friend's wedding and baby photos, etc. But for the most part, I want to be social media sober! After the year is over, I’ll be able to evaluate the pros and cons and decide whether or not to return to the virtual friend world J
I'm going to use the time where I would usually be mindlessly browsing through pictures and statuses to make phone calls, write letters, go on walks, read books, and sit down and talk with people face-to-face.
I'm going to start talking to strangers again (in a non-creepy way...promise).
This isn't a bash on our society or technology. It's simply a realization that for me, I'm spending way too much time on this stuff and it seems to be detracting from reality. Life is short, and I don't want to waste it!
If you need to contact me during my hiatus, feel free to e-mail me at, or check my blog for occasional updates.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Does everything really happen for a reason?

I remember hearing of the Sandy Hook Elementary school shootings on the news last year. I couldn’t bear to watch the chaos unfold. Frantic parents waiting to hear the names of the children who had survived…and those who hadn’t. My heart was broken over the evil that is all too present in our world. I felt the same way in April when I got a phone call from my brother who had been a few blocks away from the bombings at the Boston marathon. Runners who should have been exhilarated at the end of the race were instead laying in a pool of blood, fighting for their lives.

While discussing these tragedies with several Christian friends, one of them said, “I sure don’t understand it, but I know everything happens for a reason.”

This statement did not sit well with me. How could everything happen for a reason? Are women raped and children murdered for a reason? To believe this would imply that God is the author of evil, which contradicts Scripture.

James 1:13 says, “God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone.”

1 John 1:5 says, “God is light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.”

We cannot take an evil, sinful act and attribute it to God's "sovereign will." God HATES sin. It is never His desire for us to do evil. That’s why He calls us to “be holy, as I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:16. He created the world to be good, yet humankind went against His perfect plan and brought sin into the world with the first bite of the forbidden fruit.

We cannot lazily go throughout our lives assuming that our actions are acceptable just because God allows them to happen. Some will say that it is impossible to go against God’s will. From what I see in Scripture, we go against God’s will every time that we choose to sin.

John Calvin states it well, “. . . the Lord had declared that "everything that he had made . . . was exceedingly good" [Gen. 1:31]. Whence, then comes this wickedness to man, that he should fall away from his God? Lest we should think it comes from creation, God had put His stamp of approval on what had come forth from himself. By his own evil intention, then, man corrupted the pure nature he had received from the Lord; and by his fall drew all his posterity with him into destruction. Accordingly, we should contemplate the evident cause of condemnation in the corrupt nature of humanity-which is closer to us-rather than seek a hidden and utterly incomprehensible cause in God's predestination. [Institutes, 3:23:8]

With that being said, God, in His sovereignty, allows evil to happen. In His infinite wisdom, He allows humankind to make decisions and ultimately uses all things to bring Him glory. Even this has been hard for me to grasp at times, but I have to remember that God’s thoughts are not my thoughts, neither are his ways my ways (Isaiah 55:8). 

While God allows evil to unfold, He does not create it. He doesn’t delight in it. I believe it breaks His heart. I can imagine God weeping with the families of those who died in the Boston bombings.

Jesus tells us that in this world we WILL have many troubles (John 16:33), “but take heart! I have overcome the world.” We will always have tragedies and heart aches and evil on this earth. That is the result of sin. I take great comfort in knowing that God does not delight in these things, but He has overcome them! 

Romans 8:28 is one of my favorite verses in the Bible. It says, “And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love Him.”

My friend James is from Rwanda. During the horrific genocide, 11 of his relatives were brutally murdered.  He was devastated, he was angry…he wanted justice. But as a believer, in Christ, he chose to see how God would use his terrible situation to allow something good to happen. Years later, he went back to the village where those who had murdered his family lived. He didn’t fight back. He didn’t even show hostility. Instead, he did the unthinkable…He forgave them. Then he shared with them the Good News about Jesus who had forgiven him of his sins. He told them that since God had forgiven him, he also wanted to forgive them. The murderers were so struck by his act of grace and forgiveness, that they each chose to follow Jesus. That village in Rwanda is now growing as more and more people come to know the Lord. It’s only a small glimpse of how God is working for good in that situation.

So does everything really happen for a reason? I don't think so. But is God always working for the good in all situations? Yes. Even when God allows tragedy to strike, and even when our sin gets in the way, He will always work it out. We may not always see it, but He is working in ways that we cannot even imagine to accomplish His will.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Foggy Futures & Contented Todays

Fog crept its way around me from every angle. Driving late at night on country roads was dangerous enough, but the thick fog made me especially nervous. I couldn’t even see ten feet in front of me. But the light from my headlights provided just enough visibility for me to safely move forward. I slowed down and set my gaze on the part of the road that was directly in front of me. As I moved forward I could see a little more, and then a little more. It was scary not being able to see exactly where I was going, but I kept on driving until I made it home safely.

When I got home that night, I realized how often I find myself in a similar situation in life. I try and try to figure out what my life will be like 5, 10 or 20 years from now and plan out my future. But when it comes down to it, the future is a huge cloud of fog that I can’t see. I have no way of knowing where I’ll be even two days from now. I can hope and dream, but when it comes down to it, all I can see is what God has placed in front of me right now.

Why is it so hard to be content with that?

Often times we are so focused on what could be that we miss out on the blessings and opportunities that God has given us in the here and now.

I find myself always dreaming about the next big thing. First it was moving away to college. But when I got to college I dreamt about spending my summers in Sri Lanka, then I dreamt about moving to Hawaii, and then to California, and then…etc. I’m always looking ahead, always wondering what life could be like. Dreaming isn’t bad, but hopes for the future should never take away joy from the present.

I’m reminded of the verse in Proverbs 4:25 that says, “Let your eyes look straight ahead, fix your gaze directly before you.”

Notice that it doesn’t say, “Let your eyes look far ahead, fix your gaze on the distant future.” No, it’s saying “Open your eyes! Look at where you are right NOW!”

For me, this means that I need to fix my gaze on the 200 international students that I interact with on a weekly basis. It means deepening friendships and growing in community with those around me. It means using the gifts God has given me to serve Him where I am right now, in Hawaii. Sometimes it even means scrubbing toilets and taking out the trash.

Life isn’t always glamorous. It may not always be exciting and magical and what we may have dreamt it would be. But Jesus came so that we could have life to the fullest (John 10:10).

When I think back to that night when I was driving in the fog, I remember the anxiety I had about not being able to see what was ahead of me. I am so prone to worry about the future. I guess I think knowing where I am going will give me a sense of security. I so often struggle with anxiety over every little decision that will affect my future (just ask anyone who remotely knows me!) But this is not what God desires. In Matthew 6 Jesus tells us not to worry about life or what we will eat, or drink, or wear. He says, “Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

Instead of worrying about the future, I think God wants us to focus on HIM and trust Him to reveal more and more of His plan for us as we take life one day at a time. We don’t need to see where we are going. We just need to trust that God is in control. When we stop fearing the foggy future, we will find much more contentment in today.

Friday, April 19, 2013

My sweet Memaw

Memaw and I love to have sleepovers together. Usually, they are in her comfortable king sized bed at her home in Hamlet, NC. We stay up late talking, giggling and reading our Bibles together before we drift off to sleep.

Tonight, our sleepover looks a little different. Machines are beeping and nurses are coming in and out as I sit with Memaw in the ICU room of the hospital in the wee hours of the night. She has tubes in her mouth which are providing her with oxygen and food. She’s been here for days, drifting in and out of consciousness as her family waits by her side.

I flew in from Hawaii after hearing of her condition. I’ve been with her ever since. I don’t want to take my eyes off of her and want to savor every moment.

Due to the tubes, Memaw is unable to speak, but she tries to communicate with us by scribbling on a piece of paper and pointing to pictures. I know she’s still the sweet Memaw I’ve always known because I can see that same smile in her eyes. A smile that’s full of love and compassion. Even though she can’t talk, she squeezes my hand and winks at me to let me know that she loves me.

Each morning, I read to her from one of her favorite devotional books. She gave me the same book a couple years ago, so every day, I find comfort in knowing that Memaw and I are doing the same quiet time. The scriptures for this week could not have been any more relevant. As we read today’s devotion, it said, “Do not be afraid. Trust in me.” A single tear slid down Memaw’s cheek as she looked at me and nodded as if she was saying “I trust Him…I won’t be afraid.”

She has always been a spiritual mentor to me. But sitting here in the despair of a hospital room, I am overwhelmed by her strength and faith. Her 83 year old body chooses to praise Him even when her flesh and her heart is failing. What an inspiration she is to me.

Today is the day we have all been waiting for…the day Memaw got to come off of the ventilator! I don’t think I’ve ever been so relieved in my life. She coughed for a while and then whispered, “Can I talk now?” We all cheered as she uttered those words.

For four long days she had been unable to communicate verbally and had been bound to her hospital bed. The nurses raved and raved about what a good patient she had been, commenting on how calm and cooperative she had been. Memaw’s response was, “Well, I like to cooperate with everyone. It’s only God’s strength in me.” Never once did she complain or resist their instructions.

Her first meal consisted of jello, chicken broth and a cherry popsicle. Memaw reached out her hands to those of us gathered around and said, “Shall we pray?” She went on to say one of the most beautiful, heart-felt prayers I’ve ever heard. She praised Jesus for his grace and mercy and for using this difficult time to draw us closer to him.

This week has been one of the most difficult weeks of my life. I faced fear and anxiety every day, not knowing what was wrong with Memaw or what the outcome would be. I got very little sleep, and the times I did sleep I woke up with tears on my face. But what a blessing it has been to witness this part of the Brunson family’s journey.

God used this difficulty to draw our family together. I was reunited with cousins I hadn’t seen in years. My brothers, parents, aunts, uncles and cousins came together to care for Memaw- the matriarch of our family and an inspiration to us all. We prayed together. We gathered around Memaw’s bed and sang worship songs straight from our hearts- crying out to God to have mercy on our beloved Charlotte Brunson.

He heard our prayers and blessed us with more time with her. She is still very weak, and probably will be for some time as she goes through rehab and physical therapy. It’s still hard to see her struggle to do the things that used to come so naturally to her. But she is a fighter and she’s determined to get better.

This morning we laughed as she struggled to eat jello for breakfast. It kept sliding off of her spoon and onto her lap. She shrugged and said, “I’m just like a baby!” Our devotion this morning was yet again perfect. It came from 1 Thessalonians 5:18, “Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.” Our favorite nurse Terry (who has been such an encouragement to all of us) listened in and shouted an Amen!

“Give thanks in all things…”Memaw repeated with a smile.

“We have a lot to be thankful for today, don’t we Memaw?” I said.

“We sure do,” she said as she put her hand on my face.

And we will continue to give thanks. No matter what lays ahead, we will give thanks for every day, every moment, that He gives us with Memaw. Her life continues to radiate with the sweetness of the Lord. She has touched countless lives- even in the hospital, she is impacting lives with her peaceful and patient demeanor. Her children, her grandchildren, and her great-grandchildren have been deeply impacted by the legacy Memaw and Granddaddy have passed down to us. May we be faithful to continue their legacy.