Why Taking a Break from Social Media Was Good for Me.

I’m not here to tell you to delete Instagram off your phone (or Snapchat, or Twitter, or Facebook). I’m here to tell you why I did in the first place and what I learned in the process. This is not someone everyone will do, nor can do (depending on your line of work). I’m here to tell you why taking a break from social media was good for me.

The decision was inspired by that new feature that Instagram has put in place to tell you how much time I’ve been spending on the app. I know that Apple also has this feature for iPhones now as well, but I’m staying true to myself and not updating my phone until it force updates itself. I was looking at those stats in the app in late October and realized I had spent an average of 1 hour 45 minutes on Instagram alone per day! (For some of you, this may seem like a lot, for others it may not seem like that much). I was in shock. Time is my most valuable commodity and I looked at this as me spending over 12 hours a week avoiding doing things that I complained I didn’t have time to do. Things like sleep more, go for a run, do laundry. It honestly made me upset and I knew I needed to make a change.

At the beginning of every month this year, I tried my best to set “intentions” (small, attainable goals), knowing that over the course of the year, these small actions will result in a lot of change. So when I planned out my intentions for the month of November, I chose to delete social media from my phone for 21 days to see if it made a difference in the way I spend my time. So here’s a little recap of how it went:

 

Straight from the diary: The First Week:

My hand is constantly trying to find the apps on my phone. I almost forget that I’ve deleted them and become sad trying to figure out what all my friends are up to. “What should I post about when I reactivate the apps?” “21 days seems too long – what if I just did a week? Yeah, that’ll be good.” I think it’s really nice to be out of town, but not feel like you have to let people know. What is the point of even taking pictures if no one sees them but me? I like being off the radar. Do people even know I’m off the radar? WOW I AM SAVING SO MUCH PHONE BATTERY RIGHT NOW. I feel like life is going on without me even though I am living it. It’s nice I can concentrate on more “me” things. Without constant bombarding, it’s easy to be more in tune with what you like instead of what’s trending.

 

Straight from the diary: The Second Week:

I feel like I’m replacing social media with Netflix… which doesn’t help anything. Should I ever get on social media again? Is this fast working? I miss my online only friends. I’m nervous about going from 0 to 100 when I get back online. I feel like I’m missing out on my real friends’ lives too. I just met someone new and added their phone number to my phone instead of asking for their insta handle – weird!

 

Straight from the diary: The Third Week:

I don’t really miss it that much.

 

That’s all she wrote for the third week. I honestly didn’t spend too much time thinking about it the third week, let alone journaling about it. Looking back, over the last few weeks I had gotten used to just not seeing the extra content that I just didn’t miss it. I spent more time sending photos to my family and friends over text, catching up with people I hadn’t seen in awhile over the phone.

 

What I learned:

It made me more aware of my relationships.

Not everyone I want to connect with is really active on social media. Just because I post something, I assume that everyone has the time to see it, which is not the case. I need to be more intentional about connecting with other people outside of social media. Relationships matter. And while online connection with the masses is valuable and serves a purpose, it does not replace intentionally reaching out to an individual someone.

It made me more aware of what and why I am doing the things that I do.

I constantly asked myself this questions: what are the things I am doing just so I can post about them? What are the things that I do for myself when no one is watching? What am I gravitating towards? These are the things that are important to me.

When my 21 days was up, the only thing I downloaded for the day was Snapchat (random, right?). To be honest, the only reason I had downloaded it was to get attention from a specific person; and when I became more aware of my why, I deleted the app immediately. This break for social has made me more aware of my why; and whether my motives are selfish, or more joyful and focused on others.

It made me more aware of how I’m spending my time.

Before taking this break, there would be times that I would be doing nothing but sitting in my bed. On Instagram. For hours! I could have at least been playing a movie in the background or on public transportation, or something.

 

What does spending time on social media look like for me now?

It probably means continuing to set limits for myself to not get caught in what everyone else is doing so much so that I can’t even connect with myself. It means continually asking myself, “why do I need to be on here?” How do I feel about my life after looking at other people’s lives (or what they choose to post)?

I have to recognize that this, like many other challenges in life, is not a once and done thing. I will need to always make a conscious effort to regulate how much time I spend on these apps; and be honest with myself on whether I am truly using it as a platform to connect with other people and build relationships that I may not otherwise be able to grow.

Until next time!

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You Are Loved and Are Called to Love

Valentines Day?! You’re going to write about VALENTINE’S DAY (I can already see your eyes rolling to the back of your heads).
For some, there is so much pressure and expectation when in a relationship on this holiday. And for others, there is this stigma that if you’re not in a relationship on Valentine’s Day you’re 1) worthless 2) unlovable 3) going to die alone and become a cat hoarder. I’m here to tell you that none of these are true – especially that last one – I’d definitely become a dog hoarder first (personal preference).
But real talk (in and out of relationships): I’ve never felt truly alone in my entire life. This is why:
1. I have made it my personal mantra to give away love without expecting anything in return.
2. I don’t need someone to complete me, only complement what I’m already doing. My heart and soul are full of joy and the Spirit of Christ.

When I give for giving’s sake (out of love) it eliminates the pressure of measuring up, comparison, and unrealistic expectations.

If I live in a “me-centric” world, I have an expectation of a certain amount of attention, love, etc. And when I don’t get that, my unmet expectations create a gap in my life filled with sorrow, self-hatred, and disappointment.

Don’t get me wrong – life is full of disappointments, I experience them often. Giving love away doesn’t eliminate those. There’s a difference between being disappointed in a moment and living out of disappointment. However, when I give something away and I don’t feel obligated to receive anything, those unrealistic expectations can easily become buried.

On that note, one of the most simple ways to give away love on Valentines Day (in my opinion) is a simple little note. It doesn’t have to be someone you have romantic feelings towards (but it can be), It can even be a non-specific note that you pass out to someone on the subway, or at the grocery store.

And speaking of giving things away ….. I wanted to announce a little giveaway that I’m doing for the month of February! -YAY
It's all in the Details.
As you may have read a previous post, I wanted to do a letter writing challenge in 2018 where the call to action is to send out an encouraging letter to someone you regularly interact with or may not have seen for awhile. Each month I focus on a different “theme” and this month’s theme – you guessed it – is love. I recently launched a new product in my Etsy Shop (NYC postcards!) and I wanted to share those (and a few other little Valentine’s goodies) with everyone. The giveaway includes (1) pack of 8 NYC postcards as featured on my shop, (2) colorful markers to decorate at your heart’s desire, (1) Muji black pen – size .38mm, (3) sheets of heart stickers, and (8) “love” stamps to make sure you’ll send some Valentines this year!

There are three ways to enter:

Entering on Facebook:
*OR*
Entering on Instagram:
– Tag a friend in the comments
*OR*
Entering Through the Blog:
– Comment on this blog post with a memory of your favorite Valentine that you’ve ever received.
Made with Love <3
Each platform counts as 1 entry. 1 entry per person. Open to participants residing in the United States of America. Must be 18+ years in order to enter. Contest closes February 5th 9PM EST. Winner will be announced via The Little Big Dreamer Facebook page, Via Instagram, and though a comment on this post. Happy entering!

 

And Happiest Valentines Day! *inserts all heart emojis possible*
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Life-Giving Life

When your mind, body, and soul are operating on the same page, meaning, there is a common goal, beautiful things happen. If you put your mind into a cause or a project where your heart is and your actions follow, passion ignites and things actually start to get done.
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What’s more, when you are operating within God’s will, you are on an accelerated path for the Kingdom, and you become an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. When your goals align with kingdom destiny, your goals become on a fast-track.

Philippians 1:21 says “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” I paused for a moment to meditate on the “to live is Christ” portion. “Is” in this context is a direct metaphor for life. Nothing you do can separate you from God, so why would you try? I am reminded of that Steven Curtis Chapman song, Jesus is Life. “The air I’m breathing, Why my heart is beating, Everything I’m needing, Jesus is life, Jesus is life.”

Jesus IS life. All encompassing, ever-dependent life. The goal is to operate as one mind, one body, and one spirit: totally and completely in sync with your God-planned purpose. “Be no longer conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test God’s will. His good, pleasing and perfect will.” -Romans 12:2. Just rest in those thoughts, knowing that God WANTS you to know His perfect and pleasing will for your life and He WANTS to be involved. 

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The Power of Perks

Staying focused is hard. Really hard. Short term, long term, I struggle with both sometimes. Coming up with a reward system for yourself or little perks when you reach certain milestones is key to keep going, for me.
When I was little, maybe 8, I had to write this research paper on an invention of my choice. I could have picked anything, and mine was the ballpoint pen. Something simple, something you use almost everyday. Anyway, all that is to say that every time I wrote 100 words of the paper, I was rewarded with 5 M&M candies. It was an incentive for me to keep going, even when I didn’t feel like it. Because, let’s face it, I wanted M&M’s.
Right now, I’m on a “mega savings plan.” “Ummm, what is that?” you might ask. Well, it’s a plan I made up myself to save as much money as possible as quickly as possible. It’s hard to give up old spending habits (ie cabs everywhere and going out to eat), so I made myself a savings incentive list, so that I have a motivation to keep going (besides the obvious: having a substantial savings). When I save “$X,” I can take a weekend solo trip. When I save “$X” more, I can take a language class I’ve been wanting to take. So on and so forth.
Yes, self-discipline is good. It is necessary. But unfortunately it is not all that is part of the equation. One of my best friends Louisa has recently lent me a called Accent of Leadership by Steve Kelly (I haven’t finished reading it yet becuase I’m letting all of the concepts sink in- but I couldn’t wait to share with you what I have learned so far). He made a good point in saying the following:

“Some people think if they were more self-disciplined, problems would go away. Yet until we develop a vision that is bigger than simply being more disciplined, the change we seek will never become permanent.”

Completely cutting yourself off from everything won’t improve your habits or quality of life, and you may just find yourself right back where you started. As you go into this week, ask yourself: what are your perks to keep you going? What is your greater vision, the bigger picture you have for your life? How do you or will you create a reasonable reward system for yourself to get you closer to your goal? And how will the decisions you make every day get you closer to your end-goal? (Edit 6.25.2017)
If I find myself habitually drawing on the go, I have so much joy by integrating that into my daily life. It’s almost like it has become a part of what I do daily: and I love it! Above are some drawings I recently made on the go, in an Lyft when I was in California this past weekend. Enjoy!
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Consistency is Key

In every area of your life it pays to be consistent. To say you will do something and follow through with it. Repeatedly.
901 Broadway
I’ve noticed for me that consistency leads to growth and developing new habits. This can go either way: maybe I consistently go for a run and develop that habit. Or I could consistently come back home and watch TV for 2 hours after work and develop that habit. (For the record, I’ve done both).
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Challenge yourself starting today by asking: are the habits and choices that you are consistently making leading you towards a life that you want to live? Towards a life that will help you grow in your faith? I know I personally can be better about how I spend my time and my money. What changes can you make today that will help you tomorrow, in five years, and in ten years?
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This series of drawings is of a cast- iron building in New York City on 901 Broadway. It was built in 1870, and was formerly a Lord and Taylor dry goods shop.
Enjoy!
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Reaching Generations

Sometimes I take for granted the things that people around me have created to make my life easier or my life so wonderful. It’s easy to hold your phone in your hand, something that has been “perfected” and developed over decades of tech advancement & testing to take a picture of a classic New York monument, one that took so long to build; and not even think twice about it.
Flatiron Building
I feel so often I take for granted the finished product of things; and don’t appreciate the time it takes to build something beautiful, something that lasts, and something people can appreciate for years to come.

My favorite building in the world (right now), the Flatiron Building, was actually envisioned and designed by architect Daniel Burnham, who worked with The Fuller Company until its completion in 1902. Unfortunately, even after working to put a dream into practice, the CEO of the company who bought the land in the 1800’s was not able to see the finished product before he died. Nevertheless, because of Fuller’s vision and investment, millions of people are able to enjoy his handiwork today.

I could study and draw this building for years, and I have, and I always find a new architectural element that fascinates me. One of my favorite things to do in the city is to sit on the chairs in Madison Square Park across from the Flatiron Building (probably with a cup of coffee in hand) and just thank God that these beautiful landmarks still stand here today.

So when you start your next project, think of the legacy you want to leave behind. Is what your working on something just for now for yourself or something generations of people can enjoy later? Be patient, and know that to produce something of quality that lasts can sometimes take more than a lifetime.
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Why I Go the Distance

This past Sunday, I completed the longest run of my life (by a long-shot), a marathon. As physically taxing as 26.2 miles sounds to some, so much of your experience comes from months of training beforehand both physically and mentally.

Marathon Medal

So many people I know talk about “The Wall.” This mental block that comes somewhere usually between the 18-24 mile marker (I know, 24 miles, I still laugh in disbelief at myself). By the grace of God, I didn’t hit “The Wall.” Maybe it was because I exaggerated in my head how exasperating it would be for me, maybe it was the killer playlist (definitely was the playlist), or maybe it’s becuase I walked when I felt like it (muscle cramps always get the best of you, amirite?). Most importantly, I learn how to train my mind to anticipate and counteract any sort of struggle that would come my way.

Running a marathon is more than just finishing a race that is 26.2 miles. It’s saying that you have the mental toughness to accomplish anything, even when it hurts, even when it sucks. It’s being able to say “yes” to things you don’t feel like doing and saying no to things you would rather do. It’s not shying away from the hard things in life. That is why I go the distance.

When you finish a marathon, you’re training your mind for life. It sounds weird, it sounds cliche, but all my friends who have run marathons are some of the bravest, toughest people I know. So many trials you face in life are overcome by months of preparation beforehand; and I’ve personally learned that by running long distances. A lot of people have recently asked me how to train for a half marathon, so I’ve attached a handy little “schedule” to follow (and a link to some fresh AF workout music if you need some new jam suggestions). Note that this schedule is just a suggestion and everyone trains differently for each and every run, this is what I know works for me! The most important thing is to listen to your body and not over do it. Train smarter, not harder.

Enjoy!

Are We There Yet?

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The waiting and timing of promises can be frustrating, especially when there are many unknown factors. I was reading through Isaiah this morning when it hit me that God is an artist, a creative, and a creator. (Something you always know but you see it differently some days).

He formed each and every one of us uniquely and with love. He has painted and fashioned a beautiful life for us; and all of His promises for us are ours when we choose Him and let the Holy Spirit guide us every day. Imagine an art studio, where understudies watch a seasoned master paint. The artist isn’t finished, but the students don’t know that. The artist begins to pack up for the day, clean his brushes and the students say, “so that’s it? Are you done?” The artist then replies “My work is not yet finished, and I will be back tomorrow to paint again.” Unlike the artist, the creator, the students cannot see the end vision, they cannot see the complete and beautiful painting.

How is that different when we question God’s artistry and orchestration of our lives? Isaiah 45:9 says “Woe to him who quarrels with his Maker, to him who is but a potsherd among the potsherds on the ground. Does the clay say to the potter ‘what are you making?’…” (NIV).

While we are on this journey called life, trying to fulfill His purpose for the Kingdom, we need to have faith in His timing. I had this vision, where I find myself on this road trip, in the back seat of a car (probably a G-Wagon becuase this is, after-all, my daydream); and God is driving. We are in the middle of the desert, and I find myself asking God “Are we there yet?” “Have we close to our destination?” “Are we out of the desert?” “Have we reached The Promised Land?” Meanwhile, He’s driving the car, turns around and says “We will get there in time, trust me.”

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God’s timing is not our timing. When you feel yourself unfulfilled by the promises of God, know that you aren’t finished with your journey yet. Trust God on the windiest of roads, and know that “He who began a good work in you will bring it to completion…” (Philippians 1:6). Don’t be weary in your well doing.

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Finding Purpose in Everything

To be frank, I reflect on my life and sometimes feel underwhelmed with my accomplishments. I feel like my life is at a stand still, nothing is happening and the world can just move on without missing what I have to offer.

As I read more of other’s success stories, learn more about how thought leaders have overcome challenges, and study the lives of entrepreneurs; I find that it is the spirit of resilience that has carried them through seasons of stillness. They are resilient, knowing that endurance is a direct byproduct of challenge. One of my favorite speakers, Bianca Juarez Olthoff, states it beautifully in her new book, Play With Fire (which, I totally recommend buying and reading immediately if you want to learn anything about dealing with frustration). “We all go through desert seasons and have the opportunity to determine how we will respond.” It is in our hands how we react to stillness and frustrations in our lives. One of my favorite excerpts in Romans to recite when I feel like I’m losing my nerve comes from Chapter 5. “…we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope” (NIV). 

In my mind I know I want to impact lives in some way, but I don’t know what that looks like just yet and it is beyond frustrating at times. Be on the lookout (or, as my mother likes to say “BOLO”) for areas where there is room for growth, and areas where you already have grown. Having the ability to identify what skills you gain as a result of being tried and tested is of upmost importance. Plus, it is a source of encouragement.

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New York is more than just a place I live. It is a place that lives me energy in times of exhaustion, it gives me hope when I feel burnt out. Just exploring the streets gives me peace. As I walk through the city in the snow, I am reminded that every season of life, no matter how bleak or how bitter cold it is, can and will come to an end. “There is a time for everything: and He has made everything beautiful in its time” (Ecclesiasties 3, Kylie Translation).

With every trial and frustration, comes strength. With strength, responsibility. With responsibility, wisdom. (And…. probably more trials). The key is to find the challenge in everyday, and turn it into a learning experience that you can leverage as you move onto your next season in life. Capitalize on these trials: know that what you are going through will absolutely prepare you for what is coming next. Everyone, everything, and every day has value and a purpose. You just have to look for it.

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