Just Look Up


How many times do you think you glance at your phone each day?

Research claims that the average American checks their phone between 80 and 150 times a day.  Wow.  Pause for a minute and let the weight of that fall on you.

If someone asked us what we were doing – what we were accomplishing – in those glances, we’d probably be able to give a pretty clear answer.  Just today, I used my phone to read my Bible, use email and texts to communicate for several important purposes, connect and share life with friends and family through social media, create a meal plan, add to my grocery list, cue up a music playlist, learn from a video, and the list goes on.

But what if we were asked what we missed in those 80+ glances?  How often do I consider what I’m looking away from?

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TECHnically Intentional Thoughts: Week 2

Each week during this 31-day writing challenge, I’m dedicating one day to reflect and journal my thoughts on the weekly challenges, writing process, and any other general ideas or insights.

Weekly Challenge – Schedule Unplugged Time:

I was pretty consistent with not picking up my phone until after I had done my quiet time in the morning – I think I only missed one morning.  I did a lot better with leaving my phone on the desk for a sustained time each afternoon right after my oldest got home from school, and focusing on sitting down to have snack, looking both girls in the eyes, and listening, while letting texts, etc. wait until later.

Putting my phone away an hour before bed was much harder.  Like all moms, I look forward to “my time” after the kids have gone to bed.  Since we got rid of cable a couple of years ago (we do have an Apple TV with several apps, just not a ton of modern shows I love), I found myself spending more time scrolling on social media in the evenings – Instagram and Pinterest are my favorites, but I can get caught up in Facebook too.

Social media isn’t bad in and of itself, and there are many positive uses for it… but as you probably well know, it can be mind-numbing, lead to unnecessary drama or feelings of discontent, and keep our relationships on a superficial vs. deeper level.  Beyond the emotional/heart effects, there are also very real physical and psychological effects of looking at screens before bed.  I had saved an article on this awhile back and recently re-read it over the weekend.  It’s pretty sobering, and I’ll be sharing more about it in an upcoming post.  So, I need to be a lot more diligent with my screen time at night.  I’m thinking of setting a nightly phone alarm with a Bible verse to remind me to put it away.

Bottom line – I’m definitely a work in progress, but I can see only positive effects on myself and my family from building more discipline with when and how I spend my screen time.

 On the Writing Process:

I’m a few days behind, but trying to give myself lots of grace while keeping my eye on the goal to simply finish.  Trying to prioritize sleep by getting in bed at a decent time is really messing up my late night work time!  So, I’m trying to be more intentional about better using my time to write (or at least start a post) earlier in the day, especially the three mornings my little 3-year-old companion is at preschool.

Several of these posts aren’t what I feel is my best writing, but I am learning so much about myself as a writer in the process.  Good stuff, helpful stuff.  I’m figuring out the types of posts that flow more freely vs. those that feel forced.  Also, I feel like I’m beginning to make strides in figuring out who is my audience (beyond my mom and best friend, haha), and what resonates with them.

In all honesty, I’m growing a little tired of this topic.  I still feel strongly about the need to talk/write about the issues surrounding our constant access to technology – and what we practically can do about it.  But stringing those thoughts together in a meaningful way on a daily basis with a limited time frame – not fully possible; cue frustration and procrastination. Trying hard to take my friend and #1 encourager, Rachel’s, advice to “see it as an experiment.”

I’m shifting gears to focus on parenting in a digital age for the next week or two, which I’m super passionate about as a mom and teacher – so hopefully that passion will provide some much needed motivation to get.it.done.

Most of all, I’m continuing to pray about what the Lord wants me to do, after the 31 days are finished.  I feel led to write from a faith perspective and a mom’s perspective – to bring glory to the Lord through what I share and to encourage, empower, and equip women and girls.  But I have no idea what that will look like.  So, I’m praying for increased wisdom and trying hard to trust His faithfulness to do His work in and through me (Philippians 2:13).

Want to read more?  Check out my series on becoming more intentional with technology:




My Top 3 Tech Tools for Productivity


I enjoy reading other bloggers’ “Friday favorites” posts about some of their favorite things, so I thought I’d join in!  Through the end of this challenge, each Friday I’ll share a few of my favorite technology tools.  Today’s tools are all focused on productivity.

My Top 3 Favorite Tech Tools for Productivity:

1. Google Calendar & Drive

To keep track of events, appointments, and reminders, in addition to my paper planner I have used Google Calendar for over 10 years and continue to love it.  I also use several Google Drive apps for teaching and personal reasons; it’s a perfect solution for collaborating with others on a project.  I like to joke that Google should pay me to promote their products, because I’m a huge fan!

The main reasons I prefer this calendar over other digital versions is that it’s super easy to use, syncs with my iPhone calendar, will send you reminders before an event, and (my favorite) allows for creation/sharing of multiple calendars across multiple users.  My husband and I share our calendars with each other, so we can easily see what the other has going on at a glance.

In the past, I’ve had separate calendars (all events show at once) with different colors for personal events, work, meal planning, and my kids. Best of all… it’s FREE!  A must-have for busy families with multiple activities.

2. iPhone Reminders App:

This is the built-in app that allows you to create various lists, with sharing features. I currently have a general Reminders list (which I use as an extension of my daily to-do’s listed in planner), Shopping (shared with husband), To Buy (running list of things I need/want to buy in the future, such as gifts), and House Tasks (my sweet husband requested this one… now the jury’s still out on whether he ever looks at it, LOL!).

So, whenever I run out of a grocery item, I put it directly into our shared Shopping list, and whoever is at the store first can see and purchase it.  Also, my favorite feature is that you can set a pop-up or email “reminder” for any list item to occur at a certain time, place, or both.  Perfect for those like me who have perpetual mommy brain!

3. ToDoist App:

Similar to the Reminders app, ToDoist is an app that allows you to create “to do” lists for various tasks.  This has been extremely helpful for me in managing multiple work and personal projects at once.  If you’re a list-maker addict like me, the action of swiping right across an item gives you a fulfilling green check mark. 🙂  It has both a desktop and app interface, making it duly accessible on both computer and tablet/phone.

Since it isn’t iPhone specific, ToDoist would be a good option for Android users.  Also, we recently got an Amazon Echo Dot, and this app seems to be syncing more seamlessly than Reminders.  So, my husband and I will likely move all of our shared lists there in the near future.

A few “notable mentions” include:

Dropbox – This is a close running for the Top 3.  All of my files are contained in Dropbox, and can be accessed from any Internet-linked computer, as well as my phone.  If you’ve ever lost all of your files due to a computer crash, you understand the value of having digital access to your files!  It also allows for free file sharing, either with an individual or publicly.

Trello – Another collaborative project/task management solution; similar to online sticky notes.  I’ve used this in the past when I had several projects going at once and found it to be really helpful.

Evernote – A digital “file cabinet” of sorts; great for saving visual information, such as business cards, PDFs, etc.; also allows for note-taking and shared document creation/collaboration.  My IT guy hubby is a huge Evernote enthusiast, but I use Google Drive more frequently.

What’s your favorite app or tool for productivity?








Teach Me To Number My Days [Free Graphic]

gain a heart of wisdom

A couple of years ago, when I went through some health issues, the Lord graciously directed me to this verse and, through lots of time in prayer and reflection, prompted me to make a series of life changes centering on balance between work/family and abiding/rest/self-care.  I’m still learning – and re-learning – some of those lessons, as this verse remains in a central location over my desk.

As we journey toward becoming more intentional with how we spend our time – and specifically, how we use and unplug from technology – I’d encourage you to consider this verse, as well.  In motherhood – and life – it is so true that the days are long but the years are oh so short.


As my oldest is now seven (and a half, as she reminds me) and my “baby” three (yes, and a half, sigh), I realize this often while looking back at old pictures that seem but a few months ago with a catch in my throat.  None of us know how much time we have here on this earth, but we can certainly do our best daily to make the most of it.  That’s my heart in writing this series.

Lord, “Teach me to number my days, that I may gain a heart of wisdom.”  As a reminder, you’re welcome to download and save the verse graphic to use as a phone or computer screen background, or however you choose.

 Click here to read the other posts in this series.

Tip Tuesday: Establish a Home Base for Your Phone


Today’s tip will help you achieve the goal of being more intentional about spending time unplugged As I’ve tried to become better about scheduling certain times of my day/week to be screen-free, I’ve found that simply putting my phone in a designated area – or home base – is a super simple fix that is also super effective.  I know it sounds too easy to be true, but “out of sight, out of mind” really works, for me at least!

In our home, I have two home bases for my devices:

  1. Kitchen desk – Phone in front pocket of wooden mail sorter; laptop and iPad on desk or in cabinet above.
  2. Bedroom nightstand – Phone on charger.

Our home has an open concept floor plan, so the kitchen, dining, and living room areas are all connected.  The kitchen desk or my purse pocket work well as a home base for my phone during the day, because I can normally still hear it ring, but it isn’t sitting right beside me, where I am more apt to notice each text, etc. that pops up.  (I have pop-up notifications turned off for most apps, which is another helpful tip I’ll share more about later.)

At night, my nightstand is a good location, because my phone needs to end up on the charger by bedtime (I use it as an alarm clock), and since I’m normally out in the living room with my husband, it encourages me to actually spend quality time hanging out with him, talking, watching TV, or reading together – as opposed to mindlessly scrolling on each of our phones, separately.

Now, plenty of the time I do end up moving my phone with me around the house or even outside (especially if the kids are in school – I want to make sure I can hear it ring).  But it has truly helped me to be more mindful to leave it in one of my designated areas for periods of time – for example, during my quiet time, while doing chores, working on computer, or spending quality face-to-face time with both of my girls after they get home from school.

While there are lots of times I have a valid reason for needing to be on my phone or computer in their presence, I always want to make sure they know they’re more important to me than any screen.  And I want to model for them a pattern of putting devices away at certain times to spend undivided time with people.

Do you have a home base for your phone or other devices?  What are your thoughts on this, or other tips you’ve found to be effective in striving for more balance in screen and unplugged time?

Schedule Unplugged Time

Week 2 Challenge(1)

Each Monday during this 31-day series, I’ll share a challenge related to becoming more intentional with technology.  I’ll be doing each of them and reporting back on my progress later in the week.  I hope some of you will join me!

The second challenge is to schedule unplugged time.  Some days, I spend too much time on my phone/laptop.  Not necessarily in terms of consecutive minutes, but 5 minutes here, 3 minutes there really adds up over time… not to mention the moments of attention that screens are stealing from my kids.  I need to be more disciplined in regularly carving out “unplugged” time – for my family, and for my own good.

In goal setting, I’ve found that I’m a lot more likely to actually follow through with something I want to do if I write it down – and actually scheduling it on my calendar (or even in my head) increases the likelihood of it happening that much more!

This challenge should be super quick and easy:

  1. Think about a time of day you would benefit from being unplugged.  This might be in order to focus your undivided attention on another task, to spend time with your kids or spouse, or simply to truly rest.
  2. Schedule it, and do it!  A week is a good starting goal.  If you’re visual, track your progress somewhere – planner, calendar, habit tracking app, etc.
  3. Reflect on how you feel at the end of your set time period.

I’ll share a quick story about how scheduling unplugged time has helped me to be more intentional with technology.  Since becoming a mom seven years ago, I found (begrudgingly, because I’m a night owl by nature) that my most productive, alert time is early in the mornings, before my kids wake up.  I’ve gone through seasons of doing better and worse of actually maximizing this time… but when I do make the intention to go to bed at a reasonable time and get up early, before my kids rather than to them, I’m a much, much better, nicer, calmer mom, wife, and person.  Even just taking a few moments to drink my coffee and spend a few moments with the Lord in the peace and quiet is transforming to my soul.  My husband can totally vouch for this, because I’m not a natural morning person. 😉

{Side note:  If a morning routine is something you’ve always wanted to start but really struggle with, you’re in good company!  This is SO hard for me, but also every bit worth the effort.  I’d encourage you to check out the Hello Mornings challenge and resources, if you’re interested in connecting with a super encouraging group of women who meet up online to study the Bible, pray for each other, and provide some grace-filled accountability.  I’ve done several challenges, and they have truly blessed me.}

For awhile, I was really intentional about not browsing my phone in the morning until after I’d met with the Lord for my quiet time and greeted my kids… but like many good habits, I slowly slipped off track.  The effects of checking email/Instagram vs. reading my Bible or praying in the morning are like night and day to my attitude.  Here’s an excellent article about some of the concerning effects of checking our phones in the morning.

So, last week, I vowed, once again, to be intentional about being unplugged first thing in the morning until I finished my quiet time and completed two chores – unloading/loading the dishwasher and starting a load of laundry.  The days I’ve stuck to this, the results on the state of my soul – and the state of my house – are notable!

When I was working full-time, I also had a similar goal of working for 25-minute increments without any phone/Internet distractions, and that worked really well for my productivity (more on that in another post).

As part of this challenge, I’d like to continue my morning unplugged goal and add a goal to unplug an hour before bed – a lot of nights, I’ll browse social media right before falling asleep, and I think my sleep and mind would benefit from logging off earlier.  I’d like to replace that screen time with reading (a real book or on Kindle) before bed.

Do you regularly schedule time unplugged?  Want to try it for a week?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!



TECHnically Intentional Thoughts: Week 1

Each week during this 31-day writing challenge, I plan to dedicate one day to reflect and journal my thoughts on the weekly challenges, writing process, and any other general ideas or insights.

Weekly Challenge – Personal Technology Mission Statement:

While mission statement initially sounded good, the more I got into it and thought about, the more unnecessarily complex it felt.  The idea behind it was to think about, and draft our general purposes/goals for using technology in an ideal way… with the hope that it would serve to frame our daily actions.  Ideally, if someone already has a personal/life mission statement, this would fit right into it.  “Technology Guidelines” or “Guiding Principles” might better represent this idea, but hopefully the main idea was gotten across.  At some point, I do plan to go back and simplify each of the steps in the 3-step process to make them more in line with the mini-challenges (track your time, explore effects of your tech habits, etc.), and I’d also like to create a printable worksheet to streamline the process.

I spent some time going through the steps and thinking about what I want my personal tech mission statement/guiding principles to be, and I think I’ve arrived at a good starting point with these statements (which I’m sure I’ll continue to tweak over time):

  • Be intentional about creating, not just consuming, content online.
  • Cultivate discipline – Track my time daily on phone/laptop; schedule unplugged times, and stick to them.
  • Leave my phone in a designated area while the kids are home each afternoon.
  • Regularly fast from social media on a weekly basis.

On the Writing Process:

Writing daily is hard.  Period.  I’ve done it for a time period before, but that was a little different – academic writing, and progressively working on one continuous manuscript.  Creating new, interesting content, with images, on a daily basis is downright tough – even with an outline of previously brainstormed post topics/resources to pull from.  I’m in a Facebook group with several of the writers participating in this 31-day challenge, and one post asked for those who had participated before to share some advice.  My favorite was to “let some posts suck a little.”  That made me LOL!  Because it’s true.  We are busy women who have very limited time each day to write, and some days, you just have to get it done.  However, I think that’s actually really good for me.  I tend to be a perfectionist, which can drive procrastination, so having a goal to publish something daily is definitely growing me as a writer.

Also, what is up with the Facebook algorithm??  Instagram seems more straightforward, but Facebook has me a bit baffled.  I am way confused on how to know who is seeing posts when, and I do feel like it’s changed since last year when I was posting more.  Who knows.  And I really don’t have time to try to figure it out right now.  I had forgotten how it feels to put something you have created “out there” in social media land and wait to see how it’s perceived (sort of terrifying, by the way).  But if you happen to be reading this and have taken the time to give one of my shared posts a “like,” big thank you! 🙂  Your encouragement means more than you will ever know.

In General:

I have both loved and hated this topic (often simultaneously) over the past week.  In hindsight, it would have probably been easier to pick a different topic.  But I did/do feel led to contribute to the conversion about how technology is affecting us – for better and for worse – and what we can actually take action to do about it.  I feel like most of the articles I read about technology are doom and gloom – it’s changing our brains, turning our kids into zombies, killing our attention spans, etc… but most fall short of addressing practical ways we can take control and be part of the solution.  So, if nothing else, I hope at least some of my posts prompt others – even one person – to consider how technology is affecting them/their families in various ways and take a step in the right direction.

Shine Your Light – Online & Off


My Dear Daughters,

It’s been a sad week – and really, a sad couple of months – for our nation and world.  Mass shootings, devastating hurricanes, terrorist attacks… the news – and my social media news feed – is a lot to take in.  And most days, I honestly have to limit how much I do take in.  The state of our surroundings, and even our own hearts sometimes, can point us toward feelings of despair.  But… praise God, we don’t have to stay there, for He has made a way for us to experience hope in the face of adversity.  The Lord’s love, faithfulness, and provision in difficult circumstances are repeated themes throughout the Bible.

Through trusting Jesus, even in our troubles (which should come as no shock, as He shared that we will have trouble in this world) we can step into His promise-command to “Take heart, for I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).  But Jesus didn’t tell us to live hopeful, contented lives while quietly keeping it all to ourselves.  In the sermon on the mount, he commands His disciples, and others in the crowd, to “let [their] light shine before others…” (Matthew 5):

13 “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.

14 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

I’ve been studying the sermon on the mount with some precious friends from small group.  We recently had such a good discussion about salt and light and how important of a function they play in our lives.  Can you imagine food without salt?  Even in sweets, salt enhances the flavor.  A little bit goes a long way.  And we take for granted the power of light until the power goes out on a stormy night… but remember it’s power when a tiny candle’s flame or flashlight’s glow helps us to see again.  Likewise, we hold great power – and great responsibility – as the “salt of the earth” and “light of the world” to fulfill our purpose to glorify God.

So, what does letting our light shine look like in this day and time of seemingly constant connection?  Obviously, we can shine Jesus’ love and hope through our daily words, actions, and interactions with the people physically around us.  But what about in our online presence?  How can we be intentional about shining our light there as well?

A good place to start is simply by focusing on love.  Love for our Lord, and love for one another – the greatest commandment.  You can’t go wrong by celebrating and sharing love – and the True Source of that love, Jesus.

What might that look like?  I don’t think there’s necessarily one “right” answer, and we should each pray about what we should do on a daily basis to step forward in obedience.  Here are a few ideas…

  • Search for the good in the world around you – what you dwell on, what you notice, you will find, whether good or bad!  Cultivate, and share, an attitude of gratitude.
  • Look for the helpersTake it from Mr. Rogers… “If you’ll look for the helpers, you’ll know that there’s hope.”  Seek out stories of those selflessly helping in a tragedy.  And figure out how you can come alongside them or add to the efforts to help in your own way.
  • Be an encourager – There are so many hurting hearts around you.  Look for needs and symptoms of hopelessness in others’ lives/posts, and as you can, be faithful to pray for, encourage, and point them back to the Truth and hope of the gospel.
  • Share the Word – What is the Lord teaching you through the Bible that could encourage someone else, or point them to the Truth?  The Lord promises us that when His Word goes out, it won’t return empty (Isaiah 55:10-12).  Of course, we should be careful to not take isolated Bible verses out of context.  But if you feel prompted to share something with someone, you should obediently do it!

There’s plenty of darkness and negativity to go around on social media, for sure, but that just means there’s all the more space for light.  I pray that, as you grow in grace and truth, you are continually able to see the good, be the good, and shine your light ever more brightly – online and off.

“Let us hold unswerwingly to the hope we profess, for He who has promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).

Love and Light,





A Heart Like His in a Constantly Connected World

A Heart Like Hisin a Constantly Connected World

Photo Credit:  Jeff Coleman (my talented husband)

We live in a world of constant connection.  The Internet and handheld tech tools have changed the way we do life in constant connection and information… arguably, for both the better and worse.  From the time we wake in the morning until the time we go to bed at night, we’re juggling between what sometimes feels like a never-ending stream of texts, calls, emails, Google searches, social media notifications, and to-do’s… not to mention our (over?)scheduled “leisure” activities of choice.  Busy has truly become the 21st century American condition.

But what if our quest for activity, community, and relaxation is actually handing us the opposite of their intended outcomes?  What if what we really need is more stillness… margin… rest?

Stillness is a repeated theme in Scripture.  The Lord calls us to “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).  But it’s hard to be still and sit in silence when our phone, laptop, Netflix, fill-in-the-blank is an arm’s reach away.  A decade ago, when you were waiting in line, what did you do?  Maybe talk to someone next to you, or just sit quietly and think?  Nowadays, my tolerance for stillness, for boredom seems a lot lower.  There’s always an email that needs attention or something to see, to read, to learn, to do.  I’m too often reminding myself to put my phone away and just be.

For the past couple of years, the Lord has been prompting me to examine my heart as it relates to how I focus my time and attention, to how my habits are cultivating stress or rest.  And, if I’m going to be effective in doing that, I must take a hard look at how I’m being intentional about connecting with – and disconnecting from – technology.  Activity isn’t bad, and technology isn’t bad… but anything in excess can distract and numb our hearts, and if we are honest with ourselves, even become idols.

Constant connection has a tendency to leave me feeling frazzled, overwhelmed, striving, even apathetic.  But, praise God, Jesus calls us to something better – to set aside our Martha ways and sit at His feet like Mary.   To be intentional about setting aside distractions and focus on the one thing that is needed (Luke 10:42). To soak up His goodness and enter into His peace, freedom, and rest – the only true, lasting rest for our souls.  To redirect our hearts and desires to become more like His – for our good and His glory.

Each day, you and I have a choice to be intentional about how we connect with Jesus and with people – both in-person and through our devices.  May we be granted grace and mercy to choose well, and to get back on track when we fall astray.

This morning during my walk/worship time, I was greatly encouraged by the words of a favorite song.  This is my prayer today for me, and for you:

Heart Like You by Love & The Outcome

“Burn bright
In my life
Burn away the things
I hold tight
Give me
Eyes to see
Your Kingdom
The way You want it
To be

What can be worth more than You
What do I have I wouldn’t lose
If it means You and I
Look more alike
That’s what I chose

I’d give up the world to find my soul
Pour out my life, give You control
I just want to be what You want me to be
I just want a heart that’s true
A heart like You
I just want a heart like You”

Oh, for grace to trust Him more!


Explore the Effects of Your Technology Habits: Questions + Resources

What are the effects of your tehcnology habits_

The first weekly challenge in becoming more “tech”nically intentional was to draft a personal technology mission statement.  As I shared in the last post, a good first step is to see where you currently are by tracking the time you spend on your phone and/or computer.  The next steps are to figure out the effects of these habits, decide what changes need to be made, and create a few action statements with guiding principles that you can refer back to in the future.

If you’re a busy mom like me, pulled in what seems to be a million different directions, this probably seems like an overwhelming task.  The purpose of this post, as well as the previous and next ones, are to break down the process into more manageable 5-minute (or less!) mini-challenges.

This mini-challenge will explore the potential effects of your technology habits and hopefully point out some changes that you might make to improve.  For this step, you don’t need to actually do anything… except think (and maybe jot a few notes if you’re visual like me).  Just view and/or listen to as many (or as few, but at least one!) of the following resources as you’d like.  The goal of this exercise is to consider two questions:

Questions for Thought:

  1. How are your habits in using technology affecting you personally (your productivity, thought patterns, spiritual life, stress/anxiety, contentment, rest, etc.)?
  2. What are the “secondhand” effects they’re having on your relationships – kids/spouse, family, friends, co-workers?


Article:  The Internet May Be Changing Our Minds in Ways We Never Imagined (HuffPost interview with Nicholas Carr)

Article:  8 Ways Tech Has Completed Rewired our Brains (Mashable)

Podcast:  How Secondhand Screen Time Can Harm Our Kids: What Parents Need to Know by Dr. Josh + Christi

Article:  Why Our Son Doesn’t Have a Smartphone (The Gospel Coalition)

Each of these articles impacted how I thought more critically about my own technology usage, and I hope you gain some insights, as well.  If you only have time for one, I’d highly recommend the podcast, as it contains some excellent practical strategies.  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Want to read more?  Go here to view all posts in the TECHnically Intentional 31-day series.