Living Tech-Wise

Living tech-wise is even harder than it sounds. Last year I purchased (and recently finally devoured) this book by Andy Crouch: The Tech-Wise Family. I highly recommend it for anyone curious or concerned about how technology is shaping us. He’s not anti-technology; he just believes it should be kept in “its proper place.”

In 205 quick-to-read pages, Crouch shares a blend of: the ten commitments his family has chosen to live by; honest reflections on how well they’ve done; and research by the Barna Group about technology’s role in the lives of teens and families. The ten commitments are intentional practices of “choosing character,” “shaping space,” and giving structure to how we interact with technology, rather than mindlessly buying into whatever culture or retailers tell us we need, should have, or how we should arrange our homes.

Here are the “Ten Tech-Wise Commitments,” in my own words:

  1. Wisdom + Courage + Together
  2. Create > Consume
  3. Sabbath
  4. Unplugging
  5. No Screens for Littles
  6. Purposeful Screening
  7. Car Talk
  8. Accountability
  9. Singing
  10. Showing Up

Crouch’s children are about a decade older than mine, so a rule like “no screens before age 10” would have been slightly less intimidating before the current preponderance of handheld devices in classrooms and on bodies at all times. That said, SO MUCH of what he says resonates with my own longings, laments, and promptings to choose to live differently regarding technology.

When I was growing up, we didn’t answer the home phone if it rang during dinner. Nowadays, it’s rare to share a meal (or spend time) with someone without their phone interrupting the conversation (multiple times). It used to be that parents had to compete with the tv for their kids’ attention; now kids also have to compete with their parents’ phones for their attention.

My favorite commitment that he describes is what I’ve termed Sabbath. He says:

“We are designed for a rhythm of work and rest. So one hour a day, one day a week, and one week a year, we turn off our devices and worship, feast, play, and rest together.” (pg. 41)

We haven’t started practicing this yet, but I love that it communicates a deep value for spending uninterrupted time together as a family. Here’s my favorite part: Crouch says that when he goes away for that 1-2 weeks with his family, he sets up a filter on his email account to TRASH EVERYTHING that comes in and an auto-reply to let the senders know that HE WILL NEVER READ THEIR EMAIL (jaw drop).

One of the life-draining things about being away from the office is knowing that emails are still pouring into your inbox and you’ll spend a day or more sorting through them all. What a gift it would be–to yourself as well as to your workplace–to say “you can live without me for a week. If there’s something you can’t work out in the meantime and it needs my attention, let me know when I return.”

As the technology of the super-computer in my pocket advances and it’s ever-more connected with other devices in my home (lights, locks, speakers, scale, on and on), I’m finding it harder to leave it on the counter, put it away at least an hour before bed, or stop pulling it out to google an answer, check email, or see what’s happening on social media. Years ago, I turned off all notifications on my phone except texts. So if someone comments on my post, an email comes through, or Target has an awesome sale, I won’t know about it until I open that app. Telling my phone – no, I don’t need you to alert me 24 hours a day to all of the changes going on in all of my apps – that one simple move has given me back time and space.

How are you interacting with technology? Do you have intentional practices in your own life or family? Comment below so we can learn from each other.


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Hawaii FTW!

Going to Hawaii as a family was one of the best decisions Dave and I have ever made. YES, we wanted to go alone—absolutely. It had been at least three years since we had taken a trip alone and we needed some alone time. But neither of our parents were able to come stay with the kids. After spending about five minutes devastated that we couldn’t go, we looked at each other and made the BEST decision to book flights for all six of us and just GO FOR IT!

We had been wanting to go for years, and once we were there basking in the island life, we realized we were the ones holding ourselves back all these years.

When we had our first child, we told ourselves that we weren’t going to let our new family situation slow us down. We would still be active in church and small group, keep working and teaching, still take trips and hang out late at my parents’ house. Each newborn got a fantastic trip to San Francisco or San Diego in the first few weeks of life. We expected our firstborn (and later kids) to just be flexible and adapt—sleep where and when you need to and try to keep up, kid 😉

We went on one-day and weekend trips with Pepperdine students, and went on trips to San Diego with my parents all the time. We were Disneyland annual pass holders and Santa Barbara Zoo members, and burned up lots of pavement between Thousand Oaks and Anaheim and Santa Barbara.

Somewhere along the way, we all slowed down. Four children and a lot of “stuff” have a way of doing that, I suppose. It might have happened when we moved thousands of miles away from parents (with kids 7, 5, 3, and 7 months old) and no longer had the luxury of an extra adult or two on deck.

Living as far away as we do, most of our trips have parents’ or grandparents’ addresses as destinations. It’s the way we were both raised. But we knew that fall and winter would be coming and we would be longing for the sun and warmth of a tropical climate.

IT WAS GLORIOUS. We soaked up every minute of sun and warmth, from pools and hot tubs and beaches, to volcanos and rain forests and sunsets. It was magical and amazing and WORTH IT. –sorry FB and IG friends, I hardly posted anything because I was taking it all in and being present and having all the good times.

We had the time of our lives. And we did it together. YES, Dave and I still need some married people time. But we are so glad we went and made all the memories as a family ♥

What are you holding yourself back from? Is there a trip you’ve been wanting to take? Something you’ve been wanting to explore or try? The whole wide world is waiting for you to SAY YES!


Sarah and the Gift of Hope

Sarah. That’s the name of my friend who gave me the final push to start writing again. The one who said YOU CAN DO THIS and IT WILL BE WORTH IT and YOU’RE WORTH IT. She said all that not with her words but with how she encouraged and showed up and walked me through what it would take to do this thing. This thing that is both terrifying and exhilarating where you become an entrepreneur because sometimes that’s what it takes to do the thing you love. Where you do the thing that you love, sometimes only slightly more than you fear, and your hesitance about “marketing” or “branding” yourself melts away because it doesn’t feel like that when this is who you are, what you care most deeply about, and the thing to which you feel called more than anything else.
Sarah and her husband (and their two sons) are our neighbors and close friends and together we’ve been doing life for a couple of years from raising kids, sharing recipes, and playing games, to doing home improvement projects and walking through a few job transitions. They walked with us through my job lay-off last year and had front-row seats to me figuring out my life.
After losing a job in ministry—which in my mind I had been working towards for almost ten years—I went to a dark place. In my grief, I said never again. I’m done working for a church. It hurt too much and I couldn’t bear the thought of opening my heart to the possibility of so much pain again. I longed to return to the university job I loved but left for this one… I wallowed in deep regret but rarely admitted it.
Although it was summertime in Portland–finally beautiful, sunny, warm, and happy–I was depressed. Home with the kids and some stretch of runway before I had to return to work, I searched and applied for loads of jobs that were outside of my field and industry. For a brief season, I thought I wanted to work for the parks department, then it was a prominent sportswear retailer, then government work or maybe running for an elected position. Maybe I should go back to project management, try community outreach with a local nonprofit or real estate. The options were wide open, but nothing quite fit.
Somewhere in there I applied for a job at my beloved university, which for that season became to my heart a promised land. I was disappointed when that door remained closed because I desperately wanted to return, but I knew the position would have been a stretch to say the least.
I applied for a perfect-for-me job with another university. If you knew me, and you read about the skills and experience and education they were looking for, you would see a match made in heaven. So you would understand my confusion when months went by and I heard nothing. And finally one day, more than four months after applying, I received a generic “thanks for your interest” rejection email that rocked me. How could they not even want to interview me? How could I be so easily dismissed? I was angry. And hurt. And shocked. But mostly hurt.
The familiar darkness welcomed me back, bidding me to sink down, be quiet, stop putting myself out there. The shadows said you’re only worthy of lay-offs and rejections, so quit trying. There were months of darkness and several friends encouraging me to continue writing—even sermons that would never be preached—and I thought why bother?
In a deep, secret place in my heart I had tucked away my dreams. I hid them to keep them safe from the darkness, with its relentless pursuit of destroying everything. As 2017 was drawing to a close, I decided in one of my healthier moments that I should get a journal and set some goals for 2018 and actually do something with my life instead of letting life happen to me. So I did. And for the first time in a long time I put pen to paper and discovered all was not lost. Or perhaps in the wisdom of Frederick Buechner, “All is lost. All is found.” I peeked inside the hidden place and wrapped words around what I saw there.
In my best version of myself, I have found my niche and am a published author and experienced speaker. Thriving and finding purpose in my career, I am contributing to my field and helping others.
I had forgotten what an open book I am. I feared this was too fragile to show anyone. In my darkness I somehow believed my closest friends didn’t already know. When Sarah’s husband told mine “Jen just needs to build her brand and put herself out there,” I tried to muster the usual excuses and stay in that darkness. But when my heart said “Maybe it’s time,” Sarah said “Of course it is. We got this.” And everything tumbled wildly and rapidly into place from there. We met. We talked. She inspired. I went home and wrote.
And wrote.
And wrote.
The inspiration was seeping through my pores and I could hardly get it all out quickly enough in the days and weeks that followed. And I tore through books that had been on my nightstand for months. And I wrote.
And wrote.
And it feels so good to be alive. To emerge from the shadows. To once again be engaged in meaningful work for which I have passion and inspiration. To re-enter my vocation; to not only earn a living but to do it by engaging in work that is purposeful, work that continues my educational and career trajectory with all of the reading, writing, speaking, listening, and conference-attending that stimulate my mind, fill my heart, and ignite me with a sense of what I am here to do. It is good to be here.
Had it not been for Sarah, I don’t know how long it might have taken me or what life would even look like. She gave me one of the most precious gifts of all: hope. For that I am deeply grateful.