Facebook Fast

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Okay.. It wasn’t a fast. I straight up wanted out. Out of the drama. Out of the posts that were less than authentic. Out of the arguments. The back biting. The passive aggressive warfare meant to injure with wit and snark and the ever revealing emoticons. Off the breeding ground for competition.

So, I got off. No explanation. No “don’t you wish you were this pious” statements. I just left. Status hanging in mid air, comments left unmade, posts unliked and liked. I agree that originally my emotions led the choice, but my mind kept the commitment. And it was hard… At first.

I felt out of the loop.
People would text me and say “Did you see such and such?”, and I hadn’t. People would start conversations about something they saw in a status and all I could do was listen and silently agree or disagree. Articles posted would be fodder for discussion, and I wouldn’t have a clue.

I felt isolated.
Here is the sad truth of it, most of my friends stopped communicating with me. Not sure if it’s just more convenient to chat through Facebook or if it was an “out of sight, out of mind” thing regardless, my phone stayed silent.
A lot.

I felt limited.
Take this blog for instance… You either stumbled upon it by chance, saw it on Pinterest (because let’s be honest what woman can live without that!!?) or happen to already follow me. There is something about having a cyber megaphone. Those lessons become group sessions and those words of hope become anthems! But, without Facebook, my ability to project was severely limited. I felt like a lion who suddenly became a tiny mouse. Where was my voice?

But, despite those inconveniences, here is what I found.

Time to read.
My Bible Study time increased exponentially. I’ve always been a reader and studier but now I was reading and studying simply for me.. Not to share a scripture or what God was teaching me. My lessons became truly my lessons not rolling through a Rolodex of names thinking who would benefit from my study.

I found more time for my girls to play or to talk or just to enjoy a movie or show on Netflix without interruption. It is amazing how much more “quality” that time becomes when half of it doesn’t consist of scouting out “I need to put this on Facebook” moments.

I came to appreciate Silence.
I realized that without a half dozen notifications popping up on my screen every 30 minutes I could actually set my phone aside. Like, in the back bedroom, far from my sight and from my ear. I actually missed texts! Can you imagine!? Remarkably, the world did not end.

I found less need for validation.
Did you know that research has found that the endorphin rush of getting a “like” on social media is akin to an addiction? Test yourself. Do you find yourself constantly checking likes, shares, and comments and feeling extreme disappointment when they don’t show? You might have a problem. Suddenly what we liked and what we need is based on what everyone else thinks what we should like and should need. Approval is a drug. And I can be an addict.

I faced Reality.
There was no hiding behind poignant posts to mask my feelings. Talking to my soul became quiet.. One on one.. And I found my soul without the encouragement of the Body, was significantly less empowered. There is a reason why God said it isn’t good for man to be alone, and whereas Facebook has it’s major hang ups and distractions, it can also be a beacon of hope to the desperate the discouraged and the hurting. Reality bites. It’s good to have those who recognize that taste.

I will find my way back to the Book of Faces in a few more weeks, but I am wiser having released myself (even if momentarily) from it’s hungry grasp. I challenge you to try. Break free. See what you’re missing and return with a purpose for being there.. Because it isn’t there to create a pretend life, it isn’t there to take out your anger based on insecurities on those who would be exposed, it isn’t there to aid you in posting pictures and being validated and bragging on our kids (which certainly impacts them more if we SAY it not tag it), but it IS about belonging, finding a place to share your voice, to grow in faith and understanding. If you’re a Christian, it’s a place for ministry and mission work. Just don’t get lost. Because in a world of faces, we need to see more of you… Literally.

Couch Parenting

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Could you imagine if you were the coach of an NBA team, hired for the sole purpose of coaching your team to a victory, leading ultimately to a national championship and you never even left the bench? My guess is you wouldn’t be a very effective coach. You would most likely be fired for not doing your job. More than that the players wouldn’t respect you, would never feel truly led or encouraged because you’re sitting on the bench merely yelling at them to do their jobs.

Your leadership wouldn’t go very far.

This is where I found myself the other night, this is the image God gave me to teach me a lesson, and it’s a lesson many of us might need to learn. With a mass of technology to occupy our time from smart phones to laptops to tablets, family time is getting less and less and children are becoming more and more unruly, or maybe that’s just in my house? This lesson came to me as I was directing my child to go and get ready for bed. I had been busy all night, helping my oldest with a project, fixing dinner, serving dinner, cleaning up the kitchen and in between doing loads of laundry.

I was tired.

I had just plopped myself down for the first time that evening and pulled out my phone to respond to some messages. “Get up and lead her to the bath.” I knew it in my heart it was the right thing to do, but did I mention I was tired? My daughter continued to lay on the couch, not moving, not doing a single thing I said. I looked over at my husband, and he was working so I was the parent of the moment. My impatience was growing, and I felt my tone getting more and more tense. The Voice got louder, “Get up and take her to the bath!” I argued with that wisdom, “I’m tired. Why can’t she just do what I told her to do and get in the bathtub?!” Then, my heart awoke. I looked at this growing girl beside me and how she was laying up next to me, and I realized that perhaps it wasn’t disobedience keeping her from doing what I asked but a desire to be with me. That’s when God said, “You can’t pour into her from the couch. You can’t help her to know and find me while you are on your phone. You can’t show her my intentional love and attention if she reluctantly gets it from you.”

Ouch. God pinch.

Ironically, or should I say, unsurprisingly, when I reached for her hand and told her, “Come on, I’ll sit with you while you take your bath.” She didn’t hesitate. Immediately she got up, and we went to the bathroom. We had a good chat. She shared about her day, how she had been hurt by her friend, how she was wondering if God saw that moment, and I chastised myself. I could have missed those confessions, failed to have an opportunity to undo that hurt and assure her that indeed God did see that moment… Just as He saw that one.. And the one before that where I sat with my butt on the couch.

Everyday it’s a choice – to couch parent or invest. And I don’t always get it right, but when I do – the reward is a better relationship with my girls and a greater understanding of my Father.

Barren

Barren.

That word stings whether you are unable to have one or unable to have more. There is something that feels unnatural about that. Barren. You picture cracked dirt and lifeless ground. And it resembles what it feels like – a curse.

I was the girl who dreamed big! Big aspirations, big plans, big families! I would draw diagrams of houses, fully decked out with four nurseries. I mean, I was gonna have at least 2 girls and 2 boys – Interspersed, of course, so each girl could have an older brother… Like I never had. And that was exactly the image that popped into my mind when my doctor asked me, “Were you planning to have any more babies?” I remember answering, “Well, if you asked me over the den of loud music at a social gathering I might have said no, but your asking me about ever, and I’m not ready to commit to that.” The fact was, as horrible as being pregnant had been on my body, We were actually considering trying for that boy we’d never had… Now would never have.

In the end, it was necessary. It boiled down to life and death. Assuredly, if I had gotten pregnant, I would have lost the baby and possibly my life. I made the right choice. Everyone agreed. But I hated it.

I have moments where I still deeply grieve. The enemy taunts me with accusations and fantasies, but the truth is I can’t have any more. It hurts. Please don’t get me wrong! I cherish my girls! I’m blessed to have them, and I thank Him daily. I love them more than life, but I can’t help but feel someone might be missing.

“You can always adopt.”
I get that a lot. And I could, if we saved up the money, but it’s not the same. Altruistic and beautiful, no doubt. Many babies need families and there are many hearts that need love. But, it’s not the same.

“Have you considered fostering.”
No. I know my limitations and most of all my too easily smitten heart. One kid taken back would devastate me. Multiple instances like that would have me committed. Not to mention the wear and tear on my girls affections. Madeline especially, she was marked with a heart like her mom.

Then, there are the full-faithed that offer, “God could grow you another uterus, if He wanted to.” He could. But that’s a little extreme, not to mention miraculous… The kind of miracle that gets an article in the Enquirer. Not the kind of headlines I wanna make. Not me.

I recently read that grief has no rules. It doesn’t. It can hit me at anytime… Sometimes sucker punches me in the gut in the diaper aisle. Or when I hold a sweet smelling newborn in my arms. Or when I see a woman caress her stomach and send her gift an unspoken secret from the heart.

So I grieve. With many millions of women… In different extremes… But like me – barren nonetheless. It can’t be fixed, but I have come to accept it. Acceptance doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. I accept my condition, and I believe that God is good. I know He collects these tears, even if others might see them as selfish, and He assures me He will restore what I have lost… And I even have moments where I can see the blessing in the curse.

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My Affection

“Large crowds were traveling with Jesus, and turning to them he said: “If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.”
Luke 14:25-26

Man. Jesus threw some doozies out there, and this one is no less controversial.

I’ve been reading “Not a fan.” by Kyle Idleman in the midst of flights and weddings and conquering Disney World in two days and supervising a ten year old daughter that knew better but still decided to bite into a neon glow bracelet and is now convinced her liver is radioactive and refereeing the latest sibling smack down before blood is drawn. I admit. It wasn’t easy with so much brain energy and physical fortitude required, but in the midst of all that chaos, this verse stood out.

Can I just say, that being a woman called into ministry is one of the hardest things in the world? Really. It’s right up there with the lion tamer and the “how sharp are these shark teeth” tester guys. (I mean, if there were such a job.) I could write a book on this impossible balance. It’s not easy. It’s hard. (I felt the redundancy there was necessary to prove my point.)

I love Jesus. Not a question. I love my family. Absolute fact. I will confess that if Jesus were in the flesh on this earth today, I would never leave His side. I would have never gotten married, had kids, or possibly gotten a bath…I would NEVER leave His side. Creepy? Maybe. But true. He is my first Love. I steal away with Him on picnics, talk to Him all day long, run every thought, plan, scenario by Him because I don’t want to ever feel disconnected from His plan, His purpose, His will for my life…which is most probably why I wasn’t meant to live when He walked on earth – the whole harvest and laborers ratio; plus, my kids are pretty darn cool and I have no doubt will eventually leave a distinguished mark upon this earth.

So why did that verse in Luke hit me so hard?

Because it’s not “cool” to love Jesus that much, to admit that you would choose Him over anything and everything in your life, given the choice. (Which just in case you are moments away from calling the men in white coats to haul me in let me state: I do not believe that Jesus asks us to make this choice, to choose Him and hate our kids or spouse or mom or dad or siblings. He simply asks us to choose Him. He provided those relationships and He did so with all such players in mind…but He asks that we love Him so much that in comparison our love for them doesn’t compare. Make sense?)

I will never forget the look of absolute disbelief my friend gave me when I admitted, “Losing my husband would be difficult, but it wouldn’t devastate me.” Now, in my defense, when I said this I was totally thinking about the significance and the absoluteness of the word “Devastate” – to ruin or destroy; I wasn’t thinking in an emotional sense of overwhelming grief. But, I was being completely honest, because (and this is where you might look at me weird and think I’ve flipped my switch) nothing and no one in this world holds enough significance in my life to destroy me. Depress me, upset me, hurt me, grieve me, or break my heart? Yes. But not destroy me. There is something about looking death in the face and meeting God’s love and grace that makes you realize that nothing is worth that again. Nothing.

Jesus is my Affection. Everything and everyone comes second to Him. We are told this is how it is supposed to be, what being a true disciple of Christ is, what relationship is all about…and yet, even the church criticizes those of us that think this way. (Unless you’re a priest or a nun, then you get a reprieve…well, kind of, because then they just think you are a closet pedophile or lesbian looking for cover in a habit or collar.)

“There is something wrong with you.” I’ve heard that before.

“Are you sure that you aren’t having an emotional affair with Jesus?” And my response was, “Is that even possible!?”

“You have some sort of misguided affection for your Saviour.” Because it seems to me that saying, “I would die for you” and then backing that up with actions seems just the right amount of affection for One that saved you…but maybe that is just me.

“You’re a woman…there should be a certain level of restraint even in your intimacy with Christ.” Wow. So the woman that admitted to me that she has so much difficulty with physical intimacy because of past abuse and misuse that she asks the Holy Spirit to love her husband through her and often lays naked before God in order to feel the purity of that state instead of the guilt and shame of before would probably be burned at the stake, and yet, I understand her. I understand that pain and that desperate need from a God that created her and has a compassion for her that never fails.

I’m a woman. A woman that loves Jesus. That gave my life up for Him. That has been spending my breath to give His back. Not because there is something wrong with me, or because I’m misguided or without restraint. But because He healed that which was wrong, He led me when I was completely off track, and He has taught me that His perfect Love casts out all fear…including the fear of losing someone that is most precious to me, or the insecurities of the looks that I get from others, the bitter gossip of those that don’t understand, and the lack of appreciation from those that haven’t experienced the intimacy that Christ’s Love affords.

I never want to be accused of choosing ministry (ie: work) over my spouse, my children, my family, and as a woman, a mother and a wife, the pressure of that is even stricter than on a man in ministry; however, I will always put my relationship with Christ first over any other role that I fill. Not to be separate but to be significant and inspirational, and if others can’t understand that, then they haven’t experienced the freedom that having Him first brings. Christ’s love affects me. And my affections are first for Him. Isn’t that what being a committed follower of Christ requires? According to Jesus, the red letter Voice, it is.

Hurricane Lily

I admit that when we named our youngest child, we weren’t thinking about the fact that she would share the name with a hurricane, a very bad one, at that. There was no way we could have foreseen such activity from her, either. I’d already had one child, so when I had to jiggle my belly and consume large amounts of chocolate before this one would even roll over or stretch, I figured, “This is gonna be easy!” Ha! I would like to say I am sure in those moments the Lord above chuckled with a mysterious and knowing twinkle in His eye.

Oh, we weren’t clued in at first. No! She was a sweet little baby..she cooed and giggled and fluttered her little lashes. I couldn’t have been more pleased!

Fast forward a mere 8 years later… Holy Cow! Let me say, I love my Lily! She is a boisterous, energetic ball of fun, but I had no warning signs, no premonitions, just BAM! Hurricane Lily! She doesn’t stop until her little body just gives out. She wakes up ready for the day (most days…we all have our days) and she goes to sleep in pretty much the same strain of energy. I marvel at her. I am convinced that if I could bottle that I would be a quatrillionaire! (And yes, it would be a number! I would make it a number. I’d be a quatrillionaire!) But seriously, she is teaching me.

This child is ignited and saturated with passion! She passionately loves, and she vehemently hates! And she can switch from one to the other in zero point three seconds. It’s fascinating to watch. It doesn’t take much, either. It can literally play out like this: “Oh yes, you made brownies! You are the best mom in the world!! Wait. No milk. You HATE me!” I admit it’s a little stressful, wondering what might set her off…but here is another thing about her whirlwind of emotions – they play out quickly. She absolutely does NOT hold a grudge. She has a great memory – she does like to tattle on her sister, but when it comes to her grievances, she will sooner let them go than anyone I know…myself included.

She’s compassionate. It’s as if she instinctively knows, “This person needs me to be sensitive.” She is a good helper. In first grade she sat next to a girl that lost one of her arms to cancer – Lily made it her job to help Aiyana color when her arm got tired, and when we prayed at night, Lily always remembered Aiyana and prayed for her. In fact, this summer, when we got the news that Aiyana had gone to be with Jesus, the hurricane stopped; she looked at me with big blue eyes, wet with tears and said, “She’s coloring with both hands now.” Yep. That’s my Lily.

She loves to make others happy. It thrills her to make us laugh, and most the time the humor is potty-related. But, she makes me belly-laugh faster than I can type LOL. She brings a smile to my face when she is concentrating on something, and when she gets it, the brightness in her eyes is precious. She writes love songs to Jesus, and tells me, “Momma, I love you one million and 76, but I love God twenty million and 77!” She loves her Daddy more than any other man on earth, and she has often pouted because he is married (and shoots me a sideways evil-eye because he married me.) She’s not perfect. We still struggle with sharing from time to time, and not a day goes by that I don’t find a new claw mark on her big sister; but she’s 8, I give her grace.

Why am I telling you all of this? Well, today, as I was cleaning up her room (and ironically, she keeps it very tidy most days), I realized I miss her while she is at school. She really is a light in this house. She brings me more joy than I ever imagined, and I know that she makes God smile, too – probably more so then myself, because He knows what all those characteristics mean, and the woman of passion and purpose that she will one day become.  But for now, I’m still waiting for the bus to come, waiting until I hear Hurricane Lily storm in. She’ll probably rush in with a tattle on her tongue over something her sister did or some funny story she heard at school, or urgently request a new Barbie (probably a Ken doll because she is convinced that the one she plays with is cheating on President Barbie with Mermaid!)  With her, you never know, but I love it. Around here, life is never boring!