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.

A Missing Missive

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Graham Cooke said that “God doesn’t focus on what is wrong with us, rather, He is attending to what is missing.

My daughter wants to be a cheerleader. This is a pretty tall order – Not because she isn’t capable but because she is missing some key components in order to do so. As a parent I have a choice – point out what is wrong with her… Or attend to what is missing.

If I choose to point out what is wrong with her, I will very likely crush her spirit. But, if I choose to attend to those missing key components, not only is she capable to live her dream, but she will become confident and strong not only to fulfill that purpose but the passions that inspire her later.

And isn’t that what God is about? With our acceptance of Christ and the knowledge of Him removing the blot of sin and the punishment it affords, what good does it do for God to point out what is wrong with us? Instead He is better served (and I mean that in the very literal expression of that word) by pointing out what is missing and what He provides, what He has already provided!

This is what I see. We are too sin conscious. This serves one purpose, the purpose of the law, to point out our failures and precipitate the exhausting effort of keeping up with holiness. This mindset leaves us feeling defeated and undeserving, which has the eventual effect of crippling our service as Ambassadors of Christ. We will never measure up.

This is what I believe. If we paid less attention to what we were doing wrong or right and more attention to what is missing from our lives, keeping us from dwelling in His fullness, and seeking God for that supply, we will become more holy. The end that we seek through the means of performance is fully met in the knowledge of who we are in Christ!

Let me step back a minute. The key there is “who we are in Christ.” Without Christ we are still stained with sin and our punishment is death. It doesn’t sound nice. We don’t like to hear that some are excepted, but it’s the Truth. Jesus said “I am the way, the truth and the life; no one comes to the Father but by Me.” Without our acceptance of Christ as our Savior, we are still marked by death. His blood and resurrection is what changes who we are to what we are meant to be. Those who are without Christ are judged by what is wrong AND by what they are missing. But, at any moment, in understanding and humility, they can change all of that!

That being said, as we are reborn in Christ, we are equipped for everything our life in Him requires. God isn’t a task master, He is the giver of all good things. He will never ask something of us that He hasn’t already given us in advance. So, He gave us Jesus to take away what was wrong, and now He reminds us that what we are still missing He has already given us in vast supply!

Even if we feel guilty, God is greater than our feelings, and he knows everything. Dear friends, if we don’t feel guilty, we can come to God with bold confidence. And we will receive from him whatever we ask because we obey him and do the things that please him.” (1 John 3:20-22 NLT)

I think a big reason people refuse to come to Christ or believe in God is because they fear what He will do, and that is because they do not know Who He is. I think of Jesus telling the parable of the talents. Why didn’t the guy with the one talent do anything with it? He says “I knew you were a hard Master…” The word “knew” is more like “convinced.” When we are convinced God is one way, heaping shame and guilt upon us and seeing us as infidels never able to measure up, if we perceive Him as hard and cruel and unyielding, if we see Him as vengeful and punishing, that’s how we will respond to Him… In fear, not reverence, in hatred instead of love.

How do I know? Well, I’ve seen it, and it breaks my heart that someone cannot see my Father and Saviour as accessible and grateful and merciful and loving. Secondly, I’ve experienced it. If I came down on my daughter and told her she wouldn’t measure up and that she should just forget ever pursuing her dream, she would think me mean and cruel, and I would be. But, when I lovingly instruct her in what it takes to do what she desires and we take the time to help her make those changes, no doubt she might not like me at first because I’m asking her to change her sedentary ways, but in the end through her perseverance and my support and love and encouragement, she will realize that she is free to be more by replacing her doubt with confidence.

God wants to do the same. He wants us to see our relationship like the latter example rather than the first, but too often we see changing our ways as punishment rather than transformation and being led as brain-washed rather than walking in freedom from guilt and shame.

My daughter may never be a cheerleader, but she is learning new habits and a mindset that will set her up for greater things to come! And I know God is doing the same with me – little by little, day by day, pointing out that in fully abiding in Him I am found whole!

Beauty and The Beast

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“Let’s just go.”

She said it with a voice of defeat, tears on the verge of breaking free. We had been in the same store for almost an hour trying on outfit after outfit. On the hanger they looked cute, anything hangs beautifully on air and wire, but on a real body fabric pulls, and hugs, and stretches making the wearer feel as if there is something wrong with her and not the size 2 fashion.

We left the store in silence. She walking two steps ahead head down, unwelcoming. I walked a protective two steps behind cursing super models and anorexic-sized media stars that made my daughter feel somehow less than. On the verge of tears myself, I started the car while she sobbed quietly beside me.

Lost. Helpless.

Those are the two words that annihilated my heart.

Fat. Ugly.

Those were the words echoing in hers.

“Why do I have to be so fat?”

And, what do I say? From the time she was born she was solid. The doctors would be surprised when they weighed her, people would be caught off guard when they tried to pick her up, by the time she was 8, I could barely lift her. But she wasn’t obese, not to the naked eye, but according to the charts and standards not based on anything I can see that is healthy she’s classified as “overweight.”

I knew the second part to that question, “…when you’re so small?”

To make matters worse, I’m small without trying. I always have been. In the way that she feels unattractive because of her weight, growing up, I felt unattractive because of my lack of shape. Strange. Mother and daughter, battling how we were created on two different sides of the scales.

I did what all good mothers do. I addressed her beauty. Her flawless complexion, her smooth skin, her sparkling eyes, and her hands that could easily be used for modeling expensive lotions, but no matter what I point outed, she reminded me, “But, it’s just not fair.”

And it’s not. Body shape isn’t fair, but more than that, it’s a beastly battle that every woman faces at least in some season of life, if not everyday. Whether it’s an addiction to food or an obsession with body image, we find ourselves on the verge of self-destruction more often than satisfaction.

“My friends laugh at me because I eat all my food at lunch.”

I almost spit out, “Then, they aren’t real friends!” But that wouldn’t help matters, she already feels like she is friendless. So I find myself holding onto the only two words I can safely say, “I’m sorry.”

And I am. I’m so sorry that she has to grow up in a world where size 0 and size 2 classify as beauty and health and girls who wear a size 9 or size 13 are judged as slobs and lazy. I’m sorry that her friends feel the need to judge her for her appetite when they skip meals and gorge on snacks. I’m sorry that they make clothes that hang beautifully on wires but aren’t made to fit a frame with curves. I’m sorry that she can’t see her beauty because it doesn’t look like every one else’s. I’m sorry that as a mother I can’t do anything to help her but to do my best to point out her positive attributes and pray that someday soon it sinks in. I’m sorry that all too often numbers on a scale or the digits on a tag have the power to destroy a girl’s confidence. And most of all, I’m sorry that I can’t relate because maybe if I could, she might see that I don’t just say these things because I’m her mom but because beauty is deeper than fashion and her soul is more attractive for its perceived flaws than her desired perfections.

“It’s okay, mom.”

And it will be. The storm has passed and miles away from dressing rooms, I begin to see her perk up a bit. And, for the moment, life seems fair again.

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.

Lessons Maddie has taught me

Twelve years ago yesterday, I held the most precious, wide eyed, soft skinned little baby my eyes had ever beheld! The next day, after the labor pains and still exhausted, my lessons began. The hard knocks of parenting were leveled at me. I got my first taste of judgement and learned the hard truth that I will mess up, and I won’t do everything just right. I learned that parenting is hard work and requires diligence and attentiveness. I realized that it hurts you when they are hurting and how much of a failure one mistake will make you feel and that emotions can rise and fall hourly with the mood or well-being of your child.

I also learned that what I knew of “love” was insignificant in comparison to what I felt for my sweet sleeping daughter in my arms. I learned that for someone that had grown up feeling used for her body, my child using me was entirely different. I realized that her dependence on me was necessary and that no matter what I felt or what I wanted, she had to come first. I learned the value of uninterrupted sleep.

I’m still learning.. And messing up.

And, in my failures I am becoming a better parent. I’m learning that it’s best to just say no than to say yes and regret your answer and have to go back and set higher standards. (A lesson one can only learn through the struggle of mistake.) I’m learning that they grow up way too fast, that the phrase, “you’ll blink and she will be grown,” isn’t an old wives tale but a literal blink in time. I’m learning not to rush the moments, not to hurry their independence, and to take every moment to pour into their hearts the love that only a parent can have for their child.

I’m learning the importance of faith and the wisdom that it brings. I’m seeing through her childlike faith that relationship with God is a journey and doesn’t just happen over night or because I desire it. I’ve had to learn that just because I am tired or sick or impatient doesn’t give me a right to take it out on my kids… and that God will correct us if we mistreat them. I’m learning that it is less what she hears about Christ and more about what she sees in me, a Christ Lover. I’m realizing that as much as I long to see her fall in love with her Savior, I can’t force it. And I’m sadly seeing that as much as I would like to prevent any fear or doubt or pain from breaking her heart, it’s that struggle that will make her stronger.

I’m still learning… And I’m only 12 years into a forever life as her mom and 10 years in as the mom of her sister.

It’s not easy …But, my Teacher hasn’t let any of us out of His sight.

The importance of being “weird”

I swore I wasn’t gonna be one of those weird moms – the ones that didn’t let their kids watch certain shows or confine them to the house or separate them from the world by their entertainment or lack of. But that was a resolution I made when I was childless, when I didn’t understand the dangers of giving them free reign, when I didn’t realize the so called “weird moms” were simply doing their job.. And those that weren’t were giving in.

My children often hear the line, “It’s more important to me that I protect you than that you like me.” When they want to post videos on YouTube for public view, or have a Facebook like their friends even though they are under age, or they want to spend the day with a friend and her teenage brother, they don’t understand. They think I’m being mean, but I am protecting them from what could be, what might be, if I weren’t so weird.

I’ve heard the line, “You’re just projecting.” So what if I am? So what if my past pain and regret have made me wiser and more aware of things that other parents might not notice or see as a danger? I vowed that my pain would have purpose, and this is part of that purpose – to save my kids from many of my seemingly innocent pitfalls, to warn them so that they might abscond from wearing my scars. I realize I can’t protect them from everything, but so what if I’m projecting.. If in the end it protects them?

I don’t go crazy with it. There are certain things that I allow them to do and watch that other Christian parents would probably disagree with, but I discuss issues that those same parents probably won’t address either. Like sexuality, sexting, and pornography. I refuse to sweep that under a rug labeled, “mature content.” I will never forget the first time I had a dream about my best friend and dreamed I had kissed her. I asked my mom about it, what it meant, why I had imagined such a thing? My mom simply said, “You love your friend, right?” I admitted I did. “You spend a lot of time with her?” I did. “Well, our brain tries to process our emotions, and dreams are one place we do that. It doesn’t make you a lesbian, it means you love your friend, and your mind can misplay that affection.” Now, some of you are probably rolling your eyes, but I was 11 and that made sense and in the future when I had bizarre dreams, I remembered what she said. I still do. I want to be the one to inform my kids, because they are gonna find out about it, if not from me then from their misguided friends.

In a world saturated with sex and self image, I’m careful about what my kids watch. We don’t watch much TV. We don’t let them watch “Biggest Loser.” That probably seems strange but in a world obsessed with appearance and the fear of obesity (because according to a recent study teenagers are more scared of that than nuclear war or the death of a loved one!), even shows like that plant seeds of dissatisfaction. Don’t believe me? After a few weeks of watching the show, my daughter, then 9, started doing laps around the house and wouldn’t stop until she had burned so many calories. She still makes comments about her body compared to others. It breaks my heart. But how can I blame her when I find myself fighting the same thoughts?!

She doesn’t like it that she’s one of the only girls in her class that hasn’t read and watched all of the Twilight series, but really, she isn’t missing much more than pent up sexual aggression and nightmares of golden-eyed vampires. (By the way, I’m was Team Jacob, before he imprinted a baby.. What was that about?!) I shudder when I pass rows and rows of young adult fiction that feast on young minds to glorify the occult. Granted I’m writing a series about Angels and Demons that others might determine “inappropriate,” but if your gonna highlight a battle between good and evil, might as well use the Truth that sets us free.

I haven’t let my oldest read my books, either. This gets under her skin, “You’re my mom! You wrote them for me, didn’t you? Let me read them.” And she is right. I did write them for her, but when the time is right. Now is not the time, I’m the parent and the author, I will determine when. Besides its a little bit of cowardliness on my part, because their is the underlying fear that 1. She won’t finish it, and 2. she won’t like it. I just don’t think I can handle that truth just yet.

So I’m weird. But in a good way, not in a smother your kids, hide them from the world, and watch every one else burn kinda way.. But in the way that says, “I love you enough to tell you no, and I’ll put on my big girl panties and not cry when you tell me you hate me.” In fact, I’m weird enough to encourage other parents to be weird.. Because no one else is protecting our children, and God called us to lead them.. That includes taking care of their minds. God’s word says “it is better for a millstone (that’s a threshing stone about the size of a tire wheel) to be tied around your neck than to lead any of these little ones astray.” Wow. I’m not particularly fond of drowning… But, Maybe I’m just weird.

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The GOOD, the BAD, and the indecisive…

I was talking with a friend the other day, and she was sharing about a friend of hers and her parenting techniques. Honestly, I have to keep from rolling my eyes in the midst of these conversations, but then she said, “Everything comes back to this, ‘Are you making GOOD choices?’” Huh. She had me. I don’t know that I have ever asked my children that, and when you think about the empowerment that acknowledging the significance of choice gives, it really is amazing! Because we discount it, push it aside, ignore it – UNTIL we make a BAD choice.

Because I’m a daydreamer, I faded off and I began to imagine the significance that would make as they grew up, as they started dating (or chose not to), as they developed friendships, as they went off to college, and then as they chose a mate. Then I stopped. What a lovely picture! Imagine good choices in marriage – of choosing to forgive instead of holding a grudge, of choosing not to be unfaithful when your needs aren’t being met, of choosing to act in love instead of anger!

I had the opportunity to review a new book by Gary and Norma Smalley called “Four Days to a Forever Marriage: Choosing Love or Anger.” This is the exact premise of that book. As spouses we are so content to just be, to deal, to settle with what we have, we don’t want to choose to make it better. We use excuses like “I’m too tired to work on my marriage, I’m just trying to get through the day.” Or, “I read a book once, it didn’t help so I haven’t bought another one.” Or, “I know the Bible says to submit to your husband and stuff, but look at our culture, it’s just not the same.” I know these excuses pretty well; I’ve used them. But this book takes you through the day in the life of a couple, their struggles and their fears and in four short days you gain the understanding that it’s all about the choices we make…and making GOOD choices.

If you think about it, it’s not doing anything more but paying attention to what we are doing! The Smalleys walk you through those daily choices and questions, and you are forced to take a good look at the bad choices we unconsciously make. Like a good friend says, “Not to choose is still a choice.”

I can choose not to talk to Brian when I am angry, but what am I communicating in my body language, in my actions? Most likely I am fighting him without saying a word, and he feels it. A GOOD choice is swallowing my resentment and saying, “I am ticked, but I’m willing to share with you why I feel this way in the hopes that we can make it right.”

I can choose to put others first. The Smalleys point out that we often do this without realizing. Anyone in ministry knows that this is a hard one. I would never tell Brian, ”I love strangers more than I love you.” But, when I consistently choose to reschedule dates or leave after the kids go to bed, to mentor and to minister others, subconsciously that is what I am saying. A GOOD choice would be to put firm lines or boundaries between ministering to others and time with my spouse that says, “You are important enough to me that I am making sure that we have time together.” That speaks love and respect.

Lord knows, I’m not perfect. My marriage isn’t perfect, and I’m not gonna even attempt to write a book about how imperfect a parent I am, and chances are GOOD that my home-life and relationships look like any of yours. But, this book begged me to ask the question, the same question that wise and learned parent asks of her kids every day, the question that I often hear from Daddy God, “Are you making GOOD choices?” If I’m one hundred percent truthful (which I try to be) I answer, “Not usually,” but it’s not too late to start. And my first GOOD choice was investing 4 days into reading that book. (Did you notice that it’s only for 4 days? I’ve done no carb diets for longer with less long-lasting effects!) I only wish it had been around BEFORE I got married, twelve years in it might have saved us some pain from making some really BAD choices.