Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Anti-Social Network?

   That quote has always made me uncomfortable.  I've even posted it on facebook a few times, and made other people uncomfortable.  "Ouch"...  was a common response.  
   One of my new years resolutions was to spend less time on facebook.  I've been struggling with my on-again, off-again relationship with the social network for some time now.  After much prayerful consideration, I decided that it was best to take a set time to take a break and pray about it.  Its been a heavy conviction of mine for a few years now...  so I really just wanted to be settled in my heart about whether or not facebook was for me.  A new year seemed like an excellent time to make such a resolution.  
   For the first couple of weeks I was away from facebook, it was great.  I really enjoyed being away from the social site, and didn't care one bit about it.  I really didn't even give it a second thought.  Then..   my hubby signed up for facebook.  
  It's amazing how quickly it can suck you in!  At first, you are just 'checking in' on friends..  and one friends leads to another, before you know it, you've spent an hour just reading status updates and looking at pictures!  Facebook wastes SO much precious time!  For about a week, I allowed myself to be drawn back into the social networking world.  I didn't have a profile of my own, but I spent time browsing his.  When he came home and sat down to check his facebook, he would tell me to watch this video..  look at this status update...  I would end up taking his phone when he was done so I could browse myself.  Its amazing how much facebook you can miss in just a few weeks.  One day the weather was cold and the roads were getting 'bad'..  we sat forever reading updates, about the accidents that were happening and the ever worsening conditions.  Surprisingly, thirty minutes after I left the house, the world that had been painted on facebook of the winter wonderland seemed like an entirely different world than the one I was actually in..  which was actually not that bad, but then again- facebook is known to be exaggerating, of everything.
    For about a week, I checked facebook daily.  I was entirely well aware when my husband was using it...  although I missed coming in my room to see him sitting on the bed with a book and his reading glasses, I was just as drawn to that world of social media as he was, so I just ignored it.  Occasinally I would be all 'judgy'...  telling him he was addicted, asking him to put it down and participate in real life...  ignoring my own desire and urges to be completely 'plugged in' to the social media.  Whenever I would abstain, because he was on there, I felt incredibly left out.  As if he were in a world and I was in a separate world, that I was not invited into.  One night particularly I sat pouting because I wasn't there, and it really began to bother me..  that's when it hit me...
   What if my kids feel that way?
   I suppose I had never thought of it that way before.  What if the way that I felt when my husband spent time on facebook was the way that my children feel when I neglect them in my online world?  Its not just facebook- I get sucked into the world of blogger, twitter, pinterest..  so easily.  It's a breath of fresh air and an 'escape' from the 'mundane' of constant cooking, cleaning...  just being a home maker.  However, spending some time away actually made me realize something amazing...

   The less time I spend on the internet, the more content I am about my life.  The more happy I am to be a home maker, and the lessening my time to 'escape' lessens my desire to do so as well.

   The week that I spent away from facebook wasn't spent completely unplugged, but I spent significantly less amount of time on the internet than I do when I'm on facebook.  Blogging seems more personal, and speaks to my personal convictions of being a stay-at-home, home schooling Mommy- so it encourages me to spend less time online.  Facebook does just the opposite.  It bombards me with information, and manipulates my emotions.  Its too many opinions and suggestions.  When I leave from reading blogs, I feel empowered and uplifted..  when I leave facebook, I normally feel angry about something, confused about my life, and usually  pretty discouraged.  
   There are a LOT of things I like about facebook.  I liked seeing my sisters wedding pictures, the ones that everyone took...  I like being able to know what is going on in the lives of my friends who I don't talk too everyday.  I like being kept in the loop of home school events that are going on.  I like all of that.  But to me- its not worth it.  Its not worth giving up my self-worth.  Its not worth questioning where I stand.  Its not worth being bombarded by opinions and angry with my friends because we disagree on certain things and facebook fuels fire and anger in people.  Its not worth it to me.  More than anything- its not worth the time spent and wasted.  Time is the only thing that once its spent you can never get it back.  Yet people are so frugal with their time.  My greatest fear is and always has been regretting the way I spent my life.  There are many days that pass quicker than expected..  that I spent hours in front of a computer screen..  and I regret those days.  
   I'm a season of my life that is phenomenally rewarding.  My children are babies.  They have little feet and tiny fingers.  They still love me with all of their hearts.  They listen, they can't go anywhere on their own or do anything that I'm not overseeing, and when they do, they miss me.  They cuddle with me and fit in my bed and tell me how much they love me.  It's an amazing season.  However, its also a very trying season.  Its a season where I clean up a lot of messes..  where a lot of things they do I must re-do.  Where they can't cook for themselves, the small ones can't bathe themselves..  they must be reminded to brush their teeth..  its a trying season.  Its one that I don't want to regret and I really want to treasure for my entire life.  To do so requires me to be ever present, physically- but also in heart.  I can't allow my heart to be present when there is something so big as a whole world of people on social media competing for it.  Its difficult sometime to be content when you are scrubbing toilets two or three times a week...  but its far easier when my heart is in the right place.  Facebook changes the direction of my heart, therefore- in this season, its not for me.  
   Perhaps that's the reason for this conviction..  not to rid me from facebook forever, but because God knew what I needed and didn't need in  my life, and for this season, it does more harm than good.  
   The week that I spent on facebook, I didn't read any extra, and I didn't keep up with my devotions at all.  I didn't do weekly lesson plans, and was totally unprepared for the school week.  Moreso than that, I didn't allow myself to be dedicated to school.  I home schooled on 'auto pilot', which never accomplishes anything more than frustrated kids and a sad, frustrated Mommy who regrets her days.  I miss the days that I was so excited to get up and start school- and I'm ready to get those back.
   The thing that I get the most when I mention facebook is the 'eye roll' and the 'I don't spend much time on facebook'.  People just kind of use it and think that its not a big deal.  It is a big deal.  An article in The Washington Post reported that facebook users are as numerous as the population of the country of China.  Moreso than that, the article goes on to report...

In her 2012 book “Consent of the Networked,” and again in an essay for Foreign Policy, the journalist and technologist Rebecca Mackinnon has argued that Facebook’s top-down, paternalistic, and totally opaque governing structures look … a whole lot like those of dictatorships abroad. Facebookistan tells its citizens who to be; it collects and collates their data; it insists, above all, that it knows what’s best for them, even going so far — as in one highly publicized experiment — to manipulate their feelings.

  Certainly, we all remember the report on how facebook manipulated our feelings..  yet we overlooked it.  It wasn't as important as keeping our 'social' connections...  I was in that group of 'overlookers' too, so trust me, I'm not throwing stones.  If you didn't...   Here...  Here...   Or here...  or just google it.  It's all over the place.  They weren't kidding when they called it "Highly publicized".  

   I find that people get really angry with me when I say something about facebook..  like they hold it close and don't want someone to say something bad about 'their outlet' or 'their connection with the world' or they 'don't spend that much time on it', whether that's true or they are in denial is their own personal conviction, but whatever time you do spend, does it make you feel okay?  Angry?  Happy?  Sad??  How does facebook really enhance your life?  Has something someone has written ever ruined your day?  Your week?  A special event?  A relationship?  Is it worth it?  I can say yes, to all of those things.  I can say yes, its made me feel all of those emotions...  and those are real emotions that we all feel each and every day, but it seems to me that on facebook, those emotions aren't real.  The people you talk too on facebook seem vastly different in reality.  That's because facebook is all about creating a persona...  whether you mean too or not, its so easy to fall into it.  Fear of being judged by whats on facebook- because the one thing I can promise you is that there is someone, lots of someones on your friends list who are judging you based on the words you write on your status updates.  The photos you've posted...  people are looking past what you see and looking into your lives, to find something they can judge you based on.  I've heard it all, and thought it all, and seen it all...  and I'm so tired of it, exhausted, and sad.  But more than that, I'm refusing to allow it to manipulate my life any longer.  

  I promised a year, and that will be a resolution I will keep, even if it means next year, on Jan. 26 can mark the day of my 'one year'.  At least a year, if not a lifetime, to just pray about this.  To understand why God convicted me of this..  is it for a season, or forever?  I remember once upon a time he convicted a very young, lonely mother of her addiction to television.  She lived without television for 5 years before having it back, and now- its just more of a take or or leave it thing for me.  I can, and do go for days without turning it on.  I no longer use the television for 'background noise', and I'm far more adapt to it being off than on.  Being away changed my heart, so I could come back to television with a renewed maturity and sense of resolution toward it.  Perhaps that is what this is, and one day you will see me back on facebook, not allowing it to interfere with my life.  But for now, it does, and for now, God is working hard on me to make me who he needs me to be- and I'm willing to step back and allow him to do the work that he needs to do.  
   Since I gave up my smartphone, my life has been rewarded in so many ways.  Although I feel awkward sometime when I'm in a room full of people staring at their phones, its still so rewarding not to have it.  To smile at the person in the corner, also without a phone.  (Almost always an older person!)  To make conversation with a stranger.  It gives me more confidence, I'm far more likely to talk to someone now that I don't have one.  I'm less anxious, less invasive...  far less nosy.  You may see me pop up on instagram, but its not because I'm carrying a smartphone, its because I use it on wifi to check that, and even that I'm tempted to give up, just because of principal.  Its refreshing to experience moments without needing to capture them.  Life is so full, its silly to think that we need a supplement.
  So, that's that..  a life without facebook, for at least a year.  My photography page will also no longer reside on facebook....  My Blog will serve as the sharing place for my photography endeavors, which since I've taken the facebook plunge are few and far between...  but that's okay.  I'll have a lot of years after my children are older to be a photographer..  and even if I don't, I'm okay with that.  I found even hosting a business page was a window of opportunity to be drawn back into the social networking world, and sorry- I'm not biting.

  I will attempt to spare you all but the usual updates, because as I mentioned, facebook seems to be a very sensitive subject, especially to those who advertise their blogs on the medium or spend long days with facebook being their only adult interaction..  but for some reason, I felt the need to share today.  

  I will also share this.  It does have one 'bad' word in it, but I believe the message is so powerful that it overpowers that word completely...  I hope it hits home to you as much as it did to me!
We have a finite existence, a set number of days
Don’t waste your life getting caught in the net
because when the end comes, nothing’s worse than regret
-Gary Turk

Friday, March 6, 2015

The Hidden Years

   We got ready to leave for our trip and I made the decision not to take the laptop.  Not really a decision made out of respect for my family but more along the lines of..  we are already packing for six people and that's one more thing to keep up with.  So I committed to four days of disconnection.  Other than posting photos on instagram from my hubby's phone for my mom and sister to see, I was disconnected..  no blog, no email no social media..  just me and my little family.
  Although vacations can be hard for Mom's with small kids, even the hardest parts are relaxing.  I spent four days without cooking a meal, making a bed, or cleaning up any big messes.  We watched television while we ate , and didn't spend long on hair and makeup.  For the most part, I spent watching.  This really caught my heart.

   The first picture was taken when we went to Gatlinburg in 2013.  The next was this trip.

 How, in the whole world..  did that boy go from that...  to that, in such a short amount of time?  I watched Brother  intently, because it just surprised me SO much how much he had grown up..  how fast he had grown up, in such a short amount of time.  I remember that last trip, we walked around the Titanic and he whined because he didn't want to be there.  This time he intently looked at the exhibits.  Last time he was horrified of the pool and stayed in the kiddie pool.  This time, he put his arm floats on and swam by himself for most of the time.  Last time, Brother was the difficult one, lol..  this time, his brother was!

   I can't believe how much they change, in such a short amount of time..

Not even two years has gone by....  but they have changed...

So fast...

    Awhile back, I wrote a post by Sarah Mae called The Hidden Years...  and at that time it resonated in my heart, but not like it did this weekend.  She talked about 10 years, and how fast it passes by...

   In 10 years..  Bella will be 23.  Sister will be 18.  Brother, 16. Hero, 11.  In 10 years, in the blink of an eye.  They will be big kids, and I'll be 41.  

   What I noticed this week was profound.  I noticed that if you blink...  they change.
   I noticed that time goes by so fast, and that they change from day to day.  
   I noticed that when I focused my energy on myself and my thoughts, feelings, frustrations, etc...  that the frustration poured out over my family, and in essence, could make or break us.  
  I noticed that I had spent more time writing 'about' parenting, home schooling, etc...  than I had focusing on it.  
   Ouch.  That one hurt.  
   I suppose to those readers I had, on the outside it looked pretty good, like I had it all together.  The thing is, that's where my heart was.  Not in my life, but in sharing my life.  I was consumed in what it looked like on the outside, what I had to offer the world and broadcast to others so much, that although I had a lot of head knowledge about what was going on, my heart wasn't in it.  My heart was focused intently on me and my own personal endeavors, not on my children.  
   My whole family.
   Guys, I have learned SOOO much about parenting.  I have read so many good books, connected with so many great bloggers, and I've been blessed abundantly in my endeavors on blogging.  Yet, at the same time, although I've read a lot, what I've had to say has taken a lot out of me.  Not that I don't enjoy blogging and still intend to do so!  BUT- I want to do so on a much smaller scale.  No more linky parties or advertising..  just, sharing.  Here with the followers and friends and small communities I'm a part of.  I want to share this with you, because I can't say it better than Sally Clarkson said it..  

Toddlers resist and we gently train them over and over again. Siblings quarrel and we teach them the ways of love, forgiveness, patience, kind words. Then there are the teen years when young adults strain to become independent and mamas have to choose to be long-suffering and pursue in love.

Year after weary year, we teach them about God’s ways, His love. We subdue our homes again and again to make them a haven for life–filled with color, beauty, interest, traditions, even as God created the Garden, gave His children instruction through the Law, provided them with a land, gaven them food and protection against an army.

We labor day after day, month upon month, seeking Him to give more wisdom, renewed strength when we feel to weary to keep going. But somehow, His spirit shapes us as we shape a generation for His glory. And we are able to take one more step of obedience and pour out His unconditional love and wisdom to children who are not always aware of our sacrifice, until they are older. Yet, the seeking to give wisdom, excellence and holiness to our children builds our own souls, one day, one moment at a time. Our holiness matures and our hearts become flavored with His beauty, graciousness through each act of our own obedience given in the quiet and seclusion of our own home.

Often, we think that no one sees us, no one notices. How could it matter if we are invisible?

But, God is watching. God is building an invisible heritage that will indeed outlast our lives.

God painted the picture of patience, waiting, faithfulness through all of our years colorfully through the stories of so many in scripture:

Joseph had a dream of leading his brothers where they bowed down to him. But the training grounds of his becoming the head over all of Egypt was hard labor for a land owner, where he was accused wrongly of adultery. Then 10 more years being faithful in prison.

David was anointed to become the king of all Israel, but did not become king over both kingdoms for around 20 years of wondering in the wilderness, running away in battle after battle.

Abraham was called the Father of all Israel and promised countless generations would come from his own son, but had to wait until he was old before He became a Father of a son, who would make him the Father of the Nation Israel.

Paul was confronted by Christ on the road to Damascus, but he was secluded away for 15 years before he had a public ministry.

Mary, the mother of Jesus, was called and then lived faithfully for many, many years, only to watch her son be crucified, but then resurrected.

When I was asked to speak in China, a number of years ago, because Mission of Motherhood had been translated into the two Chinese languages, I gladly accepted. Picturing speaking in a small underground church of some sort, I prepared messages to speak to a small group of faithful believers. However, the first place I was taken by my Chinese hosts was to an auditorium of 500, packed to the gills, at the University of Beijing.

As I looked around, I realized that all of my Chinese cohorts on stage had graduated from either Harvard or MIT. In fear, I pondered in my heart, “What am I doing here? Do they know I am just an ordinary person, a mom who has homeschooled, raised her children as best I could for His glory, and cared for my children in my home for the past 26 years.”

God whispered into my heart. “I was building your message and integrity and conviction in the hidden places of your home while you raised your children. Your integrity was built in the hidden years. Now, you are qualified to speak on family, the importance of motherhood, building character, because your messages were built before me when no one else saw, but I was there.”

“I planned China before you even became a mom.”

“China needs someone to tell them how to value families, children, the shaping of morality, the foundations of wisdom and greatness that must be built one day at a time. Who better to train them than a mother who has raised her family on faith, Biblical wisdom and love. You are qualified because I have called you and you obeyed, by raising your children faithfully when it seemed no one was watching.”

My messages and life-conviction and wisdom was built in the hidden years.

And so, who you are, the choices of faith and faithfulness you make,when no one is looking, is a picture of your integrity.

The choices of faith and love in the midst of the whirlwind of life, is shaping your story, moment by moment, day by day. Never despise the day of small things because it is the shaping of your life story that will be told for generations to come.

The value of the hidden years is priceless. Now, this moment, is the day of your potential glory, if you practice being faithful and worship Him through each tiny service of loving and raising your precious ones for the sake of His glory.

May God give you the grace to see His fingerprints in your life, the shadow of His presence in every minute of your eternal work in your home. For today is the day you are writing your story, that your children will read for many years to come.

   As I prayed about this, I began to realize that was what God was trying to teach me all along.  He wasn't interested for one second about how my life looked on the outside.  He didn't care what all of my other Mommy friends thought about what my life was.  All the struggles I have had with social networking, with blogging, it was all the same.  It somehow took root in my people pleasing nature, and twisted my life around it so I would be all consumed with what our lives looked like, to the point that I lost touch with what it was really like.  

   It was a significant time for my husband and I both.  For awhile now, we have felt the need to force ourselves into the ministry.  This is what he was ordained to do, God called him to preach, and he hasn't done so in months.  It's draining.  It seemed worthless for a preacher not to preach, to spend time day in and day out at a secular job, while all around us we saw preachers preaching, doing what God called them to do!  We were frustrated, and blamed it on our past.  Perhaps our past kept us from serving, and that's what we needed to change.  Leaving, running away.  It was frustrating however, because nothing felt right.  Nowhere we wanted to run too really grabbed our hearts, nowhere seemed 'right', it wasn't God..  it was us.  Perhaps God will call him to preach somewhere next week, but then again, it could be years from now.  He could be using him as his waiting time at this point.  He could be using this time in his life solely to shape the lives of our children, as he is with me.  I don't know what God has in mind...  but I'm tired of trying to force him to make a quick decision and force it on us.  I'm willing to wait, be still, and be thankful.  This is a blessing, this part of our lives.. its beautiful, its fruitful, and its something I'm so excited about living.  
  Today I got a text from my husband.  It said, simply...  "Love you today.  I am refreshed and ready to serve in this season of my life."  It made me smile, it made my heart smile..  and just blessed me and made me ready for this season as well.
   These years may be hidden.  Nobody may even know I exist anymore..  but that's okay.  Because these years will shape not only me, but a generation of four people.  Four people who will have four spouses.  Four people who will have children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews.  This work can shape and touch the lives of SO many people.  So for me to think that this season of my life is insignificant is a lie.  It is SO significant.  It it my legacy.  Its the most important thing I will ever do in my life, and God has given me an opportunity to do it to my fullest, and I'm SO thankful for that!  

I want to teach and influence and encourage moms one day, but I don’t just want to relate with them, I want to have something of substance to offer them that will help them practically. I want to be a woman of integrity who will speak from the experience of a mom who did the hard work of bringing up her children with intention and faithfulness.

I just don’t want to compromise.

There are so many voices out there that will give permission to compromise in motherhood, and it is alluring and it sounds really good, but I can’t. I am all in to go after my children’s hearts and their behavior. I want to love them practically; I want them to have me available.

  I often have to remind myself that the internet and social media is a fairly new medium.  Facebook has only been around about eleven years, blogging about 20..  so I must ask myself..  how much does this generation know of how their media habits will affect their children?  Never before have we raised a children in a world of social media on steroids. The babies who have grown up on facebook aren't adults, and I must wonder how awkward that must be for them?  Several people out there have done it right, but they didn't navigate a connected world.  It was okay to be hidden, because..  well- everybody was!  Now in this world, we must compete to remain hidden, to allow our hearts to rest securely...  its a battle, and one I'm willing to fight...  because 10 years goes by so fast, and they grow up in the blink of an eye!

Monday, March 2, 2015

US History Lesson: Titanic

  I remember I penciled this in for March in the very beginning when we were making our first lesson plans.  The girls were so excited to begin studying this!  I assumed we would be studying Samatha and the Industrial revolution, which would lead right into the Titanic studies.  Well- life happens, that was before we had to move, which put us out of school for a couple of weeks, and before we began with a slow and steady pace at our American History lessons.  We had just finished the revolutionary war and I was ready to begin the civil war fresh with our new History curriculum, and I knew we were planning our family trip to Pigeon Forge for the teacher appreciation deals...  so I decided rather than begin the Industrial revolution just to back peddle, we would take a break and focus only on Titanic.

 I was a teenager when James Cameron released this film that made American Titanic crazy.  Me and my Dad went to see the late movie, I remember leaving at eleven on a school night and feeling like such a rebel lol!  Later in the year, I remember we went on a trip to Gatlinburg (near Pigeon Forge!) and we visited Ripley's Aquarium.  They had a Titanic exhibit...  and we were excited to visit.  That did me in, from that point on I was fascinated by the fate of the ship and the world and memories that lived at the bottom of the Atlantic...   I couldn't wait to share this with my kids!

  Since we only had a week before our trip, the two books that I chose to study from were not novels but illustrated books.  I found them both on the library system online and had them placed on hold for my hubby to pick up.  The first was the Eyewitness Book, which is something that we have used in SEVERAL of our history lessons and the kiddos have really grown to love these books!  they are filled with facts and photos, and they absolutely love to look through them!  In this book, we studied the background of the RMS Titanic, why it was called RMS...  where it was built and who did the building.  We learned about where it was going, where it had came from.  The kids absorbed these facts and this story like sponges!  They really loved studying this part of American History!

  The second book that we chose was my favorite!   This book was written in the 1950s, and is a thick, hefty book!   The book starts out with biographies of some of the people who sailed on the Titanic.  It's one thing to know a lot about the ship, about the building, the facts and the meaty stuff...  but to know the stories opens up a whole new world.  Now that you know them as people, you are invested in their lives.  Invested in their stories and hopeful for their survival.  We read stories of a young girl who was in care of her baby brother, traveling with her Mother and younger sister.  Her name was Ruth.  We also learned of a family known as the Allisons, their daughter and infant son Treavor.  They traveled with a Nanny who had a questionable past. It was in this book that the kids really learned the class sytem, and how it was set up.  With magnificent illustrations and some drawings and photographs from the Olympic, Titanic's sister ship.  (While in the Titanic Museum, we learned that the only photos ever taken on board Titanic were taken by Francis Browne.  He snapped them while he was on the voyage between Southhampton and Queenstown, where he departed to join his family on vacation.  The photos were not released until after his death in 1960, which is possibly why those photos aren't in this book!)  This was an amazing book, and the girls learned a lot from it!

  We chose this documentary: Titanic: Death of a Dream to watch.  The kids actually really enjoyed it, the little kids got a little bored near the end but Lacey and I enjoyed it a lot!  We learned a lot of interesteing facts about the ship and even got to see some of the people who we had read about in the book!  It was so interesting to hear the interviews of survivors!  Again, this is an older documentary, but we enjoyed it nonetheless.

   And lastly, I did let them watch the Titanic movie, but we agreed from the beginning there was some inappropriate content that I didn't want them to see, and they were okay with it.  I never discussed what it was, but anyone who has seen the movie knows exactly what I'm talking about!  And I've seen it so many times I know exactly when to skip scenes lol, so they watched it and saw none of the things Mommy didn't agree with.  It really is a great movie, even if its got a couple of things in it that I didn't approve of.  It helped bring it to life for them.

   This week, we drove to a small town in Tennessee called Pigeon Forge.  For those of you who aren't familiar with the area, it's a really 'county' type of town, very touristy and full of attractions.  The main attractions that we traveled for was the Titanic Museum!
   Upon entering the museum, you are given a card with a name on it.  The name of the passenger that you are holding is the passenger that you are becoming that day!  Brother got Michel (pronounce Me-shell) Navratil.  We had learned about these little boys.  Their parents were getting divorced and their mother was awarded custody.  Their father had been given the opportunity to keep them over the Easter weekend.  Instead of returning them to their Mother, he boarded the Titanic.  Their father did not make it, but the boys survived.  They were take care of by a woman in first class until their Mother discovered that they were alive.

and later:

This was the first time that we have ever went and knew some of the people who were chosen for us!  It was a spectacular visit!  If you are ever in the area, certainly take a stop!  We enjoyed Titanic and look forward to studying the industrial revolution more in depth in a few years in our History journey!!