Friday, November 25, 2011

Good-bye and .... Hello Again

I've been blogging since June 4, 2004, a fact I find hard to believe at times. I can't believe I've been blogging seven-and-a-half years. I look back at those early posts and I cringe. I was young and my kids were so little! My marriage was shaky at best and life was so much different that it is now. Now I'll soon be celebrating the last birthday of my 30's. I have two teenagers, my youngest is in her next-to-the-last year of elementary and my marriage is stronger than it has ever been.

My mom used to shake her head at the blog. She worried. Her early-morning television viewing showcased too many stories of women who had met someone on the internet and were then found months later, chopped into pieces and stuffed into 55-gallon drums, buried in some crazy's backyard. I guess she thought I had a bigger audience than I really did. Back in the beginning I shared a lot of personal information that, looking back, I should not have. I had a foul mouth and it spilled over into my writing. I trash-talked my husband and griped about everything. I wasn't a very positive person.

Fortunately, around 2008 I experienced a change in my life. While God has been a part of my life since birth and I have been a born-again Christian since I was seven, I certainly didn't act like He was a part of anything I did. In 2008 I rededicated my life and began an earnest attempt at living better, living right and doing everything for the glory of God. I undertook the painstaking process of removing all the f-bombs, s-words and other un-pretty words from the blog so as not to be a stumbling block to my children, the people who read my blog and mainly because I felt like I should.

A few years ago MySpace came on the scene and I got one. I spent a stupid amount of time changing my background, answering polls and searching for people I went to high school with. Then I heard about this Facebook thing and I wasn't intrigued in the least. I heard it was pretty utilitarian and you couldn't customize your page like you could with MySpace. For some reason, I liked the bling that went with having a page of "social media".  Then one day I caved and decided to check out Facebook.

That's when my blogging went to pot.

It's a time suck. It's a distraction in the worst way. It's addicting. And I'm finding....it's rarely used for good. I can sit here and say with a red face that I have literally wasted entire days doing nothing more than hanging around on Facebook. My kids were not paid attention to, my husband was ignored, my house was a wreck, we ate a lot of cereal for dinner and I became an observer to all of my 300+ friends' lives. For what?

Seriously. For what?

I have "friends" on my list who have literally made eye contact with me in Walmart and not spoken to me, turned the other way like I was invisible. It happened to me twice in one shopping trip. I have "friends" on my facebook who have started rumors about me. There are "friends" on Facebook who have trashed their "friends" while all their "friends" played judge and jury. Marriages have been ruined because of Zuckerberg's brain child. Lifelong friendships have been tossed aside because a "friend" smarted off on someone's wall and someone else got involved, whether invited or not. Lies are spread. Information is misconstrued. Jobs have literally been lost because of Facebook behavior. Facebook posts hold up in court, people. They hold up and they hold up bigtime.

We have become a society of passive-aggressive social idiots. We are losing the ability to communicate with one another face-to-face. The telephone took some of it away years ago. Email took more. Facebook is destroying it completely.

I've been threatening since Spring that I was going to delete my Facebook page. I decided to leave it until after my class reunion because, honestly, it was incredibly helpful in finding and communicating with classmates and putting together the reunion was made much easier. Then the reunion came and went and I kept my page. I have become increasingly more and more convicted about my use of Facebook lately and it weighs very heavily on me. I find myself more and more these days picking up my phone and calling people, even when Facebooking them would be easier. I also find myself loathing text messaging more and more every day, too.

We hide behind our devices. We avoid person-to-person contact. It's easier to be mean while typing than it is when we're standing in front of a person. We get involved in arguments and situations we should stay out of - and we would stay out of if we weren't sticking our noses in everyone's Facebook page.

I am a youth leader in my church. The kids in our youth group, save four, have Facebook pages. Sure, it's very easy to communicate with them through the site, but it's not worth it. I have their phone numbers. I know where they live. I don't need Facebook.

So I still have my account active for right now. I set up a page for our church awhile back and post things to it, but I'm thinking the pastor is internet-savvy enough he can do those updates as needed. The clock is ticking and soon.... I will be Facebook-free.

And I will not miss it.

I have, however, missed my blog. I've missed writing in general. I've missed out on a lot. I might miss out on some information, I might miss out on some news, but I will also miss out on the drama. That seems incredibly refreshing at this point.

I will miss my Farmville, though. I'll miss my imaginary cows and my imaginary crops and my imaginary pink tractor, but seriously? I have three kids and a husband who have been missing me more. They are real. They are mine. They are important. It's time to give up the thing keeping me from being as real as I need to be.

And who needs an imaginary farm when you have this?

Thursday, November 03, 2011

And here it is....November

Back in May we left the church we had been attending for just over a year. We made a smooth transition to another church with nary a Sunday off. The church we attend now is the first church I ever attended as a toddler. It's a small country church and always has been small, even at its biggest. Some years have been better, some not so great, but the doors of the church never closed - even when just over a year ago, there were 10 people attending and five of those were the pastor and his family. Now we average 80-something in Sunday School and Wednesday night Bible study sees 65-70 people as a general rule.

I have always had a heart for youth and at every other church we have attended, was never used in that capacity (or any capacity for that matter, but I'm not bitter). I began to doubt the desire I felt God had put in me, began to think I had misinterpreted what I felt so deeply in my soul. All five of us were discouraged that we had left yet another church and felt like we were wandering aimlessly.

Enter Hudson Creek Baptist Church.

We started attending there mid-May and the third week of June I was packed up and headed for my first week of camp as a sponsor (that week was Children's Camp, grades 4-6). By the second week (Youth Camp, grades 7-12), the pastor was already talking about Paul and I taking over the youth group some time in the future. About three weeks after that, while standing in the LifeWay store with the pastor and his wife, waiting to pay for our purchases, the pastor looked at Paul and I and said, "Oh and by the way, you're going to start teaching the Youth Sunday School class, right?" It really wasn't a question, more of a statement, and Brother Jerry said it so assumingly that either the statement itself or the look on my face amused the clerk so much he laughed out loud.

And so it was decided - Paul and I had officially become the Youth leaders.

When the new church year started, we split the Youth kids out of the Older Children Sunday School class and moved into our teeny tiny room just off the church office with bright red (hideous) carpet, two cinder block and two paneled walls and an abandoned church pew from the old sanctuary. We had about 11 kids that first Sunday. We average about six now. But Wednesday and Sunday nights our Youth come crawling out the woodwork to see what crazy stuff we've cooked up for them to do, witness or be subjected to. We've since painted the room so it's less dismal and have added some posters, a bulletin board and a white board which is the focal point of the room and usually covered in grafitti, names, hearts, stars and declarations of God's love, written by these kids who can smell a dry erase marker a mile away and are inexplicably drawn to them.

We average 11 kids on Wednesday nights and have had as many as 17. We've thrown rubber ducks at each other in a game meant to illustrate focus. We've snorted at each other in an attempt to make our peers laugh. We've played some very violent games of Red Rover and Cat & Mouse tag. We've wandered a corn maze with 23 kids. Paul and I spent an hour one night paintstakingly emptying a can of Sprite of its contents without breaking the seal on the pop tab then refilling the can with Coke as an illustration on judging things and people from the outside. I also sucked the insides out of a Twinkie and refilled it with ketchup and mayonnaise for the same illustration. We discovered that, unlike my youth group when I was a teen, this particular group of teens does not enjoy a rousing game of "King Frog", which leaves us scratching our head and wondering WHY? because, dudes, that game rocks. We've played many a "Minute to Win It" game. We've stayed up all night at a lock-in and plan on doing it again on New Year's Eve. We've answered texts asking for prayer after Midnight. We've listened to kids cry, gripe, whine, complain and argue. We've had our hearts broken by their disrespectfulness. We've laughed until our stomachs hurt. We've taught the unfailing, inerrant Word of God and learned many things in the process. We've opened our home to any number of them on any given weekend. We've been invited into their lives, something we've learned is an act of highest honor to a teen. We've taken the "Sword Drills" of old and turned them into Bible Trivia Smack Challenge: Extreme Church Edition. We've watched more football games this year than we have in all of our years of marriage because with a couple football players, three band members, a couple of cheerleaders and some on the dance team, we show up to see "our" kids do their thing. We've gone the cafeteria to eat lunch with them a few times, reliving our days of cafeteria corn dogs, cold tater tots and cartons of milk. We've been frustrated beyond measure, cried many tears, laughed at their antics, gotten more hugs and "thank you's" than we ever dreamed and even though yes, we have had times of doubt still that maybe we'd misinterpreted the calling, God quickly shows us that we are right where we are supposed to be.

It's exhausting. It's time-consuming. It's frustrating. It's difficult. It's fun. It's hilarious. It's rewarding. It's .....

It's one of the best things God has ever allowed us to do.

So when I break the cardinal rule of blogging and give excuse for my lack of posting and frequent absences, just know I think of you often, Constant Reader, and know that you're still out there somewhere. Hopefully your patience hasn't worn too thin. I am doing my best to find a balance for everything in my life right now - Christian, wife, mother, Youth Leader, Independent Sales Consultant for Thirty-One, babysitter extraordinaire and anything else my kids and husband throw my way. We're gearing up for our display at the Park of Lights (after a year off). We're trying to schedule our many family holiday gatherings and dinners. And somewhere in there I have to sleep. Some nights that works better than others.

I write a lot of blog posts in my head as I'm shuffling laundry from one machine to the other, while I'm scrubbing the soap scum from the shower walls and driving from one end of the county to the other, but when I finally get a moment to sit down....writing them with my actual fingers slips away as does my consciousness.....

.....but I'm working on it.

Liberating Plankton, part 1

So I'm 45. I haven't dyed or bleached my hair in years and have fully embraced being silver-haired. I have wrinkles - more so now th...