Protecting our Marriages from Social Networks

Not too long ago, I wrote a post regarding how I use social media. I talked primarily about my role as a small business owner, as well as someone who is just fascinated with all these new ways of meeting interesting people and/or potential customers and building new friendships. Much has changed in a few months, as is evident by the recent news of Representative Weiner, his sexting scandal, and his consequent resignation. When I read this devotional, entitled “Three Guidelines to Safeguard your Marriage While Participating in Social Media,” I realized how very harmful a casual trek to the wrong side of cyberspace can be.

 

There are two discussions/ declarations that struck me in the midst of all the media surrounding Representative Weiner. First, there is a feverish debate regarding whether or not his actions can really be considered adulterous. Second, and similar, the side that argues that he did nothing wrong asserts, “These were two consenting adults.” It has all led me to think about how innocently some serious actions begin.

 

I was reading Genesis 4 this morning. As an aside, I had prayed about where to go within the Bible for our family’s summer study, knowing that I didn’t want to create something formal and overwhelm our already chaotic schedule. I decided to go with familiar stories like Jonah. After that, what? The Lord spoke simply—start at the beginning. Since sitting with her older siblings for Bible study, the youngest has never been exposed to the very first stories of the Bible. So we’ve begun with the book of Genesis. And God saw that it was good. Don’t you just love how the Word comes alive each time you read it? Anyway, this morning, Genesis 4:7 leaped out at me:

 

If you do what is right, will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door; it desires to have you, but you must rule over it.

 

In this verse, God was speaking to the condition of Cain’s heart, and how Cain didn’t feel adequately appreciated for what he had to offer. And in marriage, this feeling of being under-appreciated can lead us into dangerous places, just as it did Cain. Sin is always crouching at your door, desiring to have you.

 

My husband and I both dated extensively before we met, and so we both are ripe targets for past flames regarding social media. I can remember my first follow. After the shock of seeing that face again, my mind immediately started to travel backward, and my fingers forward—to his profile. I checked his other links—what’s he doing now? Where is he? What does his wife look like? (Yes, I have exposed my feet of clay) How many kids does he have? After quickly perusing all of that information (no pictures of the wife–J), I wondered if he did the same after Googling/ Binging me. Then I realized something. If he looked at my profile—my blog links, my tweets, my website—he’d see someone very different than the person he knew over 20 years ago. The physical changes are a very small part of what’s happened to me since then. At that time in my life, my cardboard testimony was one that would make your mouth drop. Praise God that person died and Jesus came alive in a new creature. I’m also thankful that the Christ in me was keen enough to recognize the danger of what could happen had I continued down the path of innocent curiosity without caution.

 

Admittedly, my husband and I have not come to as formal a set of rules as the author of the devotional listed above. My husband, who is not quite as involved in social networks as I am, is more lenient than I am regarding contact with the opposite sex. As one example, we have a friend who follows what he calls the “Billy Graham” rule, refusing to so much as have lunch with a woman unless a second person is present. Working in a field that is significantly populated by women, my husband often states that it is unrealistic that he’d never be in a position to be alone with a woman. However, we communicate about his phone contact list, about planned lunch outings, and about our professional interactions in general. Yet, the rules of engagement for professional exchanges don’t even scratch the surface of how to handle past girlfriends/ boyfriends.

 

How do I handle those follows or friends? I don’t return those would-be friendships. I don’t subscribe or friend anything that they do, and I reply politely if asked a direct question, but I don’t solicit any further contact. AND, my husband knows all about it.

 

Did Weiner do anything wrong? I think his wife would say yes. I think her tears would speak volumes about what perhaps started as an innocent contact with someone of the opposite sex on a social network. No follow or friendship is worth that kind of hurt, in their marriage, in my marriage, or in yours. Be blessed, my friends.

Uncertainty

Uncertainty.

1. The condition of being uncertain; doubt.

2. Something uncertain: the uncertainties of modern life.

Synonyms: uncertainty, doubt, dubiety, skepticism, suspicion, mistrust

These nouns refer to the condition of being unsure about someone or something. Uncertainty, the least forceful, merely denotes a lack of assurance or conviction: I regarded my decision with growing uncertainty.
 
 
I don’t think that I’ve ever prepared for a year with this much uncertainty–not even during our first year.   Maybe it was naivete, but I prayed  ALOT, did my homework and began to execute, even in the midst of my sister and niece being here to help with a newborn baby.   So, this year, as I began to envision what the kids would do, my task was to quit agonizing about what might happen and instead function within what I know right now.   With that in mind, I developed our plans.     Here are the highlights.
 
 
Plans for the youngest were perhaps the easiest to make.   I’m much more comfortable with a plan for the fundamentals, even though admittedly, they are not my favorite to teach–too much redundancy.   What is most exciting to me is that we will use my curriculum to teach her American History next year.   A customer asked me about blog posts that feature the kids using A Blessed Heritage’s products, and it was then that I realized that the last time I taught the children using the elementary product, I had yet to start blogging.   Life pre-blogging seems like a long time ago!
 
 
The most work I needed to complete for her was to develop a reading list.   Though we’ve read some great books over the years, I also wanted to incorporate some fresh reads for the sake of the older two, who often listen in from the adjacent room as they complete their work.   Several of her reading selections are Sonlight staples that we have enjoyed, partly because that’s what’s on our shelves.   Some of  Tanglewood Education‘s selections round out our list nicely with selections that don’t always appear on many homeschooling reading lists, especially in the genres of mystery and science fiction.
 
If there is one word that defines the time I spend with the older kids,that word would be ‘classics.’    I often talk to the kids about cultural literacy and understanding the context of language past just the words.   This is one of the many benefits of being a life-long reader.   When their Disney shows start with ‘it was the best of times, it was the worst of times…’  they should have some sense of where those words come from, and what is their significance to the rest of the episode.   Our son wrote a brief biography on William Shakespeare in his commonplace book and found out that even seemingly silly comedies like “She’s the Man” (Amanda Bynes, Channing Tatum) and  “Deliver Us from Eva” (Gabrielle Union, LL Cool J) are based upon Shakespearean works.   By the way, did you know that Shakespeare struggled to consistently spell his own name?   How ironically hilarious is that?!!
 
Our son will begin high school next year, although there are still a couple of areas where he’s at a middle school level.   Like the oldest, he will start a year of ancient history using a Great Books curriculum.   With our daughter, I definitely learned alongside of her as Homer helped us define the word drudgery together.  (Scroll down on this post to see my daughter’s take on Homer and ancient pasttime activities).   I am much more prepared for what these classics look like in terms of work schedule and actual “feel,” if that makes sense.
 
Of course the oldest and her part-time college career present the lion’s share of our uncertainty.    Her current summer schedule is such that she’s in school four days per week.   My plan would hinge upon her going to school twice per week and then completing work at home in the afternoons.    Our first fight regarding my plan was that she wants to be more involved with dance than what I had listed will allow.   I am hoping that she’ll recognize the accelerated pace of college and realize for herself that she cannot take on everything that she’s done in the past.    Of course, if not, I am prepared to play the spoiler in order to see her succeed in all things (rather than succeeding at dance to the detriment of her academic education).   She began class Monday, where she found out that her first paper was due on Wednesday; that was a rude awakening, to say the least.
 
I hate scratching pieces of  the plan that I had for her.   It is as much a lesson in pride for me as it is a lesson in letting go, as I discussed in my “Losing Control” post.    Before I looked into the Government class at the college, I was busily investigating early American history living books and thinking about reading schedules.     Now I am constantly reminded that she will have to learn some things from others with a very different perspective, i.e., worldview, than we have.     A friend suggested going over certain aspects at home, and I planned the reading list to do just that, but the reality is that our time will be limited.    Between the pace of college, letting her go to dance sometimes so that she has some physical outlet and place to express creativity in that way, and her pace (let’s just say she won’t be accused of not stopping to smell the roses), one-on-one reading is subject to happen more sporadically than I like.   I had too many of those experiences this year where we’d pick up a book, then put it down for days, and everyone, including me, would have to get reenergized about it.
 
Speaking of needing energy, right now we’re moving–slowly–through Don Quixote, the Man of La Mancha.    I’ve tried not to “force” school and make the summer boringly academic.   But this book is 600+ pages, and not at all the hilarious epic adventure that I remember as a kid.   Maybe because my husband once sold pharmaceuticals to psychiatrists, neurologists, etc., the kids have keyed in on poor Quixote’s mental state, and it almost reads like a tragedy to them.    I’m going to abridge this one myself so that we can move on.
 
Anyway, I look at this definition, and though uncertainty doesn’t, in and of itself, sound so bad, there are other words here: doubt and mistrust.    Yes, when I list my plans, there is much room for doubt, and I have good reason not to trust in my own abilities.    My will gets us limited reward, but I’m looking for more than mediocrity.   So I must choose to substitute different words for doubt and mistrust:   
 
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight. Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the LORD and shun evil.  This will bring health to your body and nourishment to your bones.
 
 
Proverbs 3: 5-8 

What’s Been Happening?

 Apparently, there are a number of bird watchers/ lovers in my midst.  It blessed me to “hear” from several of you and to watch the previous blog post get distributed, then redistributed, then… Thank you!    On top of all of that, as if the Lord said, “You ain’t seen nuthin’ yet,” the first red-breasted robin visited us soon after I published my last post!    Here he is, courtesy of http://www.encyclopedia.com.

The youngest will make Apologia’s “smart suet” this weekend so that we can see what else likes our yard.   I have a feeling that, given the weather we’re having, what will eat most of the suet is ants.

For the few of you who follow this blog regularly, you know that I’ve not been here in almost two weeks.    Things have been crazy, to say the least, and time to pen my thoughts has been non-existent.   Then, with my laptop already (and unexplainably) unable to connect to the Internet, our desktop  computer caught a virus, and we were severely limited in our ability to connect with all the folks in cyberspace.   It was a stark reminder of how plugged-in we are as a family.    Thankfully, we had everything back in a matter of days, with 5 people then lined up to accomplish all those online tasks that, left undone, gave us the shakes.    Restoring computers after a repair is painful–every password (even the ones that I don’t remember!), every favorite, and every bookmark had to be reset.  Yet, praise God for technology that works.   Personally, I have three posts in draft stage–I’ve got lots to say!

We’ve had other life events occur as well.    As I mentioned before, February begins our competition season.   Our older two’s first outing was at the end of February.    This year’s ballet costume, I think, is absolutely beautiful.

BTW, our daughter has on this much make-up because of what stage lights do to the face.

This is her on a normal day.     Of course, I think she’s the loveliest teen on the planet.   Apparently, at least one young man thinks the same, and he has asked her dad if he can escort her to one of the area’s homeschool proms.    There are three–can you believe that?!     While we pick out dress patterns and discuss potential hairstyles, I am fighting a mild bit of depression and angst as I realize that she’s my not-so-little girl anymore.    I speak quite often about college, but it’s still far enough out there that I feel good about advanced planning.   But the prom.    The prom.    I still remember my own proms.   I still remember my dresses, where we ate, and my dates–Marcus Mitchell (11th grade), and Marvin ? (12th grade).    I’m struggling with her growing up.   Oh, saints, I covet your prayers.

Using Social Media

My husband made an observation some months back while trying to send me an online article for later reading: it is hard to just send someone an article anymore.    The assumption is that everyone has a Twitter and/or Facebook account.    So, very recently, he bit the proverbial bullet and became a Twitter enrollee.    After a few weeks of orientation/ experimentation, he and I recently had a conversation that went something like this:

Hubby: “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong.   I can’t get anyone to respond to me!”

Me: “Well, who are you following?”

Hubby lists the few people/ organizations that he follows.

Me: “It looks like you’re following people who don’t tweet that much, or people who only tweet as PR for their jobs.   You might have to back up and just find people who share your same interests, and people who actually tweet.    You might search according to your hobbies or…”

I felt funny advising him as to how to find people and make friends (?) via social networking.    I’m very much a novice, and there’s much that I need to learn.    Initially hesitant, if not outright suspicious, of social media, it took me a while to embrace these tools—and I do mean tools—as being potentially effective.    I never had a MySpace account.    I’ve made conscious decisions not to join Linked In; I don’t “Digg” anything, nor do I “Stumble Upon” anything.    At this point, I am strictly a blog/Facebook/ Twitter person.    

I’ll confess that, when first introduced to Twitter, I didn’t contemplate getting involved that much.    I signed up for it somewhat by accident, but was hooked after seeing how I could quickly keep up with a friend and/or family member or two.   It took me a while to pick up the art of stating something about myself in 140 characters, and then making it entertaining enough for people to actually appreciate it and respond.     It took a bit more time for me to extend myself past people that I knew and learn how to seek out people that had my same interests.

Facebook I gave a lot more thought to before signing up.     I’d heard so much about the privacy issues, and there are some concerns.   I grow concerned each time I sign onto CNN.com and see the articles that my friends recommended: how does CNN know who my Facebook friends are?     I grow concerned when students say to me, “I looked you up on Facebook…”    It’s an invasion of my privacy, as far as I’m concerned, and it makes me wary about employers and others who look and make judgments.

Another point of confusion for me was that no one could tell me how their Facebook account differed that much from their blog.   By that time, I’d put so much energy into developing my blog, and I thought that one more social network would take me totally away from those items that I consider to be more about purpose.   I decided, slowly but surely, to give Facebook a try after several friends in small business endeavors convinced me that I was missing out from a business standpoint by not getting on board.

I probably put more way more thought into all of this than was necessary.   Everything doesn’t have to be a heady exercise in reflection, or is it a life-and-death decision regarding typing a few lines about what’s going in your life.   “Tweeting” and mini-blogging (which I consider Facebook to be) can be fun, efficient, and in its own way relaxing.   I get that.    In fact, I played around in the early stages of watching the Superbowl, tweeting about all my observations.    One of my followers later pointed out that Christina Aguilera’s botching of the lyrics to the National Anthem got more press than the latest news from Cairo (‘good to know we have our priorities straight,’ she posts).    She’s right, but hey, it was funny for the time that I stayed online, and I needed the respite as I watched my Steelers go down for the count.    But in order to be a good steward of the time God gives me, I debated internally, and rather seriously, how I might use all of this to my advantage without becoming a slave to any of it.    I know people who spend a significant portion of their day on Facebook, or blogging, or on some other point of connectivity via the web.   I know some who pay outrageous phone bills just to stay in touch with it all.   I know the amount of time that it takes me to craft a blog entry, which is the reason that I only post, at most, twice weekly.    I just choose to do something different with the time I have.

So, at the end of the day, how do I use social media networks?

Blogging—still my favorite of all the ways to connect over the Internet, I pen my heart and mind in the hopes of ministering to others like me, making real connections, and allowing my customers to meet the person behind the products.

Facebook—FB is great for linking with friends and family and sharing photos and quick pics of life as it exists here.  Its major function for me, however, is to share short stories and links that interest me, to find out more about my FB friends, and to jot down thoughts and happenings that don’t necessarily warrant an extensive blog entry.

Twitter—Twitter is what it is—140 characters to very quickly say what you are doing right now.   For one who talks to herself quite a bit, this is a neat way to get some of those random thoughts down in one spot, and where else can you meet amazing business connections by telling someone how absolutely uneventful your life really is :-)?

Recently in her 31 Days of Blog Ministry, Amy Bayliss posted about blog purpose and niche, and suggested reading Hebrews 13 as a place of prayer and seeking God about your blog’s purpose.    This was a blog-changing, if not a life-changing, exercise for me.    For some strange reason, I didn’t like my blog being labeled as a “marriage and family” blog, as one reader referred to it; I wanted to be something more.    But as I read through Hebrews 13, it began to resonate with me that marriage and family are high callings, and viewing the writing of them as boring was a rejection of the gifts and blessings I’ve been given.    If I can eloquently depict a house where God is first and foremost, where peace exists and health and wholeness reign in spite of all that isn’t here, I am indeed blessed and highly favored.    Many cannot.   Comments and “likes” should never be the concern when we are aligned with God’s assignment for us.   He role models the nature of truly effective ministry, reaching one here, changing the life of ten there, and teaching twelve at a most intimate level.    So, having said that, here are the guidelines I use for how I interact on any social medium:

  1. Make straight paths for your feet…   Romans 12:13 (Bullard living translation: Be clear in your communication)
  2. Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without no moan shall see the Lord…Hebrews 13:?
  3. Let brotherly love continue…Hebrews 13:1
  4. The Lord is my helper, and I will fear not what man shall do unto me…Hebrews 13:6
  5. …the fruit of our lips give thanks to His name…Hebrews 13:15
  6. Making you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight…Hebrews 13:21

 

As I stated before, by no stretch of the imagination would anyone call me an expert; I’m still learning so much about how to navigate these networks and how to put them to best use for my wants and needs.    These are simply my ramblings musings, and my own follow-up thoughts from my husband’s tweeting dilemma.   I am curious, though:  how do you use social media?

What I Learned During the Holidays

Fresh off a vacation in which computer time was extremely limited (how ’bout non-existent?), we find ourselves back at home where both laptops are awaiting repair.    Translation?  There are five people vying for the one computer that has access to the Internet.   To put it mildly, I’m learning just how plugged in my family is.   Of course, work takes precedence over all the other fun items, but even that becomes difficult when you have at least one child standing over you saying, “Are you almost finished?”   (Heavy sigh).

In case you’ve not had enough of goal writing, declarations, and reflections (LOL), please be sure to head over to Amy Bayliss and A Woman Inspired for their 31 Days of Online Ministry Event.    There are some great ladies committed to helping us all in the areas of blogging, praise, encouragement, prayer and parenting.    Some of my faves include intentional parenting with Karin at Mommy Matters, Lisa Boyd’s WordPress help (boy, do I need that one!), and 867-5309 Jenny’s (any 80’s fan will immediately appreciate the reference) tips on the use of social media.  

I have asked a question of several business women, especially other working/ home-educating moms, regarding the use of social media, and the implications to being a good steward of time: how are you using these tools to develop your business?   I got very few, if any, responses—hmmm.    One angel was kind enough to introduce me to Hootsuite, a tremendous help in being technologically savvy and present via these tools without becoming a slave to them. Jenny’s first post regarding the use of social media was with respect to Philippians 4:8.   I love this perspective as a starting point.

Karin’s thoughts on intentional parenting have been enlightening as well.  I loved her post on the daily blessing of the children.    What intrigued me most in visiting her blog this time around, however, was the post regarding what she learned in 2010.   I concur with her that 2010 was a year that I’d just as soon not have had, although I know that it was necessary for our growth.   It seemed at times that we were being torn apart at the very seams, and I had to often remind myself of a statement a pastor once made: the Lord will increase your faith by almost destroying it.   

With limited time, I won’t be able to pen all that I learned in 2010.    I thought instead to focus on what I learned in the last month/ during the holidays.    I learned that…

1) Knowing what you believe, and acting consistently upon what you believe, can cure a lot of frustration and angst.

2) I’m nowhere near as technologically savvy as I think I am.

3) The heart of a child, expressed in even the simplest form, can absolutely melt yours.

4) The secret to breakthrough is to worship the Father, especially when you don’t feel like it.

 5) I need to invest in a new camera.

 6) Dogs LOVE “old school” Christmas specials.

7) Having stated #5, the love of family radiates past how it is captured.



What My Blog Wants to Be…

Still toying with templates, it occurs to me that there is so much to think about in creating a blog. I guess I should clarify–dependent upon the reason why you blog, there are a number of decisions to make. Given that my blog is one part business, two parts personal, I have to think about this strategically in addition to finding something that I enjoy and feel as if I can make it my own.

The first decision point, albeit brief, centered around which provider to use for the new blog. Most of my blogging friends now blog using Blogger. Yet, because my blog is, in part, a marketing tool for A Blessed Heritage Educational Resources, I needed a provider whose search engine would increase the traffic to my sites. My understanding is that Blogger uses the date of a post as a search key—who ever heard of such a thing? Darcy’s post explains this so much better than I could (and check out her tremendous photography skills while you’re reading her post!)

As I agonize over themes, how many columns, headers, content presentation—the list goes on and on—every post I’ve read regarding user-friendly blogs keeps coming to mind. I keep thinking, not too busy on the template, clear on the categories, non-offensive on the colors– Geesh! I think the real problem is that age-old struggle with change that we all have, to some extent, when faced with something new. I had gotten my old blog right where I wanted it and it was as comfortable as a pair of old house slippers. As I think about it, this is what’s truly hilarious: my last statement on my last post, appropriately entitled “Saying Yes to Something New,” (though I didn’t know it at the time) was that I am often tried in the very area in which I attempt to minister. I prayed that the Lord would find me faithful in embracing a change. Two days later, I was faced with the possibility that four years of online journaling might have gone down the drain. Honestly, you can’t make this stuff up!

And then there’s the entire hullabaloo about branding. (My apologies to those who would be offended by referring to blog branding as “hullabaloo.”) What does my blog want to be when it grows up? 🙂 Do I talk solely about home education? Should I feign expertise in marriage or in raising children? Should I limit my discussion to spiritual growth and development? The problem for me is that if I restrict my posts to any one area, chances are great that on several days, I’d have nothing to say. My life is busy enough that on one day I may be graced with some revelation in any one of these areas and then some; on another day I might find myself totally befuddled in all of these areas and then some. And the reality of my old blog, with its non-branded and admittedly eclectic variety of posts, is that I didn’t get many comments, but I got e-mails from people with whom I made a real connection. In fact, they stay in my prayers as much as people whom I’ve met in real life.

So, I’m still toying with presentation, still wrestling with how to minister as the only Bible some may read, and growing increasingly agitated with myself for giving all of this so much mental time and physical energy. Yet, the one thing I have decided is to just continue to pen my heart, and to write as if I’m the only one who’ll ever read any of this. No matter where my writing travels, that’s what’s worked, and that’s what I’ll continue to take with me. God bless you in your travels as well.

P.S. Praise God for import/ export abilities!   My old blog is now here, so the “Saying Yes to Something New” is a mere two posts below.   Hallelujah!!!!!

A New Start

I’ve blogged for the past four years.   I loved everything about blogging–meeting new people, penning my heart and mind, and every now and then, putting a facelift on my blog template.   So, after my previous provider site crashed, I should be excited about this new venture, right?   Well, I’m still trying to get there.   I started a WordPress blog earlier this year, flirting with leaving my old site, but losing 4 years of sweat equity wasn’t the way I wanted to go.

I keep hoping that my old blog will be restored, if only so that I have some hope of transferring some of my posts.   In the meantime, I’m making a valiant attempt to start again; I spent all day on a template that I’m still not happy with.   My header didn’t show up as I would have wanted, and I can’t seem to find a three-column template with a custom header that I feel is “me.”

Maybe I should take a lesson from my baby girl.    She’s got the right perspective, huh?    At any rate, this blog is likely to change “faces” several times in the next few days weeks, but here I am.   Welcome to all who will join me here.    It’s good to see you, too.