Things We Gained in the Recession

There is a movie that runs the HBO circuit occasionally, entitled “Things We Lost in the Fire.”    Though I’ve never watched the movie, my take from the previews is that the plot details the intangibles that people lose when tragedy occurs.   Sometimes it’s not the material things that matter so much as those items that money can’t buy.   In any case, as I was thinking through this blog post, the movie’s author should consider his/her title revamped and stolen.

I’ve spent a lot of time lately praying for friends to gain employment, to come into finances that help keep cars from being repossessed, and for supernatural turn-arounds that keep water and lights turned on.    Those in power call this extended downturn a recession, but I think that depends upon who you talk to.   I know that, for the few months in 2009 that my husband was laid off, I don’t care what anyone says–it was a depression around here.   Truth be told, until a couple of months ago, we still felt the stress of current events even though we’ve both been gainfully employed minus that brief stint.   When you work in a sales job and drive ~100 miles a day, with gas at almost $4, the nearby gas station owners know you by your first name.   The salt in the open wound of the whole gas increase predicament is that it’s not just your personal gas; every utility company has trucks that need your help, too.   

The other factor that has nearly killed us locally is the extended drought.    The weatherman says that, with the exception of 1-2 days, we have now been almost 200 days with less than 1/2 inch of rain.   Translation: we’re trying to keep our plants somewhere close to green with no help whatsoever from the Lord.    The grass is on its own.   The ground has been too hard to try our luck at another vegetable garden.   I just throw up my hands and think, oh well, next year.     

As my mind often travels to books, I reflect upon the double whammy of the Great Depression and the plight of the mid-western farmers during the Dust Bowl years.  Stories like Dust for Dinner and Children of the Dust Bowl: The True Story of the School at Weedpatch Camp come to mind.    The Lord was doing something back then, and trying to get peoples’ attention.   I believe He is also doing something now, and calling us back.   Back to what?   I believe, in part, back to our mother wit and the ingenuity of our ancestors, and away from the materialistic, wasteful lives that many of us in this generation have engaged in for far too long.   Our parents and grandparents knew how to take a little and make a lot of it.    Somehow, in all of our education and corporate jobs and suburban lifestyles, we’ve lost that same resourcefulness.    This season under God is teaching us to go after it and get it back.     I know personally I’ve had to make adjustments, and as hard as the transitions have been for those around me, I can’t help but believe that we will come out better for them if we hang in there and faint not, as Paul says in Galatians 6:9.

One of the adjustments I’ve made is to begin sewing again.    Unfortunately, I have no pictures immediately available, but that’s a post for another time.    My task right now is to finish a shirt for our son before he grows out of it!   

Though it wasn’t a necessary adjustment, homemade laundry detergent has been a tremendous savings.

 

I love to do things like this, and I’d seen several homeschooling moms brag about the increased effectiveness, and the ridiculous savings, of making their own detergent.   But I had no idea where to buy products, and terms like “fels naptha” intimidated me, so I originally blew it off.   Yet, when I ran across a site that gave a recipe and told where to buy the products, I decided to give it a go, and I even got a bit of help.  

This recipe is popular across the Internet and among a few of my homeschooling friends, so with some encouragement and inspiration, I’ve finally begun to like my egg drop soup-like laundry detergent, and I LOVE the fact that I’ve been able to take that ~$10 Tide off my grocery list for a couple of months now.

Another of the adjustments I’ve had to make is in food preparation, and learning to think more about foods that give more bank-for-the-buck, so to speak.   Pastas stretch.   Potatoes stretch.   Beans are also quite versatile.

 

Last year when we had our garden, I quickly saw the value of raw foods, both in our pocketbooks and in our health.   This year, as I stated earlier, we couldn’t get the garden going, but I’ve stuck  with my passion for raw foods, learning new ways to prepare familiar vegetables, and trying some varieties with which I’m not as familiar.   As a purposeful digression, I was reading a devotional in the last couple of days from Sheila Gregoire on marriage, and being made for each other.  You can find it here.     By the way, for those of you who aren’t familiar with Sheila’s blog, To Love, Honor and Vacuum, she is well worth a “follow,” or at least a frequent visit.   She blogs candidly, yet graciously, about marital issues that most won’t touch: the impact of porn addictions, what happens when there is unresolved conflict, and of course, keeping the romance in relationships.    Anyhow, as I read this devotional, I couldn’t help but reflect on my own marriage, and how my life has changed–for the better–in our almost 20 years of marriage.   One of those changes has been in my eating habits.   As a southern girl, I came to the marriage not knowing much about cooking anything that wasn’t fried, buttered, or dipped in gravy.   My husband was health-conscious long before it was stylish; his family simply thought of him as picky and strange.   Though I’d never be called petite, I know for sure that without him role modeling a healthier diet, I would probably be twice the size that I am and tumbling down a vegetable oil slick to an early grave.   I should also mention that somehow we managed to produce a vegetarian in our son; between the two of them, I now have a repertoire of dishes that take me from tilapia to tofu,  and from honeydews to jicama (pronounced HIC-uh-muh, so that you don’t miss the alliteration–smile).

I see God honoring my faithfulness in small things, and it makes me smile.    Last night, I was preparing dinner and thinking about my husband’s impact on our diet (and admittedly thinking about this blog post).   I was preparing oven-fried chicken and sweet potatoes, and I didn’t want my usual sweet potato casserole, made southern-girl style.   I decided upon a low-fat, orange-juice based glaze that I once used years ago.   All of that role-modeling sounded really good until I realized that I didn’t have enough flour to coat the chicken, nor enough orange juice to spread across all of my sweet potato slices.  (Had plenty of butter, though–tee hee!)  Rather than make an unplanned dash to the store while everyone’s stomachs were rumbling,  I prayed for the Lord to stretch what I had, and I witnessed a widow of Zarapheth-like blessing with the flour and orange juice.   Plenty to cook dinner, with some to spare.    I even found an avocado to add to our dinner salads.   It was a great meal, made tastier by the fact that I knew of its humble beginnings.

  

If we will not grow bitter or weary, there is such a testimony awaiting each of us on the other side of this recession.   I invite you to embrace your hardships for what they are–love from up above, and lessons from way back.   God bless you, friends.

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.

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?

A bit about love and marriage

I don’t blog much about our marriage.    It’s not that we don’t have a great relationship.    In fact, I think we have an intimacy–spiritually and emotionally as wel as physically–that many couples around us could only wish for.    However, I tend to use my blog as information and inspiration, sometimes to the detriment of not posting what we actually do here in our home.    I realized that as my dear blogging buddy Karen got all excited about Charlotte Mason’s approaches and then stated  that she didn’t know anyone who used Miss Mason’s ideas—HA HA!   I choose to post my heart as a mom, a teacher, and a woman, in the hopes that I’ll touch someone else’s.

 

Well, during the month of February, I took an opportunity to pen some thoughts about February, commercialization, and the evidence of real love.    Enjoy it here…(by the way, the first sentence should have a strike-through in the word spending; just another place where technology hasn’t caught up to my eclectic sense of humor!)