What I Learned Facebook Fasting

This past week I went on a fast with my church in the first annual prayer & fasting week.  Our church is moving forward into so huge projects and it was a good way to launch these.  Fasting from food is normally what folks think of but the church suggested those of us who couldn’t fast from food (I cannot with my job), could ‘fast’ from other things.  I opted for a Facebook fast.

I knew that Facebook is a total time waster, but had NO idea just how much of my time is wasted there until I returned.  I had logged out on my PC and phone so as to avoid alerts that might tempt me back.  I missed SO much, like people’s dirty laundry about others including their mates, countless sexual indos, memes of zero importance, cute kitten videos, political crap that is already in abundance over a year before the election of the next president, pro-life/choice/marriage posts, decades old rumors going around about aliens/government intrusion/name it ____, in other words NOTHING of importance at all.  The first 24 hours back on and I’m reposting, tagging, and passing on a few hundred pieces of useless information and STOP.  I’m doubting that I want to continue it at all.  The one post I did make of 14 hard core pieces of evidence about Noah’s ark and even my own father wanted to start taking that apart with logic (missing the fact that God is not bound by human logic) because everything must be ridiculed and debated on Facebook because some folks just have to stir up a fight.

I also noted that while I did have some prayer time in the past week, I did not pray as much as I should have, or use the time off Facebook as wisely as I could have.  I did read an entire novel but, while entertaining (and rest IS important), it did nothing to further anything good in my life or the lives of others.  In 5 days I’ve reached the conclusion that it is more than a waste of time, it is a time sucker! It eats up the time that is better used for important things.

Not one video game played in 5 days, and it had been about a week since I left Farmville 2 for the second time in 3 months.  Another pure waste of precious time.  Some day we all have to give an account before God of the use of our time, our words etc.  I don’t really want to stand there explaining that I played 4 hours a day of Bingo Blitz and Farmville 2 when I could have used the time to pursue better things.  Reading His word, helping tutor kids, napping (because rest is ordained), interacting with others, helping folks grow their faith etc.  Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with the games, but balance is the key and I’m not real good at the balance side of things when it comes to those.  I also have grandkids, a desire to write a book to inspire others who find their life in the swamp of sin that there IS a better way.  What is it they say, garbage in, garbage out?  Um yes, and too much of that is just trash filling the mind.

During that time I also realized that I check in on Swarm etc way too much.  No one really needs to know everywhere I am at a given moment and what I am doing.  It is time to dial that back.  Being ‘mayor’ of any location does nothing to add value to my life but could be alerting people to my location that really have no need to know.  I think I may be removing that one from my phone altogether.

This fast has caused me to take a big look at my time online and on my phone and realize too much time is spend with the phone in my hand (even when out with others instead of talking and enjoying their company the phones are all out and we’re all busy on them playing, gawking at videos etc).  Time to put it DOWN.  Unplug some more and step away from these ongoing distractions.

Yes, I learned that there is more to life than social media. Much much more.

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Coming Unplugged

This coming week our church, Crossroads in Cincinnati, is doing 5 days of prayer and fasting.  When I first read that I experienced a moment of sadness because fasting from food simply isn’t a good thing in my job.  I am losing weight (2 more pounds down for a total of 25 lost since the first week of May), which is a good thing.  But my job is very physical and I cannot skip meals and be able to remain on my feet.  Then the pastor sent out a message about this event and talked about it can be ‘fasting’ from something other than food.  YES!

I’ve been struggling to get into the Word and so I downloaded the app from Proverbs 31 ministries, First 5.  I’ve read it in the parking lot at work some mornings, but at least it is something!  My faith is being stretched and kneaded and well it is just difficult.  So this week will be awesome for me, if I can find something to ‘fast’ from.  And so I have.

Beginning at midnight tonight and running through midnight Friday, I’m logged off of Facebook and not going to look at it. I’m logging out on both PC and phone so that no alerts come to me and tempt me.  Every time I wonder what is going on with Facebook, or do get tempted to look at it, I will use that time to stop and pray or be in the Word, or both.

I’m also signed up for the Proverbs 31 online Bible Study, Taming The To-Do List.  I’ll let you know how that is going.  I’m hoping by doing the journaling on my blog that it may help others who are trying to build up their faith!

Faith – A Work In Progress

Update on the big decision:  I continue to tithe and I continue to have enough money.  God truly does bless us when we obey.

But the struggle to keep my faith intact is not nearly over.  2 weeks ago, after dinner, my mom told me and my sister that her cancer is back, and this time there is nothing that can be done.  She has been given a year or so to live.

I know that year to year the landscape of life changes, but that is one landscape, the one minus my mom, I am not at all ready to face.  The Diva Den as we call this great house we all live in, will never be the same.

The best way to strengthen faith is be in the Word of God, so I’m trying to daily get there.  I downloaded the First 5 app from Proverbs 31 Ministries and can say that this is going to be a huge help.  Work days are tough to make time and that app is going to be perfect.  I also signed up for their next online Bible study, and the book for that arrived today.  And I know that the best way to be in the Word is to simply DO it.  Pick up my bible and read a few verses or a chapter and contemplate on it. Pray my heart and mind are receptive to what God might be trying to convey to me.

My struggle is real, but my God, my Father In Heaven, is far bigger than any struggle I will endure.  Great is HIS faithfulness!

Struggling To Hang On To The Faith

Some days are so tough to be a believer.  Those days when finding the desire to read the Word is just not there and rote obedience to Christ is the only thing that will bring me to take that 15-30 minutes in the Word and in prayer.  Today is one of those days.  One where I wonder if my prayers even get past the ceiling or go unheard.  Of course I know they DO make it the ears of my Savior, but there is a little voice trying to be heard that is all negative and trying to cut down my tree of faith.  No way, not letting that happen.

I have a big choice to make today, one that will impact my spending over the next few weeks until next payday.  That choice that says pay your 10% to the church and God will be there to hold you up.  I know He will.  I have seen it so many times before, it is just hard to do sometimes.  Today it is hard.  But I’ll do it, right now, while the Spirit still has hold of me good.

Finding My Nitch/Ministry

Recently I got myself through the classes and state testing to become a STNA/CNA (state tested nurse aide/certified nurse aide).  It was not what I really wanted to do, but everything pointed to my needing to find work of some kind (like unemployment ran out and I still hadn’t managed to find a job).  So, I busted my butt, managed to hold a 98% through the class and I was state tested and now I’m listed in the state registry.

I found a job very quickly, actually had several job offers, before taking one nearby.  Now, starting into my 8th week, I see that this is a job that is a calling, a true ministry.  The people that love it, are the best of the best. Those that don’t like it I have no idea why they do the job because it sure isn’t for the paycheck.  Barely above minimum wage in most cases.  I know aides, really good ones, who have done this for 15+ years and don’t make $15 an hour.  You do this job to make a difference in the lives of those who most need us.

The individuals are elderly, some are just older but not ‘old’, but all are there because on some level they cannot care for themselves.  Dementia or injury, or just the old age taking its toll has left the majority in wheel chairs and diapers.  They cannot dress themselves, feed themselves, use the bathroom, or shower themselves.  The amount of care varies but we don’t get much if any down time during our shifts.

When I first started school I prayed, a lot, about this career choice.  And in clinicals.  And every day since I started working I go in and pray on the way and often through the halls, that God would let me see these sweet souls as He sees them. That I could be a vessel to show His love to them, be hands and feet for Him to them.  I find I love them all, and really do love what I do.  Money is nice, but coming home at the end of a long day knowing I made a difference is worth more than anything I get paid.

The Son of Man Will Judge the Nations

Matthew 25:30-45

31 “When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the holy[a] angels with Him, then He will sit on the throne of His glory. 32 All the nations will be gathered before Him, and He will separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideshis sheep from the goats. 33 And He will set the sheep on His right hand, but the goats on the left. 34 Then the King will say to those on His right hand, ‘Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: 35 for I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; 36 I wasnaked and you clothed Me; I was sick and you visited Me; I was in prison and you came to Me.’

37 “Then the righteous will answer Him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry and feed You, or thirsty and give You drink? 38 When did we see You a stranger and take You in, or naked and clothe You? 39 Or when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You?’ 40 And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.’

41 “Then He will also say to those on the left hand, ‘Depart from Me, you cursed, into the everlasting fire prepared for the devil and his angels: 42 for I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink;43 I was a stranger and you did not take Me in, naked and you did not clothe Me, sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’

44 “Then they also will answer Him,[b] saying, ‘Lord, when did we see You hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to You?’ 45 Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.’

BRAVE: Update

11088539_10152885026453935_6365408097417848396_nAs I had mentioned in my post yesterday, during the journey we reach a point of facing a fear.  Mine was personally apologizing to someone, and the fear was rejection.  Few people, including yours truly, can graciously accept an apology and say “accepted and forgiven”.  We feel the need to delve into more, perhaps rub salt in the wound or flat out just reject the person.  And my fear was the rejection and a healthy dose of salt, so when I opened the mailbox today that is exactly what I initially felt I had received.

The letter writer has reason to still have ill feelings, as I did indeed say some very mean and hurtful things.  I admit I was going for the heart in the things I so often said and posted, and it would seem I was an over achiever when I posted them.  And I was wrong, as I said in my apology.  It wasn’t about being vindicated, and I certainly did not feel persecuted.  I simply reached that place where it was time to apologize.  I knew there was not going to be any reconciliation, I got back exactly what I had expected.

The writer asked a series of questions.  At first I wanted to take them as pure salt in the wounds, but then one thing I had always loved about this friend was her ability to ask questions that made me stop and think, deep introspection of me.  So, instead of seeing it on the knee jerk side, I’m choosing to believe that despite her words she isn’t attacking,  but that underneath she does care.  And as she has requested I no longer send things to her, I will answer them here.

I do find it interesting that I just answered, in some ways, many of these yesterday in my blog post about the Brave Journey, before receiving her letter.  Perhaps this is God’s way of confirming those very things I’ve been addressing.

*Are you really happy with your life?

Over all, yes I am happy.  No one has a perfect existence and never will.  Every day things spontaneously erupt in our lives, both good and bad, but it is how we choose to react that counts.  We choose to be happy, or angry, and 95% of the time my choice is to be happy.  My life is full of laughter and good times.  No, getting divorced was not a fun thing to go through.  I was very hurt and often lashed out in irrational ways at many around me.  But while hurt, I was also happy, and found fun and good in my life.  Now, more than ever, I am happy with my life.  I see now that some of the bad was direct or indirect consequences of my own choices and actions, and other providences were meant to bring me to where I am now.

*Do you ever stop and think, “what if I’d been a better friend, wife, mother, daughter?”

Yes, I do stop and think that.  And I have often seen where I fall very short of being the perfect version of any of those.  I cannot fix the sins of my past, only work in the present and toward the future of being the very best version of those and countless other hats I wear in life.

*If you could go back, would you do things differently?

Tough question, as I have to assume that you mean IF I could take back what I know now, so that I could change the outcome.  And I honestly do not know that I’d do much if anything any differently.  I’m in a different place now than at any given moment in the past.  We’re all on a journey toward eternity, and everything we do causes ripples in the pond.  Sometimes things we do that were meant for evil, God uses specifically for good in another’s life.  And the bad others do He uses for good in my own.  Part of growing, however painful it has been, has come from making the very mistakes that bring me to who I am now.  This woman I am now is far better for having made the mistakes that I did.

*Did you really believe you were the airbrushed photos of yourself?

That truly is an odd question to come up when I was apologizing for being so hateful but I’ll gladly answer it.  Um no, I knew more than anyone else what my flaws were and still are to this day.  Airbrushed photos were fantasy stuff and that was all.  No different from what is published in Playboy, just fun, fantasy photos.  I enjoyed them, but I knew that I had imperfections as did everyone else.  I guess they bothered you as you are still bringing them up now, 7 or 8 years later?  If they caused a problem for you then certainly I apologize for that as well.

*How did your choices lead you to where you are now?

Many choices brought me here.  The first and largest was the choice to allow myself to be talked into the swinger lifestyle.  I believe it tore the very fabric of my marriage apart.  My choices of that, and to be open about it, and the photos being published all contributed to my failed marriage and my losing my job after 26 years.  I went from a life as a deacon’s wife serving God in a great church, to unemployed and soon after divorced and way off the path toward Christ.

After that, many choices I made during the first 3 years of my after-divorce life were also poor ones that very nearly cost me my relationship with my kids.  My dating a 1%er and being an old lady to a motorcycle club member was NOT one of my better choices.  I went through a very self-destructive time, all of my own choosing.

Where I am now came from all of that.  Now I know where my true value is, not in photos, or a sinful lifestyle, or being anyone’s wife, girlfriend etc.  My value is 100% in the death and resurrection of Christ, paying for all of the sins I have and will commit in my life.  My value is in the shed blood that makes me a daughter of God, true royalty, and the soul that God sees through that blood that is perfect because of that blood.  My choices make me appreciate so much more what was done on that cross to save my worthless soul.

*Do you have people you consider real friends?

Yes, I do have a small, select group of individuals who I consider real friends and who consider me a friend as well.  They know my weaknesses, my darkest secrets, my greatest sorrows and regrets, as well as my highest moments, greatest joys and the love we have is deep and true for each other.

*In the middle of the night? Could you pick up the phone and have someone there for you?

Yes, and I have made that call in the past few years, more than once.  And the calls were answered and I had the support, guidance and love that was needed at those moments.

*Would you answer the phone if someone called you?

Yes.  If you are in need, give it a try sometime.

*Why do all of your relationships fail?

Poor choices for one.  Motorcycle club members that qualify as gang members by police standards, do not make for a good match.  I broke that one off.

The control freak, yeah that didn’t go so well, he broke that off because I wasn’t one that is easy to control.

Mr. Wonderful, well he left out a really important detail when we were dating, see he was still married and that is why that one failed.  Once I uncovered that piece of information I ended things.  We’re the best of friends now but that is why that relationship failed.

Then there was Pat, my Knight, who I lived with for a year until a year ago.  That didn’t fail, I ended it.  I was back in church and struggling with living in sin.  We both knew what we were doing was wrong, but I also didn’t want to be married.  I didn’t want to be a step mom as hard as I tried to be a good one.  I made the choice to end that and moved back to Cincinnati.

Most recently there was the Badge.  My son-in-law had done some research and warned me about him.  At first it was a great relationship but it was built completely on lies.  Lies about his family relationships, lies about how many times he was married, pretty much the only thing he did not lie about was his name.  He put up a great show, going to church and respecting my no sex til married criteria.  But when the lies unraveled and the truth started to surface, I ended that one as well.

So, they didn’t fail, some the guy ended, but the most significant ones I put an end too because they were not at all right. That isn’t failure in my opinion, just ending something that simply was all wrong.

*HOW CAN YOU MAKE A DIFFERENCE?

First, by making sure that all things in my life line up with the guideline of who I know I am in Christ.  There are still things in my life undergoing change, but I’m not the person you knew before.  Not who I was even a year ago.  I am more prayerful about choices that need to be made, I try hard to put myself in the other person’s shoes.  I’m far more other oriented than I’ve ever been.

I do not believe for one minute that the writer does not care good, bad or indifferent.  If I had ceased to exist she’d not have bothered to reply, let alone put so much into the reply.  I DO think she cares, deep down, but will never admit it.  That is okay, she is still on my lips often in prayer, and always will be.  I make a choice to do so.

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This Brave Journey

11088539_10152885026453935_6365408097417848396_nOur church, Crossroads in Cincinnati, recently began what they are calling an all church experience.  Every year they do a journey in which everything is geared toward the journey, so the entire church from the babies on up, is on the same page, same journey with God.  This is the first time I have participated and I’m seeing quickly why it is so loved by so many.  It is deep, and powerful, and life changing.

This year the journey is called BRAVE.  It centers around Peter getting out of the boat and walking on the water to Jesus during a storm.  We all have our own heading, and also storms to go through as we journey together on our course.  While in past years the church has printed up books etc for this, in the interest of saving money and paper they are doing it via an app for Android and iPhones, and it is one amazing app taking us all on one amazing journey.  The messages for 6 weeks on Sundays are associated with the journey we are all on, and we all joined small groups to work through the group portion.  It will end in a blaze of serving on May 16th when everyone who is able, 10,000 people, will flip our city doing 800 projects.  We landscape, paint, build playgrounds, serve people, it is just amazing.  Last year, GO Cincinnati was on my birthday, this year it is the day before.  I loved working with homeless vets last year, who knows where I will land for this one.

Part of the journey is about finding out what is holding us back from the heading we are striving toward.  The whole thing is nautical in theme, you know the Peter and boat thing.  We each pick our heading and while it may not seem like some are spiritual, if you believe, and I mean REALLY believe in God, and live for Him, then everything you do is for His glory, and spiritual.

Each week there are 7 or 8 steps in the journey, and each one is designed to bring us closer to God by being brave.  Last week it got really deep, with each answer we put in, the app then asked “why” to that answer, and then “why” to the next and so on.  It made us uncover some things, and honestly it was pretty uncomfortable but freeing at the same time.

My heading is financial freedom, building my business and finances to complete independence.  This may not seem spiritual to you, but believe me the things I long to be able to do require this, and I need to be a good steward with my money.  The root of why I haven’t gotten there was uncovered last week through the steps.  I’m going to get real vulnerable and share that.

See, I loved my life until 5 years ago.  I was happily (so I thought) married to the love of my life, I loved my home, the things we had, our friends, the crazy neighborhood that did crazy fun things together.  I had a good job 7 years ago, and we had stability and I thought pretty much the American dream.  I lost the job, got let go and I was chosen to be released during downsizing because I had made some really poor choices in my personal life.  Then 2 years later my husband asked for a divorce.  This just after I finally found a new job.  Everything I had worked for, loved, and enjoyed came crumbling down around me and shattered my world.

And it was the best thing to happen to me though it took until now for me to really grasp that.

I knew the life we were living behind the scenes, was contrary to everything about God and the character of God. I wanted out of it, my spouse did not.  That was when I began to pray.  We had left our church behind, justified our sin, and I was so far off the path and into the pit of sin that I knew it would take something huge to get us out.  So I prayed for God to change the heart of the man I loved to get us out of that and back where we belonged.  I begged to be out.  I just didn’t see the way it would work.  Next thing I knew I was out…of his life, the house, the job, everything I had helped to build.  I sure didn’t see that coming!

I was both devastated and delighted at once.  My heart was broken, but I was happy to be headed down a new path.  I struggled often while torn between the two sides of emotion, but over all I was content in my new life.

The trouble is content isn’t enough, is it?  I worked several jobs the past 5 years, and the most recent one I really loved what I did but I know God had other plans and pulled me even from there.  Things I knew were wrong and even corrupt there, meant that He wasn’t going to leave me in that place for long.  Same for the relationships, even the one I was in for a year, I was still so wrong in living with a man not my husband.

So at the end of last summer I found myself unemployed again, with this direct sales business on the side that was more hobby than it was anything.  And it is a business in which I know personally the women who are screaming successes, making 6 figure incomes.  But I couldn’t seem to get it really doing much other than paying for my makeup indulgences.  And I was in another relationship that was not healthy for me as he was not a true believer to say the least.

Just before starting this Brave Journey I broke up with the boyfriend and went back to again get my Nurse Aide certification.  If nothing else I see it as a means to pay my bills.  And then the Journey began while I was in school, and oh the things I’ve faced down and learned.

One thing I had to do was face a fear.  For me that fear was rejection.  I’ve dealt with rejection quite a bit in recent years, not the least of which was my marriage.  When your spouse of 22 years dumps you, it is about as big and painful a rejection one can experience is in life.  So taking time to send a long over due apology to someone knowing that they will simply reject me, was something I feared and didn’t want to do.  I don’t like having my feelings hurt, but the journey brought me to there and you couldn’t go further until you did that step, so I did it.  Then came the addressing the storms of our heading, because now that we had faced down a big fear, we had bigger things to deal with.

In the end of that ‘why’ session I knew why I have never taken my business and built to where I know it could and should be.

See, I had everything I wanted and loved.  I don’t want to rebuild.  I don’t think it is fair that I’m the one who got the shaft, had to leave what I loved and start over.  And then to once again have a great job and again see that go away….I’m pissed off!  I’m not the one that did anything wrong but I’m the one who had to restart my life and career over and over again.  I DON’T WANT TO DO IT AGAIN!

THAT is why I’ve never put into my business what I need in order to make it grow.  I had all I wanted and didn’t want to start over.  I think it is why I’m never happy in relationships since my divorce, I had the man I loved and wanted forever with, I don’t want to rebuild that again.  As a wise former boyfriend shared with me, it isn’t just the marriage that we lose, we lose shared memories and experiences.  When we get in a new marriage there is no “hey, remember when our little girl/boy did….” because they don’t remember, that isn’t their past, their memory.  I don’t know how to build new without that and not at all sure I want too.  Every corner of my life has to be rebuilt from work to love life and I didn’t want to do it because it isn’t fair!

Yet way back I prayed and asked God to deliver me from the sinful life me and the husband were living, and restore the relationship with Him.  I just didn’t see that this was exactly how He was going to do it.  Knock down the walls and destory the city, and have me rebuild.  I’m totally released from ALL things associated with my former lifestyle including the house full of memories of some of those very wrong activities.

I get to rebuild something beautiful and amazing with my life. No leftovers, all fresh.  A job that while it doesn’t pay anywhere near what I was making, I am caring for those who some might see as the least among us…elderly souls who very much need the loving care of someone who can provide TLC in the form of caring for their personal needs that they can no longer do.  Feed them, change them, love them.  It’s humbling work and it has so changed and softened my heart just in clinicals alone.  Those people do not want to be there, in a nursing home, having lost all they held dear including their independence.  I relate, I get that, I’m right where He wants me to be.

My business I can now start to build with a totally different perspective.  And NOW I WILL do it, with a new heading and new understanding.

And most importantly facing the fact that I’m rejected by some, but not the One who matters.  I’m a daughter of the most high, the very Creator of this universe, restored and at His feet and under His watchful care.  And because I know Him, as we learned today, I know His character, and to be His I must live up to the character of His child.  I won’t do it perfectly, but I will submit to His authority over my life and joyfully serve Him wherever I am led.