Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Queen of Facebook

“ And it shall come to pass afterward
That I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh;
Your sons and your daughters shall prophesy,
Your old men shall dream dreams,
Your young men shall see visions.
And also on My menservants and on My maidservants
I will pour out My Spirit in those days.

Joel 2:28-29

I share that scripture with you because I don't want to be automatically dismissed when I now tell you that God has been speaking to me in very vivid dreams recently. And although I initially thought it was as an exhortation, now I find myself seriously wondering if it was more of a warning than an encouragement.

Dreams are sort of silly and crazy anyway, so as I share this one with you, I may reign in some of the details, but want to share enough to give a picture.

More than a week ago I had a very vivid dream and I was standing in a room with a group of women from my church. Most of them were sitting, they were not particular people, but one was standing facing me and confronting me. In "real life" this person is someone I adore, and consider a friend, but in my dream, she was ridiculing me and mocking me. She was accusing me of having exposed myself to people, she kept pretending she was lifting her shirt as though it was something I had done, and the other women though not speaking, I knew were on her side. As i stood in the room I knew these women had killed another woman before me. I knew they had killed her, and I knew it had been done by a snake or an eel. The one woman was just relentless accusing me of things I hadn't done, and I stood in confidence on my innocence. I was also aware of women/ people on the other side of the room who were just sitting back and watching. They were faceless too, but I did know they were not fellow believers, or at least not fellow church members.

Finally my accuser, and the women with her and I walked outside of the house we were in, I to leave, and they to walk into an adjacent garage. I knew they were going into the garage to get drunk on beer from a refrigerator that was full of it. As we were walking, I had a peace about not having done any of what I'd been accused of. The women went into the garage but the accuser lingered. At this point in my dream she transitioned from being the friend I spoke of (in real life) into another woman I have known and been friends with for most of my life. She is not a believer or serving God and is living her life in an extremely worldly way. (But I still and will always lover her.) As we parted at the garage she had this satisfied smile on her face as though she knew she had me, but still I had this confidence of my innocence, knowing what she had said about me was not true.

I went out to the street and got into my car to leave. I sat for a moment, and again there was an overwhelming sense of confidence that I was not guilty of what she said. Then suddenly I looked down and saw a snake coming up along side me and it bit me in the left leg just above my knee.

At this point dream and reality started to cross, the snake bit me in the dream, but felt the pressure of it in real life. In my dream I knew I was being killed, and I became paralyzed and began to black out. At the same time, I was beginning to awaken, and could "see" the sense of blacking out through my eyelids. In my dream, paralyzed and losing consciousness I remember thinking I needed to fall forward onto the horn of my car in hopes someone would hear me and come to help. In reality I remember becoming aware that I was dreaming, and needing to wake myself up. As the subconscious and conscious met, I forced myself to open my eyes, as I did I woke to the dark room to find for a moment I could not move, and then finally like breaking from a chain, I was able to move my arm and lift myself up.

As I sit here and type this out I wonder about the eyes rolling, the heads shaking and how many of you are actually right in this moment writing me off as a nut. Sigh. But I press on.

I went to a friend who is extremely wise and gifted in the area of dream interpretation (yes, that too is biblical, remember Joseph and Daniel.) And she listened and was strongly convinced that this was in fact a "God dream." And she felt the "exposure" that I was being mocked for and ridiculed about was directly related to my openness, both here on the blog as well as on Facebook. It is something I have long struggled with because for the fact of the matter, it is both something I BELIEVE I am supposed to do/be, and it is something I have had to stand under quite a bit of harassment for.

Some of my friends interpretations were literal, some of the "who" that was represented (but NOT the actual persons) and some of it was more metaphorical. (Sounds a lot like the Joseph dreams.) In the end she felt that my sense peace and confidence was because I really hadn't done anything wrong, being so open and real on Facebook and on this blog. But the snake and the woman I knew had died before me represented the destructiveness of gossip, and women who'd been destroyed in the church by it before.

After her interpretation she prayed for me. As she did, she stopped because she said she felt strongly that the enemy did not want me to continue to blog. When she said it, it was like a hot poker straight to my heart, because literally just a few days before I had almost pulled the plug on this blog completely. I was down and discouraged and ready to give up. I have believed for a long time this blog was a part of my personal ministry, starting it was the last thing I know I can say I felt the Lord told me clearly to do, but when you feel as though you labor and labor and see no results, well, even though He tells us not to, it's easy to grow weary trying to do good, when you're not completely confident in how good it is.

So, I heard the word, not to pull the plug, and I didn't. The fact of the matter is, I have ALWAYS believed that ministry, true ministry is about just one person at a time. When opportunity used to afford itself for me to teach on a somewhat consistent basis, I used to always say, it didn't matter how many people were in the room, if one person, just one person, was ministered to, then what I had done mattered. For me it has never been about recognition or prestige, not even reputation, although there's nothing wrong with wanting to have a good reputation. (Let not mercy and truth forsake you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart, and so find favor and high esteem in the sight of God and man. Proverbs 3:3-4)

Well, opportunities don't afford themselves the way they used to. Time, circumstance, perhaps even perception don't open very many doors these days for me to stand in a room and teach or encourage people from the Word. So ministry that once was has had to be redefined into different places and circumstances. This blog was the beginning of that. It isn't the first time my ministry has been "on line," back in the late 90s I had a huge ministry to over 100 post-abortive women online. It was birthed out of life and circumstance and I know the Lord used it mightily to help many women come to terms with their pasts, and some to even come to salvation. God did a good work, and has helped me see that the internet is a powerful resource for the work of His kingdom.

So, this blog - it was started in a struggle against circumstance, crying out to God for a place to serve Him and bless His people. When I cried out with my why's and what's, He spoke one word to me, "Write." In the moment He said it I knew it was Him, but I had no idea what the practicalities were. Then a few days later I ran across a friend in church. She's someome who at one point had been a huge mentor in my life, someone who I had great respect for, but hadn't really been close to in a long time because of change and circumstance inboth our lives. She pulled me aside somewhat eagerly and told me she had been praying for me and that she felt impressed of the Lord to encourage me to start a blog. Within a couple of days from that conversation, "My Walk of Faith" was born.

Sometime later, Facebook came along and seemed to naturally become a part of ministry for me along with the blog. It came an avenue to share the blog, but more than that it came a place where I could share my heart, get to know people and get to be known. It became about building relationship, trying to encourage, even creating accountability. I know I found myself trying harder and harder to watch my steps in life, wanting to be real, also wanting to be truthful. I would harass my son's friends about the movies they talked about going to see only to find myself having to turn the channel in a favorite program or staying home when there might be a movie that looked like a good laugh just because I didn't want to be a hypocrite. Some people resisted me, others received it well, everyone seemed to get used to me, and friendships were born, relationships were built. It made me want to be on Facebook a lot, maybe even all the tome, but it was because I loved the people. I loved seeing pictures of a daughter's first pedicure, or hearing about an amazing opportunity to play a song in big church. It opened the door for me to tell someone how touched I was by a song they wrote, or offer words of condolences to a friend suffering loss. Honestly, it felt very much to me like the way the world, particularly the church world, ought to be, open, real, and relational. Even with my friends and new acquaintances who didn't necessarily share my beliefs, it was an avenue to get to know one another better and maybe even share perspectives we might never come across any other way. I liked Facebook, it felt like home to me.

I know I was on a lot. I sit at a computer doing boring accounting work and data entry all day long and having the screen to pop over and see what was going on beyond my 4 walled office with no windows made my day better. And if there was a prayer request, or a quick opportunity for a short conversation with my friend from church or my sister-in-law across the country, all the better. I don't remember when the teasing started. Comments about the best place to reach me always being Facebook (especially once my phone linked up to it) the digs about me having no life. They've been going on for a while, and I did my best to shrug them off, because I knew I was doing things that mattered there. And if only one person is touched... well, that's what I thought anyway.

I was at a birthday lunch a while back the first time I heard myself referred to as "The Queen of Facebook." It wasn't someone I knew well, but he is my FB friend, and he said it with a laugh in his voice and a little elbow in my side. It bothered me a little, I'll admit, but I took it in jest, because it felt like it was. I gave him the benefit of the doubt, because that's what I would want. I'm a teaser, I can take being teased.

The term didn't die that day though. I've heard it in several conversations. Little digs I laugh off, again, and again, and again. Said at Bunco, said online, heard in church, it stopped sounding like teasing. Suddenly it felt like a jab.

I had a friend from high school who I reconnected with on FB this past year come on my page recently and leave me a post. She said something to the effect of, "I saw a billboard today and it made me think of you: 'Don't go to church, BE the church.'" I was blown away, because right there she had summed up my heart and my life's biggest desire, to BE the church, in all that I do, all that I am, I just want to be my little part of Jesus. So, fast forward to this past week, where my Facebook Utopia with friends I love and care about abound. Three hard blows came, and sent me over the edge.

First a male friend said some things to me that made me really uncomfortable. He put me in this awkward position, feeling suddenly like I was accidently standing in a single's bar. I had to go to Neal and show him what was said, and we;re both at a loss on how to handle the situation.

Then someone who I have invested a lot into in the past year, much of it on Facebook seemingly did a complete turn around on me regarding their thoughts and opinions about me as a person, things I've done and said. And I feel pushed out and like whatever their perception is of me now, it has completely eradicated innumerable investments (I thought eternal ones) I have made in that person's life. And they're unwilling to even talk it out with me. In a week's time, I went from being someone they appreciated to someone they consider to be a drma in their life. Huge, painful blow to my heart.

Finally, the proverbial straw came from a conversation relayed to me that happened between two women who are big figures in my life. For the record, neither of them is on Facebook at all. But in a conversation where one thought I would be a good avenue to pass important information along to a 3rd party, the other dismissed me as someone who needed to be bypassed. Why? Well, you see it's the title she had for me. Can you guess it? Yes, she referred to me as the Queen of Facebook, and in her estimation, that clearly wasn't a good thing.

So here is what interests me, this person isn't even on Facebook, but obviously someone else has told her about me there, because she has no information of her own to base it on. So people are obviously talking about me in a derogatory way, and I cannot begin to imagine which of my 500-some FB friends actually feel that way, though I can narrow it down to the 2-300 some that are my friends within the body, because that's where this person comes from. And suddenly I find myself flashing back to a dream in a room full of women standing in judgment of me, mocking me, and I wonder where the snake is, and when it's going to come to destroy me.

Honestly, I'm at a loss. I don't want to be off Facebook, I miss so many people already. I miss hearing about their weight loss victories or there new adventures in new lands, or even how they hope to live through the day without killing one of their teenagers.

I had another dream a few days after the first one, and in it, I found myself exposed. I felt judged by someone again "in the body" who in real life I love, trust and value, but in my dream who rejected me and judged. In this dream I went unnoticed by regular people, and even my own family thought where I was, how I was was ok, but because of the judgment I found myself trying to cover up with two kids games, Operation and Battleship. My friend had interesting interpretaions on this "God dream" too. In the end, I laid the Battleship down. In her interpretation, it was about laying down warfare. She felt it wasn't mine to fight. But I can't help but worry about the snake, not knowing where it's coming from, just knowing he's been laid out for me with the purpose to paralyze and destroy. And now I find myself like Gideon, hiding, and afraid.

Not exactly a woman of valor, but neither am I any longer, the Queen of Facebook.

Addendum, I went to see the process of reactivating an account and it wasn't information, it just activated. So I am no longer OFF Facebook, but not actually sure if that will change or remain, for now, low key, evaluating, and then possibly going to have to do some weeding, rethinking, change.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Three Words - Challenge

Recently we made a covenant with our kids. If you're interested in more details, you can read about it over on our family blog. But the reader's digest version of the matter is that things were getting a little out of hand around here and I felt like we needed to better lay out the "playing field" of life at the DePriest's. Neal and I took the time to narrow our family values down to three, and built a code of conduct from that. In the end we asked our kids to sign a covenant agreeing to live by it.

I've gotten some flack from several people on our methods. People who felt we weren't giving our children enough power or say in how our home was run. Other people took issue with where my and Neal's obligation was to "live by the code," so before I start a new firestorm about what we chose to do, let me elaborate a little on where we were coming from.

This family, this home, is created by Neal and I. We are its core. It was our choice to add to it, giving birth to Jake and Victoria and adopting Ethan was our desire to have them be here as a part of "us." However, we did not invite them in as equal members. In the beginning of each of their family "memberships" all of the obligation and responsibility fell to us. We fed them, loved them, cared for them, met their needs. We asked absolutely nothing in return. When they would wake us in the middle of the night to be fed or changed, we took no offense, we didn't mark it down anywhere to remember they "owed" us for the favor, we just did it because it was the commitment we made to them when we welcomed them into the family.

But as they grew the relationship changed. By the time each of them was old enough to start moving about we introduced to them the word "no." We also created boundaries. We put the knives and medications under lock and key. Cleansers got moved out of reach. We covered all the plugs. It wasn't because we were some sort of killjoys who wanted to stifle their curiosity or their desire to explore, but because we wanted to keep them safe. Truthfully, if we DIDN'T do those things, people would question our fitness as parents. We set up the boundaries for their safety.

As they grew the boundaries we set for them changed, they fluctuated as they grew in age and wisdom. With a 16, 9 and 8 year old in the house these days, we no longer have our plugs covered, and the cleansers and medications are no longer under lock and key. Our expectation for them changed as they got older. We no longer worried that they would stick their fingers in light sockets or eat Advil like it was candy. We had taught them, they had learned, and the expectation was they wouldn't do it because they knew better.

When my younger two were toddlers, I used wrist leashes when we went out into public. They were little and very curious. I remember once making a quick stop at the pharmacy without the leashes (which many people found very offensive) and when I had to set them both down on the floor for a moment to pull something out of my purse they both took off running on me, in two very different directions. All I could do was run for the exit, because that was the greatest danger, so I ran after Ethan (the faster child) and headed toward the door, after wrangling him I went for her and I kept them both from running into dangerous territory to the best of my ability. I never took them out in public like that again without the leashes though, for their safety. But if you ran across me at the mall today with them now 8 and 9 and we were wearing the leashes, you'd have some serious question about me being at best overprotective, at worst, out of my mind.

When the kids were little, we didn't go into great elaborate explanations about the "why's" behind all of the "no's" we had to give them. When Ethan (my most curious child) started toddling about we didn't explain to him the reality of electrical shock we just covered the plugs. When our adventurous daughter tried to climb the glass shelves at grandma's house, we didn't talk to her about the dangers of pulling them down upon herself and causing serious injury, even death or dismemberment, we just pulled her down, gave her decent swat on her behind and told her "no." We set the boundaries, God put us in the position of their care and well-being, and we determined the best way we knew how to accomplish the task. Nobody ever really questioned us though.

But here now, with our family covenant, plenty of question. Somewhere some people decided that our children should graduate to equality, at least in that sense. And to those who feel that way, I respectfully disagree. As parents, our responsibilities have not changed, neither has our commitment. It is still our job to love them, care for them, provide for them. The obligation to them has not changed, only the methods have. Jake never wakes me up if he uses in the bathroom in the middle of the night. When Victoria is hungry, I no longer spoon feed her, truthfully, I rarely even go to the fridge for her anymore. You will never find me leashed to Ethan walking through a parking lot, but if you're close enough, you might still hear me tell him to stay close and slow down.

So back to our covenant, we have decided our kids are old enough to know what the expectation of behavior is as members of our family. Our family, again, is at its core, Neal and I. Someday our children will grow and leave us, and create in all likelihood families of their own with their own future spouses, and will take on the responsibility of creating their own expectation of behavior. If the become parents they will take on the obligation of care and direction as well. But for now, as the saying goes, "our house, our rules." And we wrote the covenant, to clarify the rules.

What we determined to do was narrow our "core values" down to three. We thought it a simple enough number for the kids (and parents) to commit it to memory. The values are not the actual rules, but rather the reasons behind them. We looked through lists, and we thought and considered and in the end we came up with our three, Truth, Faithfulness and Love. We also broke Love down into three subcategories of Respect, Kindness and Love.

I will admit, it wasn't until I looked at it all on paper, and the rules that we elaborated on our of the core values, that I realized, each of our core values, are core characteristics of the Lord and our relationship with Him. We didn't include the faith in the Lord as one of our core values, because honestly, that should just go without saying. As the scripture says, "As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." It's above the door in our living room, and very plainly, it's just a non negotiable, our house, God's house. He comes first.

It was actually an interesting process to sit down and figure out what matters most to you. And as a parenting tool it was empowering. It made such a difference to circumvent the "why" behind because "I said so." In my parenting since the the signing of the covenant, rather than just reprimanding, I have been asking my children to think critically. When Victoria got in trouble for tattling I asked her what core value she broke (Love - specifically kindness, "do unto others...") and she saw the reality of her decision. Likewise when Ethan got in trouble for being deceptive, he was able to understand he was not being in the Truth.

For those of you who are wondering, yes, it has raised the bar for me as a parent. When I thought about leaving my dishes on the table, I thought, "am I being faithful?" It's a little thing, but it is often in those little thoughts that the profound is discovered. I also find myself helping my kids out more, finishing loading the dishwasher for Jake (it's one of his chores) or taking out the trash for Ethan, and all the while being fully aware that I am showing my children Love through service. I've had to stop myself from yelling on more than one occasion, realizing that when I yell, I am not being kind. (Love) Honestly, it's been a lot quieter around here lately.

Another thought has strongly resonated with me through this process as well, particularly through the criticisms we've received. People take issue with us asking our children to come to us, live with us, on our terms. It's much the same complaint I hear from people about coming to Christ. They don't like that He sets the terms - the narrow path. But just like our core values and the rules they birth in our home, are for the best interest of both our children and our family, so is coming to the Lord on His terms. It's not because He's some mean ogre of a God, but rather because He sees a bigger picture and knows a better way.

We asked our children to sign a covenant, to make a promise to us and God to do their best to live according to the family values that Neal and I have set for them. We chose them for the best interest of our kids, and our family as a whole. Being people of Truth, Faithfulness and Love is a good thing, Lord willing, even a God thing. It will benefit my children, but it will also benefit the world around them. It will make our home healthier, our family stronger and will train our kids to be productive adults. It will also help them to grow to know who they are and what they believe, even why they believe it.

We don't expect perfection from our children, and the covenant is a promise to do their best to try to live according to the values we've set, and where human effort fails, God's strength is there. There are consequences when they fall short, but that's true in life too. And as a parent, I have been harder pressed to find a consequence that fits the the offense. When Victoria tattled on her brother, she had a set amount of time to d something kind for him without him being aware it was her consequence. When Ethan got in trouble for lying, he did get sent to his room for a time out, but the time was open ended. When he asked how much longer, we wouldn't tell him, which made a valuable object lesson about how we felt when he wasn't telling us the truth and kept us from knowing what was really going on.

Jacob has really risen to the new expectations and beyond. With the signing of the covenant came a clean slate for past bad offenses (a whole other blog post of the future) and Jake was so appreciative he has really been stepping up to the plate, and setting a great example for his younger siblings. I have watched as my children have developed more unity, and made an effort to be helpful and act like a team. It hasn't been a bump-free road, but even that has been a good thing, stretching my efforts and fine tuning my and Neal's parenting skills.

So often in life we just do things without thinking about our reasons behind our actions. I have seen and experienced the trouble that can create. If you, like me, are in the midst of your "walk of faith" it is also empowering to define who you want to be and how you want to live as what you proclaim to be, a follower of Christ.

Although I am very satisfied with the core values we came up with for our family, they are by no means the be all end all. If you're a Christian, root them in who you follow, but there is plenty there to consider and to find the right combination for you and yours. I do recommend narrowing it down to three words, keeping it simple and straight and easy for all to recall. I had a conversation with a friend of mine who talked about what their family values were, with more words she told me, "Serving the Lord" "Sticking together" and "Having fun" were the values they came up with her family, converted to my method, I would say, "Faith, Loyalty and Joy." Interestingly, also all characteristics of our God.

What about you? If I asked you what your Core Values were in three words, what would you say? Think about it. I challenge you to try. Who do you want to be? What do you want to be your reputation? What do you believe?