Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Numbers Game

I'm a fan of social media.  I enjoy connecting with friends through Facebook.  I love getting news and learning from others on Twitter.

But, I approach social media with a weary side eye at times.  In my role as a middle school tech specialist, I've seen social media go terribly awry. When things go wrong it's because kids (and adults) don't realize the reach of their words.  They think they are talking to just one person, they forget how many people can actually see what's happening.   They forget about the numbers.

Kids are, by nature, collectors.  Just pop into any kindergarten room and ask about collections!  That's why games like Pokemon are so popular.  They tap into that collector instinct.  So, kids carry that collector mindset onto social media.  They collect followers without much thought as to who they are letting into their world.

{I'll pause here to say, that's why kids don't need social media too early.  They aren't mature enough for some of this stuff.  Most platforms require kids to be 13 for a reason.}

Personally, I have different standards for friends and followers.  Facebook peeps should be my actual friends.  People I'd like to talk to in public.  Twitter, at times for me, is a little less personal so I cast a wider net.  I follow people I don't know personally.  On Twitter, I follow people I want to learn from as well as friends I want to hear from.

All of this brings me to our B-man and his YouTube page.  B is a huge YouTube fan.  He subscribes to lots of channels and loves to watch a wide variety of videos.  We do restrict him to YouTube kids in an effort to filter what he sees.  You may recall that last week B made some stop motion animation videos and put them on his YouTube channel.

He was so proud of his work and wanted people to see the videos.  So, I took to Facebook and asked my friends to check out his videos, like them, comment on them and subscribe to his channel.  Oh my goodness! He was so excited as the comments, likes and subscribers flowed in.

Actually, he became a little obsessed.  "Momma! We have 11 likes, no dislikes and 10 subscribers!"

"Momma! How many subscribers do we have now?"

Last night from the bathtub, "Sam, can you look on my YouTube page and tell me how many subscribers I have now?"

This has led to a discussion about the numbers game.  And it's a tricky one when you a putting something you have created on social media.  It's a little different from the collecting followers race at times.

When you create something, it's almost always for an audience.  I write this blog to share my thoughts with you. If I didn't want you to read it, I'd keep it in my head. I like it when people read the blog, comment on social media and share it with their friends.  It shows me that my words touched someone's life.  Same for B's videos.  He enjoys making them so much that he wants people to enjoy watching them.  It's part of the joy of creating - getting to 'see' people enjoy your creation.

B, Ryan and I have had a few conversations over the past week about posting the videos for the right reasons.  Posting them because you enjoyed making them and you want people to enjoy them.  Not posting them purely for likes and comments.  Remembering that our identity is in God, not in the numbers of likes and comments.  God sets us apart, not the world.  I'm sure it's a conversation we'll continue to have.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Through God's Grace

As I mentioned last week, our church is in a 6 week sermon series on Grace.  The series has focused on Ephesians 2:1-10.  This week's sermon focused on verses 8 & 9.

This powerful verse reminds us that have not done anything to deserve God's gift of eternal life.  But he gave it freely.  We can not earn this gift by works.  Therefor, we can not boast of our actions.  We can only boast of God's grace and love towards us.

It was a powerful message and one that I need to hear over and over.  I can not do anything to earn God's love it.  It is a free gift.  Freely given.  Because of His awesome gift, I want to be in a relationship with Him.  I want to tell people what He's done in my life.  What He's doing in my life.

At the end of the sermon, Pastor David Griffin gave people the opportunity to publicly testify of God's grace in their lives.  It was awesome! People told of restored marriages, broken addictions, heath regained, lessons God has taught their families and on and on.

I felt the urge to speak but I couldn't put the words together.  Strange for a writer, I know.  But in my weakness, God is strong.

Instead of me, He gave the words to B.  Sweet B raised his hand several times.  Pastor David would look our way and I would put B's hand down.  Silly me! I should know by now that the boy knows what he's doing.  As does God.

Towards the end of the sharing time, we decided to let B speak.  David called on him. B ran down the aisle and gave this powerful testimony.
God is my guardian.  He listens to me when I pray at night with my momma.  He never leaves me.  In my soul, God is Batman and Jesus is Robin. 
(We saw the Lego Batman movie over Spring Break so I guess he had Batman and Robin on his mind too. )

His words brought me to tears.  They still do, I'm crying right now.

I have been so concerned that B would have a hard time learning to trust the LORD.  Unseen and abstract things can be difficult for people with autism.  But Sunday, God reminded me, again, that He has a plan.  And His plan is always greater than mine.

He has a plan to bring B, and each of us to Him.  And His work will not be thwarted.

Sunday afternoon, we worked in the yard and I had time to reflect on that morning.  God finally gave me the words I'd been searching for Sunday morning.

When we found out that B had autism, we had no idea what that would mean for our family.  But through God's grace, He has used that diagnosis to draw us near to Him.  He has let us be apart of His work at cLife through the Valuable ministry.   
My testimony continues this morning and every morning.

All those years ago, I would never had guessed that B would string that many words together or pronounce them clearly enough for others to understand.  And I could not image that B would understand God in such a way.  But through God's grace, I have come to understand that God speaks everyone's language.  He has a plan to bring everyone to Him.  That means everyone.  No matter if they can speak or not.  No matter if they respond in the way we think they should respond.  No matter if they compare God and Jesus to Batman and Robin.  He has a plan for each of us.  He is drawing us to Him. 

You can view the sermon here.  Because we have live preaching at all four of our campuses, this is not Pastor David but Pastor Casey.  It is essentially the same message. 

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Stopping {audience participation please}

Why is it so hard to stop doing things?  It's so easy to start.  Especially those bad habits, it's really easy to slip into those - eating sweets, spending too much time on your phone, sitting on the couch, gossipping.  To stop doing those things - that's a momumental effort!

Once upon a time, I wrote an edtech blog.  On that blog, I wrote about the idea of addition by subtraction. The basic idea that you have to take someting away so you can add something better.  I also subscribe to the idea of giving time to get time.  Spend some time upfront and it will save you time in the long run.

How can we apply those two concepts to stop doing things?

Addition by Subtraction 
The key to stopping something is really to replace it, I think.  Want to stop eating sweets?  Sub in a fruit for that cookie.  Replace one TV show with a short walk around the block.

Giving Time to Get Time
This one is easiest for me to apply to heathly eating.  I like to spend time on Sunday prepping meals for the week.  I make salads for our lunches on Sundays.  If I don't do it, Ryan and I  end up eating junk for lunch all week.

I also do this after our monthly trip to Sam's Club.  I brown all the ground turkey when we get home. Then I seperate it into freezer bags.  It makes meal prep so much quicker because I don't have to brown the meat.  I used to do freezer crock pot meals but I burned my family out on those.  But it was the same concept - prep a bunch of meals at one time and then freeze them.

I'm pretty good a bribing myself to do things.  Right now, I'm doing a 31 day yoga challenge.  If I do al 31 days in a row (I did give myself grace for the week I had strep), I'm buying myself some cutesy stickers from StudioAdorkable on Etsy.  Maybe I should bribe myself to stop doing things.

What do you think?  What ideas do you have for stopping? What can we replace our bad activities with?  Let's hear from you in the comments!

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Stop Motion with B {videos}

In mid-February B announced that we would be making a movie as a family over Spring Break.  The Bigs were less than thrilled.  Zac danced around the subject.  Sam just outright said no.  I, of course, promised we would make the movie.

But then B announced that our movie would be animated.  Good gravy! I have no idea how to animate anything. I can't even draw.  Monday morning B I went to the library.  He got a book on animatation. The book has a lot of great projects.  Unfortunately, B wasn't loving any of the projects.  Not only that, he was mad because the book didn't tell him to do exactly what he wanted to know how to do.  In the book's defense, B is not exactly sure what he wanted to learn to do.

Tuesday morning, my uncle was visiting and B hit him up "Do you know how to make movies?"  My uncle said he knew a little.  But then B revealed that he didn't have a plan for his movie.  "You gotta have a plan" my uncle told him.  Off he runs to his room to make a plan.  He emerges with a drawing about 5 minutes later.  Not so much a plan, though.  B's frustration was growing.

I've done stop motion animatation projects with my students in the past.  I explained the process to B but he wasn't so sure.  So I decided to show him.  Here's our first movie.

Once he saw the finished product, he got excited.  We got out some construction paper and got to work on our second masterpiece.

B did get frustrated through out the process.  But he kept working.  He was engaged right up to the time when it was taking forever to upload the pictures for the second movie.  He didn't want to "help" with the iMovie portion of the birthday movie until it was time for him to sing.

I loved getting to teach him something new.  He loved bossing me around.  It was a win-win.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017


This past Sunday at church, a verse punched me in the face.

Jesus was visiting Mary, Martha and some friends.  Mary was sitting at her Savior's feet.  Martha was running around doing 'stuff'.  After a while Martha complained to Jesus - tell her to help me!  Jesus' response is not what Martha expected.

Over Christmas break, I had a mommy meltdown.  I spent the first week of the break running around getting ready for Christmas.  Then I spent the second week doing all the after Christmas chores.  I didn't rest.  I don't feel like I spent a lot of time with the boys.  Especially not that first week.

I asked Ryan, "How do you think the boys will remember me?  As a good momma or as someone who was just always running around doing stuff?"

Ryan was very sweet and tried to reassure me that I'm going this momma thing ok.  But I couldn't shake it.  I asked Sam about it.  He said, "well, you're doing stuff for us."  But did they want that 'stuff'? I still don't know.

I have been a momma for over 16 years.  I've worked that entire time.  I've never not worked.  I like working.  But this year has been hard.  This is the first year that I've felt guilty for working.

Teenage boys are tricky creatures. They don't want to talk when you're ready to talk.  They don't want to come in from football and spill their guts.  They wait until you're gathering dirty dishes from their room to start a big conversation.  Except it's disguised as a banal question.

I want to be ready for those questions.  I don't want to be Martha running around doing stuff and missing the moment.  I want to be Mary.  I want to be ready to listen and learn.

I've learned this in my walk with Christ.  I work really hard to not do Christian things.  I do work hard at being a Christian.  See the difference?  Christian things are things to mark off your to do list - read my Bible, pray, go to church.  Check. Check. Check.  Being a Christian means being in a relationship with Jesus.  When you're in a relationship, you want to learn more about the other person, you want to spend time with them.  It's not a checklist, it's part of your life.

I'm working on it in my momma-ing.  Letting things go so I can wait for the boys to be ready to talk.  Working on being really present with them.  Working on it.

You can see this past Sunday's sermon here.  We are in week 4 in a series on Grace.

Thursday, March 9, 2017


"I don't feel like being nice."

"I feel so undervalued."

"I don't feel like getting out of bed."

When was the last time you said something like this?  I know for sure I said something similar yesterday.  I'm pretty sure I thought that last statement this very morning.

We are encouraged to talk about our feelings.  We tell kids "follow you heart".  I've told kids "do what makes your heart happy".

"I just want to be happy."

Guilty. Guilty. Guilty.

I do want to feel happy.  I want to feel valued.  I want to get out of bed (most days).

But I don't have to wait for my feelings to catch up, I'm in control of my emotions. I get to boss them around.  I get to decide how I feel.

The heart is deceitful.  Wow!  But it's true.  It's part of our sin nature.  And it's all about how we focus our mind.  When I take my focus off the LORD, then I focus on my feelings.  I question His motives, "Why would you let me feel this way, LORD?  Why would you keep me in a situation where I feel this way?"

Wanna know why?

Because He wants to change my heart.  He wants my heart to reflect His heart.  He wants my truth to be His truth.

His truth says:

"So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them" Matthew 7:12

"but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." Romans 5:8

"And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up." Galatians 6:9

Change my heart today, LORD. 

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

B's Concerns

Are you a worrier?  I'd say I'm a recovering worrier.   I try really hard not to worry.  I understand that when I am worrying, I'm not trusting God.  But sometimes it sneaks in.

Our boy B is another story.  Here's a $5 word for you today - perseverate.

Perseverating is what it's called when autistic kiddos (or adults) fix on one thing for a long time.  The word obsession comes to mind.  

B perservates on his worries.  

Lately, he's been very worried about wasps.  He saw a wasp on the bus and it has consumed him.  He's begged me not to make him ride the bus.  His time on the bus is actually very minimal.  I take him to before school care and he has to ride the bus to from there to his school.  Then in the afternoon he rides from his school to my school.  He probably spends less that 10 minutes a day on the school bus.  

And yet, it consumes him.  Last week he laid in bed crying "don't make me ride the bus!"  We have plans upon plans for what to do in the event of a wasp on the bus.  

A few mornings ago on the way to school B randomly says, "Momma will you ever leave me alone?"  There are a lot of ways to understand this question so I ask "What do you mean?  Like will I leave you home alone?  I might when you're older. What do you mean?"
"I mean will you ever take me in the woods and leave me there?"


I can not tell you the last time I was in the actual woods.  And I can not recall being in the woods with B-man.  And yet, here we are...worrying about being left alone in the woods.  He's not able to tell me, yet, where this worry is coming from but I suspect he's watched a video about being in the woods.  

At any rate, in these moments it's my job to reassure him.  Let him know he's safe, do my best to make sure he feels safe.  If he's able, we'll talk about a plan but the most important thing is that he feels safe.  

Then I turn my worries about B's worries to God.  It keeps me sane.  I mean, we both can't be wracked with worry.  One of us has to be calm.