Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Getting Teched Off

Tech is everywhere. It permeates our homes, work, and family life. We have immediate access to anything and everything, as long as we have our little devices with us.

The problem is, we're losing ourselves in it so much, that we've lost touch with everyone and everything around us.

This isn't a new concept; in fact this has been an ongoing problem for years. The question is...what can we do about it- especially when raising a family?

The answer is a simple one, but very hard to maintain. Limit the tech.

For example, from the moment my kids were born they had a propensity for the computer. At the time we had two in the house. One became the kids' computer, and one was for the adults. 

That didn't last long.

Fights ensued. Timers were bought. Schedules were made, and time limits were set. Very small time limits. It's really tempting to let the little ones play on the digital babysitter while mom and dad get things done, but kids need to interact with parents regularly to learn social skills- this was before I found out my son had Aspergers!

As the kids grew, schools required computer use at home for homework, research, and learning games. We had to extend the time and watch them like hawks- I was amazed at how fast they could switch screens when I walked by! 
Unbeknownst to my children, I placed a mirror nearby in such a way that I could see what my children were doing from the other room before I 'walked by'. Like I said- it's not easy! Parents have to get clever to make sure the kiddos stay on track.

When the kids were in their teens, we had laptops. That was nipped in the bud swiftly when they both decided to use them as personal TVs when mom and dad weren't home- and sometimes when we were. Earphones and a laptop can make a really bad combination- it makes it so much easier for teens to ignore you.

Cell phones had to be the hardest tech to resist. I have to admit, the monthly cost made it a lot easier to say no, but when the my teenagers went into separate high schools (both far from home and each other), it was time to get them both a cell phone. For emergencies only. Yeah right, Mom.

One thing has remained consistent through all of this tech evolution- when guests come over, the tech goes off. My offspring's friends are quite surprised by this rule. Some even became panicked!
The rule is that any and all techie devices are put into a bowl on the dining room table. No tech is allowed anywhere but the living room and dining room. Absolutely no tech up in their bedrooms. At first their friends balked, but when they accepted this as the rule, they actually had a fantastic time! Most kids made plans to come over again soon, because they had a lot of fun and interacted with my kids- and us adults.

So here are the basic rules we live by to limit tech- and some additions for the younger generation:

Limit playing with Mommy's or Daddy's cell phone. It might be better to not let toddlers use it at all and only let them play tablet games with no internet. You never know when the wrong button will be clicked and phone contacts get deleted or see something they shouldn't!

Don't let them play anywhere/everywhere. Children get used to having it all the time, and when thwarted, kids can cause a lot of problems. The two worst places I've seen tantrums are in the car and in church. Oh yeah- this one will get you known really well by the congregation! 

Schedule tech play time. With little ones, let them play fifteen to thirty minutes at a time. When they're older, extend it- but no longer than one to two hours for teens. 

Don't give little kids their own phone. Phones were designed for communication, not a game console. Toddlers don't need it! Tablets with games are much better, and have bigger screens- or better yet, read a book with them!

Designate a tech space. We'd like to think our kids taking tech in their rooms with the doors closed won't get them into trouble, but why take that chance? Have chargers in one room and designate that as the room (or rooms) for their gadgets. Not only can time be monitored, so can the content.

No ear buds in the house. This helps prevent them from playing unapproved music or videos. Trust me- this is a really good idea.

Tech can be our friend, but it can also allow the Enemy to get into impressionable young minds. It's not easy to do this, but if you're diligent, it really pays off- and you'll have kids who actually enjoy talking to people!

Monday, May 16, 2016

The Click Moment

Ever have a moment when you hear something and clarity just clicks in?

Mine happened eleven years ago.

I was in a church, but felt I was not where God wanted me. I had to move on. But where would I go? I had started going to church late in life, and had no idea just how confusing the world of Christianity would be. So many churches, so little knowledge!

Then I met a golden retriever named Spunky. His owner and I had a chat, and she mentioned her neighbor, Hershey (a Chocolate Labradoodle) was the owner of a pastor and his wife. I went to talk to Hershey to see if it was all right to talk to his owners.

He was delighted.

I told them that my church taught that we had to do good works and be as good as possible in order to get into heaven. The congregants kept to themselves and didn't encourage talking with 'outsiders'. 
Maybe that was the reason I left- God made me a bigmouth- it was my nature to talk to everyone!

Then the pastor's wife said something I'll never forget- 'We don't do good works to get into heaven- we do good works out of gratefulness to God for sacrificing His Son for us.'

This was my Click Moment.

I was busting my hump trying to be as good as possible, falling into near despair when I failed. And I failed a lot. God wasn't saying not to try to be our best, but if we do things for Him, by Him, and through Him, it doesn't matter if we succeed or fail- God sees the effort given as blessed, and blesses us for it.
In fact, when we fail it just gives us another opportunity to go to God and ask for forgiveness, strength, or perseverance- sometimes all three! God doesn't care if we are a CEO of a corporation or a street sweeper- if we're doing our best (and frankly, by biblical standards, our very poor best) for His glory, He will bless the work- and us.

That Click Moment changed my life. I no longer felt constantly depressive and worthless when I failed, and wasn't as afraid to go to God.  I always thought He was standing there with His arms folded, glaring at me for messing things up...again. I began to see Him as someone who understood, who smiled and accepted my failings (and me) with open arms, ready to help me try again.

God is good. All the time. As for me? Not so much. But God is patient (extremely patient when it comes to me), and willing to help me do what He needs me to do.

That Click Moment changed my life, but also changed the lives of my husband and kids, because we live in the same house and they have to deal with me daily. And when they have a Click Moment, life changes again- usually for the better. 

God is so good!

Have you had a Click Moment? I'd love to hear about it! :)

Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Wet Armpits Equals Love

We do almost anything for the ones we love.

We give birth. We help them get better even when we're sick. We work ourselves to exhaustion to make sure everyone is fed, clothed and has a roof over their heads. We clean up after them. We love them because they are family.

We adopt them. We pet them, walk them, clean up after them over and over again...and yes, even put up with wet armpits. We love them because they are our pets.

I have three cats. All three have different ways of showing me affection.

Scootch simply rubs up against me any chance he gets, and likes me to leave my hand on his back when we watch TV (He likes documentaries). A lot of petting is all he needs- but don't pick him up and hold him! He won't scratch, but he'll push his legs against you as straight as possible to let you know he's so not into that cuddly stuff.

Boo-Boo likes to climb up onto my chest (especially when watching TV) and lick my bare arm (no sleeves please!) while kneading me with his claws. I always know when it's time to clip them! He has since learned to lay on his back in between me and my husband for chest and belly pets, and gives us the stink-eye whenever either one of us stops. He also likes to sleep on top of my hip when he catches me napping on the couch.

Tinkerbelle, our newest edition, has a very odd habit. She only likes to cuddle with me in two rooms- my bedroom, and my writing room. Only there does she feel comfortable enough to bond with me. Her idea of bonding is to bury her head in my armpit (longer sleeves only, please- bare arms won't do) and lick the fabric until my shirt is wet.
At first the drooling concerned me, but I found out when cats drool, they really, really like you. Knowing this, I let her get away with it- because that means she loves me. Who am I to stop her?

Besides, I can always change my shirt.

She does this in the living room sometimes, but not nearly as long as she does when the boys aren't around. Maybe it's a girl bonding thing.

We humans have ways of saying 'I love you' without words as well. Hugs. Back scratches. A kiss on the top of the head. A pat on the cheek. What do you do to show your affection?

In my house back scratches, hugs, and wet armpits equals love. Affection is probably different in your house (especially if you don't have cats- the armpit thing would be a bit odd), but it still means the same thing; You love them, and they love you. That's all that matters.

I'd love to hear what you do to show affection. As for me, I'm going to go change my shirt!

Monday, May 2, 2016

New and Improved God?

Some things just don't make sense to me. 

Advertising is a way to get customers to buy. I get that. But sometimes how they go about it is just plain ridiculous. For example:

Decades ago a diaper company came out with diapers just for boys and just for girls. They claimed that there was extra padding in certain parts of the diaper that made them even more absorbent and therefore specialized for your boy or girl. People went nuts for these 'specialized' diapers, and they flew off the shelves.
Years later, there were complaints that customers couldn't find the special diapers sometimes because the stores ran out of stock of one or the other. Advertisers, being the clever beings they are, devised a plan. They would now make diapers for both boys and girls! Wow!

Again, people went nuts and the 'new and improved' diapers and their products flew off the shelves.

This is not the first time something like this has happened. Someone comes along and invents a new 'new' that's really a specialized 'old', then they go back to their original product, calling it 'new and improved'. 

Was it ever really new? What's next? Coloring books? 

Oh let's do look at this one, shall we?

Coloring books for kids. Awesome! Always a steady seller. But what if we make them for adults? Wow, what a concept! Now there's coloring books for adults all over the bookstores and online (and I admit, I want to design a few myself!) But just wait a few years until coloring book passions wane. Oh look- something new! Coloring books for kids! New and improved!

And the rush to buy them will start all over again.

Why do we keep falling for this over and over again? Because advertisers know what they're doing. They know of they tweak something, specialize it for a while, it will sell- and when sales die down, they reintroduce the old product as 'new and improved'.

Chances are, we'll fall for it, over and over again. I'm including myself on this too, folks! 

Sometimes I find myself buying the new and improved products despite my knowledge of its untweaked history. Sometimes the baubles the advertisers dangle are just too shiny to resist. Oh human nature, you have failed me once again!

Now I see people doing the same thing with God.
He's New and Improved! Yes! A more tolerant, better Jesus- right here, today! Get Him while He's hot!

I don't think so.

God hasn't changed and neither has any of His other aspects. You can't tweak God, Jesus or the Holy Spirit. How can you tweak perfection? The advertisers are trying to sell a trusted product as new and improved to get the new generations to come to Him- but the angle that they're using to 'sell God' is off kilter. God is the same all the time. God is good all the time. But the advertisers (false prophets, really) do their best to get bodies into their churches by false advertising.

Some even break the scriptures to do it.

I'm not here to point fingers or name names- we're all sinners- that's why we go to church in the first place! But for some leaders to break scriptures to get a following- well, that's just wrong.

God loves everyone. Everyone. But that doesn't mean He accepts everything that we do. And that's what is being preached- He loves you (which is true) and everything you do is fine with Him (which is not true).

Even Jesus went a little postal when people turned the church into a marketplace for 'clean' sacrificial animals. So why should He do anything different now?

God hates sin. Period. He loves us. Period. You can't sell God like dish soap or some 'new and improved' product. God wants us to worship Him, love Him, and do our poor best by Him. That's the way God rolls. And who can improve on that?