by Kim Wiezycki

Facebook. Twitter. My Space. Skype. Email. Smart Phones.

Believe it or not, I said no to all of that at one time. And I had a lot of good reasons.  You would probably agree with most of them.  I was concerned about the temptation of being pulled away from my family and responsibilities because I was communicating with others instantaneously. I was worried that some online relationships would not be healthy. I felt I might be opening a door to allowing ideas and people into our home – virtually – that shouldn’t have access. 

After a lot of prayer, and reaching the opinion that all things technological require boundaries, my eyes were opened to the benefits of getting connected to others via all this new technology.  It’s here to stay. Let’s use it for good!

Ecclesiastes 4:12 tells us the importance of being with others and how banding with other believers makes us stronger. It is necessary for us to be in fellowship with each other to encourage each other in our faith in all seasons of our lives. Many times we need to be able to reach out and connect but it’s difficult to literally get out because of our daily responsibilities. Modern technology should never be a substitute for meeting with a small group or attending church. God warns us against the dangers of isolation, which can happen if we only communicate via the computer.  Many may misuse the technology which can keep us from being in real, tangible, face-to-face relationships, with others.

However, if used correctly, there are many benefits to being connected through technology. Throughout the day, I get the benefit of seeing a tweet from Pastor Rick Warren or Pastor Chris Bonham. I’ll read a blog post by GFC Beautiful or Beth Moore. Or I may take a moment to watch a video on Facebook about an upcoming sermon at my home church. Social media is a powerful tool. I know people who’ve used it to find a church or research a small group.

All of these online connections motivate me to stay the course daily (Acts 20:24), and they also remind me that I need to be connected to my believing friends, small group, pastors and their wives, and all parts of the church body. EVERY. DAY.

When to UNPLUG.

When I was a young mom of toddlers, my pastor’s wife counseled me on the importance of listening – really listening – to my children. I had a time-consuming volunteer job that I had committed to and I was passionate about. It was a worthwhile ministry and I knew God had called me to have a role in it. It required many hours on the computer several days a week. My children would frequently need me during that time. It was common for me to say over and over, “Just a few more minutes. I’ll be with you in a little bit. Give me 10 more minutes. Later. Later. Later.”  Then, my pastor’s wife showed me that telling them, “Later, later, later,” would eventually result in my kids not coming to me in the future. Why? Because I was teaching them that they were low on my list of priorities. I was teaching them that their need wasn’t as important to me as answering an email or finishing a text and I was shutting them out. She pointed out that my actions toward them at 3 and 4 years old might keep them from coming to me when they are 13 and 14 years old. YIKES! 

As with anything, there needs to be boundaries. Let the Holy Spirit guide you, convict you, teach you. Practice using modern technology with discipline. Learn how to use it for good.  And know when to turn it off.

 

by Paige Eavenson

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to step back in time and see how life was lived before smart phones, iPads and front loading washing machines? A time when women actually hand washed everything from soap they milled themselves? Well if you’re feeling sorry for yourself and all those mounds of laundry you have to tackle, then I recommend a field trip to Cracker Country at the Florida State Fairgrounds in Tampa. Not only is it fun and educational, but it will certainly give you a little perspective.

Dipping candlesCracker Country is not a real “country” but rather a living museum with hands-on stations where you can step back in time into Florida’s history and see what it would have been like to be one of Florida’s first rural settlers. 

The first place we stopped was candle making. My kids helped dip their candles in hot wax followed by dipping them in water to cool and harden the wax. They were able to take their candles home as a souvenir.

We saw how pioneer moms made their own bar soap out of pig fat and lye. They used the soap to wash everything from dishes to laundry.  Washing boardThey first used a wash board with soap and water, and then in more “modern” times they used this plunger looking contraption in a wash basin to wash their clothes.  To put it mildly ladies, we have it made when it comes to doing laundry these days.

The kids experienced a little school in the one room school house followed by recess and playing with wooden toys like a Jacob’s ladder. You can purchase the toys along with several other treats in the Cracker Country General Store.

We closed out our tour by visiting the Carlton House where we learned how the Carlton’s and their 10 children lived and did life without all the modern conveniences we have today.

The kids had a great time and I walked away with a new appreciation for all I have and a huge desire to purge. They didn’t have much back in the early 1900s but there was something beautiful about the simplicity of their lives. If you too would like to step back in time and learn more about Florida’s history visit www.crackercountry.org.

 

by Kim Wiezycki

Don’t all kids have a story they like you to retell? This is my kids’ favorite. It’s what I like to call a “real mom moment.”

When Adam was 2 1/2 and Luke was a newborn, I had this dumb habit of getting Luke’s back-breaking car carrier out first, shutting the door, and walking to the other side of the Jeep to unbuckle Adam and get him out. One glorious, hot, 98-degree, sunny, Florida day I am parked at Publix, where I have shopped for 20 years and know everyone. I do my usual get-carrier-close-door-get toddler routine but this time I gave my toddler my car keys to hold while I get his baby brother. As I walk to Adam’s side of the car, I hear “kachunk!” as my car doors… lock.

Trying to remain calm, I gently tell Adam how to push the ‘big button’ but he thinks it’s funny that I’m talking to him through the window. As I begin to panic, my tone gets more hysterical and he panics and gets hysterical and…throws the keys into the front seat, starts screaming and starts breathing up all the oxygen too fast because I’m convinced he only has 2 minutes worth remaining.

I can see the fire station from where I am standing. Help is seconds away! I have no cell phone so I resort to begging a Publix shopper to call 911 because I am convinced my son will die of heat stroke or suffocate if we don’t open the door NOW! But the fire truck was not coming fast enough for me! So, the kind man, who I am sure still has a scar on his right hand today, busted a window so I could get a door unlocked and rescue my son before I got arrested for neglect. Just as soon as he bloodied up his hand being my hero….enters the fire truck complete with sirens and lights. It was a wonderful spectacle.

And that is my “smart moms don’t give their toddlers the car keys” Public Service Announcement.

 

by Kristin Bonham

I read a book a last year by Anne Jackson that I couldn’t put down.  She had asked the question “What is one thing you feel you can’t say in church?”  Her book, Permission to Speak Freely is the result of the responses she received about everything from struggling with trying to be accepted all the way to addictions and depression.

Anne writes about finally admitting her personal struggles and being willing to talk about them, sharing the trials and victories in her life and the goodness and grace of God that came when she learned to speak freely.  The focus of the book is to help us begin the tough conversations that will ultimately lead us into the healing that God has for us.  She invites her readers to talk about the tough stuff that typically isn’t talked about in church. 

One of the things I love about the book is when she talks about the Gift of Going Second…When you confess or reveal something first, it allows others the freedom to follow, giving a gift that keeps moving forward.  I am a very visual learner so the picture of handing someone a gift when I share my story of pain or shame or struggle really spoke to me.  I know how much better I feel when I finally open up and confess. Sometimes we just need someone to go first! 

In this book, Anne Jackson is careful to point out that she hasn’t figured everything out and she’s still on the journey.  And while I have not experienced everything Anne has been through, I did identify with the shame sin causes in our lives and the risk she took to open up.   I now know that by me being myself, not hiding behind a false perception, I might encourage someone else to speak freely too. 

 

by Becca Christensen

Each of you should give what you have decided in your heart to give, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7

I took Financial Peace University at Grace and I’ve recently finished paying off all my debts except for my home (which is going to take more than a few months of hard work). One of the concepts from Dave Ramsey’s program that I love is that he encourages you to be financially responsible and secure so you can give! I love the idea of giving as a motivation for why we should live below our means and be debt free, and I feel grateful I caught this vision at a fairly young age (26), granting me the blessing of living a generous life for years to come.

When I first determined I wanted the Lord of my life to also be the Lord of my finances, it was a rocky start. Picture my 24-year-old self in DSW saying prayers that went a little something like this, “Dear God, I know that I’ve been called to give my first and my best to you…but if I’m being really honest here, I’d like to spend your share of my, I mean your money, on these shiny red BCBG heels. I can think of at least ten outfits I could wear with them…But, I’m not going to, so you’re going to have to help me stick with this resolve. Oh, and I’m sorry that I’d rather buy shoes than give to your church. I know that’s a pretty crummy way to show my gratitude for all you’ve given me. But, I’m trying here, I promise.”

I have thought hundreds of times of all the “fun” things I could do with the percent of money I give back to the church. Selfish, shallow, non-kingdom promoting things that I would love and enjoy. Clearly, Satan knows I have a weakness for retail. Have you ever had the urge to “borrow” money from your tithe for “good things?” If so, you will find no judgment here. I’ve internally debated using my tithe on everything from goodies for my bible study to buying a non-Christian’s lunch because that’s working towards witnessing, right? 

I’ve figured out the root of this issue in my own life centers on my need to be in control. I am a control freak, through and through. For many years I believed only I knew how best to spend my money, so I kept control over it. But now I know I serve the God who created the universe as well as me, which should give me more than enough confidence to take a hands-off approach to how He handles and uses the money I give back. So why do I struggle?

I share this with you to encourage you that you’re not alone. But I also want you to be encouraged that the Lord does answer prayers. Throughout this experience, I’ve prayed that as I grew closer to being debt free that I wouldn’t just tithe and give a few offerings, but that I would look for opportunities to live generously. Ultimately, I want the Lord to change my heart and give me the desire to give even if it means going without something I want to meet someone else’s need.

It’s with great excitement that I say that God has been chipping away at my heart and has renewed my energy to live both generously and at times even sacrificially. God is good. I have continued to see the Lord’s provision in my own life and He has blessed me through the giving experience. I know the Lord is only beginning what will be a process (since I still want a new pair of shoes with every paycheck), but as I give my tithe faithfully, I know the Lord is hearing my heart and changing the desires of it.

If you are looking for God’s freedom in your finances, consider attending the Financial Freedom One Day workshop on Saturday, Oct. 22. The cost is $15. Click here to register.