FOMO, Friendship, and Facebook

I am one of those people who was FOMO before that was a thing. Like, early on in our marriage, Robbie and I would be driving down a street and we’d pass a house where there was clearly a party in progress.

“Just look at all those cars,” I’d say. “Slow down. Look at the lights in the windows…”

Robbie rarely looked. Or slowed down. He usually kept driving, while I craned my neck. And then, as the house slipped out of view, I would lean back in my seat.

“I wish we’d been invited.”

“Jodie,” Robbie would reply, drawing my name out the way you do when you are trying to explain something to a particularly low-wattage person, “We don’t know the people who live there.”

“I know,” I’d sigh. “But we could meet them. And I am pretty sure that they’d like us.”

I want to be liked.

By everybody.

Last week, for instance, I went to the grocery store, and the checkout gal was not very nice. I gave her my best “Hey there!” smile, but it was obvious that she did not want me in her line. The only thing she wanted was to scan my Klondike Bars and get me out of there.

“I bet you’re not gonna go back there anytime soon,” a friend laughed, when I told her about the experience.

“Are you kidding?” I countered. “I’m going back there tomorrow! I’m gonna get back in her line every day, until we are friends!”

All of this is to say that you would THINK I would have been the first person on Facebook, back when Mark Zuckerberg brought it out of his basement or whatever. Say what you will about the social behemoth; it is clearly a place to find friends. In fact, I did a video series about friendship a few years ago, and I found a website where you could even buy friends. For $200, you could get 1000 of them. Seriously. And these were real people—people who would actually follow you and post comments about your life.

(What’s not to love?)

You would think I’d be all about Facebook…but you would be wrong. Maybe it’s the idea of buying friends that was kind of a turn off. Maybe it’s the whole “look at me” thing. Maybe it’s that I’d read all these studies showing how people actually get depressed after looking at Facebook, since their friends are laughing and drinking and dancing in Paris or wherever, while they’re sitting home watching Netflix. As one of the founders of FOMO, I knew I’d be taking a risk.

Or maybe my Facebook aversion has more somber roots. Maybe it’s that I was brought up in a highly evangelical Christian home where we were warned, from our earliest years, to avoid “the mark of the beast.” Nobody ever explained what the mark actually was, but anything that had the power to lure billions of people and capture what felt like their every waking moment certainly, I thought, had potential. There was a reason they called it “The Web.”

(And when Robbie reads this blog he will tell me that Facebook is not the same thing as the Web. And I will say, “That’s what They want you to think.”)

Anyhow.

Change happens. And in my case, change happened when the marketing team that HarperCollins hired to help promote my new book (Praying the Scriptures for Your Adult Children releases in just a few weeks!) discovered that I was not yet on Facebook.

“Jodie,” they said (again, speaking slowly), “You need an account. Facebook is where your readers are.”

“My readers?”

“Yes. All of the demographics agree. Facebook is where the older women hang out.”

Ahhh, yes. The older women. My people.

And so, despite the potential for depression and my fear of the beast and all that, I jumped in. The marketing folks (who, if you need marketing folks, are actually amazing; you can find them at C. Grant and Company) designed a big, beautiful page and then set up my training.

(Seriously, y’all. I had Facebook training. Over the phone. And, about 20 minutes into the first session, Robbie—who was in the other room listening to me try to upload a photo, while the poor C. Grant person tried to coach me through the process—finally decided he couldn’t take it anymore. “Do I need to come in there?” he yelled, loud enough for the marketing lady to hear. #Marriage.)

I finally got the hang of it—at least enough to log in—and I put my account into the Facebook search bar: Jodie Berndt Writes.

And here’s what came up:

Can you imagine? It’s like the entire Internet was looking at me, saying:  You have no friends.

Not knowing what else to do (I didn’t want to ask the marketing gal how I could find friends; there is only so much stupid one person can take), I did what all of the other old ladies do.

I reached out to my kids.

(You can’t like regular people? Lord, help us.)

Anyhow.

I don’t really know what I am doing. But if you are already on Facebook, you probably do. And if so, will you like me? Or follow me? Or maybe even share my page with any geriatric people you know? I hope if you click here it will take you to the right page; here’s what it looks like:

I think the C. Grant folks did a great job. And honestly? I feel like I did when my Dad gave me that really nice tennis racquet for Christmas one year. He was a good tennis player, and that present made him so happy.

I wanted to be happy, too. I just needed to figure out how to use the darn thing. And I’ll figure Facebook out, too. It might take me awhile (tennis sure did), but I’ll get there.

And in the meantime, I will be going back to the grocery store, trying to find my cashier. I don’t care if she doesn’t like me. Because Jesus, the best friend a gal could ever hope to have, never said anything about “likes.” He talked about love, the kind that is patient, forgiving, and faithful. The kind that puts other folks first. The kind that would do anything – anything – to show someone how much she is loved.

So here’s the plan. I’m gonna load up on the Klondikes, put on my very best “Let’s be friends” face, and go show that lady who loves her.

❤️ 🙋

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Sharp Dressed Man

Once upon a time, when my man put on his wetsuit, it meant there were waves. And his Bean boots? A sure sign there were ducks.

Now, though, these wardrobe staples are more apt to mean there is mildew.

I keep trying to tell Robbie that pressure washing is kind of a sport. He’s less than convinced.

(And he did not really want to smile for this pic, which only makes me love him even more.)

The bad news is that I snapped this photo right after the pressure washer blew up. The good news (at least for me) is that seeing Robbie out there reminded me of a post I wrote two years ago and, since I am on the road this week, you’re getting a rerun. Hope that’s okay – and that you’ll read this and still know how much you are loved!

Pressure Washed Love

Hillary’s wedding is just two months away, and with an at-home reception, you can imagine the Honey-Do list Robbie wakes up to most weekends.  Some of it, though, he thinks up all by himself.

Like pressure washing the dock.

Untitled design (6)Now, I don’t generally like things that look all perfect and new, so this is not a project I would have encouraged. But when Robbie tactfully observed that we’d passed “vintage chic” a few years back and were now headed into the “slip-n-slide” stage of outdoor decorating, I saw his point. Weddings have enough natural pitfalls without sending Grandma and her wine glass into the bay, midway through the party.

While I mulled that one over, Robbie suited up in his duck boots, his hat, and his SPF shirt and headed out to the garage.  I’d always thought pressure washing was basically a grown up version of playing in the sprinkler, and I wondered why he needed all the gear. It was a warm and sunny day; why not do it barefoot?

“If this water cuts across your toes,” he explained, “it’ll saw ’em right off.”

Okay then.

If you’ve read Gary Chapman’s book about Love Languages, you’ll know what I mean when I say that Acts of Service is tops on my list, and when my man came back in the house after a couple of hours – absolutely filthy and only half-way  finished – I thought he was awesome. He was also exhausted, and so when he went off to work on Monday morning I went out to the dock, thinking I’d surprise him and finish the job.

Yeah, so pressure washing is harder than it looks.

Just starting the machine (which involves one of those ghastly pull cords designed to make men feel manly) was challenging enough, but if you’ve never pulled the trigger on one of those things, well. It took every ounce of my fourth-grade gymnastics training not to fall overboard from the kick.

Eventually, though, I got the hang of it, and I managed to do another mile or two of boards. There was no way I could finish before sunset, though, and my spirits sagged. Knowing that Acts of Service is not Robbie’s love language, but wanting to send the message anyway, I decided to try Words of Encouragement:

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Now, if pressure washing a dock is hard, let me assure you that pressure washing a sentence is harder. I tried block letters first, but that involved stopping and starting the nozzle-gun, and the kick got me every time. So I resorted to cursive, which I hear is no longer being taught in schools. Which is a real tragedy, given how had it is to pressure wash “I love you” in print.

On the plus side, the nice thing about pressure washing is that, once you have a good grip (and you stop getting tangled up in the hose), you have a lot of time to think.  And as I watched the boards go from slimy to clean, I thought about Jesus.  I thought about how he pretty much pressure washed our whole lives through his work on the cross. I thought about how his arms must have hurt, even more than mine did, as he hung there. And I thought how cool it was that he could do the job once and for all and say, “It is finished,” without having to suit up again the next weekend.

Most of all I thought about how, in that once and forever act of service, he wrote “I love you” on our hearts.

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“Stealing” Pansies

Last week, a friend summed up the reason for Las Vegas (and pretty much every other awful thing). “These things happen,” she said, “because the world is evil. And until people recognize that–until they realize that the only answer is Jesus–they will never know peace.”

I had to agree. I was less worked up than my friend (we’d been running, and she was pretty sweaty about it), but I realized that she was completely and totally right. Nobody is good. “We all,” Isaiah 53:6 says, “have gone astray.” And we’d all be doomed, except for the second part of that verse: “…and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”

Which brings me, in a roundabout sort of way, to Garden Club.

Which is, I realize, an unusual, and possibly inappropriate, segue. But I promised to tell you about the Pansy Sale. And I think it kind of fits, here.

If you’ve ever been in a garden club, you know it’s the sort of group that attracts Very Capable women. Women who get things done. Women who, had they been aboard the Titanic, would have had duct tape stashed in their purse.

The Virginia Beach Garden Club has about 60 of these gals. And every year, we put on our aprons and get together to raise a boatload of money for veterans’ gardens, children’s hospital spaces, environmental education and conservation efforts, and all manner of community beautification projects.

It’s pretty good stuff. And, generally speaking, people are happy.

Except when they aren’t.

Which happens, sometimes. Like when a customer orders Delta True Blue pansies and decides, when she comes to pick them up, that she really wants Delta Blue with Blotch. (We let her switch.)

Or when someone who is not “authorized” tries to put her hands in the order form box. That’s not cool.

Or (and honestly, this is the stuff of garden club nightmares) when we run out of flowers.

Which is what happened this year.

Due to an accounting error (which would, ah, be mine), we came up ten flats short. Of Delta Pure Orange. Which, in case you don’t know, is a great-looking pansy:

We had customers waiting to pick up their orders – their orders of Delta Pure Orange – but we had run out. There was not an orange blossom in sight. Fortunately, I remembered seeing ten flats of the coveted flower outside of the sale, in the place where we’d stashed 115 flats for the City to plant.

(And if you think you are bored right now, please. I lived this.)

“Come on,” I said to my co-chair, Latané. “Let’s grab those orange pansies outside.”

And we did. We grabbed a giant metal rack, dashed out to the parking lot, and loaded ‘er up. We thought we were safe. But no. Somebody’s husband was watching. It was just like I used to tell my kids, when I’d quote Numbers 32:23. “You may be sure your sin will find you out.”

The guy texted his wife:

 

(It’s true. Garden club is a dirty business.)

The thing is, though, I was not, technically, stealing the pansies. I had a plan to replace them. And I was just about to get on the phone to our supplier to order up ten more flats of Delta Pure Orange when I heard a commotion on the other side of the pansy cart. I poked my head around the flowers just in time to see the guy from the City rip into my friend Dee (who, in addition to being a long-time member of the Garden Club, also happens to be the subject of our book The Undertaker’s Wife).

Dee, having spent half her life in the funeral business and all, ain’t scared of much. Normally, she has an answer for everything. But as she stood there, getting positively clobbered by a very big man who’d been robbed of his pansies, I could see she was shaken.

“I–” she began. “I don’t know anything about your missing pansies.”

Dee’s profession of innocence did nothing to curb the man’s ire. He went on. “I want my pansies! I want the pansies I ordered! None of this funny business, okay?”

(He actually said that. He actually said “funny business.”)

Now, at this point you are probably wondering why I did not step in to rescue my friend. I was about to, but you know how sometimes things unfold in slow motion? Yeah. All I could think, as I watched the assault, was how much Dee was looking like Jesus. She had done nothing wrong (and she is, in fact, a garden club member in very good standing) and yet here she was, paying the price for my sin.

It was like watching the entire gospel message unfold in less than 30 seconds. I was smitten.

You’ll be glad to know that I finally stepped in, calmed the guy down, and got his flowers replaced. Pansy crisis, averted.

But the whole thing got me thinking. Nobody stepped in for Jesus. He absorbed all of our sin, every last bit, so that we could be free. And he did it so that our hearts (which are so naturally bad) would have the chance to be good.

And in that act, he gave us the answer for evil. The only answer. And every single time somebody turns toward him, the darkness gets pushed a little more back.

Evil will lose, eventually. “No longer,” it says in Revelation 22:3, “will there be any curse.” And in the meantime, we can take heart. As in, literally.

As in, we can take God up on his offer to get rid of our old yucky heart (the one that leads us astray) and replace it with the heart he designed. Cuz that’s been his plan, from the start: “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ezekiel 36:26)

Swapping True Blue pansies for Blue with Blotch won’t change anyone’s life. It won’t push back the darkness, or deliver us from evil.

But swapping your heart out for God’s most certainly will.

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When You Can’t See God’s Hand…

I wanted to write a funny blog this week. I really did. I feel like I could use a good chuckle.

And with it being the Fall Flower Festival week at the Garden Club, it’s not like I don’t have the material. You try locking 70 women in a giant convention hall for two days and asking them to hawk 56,387 pounds of pansies to their family and friends, and see if you don’t roll on the floor at some point. Stephen Colbert, eat your heart out.

Honestly, though? The pansy story will keep. Cuz right now I’m not feeling that funny. The planet is reeling from earthquakes and hurricanes. A friend’s sister lost her new baby this week. And now we have Vegas. I just cannot imagine.

The FBI, according to news reports, is still seeking a motive. Which is ironic, in a way, because so am I.

I know God is good. And I know he is powerful. And when stuff like this happens, I find myself saying, “God, what on earth were you thinking?”

I feel like I’d feel better if I could just see God’s hand, if he just clued me in or reassured me somehow, the way that I whispered to my young daughters in the movie theater during Beauty and the Beast when the wolves came out and surrounded Belle’s father. “Don’t be scared,” I remember saying. “Just wait. I will all be okay.”

Sometimes, though, God keeps his cards close to his vest. And so, instead of grasping his plan, I’m left taking my friend Michelle’s advice, honed during a time when her own faith was tested:

“You can’t always see God’s hand,” she says. “But you can trust his heart.”

Wise counsel. Because we can trust God’s heart. And we can be confident that he is totally, unreservedly for us. In fact, if the only Bible verse we ever heard was John 3:16, that would be enough. God  loved us so much that he gave his son’s life.

(Which is another thing that, being a mom, I cannot begin to imagine.)

I do trust God’s heart. I really do. But if you’re like me, and you want to “figure God out” (which Virginia always says I can’t do), you’ll love something I read this past week. It’s from Isaiah 66, a passage that talks about God’s ultimate plan:

“As a mother comforts her child,” God says in verse 13, “so I will comfort you.”

And then:

“When you see this, your hearts will rejoice and you will flourish like grass; the hand of the Lord will be made known to his servants.”

The hand of the Lord will be made known to his servants. If there is a more hope-filled promise for “figure it out” gals like me, I’ve not yet found it. Just knowing that one day it will all add up and make sense is enough to keep me going, for now.

In the meantime, I will rely on God’s comfort. And if that’s what you want too, here’s one way we can pray:

Heavenly Father,

Send your Holy Spirit, who is called the Comforter, to remind us of your love and give us your peace. Do not let our hearts be troubled, and keep us from being afraid. (John 14:26-27)

And Lord, in your perfect timing, we ask that you would switch things up. Give us a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. (Isaiah 61:3)

Help us, during those times when we cannot see your hand, to trust your heart.

Amen.

 

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