Two Faces of Social Networking

image via blog.hudsonhorizons.com

I was one of those people. . .who said they’d never sign up for Facebook or Twitter. . .who said if I did, I wouldn’t get hooked and spend hours of time pouring over my friends’ entries. . .I was wrong.

I thought I would be the classic lurker, coming out only occasionally to say what I thought. By nature, I am normally kind of introverted and am not really sure if what I have to say is worthwhile.

But these sites have proven to me that I am more of a social creature than I thought.

So many of my “friends” are brothers and sisters in Christ, either from my present local body of believers or from past churches where we’ve served. Others are friends from the long past who now serve God where God’s placed them. It has been refreshing—no, a kick—to see where God has taken people, what God is doing through these folks. Their stories have built my faith to a higher level and made me grateful for our God who hears and answers us!

Not only that, but I have met new believers from around the globe. . I am not a world traveler or important person. . . yet I get to glimpse into the hearts of other believers, find out about their struggles and victories in the faith.

Yet, as with all things that humans create, social networking has its downsides, too. . .I hate to admit it, but I struggle at times with not so much the things that are written there, but the things that aren’t.

Like, What did she really “mean” by that?. . . Why doesn’t he ever comment on something I post?. . .  Lord, WHERE ARE ALL MY FRIENDS?!?

It’s enough to drive one over the edge & I think that’s just what the enemy would like. So, I step away from the paranoia and wrong thinking, for a while, while the Lord does some renewing of my heart and mind where it should be. . . .I want to be an encourager in Christ’s kingdom, not a detriment to it.

This year, I am establishing new boundaries. . .I will try (!) to limit myself to specific times of the day to the sites. . .at lunchtime while I’m taking a break anyway, I can read and eat at the same time. . .then in the evening for a quick look to see any updates, then I’ll shut it down to pursue other evening activities.

It’s easy to drive yourself crazy with this kind of stuff, though. . . Have you ever found yourself on both sides of the Facebook Fence? In a Twitter Tussle? Know you’re not alone. . . .

Lookin’ up,

Sislyn

Conchita

“How can they believe in Him if they’ve not heard His message?  How can they hear if no one tells [the Good News]?” Romans 10:14

The tinkle of a bell greeted Lindy Mitchell as she entered the boutique, “The Painted Snail,” and closed the door behind her.  Bright displays of housewares on shelves and airy clothing on racks beckoned.  Her fingers itched to hold, to touch, to examine.

She did have that birthday gift for Sommer’s birthday she needed to buy before next week.  Maybe when she finished, she could browse around, find something a nine-year-old girl would love to have.

She breathed in. Coffee was brewing.  Very strong, aromatic coffee.

The owner of the store appeared from the back of the shop. “Hello, Lindy.”

“Hope I’m not too late.”  Lindy removed her backpack.

Conchita Alvarez, whom Julia Peters introduced her to not long after moving to Hope Springs, smiled, accentuating the laugh lines around her brown eyes.  “Not at all.  How’s Julia?  I haven’t talked to her lately.”

“Julia?  She’s fine. Getting geared up for a new Bible women’s Bible study at Beal Street.”

“Sounds like Julia.  Always busy with the Lord’s work.  Let’s go back here.” The sixty-something woman moved with grace amongst the aisles, and Lindy found herself at an iron table and chairs tucked into a corner. “I thought we’d talk better here. Would you like some coffee?  I’ve got Cuban coffee in the back.”

You’d never know the woman was born in a foreign country, Lindy marveled.  Her English was flawless.  “I’d love some.”

“Do you want cream?  Sugar?”

“Yes to both, please.”

“Be right back.”

Lindy took out a pad and pen.  When she visited the Painted Snail, it was like she’d stepped into another world.  One where conga music pulsed in the background, where blue water lapped along white-sand beaches.  A place where banana, guava, and mango trees grew tall along the roadsides, where tropical flavors and colors meshed into the fabric of everyday life.

Conchita set two small cups of caramel-colored liquid before them.  Lindy picked hers up.  “Umm. This is really good.”

“It’s café con leche.  Cuban coffee with boiled milk and sugar.  I’ve been drinking it since I was knee-high.”

“Conchita, thanks again for agreeing to this interview.  When I got my assignment to do a piece on the fiftieth anniversary of the Cuban exile, I knew you were the person I needed to talk to.”

“My pleasure.”  Her head lifted, and the silver threaded amongst the dark curls glistened.  “And you must promise to call me Connie—like my family and friends do.  Now, what it is you would you like to know?”

Lindy consulted her pad.  “How old were you when you came to America, and what was the exile like?”

“My father, in Cuba, was what you call a self-made man.  He owned several pieces of real estate and rented his buildings to various businesses.  He was a very strict, very quiet man.  He made sure we were educated in the best schools, and he always paid attention to my grades.  I was thirteen years old when we left.  You were allowed to leave Cuba with only a restricted amount of personal goods, which had already been inventoried by the government by the time you applied and got your papers.  My mother actually came with her wedding rings hidden under her tongue, and I had an extra $10.00 inside my one of my socks.  This was a very dangerous thing to do, considering if you were caught, you would be detained and not allowed to exit.”

“What do you remember upon entering the United States?”

“I remember getting off the plane in Miami, where some of our extended family had relocated.  Everything about America was strange—the language, the food, the music.  Our family got my parents jobs, took us in and let us live with them for a while.  I remember going to school and feeling very lost and lonely in the beginning.  We were the ones with ironed skirts, white blouses, and hair ribbons, the school outfits we’d worn to school in Cuba, and we stuck out here like sore thumbs.  Eventually though, little by little I  became accustomed to the American food, the American way of life, even the American way teenagers talked to their parents.  This was very different than my original upbringing where you didn’t dare disagree with an adult.”

“How do you see yourself now?  Do you ever  think of yourself as an exile?”

“No, not really.  I am Cuban-American.  But I chose to become a U.S. citizen because the United States became my home.  The old people, like my mother, if you talk to them, they still murmur of returning to Cuba when Castro is gone.  To them, I think they consider themselves exiles here and are still deep in their hearts, fully Cuban.”

“Your mother is still living?”

Si, she lives with me and my family.  She will be ninety-five on her next birthday.   She is a precious old saint of God.  I’ll have to introduce you to her sometime.”

The phone interrupted.  “If you’ll excuse me.”  She went to a telephone located near the register.  “The Painted Snail. May I help you?”

Inside her head, Lindy heard a familiar Voice.  Invite her, Lindy.

To what, Lord?

To the Bible study.

Lindy stared at the ceiling.  Lord, you want me to ask her to the Bible study at Beal Street? I don’t even know what church she attends.  Why would she consider a study at our church?

 Just ask her.

She could choose to obey, or not to.  As she watched Connie talk animatedly on the phone, Lindy tried to see her as Jesus would.  An older, successful businesswoman certainly, but also one who might desire a deeper walk with Him.

By the time Connie hung up, Lindy had screwed up her courage.  Connie stood behind her chair, her eyes bright.  “Is there anything else I can tell you for your story?”

“That’s about it.  You’ve given me lots of good stuff, thank you so much.  This was great.”

“No, thank you for giving me the opportunity to share my story.  Not many people remember what Cuban-Americans went through back then, especially the young people.” She laid a hand on Lindy’s arm.  “I don’t include you in that group, Lindy.  It’s just that most don’t understand what a turbulent time it was, unless we remind them. History tends to repeat itself.  Your article is a good chance to do that.”

“If you’ll excuse me again,” Connie continued, “I’ve got a few things to unpack in the workroom before I open shop.”

“Connie, do you mind if look around?  I wanted to buy a gift for my niece’s birthday—“

She smiled.  “Help yourself.  I’ll be back there if you need me.”  She exited through a door and was gone.

Lindy could’ve kicked herself.  Why didn’t you ask her when you had the chance? She looked up.  I know Lord, I blew it.

She hated to bother Connie so soon.  Instead she let her fingers caress the colorful glassware, linens, and unique items in the boutique.  She let the breezy fabrics of the long skirts spill over her forearm, admiring their cheerful colors.  Next she wandered to the jewelry display, where she found a pair of sparkly crystal earrings, not too grown-up and not too expensive, that she knew Sommer would love.

She browsed a bit further.  She came across a ceramic rooster, hand-painted in her kitchen colors, his proud neck bowed, his beak open in a crow.  She turned the piece over.  In her price range too.  With the money she’d been paid for a recent article, she could afford a little whimsy.  It would look awesome in her kitchen, lend it a bit of a tropical flair.

She took her purchases to beaded door and knocked on the frame.  “Connie, I’m ready.  Can you ring me up?”

“Come on back.  I’ll be with you in a second.”

Lindy went through to an immaculate storeroom, each shelf packed and organized.  Connie was opening one large box on a butcher-block island in the middle of the room, box-cutter in hand.  She pulled out a few fluttery tops in bright colors, glanced at their labels, wrote something down on a clipboard.

Ask her, Lindy.

Connie looked up.  “Here, let me get those for you.”

Ask her.

 Lindy held up a hand.  “Wait, Connie.  Before you do that, I have something to ask you.”

The brown eyes widened.  “Yes?”

She gulped.  Her words rushed forth in a torrent. “You know the Bible study I mentioned?   The one Julia’s starting?  It will be focusing on women’s roles inside and outside the home as it says in Titus 2 and other biblical passages .  The older women have a lot of godly insights to share with younger women, and in turn, we might have a few things we can share too.  Anyway, I wanted to know if you’d consider coming, that’s all.”

Connie’s face twitched and she blinked, once.

Great, Lord, I hope she’s not offended.  She might have things going on at her own church.

The corners of Connie’s mouth went down, bounced up.  “When is it?”

“It’s all on this flyer.”  Lindy set her items on the island, pulled a folded paper from the backpack.  “As you can see, all the information is right there.  I hope you can make it.”

Connie studied the flyer, her eyes roaming the document.  “Well, I’ll have to see.  Perhaps Pilar can come in early that day and open the shop for me.”

Lindy grinned, her heart slowing to its normal pace.  Thank You, Lord.

 “May I keep this?” Connie asked.

“Sure.” Connie carefully shelved the paper in a ledger, held out a hand.  “Now, let’s go ring you up.  Ah, I see you’ve found el gallo de bodas, a very good choice.”

Lindy tried to make her lips cooperate.  “El gallo. . .”

El gallo de bodas,” said Connie.  “It means ‘the bossy rooster,’ just like the Cuban children’s story my mother told me many times over.”

Lindy leaned across the counter.  “Never heard it.  How does it go?

Connie pantomimed. “Un gallilito is on his way to a wedding.  When he gets his beak dirty from eating corn he finds in a mud puddle, he demands everyone he passes to clean his beak.  They each in turn refuse to help.  He makes one last plea to el Sol, the sun, up in the sky.  The sun makes those who once refused, to help un gallito.  The happy rooster then proceeds to his uncle’s wedding on time.”

“And I suppose the moral of the story is. . .‘Don’t expect cooperation from the people that you boss around?’”

Connie laughed and took the earrings from Lindy.  “Si—that, and ‘It pays to have friends in high places.’”

While Lindy waited to pay, she peered out the window, up into the cloudless blue sky.

It does pay to have One Friend—she thought–in the Highest Place of all.   

Suzette

“The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.” Ps. 18:2

Lindy Mitchell scanned the fellowship hall amidst the crowd.  Nice decorations, she thought, fingering pieces of “Happy Birthday!” confetti strewn across a table.  Blue and white streamers swagged to the lights.  Shiny helium balloons tugged on their ribbons.

Two Beal Street Church deacons came in, parting the crowd like Moses at the Red Sea.  The blindfolded man they escorted, still looking dignified in the navy suit and tie he’d worn that day to preach in, was none other than Bill Peters, senior pastor at Beal Street.  The men carefully sat the pastor down in a chair at one of the paper-covered tables.

Which was Lindy’s husband Mace’s cue to thunder, “All right, Suzette!  You’re on!”

Suzette Tambeau, her wiry hair and brown skin set off by a coral cotton top, edged backwards through the kitchen door. In her hands tiered an enormous chocolate cake. Everyone in the room held their breath.  Instead of the usual candles, lit sparklers graced the top.  It was nothing short of a miniature fireworks display.

Suzette set the dessert down.  The blindfold was removed, and Bill Peters audibly gasped.  She flashed a white smile.  “For Brother Bill,” she said, “and may God give you many more.”

Suzette began to sing, joined in by the rest of the congregation.  Her alto shimmered in fluid vocal runs, the words falling like gentle rain:

Happy birthday to you—

 Happy birthday to you—

Happy birthday, Brother Bill—

Happy birthday, to you.”

Suzette gave the older man a hug, and the place erupted with cheers.  Julia Peters hugged her husband as well.

“My goodness!”  Brother Bill said. “Suzette, don’t tell me this is your wonderful Doberge cake!  Oh, somebody find me a fork,” he hollered, “and do it quick!”  There was an appreciative ripple of laughter.

Suzette removed the defunct sparklers and handed him a cake server.  “Since it’s your birthday,” she said,  “you can cut the cake, you.”

“Pastor gets first piece,” somebody in the crowd yelled.

“You better believe I’m getting the first piece,” he said.  The crowd tittered.

He sliced into the frosting and stopped.  He sawed harder, stopped.  He tried once more, really leaning into it, without success.  Other than a huge divot of displaced chocolate icing, the cake was still intact.

Brother Bill’s mouth gaped in disbelief, he closed it.  He opened it again, closed it.

“Hey y’all, for once I think Brother Bill’s speechless,” a church member piped up.

“God says in Ecclesiastes there is a time for everything,” said someone else.  Everyone laughed.

Suzette stepped in.  “Here, cher, let me show you somet’ing.”  Lindy noted Suzette’s “cher” came out with a Louisianan flare, pronouncing it like the “sha” in “shack.”

Cake server in hand, Suzette proceeded to bulldoze the chocolate icing from the cake’s top.  Brother Bill groaned.  “No worries, no worries,” she said, patting his shoulder.  “But Pastor, you couldn’t eat this here cake, even if you wanted to.”

She took Brother Bill’s index finger, punched it deep into the exposed layers.  His eyes widened in recognition.  “Hey, it’s foam rubber,” he said.  “Suzette—you made me a fake cake!”

Suzette grinned a devilish smile.  “I did, sir, I did.”  She nodded to the kitchen.  “The real one’s in there, so don’t nobody go nowheres.  I’ll bring it out, and then we have some real goooooo-oddd cake!”

The church family broke out in claps and whistles.  Men standing near Brother Bill slapped him on the back.  Some even stepped up to take a poke at the cake themselves. Happy sounds filled the room.

Suzette headed towards the kitchen, with Lindy close behind.

Suzette Tambeau sang in Mace’s adult choir, was one of the church’s most talented singers, though Lindy barely knew her.  They were relegated to opposite ends of the choir loft, with Lindy barely managing a decent soprano and Suzette commanding the entire alto section.

Lindy cautiously approached.  The plump young woman was bent over the real thing, busy at work.

Lindy cleared her throat. “Suzette, you need any help?”

Suzette whirred around, the knife coated in sticky glaze and cake crumbs.  Her dark eyes took Lindy in, and she grinned.  “Cher, I never turn down help, you’ll find that out tout suite.”  She motioned to a stack of paper plates.  “You hand me some of them plates there, put the pieces on that big tray, take them out for me, okay?”

Lindy hustled the full tray out.  Each piece was claimed quickly, and Lindy returned for more.

Lindy licked frosting off her pinkie as she watched the woman’s practiced hands move in a blur.  Suzette began cutting yet a second similar cake, sliding the pieces onto the tray.

“So while we here, Mrs. Mace,” Suzette said, “tell me ‘bout you.”

“Me?”

“Yes, you.”

“There’s not much to tell,” Lindy said, rearranging a few plates.

“Go on, you. Tell me anyway.”

“Let me take this out first.”  Lindy took the cake out, quickly emptying her tray again.

Suzette continued in the kitchen in the meantime, although the chatter had now dried up.  She’s waiting, Lindy realized.

She started by telling Suzette how,  after she and Mace had married and opened up Maces’ lifelong dream, a sporting goods store,  God ended up calling Mace into the ministry.  So they trusted God, sold the store, packed off to seminary for two years.  When the position at Beal Street Church became available after Mace’s  graduation, they felt God calling them there to serve.

Suzette snuck a look Lindy’s way.  “You how old?”

“Twenty-six.”

Suzette lifted her chin, pushed out her lips. “What you do all day, Mrs. Mace?”

“I write.”

“You write, huh?  What you write?”

“All kinds of things, mostly articles for magazines.  I get an assignment, I research it, then I write it.”

“You like that?”

Lindy squinted.  “Yeah, I do. My degree’s in elementary education, but a friend got me started in freelance writing.  It’s worked out great because I can control my hours, write when I want to.”

“I tell you now, that’s why I make cakes and clean houses.  I can do it when I need to, so I can be there for my kids.  Ain’t nothin’ more important than that,  ‘specially if you doing it by yourself.”  She sighed.  “But I don’t want to clean and bake forever.  I got plans, big plans, you know what I’m saying, cher?  One of these days, I tell you, I won’t be doing that no more.”

Ambitious lady.  Lindy watched her another moment and knew she’d get there, without a doubt.

Lindy nodded to a small sliver of cake, fallen to the side.  “You mind if I take this one off your hands? I’m dying for a piece.”

“Go ahead, Mrs. Mace.  Tell me what you t’ink.”

Moist, thin layers of chocolatety goodness filled her mouth, accented with secondary notes of  a full-bodied semisweet frosting.  Then another explosion, this time from the chocolate custard cream oozing out between layers, hit her.  What a heavenly dessert!  She ate it all, licked up every crumb.  “Suzette, that’s the best chocolate cake I’ve ever had.  No joke.”

“It is good, that cake.   I make it the way my grand-mere show me.  She worked in a bakery in New Orleans called Gambino’s where they come up with the recipe.”

“Well, it’s gooo-oooddd, as you say.”  Lindy grinned.

A girl, her hair neatly cornrowed and clipped in purple barrettes, ran into the kitchen.  She crossed her arms over her chest. “Mama, Devaun’s making fun of me!  He’s calling me a baby around the other kids.”

Suzette waved the knife.  “Lindy, this is my Portia.  Portia, this is Miss Lindy. Say ‘hi.’”

“Hi,” the child said.

Lindy smiled.  “Hi, Portia.”

Suzette put a hand on her hip. “You go tell your brother I said he needs to stop doing that.”

“I did, Mama, but he won’t listen.” Tears threatened.  “Devaun just won’t listen to me.”

“Brothers can be like that,” Lindy said.  “I know.  I have an older one too.”

Suzette finished off the second cake, rinsed her hands in the sink, pushed Portia toward the door.  “Then we just go find Mr. Devaun and tell him what’s what.  You not a bebe; you six years old, last time I looked.  Too old to wear diapers and too old for a pacifier.  Not a bebe at all.”  She looked at Lindy.  “Will you excuse us?”

Suzette stopped on her way out.  “I’m glad I know Mrs. Mace better now.  See you in choir, cher.”  She pointed.  “And keep it real, okay?”