Saturday, February 2, 2019

Groundhog Greetings! News from the Frues 2019

Happy Groundhog Day! Considering that we no longer live in the Polar Vortex and we have to worry more about mosquito bites than frostbite, the BBQ smoker has been working all night long on brisket and pulled pork, and when everything is smokin' hot, the neighbors are moseying over for a backyard barbecue to celebrate our favorite holiday! So while we get our grub on, I hope you enjoy our Groundhog Greetings!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Groundhog Greetings 2018!

It's been unusually cold 'round here lately, therefore much like a groundhog's shuffle out of his home to sense perhaps a sign of spring, today I emerged to deliver our annual letter to our neighbors with an appreciative deep breath of the fresh mid-seventies Florida air. For those of you who shoveled snow to exit their home today, I send warm hugs and our little letter here to perhaps warm your heart. Happy Groundhog Day!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Happy Groundhog Day 2017!

I'll be honest: the fate of Punxatawney Phil's winter prediction bears much less weight this year, considering my need to apply sunscreen today in sunny Florida! But that doesn't change our appreciation for our beloved groundhog and the News from the Frues that he delivers each year to our dear family and friends! Enjoy the update: a lot has changed but God's loving care for our family certainly hasn't!

(click on photo to zoom newsletter)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Groundhoggity Day 2016!

The forecasters have been bracing us for a Groundhog Day Snowstorm...apparently these happen every so often.  I'm not sure how I'll deliver our annual family newsletter to our neighbors today without my sled and dog team, so I'll post it online and call it done ;) I hope you have a snuggly warm Groundhog Day--here's some reading material while you wait for the snow plows to pass through!

Oh and hey, I had the terrifying joy of standing at a microphone to Air My Dirty Laundry with some women at Bethlehem Baptist Church and believe me, my anxiety level approaching that pulpit could have been measured in Richters. I shared with them what I originally blogged here in August (see above link), but if you'd like to listen to my voice crack, here is the link to the audio from, thanks BBC.  And here is an edited-for-sound link, thanks Tony.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Had a little help from my friends...

For those of you who have patiently endured the thoughts on my exodus from Facebook, my continual struggle with distractions and it's relation to grumpiness, etc., and the revelations I've had on how I don't have to be this fool anymore (amen and hallelujah), I want to give you a few resources that have shaped my thoughts and prayers over the last couple of years and increasingly over the last several months.  These are only links because I can't share my husband and friends who (thank the good Lord) have prayed for, counseled, and loved me as a mess...if you could get Christ-counseling friends and family on Amazon I'd certainly give you that link, too.  But until those become available here are my virtual friends...

I give you these with a caveat: books, articles, and thoughts can only do so much for you.  Knowledge alone doesn't change you: Grace does.  Believe me, I read plenty of these articles, secular and spiritual to shake the stupid out of me. But none of these are effective until I look to Jesus, receive his grace (John 1:16–17), and am empowered by his Spirit to be changed.  

BUT, these resources are a means of grace to awaken me from my sleepy stupor and help me stumble my way into the light of Christ.  

First, the book and study How People Change by Paul David Tripp and Timothy Lane has been my connection from knowledge to power.  I would be a behavior-modifying mess for years to come if it weren't for them reminding me what walking hand-in-hand with Jesus looks like.

Second credit goes to, Rachel Macy Stafford with her blog and books, who brought me relief that I'm not alone, and that my faith and family are worth the "sacrifices" of social media, to-do-lists, and silly distractions. 

Next, who continually challenges me to see reality in light of the all-satisfying treasure that Christ is. My list of helpful blogs, Ask Pastor John podcasts, sermons, and articles would be endless, so I narrowed it to topics that relate to media, idolatry, and smartphone addiction.  Thank you Pastor John, Tony Reinke, and all the folks at DG who deliver the truth in love.
There are more than a bushel-full of DG articles but these are the ones I saved to re-read: 

This series from the Ask Pastor John podcast/app with guest Dr. Richard Lints blew. my. mind. (listen to/read them in order, they're short and packed):

  • Episode 674: Why We Never Find Our Identity Inside Ourselves
  • Episode 675: Why Are Control Freaks Prone to Idols?
  • Episode 676: Has My Phone Become My Idol? Three Diagnostic Questions
  • Episode 677: Why Are Relationships Thin in the Digital Age?
  • Episode 678: How Does God's Forgiveness Free Us From Idols?

And bonus, my old neighbor-friend and author-speaker Arlene Pellicane, along with Gary Chapman, wrote Growing Up Social: Raising Relational Kids in a Screen-Driven World. This is my next focus: how do my habits shape my children's habits, and how do I point them to real relationship and valuable time?

So, there's enough to keep you busy for awhile.  I'll add more as I am helped by more. And by the way, I don't get any monetary/reciprocal benefits from sharing the links/books with you, I just care about you and hope you're helped like I have been :)

Pressing on,

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Airing My Dirty Laundry

So I feel like I need to get some things out in the open...perhaps let the wind blow on stuff I've kept close.  You know from previous posts what I've been trying to scrub out, and in that attempt this spring I attended a Bible study called How People Change. As a final assignment for the study, I had to write a summary of what I learned and have been processing through, and although I'd rather you not see my "unmentionables", it's time I hang it all out on the line...

I had the joy of studying a biblical theology of personal growth with a few precious women at Bethlehem this spring. Though I have much good to say about it, I’ve hesitated writing a summary of what I’ve learned because I had a wrong assumption that in doing so I had to declare a miraculous overnight change that I’d be accountable for tomorrow. In part, this is true; I am accountable for the glorious truths that I have seen and heard, and faith is dead without works that follow. But if I’ve learned anything from this study, change that lasts isn’t necessarily flashy fireworks, but rather it is an ongoing transformation, measured by degrees as my heart turns toward Christ (2 Cor 3:18). It is my prayer that these changes that God has ignited in my heart will continue long past the initial flash of revelation and that this light of Christ’s transforming grace in me may shine before others and God will be praised in heaven.

As this study was coming to a close, a precious new friend asked me why I originally chose to participate. My initial motivation was that I needed help cutting the ropes of my addiction to social media, which had caused me to be a distracted, sleep-deprived, and discontented mother and wife. Before this study, I already made some big choices to limit my intake of internet like ending my Facebook account and moderating apps that distracted me, but I still had a strong pull to vegging-out in front of my computer or smart phone late into the night or during the day when I could be more productive. The more I thought about it, the more I saw myself as a walking zombie, going about the monotony of my days in a perpetual, numb, stupor. What I falsely assumed was that it was the lure of a screen and not the state of my heart that had caused this slip into sleep mode. Even if I mastered this bad habit, the desire to mentally detach and the resistance to come to Christ would remain. The Lord was after a deeper heart change.
If I look back on the past few years and the scenes of my daily life, I feel like the shades are drawn, like I was living in gray. That’s not to say I was depressed in any sense—I was living my Christian, stay-at-home-mom-of-four, wife-of-a-seminarian days like I ought to have…just asleep. And as you can imagine, one who is sleepwalking is bound to stumble and fall, and stumble I did. I’d like to paint a sunny picture of my mothering but I’m ashamed to say that I was often short-fused, selfish, grumbly-hearted, and worse: I was increasingly getting angry and yelling at my little children. I’d like people to think that I was a Proverbs 31 wife who served her husband and productively put her family’s needs above her own, but when I am asleep I am sinfully ignorant of others. As Spurgeon says, "seasons of grace are lost in little slumbers and life is wasted drip by drip" (or, scroll by scroll). I’m not sure what exactly shook me from my stupor to see the wake of my destructive path, but when I did, I naturally tried to modify my behavior and my actions, which lasted, at best, a few days but more so just a few hours. I didn’t want to be this woman, who appeared to others as an enlightened Christian wife and mother but was mentally absent and spiritually asleep. Sure, I could do the laundry, make a meal, go to church, and change a diaper in my sleep, but not well, and most certainly not in a joy-infused nor God-glorifying manner, which is ultimately what I want. 
Have I always been this way? I should hope not. I can look further in the past and see the sun shining, my family smiling, and me thriving. So what is it that lulled me to sleep? It was a heart that was increasingly distracted by even good things, and numbed by the offering of this world for false satisfaction, comfort, and supply for my needs. 

More importantly I allowed my “busy mom” excuse to keep my Bible shut, ironically because if I’d rise up early or sit down in the afternoon to read my Bible, I’d fall asleep—if I could get my sluggish soul to even consider Bible time in the first place. My oldest child is 8 with three more children following every two years, and for as long as I’ve been a mother, I’ve struggled to be in the Word for reasons you can naturally assume. And for just as long as I’ve carried babies on my hip, I’ve been dotingly pat on the back and told, “It’s just a season; give yourself some grace.” So I took as much grace as I needed and slept instead of rising up to read, and I napped instead of meditating, and I posted pictures of my cuties instead of praying until eventually I forgot how to walk with the Lord.

Surely as a “good Christian woman,” I’d make effort everyday to get something from the Bread of Life (John 6:35), but it was through the crumbs of devotionals and other people’s words about God’s Word, not the loaf itself. So I’d leave that snack on Scripture still looking for something else to feast my eyes on, and often it was social media and things that would titillate my eyes and mind but be of no help to my very real and present needs. The obvious truth was that I had plenty of time to post, text, and read status updates, but never enough time to update my status with the Lord. Because I forgot the friendship and presence of the Lord, I sought life from virtual relationships with my friends who were instantly present on my smart phone, and because I neglected the wisdom of the Word, I sought the knowledge of trivial news articles and make-me-feel-better-about-myself blog posts.

I learned early on through studying Jeremiah 17:5-10 that I’m made by God to bear fruit, like a tree, and that the situations and circumstances in my life, good and bad, are intended like heat to make me grow. But if I do not have a steady source of water, and roots that go deep into it, the heat of my circumstances will cause me to shrivel and bear thorns, not fruit. In other words, when life happens, good fruit is from good roots and bad fruit from bad roots. My roots were in hard, dry ground of a formal belief in God but a functional faith in lesser things to satisfy me. So when the “heat” of motherhood would rise, I’d escape to my phone or distract myself with compulsive cleaning, or warm up a mug of tea and enter a world away from my own. You can imagine the number of times reality was too much and I’d put my head in the sand. Not only was I not helped, I responded with the opposite of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, and self-control because apart from Christ I can do no good thing (Gal 5:22; John 15:5). 

What was most eye-opening in my study was that this retreat to things to numb my need is more than foolish, it is idolatry. Worship is whatever I give my heart to, and my heart consists of my mind, will, and emotion—so when I give my mind to trivial things, set my will to escape in it’s many forms, and numb my emotions with distractions, I worship created things rather than my Creator (Rom 1:18). As I identified these idols in my heart, I realized that they are as powerless as God says they are: eyes that cannot see, ears that cannot hear, mouths that cannot speak, and those who trust in them will become like them: zombies (Isa 44:9-20; Ps 115:8). And worse, when I retreat to my false gods, I am believing that my Creator is the one who does not see, or hear, or speak—how backwards! So part of my waking-up was seeing that what I believe about God in the “heat” of life determines what my life produces: will I trust that He is good, all satisfying, the one who sees and speaks and hears and helps and so turn to Him, love and listen to him, pray, and ultimately receive from God? Or will I retreat to my lifeless idols and in turn be withered and lifeless too?

I spent a lot of time recognizing my “functional gods” and realizing how deeply my sin of unbelief and idolatry has affected my life. It’s hard to see how my sinful nature, in hostility to God, denied the very help I need to wife and mother well. Not only that, but I woke to see how the thorns I produced from my heat-scorched retreats from Him had pricked, and poked, and stabbed my family. My circumstances, my sometimes-misbehaving children, and challenges may all be valid sources of heat, but they aren’t the reason I sin; my heart is. And my heart is desperately sick (Jer 17:9). 

If I only woke up to realize that my heart was a desert cactus, I would have reason to despair, but God in his kindness doubly opened my eyes to see my spikey tree in light of His nail-pierced tree. Seeing that Christ bore my sins on the cross to reconcile me to God was water to my desert soul, and repentance was in order. For so long in my sleepy stupor I would be sorry for the effect of my sin because it made things unpleasant for me or others, but true sorrow for sin, the offense it is to God and grief over the broken relationship it causes with my Creator is what leads to true repentance. And even as the prodigal was barely over the horizon toward home, Christ receives me and reconciles me to God through the cross. “The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20) was my new mantra—written on chalkboards and put on display around my house.

This gospel is good news for past-repented sin…but what about when I find myself picking up my old flesh and going right back to sinning again? My verbal anger toward my children is a glaring thorn that the Lord kept me coming back to through this study, and even with new resolve to do things differently, I still have some really bad days. One day near Easter, my heart was so hard, and I was so frustrated and angry—mostly with myself but taking it out on my kids—when I walked past a sign I had hung in my kitchen: “Jesus said, ‘This is my body…this is my blood which is GIVEN FOR YOU’” (Luke 22:19). Despite my attempts to pray and cool down from my hot anger, I was beyond frustrated, and so I responded to God with the same frustration: “I know Jesus died 2000 years ago, but what does that mean for me RIGHT NOW!? I need more than forgiveness—I am out of control!!” Thankfully it wasn’t long before God in his mercy answered his despondent child, and by his grace it was through our study in Galatians 2:20: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but CHRIST LIVES IN ME.” 

 In my extended slumber, I forgot that the cross is not only Christ’s life given as a sacrifice for my sin, but is gloriously also Christ’s life given as the Holy Spirit for my empowerment over sin! The cross is a past act that has present ongoing effects because when Christ died, sin was dethroned in my heart, and when Christ rose, Jesus is enthroned! So although sin is still very present, the power of Christ in me gives me new potential to respond HIS way and not my old way. See. All. Of. Romans. Six. It’s. Awesome. Romans 6:4 “just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life” and verse 10: “For the death he died he died to sin, but the life he lives he lives to God. So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.” I am NOT a mindless zombie nor stumbling sleep-walker; I am alive and awake and able IN Christ! Verse 14: “For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace”.

So now, when I am tempted to divert my eyes to my smart phone, or doze off into distraction, the Lord is patiently pressing me to set my eyes on Him instead, knowing that the change and freedom from sin that I so long for is from Him. “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Cor 3:17-18). We become what we behold; looking away from my dead idols to the living Christ is where change happens.

I have reveled in the generosity of God, the goodness of the gospel, and the very present power of Christ in me. I am encouraged that God who began this good work in me will carry it to completion and that change is a community project—not only does God use Christ IN me to make me holy, but also uses Christ AROUND me. And most of all, I am encouraged that as I put off the sinful responses of the past, the thorns will fall, and as I put on Christ and grow in his living water, fruit will begin to blossom and God will be praised for the change in me. Now that I am awake, I pray that he will continue to incline my heart to his statues, open my eyes to behold wonderful things in his word, unite my heart to fear his name, and satisfy my soul for his Name’s sake (Ps 86:11; 90:14; 119:18, 36). 

Monday, February 2, 2015

Happity Groundhog Day 2015!

Well, Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow today...which meant nothing to me in flowery Florida, sweltering Texas and sunny California.  But here in Minnesnowta you could feel a vacuum as us Minnesotans simultaneously gasped at Phil's declaration of six more weeks of winter!  But what's a groundhog know, anyway?  Now that I've delivered our annual family newsletter to our neighbors, I do think I'll join Mr. G-hog in his burrow for some hot Chai while my toes thaw.  Happy Groundhog Day!

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Life After Facebook

My last two posts here and here were glimpses into my personal struggle with social media/web addiction and how I was just barely hanging on.  So this last spring, after many many months of milling over if it was possible to cut the cord, I took one last deep breath and deleted my Facebook account.  Of course before I said goodbye, I downloaded all of my Facebook data and history (they give you the option to do that) which was eye-opening in itself.  They kept track of every "Like" and comment and Status Update and article read and link that had I clicked, EVER.  Essentially it was my life in a nutshell (or zip file to be exact).

If it sounds like ending it all was easy, it wasn't. When I got the long-awaited courage to deactivate my account, Facebook made me take a mandatory survey to answer why I'm leaving.  Some of the options were: "It's temporary, I'll be back" (which if you hover over that option, a pop up answers, "Okay see you soon"), or "I'm spending too much time on Facebook" (which baits something like, "Did you know you can select how much you see in your News Feed, excuse excuse excuse"), and "I'm having privacy issues" (to which they reel, "You can personalize who sees your information by following this rabbit trail to your settings").  You get the idea.  They don't make it easy to just say goodbye.  When I gave the answer, "I'm leaving for good," Facebook kept their foot in the door by telling me that if I ever want to come back, they keep ALL of my information and all I have to do is sign in and everything will appear like I never left.  How comforting.

But that's not all.  When I finally got to the deactivation page, I was met bold-face with the Profile Pictures of my dearest friends and family, no kidding.  And it said, "Are you sure you want to leave?  BFF from high school, and one of your bridesmaids, and your aunt, and your friend on the east coast you haven't spoken to in six years but whose every picture you like and comment on will miss you!"  How painful is that?

But alas,  I'm gone.  Dead to the Facebook world, like I never even existed.

So this begs the question: does life exist after Facebook?


It's funny though, when friends ask me how things are going post-FB, they lower their voice almost like they're talking about the no-longer-living: "So, how have you been doing since <lower tender tone> you're no longer on Facebook?


It was a few days after I lept off the Facebook cliff that I saw how great the ground is below.  First, my own dad texted me, "I can't find you on Facebook are you okay?"  And then a dear soul-sister in California texted, "I went to write on your wall and you were are you birdie?" Which began a sweet text catch-up that no one saw on my "Wall" or in their "Newsfeed".  Then, you know that friend I hadn't talked to in six years but whose every picture I "liked" and commented on?  She texted me, "Hi Tracy! I hope this is still your phone number, I hope everyone is doing well I was just thinking about you guys and noticed you are no longer on FB and thought of dropping you a little note!"  Which began a personal interaction with this sweet old friend that we hadn't had since we moved over six years ago.  You ask, "but didn't you comment on all her pictures?"  Of course I did, but did we interact personally?  Nope; you feel real personal connection in the afterlife.

My favorite experience in this afterlife so far was when I met up with a friend for coffee after a good couple of months without seeing her.  I knew she had been on a mission trip to Thailand, and when she referenced something from the trip, I looked puzzled because I didn't know about it.  She said, "Well didn't you read my post-trip update on Facebook?"  I answered, "No, I must have missed that...tell me about it."  Then she and I sipped coffee and walked the lake while she told me stories and things about her trip that probably wouldn't have made Facebook, or if they did, didn't come with her eye contact and voice ebbing and flowing with the story that I had the privilege of experiencing.  Sure, I could have read her update and clicked the "like" button so she knew I approved, but instead I listened to her and responded with laughter, and "oh no" and "that's awesome" and with nods and grins and my own questions to dig deeper into what's going on in her life.  It was a gift, and life-giving.

Fear of diminishing friendships and not knowing what was going on in the lives of my 836 Facebook friends was what kept me on for so long.  I shuddered to think of all that I'd miss from the social groups I'm a part of, not to mention, I was afraid of missing all of the great articles and blogs and funny comic strips and vacation pictures that were shared.  The fear clinched me: "I learn so much from those blogs and comments and links, and I'm so connected to what's going on--what would happen if I closed that window to the world?"

A window of real, fresh air was opened. And I don't miss a thing.

Of course, I miss interacting with my cousins and family and close friends (thankfully some of whom I still see on my much more manageable Instagram: @tracyfrue).  I do miss a few baby announcements and funny animal videos that everyone is talking about.  But when I say I don't miss a thing, I don't miss the multitude of trivial distractions that overcrowded those few genuine interactions.  That's why I left, and how I'll navigate social media in the future is left to be determined.  But at this point I don't expect a Facebook resurrection...I'm in a much better place now.

As heavenly as that sounds, to my dismay, I am still very much trying to untangle myself from the sticky trap of the world-wide-web, and just the habit of screen-gazing in general. My hope is that my heart will be helped so that my usage of media is more redemptive than destructive.  I'd be pushing the metaphor to call this a purgatory, but right now I'm seeking the pages of good books and arduous prayers to help me out of this life in-between.  

Dying to Facebook may not be the prescription for everyone's social-suction malady, but I'm so thankful to have ended the life I maintained on Facebook in hopes that I can revel in the angelic faces around me (Heaven help me).