typing-keyboard_1It’s New Year’s Day, so we should all be blogging about new year’s resolutions, or what we’re looking forward to in 2016, or perhaps the highlights of 2015, right?

Well, if that’s what you came looking for, sorry, you’re going to be disappointed.  Just not feeling that today.

But what I am feeling is thankful – thankful for the people in my life – my community, and specifically for my virtual community.

I remember when I was first introduced to the internet, over 20 years ago.  What a concept!  I remember trying to thinking of things I could search, just for the sake of doing it.

I remember the days of dial-up, having to log off every now and then to check for phone messages, being annoyed when I tried to call home and the line was always busy because someone was online.

It’s funny now how many times I think “Wow, what did we do without the Internet?”  If it goes down at work, it’s almost the equivalent of a power outage – what are we going to do now?

And with the internet came social media, and bam!  the world was changed.

My first taste of virtual community was a group of women I met online on a site called 2 Peas in a Bucket – a scrapbooking site where people could chat, get ideas, post their projects.  It was here that I joined a group called the “Calendar Girls” – we all did projects out of a specific idea calendar, thus the name.

It was so much more than scrapbooking though – as a group, we walked with each other through weddings, divorces, babies born, children dying, spouses dying.  It was a place where you could be completely open and honest, because these women weren’t going to judge.

I actually got to meet a couple of my online pals on a road trip through Washington state – it was a fantastic experience.  While the site is now closed and that chapter of my life over, I’m still friends with the bulk of them on Facebook and get to keep up with them there.

I’m so thankful for the impact these women had on my life – it’s a part of life I remember very fondly.

Facebook – now that’s a whole other story.  I remember being introduced to Facebook by my sister Linda in 2007, and the rest is history.

Now I realize that Facebook is not always a positive thing.  It truly is the ultimate time-waster – when I have a paper to finish that I don’t feel like writing, I have to actually close the Facebook tab to stop myself from going back “just to check a sec”.

Facebook always gives those with nasty things to say quite the platform – I’ve been on the receiving end of that, and it’s not fun when someone is saying awful things about you on social media for the world to read, and you can’t stop it.

But it can also be wonderful.  Facebook allows me to have a daily relationship with my sister who lives 2,000 miles away in Mexico.  It lets me watch my nieces and nephews grow up, even when I don’t see them all the time.  Facebook has allowed me to reconnect with former classmates, colleagues, all sorts of people!

I first got to know Terry, my husband, through Facebook.  We met at church one Sunday, I went home, creeped him on Facebook, in a moment of bravery hit “add friend”, and the rest is history.  🙂

Through Facebook, I get to celebrate with people when their babies are born, they get engaged, buy a new house all sorts of stuff.  I get to mourn with people when they lose loved ones or get hard news.

Because of Facebook, I’ve been able to “meet” my dear friend Tanya’s daughter who is still in Haiti, waiting for her adoption papers go through.  I get a glimpse into the journey this family is on – through Facebook.

Through Facebook, my friend Connie who is journeying with stage 4 lung cancer is able to continue encouraging so many around her.  She has been sharing her recipes with the FB community and it’s been so fantastic.

It is through Facebook that I have been able to feel great support and encouragement through Katie’s journey.  So many messages of prayer and encouragement.

It’s allowed for conversations with people that I never would have connected with otherwise.  One conversation that really stands out to me was this spring while Katie was in the ICU, hearing from my cousin Albert who was just checking to see how we were doing, did we need anything.  He’s a few years older than me, and I guess we get along fine, just don’t really know each other.  Facebook became the tool for that conversation which was such a great encouragement to me.

Chances are if you’re reading this, you probably landed here via Facebook.  This is the place where I get to ramble on about whatever’s in my head, and people can choose to listen or not, comment or not.  It’s been super therapeutic for me, actually.  Just being able to write, to talk, to get how I’m feeling out.

So while the internet has brought many challenges to our world and especially to parenting, there is good.  While Facebook can make you feel terrible when you see pictures of the part you weren’t invited to, it can also make you feel so connected.

So, how can you be part of a virtual community in 2016?  Be open to the promptings of the Spirit even on Facebook.  Maybe it’s sending a text to the person who has been posting some sad statuses lately.  Maybe it’s bringing a pan of soup to the new mom who posted pictures of her new baby.  Maybe it’s praying for the friend who just posted that hard news.

Be open to who the Spirit is placing in your path, whether in real life or online – you have no idea the impact you may have in someone’s life.