Sunday, April 30, 2017

Tree of Hope - A Lesson in Adaptation

Late last week, we traveled to San Antonio for our nephew's graduation from Air Force boot camp. Since my Facebook account is deactivated, I was doing what people used to do in the car - Looking out the window.  And I saw this:

And I exclaimed.  But, by the time everybody else looked up, our minivan traveling 75mph, was too far past for anyone else to see.  We took note of the upcoming intersection and surrounding landmarks, so we could stop and get a good look on our way home the next day.  And we did, which is when this picture was taken.

It took me awhile to put words to what my soul already seemed to know and understand.  The words sound like they're coming right off the page of a Marine's combat manual...Adapt and overcome.

I felt proud of this tree and grateful to it for teaching me its secrets, hard-won.  

I thought about which came first, the chicken or the egg.  The fence or the tree.  I don't know for sure, and I'm not sure it matters, but I bet it was the tree.  And if so, there was obviously no parent tree around to settle the age-old "I was here first!" argument. And so it grew, in spite of having been there first.

It grew and grew, and it leaned just a little with the weight of the seasons.  One day, it noticed something unlike itself.  Something hard.  Something uncomfortable.  Something immovable.  

Incapable of running away, the tree had to choose between giving up or pressing on.

It pressed on.  But, not just on.  Around.  Around that thing that made it so uncomfortable. Completely around that thing.

And now that thing is a part of itself.  

Maybe the strongest part, as a friend pointed out...  

How long do you think that would take, my son asked?  I don't know, son.  I really don't know. Probably a long time.  Seems to be a tree thing.

But, for people, there are a lot of hard things in life and fences are the least-hard of all.  

ALS, cancer, losing someone you love and feel lost without, struggling with depression, alcoholism, being laid off, and sometimes, just getting through an ordinary day in an ordinary life.  These are some of the fences in the lives of people I love.  And these are just a few.

They look very different from one another, but they're very much the same.  They're hard, uncomfortable, and not going anywhere any time soon.   

Take heart, my friends.  
The tree knows best.  
When even one day at a time is too much... 
lean on the fence, 
and rest.  

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Cutting the Facebook String and Flying Free

I deactivated my Facebook account four days ago, right after I left my weekly holy hour.  It was an hour of realizations.  During this hour, I was reading a book, and I realized how much I was enjoying reading and being fed by the content of its pages.  I also realized that I don't read at all like I used to, which was a lot.  I also realized that the reason for this is Facebook.  Every free 5 or 10 or 15 minutes was consumed by consumption of social media.

I've known this for a long time, of course.  My awareness of it was never more evident than when I found myself envious of the people I visited in the nursing home.  Envious of the time they haven't wasted on Facebook, and the pressure they don't feel to post pictures of their last Bingo game and their family and friends during their visit on Sunday.

During my hour in the chapel, I felt like God handed me the grace I have been praying for (for about a month), to detach from the world, except to engage it for His glory.  I can't describe the freedom I feel.  But, if you are a frequent Facebook visitor, my guess is that you can understand.

Over the years since I established an account on Facebook, it has been a love/hate relationship, at best.  When it has come up in conversation, it sounds like this is how it is for most of the people I know.  There are lots of reasons for this, and some are different than mine.  But, for me, it was like always being tied to something by a string of varying strength.  It was always pulling on me.

Apparently, FOMO is a real thing for kids these days.  Fear of missing out.  I don't think this describes my tied-by-a-string-sensation, but I think vanity and social responsibility do.  I didn't want to overlook or ignore any possible attempts to receive feedback, respond, share, or engage with my 500-something friends in a meaningful way.  But, curiosity moves in quickly once the scrolling begins, and who knows how many minutes have passed, or what life I have missed in my own living room...

Did you get that gift from Facebook at the end of last year?  The one that showed all of your friends, how many items you liked, etc...?  I was horrified.  Did you notice what they didn't include?  The hours you spent on Facebook.  Good move.  

In addition to being a "time suck", as one of my favorite friends calls it, another problem for me, is that Facebook feeds my temptation to let other people's opinions, comments, and likes influence my opinion of myself.  Not good.  And it keeps me in the center of my world.

I don't want to be the center of my world.

John, the beloved disciple, writes of the Pharisees, "for they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God."  In the same Gospel, Jesus says, "How can you believe who receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God?"

Ummmm...  I don't know?

My most recent Facebook flurry was the posting of a slew of pictures from an incredible Spring Break trip with my family to Big Bend State Park.  I don't know how much time I spent selecting pictures from all that were taken, later deciding which ones should be on my profile, wishing my husband had tagged me in his pictures, because those were different than the ones I posted, and so on.

Later, I was thinking about all of the people who didn't go anywhere on Spring Break.  I was thinking how they might already be feeling badly about not going anywhere.  Especially, if they wanted to.  I would have.  I remember being at home many a Memorial Day, sad, because I knew I should be lakeside, having a picnic somewhere!  And, not that we're responsible for how other people feel about what happens in our life, but I felt sad anyway, thinking that my Spring Break pictures could have been salt in a wound for somebody who was already feeling crappy.  Blech.

So, with these realizations and the gift of answered prayer, I am free.

Now, without Facebook, my phone is for talking, checking texts and emails, googling stuff, looking up the daily Gospel readings, listening to music, and tuning my guitar.  That's it!  HOO and RAY!!!

In the last four days, I've finished one book and am well into another one.  I actually used my phone to call someone (my brother to see if he would send me a picture of his new puppy).  That wouldn't have happened before - my brain and time would have been too clogged with all of the stuff of Facebook.  And I probably could have caught a glimpse of that puppy somewhere on his timeline, anyway.  It is good not to know everything, all of the time.  It forces being personal and intentional. Both good things in my world.

'The soul that is attached to anything however much good there may be in it will not arrive at the liberty of divine union. For whether it be a strong wire rope or a slender and delicate thread that holds the bird, it matters not, if it really holds it fast; for until the cord be broken the bird cannot fly.'
St. John of the Cross