Doves on the Deck -- Contemplative Photography
I expected that a Lenten Fast would give me a time to rest. I craved a less active, more contemplative, life.
Did I get it?
- Exercise. At least an hour/day of stretching, weights, walking, yoga, and even a little jogging. I feel stronger and leaner, especially when I wear Spandex biking pants.
- Food. I ate mostly plant foods and avoided sugar successfully — except for a mindless bite of my granddaughter’s pancake.
- Reading. Most of my Facebook and Twitter time went into books, about ten of them.
- I kept a daily journal except when I was traveling. I posted one picture a day on Instagram in order to keep a visual record also.
Seven Lessons from a Facebook/Twitter Sabbatical
1. Everything is connected to everything else.
The worldwide WEB is well named! Unless you go to a desert island, or unplug from the grid (or at least from your computer and smart phone), you can’t escape the omnipresence of social media. People tag you on posts, notifications come into email, etc. I didn’t initiate updates, and I stayed away from my news feed but I could not avoid minimal contact.
2. Relationships form webs also.
Even though my life during Lent became more contemplative, I still could not evade the feeling of “busy-ness.” I gave two book talks, two radio interviews and one Skype interview, revised a book chapter, spent three days of vacation in New York City, traveled also to Illinois to celebrate the wedding of a dear friend, and made other stops in Ohio and Pennsylvania. I also spent a day at the Virginia Festival of the Book.
For two weeks of the seven, I helped take care of grandchildren in New Jersey. Stuart and I entertained numerous guests. And then 40 Hershey family members converged at my sister Sue’s farm in Ephrata, Pennsylvania, on Easter Sunday for a glorious celebration of faith, family, and food. On the way home, inspired by grandson Owen’s new-found love of rhyming, I wrote a children’s book called The Bear in There.
Family Hug on the Wooden Hill
Each of these individual events was wonderful.
Overall, I recognize that Being and Doing are as intertwined as Facebook and email.
3. Life is paradox.
In the midst of contemplation, I got an exciting new idea for a new writing project. I felt that familiar “powerful pulsing of love in the veins,” a feeling I have known since childhood and now associate with all creative work. I have been buzzing with gratitude for the gift of inspiration, even if it comes to naught or goes into directions I can’t foresee.
The electrical feeling of touching God’s garment can never be dismissed. As long as I have it, I’ll never feel old. I’ll be working on this new idea for weeks or months before I can talk about it. For now, I just want to report that I wasn’t expecting it and that I’m enjoying it. By getting calmer, I also got more excited.
4. “Almost everything will work again if you unplug it for a few minutes, including you.”
Okay, I stole this line from Anne Lamott, whose list of everything she’s learned in her 61 years on earth includes this great sentence. When in doubt, reboot! I unplugged for seven weeks, and now I’m turned on again.
5. The world around us is moving at warp speed.
The universe pays no attention when you unplug. It keeps moving at full speed. It takes a village of helpers when you choose to slow down even a little. For example, my husband kept me up to date occasionally on important news I would have seen on Facebook. Also my friend and fellow author Carol Bodensteiner took the lead in arranging publicity and interaction with our new adventure I Grew Up Country, a Facebook page for people who are sharing country stories, pictures, blog posts, etc.
6. Time is like a vacuum. It sucks up all available space.
You may recall that I said I wanted to be more passive? I love the word my spiritual ancestors used, Gelassenheit, which means submission to God, a condition of the soul necessary for true contemplation. I found it hard to keep space open and had to actively fight not to fill one form of busy-ness with another. So I was still active in order to be more passive (another paradox).
Which leads me to a question about self. Is it useless to try to bend the restless spirit? Can we submit in the midst of activity also, if we notice more of God’s gifts, feel more gratitude, and open ourselves to divine guidance? I believe the answer to this question is YES, and it is the one gift I hope to keep carrying into life beyond the sabbatical.
7. A feast tastes even better after a fast.
The Easter Dinner served at noon at my sister’s house was delicious. My first sugar in seven weeks? I enjoyed the traditional Pennsylvania Dutch sweet and sour dressing on cole slaw and kale salad (perfect complement to ham and cheesy potatoes). And then I had a Hershey Kiss, a tradition in our family you’ll recognize from reading Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World.
Hershey Kisses -- How I broke my sugar fast.
Now, I’ve told you what I’ve been doing, thinking, and being. What about YOU? I MISSED YOU. I promise to respond and to visit your latest updates and posts to try to catch up. I’m a little starved for news.
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