Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Shine Your Light in the Darkness

Shine Your Light in the Darkness Online

Everywhere you look there seems to be negativity and division, especially in the news and on social media.  I find it so depressing.  A few months back when this “new normal” began, I felt that we were working to support and uplift each other with prayers, funny memes, and animal videos.  Everyone seemed unified in their own unique way to getting us through the difficult times ahead. 


Now that were three plus months into this societal change due to COVID, we’re all tired and a bit short tempered.  We want to go out to dinner, enjoy normal summer activities, and receive Jesus at Mass without all the restrictions and safety guidelines. I believe that most of all, we want reassurance that our world is not falling apart.    


The exhaustion and negativity is most evident if you spend any time on social media. Facebook, Twitter, and even the once idealistic Instagram are a bit dark and gloomy these days.  Friends, family, and Catholics are fighting among themselves and disrespecting each other about so many things – from big, serious issues to even the small and trivial. It hurts my heart to see so many of those I love and care for being divided into opposing camps online.


How do we get through this darkness without irreparable damage? 


I was reminded today of a post I wrote last year about how we, as Christians, combat the negative online.  In “3 Steps to Shining Your Light Online: How Christians Create a Tidal Wave of God’s Love on Social Media” I wrote that we can’t give over our online platforms to the darkness permeating our society.  Christians are called to be the light in the world, and we can create a tidal wave of God’s love online if we work together to bring light to social media. 


How do we do it?  We can start with three things:


·      Tithe our social media posts to God

·      Engage with others online as we do in real life

·      Show mercy to others on social media


These three are actually very simple to do on social media if we put our minds to it.  (You can go back to my original post to read more about all three.)  We’ve lost the idea that social media can add content and real value to people’s lives.  We need to go back to the beginning.  Social media was created to bind people together in community, and it still has the potential to connect individuals in a positive way if we choose to use it that way. 



If all of us work together to be a light, we can bring back hope and we can support one another in the midst of the doom and gloom permeating social media. 


I’m the first one to admit it and say I need to take my own advice!  What am I waiting for? I need to get back to the basics of building real connections online. Will you join me?


Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Painted Rocks

One of the small pleasures during my daily walk along the sidewalks and creek trails are finding brightly painted rocks.

This Spring our neighborhood Facebook pages came alive, encouraging each other to do small things to help entertain the multitude of young children taking a walk with their families. Of the various “I Spy” activities, the “Painted Rocks” quickly emerged as a local favorite and grew in popularity until it took a life of its own.

For four months now, painted rocks appear regularly along sidewalks in various walking areas and trails, bringing joy to children and adults. In March, a closed Facebook group for budding artists, young and old was born inviting neighbors, “With extra time on our hands here is a group and easy craft for you to do with your kids and share joy when you find a painted rock or leave one for others to find!”  As artists post pictures of their newest collections and identify which trails to follow, pictures and comments fill the page.

One artist noted for her creative themes admits, “I have never drawn or painted before. I love seeing kids find my rocks and y’all posting them. I’ve found a new hobby thanks to you all and this group.” Another offers this insight, “My attitude is to give and expect nothing in return. We create the rocks and drop them hoping to make someone’s day - whether they just look at them, take them home or re-hide them.”

The painted rocks motivate young and old to step outside and get exercise, adding an element of fun during walks and bicycle rides. Another neighbor chimes in, “We love looking for the rocks on our morning walks. We can’t wait to see what we find. Thank you for being a light and bringing joy. I laugh and smile every time I find a rock.”

Parents continue to encourage painters to keep creating, “These rocks are how I keep my kids motivated during our walks.” Younger artists also contribute their own creations with colorful glitter and stickers. One student proudly created a rock sporting the face of Dwayne Johnson. (aka “The Rock” – get it?)

I expect there are now thousands of painted rocks in our neighborhood, whether sitting along a trail, in a child’s “treasure bag,” or even at the bottom of the creeks, launched by rambunctious youths. This simple act of painting and hiding or seeking and finding a colorful rock brings a calming respite from the negativity and stress of the day.

Friday, May 22, 2020

My Daily Walk: Signs of Appreciation

Appreciating others during quaratine lockdown

One thing I’ve noticed on my daily walk are the yard signs. They started before the Quarantine because our school district likes to recognize students who achieve a 4 or 5 on their Advanced Placement tests. Then came the Seniors 2020 signs, sold every year as a fundraiser for a school organization. These joined other fundraiser signs for different high school activities: dance team, band and guard, softball (we have one of these), etc. 

Since Quarantine we experienced a flurry of yard signs across the neighborhood. Professional photographers printed Senior signs for the students they photographed. Private schools did one for every senior by name. Next came signs for 5th graders and 8th graders, also with names. Anyone who missed their final year at school, there’s a sign. Last came the teacher/staff appreciation signs – “An Awesome Teacher Lives Here!”

Leading up to Mother’s Day weekend, yet another sign popped up across our neighborhood – a round sign saying, “This Mom is the BOMB!” It started from a local #Strong community organization that provides volunteer service for all in times of need. The donated signs were distributed for free…with the added bonus that when you pick up the sign from the local coffee shop, you could also purchase a small package from another local small business to leave as a gift. Then you place the sign in the yard of someone you think is doing an awesome job as a mom. 

I’ve even seen a few yard signs for those working in the medical profession. By the grace of God, I do not know anyone personally who has this virus. But while I don’t see it first-hand, I know my neighbors in the medical profession ARE seeing it and working hard to treat people and save lives. 

Yesterday, our seniors drove by the high school to drop off textbooks and pick up their cap and gown orders. They were also given a yard sign, bringing the current number of signs in my yard up to four. 

Personally, I love the signs popping up in the yards over the past 8-10 weeks. It’s a little reminder that someone out there deserves recognition and appreciation, whether it’s working hard to earn a high score on an AP test, or missing your senior year of a UIL sport/activity, or that a student just ended what was supposed to be a special year of school (elementary, middle, or high school) in an unforeseen and socially isolated manner fraught with disappointment and frustration. Every teacher had to adapt to online teaching out of their comfort zone. Every Mom right now is “the BOMB” and deserves a sign – and hopefully the Dad signs start for Father’s Day in June.

Honestly, everyone deserves a sign of recognition and appreciation for the job they’re doing. Whether they’ve been working out of the house in an essential business – supply chain, grocery, utilities, healthcare – or keeping it together doing online work from home. Even those furloughed waiting to be recalled need to be reminded that they are special and not forgotten. We are living in unprecedented times and as the country reopens (thank God!) we may face continued uncertainty in finding our way. 

So today, take a moment to send someone you know a sign – physical or virtual – that they are important, recognized and appreciated.  

Sunday, May 17, 2020

The Daily Walk: Forming New Habits

Walking during quarantine

These past weeks I've started a new habit of walking every morning. There is a rhythm to it - the birds, the air, the fall of my footsteps - stepping out each morning, before the kids are out of bed while the temperature and humidity are relatively cooler. (Along the Texas Gulf Coast, the key word here is “relatively.”) Walking at this time syncs with my former morning work commute and coincides with my regular Sirius XM morning radio shows. 

These mornings I'm alone with my thoughts, noticing simple beauty: a random park bench against the green grass, the morning sun climbing through the trees, an abundance of wildlife - squirrels, birds, turtles, even an occasional alligator. In these few weeks, I’ve come to appreciate how truly blessed we are to live in a neighborhood with pockets of green space: a common area with sidewalks circling the forbidden playground, or a creek with gravel trails lined with mature trees and wildlife. Being outdoors, before the neighborhood comes alive, reminds me how much is still going on in this life interrupted. 

Who could have ever predicted ... all those years I've wished I could have mornings to walk and now it’s here. Not quite the way I expected, but God does have a sense of humor. In the middle of a global pandemic, God can still show us a blessing. For me, it’s in a walk.

What new habits did you form over the past two months? Are these habits something you hope to carry forward with you as the country begins to reopen?

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Life Interrupted: It's Time to Start a New Plan

My life is directed by my calendars, both paper and electronic. One tells me where to be with my family; the other tells me where to be for work. Sometimes the two overlap in order to force the one to yield to the other. These calendars are very closely monitored by the month, the coming week, the next day. They contain the most important upcoming "don't forget" milestones and projects, those demands on my time that keep me grounded and moving forward - always forward - at high speed.

Baseball practice with weekend tournaments, Varsity Softball games for my high school senior, ACTS Retreat meetings, Aggie Ring Day on TAMU family weekend, First Communion, elementary field trips, and AP tests. A fresh new year guides me, reminding me to relish my family's big moments building up to senior year awards, prom, high school graduation, and a college study abroad, before kicking off the summer ball tournament travel season.

And then, on Friday, March 13, our world began to change rapidly, As everything important to me was first suspended, then postponed, then cancelled, until all the events that direct and dictate my life dissipated into an empty void, I put these calendars away. Days we looked forward to in joyful expectation now felt like many little deaths, as each one passed without the happy moments we'd planned for and worked towards with so much eagerness. Each day snuffed out, leaving us deflated with a feeling of immense loss and disappointment.

For the first five weeks, as my family adjusted to the new at-home isolation and struggled with online schooling, my essential work in the office grew more intense. Until suddenly it wasn't.

At home for the first time in decades, I am finding peace and rest in the pause. Every day I thank God for the beautiful spring weather - although I'm really not sure why mosquitoes exist - and that no one we know has been affected by this virus.

Still, some days I feel hollowed out. It's an odd feeling to be facing a blank slate, seeking purpose and direction.

This morning my mind wandered to that calendar in the drawer. The one holding onto my old plans, a time when I felt in control. To look at it means seeing those lost weeks (months!) and remembering everything we missed. However, it's time to replace old expectations with new memories - to begin dreaming again until we find purpose in the small things we can control. It's time to fill a new calendar with plans for a new direction.

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