I had been feeling lately that I needed to get outside of the world of social media and try and learn something about myself. I needed a catharsis. Direction. Focus. Reflection. Clarity.
That’s what this journey was to be about. Clarity.
Part I, Getting There
But for this trip, I decided that I would take my time and see things. Notice things. Reflect on things. See how life outside of social media might affect me.
It wouldn’t take long.
I pointed my car west and began the journey from Springfield, Illinois. I stopped at a QuikTrip in the Kansas City area to get gas and for more of the black elixir I would need to help me stay awake on this drive. As I was getting back into the car with my drum of black coffee, an African American woman called out to me from the passenger side of an old pickup truck. “Sir? Excuse me, sir? I’m sorry to bother you…”
Great, I thought. Here we go. What story would I hear? We’re stranded here on the way to help our children? We don’t have enough money to get back home? All we need is a tank of gas, can you help? “Yes?” I answered, trying not to sound too impatient, but not too inviting, either. “Your gas cap is off.” Shame on me. I sheepishly thanked her, replaced the gas cap, and got back in my car. I smiled at God’s sense of humor. Okay, I get it: slow down, allow yourself to learn something on this trip.
As my trip west continued, music helped pass the miles. It’s hard not to relax and enjoy the drive when Lionel Richie and Little Big Town are singing “Deep River Woman” as I take in—not just endure this time—the beautiful sky and wide-open plains of Kansas.
|The long straight stretches of open road through Kansas offer plenty of time to think|
I begin reflecting on my life. Choices made. Mistakes made. Why do I keep making the same mistakes? Why am I so weak?
I changed from my iPod to satellite radio and The Message. The first song I hear is MercyMe’s “Flawless”. Now, I know this song. I’ve heard it before. Bart Millard has a way of stinging me with his lyrics. But this time, the words slam into my ears and drill down into my brain, cutting a searing path to my heart.
There’s got to be more
than going back and forth
from doing right to doing wrong…
Wow. Okay, I’ll listen…
No matter the bumps,
No matter the bruises,
No matter the scars,
Still the truth is
The cross has made.
The cross has made you flawless…
Truth. Clarity. Didn’t come from Facebook. Imagine that.
I had decided that I would stop on this drive if I saw something of interest. Something that might help me slow down and experience life outside of social media. (Let me be clear.) On the west-bound drive of I-70, I see a billboard advertising “Ray’s Pharmacy” in Quinter, Kansas. The billboard invited me to stop in and relive a blast from the past with their old-fashioned soda fountain. There was just such a soda fountain at the Rexall Pharmacy in the town where my grandparents lived, in Crane, Missouri. I want to see this. I pull off the highway at the Quinter exit and find the downtown pharmacy.
|Soda Fountain inside Ray's Pharmacy|
|It really was a step back in time!|
|And they did!|
I know the whole idea of this trip is beginning to take root in my soul when I suddenly pull over to the shoulder of I-70 in western Kansas to take a picture of----a field of sunflowers.
|This beautiful field of sunflowers caught my eye and begged for a photo|
|Like western Kansas, I-70 in Colorado seems to stretch out forever|
When I arrived in the Denver area, I noticed I couldn’t see the mountains. Why was the haze so bad? My first view of the mountains is always a special moment for me when I drive to Colorado; that first glimpse of the majesty of God’s creation. As it turns out, those mountain views were obscured by smoke from dozens of wildfire in California, Oregon, Washington, Idaho, and Montana. Ironic, given that this journey is about clarity.
|Missing on the horizon in this picture are the Rocky Mountains, normally|
easily seen at this distance, just a few miles east of Lyons, Colorado
Part II, The Cabin
Our rented mountain cabin is located in Allenspark, Colorado, near the Peak to Peak Highway, in the shadow of Long’s Peak, not far from Estes Park.
|Beautiful cabin built in the 1930s, currently owned by The Copeland Institute|
|Long's Peak towers over the valley along Highway 7 near Allenspark, Colorado|
|There is abundant evidence of the beauty of God's creation in the Rockies|
There is no cell service and no TV at the cabin. There is Wifi so I can email, but I am continuing my fast from Social Media. So far, I don't feel like I've missed one single thing. But I have experienced much more going on around me because of it! I truly believe that alone had been the biggest contributor to my finding clarity.
|"Chapel on the Rock", St. Malo Chapel on Highway 7, Allenspark, CO|
|With Long's Peak rising above the town of Allenspark, |
the views are enough to distract one from social media
When I sit on the deck in the morning with my coffee, I can hear life: the little mountain stream that flows in front of the cabin, gurgling its way toward Crystal Springs there in Allenspark; I hear a squirrel high in the Lodgepole Pine above me, barking at me for interrupting his morning ablutions; the wind curling through the Aspens at the edge of the stream.
|He became a regular visitor, so we named our little buddy "Willy"|
|The front porch of the cabin became my favorite place for reflection...and coffee.|
|Early morning coffee on the front porch of Greenbrook Cabin|
|Just one of the many spectacular views from the front porch|
|An old school desk adorns the front porch|
|Even the wind chimes provided their own sort of stillness|
|A beautiful flower box on the deck rail of the |
Meadow Mountain Cafe in Allenspark
I’ve discovered that younger people do not seem to like this kind of stillness. It’s too quiet. The first thing my daughter did when we got settled in at the cabin was pull up Pandora on her phone and stream music for an hour. I don’t know, maybe that’s a sort of stillness to her.
There is something about staying in a cabin in the Rocky Mountains that brings with it a clarity of its own. But you must be willing to lift your head.
Not even the breathtaking views of the Rockies can be experienced if you do not first lift your head out of your phone or tablet.
But if you can get to that, oh what you will see and hear there! I highly recommend you find a way to experience life outside of social media. Maybe your stillness isn’t a road trip to Colorado. Maybe you find your stillness in a stream of music, as my daughter does. Maybe it’s as simple as lifting your head in your own living room.
Part III, “What Have You Learned, Dorothy?”
As I made the return drive, through eastern Colorado, across the Kansas border, leaving Mountain Standard Time, I was able to reflect on my journey. I glanced in the rearview mirror as I turned onto I-70 Eastbound from the E-470 Expressway, and there they were: the Rocky Mountains. The haze lifted enough to bring that magnificent view back. Clarity.
It has been 6 days since I gave myself permission to ignore social media. I have seen the notifications number count building on my phone app. And I will come back to it. But I will see it with different eyes now. Its self-importance will not overshadow what is actually important. Because there IS life out there beyond the Twitter/Instagram/Snapchat/Facebook/Reddit/Whatever-Is-Next Social Media universe.
Let me be clear…I didn’t begin this journey to change YOUR life. Or my life, for that matter. I am merely sharing my own personal journey of giving myself a timeout. Making time to notice life. Actually, chronicling this journey brings its own clarity.
God, thank you for clarity; for the chance to reflect on what is truly important.
Your journey is out there. Lift up your head.