With the end of the school year and all of the things that come with it—field trips, recitals, awards assemblies, carnivals, graduations, parties--, the color-coded dry-erase calendar I keep in our kitchen has been doing double duty. Yes, all of the activities are results of a life well-lived and marked many accomplishments that needed to be celebrated, but as the last one ended last night, I felt depleted and not living in the right here, right now.
I’ve prided myself on being a person who focuses on the beauty of the everyday, but l realized that lately, I’ve just been pushing to get to the end of each day—checking things off of my list, caught in the shuffle of the everyday, forgetting the noticing prayers I usually do. It’s easy to take our eyes off of what matters. It’s easy for the noise to take over and for us to forget to stop and savor.
Our family took a much-needed break today and as the sun shone brightly on my daughter, floating in the water of a local lake, I finally exhaled, breathing in and out, in and out. I sat and watched her, the sunlight dancing on the water, her laughter echoing, thank yous on my lips. God, all around.
Later, she curled up in my arms as she rested, the day fading in shades of pink and orange. My son, now 13, and I talked about musicians and album covers, concerts and band t-shirts. I caught my husband watching us, smiling and grateful. I smiled back. Small things, but God, ever-present.
When we got home, I sat outside alone with my cat. I haven’t done that in over a month. I sat cross-legged, as she purred and curled up in my lap, content. The evening was quiet, just the crickets made noise. The fireflies are starting to glow here in the field in front of our house and I watched them, flickering, dancing. The night sky was clear, stars appearing as the night faded into indigo. The strawberry moon was rising and I just sat and stared. God’s handiwork really is everywhere.
If you find yourself in this same situation, I hope you'll slow down and pay attention. When I'm feeling particularly overwhelmed, it helps to stop and do a "noticing" activity. Focos on one thing around you that tethers you the moment. Is there a smell or a sound that reminds you of being in the right now? For me, above, it was the sound of the water and my daughter laughing.
With our own children, we can practice the same. If they are feeling bogged down by the end of the year activities, help them see the beauty all around by asking them to focus on their senses. What do they see? Hear? Smell?
When we slow down and pay attention, life truly shows us that God is right here, right now. What a gift and a blessing.