Mother’s day weekend gave me a chance to sit in awe and wonder as we cued up old family videos. My babies were captured on the screen, frozen in the mid 1990s—bright eyes, white blond hair, tiny voices, and emerging personalities. In some ways, these tiny ones seemed removed from the young adults who were watching them with me. But I can see a familiar crinkle of the eyes or turn of the mouth that still appears across their grown faces. We comment, recognizing that this child has ALWAYS carried a bag, or has been wearing the same style of shoe since age 12, or has raised their eyebrow in a certain way since they were a preschooler, or wrote stories since the time their writing looked like scribbles on a page. Their personalities shine through. Each of my babies, in the tiny package of their human selves held the potential of who they are today, with personality, interests, and passions all their own. Some things have been nurtured, somethings have perhaps lain dormant, still waiting to be awakened. Looking into their eyes, I can see past, present and even future selves. They are grown now, forging their own pathways, finding out how to continue to nurture themselves, continue to flourish, continue to grow.
I stand in awe of the process that turned them into adults….the slow-by-days, but rapid-by-years way that a child grows. Watching the videos, I am impressed that time will continue to move at ever increasing speeds. The time passed is likely equal to or less than the time to come. So, what is this Mama to do? I want to watch their journeys with awe, curiosity and wonder. I want to continue to expand and grow myself. I want to slow down and attend to the moments I am in, not living in the past or the future so much that I miss the present. I want to live life at the pace to notice and care.
When I was young, my mom often commented that if I “moved any slower, I would be going backwards.” Though my pokiness was not advantageous to completing household tasks quickly, I’m learning to appreciate it as a tool of presence. When I move slowly, I notice. I notice tiny flowers along the path. I notice small children. I notice the people I pass. I notice beautiful words, the way the shadows fall, the way wool feels, and I relish it. I also listen—to the birds in the trees, to the experience of another, to the emotion in the voice of the person I am sitting with. When I move slowly, I hear the whisper of Creator.
Unfortunately, this sort of slowing does not come naturally. I wish it was as easy as it sounds, but I need to cultivate it. Otherwise, my mind leap frogs from the cares of the past, skips right over the present, and runs circles around the concerns of the future. It forgets what is most real and true. As I have become more attuned to the need to slow my mind to focus on life in the present—the life I can actually live right now—I have begun experimenting with practices that aid me.
As basic as it may sound, it’s been helpful for me to place limits on how I engage with technology. It’s embarrassing how easily I can be distracted by email, social media, endless scrolling and googling, scrolling away far more time than I wanted to lend the activity. The information at my finger tips is often a larger portion than my human sized brain can or should digest in such a short period of time. The last six months, I have been trying to make it harder to unintentionally distract myself. I turn my computer off when I am done with my work day. When I sit down in the evening to rest, I charge my phone in a room away from me. The added steps of going to get my phone or turning on my computer give me a moment to consider if this is how I want to spend the present moment. As a by product, I’ve ended up doing more conversing, reading, knitting, resting and thinking.
Gratitude has also helped me to settle my mind. I might express thanks for my steaming morning coffee, the percussive music of the rain, encouragement from a family member, a warm, soft blanket, a house that keeps me warm and dry, or companionship during a challenging season. This keeps me grounded in paying attention to the present, especially when I am tempted to worry about the future. Gratitude reminds me that God has cared for me in the past, cares for me in the present and will likely care for me in the future.
Sometimes slowing the pace of my day helps me slow my mind. I choose to walk, rather than drive, to a destination in my neighborhood. I settle into knitting slowly and rhythmically. Or I set a timer and commit to an activity for longer than my restlessness desires. When I relax into a slower pace, my mind often begins to follow, slowing down, remembering what is significant, responding in thanks, trust, and wonder.
Slowing down takes practice. I want results. I want to have already learned to attend to the present and not miss any of the moments God has for me in this day of life. Yet, surely the way that children grow is the way we grow—that slow-by-days, but rapid-by-years way that God is at work in us past, present, and future.
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