It’s a beautiful day today. A cool rainy day with grey clouds, rare for late May in Redding, California. Our summers are relentlessly hot here, 100 degrees plus for four months of the year and every day blue and sunny. And then this. This beautiful rainy grey day, rare enough to make me step outside this morning, to feel the cool cement on my bare feet and enjoy the chill on my skin. It’s a moment that calls me to be present. To stop and indulge myself for a few minutes where nothing else has my focus.
These moments don’t come easily. I have two little ones, both vibrant and active. In nap times and after bedtimes I squeeze in the other passions of my heart whilst seeking to maintain order in our lives and home. I’m a mom, I’m a wife, I’m building a non-profit with friends, I run a women’s group, I play tennis, I manage my household. Life has a fast-paced flow of meaningful endeavours alongside the mundane, and multitasking is my friend. I have always done it and thrive on the efficiency of it. My husband will attest to me moving him round to different locations in the house so we can clean up whilst listening and connecting to one-another.
But today I’m listening to Jason Upton’s ’Beautiful People’ and my heart is stirred. It’s a song about so many things but I love it for the first few lines:
‘Turn down the radio, I want to hear,
Turn down the voices hurting my ears
There’s a moment getting away’
There’s a moment getting away. That phrase has struck me deeply lately. I find it profoundly centering. In the multitasking, in the busyness, in the fast pace of life and the noise (albeit mostly wonderful) of my children, my voxer messages, my deadlines and notifications, there are moments that come and go. Subtle invitations to stop: moments when the blur of life stills for a second and I fully enter into and taste of the experience I am in. They are single focused, often simple, but somehow profound and memorable.
I think about the times we live in. I think about what it would have been like to live hundreds of years ago. The switching off that would have happened without the ability to respond to that email or research that baby gadget late into the night. I think about the life that would have been partaken of when all that could happen after dark was the sharing of stories or simply reading a book by candlelight or looking at the stars. Experiences that could be fully engaged in, free of the distractions that clamor because of what is available to us in this age.
But this is the time I live in. The age of comfort, the age of technology, the age of limitless choice and relentless pulls. A noisy age. One I am thankful for, but one which I have to choose to pull back from or it will sweep me along with its fast-paced tide. There are no ebbs and flows in the days and weeks unless I seek to create them.
A few months ago it hit home that I probably will not always live in this beautiful part of the world. For all our time here I’ve known that it won’t be forever, but somehow it struck me in a deeper way this time. As I lingered in that thought everything started to look different. I walked with my children at the Sundial Bridge and saw it again as though for the first time: fresh eyes taking in how beautiful this place is. And I savored it as though it was the last. There’s a mindfulness that comes from thinking something is fleeting - it makes it sacred and rare. We’re not leaving Redding and we have no plans to. But I’m grateful for the gift of this wake-up call to be present and to truly soak up this time.
Thinking this way has caused me to stop and to notice the activity that is taking place all around me. To really look at my children’s faces, to listen with fresh ears to their sweet little voices. I’m all too familiar with them to truly see them sometimes. But I’m stopping. I’m looking at my daughter’s angelic face with her red curls, and taking in the way she has just learnt to say ‘yeah’ in that heart-melting way. And I’m watching my son, my three-year-old friend, who stretches his arms out as wide as he can to tell me that he loves me ‘thiiiis much’. And listening to him go on to recount stories about his favourite sea creature that he has learnt so much about from the Blue Planet shows. Oh Jesus, let me breathe these moments in. Let them steal my whole focus and captivate my heart. I want to dive head first into them and store them up and carry them deeply.
I’m sitting at the Sundial Bridge as I write right now. The sun is clearing the clouds away and a busker is playing soulful music in the background. The children are out having adventures with their Daddy and I am alone. It’s a blissful moment and I am present in it: breathing it in for all that it is. It doesn’t last long but my soul is all the richer for it. It’s a way of life that I feel far from at times, but one that fulfils me and fuels me in a way that can’t be rivalled. And I think to myself, that’s one moment that didn’t get away.