present.

I love perfect days, perfect moments. I long for them. I live for them. I try to craft them, thoughtfully, methodically, excitedly. I don’t want to miss them. I believe we can have them…if we desire, if we try. But, in my world, in my everyday, it can feel like hours and weeks and months before they come.

But…the time between them is changing. I’m changing.

It’s wise and good to be thoughtful, intentional, hopeful. I deeply believe that. But, if you’re like me, the mental energy spent on the future can make it really hard, really frustrating, to see the “now,” experience the present, that gift of what’s happening right in front of you.

I just read a book (utterly a miracle in itself that I would take the time, right now, to stop, read and enjoy, because there’s totally SO many other things I could be doing!). It was for the book club I’m in (crazy that I’m even in a book club since I’m not a reader, but I sure do love those women!). It’s called, Chasing Daylight by Eugene O’Kelly. I don’t even know what “goodreads” is, but this was certainly a good read! Actually, it was an outstanding read. It’s about a CEO of one of the largest U.S. accounting firms. He was successful, intentional, committed…in everything he stepped into. At age 53, he was diagnosed with late-stage brain cancer. Each page you turn captures his thoughtful and intentional and successful “goodbye” to the life he had lived so well, and the lessons he learned while dying that he says would have created a different life, a better life, if he would have learned them earlier. It’s an amazing journey of awakening and arrival to a new self, a more true self, rather than a reflection of what could have been. All in 100 days.

His words, his insight, his honesty on being fully present…they resonated and spoke to me. Probably mostly because it’s what I can do so poorly, and because it’s what I strive for so diligently, and because it’s what I’m practicing currently. Here I am, a counselor…someone who listens and “sees” and hears…the jarring and beautiful and fragile and broken and sacred stories that are told to me each hour. I have this calling, this opportunity, to be fully present to the people who walk through my door. I hope I give that to them…a place where they can be utterly and authentically themselves. As they share what’s hard, right now, I tell them, over and over again, “Give yourself permission to be where you’re at.” And yet, I find it so difficult to do the same. We’re human, together.

Recently, I was sharing with someone how this season of young children can feel so hard at times. (Clearly, I’ve shared this before!) As moms, the daily routine of meeting your children’s needs can feel so boring, so mundane, so unglamorous, so lonely. At the same time, those feelings are met with beliefs and values that drive me to be with them, in the home, nurturing and mentoring them…because I can, I get to, at least most of the time. Why? Because I know that each year they will grow in certain ways that will empower them to move further away, further out, of my impact. Back to the wise person…she encouraged me to sit with my boredom, with my fear of losing myself, with my resentment, with my grief, with my loneliness, and ask God if he would show me the treasure in it. A treasure in this? Not when I get over it or through it or work past it? Really? Because that’s what the “good girl” would do!

And so, I’m working on giving myself permission to do just that…To be bored. To be fearful. To be resentful. To be sad. To be lonely…To be present. And then be still enough, present enough, to discover what’s in it. Because I don’t want to miss the gift, the treasure in these perfect moments. I want to cultivate and strengthen and invest in what comes with “now”…the people, the relationships, the stories, the scenery, the awe, the perfection. Our memories are being made now, not as we plan our perfect moments.

So, I’m inviting out more of the parts of me that have gotten lost a bit over the last 4 years…spontaneity, openness, forgetfulness (in a good way), my five senses, playfulness, acceptance. So that, I can capture more pictures like the one above…of my little boy, fully present to the sand and sun and daddy and sister right there, in front of him.

Join me in practicing presence.

Whatever is right in front of you, be there, in it. Because I bet it’s stunning.

…to go through life not fully awake is not to really live.” (Eugene O’Kelly)

 

summer days.

Summer is here! The lingering days, the sun-kissed skin, lakeshore beaches with their waves crashing into sand toys and kid-dug holes, sand nestled between the toes (and other hidden places), candles glowing at the beach, outside lunches that make everything taste better, gleaning fresh produce and flowers from the farmer’s market, wagon rides to the bridge and “popcorn store,” frozen apricot brandy and strawberry/pineapple slushes, the smell of freshly cut grass, the sound of rhythmic sprinklers, slides and swings, friends that talk and laugh and play, and gorgeous sunsets that say, “All shall be well.”

Ahhh…we love summer! Something about this time of year feels more alive, more laid back, more lovely, better.

10 steps gets us to the backyard and kiddie pool and shade trees and swings and trampoline.

20 miles gets us to Holland State Park.

25 miles gets us to Oval Beach in Saugatuck.

30 miles gets us to Grand Haven State Park.

These are the West Michigan lakeshore beaches we feel giddy driving to as we sing our favorite songs. We have water all around us, tucked into little spaces that shout, “Let me refresh and enjoy you!” That’s one of the best parts about living in the mitten state. Heck, we even have our own Michigan clothing website that celebrates this good land shaped like a hand. Come drive up the shore and visit some of the most beautiful northern country and make some family memories in Pure Michigan! (I love these ads!)

Some of my favorite lazy summer pictures so far…(Secretly, I wish I was a photographer.)

I hope you’re breathing in these summer moments and taking the time to soak the memories you’re making…in…deeply. Hopefully you are able to capture your moments with pictures or words or videos or maybe just tuck them away in your mind. Life moves by us so fast, if we let it. I know that for me, this summer, is about making room on my calendar for more days, more moments that I will choose to be more fully present, more playful, more engaging. For me, that may mean saying NO to some really good things and maybe some really good people. For you, it may mean saying YES to some new things and to some new people. Whatever it looks like for you to enjoy summer – stepping into or stepping away from – may it be a choice that brings fresh perspective, a simple smile, a new gratitude, and memories that are worth remembering.

Here’s to summer 2012 and to all the LIFE and BEAUTY and JOY it holds!

PS – If you have a favorite summer time place or escape or activity, please do tell!