Present Tense

There is a lot of buzz in our culture about living fully in the present.  It sounds like a great concept, but how exactly am I supposed to live in the present when my To Do list is endless and there are a million voices clamoring for my attention?

I have an app on my phone that enables me to make lists of things I need to remember.  This app is kind enough to send me notifications throughout the day to remind me of how far behind I am. It also dings every time I mark something off.  It is like getting a mini applause every time I accomplish something.

I find myself trying to multitask so that I can keep up with my schedule, but in most cases multitasking is a myth. When I try to do too many things at once, I am not doing any one thing well. Technology enables us to take it a step further.  We can talk on the phone, while answering emails and designing a new bathroom on Pinterest.  This all seems efficient, but it is it really?

I think I also pack my mind full of tasks to avoid pain, a sort of escapism. If I am moving at a rapid pace, then I don’t have to feel, because sometimes when I feel, my heart hurts.

When our daughter Nicole passed away, my grief was so intense that I prayed the rest of my life would go by fast. I wanted to rush through the pain, because my heart hurt so much.  The truth is when I try to avoid the pain in my life I often miss the beauty.

Over time the Lord is teaching me to just breathe in and settle into each moment that has been given to me. He has made me realize I’ve developed a habit of mentally checking out as I try to escape pain or attain significance by my accomplishments.

Psalm 46:10 says

Be still and know that I am God. 

One translation I read said “Stop striving”.  Being still isn’t a place of stagnant idleness.  It is a place of attuned awareness of God’s presence. I believe gratitude is the secret ingredient to being still.  God’s presence is the purest source of good in my life, so I always have something to be thankful for.

Alex, Nicole, Lisa & Megan 1998

I recently had a chance to practice this way of being still.  Our family went on a road trip starting in Buffalo, NY.  No one else was aware of my struggle as we drove through parts of upstate New York and Vermont.  See, the last time I was in that area was the year our daughter Nicole died.  It was the fall of 1998 and Larry was working there.  We were able to go and spend 2 weeks exploring, enjoying the fall colors and just hanging out. It was a great trip and the last one our whole family took together.

The old familiar ache crept in as we traveled some of the same areas from nearly 19 years ago. I had a choice to make.  I could either push out the memories with busy work or I could embrace them and be grateful.

 

Kim, Larry & Max 2017

It started small, but I began to look out the window and take in the scenery.  It helped to count my blessings out loud.  I could feel my heart stilling as I began to purposely be aware of all that I had to be grateful for.  I could feel a marked, tangible difference in my heart.

Our trip turned out to be an epic adventure as we were able to see new places, creating new memories that mingled with the past.

I have been trying to be intentional about being present in every moment that I am in, whether in work or play.  When I feel anxiety or depression start to press in, I remind myself what I am grateful for.  Sometimes I make a list, but other times I name my blessings out loud.  When I do that I am able to be still, be present and know that He is God.

Maybe you are in the midst of a devastatingly painful period in your life and the thought of being present in this time seems absurd.  I understand.  Just know that even though you will always carry part of the pain with you, you can experience healing, one day at a time, one moment at a time.

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