Maybe it was the recurring disappointment in my children’s faces when I told them I didn’t have time. Maybe it was the superficial hellos and hasty goodbyes offered to my spouse. Maybe it was the persistent feeling of unease — like I was missing something important. Maybe it was a combination of all these troubling factors that finally made me ask, Is this really how I want to live?
I still have the envelope. It’s nestled among my most valuable documents, along with my marriage license, passport, social security card, and birth certificate — documents that prove I exist. It’s not the content of the oversized envelope, stamped with the logo of our local zoo, that’s worth saving — it’s the message scribbled on the outside.
What if you missed hearing the best part of your child’s day because you were on the phone?
What if you missed a chance to inhale the sweet scent of your energetic child because you insisted on folding that basket of laundry before bedtime?
What if you missed a chance to console your worried spouse because of your mile-long to-do list?
What if you missed hearing an unknown childhood memory from your aging parent because you were too busy to call?
What if you missed a divine cloud formation in the sky because you were racing to the bank, the post office, and the dry cleaner before you had to pick up the kids?
What if one day you realized that all the opportunities you missed couldn’t be retrieved?
But it was already too late.
What if one day you realized the best moments in life come in the mundane, everyday moments? But you were only fully present on special occasions.
What if, instead of rushing through the minutiae of your daily life, you occasionally paused and offered your presence?
What if you turned away from the distractions that monopolize your time and attention and grasped the sacred moments passing you by?
Turn off the music in the car.
Sit next to your child as she plays.
Lie in bed with her after you say good night.
Hug her and don’t let go right away.
Tell her something you have been meaning to say.
Bend down and look her in the eye when she talks to you.
Do these things and see what might unfold. And once the moment is over, reflect back on that moment and realize this painful truth: If I had not paused, that precious moment is what I would have missed.
After covering the front and back of the envelope with my thoughts, I stared at it. Although not sure what I was supposed to do with what I’d written, I simply could not put the envelope back in the drawer. This once-ordinary envelope now exuded significance, so I set it on the counter with a sense of expectation — as if waiting for it to come to life.
I didn’t have to wait long. Less than an hour later, the purpose of what I’d written became clear.
As I was making lunch as usual for my younger daughter, Avery, my laptop was open on the kitchen counter and my phone was an arm’s length away. The devices battled for my attention with their respective dings and beeps. I answered their demanding summons with instant obedience.
Between incoming texts and email messages, I hurriedly applied peanut butter to a slice of bread. The sooner I could make my child’s lunch, the sooner I could address a few pressing matters on my to-do list. My mind was preoccupied with an upcoming baby shower I was hosting, the low air pressure on the front right tire, and making copies of a community-picnic flier.
For some reason, I looked up. I knew my child was there, but this time I noticed her, really noticed her. My precious curly-haired daughter sat on the sofa sucking her thumb while gently rubbing her nose. Suddenly, I felt like I couldn’t breathe. For the first time, I felt a new kind of urgency — an unsettling, uncomfortable, downright painful kind of urgency. Time was running out.
Then I did something atypical of my productive nature, something foreign to my type-A why-do-it-later-when-you-can-do-it-now mentality. Without even joining the two pieces of sandwich bread, I balanced the gooey knife on the open jar. Without closing the open bag of bread, without giving thought to the time, without contemplating the next item on the agenda, I went to my child. I felt God’s presence encouraging me to let the other stuff go; nothing was more important than being with my daughter.
I sat down next to her and placed my arm around her small shoulders. She looked into my eyes, her whole face brightening. Her wide eyes instantly transformed into joyful slices of happiness. Quickly filling the space between my body and hers, she scooted over and melted into me.
What happened next was something no one had ever done to me. She brought my hand to her pink lips and ever so gently kissed my palm.
As my eyes filled with tears, I knew this was it. My confirmation. My divine sign. In one simple, beautiful gesture, my daughter cemented my newfound pursuit to live Hands Free. I realized with clarity that this — this pausing when the whole world keeps on going — is living.
I wanted more tender moments like this. But first I had to admit that they wouldn’t be so rare if I would simply stop for a moment. The truth is: No matter how much she wants to, needs to, or would love to, my child cannot kiss a moving target.
How do you remember to stop and enjoy the everyday moments of life with your family?