Being Present Not Just At Christmas

When our daughter was a toddler, she loved to be carried. She would reach her arms up to me with her big blue eyes and say, “Up, up.”  And, so, up it was.  Perched on my right hip, arms wrapped around my neck.

Most of the time I loved holding her. Having her close.  Giving her comfort.  Feeling the gentle hugs she gave freely.  I especially appreciated having her close because as a very young child she had been so sick we thought we might lose her.

But, sometimes, holding her wasn’t always convenient. At the store or doctor’s office, it meant learning to hold her with one arm while digging through my purse for cash or a credit card.  Or filling out forms with one hand and trying to hold the form still while my cuddly two-and-a -half-year-old squirmed to get comfortable.  I gained new skills–including patience–during those times.

But she taught me more than patience.

Our sweet girl would remind me of her presence, too — as if I was unaware that I had a 23 pound child on my hip. When I was in the midst of a conversation or trying to check out at the grocery store, she would gently grab my face with both of her hands and turn my head toward her so that we were face to face–looking straight into each other’s eyes.

It was her way of telling me she needed my full attention. Face to face.  Looking directly at each other.  She learned early that being present–giving someone your full attention–requires something more than just physical presence.  It means turning your undivided attention to them.  Eyes.  Ears.  Heart.

If I didn’t look her way during those times, the tears would flow–she wasn’t afraid to show me how she felt about the attention she needed. She let me know that, at that moment, she needed to be the focus of my attention–the most important person or thing in my life now! She needed me to show her that she mattered more than the groceries or the girl at the checkout stand or the form the doctor needed me to complete.

My daughter taught me about being present–of showing others that they matter. She reminded me that I, too, long to matter in the eyes of others.  That I long for loving, messy, drop-everything-now relationships.  She reminded me to off the tv, the laptop, and the cellphone–and turn my attention to those I love. Those who, like me, long for relationships that say, “you matter to me.” To give others the attention I long for, too.

It can be efficient to multi-task. We can work and watch tv.  Talk on the phone and shop.  Have a conversation and check our text messages. Carry our small child around while we accomplish our daily tasks.

While sometimes mult-tasking is necessary, it doesn’t breed strong relationships. To be present–fully present–so that we can nurture the relationships in our lives, requires us to turn our eyes and ears and hearts toward others.  Like my daughter’s hands turning my face towards hers, we need to turn our hearts towards others and live fully in the moment.  To have relationships that enrich our lives and the lives of those around us.

And so, when I feel the urge to check my cell phone or turn on my laptop while spending time with family and friends, I think of my sweet girl. I remember those tiny hands pressed gently against my cheeks and I remember those big blue eyes staring me down–inches from my face.  And I smile.  I tuck my cell phone into my pocket or close the lid of my laptop.  And, I turn my heart and eyes and ears to the relationship at hand.

Being present everyday, not just this Christmas. That’s what Christ asks of us.

How will you live fully — how will you be present in the lives of others today?

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Posted on December 8, 2010, in Christianity, family, love and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. What a great story. (James still takes my face in his hands and turns it to him if I’m not paying attention!) I’ve been thinking that maybe next year I would designate one day a week to be tech free, a true Sabbath. A day for reflection, prayer, and face time with people I care about.

  2. Galen –
    I love that your son still does this! It makes me smile. I like the idea of a tech free day or Sabbath, especially if the day were set aside for reflection and prayer and time with those you love.
    –Godspeed,
    Elizabeth

  3. What a terrific post!

    I am in the “up please” and “hold you, hold you” phase with one of my girls, and your writing fits perfectly with what I was thinking today. Too often I feel as if I’m giving my daughter attention when really, I’m reading in her room and she is playing around me, or I’m outside with her, but my cell phone is at close range.

    I need to really think about the quality of time I’m spending with her. Nice meeting you! I found you through a comment you left at (in)courage.

    • Amy –
      Thanks for stopping by. . . Yes, the cell phone at close range. I think often about how I can change, to let go of technology so that I can give my full attention. . . I stopped by your blog today and I’m now following you. Blessings to you! –Elizabeth

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