Something true about my marriage is that neither my husband or I enjoy being rushed. I remember once in our first year together, something delayed Tim and me on our way to church. We were in the car about halfway there when Tim pulled over and asked where I wanted to go to lunch. He said if he had to walk in late, he didn’t want to go at all, so we might as well go get food instead. In that moment, I discovered my new husband does not enjoy two things: being late and being in a hurry. I knew I was in love.
It’s like our family has an unspoken agreement: If we have to hurry, we’re not going.
The above story might make us sound like very regimented people. I assure you, we’re not. In reality, we’re rather relaxed. For us, not being in a hurry is less about order or control and more about presence. We have a desire to show up 100 percent wherever we are—not cutting corners relationally or moving too fast to see what’s in front of us.
The other day my almost-four-year-old, Landon, and I walked around our neighborhood in the rain. Landon had on a brand-new, bright yellow rain slicker and one of the biggest smiles I’ve ever seen. There are days I worry I’ll blink and miss it. Miss him. How proud he is of his biggest jump. The ingenuity of his latest trick. The urgency of his most recent question that must be asked right now.
It’s impossible for anyone to catch all of these things all of the time. Yet I think it’s possible to train your brain to recognize the flashes of love in your life—the ones for which in retrospect you’ll be the most thankful. These moments are like a slowing down. For me, the practice of presence is rooted in gratitude. To be fully present is a like a stewardship. It’s agreeing with myself that time matters and I should use it well.
Limit screen time. This one is obvious (and I’m going to write about it more in the future), but seriously, my life is better when my phone is put away. In the main living area of our house, I have what I call a phone drop. It’s a little tray inside a drawer where I put my phone every morning when I come downstairs.
Do the tough stuff first. Whether it’s a phone call, a tough conversation, or a long training run, I like to get whatever it is that would hang over me all day out of the way as soon as possible. If I can’t actually take care of the item, I put it in my day planner and assure myself it’ll be waiting for me at the appropriate time. The more I can do to free up my brain space, the more focus I have to give the people in front of me.
Don’t overload the calendar. A few years ago, Tim and I made a game-changing decision about our calendar. Before scheduling anything, we look to see if not only the specific window of time is free, but also how the days and weeks surrounding the event look. In the seasons when the calendar gets overloaded, we go in with an end point in mind. We say things like, “The next two weeks will be crazy, but on this specific Saturday, we’ll commit to not scheduling anything.” Then on that Saturday, we do absolutely nothing.
Presence takes practice. It takes work to find the right rhythm for your schedule. It requires discipline to maintain eye contact with a friend rather than look at your phone or watch when it buzzes. It takes humility to say “I can’t at this time” when you feel like enough is enough.
But the practice of presence is what make it worth it. Our presence with one another is what makes us most human. And the practice of presence is the ability to try and try again. To keep showing up. To be intentional. To steward our time in a way that cares for ourselves and others.
Photo credit: Rupert Britton3