Every Season Sacred: The Gift of Noticing
I’m pushing the stroller around the corner when the podcast I’m streaming cuts out. I frown and glance at my phone. Out of battery. I’ve just promised my older kids thirty more minutes of park time with friends while I walk the nearby sidewalks. What am I supposed to do with no podcasts, music, or texting? I’m tempted to call them over and tell them it’s time to go.
What will I do with thirty minutes of silence? With no one to listen to or talk with? With a life full of loud children, I dream of silence often. But now that I’m forced to be in the silence and stillness of the day, I don’t love it.
I take a breath and keep walking, determined to live up to the challenge.
As I walk, my daughter giggles. I realize she’s been giggling all along, but I was too distracted by my phone’s speakers to notice the beautiful melody right in front of me. A few more minutes in, I start to hear the birds chirping as they keep watch from their perches in the canopy of trees overhead. The more I walk without manufactured noise, the more I notice: a symphony of hooting owls, the crunching of leaves, and creaking park swings.
My awakened senses bring me more into the present.
With each step on the pavement, I add to the rhythm of the song that has been humming all along. As I walk, I ask God to help me awaken to what is happening right in front of me, to the beauty I’ve been too distracted to notice.
I feel the snap of the twigs as I push the stroller down the boulevard.
I feel the embrace of the afternoon as little wisps of a cool breeze come and go.
I breathe in the fresh air, the last vestiges of summer giving way to the beginnings of fall.
A squirrel with a bushy plume of a tail gathers acorns, skittering across lawns, planning for the cooler days to come.
I look up to the two mighty oaks that line the boulevards and wonder when their leaves started to spin into golden hues. I eye the playground, where an elderly neighbor is picking up bits of trash and the neighborhood kids have joined in, making up a multigenerational litter brigade.
Would I have even noticed the ordinary grace right in front of me if I had planned ahead and charged my phone?
Our lives are loud.
Even when we think we’re clearing our minds, we often fill them with something else. Being awake to our lives feels almost unnatural. Disconnecting from technology so we can be present to where we are and who we’re with isn’t easy. Sometimes there are situations or emotions we’d prefer to escape or avoid. While I’m all for using technology in healthy ways, I’m aware of my propensity to scroll in an attempt to distract or numb myself, and then I’ll tell my friends how I “just can’t find space to think.”
I often wonder what I’m missing out on—what we are collectively missing out on—when we default to zoning out on our phones. What delightful interactions pass us by in the waiting room because we’re too engrossed in a Twitter thread? What glimpse of humanity do we miss because we’re checking emails while waiting in line at the grocery store?
When my four children were young, my husband went out of town on a work trip. I was frazzled from parenting two toddlers, a preschooler, and an elementary schooler—by myself. I didn’t have any energy to make dinner, so I ordered a pizza. I herded all the kids into the minivan (an Olympian feat) and finally made it to the pizzeria.
I unbuckled them, and with a toddler on each hip, I stood in line while my other children bounced around like they were in a pinball machine. When it was finally our turn to check out, I grabbed the diaper bag for my wallet. It . . . wasn’t there. The thought of getting everyone back into the vehicle and doing this all over again felt like too high of a hill to climb. But the woman standing in line behind me was paying attention—not scrolling her phone—and generously offered to cover our bill.
Jesus paid attention to people, often those who were unseen. When a woman in the crush of a large crowd touched the hem of His clothes, Jesus knew. He was awake to the place He was in and to the people around Him, along with their needs. He was paying attention.
Much ink has been spilled over our children’s generation and the implications of so much technology at their fingertips. Navigating online spaces is complicated and overwhelming, to be sure. But I wonder how much starts with us as parents. We have to contend with our own habits and how our unhealthy patterns with technology form us—and our souls.
How can we hope to form the souls of our families when we’re drinking from a firehose of information, entertainment, and connectivity twenty-four hours a day?
The youngest among us have much to teach us about paying attention. My six-year-old constantly stops on a walk, marveling at the shell of a fallen walnut or the wing of a butterfly. With God’s help, we can set our beeping and buzzing distractions aside, becoming like children as we awaken our senses to the glory that is unfurling all around us.
When we partake in this holy work of noticing, we become aware of where we may extend ordinary grace—and where we’re receiving, again and again, the grace that God lavishly pours into the nooks and crannies of our seemingly ordinary lives.
Excerpt from Every Season Sacred: Reflections, Prayers, and Invitations to Nourish Your Soul and Nurture Your Family throughout the Year by Kayla Craig. Copyright © 2023. Used with author’s permission.
Kayla Craig is a former journalist who brings deep curiosity and care to her writing. She created the popular Liturgies for Parents Instagram account, which Christianity Today named an “essential parenting resource.” She’s the author of To Light Their Way and also hosts the weekly Liturgies for Parents podcast.
Kayla lives in a 115-year-old former convent in her Iowa hometown, where she hopes to create spaces of welcome alongside her four children, two dogs, and husband, Jonny.
This week’s sponsor of Mothering Spirit is Ellie Roscher, author of Remarkable Rose and The Embodied Path. Remarkable Rose is a picture book that tells the true and inspiring story of a girl who was determined to play soccer in Kibera when girls weren’t yet allowed to play. The Embodied Path explores how claiming and sharing our body stories can lead to deeper embodiment, healing, and wholeness. Ellie is a former athlete and coach, a mother of young athletes, and a woman who believes our bodies are a gift from God who writes stories about the wisdom and power of our bodies. Visit ellieroscher.com for more on Ellie’s work!