“The practice of paying attention serves as an anchor for the soul in a fast-moving world. Instead of waiting for the world to stop so we can catch up, let’s slow on purpose, look around, and simply name what we see.” –Emily P. Freeman
I am someone who loves hearing other people’s stories. I find myself wishing frequently that I could know more, go further, dig deeper. What’s in his/her heart that brings out that passion or calling or response. I am so curious for the nuances of life and how they make us dynamic and complex and more than any single descriptor.
And also, I have found myself at times hedging toward annoyance when those stories turn toward offerings of hard-won lessons and advice. Words tossed to me as a life raft I didn’t ask for. To enjoy your kids even when they are hard, to step towards the people who feel a little too much, to give that scary thing a chance, to let the small stuff (even if it doesn’t feel so small) go, and on and on.
And there it goes, bubbles of quiet exhaustion finding their way up. A tiny voice saying thank you and also no thank you.
And I know without question that their words are intended as helpful and good, usually no ill-motive anywhere in the vicinity. I just don’t always want it laid out so neatly for me, packaged by someone else. Seemingly so easy and precise.
I want to live it through. Find it out for myself. Know better with far less experience. That’s usually the way that works, right?
Now let me confess, I most certainly do this myself (and likely more often than I even notice). I hear my own voice extending advice to newer moms or teachers or fill-in-the-blanks, attempting to offer a bridge over all the trial and error.
But such an offering of wisdom in moments where all I want is to rely on what I know as true, it can be just too dang much. So deeply kind and also completely unwanted. These are some of my less-than moments.
When I really give it a moment, I can see that the gift that they are truly extending is that of reflection. A reminder that we rarely get to skip past the actual living, beautiful and hard and stretching. Most likely a mixing of all of it over and over. We must walk this life and live into whatever is here and then next and then after.
And there is such profound kindness in reflecting as we go. Turning again and again to see what is being made of us because of our movements in living. Naming the good that comes from the smallest steps and the scariest falls.
To walk this life and neglect to notice the deepest parts being woven within us, changed and formed and broken and remade, feels like such a misstep. A missed knowing of who we are and what we need and where we find motivation and on. Our very bones being built.
Choosing to reflect is usually my best view of the good that has come or perhaps is still working its way through. I am blind to it in the middle, but when I make time to look back and notice, I find it. Good nestled deep in sturdier bones. Shaping me, holding me together. Making me stand a little taller, building my strength for whatever lies next in these days.
Now, in my little world that good is inseparable from God. Reflecting is often where I find Him, at work and right in the middle of my every day.
But even if He isn’t who you’re searching for as you turn to look, I am betting that good is waiting to be seen. Even in the places you thought you’d never find it, reflection has a funny way of bringing your eyes and heart to a wider view. To what’s been hiding in plain sight.
And as much as the end of a year, in many ways, doesn’t pause any of what life is bringing us, it is such an easy time to start a practice of looking back to walk the next year with a widened lens and a deeper knowing.
It doesn’t take much. But my experience tells me to reflect often, even in tiny in-between moments, is far more helpful than rarely or even every once in a while.
Perhaps you have just a handful of minutes a day (or week) (or month) to pause it all to jot down what life has been and how you are being made in the middle.
If you aren’t quite sure how, maybe use one of the beginnings below to get you going. There are no rules except to turn and look and notice.*
If you are looking for a more routine way of reflecting, I have loved this guided journal by Emily P. Freeman. It isn’t complicated and it doesn’t take much time, but it helps draw your eyes to what seems to really matter. It has helped me name so much of what I see being made in me and my people. And there is such relief in finding eyes to see that even when control is hard to come by, something is being made of you still.
So perhaps this month you could try. Pause as you feel best and take 10 minutes to turn your eyes to the past handful of days. What makes itself known when you answer some of these questions? I’m betting some deeper good bubbles up among the rest.
Some beginning thoughts to try:
What stands out to me about my past week?
What has been hard?
What concerns have I had?
Are there any relationships, interactions, or conversations that have felt important?
Where do I see growth in myself? Where do I want to grow still?
Where is the good? Big or small, where is it?
*Note for those with trauma in their past that may feel too weighty to look back on alone: do what is healthy and good and right for you. If this isn’t it, or if it is but not on your own, listen to that voice above mine. You are so loved.