Please excuse the fact that this post will be photo free. If I had my own personal photographer who followed me around I am sure this post would contain my most treasured photos of all. (The ones where I am playing with my babies, entering in fully, living with abandon in the present) As it is, typically when I'm present in the moment I am not usually (there are exceptions) holding my camera, and so these moments aren't captured. At least not on film. But they are more than captured by my heart. My mind. My eyes. I drink them in and taste them and feel the sweetness... I let my heart fill up to overflowing. Often they come spilling out in writing here.
What I want to write about today is being intentional. Being intentional in your focus. Being intentional in being present.
When we went to the beach in april I watched a scenario unfold that really got me thinking. It has been tumbling in my mind ever since, and I'm only just now writing about it. One of our April beach days we had breakfast in our condo and then took the boys all down to the beach. It was still chilly, we were wearing jeans and we took a wiffle ball bat and ball and a blanket and settled in for some quality time with our babies. We stayed out on the beach for a few hours. Shaun was pitching to Drew, Jaden & I were catching, Saiah was "playing the field" and we were just enjoying being together. Eventually Jaden fell asleep on my chest and I laid down on the blanket, holding him while he slept and watching Shaun, Drew and Isaiah test the water and play down by the ocean. I noticed another family with three little ones come down on the beach after a bit too. I love to people watch, so I was drawn to them. They were a little distance away so I couldn't hear them very well. The mom was pretty, the three little kids were adorable, the dad looked pretty hipster. But what I watched happen made me so, so sad. They stepped onto the sand and stopped there. First the woman held the phone up and snapped several photos of her and her husband with their arms around each other. Then she took the baby out of the stroller, her husband took her phone, and she would hold the baby up and kiss the baby for the picture. As soon as the shot was snapped she would lower the baby down and ask if he got it. They took about three or four tries before she was satisfied. Then she put the baby back into the stroller, took her phone, leaned her back against the fence.... and proceeded to focus her attention on the phone for the remainder of their time on the beach. Her older two children played in the sand at her feet. She didn't join them, she didn't watch them. Her baby sat in the stroller. Her husband looked a little bored. And then they left. They never walked down to the water, they didn't run or play tag or touch affectionately any more once the picture taking was done. All I could think was that she missed it. She missed the moment. Her eyes were glued to a tiny, illuminated screen, and she missed the vastness of the sky and ocean. Maybe she was looking at photos of other people's children, but she missed her own. Maybe she was looking at cute, inspirational photos of other couples, but she was missing her own man. My heart felt heavy and sad.
And then there are the people on the other side of those photos she took and uploaded. They saw a photo of a husband and wife, smiling, arms around each other, the ocean behind them... It looked so romantic. In real life that moment lasted about two seconds, and then they didn't touch again. They saw a photo of a mama holding her littlest up in her arms, giving kisses while the sun shone behind them and the waves splashed. It looked so affectionate. It looked so perfect. In real life that baby spent the majority of her beach time in her stroller. Those photographed kisses were the only ones that were given. Maybe some people felt jealous when they saw those pictures. Maybe some people felt inspired. Maybe some people felt happy for them. Maybe some people felt discouraged. Anyone could have had any reaction to that photo, and really their reaction is for them to decide. But from my perspective, the whole production looked staged and fake. Like they were living their lives for the image they were sending out to the world who wasn't there with them. Like the were only interested in creating "perfect" moments for the sake of the camera. Like once no one was watching, there was no point to real living.
[Side note: I am not on instagram, but I'm not an instagram hater either. I think it can be used in a responsible way. If you want to pull out your phone and snag an image of something special that is happening around you, go right ahead. If you want to take a beautiful picture of something and show people your perspective on life, fine. But please, keep it real. Take the pictures because you actually LIVED. Don't live to take the pictures.]
So here's what I would like to say. In this world with all this technology, all these social media platforms, all these ways to "connect" with the world, we need to be intentional about when we allow them access to our lives, and when it's time to disconnect with the world and connect with the real people who are actually around us. Being present in the moment is a choice. It is wisdom to plan for the future. It is helpful to remember your past and remind yourself of God's faithfulness. But your greatest gift is your RIGHT NOW. It is so incredibly important to press into the moment and experience all that it is. You will never get it back. I am not advocating living for the moment, I am advocating living in the moment. Go ahead. Go wrap your baby up in your arms and kiss their sweet cheeks and bury your face in their little neck and don't take a picture of it this time. Keep it for just the two of you. Go find your spouse and take their hands in yours and look deep into their eyes and tell them you love them. Just because. Don't tweet what they say back to you, just keep it for yourself.
There are moments to share, and there are moments that are all yours. Don't forget about that second category, it's where most of the sweetness happens.