One Word: Present

PresentSawyer, Focused. Yona, Guam: December 25, 2013.

Farewell, Plan Q

I’m known for my efficiency. People sometimes use words like “organized” and “strategic” to describe me.  They’re right. I’m good at juggling family, career, writing–all of it.

And it costs me dearly. I’m always thinking two steps ahead, conjuring a contingency plan. If Plan A washes out, Plan B is already fully formed. It’s a helpful life skill.

Unless you idolize it. Plan B hasn’t been enough for me, lately. No. I’m more comfortable with options up through, oh, say, Plan Q. This arrangement (a mirage of control) comforts me. It’s also exhausting. And it’s a thief. It steals my time. It steals my attention. Left alone, it could steal my faith. 

Visiting our daughter and son-in-law over Christmas, grandson Sawyer pointed it out. He did not say, Lala, you’re always preoccupied. It’s like you’re not really here with us. Your mind is somewhere else. How can I help you to focus on me? He didn’t say those things because he is 37 months old.

I was quickly checking my email one morning (you know how that is, right? You log on for a quick moment, then a rabbit-hole opens up and swallows you) and he said, Lala, can I be with you?

Me: I’m right here with you, Honey.

Sawyer: I want to sit in your lap.

Me: I’m not playing a game on the computer, Sweetie.

Sawyer: I know. But your eyes are not with me. I want your eyes, Lala. 

And that, my friends, is how it feels to be sucker-punched by a preschooler. He was trying to tell me that while I was there with him, I wasn’t engaged with him. I wasn’t present. 

If you’re my friend, maybe I’ve done it to you, too. You’re telling me something and right  before your eyes, I unfocus. My mind is living two hours in the future (you would think that could be quite nifty on PowerBall day, but no), thinking through all the things to be done and places to go and what contingency planning will make me feel safer. 

I begin this year in a new place. Sure, I know we can never swim in the same river twice, but this New Year feels different. I have some new health matters to manage. I’ve signed a contract to write a series of novelettes based on the characters from my Christmas story, Kathi Macias’ 12 Days of Christmas: Volume 8, Yankee Doodle Christmas (more about that later). Exciting changes at my place of work present great opportunities and those devoted footmen of opportunity, challenges.

As a young woman, I wrote poetry. One piece contained this line:

Wherever you go, live there.

My dream for this year is to be fully present in each moment. So when I’m tossing the ball for J.D. the Labrador, I’m not composing an email in my head. I’m watching him race down the hill, thrilled to be snagging the ball and bringing it back to me. I’m hearing his panting and feeling the gritty surface of the ball. When I’m in a staff meeting, I’m listening to my coworker instead of mentally revising my own remarks. When my husband is calling down a blessing on our dinner, I’m drawing  his words into my heart instead of wondering if there’s still enough ice cream in the freezer for dessert.

This year, I will quit living the hotshot fantasy that it all depends on me.

Instead, I will inhabit the truth that I depend on Him. 

rabbit conga

The Lord will accomplish what concerns me;
Your lovingkindness, O Lord, is everlasting;
Do not forsake the works of Your hands.

Psalm 138:8 (NASB)


  1. This is so good, Sheila. So good. I’ve been a planner, too. I thought it was important to make sure I don’t miss something…that it would save time in the future to have everything all planned out…but what it does it take time away from the present. Eighteen month old Tyler is on his way over. His mama called a few minutes ago and said that he isn’t feeling well today and rather than going to daycare could he stay with me. I’m going to remind myself to be present with him all day today. Thank you!

    • Patricia,
      Thank you. I’m wondering, as I reflect on your response, whether all the planning doesn’t rob us of opportunities for spontaneous gifts in the future, as well. Maybe if I don’t always have a gazillion contingencies up my sleeve, I’ll be more open to God’s leading.

      Enjoy your day with Tyler! I hope he’s feeling better soon.

  2. Yes, yes, this!
    I pray that He continue to hold you and guide you and give you ears to hear, eyes to see – the moment, each moment as it unfolds
    allowing Him to sort out the details of what comes next

  3. Oh, Sheila……’Lala, can I have your eyes?’ And doesn’t our Father tell us the same thing? I can so identify with this overplanning tendency. Last year my word was ‘dwell’ with much of the same message–just be where you are….I think it takes a lifetime to learn.
    This post brought tears to my eyes. I rejoice with you for all the writerly, good things God has in store.

  4. Those rabbit holes are everywhere, thanks to the proliferation of devices.
    I am starting to get better with turning off, tuning out. I’m gettting into a place in my life where the attraction is no longer there.

    • That’s a great point, David.

      While in Guam, I left my cell phone turned off, as it would have been crazy-expensive to use it on the island. There was more to that experiment than I anticipated.

  5. Ooooh, this was tough to read. Because this is me, too. Always distracted, thinking ahead, checking in, which turns out to be a fancy, techy way of checking OUT. Thanks for this, Sheila. And blessings as you pursue this in all the newness of this year.

    • It’s so easy to sell ourselves on the “value” of preplanning, isn’t it? Brings to mind that old saying, “If the devil can’t make you bad he’ll make you busy.”

      So happy to see you here, Diana!

  6. You know I love this!!! Lil was here this morning. “Come cuddle with me, Nama.” Did I? Nope. I had “important” stuff to do. And my word’s “present,” too. Check.

  7. I can’t help but turn a different direction with Sawyer and his statements.
    How many times daily and I hate to admit it but even minute to minute am I not fully present for the Lord

    enough said

  8. From the mouth of little ones … such an important truth. Reminds me of the song, “Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus.”

  9. “But your eyes are not with me. I want your eyes,” Good words. Helpful words. Make sure my eyes are focus on the one I’m with (wait, isn’t that a song?) is a concrete way of being present with him/her.

    I’m sneaking up on writing a post about my word for the year–now that we’re 15 days into it. Instead, I fell into your rabbit hole this morning 🙂

    And . . . as long as I’m here–let me extend official hand-waving, feather-boa wearing congratulations to you over here!

    • Aren’t we lucky to have grandsons who are geniuses? (Granddaughters too, in my case). Fifteen days is within the time frame, I think, of rolling a word around in your mind like a grape on your tongue before biting into it.

      Thank you, friend.

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