Last Sunday, I was sitting in church with my friends (which, side note: I LOVE that I get to attend and experience church and worship alongside some of my favorite humans – it’s always the highlight of my week), and the pastor was telling a story about a family who took a vacation. This family went to see historical sites in Virginia. Each child received a disposable camera prior to the trip so that they could take their own pictures and document their experience on the trip. On returning home, the parents got the pictures developed – one child had pictures of the historical sites they saw and the cool scenery. The other child had 50 pictures of squirrels. Different squirrels in different locations, but I mean – let’s be real – almost all squirrels look the same. These 2 kids went on the same trip, saw all the same things and experience very similar things, but yet they walked away with totally different memories of their time of learning with their family.
One child noticed all the glory and wonder of the history of our country. One child noticed all the squirrels running about and enjoying life. As the pastor was telling this story I couldn’t help but giggle to myself because I am totally the type of person who would take tons of pictures of squirrels. I love animals and I love caring for them and talking to them (yes, I’m basically Snow White, I know). I would be the one who walked away from a vacation with pictures of just the animals I saw.
And I think that says a lot about me – not in a good way. I tend to get so focused on one thing, one goal, one project, one deadline, that I fail to lift my head and look up at the beauty and the miracles that are happening all around me. God created this wonderful world and all it’s beauty and I get stuck with my head down looking at squirrels. Our focus in life can drive us down certain paths – these passions and this determination to pursue them can be what protects us, keeps us safe, encourages us, helps us cope…and it can also be what destroys us.
Often times I think God speaks to us through other people in our lives. I am currently sifting my way through the book, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality.” with a close friend and it has really tugged on my heart in so many different ways. (Find it here!!) It’s challenged me to think, reassess, and realign some of my thoughts, goals, and beliefs about myself and my life. Honestly, it’s helped me take some of the power back in my own life – I’ve taken back power from the emotional bonds and the distress of early periods of my life. But even more than that, one theme that keeps popping up in the book as well as in other areas of my life is one of prioritizing rest and stillness.
I find that once I latch onto a goal, much like the child who ONLY took pictures of squirrels, I can’t release it until it’s complete – I can’t stop, let it go, rest, or clear my mind from the things that consume me which are often times not even helpful, productive things. Often times the squirrels in my life show up in the form of anxiety, school work, fear, etc. And I’m not sure I’ve really ever been able to lift my eyes up off of those squirrels surrounding me, to see and enjoy God’s sheer gloriousness around me.
God designed us for so much more than seeing only squirrels. God gave us this amazing earth, with all it’s intricacies, beauty, and vast wonder in order for us to see it, hear it, breath it, and experience it. And we can’t look up in wonder and experience all of what God made for us if we are so focused on the squirrels running around at our feet.
Each new year, I choose a single word – a word to focus on and one that I want to try to cultivate in my life during the coming year. As 2017 draws to a close, I have been thinking and praying about what my word for 2018 should be. In past years I’ve used words like love, grace, light, etc. But this year, I think my word may be “Stillness” because I want to learn to be still. I want to learn to see and experience more than squirrels in my life. I want to observe the Sabbath more regularly, I want to be able to allow myself to rest and trust that God’s got things covered – the world will continue functioning and won’t fall apart when I stop to breath. I want to better cultivate a sense of being still, trusting God, and leaning in close to him within that sacred stillness.
I don’t want to just see squirrels anymore. I want to see people, the world, the beautiful designs of God. I want to experience life to the absolute fullest – and that means learning to…
“Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” -Psalm 46:10
“Not much goes on in the mind of a squirrel. Huge portions of what is loosely termed “the squirrel brain” are given over to one thought: food. The average squirrel cogitation goes something like this: I wonder what there is to eat.”
― Kate DiCamillo