I have grown up in the Land of the Tourist. And if you grew up living within a 30-mile radius of the Mouse House you know exactly what I’m talking about. Central Floridians learn from an early age how to spot the tourist. I think we learn the basics in preschool. FYI—white skin burnt to a crisp or team sport shirts from foreign countries are dead giveaways. Seriously. One look and we know if you’re from Brazil or Great Britain. It’s a gift.
With that said, a few weeks ago I got my tourist on. A dear friend of mine flew me out to Dallas to meet her delicious five-week old baby girl. While there, she decided I needed to visit the Stockyards in Old Fort Worth. The tables were turned, and I donned my best tourist garb. With a camera around my neck and two cheap cowboy hats for the kids at my side, I began snapping as many pictures as I could of the Texas Longhorns being led down the street. I had only ever seen them in pictures and never in real life. The longhorns passed by, and I finally put the camera down realizing in those last few seconds I had missed the moment. I was so intent on the perfect picture, I didn’t really see the longhorns. The irony is I will continue to only truly see them in photos.
I was so busy trying to capture the moment I never actually experienced it. I make this mistake all too often. Maybe it’s not the camera up to my eye, but it’s always something. Something gets in the way of experiencing the wonderful moments life has in store for me. Sometimes it’s checking my Facebook status from my smartphone instead of focusing in on my daughter’s real status update. Sometimes it’s picking up a living room full of toys instead of sitting down to play with them and my son. Sometimes it’s marking off my teaching list of to-do’s instead of noticing the distraught look on the face of a student.
There is a common thread to my list of missed moments. It is simply this—I have taken my eyes off of what is important and placed them upon the inconsequential. My eyes are off the prize.
So what do I do about it? That’s the hard part. The painful part. I talk to my children about good choices and bad choices all the time. Yet, I seem to be ignoring my own advice. You see, I believe in life there are also powerful choices. Choosing to be fully present in the moments of life is powerful. It means I must choose to sometimes put the phone down, have a cluttered house, skip the English lesson. It means I must choose to sometimes stop typing to play peek-a-boo with the world’s cutest court jester. I must place my focus on what really matters. When I do this, I won’t miss the moments. And that, my friends, is powerful.
By my own admission, I am not good at making this powerful choice, but I am trying. Sometimes it’s just so hard to choose the important, but it really isn’t an option if I want to drink in the beautiful moments of life. Lately, I have been reminded of another time God spoke this lesson into my heart. I was walking down the rocky shoreline of the Indian Ocean off the coast of South Africa. My eyes were focused on the rocky crevices that created tiny tide pools of sea life. I spent so much time looking for the next tide pool, I never stopped to take in the beauty that surrounded me.
It’s as if I heard the voice of God whisper in my heart, “Look up, or you’ll miss it.” As I looked up and out at the immensity of the Indian Ocean and the miracle of my experience in South Africa, I caught the full breadth and majesty of God Almighty made so obvious by his creation. To think, I might have missed it if I hadn’t made the conscious choice to lift my eyes heavenward.