Six hours. Six hours is the time difference between our home in South Carolina and Kauai.
My first night of sleep was a wrestling match between my physical exhaustion and my physical time clock. Exhaustion won at first, but by 4am my body forced me awake and I waved my white flag in surrender, knowing coffee would be there for me in the end.
The warm aroma of the coffee grounds and the slow steady rhythm of the drip instantly welcomed me home in this new place.
I looked out the window above the kitchen sink into the darkness of the morning, and I wondered what our new view would be. Wonder filled me with excitement.
The clock slowly ticked away and like a rotating door, one by one my children came out to greet me. I tried to keep all four of them quiet so Andrew could sleep, but the house was too small to hide our voices.
Instead of focusing on hushing my kids, I asked myself who I wanted to be in that moment.
I tapped into someone I used to be, spontaneous and full of fun, instead of someone weighed down by have-tos, shoulds, and get-er-dones.
I asked my kids if they wanted to walk out to the beach and watch the sunrise in their pjs. They answered yes, in unison, and at that point, Andrew woke up and the kids invited him to join in.
I threw on an overshirt and wrapped my hands around my white coffee mug and together, in our pjs, we all walked down the black asphalt street to find the closest entrance to Hanalei Bay.
We left our phones at the house, so we didn’t have a picture to capture the beauty that morning, but I wrote it all down in my journal.
“I put my towel down on the sandy beach and sipped my coffee. I watched the sky light up in front of us, with the mountains painted in the backdrop behind us. My kids jumped into the water and I ended up joining them. My pajama bottoms were soaked through. We watched and waited until the sun rose above the tree line. The sky was hot pink and bright purple, igniting the clouds and casting a dreamy glow across the sky. The color of the ocean changed as the hues changed above it. The waves crashed down on us, time stood still, and I realized I could’ve missed all of this if I had stayed inside.”
The practice of being present is about giving yourself over to the moment, about doing something with your whole heart. It’s not about being spontaneous but rather knowing that you have a choice at any given moment. You get to choose to be fully present where you are, with the people you’re with.
The practice of being present practically looks like making a choice to be where you are.
“Wherever you are, be all there.”-Jim Elliot
One of the most radical decisions Andrew and I made in preparation for our sabbatical was to leave our phones behind in South Carolina.
We took two phones with us to Kauai, but we switched out our SIM cards, so we didn’t have our normal numbers. We called them our “sabbatical phones.” While this may seem extreme, it was one of the best decisions we made.
You don’t have to be a business owner to know how attached we all are to our phones. I don’t think it matters what you do; all of us are attached to our phones for one reason or another. We get so much validation and self-worth from being needed and known by people through our phones.
I’m not going to lie; disconnecting from my phone took time to adjust to. It took me a few weeks to detox and be okay with just being with my family, myself, and my God.
If you ask teenagers and kids one thing they wish they could change in their relationship with their parents, the most common answer is, “I wish my parents would spend less time on their phone and more time talking to me.”
Disconnecting from my phone for 10 weeks allowed me to see just how much I had let it encroach on my face to face time with my children and my husband. They mean so much more to me than my phone, but if they constantly see me looking down while I’m talking to them and texting at the same time, what message will they receive?
The reason why my phone is the main thing that pulls me away from being present is because in an instant, by a ding or a buzz, I can be taken out of my present moment.
Just the other night, I was talking to my husband in bed when I got a text from a friend, and I didn’t let it go because for whatever reason I wanted to know what the text said. The meaningful moment with my husband was lost because it requires energy and attention to pull away and reengage, even if it just amounts to a minute or two.
Our sabbatical helped me discover I have a choice. And you do too.
We can choose to check our phones or not to. We can choose to charge our phones by our beds or we can buy actual alarm clocks, so we can charge them in another room. We get to choose when we actually want to allow our phones to be a part of our day and when we don’t.
Whatever we choose to do, let’s do it with our whole hearts. Because eye contact matters, belly laughing draws you closer, and thoughtful responses make a difference.
When we practice being present, our physical presence matches our spiritual and emotional presence. Deeper connection with God, who we really are, and the people we love the most comes and we discover we actually like the people we are becoming instead of the other way around.
*Previous posts in this series: The Practice of Paying Attention and 5 Practices I Learned on Sabbatical that Apply to Your Everyday Life