lessons in being present


I’d forgotten that I’d left my blinds open when I woke up that morning. The light streamed into my window and after a yawn and a stretch, I found myself staring into the most amazing sunrise I’d seen in a long time. Red and violet streaked across the horizon. The slow rise of golden light pierced the black turned blue sky. The divine Painter of the cosmos was showing out and what was my first thought?

I need to get a picture and post this.


Yep, I’m ashamed to say that I ran to the restroom then grabbed my phone from my dresser so I could, I guess, record the moment.

But guess what? When I got back to my bedroom, the sky had already fully bloomed. The reds and golds and violets were all but gone. Morning had come. And I’d missed it.

My sunrise didn’t wait for me.

Like most people nowadays, I love the convenience technology offers me. The access. The capacity. The reach. But it’s times like that morning when I wonder just how much we all miss by keeping our head buried in our phones and tablets or worse, simply being too occupied with minutes that we miss wonderful life-changing, never-can-get-it-back moments.

The lesson I learned that day? Oh how quickly the beauty of a morning sunrise will forsake me when I am more focused on documenting it for future reflection and public consumption instead of being present in the actual experience.

In other words, some things can pass without us FB’ing or Tweeting or Instagramming them.

Yes, documenting our lives has its place. We are not only shaped by our own experiences but we are also influenced by the experiences of others. A teen can view pics of an older cousin graduating from a college across the country and discover the possibilities of a future for him or herself. A writer posting images from his or her latest book signing can inspire and motivate aspiring writers to keep working.

But as with all things, there needs to be a balance. Some lessons in being present. There are moments that are designed for us to just hide them in our hearts. Tuck them in the safest part of souls. This is what memories or made of. In these moments, we must be fully present in order to experience them totally.

This I know for sure. When the sun rises again, I will be still and breathe in the glory of creation. No cameras. No filters. No looking away. I will stare right into that light and hide its magnificence in my soul. I will just have to wait until I’m in a face-to-face conversation with someone (remember those?) to use my vocabulary and try to describe the beauty of it. And of course, I will fail terribly. But that’s okay. Because then I’ll just have to close with that conversational relic …”you just had to be there.” Who knows? Maybe that will create a hunger in the next person to set their alarm one morning and experience a sunrise for themselves. Certainly that’s better than borrowing someone else’s experience from Instagram and claiming to know what a sunrise feels like. Nope. Social media can only tell you what the sunrise looks like. Feeling the sunrise is something entirely different.

There’s a wonderful Christian worship song that captures, though inadequately, some of what I mean:

From the highest of heights to the depths of the sea
Creation’s revealing Your majesty
From the colors of fall to the fragrance of spring
Every creature unique in the song that it sings
All exclaiming

Indescribable, uncontainable,
You placed the stars in the sky and You know them by name.
You are amazing God
All powerful, untameable,
Awestruck we fall to our knees as we humbly proclaim
You are amazing God

– Indescribable by Chris Tomlin

Feeling the sunrise… or any moment of significance… requires not just our physical presence but our mental and emotional presences as well. Give your life your undivided attention. With all our distractions, it’s no wonder God can’t get our attention with the simple, elegant beauty of nature anymore. Nowadays, it seems like we only respond to Him and each other when faced with raging storms and torrential downpours. Why does it only take devastation to still us?

Whew! That’s one heck of a metaphor for life, right? When I think about some of the key lessons I want to pass down to my daughter—a child who will likely become an adult in a world way more “plugged in” than even we are today—these are definitely at the top of my list:

Be present.

Embrace the moments, not just the minutes.

And don’t let pain and turmoil be the only thing that stills your mind and awakens your soul.

* * *

This post is the latest in Tracey Michae’l Lewis-Giggetts’ “Faith & Motherhood” series.

Photo credit: David Ragusa for UnSplash.

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Tracey Michae'l

Tracey Michae'l is a writer and educator based out of the Philadelphia area. She is a wife to William and a mother to a beautiful two-year old little girl. You can find her on the web at www.traceymlewis.com.


  1. Beautifully said and so very true.

  2. I just love the way you write. It is so inspiring and the way you weave your relationship with God into every post is just… Wow!

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