The Little Things Today
Appreciating the gift of each moment
“The real gift of gratitude is that the more grateful you are, the more present you become.”
On May 15, we watched an amazing lunar eclipse while sitting out on the porch of our rental house here in El Salvador. We didn’t have any forewarning, but in our open-air living room, around 9 pm, I just happened to look up & see that the full moon was no longer full, but becoming a sliver. Tom, Eva, & I sat & watched it gradually get smaller & smaller. We just sat there in awe of the wonder of it & pondering how tiny we are in light of God’s awesome creation. We soaked it up for at least 30 minutes. After it had been a “blood moon” for quite awhile, we decided to go & get some sleep.
I’ve noticed that since we started to slow down & take time to be more present, we began to enjoy life more.
We came home from the beach the other evening, & spontaneously all jumped in the pool. It was so fun to just splash around, laugh, & spend time together as a family. I remember thinking, “These are the moments that are so special. I want to cherish them. I want to be FULLY here right now.”
Our middle daughter, Teija gathered several different coloured tiny flowers from bushes on our walk the other day & handed them to me. She had thoughtfully put them together—purple, orange, & yellow. I thanked her & held them tenderly in my hand for a few minutes until we got home & I let them go. The next morning as I was pondering cherishing the little things, I wished I’d put them in a cup with water. I want my kids to know that their thoughtfulness means so much to me. When she picked these beauties the next day, I made sure to take a picture.
Our girls had some English-speaking playmates for the last few weeks. We were all staying near the beach for a month, & would often meet up there. The kids would soon be covered in black sand, & excitedly digging play areas for the cute little hermit crabs they found crawling around the beach. They’d spend hours gathering them up & making tunnels for them to crawl through, as well as using branches & sticks for them to climb.
The other day Tom & I were talking about what we could do together as a family. We had each been down to a nearby papusa stand a couple times previously to get dinner. And we all love Salvadorian papusas, their traditional rice flour tortillas usually filled with beans (or meat) & cheese. This particular stand is run by a family who has three girls, several chickens, a friendly dog, & a tiny little outgoing black kitten. So we decided to all venture down the road, descend the many stairs to cross the rocky beach & walk down another long road to “the papusa lady’s place.” The girls each found a hammock & rested awhile after the long sweaty walk. But then they noticed a girl nearby with a sweet little kitten in her arms. They couldn’t get enough time holding & petting that fuzzy, snuggly, purring little guy. They fed him a bit of their papusas, & he was grateful, licking up every bit.
We’ve come to realize on this journey that often the less money we spend on having fun, the more fun our kids actually have. Early on, in November, we decided to have a special day where we took the girls out to a tourist hot spot to see some sea turtles. We had our taxi driver bring us to Akumal near Tulum early in the morning. We were all given goggles, snorkels, & simple instructions. Annika was even provided with a tube to keep her afloat. We got out on the water & soon there were some turtles to see. But our girls had some minor issues with the goggles & were not in any mood to get salt water in their eyes. They didn’t have much experience with snorkels being in their mouths either.
Intense whining ensued. And soon that turned into crying. Not just one, but somehow all three of them were upset. We tried to calm them down, & even resorted to bribery—“If you have a good attitude, you can get an ice cream after this…” But nothing was helping. I was glad that putting my head in the water made it harder for me to hear the unpleasant background noise. Tom & I saw a few turtles, but it was not at all how we’d pictured things going!
The next day we spent a fraction of the money & almost no effort, just playing down at the beach & later at a nearby kids playground. Then we got dinner at a local burger place. While munching on her fries, one of our girls announced, “This was the BEST DAY EVER!” Tom & I had to laugh. But we both had a realization in that moment. It’s the simple things that our kids appreciate the most.
We hiked through some thick jungle on a hillside yesterday. After about an hour, we made it to some beautiful waterfalls with our guide leading the way. It was hard work for our girls, especially the younger two. Many parts of the hike were muddy, steep, & slippery, but they all did it. A few times I wondered to myself if we’d made a mistake, as it was pretty rough terrain. But we were rewarded with beautiful waterfalls, & even some water to splash around in for all of our hard work. And we want to teach our girls the value of perseverance even when things get tough. We all enjoyed our lunch & ice cream that much more afterwards.
A few months ago, we watched a little cartoon video on the dangers of being addicted to our cell phones. The general idea was that anyone who’s addicted to their phone is living a “zombie life,” unable to be fully present to their friends & family. The people in the cartoon were all walking around with their heads down, looking at their phones, not even seeing the people around them. I’ve experienced times when I’ve been in conversation with someone whose phone vibrated, & they had to interrupt the conversation to look at it immediately. And I know I’ve been guilty of this too, especially with my kids. Why do we often treat our kids like they matter less to us than Facebook or Twitter or a message that can be replied to later?
The other night at bedtime one of our girls confronted us on this. She said, “Remember that video about being addicted to your cell phone? You guys don’t pay attention to us or play with us when you’re on your phones.” Tom & I were both convicted. We regularly set aside a day or two each week to stay off social media, just so we can be more present & “unplug” from it. But the reality is that’s not enough. We want to BE with our girls while they’re young. And to do this, we have to show them that they’re much more important to us than our phones. More than a few times I’ve watched a couple go out on a date, only to both stare down at their phones while together in a nice restaurant. It’s easy to do, especially if you’re used to this being the norm at home. Tom & I often put our phones on airplane mode in the evenings or when sitting at a restaurant just so we can be more present with each other & our girls.
When we got home after dark the other evening, there seemed to be frogs everywhere in our jungle yard. The girls were ecstatic. They each managed to grab one, & spent the next 20 minutes holding & playing with their new little friend. I smiled to myself at the wonder of how God gives good gifts to his kids. And there are countless gifts around us if we just open our eyes & take time to breathe deeply & enjoy 💚