The Art of Paying Attention & 10 Things I Learned This Spring

Updated: Aug 17, 2018

I have a problem - I tend to rush through life. You too? I'm not trying to, but there’s just so much to do and so many people who need things from me. Most days, getting all the tasks crossed off my to-do list feels insurmountable. Do you know what tends to happen when you live like that? You stop paying attention.

Attention is the Antidote to Distraction

I watch my kids go about their days taking everything in. They notice the cracks in the sidewalk and the color of someone’s shirt. They remember a story their friend told them because they were actually listening wholeheartedly. I miss having the ability to do that. So for 2018, I determined to focus on living an attentive life. This is my favorite definition to describe the art of being attentive:

Attentive: Paying close attention to something. Perceptive, observant, alert, aware, heedful, vigilant. Intent, focused, undistracted.

Most days I still miss the mark, but one practice that has helped me notice the big and the small, the silly and the profound, is Emily P. Freeman’s “What I Learned” lists. She created these beautiful printable lists for keeping track of your reflections as you go through your everyday life. At the end of each season, she shares a sampling of what she learned. It’s a reminder that you can learn something from anything if only your eyes are open.

What I Learned This Spring

Here are 10 things I learned this Spring, in no particular order.

1. It’s never too late to recreate yourself

This lesson hit me hard in the first three months of 2018. No matter how old you are, what you’ve been through, or what season you are in, you can always step out in faith into something new. You can let God do his work in you and through you.

Three years ago I wasn’t writing at all, other than letters to my daughters and regular journaling, which I’ve done every night, almost without fail, since I was in my pre-teens (my girls are going to have a lot of fun reading them one day while I cringe inwardly). Then I started writing professionally, amazed that I could bring in a solid income with my research and writing skills. My writing job birthed something else in me - a desire to write from my heart about the journey God has me on. I swore I would never start a blog, but here I am!

As I’m learning more and more about my God and, as a by-product, who He made me to be and what He's called me to do, I feel like a new person. I don’t recognize the Pamela from 5 years ago. Letting God do the deep work inside of you instead of running, distracting, or hiding from it will bring about new life. That’s sanctification.

2. My childhood piano teacher is now a Hollywood actress

I spent 7 years of my life learning how to play piano from a woman named Jane Craven. I’ve searched for her before, using the wonderful mediums of Google and social media, but never had any luck. Then one day, I struck gold. To my complete shock, I learned that she has appeared in movies and TV shows like The Flash and Age of Adaline.

3. Total health requires total surrender

As often happens, the physical mimics the spiritual. Last year was a year of “pruning” in my walk with God. I experienced a rough 16 months and was forced to either let God do His work in me or just crawl through every day, merely surviving. I chose the former, and while it was painful, it was fruitful. The disciplines created helped me get out of the pit and set the stage for some incredible opportunities.

Then this Spring, I was faced with the same decision with my physical health. I had to either make an immediate, radical lifestyle change or live the rest of my days with a low quality of life. Again, I chose option one. I don’t regret it. It’s going to take years before my health is restored, but as my body heals, I can see that taking one step at a time and surrendering my will and desires brings life and fruit.

But I still really miss cookie dough.

4. I love to equip others

You know that rush of exhilaration you get when you work really hard to find the perfect gift for someone and you can’t wait to see them open it? That’s how I feel when I can get the right resources into people’s hands. I come alive when I get the opportunity to equip others to help them grow in their parenting, their relationships, their walk with God, or their health. So if you need recommendations on podcasts, children’s books, paleo recipes, gospel resources, or what you should read next, I’m your girl!

5. Letting go of perfect is exhilarating

Perfectionism has plagued me my whole life. I remember being a kid and thinking, “I’m not going to make mistakes today” or “I’m going to be perfect today so I don’t get in trouble.” When you’ve lived that way for 30 years, it’s a hard mindset to break. But little by little, I’m having more grace for myself, laughing things off when life doesn’t go as planned, and celebrating messes. It’s freeing.

Many days I still wake up with the misaligned goal of being perfect, but I’m growing. By changing how I speak to myself and resetting my perspective, I’m learning to live more by grace and faith than by works.

6. I’ve switched my allegiance from knee-high boots to ankle boots

I tend to be a late-adopter when it comes to fashion. I like classic styles, neutrals, and high quality. When trends change, I rarely jump on the bandwagon until I know something will stick around. But this spring I noticed that I didn’t wear knee-high boots once (other than Hunters on rainy days). I found a couple of pairs of ankle boots that work well for my short legs, and now I’m hooked.

7. The writing process > the final product

There’s a popular quote in the writing world that says, “I hate writing. I love having written.” And while there’s nothing like a finished product, I must be in the minority because I am completely passionate about the act of writing. The initial spark of an idea, the stream-of-consciousness brain dump, the first round of edits, the second draft, the third draft, and yes, the fourth draft. Sometimes I want to bang my head against a wall when a thought that is so clear in my head cannot make its way into beautiful words on a page, but in general, I love the beauty of the struggle. It reminds me of the little-by-little process of sanctification that is happening in my soul. Every day, something gets sanded down, something grows, something is planted. I see the writing process as a reflection of the consistent work God is doing in me.

8. Motherhood has killed my ability to watch war movies

I was a history major in college and jumped at the chance to watch any and all war movies. Then I had kids. Now, all I can think of when those soldiers (even the proverbial bad guys) are suffering is what their mothers must be feeling and I end up crying my eyes out. Perspective changes everything.

9. Coordination does improve with age

I was the most awkward, uncoordinated kid ever. Just ask my sisters. They still like to tease me about it. And now, as I watch my gangly four-year-old struggle to walk without falling down or kick her legs and paddle her arms at the same time while in the pool, I remind myself that she will grow into her body! You won’t see me in any dance classes, but I can now proudly walk without falling over and eat dinner without falling off my chair.

10. Spring and Fall are the busiest seasons for book publishers

Ahhhh...that’s why my Goodreads to-read list always explodes this time of year.

Now it's your turn! What are some lessons you learned this Spring?

Photo by BRUNO CERVERA on Unsplash

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