The gift of the present

Originally Appeared in : 9923-11/7/19

With the holidays coming up, it only seemed appropriate to write about how to navigate the feelings of stress for planning, gift shopping, meal planning, cooking, etc. However, I took the time to sit down and really consider what the holidays do to me and my psyche.


My husband, Lehman, and I went to a marriage conference this weekend. We got married one year ago (on Nov. 17, 2018) and decided we would buy tickets to this one-day seminar to learn and grow together. Towards the end of the program, the speaker asked everyone to take a five-minute break to write down their current failures. To my surprise and dismay, my list was quite extensive. One of the first things that popped into my head was my current inability to remain in the present moment and be grateful. Don’t get me wrong, I try to be grateful, but I struggle to sit in that gratitude and savor it. I find myself “craving” something else to be grateful for or wanting something bigger and better. Can anyone relate?


I’ve always been a dreamer, and my dreams can sometimes interfere with my reality.


These “dreams” tend to focus on materialistic or worldly things -- a bigger house, a newer car, a doubled paycheck, more dogs. Yes, I said more dogs. It all boils down to the idea of more, more, more.


This short-lived gratitude and constant idea that I need more has made it difficult for me to live in the present. It’s somewhat of a trickle-down effect. When I have an upcoming event, fun weekend planned, or family gathering approaching, I fast forward to the end of it in my mind and become sad at the thought of it all being over. It’s almost as if the build up to the actual time is more stimulating than the event itself because I fail to allow myself to live in the present moment.


This likely also has a lot to do with my desire to hold on to memorable moments with family and friends. I get so excited at the thought of spending valuable time with the ones I love that I tend to put undue pressure on the situation. In doing so, I often create a recipe for disaster in my own mind. I dream up what the perfect outing or holiday will look like and by God if it doesn’t look exactly that way, I find myself spiraling.


Life and time with family is so precious, and I can sometimes create my own demise by trying to control the ordinary instead of allowing God to bless me with the extraordinary. Releasing my controlling thoughts and feelings has been a struggle for me for as long as I can remember. I’ve always been a planner with a plan A and plan B, but I always struggled to give it to God.


About a year ago, I started trying to really focus on God’s word in the Bible and stow away particular verses I could refer to when I needed to apply them to a certain situation or life event. One scripture in particular hit me like a ton of bricks. Genesis 50:20 says, “You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done.”
I’ve learned that worrying, dreading, and focusing on the past or future is not of God. 2 Timothy 1:7 says, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind.”


Today I challenge you to think about your next upcoming event or family gathering and decide to live in the present. I challenge you to hand it over to God and surrender the past, present, and future to what he wants it to be for your life. I challenge you to truly enjoy whatever you may be doing in the exact moment you’re doing it and pause to take a snapshot of that moment in your mind.


When your mind begins dreading the end of the weekend trip or time together with family, go to God with it. Stop and say a prayer asking God to block those feelings and replace them with gratitude for the time you’ve been given to enjoy the present. Ask him to replace the feelings of fear, anxiety, and sadness with courage, peace, and joy. God intends everything for good for those who love him.


Sarah Routh is a frequent freelance contributor to the Southern Cross. She and her husband, Lehman, are members of Immaculate Conception Church in Dublin.

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