At the end of every episode of our podcast, Rhythm of Us, we always close with the same question:
“What advice would you give to the younger you?”
It’s easily my very favorite part of the show. Given no time to prepare, each guest just instinctively pulls out the very first thing that comes to mind. One answer I’ve never been able to shake came from Mark and Jan Foreman, the authors of our favorite parenting book, Never Say No. They simply replied, “Step into the painting.”
What does it mean to step into the painting?
When you drive by a glowing sunset, don’t just keep driving; pull over and take it in. When your kids are playing in the park, don’t just sit and watch them; get off the park bench and join them. When everyone starts to feel the beat and jumps up to let it loose on the living room floor, don’t you dare be caught sitting on the sidelines; dance like no one’s watching. The very best parts of our day, our week, and our life will be the moments we choose to slow down and savor. Stepping into the painting is the practice that can transform passing moments into precious memories.
I was reminded of this rhythm the very next night after our interview with the Foremans. I may have been in the girls’ closet, painstakingly organizing their freshly cleaned laundry according to the classic Roy G. Biv order (don’t judge) when I heard voices coming from inside their little pink tepee. The sweetest story time was taking place between Chris and the girls. And I heard the invitation: Step into the painting.
I’ll be honest, the Enneagram One in me wanted to just stay in the closet and finish organizing the clothes. After all, I had only made it to green, and I still had blue, indigo, and violet to finish, for crying out loud! Thankfully, the prompting continued as I remembered something else Jan had mentioned during our time together:
The most meaningful part of your day will never be working on the laundry.
That was all I needed. I put down the laundry, ran around the corner, and leaped into the pink tepee, hoping I wasn’t too late. The girls both squealed in excitement to see Mommy jumping in to join them, and we all finished the bedtime story together, wrapped up in each other’s arms, closing out with a hearty singalong of “Jesus Loves Me.” Our oldest daughter heard us from down the hall as we started singing, and she ran into the tepee to join, as well. Suddenly, we found ourselves in the middle of a golden moment, all snuggled up together in that tepee, singing at the top of our lungs. Chris and I glanced at each other, with a look that said, Yep. This is where it’s at. Right here. Life just doesn’t get any better than this. These are the moments that make up the life we long for. Life that is truly life. And I almost missed it, for laundry.
Busyness. It might just be the most dangerous sin of all because it doesn’t really feel like one.
But busyness, hurry, and distraction have the greatest potential to steal the most joy from our lives. And joy, as a friend recently reminded me, is actually where our strength comes from (Nehemiah 8:10). When we say yes to the people in our lives who matter most, when we choose to be completely present, hearts fully alive and filled with gratitude for this gift of life, delighting in God and in our people, we are at our strongest. It’s almost as if joy builds a shield of protection all around us, guarding us against the destructive distractions and busyness of the world. We will never truly enjoy our lives, our relationships, and our moments if we’re just rushing from one activity to the next.
Love simply cannot grow when we’re in too much of a hurry to cultivate it.
Love only grows when we slow down long enough to cherish the people right in front of us, open our eyes to see the beauty they carry, and simply receive the delight of being fully present with them. True connection— giving our full, undistracted attention— is one of the best gifts we can give to our spouse, our kids, and to all the relationships we value most.
As Ronald Rolheiser says, “We know that life is passing us by and we are so preoccupied with the business of making a living and the duties of family and community that only rarely is there any time to actually live. It seems that there is never any un pressured time, unhurried time, undesignated time, leisure time, time to smell the flowers, time to simply luxuriate in being alive.”
Thriving couples time, leisure time, time to smell the flowers, say yes to the time to simply luxuriate in being alive.”3 Don’t hear what I’m not saying. I’m not for together. a minute suggesting we blow off our responsibilities as adults to spend the day in bed with our spouse or playing make-believe with our kids. Slowing won’t make the chores disappear, but it will keep them from zapping our energy and joy for life and for those around us.
Thriving couples say yes to the small moments together.
Rolheiser, noting David Steindl-Rast, says, “Leisure is not the privilege of those who have time, but rather the virtue of those who give to each instant of life the time it deserves.” Yes, there are countless things that need to be done over the course of a day. But the way in which we accomplish them does not have to mean plowing over or completely ignoring those we love, therefore stripping all meaning and connection from our day.
There is magic in the meantime.