slowed down by sunshine

by Katherine

My son rarely misses a thing. He is two years old, and while I am frequently feeling hurried, anticipating the next box on my to-do list, he is my much-needed full stop. He meanders slowly when we walk, often retracing his steps or taking detours. He enthusiastically names everything he recognizes along our path, and makes sure I see it and name it, too. My high-speed mind and heart, accustomed to instant gratification and quick information, resists this slow-down that is necessary for flourishing. I need the observation and intake that slows down to savor and share goodness, rather than the rapid glances and hasty, rushing words that starve the soul.

As I write this, our little family is on a two-month adventure in Florida’s panhandle. Seth is interning while in-between school years, and we were all welcomed and housed on-site at his workplace. The entire landscape and air of Florida is new to each of us and we are always looking for the next place to explore on days off. It is all so green, so lush, so inviting. The heat is bearable, especially since we heard that it is reaching even higher temperatures back home in Pennsylvania. We’ll gladly take Florida this summer.

Even while Seth and I are always pointing out incredible trees, moss, clouds, or buildings to one another while we drive around, nothing comes close to the attention that Flynn gives to all things. At the lake, he was so reluctant to move past the first “big tree,” which bowed over our walkway and dipped its branches into the water on the other side. The countless ducks, panting for handouts, were beginning to sizzle my nerves, when all Flynn could do was open his mouth wide, peer over his sunglasses, and watch the waddling birds parading around. I had to tell myself: Stop. This is a new corner of the world for you, see the variety and the grace! So when we found the gazebo and the peak of Flynn’s day, I had to bend down with him and look up at the ceiling, too. Diving into his joy, I gasped in wonder with him and felt every step of his joy-dance as an extra pound in my heart, swelling to burst.

Then I saw the people more clearly. It seemed like we met nearly every sort of person you could think up while on our walk, and nearly each one thrilled over the sweetness and shades of our Flynn. (Sunglasses being his essential accessory this month, for walks, dinnertime, bedtime, you name it.) From the homeless trying to get some sleep on the benches, to the runners passing us by several times, to the picnicking families in the shade, we were all there to seek a restorative afternoon. I hope each person found some of that in one another’s presence, created like and loved by the one true and living God of beauty.

Our apartment complex is filled with a brilliant rainbow of diversity, too. Our hearts have been widened by the generosity of the family from India at the playground, the smiling woman from Nigeria we pass walking around the development, and the young, single dog owner who slows down for a chat. I’m used to the comfort of living in my own world, avoiding conversation and fearing differences. Having my little explorer by my side is an instant way that God’s grace has gently open wide the door to meeting and loving neighbors.

It sometimes takes a bit of new scenery to nudge me awake, some fresh beauty and routine to help me better treasure the more familiar parts and people in my life. In this season, it is my toddler’s eagerness that is leading me in this needed exercise: slowing down, looking up, and stepping closer.