Day 31: Paying attention as a way of life

I struggled to think up a topic for the Write 31 Days challenge this year. It was on September 28th, during a brainstorm text session with my sister Ashley, that the seed was planted in my mind.

“Maybe it’s something like a practice in gratitude,” I typed. “31 days of paying attention.”

It could have meant a lot of different things. My immediate thought was that it would likely translate into taking note of beauty in the mundane of my daily life and being thankful for it.

That felt doable.

Or, I thought, if nothing else, it would be good practice in descriptive writing and then in forcing myself share whatever I came up with, even if it felt too raw and unfinished.

Both of those turned out to be true, but somewhere around day eight I understood there would be more to it. This journey might lead me somewhere unexpected.

The discipline of paying attention this month—and then the discipline of daily writing on top of that—has taught me how to unearth joy on days I don’t feel like being joyful. It’s led me to discover grace in places I don’t expect to find it. It’s reminded me to open my eyes and notice the world changing around me, at times subtle and other times dramatic.

I’ve found significance in the insignificant.

When I really started paying attention, eyes and ears open to God’s presence and voice, I realized this shouldn’t be a month-long experiment at all.

This should be a lifelong rhythm. 

This morning I drove Daisy to preschool along our same old route, and just as I have every day this month, I took mental notes of what’s changed along the windy, tree-lined street since yesterday.

The “paper lanterns” on the Golden Raintrees are a deeper shade of pink today. At the beginning of the month, those same trees were covered instead with yellow flowers, and I’ve watched with great fascination as the yellow gave way to peach-colored petals—which I learned, after doing some research, are actually the tree’s fruit.

(I also learned Golden Raintrees are an invasive species, which made me laugh, feeling rebellious. It seems all of my favorite plants, including the best climbing tree in our yard, are invasive species, and our city public works department hates them.)

These trees are beautiful, unique.

We’ve lived in this neighborhood for seven years, and I’ve been driving this route in and out daily for the last five.

I had never noticed the Golden Raintrees before this month, October 2017. Now I look for them everywhere and see them everywhere—they’re scattered all over our area.

When I look for God, I see Him everywhere, too. 

As I completed the loop to preschool and back home, the song “Wonder” by Hillsong came on the radio. It plays frequently on our local Christian station. This time I turned it up a little and listened to the lyrics.

I see the world in light
I see the world in wonder
I see the world in life
Bursting in living color
I see the world Your way
And I’m walking in the light

I see the world in grace
I see the world in gospel
I see the world Your way
And I’m walking in the light
I’m walking in the wonder

I had the familiar feeling of hot tears about to overflow—you know I’m a crier. But really, what a perfect conclusion to this month and continuation of this new rhythm, as I headed home to sit at the kitchen table and write.

31 days square
Read the rest of this month’s series here. (They’re all short and sweet!)

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