By Jennifer (Smith) Schuler
Sunday morning, my son and I were on our way to church. Over 1,000 acres of reservoir and woodland surround us here – and wildlife makes it their home. Sadly, though, countless number of deer and other wild animals can be seen dead on the side of the road. Many people drive way too fast to stop if anything unexpectedly jumps in front of them. I like to think of myself as a cautious driver who goes slowly enough to spot animals alongside the road in time. Yet that day, from out of nowhere, a deer just suddenly appeared and sailed across the front of our car. Since I wasn’t going too fast, I had enough reaction time to tap the breaks and just miss it as it darted safely to the other side.
A close call for sure, yet what really stood out for me is that the deer and I had time to make eye contact – and I think we both saw our lives pass before our eyes! I was a little shaken up so I turned down the music a bit, and told Andrew I just wanted to slow down my driving some more and take a moment to breathe a sigh of relief. Wow, I thought – a car accident is a big thing.
Car accidents, traffic jams, job losses, job searches, new employment, working our fingers to the bone, broken bones, broken relationships, illness, injury – the list of big things in our lives goes on and on and, frankly, sometimes I get tired just thinking about it all let alone doing it all.
My mind goes back to an ecumenical retreat center my husband and I visited from August 20 – 26, 2006 in Dubois, Wyoming. This wilderness of indescribable, serene beauty is called Ring Lake Ranch. As a pastor with the daily stress and strain of dealing with parish ministry, my husband used to go once every year or two to refresh and renew his spirit. When we got married, he took me to a seminar there to show me why the place held such meaning for him.
The presenter was Esther DeWall, an internationally known spiritual guide. The underlying theme was various ways of looking at and experiencing things in our lives. Esther wanted to guide us in keeping our eyes and ears open throughout the week – to help us become more in tune with our surroundings. She wanted us to be awake, alert, and aware … to be totally present in the moment. She asked us to think about the things we see, hear, and do less as “activities” and more as “encounters.” She helped us learn to use our five senses to become more aware of the “little things” that we often miss during our busy, daily lives. Sometimes it is something very small that can change our perspective – or even our entire life.
As the week went on, my husband and I discovered many little things such as sweet bird songs and hopping bunnies; and even a few “medium” things such as how to square dance. Yet even more importantly, within those tiny nuances of nature and foot stomping, we found a way of bonding with, and reaching out to, new people for comfort and healing in our lives.
Following my close brush with disaster Sunday, I took time to think about some of the little things I am grateful for, and to focus on those – versus the “bigger,” more complicated things in my life. Here are just a few of the little things I have been particularly in tune to, and grateful for, this week:
*My son’s cheesy smile
*How good it tastes to “sneak” eating ice cream every night for a week
*Sitting by a really warm fire … until you feel like you are on fire!
*Curling up with a good Ken Follett novel (Is there one that isn’t?)
*My husband’s all-enfolding embrace
*Stephen Colbert’s humor at the end of a hard day (Thank you – you super-intelligent, amazingly funny man!)
*My too small dog barking at everything – meaning … nothing
*The so-delicious caramel creams my sister Heather buys me
*My father still being alive at age 93
*Friends who are family
In my next blog this month on ‘How to Journal,’ I will share the first and last entries from my retreat seminar journal. It can be very interesting to go back and read things you have written and were thinking about at a particular time in your life. In the meantime, remember to keep your eyes out for the little things that make your life special!
We would love to hear about a ‘little thing’ you found this week – please share with us!