A few weeks ago I was faced with a dilemma. My 6-year-old daughter was finishing up the month-long introductory piano class I had given her for Christmas. I needed to decide if we should continue with piano lessons or not. The problem was, Marie had also recently started a dance class, and it seemed prohibitively expensive to continue both. I’d assumed she would naturally gravitate to one or the other and it’d be easy to choose, but it wasn’t. She loves music and her best friend had joined piano. On the other hand, she also loves dance and the hip-hop class was well-suited to her (very) high energy level and enthusiasm.
This may seem like it should be an easy, low-stakes decision, but I always overthink and analyze the angles when it comes to decision-making. Piano seems like a better long-term investment. I always wished for piano lessons as a kid and never had the opportunity. On the other hand, Marie had been asking for a dance class for months and months.
I prayed about it and Marie and I came to the consensus to keep on with dance and drop piano for now. There was no big ah-ha moment and I don’t know whether or not it was the best decision for her. In ten years will she still be dancing, playing an instrument, both, or neither? Time will tell. But for now this is the best decision for me. The dance class is an after-school program at her school. That means I don’t have to make extra trips in the car, coercing my 3-year-old son to get buckled in his car seat, and finding ways to keep him quietly entertained during a 45-minute piano lesson.
I’m always hoping for truth to be revealed to me in a big epiphanous moment. I wish that God would clearly tell me which choices to make when it comes to things like long-term career goals, friendships to pursue, and which extracurriculars to invest in for our kids. Even an ah-ha moment about where to find my son’s missing mitten would be appreciated. If I’m really honest, I may especially hope for epiphanies to come to politicians I disagree with or people I perceive to have wronged me in some way.
Still, I’ve found that it’s rare for us to learn much in isolated moments. Most of the time, growth happens slowly and gradually. We become the product of the small choices we have made day after day over the years.
A few years ago I went on an overnight silent retreat at the Benedectine Abbey in Mt. Angel. I thought that surely this would be the place that God would speak to me and reveal vital information about Big Life Choices. In the end, I felt that it was a worthwhile time of rest and reflection, and that God was with me in the silence. But I did not get any answers or detailed revelations.
Except, well maybe. I felt that God did have a message for me that weekend. And it was this: Be Present. I had been hoping that God would give me ideas for new life assignments to take on, and all I got was — Be Present.
That strikes me still today as the big reveal for me and perhaps all of us in the distracted and distracting world where we live, especially if we are parenting little ones. Put down your smartphone. Turn off Netflix. Be here, in this moment, where God has placed you.
I’ll leave you with some lines by Mary Oliver, my favorite contemporary poet, who passed away in January at age 83.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
— excerpted from The Summer Day, by Mary Oliver
About the Author
Ursula and her husband Spencer have two young children, and their family enjoys playing hide-and-seek and dancing in the living room. She works as a communications and events coordinator with the University of Oregon. Ursula is also CitySalt’s Children’s Ministry Director.
You can read more from Ursula at motherbearblog.com.