The Conscious Observer: Living Well By Noticing More

We do good in order to point others to Jesus.
— Karen Ehman

I was out looking to buy my husband a birthday present. 

I hated buying presents.

I know it sounds strange, but growing up my family rarely bought gifts, so I simply wasn’t very good at it. Most of the time, I was directly at odds between my budget and my overly analytical brain, and as such I missed the moment of enjoyment that most people get from picking a gift for a loved one.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned how to turn off that part of my brain that is looking for the most practical thing, and look for the wow moment through the eyes of the recipient.

I’m much better now, but that day I was still a work in progress and I struggled while looking for the “perfect” gift for my husband, whose love language IS receiving gifts. I was desperate to find the one that shows him how much he mattered to me and how cool of a wife he really has, oh, and it had to fit in my budget too.

No pressure.

That story had a happy ending as I said a prayer, asked God to help him see my heart through whatever ended up in the box and I moved on. I can’t say it was the greatest gift ever, but he enjoyed all of his gifts and the time we spent together enjoying a miniature family gathering.

I’m reminded of this shopping excursion when I pick up my advance copy of Listen, Love, Repeat by Karen Ehman.

While the book isn’t about birthday presents, it is about the goal of being a positive influence, presence and reminder of God’s love in the lives of those around us.  The quest to live an “other-centered” life was the driving force behind my outing as I sought to share my love in a tangible way. I wanted my husband to feel my love, feel God’s love in fact, and know that he was in my heart and in my mind even when he wasn’t in my presence.

The problem is, as the book describes, there’s so much going on. So many things that take our time and attention away from the very things, the very people that we say matter the most.  Schedules stuffed to the brim full of everything but the joy that comes from authentic relationships, true connections.

Ehman created a book that is exactly what I like, information and inspiration.  Practical stuff like casserole recipes, yes recipes and prayers sandwiched between bite size tips that help you hear the “heart drops” that often go unnoticed. 

Heart drops. That’s Ehman’s description of how we leave bread crumb type clues about the things that matter most to us, which help us connect with each other.  Like remembering your friend’s first concert so you can surprise them with tickets to the reunion tour, or knowing that your husband hates hazelnut creamer but lives for that seasonal peppermint version so you can hand him the best first sip as soon as you see it on the shelf at your local store.

The little things matter.

It’s so easy to think that a grandiose gesture is necessary to show how much you care.  That big money or big boxes make the biggest impact.  When truthfully, it’s usually the tiny foxes that spoil the vine and conversely the smallest details that make memories which last forever.  Being a conscious observer of the little things, that’s what matters.

Thinking about birthday presents past and Christmas mornings to come, it never is the biggest price tag, is it? It’s always that one gift that your heart was set on.  Those are the ones that matter the most.  

In a couple weeks, we will be Black Friday shopping, loading minivans and Christmas trees seeking the perfect sweater and trying to stay within the secret Santa budget while making sure your co-workers like your gift. I’m keeping a few tips from Listen Love Repeat at the top of my to-do list, so I thought I’d share some with you.

Keep your eyes and ears open. It’s hard to hear a heart drop with your earbuds in.  Hearing is a physical process that happens when you are presented with sound, but listening, that takes effort. Shut down the distractions and listen more, with open ears and an open heart. 

Time, talent and treasure.  I had never heard this term for how we as believers are tasked to give until I was an adult. But knowing that God wants us to use all of what we have to make a difference in this world, our time, our gifts and skills and our money means that returning books for a friend can mean as much as a gift certificate to your favorite restaurant.  When thinking of others, think of more than just the mall. You are what matters not the price tag.

Let love cover all.  The saying, “love covers a multitude of sins” is not one that I particularly like because it feels like an excuse to sin, but I do believe that seeking love first, last and in between solves many problems and heals many wounds.  Love isn’t a free pass, but more of a second chance. God gives us so many, love teaches us to do the same.

The 6 or so weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years always seems to fly by.  Thankfully, I’ll be slowing down a little bit to do less and notice more. I hope you do the same. If you'd like a little help with that, enter here to get a copy of Karen's book, Listen, Love, Repeat.  I'll be giving away a copy of the book and I'll let you know when the bible study is available as well.