By Katy Epling
A few months ago, my family of five pale Ohioans spent an afternoon at Daytona Beach. The conditions were perfect: the sun shone without melting us, the water temperature was refreshing, and people milled about without overcrowding. We set up on the beach, sun-screened ourselves, and settled in for hours of fun.
We played in the sand. We swam. And I actually braved my fear of sharks and jellyfish and went boogie-boarding with my kids. I spent close to an hour sitting in shallow water with my tween, getting to know the young woman she’s becoming when she’s not too busy trying to act cool.
As we packed up, I realized I had taken only one picture. One lone photo on my phone stood as evidence of our trip to the beach. No pictures of Joey digging in the sand or running from the waves! I thought. No snapshots of me falling off the boogie board or having a tender moment with Grace. How could I let this day go by without capturing any images from it? I have nothing to remember it by—nothing to post on Instagram. Discouraged, I climbed into the car and sulked as we headed back to our vacation house.
But as I thought about the day, I knew the lack of photos was exactly what I needed. Instead of letting my camera take in the beauty of the day, I got to experience it myself. I didn’t stay safe and dry on the sand, watching everyone else have fun. I got in the water with my daughter. Instead of holding my phone while my son called, “Mommy, look!” I sat down next to him and made a moat for his castle (a large pile of sand with a stick on the top). By letting go of my Instagram life, I got to experience my life more fully.
And I found something else: I remember that day far more clearly than all the birthdays and holidays I try so hard to capture with my camera. When I think back to our time on the beach, I don’t see a still photo for which I spent five minutes finding the right filter and caption. I remember my daughter’s smile of pure joy as she ran into the ocean. I warm as I think about her willingness to open up about friendships, the way she seemed to absorb my input instead of letting it bounce off her. I recall with pride how casually brave she was about jumping on her board and riding the waves. I remember my son—who is normally fearless—tiptoeing reluctantly toward the water, then laughing with abandon at the way the sand slid from under him as the waves went in and out. I see the peace in my husband’s eyes as he let go of work worries and reveled in family time. My memories are crisp and vivid and far richer than any picture could ever have been.
Don’t get me wrong; I love photos and scrapbooks. They can be such great tools to jog our memories. I treasure that single photo I took of Daytona Beach this spring. It reminds me of one of my favorite days in a long time, and I smile every time I see it. But if we spend all our time looking through the lens of a camera (or at the screen of a smartphone), we have only secondhand moments to remember. Grab your camera or phone, snap a quick shot, then put it down and go live. Immerse yourself fully in the moments of your life, and let your senses remind you of the things that are worth remembering.
This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it. (Psalm 118:24 ESV)
Katy Epling is a writer, speaker, and “masterpiece in progress” (Ephesians 2:10) from Akron, Ohio. She and her husband Jon have three beautiful children who provide her with multitudes of material—both dramatic and comedic. Learn more about her heart and ministry at katyepling.com.
Photograph © Ethan Hoover, used with permission