Living Life’s Parentheses

By on August 2, 2011

“It’s in the unexpected moments where the best things happen

By Nancie Carmichael –

Now it’s summer—blessed, long-awaited lazy-hazy days of summer. But if your life is like mine, life is anything but lazy and hazy. We are busy, we are scheduled. Yet summer should be a time to catch your breath; sit on your back deck, savor an iced tea, or get out in the beautiful outdoors.

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Andy, Nancie and Michelle Carmichael Yesterday I managed to squeeze in a hike with my youngest son, Andy, and his wife Michelle. None of us really had time; we all had other important things to do, yet we did it, and I’m so glad we did. I have learned to grab moments that don’t come very often, especially with our growing-up children.

I began to understand the importance of what I call “Living Life’s Parentheses” several years ago. I’ve learned to watch for those unexpected moments of life that are like rare gifts of grace. You can’t really plan them; they simply show up and you must embrace the moment, see it. Carpe Diem, seize the day!

Twenty years ago on a Sunday, we were on our way home from church. I was looking forward to a leisurely read of the paper and then I intended to paint the railing in the family room. We were doing a major remodeling of our house, a seemingly endless project. I reasoned, If I could do just one project on the house every day, we could get it finished. Today I was going to paint that railing.

Our third son, Chris, seventeen at the time, broke into my thoughts. “Mom, see those bluffs over there? I’ve heard that’s a great hike. Let’s pack our lunch and go up there.”

Well, I was going to paint, but…okay, let’s do it.” It wasn’t every day that your teen-aged son asks you to go on a hike.

The sun was warm and the air sweet with the scent of wild flowers. We hurriedly changed clothes, packed a lunch and drove off toward the bluffs. Chris parked the car on the side of an obscure dirt road, and we set off on a trail through the Manzanita bushes and ponderosa pines, winding our way up on the bluff.

Chris! Do you know where you’re going?”

He was ahead of me on the trail, his slender form stooped with his backpack, blond hair glinting in the sunlight. The trail grew steeper, and the hike turned into a climb. Before long we reached the top, breathless, yet exhilarated.

There!” Chris turned to me, triumphantly. “I thought this was what we’d see!”

I caught my breath. Stretched far below was a vast green meadow with a river winding through it. Glistening snow-capped peaks towered above, where hawks and eagles soared on the wind. How often had I driven past these bluffs, never dreaming this was behind them? “Chris…” He was busy spreading out towels on the warm rocks and arranging our lunch so we would have the best view.

Yeah, Mom?

How often had I looked at him—my third son, my middle child—and not seen all the wonder and beauty? How do you tell your seventeen-year-old son how much you love him? How do you say, with heart-stopping realization, “My child, you are almost an adult and…you’re wonderful!” Instead I said, “Thanks, son for bringing me up here.”

As we ate our lunch in the sun, Chris and I talked about the future, his interests, his world. Chris is far from home now—married to a wonderful woman and is a dad of three young sons. His life is packed-full and I’m lucky to catch a quick conversation now and then. But the memory of talking with my son, high on a rocky bluff on a summer afternoon is one I will always cherish.

It’s mysterious the way God speaks to us, and shows us glimpses of hope and beauty. Often it’s in the interruptions; the un-planned things, the spontaneous parentheses of life. Often the real event is not on the calendar—and then, just like a miracle, life intrudes and says, “See this wonderful child, this person. See the beauty of your surroundings. Savor this moment!” It’s like a happening within a happening. These are life’s “parentheses” that offer the best moments of life that we can cherish always.

Nancie Carmichael is a speaker and author of several books, including, “Lord, Bless My Child” (with her husband, Bill); “Selah—Time to Stop, Think, and Step into Your Future” and “Surviving One Bad Year—Seven Spiritual Strategies to Lead You to a New Beginning.” Nancie and Bill are parents to five married children and grandparents of ten children and love to hike in the beautiful Cascades Mountains that are near their home. See or visit Nancie on Facebook.

About Nancie Carmichael

Nancie Carmichael and her husband Bill have been involved with the writing and publishing field for many years as they published Virtue Magazine and Christian Parenting Magazine. They now own a book publishing company, Deep River Books. Nancie and Bill have written several books together including: Lord, Bless My Child; and Seven Habits of a Healthy Home. Nancie has written: Your life, God’s Home; Desperate for God: How He Meet Us When We Pray; The Comforting Presence of God; Selah: Time to Stop, Think, and Step into your Future; and her latest book, Surviving One Bad Year—Seven Spiritual Strategies to Lead You to a New Beginning. Bill and Nancie make their home in the Cascade Mountains of Oregon and are parents to five married children and grandparents to ten. Nancie received her Master’s of Spiritual Formation from George Fox Evangelical Seminary in 2012, and in 2005, received an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Western Baptist College. Website:

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Living Life’s Parentheses