Joanna Gaines wears many hats — mom, designer, author, TV star — so it's no surprise that she's something of an expert at time management.
But the Fixer Upper: Welcome Home star, 42, says she's only recently begun to learn that efficiency can sometimes come at the expense of life's most beautiful moments. In fact, she explains in the spring issue of Magnolia Journal, which hits newsstands on February 19, a recent incident with her dad gave her a new perspective on what's most important in her life: living in the moment. (Magnolia Journal is published by Meredith, PEOPLE's parent company.)
A year and a half ago, she recalls, she and Chip and their kids were enjoying a big family dinner at her parents' house, when she realized it was past bedtime for their youngest son Crew, now 2.
She started to gather up the kids, and her father, Jerry Stevens, asked her to stay to watch the sunset with him, which would take just 15 minutes longer. Too focused on Crew's bedtime and the fact that he might be cranky the next day, Jo told her father no, and that she'd come back another time.
"It didn't take me long to regret that moment," Joanna writes. "My dad is the most understanding person when it comes to my family time. An invitation to stay and watch the sun disappear with him was a special request. I realized I'd held a meaningful moment hostage in the name of efficiency."
While she did mean to get back over to her father's house to watch the sunset as soon as she could, the COVID-19 pandemic soon took hold, and seasons passed before she was allowed to see him again.
Finally, one day in the fall she called her dad and asked if he would meet her in his backyard for a socially-distanced sunset, and everything became clear to her as they talked about ordinary things and took in the view.
"The fact that I'd made it back to this place, that I'd been given a chance to reclaim a moment I'd so freely given away, was extraordinary," she says. "For so long I'd chased efficiency for fear of misplacing my time. Yet as we stood there, eyes fixed on the sherbet-color sky, I wondered how many other moments just like this I had misplaced instead."
That evening, she says, was "a turning point" in her life.
"No longer would I measure my life based on what I achieved in a week, a day, or an hour. Now, it is time spent in moments like the one I shared with my dad that I hope define my lifetime," she says. "Time spent abandoning plans in order to catch a glimpse of something truly beautiful… Time spent taking in the only view that really matters: the one unfolding right in front of me."
The spring issue of Magnolia Journal is on sale February 19.
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