I want to openly admit that I've been completely distracted lately... by an overwhelming to-do list, endless obligations, spreading myself thin, and spending WAY too much time on social media. It has resulted in my being irritable and impatient with my kids.
The insane amount of time I spend on my phone is one of those things that I've been "aware" of for some time, but it's also something I find myself making a ton of excuses about. I work online so I need access to my email, my blog, and my social media. Plus I'm a stay at home mom with littles, so I don't get out and have many adult conversations. I have friends and family who don't live close by, so I need to keep up with their lives too. Plus, those same family and friends want to see what we're up to. RIGHT? And with many life changes going on right now and various tasks popping up left and right... of course my mind is overflowing 24/7. My brain is an internet browser with 4.7 million tabs open at all times.
The result of this is that over the past few months, I've resorted to "making sure needs are met" and then off into my own head or my phone I go. I tell myself that what I'm doing, who I'm talking to, the list I'm reciting in my brain, the friend I'm encouraging, the fellow homeschooler I'm troubleshooting with, the email/text I'm responding to... that all of those things are GOOD and worthy pursuits (and they are).
But the real, barebones truth is that NONE of those things are my calling. NONE of those things are to take precedent over the calling I have on my life to pour into my children and my husband, tending to THEIR physical, emotional, and spiritual needs for support, connection, and encouragement.
The problem with walking through my life, completely wrapped up in my own mind, my own worries, my to-do list, and my cell phone is that when someone or something pops up and interrupts (as it does every 15 seconds), I become IRRITATED by the distraction from what I believe- in that moment- to be more important. The constant distraction from what I'm WANTING to focus on at that time makes me irritable and impatient. My laziness in attending with my whole heart and entire attention results in a short-tempered Mama who frequently yells.
If we take careful consideration of the Proverbs 31 woman, we see that the vast majority of her time is spent on serving her OWN home and her family, with small amounts of outreach, and the praise she's receiving is from her FAMILY. They are her ministry.
One of my favorite verses recently is the amplified version of Proverbs 31:16-
"She considers a [new] field before she buys or accepts it [expanding prudently and not courting neglect of her present duties by assuming other duties]; with her savings [of time and strength] she plants fruitful vines in her vineyard."
My vineyard is my family. They are my work. And before I take on a single additional responsibility in my homeschool community, in my church, or in my business in any way, I must CONSIDER whether it's realistic. I must not neglect my present duties to take on additional ones.
In my preschool curriculum, because habit training from a very young age is overwhelmingly important, we learn the definition of attention at the age of 2-3. "I am attentive. I listen with my eyes, my ears, and my heart." But am I attentive? On a GOOD day, my family is getting 2/3rds of my attention. For someone to get my EYES, my EARS, and my HEART? Let's just say that's a rare thing.
Why am I confessing all of this? Because I'm confident I'm not alone, and I believe that before we can get to the "how to fix it" stuff, we have to be really honest about the "where we are" stuff.
Your distraction may not be blogging, buying a new house, or social media- it may look totally different. But most of us truly struggle with this.
So we recognize that, "Hey... maybe there's a problem. Maybe I'm addicted to phone. Or maybe I'm always so wrapped up in planning or worried about an upcoming event or distracted by a big life issue, that I'm setting my family on 'auto-pilot'... We're just treading water, in constant survival mode, never deeply ENGAGED for more than a moment. Maybe I'm not ATTENDING to my family with my eyes, my ears, and my HEART."
This kind of recognition is humbling and AMAZING because that's when we can get to transformation.
So how do we overcome our inclination toward distraction and begin to choose differently? How do we begin to exercise our attention until it regains it's muscle so that we can attend peacefully and fully to those we are called to love patiently? Here are a few practical ideas that I'm currently implementing to help overcome distraction and rebuild my ability to listen with my eyes, my ears, and my heart.
1. Pray. Yes- absolutely! God wants us to truly attend to our family with all of our hearts. And he deeply wants us to lay our sin and insufficiencies at his feet so that he can not only cover them over with this grace but also give us strength to overcome them. So seek the throne room- ask God to forgive you for your distraction, fully repent of all the areas you've been distracted in, and ask for HIS help and the promptings of the Holy Spirit to keep this process of change present in your mind.
2. Disengage from your devices. There are a couple of options here. I've been considering switching to a dumb phone that only allows me to call and text only. What I'm currently doing that's working well is using an app like AppBlock (I have android) to set certain times of the day where apps are quieted from notifying me, AND it blocks me from opening them because sometimes I open them without even thinking. You can set this up to be different for different days or have it always on and allow certain amounts of time each day on each app. What I'm also doing is leaving my phone in my bedroom. I can hear a phone call, but that's all. I check it at lunchtime for messages and at the end of the day when I have some time to "zone out" and check social media for the day.
3. Study God's word. Think about the amount of time you might spend in a day disengaged from the stresses of life by "checking out" via social media. How much fuller would life be (and how much TRULY less stressful) if we spent that SAME TIME seeking God's Word and studying it? How much could he do in our hearts for every trouble in our life if we sought him with the same frequency and intensity? How much peace are we missing out on?
One easy way to seek God's word more often is to tuck it into your own heart via scripture memory. I've created TWENTY 1/4 page scripture memory cards AND 4 beautiful botanical prints that focus on patience, attention, and distraction for you. Just enter your email to subscribe and download them today! Print them out and keep them with you wherever you go until these words are imprinted into your heart.
4. Time block and keep a task list. I'm a big fan of blocking my time for specific tasks and setting a timer. <--- That second part is important. I find that when I'm in the habit of doing this, it helps me feel like I'm not running behind in each area of my life, which also helps me stay focused on what I'm actually DOING at the moment. If I set a timer for 30 minutes to work and pace myself to come to a stopping place at 30 minutes, I feel comfortable walking away, knowing I have time to finish the work later (without neglecting anyone and feeling antsy in the interim). Having a running task list (broken down by areas of my life) allows me to have a brain dump when needed. When I know I'm not going to forget something important, and it has been allotted a time and day to be tended to, it frees mental space up for the important things in life. (Need a great planner and cute task lists for keeping up with 100 different things in your life? Click here to check out a free one!)
I hope you'll be encouraged and begin taking some practical steps, alongside me (with God's grace!), to seek the BEST for yourself and your family, setting aside the constant distractions and seeking wholeheartedly to be present with those you love most. Join me in listening to our loved ones with our eyes, our ears, and our hearts so that may love them patiently.