It has become clear to me that I have a problem (okay, more than one, but let's focus here!).
I don't know if it's my creatively-bent brain, our social media age, or the natural consequence of being a mom of multiple children, but I have lost the ability to focus on one thing for any length of time. My friend Katie and I were just lamenting about this recently, so I doubt I'm the only one.
Have you ever looked in your child's eyes, or maybe your husband's, and realized how long its been since you've done just that?
Here's another typical scenario for me: The kids are working on their math and for a moment all is going well, so I decide to take a picture to post to my Instagram account, which if mostly fun but doubles as marketing for my small business as well. I snap a picture, edit it, and begin to post it and add the relevant hashtags when I hear the baby, who is supposed to be napping, begin to stir. My other child begins to need help with her math and another is calling for assistance in the bathroom. I haven't finished hashtagging yet and suddenly I'm stressed and a bit frustrated.
That might sounds a bit ridiculous and small, but a day full of such frantic moments seem to ramp up my anxiety level.
I'm beginning to ask for God to show me specific ways I can minimize unnecessary distractions and regain the lost art of focus. Here are some specific things I've been implementing for now:
I am attempting to do one thing at a time. And I'm not talking about completion, but rather focus. It's very hard for a mommy to really complete anything in one sitting. Naturally, interruptions happen and some must be dealt with immediately. I'm finding that if I'm only focusing on one thing at a time (rather than three or four), then my natural and necessary interruptions don't feel so overwhelming. I can even welcome them.
This also means that I limit my "work time" to evenings when my husband is also working (and I'm not exhausted) and to times when I have childcare (and by "childcare" I mean grandma-time on Wednesday afternoons after homeschool). If I try to work with the kids, I inevitably get interrupted, and interruption for a creative is highly frustrating. My work exists to bless my family, so if my children are becoming a source of frustration, then I have things backwards. For me, work/blog/business don't take priority over my family and homeschool.
In my business, I'm only taking the work I can fit into my one afternoon. I also plan to take December completely off so I can be mentally and physically present with my family. I am trying to keep my pursuits in a small, but lovely, box that remains a source of blessing. This is a continual struggle, but I am learning.
Every family has to function differently according to work situations, finances, and what God has called you to, so this is only an example of a way to prioritize, not a model!
Focusing on one thing is choosing to let go of another, and that requires trust. Focusing on enjoying some time with my kiddos requires that I let the mess and the uncleaned to fade into the background. Focusing on homeschooling requires that I put down my phone and my business plans.
I have to trust that what is necessary will get done. I have to trust that my friends will still love me even if my house is messy. I have to trust that I can have joy in the midst of mess, because God is its source. I have to trust God with my business and that the priorities in place in my life are ultimately good.
I want to push back against the things that lure me to do many things at once. I just turned off the push notifications on my phone. They're "pushy" because they thrust themselves into my attention, regardless of the moment.
I'm beginning to say to the kids, if possible, "Sweetie, I'm doing this one thing right now. I hear you and I will give you my full attention when I am finished in just a few minutes."
I put the baby in the pack n' play and take a few minutes to get dressed in the morning. He is safe there and will be okay.
I'm trying to have focused time with my husband when he doesn't work in the evening. I attempted to watch a football game (and do only that) this past weekend. I made it to half-time, which is kind of a record.
I think there's another layer of wisdom to consider. You see, sometimes distraction can be holy distraction. Look at the perfect man, Jesus, He had the ability to be completely focused on His mission, but at the same time to willingly embrace distraction.
There are many out there (in the business and self-help worlds especially) who teach that focused attention is necessary to be more productive, to make more money, and to be more successful. Those aren't necessarily bad things, but I think we have a higher purpose as followers of Jesus:
"Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many." Mark 10:43-45The end goal for a Jesus-follower is not to build ourselves and our dreams, but to serve the goals of our God and King. Jesus came with a goal to accomplish ("the ransom of many"), and He accomplished it through service.
Because He came to serve, Jesus welcomed distraction in the form of clamoring children who wanted to crawl into His arms (Mark 10:13-16), He welcomed the distraction and inconvenience of four thousand hungry people with nowhere to get dinner (Mark 8:1-10). When another life hung in the balance, He welcomed the distraction of a long-afflicted and outcast woman with faith enough to believe that touching His clothing would heal her (Mark 5:21-34).
But Jesus was not motivated purely by the needs of people so much as the ultimate plan of the Father. He did not heal everyone. He did not feed everyone. He took naps (Mark 4:38). He withdrew from the crowds to pray (Luke 5:16). He acted out of obedience to His Father (John 12:49-50).
That's where the subtlety lies for us as well. Our world is full of needy people and distractions. Knowing which needs to allow to distract us is a matter of obedience to the Holy Spirit. Maybe it's also a matter of knowing our priorities at the moment and sticking to them with dogged focus.
Eliminating our non-priority distractions may be just what we need to make us ready to serve when priority distractions arise, starting with our own families.
That's the area currently under renovation in my heart and life today. Today's coloring page comes from the Mark 10:44-45. If you use it with your kiddos, you can ask these questions:
1. Who is the "Son of Man"?here (usage below*).
2. Why did He come?
3. What's one way you can be a "servant of all" today?
*I'm so happy for you to enjoy my coloring pages and printables for your personal (not commercial) use! All artwork and photos are ã Marydean Draws. Please share freely by posting a link back to this blog post. Please don't repost the actual file. If you share this, you're awesome (!), and as a courtesy, please link back to this post and not the PDF file. Thank you!!