I was sitting on the edge of my younger son’s bed last night thinking back to about eight years ago when both of my boys were still in preschool. Life was so much simpler then, although it certainly didn’t seem that way at the time. I remember feeling that my days were made up of constant chaos filled with one interruption or distraction after another. From the moment I awoke each day until the time my head hit the pillow, it felt like somebody always needed something from me. It was a rare occasion when I could sit down and relax for more than 10 minutes at a time. Simple pleasures like reading a magazine or painting my nails were impossible, because inevitably, one of my small children would require some attention. Finding time to focus on anything that I enjoyed – cooking a meal, having a phone conversation with a friend, working out – was an enormous challenge. But I didn’t complain…much. I love my children and my husband to pieces, and although their needs and desires felt like distractions at times, at the end of the day, I was grateful to be able to care for them.
Fast forward eight years later to today. My boys are now 11 and 13. Their lives, like most kids their age, are filled with school, homework, video games, sports, carpooling and friends. They still need me, but not all the time, and in a very different way. In fact, I sometimes secretly wish they needed me more. They may have some questions about homework. They sometimes request a ride to a friend’s house. They occasionally even need some help doing their laundry. But these requests don’t feel like distractions anymore. They feel like opportunities to engage with my children and remind them that they are loved. It may be simple or mundane requests that take me away from the current task at hand, but I am (almost) always grateful for the opportunity to be present in the moment with my boys. Maybe it’s the fact that I know they will be off to college in the blink of an eye. Maybe it’s because, over time, I’ve grown to appreciate the moments in life that slip away without warning.
While my sons are no longer pulling me away from my tasks as they used to, I now find my life filled with other types of distractions. I work from home. This is a blessing most of the time, except when it’s not. Working from home gives me the opportunity to be there when my boys walk through the door after school. I have flexibility when it comes to chaperoning a field trip or being at home when my boys are sick. However, having an office just steps away from our living space also allows me to jump on my computer to finish one last thing, even when my workday is technically over. This often happens in the evening when I could be spending time with my family. I work online and as it’s said, “the Internet never sleeps” so I am sometimes on-call during evenings and weekends. This can occasionally result in me having to step outside of a restaurant to take a call, or to answer a text in the middle of family game night. Having to look my family in the eye to say, “This will just take a minute,” or “I’ll be right back,” often leaves me feeling guilty. But I do what I can to minimize those distractions whenever possible.
We all lead busy lives. There is a continual stream of “noise” around us. We are surrounded by distractions in the form of people, responsibilities, jobs and those pesky smart phones. How many times do we get caught up in the latest Facebook post or in answering “just one more email”? During those moments when we should be truly present with our family and our friends, it’s not uncommon to find ourselves distracted by the noise of the world. Unfortunately, those distractions will not magically disappear. It’s up to us to manage them.
I have come to accept that the noise and distractions will always be competing for our attention in an attempt to lead us off course. If we let them, those distractions will affect our relationships with friends, with family, and with God. It’s all too easy to get caught up in the rush of our daily lives, often forgetting to make the time to sit quietly and give our thanks to God. In God’s eyes, we are never a distraction. He is always present for us. And God calls us to love Him with all of our heart, soul and mind.
Therein lies the challenge…how do we learn to manage and overcome the distractions of daily life? How do we reach a more peaceful existence while growing closer to God, despite the chaos that continues all around us? I believe it’s a continual process that requires mindfulness and commitment. I’ve made a conscious decision to try to carve out quiet time each day (which isn’t an easy task in my house) during which I disconnect from distractions, find a peaceful space, clear my head and give thanks to God for all of my blessings. It’s during these moments of quiet contentment when my heart is filled with gratitude and peace.
"Be disciplined about what you respond and react to. Not everyone or everything deserves your time, energy and attention. Stay in your light." -Author unknown
Betsy often describes her life as a jigsaw puzzle...trying to make all the pieces fit. Living in a house full of boys can prove challenging, but also brings joy and wonder every single day. Betsy never turns down the opportunity to learn something new. She tends to ask a lot of questions but isn’t interested in small talk - she truly wants to get to know and understand other’s experiences and points of view. She is passionate about feeding her children’s curiosity and instilling a lifelong love of learning in them. One of Betsy’s guiding principles is gratitude. She appreciates all of the blessings in her life and, more importantly, knows that they are gifts given by God.