7 Symptoms of a Distracted Life and How To Break Free

“Mom! What are you doing? This isn’t a road!!!”

“Oh my goodness! What have I done??”

I hit the brakes hard darting my eyes swiftly to see how many people were watching me at this most embarrassing moment. Leaving a soccer game many years ago when my boys were still in booster seats and car seats, I’d taken a right instead of a left. A left led to the main road. A right led onto a walking trail. Through the woods where cars don’t fit. A walking trail wide enough for walkers and runners, not minivans in need of turning around.

One would think I might have noticed something as branches scratched and banged against my car. But no, it took the shriek of my ever-cautious first born to bring me back to attention.

I was on the wrong path and needed to get out quick. I needed to get back to the place I’d started.

I find myself facing these situations in life. Most of us can relate. We find ourselves disciplined, living purposefully in a particular area. Over the course of time, we let a thing or two go. Then another. Slowly, we find ourselves slightly off course.

At times we don’t veer too far off course, and it takes only slight adjustments to make our way back. At others we feel near lost, and it takes great effort to find the path we should be on.

The encouragement is that it is never too late to start again. Often it takes reflecting on the beginning of something. Remembering where we once started, our hopes and dreams for that thing, and where we’ve missed the mark.

Do the thing you did at first.

Revelation 2:5 “Consider how far you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.

While this verse is to the church, it applies to our spiritual lives as well. When we start out on our spiritual walk with the Lord, we walk with intention, closely following His direction. But over time we listen a little less to Him and a little more to the world. And if we spend a good deal of time on the internet, especially social media, we will surely hear the world louder than we hear His voice.

I try to remind myself in these seasons to do the thing I did at first.

What was/is our vision for our family. What did we do at first to accomplish this that we aren’t currently doing? How can we make small adjustments and get back on course?

“Mom, can you stop bouncing your leg? It’s making it hard for me to read.”

“Hmm? Oh, yeah sure,” I replied bringing my attention back to him.

Teaching a struggling reader to read requires stillness and patience. And total presence.

My far-off thoughts and nervously bouncing leg brought to my attention something I’d been attempting to ignore in my soul. I’ve been living distracted on the inside.

While I may be physically present with my family, my mind and soul can be far away. Symptoms begin to present themselves to me hinting that something is wrong. I can ignore them to a point, but eventually I must make a choice.

7 Symptoms of the distracted life:

1- Irritability – little things begin to annoy me. Normal childhood and adolescent interruptions bring out frustration in me rather than compassion, understanding, or a sensitivity to work through them.

2-Impatience- My mind races and jumps from one thing to the next. Therefore, when things don’t flow according to my expectations, I’m quick to react with impatience. The words “hurry up” and “come on” seem to be the most frequently used. As my kids tell stories I find my mind telling them to hurry up.

3- Anxiety – Everything begins to feel like a worry or concern. Settling into sleep is difficult. Waking in the night becomes common. A running to do list is ever present.

4- Loss of train of thought – Lists are everywhere because I find myself mentally incapable of keeping track in my mind. I’m relying on my smartphone for everything. Reminders, lists, schedules. I find myself forgetting what I started to do.

5 – Fatigue, exhaustion – I lack energy to do the things that once brought joy. All I want is sleep or escape.

6 – Procrastination- I find myself putting off even simple tasks. Daily duties mount creating more anxiety.

7 – Constant reach for the phone- And because it all feels too much, or I’m too grumpy, I reach for my phone every few minutes. Just a quick scan of newsfeeds. A quick check on what I might be missing. And this begins the cycle all over again.

Break free in order to live free.

I tell my boys a key to growing in wisdom is to know yourself well. Know God intimately, and know yourself. I need to know my weaknesses, my temptations, my inclinations.

The 7 symptoms above I don’t need a doctor to diagnose for me. I have a Great Physician and a Helper. If I seek Him, He promises to be found. If I desire truth, I will find it. And if I want to truly deny myself, take up my cross, and follow Him, then I must do something different than the world.

For me this often looks like removing myself from social media completely for a time. Honestly, I would love to leave it completely most of the time. I’ve noticed that social media creates cynicism in me. The constant opinions wear me down. The lack of reverence for God in our culture disgusts me. It causes me to lose my love for people.

Matthew 22:36-40

“Teacher, which command in the law is the greatest?”

He said to him, Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important command. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commands.”

If the greatest command is to love the Lord and the 2nd is to love others, then I should pay attention to the things that make me love people less.

When I see the opinions and beliefs of people, I see causes and issues rather than the person. Jesus always looked to the person first. The lifestyle of the person that was in opposition to God changed AFTER Jesus looked into their hearts, showed them love for them, and revealed the truth.

Our culture twists love attempting to separate truth and love. Culture tries to make everything “ok” by holding the love banner. Jesus didn’t do that. He spoke truth always, yet He showed love at the same time.

Jesus met people where they were, but when they truly encountered the Messiah, they didn’t stay where they were. The love He had for them was so other-worldly that following Him took the place of their once sin-filled life.

The love of Jesus compels me to love in a way that makes no sense. And when I find myself lacking love on the inside, something must change. Because God is love.

Our family has practiced the discipline of screen fasts for many years. When we started taking electronics fasts, it was directed by my husband and me. We simply set a family fast for a week, a month, or however long the Lord led. By instilling this practice in our home with joy, our children now recognize in their own souls when a fast is in order.

At this stage, our children direct the course of their own fasts. They are learning to lean on the Lord rather than us. They are learning to listen to their own souls and tune into the whisper of the Holy Spirit.

Often one of us will begin a screen fast and it encourages another family member to do the same. Then another. It contagiously spreads, and the entire family benefits from it.

Our screen fasts have been accepted with joy because we’ve always made a practice of replacing what we remove with something even better. In the case of a screen fast, we remove what is a poor substitute for life and replace it with the real thing. It’s like taking a diet that has consisted of chips and soda and replacing with a banquet of juicy steaks, colorful vegetables, juicy fruits, and desserts of every kind. It’s feasting on what we didn’t even realize had been missing and wondering why it took us so long to find true nourishment.

Here are a couple of posts I’ve written on taking a break from screens.

5 Benefits of Electronics Fast

Why Shutting Off Electronics Is Good

Taking a screen fast as a family requires a little planning and intention, but I promise you it will return more to your family than you can imagine.

The family comes together again as family. We work together and we play together. Dinner prep is done together, chores we all do. After dinner we all clean and then play. We read aloud together, have family devotions, play games. Sometimes we simply sit on the sofas together with no agenda at all. Just like in the “old days” as my boys say. We sit and have nothing at all planned. We allow space and time for conversation to form and move naturally.

I’ve realized how much families are missing out on simply sitting together and talking. Face to face. No screens, no dings, no distractions, no lectures, no to-do lists. Just time together.

This post went longer than I expected. It happens when I write on screen topics. I’m passionate about the family and this is an area I feel the enemy uses against families everywhere.

When my husband recently decided to take a social media break, I decided to follow. At first I felt it was impossible considering I write online. My audience is on the internet. But as I prayed, I could sense God telling me to simply trust Him.

I worry about offending people. Will they wonder why I’m not “liking” their posts anymore? Will they think I’m mad at them? Should I announce a social media fast? (John Crist had a hilarious tweet about this)

All of these worries I can’t really concern myself with. I can only hope that friends don’t take offense. But that can’t be my primary concern.

My family is my first ministry. They deserve my absolute best. My soul is showing me I need a break. And since removing myself from social media I’ve noticed a drastic difference in our home and in my own heart.

I’m truly present with my kids. I’m not thinking about sharing any moment in our home with the social media world. The moments feel more sacred now. I’m more patient, less easily frustrated. I’m laughing more with my kids. My daily duties bring me delight again. The clock is less bossy now. My heart rate has slowed. My thoughts are clear. I can keep track in my own head rather than 20 different lists. I see the eyes of my kids. Truly see them. I hear God’s voice clearer. My love for humanity is returning because I’m not listening to the news and the issues at war against each other.

Is it possible to live in this state forever? I don’t know. I’m learning to quit trying to figure out the future and simply live in step with the Lord one day at a time.

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Why Shutting Off Electronics Is Good For Kids


I will not bore you with statistics and facts about what electronics are doing to our children. I will tell you the effect I see on my own children, which is the very reason we periodically shut it all down.

Last year I wrote a letter to my boys about why we say no to electronics more than it seems other families might. This post has gone viral multiple times and continues to circulate at numbers that astound me. I realized many of us feel the same way.

As parents we are exploring a new world where constant connection is creating a disconnect for the relationships and the life we were created for.

My heart is grieved when I see preschoolers and young children gathered together with headphones on buried in devices. When I see the new norm for playdates has become video games. When I see kids riding in cars oblivious to the passing world because they are living in a make-believe world.

The time we have with our kids rushes by us. The time they have to experience life carefree digging in dirt and chasing their friends flies by. We are caught in an age where it’s easier to give a kid a device. As parents we weren’t called to take the easy road.

We are not an electronic-free family or house. We own all types of devices. However, we do place limits and boundaries, which I will share.

Here’s what happens to my boys when television, iPads, and gaming devices begin to become more important than they should.

1. They have no motivation to do anything.

2. They become lazy.

3. They become complainers when asked to serve the family.

4. They become ungrateful and actually foster a sense of entitlement.

5. They don’t want to exercise or do any physical activity.

6. They argue constantly.

7. They become impatient, snapping back with an impatient tone of voice and are quick to get angry.

They say it takes 30 days to create new habits. Our family just went through 30 days of clean eating, and I’m a believer in giving anything 30 days now. We’ve done electronic fasts in the past, and I always wonder why we don’t do them more often.

Sunday I realized numbers 1-7 above described my children. The effects of electronics had silently slithered in. And I promise that if we had not taken fasts in the past, I would have NEVER made the connection of the above mentioned issues to electronics.

Within HOURS my kids were different kids. The simple words, “Starting right now we are taking a 30 day fast from tv and electronics.” That alone seems to change everything. It is literally like they release the stress and burden of devices. Sounds crazy I know, and for the readers who will disagree, I can understand how crazy this sounds. I have no research to back this up. I have first-hand knowledge how this works on my 3 children, though. Every single time.

The very day we gave up all electronics, here’s what happened.

1. My 6-year-old went through the house, collected materials, and made his very own baseball from scratch. It took a long time, but he worked hard and completed a project.

2.  My boys stopped fighting. I didn’t hear another argument all day long.

3. They hung out with us all day. We played outside, we lounged on the screen porch, we took naps. It was lovely.

4.  My 9-year-old picked up a book and simply read without being told to read. (never would that happen if electronics was an option)

Now days into this fast, they do argue, but not as much. They simply go outside and play again. They don’t ask when they can watch a movie because the option was removed. So they get creative.

One of my sons in particular has become very creative in the last few days. The one who rarely uses creativity. One of my other sons has opened up in conversation to me revealing something he never wanted to share. Now I know how to pray. None of this would have happened if we were living distracted.

When electronics are gone, my children begin to think again. They begin to think about life and their role in it. Since our fast started on Sunday, we have had numerous conversations with our children that revealed to us inner struggles they were dealing with. Because their minds weren’t focused on their entertainment, they were thinking about life again and trying to make sense of changes they are facing.

Even in our family that has limits on electronics, our children can live in snippets of moments instead of truly experiencing life. They can begin to live from one game to the next. One experience to the next. And the thinking in between is on their conquering of new worlds and mastering new levels rather than exploring their own heart and connecting to the real-life world they live in.

The most common email I receive in regards to electronics limits is how we do it in our family. Today, I want to share what it looks like in our home.

Here’s our guidelines:

1. No devices in cars unless it is a long road trip. The car ride is when I’ve had some of the deepest conversations with my kids. It’s when my husband has had opportunities to have discussions on “the talk”. 2 of my 3 children accepted Christ while we were in the car out running errands! In our busy world, the car time is golden. As my boys are getting older, I have to capitalize on each moment I have with them.

2. No weekday electronics during the school year. It’s just too busy anyway. There isn’t time. If they are allowed electronics during the week, they rush through homework, they rush through family dinners, they rush through conversation because they have one thing on their mind. Their pleasure. They begin to give less of themselves to what matters because they want to pursue mastering a game instead. Life is no game.

3. No iPod touch, iPhone usage without permission. Our boys have iPod touches, but they are only used on long car rides for the most part. They are stripped of all access to the internet, which is the only reason we allow them to remain in their rooms. If internet access were granted, we would never allow them to keep their iPods in their rooms. The statistics are staggering on children exposed to pornography at young ages. Kids given internet devices and allowed to access them freely is dangerous territory. Evil finds our kids when our kids aren’t looking.

4. Time limits on games and tv watching. – They set an old fashioned kitchen timer and are allowed to play 30 minute sessions twice a day on the weekends. They have freedom to choose when and what and are given the responsibility to set the timer. The timer has been a key for us as my children were shocked to discover how fast 30 minutes goes by. Without a timer, they would play for hours. It’s hard to pull out of a game you are engrossed in. But setting time limits is practicing self-control. When they are older, they won’t have timers, but hopefully they will have practiced the art of leaving fun and realizing it was for their good.

5. Summer they are allowed one 30 minute session a day, but not before lunch. The days I’ve allowed them to start the day with tv or games, they tend to move like slugs and have no motivation. The days we work hard then play, they learn the value of work before play.

Another common email I receive is from parents frustrated about how addicted their kids are to their devices and desperate for help and solutions. When our kids are under our roofs, they are our responsibility. We have an obligation to society to raise kids who think beyond themselves and pursuing their pleasures. We have a responsibility to raise kids who value work, who think of others before themselves.

When my older boys were little, the electronics issue wasn’t an issue. We went to the store without needing to entertain our kids. We are raising a generation that believes they must be entertained, and they must always be happy, they must always get their way. When our kids act up, we silence them with a gaming device because it saves our sanity and embarrassment.

Parenting is not convenient. Parenting is downright embarrassing. Parenting is frustrating and full of hair pulling and tears hiding out in the bathroom. Parenting is the total giving of ourselves for the benefit of another.

Trust me, I struggle through this all the time. Just this week I went to the grocery store and had a 20 minute battle with my 6-year-old who refused to get out of the car. When he did, he refused to walk beside me and ran to aisles far away. I had to pull him from the store in a full on battle of the wills where we readjusted attitudes and hearts in the car. My grocery store trip left me spinning. I was sweating, exhausted, sad, and mad. A trip that should have taken 20 minutes took an hour. Had I put a phone in his hand, we would have zipped through the aisles and all would have been well.

Here’s what I would have missed.

1. Seeing my need for Jesus to help me parent.

2. Relying on God to grant me patience and literally crying to God in the car to help me parent a child well who struggles to obey the smallest instructions.

3. Teaching a child that life is more than his pleasure.

4. Explaining to a child why God desires obedience.

5. Disciplining a child (a child left undisciplined will be a child who struggles to feel loved)

6. Modeling to a child obedience, respect, discipline, and following it all with showers of love and grace.

It took time. Time I didn’t have. Time I didn’t want to give. It was awful and I didn’t see the beautiful in that moment that was pure embarrassment.

Parenting is a life of opportunity. The electronic grip on our kids steals our moments. It steals what is rightfully ours. Time is all we have, and it goes by much too fast. We will never have these years and opportunities again. Once they are gone, they are gone.

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Reasons to Consider Unplugging from Technology to Plug Into Our Families

andrew window2

Last March our family fasted from electronics for a month.  It was the first time we had done something like that, and we were pleasantly surprised by the results.  Here is the post I wrote last year on 5 Benefits of an Electronics Fast.

I began to notice some areas of attitude, resistance, and disconnection in our family recently.  This is an area I pray about frequently and felt that another fast was in order.  Our fast began over the weekend.  This is never something welcomed by our children.  They never get excited that we are implementing this.  However, we see the most positive results through the process.  If I gave them their choice, they would eat candy all day long and never touch a vegetable.  The same holds true for electronics.  It’s fun, they love them, but we know there are healthier options they need to experience.

After posting A Letter To My Sons (the real reason I say no to electronics), I realized how many families felt the same way.  It’s a topic that is becoming more important as the crutch of electronics invades our family lives.

The weeks leading up to Easter is a great time to try an electronics fast if you’ve always wanted to give it a shot. I admit, it’s scary, but you will not regret a second of the time you experience with your family.  Start small.  You don’t have to start out with a 30 day break (though I really love our longer breaks).  Try just one weekend, one day even.

Of all my boys, my middle son is the one who loves electronics more than the others. However, on Day 2 of our fast, he said, “This is actually kind of fun.”  This same thing was said last year by both of my older boys.  They wouldn’t choose an electronics fast, but they do enjoy it and see the benefits.

I would add one more thing to my list from 5 Benefits of an Electronics Fast – more sleep.  I find that on the weekends my boys wake early because they expect to watch a movie or they wonder if a movie is being watched, and they don’t want to miss out.  Now, they are simply sleeping and enjoying getting the rest and relaxation because they know they aren’t missing out on anything.

“When the option of electronics is completely removed, kids will become kids again.  When all the distractions are removed, we can fully enjoy our moments again.” – 5 Benefits of an Electronics Fast.  I encourage you to visit this previous post to read the benefits we noticed in our family.

Technology has wonderful uses, but every so often a disconnect in the family calls for a disconnect from technology.  A time to recharge and reboot as a family unit.  A time to connect fully with each other and rediscover one another.  A time to create some new moments and see them with fresh, focused eyes.

5 Benefits of an Electronics Fast



For 30 days our home is electronic/screen free.

We are just a little over a week into this.  And we feel free.

It was a spur of the moment idea Steve had one weekend. “We are shutting down for 30 days.  For one month we will have no tv, no Wii, no electronics (with the exception of the computer for me to pay bills and blog and him for work).  Steve even went so far as to cancel Dish Network.

I don’t watch tv or play video games, so this isn’t as painful for me as it is the rest of the members of my household.  Honestly, I felt this would be a breeze for us anyway.  Our kids rarely watch tv during the week.  There simply is no time.  Wii is only allowed on the weekends.  A couple of 30 minute time blocks.

We started noticing some attitudes in our boys.  More bickering than we cared for.  And a constant asking to watch something or play some game.  A break was needed.


Top 5 positive changes from week 1:

  1. We don’t rush away from the moments.  We stay.  We linger.  We soak.  We relish.  There is nothing to rush away to.  No tv show to catch.  No video game to conquer.  Nothing but time and each other.  Dinner is slower, more relaxed.  There is no need to rush to eat so we can fit a show in before bedtime on a Saturday night.  We took a family bike ride Sunday afternoon to a favorite tree swing.  After a long time swinging, we asked if they were ready to head home.  Zachary’s immediate response, “No!!!”  One week ago he would have been begging to go home so that he could play the Wii one last time before the new week began.  
  2. We are having moments we’ve never had.  I’ve come to realize the distractions of our devices cause great anxiety and a sense of urgency.  When they are taken away, we are left with the simplicity of life.  We are left with the beauty of the ones we love waiting to be enjoyed.  When our affection and attention is taken away from our devices, it must go somewhere.  So we turn it to the ones we love.  Andrew wanted to take a bath Saturday night.  While he was playing in the tub, I heard Jacob in there talking to him.  He was just sitting on the side of the tub chatting away with his 4-year-old brother he rarely has time to simply enjoy.  Jacob began making up stories and songs.  He had Andrew captivated.  After that Andrew began to want to be with Jacob again.
  3. We are finding new activities to enjoy. I’ve found the boys putting together puzzles, setting up imaginary play scenes, making up new games, using tools to create projects.  I’ve even found them simply resting.  Yes, just lounging on the screen porch, enjoying nature, enjoying life.
  4. We are thinking.  Want to increase creativity and productivity?  Take away your devices. Your mind will slow down and focus.  We have noticed this in ourselves as well as the boys.  We all feel much more able to think clearly.
  5. We are reconnecting.  I found I had gotten in a pattern of putting a movie on while I cooked dinner.  Now, everyone is taking part in the dinner prep.  We are all together in the kitchen.  We all help clean up.  We are simply together more.  Jacob and I have had extensive conversations, which have really been lacking lately.  One of our long talks occurred while he was helping me prepare dinner and Steve was outside with the other boys.  I said, “See Jacob if you had been watching a movie, we would have missed this opportunity to have this time together.”  He just smiled and said, “I’m actually kind of liking this electronics fast now.”

When the option of electronics is completely removed, kids will become kids again.  When all the distractions are removed, we can fully enjoy our moments again.