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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When Your Christmas Season Doesn’t Go According To Plan



I walk past the 4 foot tree in the upstairs hall and take note. A sprinkling of handmade ornaments hang on its branches. The rest of the ornaments remain in the box. A box of handprints. A box of painting gone wild. A box of love disguised as art projects.

It’s not the most beautiful of trees, but it is the most special. It’s the one that displays every ornament ever made by the hands of my boys. It’s the one with the colorful lights that remind me of childhood Christmas. It’s the one that the boys have taken ownership of over the years. Their special tree. This year it looks different.

It’s only partially decorated. Without my permission these little boys are becoming bigger boys. Their interests are changing. The little things that once delighted are becoming sweet memories. They are growing up. Somewhere along the tree decorating way that day, I imagine a game of tag broke out. Or a foosball match was challenged. Or a game of backyard football took shape. Something more exciting came along leaving this tree half finished.

I reflect on the years of watching their faces aglow as they meticulously hung each ornament. I remember how they worked together, each securing a spot on the tree that was all theirs. “Look, mom, isn’t it beautiful?” they would call out.

It always was beautiful. It still is beautiful even in its most imperfect, semi-forgotten state.

In our most imperfect, semi-forgotten state, He knows us. He doesn’t forget. He holds us close.

I walk through the house and take note of how different this Christmas looks in our home. “God, give me eyes to see your blessings that never cease.” I continue asking God to let me see the beauty that looks different than I envisioned. Lord, they are growing up too fast. Slow them down. Please, Lord, slow them down. I love each Christmas season as we celebrate you and watch these little eyes dance with joy. But those little eyes are beginning to look deeper into this life you’ve given them. Times are changing. My boys are changing. Show me how to change with them. Show me how to change with you, the One who never changes.

A medicine dropper leaves a sticky residue on the counter. I’m reminded how our season began in a way I never imagined. Multiple trips to the doctor, a son in excruciating pain, a diagnosis of Lyme Disease. A blessing. Answered prayers. A son held close to the Father. A child’s faith growing daily as he experiences the healing hand of his Creator. A child learning what it means to know God is good all the time even when life feels painful. Christmas blessings of hope burrowed deep in the blood and tissues that house his soul. The world calls it disease. We call it hope.

Endless phone calls and trips to doctors, physical therapy visits, researching and discussing, praying and understanding. These have taken the place of the typical Christmas busy. But isn’t Christmas about experiencing Him? Isn’t it about seeing Him? The Savior born into the world that Christmas day? Remembering that from the beginning of creation, God has put a plan in place to save us?

This Christmas looks different, but the message hasn’t changed. 

This Christmas looks different than I planned, but we are experiencing Him moment by moment. Isn’t that Christmas? 


I walk past our Advent house. The one that counts down the days until we celebrate His birth in full. The one that holds a special activity or moment each day of the season. I think back to the years before. A door opened, a little note read, excited little voices to declare what we would do together. “We get to paint an ornament tonight!” I think back to hours ago. A door opened, a little note read, not-so-excited voices declared, “It’s paint an ornament night.”

I take note of the voice. I see the lack of enthusiasm. It’s ok. They are getting older. They are boys. They are growing and changing. Painting ornaments is supposed to lose its excitement. But thank God, I’ve had the years and the moments He’s graced me with. I delicately pick up the memories and tuck them neatly in my heart, gently closing the door. They are mine to hold forever.

This little advent house hasn’t been the giver of good gifts over the years. He has been the giver of good gifts. He only used that little house to give me those gifts, those moments with my boys. Blessings. He will continue to be the giver of good gifts. He will continue to be the giver of moments. Sometimes they will look different than I envision. He is always good.

This year the gifts look different, but the gift giver hasn’t changed. 

I walk past the box that holds our Christmas movies. Mickey’s Twice Upon A Christmas this year has been left in the box. They are too old they tell me. I take note. They are getting older. Thank God for past memories. Praise God for new ones.

This year the small moments look different, but the giver of moments remains the same.


I unplug the lights from the tree. The tree that leans left no matter which direction you view from. The tree that I envisioned looking a particular way. It should be 9 feet tall, full and round, perfectly spaced limbs. It would be bigger and better than any tree that’s ever taken a spot in the family room.

This tree isn’t what I had in mind, but the hands that found it were given to me to hold for a season.

This year the tree looks more imperfect than I hoped, but the creator of that tree remains perfect.

I envisioned a trip to the Christmas tree farm to pick out the perfect tree. We would come home, decorate the tree, decorate the outside of the house with lights, listen to Christmas music while we sipped hot chocolate and lavished each other with love. Instead, I awoke in the middle of the night with intense pain, unable to move my leg because of muscle spasms.

My perfect day became a day I rested instead. God does this to me frequently, and I love Him for it.

My perfect Christmas plans are best lived out in ways I never envisioned, so I can experience Him in ways I never imagined.

Instead of a family trip to the farm, it was a dad and son trip to the lot. Instead of me working tirelessly making everything just perfect and right for my family, God allowed my family to serve and love me in a way that showed His perfect love for me.

This year my perfect Christmas plans failed, but the perfecter of my faith never fails.

I sat on the cold driveway, leg numb from the ice pack, watching Steve carry out the Christmas plans I so badly wanted to take part in. I wanted to be with him connecting and testing lights, weaving them just so along the bushes. Instead I watched. I watched him work with joy. I listened as the Christmas tunes drifted from his car. I took note of the little ways he was trying to create what he knew I wanted to create that day.

Times are changing, my boys are growing, our moments are looking different. This Christmas looks different than any others we’ve celebrated. My boys see the change. I see their realization of the growing up, the getting wiser, the changing preferences. They partly embrace the new moments and changes, they partly hold onto what once was.

Andrew, only 6 years old, requested his own alarm clock so he can get himself up and ready like his big brothers. Jacob, 11, stopped me as I left the room. “But, mom, will you still give him ‘yay-yays’?” (little tickles and kisses up his back).

“Oh, yes, I will never stop doing that until he tells me to.”

His shoulders relaxed as he leaned back into his pillow. “Ok, good.”

The changing is hard for each of us in our own little ways. But so very, very good.

The changing seasons of life are to be celebrated and embraced.  While some moments change, some will always remain the same. While the moments look different, what drives each moment remains unchanged.

If my Christmas season looks different than I envisioned, I can rest in knowing it was carefully laid out by the One who makes no mistakes.

And now we rest in Him as we embrace each Christmas moment that comes our way in the next days leading up to Christmas Day.

Seek Him wholeheartedly this Christmas.


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What Makes Marriage So Hard?

[box] My friend, Kathryn Jackson, shares her words here with us today. Be ready to be blessed.[/box]


(Photo courtesy of BobbiJo Brooks Photography)

I’m sitting on a balcony, listening to waves crash against the sand, and I breathe in gratefulness. My husband of 17 years is beside me. We left one kid at camp and the other two with grandparents. Alone. We are finally alone at the beach.

17 years ago we were naive best friends starting a new life together. Life was simple. Now we are battle-worn best friends struggling to raise our little family. We’re weary, but we’re together.

Marriage. Who knew it could be so hard?

It got harder when our daughter was almost killed in a car accident. And marriage remains hard as we deal with the strain of caring for a daughter with a traumatic brain injury.

But yesterday, I almost ruined this trip. This trip that we’ve been looking forward to for months. This trip that took three spreadsheets to outline the caretaking schedule for our disabled daughter. We so need this trip.

What did I almost do? I almost let my anger force me to start a fight with my husband that would have taken days to recover from. But thankfully, God intervened.

It all started when my husband made a simple comment at lunch in which he defended an old family friend. I’m ashamed to say that I struggle to show kindness to this person. In many ways, I’m jealous of her seemingly easier life. My husband’s words picked at a sinful scab in my heart. Jealousy, covetousness, ungraciousness. Those are my ugly sins.

Instead of shining the light on my dark heart, I turned my critical spotlight on my husband. It’s easy to make up lies in your head when you don’t want to face your own sin. “How could he defend her?” I thought. “He should defend me! He just doesn’t understand how hard my life is compared to hers.” Ugly. My heart can be so ugly.

I retreated to my room and felt the anger well up through my stomach past my hard heart and clench its fists around my throat. I had turned fiercely angry.

“Oh God,” I prayed. “Please don’t let me ruin this trip. Please don’t let me lash out and hurt my husband. Please make the anger GO AWAY.” I tried to carry on as if nothing was wrong, but the anger only intensified and threatened to come out in a wave of poisoned words.

I retreated again. “Oh God. Please, please, please take this anger away. Please God. Please.” And I crumpled helpless to my knees and waited. And the change began.

God graciously, with such tenderness and compassion, opened my eyes to my jealous heart. The problem was me. Not my husband.

God’s tender conviction led me to my deep need for grace. “Oh God – please change me. Help me to be gracious toward this woman whom I envy. Give me your love for her. She’s just a mom – trying her best – just like me.”

Just like me. She’s just like me. A mom, struggling with sin – but trying her best – just like me.

And waves of forgiveness washed my anger away. I was free. His Grace had filled the crevices that just minutes ago were simmering with anger.

My husband came to me later, embracing me and whispering how he was sorry for being insensitive. God had worked in him too – separately – apart from me. God didn’t need me to change him. God is big enough for the both of us.

God saved our trip. Just as He’s saved our marriage over and over again as we fight to stay connected since our daughter’s accident.

He works in us in spite of our tragedy, in spite of our weariness. He makes us more humble, more dependent, more in love with Himself and with each other.

Who knew marriage could be so hard? And painful? And beautiful.


(Photo courtesy of BobbiJo Brooks Photography)

Written by Kathryn Jackson