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Scrolling through life – Are we living distracted by screens or focused on life?

Living distracted by screens?

I sat behind this family. A pre-teenish aged girl, head down except for brief moments coming up for air, or rather, back into real life. Head back down.

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I struggled to disengage following her phone habits. Her distraction from life around us was totally distracting me. The thing is, this is the norm for many teens today. But let’s be fair. The struggle is real for us adults as well.

When she engaged in real life, she complained to her parents about being bored. When she was bored, she picked up her phone.

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She bounced from one social media platform to the next.

This isn’t unique to this girl. It’s all of us. It’s me too.

How often do I reach for my phone out of boredom, looking for that next hit of entertainment or distraction?

How often do I reach for my phone for the high of escape?

When I don’t feel like listening to one more complaint or argument, I pick it up.

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When I feel awkward waiting for a friend to meet me, I pick it up.

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We watched an entire family sitting at a table at a restaurant never looking up until the food arrived. 2 parents, 4 kids – scrolling through life. Missing the life of each other right before their eyes.

What stories went untold? What laughs never broke free? What impact or influence never passed one to another?

Real life vs fake offering

So much life missed trying to stay up on the fake life a screen offers.

We are missing the best and accepting the counterfeit.

This is nothing new.

‘When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods[a] who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”’

Exodus 32:1

They were tired of waiting, so they reached for the counterfeit.

They chose fake over real. They chose immediate gratification over lifelong satisfaction.

The very next verse shocks me.

‘Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods,[b] Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”

When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.” So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings and presented fellowship offerings. Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.’

Exodus 32:2-5

Aaron so quickly went along with the people and not only joined the masses but led them in their rebellious desires.

We do too.

We know we are trading real life, real connection for the false idol. Yet, we follow. We accept what never satisfies.

As we scroll through life, we are indulging our flesh. We indulge our desire to be entertained. We’ve created our modern day golden calf. We worship at the altar of our screens.

We have a choice to make.

These screens we scroll through will never give us what we truly crave. It’s like eating a diet of candy. Over time we will become sick.

I believe at various times God brings us enlightenment and we have a choice in what to do. We can continue down a path or make corrections.

When we find our scroll is invading our life, maybe a break is what is needed.  A fast in order to refocus our attention and reclaim the moments we’ve been missing.

Focused on Life?

There have been moments that happened I’ve looked back on and thought, “If I’d been buried in a screen, I would’ve miss that completely.” At the same time, I know for a fact I’ve missed countless moments as I’ve lived distracted by the scroll of my phone. I’ll never know what I missed. But I have a choice in each moment to claim it or let it pass.

I want to live a life full of beautiful moments. I want to have relationships that can stand the test of time and life. I want to create memories we can talk about around the table in 20 years.

Living an intentional life means looking ahead at what we desire and choosing today the steps we need to take in order to arrive.

It’s looking ahead and deciding what we want our Thanksgiving table in 20 years to look like and realizing it takes action today to achieve that. Meaningful relationships and moments take nurturing.

Intentional living is living life on purpose rather than scrolling through life mindlessly.

What are we nurturing today?

If you’ve followed along here for some time you know I’m passionate about guarding our families from screen intrusions. When I started writing online my goal was to encourage others to live an intentional life. Ironically, this was before screens were at play. It didn’t take long for screens to begin to dominate in homes and I’m determined to keep preaching this message.

The first post I wrote on this subject circulated into millions of homes. I received messages from parents who felt alone in their desire to raise children who could live with heads up and eyes ahead focused on life. They realized they aren’t alone. If you’d like to read that post you can find it here A Letter to My Sons – The Real Reason I Say No To Electronics.

You can can find other posts I’ve written on this topic by clicking here.

And if you aren’t subscribed to receive posts via email, click here. I rarely post more than once a week and promise never to spam you. I count it a privilege to encourage and inspire you to live an intentional life.

 

 

 

 

 

Mom, you are always on your phone!

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Steve and I stumbled across videos from when Jacob and Zachary were about 1 and 3. We both sat mesmerized by the videos not believing how quickly the time has gone by and fully aware it will not slow down.

Afterwards we found ourselves struck by the same observation. He and I were 100% in the moments we watched on tape. We both seemed so relaxed, wearing contentment on our face.

Something was different about us in those videos.

We were distraction free. Completely.

We didn’t own smartphones. We had no devices. When we were together, we were all in, and the outside world wasn’t invited to crash the party.

We took video for our private viewing, not for the world to like.

No dings, alerts, or alarms chimed barging in on our time.

Whatever crisis took place in the world, we found out about hours after the kids went to bed. No worry and doom lingered over us forcing us to plaster smiles on our faces while our thoughts were miles from the moments.

All the moments were all in moments.

When we were with the kids, we were with the kids. I wish I could say the same is true today.

I continued thinking of those tapes long after they were stored away again.

I’m so glad smartphones weren’t around when my kids were babies.

What might I have missed along the way?

Maybe I would’ve missed:

the way his little hands clapped hard at the bubbles in uncoordinated attempts.

the moment he held the lady bug and tried hard to find her smile.

the time he accidentally kicked that boy’s shin and how he reached down and patted his back until he knew he was ok.

the first time I saw him hold a door for a little lady.

the time he swept the garage and I noticed the proud smile he wore unaware.

the time he, shy and scared, joined the group and the fleeting moment when his face showed the relief of acceptance

I have the opportunity to record millions of small moments that create one amazing journey of life. I have an opportunity to be both an observer and participant in the trivial moments of their days.

Sometimes the trivial moments of the day become the ones they remember most.

I can watch the life in front of me, or I can watch life partially through a screen. I can catch glimpses and not realize how much I’m actually missing. Only when I put down my phone completely am I fully aware of all I’ve missed with eyes darting up and down.

I’ve told myself I don’t have a problem with distraction because I’ve justified my need for screens. My excuses range from ‘I don’t have a home phone, so I need to have it with me at all times in case of emergency.’ Or ‘I don’t want to miss a photo, so I need it close by in case they do something worthy of a capture.’ Or ‘someone will be contacting me and I can’t miss it.’ Or…..the list goes on and on.

In all honesty, I do have many valid reasons I’m on my phone not simply distracted. Life is pretty much completely online now. My work is on the computer, my bills are paid on the computer, I communicate with people on the computer. It is necessary for me to be on a screen at times. The problem is that it never seems to stop. And it creeps in and takes over without us even realizing it.

I find myself out loud telling the kids what I’m doing on my phone. I want them to know I’m not checking out on them but that I’m doing things that must be done.

The other night I followed Andrew up the steps to tuck him in and read stories. As always the phone came along. Because….Steve might need to reach me….or an out of state family member might need something….or a classmate might need to reach one of the boys….or….

And because phones simply never respect my desire to spend time with my children, my phone alerted me to two texts while we headed up the stairs. Andrew was mid-story, I checked my messages, and out of instinct I began to type responses. Andrew stopped talking for a minute then said, “You are always on your phone!”

I halted, dropped the phone, then my flesh became defensive. (Not sure about you, but when I become ultra defensive, it’s because a nerve has been struck, and I know there is likely truth behind the words.)

I began defending myself and explaining all the important reasons why I have this phone attached to my fingers all the time. Then I stopped. I put the phone hidden away in my bedroom, and I continued about our evening.

Andrew’s comment haunted me. How many years have I been blogging about making the most of the moments we have been given? How many posts have I written about the intrusion of electronics on family life? How passionate have I been about protecting our family in a screen driven world? And how little by little I’ve allowed it to creep in. Quietly and slowly.

My kids don’t compare my electronic consumption to the rest of the world’s. All they know is they want my time. They want to know I’m actually listening to their stories. They want to know I actually saw with my own eyes their accomplishment. They don’t care if I missed a photo. We have 100 others we’ve captured this week to make up for it I’m sure.

The world shouldn’t revolve around my kids. And they don’t need to think that they come before everything in life. But when they are away from me 7 hours a day, I need to capitalize on the times I have with them. I care about what they will remember about how I spent my time with them.

When my kids draw a picture of mommy, I don’t want to see a phone in my hand.

While I’m so grateful for the moments I had in their baby years that my phone didn’t steal from me, I can’t put my guard down now. I didn’t want to miss the baby years, and I sure don’t want to miss the preteen and teen years either.

When my boys were small, many wiser women told me to learn to step over the mess so I wouldn’t miss the moments with my babies. Times have changed. Now we battle less learning to step over the laundry piles, and we battle instead the need to put down the phone instead. Lots exists on my phone that is as important as the laundry and dishes, but if I thought it was important to leave some housework undone, then I need to apply the same logic in the digital age.

It all seems urgent and pressing. But sometimes we actually get more done when we put it down, are all in with our families when we are with them, and pick up the phone when we are apart.

It’s time I take a personal offensive position against the invasion of screens in our family life. Even the necessary uses of them. And that doesn’t mean throwing them out the window.

I’m taking the advice I gave my kids. If we want to protect ourself from temptation, I need to decide ahead of time what I will do. We must set our boundary lines before we find ourselves having to fight for self-control.

Social media, phones, news feeds, the latest coolest gadgets, they are all here to stay. But my kids aren’t. And there is nothing my phone can feed me that will take away the regrets of missing some of the sweetest moments of my life.

Yet it is more than missing the moments. If I allow electronic distractions into my life on a daily basis, I miss the call God has placed on my life in this season. What has He called me to that I’m missing because I’m on my phone? Even on my phone for good things.

I’m called to love Him above anything else. Above staying current on the news or up to date on the lives of everyone I know.

I’m called to be a wife. I’m called to be a mother. I’m called to raise my children to love and fear the Lord. I’m called to ministry in so many different venues – we all are.

Without self control, I will miss fulfilling my callings to the best of my abilities. My phone is just one small area I need to practice self-control. But it’s a good place to start.

Last night I pulled the covers snug up to Andrew’s chin. I looked in his eyes and realized he is still young enough that he looks at me with complete adoration. He pulled his arms out of his covers, squeezed my cheeks, kissed all over my face, then pushed my face away so he could look in my eyes.

In that moment, I remembered all over again that there will come a day where he will not look at me like that or kiss all over me like that or give me butterfly kisses with his eyelashes. He will be too old, too big, too mature.

It is worth it to put my phone away so I can be all in when I’m in.

No more excuses, no more justifications, and no more comparisons. Today I choose to be with my people when I’m with them. For me that means that my phone isn’t invited into these times. My people are more important than my feed.

I’ve written many posts on electronics and the family. On the sidebar of my blog, click the electronics category to find them.

The most popular is a letter to my boys on why we limit electronics and has been viewed over 3 million times. You may also enjoy:

 

Dear Kids- A Little Secret About What Electronics Is Stealing From You

How To Rob A Childhood And Miss The Sacred Of Parenting

Why Shutting Off Electronics Is Good For Kids

Exploring Limiting Electronics With Kids

5 Benefits Of An Electronics Fast

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