Free to Listen

I am on a journey to live with more focus. My journey began with repeated prompting from the Lord. Again and again, He revealed to me all of the distractions I allowed into my life. Again and again, I heard Him, yet continued in disobedience.

The Lord is using Hands Free Mama to guide me along practical steps to decrease the distractions and increase my focus.

My family and I just returned from a long trip. 11 days away from home. 11 days of no regular routine. 11 days of no time to myself. 11 days to quickly turn my back on the work the Lord is doing in my life to refocus me.

It started on the airplane we took across the country, traveling to Orlando.

“WHAT? There’s a movie screen in the back of EVERY seat? We can watch movies ALL the way to Florida? Best day ever!” my screen deprived children exclaimed.

After seeing our children snuggle into their movie comas, without a word, my husband settled back to watch a “shoot ’em up” movie, the likes of which he hasn’t seen ever since Veggie Tales, Barbie movies, and America’s Funniest Videos overtook our TV screen.

I looked around and noticed every single person within my vision glued to a screen. Some focused on the screen on the seat in front of them. Some on a hand held screen. Some with both screens flashing. Nothing left for me to do but listen to the audio version of Hands Free Mama and play a mindless game on my phone. Sucked into my own screen without thought of the miniature sized games or read aloud books we had packed with plans of connecting with our children during the long flight. Everyone was content with their choice of activity. But, no one was interacting.

Not only were we not interacting, we were not listening.

“Would you like a snack? WOULD YOU LIKE A SNACK?” the flight attendant repeats her question to my children a little louder.

My girls were unable to hear the flight attendant talking to them without physically removing the headphones from their ears. In fact, they completely missed the first time she spoke directly to them. There was no chance of them even noticing her coming down the aisle with her oversize cart, asking all the other passengers the same question.

It wasn’t until days after returning from our trip that I realized that was exactly what I suffered from during my 11 days away. The inability to listen.

Due to my distracted state, I was unable to hear the Lord’s still small voice. 

2 Corinthians 10:5 in the Amplified Bible states, We are destroying sophisticated arguments and every exalted and proud thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought and purpose captive to the obedience of Christ.

Your word, Lord, tells me to take every thought captive, every purpose captive…in obedience to you.

But, how can my thoughts be dominated by Christ, when my eyes and mind are bound to what displays on a screen?

The answer, the only answer is that they cannot. My thoughts cannot be bound to Christ when they are already bound to what ever my eyes see on the screen.

take-every-thoughtI cannot hear the Spirit whispering to me. I do not notice the Spirit nudging me. I am blind and deaf to the Spirit’s leading.

Thank the Lord for His mercy.

We are home from our trip and I am right back to hearing the Lord instruct me. He never left me. He will not allow me to go down in my disobedience. He remained with me. It’s just that now I am back to having my eyes, ears, and mind unbound from what the enemy uses to distract me. Instead I am wide open to hear the Lord.

I am free to listen once more.

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My journey to focus: 

Lessons Learned at 3:00 am

New Beginnings

Are you on this journey as well? I have heard from several lately that God has them on a similar path. Please share your story in the comments. Your stories encourage me. 

New Beginnings

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I love the day after Christmas. Don’t get me wrong, I love the anticipation of Christmas. And, nothing beats waking up Christmas morning, especially with two extremely excited children in my midst. But, the day after Christmas feels like a brand new beginning. The New Year hasn’t officially started, but it’s so close, I can see it on the calendar. It’s time to start putting away the old Christmas decorations, cleaning up the end of the year mess and get ready for the New Year.

I imagine Mary and Joseph beginning their new chapter in life as earthly parents to the newborn King. A new beginning. Truly a new beginning. Our Pastor has been reminding us about the darkness that filled the days prior to Jesus’ birth. It had been so long since a prophet had shared word from God. People may have known the Law, the way to live, but there was no freshness in their walk with the Lord. It was stagnant, mechanical and in need of a fresh start.

Enter Jesus. King of Kings. The Promised One. Coming to this dark, dreary, sinful earth to offer Hope, Love and a Fresh Start. A New Beginning.

He offers that New Beginning to me. He offers it to you. When I abide in the Lord there is no stagnation. No boredom. No getting stuck.

The newness the Lord is offering me is a new found focus. Living with less distraction and more purpose. Lessons Learned at 3:00 am

The Holy Spirit is opening my heart and mind to necessary changes that are for my good and the good of my family. Hands Free Mama is giving me practical tools to implement. (Hands Free Mama)

An intentional change I am putting into practice is not carrying my cell phone around with me throughout our house. Hands Free Mama recommends closing it up in a drawer and turning it off. But, basically I just need it out of sight and out of my hands.

Christmas morning proved to be a perfect time to test out this new technology free time. My husband and I both left our cell phones upstairs while we enjoyed a focused morning with our girls.

Some things I noted in my journal about this glorious morning:

  • I wasn’t turning my head away from what my family was doing to check on every notification I was receiving.
  • I wasn’t trying to take a picture of each part of our morning and then posting it or texting it to my family and instead I was watching our morning unfold with my eyes.
  • I saw Mikayla’s huge eyes when she opened her Pokémon book and lip gloss that actually has a little twinge of color in it!
  • I not only heard Abby’s scream of excitement but I saw the delight in her face when she opened her American Girl Doll gymnastics leotard.
  • I heard Jeff’s laugh when he saw the tiny playing cards I put in his stocking.
  • We all watched the cats enthusiasm about their new squeaky toy.

What would I have missed if my phone had been within reach and eyesight and I looked away, even for just seconds, to see what notification I was receiving? Would I have heard what my family was saying, if I was trying to capture the perfect photo and immediately share it with others? Would my memories of the morning be so clear if I had started the day by filling my mind with information I found by scrolling through Facebook?

It saddens me to think of the years I filled with distraction. But, it’s freeing to know the Lord gives New Beginnings and I am just getting started.

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Lessons Learned at 3:00 am

He’s been relentless. For years now, He keeps reminding me about it. Not giving up on me. Encouraging me. Calling me to change. It’s my life. The life I claim is His. The life I hold out to Him during Sunday worship. There are parts of my life I freely hand over to Him. Those aren’t the parts He’s nudging me about. It’s all the in between parts. He’s been gently speaking to me about these for years.

When am I going to let the distractions go.

When am I going to begin living in the moment.

When will I stop needing to escape in some kind of mindless activity.

When will I stop planning for tomorrow and missing out on today.

He’s used sermons. He’s used scripture. He’s used friends. He’s used my family. He’s used  the Holy Spirit. He’s used experiences. Now, He’s using a complete stranger.

It started the other night when I couldn’t sleep. 3:00 am. The hour the Lord likes to wake me up. It’s before my husband’s early work alarm goes off at 4:00 am. Long before my girls are even considering waking up. Hours before my coffee and brain are ready.

Rather than seeking the Lord…why, Lord? Why do you need me awake right now? What do you have for me at this hour? No. No quiet hour of prayer. No intense scripture reading. Nope. What do I choose? Facebook scrolling time for me at 3:00 am.

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Thankfully, the Lord can speak to me even in my distracted state. I came across a Facebook post by Hands Free Mama. The title of the post was The Ten Minutes that Changed My Distracted Life

Words by Rachel Macy Stafford (Hands Free Mama) rang in my head, mind and soul, such as, “I was able to look at her as a child, not a miniature adult. I was able to realize yelling or forcing were not going to help the situation. I was able to keep what really mattered in perspective while my best laid plans went terribly awry.”

And, “If you are having a hard time believing, offer a few minutes of time and presence to someone you love. Watch what happens when you offer yourself—messy, scarred, and broken, it doesn’t matter. By offering to give love, you are offering yourself a chance to be loved.

In her book, Hands Free Mama: A Guide to Putting Down the Phone, Burning the To-Do List, and Letting Go of Perfection to Grasp What Really Matters, Rachel Macy Stafford, gives weekly assignments to solidify the lessons. The first task I read about was journaling.

Journaling  would not be hard for me. This would allow me to process what I am learning and have my learning in writing.

Upon further thinking, I decided to take my journal entries and add them to my blog. Because the lessons I am learning in this book, are lessons the Lord has been putting on my heart for years, I know I need to take this seriously.

He has a better life in store for me. He has a better plan for my family. His redirection is for my good, for the good of my family, for the good of His kingdom.

I can’t live this life, this life He’s gifted to me, this life He’s allowed  me to continue despite a life-threatening  diseasethis life, this one life. I can’t live it well, being pulled off track by the distractions I allow in this life. This one life.

First lesson: Rather than reaching for my phone first thing in the morning, I will reach for my journal. I will spend a few minutes writing on the subject of living with less distraction even before making my coffee.

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Here are some cleaned up tidbits from my journaling since beginning this daily task.

  • I have been distracted, in my own world, focused on my agenda, not giving the ones I love my full focus. I think I am multi-tasking. I am not. I am giving each task a small portion of my focus. I am including my loved ones as one of those “tasks”, the same way emptying the dishwasher is a task.
  • I want to choose love. I want to choose the people I am with at the moment. Choose the situation I’m in at the moment. To be present is to be available to love.
  • Jesus was present. Jesus…Immanuel, “God with us”. God sent Jesus to earth to be with us. To live on this earth. To love us. To ultimately die and send the Holy Spirit to live in us.

Can I be with my loved ones? Truly be present with them? Can I lay down my agenda in order to love?

I am excited to be on this journey. Fully aware of my human nature and my susceptibility to fall away from what God is calling me to. Fully aware of the vulnerability I am displaying by admitting my failures and telling anyone reading this that I am attempting to change. Fully aware.

Are you on this journey? Are you further along than me? Can you encourage me? Are you right where I am and we can encourage each other? Connect with me. Let’s not do this without supporting each other.

Philippians 4:8, Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.