August 16, 2022

Dealing with Distraction by Lorilee Guenter

 


Games. Travel. Media. Reading. Even housework. 

My days are filled with distraction. Sometimes, the distractions distract me from one another, leaving a trail of unfinished projects and tasks. 

During some seasons, I deal with them well. My focus may wander but my routines, the rhythms of my  days, help me minimize them. In other seasons, the routines crumble and the rhythms change. It is these days and these times when it becomes difficult and even feels impossible to determine which things are important.

Some of the distractions are important and even necessary. These are opportunities for rest and refreshment. They are opportunities to connect with and to help people around me. The days offer experiences that add to the image well and become part of future creative projects from art to poetry and even essay or fiction. The days add character and build relationship.

It took years of frustration to embrace the change of opportunity and focus for each season. Even now I still struggle. I recognize quicker that the distractions are part of a season of rest and renewal. However, I can be a slow learner and, when I expect my routine will remain the same winter, spring, summer, and fall, I set myself up for frustration -- a frustration caused by stubbornness and pride. God gave us seasons as an example in nature. Ecclesiastes 3 reminds us there is a season to plant and a season to harvest. There is a season for everything, including rest. I can not plant a garden in January nor can I harvest in March. Why then should I be surprised that in January the images and ideas bubble up and bloom while in July the images and ideas are planted as I hike, garden and explore the abundance of creation alive around me? Just as my houseplants may bloom in January, some writing happens in July. The balance between the two is reflected in the season.

Summer is one of my seasons of distraction - necessary and renewing distraction. This year spring was also a season of distraction, but not the same time of refreshment. It was a time of frustration and excuse. It began with mandated rest and recovery that opened the way for mental spinning as I tried to catch up on everything at once and did nothing at all. Except, as I look back, it wasn't nothing. Mixed in amongst the time wasters were lessons for now and in the future. As I reflect, I notice once again how God uses every circumstance for His glory, even the ones that come from us giving in to the easy way instead of following His nudges and promptings. He redeems our mistakes, our failures, and our lost time. We miss out on the best He had originally planned for us since we gave that up, however temporarily, for our own way.

As I write this, I am sitting surrounded by plants and soft music. It is the perfect space to reflect. Or is it? Outside this terrace the sounds of the city continue. The glass walls that surround this oasis do not block out the horns, the rumbles of large vehicle, or the general hum of distraction. I did not expect to be here. I have a choice to use this as a gift God provided in an unexpected way or to embrace the distraction provided by the bustle of so many people living and working in close proximity. Even that distraction is one of God's gifts. Tomorrow, I will venture out and embrace the images, people, and opportunities God has orchestrated. My writing and my life are improved when I remember to look for God's hand at work. It is only then that I can discern which distractions are time wasters, and which are gifts from God that He is waiting for me to recognize. 





Lorilee Guenter is a Saskatoon based writer and artist who is learning to embrace those descriptors. She has learned that if you keep your eyes open you will find nuggets of inspiration everywhere. They are God's gift to fuel her creativity.

August 15, 2022

Distractions Abound by Carol Harrison

 

Distractions lurk around every twist in the journey or some days they seem to be part of the underbrush that threatens to block my path forward. Other times the trail seems cleared of obstructions and things to distract my attention. 

There are several times when fighting off distractions is the most difficult for me to do. One is when I am uncertain of the project I’m working on. The other is when I’m trying to discern what the next project is supposed to be from my list of ideas.

Dealing with uncertainty in my life makes me very vulnerable to distractions even though not all distractions are bad in themselves. Some allow me to take a break which helps me regroup, recharge, and refresh my thoughts allowing me to notice those God nudges. These include getting lost in the pages of a good book or crafting, Paper crafting like making cards, junk journals or scrapbooking, is a great way of expressing creativity in another form and good for my mental health.

Reading is an activity that all writers should engage in and most find very enjoyable. It
can be a key to improving our writing skills, do market research, and provide enjoyment as well. At times I’ve read something that sparks an idea of my own which can be developed later into a story or book. When that happens, I take a moment to jot it down so I can revisit it later.

Other distractions are just that – something that pulls me away from what I should be doing. These take too much time – often wasted time which leave me feeling guilty about not following through on what I should be doing – writing. How do I combat falling into these distractions?

Deadlines help me focus my time and energy. I hate missing a deadline so it becomes much easier for me to push the distractions, even good ones, aside until I finish the project and hand it in. So I often set self-imposed deadlines to help me accomplish what I think needs to be done.

Lists also help me focus. At the beginning of each month I type up a list of what I know needs to be done that month. Then I add other things I would like to finish. The lists grow in length because I add many small steps to them. When I check them off, I feel like I am moving forward. Occasionally distractions get in the way and I let them push aside things on the list. At other times, events happen that I didn’t expect and the list needs to be reprioritized accordingly. No matter how many plans I make to help me avoid distractions, I’ve come to realize they need to be held loosely for God is the one to ultimately be the one to open doors and guide me to work on what He deems the most important at the moment. I want to be willing and able to obey.

After I make the lists and add in the deadlines, I send the list to my daughter to help keep me accountable. This seems to help as well. Accountability partners are a great resource in fighting distractions if you allow them to be. That can be easier said than done at times.

These ideas seem to work well for me. However, there are still many times I allow the distractions to win, especially those good ones like reading and paper crafting. I need to remember to enjoy each day, take breaks, and spend time in God’s Word so I am hearing His voice and not the distracting negative monkey voices. 

 

Carol Harrison writes, crafts, and finds other distractions from her home in Saskatoon. She


is trying to focus on editing book 4 in the Prairie Hope series and write book 5 as soon as she carves out a chunk of time. https://www.carolscorner.ca

August 12, 2022

The Farmer's Five by Sharon Heagy

 



    Distractions. When it comes to discussing things that distract me, I could probably write several volumes. When it comes to dealing with the distractions and getting back on track, I probably couldn’t compose a pamphlet. If I am honest with myself, I am more like the dog from the movie ‘Up’ than I care to admit. (“Squirrel!”) But I do want to share what has been a significant distraction for me for about the past 4 decades. I call it, the Farmer’s Five.

            When you find yourself blessed enough to be married to a fabulous guy who is also a farmer, like my husband, you may be subject at any moment to the Farmer’s Five. Gazing out of the kitchen window you may espy a handsome, overall clad fellow taking purposeful strides towards the house. You may gasp as the realization kicks in that you are about to be subject to the Farmer’s Five. (Dun dun dunn) 

            Time freezes for an instant and suddenly there he is, filling the back entry with his presence, and then, he speaks. “Hey there, good lookin’, do you think you could come and give me a hand for five minutes?”

            Everything you have been working on comes to a halt as your don the appropriate attire and follow the farmer out the back door. Steam rises from a pot of potatoes, half boiled, now turned off. Supper remains half made. A sentence you have been working on remains half written. Or the living room has a tell-tale pattern of the cleaned and uncleaned. The dog’s coat is glossy and smooth on one side and resembles the hair of Einstein on the other. The garden is half weeded; the grass half mowed. Such is the fallout from the Farmer’s Five.

            But the reality of the Farmer’s Five is it may only be 5 minutes but it is much more often multiples of 5 even up to 5 hours and can include a trip to town for parts. Though it is a non-entity it seems to have an unpredictable life of its own. You wonder if there is actually an end in sight then POW. Just as suddenly as it started it’s over and you must try and get your bearings and recall what on earth you were doing before the Farmer’s Five occurred. Sometimes the activity in progress is called on account of darkness or exhaustion and sometimes, every so often, the task you were working on gets completed.

            But the truth is that even though you have been distracted whatever jobs you were doing eventually get done once you return your focus, and I think that’s key. Often we need some assistance, at least I know I do, and the first place to find peace, focus and direction is in God’s presence. “My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth.” (Psalm 121:2)

            There is another distraction that can occur in life, a Holy distraction if you will. A Father’s Five. When we are off track, following a path we should not go down, God our Father will distract us, break our focus and help us turn our eyes to Him. He will help us to turn around and walk in His way. Some of us are not always responsive to the first Father’s Five we receive as we are not all that spiritually smart or we have a high dose of stubborn or “we all, like sheep, have gone astray.” (Isaiah 53:6) We are trying to accomplish ‘our will be done’ instead of His so it may take 5 minutes, 5 hours  or 5 years of His holy distractions to get us back on His holy path.

            Whether we need focus from distraction or distraction from wrong focus, our Source is still the same. If we are called for a purpose, He will enable us to complete it. He will give us the skills, the gifts – both natural and supernatural, the freedom and all that we need. We have but to ask. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.” (Matthew 7:7)

Praise God.

August 11, 2022

Oo, Shiny! by Steph Beth Nickel


This month we're discussing Fighting the Distractions.

I may have to approach the subject as Papa Bear taught his son to ride a bicycle in the Berenstain book The Bike Lesson.

The theme of the book can be summed up as follows: Small Bear, watch everything I, Papa Bear, do ... and do the opposite.

How do I fight distractions? 

Not well!

And just what are my distractions, the Oo, Shiny! objects in my life that grab and hold my attention?

Binge watching episodes on my favourite streaming services. Grabbing coffee with a friend. The responsibilities I've taken on for others.

These distractions may not hold any sway over your life, but I'm certain you face your own shiny objects, at least some of the time.

Self-awareness need not become self-absorption. There are things I had to become aware of about myself before I could begin to fight the distractions.

First, I need to feel connected with people daily, whether that's by getting together with them or listening to podcasts, YouTube videos, or TV shows with familiar characters. 

Overcoming the distraction means learning the value of silence. The more I work in silence, the more I enjoy it.

Second, I believe I can effectively split my attention between the task at hand and listening to a podcast or music with lyrics.

Overcoming the distraction means admitting it just isn't the case. I know single-minded focus is important, but I have to remind myself of this fact REPEATEDLY.

Third, I tell myself I'll magically do better tomorrow.

Overcoming this distraction means facing reality. Stephanie, you're 61. SIXTY-ONE! You still have plenty of time to accomplish what God has planned and purposed for you, but you won't accomplish those things by vegging on the couch.

Your distractions are bound to be different than mine. Therefore, overcoming those distractions will also look different. However, here are five tips that will help all of us:

1. Prioritize your To-Do List and, as much as possible, begin each day with Priority #1 and go from there.

2. Limit the things on your Must Do List each day to increase the chance of success.

3. As much as possible, schedule your top priorities at the time of day when you function best.

4. Allow for flexibility. We all know that unforeseen circumstances crop up.

5. Celebrate victories...even the little ones.

And lastly...

Set time aside to watch that favourite TV show or listen to a favourite podcast.

Those things in our lives that can become distractions aren't necessarily bad. They simply have to be put in their place.

Then, the Oo Shiny! can bring us joy rather than distracting us.

August 10, 2022

Fighting Distraction Through Purpose by Christine Smith (Guest Post)



We won’t be distracted by comparison if we’re captivated with purpose. – Bob Goff

Almost a year ago I came across the above quote in my Twitter feed. Each time I saw it, I paused because at that time I was indeed distracted by comparison. Too often I had allowed myself to go down a rabbit trail in my mind where I named myself as being less than others. Less successful, less beautiful, less popular, having less time with friends, or fewer achievements under my belt. Comparison is not the only thief of joy that distracts me from what God is calling me to do. In the last few months, I have noticed that I am often distracted from meaningful tasks by becoming too focused on my negative feelings. This could be when I feel tired, sad about a difficult situation, or even restless and bored. Dwelling on the worries of tomorrow is also a distraction for me.

Since reading this quote, I have been reflecting a lot on the word purpose. This word has become like a beacon of light in moments of foggy confusion. Purpose has many synonyms (which I have highlighted in italics below) that can lead us out of downward spirals of distraction. In order to stay focused on our writing and other meaningful activities in our lives, we must know what direction God is calling us to. We should have a vision for what we aspire to become and accomplish.

Lastly, we need to be determined to follow through in chasing these desires. One post I read said that the opposite of distraction is traction, which is defined as an action that moves us towards what we really want. Do you know what you really want? What is God calling you to that will help shape who He wants you to be and guide your to-do list?

Recently, I made a list on my phone that I have for now called “Purposeful Activities”. My list has fourteen items on it, everything from giving loving actions to people in my life to reading my Bible to writing and even having a nap! (Sometimes we are distracted simply because we are tired. Never forget that Jesus took naps so we can unashamedly do so too.) Each activity aligns with the goals God has led me to pursue. When I feel my sense of direction is lost and I am likely to get pulled into whatever distraction is in front of me, I pull up my list and know that if I choose one of those endeavours I will be following God’s plans for me. I have also learned that if I am distracted by feeling overwhelmed from having too much to do, I must try to simply choose one task to get started. The last piece of advice I learned recently in a writing course is to “start where you can”. If one task is too difficult, try another one. Sometimes I have planned to do a certain activity at a pre-assigned time, but when I get to that time my mood does not match up to my plan. I have learned it works well to sometimes adjust to choose a different purposeful activity that still allows me to accomplish a meaningful goal.

Ephesians 2:10 states that “we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” God has many purposeful activities in mind for each of us every day of our lives. As Bob Goff states in his timely new book entitled Undistracted, “we need to realign, refine, and reconnect with the greater purposes of our lives rather than be distracted by the lesser ones.” It is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will lead you to discern what He is calling you to focus on and that you will delight each day in the good work He is doing in and through you.



Christine Smith is a teacher who is just beginning to write for audiences other than herself or her students' parents. She is currently exploring the world of beginning a writing website. Christine lives in Langley, B.C. and enjoys coffee, reading, being outside, and making memories with her husband and four kids.