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Shiny Things: Mothering with Purpose in a World of Distractions

Shiny Things: Mothering with Purpose in a World of Distractions

by Amanda Bacon

Learn More | Meet Amanda Bacon


Don’t Blame It on the Shiny Things


All that glitters is not gold.

William Shakespeare

I stood outside our double-wide trailer, wearing my homemade turquoise leggings complete with stirrups. They were shimmery, fabulous, and all I ever wanted to wear.

I was seven years old, and I thought I was the absolute coolest as I strutted to the front of the garage where the bug zapper swung from a hook. I’d park myself there, watching bug after unsuspecting bug fall to its doom with a hiss and sizzle. I shook my head in amazement that bugs would allow themselves to be lured by the light. Didn’t they know they’d be zapped? Hadn’t the warning to steer clear of the glow been passed down through the insect generations?

Insects are so attracted to light that nothing can save them once they’re pulled in that direction. They’re like magnets to refrigerators, little kids to dirt, and moms to their phones.

We’re being pulled too. Pulled by anything and everything that feels enjoyable in the moment. We don’t want to miss out on and ignore the most important people and responsibilities in our lives, but the draw to do something other than what is needed right now is strong.

May I tell you something you absolutely already know? It’s because real-life mothering is sometimes mundane.

Even though we love being moms and we love our kids, we still must walk through experiences and do things day in and day out that aren’t necessarily fun. Real-life mothering calls for responsibility, intentionality, and a whole lot of sacrifice, a life most definitely not all rainbows and big bouquets of daisies.

While sitting in a coffee shop recently, I overheard a new mom talking to a friend she hadn’t seen since she’d had her baby. When her friend asked how everything was going, she said, “No one ever told me how hard it really is.”

I wanted to buy that girl a venti white chocolate mocha with whip, look her square in the eyes, and tell her she’s doing a lovely job with her daughter. I also wanted to tell her she’s right—it’s hard—yet mothering is a worthwhile endeavor that will bring the biggest blessings into her life, some obvious, some not so obvious. No one ever told her how hard motherhood is, but maybe no one’s ever told her how glorious it can be.

Motherhood presents a unique dichotomy, where the loveliest of lovelies live alongside the challenge that naturally exists when we’re engaged in anything worthwhile. Months or years that feel like centuries, filled with lack of sleep, illness, behavioral issues, relational difficulties, and daily sameness, wear on us. And no one is immune to boredom with mundane routines or wanting to avoid what they dislike.

Some days, all I want to do is act like a three-year-old—stamp my foot, cross my arms, stick out a pouty bottom lip, howl at the toohard circumstances before me, and run away to Target. Just because motherhood sometimes lacks ease and pleasure doesn’t mean it’s not also good and beautiful. We just might need to grow to fully appreciate its beauty.

Growth comes from walking with God through the toughest of circumstances. We like growth in theory; it’s the good part we all want. The process of getting there is what’s unpopular. I don’t think I’ve ever heard someone say, “Oh, I learned so much about God and myself when the seas of my life were smooth. Having no wants or cares grew me in ways I’d never imagined.” Uh, no. We like smooth seas because they’re comfortable and temporarily easier, but they don’t do a whole lot to form our character.

English theologian Leslie Weatherhead once explained,

    Like all men I love and prefer the sunny uplands of experience, where health, happiness, and success abound, but I have learned far more about God, life, and myself in the darkness of fear and failure than I have ever learned in the sunshine. There are such things as the treasures of the darkness. The darkness, thank God, passes. But what one learns in the darkness one possesses forever.

We’re familiar with feelings of fear and failure, sometimes in the same thought. But we’re also familiar with those treasures tucked in between the hard stretches. Those are the good and lovely parts. The moments we promise we’ll remember forever. The growth we see in ourselves and our kids. The beautiful life we’ve been given even when the way seems cloudy—or murky with half a box of Cheerios floating in it, depending on the mom stage you’re in.

Beauty is always present, even when we can’t see how or where. There will always be beauty, because there will always be God. There will always be hard stuff to do or walk through and distractions to avoid, along with a whole lot of need to refocus. Some parenting moments will bring us to our knees, and in some seasons we’ll fear we might not survive. But there will always be God. Always.

Beauty is always present, even when we can’t see how or where.

The dilemma is that the challenges of motherhood warrant so much of our thoughts and attention that they can overshadow the beauty. We’re bored. We’re tired. We’re questioning. And drowning the difficult parts of our lives with momentary pleasure becomes easier in the moment.

Sometimes we just don’t feel like making lunches or cleaning toilets, so we start pinning Pinterest recipes for birthday cakes we’ll never make or instructions for Christmas ornaments made with safety pins. So yes, real life can be hard, hard, hard, but sometimes we’re overcome by the “just don’t wannas.”

Sometimes I don’t feel like playing cars with my youngest guy or listening to my teenage sons give the play-by-play of the movie they watched at a youth group event. It’s not because I’m unloving or uninterested in my kids’ lives, but because I’m 100 percent human. So are you. We aren’t robots, so it isn’t physically, mentally, or emotionally possible to do all things well, all the time. Perfection isn’t required; it’s the deep conviction and decision of our hearts turned Godward that counts.

Everyday life tends to ask some tricky things of us, and sometimes it asks some tough questions too, like What’s most important to you? So much vies for our attention, but what are our priorities? We decide what our priorities are every single day, usually without much forethought or prior planning. Sometimes we choose wisely, and sometimes we don’t. We’re distractible, so easily allowing ourselves to stray off track.

We want to be undistracted moms who have clear priorities and direction, choosing to spend our hours on what’s meaningful—our relationship with God and growing in Him, pursuing the work He’s put before us and engaging with our families. Not only are we asked to name what’s most important to us, but life begs the question, How will you honor and care for these important things?

This is the question we’ll try to answer together. How will we honor and care for the things and people most important to us? How will we honor and care for everything God has given us and asked us to steward?

If we recognize what’s most important to us, why is staying focused on it so hard? We could easily blame it on our modern culture with its flashing lights, dinging phones, and shiny devices that invite us to more pleasure and fewer doldrums, more escapes and fewer prisons (real or perceived). But technology or not, the truth is the pull has always been there.

I recently read an amusing story about Abraham Lincoln. When his four sons were small, he would pull them up and down the street in a wagon with one hand and hold the book he was reading in the other. Occasionally, one of his little guys would topple out and be left behind by his father, who was completely engrossed in his book and didn’t hear him cry. Not until onlookers notified him of the debacle would he circle back to gather his son.

Fast-forward to our mothers’ day and age. The moms of their generation could be distracted by things like television, books, and movies; phone calls to and from friends; volunteer opportunities and work; hobbies; and even perfectionism. Don’t forget, though, that they also had all sorts of new technology arriving on the scene. Think cordless telephones replacing phones with curly cords attached to the wall, desktop computers, and eventually those mobile phones that took two hands to hold.

Shiny things have always existed. Though these inventions from days gone by don’t sound all that exciting to us now, each generation is exposed to bright new forms of distraction.

We could claim all day long that the many choices presented to us in this modern age are at the root of our distractedness, but truly, every generation has had its fair share of distractions. The number of choices we’re presented with today just makes it easier for us to move in the direction we might later regret, easier to succumb to distraction.

How can we avoid this pull and make choices we’ll be proud of later? Let’s talk about it.

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