Out of Focus

There's a mother in me. She's one part of me. Sometimes I think she's the only one in there. The wife up and left, taking the dog with her. The daughter and sister are too busy to lend support to their family. The friend is distracted, forgetting birthdays and how to return a phone call. The writer and dreamer, they're taking naps.

Other days I hit a groove and roll all of me into one. But I find it's nearly impossible. I'm not very adept at being more than one thing at once. I get very focused, unable to flow from one thing to the next. If I'm writing, I can't handle any kind of distractions, even though they're ever-present, so I become terribly impatient. If I'm trying to clean or do laundry, I get upset with my husband for not reading my mind and taking over childcare. If I'm cooking dinner and the dog needs to go out, I ignore her for as long as I can, making sure not to lose concentration and totally mess up the recipe. If my husband needs quality time with me and I'm over-thinking the latest child-raising issue, I cannot be fully present. This is one of the reasons I give so much credit to working moms. I've done it and the shifting is hard work (not to mention having to get dressed first thing in the morning).

I can multi-task a million different little things a day. But the bigger things, the different Heathers, they must wait in line and take their turns. It's like I'm at the DMV and all the different Heather roles are getting their number called frantically, line bustling, different parts of me waiting impatiently to hear "NEXT!":

"Next up, Wife Heather!!! NEXT! Get over here and sit by your husband, but only for a moment, you need a shower....(thirty seconds passes and a shrill alarm sounds)...NEXT!!! Daughter Heather, you're dad is on the phone, try to focus now, Mother Heather is up next, there's a poopy diaper in the air! It can wait, but make this chat snappy, no one needs a diaper rash around here!!!....(one minute passes and the shrill alarm sounds)...NEXT!!! Okay, Mother Heather you're up, get moving, change that diaper like you're in a race cause everyone's hungry and your house is a mess!...(thirty seconds passes-yes I can change the poop in thirty seconds, don't doubt my abilities-and another alarm)...NEXT!!! Where's that Heather that cares about the world around her? Where'd she go? Whoa, would you check out this list:

A plane crash? A hurricane? An election? Sex trafficking in every country? Poverty? An AIDS crisis?...

(long pause) There she is! Hey! You over there, sleeping! Wake up! What's your name again? Uh.... Heather something or other. Well, whatever your name is, where have you been? I hardly even recognize you! Maybe you should stick around for awhile and we'll take a break from all the bells and whistles. The other stuff can wait awhile."

Some days I'm just struck with the realization that while I've been so focused on myself and all the demands, I've completely forgotten what really matters. I've worried about laundry, catching up on cleaning, and if I've offended anyone with my scattered and forgetful brain. I've thought all day long about how to do things better in my own life, with my own family, and in my own house. Yet turning my attention to the hurting world around me would be just what my life and family needs. Doing so simply breathes life into me, and therefore breathes life into my home, and the lives of those in it.

How often I forget, but how badly I desire to remember. Life's demands do make it hard, but I don't have to get overwhelmed by it. After all, it's not always about doing something huge. Most of the time, it's as Mother Theresa said, "we can do no great things, only small things with great love."

If you have suggestions, things you or your family do to "make a difference," I would love to hear them!


  1. This post is beyond brilliant, Heather. Wait, I've said that about your posts before, haven't I? Well this one tops them all. Because it is so, so, so, soooo true! I feel like this all the time, but I could never have put it into words so perfectly.

    Here's a little something that really works for our family when we make it a priority. Our church encourages something called Family Home Evening (or FHE for short). We have a little lesson or mini-devotional, play games or have some sort of service activity, often we sing songs, open and close with prayer, and usually have a treat too. Our best FHE's have been when we've done something for other people. Gone to visit the widow lady down the road and brought her a treat, maybe helped with her yardwork. Or dropped a parcel of much needed diapers and wipes off at the home of the needy family who are always struggling financially. We teach our children the importance of service in hopes of partially making up for what the world teaches, which is that we should only be concerned with me, myself, and I.

    It feels so good to take that time together as a family. To make it more important that anything else. We do it Monday nights, and everyone else in the church does as well, so that nothing ever gets planned for that night. So people know not to phone on Monday's after dinnertime.

  2. Wow! could I ever see myself in that rhetoric! I loved how you ended though. Mother Theresa was so wise. Someone very close to me once said, "Perhaps most significant of all classrooms is the classroom of the home. It is in the home that we form our attitudes, our deeply held beliefs. It is in the home that hope is fostered or destroyed. Our homes are the laboratories of our lives. What we do there determines the course of our lives when we leave home. Dr. Stuart E. Rosenberg wrote this in his book The Road to Confidence, 'Despite all new inventions and modern designs, fads and fetishes, no one has yet invented, or will ever invent a satisfying substitute for one's own family'."

    What a powerful statement! Yes, there are so many things that are GOOD to be involved in. But we need to ask ourselves what are the BEST things to be involved in?

    What works for our family? Living simple values, and teaching them by example. Sometimes the best thing to do with our life, is to simplify it. Someday we will realize that it was the "little things" that really were the "big things".

    I love your post Heather. thank you for always giving me something to work on.

  3. Fantastic Heather, and eloquently stated.

  4. Yes! Figuring out how to include my kids in serving is something that is constantly on my mind. I so relate to that feeling of being constantly pulled and distracted.

  5. This is the story of my life. That constant pull between so many demanding roles can be terribly stress-inducing, if I let it get to me. LOVE the imagery of the DMV!

    Our family motto is Love, Laughter and Service. We've tried to model service first right within our home, by asking the children things like, "Will you please serve your sister by carrying this down to her room?" Minuscule things, motivated by a much larger principle.

    We also have regular FHE like Kimberly. And I particularly remember one Monday night in Pasadena when we derailed what we had originally planned for our Family Night when we saw that someone had spray painted some obscene graffiti on the wall behind the corner market. I rallied the kids, and grabbed some leftover rollers and paint from the garage, and we walked over there and painted it out. Ot didn't take long, and the folks who owned the little mini-market were so grateful, they came out with snacks for everybody. (Who knew that strangers would supply the Family Night treats?!) The kids still talk about how memorable that was and how good it felt to do something for the whole neighborhood.

  6. This is a beautiful post. I feel this way ALL THE TIME! I love the Family Home Evening ideas. It is so helpful to have a time that is set apart and regular in our schedule or it just will get bumped around and not ever happen because the busy-ness of life gets in the way. I am going to implement that in our home.

    For me, just slowing down and trying to live in a way that is really present in each moment allows me to have eyes to see where our family can reach out while we are in the moment. There are so many needs surrounding us, and so many ways that we can serve people around us. I have to be willing (I am) and available (I am trying!).

    Thanks, Heather, for this! You are amazing!



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