God always answers prayers. Sometimes it’s ‘yes.’ Sometimes the answer is ‘no.’ Sometimes it’s ‘you gotta be kidding.’
- Jimmy Carter
When she was seven, my daughter Elizabeth received a magic kit for Christmas. She practiced simple tricks, and then—knowing she wasn’t very good yet—called in her brother to be her assistant.
“He’s my distracter,” she explained to Andrew and me when we sat down to watch her show. John, then five, did an excellent job. He made faces and danced around when Elizabeth struggled to find the right card or hide something in the bottom of her hat. He did such a good job of being entertaining that Elizabeth got annoyed. “You’re not supposed to steal the show!” she sputtered.
I’ve been marveling lately at how quickly distraction can steal the show. I have things to do, and the computer beckons. I sit down to pray, and I’m suddenly thinking of what to cook for supper. It’s almost as if there’s no choice involved: It just happens. So I decided to spend a couple of days noticing exactly when and under what circumstances I veer off course.
Every time I found myself doing something other than what I set out to do, I made a note of what I’d been intending and what I did, instead. Patterns emerged. Once I could see the pattern, I could see distraction as an enthusiastic but pesky little brother whose head popped in and got in the way. And then I did have a choice. I could laugh or get annoyed, instead of diverting my attention to his antics.
And knowing I had a choice made it much, much easier to make the right one.
Julia Attaway is a freelance writer, homeschooler and mother of five. She is the editor of Daily Guideposts: Your First Year of Motherhood, a book of devotions for first-time moms. She lives in New York.