Boredom is a Wonderful Thing

I read somewhere that boredom is essential to fostering children’s imaginations. It’s only when they are bored that they are then forced to come up with their own entertainment. They are forced to start using their imaginations. This past Friday I turned off the wifi at our house. I had several reasons, but one of them was to help my children foster their imagination. No more instant entertainment from a screen. Use your imagination.

So, obviously, I have set myself up for some trouble. Have you ever had a houseful of children all using their imaginations? It’s a dangerous thing. Using your imagination means taking your helium balloon (leftover from the graduation party) and letting it loose into the ceiling fan. (I just wanted to see what would happen!). It means taking a crayon and writing out a Yes/No quiz on the wall by the toilet. (I suppose so that people who are using the bathroom will have something to do?) Today one child took a bunch of our socks and gloves and made sock animals for all his siblings. (Who needs socks, after all, it’s summer.) It also means taking the hose and spraying it all over a pile of dirt so you can have a good mud hole to play in.  And while we’re at it, lets take these old bricks and stack them on the porch in a rectangle-box shape, and then try and fill it up with water, our very own swimming pool!

Of course, my kids have been doing these things all along, with or without wifi, it just seems that they now have even more time to devote their energies to these great ideas, instead of it being a once-in-a-while activity. And it makes me happy. Yeah, we’re going through a bit of an adjustment phase while we work out a new schedule. There’s been some whining because we’re not turning on some shows…but, I’m already seeing good fruit. Like the whole herd of children all running outside in the evening to catch fireflies. My teens gathering around a laptop to watch an old dvd together. (Still a screen, but at least they are doing it in community!) Little children are coming up to me with books they want me to read them. My older kids are delving into new book series. Boredom is a wonderful thing.

I myself have been experiencing boredom a bit more. It’s led me to start reading my Bible in the morning again, play the piano more, start thinking about some cleaning projects I need to tackle, pray more, listen to my kids a bit better. Boredom seems to have a roundabout way of making life feel sharper, more in focus. And yes, we do have plenty of fun things planned for this summer, there’s just going to also be lots of downtime.

So, my summer blessing…May we plenty of time to be bored and may that boredom lead us to great feats of creativity!

 

I’m Ready for a Redo

We have some houseguests at the moment. As my husband and I’s room is the closest thing we have to a guest room, we relocated upstairs with all our kids. This means that we had to start using the “kids bathroom” upstairs. Yikes. Since we moved downstairs, about two years ago, I rarely enter the upstairs bathroom. I bathe our two youngest in my bathroom downstairs, we moved toothbrushes downstairs so we could supervise tooth brushing. I have no reason to go into the upstairs bathroom. Every week or so, I appoint bathroom chores to my older children. You clean the toilet, you clean the sink, you get the trash etc. And every week I assign one of my older girls to clean the shower. I will, on occasion, inspect their work. Nope, toilet is not done, try again…please sweep the floor better…But, I’ve never bothered to peak into the shower to see how that job was done.

Last night, I jumped into the upstairs shower to take a quick rinse off and I recoiled. Oh my goodness. This shower is repulsive. I think we’re going to have to tear this entire shower out and put in a new one. When was the last time someone cleaned this????? It was horrifying. (Just to reassure you, I know that it hasn’t been two years since it was cleaned, I do, on occasion, hire someone to come in and do a deep cleaning for me, so not two years, but definitely somewhere in the months range.)

Today I went down to the dollar store and loaded up on scrubby sponges, rubber gloves, and a shower cleaner that looked like it would melt iron. I also bought a new shower curtain and bathmat. This bathroom was going to get a makeover. Several hours later, many inhaled chemicals later, the shower was sparkling clean: new shower curtain with cute butterfly curtain rings, fluffy blue bath mat. Everything else in the bathroom was sparkling too. At last. A fresh start. A bathroom worthy of me. 🙂

All this cleaning got me thinking about Fresh Starts. Redo. Makeover. Lately I’ve been feeling like I need a fresh start. I remembered back to when we just moved back to the States after living in Chile for a year and a half. We had only been back a couple days and a friend asked me what the difference was between Chile and the U.S. I told her that when I was overseas, I felt alive. I was in tune with Spiritual Things. Everything felt sharp and in-focus. Relationships were life-giving, every-day life was an adventure. When I came to the States and talked to my friends, I got the impression that people  were very distracted, very caught up in the superficial world of entertainment and the acquiring of new stuff. Life felt fuzzy. I didn’t like what I saw and I wondered how I was going to keep myself from falling into the same trap.

Fifteen years later, I look at my life. I look at my priorities. Everything is fuzzy. Though I profess that Jesus is the most important thing in my life, reality doesn’t seem to reflect that truth. Social media, books, the internet, movies, books, interesting thoughts and theories. These all seem to have first place in my life. I feel out of touch with my Bible. I feel out of touch with nature. I feel out of touch with people. I’m existing in a small, insulated world of entertainment. Any time there is a pause in the day, I pull out my phone. Check Facebook. Read my emails. Check in with my blog. In an attempt to avoid boredom, I have instead dulled all my senses, flattened out the highs and lows, and created an existence that demands constant stimulation and is afraid of simply being. In an attempt to avoid boredom, I have become a boring person. A person who only engages on a superficial level. I have lost my First Love, Jesus, and replaced him with the idol of diversion.

I need a fresh start. I think about the hard work I had to put in to reclaim my bathroom. Make it clean and fresh and usable again. It wasn’t easy. Fresh starts aren’t. I’ve talked to my husband about the need to make some big changes. It’s not just me. It’s the entire family. We are all addicted to our wifi. The little kids have tv shows they stream. My teenagers have their shows and sites they must check up on every day. We always seem to have our faces glued to a screen. Andy and I have decided that as soon as school is out, we are pulling the plug on the wifi. No more internet at the house. I have wanted to do this sooner, but the reality is that the kids do need internet to do their homework. We’re going to try it out for the summer.

This is going to be painful for the whole family. We have already heard our teens’ opinions on the matter. I told them I would take them to the library as often as they wanted to go. We just weren’t going to be hooked up at our house. We love Friday Night Movie Night. So, maybe we’ll make trips to the dollar theater or go to the drive-in. We’re not trying to give up watching movies, just turning it back into an occasional special treat instead of part of the daily diet. I am hoping that as we no longer have a screen to stare at, we can wake up from this fuzzy dream we have entered and start having time for real life. Make devotions priority. Get outside. Focus on each other again. We will find out soon. The Restart button is about to be pushed.

 

Fat Fridays: Week 3 Emotional Eating

I was trying to think about the reasons why I eat. If I was just eating because I was hungry, I don’t think I would have weight issues. From what I can tell, your body naturally regulates how much food you need and when you need it with this thing called hunger and fullness. It’s when we start eating for reasons other than hunger, and when we keep eating even when we’re full..that’s when we run into problems.

So, top of the list. Emotional Eating. I looked up the definition and it says, basically, overeating to relieve negative emotions. For some reason, when I am angry, depressed, angry, bored with life, angry, or maybe just angry, I eat. Eating gives you this short rush of nice feelings and usually you can continue on and pretend like those negative emotions never happened. Until, of course, they pop back up again. But then you just eat again and put it off again and on and on it goes.

I seem to have an intense dislike for feeling negative emotions. I don’t want to feel angry. I don’t want to feel sad. I don’t want to feel melancholy. I just want everything to be pleasant. I don’t just use food to avoid these feelings. I use entertainment. Read a book and forget about it. Check Facebook and calm down. Scroll through useless articles on the internet and zone out.

So here’s the question. Why? Why am I so opposed to feeling negative emotions? Is it because I am a peaceful person and things like Anger feel wrong? Or maybe I have just always tried to fill the role of the “good girl” and feeling bad doesn’t fit that image? Or maybe, our society does not give healthy examples of people dealing with strong emotions and so I have no role models?

There is a verse in the Bible, Ephesians 4:26-27 that says,

“In your anger do not sin: do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

I have always liked the fact that the verse seems to assume that you are going to get angry. Getting angry is part of being alive. It’s what you do with that anger that can get you in trouble.

My anger tends to erupt when people have inconvenienced me. Which just shows how deep my sin nature and selfishness is. I struggle with borderline road rage. I’m not out of control, I just sit there and mutter about the other drivers. I am aware that this is a problem and I have started repeating to myself when I drive, “It’s not all about you…It’s not all about you..” Because really, road rage is the presumption that all the other vehicles in the road should do everything possible to make sure that YOUR driving experience is smooth and trouble free. When someone is going  too slow when I’m in a hurry, I feel inconvenienced, and my little selfish self speaks up and says, HEY! How dare you! Don’t you know I’m in a hurry! Stop driving like that, it’s inconveniencing me! (Of course, not so eloquently put, more like me muttering under my breath about idiots and people who don’t know how to drive.)

Of course, the way I get inconvenienced the most is by my children. Those lovely, beautiful human beings my husband and I helped create. They have this amazing way of spilling cups of juice on my freshly mopped floor, or wiping snotty noses on my clean shirt, or accidentally breaking my favorite mug, or wanting me to intervene in an argument right when I’m trying to cook supper…They are masters at inconveniencing me. Unfortunately, my selfish side tends to react and I get angry. And I really don’t want to be angry at my kids. When I first had children in my early twenties and had two toddlers on my hands, I indulged in some pretty impressive temper tantrums when the kids wouldn’t cooperate.  The most dramatic was when my little ones wouldn’t help clean up their toys and I stood at the doorway and threw their toys into the yard. Hopefully, I’ve matured a lot since then. I’ve learned to walk away when I’m angry and go cool down. I’ve learned a bit better how to hold my tongue and not say things I’ll regret later, and most important, when those tactics fail, I’ve learned better how to go and apologize to my children when I mess up. Good things. Bad thing though is that somewhere along the way I figured out that when I’m really upset, eating something helps you calm down faster. In fact, eating something can help you calm down without having to do any thinking or analyzing about Why you got angry, and What can you do to change things so you don’t get angry again over the same thing?

That’s the problem. Eating something makes you feel better for a short amount of time, but it never gets to the root. It never forces you confront your own sin nature, beg God for forgiveness, seek reconciliation, make changes so that you can handle these things better. All it does it covers up the emotion for a while so you can postpone feeling it.

I think I am scared about feeling strong emotions. Like I might not be able to handle it. Like it’s a giant wave that’s going to knock me down and I might never resurface. I don’t know why I’m afraid. I’ve got Jesus. He said he was never going to leave me or forsake me. He said his grace was sufficient for me. He’s not going to leave me alone with these uncomfortable emotions. I have a feeling that if I actually started confronting the anger and trying to dig down to the roots of it, I have a feeling that it would lessen, ease up, that I would be a healthier person.

So this is my challenge for this week: to stop trying to cover up the emotions with food. Those emotions are there for a reason. I need to let myself feel them. Take them to God in prayer, ask for wisdom to understand where these emotions are coming from and what to do with them. That’s the plan. May God give me the courage to do it.