Friday, December 26, 2014

Focus Friday:Let's Focus on Wisdom

It's very late as I write this week - in fact, it's almost another "Sorry Saturday." Truth is, I almost forgot about Focus Friday this week. I had a busy day getting ready for our youth group lock in tonight at The Corner (Allison's youth center). It started at 6:30 and will end tomorrow morning at 6:30 when all of those bleary eyed kids head for home. I spent the first part of the evening there, but I decided to head home at about 10:30 and get some sleep in a little while. 

My gut told me that this wasn't the year to stay up all night. So, even though a part of me wants to be up there with the kids and other sponsors, I think I'm doing a wise thing. I think if I stayed up all night it might be hard to get through the rest of the weekend with a good attitude. You see, I'm still getting through the depression that was so bad a couple of months ago. I feel much better, but I still feel pretty down some days. I'm still trying to figure out if it's a thinking problem or if the doctor has to do some more tweaking with the medicines I'm on.

Doing the wise thing isn't always easy. Even though I know it's probably best for me, I struggle with what other people think. Will the other sponsors think I'm just trying to get out of my responsibilities? (I'm sure they won't - they're very understanding) Will Gary miss my help throughout the night? (He will - but he can rely on the other sponsors this time) Will the kids think I don't care about them? (I sure hope not!)

I'm going to push all of those worries aside, get a little sleep, and head back up to The Corner bright and early tomorrow morning with breakfast for the group. Hopefully they all make it through the night and have lots of fun.

I think focusing on wisdom is good for all of us. Wisdom and discernment help us to make good choices when we are faced with decisions. The wise choice may not always be easy, but it will usually bring us peace and blessings in the end. 

"I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better." (Ephesians 1:17 NIV)

Do you make wise choices? How can focusing on God give us the courage to make wise choices when we're worried about what other people may think?

Friday, December 19, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Piffledywiffs

What is a piffledywiff? I know that's what most of you are asking right now. Piffledywiff is a silly, made up name for meaningless little things that clutter up our lives.

First, I have to explain that I just saw "A Piffledywiff Christmas" at Lampost Theatre in Cedar Falls tonight. (If you live in the area, I highly recommend any of their productions. They do an excellent job!) The play explored the idea of piffledywiffs and the things that might be piffledywiffs in our lives. It followed Edna around the world as she collected little piffledywiff Christmas ornaments that reminded her of special times in her life. Her story was told and the audience got to sample goodies from Christmas celebrations around the world. Yum!

The theatre was decorated with examples of piffledywiffs: garlands, poinsettias, and chandeliers made from plastic pop bottles, punched tin can candle holders, and paper bag snowflake ornaments. They took "junk" and made it beautiful. 

We can do that in our lives, too. God can take the "junk" and make it something beautiful. We just have to let Him work and not try to do it all on our own.

We also must be careful not to clutter up our lives with "piffledywiffs." Sometimes we can accumulate lots of stuff that gets in the way of real meaning in our lives. We have to know what to keep and what to get rid of so that our lights will shine for those around us.

Oh, I'm afraid I may not be explaining this very well. Even in the play, Edna's granddaughter asks, "Grandma, is a piffledywiff a good thing or a bad thing?" The fact is, it can be both. Too many piffledywiffs clutter up our lives and cloud our vision, but keeping some special piffledywiffs can remind us of special times in our lives that can keep us going in the hard times. 

I pray that you have a very Merry Christmas and that you become aware of any piffledywiffs you may need to get rid of...and some you really need to keep.

"There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven: ...a time to keep and a time to throw away,"
                                          (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 6b)

Do you have any piffledywiffs you need to get rid of because they're cluttering up your house, mind, or heart? Are there special piffledywiffs that you treasure because they remind you of certain special times in your life?  (I'd love to hear about them in the comments section - I think I have it fixed so that the comments will publish now)

Friday, December 12, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Looking Back

I spent some time earlier this week finally getting a bunch of articles onto my website. I had changed to a new hosting company many months ago and never got around to moving the articles. It really didn't take that long once I sat down to do it, and it was pretty interesting to read over each one as I moved it. I caught some typos that I had missed before and I noticed that themes like depression and perfectionism appeared quite often. I also noticed that I used the word "focus" quite a bit, and this was way back in 1998 or so. 

On the one hand it was a bit discouraging to see that I'm dealing with many of the same issues I struggled with about fifteen years ago, but on the other hand it was good to see what I thought back then and realize that I have grown over the years. Even though I'm dealing with depression and I still fight perfectionism, I'm a more mature person now and I'm miles ahead of where I was back when I wrote many of those articles. 

God still has things to teach me. I'm trying to be attentive and not waste this chance to figure some things out and hopefully live life even better in the years ahead. Looking back helped me to see how far I've come and shed some light on some of the issues I'm figuring out now.

I hope everyone reading this can spend some time looking back so that you can look forward with hope. Maybe you have some old journals you can look through or photo albums that remind you of who you were many years ago. At least spend some time thinking about how you used to act or react and rejoice in any improvements you've made in recent years. If you don't see much change, maybe you need the help of a good counselor so that those changes can take place. Make sure you don't get stuck thinking about the past and its disappointments. We can all move forward from wherever we're at today.

If you like this blog, you may enjoy reading my articles over at

Do you need to spend some time looking back so that you can move forward well? Can you see how focusing on the improvements you've made can give you hope for the future?

Friday, December 5, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Tweaking Life

Two people asked me how I was doing today and I found myself explaining that I was feeling quite good, but my doctor was tweaking my medications a bit to see if she can get me feeling even better. My main antidepressant is a generic Lexipro and she just added a generic Wellbutrin to see if it helps my energy level and concentration. We'll see how it goes in the next couple of weeks. At least I'm feeling quite good most of the time. I'm still seeing a counselor to work on some of the ways I think that get me into trouble emotionally. I believe that is working, too. I catch myself and try to turn around negative thought patterns. I appreciate my psychiatrist and counselor so much as I'm getting better. They both do so much to help me along in the right direction.

So, that's where my focus is today as I write. I'm thinking about how the doctor is tweaking my medication and that makes me think about how we need to tweak our life sometimes.

When we're going through really tough times in life, we need to make some major adjustments to get back on track and feel good again. Those times are hard but we can learn so much as we let God work through people and circumstances. 

At other times maybe things are going along pretty well and we just need some minor adjustments so that life can go even better. We need to let the Holy Spirit "tweak" our life so that we can live the best life possible. Focusing on our relationship with God can help us figure out what areas of our life need tweaking.

I don't think I even want to give too many examples because each of us is so different and we don't all have to live exactly the same. Talking to God will make it clear if there's some area of life that needs tweaking.

For me, the areas of my life that need tweaking the most are probably things like prayer, Bible reading, TV watching, candy corn eating (and other snacks), and negative thought patterns. I'm sure there are other things, but those are some examples. I'll try to be sensitive to the Holy Spirit pointing out other areas that need tweaking in the days ahead. I hope you will let God "tweak" your life as well.

He says:

Do you see any areas of your life that might need tweaking? How can getting your focus on God help you to make those minor adjustments that will make life go even better?

Monday, December 1, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Doing Things Late

I know, I know. It's Monday. You're probably wondering why I'm still calling this "Focus Friday" when it's Monday. Well, I was a little lazy on Friday, plus we were out of town visiting Gary's side of the family and I didn't have good access to the internet. In short, I didn't make work of it. Sorry.

I thought about just waiting until next Friday to write again, but then I decided to take advantage of this theme and write a little late. Don't we do that sometimes in life? We forget to send a card to someone before their birthday and then we just let it go because it seems silly to send it three days late. We miss someone's anniversary and just let it go. We think about calling a friend on a certain day but then the moment passes and we don't think of it again until a few weeks later. We wonder if they're busy and we decide to let it go.

Of course, doing things on time is the goal, but it can't always happen and I think we need to stop letting it go. When we miss someone's birthday, but God still brings that person to mind a few days later - send the card! Miss an anniversary? Send the card a little later. Your friends or family members will still be glad to hear from you even if it's after the exact date. When God brings a friend to mind, pick up the phone and give them a call. They may be busy, but they may be lonely and welcome a few minutes to talk to a friend.

Miss your self-imposed Friday deadline for your blog? Don't let it go. Write it a few days later and hopefully bless someone who was worried about doing something a little late.

I'll see you on Friday everybody! ~Robyn

Do you usually do things on time or are you often just a little late? Do you think that focusing on getting things done, even if they're a little late, can help you to bless others and maybe even get more organized?

Friday, November 21, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Moving Forward

I spent last week in Michigan and I left to drive home to Iowa on Sunday morning. The roads were very slick when I left my sister's house in Wyoming. I drove below the speed limit because I felt pretty nervous. About twenty minutes down the road my windshield wipers stopped working and I really needed them.

Thankfully, God provided a shop that was open and right next to the McDonald's I had stopped at and after my wipers were fixed I got back on the road. The roads were still bad, the snow was coming down, and I was really afraid but I kept driving.

I stopped for some gas and I checked and I could see that a band of snow was going through but I should drive out of it at Benton Harbor. So, I got back on the road again. I couldn't see very well and I was very nervous but as I kept moving forward I finally drove out of it.

The roads were dry, it was a little bit brighter, the snow stopped and I felt confident and good again. If I had stayed in Zeeland it probably would have been snowing all day long and I would have felt nervous and anxious all day as I kept driving around on those roads, but as I moved forward I got to a good spot again.

That's what we have to do in life. We have to keep moving forward with the promises of God to guide us and trust that we will get to a good spot again even if we're going through something really difficult.

Don't stay stuck in the mess you may be in right now. Focus on moving forward. 

One thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.
                                                 (Philippians 3:13-14 NIV)

Are you driving around and around on icy, dangerous streets in your life instead of moving cautiously forward until you come to a better place? How can focusing on God give you the strength to move forward instead of staying stuck?

Friday, November 14, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Little Things

Today I'm writing my blog post from snowy Michigan. I came out earlier this week to spend some time with my parents and a few other friends and relatives. It's been a relaxing time and I'm so thankful my boys back in Iowa were willing to be without me this week.

For Focus Friday I thought we'd focus on some little things: words. Pay attention to the words you use and the words you hear this week. They are little things but they can build up or tear down others in just a few seconds.

I'm a writer, so words are especially important to me. I tend to roll words around in my mind after I hear them. I look at them from every angle before I let them go. Kind words can lift me up and make me feel good. Harsh or careless words can get me started down a spiral that leaves me in despair. Unfortunately, I often assume that someone means things in a negative way when they really didn't. I'm working on that. I'm trying to not judge someone's motives and just hear their words objectively.

Little things like words can make a big difference. A couple of weeks ago I went to a meeting at the middle school and I was a bit nervous because it was the first time I was back at school since I had resigned from my teaching position. As I sat with Gary waiting for the meeting to begin, a woman came over and grabbed my hand and told me how good it was to see me and that she had missed me at school. That was so nice to hear. It helped me to feel more comfortable and loved.

Hearing "no worries" from a friend when you aren't sure how they're going to react to something you've done is a little thing but it can bring big amounts of relief to a worried mind.

A quick phone call to stay in touch is a little thing but it strengthens the bond between friends.

Sending a note or card in the mail takes just a little time but it can bring a big smile to the face of someone we love.

There's a quote I love to pass on whenever I can:

When we focus on the little things it can make a big difference.

"A word aptly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." (Proverbs 25:11 NIV)

Have you been encouraged by a little thing someone has said or done recently? What little thing can you do to encourage someone today? 

Friday, November 7, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Control

I had most of my Focus Friday written a few minutes ago and then I deleted it all and started over. I had been rambling about control and started giving examples of things I want to control and then I realized that even this blog post is a control thing. I want to say just the right thing so that I inspire or challenge you. I want to control what you think of me.

I don't think you need examples. Either you don't have a problem with control and you can't understand what the problem is or you can totally relate.

Over the past several months I have sensed God pointing out that I don't trust Him when I have gotten quiet and honest enough to really listen to Him. Going into the teaching position I thought I trusted Him but I mostly tried to do everything on my own and things rapidly got out of control. I couldn't handle that. 

On this side of depression I have more peace because I have less stress, but I'm seeing more and more that control is a huge issue for me. I don't want to get into situations where I'm not in control. I don't want to give up control to other people, especially my poor husband. 

Most of all, I haven't been willing to give up my control to God. He's still asking me to trust Him completely. I say "I trust You" with my lips but my thoughts and actions often are exactly the opposite. They say "I don't trust You, God; I'll take it from here."

That's it for this week. Just a reminder about who's in control. We're fooling ourselves if we think we're in control of anything or anyone. We'll only have peace when we give up control and put our trust completely in the Lord.

I'm sorry my thoughts are a little scattered this week. I can't control what you think of me, but I hope you'll look past my words and think about where you put your trust and who is in control. If you want to read more about that you can go over to my web site and read about it in My Life Story. Or don't - I can't control you.

"Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge him, and he will make your paths straight." (Proverbs 3:5-6 NIV)

Do you have a problem with control? What do you do when you feel out of control? If you focus on God do you think it will help you give up control and feel more peace?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Enjoying the Process

Since I've been feeling better, I've been trying to get back to some activities that I enjoy so I keep feeling good. I've had this pile sitting in various places around the house for years:

This is a project that my grandma gave me a long time ago. She gave me the instruction book, fabric, needles, and every color of embroidery floss so I could create a beautiful counted cross stitch picture.

So I got it out last Sunday afternoon and this is what I found:
Quite a bit was done, but as I worked I realized that there were many, many, many tiny stitches left before the picture would be complete. The thought crossed my mind that maybe I should just cut it up and throw it away. I didn't know if it was worth my time just for a cute picture.

I kept stitching, but I pondered that unwelcome, destructive thought for a while. Here's what I realized: sometimes I approach life this way, too. I want to see that perfect, completed picture and know that my life turns out beautiful, but I dread the work it takes to get there. I want instant progress and answers, but life seldom works that way. Usually we have many hours, days, weeks, and years of seemingly thankless, painstaking work before we see the finished product.
With counted cross stitch, you don't do it because it is less expensive and easier than buying a finished picture. You do it because it can be relaxing and fun to see your tiny stitches add up until you finally see a picture taking shape. You enjoy the process and then you enjoy the final product.

I think that's something we can focus on this week. Let's all try to enjoy the process. Enjoy this life that God has given us. Stop wishing that the "picture" was complete and instead take delight in each criss and cross of the lives we lead. Sure, sometimes the thread will get tangled or we may have miscounted and have to rip out a little section and try again to get it right, but we can enjoy even those moments as we slow down and look at the big picture more closely.

I will keep plugging away at my counted cross stitch project, and I pray that all of us can keep plugging away at the lives we each lead. Enjoy the different colors that we get to work with and marvel at the different picture that God has designed for each of us.

We won't see those life pictures completed until we reach heaven someday, but here's a picture of what my project will look like when I finally get it done: 

I'm going to keep working on it, and I'm going to keep trying to enjoy every moment of this life I've been given. I don't have to just wish for the final results; I can enjoy the process each step of the way.

Do you get frustrated when you think there's too much work involved before you see the results you desire? Can you see how focusing on God can help you to really enjoy the process as you go through life?

Friday, October 24, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Delayed Gratification

First of all, I'm happy (yes, really happy) to report that I am feeling very good lately. The medicine is working and I am enjoying life again. That said, I know that I have some work to do as I talk with my psychiatrist and counselor in upcoming weeks.

I can feel anxiety rising when I think too much about how I let the teaching job go. I can feel worry start to nibble at me when I sense that someone may be getting angry at me (and I don't even wait to see if they're really angry, I just assume they are because of the conversation I start having with myself in my head). Yes, I have work to do.

I asked my psychiatrist about dropping one of the medicines I'm on last week and she explained that she wouldn't do that until I'm on it for a month or two. "You're just newly well" she cautioned. She didn't want to mess with anything as long as I was feeling good. In the office I nodded my head, but I'm afraid of what it says about me when I went home thinking about just going off it for a few days to see if it really would make a difference. I stayed on it. I'm learning to trust my doctors.

As I think about all of that, I've become aware of a tendency I have. A tendency many of us have if we're willing to admit it. I don't like to practice delayed gratification. I want things to happen in my life NOW. Not six months from now, not six weeks from now, not six days from now. Today, please God.

I look around my house and see things that need to be cleaned and organized and I want it done right away. I forget that it accumulated over several months or years, so it may take a little time to sort through it and have it looking clean and orderly.

I look at extra pounds I'm carrying around and I want them gone soon. I know they crept on little by little as I made some poor choices with diet and exercise. It's going to take some time to make better choices and get more fit.

I look at the various writing projects I have started and I want them published this year. This is where most of my frustration lies, because I have lots of things in my life like that. I have big ideas, but I don't get some things accomplished because I don't put the time in now that will make those ideas become a reality somewhere down the road.

These are the things I need to work on with my counselor in the next few months. I already feel like I have a little more focus now that I'm feeling better, so I'm hoping I can make some headway in those areas of my life.

As we focus on delayed gratification today, we all need to remember that the choices we make today will affect things in the future. Choosing to sort through a pile of papers for a few minutes every day will lead to less chaos in our home. Choosing water instead of Pepsi and fruit instead of candy will lead to healthier habits and possible weight loss (if only I can avoid buying candy corn during this season!). Choosing to write for an hour instead of watching a mindless TV show may lead to a finished book eventually.

We need to say no to some things now so that we can enjoy wonderful benefits someday. Mostly, we need to keep our focus on God. He's the one who will show us where we are now and will lead us to where He wants us in the future.

Now that is worth some delayed gratification.

(I just have to thank for teaching me to make this awesome graphic.)

Do you find it difficult to say "no" to something now because you don't want to wait? Can you see how focusing on God can help you say no and enjoy some wonderful results in the future?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Failure

It's Friday again. Time to focus...on failure? That doesn't seem very productive, does it? Stick with me. I think we'll all learn something if we focus on failure for a while and then move on.

That's the key, I think. Moving on. When I got home from the hospital I felt great for a couple of days and then I started to feel worse as I started to worry a little bit about people's reactions to letting my teaching job go. 

I felt much less stress because I didn't have the job to worry about anymore, but I also felt a different kind of mild anxiety because I had to admit to myself that I had failed at something. This is not a comfortable feeling for me. I've never liked to fail. Usually when I put my mind to doing something, I get it done and I do it quite well. Teaching was a big commitment and I didn't go into it flippantly. I fully intended to do a good job, be a great teacher, and succeed.

It didn't work out. I did the best I could at the time but finally decided that the job wasn't for me after it led to too much anxiety and depression.

Failing doesn't feel good. I can remember being with a group of people in a store once a long time ago and we were looking at those Magic Eye posters that have a 3D image hidden in the picture. I couldn't see it. Someone else in our group stared at the poster for a few seconds and announced with delight, "Oh, I can see it! That is so cool!" I felt extremely frustrated and upset because I considered myself smarter than this person and I couldn't figure out why she could see it and I couldn't. 

I realize how petty that sounds. I know it related to my pride and I still get in trouble with that when I compare myself with others. We can't do that! We have to stop judging others and just focus on the journey we are on as we go through life.

We are all going to fail at times. We will fail in big ways and we will fail in small ways. I think we get stuck emotionally when we focus on those failures and can't move on. 

How do we move on? By focusing on Grace. By forgiving ourselves for our failures - big and small. By learning from our failures and determining to do our best in the future. 

I was puttering around in my craft area one day and I had a CD playing in the background. I stopped and really listened as one song caught my attention: Daughter of Grace by Twila Paris. The second verse seemed to resonate deeply with me and I had to play the song again to let it soak in:

     She spent half her life working hard to be someone you had to admire
     Met the expectations and added something of her own
     So proud of all that she had done
     (Where was the glory?)
     So proud of all that she had not done
     'Til she knelt beneath a wall that will could never scale
     Broken and discovering that she could fail
     There she found the end of herself
     Heard her own voice crying for help
     And she was

     Carried in the arms of love and mercy
     Breathing in a second wind
     Shining with the light of each new morning
     Looking into hope again
     Unable to take another step
     Finally ready to begin
     Born for a second time in a brand new place
     Daughter of Grace

Grace is there for our failures. We can move on, secure in the knowledge that God loves us unconditionally and we can feel hope and joy and peace as we begin again after failure.

Do you have any failures that are holding you back right now? Do you see how focusing on God's Grace can get you "unstuck" and let you move on with hope? 

Friday, October 10, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Mental Health

Today and tomorrow I'm in Michigan attending the Breathe Christian Writers Conference. I look forward to this event every October and I learn so much as I sit in on different workshops, plenary sessions, and talk to lots of people who love to write as much as I do.

This is good for my mental health. I'm feeling so much better than I did just a few weeks ago. The medicine I'm taking is helping and I've also been talking to a counselor and I'm starting to get to the bottom of some of the stinking thinking that got me depressed recently. A friend recommended a great book called "Fresh Hope." I just got my copy, but it looks like a very helpful resource for people diagnosed with depression and other mood disorders. We don't have to live life constantly struggling. We can live well, with joy and hope. I'm glad I finally feel hope again and I've been feeling more joy, too.

Today is World Mental Health Day 2014. Saddleback Church hosted a 24 hour online event on mental illness. I know I'm writing at 10:30 p.m. so the event is almost over, but I hope the conversation continues even after this special day.

You can find resources and more information at

Before I close, I just want to share an important statistic about mental illness:

One in four adults−approximately 61.5 million Americans−experiences mental illness in a given
year. One in 17−about 13.6 million−live with a serious mental illness such as schizophrenia, major depression or bipolar disorder.

One in four adults. That means that many people you interact with at school, work, church, and in your community may be dealing with the symptoms of a mental illness. Pray for your friends and family members and be ready to offer help or take them to get help if they need it.

Most of all, if you find yourself losing hope and thinking about ending your life - get help! Talk to your spouse or someone you trust* and go to the emergency room if you need to. Life is worth living and you can get better. Never give up hope!

Admitting you need help does not make you a bad Christian or a weak person. Getting help takes courage and will bring you to a new place in your spiritual life so that you can live a fulfilling life as you follow the Lord.

Praying a little prayer for everyone suffering from a mental illness tonight. ~Robyn

*National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK

What are your thoughts about mental illness? Do you see it as a weakness or a sin? Can you see how focusing on God can give you the strength to get help and live a more fulfilling, healthy life? 

Friday, October 3, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Judging

This has been kind of a rough week. Last Friday and Saturday I felt pretty good. I was home from the hospital and everything looked different to me. Colors seemed brighter and it seemed like I looked at everything like I was seeing it for the first time. I was grateful to be alive and I felt so hopeful. Sunday morning I felt a little worse, but I decided to go to church and it felt so good to worship with our church family and feel their love and support. It seems like each day since then I have felt a little bit more down somehow. I think the medicine still needs some time to work, but it's also because of the negative thought patterns I've developed.

I thought I was doing so much better in recent years. God has been teaching me to think better thoughts, to trust Him more, and to live in more freedom than I did in my younger days. He's taught me using different Bible studies and life experiences over the years. I guess this situation with teaching, stress, and depression is just bringing me through an intensive time of learning. I'm realizing that I have more work to do on how I think about myself and about life. This week has been harder because I've been thinking about how I let people down: the students, the school system, and even myself. I can think myself into a bad place again when I focus on what I should have done differently or what other people may think about what happened.

I have to let all of that go. For some reason, teaching was not meant to be. I can't worry about other people's opinions. I just need to do my best with where I'm at right now and keep following God where He leads. I talked with a psychiatrist this week to make sure I'm on the right medication and start figuring out what led to this depression. Before I left, she looked me straight in the eye and said, "You will get better." She didn't sound the least bit doubtful and, somehow, I believe her. I'm not better yet, but I know I'll get there.

I want to leave you with an entry from a wonderful devotional that Gary brought me right after I went to the hospital. A friend from church also gave me a copy along with some encouraging verses she wrote out for me. This entry really encouraged me and reminded me that we can't judge each other. We just need to live our lives trusting God and trying to please Him.

Jesus Calling by Sarah Young (2004, Thomas Nelson)
September 25:    
     Pour all of your energy into trusting Me. It is through trust that you stay connected to Me, aware of My Presence. Every step on your life-journey can be a step of faith. Baby steps of trust are simple for you; you can take them with almost unconscious ease. Giant steps are another matter altogether: leaping across chasms in semidarkness, scaling cliffs of uncertainty, trudging through the valley of the shadow of death. These feats require sheer concentration, as well as utter commitment to Me.
     Each of My children is a unique blend of temperament, giftedness, and life experiences. Something that is a baby step for you may be a giant step for another person, and vice versa. Only I know the difficulty or ease of each segment of your journey. Beware of trying to impress others by acting as if your giant steps are only baby ones. Do not judge others who hesitate in trembling fear before an act that would be easy for you. If each of My children would seek to please Me above all else, fear of others' judgments would vanish, as would attempts to impress others. Focus your attention on the path just ahead of you and on the One who never leaves your side.

Isn't that a beautiful reminder? I need to remember those thoughts as I move forward. I'm not sure if I'll be taking baby steps for a while, or if God is asking me to take some giant steps during this time, but I know I can trust Him as I focus on Him and obey. I pray that each of you can trust and obey Him as you continue on your life-journey. Remember, "every step...can be a step of faith."

"Fear of man will prove to be a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is kept safe." (Proverbs 29:25)

Are you tempted to judge others as you look at their "trembling fear" when facing something that seems like a baby step to you? Do you feel pride when you've taken a giant step? How can focusing just on God and the path ahead of you help you to stop judging others and even yourself?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Weakness

You may have been wondering why I didn't write my usual Focus Friday last week. Well, to make a long story short, I was in a pretty dark place that day. My stress level was still extremely high with all of the demands of my new teaching job. Now, mind you, for some people the demands would be stressful, but manageable. For me, for some reason, they became unmanageable.

I don't think the students realized how uncomfortable I was, but I was stressing way too much when I wasn't at the job. It was affecting my physical, emotional, and even spiritual health. People tried to help. Gary listened, gave support and encouragement, and hoped I would feel better. Other teachers offered their help and were very supportive, but I didn't take advantage of their help soon enough. Life became a blur of work and worry. I prayed and tried to read my Bible for help, but my negative thoughts ran rampant and drowned out any comfort God tried to give me.

By Saturday, we decided that it was time to go to the hospital for more help for my depression. I had gone on some medicine the week before, but it wasn't helping yet and I was thinking some pretty scary thoughts. A stop in the emergency room and a transfer a few hours later to a hospital with an open bed brought me to the Mental Health Unit at Allen Hospital in Waterloo. I can't say enough good things about the staff there - they cared for me and all of their patients with the utmost respect, courtesy, and skill. I came home today and am feeling so much better about life.

So...that brings me to my focus for this week: weakness. In some ways it was weakness that landed me in the hospital. I felt too weak to handle the stress and demands. A friend sent a note that said I had done a "brave and smart thing by reaching out for help." Which is it? Was I weak or was I brave? Could it possibly be both? I know I am in a much better place than I was a week ago after getting some help and care. Maybe by being brave and admitting I was weak I was able to draw on some strength and experience some growth. I know I'll have to keep going back to that place of strength as I keep getting better and deal with the disappointment of letting the teaching job go.

As you can imagine, I'm still sorting all of this out. I have appreciated the prayers of so many friends and family members during this time. Keep praying. For this week, I just wanted to remind myself and all of you that weakness is not always a bad thing. It can show us what our limits are. It can teach us about ourselves and others. It can knock down our walls of pride and teach us to reach out for help.

Another friend from church wrote out some verses for me and I kept them on my bedside table at the hospital. The one that helped the most was this:

My STRENGTH is made perfect in WEAKNESS
2 Corinthians 12:9 (That's the way she wrote it on the card)

And on the back she printed the entire verse:

Each time he said, "No. But I am with you; that is all you need. My power shows up best in weak people." Now I am glad to boast about how weak I am; I am glad to be a living demonstration of Christ's power, instead of showing off my own power and abilities. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Isn't that a beautiful reminder? We don't have to be perfect. We just have to be faithful and people will see Christ's power in us...even when we are very weak.

I think I'll end with that. I have so much more to say, but it will have to wait for another Friday.


Do you ever feel weak? Do you accept that about yourself and see how it can show God's strength or do you fight it and deny that weakness? How can focusing on God help you to "boast" about how weak you really are?

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Getting Away

Have you ever had a rough week? A week full of ups and downs that leave you disoriented and shaky? I did, but I finally asked for some help and ended the week on an upswing. I got home from school today and suggested to Gary that we go see a movie. We ended up going to McDonald's, getting some stuffed animals at Goodwill (for my Spanish class), seeing a movie, and running a couple of other errands. It was great. It was a chance to reconnect after a busy week and just enjoy some time together.

The lesson plans, etc. will be waiting for me tomorrow morning, but tonight I was able to put work out of my mind and enjoy something else. That's good for me. I need to learn how to do that more effectively. Seems like so often I don't really enjoy doing something because the next obligation or task is niggling at the back of my mind. I think that's one thing God is going to teach me in the months and years ahead. Do your work well, but when you take a break and get away from it for a while, do that well, too. We can't drag every worry or doubt with us through every experience of every day. Thinking like that wears you down and eventually makes you sick - body, mind, and soul.

That's where my focus is today. Let's all keep praying for each other as we seek to keep our focus on God through all of the obligations, challenges, and joys of life.

“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30 The Message)

Are you good at really getting away and relaxing after a busy week? Take some time to practice those "unforced rhythms of grace" this weekend. Keep your focus on God in all aspects of life.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Faith

It's Friday again...and here I am. Another week has gone by and my emotions have been up and down. I love so much about teaching, but I have to admit that it's been very stressful at times. It's hard getting used to new things, new routines, new tasks. The computer is still giving me fits as I try to figure out how to give assignments, get assignments, give and grade quizzes. Hopefully the students will continue to be patient with me as I figure it out.

This week I received the CD by Jenny Simmons (lead singer of Addison Road) in the mail and I listened to it on the way to school, and I've been listening to it every day since then. It has so many good songs that seem to be hitting me right where I'm at. I think I'll leave you this week with the lyrics to one of my favorites and see if it might resonate with some of you, too. (You can also go to and listen to it there.)

Let's keep praying for each other as we go through the joys and challenges of life. Let's keep our focus on God and the strength that He gives each of us. Let's never forget that God has great plans for us. It just takes courage to step into those plans and become who God has made us to be. That's what faith's about.

What Faith's About by Jenny Simmons

What if I what I have is not enough and all I hold You ask me to give up?
What if you require bravery but I'm clinging to the edge too scared to leave?

But what if I jump and I find I was always made to fly?
What if the days I'm walking into are the best of my whole life?
What if the things that I dreamed become my reality?
When it looks impossible but still works out
What if that's what faith's about?

What if that's what faith's about?

What if I'm not sure I heard You right and I found a thousand reasons not to try?
And what if I can't face the great unknown but there's no way back and nowhere left to go?

But what if I jump and I find I was always made to fly?
What if the days I'm walking into are the best of my whole life?
What if the things that I dreamed become my reality?
When it looks impossible but still works out
What if that's what faith's about?

So who am I not to be, not to be everything that You have called me?
And who am I not to speak, not to speak to every mountain that's before me?

But what if I try even when I'm scared and Your courage meets me there?
What if I hope against all hope and believe in every prayer

What if I jump and I find I was always made to fly?
What if the days I'm walking into are the best of my whole life?
What if the things that I dream become my reality?
When it looks impossible, but still works out
Oh, when it looks impossible, but still works out
What if that's what faith's about?

Do you have new challenges in life right now? Are you keeping your focus where it should be - on God - or are you focused too much on what you can or can't do? How can you make a conscious choice to get that focus back where it needs to be?

Friday, August 29, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Labor

I don't have time to write this post. If you have a full-time job you probably don't have time to read this post. At least that's what I'm concluding because I've joined the workforce and I don't have time for anything lately!

In spite of our lack of time, I'm still going to spend a few minutes here and ponder the topic of "Labor." With the holiday weekend almost here and "Labor" as the theme for our writers group challenge for Tuesday night, I thought I'd kill two birds with one stone.

I probably need to apologize before I even begin. My brain feels fuzzy so I don't even know if I'll make sense. Hopefully you can glean a coherent thought or two from my ramblings tonight and we can all learn as we focus on Labor today.

On August 15 I began my full-time job as Spanish teacher at North Butler High School in Greene, Iowa. The first few days were a breeze...the students weren't there yet! On August 20 the real work began as I got in front of 7 classes. I love the students. They are all really unique and I'm enjoying getting to know each of them.

The things that are driving me crazy are...computers, online textbooks, lesson plans, keeping track of about a hundred different usernames and passwords, trying new things in the classroom with varying degrees of success (most of it is going really well).

I guess what I'm finally realizing is that this is a job. It's labor. It's hard because it's my first year back in the classroom after a 24 year break. Right now it's pretty stressful, but I need to keep plugging away. I keep thinking about how much easier next year will be because I'll know how things work much better, but that doesn't help me now.

What I've also noticed lately is that I'm not working very efficiently. I come home from school (after staying late) and I piddle my way through the evening until it's finally after 11 and I know I have to get to bed or I'll be exhausted the next day, but I still don't quite have my lesson plans finished.

How can that be? I went through several hours and didn't accomplish the main thing I needed to get done. Well, it happens like this: Sit down at the table to work and open the computer to look at the online textbook. Think about school email and wonder if I have any messages. Check that. Wonder if I have any messages in my other email. Check that. Decide to get some ideas and support from a language teachers blog. Great idea, but I spend too much time perusing posts. Click out of the browser and look at lesson plan book. Feel the anxiety rising as I realize I'm not ready for the next day yet. Go check and see if a load of laundry is done yet. Come back and sit down. Work half-heartedly for a while, then repeat the cycle. Ugh. This is work. Hopefully I will learn to do it more efficiently as time goes by.

I admire everyone who has put in 8 hour days for years and years and years without complaint (at least none I've ever heard). I guess as we focus on Labor here I just want to have us think about what's most important. Even more important than the job we do is our relationship with the Lord. I'm afraid I've been trying to go it alone too much in recent days. I'm busy and stressed and I worry too much about how I look and act. One day during lunch I finally got back to where my focus should be. I sat and read Philippians 4:6-7 about not being anxious but praying about everything so we can have the peace of God. It helped. I felt better.

Whatever your job may be, I'd just like to remind you to keep your focus on Christ in the midst of whatever tasks and challenges you may have. Keep up the good work!

"What does the worker gain from his (or her) toil? I have seen the burden God has laid on men. He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the hearts of men; yet they cannot fathom what God has done from beginning to end. I know that there is nothing better for men than to be happy and do good while they live. That everyone may eat and drink, and find satisfaction in his toil--this is the gift of God." (Ecclesiastes 3:9-13 NIV)

Do you work efficiently at whatever job you may have? Do you remember to keep God your central focus so that you can find satisfaction in your toil?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Anxiety

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Philippians 4:6 NIV)

I've been a little anxious this summer. More than a little anxious at times. I have a full-time teaching job coming up in (gulp) 15 days, plus all of the other things that are just part of life and stress me out at times. So when we went to Colorado with our youth group this past week for Rocky Mountain High I tried to leave all of that anxiety behind and just enjoy the music, speakers, and beautiful scenery of this big youth event. I really did enjoy it.

On the last day I stopped by the prayer tent and had someone pray with me. I knew that I was going back to my normal routine and it was going to be difficult to deal with the stress. It was really helpful to talk things through and hear someone praying for me. After praying, the person asked me how I felt and I started to say, "Well, I still feel kind of anxious..." and I was shocked to hear them say that I couldn't do that. They adamantly proclaimed that I had no right to do that - at all. They pointed out that the Bible says not to be anxious and if I believe the Bible I can't be anxious. If I let myself feel anxious I'm just letting the devil win!

At first, I almost felt offended. How dare someone tell me I can't feel anxious? (*See note below) But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that they were right. I'm a Christian and the Bible does say not to be anxious. I've been pondering that often in the couple of days since we got home. It has helped. When I'm tempted to feel anxious, I remind myself to talk to God about it instead. I remind myself not to let Satan win.

I looked up verses about being anxious. Expecting to find lots and lots, I was surprised to find only 5 verses about it in the NIV Bible, and only 6 verses about worry. Evidently God didn't want us focusing on this habit and He didn't talk about it much.

On the other hand, there are 117 verses about peace in the New International Version of the Bible. Maybe that's where our focus needs to be. Focusing on our anxiety wastes time and energy and doesn't move us along in the right direction. It keeps us stuck. Let's all try to make a conscious decision to turn it over to God and experience His peace instead.

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:6-7 NIV)

Do you feel anxious at times? Can you see how talking to God about it could help you experience peace instead? How can you remind yourself to do this?

[*Please note that this post is directed toward those of us who can make a conscious decision to turn from our anxiety and focus on better things. I realize that some people get stuck and feel so much anxiety that they have trouble functioning daily. I believe that some people need to seek out professional help when anxiety becomes overwhelming. They may need counseling and/or medicine in order to feel better and be able to look at situations more objectively. Get that help if you need it!]

Friday, July 18, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on "Noble Deeds"

"But the noble man makes noble plans, and by noble deeds he stands." (Isaiah 32:8 NIV)

This verse hit me while I was doing devotions on Monday morning and it has come back to haunt me many times as I've gone about my week. I haven't checked it out in all of the commentaries to see what the scholars say about it, but I've felt the Holy Spirit teaching me something important as I've thought about it over the last few days.

Noble is a lofty word. We think of nobility, don't we? Kings, leaders, important people. When I saw it three times in this verse, I had to go back and reread it several times. Of course, I think it applies to noble women as well as men, and I think we can all aspire to be noble. We don't have to be a world leader or a king or queen in order to appreciate being noble.

Think of it as honorable, worthy, admirable and it becomes a word we can all relate to a little more.

What struck me about this verse was the fact that we can all make noble plans, but it's the noble deeds that actually get us where we want to go and keep us standing.

Applying that to my own life, I can see so many areas where I make big, noble plans, but I don't follow through with the noble deeds that will accomplish those plans.

I want to encourage and help others with a blog post every Friday (a somewhat "noble plan") but I wait until ten or eleven p.m. each week to write the post. Doing the "noble deed" of writing earlier in the week would get the post done before Friday.

This summer I've been making "noble plans" for my Spanish classroom this fall. I'm looking at lots of websites for Spanish teachers, reading resources on teaching foreign languages, and dreaming about being the best language teacher I can be. I've also been stressing about not being ready by August 20. I need to start doing "noble deeds" like making good lesson plans and getting those first few weeks ready so that I can begin confidently and be effective.

I have "noble plans" to lose a few extra pounds, but so far I haven't been willing to do the "noble deeds" that will help me to accomplish that goal. I keep snacking on junk food, drinking too much pop, and not exercising enough to burn those extra calories.

I could go on and on, but I'll stop there. Let's just say that my focus has shifted a bit in the last week or so. It used to be on all of my "noble plans" but now it is moving to the "noble deeds" that need to happen before my plans can become reality.

I'm praying that I can ask God to help me be willing to do more of those "noble deeds" and that He'll show me which ones I need to concentrate on so that I can accomplish His plans for me.

Have you been making noble plans in your life? Are you doing the noble deeds that will make those plans happen? Are you asking God if your plans line up with His plans for you?

Friday, July 11, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Life

Earlier this evening Gary and I went up to the fairgrounds and spent some time at the Butler County Relay for Life event. It was wonderful to see so many people come out to celebrate surviving cancer, or remember someone they lost to cancer, and mostly, to raise money for research so that many people in the future can be cured of cancer.

It seems like almost everyone's life has been touched by cancer in some way. What a terrible disease! Family members have had scares with it, Gary's dad died of prostate cancer, my aunt is finishing up radiation treatments for breast cancer, and I can think of so many friends and community members who have had to go through a long struggle with cancer and all of the rough stuff that comes with it.

As I write, I'm not even sure what to say. I guess I just want to acknowledge that there are many people who are doing so much good for cancer research and it really is making a difference. Many people are getting screened for different types of cancers, and when it is found early it can often be cured.

Walking around the track at Relay for Life was very sobering for me. I recognized names on many of the luminaries. Some were "In Honor of" someone, but so many more were "In Memory of" someone. I knew some of those names, too, and it was sad to remember losing them.

Back home again, I've been thinking of friends who have lost a loved one to cancer and my heart hurts for them. I want to do better at reaching out while someone is going through a terrible time like that, instead of just thinking about them and saying a little prayer. I want to be better about sending cards and offering to help in some way.

Even more than that, I want to appreciate life more. Seeing lots of people at Relay for Life wearing purple "Survivor" shirts was inspiring. They took a lap around the track together and there was something special about the fact that they are still here. I take my life for granted so often and, to be honest, I whine about how hard it is. Truth is, it's not that hard. I make it hard when I focus on the piddly little problems I have. I make it hard when I choose to not be thankful for my family, my health, and all of the blessings I have in life. I make it hard when my focus is all on me, instead of on the God who is right beside me through each and every thing going on in my life.

Let's focus on Him, and be grateful for life today.

"...I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." (John 10:10b NIV)

Do you ever take life for granted? How can you change your focus so that you can once again realize how precious life really is?

Friday, July 4, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Freedom

On this Fourth of July, hopefully we've all had a chance to think about the great freedoms we have in this country. I know that I take those freedoms for granted almost daily. Once in a while I have a deeper appreciation for those freedoms when I hear about some injustice on the news, but I really don't give my freedom very much thought on a daily basis.

Don't we do that on a spiritual level as well? Christ died on the cross so that we can have freedom. Freedom from sin. We either take it for granted or we forget about that freedom and live a life enslaved to certain sins that we can't seem to overcome.

On this Independence Day, let's focus on the freedom that we can have because of Jesus' great sacrifice. Let's think about the sins that trip us up and keep us stuck in a cycle of despair or disappointment. Let's remind ourselves that Christ died so that we can be free.

We are free to serve God with all our hearts. Free to live joyfully and with courage, in spite of challenges and trials. We're free to leave behind the sins that tempt us and live as examples of what it means to serve God faithfully (not perfectly, but faithfully).

Focus on those freedoms daily, not just one day a year, and you will see a difference in the way you live.

"It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery." (Galatians 5:1 NIV)

Are you living in freedom, or are you enslaved to sin in some area of your life? How can focusing on Christ's sacrifice help you to live in freedom from now on?

Friday, June 27, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Stress

I had a very bad day earlier this week. I had a couple of things to do this week that really stressed me out. I did the first obligation and it went pretty well, but for some reason I started thinking negatively about the event and about myself and I got myself worked up into quite a state. I got so stressed that I almost called to back out of the commitment I had made for the next day and I wanted to just go crawl in a hole somewhere and never have to deal with anything ever again.

Well, I'd like to say that I prayed and asked God for help and I felt better right away, but I'm afraid that things didn't happen quite like that. Oh, I knew God was there. I felt the Holy Spirit trying to get me to focus on the right things, urging me to think about the good, reassuring me that I would be okay. Unfortunately, I didn't make a conscious choice to put my focus on the right things.

Instead, I focused on the "what if"s. I focused on all of the things that could go wrong. I focused on how bad I would feel if I didn't do things perfectly. I focused on myself and it got me to a very bad place.

I'm happy to report that I did what I had to do and it went just fine. I thought about it all the way home and realized that I had been way too stressed for no reason. I was glad I had not backed out of the event and I thought a great deal about God. I thanked Him for helping me to do what I had to do in spite of my fears. I reminded myself that I could go to Him right away so that my stress could be lessened in the future.

How timely that later that evening I opened my email to see a blog post from Susie Finkbeiner talking about the same topic. She shared great thoughts about doing what scares us in order to get where we need to be.

I also talked to my husband about my stress and fears and he reminded me of how nervous he used to get when he first went into the ministry. It has gotten easier for him, but he still gets nervous at times.

So, I guess what I'm saying is that I have grown this week. When I feel stress I usually want to flee, but I'm learning that it's usually much better to stay and fight. Fight through the fear, fight through the uncertainty, fight through the anxious feelings. It will get you closer to the person you want to be. It will remind you to focus on God and what He wants you doing with your life. Sure, it's easier to avoid everything outside of our comfort zone, but we never grow if we just remain in the same place and stay comfortable.

Fight, my friends, and you may just find that your stress lessens as you focus on God and His plans for you.

"Why are you so downcast, O my soul? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God." (Psalm 42:5 NIV)

What do you do when you feel lots of stress? Do you stay and fight or do you just want to flee? How can focusing on God help you get through those times of stress?

Friday, June 20, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Writing

As I write, I'm right in the middle of a wonderful conference: The Cedar Falls Christian Writers' Workshop. It's good to sit in on sessions about different aspects of writing, see friends I've made at past workshops, and meet new writers who are attending for the first time. I hope my non-writing friends will bear with me this week as I focus on writing. You may find a few thoughts that you can apply even if you don't like to write.

We had some clown do devotions for us this morning (it was very good)

Since 2010, I've been attending this writing conference. It's a small, intimate setting. Only about 35 people attend, so you get a chance to meet almost everyone there.
Cec Murphey is our keynote speaker this year. He's been giving us great encouragement and insights.
Shelly Beach and Wanda Sanchez have become friends and mentors to me.
As I sit and listen to accomplished speakers, I focus on my own writing. I soak in what each speaker has to say and think about how it applies to the projects I have started and those I have yet to start. I am inspired and encouraged as I think about using the gifts God has given me so that I can inspire and encourage others in their faith, parenting, and marriages.

Sometimes I get down on myself because I still haven't published a book after almost five years, but today the Holy Spirit whispered words of encouragement and asked me to look at what I have accomplished: I started a writers group in Allison, I've published a devotional in Keys for Kids, I started this blog and have been pretty faithful at updating it weekly, I moved my website ( to a new host and revamped it, I wrote 50,000 words of a novel in November, I wrote over 16,000 words on another novel in progress, I have made friends in the writing world and, most important of all, I have grown emotionally and spiritually as a result of the conferences I've attended and friends I've made.

These three days are good for me. The intense focus on writing spurs me on to the next thing God has in store for me. With a teaching job coming up in the fall, I imagine I won't have lots of spare time for writing novels, but I will continue to blog and write what I sense God tells me to write.

I pray that all of you, my readers, can spend a few days once in a while to really focus on what God is calling you to. It may be business related, or something to do with crafts, or relationships, or music, or...whatever makes you tick. May that focused time bring you back to a greater appreciation for what God is doing in your life.

Do you ever spend a few days really focused on something that you love doing? Does it help you to focus more on God and the gifts He has given you?

Friday, June 13, 2014

Focus Friday: Where is your focus?

It's Friday once again (they seem to roll around so fast, don't they?) and we're at the end of a week of camping. We've gone boating, gone swimming, watched movies, played board games, cooked at the campfire, killed flies in the camper, eaten way too much junk food, and have basically had a very relaxing week. 

It's always good to get away from the normal routine for a while, but it's pretty hard to get there. I always seem to stress out too much in the days leading up to camping. I don't want to leave the house looking too chaotic, I want to make sure I'm not leaving any bills unpaid, I worry about the stuff I ordered on amazon arriving while we're gone and maybe getting rained on, and I start to think it would be easier to just not go.

Yes, it would be easier, but we all need to get away once in a while. We need a chance to just relax and get some rest and do fun things that will renew our spirits. We need to spend time with our families and reconnect when the normal routine keeps us all running in different directions. We need to laugh together and make some fun memories to get us through rough times in the future.

So, I don't have much for you this week. No profound thoughts and no big insights. I would, though, like to remind you to keep thinking about where your focus is as you go through each day. I saw a neat picture on someone's blog this morning and I decided to go to the site they used to make it. will analyze your blog, website, twitter feed, etc. and make a word picture that shows the words you use the most. Here's mine for this blog:
 Of course, Focus and Friday are huge, but I'm also very glad to see that God is one of the biggest words in my heart picture. That's fitting, because He's the biggest thing in my own heart - and when He's the biggest, then I know that my focus is where it should be.

Have a great weekend everyone!

If someone were to make a word picture of the things you focus on the most, what would it look like? Would God be one of the biggest words, or would other things look bigger?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on "Overthinking"

"I was thinking, overthinking..."  This little line from a Relient K song keeps coming to mind after my physical therapy appointment yesterday.

I had gone to my appointment a little shook up because I had started putting about half my weight on my left leg over the last couple of weeks and I was starting to think I had messed something up. It just didn't feel right and I was afraid they were going to say I had to go back to the doctor and get it x-rayed and stay off it for a few more weeks and...I was worried.

When I talked to my wonderful therapist about it, she asked all the right questions: Did you injure it? Do you have pain that stays all the time? Does it hurt when you put weight on it?

No, no, and no. We talked it over and she said that it's probably just normal feelings I'm having as I get used to putting weight on it again. She concluded our conversation with this observation: "You know, you're a thinker. We'll keep an eye on it, but I think it sounds like it's okay."

She's right. I think about everything. I tend to overthink everything, and that gets me into trouble sometimes. It puts a great deal of stress on me emotionally as I think through various situations, possibilities, and relationships. The "what ifs" can drive me crazy.

We need to recognize the danger in the practice of overthinking. Thinking is good. Thinking can help us get ready for a situation or correct something we've done wrong. Overthinking just keeps us spinning in one place and can really get us into an emotional mess.

Overthinking the twinges of discomfort in my ankle almost set me back. I was ready to keep using my scooter until the strange feelings were gone. In reality, I have to get through some days of discomfort before my ankle is back to being fully healed.

I wonder if we do that sometimes with situations in our lives. We decide to work on a difficult relationship, but as we take the first few steps we feel some pain and discomfort. We overthink it and decide to just let it go on the way it always has been, instead of persevering through the discomfort and getting to a healthier place.

We get an opportunity to make a career change or take on a new project, but the anxiety we feel as we overthink all of the possible things that could go wrong makes us stay where we have been. It's too uncomfortable to change our routine and take on something new.

Overthinking can become a habit, especially for certain personalities. It can become our focus if we're not careful. You know by now that I'm going to ask you to turn that focus back where it belongs: on God. He'll help us think, but not overthink, as we go through our lives.

"People with their minds set on you, you keep completely whole, Steady on their feet, because they keep at it and don't quit." (Isaiah 26:3 The Message)

Do you tend to overthink things? What can you do to break that habit and think in more healthy ways?

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Another Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus on Change

On the way to a wedding in Nebraska on Friday, I got a nice little facebook reminder from my sister-in-law saying that they would be looking for my Friday post. I shot back a quick reply, assuring her that I would definitely post by midnight. Alas, I woke up on Saturday morning and realized I had failed once again.

Oh well, God's mercies are new every morning and I'm sure any readers I have are very forgiving, too.

Even though it's a day late, I want to take a few minutes to focus on "change." There is a big change coming up for me soon, and it has provided the perfect reason to develop some focus in my life.

In the fall I will be teaching Spanish full-time at North Butler High School in Greene (about 10 miles from us). I wasn't looking for a new job, but it came to me. There was a need and it feels right to help fill it. This will be a major change for our family. I haven't had a full-time job since before we started having our children.

I am excited about this opportunity, but I'm also a bit nervous. It's been a long time since I was in the classroom every day. Our family dynamics will also change since both of our boys will be in high school next year (Dylan is so thrilled that he'll have me as his Spanish teacher!) and they've been used to having me do most of the chores around the house. This will change! Gary has also been used to having me around most of the time to help when needed at church and talk through things as they come up during the day. This will also change. I think all of us are going to have to split up household chores a little more so that one person doesn't get overwhelmed with it all (namely me!).

Thankfully, God has already started preparing us for this change. When I broke my ankle back in March, all of the boys had to chip in and help more. They've done a great job and I appreciate everything they've been doing. Gary does a great job with the laundry, but he's looking forward to giving that chore back to me when I can manage the stairs again.

What I've been surprised at lately is how my focus has improved since I decided to take this new job. I've been getting some things done around the house because I know I'll be really busy in the fall. I've been taking some online classes to renew my teaching license and these have helped me to focus more, too. They've been making me think about how I'll use the things I'm learning in the classroom. I've been checking out blogs and websites for Spanish teachers, gathering ideas and thinking through what my classroom will look like and what we'll do as I teach in just a few months.

What I find myself thinking about often is this: why have I not been this focused in my spiritual life? I go to sleep thinking about how much I love Spanish and how much I want to pass that love of Spanish on to my students and find fun ways to help them learn. I think about it often during the day and seek out new resources and ideas.

I think in the last couple of years I've lost some of my passion spiritually. The love and faith has been there, but the focus has definitely been lacking. I'm afraid I've been going through the motions and haven't been very excited about my relationship with the Lord. Even as I type that, I want to deny it somehow. I want to justify myself and say it hasn't been that bad. But the more I think about it, the more I know it's true. I've become complacent, predictable, boring.

When is the last time I couldn't get to sleep because I was so excited about what God is doing in my life? How long has it been since I eagerly looked in my Bible so that I could share something meaningful with a friend or someone in my family? Why haven't I felt that sense of urgency, spurring me on to grow in my faith because I know that time is precious and I may not get the chance if I wait?

Wow, these are hard questions...questions I hardly knew I had when I started this post. I think it's going to take a little focused thought to sort through them and figure out where my focus has gone.

I want to be a good Spanish teacher, but even more than that, I want to be a woman who finds my worth and purpose in my relationship with my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It's time to focus on that first, and then I can put my extra time into preparing for this big change.

Do you have any big changes happening in your life? Are you making sure your primary focus is on God? How can you stir up that passion for God in your life, even if you don't have any big changes in the near future?