Friday, February 28, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on "Stuff"

In October I went to Michigan to visit my family and attend the wonderful Breathe Christian Writers Conference. (You can check it out at It was nice to be able to spend some time with my parents. Both of my maternal grandparents had passed away in the last couple of years and many items from their estate went to a cute little antique store in Fremont. When I mentioned that I might like to buy some of my grandma's antiques, my mom and dad agreed to take a little road trip up north. 

I really had one item in mind. I knew that my grandma had a couple of bowl and pitcher sets and I wanted to look at those and possibly buy one. Sure enough, when we got to the store, the nice owner showed me both sets my grandma had owned. One had a flowered pattern. It was pretty, but I prefer the plain white design. I took a look and knew that I definitely wanted this one:
 Isn't it pretty? So, we set it aside, but I kept looking at all of the nice things the lady pointed out to me around the shop. "This was grandma's, and that was grandma's. Oh, and that was grandma's..."  She pointed out chairs and a fur stole and cute little jars and lamps and tables and a dresser. I kind of got caught up in all of it and started to pick out one thing after another. My pile grew and grew until I suddenly ended up with all of this:
My mom had the nice Hummel figurines at home and was going to sell them on the internet until I offered to buy them. I snatched up some cute crackle glass items, and some pretty Fenton Ware shoes and candle holders. Once we got home, my mom also gave me a neat old serving tray that had belonged to my grandparents and a wall hanging that my grandma had quilted.
It all looks pretty nice, doesn't it? I felt so good about my finds as I wrote out a check for mom and my aunts. I unwrapped them proudly when I got home and showed them to my loving hubby who had allowed me to choose whatever I wanted to buy.

When I had it all home I realized that I had to find a space for all of it. I had to move over my current knick knacks and make room for the new stuff. It looks pretty, but as I've looked at it over the last several months I've realized that I didn't really need most of it. The bowl and pitcher were all I really wanted, but I ended up with so much more.

When I look around our home, I realize that over the years I haven't just accumulated antiques. I've hoarded music CDs, lots of books, craft supplies, musical instruments (some of which I can't even play - would anyone like a drum set or a nice violin?), and DVDs of movies and shows we've recorded from TV. 

Emotionally, I've let lots of "stuff" build up, too. Disappointments, regrets, failures, and little grudges. Those things sometimes push aside the good emotions that are normally evident in my life. I've been exploring some ideas for getting rid of those negative emotions on Monday nights as I study the book "Unglued" by Lysa TerKeurst with a great group of ladies from my church.

It's time to declutter both my house and my thought life. Having too much "stuff" in my house and in my head can cause tons of stress. I'm not going to get rid of my grandparents' antiques, but I am going to try to get rid of some things that are just cluttering up our house. I'm also going to keep working on clearing away more of the emotional clutter that bothers me way too often.

"Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." 
(Matthew 6:19-21 NIV)

Has your focus been on "Stuff" instead of on more important things? What do you need to declutter in the days ahead?

Friday, February 21, 2014

Focus Friday: Sometimes Our Focus Changes

As I write this week's Focus Friday post, I'm sitting in the wonderful new Learning Commons at my alma mater: Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa. I've spent most of the day touring the campus and talking to students, professors, and the admissions counselor here. Oh, it's not for me! I've been here, done that. It was great, but this time I was checking out the college with my son, Blake. He's a junior and he's starting to consider options for college. We had a good visit, but we'll have to see whether this is the place he ultimately chooses for his college experience.

As I thought about this blog post, my mind settled on a couple of truths we can think about together this week.

First of all, we need to realize that our earthly focus will change as we go through different seasons of life. Right now Gary and I are starting to focus on career choices and colleges as we get ready to help one of our children transition from home to higher education. We've done it twice before when our daughters graduated from high school, but every time it takes some intense focus as we think about where they'll go, applying for financial aid, and getting ready to move.

When our children were young, our focus was so much different. Back then it was: diaper changes, teething, potty training, and teaching them to talk. At each stage of each child's growth, our focus changed a little bit. If we were still focused on potty training at the ages they are now (21, 19, 16, and 13), well, it would just be weird!

As my children have gotten older, I've been able to change my focus to more of my dreams and goals because I have more free time. My kids don't require as much of my focused attention, so I can focus on writing and other pursuits.

One focus that should remain constant throughout our lifetime is our focus on God. As we focus more and more on Him, He'll help us determine where our earthly focus should be. I'm still figuring some of this out, but it seems true that when we take our focus away from Him, we get confused about where our focus should be in the rest of our life. That's when we start to get messed up and we can start to flounder spiritually and emotionally. Let's not ever take our focus away from God.

Can you see where your earthly focus has shifted over the years? What is your focus on right now? Through it all, has your focus on God remained consistent?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Love

I've had an annoying song running around in my head lately. It's been driving me crazy. It's especially bad because once in a while I almost sing it out loud and I wouldn't want my poor husband to hear it and get offended. Why? Well, let me type a line or two and you'll see why:

"You've lost that loving feeling, oh that loving feeling...You've lost that loving feeling, now it's gone, gone, gone, Whoa-oh"

See what I mean? Wouldn't you get a little paranoid if your spouse started wailing that around the house?

The song that was stuck in my head seemed to have come out of nowhere, but as I thought about it earlier this week, those lyrics probably are a good explanation for what I had been feeling lately. Those "loving feelings" just weren't showing up much in my marriage in recent days.

Now, I love my husband very much. On Monday we celebrated our 24th wedding anniversary. We love each other. We spend lots of time together and I can say without hesitation that we are each other's best friend and it's great that way.

Unfortunately, I have been blessed with a personality that tends to over-analyze and idealize pretty much everything. That can be bad for a marriage when I get frustrated because we don't have the perfect relationship I have built up in my mind.

I know I love Gary in my head, but sometimes the feelings go away when I focus on the wrong things. Let's face it, in 24 years there are lots of opportunities to hurt and offend each other. We each have certain habits that annoy the other person. If I don't choose to forgive, I can hold onto a past offense for a long time, and my mind dredges it back up to stew over when I'm upset about something current.

Two years ago, Gary and I took a trip to Spain. It was his idea. I studied in Madrid during college and we went there on our honeymoon. I had been bugging him for years to take me there again, and one day he called my bluff. We made our plans and headed overseas, but in my heart I wasn't totally on board. I pasted a smile on my face and put on a good show, but I couldn't completely enjoy the trip because I was nursing lots of little resentments toward my husband at that time. I didn't want to let him off the hook and just enjoy myself. 

Even while we were on the trip I kept a little list of disappointments. We didn't stop at some of the little towns we buzzed through in our rental car. We didn't eat enough authentic Spanish food. I didn't get to row long enough in the little boat in Retiro Park - he took the oars back and paddled us around the pond. The sunset wasn't beautiful enough at the westernmost point of Spain.

Now, mind you, I didn't voice many of these concerns to him. I mostly just stored them up in my heart and stuffed my resentments down deep. But when you bury something ugly like that, it's bound to rot and decay and ruin a lot more than just the memory of a fantastic vacation.

Because that's what it was - a fantastic vacation. I mean, really, the man took me to SPAIN! We rented a car and he drove me to almost every corner of that great country. Sure, we didn't stop in every little town, but we stopped in lots of wonderful places and saw so much. We didn't eat lots of authentic Spanish foods, but that's more my thing than his. The authentic foods we did eat were delicious and memorable, if I choose to remember them. I didn't row enough in Retiro Park? Well, boo hoo! I should have said, "I'd like to row a little more" when he reached for the oars. The sunset was a bust? So what? That man of mine went out of his way to drive me down unfamiliar roads to the westernmost point of Spain and sit for a couple of hours in the wind as we waited for the sun to set. It was fun, and as I look back at the pictures now, the sunset looks even prettier than it was when we were actually there.

A quick selfie while waiting for the sunset in Spain

As I'm writing, my heart feels warm toward my husband. Truth is, all week my feelings have been getting better toward him, because I've been focusing on the good in our marriage instead of the little disappointments that inevitably creep in.

I guess that's why I wanted to write about love this week. It makes sense since today is Valentine's Day, I know, but I wanted to give some hope and encouragement to other women out there who may lose "those loving feelings" at times. When it comes to marriage, our focus makes all the difference. Don't give up on your marriage when you're not feeling those romantic feelings you think you should always have. Those will come and go. Hang on for dear life (the life of your marriage) until they come back.
Happy Birthday and Happy Valentine's Day to my wonderful husband, Gary!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Focus Friday: Short and Sweet

Focus Friday is going to be short and sweet this week. To tell you the truth, I'm tired. I've had lots of ups and downs this week. It was all minor things, but they still took a toll on me emotionally. I've found myself entertaining way too many negative thoughts about a variety of people and events.

That kind of thinking is not good for any of us. It leads to discontent, unrest, bitterness, and impatience. Our focus is all on the "bad" and it poisons our attitude toward our loved ones and even life in general.

So, for this Focus Friday, I just want to give you a verse to focus on if you've been letting lots of negative thoughts creep in:

"Finally, brothers [and sisters!], whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable--if anything is excellent or praiseworthy--think about such things." (Philippians 4:8 NIV)

Focusing on those things should get our thought life going in the right direction once again.

Have a great weekend, my friends! ~Robyn

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Training Tuesday: Am I Really Doing This?

Hi everyone! Just a quick post this week to let you know how it's going.

I'm still sweating it out on the treadmill almost every day (and sometimes twice a day!). I try to walk with it set at an incline of 12%. I can do that pretty easily at 2 mph, but if I try to bump it up to 3 mph it about kills me. Hmm, here's a thought: maybe I should try going to 2.5? I'll try that tomorrow.

In some ways I feel stronger and in other ways I feel like maybe we should cancel the trip...I can't do this! It's only been two weeks so I guess I'll give it more time and keep working hard.

On the eating side of things, I only lost .7 pounds this week (I weigh myself with the WiiU - that's why I'm so precise). A little disappointing after almost 3 pounds last week, but I can see what I did differently this week. I went to the pantry and ate saltine crackers as stress relief way too often. I snacked a little more and didn't watch my portion sizes as closely. I also wasn't as hungry. Now, I mean that in a good way. I don't want to "diet" so that I'm constantly feeling hunger, but I know that last week I felt hungry more often. It was usually a little while before a meal, so I told myself to stay hungry and then ate at my regular time. This week I haven't felt as hungry because I've snacked more. Time to make some changes and see if a couple more pounds come off next Monday.

Praying that your training is going well - whether it's physical, spiritual, or emotional. You can do it! ~Robyn