Saturday, March 29, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Pain

Today we're going to focus on pain. Believe me, I don't want to. I thought about just skipping ahead to some other topic or aspect of "focus" but my heart said, "No." Now, I don't always listen to my heart, especially when my head is shouting all kinds of advice:

It doesn't really hurt that much.

If you were a good Christian you would be able to bear this trial patiently, in spite of the pain.

People will think you're tougher and braver if you don't admit to feeling much pain.

People don't want to hear you whine.

It gets pretty noisy up there, but I'm going to try to ignore it and let my heart share some thoughts about pain that I've been focusing on this past week.

I think most of my readers know that I missed a step at church on March 16 and broke my ankle. Amazingly enough, I didn't have severe pain at the time it happened. Oh, it hurt, but I wasn't writhing in pain all the way to the hospital. I didn't really even get any pain medicine until I was taken to a room for the night. I took a pill and a little later the nurse explained that they would set me up with a pain pump so I could push a button whenever I needed something. 

I tried to decline, politely. "Oh, I don't think I'll need very much medicine," I assured her, thinking that maybe they would just give me a pill once in a while. "That's okay," she replied. "We'll just set it up and you don't have to push it if you don't need it."

Much to my chagrin (and relief), I did push that little red button quite a few times during the night and over the next day and a half before I had surgery. After surgery it felt so much better. Going home went well and I settled into my easy chair, sure that I would soon feel great.

It hasn't gone as smoothly as I would have liked. The last few days have gotten hard. Even though it's not severe, I've been frustrated with the pain I'm still feeling. I'm tired of sore hands from hopping around the house with my walker. I'm tired of having to ask for help when I need something I can't carry. I'm tired of making Gary and the boys cook and do the laundry.

One morning this week I just looked at Gary and said, "Okay, I'm done with this. I want it to be over." He sympathized, but we both know that it's not over and it won't be for a while. Life is just harder for all of us and we have to make the best of it.

Quite a few people have commented that God must want me to "slow down." That may be true, but I wish he'd chosen a different way to show me that. He could have spoken from a cloud while we were hiking the Grand Canyon. I would have listened to Him, honest!

Instead, I am going through a time of pain and suffering. It's not just physical, as anyone dealing with a painful illness or injury knows. The pain is also emotional. I'm ashamed to admit how many times I've cried in the last week and a half. I cry for the pain that comes and goes, but I also just cry in frustration and grief. Limited mobility, admitting I need help, and feeling like a burden (even though my family does nothing to make me feel like that) are all tough to handle.

Today I went to the doctor and the nurse took off my temporary cast. I got my first look at my ankle after surgery:
Bruised and swollen, it's not a pretty sight. Now I understood why I felt some pain further up my leg sometimes. The incision goes that far!

By the end of the appointment my foot looked like this:
Now I have a hard plaster cast and my poor toes are all sticking out. I think I scared the poor nurse who was putting on my cast in the doctor's office. I teared up a couple of times (it was just one of those days) and got weepy as we were talking. My head kept saying, "Stop it! You look like a fool!" but my heart said, "Go ahead. Sometimes you just have to cry and get it out. Then you can move on." Sounds like a great way to deal with all sorts of pain we may have in our lives.

"The Lord is close to the broken-hearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." (Psalm 34:18 NIV)

Have you ever gone through a painful season (physically or emotionally)? Do you listen to your head or your heart in those times? How can keeping our focus on God help us through those times?

Friday, March 21, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Regret

These Friday posts have turned out to be different than I imagined they would be when I started them a few months ago. I thought I would be exploring how important it is to have our focus on God as we go through life. I thought I would be digging deep into that concept and sharing verses and ideas to keep our focus on Him.

It hasn't exactly gone the way I had planned, but I'm not unhappy with the results so far. As I look back, I see that we've spent most of our Fridays contemplating something that I've been focused on that week. Love. birthdays, money...we've talked about what I'm focused on. I hope it's come through that ultimately our focus on God trumps anything else we're thinking about. 

Keeping our focus on Him gives us the clarity to look at everything in our lives and see it with more wisdom and discernment. This week we're going to dive a little deeper into that idea as we focus on regret.

I'm sure almost everyone lives with regret in some form. It may be little things like constantly forgetting to send a birthday card to a niece or nephew, serving frozen pizza one too many times to your family, or eating the last of the Girl Scout cookies without sharing. It could also be big things like having an abortion, lying to a spouse, or betraying a close friend.

It could also be one of those in between things over which you have very little control. Something like breaking your ankle and ruining vacation plans to hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon.

I am living with that regret right now. Last Sunday night I was taking a picture of Gary at church and decided to try to get one more shot from a different angle. My camera battery was running low, so I was looking at the camera and hurrying to get down the two little steps from our stage. All of a sudden I was falling and I don't even know exactly what happened. When Gary asked if I was okay, I said "No," but I didn't realize how bad it was until he said, "Don't move, it's broken. I'm calling for an ambulance." He gingerly extended my foot onto the step and as I glanced down at my feet I could see my left foot jutting off at an odd angle. That can't be good, I thought.

My next thought was one of despair. Our trip to hike the Grand Canyon - ruined in just a few short seconds. I said I was sorry a few times, but Gary wasn't worried about that. He just focused on getting me to the hospital so they could take care of the break. Our week has been much different than we had originally planned as we've gone through surgery and getting me home and adjusting to my lack of mobility.

It's hard to show yourself grace when something like this happens. I've gone over and over Sunday night in my head. If I had just slowed down a little, watched the steps instead of my camera, been more wouldn't have happened. I could have gone home and kept training for our trip in April.

Thoughts like that are useless. It happened and we can do nothing about that now. It's just time to adjust to broken bones and move on from here. It's time to be thankful that it wasn't worse. It's time to look forward to healing and a different trip to the Canyon in a year or two. 

Focusing on the regret itself - however big or small it may be - does nothing to improve our lives. It just keeps us stuck with negative feelings and insecurities. Dealing with the consequences (if possible) and then moving on with God's help will help us become more like the women (and men) God has created us to be. 

I wish I hadn't broken my ankle, of course, but I'm going to try not to focus on those feelings of regret. I hope you'll let go of your regrets, no matter how big or small they may be.

"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But 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 living with any regrets right now? What can you do to leave them behind and press on with your focus on God instead?

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Training Tuesday: To Be Continued

I haven't been posting regular updates for Training Tuesday, but by now I was hoping to give you an update since it's less than a month until we fly out west.

I can happily report that I have lost several pounds and I've been working on the treadmill and stairs quite a bit. On Saturday Gary and I both exercised for about 2 to 3 hours throughout the day and we both felt pretty good the next day. We're both getting more fit and we were looking forward to our hike to the bottom of the Grand Canyon in April. Since we didn't have a night reserved at the bottom, we were even considering trying to go to the bottom and back in one day.

You may have noticed my use of the past tense in the last couple of sentences. By now, many of my facebook followers know that our hike in the Grand Canyon has been put on hold. On Sunday evening I made a dumb mistake and broke my left ankle. I was just walking down two little steps off our church stage and I missed the bottom one and landed wrong. Gary warned me to not try to get up and he called for an ambulance. Glancing down toward my feet, I could see that my left foot was pointing over at an odd angle. Gary could see a big bulge under the skin and we figured it was broken.

Xrays at the hospital confirmed it, so now I find myself writing from my hospital bed, getting ready to go in for surgery in about an hour. Sunday night to Tuesday morning is quite a while to wait with a broken bone, but they've taken good care of me. Thank goodness for pain pumps!

So, my training is going to change in the months ahead. No hike in the Grand Canyon, but I will be doing some "training" once I get out of a cast. I'll be training my ankle to work right again. I don't know what's involved really, but I trust that the surgeon and rehab people will do all that they can to get me back in shape.

I suppose the Canyon will still be there in a year or two and we can try this trip again. Until then, I'll just say "To be continued...."

Friday, March 14, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Finances

"Pay at the Speed of Want" 

That's the bold slogan I saw when I logged into my Paypal account the other day. It hit me hard and kept coming back to me as I went about my daily activities. I pondered the truth of that statement and felt a little sad for how it affects so many people. So many people buy what they want when they want it, not bothering to make sure they can afford it. That kind of thinking gets you into financial trouble and it can be hard to recover from the chaos it brings.

I guess the slogan hit me especially hard because Gary and I are leading a group through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University (well, Gary is leading and I'm attending). Finances have been on my mind a little more in recent weeks. Gary is a great money manager, so we haven't gotten into trouble financially, but even being more conscious of finances has helped us since we've started the course. I noticed that our spending in certain areas has gone down and that's been kind of encouraging. A little bit of "focus" can bring quite a few positive changes.

So, as we think about focus today, I'd like you to think a little bit about where your focus is with your finances. Are you unfocused and just end up wondering where your money has gone at the end of the month? Are you worried and stressed because your income can't cover the things you're spending your money on? Are you in a pretty good place because you watch your money carefully and make sure you can afford something before you make a major purchase?

I've been realizing lately that I sometimes spend money foolishly because I feel a restlessness inside and I think I can fill that void with some thing. I caught myself gravitating toward the magazine racks at a certain store last week because I thought about buying some cardmaking/scrapbooking magazines. This store sometimes has two packaged together for just $7 - such a good deal! Well, I need more craft magazines like I need a hole in the head. I have a ton of magazines in my crafting area that I can go to when I need inspiration. This had become a bad habit, this drifting over to the magazine rack to pick up a couple of new magazines to peruse for a little while and then add to the stack that I almost never get back to.

Thankfully, since I've become aware of my compulsion, I've managed to avoid many of those impulse buys. I've been focused and I've been thinking about whether a purchase is really good for me or if it's a poor substitute for what I really need.

What do I need? The answer to that varies. Sometimes I need a talk with my husband. Sometimes I need more exercise. Sometimes I need to call a friend and get filled up that way. Often I need some time with God, a reminder that He can fill every void I may feel inside. Sometimes I need a nap!

Don't get me wrong. Buying a fun magazine or some other item that brings us joy is not wrong in and of itself. There's a place for that. When it becomes a restless, endless cycle of buying, there's something wrong.

Here is the apostle Paul's advice on this topic:

"...I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do everything through him who gives me strength."
                                                                                                       (Philippians 4:11b-13 NIV)

I've always loved verse 13 (I can do everything through Christ who gives me strength) but I don't think I ever noticed that it comes right after these verses about being content. What an encouragement to realize that Christ will give us the strength to remain content whatever our financial situation might be. He is all we really need.

Is there anything you find yourself buying just because you're trying to fill some other need? How could shifting your focus to God make a change in your finances?

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

I Need I'm reading "Balanced"

Way back at the beginning of February I agreed to help launch Tricia Goyer's new book: "Balanced." I signed up, excited that I could get a free copy of her e-book and help out a great author by just posting a review on my blog.

Well, life went on and all of a sudden the blog tour dates had arrived. Of course, I waited until the last possible day and just barely finished the book tonight. As I eagerly read, I realized just how  much I needed to read this book. It ties in nicely to our chats on "Focus Fridays" and I gleaned some very good ideas for keeping life in balance.

"Balanced" is such a good book for moms who work at home and want some advice and encouragement. I knew I was going to relate to this book when I read this in the introduction: "I haven't been able to figure out the perfect balance.I don't always have my act together or even behave nicely....Yet even in the midst of my imperfection God uses me."

What great inspiration for someone who struggles with idealistic thoughts and procrastination. Tricia's book is giving me great ideas for how to use my time more wisely so that I can make a difference in this world. Putting God first, being deliberate about time with my family, and listening to the Holy Spirit's wisdom about my work-at-home are some ideas that I soaked up as I read "Balanced."

Some moms may not be able to relate to her experience as a writer, but I loved her thoughts on that topic since I'm aspiring to do more in that area. I think her ideas can be applied to other work-at-home careers quite easily.

I was given a free copy of the e-book in exchange for my honest review. I highly recommend this book for moms who want more balance in life.

I'd also like to recommend the Balanced Challenge. I'm a little behind already, but I plan to catch up and do another blog post at the end of the challenge. Give it a try!

Get Balanced!
Tricia Goyer Balanced

Friday, March 7, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Age

Friday is almost over as I begin typing this week's blog post. I subbed for an English teacher all day and then headed to Cedar Falls to see Erin and then go out for supper with Allison. After that we went to a concert by members of the Cedar Valley Acoustic Guitar Association. ( It was a great day, but I'm tired. You see, I'm another year older as of Thursday, March 6.

I received so many birthday greetings: cards at church, cards in the mail, some goodies and flowers delivered to my door, and lots and lots of Facebook messages. I was a little overwhelmed, but grateful. Gary took me out for a delicious steak and lobster dinner on Tuesday night at Outback Steakhouse, so we've kind of been celebrating all week.

I guess my focus has been on "age" lately as I pass another birthday. I feel a little older, I look a little older, and I act a lot older. Last Sunday at church I was standing outside of Gary's office and I looked across the room and was pleasantly, genuinely surprised to see our daughter Allison. Immediately I felt silly because she had been home since Friday evening and I hadn't even thought about her as I was getting ready for church that morning. I completely forgot that she was home!

I suspect that I'll have more and more "senior moments" like that one in the years to come, but I need to make sure that I keep a good attitude about my age. I can't focus on the new aches and pains I have. I need to focus instead on the good health that I've enjoyed in the past and will hopefully experience in the future. I need to see each year as a blessing instead of groaning about how tired I am or how often I forget...what was that again? Oh, never mind, I can't remember.

There were rumors on Facebook that I turned 50, but that is not the case. I'm only 48, so I'll enjoy a couple of years before I turn the big 5-0.

No matter what our physical age is, we need to make sure that we're maturing in our spiritual lives. Each day we should be taking steps to grow up in our relationship with the LORD. Reading and studying the Bible, praying, and obeying the Holy Spirit will all help us in the growth process.

Even though our physical bodies will get more and more run down over the years, we can be sure that our character will grow more beautiful and get stronger over the years as we let God change us. Now that's something to celebrate!

"Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life [and then covered with hair dye]." (Proverbs 16:31 NIV and my thoughts)

Time to end this week's post - this old lady has to get to bed!