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?

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Sorry Saturday: Doing Things For the Right Reasons

Greetings to anyone reading this today. I missed posting a Focus Friday last week. Last night I went to bed at 11 and lay in bed for a few minutes, thinking about getting back up to post something quick, but I didn't want to wake up my poor hubby.

So, I decided to post a "Sorry Saturday" instead of a Focus Friday this week. To tell you the truth, my mindset was not the best over the last couple of days as far as my blog goes. When I neglected to post last week I wondered if anyone really missed it. I didn't receive tons of messages saying "Where is Focus Friday? Please, oh please, post something right away. I can't make it through the weekend without your words of wisdom!"

Isn't that silly? And pretty sorry and sad, too. That's why I'm calling this "Sorry Saturday." I was considering abandoning my Friday blog posts just because I didn't get any feedback. Thankfully, I came to my senses and got my focus back where it belongs.

What is the purpose of my blog? I started it so that I could challenge myself to write weekly and explore the idea of Focus, especially as it applies to my faith and the various things happening in my life. If readers drop by to check out those thoughts, that's fine, but it's still worth doing even if no one ever reads it. I enjoy comments, but it's still worth doing even if no one ever says a word about it.

I've thought about several friends who have blogs over the last couple of days (and even some I follow though I don't know them personally). Ellen, Jessie, Jennifer, Susie, April, Kristen (I'm probably missing some!)...I enjoy their blog posts when I have a chance to read them, but sometimes I get busy and miss some posts. Sometimes I comment, but sometimes I read and move on. I care about those friends and appreciate their thoughts but life moves too quickly to read every single great blog post out there.

I'm going to trust that God will get the right women to my blog posts if they need to be encouraged by a certain post, and I'll keep writing, no matter what. Taking time to get my focus back where it belongs is worth my time, no matter what feedback I get (or don't get).

And so I say "Sorry" - sorry I thought about quitting. Sorry I don't have time to read and comment on every great post out there. I'm praying that all of my fellow bloggers will keep on keeping on and trust that God will use their blog posts to reach the people that need them when they need to read them.

I will be back next Friday. Have a great weekend as you remember those who served our country as we celebrate this Memorial Day weekend.

Do you ever get discouraged because you don't get the feedback or support you crave? Can you focus on doing the right thing even if no one seems to notice?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Not Forget to Focus

I've had a bit of a rough week. What it all boils down to is a supreme lack of focus. You would think after all these weeks of talking about focus that I'd have it down pat by now, but apparently I still have more to learn and practice.

At the end of last week we had to scramble because the fee was due for our daughter Allison's study trip to Greece. Getting it in the mail and hoping it would get there quickly caused lots of stress - for Allison and for me. If I had been focused I would have sent it in several weeks ago when Allison gave me the paper copy of the bill.

On Tuesday afternoon I was puttering around the kitchen at about 3:20 and said out loud, "Oh, it's time to get ready for my physical therapy appointment. Our son Blake piped up, "Wasn't that at 2:20?" Apparently he looks at the calendar more than I do. I had gone through the whole day thinking my appointment was at 4:20. I called the office and apologized, nearly in tears, and they kindly rescheduled. I'm sure it inconvenienced them and caused a ton of stress for me. If I had been focused I would have looked at the calendar in the morning and realized the correct time.

Later that evening we sat down for supper and Gary asked innocently, "Didn't you say you were going to make mashed potatoes with this?" Yes, yes I did...but no, no I didn't. It wasn't a huge deal but I gave myself a few emotional lashings before I let it go. If I had been more focused we would have enjoyed some tasty spuds with our supper.

Little things and big things. When we aren't focused we make mistakes and disappoint ourselves and others. Thank goodness for grace. None of us would survive if we were required to be perfect all of the time. There are going to be errors in our human lives. We have to make peace with that and move on.

Experiencing these failings can be a reminder to us about how important it is to really focus. Focus on the details we need to keep straight in our lives, of course, but also focus on the most important things. We need to focus on our relationship with God and make sure we're not forgetting to read His word, talk to Him often, and live for Him so that others can see it. Missing a doctor's appointment once in a while is sad, but missing a divine appointment with our Lord would be tragic.

"I will remember the deeds of the LORD; yes, I will remember your miracles of long ago. I will meditate on all your works and consider all your mighty deeds." (Psalm 77:11-12 NIV)

Have you been forgetting to focus lately? What can you do to make sure you are not forgetting to focus on God?

Friday, May 2, 2014

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Progress

I'm frustrated again.

I had gotten used to the hard blue cast on my left ankle over the past month. I was excited about going to the doctor last Friday to get it off, have some x-rays taken, and see what the next step would be. I was getting tired of not being able to put any weight on my left leg. I was hoping for a walking boot, but I knew that I still felt some pain at times so I wasn't sure if I'd be able to walk on my ankle yet.

The time for the appointment came, the cast was removed, x-rays taken, and the doctor came in to discuss them. She was pleased with the healing that was taking place and she pointed out a few things on the pictures. Then she declared that the nurse would come in shortly to fit me for a boot. My heart raced and I looked forward to walking until she went on to say that I still could not put any weight on that leg for at least another month. My hopes crashed as I realized I'd still be using my scooter to get around for a while.

My foot felt like it wasn't even part of my body as I looked at it before getting the boot on. It was swollen and shaky and dry skin was flaking off. Not a pretty sight. At all. That night I had more pain again and I could hardly sleep.

The boot is an improvement in some ways. At least I can take it off and shower without having to put a garbage bag over my leg. That's better. The boot is also worse. It's kind of a pain to undo five velcro straps and take it off and put it on a couple of times a day. It's frustrating to be in a "walking boot" and still not be able to walk. I sigh as I think about a month more of this and then limited weight bearing for probably another month.

Therapy has begun, but it's so basic. I move my foot back and forth, side to side, around in circles. I write the alphabet in the air with my big toe. It's incredible how hard that is. My foot is shaky and doesn't want to move where I want it to. It will come in time, I know, but for now it's just frustrating.

I want to walk now. It's difficult to focus on the progress I've made over the last six or seven weeks. I want to move ahead to the point where I'm taking long walks around our town again. I want to ride on the bike trail and go kayaking. All of that will have to wait until my ankle heals a little more.

We can do that in other areas of life, too. Sometimes we get frustrated when we don't see enough improvements. The weight doesn't come off quickly enough. Our temper doesn't improve fast enough for our liking. We don't spend enough time praying or reading our Bible and we feel like spiritual failures.

We want to jump ahead to the slim, calm, spiritually mature person that we see in our mind's eye. It's frustrating to limp through our imperfect days and not see the results we long for.

What we need to focus on is the progress we're making. Any progress we're making. I'm in a walking boot instead of a cast. That's an improvement. I'm starting to move my ankle after it's been immobile for about six weeks. That's an improvement.

I love a concept that Lysa TerKeurst talks about in her book "Unglued." She introduces the idea of imperfect progress. We don't become perfect, but we keep moving in the right direction. That is what we need to focus on, my friends. Try to focus on how far you've come, not on how far you have yet to go. Thank God for any speck of improvement you can see in your life, and don't focus on the setbacks that are bound to come.

Let's keep focusing on our relationship with the Lord and be glad for any imperfect progress we make.

"...being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus." (Philippians 1:6 NIV)

Is there some area of your life where you are frustrated with your lack of progress? Can you find some improvement to focus on and rejoice in any "imperfect progress" you can see?