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?