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!]