Friday, December 25, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Feelings

Merry Christmas!

It may seem logical to focus on Christmas today, but I want to turn our focus to something else. Don't get me wrong. It's important to focus on the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. I love Him so much and I will be thinking often today about how God the Son came to earth in the form of a tiny human baby. It's amazing that He lived and died for each of us.

Something happened today and I wanted to write about it. At first I thought about waiting a week, but then I realized that it just may help someone else dealing with similar feelings during this holiday season.

Today I found out that someone was really hurt by something I said a few weeks ago. I didn't find out from the person who was hurt. I heard it from someone else. I was so shocked to learn about this that I could barely concentrate on the rest of my friend's story. My brain started to race as I contemplated all aspects of the situation.

I can't remember saying anything hurtful. What did I say? I've seen this person several times since then. I didn't think anything was wrong, have they been wondering why I don't seem more bothered by the "situation" I didn't even know about?

Most of all, I thought How can I fix this?

I asked Gary about it and he suggested that I just let it go. It might make things worse if I brought it up. I think he's right, but I need to do some intense praying about it. I hate it when I've disappointed someone or hurt them unintentionally. It may also be a bit of a pride thing, because part of my reason for wanting to go "fix" it was so I could defend myself and explain that I hadn't meant to say something hurtful. The fact is, even though I can't remember what I said, someone felt hurt by my words.

I was going to try to let it go and forget about it, but I did think about it quite often today. I think there are some things that we can learn from this, especially as many of us spend time with friends and family during this holiday season.

1) Be careful with your words.
    In my situation, I really don't remember saying anything hurtful, but someone took it that way. All of us need to be careful to speak kindly to others. We don't have to be paranoid about saying the wrong thing, but we can be thoughtful as we interact with others and be sensitive to how someone may take our words.

2) Try to think well of others.
     Let's not automatically assume that someone is trying to hurt us when they say something. Sometimes the other person is just trying to make conversation or they might even be attempting to joke around with us but it comes across poorly. I wish my friend had thought "Robyn doesn't usually say things like that" and asked me about what I meant instead of assuming that I was being hurtful and then holding on to that hurt. Remember how many times you've gone home from some event and thought "Boy, I wish I hadn't said that!" People make mistakes. 

3) Don't hold a grudge.
     If your sister-in-law says something you consider snarky at the family Christmas party, try to let it go quickly. (You can vent to your spouse or best friend about it first if you must) If you keep all of her snarky comments in your mind, it's definitely going to affect how you think about her and treat her in the future. Forgiving others and letting it go will allow you to treat people with patience and love. 

4) Sometimes you just have to talk to the offender.
     This can be difficult. We would rather hold on to our hurt feelings and nurse that grudge instead of talking to someone about how hurt we feel. It's risky. We may find that they really did mean to be hurtful (that's a topic for another Focus Friday) but often we may find that they are horrified to find out that something they've said has hurt us and they will be happy to clear up the misunderstanding. 

I hope everyone enjoys some very fun family gatherings. Keep these tips in mind as you interact with others. People are going to say some really dumb things. They might hurt your feelings. Either let it go or talk to the person who has offended you. That's the way to keep peace in your heart this Christmas.

 "Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." (Colossians 3:13 NIV)

Has someone hurt your feelings? How can focusing on God help you to either let it go or be courageous enough to talk to the person who has offended you?

Friday, December 18, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Health

I'm getting sick.

It stinks.

I thought I was going to make it all the way through this winter without the coughs and other respiratory complaints I heard from many of my friends in recent weeks. I got my flu shot and washed my hands a ton. We spent time with Erin in Germany while she was sick with a cold and I didn't get it. Friends at church were kept up at night by terrible coughing spells and I didn't get it.

The past few days I felt it coming on. Just a slight tickle in my throat and the urge to cough once in a while. I thought maybe I was going to make it without it turning into anything substantial, but today it finally hit. My throat is sore, I'm coughing more, and my nose is just starting to run. I can feel it in my chest and my voice is getting deeper.

I'm going to bed early (well, early for a Friday night, anyway) and I'm going to drink lots of water and hope it doesn't get much worse.

As I slowly started feeling sicker throughout the day, I felt discouraged. I don't want to be sick. But, I also felt grateful in a way. At least I haven't gotten sick so far. We're already halfway through December and I haven't been sick once. I thought of all of the people I know who have been really sick with colds and flu. I thought of people who have gone through surgeries, some minor and some major. I thought of many people who have had to go through cancer, some got better and some didn't.

Our health is something we often take for granted until we don't have it. Let's spend some time today being grateful for the good health we have had. If we are sick, let's pray for healing and keep our focus on God while we go through the illness, whatever it may be. Let's pray for those who are fighting both temporary and chronic illnesses and ask God to help people know that He is with them through whatever challenges they are facing as they suffer with poor health.

I'm off to bed. I pray that everyone has a happy, healthy weekend.

"Now may our Lord Jesus Christ and God our Father, who loved us and by his grace gave us eternal comfort and a wonderful hope, comfort you and strengthen you in every good thing you do and say." (2 Thessalonians 2:16-17)

Are you healthy or sick right now? How can focusing on God help us to get through times of illness with a godly attitude and not give up hope?

Friday, December 11, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Coming Home

By about this time next Friday, five of the six of us in our family will be home and then I'll pick Erin up from the airport on Saturday night at about midnight.

Erin has been in Germany.
Allison has been in Chicago.
Blake has been in Orange City, Iowa.

Gary and Dylan and I have survived the semester at home with just the three of us. Through the miracles of technology, we have been able to see the other three kids quite often on facebook video chats.

I'm excited to have all of us home again. I'm also a little nervous. It may take some time to adjust to living in close proximity once again. 

Erin had her own apartment for several years and now she may live with us for a semester while she does her student teaching in Cedar Falls.

Allison loved exploring Chicago on public transportation and  being on her own. She's looking for a job, but she may be occupying her usual spot on our couch for a while until she finds something.

Blake has enjoyed dorm life and the freedom of being a college student.

Will we survive the readjustment period? I think so. Because we love each other and we are family.

Maybe you're looking forward to the holidays with a bit of trepidation as well. Having all of your children (and possibly their families, too) back under your roof can be fun but it can lead to some tense discussions or situations where everyone gets on each other's nerves.

We must go into the holidays with realistic expectations. It will not be perfect. Do not expect it to be perfect. When things don't go as planned, remind yourself that it's okay. Your relationship with your children (whether they're two or forty-two) is more important than whether everything looks wonderful on your holiday table or if everyone loves the gifts you picked out for them. If someone gets a little cranky you don't have to let it ruin your celebration by responding with just as much crabbiness.

Try to talk to God as you go through this Christmas season. Pouring out your joys and your disappointments to Him can be one way to make it through the holidays with grace. Reminding yourself that God loves you completely may help you keep smiling even when you get some negative vibes from college-age children who think they know much more than you do. (Not that I ever get such vibes from my children, you know.)

We want our children to come home and visit during special times of the year like Christmas. Sometimes that isn't possible, but we still try to connect somehow with our families. It's even more important for each of us to "come home" and connect with God during this special time of the year.

I hope you have been connecting with Him all year long, but if you haven't, now is a great time to spend some time reading the Bible and talking to Him. If you've been far away, it may take some time to readjust, but He is a perfect Father who is ever so patient with us and longs to spend time with us. 

It's time to come home.

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength." (Mark 12:30 NIV)

Are you nervous about the holidays? How can focusing on God give you the right perspective and help you not just endure your holiday celebrations but really enjoy them this year?

Friday, December 4, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on What We Can Do

Sorry to brag, but I just had to share this banner about this year's win at NaNoWriMo. Don't know what that is? Well, it stands for National Novel Writing Month and lots of people sign up to attempt writing 50,000 words of a novel in the month of November. I do it every year. I usually win, but this year was a little more challenging.

By Saturday morning, November 28, I had written only 20,534 words. Yes, I had skipped many days and hadn't pushed myself to keep up with the 1,667 daily word goal. But I determined that I would win, so I had lots of typing to do in three days. 

By typing like crazy most of the day, I had 30,060 by Saturday night. By Sunday night I had 42,220 words. On Monday at 7:04 p.m. I verified my word count at NaNoWriMo's website and was a winner with 50,178 words. Whew! I did it!

The funny thing is, I did not sit constantly at the computer for those three days. I would write for a while and then take a break to get something else done. I went to church on Sunday morning and took time to eat and talk to my family. I typed as fast as I could when I was working. Anything to get my word count up. That means sometimes I typed things like this: Laura read some magazines before her hair appointment. She read People and Time and Newsweek and Reader's Digest and Our Iowa and Woman's Day and Redbook.

You get the picture. There was lots of junk like that. But there were also some pretty wonderful lines that came out as I was typing madly. Things happened in my very rough first draft of a novel that surprised me and made me think Hey! This has some potential.

I found myself thinking something like this when I was done: Wow! Look what I got done just by sitting down and working hard. There's no reason I can't edit my novel and submit it for publication. There's no reason I can't get those things done that are on my "To Do" list. All it takes is some focus and dedication. 

We can do much more than we think we can when we really work at it. So really, I just took away all of my excuses for not accomplishing everything I feel God calling me to do. I have the time, I have the talents, I have the motivation if I just decide that I want to get it done.

Now I just have to decide if I really want to edit all of the junk I wrote in the month of November.

"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13 NIV)

Are there things you've been thinking you can't do? How can focusing on God help you to really apply yourself and get done whatever He is calling you to do?

Friday, November 27, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Thankfulness

We've just celebrated a special holiday. Thanksgiving. This is the time of year when we get more deliberate about thanking God for our families, friends, and all of our blessings. It's good to do that at this time of year, but I want us to focus today on how important it is to cultivate that thankful attitude all year long.

I love the devotional "Jesus Calling" by Sarah Young. It seems like the Holy Spirit has something to say to me just about every day I read it. Lately the devotions have been talking about being thankful. The picture and quote above is from the devotions for November 24. I'd like to share another line or two from that same page:

"You give me thanks (regardless of your feelings), and I give you Joy (regardless of your circumstances). This is a spiritual act of obedience -- at times, blind obedience." (Jesus Calling, Nov. 24)

Isn't that amazing? It is so different from what most of the world thinks. Most people think that the only way they'll have joy is if they are free from problems, blessed with good health, and enjoying fulfilling relationships with everyone in their lives.

Jesus calls us to something that seems impossible. Thank Him for everything. Thank Him for the good things, but thank Him for the bad things, too. Thank Him for the hard times, for times of illness, for strained relationships. He has some purpose for them, even though we may never understand.

Only by choosing to be thankful can we experience true joy and peace inside. Note that I am not saying we should just put on a happy face and deny that what we may be going through is hard. Jesus understands if we are sad, fearful, angry, hurt, or just plain tired. We can't stop with those emotions, though. In obedience, blind obedience many times, we choose to give thanks and it helps us get our perspective back. We may not know why we are going through something, but choosing to give thanks will get us back to focusing on God instead of our situation. 

Focusing on Him will lead to peace and a joy inside that the rest of the world cannot hope to understand. That joy will shine out from your broken places and will be something beautiful that just may lead someone straight to Jesus. 

"Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus." 
                                                   (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 NIV)

Do you give thanks in good times and in bad? How can focusing on God help you to choose to be thankful? 

*I highly recommend Sarah Young's devotional "Jesus Calling" (www.jesuscalling.com) and also Ann Voskamp's book "One Thousand Gifts" which challenges all of us to choose to be thankful, even for the hard things in life. (onethousandgifts.com)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on...Snow?

I want to move to Florida. Just kidding, but I have experienced the shock of our first snowfall of the year today. We had no snow on the ground this morning. A little before noon the flakes began to fall. The forecast didn't look good so school dismissed an hour early. As I write we have about a foot of snow on the ground.

I don't like to be cold. Poor Gary had to hear me whine as we went out to give blood today. I whimpered as I rushed through the blowing snow and drank at least two mugs of hot chocolate today just so I could try to feel warmer.

Now, I think I'd better work on my attitude a bit or it's going to be a very long winter. We do live in Iowa, after all. It would be pretty unreasonable to hope for no snow.

It was kind of interesting to watch people before the snow began. I made sure I had plenty of milk in the fridge so I wouldn't have to go out to get some. Gary went uptown this morning and said there were all sorts of people scurrying around getting errands done before the snow. 

The State Football Championship games in Cedar Falls were postponed and other activities were cancelled tonight and I'm assuming most people are staying indoors unless they really have to go somewhere. It's kind of nice to have that excuse, actually. The snow slows people down and gives them a break from some of their rushing around. 

I opened the front door a while ago to check on the depth of the snow. I shuddered from the cold, but I had to admit the world looked beautiful covered in its blanket of white. Later it will be plowed up and get dirty, but tonight it is pristine. I have to admire God's handiwork.

I admire it, but I think I'll still let Gary be the one to plow it from our driveway tomorrow.

"He says to the snow, 'Fall on the earth,' and to the rain shower, 'Be a mighty downpour.' So that everyone he has made may know his work, he stops all people from their labor." (Job 37:6-7 NIV)

Do you like the snow? How can focusing on God help us to make it through another long winter without too much complaining? 
(My apologies to my readers who live in areas where you don't get snow. I know it may be hard to relate. Tell you what, I'll send you some of ours!)

Friday, November 13, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Fear

Gary, Dylan, and I are in Chicago today and tomorrow, visiting our daughter (and sister) Allison while she's here working with Easter Seals for an internship this semester. We checked in at our hotel and then rode the Blue Line train to the Loop. We met Allison at the Willis Tower and saw where she works, then took the elevator up to the SkyDeck. The view was incredible. We tried to time it so we could see the city in daylight and also after the sun set. So cool to see the city light up as the sun went down. We went out on the ledge on the west side of the building and got a dizzying view of the street below. When we'd finally had our fill, we got in line to ride the elevator back down 103 floors. While in line, I checked my phone and found this text from Erin:

i'm safe. Just so you know. Scared. But fine. Girls were supposed to go to Paris tomorrow but i think not going. Obviously. i love you

This is not the text you want to receive from a child working for a semester in Germany. As a parent, your mind automatically goes to all sorts of possibilities for what could be wrong. From her text, it was obvious that something major had happened, but we had no idea what it was. This began a few minutes of frantic searches on our cell phones and we read about the attacks in Paris. 

It was terrible to hear about all of the violence, but also a relief to know that she hadn't been in immediate danger. In today's world, I suppose everyone's minds go to 9/11 and you wonder what may happen before it's all over.

I guess that's why I decided to focus on "fear" this Friday. Aside from a few moments of fear right after her text, I can't say that this incident caused me to experience much fear, but I am very aware that there are probably millions of people who are experiencing lots of fear as they watch what is happening in Paris. Some are afraid because they have lived through this and have to deal with the emotions and grief they feel. Others may feel fear because these events have reminded them of the uncertainties of life and the reminder that we never know what might happen to us or to those we love.

We can't help but feel fear at times, but we don't have to live afraid. There is a wonderful God that is above all evil in this world. We don't know why He allows things like this to happen, but we know that He cares and understands all of our emotions. He loves us and wants us to trust Him even though we don't know what may happen to us in the future.

"For you did not receive a spirit that makes you a slave again to fear, but you received the Spirit of sonship." (Romans 8:15 NIV)

Do you feel lots of fear as you look at the world around you? How can focusing on God help you to stop being a slave to fear and trust Him instead?




Saturday, November 7, 2015

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus on Getting Back Up

I meant to write my Focus Friday last night. I had a busy day and then we attended North Butler's musical production of Cinderella. All of the students did an excellent job. We got home and I decided to head for bed while Gary watched a little TV. Almost as soon as my head hit the pillow, I thought of it. I didn't write my Focus Friday yet. It was only ten o'clock, I could have easily jumped back up and written something for a while. But I didn't.

As more and more seconds ticked past, I felt my good intentions dissolve. It's so comfy here in bed. Nobody will care if I write it tomorrow instead. I'm so tired. Soon I was asleep.

The only problem is, my excuses continued the next morning. I was half awake at about seven, but I lazed in bed for another hour, dreading all of the things I had to do today. Please understand, my day was not packed with difficult, high pressure tasks. I had just a few more things scheduled for today than normal and just that much put me into "procrastination mode." I got some things done, but I could have accomplished much more with a better attitude and the resolve to get things done.

I've been fighting that feeling a little more lately. That feeling that I'm not getting enough done so I might as well not even try. That's a terrible way to think because it keeps me stuck in negative thought patterns and tempts me to give in to despair. 

The truth is, I don't have as much energy as I used to. Maybe I can't get everything done, but I sure can keep plugging away and get as much done as I can. I can balance work and relaxation and enjoy life as each day unfolds. 

An important thing to remember is that it's useless to live in regret. Today I wished several times that I had gotten up last night and written my Focus Friday. I didn't get back up! It's over and it's time to move on. I write my Sorry Saturday and try to get back to Focus Friday next week.

Sleeping in too late, failing to meet a deadline, letting an opportunity slip by, missing the chance to connect with a friend...whatever the situation, we have to choose to "get back up" and keep moving forward. Grieve the failure, but then let it go and focus on the present moment and what you can do in it. Let's press on, dear friends.

"I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:14 NIV)

Have you had a time where you didn't "get back up" and you regretted it? How can focusing on God help you to live in the present moment and do the best you can right now?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on...Something

Some days I have so much to do...that I don't do much of anything. My brain scrambles through a long list of "shoulds" and "ought to's" and then it gets tired and urges me to go play Mahjong Tiles on my iPad.

Now, I realize that this is a very silly way to live. It drives my husband crazy when he sees me doing it, because he doesn't do things that way. When he has lots to do, he works hard to get things done so he doesn't have to think about them anymore.

I've gotten a little better in recent years, but I still have to work on this "avoidance" tendency I have. It doesn't do me any good to procrastinate and put things off just because I get overwhelmed. It just adds more stress later when I'm trying to meet a deadline.

I was reminded of this on Thursday when I attended a workshop about public speaking. I learned some very good tips that will help me with speaking events in the future, but the points that stayed with me the most were things like this:

"You have a message to share that only you can share to people that can only hear it from you."

"Your message is your gift from God."

"All successful people make decisions quickly...Indecision is your enemy...Procrastination is the devil."

"Everything you want is out of your comfort zone or you'd already have it."

"Don't wait! Time is speeding up, not slowing down...Don't have any regrets."

(All of the above quotes were from Arvee Robinson, a master speaker. www.instantprospeaker.com)

Her words really got me thinking about what I want to accomplish. I don't have all the time in the world to do the things I want to do, the things I feel God calling me to do. The days, weeks, months, and years keep flying by...what am I doing with all of that time?

So today, I want to focus on...something, instead of focusing on everything. When I look around at everything, I get easily overwhelmed and want to run away and do nothing. By focusing on something, I just might get it done and be able to move on to the next thing, knowing that the gifts God has given me are being used and that people are hearing the message that only I can share. 

"Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom." (Ecclesiastes 9:10 NIV)

Are you focusing on too many things? Is it time to focus on...something, so you can get it done and share the gifts and messages God has given you with just the right people?

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Language

This week I'm writing my blog on my iPad mini in Germany. I've been thinking an awful lot about language during our time here. Of course, we've been hearing tons of German, but as we have visited different places there have been tourists from all over. I love languages, so it has been fun for me to try to figure out what people are speaking. 

I wish I could speak more German. I started to study it a couple of months before we came here, but I didn't get very far. I can say "I drink milk" and "He is strong." Unfortunately, I don't need to say those things very much. Instead, I should have concentrated on signs and warnings.

"Kein Winterdienst. Bei Schnee und Eis. Benutzung auf eigene Gefahr." 


We saw those words on a sign on an old castle before we started to climb a tower early in our trip. No idea what it meant. We climbed anyway. We have observed similar signs all over in our travels. We look, we shrug, and we move on. We figure someone will either yell at us or rescue us if we are doing something wrong. 

We've been lucky. In most places, people speak "a little bit" of English. It's usually much more than a little bit. We're grateful. I can't help but wonder about people who dare to travel who speak a language that is less common. They must feel so confused and frustrated at times.

I have lots of little examples that show my language problems, but for now I'll just share something kind of funny. After we asked directions from a guard at a castle, I said "gracias" as we left him. A couple of other times I've said "Si'" instead of yes. Since I know Spanish so well, I think my brain defaults to that if I'm not concentrating.

All of this foreign language stuff has me thinking about how we communicate with God. We speak to Him in the language that feels most comfortable to us. That makes sense, doesn't it? I wouldn't try to speak to Him in German (although I could say "You are strong."). I speak to Him in the language I know best. English.

But what language does God speak? Hebrew? Greek? Every language? We just don't know, do we? What we do know is that He understands us and loves us completely. He'll never throw up His hands in frustration or ignore us because He doesn't want to deal with our feeble attempts at communication (Yes, I had a lady do this to me in a park. She just kept walking.). 

Danke, Gott . (Thanks, God.)

 "In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. We do not know what we ought to pray for, but the Spurit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans." (Romans 8:26 NIV)

 Have you ever had a problem with another language? How can focusing on God help you communicate with Him perfectly wherever you are? 

(Now I have to go see if I can schedule this to publish  on Friday since blogger is all in German on my iPad!)


Saturday, October 10, 2015

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus on Infection

It's another Sorry Saturday because my hotel internet wasn't working last night and I had to get to bed because of this:
Yes, I'm definitely not looking my best right now. My eye was sore earlier this week and when I put my contacts in on Thursday morning it seemed blurry and felt funny. My left eye looked a little bloodshot. So I took the contacts out and drove out to Michigan without them. I had a good visit with our daughter Allison in Chicago and got to Michigan that evening and noticed that my eye was even more red. I went to bed hoping it was just from the long drive and prayed it would be better in the morning.

It was not. It was worse. I called our insurance and the nurse suggested going to urgent care because it sounded like pink eye. I was pretty sure it was contact related and I would end up going to an opthamologist. I talked with Gary and we decided maybe I could wait until I was back in Iowa and could see my doctor there. (Have I lost all of you yet? I'll try to wrap it up for everyone who is hanging with me.) When I called to get an appointment they suggested I see someone here and then follow up with them on Monday. So, I called an office close to my conference. They were full but I could go to Rockford (north of Grand Rapids). I said I would wait. 

I thought maybe I'd just wait til Monday and hope it got better. A while later I realized I couldn't wait. It was hurting more and I felt terrible. I called the office back to get the Rockford appointment and they just happened to have a 1:45 at the office right by my conference. Thank you, God! I had to miss a couple of sessions at Breathe, but I'm so glad I went. The doctor found a contact in my left eye! He got it out and gave me some drops to put in. 

Whew! Long boring story done! All of that to say that I'm hopefully on the mend and my eye will keep getting better. Before I knew what the problem was, I worried that it may be pink eye and I thought noone would want to be around me. Now that I know what happened I feel a little better, but I'm still very self-conscious about it. When you don't look your best it's hard to feel confident. I wanted to meet lots of people at this writers conference and connect with old friends. I have connected with friends I've met in other years, and that has been great, but I just feel...yuck.

This experience has been challenging me, though. I realize that I have some issues I need to deal with. There are thoughts and feelings that cause infection in my soul, just like the forgotten contact started an infection in my eye. My eye wasn't getting enough air and it wasn't good for it at all. Our souls can get cut off from God's life giving air when we keep things too long, too. We can't just wait and hope things will get better. That doesn't work. We need to get rid of them so the infection can clear.

Grudges. Bitterness. Resentment. Fear. Shame. Rage. A judgmental attitude. Just like I didn't know I had a contact stuck in my eye, sometimes we hardly realize we have these things affecting our souls. We need the Great Physician (God) to point them out and lovingly remove them for us. Then the healing can begin.

"...for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose." (Philippians 2:13 NIV)

Do you have an infection? How can focusing on God help you to let Him remove whatever is causing it and start you on the road to healing?

Friday, October 2, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Looking (Part 2)

I want to continue the theme we began last week and share a few more thoughts about looking. You see, I blew it again and neglected to really look at something.

We bought a new GPS recently. I took it out of the box and tried to hook it up to the computer to make sure it had the most current maps. I ran into a little problem. I couldn't plug it in.

I looked and looked at my cord and the GPS and couldn't figure out how to plug that cord in. I even called TomTom and explained my predicament. Granted, we had a bit of a language barrier, but he seemed puzzled by my inability to plug in the new cord. I earnestly explained that the slot on my GPS was about a half inch wide but the cord end was only about a quarter inch wide and I didn't see how it could plug in. He asked some good questions and then basically told me to take it to a Walmart or BestBuy and ask someone to show me how to plug it in. I was slightly offended and hung up feeling frustrated. I know how to plug things in. I'm not dumb. I even tried forcing the plug into the little slot, but it didn't work. I left the GPS by the computer and moved on to other activities.

A couple of days later I had to do something with our old GPS. I picked it up and saw immediately what I had done wrong with our new GPS.

The cord had to turn sideways and plug into the slot made especially for it. The slot I somehow neglected to see when I was looking all over my GPS for a place to plug into. Sigh. How could I have missed it? It was right there in front of me, but I didn't see it until I saw an example I could follow.

This situation made me think of lots of times when we don't see something. Sometimes we aren't looking (like last week's pedometer), but sometimes we're looking as hard as we can but we still miss something.

Maybe we want to have a better marriage or a healthier relationship with our children or a stronger spiritual life, but it seems like we can't figure out where to "plug in." We have certain ideas but they don't seem to fit when we look at our situation. We might even try to force the connection, but it doesn't work.

We need an example. When we see what a good marriage looks like, or a healthy parent/child relationship, or a strong faith walk, we just might be able to turn our thoughts and actions around so that we can get plugged in and improve in those areas.

Of course, Jesus is our finest example. He shows us the way to live and love and thrive. Look to Him first. Talking to Him and reading the Bible will give you so much guidance in every relationship you have here on this earth. When you know that your relationship with Him is solid, then you can look around for other examples and follow them. 

Ask questions when you see someone who has a good marriage, a healthy relationship with their children, or a strong faith in God. They'll help you plug in and grow in so many ways.

"Anyone who claims to be intimate with God ought to live the same kind of life Jesus lived." (1 John 2:6 The Message)

Are you frustrated because you can't figure out where to "plug in" and improve some of life's problems? How can focusing on God help you to follow Jesus' example and find godly people to learn from here on earth?

Friday, September 25, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Looking

I carry a fitbit pedometer around in my pocket every day. I love it when I can log 10,000 steps. Even when I can't, I just feel like I'm doing more to be healthy when I pat my pocket and know the fitbit is in there.

In the last couple of weeks, I got kind of lazy about looking at my fitbit. I figured it would keep track of the steps and calories and I could sync it to the app on my phone when I got a chance later. I just transferred it from one pocket to another and hardly looked at it.

This morning after I exercised, I finally looked at it. This is what I saw:

No amount of tapping would make the display come to life, so I figured the battery must have been completely dead. Great, I thought, I've been carrying it around for nothing. I wonder how long it hasn't been working?

I replaced the battery and tapped the screen, expecting to see "0" for everything. 0 steps taken. 0 calories burned. 0 miles traveled. Instead, I saw this:

I think it was still keeping track of my steps this morning, even though I couldn't see the display.

Of course, this got my brain going in all different directions. I began to wonder how many other things I drag around through life without even looking at them. Maybe it's actual items like too many books. I can hear all of my writer friends gasp at that, but I'm not talking about the ones that are like "family." I'm talking about the ones you never seem to find time to read or that were just okay the first time you read them. Maybe it's the piles of papers that clutter our desks and flood over into the rest of the house. Sure, there's some good, important stuff in there, but most of it we could probably throw away and never miss it. Maybe it's emotional stuff like a grudge we can't let go of, a regret we can't move on from, or a fear that paralyzes us.

It's time to stop dragging all of that junk around with us. Let's look at it and get rid of the things that aren't working for us, the things that hold us back, the things that steal our joy.

I also thought about the Bible. Just like my blank fitbit, many people keep their Bibles closed and drag it around like that:

It might look nice, but if it stays closed it's just a useless thing we leave on a shelf or carry around just to look good. I couldn't see how many steps I had walked today when I finally checked my fitbit, and if I don't open my Bible then I rob myself of the opportunity to hear from God. I can't read His promises, His instructions, His words of encouragement, or His commands if I leave my Bible closed.

I put a battery in my fitbit and it came back to life. I open my Bible and wonderful words rush into my life. I'm glad I open it most days, and this little fitbit fiasco reminds me to keep looking. You'll find great and awesome things when you decide to really look.


Are you dragging around physical or emotional items that aren't working? How can focusing on God help you to really look at things in your life and the Bible so that you can live a joyful, fulfilling life?

















Friday, September 18, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Potential

I made a cherry pie for my husband tonight. He loves cherry pie, so when I bought some pie filling at the store today I shouldn't have been surprised when he started thinking about pie and asked me to make one. 

I didn't mind, really. It's a little work, but it doesn't take too long and it makes him so happy. In fact, almost every time I make a cherry pie I think of the time he took a bite of pie, gave a contented sigh, and announced, "This is why I married you!"

I was shocked and amused. This was at least ten years into our marriage and I didn't even know how to make a pie when we first got married. I still chuckle when I think of his statement. I hope that's not the only reason he married me, but I think I understand the reasoning behind "This is why I married you!"

I think it was the potential that he saw. I couldn't cook or bake very well when we first got married, but I think he looked forward to when I would learn and be able to make delicious meals and treats for him. I still get stuck in the frozen pizza rut sometimes, but I have also learned to make some really great meals when I put in the effort.

I was just an awkward, shy girl when we got married, but he saw the potential and looked forward to when I would become a great mom and help him raise some awesome kids. I was scared at first (I cried almost all the way home from the hospital after Erin was born because I was so nervous) but I have learned to do a pretty good job, if I do say so myself.

Sometimes we don't even see our potential because it seems so different from what we're used to. When we were first married I was so insecure that I rarely said a word in the Bible studies I attended at our church. I never would have imagined actually enjoying public speaking and leading numerous Bible studies. The potential was there, it just took a while for it to develop.

All of us have potential. That's what I'd like us to focus on today. You may not see it. You may not feel it, but it's there. Potential to do amazing things is right there inside you because Christ's power is at work in you. Don't ever think that you're worthless or that you'll never amount to anything. God is able to do more than all we ask or imagine. He loves us so much, accepts us completely, and He will do incredible things in our lives as we live for Him. He sees our potential. 

I'll bet He even smiles as He looks at us often, gives a contented sigh, and exclaims, "This is why I made you!"

"Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen." (Ephesians 3:20-21 NIV)

Do you see your own potential? How can focusing on God help you to grow and develop and live up to the potential God sees in us?

Friday, September 11, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Hummingbirds

I've been having fun the last few days. Several hummingbirds have been visiting the feeder outside my kitchen window. I love to watch them hover and sip from the feeder. There are three openings, but of course they can't all drink at once. No, one will start to drink and then another hummer zooms in and they both take off. Seems kind of silly to me that they can't just all drink at once, but maybe that's a topic for another Focus Friday.


For today, I'd like us to focus on how vigilant these tiny birds are. One sat down to rest on my shepherd's hook. I guess he needed to rest his tired little wings for a few minutes. He didn't just relax, though. His (or her) little head moved from side to side, watching for danger. When his "friend" decided to attack, this little guy was ready to take off and fly.
It got me thinking about how vigilant I am. Truth is, I sometimes get lazy about keeping watch and being ready to flee danger or temptation. I can get comfortable right where I am, and I don't want to think about moving from where I sit (literally and figuratively), no matter what dangers may come my way.

I need to remember my little hummingbird example and keep looking around in the midst of my activities and leisure. I need to keep talking to the Holy Spirit, no matter what I'm doing. I want to be ready to move when the Spirit says move.

"And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the Lord's people." (Ephesians 6:18 NIV)

Are you ready to move if the Spirit shows you that danger is coming or that God has something He wants you to do? How can focusing on God help you be more aware and vigilant in the midst of whatever you may be doing?

Friday, September 4, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Hope

(I wrote the following article today for our church newsletter and decided it would work well for Focus Friday with just a few little changes)

Around this time last year, my life began to spin out of control. I was excited to start a new teaching job, but it didn’t take too long to see that something was wrong. I was doing a good job, but I got more and more nervous, focusing on the things that weren’t going well instead of the many things that were. I loved the students, but I worried too much about whether they liked me as a teacher and it crushed me when many of them didn’t like Spanish in spite of my best efforts.

I prayed, I read my Bible, I listened to encouraging songs on the way to school, but those negative thoughts swirled through my mind so much that I couldn’t keep ahead of them. I kept telling myself, “You just need to relax!” but that was easier said than done. I had trouble sleeping, I lost my appetite and felt sick to my stomach, I couldn’t concentrate to make lesson plans and that added to my stress. By the time I went to the doctor for my depression and anxiety, it had gone on too long. Seeing a counselor and taking medication was helpful, but those things take some time to work. One weekend I found that I had no hope left. I didn’t see how I could continue teaching and I didn’t know how I could stop. I was stuck in a very bad place and I wanted out. Thankfully, I talked to Gary about all of this and we decided to go to the hospital. Being admitted gave me time for the medicines to work and to get away from the stress. I felt so much love from our church family and other family members and friends as they all prayed for me and sent wonderful cards and notes. I decided to resign from the teaching position and when I got home I concentrated on getting well again.

When I went to the hospital I felt absolutely no hope. Of course, this added to my guilt because as a Christian I knew that I did have hope in Jesus. I just didn’t feel it. In the months since then, the hope has come back. Life is good again. It’s not perfect. It can’t ever be, but I’m learning to hold on to hope and keep choosing to stay well instead of sliding back down into depression. I am feeling so much better than I did last year.

One of the things that helped was talking with a friend who also deals with depression. She recommended a book by Brad Hoefs called “Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis” and she talked about her desire to start a Fresh Hope support group in Hampton (they did start one - it meets twice a month on Monday nights). As we talked more, I became interested as well. Fresh Hope is a peer to peer Christian support group for those who have a mental health diagnosis and their loved ones.

We’re starting a group here on Thursday, September 10. It will meet weekly at The Corner on Main Street in Allison, Iowa from 7 to 8:30 p.m.There is no need to register ahead of time, you can just come if you have had a mental health diagnosis or if you know and love someone who does. You don’t even have to commit to coming weekly, just come check it out and see if it would be helpful for you.

You can find out more about Fresh Hope at freshhope.us and also find out if there is a group that meets near you. Please email me (robyn mulder at hot mail dot com) if you have any questions or just need to talk. I don’t want anyone to get stuck in that dark, hopeless place. There is hope!

"I remember my affliction and my wandering, the bitterness and the gall. I well remember them, and my soul is downcast within me. Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope: Because of the LORD's great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:19-23 NIV)

Have you lost your hope? How can focusing on God help you to get hope back and live a fulfilling, exciting (not perfect) life?

                                                                       
                                            

Friday, August 28, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Letting Go

And then there were three.

In the course of about two weeks we're going from a family six living in our house to a little group of three. Poor Dylan. Outnumbered by his parents for the next three years until he, too, goes off to college.

Two weeks ago we dropped Erin off at the airport for her semester in Germany. She's working at a military base doing daycare, working with infants. Last weekend we took Blake to Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa for his freshman year of college. He's going to be studying computer science. On Sunday we will take Allison to Chicago for her semester internship with Easter Seals. She'll be working in the Willis Tower.

I've had lots of emotions bouncing around in me over the last month or so. I'm excited for all three of my college age children. I'm praying for them and I can't wait to see what God does in their lives as they finish/begin college and get out into the working world. I'm also nervous for them. I know what a scary world this can be at times. I know what a cruel place it can sometimes be. I know that things don't always go the way you plan and I know that many times they will be disappointed by their own failings and the failings of others.

I wish I could clear a path for them, hold their hands and walk with them, reassure them that everything is going to be fine when the bad times come. But I can't do that. Even if I could, it wouldn't be healthy for me or for them. Parents raise their children so that they eventually move out and live on their own. Parents are supportive but they can't handicap their children by hovering and helping too much. We've done the best we can and there comes a time when our children need to leave the nest and learn to do things on their own.

Hopefully we have been diligent about showing our children what it means to have a relationship with God. Even if they stray for a time, we pray that they will come back and grow in their own relationship with God and we know that that is what will really help our children thrive in life. God is the only One who can be there constantly for our children. He will guide them, comfort them, challenge them, and protect them.

It's time for me to practice letting go. It's time for me to trust that God has each of my children and He'll never let them go. It's time for me to focus on supporting my children, but not stress out so much about whether I've done everything right (or wrong) and prepared them well for what life will bring. Anything I forgot to tell them, they can get from Google, anyway.

"Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous.Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go [and wherever your children go]." (Joshua 1:9 ESV - brackets mine)

Are you letting go of a college age child this fall? How can focusing on God help you to make that transition well and move forward trusting that God will be there for your child when you can't be?

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus on Unworthiness

I don't have it in me to write a long post tonight. We took Erin to the airport last Sunday and she is now working at a daycare on a military base in Germany until Dec. 19.

On Friday we took Blake to Northwestern College in Orange City, Iowa and got him settled in his dorm. We enjoyed meeting his roommate, Blake Miller, and his parents. They are going to have a great year!

Next Sunday we'll take Allison to Chicago and move her into her apartment so she can do an internship with Easter Seals in the Willis Tower for a semester.

Three of our four children will be pretty far away from us for the next four months...and I'm fighting feelings of unworthiness. I feel like I haven't prepared them well enough as they get out on their own. I'm not a complete mess, but I need to keep reminding myself that I have done my best and they'll be fine. There are others who can answer any questions they have and help them through any challenges they face.

God loves them and He loves me completely, even when I feel unworthy. I want to share an article by Tricia Goyer with you this week. I found it in my inbox after we got home from dropping off Blake. It sums up what I'm feeling and how I can take steps to change my "stinking thinking."

Her article is called "Am I Enough? Overcoming Feelings of Unworthiness as a Mom." It was originally published at thebettermom.com. You can get to it on my Facebook page, I hope. The link I tried in his blog post sent you to my blogger site and would have let anyone wreak havoc with my blog, so I took it out. I hope you can find the article. It's pretty great.

I pray that all of you realize how worthy you are in whatever situation you may find yourselves in.

"...you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that your faith--of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire--may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed." (1 Peter 1:6b-7 NIV)

Have you been dealing with feelings of unworthiness in your parenting, marriage, job, or some other area? How can focusing on God help you do your best and not get upset about your inevitable shortcomings?

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus on Deleting

It's another "Sorry Saturday" (and almost a "Sorry Sunday") but this time it's not entirely my fault. We were camping this week and the campground did not have their internet working on Friday evening. I know, I know, I could have scheduled a post on Thursday when it was working or maybe even could have had one ready to go before we went camping, but this is the best I can do for right now. Today we had a group of kids and sponsors from our youth group come to the campground and we had fun boating, swimming, and cooking at the campfire. What a great group!

So, it's a "Sorry Saturday" night and I need to post this before I go to bed. We have to get up at about 2:30 a.m. so we can get our daughter Erin to the airport by 5:00 for a 7:20 flight. She's going to be doing daycare on a military base in Germany this semester. I'm sure I'll tell you more about that in a future "Focus Friday" sometime.

I had lots of themes swimming around in my head this week for Focus Friday, but I finally settled on one at about 10:00 p.m. Deleting.

You see, at about 9:30 I sat down to play one game of Mahjong tiles on my iPad. "I'll just play one game before I update my blog," I thought. I didn't complete the level in 5 minutes so I had to try again. Missed it. I have to get those three stars for finishing in less than 5 minutes. Tried again. Missed. Realized I just might have a problem with self control. Tried one more time. At 10:00 I looked up and decided that was enough. I held my finger on the app and hit the X to delete it.

This has been a long time coming. I had been spending more and more time on that game throughout the day, even as I thought about other things I could be/should be doing. It was time to get rid of it once and for all. My kids were starting to tease me about that being my new "Candy Crush." I noticed that too often someone in my family would be talking to me and I would keep my eyes down, frantically trying to find matches to click on and get rid of those dumb tiles.

Now, Mahjong Tiles is not a bad game. If I could just play it once in a while for a few minutes that would be fine. But when it starts to get out of control it's time to delete. 

As I look at my life, I realize there have been times where I've had to delete something in order to follow God more closely. Sometimes it has been a hobby that got too time consuming, sometimes it has been a television program that was feeding my mind too much garbage. As I think about it, there are some thoughts and attitudes that I need to keep deleting whenever they show up. 

Negative thoughts about myself, judgmental thoughts about others, pride, shame, insecurity, fear, anxiety...all of those things need to be deleted. I have a great big God who loves me completely and that love frees me up to feel good about myself, show compassion to everyone I meet, stay humble, have good self-esteem, have confidence, be courageous, and have trust that God is in control.

He really is in control. That's why most things in our lives that get out of control need to be deleted.

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off [Delete?] everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us," (Hebrews 12: 1 NIV - my question in brackets)

Is there anything in your life that is a bit out of control? What do you need to delete in order to focus more completely on God? 

Friday, August 7, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on How We're Known

We had a visitor at our morning workout group this morning. Kristen introduced me to her niece, Liberty, and we smiled at each other. Then Abbie, sprawled out comfortably on the floor, pointed back over her shoulder at me and started to say, "She's the one - " and my mind jumped in that split second to all sorts of things she could say to finish that phrase...

"She's the one I was telling you about. She's our pastor's wife and she's a beautiful singer."
"She's the one who is such a great, godly example for me."
"She's the one who does such awesome children's messages."
"She's the one who leads such fascinating Bible studies."
"She's the one who writes that great blog I was telling you about."

Do you think she said any of those things? No. No, she didn't.

Instead, in that split second, she finished it this way: "She's the one with the circus peanuts."

I laughed, but I also cringed. You see, yesterday I had shown up at workout with an empty circus peanuts bag and had admitted that I had bought it the day before and eaten most of it all by myself. Kristen was excited because she didn't think that anyone else even liked circus peanuts. She loved them because they reminded her of playing checkers with her grandpa. He would give them to her while they played.

So now here we were a day later and Kristen had eaten circus peanuts the night before! They had stopped at a convenience store and she had picked some up and let her kids try them (and she ate the rest, I'm sure.) Of course, she blamed it on me. And that's the first impression Liberty had of me. "The one with the circus peanuts."

It made me stop and think. How do I want to be known? I need to be acting in ways that show that to people. "She's the one that's nice." "She's the one that loves everybody." "She's the one that tries to follow God every single day." "She's the one that is patient when things get chaotic."

I don't want to be known as "the one who can't control herself when she gets a bag of candy corn, a box of marshmallow peeps, or a bag of circus peanuts." I'd better start working on it if I'm going to turn that reputation around.

"A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold."(Proverbs 22:1 NIV)

How are you known? How can focusing on God help you to be known for important things like your character and personality instead of just what you like?


Friday, July 31, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on...(what was that again?...oh yeah)...Forgetting

I almost forgot to post today. Seriously, I did. I mean, you probably think I almost forget every week since I post so late at night, but usually I'm thinking about Focus Friday most of the day and just put off writing it. Today I didn't remember it was Friday until about 4 p.m. Forgetting seems like a good subject to focus on this week. I forgot several other things today. 

I took the boys to get their physicals today and I couldn't remember if Blake had chicken pox as a kid. I vaguely remembered seeing a picture of him with spots, but I didn't remember a doctor's visit or lots of calamine lotion. I felt a little bit like a failure as a mom. Shouldn't I remember things like that?

This afternoon I was piddling around with some paperwork and the phone rang at 2:45. "Robyn, I have you down for a color at 2:30, did I mess up?" "No, I did!" I yelped and I assured my hair dresser that I would be right there. Luckily she only lives a few blocks away. I felt a little bit like a failure because I kept her waiting and wasn't responsible.

After supper I decided to read the end of "After the Leaves Fall" by Nicole Baart. It was great and I started to set the book down when I noticed a little lump. I opened the book and saw one Black Hills gold earring and I suddenly remembered that I had taken my earrings out at the salon and had stuck them in my book. Don't ask - I have no idea why I thought that would be a good place to put them. Anyway, I read my book for a few minutes while I was there so I checked my purse and then called Susan to see if was there. Yes, it was, so I ran back over to pick it up. I felt a little bit like a failure for losing something special to me in such a weird way.

I'm sure there were other goofs today, I just don't remember them. 

I really felt silly when all of these things happened, but as it nears midnight I'm realizing something very interesting. I forgot and goofed up, but life went on. The nurse didn't really care if Blake had chicken pox as a kid, he still needed a booster shot. My hairdresser wasn't upset with me being a little late, and she just laughed and said she was glad she didn't step on my earring before she found it. I moved on from each of these goofs pretty well. I felt "a little bit like a failure" but I didn't dwell on any of those situations.

The thing is, in the not so distant past these mistakes would have really upset me. I would have felt like a huge failure and probably would have cried a little about each of them, even if it was just by myself. Mistakes used to mean I was a terrible person and I wondered if I could ever do anything right. In recent years I've been learning to let mistakes go. (Maybe that's because I'm getting so much practice!) 

I'm learning to separate my worth from what I do. I've been reminded of that as I study "The Search For Significance" with a group of women on Mondays. God loves me completely and unconditionally. His love isn't dependent on how I act and it isn't taken away for the mistakes I make. It is always there. Now that's something I won't ever forget.

"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 3:13b-14 NIV)

Do you ever forget things? How can focusing on God help you to separate yourself from your mistakes so that you can remember that He loves you completely?

Friday, July 24, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Thinking

Sometimes when you go on vacation, you leave something important at home...like your brain. There's something about getting out of the normal routine that can trip us up and cause us to make silly mistakes we wouldn't normally make.

Once when we lived in Minnesota we left the key to the boat at home on top of the fridge and didn't realize it until the boat was in the water at the lake. Luckily, we lived about a half hour away and it just cost us some time and a little gas money.

When I studied in Spain I took a trip to southern Spain during Easter break and stayed with another girl at a friend of a friend's apartment. The family that lived there wasn't home when we arrived. We didn't think much about the light not being on in the refrigerator, we were only there for a couple of days and we didn't use it much. The family was pretty upset when they got home, though. They had forgotten to plug it in before they left and most of the food was spoiled by the time they got there. I'm still not sure why we didn't figure that one out...fridges should be cold no matter where you live!

This camping trip has been no exception. It's our first time out using the camper and boat this summer (I know, sad, right?) and we remembered almost everything we've needed. One year we forgot our striker and matches the first time we camped and had to borrow a striker from the camp host so we could start our campfire. We had fun boating yesterday and laid all of our towels out on the picnic table to dry when we got back. I didn't give them another thought and noone else did, either. I didn't even think of them when I heard it start raining in the middle of the night. I wish I had, though, because we have a bunch of sopping wet towels now. I didn't think!

So often our lack of thinking can get us into even bigger problems than a bunch of wet towels. It can get us into relationship problems, financial troubles, and messes that cause frustration and lots of time to fix. Let's focus on asking God to help us think, even when we're away from home or very tired. He promises to help us.

If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you. (James 1:5 NIV)

Have you ever done something foolish because you were too tired or out of your normal routine and setting? How can focusing on God help you to act wisely even when you're in those situations?

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus on Spinning

     This has been a busy summer. I missed Focus Friday last week because we were vacationing in Tennessee with my family. We had a great time celebrating my parents' 50th anniversary and taking in some of the fun activities in the Pigeon Forge area. 
     On Friday we went to an amusement park together. Dollywood had lots of rides, shows, and attractions. Some of our group left midway through the day due to the sweltering heat, but our family and my nephew toughed it out until the park closed. We found lots of rides we wanted to go on and we wanted to see the fireworks at the end of the day.
     We went on all of the roller coasters and big rides early in the day. In the middle of the afternoon we figured out that we hadn't visited a section of the park that had lots of smaller rides like the scrambler. We headed over there and my husband found something really fun...the teacup ride.
     Now, that may not sound very fun to you. Pretty tame, right? Not for my thrill seeking husband. Gary rode it first with our daughter Erin. He got that teacup spinning as soon as the ride started and it didn't quit spinning until it stopped with a jerk when the attendant stopped the ride. It was fun to see Gary laughing and Erin trying to keep her head from going back from the force of the spinning.
     Next, he got right back on with Dylan and Allison. It was a little harder to spin it as fast with three people, but he still got it spinning like crazy.
     We rode a few other rides, then came back to do it again. This time I videotaped as Gary rode "Lemon Twist" with Allison. My son Blake and nephew Phillip were in another car, spinning like mad as well. We laughed from the side as we watched because Allison could not keep her head from flying back. They got off and I decided that I would be missing out on something if I didn't experience this ride. I knew I couldn't ride with my husband or I might throw up (I had almost lost it on the dizzy disk a little earlier). I grabbed my son and we ran to get in line. He got it spinning right away and we laughed as the world began to spin. Pretty soon it wasn't funny anymore. I started to feel a little sick but I hung in there. The whole world was a blur around us. I could not see one single thing outside of our little teacup. The only thing I could see clearly was my son, sitting right across from me. We endured the ride and I laughed as I walked shakily back to the rest of our family. I'm glad I tried it. 
     In the week since then, I've been thinking about spinning. Sometimes our lives seem to spin out of control, just like the "Lemon Twist" ride. Broken relationships, illness, frustrations, financial difficulties, and all sorts of other problems can leave us reeling. We hang on for dear life and try not to throw up as everything around us seems to be a blur. The only thing not moving, the only thing we actually can focus on, is God. He's the only constant in our lives, especially when circumstances seem unsure. We can fix our eyes on His loving face and trust that the rest of the world will still be there when we stop spinning out of control. He'll steady us as we move on, even if we're still dizzy and shaken. 
     Life can be a wild ride, but I wouldn't want to miss a moment of it, especially with my Savior right there with me. 

"Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways." (Proverbs 4:25-26 NIV)

Does your life seem to spin out of control at times? How can keeping your focus on God help you to get through those times and keep moving on?



                      

Friday, July 3, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Names

     "What's in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet...."
     How about it? Do you agree with Shakespeare and the quote above from Romeo and Juliet? It's true that roses would smell just as lovely if they were called something else, but when it comes to people, names are extremely important.
     Think about how many television reporters and politicians have been ridiculed for an incorrect pronunciation of someone's name, even though the majority of people would also have trouble with it if they just saw it and hadn't heard it before.
     My name is important to me. Robyn. I love that my parents chose to spell my name with a "y," even though I need to clarify that when I'm giving info to someone. I always feel the tiniest twinge of sadness when I get a card or email from someone and it's addressed to "Robin." I brush it aside and I honestly don't hold any grudges about it, but there's this little thought every time: They don't really know me.
     That's why I'm pretty careful about spelling people's names correctly. I know it can hurt a little when names are misspelled. 
     Even worse is when we call someone by the wrong name entirely. If your name is Eileen or Elaine, you may not hear me say your name very often because my brain refuses to keep them straight. I've resorted to picturing the secretary at school leaning at a 45 degree angle so I can call her "Eileen" as I should. I picture the Elaines I know screaming "Eeeeeee" so I can remember them. Sometimes that doesn't even work.
    The other day I was in a grocery store and I saw a friend from church. I smiled and said hi, but my mind couldn't come up with her name for some reason. Wessels, I thought. Yes, that's right. Her husband is Gerald. Her name? Blank. We chatted for a minute and then I mumbled, "Bye Wanda."
     I got exactly one aisle away and started kicking myself. Wanda? It's Karen! How could you call her Wanda? Maybe she didn't hear you. But what if she did? I picked up a couple of items, but when I saw her again at the checkout, I asked, "Did you hear me call you Wanda?" Of course she didn't, but we had a good laugh about it and I made sure to call her Karen a couple of times for good measure. I knew her name, but our brains malfunction at times so we all have to cut each other a little slack.
     Aren't you glad there's one person who always knows your name? He knew you before you were created in your mother's womb. He knows exactly how your name is spelled and he'll never forget and call you by the wrong name.
     Francesca Battistelli has a song on her newest album called "He Knows My Name." It's a wonderful reminder that we don't have to worry about everyone here on earth knowing our name. We don't have to be famous. God loves us and knows us completely. That thought can give us comfort and confidence when we might be feeling lonely or misunderstood. Try to brush aside the disappointment with not being known here on earth and draw on the joy of being known, completely, by the God of the universe. He knows your name!
     Oh, and if you aren't sure of someone's name when you see them around town, don't take a wild guess. Just smile and say, "It's so good to see you!" Right, Wanda?

"Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine." (Isaiah 43:1b NIV)

Do you have trouble remembering names? How can remembering that God knows your name help you to live more joyfully and confidently?