Friday, March 27, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Cause and Effect

Exciting things are happening here in Allison. Work started today on the building that will house "Allison Little Lambs Child Care." Lots of volunteers came to do some work gutting the inside of the building. We got quite a bit done in just a few hours.

Well, before going to help with some of this work, I decided to put on some old jeans and a sweatshirt. The sweatshirt worked just fine, but I ran into a little problem with the old jeans. One pair could never have buttoned and the pair that I did get on would button but I could barely breathe that way. Yikes! When did this happen? I had to put on a newer pair that were already stretched out to fit.

This got me thinking about cause and effect. I thought back to all of the candy corn I ate this fall, and the many marshmallow peeps I've consumed as Easter gets closer. To give myself a little credit, I haven't eaten nearly as many peeps as I've wanted to eat. Now add on the ice cream, nutty bars, oreos, and (lately) many handfuls of semi-sweet chocolate chips and I can see why my old jeans won't button. There was a cause (overeating) and there is an effect (clothes that don't fit). 

Unfortunately, the solution is simple, but not easy. Eat less, move more. It's time to spend a few more minutes on the treadmill and not reach for a snack whenever I get stressed or bored. There is no pill I can take that will magically melt away the pounds. It's just going to take some hard work to get back into those jeans and feel more comfortable in my clothing.

I wonder if almost everything in our lives can be explained by cause and effect.

Treating others badly can lead to strained relationships.
Cheating on your taxes can lead to an audit and jail time.
Procrastinating can lead to missed deadlines and lots of stress.
Ignoring a friend can lead to loneliness when they move on to someone who appreciates them more.
Yelling at your children can lead to resentment that can last for years.

I don't want to try to list every negative cause and effect. I'm sure you can think of many examples from your own life or someone else's. 

Luckily, it works in a positive way as well.

Showing love to your spouse or children can result in warm feelings returned to you.
Getting things done on time can lead to a feeling of accomplishment and fulfillment.
Writing someone a letter can brighten someone's day and strengthen your relationship.
Learning to manage an illness well (physical or mental) can help you to thrive in life instead of just gloomily coping with symptoms.

I hope you can apply this to your own life and see where you may need to change some "causes" so that you will get different "effects." It's going to take some hard work, but it will be worth it in the end. As a friend of mine encouraged me this week: Don't give up, don't give up, don't give up!

"All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty." (Proverbs 14:23 NIV)

Is there something you need to be doing differently so that you get a better "effect?" How can focusing on Jesus help you to not give up and learn to do things more effectively?

Friday, March 20, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Pushing Through

I've had a couple of days of not feeling very good. I'm not sure if it's the new medication I'm trying, hormones, or a failure to think in right ways about the everyday challenges and tasks of life. I'm trying to show myself a little grace and not expect too much as I also try to turn my thinking around.

I'm reminded of an idea I read about in "Fresh Hope: Living Well in Spite of a Mental Health Diagnosis" by Brad Hoefs. One of the principles in the book is the idea of choosing to be well. To "push through" even though you may not feel like doing something. You may not even feel like you want to get well because you feel so miserable or hopeless. Along with medicine and help from others, it's a choice we make to think and act in right ways so that we will get better.

And so I got out of bed at 8:20 even though I felt like staying there all morning. I dealt with an insurance issue even though I had been dreading it. I did the dishes today even though it would have been easier to leave them. I also made sure to do some things just for myself. I played piano and read and just sat and relaxed.

Yes, I got all weepy for a while and this got me feeling worried about the depression and what was going on, but I found out that I didn't have to stay that way all day long. It didn't have to get worse, at least not today. I could make some choices that led to better feelings.

Depression is difficult. It stinks. But it can get better. We just have to hang in there and keep making choices that help us get well.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:13 NIV)

Do you have trouble pushing through some days? How can focusing on God help you to make good choices that will lead to more healthy ways of living? 

Friday, March 13, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Trust

In 2008 I attended Rocky Mountain High in Estes Park, Colorado. At this youth event I had the chance to climb Hallet Peak one day. Gary was far ahead hiking with a friend of ours, so I was hiking alone. I made it up the mountain and then headed back down. The views were spectacular and I had lots of time to think as I walked along by myself. At one point I noticed huge jagged boulders downhill from the trail I was on.

All of a sudden I found myself thinking about throwing myself off the trail and onto the boulders. This was a shocking, unwelcome thought which I immediately rejected as I moved a little closer to the safer side of the trail. As I walked I asked God, "What is that all about? Why did I just think about jumping down onto those dangerous boulders?" I sensed His answer almost instantly. "You don't trust me." I tried to argue with Him, pointing out that I had been a Christian for most of my life, but I kept pondering that thought in the days that followed. Even now, years later, there are times when I sense God urging me to trust Him more. 

I say that I trust Him, but really living that out can be difficult. Do I really trust Him when things don't go my way? Do I trust Him when health problems come up? Do I trust Him when one of my children makes a poor decision? Do I trust Him when I'm not sure about the future?

My devotions from "Jesus Calling" yesterday (March 12) pointed out that waiting, trusting, and hoping are all connected, like "golden strands interwoven to form a strong chain." Trusting is the main strand and the others strengthen the link between ourselves and God.

I don't think it was a coincidence that I picked out a CD today by FFH that I hadn't listened to for a while and one song in particular stood out: What If Your Best  (It's on their CD "Wide Open Spaces") As we continue to focus on trust I'd like to share the words of this song with you.

What If Your Best by FFH

I'm trying hard to keep from falling off this wheel
Trying hard to keep so still
As you're shaping, and remaking
Something new is bound to surface
Something bound to bring you fame
Something sure to make you great
Something you can use
But I am only clay and clay doesn't get to choose

I want your best but what if your best is brokenness
Would I be broken?
I want your best but what if it's less than what I ask
And what I'm hoping?
What if your best is here in the waiting,
here in the going thru the motions?
I'll still be trusting all I am, and all I have, 
and nothing less to Potter's hands

I'm trying hard to keep from giving you advice
It's like teaching Shakespeare how to write
Or Monet, the way to paint another scene
But there's just something in this amateur that thinks
That my opinion's what you need
On how to work in me
But I am only clay, and clay probably shouldn't speak


Take my life and let it be consecrated just to thee
Take my voice and let me sing for you my King
Take my moments and my days and 
let them flow in ceaseless praise
For You always, for You


Only here for you to mould, I'm holding on, 
because I belong in Potter's hands


This song hit me as a beautiful reminder to trust what God is doing in our lives. Even when we're broken, we can keep trusting Him. I feel Him working in me, teaching me to really trust Him. I can't just say it with my mouth, I need to show it by how I live my life. I need to prove it by thinking and acting in right ways as I respond to whatever happens in life. Real trust will lead to peace and will glorify God.

"Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life." (Psalm 143:8 NIV)

Do you find it hard to trust God? How can trusting, and then waiting and hoping, draw us closer to God and strengthen our relationship with Him?

Friday, March 6, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Procrastination....Someday

Today is my birthday (I'm 49, in case you were wondering). It has been a wonderful day. I got up on time and exercised before putting in some time over at the church office. I didn't mind working on my birthday, especially when a really pretty plant was delivered midway through the morning. Friends dropped off cards and goodies and I've received so many greetings on Facebook. Gary gave me flowers and marshmallow peeps yesterday and Erin brought a dozen Scratch cupcakes and picked up chicken from Pizza Ranch on her way home from Cedar Falls. It was so nice to eat supper together and watch "Big Hero 6" with all 6 of us at home tonight.

I've had a great feeling all day today, and I'm so grateful for family and friends. I tried to forget about some of the things that could get me down if I thought about them too much.

I got a few chores done around the house, but I also didn't get many things done which have been niggling at the back of my mind. Our taxes need to be done and sent to our tax preparer. It won't take long, but I've been putting it off. I have insurance stuff to deal with and I've also been avoiding that. Maybe the most important thing I've been procrastinating about is writing. I think about it all the time, but I don't sit down and do it too often, except for this blog each week. 

Gary saw this on Facebook and turned his computer around to show it to me last night:

I haven't been playing solitaire and I haven't gotten back into Candy Crush Saga...but I have been playing Bookworm on my iPad way too much in recent days. I tell myself it's good for my brain to learn new words but in reality it has mostly been a way of escape. I don't feel like doing something or can't decide what I should do first, so I pull out the iPad and play until my letter tiles burst into flames. I know it's a poor use of time because I always jump and rush to close my iPad when I hear Gary coming in the house.

Procrastination has been a major character flaw in my life. It frustrates me and the rest of my family when I put things off. Sometimes I do a little better, but then I fall back into old habits again.

While looking for a Bible verse about procrastination, I found this great article by Rick Warren about why we often procrastinate. I know many of the reasons are true of me, and I'm going to keep trying to do things on time instead of waiting because of indecision, perfectionism, fear, anger, or laziness. 

But I think I'll wait until tomorrow. Today's my birthday!

"If you wait for perfect conditions, you'll never get anything done!" (Ecclesiastes 11:4 Living Bible)

Do you ever struggle with procrastination? How can focusing on God's love and His plans for you help you to do things on time instead of waiting?