Friday, May 29, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Pressing On

We started a morning workout group at church this week. Monday, Wednesday, and Friday morning we met at 5 a.m. (yes, 5 a.m.!) and sweated together through a half hour video working our abs, butt, and thighs. It didn't feel good to get up so early. It didn't always feel good to work our muscles. It didn't feel good on Tuesday morning when our muscles protested the efforts of the day before. It was hard, so why did we come back on Wednesday and Friday morning? I'll tell you in a minute.

Life can get hard sometimes. Everyone's journey is different, but you can be sure that everyone goes through difficulties from time to time. As you look at the lives of your friends and extended family members, you may think they have it all together and that life is easy, but I can pretty much guarantee that they deal with frustrations and problems on a regular basis.

So what does that mean for us? Do we get depressed because everyone struggles and has problems? Do we give up because life is just too hard?

No, my friends. We can't let ourselves go there. We press on, holding on to the hope that the difficulties will pass and life will get better. We do our best in whatever situation we find ourselves in and we treat others with love and kindness, knowing that they may be struggling with problems of their own.

May is mental health month, so this is a good time to focus on staying healthy emotionally. We do everything we can to keep a positive attitude and stay strong during the trials of life, but when things get overwhelming and we find ourselves struggling too much we need to be willing to ask for help. Maybe we start by asking our spouse or a good friend, but we may need to get professional help from our doctor or a good counselor. 

No matter what, we can't give up. We need to keep pressing on. Get help and keep going. As you get through the trial you will hopefully become stronger and the next trial will be a little easier to get through.

Back to our workout group. Why did we come back? We showed up and pressed on through the tough workout because we are hoping that it will get easier. We're hoping that our muscles will work better after pushing them several times a week. I think I could actually notice a little more strength this morning and that will keep me going back for more. I will keep pressing on and look forward to being in better shape.

I don't know where you're at in life right now, dear reader. No matter what, keep pressing on. It will be worth it. I promise.

"Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing." (James 1:2-4 NIV)

Do you need to press on through something right now? How can focusing on God help you to press on and get stronger spiritually, emotionally, and even physically?

Friday, May 22, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Mental Health

May is Mental Health Month, so it seems fitting to focus on that this week. There is still such a stigma associated with mental illness. People hesitate to talk about their struggles with mental health issues for a variety of reasons. Maybe they don't want to seem weak. Perhaps they are embarrassed to admit that they see a counselor or need to take medicine for their symptoms. We need to remove the stigma so that people get the help they need and live happier, more fulfilling lives in spite of a mental health diagnosis.

This week our courthouse held a special event to let people find out about local providers of resources for mental health. Gary and I were privileged to be included and provided information about Fresh Hope - a Christian support group that will be starting in Allison in September. (There is also a group in Hampton that will be starting in June.) Fresh Hope is a peer led support group for those who have been diagnosed with a mental health issue and for their loved ones. Most weeks there is a large group meeting and then the group divides so that those with a diagnosis can discuss the topic and those who are loved ones can discuss the topic and support each other. What's great about Fresh Hope is that it works alongside the medical community and encourages people to keep seeing their doctor and/or counselor and to keep taking their meds so that they can get well and stay well. We're excited about getting this group started and pray that it will touch many lives.

As we've talked with people in Allison and other nearby communities, we've realized that most people have someone in their life that has had a mental health diagnosis. At the event on Thursday, Joan Becker was there to sell and sign copies of her new book "Sentenced to Life." Her book tells the story of her son, Mark Becker, who shot and killed Coach Ed Thomas in Parkersburg in 2009. Mark suffered from paranoid schizophrenia at the time and is now serving a life sentence in prison. Hopefully, Joan's book will help people recognize the signs of mental illness in a loved one and will prompt them to get the help they need before something tragic happens.

We don't like to talk about mental illness, but by being more open about it we can encourage others to get help and not just suffer in silence with their symptoms.

"Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves have received from God. For just as the sufferings of Christ flow over into our lives, so also through Christ our comfort overflows." (2 Corinthians 1:3-5 NIV)

Do you struggle with mental illness or know someone who does? How can focusing on God as you work with doctors and counselors help you to get to a healthier place emotionally?

A few resources: - Fresh Hope - Rick Warren's - American Foundation for Suicide Prevention - National Alliance on Mental Illness

Friday, May 15, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Surviving

I had planned to write a sweet post this week about how much Blake has grown over the years and how proud we are of him as he graduates from high school on Sunday...


I have to finish finding pictures of him and get them up on poster board and/or into a slideshow.

We have to sort through awards and memorabilia stashed all over his room and see what we want to display.

We finally went shopping on Thursday so now I can start to make the banana split desserts Blake requested.

We have to do a little prep work so the chicken spaghetti can come together easily on Sunday after church. (Because split breasts were on sale and I like to make things harder than they have to be, I'll be spending a little more time cutting the chicken off the bone before cooking it.)

I should clean the house a little? (At least we don't have much family coming so most of that may be able to wait 'til after graduation.)

So, this week is not a sweet post about Blake's growing up years. It's a post about surviving without having 500 meltdowns between now and Sunday evening. It's a post about regret for procrastinating and not having the pictures done months ago (I knew this was coming, right?). It's a post about not beating myself up for all of the mistakes I think I've made over the years as I see my third child reach this milestone. It's a post about taking a deep breath and letting some things go. 

I don't feel extremely stressed right now, but I can feel the pressure building up as the hours tick by. A couple of days ago, one of my friends said she'd pray for me and that I should "take time to enjoy the journey."

And so I shall. Allison and I will have fun as we make the eight banana split desserts and cook up a bunch of chicken in the next couple of days. I will enjoy looking at pictures of our son as he has grown up into the young man he is today. I will stop and find something to laugh about if I feel like crying. 

This is going to be a great weekend. Congratulations to all of the graduates out there and their parents who have survived graduation party preparations and all of the other challenges throughout their childrens' lives. You did it!

"I will say of the LORD, 'He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.'" (Psalm 91:2 NIV)

Are you going through a busy, stressful time? How can focusing on God help you do more than just survive? 

Friday, May 8, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Trouble (Again)

(original image from - I added the text)

I'm still feeling pretty good emotionally as I move forward after my bout with depression back in the fall. I've had a few stressful moments and one day where I felt unreasonably angry about little things, but in general I'm feeling happy again.

As I read my devotions from "Jesus Calling" this morning, I realized that I probably am a bit unrealistic when it comes to happiness. I'm most happy when life is problem-free, but the devotional reminded me that "the absence of problems in your an unrealistic goal since in this world you will have trouble. You have an eternity of problem-free living reserved for you in heaven."

What a thought! An eternity of problem-free living sounds really good to me. I get irritated with lots of little problems that come up as I go through each week, and if a big problem comes up it can really throw me for a loop. The devotional went on to urge: "Take a lighthearted view of trouble, seeing it as a challenge that you and I together can handle."

Hmm, "lighthearted." Can we really see trouble like that? If we really believe that we can handle it together with Jesus I suppose we can take things a bit more lightly. The Proverbs 31 woman "can laugh at the days to come" (Proverbs 31:25b NIV) and so can we.

Toilet's backed up? Ha ha, we've got this, Jesus! (But please don't let it overflow!)

No money to pay the bills? Okay, Jesus, how are we going to get through this challenge?

A child is rebelling in some way? I'm going to keep smiling, Jesus, because I know you love me and my child. I can't wait to see what you do in their life!

We don't just laugh and ignore all of our problems, but we can seek a better attitude in the midst of whatever happens, knowing that Jesus is on our side.

How do you deal with problems? Do you take a "lighthearted" view of them? How can focusing on Jesus help you to handle them better?

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Paying Attention

I don't always pay attention. One morning this week I stuck a bowl of oatmeal in the microwave and hit the buttons for one minute, thirty seconds. I turned my back to do something else and when I heard the machine beep I knew I was in trouble. Normally I watch it and stop the microwave after a minute or so when the oatmeal rises in a big bubble and threatens to spill over. I give it a little stir and then watch it as it cooks a bit more and stop it once again before it escapes the bowl. Sure enough, this time my oatmeal had gone berserk and half of it was on the glass turntable. I thought about eating it anyway, but decided to start over instead. This time I watched it closely and paid attention.

Last weekend I had trouble paying attention. I picked up a friend and we went to a writing workshop near Janesville. On the way there I missed my exit from 218 and on the way home I missed two turns before finally getting back on 218. Now, I could give all sorts of excuses, but mostly it was because I failed to pay attention. We were talking and I wasn't watching closely enough for where I had to turn.

Don't we do that quite often in life? We get into trouble when we aren't paying attention. We get busy with all sorts of things - some good, some bad - and suddenly we find ourselves missing an important turn.

In my younger years those missed turns would have upset me quite a bit. I would have beat myself up mentally for quite a while and worried about what my friend thought of me because I had messed up three times. I know I'm at a much more healthy place now because those missed turns didn't bother me very much at all. Sure, I felt a little stupid, but I didn't let it ruin our whole day. Now, if I had stubbornly refused to turn around when I missed those turns, that could have made the day pretty awful. We would have arrived late to our workshop and we may never have gotten home again. Instead, we laughed all three times. We figured out the fastest way to get back on the right road and did it.

We need to do that in life, too. When we miss a  turn we don't just keep going in the wrong direction. We need to stop and figure out the fastest, best way to get back on track and then do whatever it takes to get there. When we get back on track we need to pay attention. Whether it's a silly mistake or a decision to indulge in some kind of sin, paying attention to what God is saying will help us get going in the right direction again.

As my friend and I went past Waverly, we were chatting away, but I took a second to announce "I see my exit up ahead and I will be taking that exit." She laughed because she had been just about ready to point it out to me and make sure I was ready for it. We both were paying attention and we made it home just fine.

"Be very careful, then, how you live - not as unwise, but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil." (Ephesians 5:15-16 NIV)

Are you good at paying attention or do you make lots of wrong turns? How can focusing on God help you to stay on track and get to where He wants you in life?