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 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?