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?