Friday, January 29, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Choices

I am in Florida this week. I won't say much about the temperature outside, because I know that many of my readers are in snowy situations as you're reading. Let's just say I am enjoying some quality time with my parents this week and we'll refrain from focusing on the weather.

Instead, we'll focus on choices. I got the idea from my seatmate on the plane on my way to Florida. I sat by a nice lady who was going down to spend some time with two friends. I can't believe I didn't even find out her name, but we had a really nice conversation. When she heard that I write a blog, she suggested I write about choices. I don't remember exactly how she worded it, but it was something like "everyone makes choices." She observed that even when we do not do something, that's a choice. I wish I had written down what she said. Anyway, the word "choice" has stayed with me ever since then.

I'm thinking about different aspects of my life and considering choices I've made in each of them. Sometimes I have made a choice not to do something and have had to deal with the guilt and stress of unfinished tasks (like Christmas cards that will soon become Valentine's Day cards). I think about relationships and realize that I have made a choice to put work into some relationships and I have chosen to let others become neglected.

Marriage is a good place to practice good choices. I remember a phrase we heard in a class we took a long time ago. "Every day we choose to love, and every day we choose not to love." Remember that the choices you make can make your marriage stronger or break it down. Even choosing to not do anything when you know something needs to change is a choice. Think about your relationship with your spouse and see if you need to make some better choices. 

As Christian women, we have lots of choices to make. We need to choose what to eat, what to wear, what to spend our time on, what to watch on TV, what to read, who to spend time with, and who to serve. That's the most important choice we'll ever have to make. Will we serve our own selfish desires or will we make choices that prove that we serve the Lord?

I hope all of us can focus a little more on the choices we are making (even by doing nothing) and make sure they are good choices.  

"But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve.... But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD." (Joshua 24:15 NIV)

Are you making good choices? Are you neglecting to do something important because you are afraid or unsure about how things may change? How can focusing on God help you to make good choices and be strong enough to follow through?

Friday, January 22, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Sleep

I've been very sleepy today.

It would have been fine if I were just bumming around at home, but today I went along with Gary while he did some visiting. After a nice Mexican meal with great friends in Hampton, we went to the hospital to visit a church member. She broke her hip last week and has to be in the hospital while it heals. As we were visiting, I felt my eyes closing a few times and when we got up to leave, Gary joked about me needing a nap. I laughed and apologized to our friend and then we went to visit another lady. She had one chair available and she said I could sit on the bed. I laughed and said I didn't know if I should. "My eyes kept shutting while we visited our other friend, if I sit on the bed I might really fall asleep," I quipped. I joined in the conversation quite a bit at first, but then I got quiet and I felt my eyes closing several times.

"I think we have to put Robyn to bed." My eyes popped open as I heard our friend's voice and I realized I had done it again. I grinned sheepishly and apologized. Good thing we have such gracious friends. They both seemed to understand.

Our next visit went better because we stood while we talked with another lady in the nursing home. Even then, I swayed a bit when we closed our eyes for prayer before we left. I slept a bit in the car on the way back to Allison and then made it through a few more visits at the nursing home with just a few sleepy moments.

I felt so embarrassed, but I really couldn't help it. I guess I could have pinched myself, or maybe tried to talk more so I could stay awake. (What a novel thought, talking while visiting with someone!)

After we got home, my mind kept coming back to my sleepiness. Was I just being rude? Do I have narcolepsy? What did our friends think when they looked over and saw me with my eyes closed? I seriously wanted to stay awake, but it didn't seem possible today.

Then I started thinking about my sleep schedule. I know I've been getting up at about 5:10 every morning. Sometimes I go over to church and exercise with a great group of women at 5:30. Other mornings I head over to volunteer some time at Allison Little Lambs, our church's daycare. I feel good about doing some great things in the early morning hours. 

My problem is I've been pushing my bedtime later and later in recent weeks. I used to go to bed closer to nine when I knew I was getting up early.  Lately it's been more like 10:30, and evidently that is not quite enough sleep for me.

I stay up because I want to get one more thing done, or finish perusing all of those fascinating facebook posts, or watch one more show on the DVR before bed. Truth is, I have plenty of time most days to get all of those things done at a decent time and get to bed earlier. I need to be more conscious of how much sleep I'm getting and how much sleep I really need. Getting enough rest will help my attitude, my productivity, and my ability to stay awake while visiting with friends.

"In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat--for he grants sleep to those he loves." (Psalm 127:2 NIV)

How much sleep do you get? How can focusing on God help you to get to bed at a decent time and be more productive during your waking hours?

Friday, January 15, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on a Dear Abbie Letter

Dear Abbie,

I saw that look on your face the other morning.

Your mom started crying when she talked about your 16th birthday coming up today. She laughed and brushed away the tears and tried to explain. "It just went by so fast!" She talked a little more and ended with, "I just love her." Then she turned to you and said, "High five. You're awesome!"

You smiled and gave her a high five, but then your expression returned to that look.

The look of a fifteen-year-old who wonders if her mother is crazy. I know that look. I've seen it on the faces of all four of my children. I've worn that look as I wondered about my own mother's sanity at times during my teen years.

She's not crazy. Moms cry sometimes and you just have to get used to it. Sometimes we cry because we're happy. Sometimes we cry because we're sad. Sometimes we cry because we're angry. Sometimes we cry because our daughters turn sixteen.

I don't know everything going on in your mom's mind and heart right now, but I can imagine some of the things she may be feeling.

I imagine she's remembering herself at your age.

I imagine she's mourning the "mistake" she made that resulted in your birth when she was just seventeen.

I imagine she's reliving the embarrassment she felt when people found out about her "mistake."

I imagine she's happy about how life turned out over the last sixteen years. After welcoming you into the world, she went on to marry a great guy and they gave you three little sisters to love (and they love you!).

I imagine she's afraid for you and the choices you'll have to make in the years ahead. I imagine she's afraid you might make some mistakes along the way and she wants to save you from that.

I imagine she's immensely proud of the young woman you're becoming and she thanks God every day that He gave you to her.

I imagine she's grateful for the grace she feels knowing that God loves her and has forgiven every single one of her mistakes. I imagine she's awed by the realization that you were not a mistake; you were part of God's great plan for her life.

I imagine she knows that the next several years will go by just as fast and you'll be out on your own before she knows it.

Abbie, you are special, but it's not because you were born to a teenage mother. You are special because God formed you in your mother's womb and He has a plan for your life. You are free to follow Him wherever He leads. Each of us is special to God and we all need to follow Him. Keep going, Abbie. If you make mistakes, there's grace there and you can get back on the right path. There's grace for all of us sinful people.

Oh, and your mom? She's not crazy. She's just a really good mom who loves you so much.

Happy 16th Birthday, Abbie!

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." (Jeremiah 29:11 NIV)

Have you ever made a "mistake"? How can focusing on God help you to get back on track and follow Him into the future He has planned for you?

*I want to thank my friends Kristen and Abbie for their permission to share this week's blog post. I am blessed to know them and the rest of their family.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Murder

I think we heard a murder happen outside our bedroom window the other night.

Okay, maybe we didn't realize it was a murder at the time. It was about eleven o'clock and Gary and I heard a dog right outside our bedroom window. He barked, whined, growled, and sounded like he was crashing around in the snow next to our porch. I had been sleeping for a while before this and it kind of freaked me out. I had to get up and go investigate. I stood by our back door and peered out into the darkness, but I didn't hear the dog anymore and I was scared to open the door, so I let it go and went back to bed. I lay there for a while, trying to figure out why a dog would be acting so strangely right next to our house.

When I went outside the next morning, it all became a little clearer. There were specks of blood all over the place starting by our porch and even going out onto the driveway a little. Now it made sense. We never found a carcass, but we figure a poor little rabbit may have been murdered while we tried to sleep.

For the next couple of days I saw those specks of blood every time I went out somewhere and came back home. I wondered if the blood belonged to a rabbit or if some animal had scratched at that crazy dog and the dog had bled all over as it ran away. I really don't know what happened because I didn't see it. I can only guess, but evidence of the violence is right there for everyone to see.

It got me thinking about murder, especially after we had youth group on Wednesday night and Gary used this passage: 

"You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, 'You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.' But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother or sister will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to a brother or sister, 'Raca,' is answerable to the court. And anyone who says, 'You fool!' will be in danger of the fire of hell." (Matthew 5:21-22 NIV)

I'm so thankful for God's grace, because I have to admit, I've been angry and called people some nasty names at times. Usually it was not to their face, but I have a feeling God doesn't even want us calling them 'You fool!' when we're driving down the road or recalling a situation when we're alone at home.

Sometimes we snarl and bark and crash around in our anger against another person, and someone gets hurt. It may be the other person and/or it may be us, but the evidence is there for everyone to see. Other people may not know exactly what happened in a certain situation, but they can tell that damage has been done. Maybe the other person is resentful toward us and starts telling people about how cruel we are. Maybe we got hurt in the situation and our bitterness and anger affect how we relate to other people. They don't know what's wrong with us, but the damage is obvious.

Think about that the next time you hear the command "Do not murder." God doesn't want us to just refrain from literally taking someone's life. He wants us to show love for others, even our enemies. 

Dogs can't help it if they chase rabbits (and sometimes catch them), but we are humans. We can choose to love instead of murdering our fellow human beings.

Have you ever "murdered" someone? How can focusing on God help you to show love to others, even your enemies?

Friday, January 1, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Beginnings

Happy New Year! 

This week's post is going to be short and sweet because I am just about to go spend an entire night with a bunch of awesome high school students at our annual youth group lockin. We have a lot of fun from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., but I'm afraid I may be getting too old for this. I hope I don't fall asleep (or someone might write on my face!).

I just want to remind all of us to focus on God as we begin this new year. We can spend a little time looking over the past year, but then let's move forward in confidence and joy as we seek to follow God's path for us. He can help us accomplish whatever He wants us to do and He'll give us wisdom to know what those things are.

I think it's pretty great that God has built in "reset" points in our lives. The start of a new day, a new week, a new year. We can look at those times as chances to begin again and do better, knowing that God loves us completely even when we fail.

Don't give up. Keep trusting God as you go into 2016!

"The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23 ESV - English Standard Version)

Are you excited about beginning a new year? How can focusing on God help you to have a great year?