Friday, April 29, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Playing Sorry with 4-year-olds

I tend to be idealistic. That's why I thought I could play an entire game of Sorry with three 4-year-olds at Allison Little Lambs Child Care yesterday. We set the board up, chose our colors, and put them in the "Start" circles.

I shuffled the cards and put them on the board. I should have gotten my first clue that this wasn't going to go well when one of the boys tried to have me put them in the spot clearly marked "Discard pile." I finally convinced him that the other spot was where they went. 

The youngest child got to go first. He cheerfully grabbed his piece and said "One, two, three, four, five" as he skipped multiple spaces and tried to stop about twelve squares in the wrong direction. I patiently helped him. "No, we go this way. Look! One, two, three, four, five." 

I continued helping each child count spaces and land on the right place. Then one of them drew the "Sorry" card. I explained how they could put their piece where someone else was and send them back to their Start circle. Immediate tears. "No, no, it's okay! That's part of the game. It's fun! See, you put them back and then you say "Sorry!" See, that's why the game is called Sorry." I got them calmed down and we kept playing. I think each of them got the chance to bump someone back to start and I tried to make it fun to do it and then say "Sorry" in an exaggeratedly nice way.  Didn't matter. They didn't like it. They couldn't see the fun

One boy had to leave. For some reason, the board was cleared and we started over. We chose pieces based on shirt colors this time and got the game going. I helped and we moved and one of them even got one of his pieces into the "Home" circle. 

Then, the inevitable happened. I drew a "Sorry" card. I gasped in mock delight and showed the card to my little friends. They both burst into tears before I could decide who I would bump back to Start. It was hilarious from my fifty-year-old perspective, but it must have been devastating to those 4-year-olds. "No, no, guys, it's okay!" They kept crying. "You know what? I think we better play something else." And we put away the Sorry game and moved on to something a little less competitive.

It got me thinking about the last few chapters of Romans. I just studied them on Monday night with some friends. One of the things we discussed was being sensitive to those whose faith is weaker than ours. 

Ultimately, if the Bible doesn't say that something is sinful, there is quite a bit of freedom for Christians to behave in different ways. I love this quote:

In essentials, unity.
In non-essentials, liberty.
In all things, charity.

We have to agree on essentials like the importance of the Bible as God's word, belief in Jesus' death and resurrection as the only way to heaven, and the belief that there is only one true God. In other areas there is room for Christians to think differently about what they eat and drink, what they do with their time, and more.

Most of all, we need to show love to those who differ from us in the non-essentials. Our faith may be strong enough to let us eat almost anything, but if we have a friend who doesn't eat meat we would be cruel to suggest going to a steakhouse with them for supper. Someone might feel okay about having a beer or a glass of wine once in a while, but if they break out the booze when their friend who doesn't drink comes over, that isn't very loving.

I could have laughed long and loud at my 4-year-old charges and forced them to keep playing our Sorry game, but I didn't. I'm old enough to handle being bumped back to the beginning during a game, but they're not mature enough to deal with that yet. Maybe we'll try again when they're five.

"We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves." (Romans 15:1 NIV)

How strong is your faith? How can focusing on God help you to be discerning and show love when you are around someone who is a young Christian?

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Sorry Sunday: Let's Focus on Streaks

I made a disappointing discovery this morning. I suddenly remembered that I had not done my Italian practice with for two days.
For months now, I've been learning Italian for about 25 minutes a day. I had a 128 day streak going. I was so proud of myself. 

I went to the Hearts at Home conference in Peoria, Illinois on Friday and Saturday and I was having so much fun that I completely forgot about my Italian. Che triste! (How sad!) I had missed a few days before, but never more than a day at a time and I was able to save my streak by paying some "lingots" (duolingo currency). How I hated to go to that home screen and see "0 day streak." I felt like quitting for a minute, but I bounced back pretty quickly and got my practice in for today.

It got me thinking about how often I want to quit if I can't keep up a perfect streak. After a good streak of updating my blog, I missed my Focus Friday, and then I missed my Sorry Saturday, and I found myself thinking about just skipping my blog completely.

I can have a consistent streak of exercising or eating well going, and then one bad day tempts me to just forget about it and stay in bed and eat whatever I want.

So I didn't skip my blog today. Even if I'm just writing this for myself, I'm going to use it to remind myself that it's worth it to start over again when we break a streak we had going. My previous Italian practice wasn't all for nothing just because my streak count reset to zero. My determination to be fit is still worthwhile even if I stay in bed one day or eat a box of peeps. My desire to grow in my faith is still valid even if I skip a day of Bible reading or forget to pray before a meal.

We have to keep on going. We can press on and do our best. God loves us just as we are. He can't love us any more and He can't love us any less. He's not looking at the stats on our streak counts, He just wants us to keep loving Him and never give up.   

"My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever." (Psalm 73:26 NIV)

Do you get upset when you fail and break a perfect streak you have going in some area of your life? How can focusing on God help you to keep going in spite of your disappointment?

Friday, April 15, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Staying Away From the Edge

It has been a little over a year and a half since I went through a severe bout with depression. Depression and anxiety robbed me of all hope and sent me to the hospital. I'm so thankful for the help I got there.

Now I have joy, confidence, and hope most days, but the negatives often try to creep back in. It catches me off guard and discourages me so much. I'm learning to catch those thoughts and turn them around so that it doesn't turn into a depression that debilitates me, but it is difficult.

I'd like to focus on "staying away from the edge" in this week's post. Have you ever traveled somewhere and experienced that moment of vertigo when you are overlooking some beautiful vista? Niagara Falls, The Grand Canyon, a hike in the mountains with a deep ravine next to your footpath? You realize that one false step could send you plummeting to your death. If you are wise, you make sure you are staying away from the edge so that you are safe. 

I think we can also do that emotionally. Mental illness can mean the death of us if we keep going in spite of all of the danger signs and fall over the edge. I'd like to explore some of the ways we can stay away from the edge when it comes to our mental health. I'll share some of the ways I do that in next week's post, but I'd like to ask for your help. Would you be willing to share some of the ways you "stay away from the edge" as you live with a mental health diagnosis?

 Email me at robynmulder @ or send me a message on facebook.* I would love to hear from you and share some of your ideas with others who are also dealing with their mental health. Please share this post with others who may also be struggling.

Most of all, please get help if you are teetering on the edge and you don't feel like it's worth it to get back to safe footing. You can call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) if you need help.

Let's all make sure we're staying away from the edge.

"...I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the LORD your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the LORD is your life,...." (Deuteronomy 30:19b-20a NIV)

Do you ever feel like you might go over the edge? How can focusing on God help you to stay away from the edge and enjoy a fulfilling life in spite of a mental health diagnosis?

*(You can try leaving your ideas in the comments, but I've had quite a few people say that they've had their comments disappear after they write them. So sorry about that!) 

Friday, April 8, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Monica Lewinsky

I never thought I would say that I learned something from Monica Lewinsky, but I did just that when I watched a TedTalk video and then noticed her video in the sidebar. "The Price of Shame" was the title that intrigued me and made me click.

Of course we all remember the shameful situation she is famous for. She had an affair with President Clinton when she was twenty-two years old. It has been about twenty years since then. I haven't really thought much about her in all those years, but if I did have any opinion of her, it was definitely negative. I was surprised to find her articulate, honest, and humble in her TedTalk. She pointed out how many people have done things that they later regret when they are 22 years old. She just had the misfortune of having her foolish (and sinful, I know) behavior broadcast on the internet for the whole world to see and criticize.

I was left with a greater appreciation for this infamous woman as she encouraged people to show greater empathy, especially those on the internet. She told about how upset her mother was when she found out about the suicide of Tyler Clementi after his roommate videotaped him kissing another man. Monica realized that her mother was reliving the days following her own shameful situation, days when she sat by Monica's bed at night and made her shower with the door open because she was afraid of what she might do to herself. Shame is a very difficult emotion to overcome, especially when so many people express their opinions on the internet with hardly a thought about the person they are criticizing or ridiculing.

She urged people to leave a kind word for someone who is going through a shameful experience. It can make all the difference for someone who is barraged by tons of negative opinions and comments. 

I've thought often about Monica Lewinsky in the days since I watched her talk. I take note of how the internet seems to be a place where so many people spout off about their negative views of other people. It's obvious that as a society, too many of us don't think about the feelings of others. Even when we don't agree with someone's actions or opinions, we can still be kind. We can remember that people have feelings. We can try to treat them as we would want to be treated if we made a terrible mistake or committed some atrocious crime and later were sorry for it. 

I'm glad Monica Lewinsky was able to survive her shameful experience and I hope that her message is spread far and wide in this world of cyberbullying. As Christians, let's set an example in how we act on the internet. Let's speak up for truth, but never forget that people need kindness and understanding more than a ruthless, insensitive comment. Let's leave many loving comments for those who are overwhelmed by the negative attention their situation attracts. It just may save a life. 

"Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing." (1 Thessalonians 5:11 NIV)

Have you noticed how people seem to comment without considering the feelings of the person they're attacking? How can focusing on God help us to find something to be kind and positive about as we comment on the internet?

Friday, April 1, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Fools

This morning Gary could have choked on a Gobstopper when he went to take a couple of Ibuprofen from the container on top of the fridge. Turns out the medicine was in the candy jar close by. I chuckled as he went off to watch the morning news and then I went to the sink to get some water for my oatmeal. Water shot onto my shirt and halfway across the kitchen before I realized what was happening and shut the faucet off. What? Oh, the handle on the sprayer was taped down. That old trick. I went to the den and showed Gary my wet shirt so he knew that our child had gotten me too. 

I was on high alert the rest of the morning, but no other surprises were waiting. I guess Erin decided to go easy on us. We aren't a family that pranks regularly, but it was kind of fun today.

It got me thinking about fools on this April Fools' Day. Gary and I felt foolish because we were tricked by someone who set us up on this specific day, but how sad is it when someone is a fool every day. 

I'm not talking about you, of course, dear reader. I'm sure you are wise beyond your years, but we all know people who are just...fools. They don't think before they speak. They act first and apologize (maybe) later if they make a mistake. They eat all of their food and spend all of their money and don't plan ahead for the future. 

The Bible has lots to say about fools. Proverbs is full of verses that talk about fools and how they act. They're hotheaded and reckless. They despise wisdom and discipline. They trust in themselves instead of trusting in God. They don't learn from their mistakes. "As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly." (Prov. 26:11) Sorry for the gross word picture, but maybe thinking about that disgusting image will keep us away from foolishness.

I'm not joking when I urge you to do the exact opposite of everything I just said about fools. Be patient and careful. Seek wisdom and practice discipline. Trust completely in God. Learn from your mistakes. And keep your eyes open on April Fools' Day.

"The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice." (Proverbs 12:15 NIV)

Did anyone pull a prank on you today? Laugh it off and determine not to be a fool. How can focusing on God help you to be wise and stay away from foolishness?