Friday, May 20, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Joy

Some days you just have to choose joy. There is so much stress in this world. We have so many tasks and demands pulling for our attention. It can get to be too much and can make us anxious and grumpy. I get that way sometimes.

Well, today I chose a little joy. I started out this morning with the song "Taylor the Latte Boy" running through my head, so I just had to go to YouTube and watch it - twice, because it's fun to see how different people sing it. My favorite is by Kristin Chenoweth:

Then I happened to notice that there was a "Taylor's Rebuttal" song (sung by Ben Hensley). I had never heard it before and it was so funny!

This brought me quite a bit of joy. Such cute lyrics and a catchy tune. I was singing "Taylor the Latte Boy" all day long.

Then a little later I saw a video on facebook. Candace Payne posted a video of herself with a Chewbacca mask she bought at Kohls. If you haven't seen it yet, you really need to. The joy she experienced from such a simple thing. I don't remember the last time I laughed as hard as she does. That brought lots of joy, too.

These things reminded me how important it is to choose joy. We will always have trouble, but we can have joy in the midst of it. It lightens our hearts and can encourage others around us. 

I don't want to make light of the terribly sad situations some of you may be experiencing right now. You may have no desire to hear songs about Starbucks baristas and watch a lady get hysterical over a silly mask. That's okay. Take time to grieve, but make sure you still choose joy in the midst of your pain. Find it in a beautiful spring flower, the smile of a young child, the hug your spouse gives you. Your happiness will come back in due time. 

For those of us with our regular life stresses, it's so important to choose joy. The tasks and demands will wait. Maybe taking some time to laugh will help us approach those things with a little more energy and patience. 

It couldn't hurt to try, right?

"A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." (Proverbs 17:22 NIV)

Are life's little stresses getting you down? Do you need a good laugh? How can focusing on God help you to find joy in the midst of stress?

Friday, May 13, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Divorce

Divorce upsets me. It's so sad to hear about the end of someone's marriage.
This post is not a rant against divorce. I realize that sometimes it is the only option, especially in situations where one spouse is abused and there is no hope of change. I would never insist that someone stay married no matter what is happening in their life. 

No, this post is more of a warning to the rest of us. I wonder if anyone else gets shook up when they hear about someone else's divorce. Whether it's a family member, friend, or celebrity, divorce always shakes me up. 

Sometimes I'm not surprised because I've seen the warning signs. Other times I'm shocked to the core. Not them! It seemed like they had such a good marriage! It throws me for a loop sometimes and it takes me a while to get over it.

After a recent divorce announcement from a couple I love, I've found myself acting differently at home. I've snapped a little more at my husband. I've been irritated at very little things. I realize I'm doing it, and I know it's wrong, but it seems too hard to stop. I think in some ways I'm kind of pulling back, protecting myself in case something goes wrong with us. I don't want to feel so much pain so I foolishly distance myself from the man I love.

As I've pondered these feelings, I thought of a boat. I found an illustration below that might help us to relate. Maybe when I hear about a divorce and get a little shook up, it's like standing up in a small boat. The center of balance goes haywire and it's much easier for the boat to tip over, especially if both people are standing.

However, if the two people remain seated, the boat is less likely to tip over, even if you move around a little. I've been thinking about that lately. As married couples, we need to stay seated and remain calm, even when we hear about the end of someone else's marriage. We don't know what is going on with other people's relationships, we can only concentrate on our own and do the best we can with it.

Every day we choose to love, and every day we choose not to love. Let's pray for others and make sure we are choosing to do things in our own marriage that will strengthen it and let it grow better every year. Hearing about someone else's divorce doesn't have to rock our marriage boat!

"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." (1 Corinthians 13:4-8a NIV)

Do you get shook up when you hear about someone else's divorce? How can focusing on God help you to keep your own marriage stable and strong?

Friday, May 6, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Anxiety

It's getting close to midnight. That makes me a little anxious. Will this turn into a "Sorry Saturday"? I'm just kidding. Most of you know by now that my blog is more of a "Friday Night Focus," anyway.

I do want to talk about anxiety. At Fresh Hope this week we took a few minutes to list all of the things that make us feel anxious:

Health, Children, World and Local News, Finances, Driving, Work, Deadlines, Meeting new people, Public speaking, Time management, Dating, Bills, Decisions, the Future, New situations, the Past...

The list could go on and on. Each person's list would look different. We read an article together that showed how people with anxiety show fundamental differences in perception. The brains of people who suffer from anxiety actually look different from a "healthy" person's brain during an MRI. Research shows that certain situations can affect the brain in such a way that a person can overgeneralize and feel anxious in similar situations, even if they know that there is very little to feel anxious about. They can't help it.

That's a very short explanation of a complex topic. You can read the entire article here if you want to know more.

The article didn't go into how this research might help those suffering from severe anxiety, but I think our group did make some progress as we talked. Just being aware that we tend to perceive things differently can help us to stop and look at things a bit more objectively. We can remember a similar experience and recognize that strong emotions accompanied a certain event, but hopefully we can realize that it doesn't necessarily have to be a negative experience in the present.

If you deal with someone who experiences lots of anxiety, please don't just quote this verse to them:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God." (Philippians 4:6 NIV)

This verse can make an anxious person feel so guilty. I know the verse is true. Worrying can do nothing for us, so it is useless, but an anxious person sometimes cannot choose to just "stop" being anxious*. Often they need the help of medication or a counselor so that they can see things differently and train their brains to react in a different way.

Maybe a better verse to share would be 1 Peter 5:7 (NIV):

"Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you."

Do you often feel anxious? How can focusing on God help you to retrain your brain to handle anxious situations more objectively? 

*That idea of just "stop" it reminds me of a hilarious Bob Newhart skit that I watch every once in a while. It really is good advice!