Friday, June 24, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Nests

I took a walk around town this morning. I thought of my friend Nancy as I got to a certain road where red-winged blackbirds swooped overhead and shrieked at me angrily. It reminded me of our walks in Chandler, Minnesota and the times of year when we would carry an umbrella and pop it open when we got near one corner where the blackbirds threatened to dive on us as they protected their nests. We felt silly, but it worked to keep those pesky birds off our heads.

"You can't keep the birds from flying over your head, but you can keep them from building a nest in your hair." (Martin Luther) That's the thought that also came to mind as I walked and looked up at the blackbirds winging crazily back and forth across the road. 
This picture makes my arm look huge! :-)

I stuck my arm up on top of my head as I walked, hoping to keep the birds from attacking my poor head. I felt silly, but it worked. 

As I continued walking, my mind turned to the thoughts that sometimes want to attack my mind. I had one of those days on Wednesday. I knew that Thursday was going to be a busy day working at the food stand at the Butler County Fair, working a few hours at Allison Little Lambs daycare, and then going to a concert at the fair at night. I dreaded the day and all sorts of thoughts began making a nest in my mind. What if...? 

What if I don't feel very talkative and I feel too shy to work up front at the food stand? What if I have to work in back and I've never done that before? What if I get all sweaty at the fair and then I have to rush to shower before the daycare? What if we don't get a good seat at the fair concert? What if I feel depressed and I can't handle such a busy day? What if...? What if...? What if...?

Those anxious, annoying thoughts built a great big worry nest in my head and pretty much ruined most of my day Wednesday. Of course, it turned out fine. On Thursday I felt talkative, I worked up front, it was cool so I didn't need a shower, and we got to the concert in plenty of time and enjoyed a good show. All of that worry for nothing.

I do that way too often. I waste time that I could be spending doing something productive as I let those worry thoughts build a mental nest. I really need to focus more on taking steps to prevent that. When I sense those thoughts flying around in my head I need to throw up my arm and keep them from landing. 

Maybe that means thinking about a Bible verse or two that can get my mind off my worries and remind me to trust God instead. Maybe it means talking to someone who can point out the flaws in my thinking and remind me that it does no good to worry about most "what ifs."

I can't stop those thoughts from flying crazily through my head, but I sure can stop them from landing and making themselves at home.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." (John 14:27 NIV)

Are unwelcome thoughts building a "worry nest" in your head? How can focusing on God help you to keep those thoughts from landing and staying in your mind?  

Friday, June 17, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Why You Aren't Dead

I'm at the Cedar Falls Christian Writers Conference today. My brain is overloaded with inspiration and info for my writing, but I'm taking a few minutes to write this week's blog post.

My friend Mary Potter Kenyon led a workshop this morning called: Love What You Do, Write What You Love. It was excellent, but one thing she shared has stuck with me all day. She referred to an online article by Michael Hyatt:  Why You Aren't Dead Yet 

Isn't that a morbid title? It's hard to think about our own mortality.

Most people take life for granted. They assume that they will live to a ripe old age and die peacefully in their sleep.

When we watch the news we realize that life is not guaranteed. There are car accidents and cancers and mass shootings that cut life short. Sometimes mental illness strikes and someone decides that they can't take any more. They choose to end their life.

There is a thirty-year-old woman here at the conference with a heart condition. She has outlived others with the same condition and so, understandably, she worries. She doesn't know what the future holds, but she's trying to live fully and trust God with her days.

Michael Hyatt's article reminds us that there is some reason that each of us is still alive. God has something in store for us. A quote from Andy Andrews reminds us: "If you are still alive, then you haven't completed what you were put on earth to do."

As I consider life, this helps me. My life isn't over. God has things for me to do. I don't know if that includes writing, or speaking, or simply taking care of my family and friends. How exciting to wonder about what lies ahead.

I'm not dead yet, and neither are you.

"Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while, and then vanishes." (James 4:14 NIV)

"Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be." (Psalm 139:16 NIV)

Do you wonder what life has in store for you? Does it seem like all of your good days are behind you? How can focusing on God help you to realize that He has wonderful things ahead for you?

Friday, June 10, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Our Focus

Our morning exercise group tried something new this week. We did Focus T25 workouts by Shaun T. Every morning we did an intense 25 minute workout that targeted different areas of our body. On Friday we had to do two 25 minute workouts. That really got us sweating, but it felt pretty good afterward.

I don't own this. I've only tried this for a week, so I can't really endorse it completely, but you can check it out if you want.

The word I remember hearing the most all week was Focus. As Shaun T and his group jumped and turned and sweat, he kept reminding us to focus. "It's just 25 minutes but you have to give it all you've got and really focus on the movements you're doing." 

It was difficult and I couldn't keep up with every single move, but I kept going and tried. I did try to focus on the muscles we were using and it seemed to make a difference. 

Imagine what a difference that would make in our lives if we would choose to focus more often. Maybe you're like me and you find yourself "piddling" away your time or just going through the motions sometimes as you live your life.

The minutes, hours, days, months, and years slip by without much to show for them if we aren't really focused on what we want to accomplish. When we focus, we can achieve the goals we set for ourselves.

Even more importantly, when we focus we can better determine what God has in store for us and do what we need to do to get to His best for us. It's a tricky process. Sometimes we get too caught up in our own goals and miss the good things God wants us to experience. 

Shaun T kept reminding us of how short the workout was. "You're over halfway done!" "You only have five minutes left!" "Focus!" It helped to see the countdown in the corner of the screen. We knew the end was in sight and we could make it.

Well, friends, we don't know exactly how much time we have left in this life. There is no countdown clock. We just don't know, but we do know that life is short. The years fly by. Soon life on this earth will be over, but if you believe that Jesus died for you, you'll spend eternity with Him in heaven. That hope can get us through the ups and downs of life. 

You can do it! Focus!

"For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope." 
                                                                      (Romans 15:4 NIV) 

Do you have trouble focusing? How can focusing on God help you to keep going even when times get tough? 

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus on Moving Out

It's a Sorry Saturday this week (and I completely skipped last Friday) because life has been crazy at our house the last few weeks. Our two daughters graduated from college just a week apart. Last weekend I traveled over to Michigan to pick up one of my sisters and then we drove to Tennessee to see our nephew graduate from high school. It only took us 19 hours instead of 10 to get from Michigan to Tennessee, but that's a story for another Friday.

This week I'm going to focus for a few minutes on my oldest child: Erin. Here she is on graduation day from UNI a few weeks ago.

We're so proud of her. She has a job lined up as a 5th grade Science teacher in Shenandoah, Iowa next year, so she has been busy getting ready to move down there. It got very real for me when I saw most of her stuff piled up in the kitchen and living room, ready for the big moving day.


I started getting a little emotional when I thought about getting her into her new rental house (a very nice remodel) and leaving her there, over four hours away from home. It felt different than moving her into different dorm rooms and apartments during college. This time it seems more permanent. We may have to help her move again, but with any luck it will not be back to our house.

It's sad and yet it's a great day as well. Our little girl is growing up and embarking on new adventures that will shape the rest of her existence. The easiest thing would be for her to stay at home and let us take care of her, but she is competent and confident and excited to get out on her own. We pray for her as she begins teaching and getting used to a new community.

The outside isn't quite finished, but it's looking very nice.

She was so excited so had to post this on Facebook the day she got her key.
Raising our children to move out and become independent is the best goal for parents to have. Holding them close and not letting them go just hurts our children. Teach them while you can, let them go when it's time, and pray for them as they live on their own. God loves them even more than you do, and He'll always be there for them.

"Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it." (Proverbs 22:6 NIV)
Is it hard for you to let your adult children go? How can focusing on God help you to let them go and entrust them to God?