Friday, December 30, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Setting Up For a New Year

I have a list of 10 things I wanted to do in 2016.

I completely accomplished three of my ten goals: I finished Italian on Duolingo, I itemized my credit card bills monthly, and I read the Bible all the way through.

I partly completed four of my other goals: I submitted some devotionals to Keys for Kids (and they were accepted!), I lost some of the pounds I wanted to shed, I worked on a nonfiction project, and I got a little better at push-ups.

I didn't do anything on the other three goals: I wanted to read The Power of a Praying Wife by March 1, I planned to make homemade Christmas cards by August 1, and I wanted to fast and pray for my family members one time a month.

I didn't do those three things because I never went back and looked at my list after I made it in January. I got into some habits that let me get some of my goals done, but I could have accomplished more if I had just reminded myself of what I wanted to do.

So, as we get ready to begin a new year, I want to remind all of us to take some time to set ourselves up for success. Know what you want to accomplish and review those goals often.

As for me, I think I'm cutting my list down to five for next year and I'm going to keep my list in front of me in January, February, March, and all through the year.

I'm going to set some goals, but be open to changing them or letting them go if God prompts me to focus on something else.

Most of all, I'm going to make sure I'm set up to focus completely on God as I live each day. With Him at the center, I'll accomplish everything He wants me to do. I'll be the woman He has made me to be.

That should make for a pretty good year.

"If you do not listen, and if you do not set your heart to honor my name," says the LORD Almighty, "I will send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings. Yes, I have already cursed them, because you have not set your heart to honor me." (Malachi 2:2 NIV)

Did you accomplish all you wanted to do in 2016? How can focusing on God help you to set good goals and work toward them in 2017?

I promise I'll tell you more about the Grand Canyon trip one of these weeks!

Friday, December 23, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Christmas

It's almost Christmas. Are you ready?

You'll be happy to know that we finally decorated our tree last weekend:

I finally got online and ordered some presents for the kids, but they're not wrapped yet.

Our Christmas letters are not done (I can partly blame a broken printer for that). They'll wait until next week when we get a new printer.

My depression has flared up a bit over the last week or so, but I'm doing what I can to stay on top of it and not let it get worse. Part of the reason I'm feeling down, I think, is that my knees have been bothering me since our hiking trip in the Grand Canyon, so I haven't been exercising very much. It really makes a difference!

As you've probably figured out by Focus Friday posts usually contain things that I'm thinking about or struggling with. I wish I could just write a cheerful entry about the joys of Christmas, but I have to acknowledge that it can be a stressful time of year and many people may struggle with emotional problems around the holidays.

If you are experiencing any of that, try to lower your expectations and focus on the real reason for this season: Jesus Christ. 

God came to earth as a tiny baby. It's almost too much for our human brains to comprehend, but if we stop and really think about what that means it can help us get our perspective back. 

Jesus lived and died here on earth for us. And it all started in that stable many years ago.

So, I have one more day to get ready for Christmas, but as I wrap presents and bake cookies and write my Christmas letter I'm going to think about that baby and how thankful I am for his birth, his life, and his death. He did all of that for me, and that gives me hope

Merry Christmas, everyone!

"She [Mary] will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins." (Matthew 1:21 NIV)

Do you get too stressed out around the holidays? How can focusing on God help you to feel more peace and remember the real reason we celebrate Christmas?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on...Something!

It's December 16 and our Christmas tree looks like this:

I finally got it set up on Monday and put lights on it on Tuesday. The plan was for the three kids at home to put the decorations on this week, but they all seem to be finding other things they'd rather do. Maybe we'll all decorate the tree on Christmas Eve (didn't they do stuff like that in the Little House books?).

Truth is, I've been having a little trouble focusing now that we're back from our trip last week. 

My knees are still bothering me and I'm wondering if I did more damage than I thought on our hiking adventure. Time will tell.

I wanted to share a nice post full of pictures and wisdom from our experience at the Grand Canyon, but I didn't work on it and it's getting a little late now. (Maybe next week!)

I've been piddling away the week...I did the dishes and some laundry, I helped at the daycare a couple of times, and I sorted through some paperwork in one of my desk drawers. Those were the productive times! Much of the rest of the week was spent watching lots of Fuller House episodes (I'm caught up now so I can move on to something else) and snacking way too much.

Maybe I can blame the weather. It has been so, so, so cold here.

Maybe I can cut myself some slack and just acknowledge that it's been one of those weeks where I needed some rest and diversion. What a concept! Showing myself grace instead of wallowing in the shame and guilt of not doing enough, not being enough, not accomplishing enough.

It's never too late to start over, figure out where our focus needs to be, and move in that direction. Perhaps that means digging into a project you've been putting off for way too long, or maybe it means giving yourself permission to relax and watch one of your favorite shows or a good movie.

When you feel distracted and unfocused, that's the time to stop and focus on...something!

"You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jeremiah 29:13 NIV)

Do you ever have times where you feel restless and unfocused? How can focusing on God help you to feel peace as you either work hard or decide to enjoy some rest? 

Friday, December 9, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on the Grand Canyon

Gary and I had a wonderful time at the Grand Canyon earlier this week.

We got there on Sunday and took a walk along the rim trail. 
Such a beautiful place!

(It was just a little too bright for pictures on Sunday evening)
 On Monday morning we took a shuttle bus to the South Kaibab trail and got ready to begin our descent into the Grand Canyon.

It was cold when we started out, but we were prepared.
 Lizzy, the plastic lizard, hitched a ride on my backpack. Some people in the dorm thought it was cute, but it really made my day when someone finally pointed it out on the trail on Wednesday and thought it was real for a few seconds. 

Sometimes I was almost too tired to lift my foot over these stones along the trail.
We hiked down on Monday (7.4 miles), then took a three-mile (round trip) hike to an overlook after we got settled in at Phantom Ranch.

On Tuesday we hiked to Ribbon Falls - about fourteen miles round trip.

On Wednesday we hiked up the Bright Angel trail (9.9 miles). It was covered with snow toward the rim.

Here we are after we made it all the way up on Wednesday. It was a beautiful trail but the last couple of miles are pretty grueling. Lots of switchbacks to get up to the Canyon rim. It took us eight hours.

We had such a good time! These few pictures cannot do it justice, and I am still a bit exhausted from all the hiking we did. (We also hiked at Arches National Park in Utah on Thursday and then drove through some snow and ice to get to Denver last night)

Now we're enjoying a little time at our daughter Erin's house in Shenandoah, Iowa before we go home tomorrow.

I think that's it for this week. I'll try to have a more coherent post next week showing some of the awesome sights we saw along the trails and some things I learned during our adventure.

We did it! We hiked the Grand Canyon and lived to tell the tale.

"I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race [It wasn't a race out of the Canyon, but we finished!], I have kept the faith [We kept believing we would make it]." (2 Timothy 4:7 NIV)

Have you ever set out on an adventure and you weren't sure what the outcome would be? How can focusing on God help you to keep going and see it through even when it gets difficult?

Friday, December 2, 2016

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on This and That

My mind is going in a hundred different directions tonight. 

Gary and I were going to leave today for a trip to the Grand Canyon. We didn't. 

Oh, don't worry, we're still going. We're just going to leave tomorrow at about 3 p.m. and drive pretty much straight through to the Grand Canyon. It wasn't what we were planning on, but friends from church lost their sixty year old daughter on Wednesday evening and Gary is going to do the funeral tomorrow. Sally was a very special woman and her parents will miss her so much. We love our congregation and we're glad we could make this work out and that she didn't pass away while we were already on our trip. 

That was a little bit of "this." Now here's a little bit of "that":

I didn't win NaNoWriMo this year. I admitted defeat on Tuesday with 25, 224 words. The story wasn't going anywhere and I had too much to do to justify writing furiously on Nov. 30 just to make the word count. I think I might be growing up because it didn't upset me too much to let it go and turn to other things on that last day of November.

I finally have a number for you in my project to go through all of my clothes: 363. Yes, that's right. Almost one item for every day of the year. I've filled two boxes with items for Goodwill, but I'm afraid I haven't been ruthless with my clothing choices. I have put some neatly into my drawers and closet, but way too many things stayed on Blake's bed for way too long. Tonight I put the last of the items on the bed into some boxes and stacked them by my bed to finish sorting through "later." (When is "later" for a procrastinator?)

I think I'd better call it a night and get to bed. I'm looking forward to enjoying time in the Grand Canyon with Gary on Monday to Wednesday of next week. God sure created a beautiful place when He made that! I'll be sure to post some pictures on Facebook after we make it out (no cell reception in the canyon).

Hopefully I can turn off my brain and get to sleep once I go to bed. Right now it's jumping from "what should I be packing?" to "what do I have to get done here at home just in case we fall over the edge at the Grand Canyon?" I'm kidding! Mostly.

Before I lay my head on my pillow tonight, I'm going to spend a few minutes meditating on this verse: 

"Come, let us sing for joy to the LORD; let us shout aloud to the Rock of our salvation. Let us come before him with thanksgiving and extol him with music and song. For the LORD is the great God, the great King above all gods. In his hand are the depths of the earth [the Grand Canyon?], and the mountain peaks belong to him. The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land." (Psalm 95:1-5 NIV)

Maybe that will help my thoughts stop bouncing around on so many things.

Are you busy with lots of projects and finding it hard to focus? How can taking a few minutes to focus on God help you calm down and decide what to do next?