Saturday, June 24, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Storms

(To be clear, this is just a stock photo - I didn't get a picture of Thursday night's storm)

We had a storm roll through last night.

It came just as quickly as the one in May did, but this time it blew hard from the North and brought lots of hail.

Our neighbors' swingset blew over again. We lost a couple of small branches from our front yard tree. Some people had whole trees come down. I think the plastic sprinkler shark (or was it a whale?) that the daycare was using on the church lawn may have blown away. Or maybe it was just pummeled by enough hail that it deflated. I haven't checked it out yet.

We don't like storms, do we? They can be scary. They are usually a nuisance with the messes they make in our yards and basements. They can be downright dangerous and cause injuries and death under certain circumstances.

The storms of life can be scary, too. They are often a nuisance when they upset our plans and cause extra work and worry for us. They can involve sickness, injuries, and death; situations that shake us to the very core.

Physical storms can be frightening, but the sky before or after a storm can be very beautiful. Here's a shot taken at the Butler County Fair last night before the actual storm hit: 
(Photo Credit: Karen Dilger)
Isn't that beautiful?

When we go through the storms of life, we need to look for the beauty, too. God is with us, no matter what we're going through. He'll take care of us and help us get through whatever we face.

I'm not saying it will be easy.

There may be scary times. Annoying times. Heartbreaking times of illness or loss.

But God is there. He'll calm the storm. He'll keep us calm in the middle of the storm.

We just have to hold on and trust Him. In everything.

"Then they cried out to the LORD in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed. They were glad when it grew calm, and he guided them to their desired haven. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind." (Psalm 107:28-31 NIV)

Do storms scare you? How can focusing on God help you to get through storms with less fear (actual storms and the storms of life)?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Disappointment


Tonight I decided to go to the "Movies Under the Moon" event at Overman Park in Cedar Falls. I'm weird. I haven't ever stayed for the movie. I just go to hear the guitar music that leads up to the main event.

I knew the weather was a bit iffy, and I even called Bob's Guitars to see if they had cancelled, but they weren't sure at the time I called. Later, it looked like the weather was going to miss us.

I should have called again, because when I got to Overman Park, this is what I found:
                                    

I was so disappointed. I had been looking forward to sitting in my lawn chair, enjoying the music, eating most of a big bag of Kettle Corn, and watching all of the people in the park.

Usually this area is just full of men, women, children, and often their dog (or dogs). I love watching all of the interactions between friends and family members as they set up for watching the movie.

This is where I normally could buy a yummy slice of banana cream pie!
I had been looking forward to the evening so much, now what was I supposed to do?

I walked up by the band shell to take a few pictures and then I got in my car and drove back home.

I was disappointed and kicking myself at first for wasting time and gas going to something that I knew might be cancelled.

As I drove home I tried to look at the positives instead:

I got to spend about an hour enjoying a nice drive.

I didn't eat most of a huge bag of Kettle Corn by myself.

I noticed a plaque in the center of the sidewalk that I had never noticed before. Maybe I'll tell you about it sometime in another Focus Friday.

I heard a couple of great new songs on KNWC on the way to and from Cedar Falls. The music helped me worship God after a busy day helping at the daycare center.

I took a risk and survived when it didn't turn out like I expected. It wasn't the end of the world. 

I would have missed out on something special if I had stayed home worrying about the possible bad weather and they had held the event after all. 

I want to live like that. I want to take chances and experience amazing things, even if it means I'm disappointed sometimes.

Disappointment can be a reminder to us and help us to get our focus back on God when something doesn't go as planned.

Man, I really wanted that Kettle Corn.

"Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise Him, my Savior and my God." (Psalm 42:11 and Psalm 43:5 NIV)

How do you handle disappointment? How can focusing on God help you to set aside the negative emotions that disappointment can bring?

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Too-late Tuesday: Let's Focus on Being There


Ironically, this may not be one of my better blog posts. It should be, because I just got back on Saturday from the Cedar Falls Christian Writers Workshop.

But I'm tired.

And it's Tuesday.

Half of my brain says, "Let it go and wait for the next Focus Friday."

The other, more neurotic, half says, "But you haven't missed a week in over a year. You can't start now!"

So I write.

I want us to focus on the importance of "being there" this week. 

I've gone to this conference since 2010, so you could argue that I don't need it. I've listened to lots of speakers, read many books, subscribed to magazines, learned a ton in the last eight years.

I could save the money and just stay home and write, but I go.

Shelly Beach is just one of my many writing mentors - love her!
I attend because there's something about being there. It's exciting to meet famous authors, as well as new authors and wonder what they'll accomplish in the years ahead. It's fun to have late-night conversations with friends about writing and...other things that have absolutely nothing to do with writing.

It feeds my soul to share my love of writing with like-minded people. It spurs me on to keep writing even when I go through another year of mostly procrastinating. (One of these years....)

Here's a panel with: Wanda Sanchez, Shelly Beach, Cynthia Ruchti, Mary Potter Kenyon, Anne Philo Fleck, and Jolene Philo
It occurs to me that there are other things we're tempted to think we can go without:

Church attendance.
Family get-togethers.
Coffee or lunch with a good friend.

We've neglected them all so many times. We're busy. We're bored. They'll understand. I'll get back to it sometime.

We have to make time to really be there.

It feeds our souls to share our love of Jesus with like-minded people. It's fun to have conversations with family members and friends about our faith, our interests, and everything that's on our minds. It spurs us on to accomplish big and little projects when we meet with others who have succeeded.

When we're tired and feel like pulling away from others, that's the time we probably most need to reach out and really be there.

"For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them." (Matthew 18:20 NIV)

Do you pull away from church, family, and friends when you are stressed, busy, or tired? How can focusing on God help you to really be there and enjoy all the benefits of connecting?

Monday, June 5, 2017

"Missed the Boat" Monday: Let's Focus on Memory Lane


I'm in Michigan. I left on Saturday morning and drove a friend here so she can see her grandchildren (triplets!) graduate from high school tonight. While she's visiting her family, I'm staying with my sister in Wyoming. (The suburb of Grand Rapids where I grew up)

As I drive down familiar streets, my head whips left and right to see how things have changed, and how things have stayed the same. 

My old elementary school is no longer there, and neither is the pool where I spent many hours swimming.

On Sunday, Jill and I went to our childhood church, Grace Reformed. It was so good to see familiar faces. We got to talk with some people; others just gave us curious stares, not sure if they should know us or not.

This morning I took a long walk...down memory lane.

I walked past my old high school:


It used to be Rogers High School, but now it's Wyoming High School.

I went past our childhood home:



I'm always surprised at how small it looks compared to how big it seemed when I was a kid.


I walked down Parkland (our address was on Parkland even though we had to drive down Plas St. to get to our house because there is a cul-de-sac).

I walked past the Wyoming Public Library. I worked there for a few years when I was in high school. There is just one wall that remains from the old library. It looks completely different inside and out.

Even if we can't physically visit the places where we grew up and lived before, we can always go down memory lane in our minds and remember the people and places that shaped who we are.

I thank God for my growing up years in Wyoming, Michigan, and for all of the places I've lived since then.

It was Pentecost Sunday yesterday, so I'll close with a verse about the Holy Spirit's role in our lives. He'll help us walk down memory lane and remind us of all that God has taught us over the years.

"But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you." (John 14:26 NIV)

Do you like to walk down memory lane? What people and places have shaped you over the years? How can focusing on God help you to continue to grow into the person He has made you to be?

Friday, May 26, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Optical Illusions


My friend Rosemary freaked me out this week.

I was working in the infant room at Allison Little Lambs and she stopped in for a second when Alice was picking up her baby, Olivia. The three of us chatted for a few minutes, and then Rosemary pointed and said, "Who's over there?"

We glanced over to where she was pointing and Alice said, "Oh, that's my son, Steven." (He's three and came in with mom to help pick up his sister.)

"No," Rosemary said, "I know him. I mean the other kid."

I was immediately confused because Olivia was the last baby to be picked up that day.

"What other kid? It's just Steven."

"No," she insisted adamantly. "He's right over there. He's hiding!"

Okay, now I started to get goosebumps and my mind was racing to try to remember if I actually had one more kid that hadn't been picked up yet. (I'm sure all of you remember how many times I've left the oven on and forgotten about it, right?) 

No, I did the math. There shouldn't be any kids hiding in the corner.

Alice agreed. "Where?!" we asked as we stared where Rosemary was pointing.

Finally, (and I really can't remember who figured it out first) the mystery was solved. "It's a mirror!"

All of us burst out laughing as we realized that she had seen Steven's legs in the mirror on the side of one of the cupboards and she honestly thought another kid was hiding back there.

My thanks to Deanne's grandson Devon for helping me reenact the "mystery child" situation.
Whew! I hadn't forgotten about a child after all. I was so relieved, and every time I thought about it after that I started laughing again.

Rosemary sounded so sure, she had Alice and me believing (almost) that someone was there. But it was just an optical illusion.

It got me thinking the rest of the week about how many times we get alarmed or upset because of someone else's misperception. 

They see danger and tell us all about it and we get scared, too, even if there really isn't anything to be afraid of.

A friend goes on and on about how unkind another woman is and it clouds our perception of that person, even though she's been nothing but kind to us.

We read hatred into someone's actions even though it may have just been an honest mistake.

We have to keep our eyes wide open and choose to believe the best about people. 

And always look out for mirrors.

"Foolish dreamers live in a world of illusion; wise realists plant their feet on the ground." (Proverbs 14:18 The Message)

Have you ever been fooled by an optical illusion? How can focusing on God help you to see past the illusions and understand what is really happening in the world around you? 

Friday, May 19, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on the Certainty of Uncertainty

If there's one thing you can be certain of, it's that life will always be...uncertain.

I realize that even more after the past couple of weeks.

On May 4, I saw a comment on my friend Robyn Niles's Facebook account about the passing of Wendy Jenkins. What?! Wendy (Tuttle) was a classmate of mine all the way from elementary school through high school. She was 50 years old. How could she be gone? I had gotten together with her a couple of years ago when I was in Michigan and always enjoyed connecting with her on Facebook. 

I asked Robyn about it a few days later and found out that she had gone in for a root canal and had some kind of reaction to the procedure. 

I still can't believe it. No warning. No chance to say goodbye.

Another example of how quickly things can change blew in on Wednesday evening. We had been hearing about a storm front headed our way and Gary was busy much of the day trying to figure out whether to cancel the Baccalaureate Service that evening or hold it an hour later, after the weather got past us.

At about 5:00, the power suddenly went out. We looked out the kitchen window and remarked about how black it looked out there. Then the wind started to come up, and then it really blew!

"There goes the basketball hoop!" It tipped over backward, away from the driveway. "Whoa! Look at the tree branches go!" Big branches seemed to be plucked from the middle of our tree and wooshed away to the North.

Gary got on the phone with the school and they made the call to postpone the service, then he went to the bedroom to change clothes. "The camper and boat tipped over!" he called to the rest of us.

"What?!!!" We raced to the back of the house and looked out the windows to see our camper lying upside down in the church parking lot.
 
Our boat was also up on its side, resting on our neighbor's boat. (Sorry, Carl and Barb!)

Later we found out that Carl had been looking out their back slider and had seen the camper go up and over the boats before smashing upside down. Wow!

After the wind died down and the danger was past, we ventured outside to take pictures and marvel at the strength of the wind. Trees were down all over. Our church garbage can ended up in the backyard of a church member four houses North of the church. 

Nobody got hurt in town, but a man from Dike was killed by Parkersburg when his semi was blown over on highway 57. Again, you never would expect that. A freak storm changed a family's life in an instant.

We can make our plans, but we just don't know what the future holds. Weather, disease, accidents, and even little disruptions to our lives make life very uncertain. 

As a Christian, the only way I can handle life's uncertainties is resting in the certainty that God has everything under control. I may not like everything that happens to me. Sometimes it may bring excruciating pain, but I know that I can trust my God. The Bible assures me of that over and over.


Gary took a picture after the rain stopped. Do you see that little piece of rainbow in the sky? I take it to mean "I will never again destroy your camper with a windstorm." No, I'm just kidding, but it is a really neat photo. 

Gary used it in a message for the graduates at Baccalaureate on Thursday night, reminding them that even when life seems chaotic, God provides hope.

That's something we all need to remember.

"Because of the LORD's great love, we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness." (Lamentations 3:22-23 NIV)

Have you ever thought about the uncertainty of life? How can focusing on God help you to hold on to hope in the midst of that uncertainty? 

  

Friday, May 12, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Moms

This is a pic at Dollywood when most of the family got together for Mom and Dad's 50th anniversary.
Sunday is Mother's Day. Did you forget? I actually got a card for my mom in the mail on time this year. Of course, I'll call her on Sunday and thank her for putting up with me for 51 years.

Before we went to Tennessee last week, I started scanning in old family photos. Of course I waited til the night before we left, so I didn't get finished, but I did get a good number of them into my computer. 

It was fun to look through them with my sister Johnna while we were there, and to show them to my mom and dad.

In honor of Mother's Day, I thought I'd share a few of my favorites of my mom here:

Shirlie Carole Morrison - 1940
"Coquette" dance number - 1948
Shirlie Carole Morrison - around 1950



Shirlie Morrison - Graduation Picture

 
My Mom and Dad on their wedding day - July 10, 1965
It's fun to go through old photos. Seeing them brings back memories of times we spent on vacation, celebrating holidays, and just living life together. 

I pray that I have many more years to spend with my mom, but I realize that many of my friends have already lost their mother. This will be a bittersweet Sunday for them. They'll miss their moms, but hopefully they will be comforted by many sweet memories of the woman who raised them.

My mom is pretty amazing. She used to make many of our clothes. She knit us sweaters. She loves to read and quilt. She prays for her children and grandchildren. She faced hard times and came through them all. She doesn't give herself enough credit, but she's definitely a great woman. She's my favorite mom! :-)

I thank God for making her my mom and giving me the family I had. She, Dad, and my sisters Jill and Johnna made me the person I am today. (I want to say something snarky like "So you can blame them!" but I'll keep this sweet and serious) I love them all.

And on this special occasion, I'll focus on the best Mom I've ever had! 

Thanks, Mom...I love you!

"A wife [or a mom] of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies." (Proverbs 31:10 NIV)

Have you sent your mother a card or letter lately? Make sure you call her on Sunday if you can. How can focusing on God help you to appreciate all that your mother has done for you?

Saturday, May 6, 2017

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus on Letting Things Go

We have been in Tennessee this week. Before we left I made arrangements to change our monthly Writers Group meeting. I put it in the paper that we'd be meeting a week later than normal. I saw a couple of group members during the week and checked with them to see if it would work. I made a mental note to call Betty because she had offered to bring refreshments on May 2.

I told myself several times that I needed to call her so she didn't waste time making something for our meeting.

You can probably guess what happened. I was visiting with my parents on Tuesday night and got a phone call at about 8 p.m. I jumped up and answered it to hear Betty asking if we had Writers Group that night.

My heart sank as I explained that we were postponing until next week and I had forgotten to contact her. I apologized all over myself and asked her to forgive me. I'm sure I rambled on for way too long about how sorry I was. She reminded me that she wouldn't be able to come next week because of another commitment she had. We hung up and I kicked myself all the way back to the couch, feeling terrible.

I forgot about it until the next day when I was taking a walk. All of a sudden I remembered my mistake and a wave of regret washed over me. I had to make a conscious decision to let it go.

I didn't deliberately neglect to call my friend. I said I was sorry. I determined to write a big note in the future so I don't forget to make important phone calls. 

It would do no one any good to keep beating myself up over my mistake. I'm sure Betty wasn't too happy with me on Tuesday evening, but if I know her, she got over it quickly and moved on.

I guess I am improving in this area. In the past I might have cried and let my mistake ruin way too many hours of my life. Now I can look at it more objectively and move on. 

We have to learn to do this so that we can live happy, fulfilling lives. 

This was a minor error that inconvenienced someone. What about more serious mistakes that cost us or someone else lots of money? What happens when a mistake we make leads to someone's injury or death? Are we supposed to hang onto those situations and never forgive ourselves and move on? Will that do us any good?

No. It doesn't do anyone any good. Of course, we apologize. We make restitution if possible and we learn from our mistakes so that we don't commit the same errors in the future. 

After all of that, we let it go. We accept God's forgiveness, forgive ourselves, and move forward in faith.

We're human, so we're going to have lots of opportunities to practice the skill of letting things go.

"...one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, I press on toward the goal...." (Philippians 3:13b-14a NIV)

Do you hold onto regrets? How can focusing on God help you to let things go and move forward with more joy and faith?

Friday, April 28, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Book Reports

About a month ago, I told all of you I was jumping in and getting serious about writing a book. I had a plan to finish a rough first draft by June 2 (about 50,000 words, I figured).

Well, it's almost May 1. I'm not halfway done. The first two days after I told you about it, I wrote 1,000 words a day. But then all of you stopped praying for me and I stopped writing.

Just kidding! I'm sure you still prayed, but I stopped writing. To be fair, I got a little busier with volunteering at the daycare and some other tasks, but I still had some time and I just didn't use it to work on this project.

I started back in on April 19 and I've put my butt in the chair several times in the past couple of weeks. I may not be done by June 2, but I will keep plugging away until I'm finished. If I make time to write even just a little every few days, I'll have to finish eventually.

I can't remember who told me about a woman in a nursing home who decided to work on a quilt for ten minutes every day. The teller thought that seemed like such a small amount of time - she would never finish it. But she did!

I also heard of a man who wrote an entire novel by writing for twenty minutes in his pickup during his lunch break every day.

So I will keep writing. 

If I can stop reading.

I've been reading some great books by Rachel Starr Thomson lately. I'm on book 4 of the Oneness Series and I'm really enjoying it. Kind of reminds me of This Present Darkness and Piercing the Darkness by Frank Peretti.

I just recently discovered her writing and am so glad I did. You can check out her blog and more about her writing at rachelstarrthomson.com

Can't wait to move on to some of her other novels and nonfiction books.




 I also have stacks and stacks of books waiting to be read. So many books - so little time!


One of these weeks I'm going to give my full Focus Friday to my friend Shannon Popkin's book Control Girl. I've read the first few chapters and have found it so practical and wise. I sure have problems with wanting to maintain control and refusing to surrender. Shannon's book teaches us how to surrender control to God and become Jesus Girls instead of Control Girls. I'm thinking this might be a great Bible study for a group of us from church to do sometime in the near future.


Finally, I've been really wanting to get to A Trail of Crumbs by Susie Finkbeiner. It's the second in a series of three. I enjoyed meeting Pearl Spence in A Cup of Dust and I can't wait to see what happens in this next installment.

I feel so blessed to consider Susie Finkbeiner a friend after meeting her at Breathe Christian Writers Conference in Michigan. She's a great writer and one of my inspirations.

So there you have it. A "book report" about my book and some ideas for some books you may enjoy reading.

Keep praying for me and let me know if I can pray for you as you do a little bit at a time on your own project. If you do that, it will get done!

"All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty." (Proverbs 14:23 NIV)

Is there anything you've been putting off but really want to complete? How can focusing on God help you to consistently do a little bit at a time until it gets done?

Friday, April 21, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Love

This is going to be a weekend filled with love.


Tomorrow afternoon a young couple will get married in our church. I watched the rehearsal tonight and remembered our wedding so many, many years ago (Twenty-seven!). I listened to their vows and thought of the day we had made our vows to each other and I wondered how faithful I have been in living those out.

Gary would hopefully say I've done well, but I know I've gotten lazy and selfish and complacent at times. There's nothing like a wedding to help you prioritize your own marriage. 

I'll be praying for Daniel and Taylor as they begin their married life together, and I'll keep praying for our marriage as we learn to love each other even more than the day we got married.

On Sunday, the GEMS and Cadets have a special service. Gary realized midway through the week that the scripture passage was the same for both the wedding and the service the kids will help lead. 1 John 4:7-8 tells us that love is from God. If we know Him then we will love. For the service on Sunday I think Gary is focusing on how God's love fills us up and then overflows to other people. What a beautiful image...being so full of love that it can't help but flow to others.

http://www.yolandadeloach.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/overflowing-cup.jpg
Let's focus on that this week. Loving our spouse, loving our families, loving others as God's love fills us up and overflows.

It's going to be a lovely weekend.

"Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." (1 John 4:7-8 NIV)

Friday, April 14, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on the Blood

Today is Good Friday.

It's a day for Christians everywhere to remember the pain Jesus suffered and His death on that cruel cross.

(Image from the website of Leonardo Ramirez. He has a really neat letter to Jesus there. )

This morning my friend Kristen mentioned that she and most of her family had watched "The Passion" last night after our Maundy Thursday service at church. It was hard for her to watch. All of that pain. The suffering Jesus went through. 

I've seen "The Passion of the Christ," too. The scene that stays with me the most is where the Roman soldiers are flogging Jesus and someone is counting loudly in Italian as they beat Him. I think I winced with every blow of that instrument of torture and I cried to see Jesus broken and bleeding.

At our service last night, Gary asked me to sing a solo while people took communion. I played the keyboard and sang "Your Blood Covers It All" by Allie Lapointe. It's a beautiful song. (My rendition was not quite beautiful. I didn't practice enough to make it excellent. I need to go back and read last week's post. Do as I say, not as I do, friends.)

Anyway, the words are so meaningful:
     All my sins, all my shame, all my secrets, all my chains;
     Lamb of God, great is your love, your blood covers it all.

(You can listen to the whole song on YouTube here)

That's what we need to focus on today. Jesus' blood covers all of our sins and shortcomings and by it we are assured a place in heaven.

Be somber as you focus on that tonight and on Saturday, but then get ready to rejoice on Sunday as you celebrate His resurrection.

His blood covers it all!

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God's grace." (Ephesians 1:7 NIV)

Are there sins you are holding onto or regrets you can't get past? How can focusing on God help you to remember that Jesus' blood covers all of that and you can live a joyful, fulfilling life?


Friday, April 7, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Excellence


Last Friday Gary and I saw the opening night performance of "Dancing at Lughnasa" at Northwestern College. Our son Blake plays "Father Jack" alongside seven other talented actors. 

He was nervous, we were nervous. Had they practiced enough? How would they do? 

They did just fine. We enjoyed the play so much, especially because it was fun to see Blake shine.

As I looked at the back of our program later, I realized why we could enjoy it so much.

I think it all comes down to this line: "...excellence honors God."

Blake and the other actors, as well as everyone involved behind the scenes, worked hard to make sure they were presenting the very best performance they could. 

I've been thinking about this all week. I realize that I haven't been honoring God with excellence in many areas of my life.

When I play the keyboard for worship I often don't take the time to practice enough and it sounds pretty rough on Sunday morning.

I often wait until just before our Fresh Hope support group to pick a topic and decide what we're going to talk about that night.

I usually look at my Sunday School lesson on Saturday and then finish getting ready to teach on Sunday morning.

I write my blog posts at ten p.m. on Friday nights instead of starting earlier in the week.

Now, these things are understandable if I've had a busy week and can't find the time, but usually I have plenty of time and I just put them off.

What's the big deal? People understand when I goof up on the songs, they aren't upset. My friends at Fresh Hope don't mind when we just chat about something unstructured. The kids in Sunday School seem to enjoy the lesson and learn something. People usually like my blog posts even though I write them so late.

The big deal is that I'm not honoring God when I put off all of these things and do a mediocre job. 

I think of my friend Nancy and how she would often talk about doing things with excellence when she directed our handbell choir back in Chandler, Minnesota. She made us keep practicing until we could play a song well. It felt good to do our best and bless our listeners with an excellent performance.

I feel myself being called to focus more on excellence in the things I'm doing. 

To practice until I can play confidently.

To spend some time preparing for our Fresh Hope discussions.

To start my Sunday School lesson early in the week so I have time to prepare those special activities or crafts that the kids love so much.

To spend a little more time on my blog posts and make sure they are the best they can be for my readers.

Of course, there's grace. We are all going to make mistakes and fail sometimes, even when we take time to prepare. God loves us and people will usually be understanding.

Oh, but just think of how much it can honor God and point others to Him when we take the time to do things with excellence.

"But since you excel in everything--in faith, in speech, in knowledge, in complete earnestness and in the love we have kindled in you--see that you also excel in this grace of giving." (2 Corinthians 8:7 NIV)

Do you strive for excellence in all that you do, or do you settle for mediocre? How can focusing on God help you to do your best and honor Him?

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus on Clean Refrigerators


Sometimes little things bug me. 

For weeks (months?) I was bothered whenever I opened my refrigerator. Milk had spilled on the bottom shelf and left a big yucky spot. Crumbs were all over. Other spills were visible when I took things out or put them in. It bugged me, but I didn't take the time to do anything about it.

One day this week I decided to take a few minutes and wipe out my fridge. I didn't even do a super thorough job. I just moved things around and wiped the shelves off with a wet cloth.
See? Doesn't it look great?

I was surprised by how good I felt every time I opened my fridge after that. Such a little thing brought me so much joy.

I began to think about other things that have been bugging me. Some of them are things that would only take a little while to get done and get off my "To Do" list and out of my head.

Others are bigger projects, but maybe I can break them down into bite-sized tasks and get some of them done.

We don't have to spend huge amounts of time working on one project. Doing things a little bit at a time is so much better than feeling overwhelmed and leaving everything until later.

I'm off to look at my clean fridge one more time, then I'll choose something to work on, even if it's just for a few minutes. That's the way to really get things done.

"Work hard and do not be lazy. Serve the LORD with a heart full of devotion. Let your hope keep you joyful, be patient in your troubles, and pray at all times." (Romans 12:11-12 Good News Translation)

Is there anything that has been really bugging you lately? What little thing can you do to make it look better or get closer to finishing a project? How can focusing on God give you wisdom about what things to work on and when to do them?

Friday, March 24, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Writing a Book



Have you ever watched a young kid work up the courage to jump off a diving board?

The child shifts nervously and does a few practice bounces. Their arms move as if they want to jump, but it doesn't happen. You call your encouragement from down in the water: "You can do it! Come on!"
( Not me. Image from http://www.conceptualdynamics.com/files/partnewt/partnewt_fbd_cex1.JPG)

You just know that kid is going to love the thrill of jumping in, but they have to work up the courage to finally leave the safety of the diving board and take the plunge.

Well, friends, I'm ready to jump.

I'm sick of saying I'm going to write a book someday. I have lots of people cheering me on and urging me to do it. I see facebook posts from author friends having book launch parties and holding their brand new books. They talk about the hard parts - the deadlines and the editing - but they also rave about the thrill of touching someone's life through their writing. I want to do that.

So it's time.

My working title is "Staying Away From the Edge" and it's about depression. I'll share my experience with going over the edge, but I also plan to share other people's stories and lots of ideas for staying away from the edge and remaining emotionally healthy.

I'm focusing on it here so you'll hold me accountable. If all of my loyal readers know I'm writing, maybe that will keep me going to the end.

I've been thinking and praying about this and I'd like to go a step further. I'm wondering if a few of you would be willing to pray for me as I write. Maybe you can shoot me a facebook message every once in a while and ask how it's going. I have a plan for getting a first draft done by June 2, but I know that I could be sidetracked by lots of distractions and doubts if I don't have people praying for me.

You can also help me write it by sending me any thoughts you have about depression and how you stay healthy emotionally. Send it to: nestrobynmulder @ gmail.com

Maybe there's something you've been talking about doing for far too long. Friends, it's time to take the leap. Tell me about it and I'll pray for you, too. 

"Come and hear, all you who fear God; let me tell you [in a book?] what he has done for me." (Psalm 66:16 NIV)

Are you standing at the end of the diving board trying to work up the courage to jump? How can focusing on God help you to finally take that leap?

Friday, March 17, 2017

Focus Friday:Let's Focus on Sleeping


Apparently I have trouble with sleeping.

Not only do I snore and keep my husband awake sometimes, but I have also turned into a very poor traveling companion. Seems like every time we get in the car to go somewhere, I start dozing off. 

Today I woke up to find my husband chuckling as I looked around and tried to figure out where we were. We were just traveling from Orange City to Rock Rapids and nothing looked familiar. 

It seems he pulled off onto a side road so he could document my nap.

He wasn't happy with that angle, so he slowed down and pulled over so he could really get some good shots:





Maybe he was just worried that I was 
going to choke to death on my gum. 

I finally woke up and stayed awake until we got to his mom's apartment (where it didn't take long to start dozing in the chair as we visited).

It's funny, but it's so frustrating to me. I really can't help it. It's not like I say to myself, "Gee, I think I'll take a nap now." No, it's at the most inopportune times that my sleepiness kicks in. 

In church. (Thank you, Gary, for never calling me out on it from the pulpit.)

During hospital visits. (One time I sat on the edge of the bed and joked about falling asleep and a little later I heard the lady say, "I think we've lost Robyn." My eyes popped open to see her and Gary laughing at me.)

In the car. (You've seen the disturbing evidence of that. At least it doesn't happen when I'm driving.)

At my desk while I'm supposedly "working."

Maybe I need to get a little more sleep. Maybe I need vitamins. Maybe I need to start drinking coffee or something. I don't know. 

One thing I do know is we need to be careful we aren't sleeping through life. It's comfortable to stay in our beds instead of jumping up to face the day and dive into new challenges. It can be tempting to just go through the motions in life and keep doing what we've always done because it's familiar. We need to wake up and really live.

Gary is getting a little sick of looking over to see me drooling while we're in the car together. He'd rather have a wide awake traveling companion to talk with and enjoy the ride.

I'm going to work on that...(yawn)

Right now I'd better get to bed or I'll be sleeping all the way home to Allison tomorrow.

"Then [Jesus] returned to his disciples and found them sleeping. 'Couldn't you men keep watch with me for one hour?' he asked Peter. 'Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.'" (Matthew 26:40-41 NIV)

Do you get enough sleep? (Studies recommend getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night.) How can focusing on God help you not to "sleep" through life?