Friday, February 24, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Extremes

What a difference just a few days can make. Earlier this week it was so nice outside. We were riding bikes and taking walks. It almost felt like spring.

I didn't think to take a picture then. (Credit:

Even as we enjoyed the beautiful weather, we knew it couldn't last. We heard the forecasts and shared the bad news with everyone we talked to. "We're supposed to get some snow on Friday." Hardly anyone was happy to hear that.

Our local school cancelled on Thursday evening when the forecasts ramped up to a blizzard warning. We went to bed on Thursday night wondering what we would wake up to this morning. We were all surprised to hear thunder, lots of rain, and some light hail late Thursday night, but during the night it did turn to snow and we woke up to a world of white.
I didn't think to take a pic today, either, so this is not Allison, Iowa.

A couple of days ago Gary was grilling brats for lunch and today we were without power for a couple of hours. Amazing. 

Our weather extremes got me thinking about the extremes we can experience in other areas of our lives.

The joy of a new birth. The sorrow of the death of a loved one.
The thrill of victory. The agony of defeat.
The excitement of a new adventure. The monotony of daily life.
The fun emotions of new love. The pain of a broken relationship.
The pride of accomplishment. The shame of failure.

We can swing between extremes, sometimes on a daily basis.

There is only one person who can keep us steady and get us through the ups and downs of life. God. He knows us completely and He cares about what is happening to us. 

He'll help us keep a clear head and humble heart during the highs of life. He'll carry us and keep loving us during the low times.

That should help us experience the extremes of life with grace and hope.

I know spring will be here for real in a couple of months, winter can't last forever. Neither can life's wintery seasons. Spring will come again as we hold onto hope.

"I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength." 
                                                 (Philippians 4:12-13 NIV)

Do you get thrown off by the extremes of life? How can focusing on God help you to remain stable and hold onto hope, especially in the low times? 

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Super Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus on Better Late Than Never

We went to Rock Rapids yesterday to celebrate Gary's birthday with his mom and siblings. It was nice getting together with them and enjoying a nice meal at Pizza Ranch. 

We stayed at Denny and Holly's and stayed up late talking after we got home from supper. I had planned to do my Focus Friday around ten or eleven (as usual), but I looked up and it was 11:45! We went to bed and I decided to make it a Sorry Saturday.

Well, it has become a Super Sorry Saturday because I didn't sit down to write during the day today, either. So that's our focus for this week: getting something done even if it's late.

It was tempting to just say "Oh well, I'll just skip my blog this week" but I didn't want to disappoint my loyal readers and break my streak of posting every week.

I think we can apply this to other areas of our lives, too.

Just because we feel like we've missed the right time to do something, it can still be worth it to complete the task or project.

I have a pile of Christmas letters that I am going to send out this week. I know it's very late. It would be easier to just forget about them, but I did that last year and I really want to connect with my family and friends. They will probably sigh and shake their heads at my tardiness, but hopefully they will be glad to receive it.  

Maybe you've been putting off a project because you are uncertain about it. What if it doesn't turn out like you hope it will? What if people don't like it? What if....? What if...? What if...? If you have been prompted over and over to do something, it's time to get at it, even if it feels like you're too late.

Send that birthday card even if it's a month later. Write a short letter to go with it. Your friend will enjoy hearing from you.

Read a few days from your One Year Bible, even if you're not caught up to today's date. Over time, reading two days' worth each day will get you back on track.

Most of all, show yourself grace when you realize you've missed getting something done on time. We're all busy and we do the best we can. 

Sometimes you have to do something late (pay that overdue bill you found in that stack of papers), at times you can choose to do something late (send the birthday card you wrote out and then misplaced for a while), and other times you can let something go (household chores don't always have to be done every single week).

Doing things on time is a good goal to have, but doing things late can bring blessings, too.

"Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up." (Galatians 6:9 NIV)

What have you put off that you feel like finishing even if it's late? How can focusing on God help you to get things done and show yourself grace when you miss a deadline?

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus on Growing Old Together

Yesterday was our anniversary. Twenty-seven years. How does the time go by so quickly?

It seems like such a short time ago when we looked like this:
I look at that picture and I recognize the two of us, but I realize that we are essentially different people now. We've known each other longer than we didn't know each other. We've grown in knowledge, maturity, and waist size.

We've laughed, cried, traveled, celebrated, fought, made up, prayed, worked, and played together.

We've also done this together:
Allison, Blake, Robyn, Dylan, Gary, Erin
I turned fifty last March. Gary will turn fifty on Valentines Day. We're getting old, but at least we're growing old together.

Some couples don't make it to twenty-seven years. Some don't make it to twenty or even seven years. They get frustrated by the changes in their spouse and they decide they've had enough.

I understand, but it makes me sad. They're missing out on so much joy they could have if they would wait out the hard times, work through the rough days, and walk alongside their spouse even when they would rather run the other way.

My friend Myrna and her husband also were married on February 10. She wrote a blog post a couple of years ago that captures beautifully some of the ideas I'd like you to focus on this week. One of the most important aspects of loving someone well is commitment. It's hard some days, but keeping God intertwined with the two of us will make our marriage strong enough to last as we grow old together.

Happy Anniversary, Gary! I love you and I'm glad God brought us together so many years ago. It's been a wild ride and I look forward to what He has in store for us in the years ahead.

"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken." (Ecclesiastes 4:9-13 NIV)

How many years have you been married (if you are married)? How can focusing on God help you to stay together and keep loving each other even through the difficult times?

(A note to my divorced readers: I am not trying to make you feel guilty or ashamed if your marriage did not last. You did the best you could, I'm sure. Everyone's situation is different and we can't judge from the outside. I just want those who are currently married to do everything they can to stay married, and hopefully learn from God so that it is a happy marriage most of the time.)   

Friday, February 3, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on our Life Calendar

This week I watched a video about procrastination ( (I think I was putting off doing something I really needed to be doing at the time). It was funny and hit a little too close to home, but Tim Urban ended with the sobering thought that all of us are procrastinators in some ways. 

We may not all push up against actual deadlines, but we put off doing many things in life that don't have a tangible deadline. We don't do what we've always dreamed of doing because it's scary or uncomfortable to step out and try something new. We keep going in bad relationships because it's easier than dealing with whatever is going wrong. 

He showed a picture similar to this one that shows a ninety year life in weeks:

I'm fifty years old. Over half of those little squares are gone already. I can't even be sure I'll make it to ninety, so that adds even more urgency. What am I doing with all of my remaining squares?

I guess I've been thinking about that a lot this week. Am I going to just keep letting the weeks fly by and never accomplish the things I say I want to do? If I make it to ninety, am I going to look back at all of those little squares representing my weeks here on earth and have little to show for them?

My friend Joan shared a great quote at our writers group meeting last month:

Begin doing what you want to do now. 
We are not living in eternity. 
We have only this moment, 
sparking like a star in our hand-- 
and melting like a snowflake. 
~Marie Beynon Ray

Isn't that beautiful?

I hope it can inspire all of us to be much more deliberate about what we are doing with the moments God gives us. We aren't going to live forever. Let's get busy with the things God is prompting us to do: Write that letter, call that friend, write that book, start that business, take that vacation, finish that project, give your time or money to that organization that stirs your heart so much, love the people in your life well. 

We only have so many "boxes" left. Let's not waste them.

"Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom." (Psalm 90:12 NIV)

Have you been procrastinating because there is no specific deadline for something you've been wanting to do? How can focusing on God help you to use your time wisely because you realize that your time here on earth is limited?