Friday, September 29, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Facing Our Fear of Heights

Gary did something pretty amazing on Tuesday.

He hiked to the top of Angels Landing at Zion National Park even though he's afraid of heights.

We got to the park on Tuesday morning and parked "Clifford the Big Red Dog" amongst a sea of beautiful Corvettes.
Then we got on the Zion Shuttle bus and rode to the stop for Angels Landing. We had watched videos on YouTube, so we knew what to expect. Gary wasn't sure how far he'd be able to go, but he said he'd just take it a little at a time and see how it went. 

The sign at the beginning of the trail is daunting:
The beginning isn't too bad. Lots of long switchbacks in the sun. I huffed and puffed and Gary waited for me in the little patches of shade that seemed to come at just the right time.

Once we got through that section, there was a nice section that was fairly level and had lots of shade.
Then we came out into the sun again and climbed higher and higher. Here's a shot at the bottom of "Walter's Wiggles," a section of short switchbacks.
Here's Gary at the bottom.

And here's a shot looking back from near the top.
Once we got to the top, there was an area with lots of people lounging in patches of shade. It was time for one of the first decisions. Should we go on to the next section of the trail?
We watched people climbing the rocky surface and then grabbing a chain to help them as they climbed.

Gary decided to go for it and made his way up to the chain.

We challenged ourselves with the trail that included sections of reassuring chain and short sections without any chain. We had to scramble up and down rocks. Sometimes we had to wait while someone came down because the trail was basically single file most of the way.

 At the top it was wider, but tilted. We made our way out to the end.
Happy people took pictures and enjoyed the view.

We had someone take our picture at the top. We did it!

We enjoyed a snack and watched the bold chipmunks scurry around our feet and packs.
Now we just had to make our way down. I think that was almost scarier, because I saw more of the dropoffs, but Gary said it didn't bother him too much.

It took us four hours, but we had an amazing experience. I am so proud of Gary for not letting his fear of heights hold him back. He kept going in spite of his fears.

All of us can learn from this. We don't have to let our fears hold us back. If we push on in spite of our fears, we may be rewarded with something awesome. 

Now, we have to be smart about this. If we are terrified, we may need some help or some time before we're ready to face our fears. 

We were following two women toward the beginning of the chain section. One woman was coaching the other on how to climb the rocks or get down from a high spot. Her friend did fine for a while, but eventually she got to a spot where she could go no further. She was almost crying and they decided to turn around. She was so scared she couldn't even step away from the chain to let us get by. I had to reach around her and grab the chain. Gary had to let go for a few seconds while they went by.

Gary also said that he could handle his fear of heights on his own, but he was more scared if he was worried about someone else. At the beginning of the chain section I didn't hold on to the chain exactly (it was close, but I tried just holding on to the rock), but that freaked Gary out when I told him. 

He didn't want to have to worry about me falling to my death while he was facing his fear of heights. So I held on to the chain (gratefully).

Maybe you don't have a fear of heights, but something else scares you. Remember that it may be worth it to press on in spite of those fears. You just may experience something amazing! 

"So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand." (Isaiah 41:10 NIV)

Is your fear of something holding you back? How can focusing on God help you to face those fears and press on?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Magnificent Monday: Let's Focus on No More Guilt (and the North Rim of the Grand Canyon)

I'm sorry I didn't post on Friday evening, but I had a very good excuse. I was on my way out west with Gary so we could hike from the North Rim of the Grand Canyon. We didn't have internet access for several days...and so I did not post. 

We enjoyed hiking down from the North Rim and camping at Cottonwood Campground, then hiking back out today. It was grueling (as the Grand Canyon usually is) but beautiful.

As we hiked, I starting thinking about this blog. I felt guilty about not posting on Friday, but as I hiked I made a decision to never post another "Sorry Saturday," "Sad Sunday," etc. again.

Oh, I will probably post sometimes on Saturday, Sunday, or Monday, but I'm going to try not to hold on to any guilt about that. After all, I didn't sign a contract that promised a Friday night post. I know my loyal readers might miss it, but they can wait a few days. They have other things to do until I get a post up here.

So from now on, if it isn't a "Focus Friday," it's going to be a "Super Saturday," "Superb Sunday," or "Magnificent Monday."

I'm realizing more and more that when I let my mind go in negative directions, it affects my satisfaction with life and, often, my mental health. Maybe you find that, too, even if you don't deal with depression or a similar disorder.

Can we let go of the guilt we feel for little mistakes and failures? Can we focus instead on the things we do right and the successes we enjoy?

Successes like hiking seven miles down and then seven miles back up the North Kaibab trail at the Grand Canyon.

I'll leave you with a few pictures of our adventure the last couple of days and I'll see you again on Friday. 

There are more trees on the North Rim and they are just starting to turn. So pretty!

Here I am at one of the bridges on the trail.

You know me and my flowers (foreground)

Gary had the great idea of taking a pic of our shadows as we started hiking.

You can see a bridge at the bottom of this picture and how the trail loops around on the right side here.
"Brothers and sisters, I do not consider myself to have attained this. Instead I am single-minded: Forgetting the things that are behind [the Focus Friday or something else I missed] and reaching out for the things that are ahead [next week's blog post or some other project], with this goal in mind, I strive toward the prize of the upward [seven miles upward?] call of God in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 3:13-14 NIV - italics mine)

Do you have a hard time letting go of guilt? How can focusing on God help you to let it go and enjoy all of the good things He helps you to do and experience?

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus on Swearing

The other day I got some plastic letters ready to put on the sign in front of church. They were stacked up in order, placed neatly in a basket. 

I set it down and turned to talk to someone. Crash! The basket fell and the letters went everywhere. I turned to my friend, my eyes wide with surprise. I laughed and started picking up letters, resigned to spending a little extra time getting them back in order.

"At least I didn't say a naughty word!" I joked as I worked.

"Oh, you do that, too?" my friend asked.

"Well, usually it's just in my head, but sometimes, yeah."

Swearing has been on my mind quite a bit lately. 

I wanted to read Trevor Noah's book Born a Crime, but it was always checked out at the library. One day I happened to check and they had the CD version.
I recommend listening to this book on CD - he performs it so well, especially since there are so many
lines of dialogue in African languages. You just have to be ready for a fair amount of swearing.

As I began listening, I was fascinated with his stories about growing up in South Africa. His mother is black and his father is white, which was a crime during apartheid. Every once in a while, he would throw in a swear word, but I could handle it.

As I continued to listen, the swearing became more frequent, and I became more uncomfortable. I had to wrestle with my thoughts a bit before I decided I could continue to listen.

He wasn't taking God's name in vain. The words he used were actually understandable as he told stories about growing up in South Africa. He was poor. He was colored (His word, not mine. That's the term they used for mixed races.) He went through experiences that most of us could not even imagine. He was telling his story and he was using the language he used during those years. I couldn't really expect him to change things to "shoot" and "frick" just to protect my sensitive ears.  

That being said, I think that all of us would do well to examine how we're talking. 

What is the first word we think of when something bad happens to us? Maybe we can't stop a swear word from entering our mind, but we can usually keep it from coming out of our mouths with just a little effort.

True confession time: I remember when Gary and I were first married and living on the farm. It was winter and I had to go outside for something. I was running across the yard and our dog, Skip, got in front of me and made me fall.

For some reason, I told Gary's family that when we got together, and my sister-in-law Helen smirked and said, "What did you say then?"

I probably blushed as I muttered, "Dumb dog." She laughed, but I've always wondered if she knew I was lying. (She does now!)

Truth is, I said a lot worse than "Dumb dog." I said something that starts with an F. I know, it shocked me, too. I hardly ever swore, let alone used that word.

I was in a bad mood, and when that dumb dog tripped me, swearing was the first thing on my mind. Luke 6:45 says it is "out of the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks."

Don't you find that that's true? When your heart is right, swear words are far from your thoughts. When your heart is messed up, you can think all kinds of nasty things.

My heart was good the other day in the office. I really didn't even think of any naughty words when the letters fell. I don't want my friend to think that I take swearing lightly, because it's serious.

We can overlook the swearing of others, especially when they don't know any better, but we can be careful to refrain from using bad language so that we can be a good example for others.

Even when your dumb dog trips you and makes you fall in the snow.

"Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen." (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

Do you have a problem with swearing? How can focusing on God help you to get your heart right and use words that are wholesome instead?

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Sorry Saturday: Let's Focus (or not) on Cold Sores


Last night I told my daughter Allison we would be going to the Cedar Falls writing group "if I didn't look too hideous in the morning." I was just starting to get a cold sore and I wasn't sure what it was going to look like today.

I slathered on Abreva before bed and prayed for the best. It was noticeable this morning, but I decided it wasn't too bad to venture out in public.

I would have missed out on a great meeting if I had stayed home just because of a little spot on my lip. 

We are pretty vain people, aren't we? 

We worry about what people will think of us if we aren't dressed the right way or if our hair isn't just so or if we have a big zit on the end of our nose (or a cold sore gracing our bottom lip).

I've gotten over most of that. I don't wear makeup. I don't mind going in a store in jeans and an old sweatshirt on a Saturday. I never spend much time on my hair, but physical imperfections bother me.

Cold sores, big pimples, and other abnormalities make me feel extremely self-conscious.

I remember a couple of years ago at the Breathe Christian Writers Conference in Michigan. I had a problem with my eye. It was sore and extremely red. I could hardly talk to my friends because I was sure they couldn't stand to look at me or were worrying I had pinkeye and would infect them if they got too close. 

I skipped a workshop and went to the eye doctor and found out I had a contact stuck in my eye and it was getting infected. (When I got back to Iowa I figured out I also had an old one in the other eye. What is wrong with me!?)

Even after I knew my problem was temporary, it was hard to show my face at the conference.

We need to remember that what is important is what is inside of us.

Of course, we want to look nice most of the time, but physical imperfections do not have to bother us so much that we don't want to spend time with people.

Cold sores and infected eyes are temporary.

What about people who have permanent "flaws"?

Scars, skin diseases, missing limbs, drooping muscles after a many things can mar our physical beauty and make us self-conscious.

If we learn to put more effort into becoming beautiful on the inside, maybe we'll be able to make peace with the physical flaws that are part of who we are.

God loves us just as we are. He knows every cell of our bodies and he loves every inch of us. 

Some people will stare at our flaws and stay away if it makes them uncomfortable, but the people who love us will never go away. They will love us for who we are inside. A missing limb or scar just becomes part of how they know us and it doesn't matter a bit.

They can even look past a giant zit or an ugly cold sore, I'll bet. 

(image from

"Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised." (Psalm 31:30 NIV)

Do physical flaws make you feel self-conscious? How can focusing on God help you to make peace with the imperfections that bother you and move ahead confident that God sees you as beautiful, inside and out?

Friday, September 1, 2017

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Rejection

I went in for a tune-up with my counselor in Waverly last week. 

I told her about several situations where rejection had really upset me and sent me spiraling down emotionally. 

In each situation, I recognized what was happening and came out of it quite quickly, but it hurt so much. I wanted her thoughts about how I could deal with rejection better.

She looked thoughtful, then suggested something a bit unusual.

"Your rejection button is broken," she stated. 

"When you feel those feelings, you just have to stop and tell yourself 'I can't process this correctly, so I'm not even going to go there.' Then do something to comfort yourself, just like putting a band aid or ice pack on a wound."
She acknowledged that there definitely is pain associated with rejection, but I could just do something to make me feel better instead of over analyzing.

"Could it involve ice cream?" I begged.

"Sure, sometimes. Just do something that will help you feel better. Listen to music, read a book, do something fun. Go spend time with someone who loves and accepts you unconditionally."

I looked at her blankly and realized I had another problem. I don't feel that way with very many people (probably because my rejection button is broken!). I think I'm always looking for a reason for them to reject me or reading more into the slightest hint of rejection they might show.

"I guess I'll have to talk to God about that," I said.

"Well, God. There you go!" 

I realized she was right. He's the only One I know loves and accepts me unconditionally. The Bible tells me that over and over again. 
When those situations come where I feel rejected, I can run to Him and pour out my pain to someone who understands.

And maybe I'll have a little ice cream, too.

"He [Jesus] was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain." (Isaiah 53:3a NIV)

Is your "rejection button" broken? How can focusing on God help you to let go of the pain of rejection and get back to a healthy way of thinking?