Friday, July 20, 2018

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Gardening

(This is my actual backyard garden)

When Gary was candidating to come to Platte, some of the ladies asked me, "Do you garden?"

I stammered out an apologetic, "No, not really."

They recovered quickly and said that was fine. "Beth loved flowers," they explained.

My heart sank as I wondered how disappointed some would be if I didn't garden like the previous pastor's wife. I put it out of my mind and forgot about it until we moved in.

One of our new friends proudly showed me the garden spot out back that she and some other ladies had graciously weeded before we came. I smiled and thanked her, but honestly, I had no idea what was growing there. Nothing was blooming, and all I could think about was how I would disappoint her when I let it get overgrown with weeds.

Well, lo and behold, I started to spend a few minutes most days looking at those plants and pulling a few weeds. I could recognize grass and thistles. Gary pointed out a few trees that were started to grow, so I chopped those off.

We've gotten lots of moisture this spring and summer, so the garden has done well. Things started to get buds and then they bloomed:

And as they bloomed, I got more and more interested in my garden.
 I spent a little more time each day. I pulled off the wilted petals and watched to see when more would open,
The phlox is just starting to bloom!
 I asked a friend to come look at it and tell me for sure which plants were weeds. She pointed some out and I cleaned up my garden a little more.
I thought these tall plants might be weeds, but they started blooming and they're so pretty!
As we've done house visits, I've taken notice of people's flowers. I've admired them and asked questions. 

On Tuesday I went along with a new friend on a garden tour. I saw so many neat things that I could hardly sleep that night. My mind was racing with ideas for what I could plant in our yard!
We went to lots of homes on that tour, and it seems like almost every place had something they pointed out that had died. They talked about replanting trees or plants that just hadn't made it. I was reassured that I could garden even if I didn't do it perfectly.

I also heard lots of talk about "creeping jenny" and how it can threaten to take over a garden if you're not careful.
Don't let that cute little flower fool you - this is an annoying weed!
Several times I heard women murmur behind me, "They look happy." I thought that was so cute that they judged the plants with such a human emotion, but as I looked, I could see it. The healthy plants really did look happy.

Besides spending time in my garden, I also find myself wanting to reread some fiction books that deal with gardening. The Secret of the Rose series by Michael Phillips, Some Wildflower in My Heart by Jamie Langston Turner, and A Garden to Keep by Jamie Langston Turner are some of my favorites.

I remember these christian authors beautifully explaining many spiritual principles as they used flowers and gardening in their novels. I want to visit those stories again and take note of the little details I probably missed before, now that I have more of a gardener mindset.

I know I want to make sure I'm spending just as much time in the garden of my heart as I am out in my literal garden. I need to water it with a steady soaking of God's word. There are stubborn habits and negative thoughts to pull, and I need to ask for help when I'm not sure what's growing there. I need to take notice of the promising buds that appear out of nowhere, and enjoy the beauty when God allows something to finally bloom in my heart.

I hope I'll remember that every time I look at the flowers in my back yard. 

"The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever." (Isaiah 40:8 NIV)

Do you like to garden? How can focusing on God help you to grow the garden of your heart with as much care as a flower or vegetable garden?

(You can check out a few more of my garden pictures in my Facebook gardening album)

Friday, July 13, 2018

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Being Real

Last night I went to Bible Study at church. Fourteen of us women gathered around some tables in the fellowship hall and discussed 2 Kings 6 and 7. 

I got to read from chapter 6 right away, then I listened as they talked about how God cares even about the small things in our lives (like borrowed axeheads).

Then we went on in chapter 6 and saw how God blinded the Arameans after they surrounded the city where Elisha was. 

I just had to jump in and comment. "Did anyone else think of Star Wars when he says, 'This is not the road and this is not the city' in verse 19? You know, like 'These are not the droids you're looking for.'

Our poor leader didn't know what to say. She wasn't a big Star Wars fan. I got a few chuckles from some of the ladies, but someone else said they didn't know much about Star Wars, either.

We went on, but I got stuck for a few seconds in self-doubt. 

Oh no, why did that have to be the first comment I made tonight? They're going to think I'm strange. I'm just getting to know them. I should have kept my mouth shut and waited to say something more wise and thoughtful.

Thankfully, I didn't get too stuck in those thoughts. I shook them off and followed along with the study, even saying a few things that were a little more "normal."

We ended with some business and delicious desserts, then headed for home. I was offered a ride across the parking lot along with 2 other ladies since it was raining pretty hard out. 

I guess the Star Wars comment bothered me more than I even realized, because I couldn't seem to stop myself from saying something like, "I hope that wasn't too weird that I mentioned Star Wars tonight" as I got ready to open the car door.

"Oh no," the ladies assured me. "That was fine. We have lots of Star Wars fans around Platte." I dove for the garage door, and then kicked myself a little more as I went in the house.

You dummy, now they're going to think you're even more weird for asking about it! You should have just let it go. I'll bet they're going to tell the other women I was worried about it and they'll all think I'm strange.

Again, I had to be firm with myself to stop this train of thought. These are nice women. None of them were putting on a show just for Bible Study, and I shouldn't either. They might as well know right away that I have kind of a quirky sense of humor. (I really could have saved it for next month, though) 

Genuine, lasting relationships happen when people are real with each other. When women (and men) show each other grace and understanding, an atmosphere is created where people feel free to be who God created them to be. No judgement is felt, only love.

Just a couple of weeks ago, I sang the song "Free to Be Me" by Francesca Battistelli at a community service. I talked beforehand about how we're all free to be the unique person that God has made us. What a hypocrite I'd be if I didn't live that out as I start to do life with these new friends.

I'll be real, but I think I'll lay off the Star Wars quotes for a while.

"The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith." (1 Timothy 1:5 NIV)

Do you worry too much about what people think of you? How can focusing on God help you to be real and focus more on loving others than impressing them?

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Super Saturday: Let's Focus on Hospitality

As we begin our time here in Platte, one of the goals Gary and I have is to visit with as many members as possible in these first months of ministry. 

Some people choose to come to the church office for a visit (and that is just fine), but most have been graciously allowing us to come to their homes so we can get to know them better.

There is something special about sitting down with someone in their living room or at their kitchen table as we converse. We find out about their families and past experiences and tell them a bit about us and our family. We talk about church and the community. We find out about past hurts and present concerns. We come away from the visit with a greater sense of connection.

Gary does most of the talking during these visits, but I enjoy them, too. As I listen, my eyes dart around the room and take in the decorations and design of each home. It's fun to see what people collect and what is special to them. Many display photos of their family members and point out their children and grandchildren to us. 

As we've made many visits the last couple of weeks, my mind has gone back to the visits we made in Chandler, MN and Allison, IA when we first started to serve there. I remember hearing people's stories and struggling to remember names at first...but it wasn't long before those unfamiliar names were very familiar and the faces that went with them were very dear to us.

That's what happens when people show hospitality. It can happen at church during fellowship time when someone takes the time to sit and connect with someone else, but I think it happens best when we open our homes to each other. Sitting down to chat over a cup of coffee, or conversing during a delicious meal can make stronger connections between friends.

I wish I had done more of that back in our other two churches. I loved the people, and I hope they felt that, but I'd like to be more deliberate about hospitality in the years ahead.

I was too worried about how clean the house looked or if I had enough energy to make an impressive meal for someone. I'm starting to realize that those things aren't as important. A relatively clean house and a simple meal served with love can bless someone and encourage them in whatever they're going through.

I hope we can be more deliberate about showing hospitality in the years ahead. I'm going to try to invite people over more often as we enjoy life here. 

Don't be afraid to invite yourself over, either. I'll try to do my housekeeping on time, but if you see a little dust, let's just agree not to mention it (and please don't write in it!).

"Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins. Offer hospitality to one another without grumbling." (1 Peter 4:8-9 NIV)

Do you enjoy showing hospitality? How can focusing on God help you to cheerfully invite people over and share life with them?

Friday, June 29, 2018

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Asking for Help

I don't like asking for help.

I'll struggle with something for far too long before I finally admit that I can't do it myself.

It can be little things like pickle jars that won't open or not being able to move a piece of furniture on my own.

It can also be bigger things, usually more emotional than physical.

That was part of the problem when I got so depressed about four years ago. I was struggling with different aspects of a teaching job and I wouldn't ask for help. Even worse, people were offering help and I was just too sick to accept it.

I've been experiencing some of those same feelings lately. Oh, don't worry, it won't turn into depression this time. I'm healthy enough to notice how I'm thinking and feeling, and I'm going to do what I need to do to stay healthy emotionally.

Part of that is asking for help.

I need to talk to Gary about everything and not just hope these annoying anxious thoughts go away on their own.

I need to reach out to others when I'm not sure how to do something, so I don't get stressed out about whatever it is.

Gardening, for example.

I've been feeling a bit of stress about "my" garden.

I put my in quotes because it was actually the previous pastor's wife who planted some flowers in the backyard. Before we got here, some of the ladies weeded the area. Only one plant was blooming, but it looked very nice.

I went out there several times, but I didn't really know what was growing. Then I was gone last week, and we've gotten lots of rain, and suddenly the spot looked like this:

 It doesn't look so nice, does it?

The thing is, I decided I really do want to keep it up. I've walked around Platte and there are so many pretty flower gardens. I want to have one, too!

But I don't know how. And I've been too proud to ask for help. 

I know that some of the things growing out there are weeds, like thistles and grass.

But I don't know what some of the rest of it is. I didn't want to pull out flowers, so I left it all alone.

This morning I took a walk, and on my way home I saw my neighbor Suzy working in her yard. She has lots of flowers, so I stopped to talk to her. She showed me how she was cutting some of her plants back so they would keep growing. 

I told her how I wanted to garden, but I didn't know how. "I didn't know how at first, either," she said.

"How did you learn?"

She thought a moment and said that she had a couple of sisters-in-law that gardened and she learned from them.

I went home and spent a little time in my garden. I was dismayed by all of the weeds I saw, but I was also encouraged when I saw buds on some of the plants and realized I'll see some flowers soon.
(I don't know what this is, but I think it has buds)

Look, a lily!

I think these are something, too, but I don't know what.
It's time to ask for help. I can keep showing up at Suzy's and ask lots of questions. I know there are lots of ladies at church that like to garden and would be happy to help me.

It's just getting past that initial embarrassment of admitting that I don't know what I'm doing. I'll have to be willing to laugh at myself if they come over and can't believe I didn't know that a certain plant was just a weed. 

I can't compare my efforts with the beautiful yards some people have. I just need to learn with the small area that someone planted for me and see if I like gardening enough to expand in the years ahead.

I can ask when I get stuck in other areas of my life and I know someone else has the knowledge or talent to help me.

Most of all, I can ask God for help when I'm feeling anxious or uncertain. He'll show me what to do so I can get back to feeling His peace.

God, do you know anything about gardening?

"If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." (James 1:5 NIV)

Do you find it difficult to ask for help? How can focusing on God help you to reach out to others when you're stuck in some area and need help?

Saturday, June 23, 2018

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Getting Settled

"Are you getting settled?"

That's a common question you hear after moving.

I understand. I've asked it myself when I know someone has changed houses.

The first week or so, I felt fine answering the question. We had just arrived in Platte, so of course the house was full of chaos.

The second week, I was also pretty comfortable with answering. "It's coming along," I would say, and meant it.

Now we've been here three weeks and I'm starting to feel a bit uncomfortable as I answer.

I'm sure no one expects us to be completely settled already, but if I'm not careful I can start to judge myself. Why don't I have more boxes unpacked? Why don't I have our pictures up on the walls yet? What have I been doing?

Truth is, life is more than just unpacking.

Dylan and I went down to Lincoln, Nebraska for a couple of days this week to visit Erin and Allison. 

We've been invited to supper several times as we get to know people at our new church.

Today Gary and I went to Luverne, Minnesota to help good friends say goodbye to their dad after he went through a long illness.

The boxes won't go anywhere, but those times to connect with family and friends needed to be enjoyed while we could.

Ever since the funeral this morning, my mind has been pondering the fact that we can never really "get settled" here on this earth.

We can enjoy the life God has given us. We can eat, drink, and be merry, but we have to remember that this life is only temporary. We can decorate our houses and yards, cook good meals, and enjoy our jobs and hobbies, but we have to keep a loose grip on everything. We need to be ready to move on, and we'll find it harder to do that if we're too settled here on earth.

Keeping our relationship with God our highest priority (through prayer and Bible reading) and spending time with people will ensure that we get settled well here in our new home.

The pictures and boxes are going to have to wait a little longer.

"Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things." (Colossians 3:2 NIV)

Do you feel pressure to "get settled" quickly after a move? How can focusing on God help you to keep your relationship with Him a high priority and also bless your relationships with family and friends?

*I just want to add a note about an offer from Simplify Magazine. You can get a lifetime digital subscription for just $20 and gift another one to a friend - check it out and do it before June 30. It might help all of us to think about areas of our lives where we keep too much stuff and get bogged down in things instead of what's more important.

Friday, June 15, 2018

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Recycling

Since we arrived here in Platte, I had been dutifully stacking my plastic bottles, tin cans, cardboard, and paper in our laundry room, hoping to figure out sometime where I could go to recycle all of it.

Back in Allison, we could weigh our cardboard and paper and then our church youth group would get a check at the end of the year. (Yes, it took lots of paper and cardboard to amount to anything, but it felt good to be contributing in that simple way)

Yesterday I finally asked someone if they have recycling in Platte and they regretfully told me that they didn't. "We really should!" she said, but she told me that all of their trash goes down to a landfill in Lake Andes.

We were going to Mitchell for something later that day, so I loaded my four or five small bags of recycling and wrote down the address of their recycling center, figuring we could drop it off while we were there.

It was late in the afternoon when we finally got done with visiting people in Corsica and Parkston, getting drivers licenses in Armour, and running a couple of errands in Mitchell. The GPS took us to the address I had, but we saw no sign of a place to recycle. We drove around a little bit, but finally gave up and we went home with my pitiful little collection of milk jugs, drink bottles, and junk mail.

I didn't cry, but I was seriously distressed. 

How could I go from faithfully recycling everything I possibly could for more than eight years to tossing everything in the church dumpster?

I joked around with Gary and said we could save up our paper, load it in our small trailer, and turn it in back in Allison sometime when we're going that way. He understood my pain, but pointed out that the gas we would burn to haul it that far would cost more and be worse for the environment than the benefits of turning it in.

I know, I know, and I don't want to put down my new state. I'm sure they have thought about the pros and cons of widespread recycling and they've made the decision that's best for their residents.

I'm just going to have to get used to doing things in a new way here.

As much as it will pain me at first to throw away paper, cardboard, plastics, and other things, I'm sure it will also free up some of my time. I won't experience the avalanche of trash that happened sometimes when I let my recyclables fill up our small closet by the back door. I won't have to take time to load up the vehicle and stop to unload stuff like we used to.

There might be a new freedom in all of this.

Do we sometimes do things like that with the way we think or the things we do?

We store up negative thoughts, planning to sit down and examine them one day and turn them into better ideas, but we store them too long and they avalanche out and lead to depression.

We keep doing the same mindless things over and over, hoping to have fun and relieve our stress, but those activities just keep us from accomplishing our real goals and get in the way because we won't get rid of them.

We keep eating the same junk foods because we're bored or anxious. Those empty calories get "recycled" into excess pounds of fat on our figures. It would be better to just throw away those junk foods (or at least eat them much less often) and try some new ways of eating that will lead to healthier bodies.

The Bible says there's nothing new:

"What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun." (Ecclesiastes 1:9 NIV)

Sounds like recycling, doesn't it?

The book of Ecclesiastes goes on and on about how meaningless life is. However, the author comes to an important conclusion:

"Now all has been heard; here is the conclusion of the matter: Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind." (Ecclesiastes 12:13 NIV) 

Maybe recycling isn't best for us in the long run.

Repeating the same patterns over and over probably won't get us where God wants us to go. Instead, we need to fear God (be in awe of Him) and keep his commandments (obey Him).

Those actions will create new ways of thinking and acting that will lead to exciting, fulfilling results. Results we may not even be able to imagine right now. 

I may cringe every time I throw away a plastic bottle for a while, but I pray that it reminds me to fear God and obey Him, expecting Him to accomplish great new things in my life.

Do you recycle? That's great if you can! How can focusing on God help you to get out of old destructive patterns and expect amazing new things instead? 

Friday, June 8, 2018

Focus Friday:Let's Focus on Greetings and Farewells

Transitions are hard.

I have to keep reminding myself of that.

It can be easy to get frustrated with all sorts of little things there are to get used to when you move to a new place.

Like reaching for the umpteenth time for a light switch that isn't's on the other side of the door instead.

Like opening five cupboard doors to find the item you're looking for...finally locating it at last.

Like sitting down on the couch for a few minutes...and nodding off into a half hour nap when there's so much work to be done.

Like opening box after box after box...and still not finding the Sunday shoes your husband carefully packed somewhere safe. (We know they'll show up right after he buys another pair.)

Things like that can be frustrating, but they are all part of the moving process.

Our hands and brains will get used to where all of the light switches are.

Soon we'll open the right cupboard doors the first time.

Someday we'll get caught up on sleep and have more energy.

The shoes will turn up (well, I have my doubts about that one).
Our new house in's already starting to feel like home.
In the midst of all of the moving chaos, we have greetings and farewells to experience.

Farewells to our church and community friends back in Allison. Wondering if we said goodbye well. Being grateful for cards and gifts and expressions of love and kindness from so many people.

Greetings to our new church and community friends here in Platte. So many names to remember. It was Vacation Bible School this week, so we got to know many of the kids. We're starting to meet people at businesses in the community. 

It seems a bit overwhelming right now, but I have to keep reminding myself that it felt that way in Chandler, and then it felt that way in Allison, but eventually we got to know people. 

I often say that I can't imagine my life without the people we've gotten to know in each place we've lived. 

I thank God for all of the people I've said "farewell" to over the years, and I thank God for all of the people I'm "greeting" right now. I know God has great things in store for all of us.

"I always thank my God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus." (1 Corinthians 1:4 NIV)

Do you enjoy greetings and farewells? How can focusing on God help you to experience both with gratitude and joy?

Friday, May 25, 2018

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Stars and Snowflakes

I've reached the point in our packing where I'm wandering from room to room with glazed eyes.

I start packing a few boxes in the basement, then I go upstairs for something and notice that the hall closet has stuff that definitely has to be sorted and combined into a smaller space. Then I go in our bedroom and put a few items of clothing into a plastic tote.

I decided it's time for a break. A little time to focus. It's time for (miracle of miracles!) Focus Friday.

We load the moving van on Tuesday.

Sometimes I feel like we're ahead of schedule and we'll be completely ready.

Other times I look around and wonder if we'll ever be ready. 

I guess we'll keep plugging away and be as ready as we can be on Tuesday. One way or another, we will move to South Dakota. 

I took a little time today to go out for coffee with a friend.

To some, that might seem crazy when we have so much to do, but it was important to me, so I made time for it.

When I got back to Allison, I did a couple of errands and then I worked on packing again. As I worked, I thought about how nice it would be to go out for coffee with more friends before we leave this area. 

Time is ticking away, so that just won't work, but it got me thinking about how important it is to do things when we're thinking of them so we don't have regrets later. 

I shared this quote by Marie Beynon Ray a little over a year ago, but it bears repeating tonight (coincidentally given to me by Joan, the friend I went out for coffee with today).

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

There are things I wanted to do while we lived in this part of Iowa, but I never made time for them, and now those opportunities are gone (I know they're still possible, but it gets more difficult when we'll be living six hours from here).

There are people I wish I'd gotten to know better, but I didn't make the effort to call or get together with them, and now distance will make those relationships harder.

There are books I wanted to write while we lived here.
There are songs I wanted to sing while we lived here.
There are letters I wanted to write while we lived here.
There are gifts I wanted to deliver while we lived here.
There are hugs I wanted to give while we lived here.

I've pretty much run out of time.

Those "sparkling star" moments in my hand have melted like snowflakes, and I'm left with little puddles of regret.

I'm left with two choices: Sit and stare dismally at the melted moments I missed, or dry my hands and prepare for the new "sparkling stars" that arrive daily.

I can write the books I want to write.
I can sing the songs I want to sing.
I can write the letters I want to write.
I can deliver the gifts I want to deliver.
I can hug the people I want to hug.

But first, I must finish packing and enjoy our final few days with our church and community here in Allison. There are lots of sparkling star moments ahead...for all of us!

"He determines the number of the stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit." (Psalm 147:4-5 NIV)

Have you ever thought about how we aren't living in eternity? How can focusing on God help you to do the things you want to do and not have as many regrets?

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Super Saturday: Let's Focus on NOT Going Crazy

I don't have time to write this.

Dylan graduates tomorrow and we move a week from Tuesday.

I was feeling pretty good most of the day...

Cook a little.
Pack a little.
Go to an open house (we had three today).
Repeat all day long.

Later this afternoon, I started to hit a wall. More than a wall even. It was that slippery slope that could send me over the edge if I'm not careful.

I started to entertain thoughts like these:

I'm a terrible mother. If I were a good mother, I would have ____________. (bought more party decorations, found more cute pictures of Dylan, made Erin's and Blake's favorite meals since they're home for the weekend, etc., etc., etc.)

We've lived here almost nine years. Why haven't I ___________ before now? (gotten rid of our old homeschooling supplies, finished my craft projects, made that jean quilt, shredded our old financial records, etc., etc., etc.)

On the good side, I recognized these negative thoughts right away and chose not to dwell on them.

I've been teetering on the edge a bit, but I don't have to go over if I remind myself of some positive truths from the Bible:

"Be at rest once more, O my soul, for the LORD has been good to you." (Psalm 116:7 NIV)

"Cast all your anxiety on him, for he cares for you." (1 Peter 5:7 NIV)

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me." (2 Corinthians 12:9 NIV)

I had to write tonight because I need those reminders. Maybe you do, too.

Let's keep our sanity by turning quickly to God when life gets stressful and super busy. He can keep our minds in the right place as we do the best we can with whatever event we're getting ready for. 

I know Dylan's party will go fine, especially if I stay relaxed and enjoy visiting with the family and friends that come to wish him well.

I know our move will happen next week, and it will go better if I can work hard but not get upset if things don't go exactly the way I'd like. 

Getting enough sleep helps us keep our sanity, too, so I'll say good night for now and write again next Friday.

"In vain you rise early and stay up late, toiling for food to eat - for he grants sleep to those he loves." (Psalm 127:2 NIV)

Do you have any big events coming up that threaten to drive you crazy? How can focusing on God help you to do your best and not get upset if everything isn't perfect?

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Super Saturday: Let's Focus on Moving

We will be moving from Allison, IA to Platte, SD on May 29. People, that's about 17 days from today!

It seemed like we had plenty of time when Gary announced that he had accepted the call a couple of months ago. 

I was going to sort through clothes, papers, and belongings and get rid of anything we didn't need before hauling it six hours west. We've gotten rid of some things, but we're quickly losing time for thoughtfully going through things. It's time to pack...and sort later.

It really started to sink in when we took down most of our pictures and loaded them in the Mariner. The walls look so bare now!
We loaded our small trailer with exercise equipment, bikes, boat stuff, and other things to fill it up. Then I drove with the trailer and Gary drove his '78 Camaro to Platte so we could get one load out there. 

It felt strange to leave it all there, but it felt right, too. We reconnected with several people from First Reformed Church and felt that sense of excitement about what God has in store for us (and them) in the future. 

We went to Orange City today to move Blake from his dorm room to a third floor apartment across campus.

Sometime next week we'll be moving Allison's things down to Lincoln, Nebraska. She'll be staying with Erin until she finds a job, then we'll move her to her own apartment later in the summer.

That's a lot of moving!

We know we'll get through it. We just need to take it one step at a time.

Make decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. Pack a box. Keep on top of other daily tasks while preparing for the move. Get ready for Dylan's graduation open house and try to enjoy all of these final days with our church family and community before leaving.

Above all else, we need to stay close to God through all of this. Our relationship with Him is not something to put on hold until we get settled in our new community. 

We need to open our Bibles often, talk to God as we go through each day, and obey the Spirit's leading in everything we do.

That's something for all of us to keep in mind, whether we're making a physical move or just starting a new endeavor in our lives. 

One step at a time. Stay close to God. Trust Him. Read His word. Talk to Him. Obey Him.

If we all do that, we'll get to where He wants us to go.

"Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland." (Isaiah 43:18-19 NIV)

Are you facing a move in your future? How can focusing on God help you to get there with less stress and more confidence in the "new thing" He has planned for you?

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Super Saturday: Let's Focus on FAMILY

Robyn, Jill, and Johnna Start - Christmas 1974

They can drive you crazy. I mean, other people's families can drive them crazy. Not mine, of course.

There are all kinds of joys and sorrows associated with our immediate families (our spouse and children).

Things get even more complicated when we branch out to our family of origin (our parents and siblings).

I got to spend some time with my parents and one of my sisters this week.

Johnna is the littlest girl in the picture above. I'm the oldest. (Poor Jill is in the middle - I'll focus on her some other week.) Johnna lives in Tennessee. She and her husband Steve own Smoky Mountain Llama Treks.
Check them out if you get down near Pigeon Forge, TN - the llamas are so interesting to watch and Steve does a great job leading hikes and showing people the llamas.

We were able to see Johnna and her family several times while we were visiting my parents. 

We went over to see Cassidy before she left for her prom. She looked beautiful and so grown up. As she left with one of her friends, I realized that she hardly knows us.
This was taken in 2016: Zach, Johnna, Steve, and Cassidy
We got to see Zach and his girlfriend Brittany a couple of times. (They're getting married on May 27!) It was fun to hear Zach's southern accent and see Brittany's little boy show off for all of us - such a cutie! As I watched my nephew, I had that same feeling...he doesn't really know us.

We've always lived far away from my family (except for three  years while Gary was in seminary in Michigan). I guess that's one of the disadvantages of distance. Everyone gets busy with their own lives and we don't get to know family members as well as when we live close by and see them often.

Even riding around with my sister, it was kind of surreal. She's nothing like the quiet, cute little sister I grew up with. (She's still cute! That's not what I meant, Johnna!) She's confident driving around all of those curves on those Tennessee roads. She talks about her friends and family and you can tell she loves them fiercely. 

I learned things about my niece and nephew that I should have known long ago, but I never called to ask. 

She told me about a time this winter when Cassidy was driving to Zach's house on an icy road. She was about a half a mile from his place, talking on the phone with him as she crept along, when her car slid into the ditch. When she screamed, Zach dropped his phone and ran to her. (She was fine and the car was, too. They started walking to his place, then someone gave them a ride.)

That touched me so much. Johnna and Steve must be doing something right if their kids love each other that much. I feel kind of sad that I'm missing out on their lives. (And Jill's kids in Michigan, too.)

Maybe you feel that way, too. 

Distance is hardly an excuse anymore for not getting to know our family members. With texting and video chats, we can check in with parents, siblings, and nieces and nephews. At first it might be a little awkward, but it could turn out to be something meaningful for you and your family member.

Maybe you live close, but there's an emotional distance between you and a sibling for some reason. Perhaps it's time to have that difficult conversation and clear things up so you can have a better relationship. That could be awkward, too, but it could result in something wonderful.

I'm so glad I got to spend a little time with Johnna this week...and I hope I didn't drive her too crazy.

"Love one another with brotherly [or sisterly] affection. Outdo one another in showing honor." (Romans 12:10 ESV)

Are you close with your family members or is there some physical (or even emotional) distance there? How can focusing on God help you to make an effort to connect more often and show love to your family members?

Friday, April 27, 2018

Focus Friday: Let's Focus on Being Neurotic

Lately I've been more aware of my thoughts and actions that tend toward the neurotic...

As we get ready to move, I feel the desire to ask everyone I know what I could have done differently while we lived here. I want to ask if I offended anyone and make it right before we leave. (I won't do that, but I am curious to know.)

The other day I subbed for the high school Spanish classes and I mentioned the "Overboard" remake with Kate Hudson and Eugenio Derbez. When I got home I realized I mispoke and it's actually Anna Faris. I felt the urge to send a message for the Spanish teacher to read so they knew it wasn't Kate Hudson. (I didn't do anything, but the desire was pretty strong.)

I often wonder if someone doesn't like me when they don't "like" or respond to a comment I've made on their Facebook post. (Even though I don't always have time to respond to every comment my friends make.)

We had a moving company come take inventory for an estimate yesterday and I wanted to ask the guy if we have more or less stuff than most people. (I didn't ask, but I so wanted to know.)

We left on vacation this morning, so yesterday I spent lots of time scanning in photos from an old album so I can return it to my parents when we see them tomorrow. I considered staying up all night so I could get more pictures done. (I didn't, but I only got about four hours of sleep because I stayed up way too late.)

I also stayed up til almost two because I decided that I finally had to get some Christmas cards sent out. I addressed envelopes and attached stamps, getting them ready to mail on the way out of town. (As I worked, I wondered why I couldn't have worked that hard earlier and gotten them out in December instead!)

Add to that all of the little thoughts I have each day about the things I'm thinking, feeling, and doing (or not doing) and I get dangerously close to being neurotic.

There is some good in being aware of what we're thinking, feeling, 
and doing.

It gets debilitating when we take it to extremes and analyze every thought, feeling, and action and it keeps us from getting things done or moving forward in life.

Thankfully, I have people in my life that can help me figure out when I'm being neurotic. I can run an idea past my husband or one of my daughters and they'll tell me if it would be a good thing to do or not.

I also have the Bible to guide me. The more I know it, the more I can recognize when I'm thinking in neurotic ways and take steps to think and act more rationally. (I can't do much about the feelings, but they'll often change when my thinking changes.)

We don't have to second-guess everything we decide to do. Sure, I stayed up way too late, but at least some of my Christmas cards finally got sent (and my friends are used to getting them late). 

We'll have those times every once in a while, but if we find them happening night after night or day after day, we may need to get some professional help to get to healthier ways of thinking, feeling, and acting.

Do you think it would be neurotic to ask everyone what they think of this week's post? Never mind. I don't need to know.

"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)

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Super Saturday: Let's Focus on Hiding Things

I've been running around hiding things this afternoon.

It's all because of Maddie Poppe.

I lead a Bible Study on Monday nights at 7 p.m. (We're doing Free to Lean by Jocelyn Green - it's so good!) 

Anyway, I was talking to some of the women who are in the study today and I asked what we should do this Monday. Maddie Poppe (our friend from nearby Clarksville, Iowa) is in the top 14 on American Idol and Monday night will be the big reveal show where we see if she goes on even further. (We just know she will, but all of you can help make that happen by watching on Sunday night and voting for her)

We talked about meeting at 6 and then going home to watch the show. Someone mentioned watching it together and I offered to have Bible Study at our house and then we could watch it together after that. I joked that it would give me an excuse to dust.

When I got home I looked around and realized I had lots of stuff to hide.
(Not my house...just a good illustration of hiding stuff)
I stashed a bunch of old magazines back in the bench they had come from.

I moved a couple of boxes to the den. I put a few things back in some drawers in the living room.

I moved an extension cord downstairs and put a pile of books on a shelf in the den.

I have a few more little piles to move before Monday night.

I haven't decided about the dusting yet. Part of me just wants to follow the advice of a woman I met many years ago. She said one of her friends just puts out a little sign that says, "You can admire the dust; just don't write in it."

As I was moving stuff around, I couldn't help but wonder at my sudden interest in making the living room look neat and tidy. I had ignored the piles for weeks (months?), but suddenly I felt the need to move them so my friends wouldn't see them.

The mess will still be there, it will just be hidden in the den and in my drawers and cupboards.

The women might be impressed with how clean everything looks, but they're smart enough to figure out that I'm probably hiding something (plus most of them read my blog, so they'll know for sure!).

Don't we do that in other areas of our life, too?

We paste on a happy face in public even if we're miserable on the inside and need help.

We post the perfect family pictures on Facebook and hide the family fights and problems.

We ignore the things that bother us about a close friend or relative because confronting makes us too uncomfortable.

Now, there's nothing really wrong with cleaning the house before someone comes over, but let's not pretend that our whole house looks perfect all the time. That's just not possible.

We can smile as we go through our day, but we need to drop the mask sometimes. It's important to have people we can go to for help and encouragement. People we can cry with. People who support us even when we're not smiling.

It's fine to post nice family pictures online, but let's try sharing a few candids once in a while that show that we struggle just like everyone else. (Get permission from your family first)

Bearing with the faults of our friends and relatives is admirable, especially if those faults are just quirky personality traits that bug us. We need to be brave, though, when that person is doing something that hurts others or puts them in danger. We need to show love and talk to them instead of ignoring the problem.

Thanks, Maddie Poppe. Because of you, my living room is finally going to be dusted. Good luck this weekend!

"Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body." (Ephesians 4:25 NIV)

Do you hide things instead of dealing with them at times? How can focusing on God help you to face whatever you're dealing with and not just hide it?