Focus on Being a Blessing

This month one of the things we’re talking about is our focus.  Throughout a typical day we focus on tons of things from the car driving in front of ours to the person talking to us to the child we’re playfully chasing to the partner we love to the dinner we’re cooking.  There are lots of things that demand our attention and care, and that’s normal for many people today.  Part of our job as adults is to learn how to manage all those responsibilities and how to focus when we need to on what we need to.

Sometimes we also have to focus on the scary things in life or the sad things.  I know of several people who have passed away in the past few weeks, and many people around the US are dealing with loss of their belongings or livelihoods due to natural disasters.  It’s important to take time to process those fears, scary experiences and losses, they’re part of life.

But today I want to challenge you to do something different: focus on being a blessing.  This is something that everyone can do in hundreds of different ways.  From sharing a kind word to helping get something off a grocery store shelf to holding the door to sending a ‘just because’ gift or card to donating winter coats at the local food pantry or shelter.

It’s not necessarily a huge labor-intensive activity, doesn’t always require a lot of time, and doesn’t have to cost anything other.  All it takes is for you to be willing to focus your attention from yourself to others.  And not only does it mean that you’ may making someone else’s day, you can be blessed by being a blessing too!

How will you be a blessing today?

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An Autumn of Bounty

This week I’ve been meditating on a couple of verses from Psalm 13:

“But I trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation. I will sing to the Lord, because [the Lord] has dealt bountifully with me.” Psalm 13:5-6

The first reason this verse caught my attention was that it didn’t sound like a verse I remembered reading, and I’ve read the book of Psalms several times. This version of Psalm 13 came in one of the many newsletters I’ve signed up for and I can’t find the answer that I’m sure you’re asking: what translation is it? While I wish they would clearly post that information so we would both know, they didn’t, and so we’re left to guess. And with over 100 versions of the Bible in English alone, there are lots of possibilities of the translation it could be.

The second reason these verses caught my attention was a word in the second sentence: “I will sing to the Lord, because [the Lord] has dealt bountifully with me.” Right now we’re in the final push of the harvest season. Summer is winding down and the crops are all being gathered before the frost and winter arrive. In the US we’ve got the holiday of Thanksgiving coming up which began as a celebration of and thanksgiving for bounty for the Pilgrims. But how often do we use the word ‘bounty’ in our lives today? We tend to use words more like abundance, affluence, prosperity, or thriving today. Bounty is a word that isn’t used as often but I feel it paints a better visual picture of what it means than some of the other similar words do.

Lately I feel like all I’m hearing about is loss and fear, not to mention hate and anger, between all the hurricanes, politics and violence that have been happening recently. I’m concerned that we’re not talking about or looking for the bounty in our lives. No, we shouldn’t ignore the bad stuff that goes on, the sooner we learn to deal with and move through it the better. So this week my encouragement to you would be to look for the bounty, accept the abundance and be open to the blessings God can send your way.

Reality Reflection: Strength and Beauty

This past week in the UK there was another royal wedding, Princess Eugenie married Jack Brooksbank. One of the big stories of this event was, unsurprisingly, about her dress, but not for reasons that people typically discuss it. Her dress made a point of showing her back scars from her surgery as a child.  You would have to be close to see the scar, it’s not something that’s noticeable from a distance, but it’s certainly there to see if you’re standing close to her.

Yes, it’s brave and makes a clear statement for all children who have surgery or deal with an illness. It shows them that it doesn’t matter who you are, anyone can have to deal with physical challenges, and anyone can overcome them to live a happy life and get married or be in healthy, committed relationships.  But it also shows a huge measure of confidence and self acceptance she has for herself and her body, something that many people who don’t have visible scars struggle with.

I don’t know what I would do in her situation, whether I would want to go with something that covered it or show it proudly to the world.  I might want to cover it not because I was ashamed of it but because I wouldn’t feel the need to show it off.  But at the same time it would be a part of who I am and my life story, so it might be something I would want to show, like someone would pick a dress that would show their tattoos.

Ultimately, it’s a celebration of two people committing to spend their lives together, and the outfit choices are strictly their choice and should be whatever makes them feel most comfortable and look their best on their special day.  It’s our job to celebrate with them, and love them for the people that they are.

It’s OK to Admit You’re Not OK

Wednesday was World Mental Health Day. Your mental health is one of the most important aspects of who you are and it’s also one of the most challenging. It’s one of the most important because even if you have physical challenges if you’re mentally healthy and sharp you can still live a really fulfilling life and have really great relationships. But if you’re struggling mentally, you may struggle in many other areas of your life.

As I was thinking about what to write for World Mental Health Day and being that we’re at the tail end of what’s typically a long day each week for me, Thursday, my partner asked me if I was doing OK, and I said ‘not really but I’ll get there.’ One of the biggest and best steps we can take for our mental health is to admit when we need help. It may seem a little scary and intimidating to take that first step and admit to yourself that you’re struggling, or take an even bigger step and seek help from a professional for your struggles, but it’s one of the best steps you can ever take in your life, health and happiness.

You shouldn’t feel shame that you’re struggling, we all struggle at one point in time or another. Just this morning I was listening to the radio and the lady admitted that she had thoughts of suicide years ago and almost followed through on it, but God stayed her hand and she sought help and now she’s here to encourage others and share her story.

Yes, it may be a long road to recovery and it may be something you struggle with through your whole life, but I whole heartedly believe that each and every one of us can be healthier mentally, feel better and more confident about ourselves and break the focus from what’s wrong to getting better.  How will you become healthier mentally today?

In Awe of God

Recently I reread the words of Psalm 8:4–6 which say:

“When I see your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and stars that you set in place—What are humans that you are mindful of them, mere mortals that you care for them? Yet you have made them little less than a god, crowned them with glory and honor.”

When was the last time you were in awe of something?  Occasionally we’re amazed by someone or something someone says, but often it’s either fairly expected or cool but not a ‘wow’ moment.

I always find autumn and the tree color changes to be one of the more awe inspiring times.  Spring has lots of visual changes but I typically feel more excitement that we’re moving past piles of snow rather than awe over the new life.  But with autumn there are these pops of color that are so vivid and amazing that you just want to stare at them.

One of the other more awe inspiring experiences is when you go to the places that are away from the city lights and you can really see the true power of all the stars in the skies.  Sometimes in the city you’re able to see some stars or the moon will look spectacular, but you don’t really get a good understanding for how many stars are really out there until you’re able to be away from the lights of the city and they’re able to shine.  It’s a truly incredible experience.

One of the other experiences that people say is awe inspiring is witnessing the birth of your child.  There’s something powerful about seeing this little being appear, after 9 months of growth hidden away with only tiny glimpses, with all 10 fingers and toes and looking like a miniature version of their parents or extended family.

There may not be a lot of awe-inspiring moments in our lives, so it’s so important to celebrate and recognize those moments when they happen.  What was your most recent awe-inspiring moment?

Reality Reflection: Faithful to Myself

I was thinking about sharing about fall this week, but when it came time to sit down and write I hit one of those awesome writer’s blocks. Nothing wanted to come out and so I took a break. As I had my tea, watched the finches and thought about it some more, I realized that I wasn’t ready to think about fall and what happens next in depth quite yet. I’ve been thinking about it a little, but not in the sense of being prepared for it to happen even though that’s what I’m seeing a little more evidently each day outside my window.

This realization was really important because it really fits in with something we all struggle with at one point in time or another: faithfulness. By choosing to not write about fall even though it’s what I planned on writing about, I’m being faithful to who I am as a creative genius. Yes, it’s OK to celebrate when you listen to the wisdom in your heart and mind. I’m not into bragging but it’s good to pat yourself on the back when you do something right and make notes to correct yourself in the future the next time you feel that one thing is right but you do another.

Being faithful to yourself means that you’ve chosen to do what works for you, not what would make other people like you or make them happy, unless it would make you happy as well. Sometimes we make decisions because we know it’s for the good of all, like compromising on the restaurant for a night out with friends or not buying that extra special something at the store this month because your kids had something to do at school that would require a little money. It’s not easy to sacrifice, but we know it’s the right thing to do.

This week, be faithful to yourself. Choose what’s right for you if you’re not in the habit of doing it. If you’re all about you though, I would challenge you to think about what would be best for all of you this week.

The Double Edged Sword of Focus

One of the keys to not only victories but living a fulfilling life is having focus. Would you say you’re a focused person some of the time, most of the time or very little of the time? As I was thinking about focus and victories today I was reminded that there are two sides to focus: we can have a strong focus on the right thing or the wrong thing. So focus can be a really good thing, and it can be really detrimental in your life and health and to the lives of others too.

On one side focus can help you move on from a disappointment because you can choose to direct your focus onto something else. Focus can also help you get a lot done and be really productive.  You can have a broad focus for a long time (getting healthy) or a very narrow and specific focus for a short time (), and with both you’ll get things done.  Using a narrow and specific focus can help to ease some of the pressure off of you if you’ve been stressing out over getting something done or have been procrastinating doing it because you can set a time limit for working on that activity or project and just do it for that set, limited period of time.

But on the other side, you can be stuck on focusing on something that’s hurting you or upsetting you. You can also be focused on hurting others or being mean and rude or just ignorant. Typically on the negative side of things focus is more of a choice or habit, but sometimes it sticks around just because you haven’t chosen to move your focus onto something else.  If it’s just sticking around it can feel like your mind is a hamster wheel and it just keeps returning to that hurt and stays thinking about it.  In these times it’s good to either talk it through with someone or to take a break and do something you really enjoy like reading, watching a TV show, watching dog/cat videos, playing video games, or crafting, just to name a few.  You may not think you have time for that activity right then, but it can be one of the best things for you because it will help break that cycle.

So today I encourage you to do a check of your focus throughout the day and make sure that you’re good with where your focus is and how focused you are at different points in time.  What are your focus challenges?