Tag Archive | focus

Vision Correction

There are so many places in the Bible where we can find some variation of this phrase…He who has eyes, let him see. And along with that usually comes…he who has ears, let him hear.

If you have kids, then you know that having ears does not always mean that those ears hear what is being said. Kids get a bad rep in that area. Frankly, I think we all are guilty of that. Likewise, if you have eyes- it doesn’t mean that they always see things clearly.

I wanted to share with you a conversation I had with a stranger yesterday. It is time for me to update my glasses, so I took the opportunity in the quiet of the morning to call the eye doctor’s office. The sweetest lady with the most melodious Jamaican accent was the associate I was asking for. A few months ago, she kindly wrote down the number for a pair of frames I had my eye on so I would have it when the insurance plan renewed. When I called yesterday morning, she and I began to discuss the task at hand. While she was calculating some things- our conversation turned to the horrible flooding in Houston. I shared with her that I just had our heating oil tank filled before the prices went up as a result of that storm. She, apologetically, gave me the hefty price for the lenses and frames I desired. I have such a horrible prescription that they have to be special ordered. Uggh….Ouch! She said, “Wow, I am so sorry. I know you just paid to have your oil tank filled and now this.” My response stopped her in her tracks, “Ma’am. I may be a bit hard-headed and a slow study at times…but, one thing God has been really driving into me is the fact that I am in control of NOTHING. Not one thing. So I just have to roll with it.”

She became very silent for a moment and began to almost whisper into the phone. She said, “Miss Joanne, I need to see the good in things. I know that the Lord had you call me today and I am so thankful that you did….”.  She went on to share how a friend had died of pancreatic cancer just months after she adopted a child. She shared how she prayed and her church prayed for both that woman and another person at church who had the same kind of cancer. Her friend died and the other lived. She expressed how down she gets and shared that she gets angry sometimes at God and just asks Him “WHY?”. She said the folks in her church seem to scold her when she asks such questions. So we began to chat. We walked thru Job where I reminded her that he asked questions of God. It’s ok to ask God “why”. (Just know that you may not see or even understand the answer.) We went into Hebrews and all of the folks who God used as a part of His plan…some who died horrible deaths… who never got to see the end result. Heavy hearted she said,  “I know that the Bible says His ways are higher than mine and I still get discouraged. I have to find a way to change my focus.” I suggested somethings to her…what if. Yes, these things hurt us emotionally and even physically. Our hearts break for our circumstances and the circumstances of others. But, what if the death of her friend planted seeds somewhere that would affect that adopted child in the future? What if that child learned how to pray when she prayed and saw her response and love for the Lord even in the face of such a terrile battle? What if that child has been set aside for a certain purpose that only God knows? I asked her to think about the flooding and the tornadoes and any other natural disasters that occur. When those things happen there is an abundance of good that comes in the aftermath. That is certainly hard to see when so many are suffering. We have to open our eyes to others’ suffering so we can minister to them and we also need to be watchful for God’s hand even in those things. We have seen a story of a gentleman opening his furniture store to displaced families and National Guardsmen and feeding them. There are people who were displaced by Katrina years ago who are now helping those in Houston. And it’s always during these times that the name of Jesus and various testimonies of God’s goodness are splashed all over the news. The NATIONAL NEWS. We may not understand these things, but God is in control. So we talked and talked. At the end of our conversation she said, ” I didn’t go to Bible Study at church Wednesday night because I was discouraged. Thank you so much for calling me today. This is the encouragement from the Lord that I desperately needed.”

Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal. 2 Corinthians 4:16-18

What? All over a call about glasses?

Vision correction.

We don’t see clearly. We only see what is right in front of our faces and that is such a miniscule view. We read the Word, but struggle to apply it in our lives. We know the truth, but struggle to hold to it at times. This was another reminder that while we focus on what we can see, taste, touch, smell and hear…there is SO much more to this life and our purpose in Christ during our little time on this earth.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

God really wants us to see things through spiritual glasses. To see things through HIS lens and to really, really see.  The Pharisees didn’t “get it” and they didn’t have the eyes of their heart open. They were blind. There were many times when Jesus had to spell things out for the disciples even when they were walking with him daily.

He who has eyes…let him SEE.

I LOVE days like this! Days when God places someone in my path. Stay tuned! I am fully aware that -nine times out of ten – I will need those very words for myself a few days later. When that moment comes I pray that if I can’t see clearly with my human eyes, I will trust and know that HIS eyes see so much more.

 

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Cover Crops

Last year, we had a beautiful vegetable garden. It was a labor of love that my husband meticulously planned on paper so he could have the proper spacing, soil balance and growth. It was probably the most easily accessible garden we have even had to date and it was also the most productive. I miss that time.

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I say “I miss that time” because I feel like kind of resemble that garden. For years, I had time of wading through God’s Word in the morning before the kids went to school, was part of a ladies Bible study group, guarded prayer time and sat here before the computer and poured out the things God wanted me to share. I had the proper soil balance and growth- if you will. That is not where I am now and am spiritually depleted. Physically, I have seen changes, too. The busier schedule has resulted (ironically) in less exercise and fast eating…and the addition of many extra pounds. I feel distant…and fat.

Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but blessed is he who keeps the law.

Proverbs 29:18

Just before Winter, my hubby had researched “cover crops”. These are things that you plant to enrich the soil as well as keep down weed growth in the off-season. It also, theoretically, makes for an easy start-up in the Spring. Low maintenance! After his research, he chose oats. I wish I had a picture to share. When the oats grew it was beautiful! They were a  rich amber color that seemed to ripple like waves of water in the wind. In the cruise control of “low maintenance living” I didn’t see the battle lines that were being drawn all around.

This Spring, I fired up the lawn tractor for the first time. I put the tunes in my ears, hat on my head and took her for a spin. When I engaged the blades to start edging around the garden plot, I saw a wave out of the corner of my eye. Not of amber oats! This wave was brown. I depressed the brake and watched as some sixty little voles scurried through the garden. We had been invaded! Voles are cute (except when they are in my space). They are a relative of mice, have shorter tails and kinda dig like moles but leave no trace except a few small holes in the mulch and ground. They eat bulbs, roots, worms and other things…OATS it seems. This revelation gave us (and our neighbors) a wake up call. This explained why our neighbor’s tree died last year, this was the answer to the question, “What are those holes in my flowerbed?”. It also gave us fresh perspective on some behavior our crazy dog was engaging in this Winter. He was going into the garden and rolling in the oats! Ha ha ha It was like he was making crop circles and snow angels…minus the snow.

Let’s move across the street for a moment. I can’t remember if I told you a few years ago about the water retention pond across from our home. There was a battle there, too. The builder installed a sub-par water retention pond that has never been able to hold water. The improper installation and lack of maintenance also caused erosion on the farm behind it at one point and there was a legal remedy to all of that. Yet, somehow that area was quietly released to the care, custody and control of the residents in our neighborhood to maintain in the late 90s and nobody even knew about it. Before we moved in 15 years ago, it was already an overgrown forest. The county came to the residents a few years back and smacked the residents of our neighborhood with the notion that the water retention area was ours to collectively maintain AND we would have to raise and spend thousands of dollars to clear this area by a certain deadline – and keep it that way in the years and years to come. Wait…here’s the kicker…they also revealed that there were TWO areas. One we thought was just am empty lot. What a surprise! We personally have dumped over a thousand dollars in those holes out there. And – it would seem- displaced a colony of voles in the process. In 15 years we have never seen a vole…until that area was cleared, that is. It stings a little to say. We paid for one problem and caused another.

In our effort to find a low maintenance solution to weeds in the garden over the Winter, it was like we slapped up a neon hotel sign for little creatures who had been kicked out of their home. Laziness paved the way for a silent invasion that we never saw coming.  Laying a cover crop may look like a good way to keep the weeds down, but may become a breeding ground for silent invaders.

Spiritual (and physical) life is not much different. Cruise control is a dangerous place to be if you fall asleep at the wheel. Proper maintenance…daily bread and steady walk…pulling weeds of sin. In an effort to contribute financially to our home, I took a part-time job at school. The initial job offering was an answer to prayer, but I took on more responsibilities after the fact and that threw everything off. I pulled away from group study, don’t have adequate morning time and relationships/friendships are non-existent. Now I am spiritually depleted with an anemic prayer life and find myself surrounded by silent invaders. I am spiritually and physically unhealthy.

Then, yesterday, I read that verse in Proverbs. I have not had much in the area of spiritual revelation in a while. Far from the Word and prayer and time with the Lord.  TRUTH: Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint.

If I am not walking with God, I get loose. Standards slip, focus becomes more inward that UPward, I am tempted to look to my own interests instead of the interests of others (contrary to Philippians 2) and I don’t have the blessing of revelation from the Holy Spirit. No wonder I have not had a lot to say here on this blog.

So be careful with those cover crops. Man-made solutions and laziness. A relationship and daily walk with Jesus is the only adequate defense against the consequences of sin.

Now…about those voles…

We won’t have a garden this year. No fruit. We have a battle to wage to restore that plot of land to health. The fruit that comes to this garden will be shared, not stolen. So off to battle I go.

15 Days of Focus: Footloose and Facebook free

I am feeling led to focus on what is important…to shift my eyes and my actions to more productive things. What I aim to make 50 Days of Freedom, will start with one step at a time. It will be like building blocks as I commit to break free unhealthy relationships-starting with Facebook and food- and move forward in faith, fitness and friendships. Hopefully the next 50 days will be the beginning of something new and wonderful. I expect challenges, but look forward to growth.

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.

Philippians 4:8-9

Turn my eyes away from worthless things; preserve my life according to your word.

Psalm 119:37

Phase number one…shifting focus. Accentuate the positive- Eliminate the negative.

Fifteen Days of Focus. I know, 15 days doesn’t sound like much- but, with God’s blessing, it will be so much more.

It starts today with the elimination of a major distraction in my life. Facebook.

Today, I will start my quest to be Footloose and Facebook free! This is something that I could talk myself in circles on…what is the value of Facebook? Yes, it can be an awesome tool. I use it to disseminate my blog, ask for prayer, to send encouragement and to keep in touch with family members scattered all over the country. Beyond family, many of these “friends” are acquaintances; they are people I knew in high school, few from college and many more from my teen years in the youth group at church and friendly faces from our current church. A majority of my Facebook friends are people who I am so glad that I have reconnected with and really enjoy keeping up with; even if it is on a superficial level most times. It gives me a sense of community.

The negative side of Facebook is the one I need to ask God to help me with. I find myself browsing it habitually…almost voyeuristically.  It’s easy to let my mind carry me down non-productive paths with thoughts like “why wasn’t I invited to that?”…”looks like they are having fun”…”I wish we could do that”…”that person really hurt my feelings”…”the last communication I had with that person was via email- ripping me for something. Why are we friends again?”…and even trips down memory lane that aren’t memories I want to dwell on at all. Browsing some of these posts and seeing some of these people churns up a lot of hurt. Growing up, I was picked on a lot. I am not just talking about in my childhood; I am talking about Elementary years all the way through college. Everything from my weight to my sin were used as fodder when it came to insulting me and tearing me down. Yeah, yeah…do NOT insert sob story here. I am not a victim and refuse to be. Truth be told: I was an easy target. While many times the insult was juvenile and plain hurtful; there were times when I should have used those insults to evaluate my behavior and repent.

I was always one to let it roll off and usually didn’t respond to the insults that were hurled and turned the other cheek quickly. But, that didn’t make the stings any less painful. None-the-less, those later years resulted in many unhealthy “friendships” and I found myself surrounded by people who weren’t really my friends at all. In keeping these same “friends” and enduring the same insults and hurtful behavior- I thought that somehow, some way these people would eventually really like me once they got to know me. Years later…I have a bit of social anxiety and fear of being judged…and I realize that I am a doormat who has been quite worn.

Albert Einstein once said that the “definition of “insanity” is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results”.

I have always been surrounded by people and yet remain very much alone. Facebook just makes it very easy to keep a “safe” distance from people and not let anyone in- with the irrational belief that this will keep me from being hurt by people like I was in the past. Well…no more. It is way too easy for me to feel connected on Facebook and not seek out REAL LIVE PEOPLE to talk to and interact with. As long as I have this false sense of community- I will be alone. But, not just alone…alone and not fulfilling the full potential of God’s desires and plans for me. I need to reach out. I need to serve more. If I want to have a friend, I must learn to be a friend.

 As I look around, I see others walking with their noses buried in their phones and handheld devices. Nobody makes eye contact. We are too busy “capturing” and “documenting” life and are no longer living it. People don’t know how to carry on a conversation unless texting is involved. This isn’t real life…and it certainly doesn’t foster real friendships (only comfortable acquaintances).

We don’t see each other anymore. We only view each other.

So for the next 15 days, I am going to leave Facebook. I will not check it, will not browse it…I will not even sign in. If you read my posts there- it will still feed automatically, but I will not be able to chat with you about them unless you comment on BloomWhereIamPlanted.com directly. I need to break the bad habits associated with Facebook before I can even consider using it for the positive aspects. If I fail…I will need to deactivate my account altogether. It’s just that simple.

So here I go. Real life…here I come.

(A special thank you for SW for gathering a group of people for pizza and silly fun. It was a reminder that I really miss the company of others and need to seek out opportunities to be social and not avoid them. I appreciate your friendship, girlfriend! More than you know.)

A Stroke of Levity

What a week. What in the world happened to me? I have been so low the past four days or so…a place I have not seen in a while. Things are heavy, my heart flutters with anxiety, the list is too long, they want my attention but I can’t pay attention long enough to give it to them, I am divided…tired…distracted and desperately in need of the Lord. He is here. He always is and He always has been. This sheep just hasn’t been following her shepherd this week…but rather on the outskirts of the flock looking around. That is not a good place to be.

The dreams started a week ago. Reminders of pain and trouble in the past. Prayer and keeping my eyes on Him pushed me past these dreams(I thought) but there must have been some residual thought anchoring me down. Time away from my husband is always hard. He travels often for work and I often slip into a very independent, self-sufficient, “overdrive” mode when he is gone.  This helps me to keep moving so I can conquer the things that need done around the house as well as meet the needs of the kids. Only, this week I was away so it was a little different and I wasn’t sure how to feel. While I was gone, there was a lot of waiting…so I read an article on a news website. It was about a woman who was choosing to raise her kids without God. The article itself was so sad. But even more troubling were the strings of comments from people who agreed with her reasoning. Ok, so I didn’t want to read the news anymore. I opened the book I brought with me entitled One Thousand Gifts by Ann Voscamp. This is for our upcoming women’s Bible study….surely it would be uplifting. Uggh. The first chapter centered around accidental death of a sibling and her doubt in God. I can only assume that this was going somewhere- but I just had to put it down. The “to do” list hasn’t really changed…just the way I am looking at it.  Back at home, each child is begging me to play with them, but they each want to play something different and I really, really need time with my hubby. How do I choose? And the person I needed the most this week is the one I spent the least amount of time with….my Lord. Waking up later after sleepless nights and not having my quiet time has been cataclysmic. (Yes…that’s a dramatic word, but it fits!)

cat·a·clysm

noun \ˈka-tə-ˌkli-zəm\

1. Flood, deluge
2. Catastrophe
3. A momentous and violent event marked by overwhelming upheaval and demolition; broadly : an event that brings great changes

This week my brother-in-law (bro) suffered another stroke. With the support of a wonderful husband I set things aside and went down the road to be with my sister. “This one was different.”, she said….and I could hear it in her voice. But little did I know that THIS is where I’d see God this week (praise the Lord)- while I was sinking.

My bro is a smart, bright, thoughtful guy. He works in the IT field and he’s on top of his game when it comes to his job. While he was in the hospital, there were moments when he’d gain ground…..and others when he couldn’t recall the names of those he loved most. He was frustrated because he wanted to pray but didn’t know how to- the words just wouldn’t come. Without going into too much medical detail…the stroke he has had resulted in memory loss, but not the way you’d imagine. It’s all “in there”- locked away in his mind….but he just can’t find the right words to get it out. I was teasing him the other night that he’d be excellent at a game like charades right now, because he is using hand gestures a lot to describe things. He knows so much and his speech is fine…getting the right words to match the person, action, or object is the challenge. He can describe what happened in an entire movie while asking what the name of the lead actor is- JUST so he can get that name. It really is amazing- but you can imagine his frustration.

But there’s something different. I was looking at his face the other night…just watching. There is a new kind of levity there. The stress that can come with life, or a job, challenges of parenting, or even just a drive through rush hour is gone. While he is facing these challenges- the challenges are not written on his face. Instead there is a light, an excitement, an eagerness to find the right words and a joy when he does. Even when tasting food…there is a new appreciation and it was one that he was outwardly expressing. “Zeal” is a good word to describe what I was seeing. It was so wonderful and interesting that I had to ask him about it. He said that it was almost like he had a new set of eyes. Although he wasn’t learning all of this for the first time….it all looked “brighter” (the word he used).  It was like God hit the factory-reset button on my bro- restoring him to the original, intended function and purpose he was created for. He took away all of the muck that can weigh us down- and replaced it with something pure and wonderful. Just before this incident, my bro accepted the position as Recreation Director at his church. While he was in the hospital he was telling me about an experience he had in the gym just the night before. As he was telling me about it- his face lit up…just a preview of the light that was to shine from his face a few nights later. I have a feeling that God is on the verge of something big with my bro.

In hindsight, looking back at my week and the feelings of being overwhelmed- I feel a little silly. Looking at the light in bro’s eyes and the smile that he has…even while facing challenges….reminded me that I need to snap out of it. Yesterday, I didn’t go to church- but started my week off visiting with my Lord. Quietly. Alone. Focused on Him. While it was a tearful day…another “c” word comes to mind.

ca·thar·sis

noun [kuh-thahr-sis]  

The process of releasing, and thereby providing relief from , strong or repressed emotions. 
 I am looking up. He reminded me last night that each day is a new day, each minute is a new minute, each moment is a new moment. I don’t have to wait….there is a fresh start available to me at any given second. I need to be mindful about what I read, where I let my mind dwell, and where I place my priority. Lingering on the outer edges of the flock makes me more susceptible to wolves. And setting my mind on uncertainty or “what-ifs” keep me from functioning in the present. Interestingly enough, I looked back on a verse and a blog I started 2 weeks ago about eyes and ears…..He was trying to tell me to keep focused before I allowed all of these feelings to weigh on me. I’m going to revisit that draft today so I can share it with you this week. 
Pray for bro this week. Pray especially for my sister and their family. And, maybe mention me while you’re at it.