Tuesday, January 30, 2018

focusing //

i remember when i was a preteen and i got my first pair of eyeglasses. i pushed my new (metallic blue) frames up the bridge of my nose as my mom and i walked out of the optometrist office, and immediately looked up. for the first time in, like, ever, i could see each tiny branch on the every single tree limb. i saw the intricate twigs and the smallest leaves crystal clear without squinting. i had never seen the trees like that before, and i remember thinking wow, trees are truly beautiful.

those tiny branches had been there all along, but until that day with those brand new corrective lenses, they were just a blur. 

one month into 2018 and my intention to be more focused reminds me of that feeling. it's like i have a new pair of glasses that enhance my focus on my family. on God's Word. on my marriage. on my health. on beautiful intricacies that have been there here all along, just a little blurry. 

"think about things of heaven, not things of earth." 
colossians 3:2

it took time though. like an eye exam, my vision had to be tested so the impairment could be diagnosed. i had to go through some letting go and stripping away of distractions that were fruitless, selfish, addictive, and even toxic. people, places, and things. that process was painful, tbh. change is hard, even when it's for my own good and even when i know it's God. but now, i have such peace! such clarity! i feel healthy and whole and content. i'm looking up and the things in my line of vision are truly beautiful.  

here's what focusing actually looks like in my daily life: 

>> screen time limits. part of my plan to remain focused on the best God has for me is to set limits on my screen time. just like i have for my kids, i have implemented boundaries for myself. because let's be honest: phones are addictive. social media is addictive. and sure it can be used for good, but i have also found that spending lots of time on my phone can be unhealthy for my heart and mind. i am setting an example in my home for healthy screen time limits by setting restrictions for myself. i'm not trying to be super rigid- just smart. the goal is to free myself from the distractions that can often be fruitless, selfish, addictive, and toxic. i have a phone. my phone doesn't have me. 

>> less "me" time. i realize this seems contradictory to the self-care trend, but for me, in the season that i'm in right now, less me time actually is self-care. when i am focused on making and taking time for myself, and then it doesn't happen or is interrupted, i get irritable and pouty. not because i necessarily needed the "me time," but because i didn't get the "me time" i felt i deserved. me time is such an elusive concept, too, that i lost sight of what could be considered "me time" because i was blinded by visions of escaping to an all-inclusive spa to spend hours by myself in a Turkish cotton bathrobe in a sauna with a charcoal mask on my face. "me time" could very well be intentionally taking time to pray while i load the dishwasher. or listening to my favorite songs in the car on the way home from dropping the kids off at school. but "me time" was creating a spirit of entitlement in me, and i'm sure my family was (silently) suffering for it. so, for now, i'm purposely not making or taking personal time for socializing outside of family and immediate community (church, work, neighbors). what's amazing is how God gently stripped away my craving for an active social life, and has blessed me with genuine contentment. i'm not a recluse or in isolation by any means! i've just found a peace with the kind of quieter social life than i once had. my "me time" is my morning reading, 1 hour for working out, and the occasional hair or nail appointment. my self-care is spending more focused and quality time with the people that are in my life on a regular basis.

"don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. 
instead, fix your attention on God. you’ll be changed from the inside out. 
readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it."
romans 12:2

>> office hours. this is a work in progress for me. i work from home and have 2 or 3 days a week to focus on my job responsibilities. my daily schedule is still pretty flexible, but i have set aside blocks of time to dedicate to work. this is a more structured approach than i've attempted, and so far i think it is improving my productivity! i'm hopeful that i'll get the hang of it. 

"never be lazy, but work hard and serve the Lord enthusiastically."
romans 12:11

>> prioritizing health & fitness. here is something i've noticed about myself, thanks to God's graceful nudges: if i don't prioritize my health and fitness, it simply won't happen. then i'm weak and tired and feel overall icky. what works for me is sticking to a particular workout program - right now i'm doing 80 day obsession. i prefer to have specific workouts to do on specific days (ie: monday leg day, tuesday arms and abs, etc.), and a really clear outline of what foods to eat and when, based on the workouts i'm doing. it requires dedication! my meals are planned in advance (including our family dinners), which sounds like a pain but it's actually really helpful for me to have a plan in place. otherwise, i look up and it's 4:30pm and i haven't had any exercise for the day and my family is asking me what's for dinner. it has also been helpful for me to publish my weekly dinner menus.

>> others-focused. Martin Luther King, Jr said "Life's most persistent and urgent question is, 'What are you doing for others?'" i heard this quote in early january and it has been highlighted in my subconscious ever since. what are we (as a family) doing for others? what am i doing for others? this shift of my focus from self to others looks like more serving at church, selflessly and submissively serving at home, and purposely pursuing opportunities to help others. even if it's inconvenient, uncomfortable, or there isn't anything in it for me. that's the upside down part of it!

"for you have been called to live in freedom, my brothers and sisters. 
but don’t use your freedom to satisfy your sinful nature. 
instead, use your freedom to serve one another in love." 
galatians 5:13

>> Word-focused. i'm making more of an effort to check my thoughts against the Word of God. worry, fear, guilt, doubt, discouragement, insecurity, anger, bitterness, complacency...those are all distractions of the enemy that i'm learning to see as such. keeping the Fruit of the Spirit in the forefront of my mind (and literally written out and taped to a wall at my eye level where i'll see it every day) has helped me keep my mind focused on what God says. it's very practical and seems elementary, but it's certainly effective.

"the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: 
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 
gentleness, and self-control."
galatians 5:22-23

i'm mostly amazed at how much freedom this focus has brought me. freedom from distractions, freedom from discouragement, freedom from sickness, freedom from selfish ambition. it's the hard kind of good! it's growth! i want to remember this!

dear future self,
      hey! if God starts making changes in your life, it's because you need to be freed from something. He's making room for something better! He wants you to focus! open your eyes and look up! 
yourself on 1.30.18