A Matter of Focus

Yesterday afternoon, I was talking with a friend that I admire for her strong commitment to her family and her ability to set boundaries to keep her focus on what matters most. I was confessing to her that I felt a little overloaded lately. As a people pleaser, boundaries have always been a little tricky for me. I like to help, so I end up helping too much. I like to serve, and sign up for too many things. It eventually catches up with you.

Life has been hurried as of late. New beginnings, new jobs, new roles, new school year. Hurry is not a friend. It brings stress, anxiety, exhaustion. It robs you of peace. There is a huge difference between activity and hurry. Activity is healthy, necessary. Hurry is too much activity and the state of mind it brings. This hurry, undoubtedly, has been brought about by weak boundaries and out of focus priorities. So for the last few weeks, there has been a struggle in my heart. To stop the hurry, sacrifices will need to be made. What good things need to go to make room for the best things? How do I gracefully step away from things I love because this isn’t the right season? How do I invest in myself so all my pouring out of time and energy doesn’t leave me drained?

The Lord put a very vivid picture of my reality in front of my face last night. It was no coincidence. I was hunched over a crib, back aching from being in that position for 45 mins, humming lullabyes to and patting a teething, sleep deprived, separation anxiety-experiencing toddler. I was tired from comforting him and just wanted to lay down. Especially because I knew, if the recent pattern held, he would be up again at 3 am. As I stood there, frustrated and just done, something caught my eye. Because of the way I was leaning, my necklace hung before my eyes. I have been wearing a silver crucifix lately, the one I received on my first communion, nearly 25 years ago. The funny thing was, because of my position, I couldn’t see the charm. My eyes couldn’t focus on Jesus from where I stood. It was like God was saying to me, “You need to make a change in position to properly focus on Me.”

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A few minutes later when those little eyes finally closed and I was back in bed, I started to really think about what it will look like to change my position and find my focus. Here are a few things I am doing and/or committing to do to aid in this journey:

1. Learning to say no and withdrawing from commitments– I read a great quote on the Proverbs 31 ministries page recently that said, “I can do anything, but I can’t do everything.” There is so much truth here. I have committed to not accept any more commitments this year and to pray about which current commitments may need to leave my plate. All of these commitments have blessed me is some way, but they also require my time, resources, and energy. Thankfully, a few of those commitments are time bound and coming to an end soon. Two great resources I would recommend if you deal with boundary issues like I do are the books The Best Yes by Lysa Terkeurst and Boundaries by Townsend and Cloud.

2. Defining a focus for our family– N and I have talked for a few years now about creating a mission statement or creed for our family. A mission statement will clearly define who we are, what we stand for, and what direction we will move. We have committed to creating this document and displaying it in our home by year’s end. The Secrets of Happy Families by Bruce Feiler has some fantastic ideas about creating family mission statements.

3. Realizing my family is my ministry-I serve in a few capacities at our church. I enjoy service, it’s a way I see the work of God in those around me. I am realizing, however, that my first and most important ministry is my home. If that is not in order or is causing stress, I am not mentally or physically in a good place to serve outside my home. This means that service may look a little different for me from now until my chickadees leave the nest. And I am okay with that. My days with them are few and precious.

4. Seek out mentors-I have been blessed the past few weeks to run with a mom further in her journey than I am. Our long runs go by quick and I don’t notice little twinges or aches physically as much because our conversation is engaging my heart and mind. Her encouragement and challenges to me have made me feel at peace with my decision to let go and slow down.

5. Fill my cup first-Serving, whether it’s your own family or to the church or community, is often referred to as a “pouring out”. But when you are serving, it’s important to be “poured into” as well by activities and relationships that feed your soul. Nothing can be poured from an empty cup.

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I can’t be a good wife, mother, or servant if I am depleted. I have joined a women’s Bible study lead by a mentor woman from our church and committed to exercising every day for my “pour into” activities.

6. Don’t lose sight of God– This is the final, but most important piece. Busyness and hurry are caused by too much activity. Too much activity leaves little room for quiet time with God and experiencing our relationship with Him fully. My eyes knew something was wrong when I couldn’t focus on Jesus on a piece of jewelry. It was a direct reflection of what our hearts know: life unfocused on God is not the right way to live. I may not always get the length of study and quiet time I want, I may be stepping on cereal and moving crayons to make way for my Bible. But that is okay. The habit of being in the Word everyday is what keeps your focus intense. I am reading through the Gospels and completing 1-2 short quiet times per day with a devotional I am working through with my Bible study group.

I certainly don’t have this all figured out and I am sure hurry will continue to try to creep into our lives. But I have a game plan going forward. If you’re like me and this week has been pulling your heart in different directions, stop, change your position, and focus on Him.

-L

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