Monday, January 15, 2018

Dealing with Puzzles

What's your strategy for putting a puzzle together? I like to find all the pieces with straight edges and fit them together to form the border of the puzzle. Once I have the outer boundary in place, I work on the interior. I group like colors together. Then I look at the picture on top of the box to see what goes where. If there is any lettering or one part of the picture that stands out, I begin with that section. Completing one section motivates me to keep working on the next and the next until I've put the whole thing together.

While reflecting on all the time and thinking required to put a puzzle together, I thought, Dealing with life is somewhat like putting a puzzle together! 

That task is even more challenging since we're rarely given even a quick look at "the big picture" of what God has ordained for our lives. (Sometimes we don’t bother to ask Him to give us a glimpse of what's really going on.) Since we think we have to figure things out on our own by using the few pieces (clues) we've been given, we become hyper-focused on the ones we do have. If many of those pieces look like "more of the same” (as they often do), we struggle to figure out how or if they fit together. Sometimes we try (unsuccessfully!) to force pieces of the puzzle into places they do not belong. If we believe we're missing some of the pieces we need to solve life’s puzzle, we  search everywhere for them, even in unlikely places, because we’re desperate to see the “big picture.”

Instead of struggling to put our lives together on our own, let's do as James 1:5, NKJV, says:

If any of you lacks wisdom, 
let him ask of God, 
who gives to all liberally
and without reproach,
and it will be given to him.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Ignore the Naysayers

A college student encountered many challenges, especially during her senior year. Several of the professors doubted her ability to teach well and to pass the teacher certification tests. They strongly urged her to give up her dream of becoming a teacher, but she refused.

She continued to study hard and to do her best, even though getting a good grade required much more effort from her than it did from other students. Despite the long hours she studied at her desk in her dorm room and/or in the library, she remained cheerful and determined to graduate with her class and to pass the teacher certification exams.

Thankfully, she didn't give up on her dreams! She went on to become a much-loved, compassionate, and competent teacher. When she died of cancer long before time for her to retire, her students (current and former) and their parents turned out in droves to attend the visitation and the funeral service. Their response meant so much to her dear husband and children and grandchildren because they realized the community also deeply loved and appreciated her.

But she might not have had such a well-lived life if she'd listened to those who thought she'd never amount to much!

For I know the plans I have for you," says the Eternal [God], "plans for peace, not evil, to give you a future and hope--never forget that. 
~Jeremiah 29:11, VOICE

Sunday, January 7, 2018

I Can. I Will.

The "woozies" and "wobblies" have slowed me down for over a year. For many days, I've gripped my cane and/or held onto the walls and furniture. Finally, I'm feeling better. Along with the improvement in my balance has come a surge of hope that I just might be able to resume normal activities again--or to become more active than I've been for a long time.

Thus, when I opened an email that contained a link to a blog post entitled 71 Ways to Exercise More in 2018, I didn't delete the message, as "hopeless me" might have done before starting to feel better. 

As I looked over the long list, I noticed there were many activities I am not able to do. Yet, I continued to read on. (Hopefully, you, Dear Reader, may be able to do them; so, I will list a few for you to consider.)

  • Do pushups or sit-ups when commercials interrupt your favorite TV shows.
  • Ride your bike.
  • Take your dog to the park.
  • Sprint to and from the mailbox.
  • Run a 5k or a half-marathon. (I can't, but my daughter can--and does! I'll cheer her on.)

Rather than despair over the ones I can't do right now, I made a list of several I can do, while inside my house. 

  • Do calf raises while I brush my teeth.
  • Stand up and walk around a few minutes each hour. (Increases heart rate, burns a few calories, and improves circulation.)
  • Use resistance bands. (I'll use the set of training tubes my daughter gave me years ago.)
  • Repeatedly lift and hold both feet off the floor when I'm sitting at my desk and checking e-mails. Doing so will strengthen my core, as well as my leg muscles.
  • Vaccum.
  • While sitting anywhere, point my toes and flex my feet.

And I noticed activities I used to do that I can now resume.

  • Do an exercise video. (I have some of Leslie Sansone's in-home walking workout DVDs and have enjoyed them in the past. I'll start using them again even if I can't walk a mile right away.)
  • Set a daily step goal on a fitness tracker. (I'll walk throughout the day, accumulating steps as I make "laps" inside the house and as I do my housework. Hopefully, soon I'll be able to walk for extended periods in the neighborhood again.)
I know I'll experience good results if I choose to think about what I can do (and do it!) rather than let what I can't do discourage me to the point of doing nothing at all. 
..whatever things are true..think on these things.

Philippians 4:8

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Decide to Do; Follow Through

Photo taken during a half-marathon (13 miles) at Orange Beach, AL.
J. Gaskill Photography
My daughter Jena set a goal to run 100 miles each month during 2017--and she exceeded it! Previously, she had not enjoyed running, but now she does. She takes time to run nearly every day; sometimes during her lunch break, sometimes before going to work, sometimes after getting home from work, sometimes in 5Ks and half-marathons, sometimes alone, sometimes with family, sometimes with friends, sometimes in the heat, sometimes in the cold. Running has become a priority for her. Consequently, she's reaching her running goals and experiencing the benefits of a more active lifestyle.

Seeing her set goals and work diligently to reach them inspires me to determine my priorities and do them. After all, deciding isn't worth much if there is no follow through.

Whatever you do, do [it] well. 
Ecclesiastes 9:10, New Living Translation

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Stop. Think. Change.

Ever since I read Mike Ashcroft and Rachel Olsen’s excellent book, My One Word, I’ve chosen one word to focus on each year, as the authors suggest. The first year, I chose the word finish. Throughout each day of that year, I reminded myself to finish whatever could be completed at that time. Rather than flit from task to task, as I tend to do, I’d simply remind myself to finish! I noticed a big change in the amount of work I was able to get done. And I did my work more efficiently and with less stress.

The second year, I chose the word love. Many times each day, I’d look for ways to express love to people. Apparently, I did pretty well with that, for a Christmas card my husband and I received that year commended us for the many ways we extend love and care to others.
This year, I’ve chosen the word change. Whenever I catch myself doing or saying or feeling anything that's contrary to the better person I want to become, I’ll say to myself, “This is not good. Stop it! Change! (After all, I do have a choice, and I can choose to feel and behave differently.)

By systematically making one change at a time, followed by another and another, it shouldn't be all that difficult. However, it will demand constant awareness--and constant follow through. And, of course, I'll need to continue to remind myself to finish and to love.

Thus says the LORD of hosts: "Consider your ways!"
Haggai 1:7, NKJV