Where Is Your Focus?

Written by: Christianne Williams

I always believed I was a person who lacked the ability to focus.  My mind would wander from one thing to another, I would seldom finish things that I started and this left me feeling overwhelmed.  My husband is my opposite, they do say it happens that way.  He is driven.  If he starts something, he will most certainly finish it and do it well.  Sometimes this has caused conflict because he comes behind me, seeing the dishwasher half emptied or the dustpan still containing dirt, and he takes it upon himself to help me out and finish the job.  This in turn makes me feel as though he’s shining a light on my undone tasks and I get irritated.  At any rate, I’ve recently discovered that its not my inability to focus that’s the problem, but in fact, my ability to focus entirely on the wrong things.

In the example of my husband finishing up my chores, I don’t look at the heart behind the help, I concentrate on the message that I am not doing enough, I’m dropping the ball.  That’s just an example of how when we focus on the wrong things, we lose sight of what it truly important.  I’ve seen it many times at our kitchen table as well.  Siblings sitting together, all working on different lessons but all working toward the goal of getting things done for the day so they can have free time.  One will lose focus and start making noises, soon to be followed by their neighbor and before you know it, I’m telling them to ‘focus on what you’re supposed to be doing!’  I don’t feel qualified to tell them that but I’m the parent/teacher so what can I do?

When we were in the hospital during each of our daughter’s three open heart surgeries, we had struggles with where our focus would lie.  In the midst of all of the beeping monitors, medication pumps, and the story the numbers would tell the doctors, it became hard at times to focus on the One who calms our storms.  Fear would creep in, and in being honest, I would become focused on what could possibly go wrong instead of what God could do in the middle of that desperate situation.   And things did get desperate.  We were in need of miracles most days, I could compile a long list of times when we were told ‘there is no hope’ and how we would need to refocus on the truth that God can work things out for our good in any situation.

The truth is often silent.  We can’t confuse it with the facts.  The facts are often contrary to the truth, which is what God says.  Sometimes our circumstances say there’s no possible way that anything good can come out of this, yet God works well with impossibility.  They say that numbers don’t lie but God neither does God and He can make a way for your financial miracle, a way that you could never dream up on your own. The medical report may speak of death and hopelessness, but God is the One who gives hope, He restores sight to the blind and heals all of our infirmities.

The question is, where does our focus lie?  In the bad reports?  Or in the One who meets all of our needs?

In Numbers 13, Moses sent some men to explore the land of Canaan, the land they were supposed to inherit.  When they returned, they spoke of the goodness of the land, but they spent more time discussing the size and power of the people they would have to overthrow to take the land.  They were concerned that the greatness of the people would prevent them from receiving the Promised Land.  Joshua and Caleb, however, were certain they could do it.  The men argued with them, they gave them the reasons they felt it would be a death mission, but they remained confident that it was a battle that had already been awarded them.

They were focused on two different things.  The majority on the greatness of the enemy, and the minority on the greatness of God.  Focusing on the right thing gave Joshua and Caleb the confidence to be bold in the face of a great enemy, and in a circumstance that by our natural eyes seemed would surely go against them.

Isaiah 26:3 tells us, “You will keep in perfect peace those whose minds are steadfast because they trust in You.”

My ability to focus was not the issue, where my focus was directed was.  Keep your eyes on Jesus and trust Him in all things, even when the facts tempt you to believe otherwise.

Fresh Start

Written by: Christianne Williams

Who doesn’t love a fresh start?  A new beginning, no mistakes, no regrets, just hope for what’s ahead stretching as far as your mind and heart can see.  A new job, a new move, a new relationship, new opportunities.  That’s the reason the new year fills gyms everywhere, there’s a new starting point, the chance to write a new story on a blank page.  There is a fresh resolve to tackle that vice that the year before seemed too far gone.  Sadly, it doesn’t take long for the fresh start to be marred with a fresh donut or pizza because life happened and caught you off guard.  After that it seems pointless to continue.

I love the first snow fall of the year, it blankets the ground, sparkles in the sun, and shows no footprints or signs of being disturbed.  It’s beautiful to look at, until my kids go out to play.  There are snowmen, forts, small hills created for a stab at sledding, and dead grass peeking through.  When they were small and I had the power to keep them inside, I would, for as long as I could put up with the whining, so I could enjoy the look of our yard undisturbed.  I know, more snow falls throughout the winter but after the first, it only fills in the footprints and covers the snow creations, tries to hide the twigs and grass sticking up,  it doesn’t actually go back to the original spotless beauty.

I’ve found relationships to be this way.  You begin with great expectations and it doesn’t take long before disillusionment enters in.  Something happens or a word is spoken that stings and changes the outlook you have.  It can cause us to pull away, to react in ways that isolates us.  We build walls to protect ourselves, and in the end, keep out the very people who are to shape us and help us in our quest for godly character.  Like the case of freshly fallen snow, we can restore those relationships but sometimes the old things are just covered, the form of them are still evident.

When we woke up on January first and I said “Happy New Year!” to my seven year old, she was rather disappointed.  “It doesn’t feel any different than last year!”  And she was right. It was just the same as last year, and the year before that, and the year before that.  In fact, it was the same as the day before.  Every day is a fresh start, a new opportunity to grow, to blossom, to spread hope and encouragement.  It’s a new opportunity to repair relationships, to accomplish something you never thought you could, to begin the journey to a dream that has laid dormant waiting for the perfect moment.

It’s not a specific day that gives us fresh hope, fresh vision, or fresh resolve.  The very thing that offers us these things is not actually a thing, He’s a person.  Jesus gives us the opportunity to change every moment.  He doesn’t wait until the first of the year, the first of the month, the first of the week, or the beginning of a day.  He restores hope, relationship, vision, the truth about who we actually are, at any moment we ask Him to.  He doesn’t just blanket over things that have caused us to lose sight of our future, He heals it and we actually start with a fresh snow fall all over again.

Don’t allow the hope of great things for your life fade with any ‘mess ups’ that happened in the early days of the year.  Grab hold of the truth Jesus brings and allow Him to encourage you every minute of everyday!

Out of the Oven

Written by: Christianne Williams

I love to bake. Unfortunately, I also like to eat what I bake which poses a problem when I get on a baking spree.  The other day I had a craving for brownies, not the black bean type I had made when I was trying to be healthier, but the real deal, smothered with chocolate almond frosting.  Since I am a grown up and can make poor decisions like this, I got out my bowl and all the ingredients and began the process.  Within an hour, I had a pan of awesome, chocolaty gooiness and I was a happy camper.  My kids were also happy.

As I was on this quest for a treat it hit me: we are like brownies.  Or cake.  Or banana bread.  I’ll explain this.  When we come to Christ and ask Him to forgive our sins and live in our hearts, we are like the batter.  We have ingredients added, we have grace in the bowl, we have the Saviour’s love lavished upon us.  But, in the beginning, like the brownies I made, we are not done.  We are starting.  The baking process doesn’t end after everything’s in the bowl.  There’s more that has to take place, although they’re brownies from the beginning, they’re not at their finished product until they come out of the oven.

Christian life…a lot like that.  The day you are saved, you have not arrived.  Aren’t there times when you feel like you did ‘before’?  Maybe your patience was not at the level you’d expect from someone who’s saved.  Maybe your response to someone wasn’t as compassionate as you would have liked.  Maybe you feel down and discouraged instead of having faith.  Whatever it is, it makes you feel like you’ve failed, like you have to revisit the cross because you’ve blown it.  When I bake, I also make a mess, just ask my husband.  I’ve also managed to make a mess of some situations along the way since I became a Christian.  Usually times when I tried to do things on my own without inquiring of God first.

I’m absolutely not saying that we can live any old way, fly off the handle and be as reckless as before.  After all, self control is a fruit of the Spirit and we are supposed to bear those fruit.  I’m saying we’re not perfect yet.  We have not been taken from the oven yet.  God is not done with us.  The key is that you have a heart that desires to let God lead, we won’t always have the correct response, we won’t always handle things in the best way, but the goal of everyday is to become more like Christ.  We have to want to be changed by Him, to allow Him to replace our heart with His.  We can’t give up or feel like there’s no way we can ever be good enough.  The truth is, we can never be good enough, and God doesn’t expect us to be.  What He expects is a heart that looks to Him, to be led and changed by Him.  We should be growing in our relationship with Him.

2 Corinthians 5:17 says, “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away, behold, all things have become new.”

Some translations say ‘becoming new’.  Which shows that it’s a process, one that we won’t fully complete until our feet hit the streets of gold.  It’s our job to keep pushing forward, not get stuck on our failure, but get up and keep going.

Philippians 1:6 says, “….being confident of this very thing, that He who has begun a good work in you will complete it until the day of Jesus Christ;”

Deep Conversations with God

Written by: Christianne Williams

I was 18 and on the trip of a lifetime.  I had travelled in Canada and had driven through the New England States on our way to Ontario, but I had never ventured south.  I admired people who would pack up and head to warm places in the middle of our frigid Canadian winters, spending long days in the sun while the rest of us bundled up in parkas and tried to hide our Seasonal Affective Disorder.  They would come back all tanned and happy, looking slightly out of place amongst the rest of us, especially next to me with my pasty skin and freckles.

So, I was given the amazing opportunity to spend a week in the Florida sun, visiting theme parks and orange groves, walking through warm sand on crowded beaches.  Equally thrilling was missing a week of school after already taking a week off in March.  There I was, living my dream.  Descending in Orlando and laying my eyes on the remarkably different landscape was exhilarating, stepping out into the hot sunshine instantly made my mood jump, feeling the 90% humidity made my hair curl up like Mr. Noodles.  It was an instant reminder that nothing is perfect and I was forced to accept my Q-tip like appearance for the entire week.

One of the highlights was four days at Disney World. I wasn’t prepared for just how gigantic those parks were.  There were people everywhere, the lines were beyond long for everything, and it was hot!  The first day was great, I remembered to apply sunscreen every two hours to my fair skin, I remembered to drink a lot of water.  The second day wasn’t so bad either.  I applied sunscreen a couple of times and drank more water than I normally would have, we left the park and spent the rest of the day by the pool.  The third day we took a break from park hopping and visited an orange grove and a beautiful beach, where I neglected to reapply sunscreen and didn’t even finish a quarter of the water I should have.

We arrived at our time share that evening and I was looking a lot like you would expect a red head to look after hours in the sun unprotected.  I resembled a lobster after being boiled for twenty minutes.  Aside from being sore, I was still feeling pretty good, probably still riding high on the excitement of experiencing all these new things.  Too bad I wasn’t tuned into the signals my body was giving me.  The next day we returned to Disney and began taking in all of the different sights.  As the day went on I was starting to feel a bit tired, dizzy almost.  I chalked it up to not sleeping well and pushed myself to keep going.  By noon it was apparent that it was more than just lack of sleep, my legs went numb and I needed to be taken to the first aid building.  I honestly don’t remember much after I felt my legs gave way, until I woke up on a bed, in an air conditioned room, with fluids being administered.

This illustrates to me the all to common condition we can find ourselves in spiritually.  It happens slowly, over time, while we are busy going about our daily tasks, dealing with life, and forgetting where our source of strength comes from.   Our Bible gets a bit dusty, our prayers get short, reduced to surface conversations instead of deep wells of revelation, and we start to feel dry.  Like I became physically dehydrated, we can easily become spiritually dehydrated.  We need to be refreshed in God’s presence daily, relying on Him constantly, allowing Him to fill us so we can deal with our day to day lives.

Drawing our strength from our God can’t happen any other way but to have deep conversations with Him, listening to His voice and trusting in His goodness.  He knows how to restore our soul, to revive our dreams, and to speak life to our dead hopes.  Don’t ignore the signs when busyness threatens to choke out time alone with Holy Spirit, run to Him, drink from the River, and gain new strength.

God Doesn’t Expect Perfection!

Written by: Christianne Williams

Life offers lots of opportunities to learn. Some lessons are liberating, some difficult.  There are some that seem small and insignificant at the time but days, months, or years later we encounter a situation and say, ‘Aha, that’s what that was all about!’  God uses others to teach us about ourselves also.  My family has been used time and again to highlight good and bad points about my character, shining the light on areas I need to improve in.  Usually I notice more ‘teachable moments’ for myself during seasons of stress, and I find myself in those quite often.

These last few weeks we’ve been preparing for an upcoming move, only across town not across the country again, and I’ve started a new job.  This move requires preparation and so does the training for my job.  They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks and I feel ‘they’ may be somewhere close to right as I try to retain a large amount of new information.  Coming home at the end of the day and looking at piles of boxes and rooms that need to be packed and cleaned, as well as papers that need reading and remembering, and knowing there are homeschool issues that need my attention can leave me feeling overwhelmed to put it mildly.

On my day off, I had plans to tackle as much of it as was humanly possible but I found myself sitting on the couch with a large cup of coffee, and then another, trying to put off what I knew was necessary.  Did I mention that I also have issues with delegating?  Well, I do!  I feel like I need to be the one to do things so that I can micromanage how they’re done.  There is no such thing as, ‘As long as it gets done does it matter how it happened?’ in my books. I sometimes remind myself of a math teacher we had in high school.  I couldn’t understand why, if I had arrived at the correct answer, he was bent on seeing the work that showed how I had gotten there.  And now, here I am.

On that day, my two youngest children wanted to help their mommy out by packing their own things in boxes.  I decided to let go of the reigns and let them do it.  I even told myself that it didn’t matter what went into the boxes, as long as I didn’t have to put it there.  I listened as they threw things in boxes, I cringed as they emptied containers of hair clips and jewellery out into boxes, and then I reminded myself ‘You don’t have to do it!’ and let them embrace independence.

As I sat enjoying my coffee and listening to them talk and work, it occurred to me: God doesn’t care if we do things perfectly, He loves our effort.  He’s not watching over us as we carry out assignments lamenting that we aren’t doing it exactly right.  After all, how can imperfect people do anything perfectly? Just as He gave power to Moses, courage to Gideon, and grace to Paul, He gives us what we need where we need it and cheers on our efforts the same way we do when our children learn to do things on their own.  It may not seem like a big lesson but its encouraged me several times this week as I’ve struggled to learn new things, it’s given me the drive to do my best and try.

When we begin to unpack those boxes, I’m anticipating that the things inside may not all belong together, some sorting will have to take place on the other end, but the kids have gained a sense of accomplishment and I’m proud of them.  God is proud of us too when we take a step out of our comfort zone and try to do things for Him that we may feel ill equipped to do.  He gives us the direction, and we just need to be obedient and do our best.  He honors our effort and our desire to do His will.

Greater Than Our Circumstances

Written by: Christianne Williams

Soft ocean breezes.  The smell of salt in the air and the sound of gulls flying overhead.  Walking barefoot in the sand everyday in the summer, getting a free pedicure. Every. Single. Time.  I grew up on the coast, surrounded by water, on an island connected by a mile -long white sand beach with a causeway to the mainland.  Hearing the crashing of the waves on summer nights as I drifted off to sleep; watching the sun glisten off the water; collecting shells, standing in the small pools left behind when the tide went out.  Hunting for sea glass, dodging jellyfish, and having seaweed fights marked most summer afternoons and evenings.

As I got older, I enjoyed sitting on the shore on a towel because I really don’t like sand all that much, as I would stare out at the sea.  There were days when it was calm and the waves rippled in.  Other times the waves reached the shore with a little more force, it was a little louder and the whitecaps were more frequent.   And then, in a storm, the waves would crash against the shore consistently, with little rest between breakers.

Matthew 8:23-27 gives an account of a storm that arose suddenly as Jesus and the disciples were rowing across a lake.  It was a furious storm, with waves sweeping over the boat.  When I read that, I put myself in their sandals, trying to feel what they might have felt.  Feeling the boat toss, not knowing what to do, and having no idea what was going to happen.  They went and woke Jesus, who was sleeping, fearing they would drown.  They were amazed when He spoke to the winds and waves and they obeyed Him, yet just a few verses before, it says they had just witnessed many miracles He performed for others.

They had moved from a place of watching to a position of receiving.  They were now the ones in need of intervention from the Anointed One.  They were now experiencing some of what they had earlier witnessed.  They knew they needed to ask Him to save them, but from their reaction, did they really expect that He could do anything to prevent them from what they perceived to be a certain death?

I know how powerful waves can be during a storm, for them to be instantly calmed would be a miraculous thing.  Sometimes after a tropical storm the waves linger for days, so for the lake to be again smooth so suddenly couldn’t be explained as anything but a miracle.  The power of the wind and waves is no big deal for God.  The situation looked bleak but there was One who brought peace in the middle of that furious storm on that lake that day.  The same One who brought that peace is there to bring peace to us in the middle of whatever storm we find ourselves in right now.  Just like the wind and waves, our circumstances are no match for our God.

He really impressed on me the other day, while I was at work, not really asking for anything specific, that His goodness is greater than our circumstances.  Our situation may not be good, but His character is unchanging, and He can’t be anything other than who He is.  His heart toward us is one of love, it’s compassionate, and never failing.  He will never turn a deaf ear to you, He will never forsake you, He will never leave you alone.

One word from Him and things change.  He calls all things into order, He speaks peace and life into all the dark places of our hearts.  He overwhelms us with His goodness and compassion, loving us far too much to leave us alone in the middle of our storm.  Call out to Him, tell Him how much you trust Him, even if you don’t ‘feel’ like you do.  I can tell you from experience that the more you hear those words come out of your mouth, the more convinced you’ll be that He will calm your storm.

Parenting: Love and Discipline

Written by: Christianne Williams

Proverbs 13:13 “He who scorns instruction will pay for it, but he who respects a command is rewarded.”

Proverbs 13:24 “He who spares the rod hates his son, but he who loves him is careful to discipline him.”

This parenting thing, I find it hard sometimes.  Last night was one of those times.  It wasn’t that anything terrible happened, in fact, it was an eye opening time of reflecting on the character of each one of my children. I just get hung up on the things that need improvement and perhaps feel a measure of guilt over them.  The homeschool regulations in our province require meetings with facilitators twice a year. Last night was our first ever, in all of our 13 years of homeschooling, opportunity to sit down with people who were not family and discuss goals, both academically and character related, of our sweet little ducklings.

First of all, I believe we have the best facilitators in all of the world. They were so helpful in getting us to really think about each of children as individuals with their own unique character traits and gifts.  I found it very easy to pull out the positives of some of them and the negatives of others.  Let’s face it, it’s easy to bury the memory of the temper tantrums your sixteen-year old threw when he was seven but its not so easy to forget the one your seven-year old threw five minutes before the guests arrived.  As we were going through the list, taking note of strengths and area that need attention, I began to see that perhaps my ‘soft’, guilt ridden, parenting style, was less than ideal.

I love my babies; they really are great children! They make us proud!  But the areas that need to be worked on are, at the root, things that have evolved because of my inability to follow through with discipline.  I’m a softy.  I get irritated and frustrated, I hand out a punishment, most of the time too severe and one that will punish me too, like no going outside for a year.  Then an hour later when they show up with their sad little eyes, almost managing to squeeze out a tear or two, I cave, and back outside they go.  I know that as soon as their precious little backs are to me they get a smirk on their face because they know me far too well.

As I sat there thinking about it, I realized something else as well.  My view of punishment was that if I followed through I wasn’t showing love to my children.  It was as if I was viewing love as equalling permissiveness, and that isn’t at all what it is.  Loving my children, as God loves us, is setting boundaries, ones that protect them, and seek what’s best for them.  If they choose to push through those fences and I decide to do nothing, one message I’m sending is that really, the rule I’ve set isn’t important so what’s the point of them following it? The other is that I don’t love them enough to show them “tough love”!

Two things are now going to be front and center: 1. Does the punishment fit the ‘crime’? and 2. Once I’ve said it, it has to stick! So, I must be very careful to present a fair consequence with effective results.

God loves us, and He corrects us out of His great love for us.  He wants to keep us safe and unharmed.  He wants us to walk in freedom and develop Godly character.  The same is true of the way I feel toward my kids.  I want them to develop good, Godly character, knowing that love and discipline go hand in hand, not love and permissiveness.

Peeling off the Labels

Written by: Christianne Williams

I stood in the grocery store, in the dairy section, staring at the shelves of yogurt.  I began examining the label on each different brand to see which would be the best choice for us.  After a few minutes I settled on a brand and moved on to the cereal aisle, where I was immediately overwhelmed once again by the vast selection, just wanting a healthy type that my kids would actually eat.  I relied once again on the label to help me decide which box would give a decent amount of nutrition while not making the morning breakfast battle more difficult.

Labels are something that we are all familiar with.  They provide us with important information so we can make informed choices.  From giving us nutritional facts so we can make informed decisions to warning us of ‘small parts, not suitable for children under 3’, we can probably all think of an example and most likely use them at least once a day.

One place we will also find labels – on people.  I don’t think any of us can get off the planet without having a brand placed on them at some point.  Sometimes it’s harmless but sometimes it “sticks” and becomes our identity, holding us prisoners to wrong thoughts about who we are.  We hear ‘introvert’, ‘plain Jane’, ‘mediocre’, ‘average Joe’, etc., and then we begin to act that out in our lives.  We believe this is who we are and we can never be anything more.  The label becomes a limiting factor in our life.

I recently had a revelation of this, thanks to some beautiful ladies that God has brought into my life.  I realized that such declarations other people make over our lives can become thoughts we replay over and over in our heads and then becomes embedded in our DNA.  If I feel that I’m not worth anything, that I’m not good enough, don’t have enough talent, or that I’ll never live in the freedom that God has waiting for me, it can stick. It can become a label that shapes our self perception. But such labels are often lies! We believe these things because sometimes its easier to accept the things we hear with our physical ears than to soak in the beautiful things the Lord declares over us, things that we hear sometimes with our heart.

Those false labels keep us down, making us unable to trust God for ‘big things’ in our lives because we have our focus set on things that are false.  Who does God say that you are?  That’s really all that matters.

The labels that we wear that have been written on us by lies spoken can be removed, and then replaced with truth, labels like ‘more than enough’, ‘seated in heavenly places with Christ’, ‘daughter of the King of Kings’, ‘gifted with every spiritual blessing’ just to name a few.  How much different would our lives be if those were the labels that swirled around in our heads?  How much more confidence would we have? I know labels aren’t always easy to remove, I’ve worked retail for a number of years and have had to try and remove sticky labels from glass ornaments that were going to be given as gifts.  It sometimes feels that no amount of scratching and scraping will ever remove them and even after they’re off, there can be a sticky residue left that needs more attention.  I believe that God is the master label remover.  He can get those stubborn things off and even clean up any residue left over.

You and I are children of God, we can’t wear labels that call us something else anymore than peanut butter can wear a label reading strawberry jam.  We should never be called something we are not.  My prayer is that God will bring to your mind any labels that have placed on you that don’t line up with what He calls you and then you’ll allow Him to remove them and replace with truth.

Unfailing Love

Written by: Christianne Williams

Psalm 36:7 “How priceless is your unfailing love!  Both high and low among men find refuge in the shadow of your wings.”

How I love this verse!  It brings such joy to my heart to know that God’s love is not intended for just a few who are in places of power and authority.  It’s not just for the privileged in society or the wealthy.  It’s freely given to all who come to Him and put their trust and hope in Him!  It’s the one thing our money cannot buy.  No amount of working will earn it.  We can’t rely on our talent, our will, or our good looks to get us this wonderful gift.  No, it’s completely given by grace, to us, a group of people who take it entirely for granted sometimes.  The only payment is that we love Him back, do His will, follow His ways.

Loving God means loving each other, the same way He loves us.  With grace.  It’s so easy these days to associate love with gushy feelings or fireworks exploding, but that’s just not the kind of love that we’ve been given by Him.  We are to do our very best to extend love that goes beyond how we’re feeling today, to love beyond looks, social status, or action.  We need to ask God to help us love like He does.  To look at the downcast in our world and have compassion on them.  To actually be the hands and feet of Jesus.

This doesn’t always happen right away, and with some people it may never happen, but we should be seeking to show the heart of our Father to a world that has a completely distorted view of love.  There are so many who don’t know what real, authentic, love is like.  They’re so used to being loved because of what they are instead of who they are.  It’s a plastic, throw away, type of devotion.  A lot of Christian’s aren’t able to completely accept God’s love because they’ve never know anything to be so limitless, they’ve only ever experienced the love the world has to offer, which is false.

I have four kids, from age 16 down to 7, and I have learned by listening to them that the feeling we’ve made love to be comes and goes, very quickly, almost like flipping a switch.  My seven-year old will love her brothers one minute, you can see her eyes light up and she throws her arms around one of their necks, declares her undying love to them because they shared their candy and the next minute she’s mad because the same brother won’t drop everything to get her a cup for her water.  At that point she’s decided she’ll never talk to him again, which also doesn’t last.  My 16 year old loves pizza, guitars, and BMXing.  I’m guessing someday he’ll love a girl and want to marry her and I’m sure the feeling won’t be the same as he feels for pizza or bike tricks.

I also know something else from having this mess of kids: I love them all the same.  I have no favorites.  They can’t do anything to earn my love, they can’t do anything to lose my love.  They can, however, make me upset, but they can also make me laugh.  My feelings change but my love for them does not.  I can’t imagine that their social status as they get older will affect my love for them.  This is how God loves us, not with feeling but with choice, covenant, and faithfulness.  His love is priceless and unfailing, available to all, no exceptions.  I’m so glad that He loved me when I was unlovable and that His love found me.

The First Focus of our Day

Written by: Christianne Williams

The house was quiet, the sun was just coming up, it wasn’t too hot and there was a nice breeze blowing in the windows.  I sat there clutching my coffee mug with all my strength.  I was staring at the wall, seemingly doing nothing, but my mind was very active.  Overly active one might say.  It was June, the beginning of summer holidays would soon be upon us, an end to a busy school schedule. But before I could enjoy the lazy days stretching before us, I had to finish a list that included many, many deadlines.

I was thinking about the exam that needed to be completed, the school grades that needed to be submitted to the Department of Education (we are a homeschool family), the gathering and packing that needed to be done for me and three of my children as we were going to camp in a week or so, the checklist that would need to be made for my husband who would have to pack for a family vacation on his own, the house that lay in shambles because my work schedule had dominated for 9 months, and on, and on, and on….

I felt my eyes growing wider and my heart rate quicken, I knew I was on the verge of an all-out anxiety attack, feeling like a huge wave was crashing over me and it wasn’t waves of God’s peace.  I was called out of my place of panic by the blood curdling screams of my eight-year old who would not stop shrieking long enough to tell me what was wrong.  There I stood, with my mouth open not knowing what to say because I no idea what this was all about. After he tore his shirt off like a WWF wrestler in the hallway he managed to tell me that while holding one of the wildflowers he and his sister had gathered the day before, a giant red spider, jumped on him.  I was completely unaware that we had red spiders the size of golf balls living in our backyard.  In the seven years we’ve been here I’ve never once encountered one, but he insisted this was the case.

I inspected the kitchen and dining room, turned up no trace of the giant monster, to which I am entirely grateful, God really does protect us.  The situation was a perfect distraction, getting me off the road to the panic attack and back onto the path of being calm and ‘in control’.  I began to feel a stirring in my spirit, like God was about to show me something, and I was desperately needing to hear something from Him that would help me feel able to face all that I was being presented with.

In Matthew 14, Jesus had sent the disciples out in a boat at night, and a strong wind had come up.  Jesus went to them when He saw them straining at the oars, walking on the water.  When they saw Him they were scared, but He assured them who He was, and Peter said, “Lord if it’s You, tell me to come to You on the water”.  So Jesus told him to come, and out of the boat he got.  Now this is the part that made me think, helped me to recover my drive to get things done. Verse 30 ‘But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”’  And Jesus reached out for him and caught him, asking him why he began to doubt.  Now, when I began to get my eyes fixed on what needed to be done in an extremely short time period, I began to panic.  I became anxious.

So many times in life we fix our eyes on our circumstances, on our to- do- lists; on the things that lie ahead of us, and we become overwhelmed.  We try and try to come up with some plan, some system of organization that will help us to reach our destination, in our own strength, and I can tell you from experience that this leaves you exhausted and looking for a place to hide.  What I was reminded of that morning was this: when we fix our eyes on our Heavenly Father, He will help guide us and keep our heads above the waves.  He will help us to order our days, keep everything moving along smoothly and accomplish the things we need to have done.  My prayer for all of us is that we will make Him the first focus of our day and allow Him to help us out of those anxious places that will come our way.