In Focus — 5 steps I took to Zoom into Better Living

Have you ever simply known that your life had gone a little out of focus?

You are still doing the same basic things, the same routine that has been keeping you going for years.

Yet, something is off.

You find yourself holding your breath, waiting for normal to arrive.  Hello, Normal?  Where are you?

You don’t seem to have time for the things that you once did simply for pleasure.  Tea from the kettle–not the microwave.  An impromptu photo shoot simply because you’ve got cute kids and a perfect patch of sunlight coming in the window.  A game of UNO.  Popcorn and a movie after the kids fall asleep.  Falling asleep yourself next to your dearest love (even though that kind of irritates him).

Where did those joyful little moments go?  When did every day become decidedly less fun?

That’s where I’ve been lately.  I’ve been restless and lacking contentment.  Late 2014 and all of 2015 so far have brought in new challenges that I had never faced before.  There have been many joys and amazing days, but illness and losses in my life and in the lives of people I love put things into a new perspective.  I expected those painful events to fill me with an urgency to LIVE–really live deeply and abundantly–but instead, I felt stuck, disappointed, angry, and frustrated.  Instead of turning to sources of encouragement that I could count on–God, family, the Scripture, dear friends–I turned inward and to technology.  Have you ever drowned your sorrows in Facebook?  Have you numbed the here and now with a hefty dose of daydreaming while reading about other people’s lives on other people’s blogs?  That’s been me.

And then my nine-year-old was working on a family crest.  He worked hard. Markers everywhere!  He drew a shield, divided it to represent each family member, and then he came up with an icon to represent each of us.  Cory was a weight because Daddy is strong.  I was a little laptop–because Mommy loves the computer.

Wait, did you hear something?  Oh, yeah.  That was my heart shattering.

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A number of things–the laptop drawing near the top of the list–helped me to finally see that I needed to take some concrete steps to turn things around–to pull things back into focus.  These are the steps I took, and I’m still working!

  1. I prayed.  I confessed that I been focusing on me and my shortcomings instead of the larger picture of the life God wanted me to live.  I confessed that I had not been living with gratitude.  I confessed that I had not been using my resources (including time!) with intention and intelligence.  I thanked God for loving me anyway!  I thanked Him for my children, my husband, my parents, and the rest of my big, wonderful family.  I thanked Him for friends at our church, in our community, in our past and our present.  I asked for focus, for patience, and for the grace to approach my family and MYSELF with gentleness.  I asked for contentment and peace.
  2. I reached out.  One of the biggest sources of my frustrations and disappointment is the lack of organization in our home.  This has been a problem forever.  I could blame having four children.  I could blame homeschooling.  But I would be pretending!  Let’s be real here.  I have struggled with messes since I was a kid, seemingly cleaning my room every single day but always living in a disaster.  My mom keeps a beautiful home.  I had plenty of positive examples, but I fail regularly.  So…I reached out to an old friend who is an organizer.  We are just figuring out what working together will look like, but it feels wonderful to feel like I have a teammate!
  3. I returned to activities that matter to me.  It might seem crazy to add MORE when my plate is already pretty full.  However, I did some real soul-searching, and I realized that I had dropped a few things that were true treasures in my life.  So in April, I returned to a La Leche League group.  I’ve been an accredited Leader with LLL since 2008, but I have not been affiliated with a group since we moved in 2013.  It was time.  I always thought of LLL as my “positive peer pressure.”  The meetings lift my spirits, confirm my parenting choices, and connect me with like-minded mothers.  Serving mothers and babies in the Leader role always does something good in my heart.  In addition to La Leche League, I added a little crafting and remade my old homemaking binder.
  4. I set some healthy boundaries.  That sounds all psychological and sophisticated, but it is actually code for “got my lazy bum off the computer.”  I use the computer for good things–researching homeschool ideas, looking up recipes, connecting with friends and family–but I get sucked in.  I get wrapped up in things of no importance.  I’ve been feeling like I had way too many voices in my life.  Articles, comments on articles, opinions upon opinions upon opinions!  I needed some mental quiet.  I so easily allow time to slip by, and I’m often left with a lingering feeling of disquiet after I’ve read something controversial.  I’ve strictly limited Facebook to Saturdays, and in general, I’m keeping my computer time quick and on task.  This is a hard one for me.  I asked Cory to make up a new password for Facebook, and he is under strict orders to never tell me!
  5. I surrounded myself with inspiration!  I visited a long-time friend who always inspires me with her amazing work ethic and her fun sense of humor.  I also found two quotations that spoke to my situation and made me feel motivated to create change.  I printed them on pretty paper and taped them on the wall.

“You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” ~Psalm 16:11

^^This passage from the Psalms helped me remember that as long as I am in God’s presence, I have what I need to be content and joyful.  Everything else is bonus!

“If you don’t make the time to work on creating the life you want, you’re eventually going to be forced to spend a lot of time dealing with a life you don’t want.” ~Kevin Ngo

^^This quotation by Kevin Ngo helped me to think about where I do want to place my focus, and it made me realize that the time I spend planning and strategizing is valuable–not just silly day dreaming.

Nearly a year ago, the auto-focus on my camera’s basic lens stopped functioning.  I was struggling with the manual setting.  My brother-in-law who is a photographer and film-maker gave me some good advice.  He told me to take my time.  He said to slowly move the lens back and forth between the extremes on both sides until I find the sharpest focus in the middle–even though the people around me (including those in the picture!) seem to want me to hurry.  The clear image and perfect light are the reward for taking the time to find that sweet spot.

I’m feeling good these days.  I think I am back in focus, but I’m not afraid to put in the time and effort to live life beautifully.

 

17 thoughts on “In Focus — 5 steps I took to Zoom into Better Living

  1. Praying you will keep your focus. I have a policy that I never read comments unless they are on my own blog or the regulars that I read. It helps the disquiet. We all go through dry spells — but God is faithful. Blessings…

  2. Hi! You know…Taekwondo has been on my mind! When I wrote the section about returning to activities that matter, Taekwondo was part of my thought process. Thanks for commenting!

  3. I absolutely loved this blog entry. I so agree and I’m with you. I actually had a dream and in my dream a thought came to me…I’ve been in “the desert” too long. I feel the same as you do. I finally got back to working on my landscape/gardening and fighting my urge to lay down and rest all the time and re-organizing my house, business, and life. The house is getting back (slowly) to where I enjoy it. And working with the animal rescue has filled a void also. I am trying to step back more from FB because I agree with you. Sometimes I am left depressed, frustrated, and angry after I’m done. I feel being pulled to write again and that is a great feeling, God said, not yet, but it’s coming…and I can’t wait. Love you, Erica. I’m always here for you as I been all your life. 😀

  4. Great post sweetie! Well I am glad you can’t see my house today…not so beautiful! I am not lost…just slow😁 love you!!!!

  5. I needed these words today! Your situation is my situation. It’s my reality, my out of focus, frustrating, confusing reality. I had a big loss this year ( my mother in law died in January ) and it was preceded by a long illness and I am waiting for “normal” to happen again. And it hasn’t. I spend my days on my iPad feeling lost, confused, depressed and unsatisfied. Thank you for your words of encouragement! I Will start with prayer today and begin to find my way back to normal.

  6. I’m so glad that you stopped by and that my words were helpful. I pray that you find your way out of those dark clouds in God’s good timing.

    1. Thank you for your kind words! This piece meant a lot to me, and I’m so pleased that it seems to have touched others. Thanks for stopping by.

  7. Erica…. what a beautifully written entry! I loved reading this. You are an inspiration to me; I can’t imagine doing all the things you do, then you add more! I know you are doing all these things for the right reasons, to bring yourself contentment/fulfillment. Just make sure you are not being too hard on yourself. You are an amazing person, doing many amazing things (one of the most important things, in my opinion, is homeschooling your children and living life with them 24/7!…. that is what I feel makes life worth living). So don’t worry too much about being out of focus, falling into ruts, having periods of feeling “blah”… we all have that… you will come out of it blazing with new ideas and a fun attitude. Great job on really focusing on how to get back on track, but do give yourself some room for error. (And let me know if you come up with any awesome organizational ideas – I’m all about organizing and thinking of how I am going to streamline our house when we move in so it is heavily on my mind!)

  8. Oh, Toni! Thank you for this encouraging comment! Yes, I can be hard on myself. I always want to be my best, and when I’m clearly NOT being my best, I get frustrated. I am so blessed to have wonderful family and friends who support me and encourage me. I’m glad you stopped by!

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