Out of Focus

 

20180515_111857_resized

The sun was shining, the birds were chirping, and the trees were finally green. Hooray! These last couple months, winter held us hostage, but finally, spring had sprung!  May rolled in with its pretty blue skies and warmer temperatures; but along with it, brought that crazy end-of-the-school-year schedule. School projects, concerts, and programs overloaded an already packed calendar.  My daughter’s tri-fold display board resided on my dining room table for several weeks as she navigated homework, softball practices, and after school band rehearsals. Last night, I helped my teary-eyed son work through a very last-minute writing assignment that we had to complete in just one night due to our hectic schedule. Spring sports had begun and evenings were spent in my folding chair next to the ball field, either freezing or sweating (there is rarely an in between), splitting time between watching one child play ball and monitoring the concession stand consumption of the other.  My husband suffered work overload this time of year, as construction projects began, deadlines loomed, and out-of-town travel took him away for days at a time. I held down the fort as best I could, keeping the house in order and everyone on schedule, while trying to lift the spirits of my weary family. Oh, and as hard as I tried to shake it, this cancer cloud continued to tail me as I managed doctor’s appointments, prescriptions refills, health care claims, and the side effects of my treatment. I firmly believed God equipped Moms with extra energy; but, in the midst of the laundry and the grocery shopping, the band concerts and ball games, the pre-teen eye rolls and the back talk, the thankless duties and my sometimes invisible existence, this Mama grew weary too.

Life was crazy.  

But life was good.  

Instead of making New Year’s resolutions this year. I chose the word FOCUS.

I would focus on the people that mattered most. I would focus on the tasks that brought me joy and fulfillment.  I would focus on right now, not the past or the future.  I started the year off on task; but with the crazy May schedule, I needed a refresher. I needed to regain control.

As a people pleaser, saying ‘no’ was always hard for me. There were committees and volunteer opportunities. There were invitations and big events.  There were last-minute requests and awkward assumptions about my commitment and my time. Ugh. I was overwhelmed with guilt about expectations people had for me.  I was overwhelmed with the calendar hanging on my pantry door. I couldn’t write small enough into those squares, yet there were still things I wanted to do, things I wanted to be a part, things I wanted to enjoy…

...focus

I couldn’t do it all. If I said “yes” to one more thing, I was saying “no” to all the people and things that I claimed mattered most. If I said “yes” to that invitation, that commitment; then, I portioned my time and energy for the things that weren’t a priority.  I couldn’t ‘save the world’ and be the wife and mother my family needed. When I caught myself falling into that people pleasing trap, I whispered my word …

focus…

Then, I declined … with grace, but without guilt.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Luke 12:34)

Then, on the flip side, there were people who said ‘no’ to me.  Over and over and over again. In different ways. People left me out or shut me out. People phased themselves out. People no longer had time for me. I realized that people weren’t as invested in me as I was in them. Relationships changed. People changed. People moved on. This was normal, but difficult. I allowed people space and time, hoping that things would get better. I wanted to fix what was broken but maybe it wasn’t worth fixing? I questioned myself and as I started to wonder what I had done wrong, I whispered my word…

…focus…

I chose not to waste one more moment worrying about other people or their opinions. I learned that lesson years ago; and I had to relearn it. I had to spend my time with those who wanted to spend their time with me. I chose to focus on them. Everyone had priorities, but I valued myself too much to be someone’s obligation or afterthought. Everyone had a right to focus on other things, but I had the right to let them. I wouldn’t worry about them anymore. My focus had to be on those whose focus was also on me.  I paid more attention to what people did, than what they said. I let their actions show me who they were. My Dad taught me that. He told me people can say whatever they want, whenever they want; but those whose words matched their actions, those were my people. He was absolutely right. Those people deserved my focus. The others, I wished them well, and let them go.

Let us not love with words or speech but with actions and in truth. (1 John 3:18)  

Sometimes, I sailed through the hectic morning routine, listing in my head all the things I had to do that day.  The kids were older now and they were preoccupied with upcoming assignments and events in their days. No longer wanting to chat in the mornings on the way to school, the kids often sat in silence; and I let them, remembering they were not my chatty preschoolers anymore. I told them I loved them and wished them a great day as they scrambled out of the car, instantly regretting those wasted minutes. Then, I thought about the years I spent running a child care center – all the hours spent away from my own children, focused on the care of other people’s children.  I thought about the moments I missed. I wished that I could go back and do some things differently. Routine scans interrupted my life every few months to make sure my cancer was not progressing. Often, I had to wait a day or two before I got the results. Waiting for results was difficult. Not knowing if life as I knew it was going to change with a simple phone call. It was easy to fall down that rabbit hole, worrying about past, present, and future. But I caught myself…

…focus…

I had to focus on right now.  I couldn’t rewind the morning. I couldn’t change my past career path. I couldn’t predict or change my scan results. I missed moments with my children but my children didn’t suffer because of it. They hardly remembered that time. When I was working, I modeled for my children a strong work ethic, an entrepreneurial spirit, and what it was like to follow my dreams. I couldn’t go back and have a deep meaningful conversation with my kids during that past car ride, but I could talk to them at the dinner table and vow to check in during the car ride the following morning.  While I waited for my scan results, I enjoyed that 24 hour period while I waited. If I worried that day away, and my scans were good; I wasted a perfectly good day. If I worried that day away, and my scans were not good; I wasted my last day of living without progression. I needed to focus on now, not back then and when.

Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. (Matthew 6:34)

Getting two kids off to two different schools in the morning was crazy.  Add in a sweet little 18 month old ball of energy into the mix when I was watching my adorable niece and it got even crazier. Thankfully, my husband worked from home and helped with the transporting sometimes, but a chaotic morning was not how I wanted to start my day.  I pushed the clock, felt anxious, and that set the tone for the rest of the day.  I couldn’t let that happen … 

…focus…

I felt better when I spent alone time with God in the morning, early in the morning, while everyone was still sleeping. The fatigue from my medications was worsening. My doctor suggested a routine bedtime and wake up time to combat the unavoidable side effects.  I was always both a night owl and an early riser, but getting more sleep was no longer a luxury; it was a necessity. I started going to bed earlier. I got a couple extra hours of sleep and still woke up before everyone else. I knew exactly what to do with that time. I chose the best seat in the house — the comfy couch in my morning room that allowed me to look out the large windows while I drank my tea, read my devotionals, and said my prayers.  I didn’t mind getting up so early. I looked forward to it. I reset my heart. I recharged my soul. I prepared for the day.

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. (Psalm 143:8)

Spending that time in the morning helped me to bring focus back to my life.  When things started to get a little fuzzy, I remembered that word I chose in January.  FOCUS. Such a simple word but that word made a huge impact in my life. I focused on simplifying my life in my activities and my relationships. I focused on the activities that brought me joy. I focused on the people who really cared about me. I focused on remaining ridiculously present during the simple moments in my life, the ones that meant the most at the end of the day. I focused on God.  I read and reflected on His Word. I prayed for my family and friends. I prayed for my health and for God to work on my heart and make me the person He wanted me to be.

I gave Him praise for all the blessings in my life. I gave Him praise, even for the chaos. I thanked Him for the often messy, yet beautiful life I lived every day. In the middle of every storm, in the middle of every heartbreak, in the middle of every devastation that life had thrown my way,

He lifted me up, held me up, and built me up.  

I focused on that.

Life was crazy.

But life was good.

 

***********************************************

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)

Author: Jennifer Lilley Collins

I'm a Mom, wife, daughter, and friend navigating life with metastatic breast cancer while finding joy in the everyday and spreading hope, love, and inspiration along the way.

4 thoughts on “Out of Focus”

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s