My Year Of “Focus” So Far…

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Towards the end of 2017 I began thinking and praying about a word for the year ahead.  If you haven’t encountered this before, the idea is that instead of making lots of new year’s resolutions, you choose a single word to focus on throughout the year.  I had already tried it with “surrender” in 2016 and “voice” in 2017, and I had found it to be surprisingly effective.

As I thought ahead to 2018, the word that came to mind was “focus.”

I think it was in early December that I settled on this word as my word for the year, and by the time January came around I already knew it was going to be a challenge because since mid-December there was one situation that had been constantly fighting for all my focus.

At a doctor’s visit I was told, after being examined, that I was being referred for further tests.  At first I was glad that I was being taken seriously and that things were going to be checked out… until I asked my next question and received her answer:

“How long would you expect it to be before I get an appointment?”

“About two to three weeks… I’m marking it as urgent.”

With that she ushered me from the room before I could ask any more or process what was happening.  Whenever I had seen this doctor before, she had always been quick to reassure me that it was “nothing sinister.”  This time these words were noticeably absent.  Did that mean it was something sinister?  What if it was?

It cast a cloud over Christmas despite my best efforts to put it to the back of my mind, but I reassured myself with the thought that the appointment should take place soon after the New Year.  It wasn’t long to wait and then, one way or the other, I would know…

…Except it turned out that the information I had been given was incorrect.  Every time I enquired I was told something different and the waiting time was extended further.  In the end a two to three week “urgent” referral became a seemingly never-ending eleven week wait!

I realised very quickly that I was going to have to choose my focus.  An over-active imagination coupled with a deep dislike of uncertainty is a dangerous combination.  Left to themselves I knew my thoughts were going to spiral out of control, and the result was going to be bad.

The only way was to take my own advice and try to focus on God.  In a guest post which was featured in January, I identified three lessons we could draw from Paul in the book of Philippians as we seek to choose our focus in challenging times:

  • Focus on the Gospel.
  • Focus on God’s sovereignty.
  • Focus on what God is doing.

I actually wrote that post mainly to preach to myself shortly after that first doctor’s appointment and, since then, that is where I have been trying to put my focus.

Have I managed it?

Sometimes, not always.

There have definitely been moments of feeling overwhelmed by circumstances, where fear and frustration have been hard to fight.  The uncertainty over the timing of it all has made it hard to plan, and, while life mostly continued as normal, it felt like a lot of things were on hold while I waited to see the way forward.

There have also been moments of peace, of knowing God’s presence even in the midst of the uncertainty and the waiting, there has been support from friends and family, and there has been timely encouragement from two books: Kiss The Wave by Dave Furman (which I wrote about last week) and A Place To Land by Kate Motaung (which I will share about soon.)

The main lesson I have taken from this whole experience is that the focus of my hope must be in Christ alone, rather than in the outcome of the situation.  If the result was bad, I needed to know that God was bigger and that he was sovereign.  If the result was good, I needed to remember that, while it was something to rejoice in, it was not a secure place to put my hope.

None of us knows what life will hold, and our hope has to be in something greater than our earthly circumstances.

Some verses that I have kept coming back to are these ones from 2 Corinthians:

“That is why we never give up. Though our bodies are dying, our spirits are being renewed every day.  For our present troubles are small and won’t last very long.  Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever!  So we don’t look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever.” 
(2 Corinthians 4:16-18 NLT)

They are a powerful reminder of where our hope should be and what we should be focusing on- not our troubles, but the eternal things that really matter.

Ten days ago I finally had the long-awaited appointment, and the result was good!  It is “nothing sinister” and I am absolutely fine!

Of course it was a great relief and I am glad to have more brain space now to turn my focus to other things.  I finally got to use a voucher I had been given for Christmas to attend a cupcake decorating workshop.  It was a fun treat after the stress of the last few months and I was pretty pleased with the result!

cakes

While I am keen to move on from this now, I also want to hold on to the lessons learned and to remember that, whether circumstances are good or bad, my focus must be on Jesus.  That is the only way we will be able to withstand life’s trials.

“Anyone who listens to my teaching and follows it is wise, like a person who builds a house on solid rock.  Though the rain comes in torrents and the floodwaters rise and the winds beat against that house, it won’t collapse because it is built on bedrock.  But anyone who hears my teaching and doesn’t obey it is foolish, like a person who builds a house on sand.  When the rains and floods come and the winds beat against that house, it will collapse with a mighty crash.”  (Matthew 7:24-27 NLT)

 

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49 thoughts on “My Year Of “Focus” So Far…

  1. Seeing as my one word for the year is also “focus” this post spoke to my heart. “None of us knows what life will hold, and our hope has to be in something greater than our earthly circumstances.” May I add that I am so grateful to know the One who does hold my life in His hands! Have a wonderful week!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lesley, oh what a journey those weeks must have been in the waiting. But what a blessing your posts have been as you’ve leant into God through your hard. Reminds me of this Scripture:

    Leviticus 26:5New Living Translation (NLT)
    5 Your threshing season will overlap with the grape harvest, and your grape harvest will overlap with the season of planting grain. You will eat your fill and live securely in your own land.

    So glad to hear you got good news! Thank you for sharing so openly. It is beautiful how God uses those One Words He gives us, isn’t it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Anna! Yes, I’m always amazed by how powerfully God can use a single word, and how he leads us to just the right one even when we don’t know what lies ahead or how it will turn out.

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  3. I can really relate, Lesley! My husband and I are waiting on some news that we both thought we’d hear long before today. So each day and week that we wait adds a layer of anxiety to our day. It’s a challenge to wait and trust that God is with us and for us–even if the news is not what we hope for. Thanks for sharing your struggle. Your words have encouraged me!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Oh Lesley, that waiting in uncertainty can be so difficult. I’m so glad that in the end it turned out well. Your word for the year is certainly helping you already. 🙂 God certainly knew you needed it to help you “fix your gaze” on Him! Thank you for sharing this. Love and hugs to you!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Leslie, I went through a similar situation last year, so as I read your article I could really identify with the emotions a time like you’ve been through stir up in us. To keep your focus on the Lord – and in my case, to keep my hope in the Lord (my word of the year for 2017) – definitely isn’t an easy assignment. But as I look back on 2017, I can see God at work in my life continuously. So glad the pressure of the unknown is now behind both of us. In my case, too, the health issues turned out to be nothing serious.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lesley,
    Isn’t it amazing how when you choose a “word”, it gets put to the test right away? This statement is so true: “… the focus of my hope must be in Christ alone, rather than in the outcome of the situation.” We can’t put our focus or our hope in outcomes. Our hope is in Christ alone. Thank you for this reminder this am.
    Blessings,
    Bev xx

    ps. So glad it was nothing sinister!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I am also not good in the waiting especially if a question needs to be answered. My mind tends to go to scenarios that lead me away from the peace of Christ. I am glad to hear your news is good news.

    I am learning over and over what it looks like to keep my focus on God. I see the result when my eyes are turned away and it leaves me removed in a way that I recognize is not of God. So as I turn my eyes back to God, I find my hope and a peace that always carries me through.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Mary! Yes, it makes such a difference when we can keep our focus on God, but it is not always easy to do. Like you, I find that left to itself my mind definitely doesn’t tend to go down paths that lead to peace.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. You’ve come through quite an ordeal — and it was helpful to me to read your processing of it all. And I can’t think of a better way to rejoice and celebrate than with those lovely cupcakes you made!
    You are multi-talented!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Thanks for sharing. It is so hard to focus when we are left hanging and we don’t know the outcome. Glad things turned out for the good. Like you said, our focus needs to be on God, not our situation.

    Those cupcakes look so cute and creative.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. I am so thankful to hear everything is okay. There are so many things competing for my focus, but you are so right, our hope must be in Christ alone. Thank you for sharing your beautiful heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Lesley,
    Oh what a grueling 11 weeks that must have been to have uncertainty weighing on your mind! I am so glad that you received good medical news though and what a wonderful perspective to view the time as a learning and introspective period to work out your word for the year to focus on God. And what a treat the cupcake decorating class was — how fun! xoxo

    Liked by 1 person

  12. So glad that it isn’t anything sinister! I, too, have a difficult time focusing when I have something lurking in my life. I love your plan–focusing on Jesus and not letting the what-ifs overwhelm you!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Awww, Lesley. I am truly sorry for your wait. Living with uncertainty is HARD. I am so glad your news/results were GOOD.

    The lessons you took from this experience resonated with my heart. Remember God is always in control, and that even in the good things/seasons/circumstances, our hope needs to be in Him, not in anything else.

    Loved your cupcakes! They’re (were?) beautiful!

    Liked by 1 person

  14. It can be so difficult to stay focused on the beauty of His truth and presence, no matter our circumstance. It’s a lesson I keep relearning myself, Lesley. Blessings as you travel a ‘focused’ path this year!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Lesley, hi! I so admire that you’re staying focused, remembering your word, living it out. Any One Word I ever chose ended up being a flash-in-the-pan, a blog post or two, and that was it.

    I appreciate you’re showing us how to do this well.

    Applause!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Linda! I think the one word thing works for some people and not others. I was a bit sceptical when I first tried it but I have found it really helpful!

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  16. It’s so easy to let our focus get carried far away from His peace, isn’t it? I’ve been there many a time, myself. So glad all is well with your health, Lesley. — Great job on the cupcakes. 🙂 ((hug))

    Liked by 1 person

  17. None of us knows what life will hold, and our hope has to be in something greater than our earthly circumstances. Truth in every word…none of us who are living right now, knowing there is something greater then this makes this endurable and even joyful when we trusts Him for the outcome. Praise God , you had a good outcome on your test.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Betty! Yes, keeping our eyes on the fact that there is something greater than our earthly circumstances gives us so much hope. Thanks for visiting today!

      Like

  18. Lesley love your thoughts and I love the word focus. I chose it a few years back as my one word. Thanks for your thoughts as I’m going through something similar with tests.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Lesley, what an encouragement this is to me! I am an expert of believing the worst and putting myself in a life of panic. Focus, focus, focus! This is so wise! God is so good and sends us the word we need! Today he sent me yours! Thank you for sharing!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Cindy! I’m so glad it encouraged you! I far too easily get caught up in panic myself- I definitely need this reminder to be intentional in choosing my focus.

      Like

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