"I realized when I was driving that I pay more attention to the potholes than to the other drivers around me."
Potholes are a pretty frequent topic of conversation pretty much anywhere you go in Peoria. If you've driven there recently, you'd understand. If not, well.. let's just say like God, they're everywhere.
Me and potholes.. we don't have a good relationship. A few weeks back, I wasn't able to swerve enough to avoid one and ended up with a flat. Yeah, we're not the greatest of friends. And yes, I too pay more attention to each and every pothole now.
It's funny how life has a way of keeping our focus on certain things and what we choose to focus on. Our focus is 100% under our control, though some thoughts take more conscious effort to think on than others.
We see a pothole coming, we're going to focus our eyes on it.
We see a potential issue arising at home, in a relationship, at work, and it becomes all we think about.
We're stressed, angry, happy, bitter, in love, anxious- whatever the emotion- it can take over our whole demeanor.
There's a sign up on one of the main roads in town that says "Rough Road." Okay, you're warning us that there's rough road ahead, but why not go ahead and fix it instead?
Wouldn't it be great if in life we could get an alert to our phones when tough times were ahead? That cued us in on anything out of the ordinary that was coming up.
Alert. You're going to get a promotion.
Alert. You're going to have a rough Wednesday morning. The kids are going to be going bonkers. You're going to be stressed from work. And the craziness will cause tension between you and your husband.
Alert. Your friendship has been under a little stress, but it's all going to dissolve this weekend after an open and vulnerable conversation between the two of you.
Wouldn't that predictability make life a little easier? I'm not sure I would even like that though, because then once I got the alert, I'd probably focus on whatever the Rough Road (or Smooth Road) was until it came to pass.
That's kinda how life is though, right? We go through things, good and bad, and they become the center of our focus.
We hit tough times. We get stressed. We get anxious.
Everything seems to be rainbows and butterflies. We focus on how great we're feeling.
When we're navigating the smooth and rough terrain, how do we keep our focus on remaining positive, keeping our head up, staying joyful, regardless of the type of Rough Road we encounter?
Anxiety, comparison, pain, lies, uncertainty, fear, insufficiency, pain.. things that have at one point or another had a hold on me in my life. I'm no expert, and I certainly do still struggle with things, but what I've learned through the highs and lows is this.
1. God never fails. He always provides. He's everything I need. He loves each of us so much.
The thing is.. people are going to hurt you, situations are going to be less than ideal, and we're going to feel like failures and undeserving and unworthy at times. Friends, family, relationships might come and go, waiver and excel, but He remains constant. Whenever you're experiencing those moments, lean into the truth that He still loves us the same- and keep your focus on that. We may be lacking, but in Him we find fullness. He's faithful and He will provide. It might not be in our timing or anything like we had hoped or anticipated, but His plans always exceed our human minds.
2. The people you surround yourself impact you more than you realize.
Surround yourself with positive, encouraging, uplifting people, you'll find yourself thinking that way- about yourself, about situations, about anything that pops into your mind. Be in a crowd of negative, discouraging people- their thoughts and words will become your thoughts and words. I'm around the same 5-9 people every single week, some days lots and lots of hours, and you know what i've noticed? Even when I'm not around them, I can hear their voice in my head. Depending on what I'm doing, some will be encouragement- "Lets gooooo, you've got this. Keep going. One more." Some will be reassuring- "fear isn't of the Lord, remember that. God has great plans for you." Some will challenge you- "He shows us we are selfish in ways we didn't know and asks us to give that weakness to Him and let it be for His glory." Some will encourage you to lean into His courage and boldness- "He needs you to trust Him when your palms are sweaty and you don't know what's next."
People have always said.. who you surround yourself is who you become. How they think, how they talk, what they do... you'll begin to see yourself in them and them in you. Proverbs 23:7- "As someone thinks within himself, so he is." Remember, God created you with a purpose, in His image. Focus on that, believe that. Surround yourself who remind you of who you are, who you want to be.
3. Ultimately, you have the power to control your thoughts.
If you find yourself pondering on something that doesn't align with what you believe, with what you have dreams and goals for, in negativity, in fear, you have the power to change it. If you realize one of those thoughts drifting in, fix it instead on what you believe to be true. How do we do that and what should we think on instead?
What will you focus on today and into the weekend?
Say this out loud..
"I am a cyclist."
Now repeat it again. And again.
The gal leading the virtual cycling class made it look so easy. She's spitting encouragement the entire 40 minutes, seemingly effortlessly, while I'm out here with a face looking like a cherry and my heart rate almost at its max, huffing and puffing, trying not to keel over. I'm not even kidding guys, she was barely breaking a sweat.
I'm a cyclist, all right. If my thoughts were directly relational to how I was feeling, it surely wouldn't have been that I am a cyclist.
I can barely breathe. My legs might fall off. How much longer is this? Can we have a water break yet? How is she talking right now? Those thoughts would have been more like it.
However, the longer the class went on, the more encouragement she spoke, the better I felt, the more I pushed myself. The minutes went by, and I survived.
"You can do this. Make your hard days hard, and your easy days easy. We're all going to come across mountains in our lives, we just have to keep climbing and keep going until we reach the top. Usually, when we get to the top of one mountain, we come to another bigger one, not too far in the distance. You get stronger with each hill." Was I in on a motivational class or a workout?
That day, it happened to be both. I was reminded of something during that 40 minute session. Our mind plays such a powerful role in our daily lives.
Whether we believe we can or can't do something, we're right. If we convince ourselves we aren't smart enough, aren't good enough, aren't strong enough, aren't whatever enough.. we've already lost the battle because what you tell yourself is what you will come to believe.
That class would have been easy to give up and be done when I got tired. But every word out of the leader's mouth was encouragement. You got this. Keep going. Don't give up now.
There was a time last week I didn't think I could push myself to lift the bar one more time, but guess what? When you have someone there encouraging you, pushing you past what you had yourself convinced you could do, you keep going. You might feel like you have no strength left, but you have someone in your corner, telling you that you got it. Just one more. They see something inside you that you don't, and they know you can do it.. and you do.
Just like the leader of the class, a trainer in the gym, a teacher in the classroom, a friend, a parent, a sibling, your boss at work.. we have people in our lives that believe in us, encourage us to dream big and push us beyond our comfort zone. They see the potential, they know we can do it, they see something inside of us that others might not, that we might not even see.
You might hear the positivity of others, or you might not. Maybe you're surrounded by a sea of negativity. That doesn't have to be how you think, though. It might be harder to stand up and be a light to the situation, but you can do it, and it's so important to overcome those negative thoughts.
We come to believe what we focus on. Thoughts can make or break you. If you speak positively to yourself, you'll likely have days that are more optimistic. If you speak and believe negatively about yourself, you'll find yourself focusing on all the bad.
We have the power to choose our thoughts. Not that they're always easy to control. It will be a choice we have to make over and over again daily.
There was a time last year when I went through a period of pretty heavy anxiety. I could barely drive 20 minutes without becoming super anxious. Sitting through church was a chore, even though I wanted nothing more than to be there, my palms would sweat and I couldn't sit still.
The more I thought about it, the worse it got. What was I thinking about? What was I focusing on?
I changed my thought patterns, I came to understand on a deeper level who God is, what He thinks of me, and what He wants for my life.
It wasn't easy. It's not easy to change patterns that we have become comfortable with. There are times I still do experience it, but I know that when I do, it's up to me and my thoughts. I can let it continue to control how I'm feeling, or I can focus on what I know to be true.
He doesn't want us to be anxious, to feel unlovable, unloved, insecure, fearful, discouraged, hurt, empty, lonely, unsatisfied, depressed. He wants us to know and understand how loved we are. How He has such great plans for us, if only we will trust in Him. He wants us to see ourselves as He sees us, and to believe it with our whole hearts.
Yes, we fail Him. That doesn't mean we're failures. Yes, we fall, we lose sight of Him, we push Him away, we do things we know are wrong, we say things we don't mean, we go through times where we begin to doubt His goodness. We're all human and we all make mistakes. He doesn't want us to believe the lie that what we've done, what we've said, the places we've been are too much for Him.. that He couldn't forgive us or love us through whatever we've been through. He will.
As you're going through your day today, see where your mind wanders. If you find yourself battling thoughts of doubt, fear, judgement, anxiety, or any negative thoughts of how you see yourself come into your mind.. try to switch those thoughts.
You are valuable. You are loved. You are forgiven. You are chosen. You're fearfully and wonderfully made. God has a great plan for you. You are strong. You are beautiful.
I don't know about you, but I'm hanging on to every word He says. And it's on a loop. Day after day.
It seems as if once Christmas is over, the Valentine's Day decorations are filling the aisles of the stores. It could be your favorite holiday, it could be your least favorite. Maybe you have some exciting plans tonight, maybe you'll be working late, or maybe you'll be taking it easy. (Me... I'll be trying to convince one of the personal trainers that has a strict eating routine to eat heart shaped pizza with me in the office... will he eat it on a day that isn't his cheat day, I'll let you know ;) Otherwise, it's the whole pizza for me.. hey, there's nothing wrong with that, right?!)
Whatever you're up to today, wherever you're at in your life.. single, married, engaged, dating.. remember:
You are loved.
You are valuable.
You are chosen.
You are special.
You are unique.
You were created with a purpose.
Whether you have a love of your life, you're loving the moments with your family and friends, coworkers, strangers you talk with at your favorite lunch spot. Whether you feel worthy, insecure, doubtful, fearful, hurt, joyful, at peace, excited, no matter where you're at in your life, no matter what you've done- in the past, last night, or even today, you are valuable and nothing you've done, said, or do could cause Him to stop loving you.
Whether you're reminded of that daily or maybe you haven't before- it still stands true, every single day.
Who you are is enough. There isn't anyone or anything that could make that statement any less true or false. You are enough. You always have been, and you always will be.
The thing is, Jesus died on the cross for you and for I, and He did that because He wanted to give us life. We don't deserve it. We can't earn it, but He loved us too much to not die for us.
And that love isn't just a once a year kinda celebration. This love is forever. It's every single day. It's a love that wipes away our mistakes, our failures. It's a love that fills us with hope, joy, and peace. It's a love that loves us more in a single moment than any other human is capable of loving in a lifetime.
It's a love that Beyonce would refer to as irreplaceable. And it's ours, every single day.