Focus…that is what seems to be the whisper of the Father in my ear lately.

This last week I was standing on our balcony with the baby in my arms and our son and other daughter playing at my feet.  She was jumping around like a monkey, and I remember thinking, WHERE does that child get the energy?!

My shirt was sticking to me, my hair was plastered to my head, and I could feel sweat running down the backs of my calves.  Again the temperature was climbing into the triple digits, and with each degree of the thermostat I could feel myself sinking lower and lower as my energy seemed to drain out of my very pores.

We were looking out over the landscape of our neighborhood, and it was not very pretty.  It is approaching the end of our dry season here in Cambodia.  We really only have two seasons here—hot and dry or hot and wet.  Each season has its own advantages or disadvantages; each season has its own struggles or benefits.  Now, at the end of our dry season, everything is brown.  Everything is dying and shriveling up with the heat, and the dirt cannot be contained on the roads.  A haze of dust is constantly in the air.  It is impossible to keep the house clean.  Laundry?  What a struggle!  It has to be hung out to dry, but it cannot be left out too long or it will be dirtier than it was to begin with.

From the balcony, we could see very few colors other than dirt brown.  Not only that, but everything was also seen through the shimmery haze of heat waves.  We had come out onto the balcony because the sun had slipped behind some clouds and we were hoping that maybe, just maybe, some air was moving out there.  Just as I was turning to go back into the house where at least an oscillating fan was moving the hot air around, a breeze caught my hair and I could feel a brush of coolness move over me for just a second.  Then, as quickly as it came, it was gone.

I did not want to take the chance of missing more breezes, so I turned back to sit down and was quickly rewarded by another.  My daughter said “Oh!  Nice!” as she enjoyed it as well.  It was then that I heard the Lord’s voice asking, What do you see?

Dirt, Lord!  Everywhere there is dirt, heat, sweat, and then more of the same.  I looked off the balcony and saw the mango tree in the courtyard and the palms around it.  I know those leaves are green, but even they look brown because they are wearing a coat of dust.  I looked at the road and saw a moto-taxi carrying someone about on their business, with the passenger holding her hand over her mouth to keep the dust of the road out of her mouth.  I am so, so hot!  Doing even the bare minimum takes everything I have.  I came out here to maybe find a bit of relief, but everything around seems so heavy as well.  This heat is like a blanket, and I am afraid that I am smothering.  I can’t breathe!

The baby, even though she is still tiny, was weighing heavily on my arm, so I readjusted her position.  I could feel the heat coming off her as well, like a little hot water bottle.  Right then, she opened her eyes, saw my face, and grinned from ear to ear!  Again, the Lord’s voice asked, What do you see?

Sweet cheeks!  Such a pretty baby, and she is growing so fast.  Look how big she is now, Lord! I replied.

His voice continued, She was here a few minutes ago as well, but you chose to see something else.  At all times, no matter what you are going through, there is something you can focus on that can change your entire perspective and attitude.  Did I not say, ‘Whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report…think on these things?’  If I was not going to be faithful to provide those other ‘things’ for you to focus on, I would not have instructed you to do so.

Yes, I know that.  I should know that, I admitted.  It is just harder at times.  Sometimes it even seems impossible.

I knew what was coming next…so I just went ahead and said it myself…But with You, all things are possible.

That does not mean that you do not play a part also, Rhonda.  You must exercise focus.  It does not just happen.  You must exercise it and develop it as a spiritual muscle.  It is easy to LOOK at something, like Peter looked at Me when he stepped out of the boat.  It is a harder thing—a learned thing—to FOCUS on Me and to continue on the water.  My hand is always out there, but sometimes it is one step away and other times it is four steps away.  You just have faith and keep your focus, and you let Me worry about My hand.

Things changed then on that balcony—but all the change was within me.  I was not seeing the heat waves any longer.  Instead, I saw the little curls on the back of my son’s head as his hair is growing back after his head injury.  I saw all of my older daughter’s energy, and instead of being envious, I am so thankful that she and all the others are so quick to run up or down the stairs, to fetch the diaper-changing supplies, or to run and fix me a glass of iced tea while I am feeding the baby a bottle.

The most refreshing thing that happened on that balcony was not the cool breezes or the short rain that followed.  It was the gentle adjustment of my own focus.

In times of serious battle or struggle, it is almost easier to maintain our focus.  Because everything is so intense, we are in that ‘zone.’  I do pause and wonder, though, how many small confrontations we lose in the mundane, everyday tedium of our lives because we fail to hold our focus?

Right now—what do you see?

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