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Perspective

I love to paint. I don’t do it often enough, but I love it nonetheless. And when I paint, I don’t think. I lose myself in a different world, completely oblivious to what day it is, what time it is, what I need to do when I finish. I pretty much get “tunnel vision,” both visually and mentally.

But the last time I painted, I realized just how much I depend on taking a step back, in fact moving away from whatever I’m working on for a few minutes. When I come back to it, I can see it with new eyes. When I’m sitting ten inches away from the canvas as the clock ticks away with me unaware, I fail to have the proper perspective.

This is true in many situations in life, isn’t it?

Many times we are so close to a situation, so deeply involved that we can’t see what others can see from the outside.

It happens to me often. I get very easily consumed with my own little bubble of existence. Then, inevitably, the Lord will bring someone into my life to give me a reality check — to help me see the bigger picture; to readjust my perspective.

Reality Check

It happened the other day, when I was complaining to my husband that our water heater only provides enough hot water for one out of five of us to take a bath in the morning. Then an old acquaintance came to visit me from Zimbabwe and told me about the conditions in her country. She gave testimony to how very few people have access to water on their property, and that those who don’t, have to walk every day to fetch water from a neighbor. Immediately, my water heater woes were silenced.

Perspective.

Soon after, I found myself frustrated by my inability to determine the cause of the recurring eczema on my five-year-old son’s face. His puppy-dog eyes are riddled with pink, itchy blotches. Then I was asked to visit a friend’s nephew in the hospital, a five-year-old boy who had just had an eight-hour bone graft operation. I walked into the hospital room to see his tiny frame languishing in the stark, white hospital bed, wrapped in bandages. Once again, my own frustrations were muted.

Perspective.

Often I can get so enveloped by my own selfish worries and pathetic woes that I temporarily forget who it is that I serve. Then I go to Job for a reality check, and chapters 38-40 put me in my place every time. Who am I to whine and fuss to the One who says to the sea, “This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt”? (Job 38:11). He is the One who knows where the darkness resides, who brings forth the constellations, who disperses the lightning, who tips over the water jars of the heavens (Job 38).

Perspective.

Consider the Cost

As we gather around our television screens to marvel at the seemingly superhuman athletes competing in the Olympic games, it is equally important to keep a healthy perspective. It’s easy to gaze at the competitors as they make their events look so effortless, and to assume that they have it all, that they are the so-called “lucky ones.”

We can sit back in our fraying Lazy-Boys and envy their glory. We may even presume that each of them has his or her own personal staff at their beck and call — personal trainers, dieticians, biokineticists, wardrobe sponsors. We may think they spend every waking moment training, practicing, looking after their bodies to be ready for their ten seconds of fame.

And yet of the 200 countries that have participated in the Olympics since 1896, 79 of them have yet to be awarded a single medal. That means that in a span of 116 years, only 60 percent of countries represented have finished the games with medalists in their midst.

Perspective.

Take Ugandan swimmer Ganzi Mugula, for example. Not a name plastered on the re-plays, I know. But a man with perspective. It took him 12 years to make it to the Olympics, and this year he made it on a wild card. Did he win a medal during his 27 seconds in the pool? No. In fact, he didn’t even have the luxury of spending his days in training. Instead, he works full-time as a computer technician for a bank in Uganda.

Unlike some who can afford to hire experts to fine-tune their skill, Mugula is very much aware of his fortunate position. In an interview, he patted his swim trunks and stated, “These cost $358. I dive in and I’m done for 20 something seconds. If you tell someone the cost they think you’re mad.”

Now there’s a man with perspective.

Not all of us appreciate the cost as Mugula does. In fact, his quote made me think of the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. If I fully comprehended the cost involved of Jesus going to the cross, I would not be so quick to abuse God’s grace. I would need “reality checks” far less frequently. I would live my life with a proper perspective — an eternal perspective.

Eternal Perspective

The familiar hymn lyrics come to mind: “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face, and the things of earth will grow strangely dim, in the light of His glory and grace.”

So as we gear up to watch the closing ceremony of the 2012 Olympic Games on Sunday, we can rejoice with all the participants for their remarkable achievements. Yet we must not lose sight of the real race that we are running. The one where we are called to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinners, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart” (Hebrews 12:1b-3).

And in those moments when we are tempted to grow weary and lose heart — when we feel overwhelmed by reasons to complain — let us not forget the cost.

Perspective.

As believers, the reward we look forward to is far more valuable than a gold medal. But just as Ganzi Mugula’s journey to the Olympics wasn’t plain sailing, so we may experience trials and grief as we wait for glory. First Peter 1:6-8 tells us, “though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials… These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith — of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire — may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed.”

The glory we wait for is not our own, nor does it consist of worldly, temporal material. It is far greater than standing on an Olympic podium receiving the gold. It is far, far greater than ourselves. And as much as I may fail to admit it, it is far greater than my personal bubble filled with complaints.

Just like when I paint, it’s important — no, necessary — to step back on regular intervals to get the bigger picture, the proper perspective … the full canvas upon which God is painting His perfect and eternal masterpiece.

Kate Motaung grew up on the shores of Lake Michigan before spending ten years in Cape Town, South Africa. She is married to a South African and together they have three children. Kate is the author of the e-book, Letters to Grief, hosts the Five Minute Friday blog link-up, and has contributed to several other online publications. She blogs at Heading Home and can be found on Twitter @k8motaung.

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How To Change Your Life In 10 Minutes

Here’s how you can change your life with a simple 10 minutes a day.

High expectations and low ability almost always lead to failure. When you let those go, here’s how you can really change your life in 10 minutes.

————-

There are two things I know to be true. One, there are things that need to happen in my life and, two, I never seem to have enough time.

I need to read more. I need to clean the house. I need to work. I need to play with my kids. I need to cook dinner. I need to pack lunches. I need to build my relationship with my husband. I need to exercise.

There are so many things that need to happen in our lives yet I never seem to have enough time. I find myself at the end of the day regretting the things that I never made happen during the day and committing to making them happen the next day.

Here is something I think is true when it comes to the tension between our time and the things that need to happen. I’ve found that high expectations and low ability almost always leads to failure.

Your jeans are tight so you think if you cut out sugar for one day, then they will fit again. Or maybe you see something on Pinterest, give it a shot and expect it look like something Martha Stewart whipped up. Or maybe you want a clean house, but with a toddler who takes out what you just put up, you are left feeling paralyzed.

This can even happen in our relationships. There’s distance and the gap seems too large to bridge so we just don’t make a move. We choose to stay silent. We want great things to happen—quickly—and we also don’t have superstar ability. I set out to exercise every day for 30 minutes, yet after the first time, I am clearly not in shape like I used to be so I stop.

High expectations + low ability = failure.

What the Time We Use Says About Us

And there are just some things that I honestly don’t want to do. I don’t like exercising. I don’t want to put away the dishes. I definitely don’t want to clean bathrooms. And because I don’t want to do these things, it’s easy to feel like I just don’t have time for it. “It just didn’t happen today. I simply ran out of time.” Have you ever said that?

But the reality is that we make time for things we want to do.

I want to drink coffee ALONE in the morning so I wake up a few minutes early before my people wake. I want to look at Instagram so I opt to not read that book that’s been sitting by my bed for months.

So when it comes to the things we really don’t want to do, we make excuses. I find a million other things to do in place of it that somehow seemed more important at the moment.

But here is what I’m discovering: Doing something for 10 minutes a day can change my life and my perspective.

In fact, time is one of your most prized possessions and we get to choose where we spend it. I’ve learned in life that doing some things over time brings the result I wanted. As a child, I wanted to learn how to play the piano, so I practiced for one hour every day for years and I learned to play beautifully. I wanted to drop the baby weight after my child was born. It didn’t happen overnight, but with making consistent moderate choices, over time the weight came off.

How Making Time Can Change Your Life

We have to learn to manage the tension between what we want to do and what we need to do but don’t really want to do. And I believe that if you can give those things 10 minutes a day, you will see change.

You may not change your life in simply 10 minutes, but you will start a change reaction. Doing something over time will eventually bring change. You change your mind and that will ultimately change your life.

Ten minutes of burst training won1t give me a six-pack in my abs but 10 minutes of burst training over time will create a healthier me. And in the meantime, my thoughts towards myself change. Knowing that I’m giving a little bit of my busy day towards my health helps me to not judge myself harshly.

I want you to try it. Set a timer for 10 minutes and …

  • choose one space to pick up
  • put away the clean dishes
  • put the dirty dishes in sink
  • clean out one cluttered drawer
  • read your bible or a devotional or pray
  • choose to pack lunches
  • sit down and play Legos with your child
  • sit outside and enjoy creation

There is power in doing something for 10 minutes every day. And giving something time consistently will eventually bring change. What can you do for 10 minutes today that over time could change your life?

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5 Strategies for Developing Lasting Love

These practical and biblical strategies can help you develop lasting love.

Photo by Josh Willink from Pexels

Unrealistic expectations in marriage can affect your satisfaction. Here are five biblical strategies to help you define expectations and develop lasting love.

————-

As a writer, words are important to me. I try to weigh how I use each one, what they are conveying, and to whom they are speaking.

So it’s no surprise that with each selection of a card expressing love for my husband, the greeting’s words go through a biblical filter, somewhat like this.

The card proclaims, “You make my life complete.” Well, no, Colossians 2:10 says that “in Him you have been made complete.”

Another one states, “Didn’t know love before you.” Not exactly. 1 John 4:19 tells me, “We love because He first loved us.”

Still another, “You fulfill my every need.” Ah, will pass. After all, Matthew 6:8 states, “…your Father knows what you need, before you ask Him.”

Why Expectations in Love Matter

Eventually, my endless rummaging through cards results in my finding a sentiment that more fits my understanding and experience of holy matrimony.

“We’ve had our ups and downs.” More like it.

“I’m glad we’re on this adventure together.” Adventure, that’s one way to describe it. Smile.

When I finally find one of these heartfelt cards, it reinforces what marriage has been teaching me through the years. Such as:

  • My husband can’t and isn’t equipped to meet my every need, as I’m not able to meet his every need
  • He is going to disappoint me at times, as I will him
  • Love is not a feeling, it’s a moment-by-moment, daily choice

More and more, I’m realizing that my expectations for marriage can affect my satisfaction. Unrealistic ones will cause me to feel disappointed because being married hasn’t meant that I’ve never felt lonely, grieved, unappreciated, or fearful.

5 Strategies for Developing Lasting Love

Below are five biblical strategies to help define expectations and develop lasting love.

1. Use the Buddy System

Long-term matrimony can bring numerous unexpected turns in life and Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 states that, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor. For if either of them falls, the one will life up his companion.”

It reminds me of times when my husband and I are both employed and able to enjoy the extras that come with the two incomes. As well as, the times when my husband was in school full-time or unemployed and I helped to provide needed finances. Or, where I’ve been at home full-time and he’s been employed with sometimes two or more jobs to provide for us. It also brings to mind the times when we’ve experienced losses, disappointment, caring for aging parents, and more and how we have supported each other through the challenges.

2. Look Ahead

When looking beyond my present marital situation is needed, Philippians 3:13-15 offers straightforward words about pressing on, reaching forward, not looking back but looking forward to what lies ahead.

This passage is especially helpful when hurts from the past try to paralyze and prevent me from forgiving and moving forward in my marriage. This strategy is especially helpful during these types of struggles by directing my thoughts to the future, to enjoying our growing family together, and what our staying together means to us and them.

3. Lean on Christ

At times, daily challenges can wear a couple down. Philippians 4:13 encourages me that, “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me,” and staying married does take strength, more than I’m capable on my own, especially when I’m feeling lonely, forgotten, tired, angry, unhappy, or disappointed. This strategy aims to refocus my source of strength so that I look beyond my own capabilities.

4. Know Your Source

Philippians 4:19 assures me that God will supply all my needs according to His riches. So no matter what our current employment or financial situation is, it’s not dependent on only our own efforts or situation. As well, this verse also speaks to emotional and spiritual needs like companionship, comfort, joy, contentment, encouragement, and peace. Over the years, I’ve been learning that God does often work through my husband to meet needs in my life but he isn’t the source. God is my source for all my needs in life.

5. Be A Help Mate

Commonly referred to at the “Proverbs Wife” passage, Proverbs 31:10-31 provides me with practical insight as to what my participation in marriage might look like on a day-to-day basis. It addresses my willingness to be a help to my husband in meeting everyday, hands-on needs in our life together.

Just like running card sentiments through a biblical filter, I’ve found it’s vital to base strategies for developing lasting love on scriptural principles, ones that help keep me on track towards a lifelong marriage. These strategies include fine-tuning my expectations with biblical insights and godly guidelines.

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The Messy Beauty of Big Change {And How We Can Better Help Each Other Through It}

Even big change of the traumatic sort produces a kind of messy beauty.

Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

Big change comes with big emotion. We could do one another a favor by allowing each other the room to express all the messy beauty of big change.

————-

The air smelled like stinky feet, and I cried.

Infamously dubbed “Tacoma Aroma,” the rotten-egg-ish odor sometimes wafted from the Tideflats up through our windows. On this particular day, it brought me to tears.

As a new mom and just one month into a new city thousands of miles from familiarity, I sat rocking our newborn back and forth, wishing the stench away. The irrationality birthed from sleep deprivation coupled with insecurity had me convinced that the breathing in of Tacoma’s aroma would bring inevitable demise on our child.

Actually, I lived in constant anxiety thinking that just about everything would bring demise to our child. Losing weight and described as “failing to thrive,” our daughter was prescribed formula to supplement her breastfeeding diet. I was unreasonably sad, thinking that I was polluting her body with chemicals that would slowly kill her.

I cried when the doctor prescribed nystatin to combat thrush and simple infant’s Tylenol for teething because medication seemed (ridiculously) like poison to her pure form. I cried because I didn’t want to sleep, thinking that in my slumber, our daughter might take her last breath. I cried because I so very much needed to sleep, but couldn’t. And, I cried because when she cried, I couldn’t figure out why she was crying.

I was a crazy-haired, dark-circle-eyed, wrinkly-clothe-cladded shadow of my former self. And worse, I was embarrassed to share my disheveled new-mom reality with anyone.

Why Big Change Is Often Both/And

Long past are my days of new-mom malaise (thank you, Jesus!). And I’ve learned that most big change will be delightfully harrowing, frighteningly joyful, and exhilaratingly terrifying.

Because becoming a mom? It’s not either delightful or harrowing—it’s both.

Getting married? Both frightening and joyful.

Changing careers? Both exhilarating and terrifying.

Even a big change of the traumatic sort produces a kind of messy beauty. (I’m actually convinced this is God’s specialty!)

I look back on my brother’s tragic death, for example, with a bittersweetness as I recall not only the terrible circumstances but also the renewed faith (for many!) born out of it.

I’m learning to expect that even the happiest big change will have pockets of sorrow and that even the most wretched of life turns will have moments of redemptive joy. It’s why there can be laughter seconds after a brother is buried or sadness weeks after a baby is born.

How to Be There For Each Other in the Messy Beauty of Big Change

I think we could do one another a favor by allowing each other the room to express all the things—the harrow and the delight, the fright and the joy, the terror and the exhilaration—no matter what life change we’re facing.

Christ’s brother James tells us that “whatever is good and perfect is a gift coming down to us from God our Father” (James 1:17). May we be the kind of people who cry at a funeral, but who also point out (and join in with) the gift of laughter lilting over the fresh grave. May we be the kind of friends who love on and draw attention to the gift of a beautiful baby, but who also hold the hand of one anxiously stumbling through a new life stage.

Because no one should be embarrassed to share her disheveled reality in the midst of big change—especially with fellow believers. Amen?

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Perspective

by Kate Motaung time to read: 5 min
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