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The Real Picture

Many of us pose and present phony half-versions of ourselves. But what makes a good picture — and heart?

I don’t love pictures.

Well, to clarify: I don’t love pictures of me.

I didn’t love my third grade school picture, with my Annie perm and pre-orthodontia smile. And I didn’t love my fourth grade picture, when I’d traded in my curls for a lovely blonde mullet.

These days, I don’t love pictures that show my flabby arms, white legs, or entire middle section. Which basically leaves just my face … but even then, I prefer pictures taken from overhead, to hide my double chin.

I have a hunch I’m not the only girl who stands behind her kids to avoid the camera, or cleans the kitchen before Instagramming lunch.

Many of us pose and present phony half-versions of ourselves. Author John Ortberg calls it “image management.” Vanity and insecurity and pride at their finest.

Not a pretty picture.

But what makes a good picture — and heart? If a picture is worth a thousand words, how can we make even a snapshot of our lives tell an authentic story? I can think of three tips that are true in both photography and life: hold still, know what’s in the frame, and use good lighting.

Hold Still

One afternoon at a botanical garden, my mother-in-law took a picture of a hummingbird. As she aimed her camera at the tiny creature, a grouchy man with a big camera butted in.

“You’ll never get a good shot with that,” he scoffed. “You need a faster shutter speed, like this.”

He held up his fancy camera with pride. Becky smiled and took her picture anyway. To our delight (and vindication), “that camera” captured a perfect image of the bird, with its fast wings in motion.

Her shutter speed was right, but so was his advice: the faster an object moves, the faster the shutter speed should be. Take it from the girl who shoots blurry pictures from moving vehicles: some pictures are best when we just hold still.

It’s the same in life. In the face of fear, faith holds still.

“The Lord will fight for you,” Moses told a terrified Israel, as they faced a sea in front and an army behind. “You need only to be still” (Exodus 14:14).

“Be still and know that I am God,” the psalmist wrote, no matter if waters roar and mountains quake (Psalm 46).

“Quiet! Be still!” said Christ, and he stopped the storm for his frightened friends (Mark 4:39).

When anxiety leads me into hiding — when fear tempts me to be someone I’m not — I need to trust God and be still.

Know What’s in the Frame

A few years ago, my neighbor’s bulldog had puppies. When the litter was still brand new, I took several pictures of them. I sent one of the shots to a friend who loves bulldogs, but only after I posted it online did I notice … that cute baby bulldog had not-so-cute puppy poop on his backside.

Lovely, Amy, I thought. Next time, look at the whole picture first. Good photographers pay careful attention to what’s in the frame.

In life, too, I should take note of everything in my heart and mind.

What am I capturing here? Anger? Jealousy? Where’s my focus? Is my life one big “selfie,” all about me, or am I focused on something higher?

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,” wrote Paul, “but in humility consider others better than yourselves…. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:3, 5).

Often, the “frame” of my life reveals an ugly picture. Enough, Amy, I think. Focus on the Lord, and take a better picture.

Use Good Lighting

When a magazine accepted an article I’d written, I was thrilled. The editor’s words excited me, until this line: “… and please send a headshot along with your bio.”

Headshot? My skin was broken out, my hair was a wreck, and I didn’t have anything to wear.

Not that clothes show up in a headshot, but still.

I doctored my picture with sepia, and presto! Flawless skin and smooth hair. I was pleased … even though it hardly looked like me anymore.

I hid behind dark colors, but an authentic person loves the light.

“God is light; in him there is no darkness at all” (1 John 1:5). “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory” (Hebrews 1:3). And, “you are the light of the world…. Let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14, 16).

An authentic life radiates with God’s glory.

I’ll shine, then, in the light of truth. I’ll keep the ugly things out of the picture and focus on the Lord, and I’ll hold still as I trust in Him. I’ll show the whole picture — the real picture — with my life.

Amy Storms is a wife, mom, and writer in Joplin, Missouri. An Oklahoma girl at heart, she lives with her pastor-husband Andy, their kids Nathan, Anne, and Molly, and about a hundred other "sons" in a dorm at her beloved alma mater, Ozark Christian College. Along with guacamole and Dr. Pepper, words are some of her very favorite things. She loves to read words, craft them on the page, and, of course, say them. Too many of them.

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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.

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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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The Real Picture

by Amy Storms time to read: 3 min
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