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Survival Tactics to Living Abroad

Living abroad takes what we know as “living” and turns it upside down or right side up. It all depends on the perspective that you view it. 

Like a Child: humble yourself to view your new surroundings like a child. See it with open eyes. The world is what you make of it. If you choose to see it as full of possibility, then possibilities will appear.

img_3410Try a Little Something New: don’t be afraid of the unknown, embrace the unknown. When we try something new, we are signaling our brain to get ready for the challenge and push beyond our existing capacity.

Don’t Be Afraid to Start Again: It can seem so daunting. You’ve worked hard to build a community for yourself and then to leave it all behind. Many would rationalize what’s the point? The point is, we’re alive for more than ourselves. Everything has a season. It’s not all about us and once we realize this starting again doesn’t seem quite so bad. We must embrace the idea of starting again. Whether it’s learning how to live in a new community, understanding a local culture or just adapting to a new way of life.

Focus: you will become like whatever you’re focusing on. Think about what is good about where you are. If you’re unemployed you might have more time than ever to learn something new, train for a marathon or study a new language. FOCUS on what is good about your situation.

Hold Tight in the Process: yes it’s difficult, especially when you’re in a new place and attempting to create a routine for yourself. But stay focused in the process. Don’t give up because with each step you make you’re getting along the road. Before you know it, you’ll be at your destination.

You’re Doing Better than You Think You’re Doing: you will not always be a beginner or brand new. Although the beginning stages feel so challenging, take hope. With each new day, you’re learning and growing. You’re doing better today than you were yesterday just because you have another day under your belt so you are one day wiser. Focus on the progress you’re making and not the lack of progress you have yet to make.

Tunnel Vision

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Photo by Wil Stewart on Unsplash

When was the last time that you went through a tunnel? Do you recall the feeling of the dark, narrow space where all you could really see or focus on was the tunnel? Do you recall the feeling you felt when you were going through a very long tunnel and you finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel?

A tunnel can actually be a metaphor for a difficulty or a challenge that comes along on the road of life. Sometimes, the difficulty can obstruct our vision so that we develop tunnel vision.

Tunnel vision can plague us in ordinary life even when we are not physically going through a tunnel. If we allow ourselves to become centrally focused on a negative situation for a long enough period of time, then we’ll find ourselves completely consumed and limited by it.

The tunnel is simply a tool;  A means to an end. It’s a facilitator to take you from one point to another. If seen correctly, it can actually help prepare us for what’s on the other side of the tunnel. But when you have tunnel vision to the extent where all you can see or focus on is the tunnel, what do you do?

How Do You Break the Cycle of Tunnel Vision?

       Remember the Big Picture. When you’re going through a tunnel it seems like that’s all there is because it is all you can see. You don’t know how long you will be in the tunnel and even if you’re still pressing onwards it can be easy to forget to see the big picture. Enlarge your vision to see the big picture. Don’t be intimidated by what you don’t see but remain hopeful knowing that there’s still more to be seen.

       Stay Focused. Tunnel vision has a tendency to distract us and rob us of actually staying focused. As a result, we must train ourselves to become more intentional about staying focused in the midst of a tunnel knowing that it will soon open up into new territory. When we refocus we shift our attention from the negative to the positive.

      Beyond the Tunnel. We must look with eyes of faith beyond the tunnel. It’s not that we don’t see the tunnel or deny its existence but rather we see beyond it. We can’t allow ourselves to rely on what we see in the natural. We must be willing to stretch our faith to see beyond the tunnel.

None of us is immune from difficulty in life but we do have the power to choose how it will affect us. Resist the urge to develop tunnel vision in the midst of difficulty. Although the obstacle will still exist, it will no longer have power over you when viewed through the correct lens.

Just in the Knick of Time

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Photo by Dieter de Vroomen on Unsplash
       Have you ever been in a hurry to get somewhere that is absolutely contingent on whether or not you’re on time?
      The doors close at 9:00am sharp or the race starts right on time or the last tickets are given to people that arrive on time or even early. Time is the one thing that no matter how much money you have in your pocket, you can never buy it back. Once a minute, hour or day is over, it is over. There’s no way to try and get it back again. And yet with the basic cognitive awareness, we still lose ourselves in the concept of time.
      We plead for time to somehow speed up during the times of drudgery or boringess (e.g. at work or waiting in line or while on the subway headed home) but yet we plead for more time in the midst of the most blissful moments (e.g. wedding day, dinner with your aging grandparents, a once in a lifetime trip). But time is not in our hands, nor does it submit to our selfish whims no matter how we try to justify it, time simply does not belong to us.
So who does time belong to? 
      You see it’s a question that you must answer for yourself at some point in time in your life. It’s not a question that anyone can answer for you, it’s up to you to answer it for yourself. We all embrace the concept that we didn’t decide when we were born, nor are we given the foreknowledge of when we will die. And when we are met with near-death circumstances, only then does it really seem that we think about it more in depth. But what if thinking of death does not fall into the grasp of sheer morbidity—what if thinking of death allows us to really make the most out of this life.
      Some say you never know what you have until it’s gone. If we don’t see the preciousness of life in light of the fact that there will be an inevitable end to it, well, how do we really know if we have allowed ourselves to live to its maximum potential. 
      We were all made uniquely. Each with a unique string of DNA that tells our body to have green eyes or brown eyes, curly hair or straight hair, brown skin or white skin. And yet somehow we forget our uniqueness and strive for the ideal of sameness, of fitting in. And yet, we were never made to be the same or to simply fit in, we were made to stand out. Each uniquely designed for good works to do by our Creator.
      So who does time belong to? And what are you doing with the time that you’ve been given. At the end of your life, there will be something said about you, have you considered what words would matter the most? Does your life now move in the direction of this?

Seeing & Embracing Your Potential

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Photo by Kyle Ellefson on Unsplash

The thing about potential is that it starts off small and grows into something extraordinary. If properly nurtured it will not simply remain the same, but eventually there will be a fruitful harvest. Potential is like a seed buried in the ground. It is only a tiny fragment but when placed in the soil, buried, fed with sunlight and water, it begins to take root. But, all of the initial work begins under the surface. It is not seen and in fact, many people pass right by it never knowing that there’s actually something growing and taking root under the surface layer. Then seemingly out of nowhere, the first initial sprout of green life emerges from the surface. Delicate and small it still continues to grow above the soil while also making sure to extend its roots deeper into the ground. There is much more taking place underground than above the ground.

Is Your Potential Planted in Fertile Ground? 

Allow it to Grow: Potential means nothing if it is not applied. If a child has the potential to be an Olympic gymnast but he never practices or refuses training, how can she ever expect anything to develop from that potential? Allowing your potential to grow is making an investment on a daily basis in what you have been given.

Feed & Nurture Your Potential: Now that you’ve “planted” your potential, what active steps are you taking to let it grow? Are you attending trainings or classes to make you better qualified in your field. Do you spend your time thinking of new ways to develop your skills rather than diminish them?

Keep Investing in the Growth Process: As grueling as it may sometimes be, don’t give up on the growth process. Some days will be easier than others, where the sun is shining and all seems right with the world. Other days will make you feel like giving up and the rain and thunder clouds will ominously hang over the sky. But, there is sill progress to be made in each of these steps along the way.

Don’t Forget About Your Roots: Yes, it’s important to nurture the plant above the ground that everyone can see but don’t forget to nurture your roots. Although they remain unseen their role is critical in providing the plant with all of the nutrients it needs to stay alive and healthy. What are you doing to nurture your roots? Your roots are  what sustain you even when you are exposed to difficult circumstances and life events out of your control. Without strong roots, then the beautiful plant that you’ve become will not stand the test of the storms of life. That’s why it’s so important to know your roots. What are you grounded in? What are your absolutes?

The beauty of potential is that there’s always room for growth. It’s never too late and it’s never too soon to let your potential grow into something extraordinary. It all comes down to a choice.

What will you choose to do with your potential?

 

 

My Cup Overflows

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Photo by Joanna Kosinska on Unsplash

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” -Luke 6:38

Whose cup are you overflowing right now? Whose life are we investing so much in that if we were not there, a real difference could actually be felt.

We are not only meant to be reapers of the harvest but sowers. Sowing seeds that bring forth fruit and not weeds.

Generosity is not just about the things we do, but the way we live. We can live generous lives that overflow positively amongst those around us. How you you live generously?

More Than Just Your Table. Is your career all about you? Is your life all about you and your household? Although it might seem like a perfectly natural tendancy to think only within this realm it can actually deteriorate and diminish the potential that you actually have within you. You were not gifted with your unique talents exclusively for yourself and your benefit. Your gifts and talents are meant also to benefit those around you. If you’re work and you’re life is exclusively about building your life, it’s time to rethink beyond just your table.

Expectant to Bless Others. Do you live with the expectation that you can be a blessing every single day? How do you see yourself? Do you love yourself? Are you comfortable in your own “skin”? If you’re not, this can actually limit you from being a blessing to someone else because if you can’t love and embrace yourself, then how can you love and embrace others. Instead of waking up everyday waiting for someone to bless you, wake up with the expectation and desire to be a blessing to those around you.

Meaning Behind Your Work. Whatever work you do, it has meaning. Our identity is not found in our work (although we live in a world that attempts to label people according to what they do). The truth of the matter is work should be an aspect of our life through which we glorify God. We are working unto Him and for Him and so the work that we do is all about Him. Whatever work you do, if you understand that the meaning of your work is all to bring God glory then you can experience a real freedom and meaning behind the work that you do, especially for those difficult days.

Challenge Questions:

So whose cup are you overflowing today? 

How does your work show an overflow of the grace that’s been shown to you?

How can you let generosity be an everyday player in your life?

 

Lots of Lo Mein in a Lo Mein-less City

Confession… there are those moments in life when all you want to do is order some Chinese takeout, cuddle up on the couch and enjoy a night in. But, when Chinese take out is literally non-existent where you live (true, for me) then you are left with no other option but to take out in and whip up a batch at home! But don’t worry, it’s not as hard as you think. Trust me, this one is a keeper!

The Sauce:

  • 1/4 cup Soy sauce (regular or low sodium)
  • 2 Tbsp Dark Soy sauce
  • 2 Tbsp Sesame oil
  • 1 Tbsp Sirracha
  • 1 Tbsp sugar

The Main Dish:

  • 3 medium carrots (juliened)
  • 1 medium onion (sliced thin)
  • 1 250 gram package of mushrooms (sliced)
  • 250 grams chow mein noodles (or spaghetti if you can’t find)
  • 2 Tbsp of vegetable (or canola) oil (not olive oil — the flavor is a bit too strong for this dish)

Here’s How to Prepare It:

For the sauce (combine all the ingredients in a bowl ahead of time and then pour over the noodles. But if you forget or if you’re in a hurry, you can definitely add them one by one. Just be sure to stir well so all the flavors really come together.

Boil the noodles in a pot of salted water for approximately 8-10 minutes. Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside.

While they noodles are cooking…

Pour the vegetable oil into a large wok or fry pan. Add the onions and carrots and sauté until they are translucent and soft.

Add the mushrooms to the pan and sauté until they are tender.

Pour half of the sauce over the vegetables and stir. Then add the noodles and pour the remaining sauce on top and stir gently, being sure to coat all of the noodles and vegetables with sauce.

Taste & fall in love with your food! (haha! j/k but no seriously, it’s good!

 

 

Are You Ready to Go to the Heights?

 

The Sovereign LORD is my strength; he makes my feet like the feet of a deer, he enables me to tread on the heights. -Habakkuk 3:19

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Photo by Micah. H on Unsplash

Any experienced hiker or climber knows that in order to go to the heights, you must go through the valleys and tread the “not so frequently travelled” ground in order to reach the peak. It’s not a journey for the faint hearted nor for the ill-prepared. It requires discipline, preparation, commitment, dedication and perseverance to begin the journey, stay on course and finish the race.

Where our minds can get derailed in the journey is thinking that our strength is in ourselves and leaning on our own understanding to try and make it through this life. However, as we see in the book of Habakkuk, our strength comes from the Lord. It’s beyond a carnal strength but rather, it is His indwelling Spirit that takes us and transforms and carries us beyond the life we could ever have imagined.

The question is not, is it possible? The question is, do we really want to go to the heights? Do we really want to go? Certainly from a distance and through an eloquent narrative, the heights sound and look marvelous; and they truly are. But what we often don’t see, is the road it takes to get to the heights. We don’t see the process and so when we get started and encounter difficulty, we can confuse it for a problem when in actuality, difficulty and challenges are a part of the journey. They are the tools that carve us along the road, equip us for the next steps and enable us to persevere further.

Are you ready to go to the heights? 

Fear’s Final Fallout

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Bang! You’re Out! Dripping with sweat I wipe my brow and stand there looking over it. My chest rises and falls quickly and with my fists clenched I feel victorious yet ready to punch again if it even flinches.
There it lay on the ground. After holding hostage seasons of my life, I had finally roused up the courage to fight back. The reporters gathered in around me as the referee wrapped a purple robe around my shoulders and a golden belt across my waist. They bombarded by a series of questions:
“How did you do it?”
“What’s your secret?”
“Did you have doubts about being able to take him out?”
“What were you thinking about during the match?”
But all I could do was stare over at fear. Although I was utterly exhausted both physically and mentally I felt a large weight lift off my shoulders. Fear was dead. Its final fallout had arrived.
How do we deal with fear? The type of fear that arises when you’re about to embark on new territory in the land of your dreams? What is the truth about fear?
1.) Fear sometimes sounds like the voice of logic. We sometimes confuse the voice of fear for the voice of logic. Logic says, if you put ice cubes in the freezer, they will freeze. Fear says, if you put ice cubes in the freezer, they freeze and then maybe your whole home will freeze too by default. Fear has a tendency to blow things way out of proportion and especially in our mind. If we let it, fear will bind us before we can even utter a word. Fear has a clever way of mixing just enough logic with a big fat lie and if we’re not careful, then our minds will begin to rationalize and eventually give in to voice of fear.
Are you willing to try and fail and then try again and again until you succeed? How long are you willing to wait and what are you willing to invest in order to achieve your dreams and goals? What are they worth to you?
2.) Fear sometimes will seem to make sense.Golden nugget of the day: not every good thing or good opportunity is going to make sense. It simply won’t. The sooner we accept this fact, the sooner we’ll stop trying to make perfect sense out of the many mysteries of life. Are you willing to try and fail and then try again and again until you succeed? How long are you willing to wait and what are you willing to invest in order to achieve your dreams and goals? What are they worth to you? We can’t explain why it took Thomas Edison over 10,000 attempts before he finally succeeded. He was even quoted as saying, “ I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” What will you be quoted as saying?
What will you be quoted as saying?
3.) Fear will work with reason and procrastination to try and convince you not to do something you know you’re called to do. Have you ever found yourself in a situation in which you ended up talking yourself out of doing something that you actually wanted to do and committed to do in the first place? Fear manipulates reason to facilitate excuses in our minds that make us feel not so bad for not doing the things that we know we should (and even wanted) do in the first place.
4.) Fear will try and justify itself when you confront it. Fear is the king of excuses. So once you confront it when it shows up in your life, then the excuses will pile up faster than you can imagine. Fear can even lead you to believe that it is the excuse in and of itself to keep you from achieving your goals and dreams.  So before fear even knocks at your door you must already have a strategy of how you will respond. Once you get face to face with fear, the only way to fight it and win the fight is with the truth. And the only way to fight with truth, is to actually know the truth. Do you know the truth?
Do you know the truth?
5.) Fear will try and steal your voice, diminish your potential and rob you of the life you could live. It’s so subtly deceptive but if we listen to the voice of fear long enough we will become fluent in the language of fear. We’ll start talking like fear talks until we have no real voice left of our own. Once fear has taken your voice then it will try and keep you from ever going to the heights that you were destined for. Whether it was actually running that marathon, starting a new career or making new friends, fear is a thief waiting for those that will fall prey to its snare.
       So, when you hear the voice of fear, you don’t have to entertain it nor allow it to rob you of a single moment of your life. Decide ahead of time, before you’re even confronted with fear, how you will live your life. Will you look back on the things you wish you would have done? Or will you live by your convictions and not by fear.
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