When You Want a Different Life

by Amy Medina on November 1, 2016

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I live in a tropical paradise.  The glorious Indian Ocean is my backdrop—I can see it between the trees at my house, when I run errands around town, and when I watch my daughter’s soccer games.  For fun we take a little boat to an uninhabited island and snorkel over colorful coral.  The weather is always warm; even in “winter” it rarely goes below 70 degrees at night.  We can drive just a few hours to see all the famous animals of Africa.  I am surrounded by people who are friendly and generous, eager to help and appreciative of any attempt to speak in Swahili.  I can walk down the road to produce stands heaped with fresh pineapples, avocados, mangos, bananas.  I live in a 3 bedroom house with a yard big enough for a soccer field for less than what we paid for our tiny, one-bedroom apartment in California.  I have a house helper who comes four mornings a week and does my cleaning and laundry.

My children attend a top-quality school, an incredible place that is the best of many worlds.  Their teachers are kind and wise Christians, and their classmates come from a wide range of nationalities and religions.  Their curriculum includes art, music, computers, Swahili, and swimming.  My husband and I work in pastoral training and have the privilege of seeing lightbulbs go off for church leaders as they grasp God’s sovereignty or grace for the first time.  We get to do something significant for eternity, and we get to have fun while we do it.

Sound great?  Envious?  Wish you had my life?

It’s all true.  But this is also true:

I live in a developing country.  Infrastructure is poor in this city of five million.  That translates into snarled traffic where many drive dangerously, little law enforcement, garbage piled next to the streets, and no public parks.  Customer service is not a cultural norm.  There are often a lot of bugs.  And rats.  And snakes.  Electricity and water supply are unpredictable.  There are three seasons:  hot, hotter, and rainy (which is still hot).  The humidity is suffocating for most of the year.

Crime is high.  Our car has been broken into twice.  I can easily list off two dozen good friends who have experienced violent home invasions.  One was slashed in the head with a machete.  One was stabbed.  Another was shot at.  We sleep behind alarms, padlocks, and iron bars.

As we’ve struggled to get our ministry off the ground, we have often felt like failures.  We often feel like we are in over our heads.  In twelve years, there have been times when everything we’ve worked for has blown up in our face.  Language learning is incredibly exhausting and often discouraging.  The missionary community is a constantly revolving door, and every year we lose good friends and have to start over again with relationships.  My parents visit once a year, but it will have been three years by the time we are able to see all of our other family members.  As the years go on, we feel the pain of lost memories with our family more acutely.

Maybe my life doesn’t seem so great after all.

Two perspectives.  Two ways of seeing the same life.  My goal in these descriptions is not to invoke envy or pity but simply perspective.  I’ve found that when things are going well in my life, I focus on all the good stuff.  When life stinks, all I see is the bad.  Yet both perspectives are equally true at all times.  It’s just a matter of what I choose to focus on. 

These ebbs and flows are a part of life, and sometimes our perspective will change even throughout the day—especially when adjusting to a new place.  But what we do often forget is that we have a choiceMaybe we can’t always control our mood, but we can control what we think about.  What we focus on.  What we choose to see around us.  I can guarantee that if I choose to focus on the negative things around me, then everything else rotten will be highlighted.  If I look for the positive, more good things will come into focus.  And here’s the Truth:  There’s always something positive.  Always something to be thankful for.  Always.

Instead of allowing my mood to dictate my perspective, my desire is to train my perspective to dictate my mood.  If Corrie and Betsie Ten Boom, languishing in a Nazi concentration camp, could learn to thank God for the fleas because they kept the guards away from their Bible study, then I too can learn to focus on what is positive.  The God who commanded us to give thanks in all circumstances will also give us the perspective carry it out.

Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (Phil. 4:8)

When we want a different life, maybe we just need a different perspective.

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*baby sea turtle photos by Gil Medina

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About Amy Medina

Amy Medina has spent almost half her life in Africa, both as an MK in Liberia and now in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, since 2001. Living in tropical Africa has helped her perfect the fine art of sweating, but she also loves teaching, cooking, and hospitality. She and her husband worked many years with TCKs and now are involved with theological training. They also adopted four amazing Tanzanian kids along the way. Amy blogs regularly at www.gilandamy.blogspot.com.
  • Jenilee Goodwin

    Amy, I loved this whole post. I could describe our lives very much the same way. Thanks for putting all that into words and challenging us to change perspective.

    • Amy Medina

      thanks, Jenilee!

  • Miriam

    Having the right perspective is so important! It made me think of 2 Cor 4:17-18: Momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal. I need to remind myself of this often. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus!

    • Amy Medina

      Excellent. Amen!

  • Debbie Wardle

    So true Amy – no matter how good life is, or how ‘black’ it seems. Thanks! We often need this reminder. Perspective and Gratitude go a long way towards turning our focus back to our Great Provider.

    • Amy Medina

      thanks for being one of those people in our lives who helps us to see the better perspective, Debbie.

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