Month: August 2019

Frog First

Start with the Frog!

Written by  Iris Richard

I’m someone who tends to go by inspiration, and I’ve long been bothered by my scattered approach to setting goals, so I was searching for an effective way to make it through my to-do list. It seems so easy to pick out the things I prefer doing or feel inspired to tackle first, but unfortunately, this strategy often leads to procrastination, especially since those “favorites” often aren’t the most important or priority tasks. Since the important stuff doesn’t just disappear, I find myself cramming in order to fit everything in.

Something definitely had to change, and one morning during my daily devotions, I specifically prayed that God would help me get a handle on my poor prioritizing skills.

A few days later when browsing through stalls at a flea market, a thin book caught my eye. The odd title, You Can’t Send a Duck to Eagle School, peeked out from among a pile of dusty second hand books crammed into a cardboard box. I pulled it out and cracked it open to a quote from Mark Twain: “Eat a live frog every morning, and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”

The accompanying article explained the basic idea of tackling the most daunting task first, likening those tasks to eating a frog before getting to more appealing to-dos.There were many other useful anecdotes on getting things done, but this picture stuck with me, and I realized it could be the answer to my prayer for a strategy.

Since I’ve had a severe back problem from the age of ten, daily exercise and stretching has been a must to help me function through the day, but over the years, it’s become a chore that I sometimes dread. Getting this routine off my to-dos was definitely going to be my first “frog” of the day.

Identifying this and other “frogs” felt strange in the beginning, but this simple tactic has improved my work habits and helped keep procrastination at bay. Even on days when I don’t have time to write a to-do list, I still remember to search out a “frog” or two that need my attention first.

* * *

The Principle of Priority states (a) you must know the difference between what is urgent and what is important, and (b) you must do what’s important first.—Steven Pressfield (b. 1943)

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My Life’s Heroes

By Iris Richard

   It was 1977, and Karl and I had left Germany the previous year in a camper. Our journey had already taken us through Italy, what was then Yugoslavia, Greece, Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, and India. We hoped to make it to Nepal next, buy a mountain farm there, and settle in a peaceful life away from modern society.

   Our budget was tight, and we usually ate at small roadside cafés or bought food from local market stalls, so perhaps it was not surprising that I soon contracted viral hepatitis. By this time, we had reached a lovely bay on Goa’s coastline, but unfortunately there was no medical care nearby, and my health deteriorated quickly. Some curious locals noticed my desperate state, and took to visiting daily to feed me a diet of papaya and fresh coconut milk. Thanks to their help, I recovered and got back on my feet, 10 kilos lighter, but healthy again.

   When we finally made it to Nepal, we eagerly joined a Buddhist monastery for a trial period, but didn’t find what we were looking for. I believed there was something bigger than me, but I was confused. Which God should I to pray to? I often wondered while gazing at the multitude of stars in the Indian sky.

It was Karl’s turn to contract hepatitis next. By that time, we were on our way back to India, and I drove all night to find medical help, while Karl was sprawled in the back of the camper with a high fever. In the early morning, I found a lodge where a group of young European travelers were staying. One of them, David, spoke German, and he helped us find a doctor for Karl and a room to rent.

   David decided to stay a few days with us. “Let me read to you from the book that changed my life,” he said when we met the following day.

   Reading a short passage from God’s Word became a daily routine while we waited for Karl to regain strength. Before David left, he introduced me to his Savior, Jesus, and as a result His Words from the Bible became my guiding light from that day onwards.   

The Goan villagers were poverty-stricken strangers, but I owe my life to their compassion and concern. David was a stranger, but it’s thanks to him that I found God. My circumstances today are a result of the combined kindnesses of those selfless strangers I met in India that autumn.

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Creating Space

By Iris Richard

     I decided “better late than never” and ventured into something new and long overdue: at age 50-plus, I registered for lessons at a local driving school.

     To my horror, during just my second class, I was taken to drive in the chaotic Nairobi traffic. 

     “Try to create space around your vehicle,” was one of the first instructions.

     “Easier said than done when no one else seems to do that,” I mumbled nervously as I attempted to weave my way through rush hour traffic. Despite my efforts, I soon found myself sandwiched between overloaded minibuses blaring out rap music, motorcycles snaking between lanes, and a dump truck carrying heaps of garbage that towered over my compact car.

     “If you can’t have space on all sides, try to have space on two sides—and if not on two, then on at least one, front or back.”

     That even sounded like a lesson that could be applied to life in general when problems tower over me.

     As a mother of seven and a long-time Aid worker in Africa, I have experienced a wide spectrum of situations that included some so stressful that they threatened to test me beyond my limits. Whenever things felt like they were getting too much to bear, though, this promise would pop into my mind: “God is faithful. He will not allow the temptation to be more than you can stand. When you are tempted, he will show you a way out so that you can endure.”[1 Corinthians 10:13 NLT]  

Some strategies that have helped me:

  • Create space. To be able to cope with demanding situations, I started taking short breaks throughout the day. These times act as buffers during periods when extra grace and energy are needed.
  • Be honest. I’ve had to learn to be honest with myself and others about my limitations. For example, my three-year-old grandson knows that I have a hard time with noise and respects that, which helps us make the most of our times together.
  • Make time. Our family has always tried to find time to talk things over, as well as to commit difficult issues to God in prayer together.
  • Accept help. Letting others help with stressful situations can be a lifesaver. It’s also a chance to forge deeper bonds through shared victories.
  • Give it a rest. Applying the “sleep on it” principle puts many controversial topics and unsettling issues to rest. It also gives God time to work things out.
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