Fear, Joy, and Change

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This year, 2017, has set me on a journey of newness. Ever since I was a senior in high school, the thought of becoming a counselor entered my mind on and off. I made the excuse that becoming a counselor wasn’t my calling. Yet in reality, it was my fear that kept me from pursuing my calling.

Last year, God confirmed to me in different ways that it was time to start the journey to becoming a counselor. I couldn’t shake that this was where He was leading me—my weaknesses and all. With excitement and a tinge of nervousness, I made the plunge into graduate school this January. I survived my first semester of school while also working full-time.

He’s put a renewed spirit within me, and I’ve found tremendous joy in this new journey and reflecting on where it will lead. I look at the number of credits needed to complete this program (60!), which includes an internship and practicum. The number of credits and the amount of time it will take is daunting, but I also see grace. I see the reward beyond the trial.

This new journey creates a path for me to lean on my Savior even more strongly, an adventure in which I will discover even more the person He created me to be.

The end of the journey will bring fulfillment into my own life. Eventually, I hope that it will also allow flexibility to have a career and take care of a family. This new career will allow me to journey with others on the road to healing, one of my heart’s greatest desires. The tremendous need for counselors is evident to me, especially counselors rooted in Christ. New options are opening up with this career path, new ways to serve others.

This “new thing” in my life is definitely out of my comfort zone. In every way, I am stretched to greater trust in God and even faith in my God-given gifts and capabilities. Trying a new thing or changing course in life can come with great fear. Some stay put where they are simply because the thought of venturing into the unknown is too uncomfortable. Change is not comfortable. I’m learning the true meaning of “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” The path is long and overwhelming when I don’t focus on Him who called me.

In this new adventure, I’m trusting in the Lord’s goodness and His grace. I can’t wait to continue on this new journey and to discover where it will lead.

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lianna-headshot Lianna

Hello! My name is Lianna. I am 28 years old and live in Cleveland, Ohio. I am a case manager for refugee mothers. My favorite things are traveling, learning other languages, singing, and journeying with others. I blog and hope to inspire others at sunflowersojourn.wordpress.com.

Ticket to the Gun Show

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What is the strangest place you have ever gone on a date?  Mine was going on a second date to a gun range.

I met him off of Christian Mingle.  He was just a few years older than me, handsome, and a graduate of Michigan Law.  Our few email exchanges had shown him to be smart and funny.  My hopes as I went into the first date were high.

We met at a local restaurant/bar – I frankly don’t remember if he picked it or I picked it.  It wasn’t the best, but it wasn’t bad.  I found him sitting at a high top table.  Okay, maybe not as handsome as in his profile picture, but still cute.

And then he started talking…and talking…and talking.  I couldn’t get a word in edgewise.  Some of what I learned was good.  I learned about his job, his childhood vacations, everything up to his favorite color.  He was Orthodox Greek and very traditional, which wasn’t my faith, but at least he was a Christian!

Then he told me about the guns. Let me just say that I don’t like handguns.  They were designed with one purpose – killing humans – and I don’t like them.  And he apparently loved them.  Said that he always carried at least two on him and made sure he had one in every room.  Horrified, I tried to imagine living like that – what if we had kids?

After we left the restaurant, he asked me if I wanted a second date.  I weighed the pros and cons.  Christian, Michigan Law, smart, professional, handsome…this kind of guy doesn’t just fall from trees.  But could I handle the guns?

So I did what I knew I needed to do to see if I could really fit into his world.  I took a risk.  “I will go on a second date…if we go to the gun range.”  I didn’t want to, I had never been to one, had no desire to go, but I thought, why not?  It was an adventure.

His response: “Will you marry me now?”

We went to the gun range and while nothing terrible happened, the short story is that the guy didn’t get a third date.  Maybe it wasn’t going to work right from the beginning.  But I took a chance, stepped out of my comfort zone, and gave it a shot (literally).  I am proud of myself for doing it.

In dating, I have tried out new restaurants, gone to sporting events and festivals, and attended museum exhibitions.  If someone had a passion or interest, I wanted to see it.  The person might only have lasted for a date or two.  But these experiences made me a better person with a richer history and more memories because of it.

June Challenge: Try New Things!

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Over Memorial Weekend, my husband and I did something we had never done before: we went camping in a tent (the above action shot is to prove I am not making this up).  We went with a group of friends (my former church small group) and for the most part, it was fun.  Sitting around a campfire, roasting smores, fellowshipping – most of it was all that camping should be.  But the actual tent part?  It was muddy, there were bugs, and neither of us got much sleep.

Trying new things this month means not just doing something you haven’t done before, but stepping outside of your comfort zone.  By its very nature, it’s going to be uncomfortable at times – sometimes literally!  I mean, I am STILL scratching at bug bites that I can’t scratch in polite company!

But when you open yourself to new experiences, you will discover new things about yourself, others, and the world that you just never would have had the opportunity to see before!

As I mentioned yesterday, my new favorite obsession is the show First Dates.  For all of those people, going on a nationally televised show to be set up on a blind date was a HUGE risk.  I don’t think I would have done it!  Think of the potential risks – that the date would be awful, that they would be embarrassed, and that the whole thing would be watched and judged by millions across America!

But for some of them, that first date turned into a second date, and then a third.  Is it the most likely way to meet your soulmate?  Perhaps not.  But they put themselves out there, took a chance, and for those people, they met someone.  Even some of the ones for who it didn’t work out still talked about the value that they saw in doing it.

For myself, starting online dating was a big new thing that I tried.  Granted, I knew it could work because my roommate had met her boyfriend (now husband) the year before.  It was uncomfortable – you have to make a profile and talk about yourself, answer cheezy questions, and face the reality that real people would be scanning through your profile and making a judgment.  But I took the risk.  It didn’t happen overnight, but eventually, I met my husband.

I am not saying that you have to start online dating this month!  But so often we are caught in our own little ruts, never branching outside, never meeting anyone new.  How are you going to meet anyone that way?  And what’s more, what kind of interest do you hold as a person if you are never doing anything new?

As this month’s challenge verses will show, God expects us to do new things.  So use this month’s encouragement to step outside your comfort zone and try something new!

Boundaries Vs. Intimacy Finish!

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My new favorite obsession is the show First Dates.  If you haven’t watched this yet and you are a single, dating person, you are totally missing out.  This show, portraying a series of blind dates, is a tutorial in human behavior and why dates work—and don’t work.

In the latest episode, a beautiful Nashville country singer shared in the pre-date interview that she waited for sex until her first marriage.  Now divorced, she stated that she wanted to wait again.  She is set up on a blind date with a slightly awkward, nerdy guy who tells her that he has never been kissed.  Never.  Not once.  The show cut to a commercial and I thought, well, that’s it.  She’s not going to find that attractive.  It’s one thing to wait for sex, it’s another to be an adult man who has never kissed anyone.

But when the show returned from commercial, the singer’s reaction was much different than I expected.  “That’s so endearing,” she said.  She later agreed to a second date and before the credits, it was revealed that they are dating.

In the series this month, we talked about boundaries – generally, boundaries on physical intimacy.  Such boundaries – even just the concept of them – are completely countercultural to today’s hookup society.  They make us seem like prudes, out of touch, and backwards.  Worse – like adult virgins, which is exactly what we are.

So we expect rejection.  I don’t want to be seen as a weirdo.  We put up walls, pretend falsehoods, refuse to show our true selves.  I would talk about relationships and sex with friends like I was just the same as them.  I can think of only two guys that I even brought up the topic of not having sex before marriage – one of them I married.

But in doing so, we shame and devalue the boundary in our own eyes.  Equally important, we lose the opportunity to be a witness that we might otherwise have had.  There are many ways to be a light to the world – one of them is simply to be brave enough to show our true selves to others.  

I can’t promise that it won’t come without a cost.  There may be lost dates, strange looks, and awkward conversations.

But that’s a small price to pay.  When you find the one – the right one – he or she will not judge you or mock you for the boundary.  Instead, he or she will value you and respect you all the more, hopefully because he or she shares the same boundary.  It will be one more signpost on the path to true love.