Comfort Zone

picnic

And Peter answered Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.”- Matthew 14:28-29 (ESV)

What does your comfort zone look like?

Some design their zones with a red carpet, blazing lime lights, and velvet ropes fastened on platinum pillars. Some construct theirs with brick walls, a steel roof, and a narrow doorway. Others complete their zones with a rose petal carpet, diaphanous curtains, and a smoky pink haze.

Mine is a sphere that’s coated in two-way mirrored glass. People can look in the sphere and see themselves but not what’s inside.  The interior of the sphere, however, is soft carpet where I sit on a huge grape colored cushion. And beside the cushion is a remote where I can decide if I want to weaken the reflective coating to reveal what’s inside.

We like familiarity. Things we know feel safe and cozy and comfortable.  But the Lord triggers our growth by moving us away from the known.

A few years ago, my sphere was divinely shattered when I received an e-mail. I reread it, blinked, and read it again.  I had just been invited to a company luncheon with a handful of other co-workers. It was a free meal with a group of friendly people.

And I was scared of going.

As the dictionary definition of an introvert, the idea of making small talk with colleagues, some of whom I see maybe once a month, made me queasy. What if I embarrass myself? What if I say the wrong thing? What if they don’t like me?

But since there were no loopholes I could escape through, I forced myself to accept the invitation. And it turned out to be a golden decision. While at the luncheon, I clicked with a co-worker, Jenole. In the days following, we had lively conversations that were encouraging and at times, very challenging. She’d periodically push me to try new things that garnered great surprising results, successes that wouldn’t have happened had I played it comfortable.

God used that simple luncheon to show me how my comfort zone, while feeling wonderful to me, was stifling my faith. How can we see how big our Father truly is if we only want Him to stay inside of our boundary lines?

Taking that first step outside of your life lane is scary. The ground quivers like jelly beneath you.  For me, it was conversation with new people. Maybe for you, it’s leaving your job to start a new career. Or accepting your friend’s offer to set you up on a blind date. Or pursuing your degree in a field you’ve always been interested in. But if you remember that God is ordering every one of your footsteps, including those that are directing you away from the familiar, the jelly will turn to solid rock.

Bloom

suburb

A few years ago, it wasn’t hard for me to find a way to serve.  I lived in a city that was rich with both beauty and scars. As I traversed sidewalks on my way to work in the morning, I passed men sleeping in restaurant entryways. The air of the afternoon gently swayed the drug addicted women who stood and stared emptily. Police sirens and fire engines dueted in the night. Showing God’s love was as simple as a walk around the corner to give a sandwich to the homeless man or a chat with the woman by my bus stop. Need surrounded me so much that I collided with a compassion mission daily.

But then I moved to suburbia. The concrete jungle outside my door was replaced with an emerald green hamlet. And I noticed that as my address changed, so had my routine. There were no more walks to the bus stops. No more interactions near the subways. No more deafening sirens.  Those wounded by llfe were no longer a footstep away.

How can I serve now? I can always go back to my former city and volunteer. But such moments were fixed at specific times. How can I live a life of doing for others if there was no one around me to serve? The situation puzzled me until I realized something.

We won’t all have the experience to live among those who are in dire need. But we will all definitely meet someone who has a need, period. And the Lord will present opportunities for us to showcase His care.

“As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace.” 1 Peter 4:10 (ESV)

Be a listening and praying ear to your coworker who is worried about their child’s health. Offer to rake the leaves from your neighbor’s yard. Send an anonymous gift card to your friend who can’t afford groceries this month. Serve wherever you can however you can.

God wants us to bloom where He plants us.

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Jennifer Jennifer

Hi, there! My name is Jennifer. I’m 32 and live in the D.C. area. I love Jesus, R & B music, and sugar in all its forms :-).In June 2016, I married my amazing husband, Calvin. I was completely single and waiting throughout my entire twenties. So I know the prayers, fears, and tears that come with prolonged singleness very well. I am excited to share my story and encourage single women who are waiting for God’s best!

A Heart of Compassion & Service

Having a heart of compassion and acting upon it to meet the need (service) is a beautiful thing.

I do not know how it normally is for you, but every time when I see a need I am faced with a dilemma of either taking a step out from my comfort zone or to just ignore and bury the uncomfortable feeling of guilt.

One of the most memorable experiences that I’ve ever had was to go on a mission trip to South Africa in year 2012 where our team had the privilege to serve along-side a few Anglican pastors who take care of a few hundred children in different locations specifically at Polokwane, capital of the Limpopo province, South Africa. These children live in poverty and are most of the time left unattended as their parents had to go to work or worst still, high on drugs and incapable of taking care of them. The church responded to the need and organized Soup Kitchen for about 2 or 3 times weekly to feed these children. I spent about 21 days between Polokwane and Johannesburg and the experience changed me significantly. It made me realise how privileged I am to be living in Malaysia and how I have taken for granted the basic things in life such as clean water, food and clothing which are so readily available.

timmie1

After the mission trip I was overwhelmed by the immense need (not only in South Africa per se) but for other parts of the world and felt helpless. But as I took time to reflect upon the days spent in South Africa and the activities we did as a team in sharing the gospel, teaching the kids (English, Mathematics) and spent time with them it wasn’t so much of what we had given or imparted to them. But how much they have taught us that even in having the simpler things in life (just basic needs, nothing fancy) and in times of need there is still joy in the Lord. Responding to needs doesn’t necessarily make huge impact or changes, but it certainly changes me (my heart).

timmie2

Another lesson leaned is that – I don’t have to take a 20 hours flight to South Africa to meet the needs of those children only, but to look around me and attend to the needs of the people in my sphere (in my office) by the guidance of the Holy Spirit while being ready and available to do so – that is what I think having a heart of compassion is about.

James 4:17 says “If anyone, then, knows the good they ought to do and doesn’t do it, it is sin for them.” Now, to just take that one verse on its own may sound legalistic. But if we take the entire gospel in its totality of which the foundation is love (for God and for others) which requires effort and commitment then James 4:17 is in fact a good reminder of the purpose why we are here on earth.

So whether it’s a concern that Trump is building wall at the U.S.-Mexico border, or the protection of the Rohingya refugees in Malaysia or the call to go for mission trips – the heart of the matter is, the matter of the heart. The act of sincere service flows from a heart of compassion. While a heart of compassion comes from a heart that is filled with love and gratitude. And a heart that is filled with love and gratitude comes from the knowledge of being loved and accepted by the God. And God is love.

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timmie-liew Timmie

Hello, my name is Timmie and I’m from Malaysia. I am a lawyer by profession. I am a charismatic, passionate person and enjoy beautiful things in life such as travelling to different cities to appreciate the culture. I love fashion and appreciate ‘coffee time’ with people to talk about life and build meaningful relationships. I’m passionate about the things of God, the Church and authentic leadership. My deepest desire is to embrace all that God has called me to be and be a blessing to whoever that God has placed in my life past, present and future. Our God is a GREAT God, and the best is yet to come !🙂

Make Forgiveness Your New Habit

forgiveness

Here’s a little tidbit about me.  I’m not one of those people who typically makes new year’s resolutions.  I’m like Ebenezer Scrooge or the Grinch, but for December 31st instead of Christmas.  I’ve always been of the mind that resolutions make for temporary fixes to mask much deeper and more complicated problems.

But despite my feelings of antipathy towards committing to a lack of commitment for the new year, I realized that there truly was something to the old adage ‘new year, new me.’  And somehow that new me will include forgiveness.

So, yes I want to tone up and get at least a 2 pack this year.  But it has also been brought to my attention that in order for any other resolutions to fall into place, I have to make forgiveness a priority.  Bah humbug.

Now before you get all religious on me and stop reading because you feel you have no one to forgive, you’re probably wrong.  We all have that one person (or five) that you would rather walk over hot coals than honor any portion of their being.  We all harbor a little unforgiveness in us somewhere.  And here’s why: most humans will not engage in activities that don’t benefit our lives in some way.

Volunteering make us feel warm and tingly, worship make us feel connected, bungee jumping gives us a rush of adrenaline.  Forgiveness does not do that.  At least not at first.  But it is still necessary.

So in the spirit of the New Year Scrooge-ness, I’m going to list 5 reasons why forgiveness is annoying, but I am still resolving to make this a new habit in 2017:

1) Forgiveness is not what you think it is.  You’re going about your life, thinking that you’re spouting forgiveness out of your ears.  But most of us have a somewhat tainted perception of what forgiveness really is.  So imagine my shock when I learned that forgiveness is not repression.  Or indifference.  Or avoidance.  Or putting on a fake smile while inwardly plotting your revenge.  And I was so proud of myself because I had absolutely perfected the apathy-forgiveness move.  But real forgiveness doesn’t involve pride or feeling ‘better than’ someone else.  And it also does not end with shutting someone out of your life.  

2) You can’t pick and chose. All of us have a list of unforgiveables.  Things we would absolutely not forgive.  Like stealing, cheating, gossiping, or being a Dallas Cowboys fan.  But Jesus did not die on a cross to forgive just 86% of our sins. Yet many of us are holding onto that 14% of unforgiveness for others because we feel justified in doing so.  And I don’t know about you, but I’m so glad Jesus will forgive me having to pull out a calculator to determine that 100 minus 86 equals 14.

3) You can’t do it by yourself.  And this one is really hard because I absolutely adore doing things by myself.  I’m a diehard introvert who enjoys books, naps, and Netflix.  But forgiveness is not something you can tackle without a whole heap of help.  I’m talking Holy Spirit help.  In fact, you may want to go ahead and call in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit for this one.  Some of you have people in your life that will require the entire Triune to make forgiveness even a smidge of a possibility.

4) It can rob you of your blessings.  Whoops.  Struck a nerve there.  This one hit me the hardest.  Especially when I think about praying for my future husband.  What if I carried those same feelings of insecurity, brokenness, inability to trust, or false forgiveness (see #1 for reference) into my marriage?  All because I had not truly forgiven the men who came before?  Sure, I could possibly meet my spouse before truly forgiving those who have done me wrong.  But would you rather walk into a marriage because he has allowed you to experience grace, or because you are protected by his blessings?

5) It is everything you don’t want it to be. It is saying that person’s name without feeling like your skin might fall off.  It is someone telling you that person has fallen on hard times and you hit your knees in prayer rather than celebrate and cha-cha slide.  It is being as genuinely happy for them as you would be for a true friend if God decides to bless them.

Can you say that about everyone who has done you wrong?  And would God be most glorified if you sought revenge or if you chose to love, forgive, and honor that person? Then maybe you should add forgiveness to your list of resolutions for 2017.  And stick to it for life.

Although the process may not be entirely awesome, you must embrace the suck.  Because hanging onto that 14% just isn’t worth missing out on the 100% Christ gave for you.  No calculator needed.

“If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that. In a word, what I’m saying is, GROW UP.  You’re kingdom subjects. Now life like it. Live out your God-created identity. Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.” Matthew 5:46-48

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roz Roz

Hey there!  My name is Roz.  I’m a full time working, single, homeschooling mother to the world’s funniest 5 year old on the planet.  I’m an introvert who is obsessed with bacon.  I like to play music extremely loudly in my car and will keep singing at full voice even when you turn to stare.  I also blog occasionally over at beautyfullyflawed.com where I write words about Jesus, homeschooling, and the beauty of imperfections.  I look forward to sharing my imperfections with you, as well.

Building Community

campfire

As a single person, one of the things that I hated the most was the loneliness of it.  In looking for a husband, I wanted a lover, but more than that – I wanted a companion.  Someone who was going to be there on the Friday nights that I couldn’t fill.  I didn’t need five star romance – I would look at happy couples on TV and would want someone to be there just to chill.

When you’re stuck in the single cycle, it involves a lot of patience.  No amount of wishing brought my husband any quicker; I still had to wait for him.  But in the meantime, I had to meet my own needs to build a community around me.

Join a church small group

I am amazed at the number of singles who are not involved in a church small group.  If you’re not in one, find one today!  It’s the best way to deepen your faith, surrounded by similar believers.  They will encourage you and challenge you.  You’ll find yourself eager to go to church on Sundays not just to commune with God, but also to commune with your friends!  And when you need help, your church small group will be the first one to be there for you.

Join Meetup.com

I am a big believer in Meetup.com.  If you’re not already familiar with it, it is a site where people can create groups for just about anything.  You type in your interest and, depending on the size of your city, you will be immediately connected with people who share that interest!  For me, I love hiking but I was too much of a scaredy-cat to go hiking by myself, so it offered a way for me to join with a group.  Everyone was super nice and welcoming and over time I got to know the regulars.

Start volunteering

Several of the communities that I have been a part of have involved volunteer work.  At my local food pantry, I started volunteering consistently and got to know both the other regular volunteers as well as the patrons.  It feels good when you show up on an evening and it’s the place where “everybody knows your name.”

Reconnect with old friends

We all get busy and lose touch with people.  Sometimes the very connections that we should make are the ones that we’ve already made!  If you’ve been out of college for several years, I guarantee that there are people in your Facebook feed who live right there in the same city with you, but whom you never see in person.  Time to arrange for a brunch date!

These are just a few ideas, but the most important thing about any of them is consistency.  Friendship grows over time and over shared experiences.  The first time that you show up to a new group – whether it’s a church small group, a Meetup group, or a new volunteering opportunity – it’s going to feel awkward.  But just keep showing up.  After just a few times, you will be one of the regulars!

Join the conversation!  How have you built community as a single person?