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.

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!

Pat Hike

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.

A Wise, Guarded Heart

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“Keep your heart with all vigilance,
for from it flow the springs of life.”—Proverbs 4:23 (RSV)

If only we could comprehend the magnitude of this verse! As women, especially women that have been single longer than expected, it can be easy to magnify a man’s positive character traits at the very beginning. Finding a handsome man with good character can make it easy to let down our guard. Some of us have the tendency to fling open the gates of our hearts upon meeting a man who seems to embody what we are looking for. Yet we must be cautious-our hearts hold the wellsprings of life!

More than once, I’ve been guilty of not guarding my heart. There have been a few men who were amazing on the surface. They were attractive and knew exactly the right things to say. They shared the same faith and appeared to be seeking the Lord in their actions and the words they said. I opened my heart quickly to them. Yet, character is revealed over time and through different situations. Truths about their character were revealed—not the sort of truths I had expected or hoped for. Trusted friends (male and female) also brought details to my attention that came to light in their conversations with the men in question. I was left hurting and regretting my not-so-cautiously opened heart. I had charged quickly forward without exercising wisdom, blinded by the positive qualities I saw.

Part of the sweetness of building a relationship is the time it takes to blossom. A great friendship or marriage is built in the crockpot, not the microwave. The recipe is prayer, guidance from trusted mentors or friends, time together in a variety of life situations, and levels of trust and intimacy that grow according to the state of your relationship. The ingredients simmer together over time to create something wonderful.

Your shared history together helps to foster an intimacy that grows over time. You share your heart with wisdom over time as you continue to find green lights from God, your own sense of peace, and confirmations from people of wisdom.

My heart is precious to my Father. It holds the springs of life—springs that affect not only myself, but also many others surrounding me. I’ve experienced the pain that comes when I give my heart away in the eagerness that follows meeting a “great guy.”  By guarding my heart now, I’ll be better able to give away my love to the right person in time.

I’m calling on the Holy Spirit and my trusted friends as I discern wisely how to guard my heart and when to share myself more intimately. I’m feeling empowered with the healthy boundaries around my heart, and learning to thrive in healthy relationships that are built ingredient by ingredient, simmering together over time.

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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.

No Shame

confident woman

Last week, someone I work with dismissively tossed in my face the blogpost I wrote on married sex life.  He said that it was being spread around the department.

For a moment, shock paralyzed me.  I was completely unprepared.  The attack had come out of nowhere.  Then I started talking—word vomit is more like it.  I said I was proud of writing it, that I wanted to break down boundaries.  Then I left.

Despite my words, embarrassment flooded through me.  The thought that he and other people had read the article and were even thinking about me and sex was horrible enough.  But that they were perhaps laughing at it and judging me?  People who I had to work with?

It brought back all of my insecurities and conflicted emotions about waiting for marriage for sex.  While the church preached abstinence, an adult virgin was a joke in the modern world.  As I got older, I would think of the movie The 40 Year Old Virgin with a wince.  That would be me.

And even though I knew that it was a lie, my decades-old insecurity whispered—you’re only a virgin because no one wants you.  You’re ugly.  You’re fat.  That’s what everyone is saying.  They’re laughing at you.

I made it through the end of the day and went home, able to hold back the tears until I got in my car.  I had published the blogpost because I had wanted to help other women, just as reading a similar article had helped set my expectations before I got married and calm my fears when things didn’t go as planned.  But maybe it had been a terrible mistake.

Finally, a coworker helped me reframe what happened.  “He had been trying to shame you,” she said.  Just putting a name to it helped.  She was right.  There’s no real answer as to why he would do that – I heard later that his girlfriend had applied for my job and maybe he was just pissed she hadn’t gotten it and wanted to bring me down some way.  Ultimately, it doesn’t really matter why he did it.  Naming what he had been doing helped me put it in perspective: he was using my own story to try to get power over me.   And seeing it for what it was helped me take back the power.

Because I am not ashamed of who I am.  I am proud of who I am.  I am proud of my choices.  I have integrity.  I am who I say I am and my private life reflects who I say I am publicly.  I am also proud that I am brave enough to put my life out there in public, even the vulnerable parts.  In this Facebook-frenzied, filtered, and airbrushed world, there’s a real need for what is genuine, warts and all.

So be brave.  Yes, you might face opposition and derision, just like I did.  But I survived; you will too. Be confident in who you are.  Call it by its name when you face that opposition and feel the power of the truth.  Be not ashamed to share your story, your light, and your truth with the world.  We can’t wait to meet you.