Comfort Zone

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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.

What if God Doesn’t Send Your Boaz?

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Jen found this amazing post that speaks to the heart of many MRP readers!  Maybe your new thing that you try this month is broadening your vision of who the right man is for you!

So often, I hear within the single Christian women community to just keep working in my field. I hear that Ruth was found working and busy doing her purpose when she positioned herself to be found by this man of perfection, Mr. Boaz. So many women post statuses about being found by this famous man and even caption photos that tell the story of her wait. We’ve been sold this lie that when it comes to singleness, Boaz in all of his manliness, will come and rescue us from our singleness.

But I must ask you, “What if God doesn’t send you Boaz?

It’s clear that he’s a hot commodity and millions of Christian women are a part of the rhetoric that if we just position ourselves, flow in purpose, and know who we are, that our prize at the end of it all would be marriage with our Boaz.

But what if God sent me a Moses?

A man who is a leader, but sometimes emotionally driven and in need of my assurance to stand in the fullness of who He was called to be? Although Moses was called, He still felt extremely inadequate and battled insecurities that almost caused him to forfeit the leader that the Lord was trying to pull out of him. What if it were my responsibility to encourage him into his identity?

Read more here!

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.

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!

No Shame

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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.

Good Stewardship Means Saying No

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A few years ago, there was a newfangled notion that got a lot of excitement for revolutionizing people’s lives: saying YES to every opportunity.  If you felt stuck in a rut, this was the concept that was going to change your life!  Say yes to every business opportunity!  Say yes to every date!  Say yes to every invitation from a friend!

Magazine articles and books were written about it, and there was even a Jim Carey movie that took it to the extreme – Yes Man.  New doors would be open to you if you just invited opportunity into your life!

I am a person who has mostly subscribed to this theory.  I love taking on challenges.  I embrace responsibility and am excited by new opportunities.   But the unfortunate reality is that this also means that I can quickly get overwhelmed.  The one extra day a week I had that led me to commit to five different projects is suddenly not enough and I am running to catch up.

As a married person, I have had to put up some boundaries to protect my marriage.  Every hour away from my husband outside of work – volunteering, serving, happy hour with friends – is an hour that I am investing in other things than my marriage.  Before committing to an activity, I now ask myself, is this worth the time taken away from investing in my marriage?

Evaluating every activity this way has helped me make important decisions about where I put my time.  Yes, it is always uncomfortable to have to tell someone no – particularly if I had already said yes before – but people have been understanding.  My marriage comes first.

Even as I am writing this, I have a confession to make – I have been willing to put my marriage first, but I have not put my even more important relationship with God first in the same way.  What if I asked that same question for every activity that took away from investing in my relationship with God?

As a single person, the challenge is even greater.  People assume that if you are not married and do not have children, your free time is at their disposal.  I often felt guilty for saying no to activities, many of which were worthwhile.  I would instead run myself ragged and then be so exhausted on Sunday that I would stay in bed for most of the day.

Jesus, of course, knew how to protect His relationship with God.  The Bible tells us that even in the midst of His ministry, even when He knew His time on earth was limited, He still took time to invest in His relationship with God.  In Luke we read:

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. (Luke 5:15-16)

Imagine that pressure!  Sick people from all around – people in real need of a savior both physically and spiritually – were coming to see Him and be healed!  But He recognized that His first obligation was to the Lord.

Good stewardship means setting priorities and remembering to put first what matters most.  Take a look at your weekly schedule and ask yourself, are all of these activities worth the time away from God?  Try saying no to some things and create a space for God to fill.

March Challenge Finish!

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We made it to the end of another month – how did you do??  Were you encouraged?  Did you have at least one moment where you saw your true beauty and value?  I hope so!

I love to listen to people’s autobiographies/memoirs, particularly when the author read it themselves.  In this month, I listened to both Megyn Kelly’s and Padma Lakshmi’s memoirs.  What struck me about both of these women’s stories is that both of them talked about feeling unattractive.  And these women are GORGEOUS.  It reminded me again that our FEELINGS of unattractiveness and unworthiness are completely not based on reality.  They are based on what is in our heads and hearts.

If that is the case, then the only thing that will change our negative feelings about ourselves is not running after some tangible, outward change – if I lose weight, if I volunteer, if I make all As, if I get that promotion – but working on our inner beliefs.  Don’t get me wrong – I love goal-setting and meeting goals can definitely improve your self-confidence.  But they are not going to get you to long-lasting change.  You need to confront that inner belief.

Stop listening to your own internal monologue that tells you that you’re not good enough and start listening to what God says.  HE says that you’re beautiful.  HE says that you’re chosen.  HE says that you’re worth everything, even the death of His son.

The challenge for this month was to do something that would help you know that you’re worth it – worth love, worth value, worth being the apple of God’s eye.  What did you do?

For me, this challenge manifested in an unexpected way.  I started a new job at the beginning of February.  Academics and then work have always been idols for me and my latest job has a big salary and a lot of pressure – in other words, the type of job I would normally expect myself to completely stress out about as I worked hard to prove myself to everyone else.

But as this post is going live, I am actually in Ireland with my husband.  We scheduled this vacation months ago and had been looking forward to it, but having just started a new job, it was the last time I would want to take a week off.  Moreover, it happened to fall on the same week as the annual national organization conference.  I felt the pressure to cancel the trip.  But I didn’t.  I chose me.  I chose my husband.  I chose not running after an idol, and instead having the confidence to put myself first.  I am worth this vacation.  I am worth people’s respect in the workplace even if I don’t drop everything for the job.

What about you? Respond below and be entered to win a free book!