Tuesday, August 28, 2012

When the Comfort Zone Is No Longer An Option

When the comfort zone is no longer an option, then what? 

Lately, I have been so comfortable.  I cannot even put into words the level of comfort that I have in my comfort zone.  When they say a man’s house is his castle, I totally get it.  I love my house.  I don’t live in a mansion and I don’t have maid service, but I have a nice-sized house, with kids and husband who sometimes do chores.  I have three cats that don’t use the flower beds around my house for a litter box.   I have spots of grass that are missing from my yard from where we dumped things like oil or paint in the yard and it killed the grass.  I have weeds that grow taller than my flowers.  I have an office that will never be organized, and every spring we have ants.  The floors squeak upstairs in the bedrooms, there is a gap in one area of the hardwood floor.  None of this matters; I love every square inch of it.  I even love the spiders that sometimes find a home in the corner of the bathroom.  It’s comfortable here, it’s home.
When I am home, I watch TV,  play games on the computer (Free Cell and Spider Solitaire are my favorites), sing songs on the Wii.  I like to go on bike rides with the kids, and take walks.  Sometimes, I write. 

I also go to a large church, partly because I can blend in.  I have friends there, but I would venture to say there are far more that do not know me than do.  I talk to my friends before Sunday school and after, but never do I talk in class if I can help it.  I go to bible studies, and I don’t talk in class.  I am really good at talking to strangers, one on one.  I go to malls and make friends with the girls at the Clinique counter.  I go to restaurants and make friends with the wait staff.  It’s comfortable.
I enjoy working with children, but I don’t want to teach; I want to be the aide.  I decide what I will order at a restaurant, once I see what others are ordering.  I will go this weekend to Women of Faith and I will be in awe of the women who can travel around and speak with such eloquence in front of our group, but I don’t want to be a speaker.  I would go to lunch with them and have a conversation and be friends with any of them, but I don’t want to do what they do.

I like my routine.  I like knowing what’s around the corner, that each day is not too much different than the day before.  There are just different evening activities with the kids to go to.  I dream at night, but I like dreams to stay dreams (I normally don’t remember them anyway).  I forget things.  I block things.  I like to be in my comfort zone.

But what if the comfort zone isn’t an option?  What if the call from Him is to do more?  How do you even know for sure what the call is?  What if it’s a wrong number?  Seriously.  I had to get up in front of people and speak last month.   I cannot remember being more terrified.  I don’t want to repeat the experience.  I survived it, sure, but the stress was painful.  I’m still not sure if it was more painful for me, or for those who had to endure listening to me. 

This Sunday in Sunday school, we divided up in groups of men and women.  In our groups, we were given questions to answer about comfort zones.  I had, to this point in the year, spoken during class just one time.  That one time did not go so well because I made a poorly-timed joke. I thought it was pretty funny until everyone looked at me like I just grew three heads. 

I was asked to tell about my experience in public speaking, as an example of being outside of my comfort zone.  I tried to get out of it, since just talking to the class was going out of my comfort zone.  I tried to answer; then I answered poorly. Later, when we were back as a large group, the small group threw me under the bus and made me tell the story again.  I'm not sure there was an improvement.

I’m struggling.  My fear consumes me.  I haven’t glimpsed the future and I don’t know what it holds.  I feel as though I’m in a battle and I’m tired.  I am afraid that I’m going to be told to run, and I don’t have the right shoes.  I don’t have the compass, I haven’t been given the map, and I don’t have a smartphone with turn-by-turn instructions.  I don’t have that iPhone lady to tell me what I’m supposed to do.  I’m not equipped and I’m not even sure I’m called.  I don’t even know how to tell if you are called.  People who are called are at least equipped enough to recognize the call, right?  If you get a call from God, how do you explain that the creator of the universe must not realize that you are the wrong gal?  I know!  It’s a crazy thing to say.  God doesn’t make mistakes.  I know that.  But does He not pay attention?  Does He not realize that I’m just trying to blend in here?  That I’m just the typist; I’m not doing the dictation, and I’m not the illustrator either.  I’m broken.

I don’t know that I want to inspire people.  I don’t even necessarily want people to know I exist. Yet I wonder if, when I die, my family will sit around and tell stories about me just to each other, because no one will show up for the funeral.  I’m a blender inner, not a stander outer.  Blender inners don’t inspire people to do anything.  They blend.  They live, they hang out in their comfort zones and live their lives, and then they die.  The end.  That is MY plan.  This plan will make for a smaller buffet at the funeral, I understand.  It is my plan nonetheless.

But what if it isn’t God’s plan?  What if I don’t follow His plan, but follow my own?  What if I do follow His plan and He realizes I’m going to let Him down?  How do you bounce back from that?  No thanks.  I’m comfortable, right here where I am, in my comfort zone.  Surely that is where I’ll stay.  Don’t you think?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

A Journey, A Book...

In early December of 2011, I embarked on a journey.  It wasn’t an exotic overseas vacation; more of a personal quest.   I got in contact with an editor/publisher about developing a book.  This would bring about the fruition of a dream, one that in my wildest imagination I didn’t believe could or would come true.  I love to dream, and  I like to dream big.  I am most comfortable, however, with dreams that remain dreams, because dreams that come true bring change.  Change can be scary.  Don’t misunderstand - I know change is inevitable.  And that it can bring about life-altering changes for the better.  The idea of better can paralyze you with fear. 

As it turns out, my book got finished, and is now going to a second printing.  I spent the week before the book launch in a complete state of panic.  Fear almost rendered me immobile.  When the day arrived, though, I was surrounded by friends and family. But I was still afraid.  Every fiber of my being was yelling “Run and hide.” 

I spend a lot of time in front of my computer. I am quite comfortable talking on the phone and having conversations with strangers - on a one-on-one basis.  Large groups scare me;  I try to avoid them. 
At the book launch, I was expected to read aloud from my book. I stepped up to the podium and did what I had to do.  My hands were shaking, and yet when I see pictures of the event now, I used them when I spoke.  The video is twelve minutes of me, reading, looking only a bit nervous.  In the greater scheme of things in life, it seems silly, and yet it was so far out of my comfort zone, the reading seemed like 2 hours by the time it  was finished. 

When I think about that day now, I can’t think of anything I would have changed.  It was perfect.  The people who love me were there.  The support that surrounded me that day were inconceivable to me.  I didn’t run, throw up, or wet myself, and really those were the highest expectations I had.  It’s funny how God can surpass all of our expectations.  Expectations we didn’t even know we had. 

I don’t know what happens from here.  When I  dreamed of publishing a book, before this year, I didn’t dream about what would happen past the actual publication.  I didn’t even dream of telling anyone I had published a book.  I think the main dream I had was that I would finish something that I had wanted to do, not for anyone else, but for me.  The book is even available on all e-readers and the paperback is at the local Christian bookstore.  That is far beyond any of my expectations.  The original idea was for me to have one print copy, and for my grandmother to have one.  So the rest of it is all an additional blessing that my Father has given me. 

I’m still worried about change.  I’m a work in progress - what can I say?  In my head, I enter negotiations with Him. 
·         “OK God.  I realize that I don’t know the full plan, but … if you could eliminate any public speaking from the plan, that would be great.” 
·         “OK God. I realize that I have to learn to fully rely on you and that you will never leave me nor forsake me, but… if you could make sure that I don’t have to travel, that would be great.”

Of course, if God were to call me to travel and speak in public again, without thinking about it, I would go.  I may not be comfortable with it, but He hasn’t promised to never take me from my comfort zone. 
I am very aware of the amount of growth that I still need to do.  He is aware of my fear and that I prefer staying where I am.   Maybe I am to go no farther than I have at this moment in time.  I would be happy with that, and yet I wonder… if He has brought me this far, and I choose to not follow where He leads, what will I miss?  Even though I am a scared and imperfect servant, what more could He use me for?

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The Lifeboat

I had a dream last night that I was driving down the road and there was water on the road.  Along the way there appeared a boy in a boat that was driving down the road.  I called him Jimmy and asked him what he thought of all the water on the road.  He said he wasn’t concerned because he had a boat and that he would travel beside me in case I needed to get in.  When I woke up I looked outside to see if there was water on the road.  The driveway looked like it had rained but I didn’t see any standing water.  I was relieved because I don’t know anyone named Jimmy that has a small wooden boat that can travel on dry land as well as in the water.

What is interesting about this dream is that I remembered it.  Usually if I remember the dream when I wake up it is gone by the time my feet hit the floor.  I am not a dream interpreter, but I would venture a guess as to what this dream was telling me.  I remember thinking that if the water were to continue to rise I might be in some trouble.  Jimmy seemed as though we were friends and that he was there to help me.  I have felt very overwhelmed lately.  I think perhaps the dream was a reminder.  Not that I shouldn’t drive when there is water rising on the road, that part I’ve got, but maybe a reminder that I should know that I’m not alone.  Maybe I don’t have any little friends named Jimmy with a boat to travel the road with me when the water gets too deep, but I do have something better.

I have someone who is always there.  Someone who is traveling this road called life beside me, who loves me, who wants me to grow into something beautiful, who when the water rises can calm the roughest seas.  I have a Heavenly Father.  I have a boat I just have to remember who the Captain is, and it’s not me.  This is good because I can’t pilot a boat.  I would run it aground.  It is hard not being able to see the map to see where the boat is going sure, but I’m not sure that if I were privy to that information it would help my anxiety.  I’m thinking it would make it worse.  I also think it would defeat the purpose.  How do you grow if you know the plans?  How do you learn to trust if you can see what lies ahead?

I don’t know if that is the proper analysis of my dream or not.  Maybe it was just raining and my subconscious was messing with me.  Maybe I’ve read too many jokes about a boy named Jimmy and maybe I’m way off.  I’m not sure.  All I know is that I can still see the dream as clearly now as I did when I dreamed it.  I also know that I feel better knowing that even if I’m wrong I choose to believe that the interpretation is something more than just about a boy in a boat.  That my lifeline is still intact, my redeemer is still the captain and I’m just along for the ride and even if the ride comes to an end, it was quite a ride.  It was mine, unique and special and just for me and the boat traveled right beside me waiting to catch me when and if I fell.  That is good enough for me.