We had some visitors for Thanksgiving, which naturally meant finding a cool trail to hike and climbing on big rocks in the middle of a river.
We had a lot of fun with Cindy and Alan!
It is good to step outside of where you are comfortable.
And sometimes it’s good to be shoved out of your comfort zone, far beyond where you thought your breaking point existed.
It’s good to be occasionally shoved because you are made much more aware that you are not in control. You are not a master of your circumstances, no matter how hard you try.
I prefer to step out of my comfort zone because it still gives me the illusion of control; I choose when, where, and how far to step. The trouble is that I often choose not to step, for a whole litany of reasons largely centered around self-preservation. The longer I choose not to step, the more coffin-like my frame becomes as my heart shrinks smaller and smaller until it is a small, cold, hard stone, much like the Grinch in the classic Dr. Seuss tale.
Being shoved very much feels out of control, running on air, trying to find solid ground but not quite finding it. You have no choice but to keep running, pretending not to notice that gravity should be sending you to the ground miles below (remember Saturday morning cartoons, where the laws of gravity didn’t apply until the characters noticed that they should be falling?).
Last May, I began taking calculated steps out of my comfort zone as we prepared and moved from the region in which we had both lived our entire lives. The unknown slowly became more familiar as we settled in and started making friends.
At the end of August, I was pushed off the comfortable cliff.
On a Friday, I walked into my fifth interview at a fifth school in the area. The interview did not go particularly fabulously, but I was offered two long-term substitute jobs instead of the job for which I had applied. On Monday, I met the school’s staff and participated in all the beginning of the year inservices. On Tuesday at noon, I found out that I would be taking over a class immediately, as the teacher had gone into labor three weeks early. On Wednesday, I walked into the first day of school, teaching first grade. Maybe I should mention at this point that my experience is in teaching fifth grade.
It has been so good for me to have to hit the ground running, asking a million questions everyday, not knowing how to navigate anything. Those that know me well know that I am a control freak who likes to have my life planned out weeks in advance. Any deviation from the plan completely stresses me out, which is ironic because the plans ALWAYS change.
On top of it, we’ve been trying to figure out a new town, a new state, church, small group, and friends. Yet, quite honestly, it hasn’t been that bad overall. I have seen God’s grace poured out so abundantly. I have seen so many ways that He has provided people and things to make the circumstances so much better than the worst case scenario.
I am loving this spot I am in because it has given me clarity on so many things that I know God has been trying to teach me for so long. It has forced me to be honest with myself about some ways I desperately need to grow. It has helped me see that I can run farther on air when I am dependent on God to sustain me.
It’s good because it’s in the unknown that we grow.
Now, if only I can remember that, and continue to step out into the wild adventure.
I am trying to embrace contentment. To truly embrace being happy with what I have and the circumstances in which I find myself.
Which means I am trying to embrace this apartment as home.
This apartment with the hot water heater in my closet. This apartment with no dishwasher or garbage disposal, with barely usable cabinets, and horribly inefficient refrigerator. This apartment with a tub that doesn’t drain well, with a porch that fills with water when it rains and then floods the downstairs neighbor’s kitchen . This apartment that is crammed full with our stuff, especially in the spare bedroom that doubles as a garage (and has boxes of my teaching materials piled to the ceiling).
I have struggled to embrace this apartment since the day we signed the lease. Our one year in our other apartment turned into four, and I kept consoling myself by saying that the next place would be better.
And then we moved 1,000 miles away to a town where good, affordable rentals are in high demand but low supply. We stepped out in faith, which included trusting that God would provide the money to pay our bills (since we’ve both left “stable” jobs in the last couple of years in order to pursue a dream). So we chose the budget-friendly option (not to mention, we only had a weekend to find a place and sign a lease, and this was one of two available options at the time).
Because of this, I have refused to settle in. I have not hung a single picture on the wall, “because hopefully we’re not staying in this apartment through the winter.” I have refused to be creative in trying to find homes for all the little random things, “because I just can’t make it work!”
And I have complained. Loudly. And often. Because I think I am entitled to something more…just because I exist.
At the beginning of July, I was feeling convicted on this subject, and looked up Scripture on contentment and thankfulness. I even wrote down verses on cards, but haven’t sought to apply them with any sort of diligence.
My perspective is (very) slowly starting to shift, though. I’ve read blog posts by others who have honestly wrestled with the same issue, and found encouragement from them. I have visited with people in a home that was cozy but had a warm, well-lived-in feeling. And there were no apologies for what it lacked materially because the hearts of the hosts were hospitable and generous to share what they have. There was no sense that anything could be considered lacking.
My home will be hospitable if my heart is–even if my furniture is mismatched and well-worn. Even if my space is cramped. Even if comfortable chairs are in short supply. Even if my bath towels are stored on an open shelf, visible from the living room couch. Really, does it matter? Not all that much.
(By the way, I live in one of the most beautiful places in the world. I have a lot of beauty around me to appreciate. Every single day.)
This is what happens when you ask your (very) generous parents to bring you some good Colorado beer when they visit:
We had an awesome week with my family (minus my sister), which we spent hiking, swimming, canoeing, sightseeing, eating, biking, and just hanging out.
Sometimes words get in the way, so here are some of the highlights in pictures.
Hopefully the song won’t be stuck in your head for too long…
I have all sorts of weird connections with people I know, and I used to think it was because I lived in the same chunk of Northern Colorado for 27 years (my whole entire life, minus the last two months). Really, though, the world isn’t always as big as it seems.
Thus follows a funny story centered around this guy, Martin’s Pugsley.
We joke that he makes us instant friends everywhere he goes with us.
We rode our bikes to church on Sunday (Martin was on the Pug), and afterward ended up talking with a couple who had been desperately trying to figure out who we were all morning by texting friends pictures of the bike and describing any person in church that they didn’t recognize. They waited around and made a beeline for us as soon as we went to our bikes. We talked with them for a while, exchanged phone numbers, and got invited to a small group (we’ve been just waiting for an invitation from someone!).
Here’s where things get crazy. We went to small group on Tuesday, which happened to be hosted at the home of THE guy in the valley who is completely obsessed with fat bikes (he’s famous around these parts). Barely had introductions started and D. (aka fat bike aficionado) starts asking us details about our car, and if we happened to visit in March. He whipped out his phone and showed us a picture he took of our car (with bikes–including the Pugsley–on top) when we were visiting the area for the first time a few month ago. He had posted the picture on Facebook, asking friends who from Colorado was visiting. Further into the conversation, we realize that we had met his wife while riding one of the local trails when we were here again in May. As it turns out, this couple is also from Colorado, went to college at CSU, and went to church at Summitview and The Rock!
Everyone else in the group was laughing and trying to assure us that they don’t usually stalk people.
By the end of the night (we stayed late…after well-past the 10 o’clock whistle), it started to feel like we hadn’t moved 1,000 miles away from home. The world seemed to shrink a bit as we laughed and talked with people with common interests and random connections that we didn’t expect–and all because of Martin’s bike!
We’ve ridden this trail a couple of times since moving here, and I have a love/hate relationship with it. First off, It’s hard. It’s a little bit above my technical skill level (think lots of climbing, lots of roots, lots of rocks), and so I get too tired too early in the ride. Also, the bugs are quite resilient, and sections of the trail are in poor condition and very difficult to
The first time we attempted this trail, it took us forever to find it and we were actually afraid of getting lost (GPS isn’t very helpful when the trail isn’t marked on your map). It was also windy, cold, and took us much longer to finish than we had planned. That same ride, I got a flat tire, and then not five minutes later, Martin fell off the trail and broke his helmet and hydration bladder.
The second time we rode it, I was pushing my way up a hill, frustrated, exhausted, and wondering where Martin went. I came up over the hill and saw Martin off in the distance, pinned under his bike. This normally wouldn’t frighten me, except that his was waving his arms and I could hear him yelling, “Help!” over the wind. I started to panic and push my bike more quickly (I was walking up the hill at this point). Then over the wind, again, “Help! Hurry, I am stuck!” I hopped on my bike, pedaling as fast as I felt comfortable. Upon reaching him, amid my frantic questions, I finally realized he was laughing. Apparently, what he had actually been saying was “Hi! Honey, I am stuck,” (in his best British grandmother voice)! He was thoroughly entertained by the fact that he had tipped over while trying to stop and was harmlessly pinned under his bike. After I stopped hyperventilating and sobbing, I agreed that it was pretty comical. (For the record, it was never his intent to scare me, and he felt terrible that he had caused me so much panic).
Both times, I have been so crabby that I am surprised Martin didn’t leave me in the woods with the wild animals.
So why do I love this trail? It sounds pretty awful so far, I know. I love this trail because each time I have been on it, God has met me where I am and been completely gracious to me, whether through the physical beauty of his creation, or through the patient heart of my husband.
The wildflower-filled hillsides are an absolutely spectacular sight in the late afternoon sun.
Of course, my photos don’t quite do them justice.
Plus, Martin hasn’t left me on the trail yet. He’s patiently stayed by my side and let me figure things out. (More accurately, he has ridden ahead and patiently waited for me to catch up, offering encouragement along the way).
During difficult sections of the trail, I get the chance to grow in character and to persevere. Even when I do so unwillingly, God is gentle and pours out his grace on me.
It is so good to have opportunities to grow, and I am thankful for them.