I don’t think I have ever had a year like 2017. A lot of tears, fears, and unknowns that required a deep dive into what it means and looks like to trust God through the 365 days of highs and lows.
The greatest high of 2017 was meeting our first granddaughter Brooklyn. The hardest low was the 4 months it took for her to come home.
Sprinkled in with those highs and lows, we had to make space for other family members that were diagnosed with cancer, had strokes, were battling serious health issues, had surgeries among some other really heartbreaking circumstances, and it was A LOT!
The highs and lows were not exclusive to humans as Tank, a spunky french bulldog, and our daughter’s fur kid, lost an eye and is now a permanent pirate.
But in and through it all God was present.
And here is what I learned when there is a lot:
I learned that I don’t always run to God for my comfort. When things were happening one right after the other, I resorted to my old habits of finding my comfort.
Those habits included trying to take control of each situation, trying to problem solve, trying to ease whatever heartache, pain or fear that might come and it was exhausting, which lead to me finding my comfort in food. For me that looks like eating things that are fried, fatty, sugary, salty, and of course anything chocolate and the scale is proof of my comfort habits.
Another comfort habit was shopping for things. Even though we were in 5 different hospitals in 4 months, I became very well aware of the offerings in each gift shop and can give you a run down on which shop had the best offerings. (Tip: Kaiser gift shop (and in their cafeteria) in Roseville only carries dark chocolate so when I went to find my go to peanut M & M’s, I had to settle for the dark chocolate ones). I also have souvenirs and some cute clothes from each shop. I know I have a problem!
Another go to comfort habit is to hide my emotions and deal with them later, meaning stuffing the emotions to be strong in the moment. That doesn’t sound too bad, because sometimes, well you just have to be strong in the moment, but when you are in the moments of ‘a lot’ for a long time, dealing with the emotions later can look like talking yourself out of dealing with them at all.
So you end up stuffing the emotions to move on to the next thing. That looks like out of sight out of mind, but unfortunately, our bodies don’t forget those stresses and emotions that live below the surface and my physical and emotional health suffered.
These are just a few of my comfort zones that surfaced above ground in our 2017. But there are definitely other comfort zones that keep us from seeking our comfort from Jesus first. Here’s a list, not exhaustive, but one to get you thinking about where you have set up the orange cones of comfort rather than depending on Jesus.
busyness, sports, achievement, working out, people pleasing,
safety, security, work, comfortable places, convenience,
comfortable people, people that are easy to love, perfection,
home, relationships healthy or unhealthy, money, things…
What I have discovered about my orange cone comfort zones is that they become my autopilot response, or place of comfort and they start to feel and become my version of normal, instead of God.
Basically, the orange cone zone I put around my heart and life that self soothes ensuring that I can do my best to keep the heartache and all the painful things, and scary things, at a safe and comfortable distance.
What I’m pulling the curtain closed on, is that I don’t want to let my familiar habits of comfort keep me from drawing on the never ending comfort of God who so eagerly wants to be my comforter.
I had to learn how to recalculate my comfort zones and I had to learn a hard fact: I am desperate and dependent. Yup, I said it. Desperate and dependent. Don’t want to be either, but this past year I bought the t-shirt, literally.
Why would I want to wear a t-shirt that suggests
to everyone that I am desperate and dependent?
Because I am.
Desperate and in need of a Savior to forgive my sins (we are all sinners separated from God because of our sin), and dependent only on Him to save (saved by grace). Desperate for a Savior who is merciful, gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness. (Psalm 86:15). Dependent on Him to take delight in me and rejoice over me with singing, (Zephaniah 3:17), with the assurance that nothing, not anything can separate me from His love (Romans 8: 38-39).
The Webster tells me desperate and dependent means:
Feeling, showing, or involving a hopeless sense that a situation is
so bad as to be impossible to deal with, and a person who relies
What desperate and dependence means for me is, I was hopeless in my sin situation that is impossible to deal with apart from Jesus and I need Him and that need requires my total dependence on Him.
Pulling the curtain closed on our 2017 doesn’t remove the reality of my desperation or my dependence. It only leads me out of my false and familiar safe and secure auto pilot comfort zones, which have lead me to live a life of small faith, which was my attempt to stay pain free and happy within my orange cone zones of comfort.
But what I learned is that He knows our present state and our desired state and He wants to fill in the gap between and that our true comfort is believing that God is present in and through our discomfort.
I am so thankful that recalculating our comfort zones from old familiar habits and patterns to believing that God is present in and through our discomfort is a journey and a process as He meets us each step of the way. I’m learning that there is purpose in the discomfort as it creates awareness for me to recognize His presence and faithfulness in it.
With trial after trial in 2017 that continue even now into 2018 with a diagnosis of stage 4 Lymphoma cancer for my dad who now has a fractured hip, I’m holding on to this:
“But we have this treasure (the Holy Spirit) in jars of clay (our finite bodies), to show the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed, always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10)
Because true comfort is present and available in Jesus.
As Erin Straza in her book Comfort Detox says: “We need God’s mercy and grace to detox [our] heart[s], mind[s] and soul[s].”
My prayer and hope for us all is that we recalculate our old comfort zones by pursuing God himself, by creating awareness of those life depleting patterns of behavior, saying yes to seeking God instead of the familiar pseudo comforts. And, by starting the hard process of tearing down those familiar orange cone zones stepping in to the discipline of a new and better way with God.
My encouragement to you is to grab a friend, do life over coffee (or lunch!) and work through your desperation to recalculate your orange cone zones and your dependence on the false comforts and then let’s start a conversation! You can join the conversation by clicking this link: Life Over Coffee Facebook page.
We can all break down the orange cone zones to encourage and learn from each other as we share God’s faithfulness together!
Here we go in 2018!