Comfort. Most people seek comfort. So, thinking about comfort as being a “giant” to be conquered seems odd. But, how often have we not done something that we should have done because we didn't want to give up our comfort? I’m not talking about resting after a long day. I’m talking about missing opportunities because you don't want to leave your comfortable situation. I’m talking about settling for less.
The small group that I’m in on Wednesday nights has been working through Goliath Must Fall Study Guide by Louie Giglio. This week, the discussion is about the giant of comfort and the scripture reference is 1 Samuel 17:17-25. The army of Israel had been at a stalemate with the army of the Philistines for days because no one was willing to fight the Philistine champion, Goliath. The army of Israel seemed comfortable with the situation as long as they had shelter, food and water.
As I reflected on if comfort was a giant for me and/or how comfort has been a giant for me, I realized that there have been times throughout my life that I had ignored God’s leading because I was comfortable.
For several years, I had felt God leading me away from my position as a consumer sales representative but I ignored the hints. I couldn’t possibly leave a position in which I was given a company car to use, paid travel for work and perks throughout the year to encourage me to increase my sales to gain a bonus. I was comfortable.
God helped me make the right decision by allowing a condition in my life in which I could not continue as a sales representative. It was either continue to be a sales representative and possibly hurt myself or others or stop being a sales representative and prepare for whatever God had for me. I decided to stop being a sales representative. I knew that the hints that I had been receiving for years were leading me to that decision. I finally acknowledged that my time as a sales representative was over.
God then provided opportunities that I had not imagined: the opportunity to stay at home with our first child; the opportunity to teach college courses; the opportunity to start a small business. All because I left my comfort zone.
What purpose is God calling you to fulfill? Why haven't you made the move? Are you afraid of giving up your comfort? Slay the giant of comfort by following God’s leading wherever it takes you. Be bold and courageous.
Value? Valuable? Worth? What is MY value? Am I valuable? While I wait for next, a question of value arises. I will feel a sense of accomplishment and excitement when next comes but I will still be Anita. My value is not my next – or even my now. My value IS. I have value and I am of worth because God made me. My value and worth are not to be confused with my position now or my next position or anything else. My value won’t change when my position does.
A friend told me that she believes God gave us pets to understand love. I think God also gave us pets to understand value and worth. Our pets don’t have to do anything to gain our love. They just have to be our pets. Our pets don’t have to earn a certain salary or be in a certain position in order for us to love them. They have value to us because they are our pets.
Likewise, our value is not dependent on our position or salary or Accomplishments. Some people don’t feel valuable or worthy unless they are in a certain position, drive a certain vehicle or have certain friends. We must not allow anyone to devalue us because we don’t meet their standard, whatever their standard is. We also must not devalue ourselves or think too highly of ourselves. The person working as a custodian has the same value and worth as the person who is a teacher, coach or mayor.
While I wait for next, I will feel good about myself and use the gifts and talents God has given me to do all that He is guiding me to do. I will not wait impatiently for next so that I can “be somebody”. I am somebody now.
While I’m waiting for next, questions occasionally enter into my thoughts: What will I do if next isn't what I think next will be? How do I stay focused? How do I stay on track? How do I make sure I’m on the right track? Am I doubting my next?
All of these thoughts have come into my mind while I wait. That’s when I stop (often literally) and think about what I feel God has called me to do and be. I refocus. Then, I consider the questions that were on my mind in view of God's plan for me. I consider whether what I am doing or have planned to do complements/fits with God’s plan. If so, I’m on track. If not, I discard the questions and recognize that the questions were distractions.
I could settle for something else. That something else would still be a next. But that something would not be the right next or my next but someone else's next. If God changes my next, that’s one thing. But if I change my next, that’s totally different. I’ve got to stay focused and patiently wait – which is not easy.
Then, of course, the question comes, “How do you know that what you are waiting for is what you should be waiting for?” Good question. I have to trust the peace that passes all understanding that comes from God. The peace that makes no sense. The peace that you can’t believe you have because you know you should be more concerned or scared. That’s the peace that I’ve got to trust.
If God changes my next, the change must be better for me than what was initially planned. I’ve got to be ready and I will be. Giving our best all the time prepares us for whatever opportunities with which God presents us. Be ready.
As I wait for next, I want to be present and at peace. When I say present, I mean thinking and living in now. I mean working on present commitments and finding time to relax - work in the yard, sit on the front porch and read the paper, walk our dog. I want to be able to think about now and only now. I want to be able to block out what I hope happens and future goals and potential demands and focus on now.
While I was listening to NPR radio (FM 89.7, Tampa), a segment came on about mindfulness. I wasn’t familiar with the term, mindfulness. It seemed interesting so I researched it.
What I found complemented my thoughts about being present. Mindfulness – the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something; achieved by focusing on the present moment (Mirriam-Webster dictionary). I read about finding a quiet place to spend time alone just focusing on your breathing – blocking everything else out. Training yourself to really listen. Being able to listen to sounds that normally don’t register. I thought about how when I walk our dog, I notice the birds and their sounds; the trees and their leaves; trees and their barks. I really look deeply around me and I see things that I don’t notice when I’m driving. I intentionally look for things I can’t stop and focus on when I’m driving.
Mindfulness fits nicely for me with yoga, sketching/drawing and cleaning. For me, those things are relaxing and take my mind off deadlines and demands. Being present isn’t always easy. It seems that demands are ever present. But, with practice, we can learn to relax and manage our thoughts. In the process, we will be calmer, less reactionary, less stressed and healthier. What do you do or what will you do to be present each day?
What have we missed because we are too busy? How many times have we not noticed something utterly beautiful and wonderful because we were stressing over something that happened at work? This evening, while I was walking our dog (Izze), she found a dead fish and wouldn't let it go. I decided to let her keep it rather than fight with her. While I waited for her to finish eating the fish, I heard a bird nearby making a lot of noise. When I looked up, I saw a huge bird (an osprey?) on the branch above me! To say that I was amazed would be an understatement. I was awe struck! We looked at each other for a while (the bird and I) and then the bird flew away.
I began to wonder what other amazing things were happening around me. Then, I began to wonder how the fish came to be near the wall of the group of condos I was near. It was probably dropped by a bird that was flying by. Maybe the bird that was on that branch dropped the fish!
As we were walking back home, Izze stopped for a rest break. As I was waiting on her to revive herself, I noticed that a palm tree was growing on the side of an oak tree. The palm tree went up about 6 yards and then bent across the road. I began to wonder what caused the tree to bend across the road. A storm? A hurricane? How did it grow on the side of the oak tree? Did a seedling fall at the base of the oak tree and eventually grow into the palm tree in front of me?
Then it occurred to me that this was how I stayed balanced. Walking Izze is one of the ways I relax and maintain calm. It is also during walks that I have some of my best ideas. Being in the middle can be stressful and frustrating because you are taking care of your present responsibilities while you plan for the responsibilities you hope to have. Finding time to be quiet, de-stress and clear your mind is important to maintaining balance in your life. When you have balance, when you get away from whatever is causing you stress, you can return with a refreshed approach.
So, what do you do to stay in balance? How do you recharge? Reading? Applying a facial mask? Listening to music? Occasionally, you need quiet times during the day. When I’m at work, midday I have hot tea with a small meal. The meal may only be a protein bar, but a few minutes of quiet time and hot tea and I’m ready for the remainder of the day. Whatever it is that relaxes you, do it and do it daily. Balance is the key to enjoying the middle while you wait for next.
I knew that I was waiting for next. But, I didn't realize that I was in the middle. I was talking to my older daughter about my plans and she said ”You’re in the middle!” I was stunned! Her reference took me back to a women’s conference (IF Conference) that she and I had attended last year in St. Petersburg (FL). The first speaker was a woman from England who spoke about being in the middle.
Ok. So I'm in the middle. Recognizing that I’m in the middle doesn't change anything. It is actually relaxing knowing that I’m in the middle and what being in the middle implies. It implies that I’m in the middle of a beginning and an end of something. Ending something isn’t sad. Ending something allows for closure and then the beginning of something else. To start something new, you have to end something. We don’t think about that. To start a new job, you must end a current job. To start a new relationship, you either have to end an existing relationship or end not being in a relationship. Something has to end. When my parents took me to college, I was so excited about going to college that I didn’t realize that I wouldn’t see my parents every day. I didn’t realize that my parents would move me into my dorm room and then leave. But, that is exactly what happened, because when you start something, you have to end something.
Being in the middle gives us time to settle in. The middle gives us time to get comfortable with what was new. The middle is where the newness wears off and we can really enjoy the fruit from our growing pains. We notice how much we have grown when we are in the middle. The middle is where most people spend a lot of time.
As I reflect on my middle, I am reminded of how much better I am now than I was at the beginning – professionally, relationally (my marriage), socially and spiritually. I’ve matured and enhanced my skills. My outlook is different. I have a growth mindset that is full of possibilities. As you reflect on your middle, have you grown or do you see changes that need to be made? If you have determined that changes are needed, what changes need to be made and when will you make them? Use your time in the middle to assess your growth or lack of growth and decide how you should proceed. Enjoy the middle while you wait for next.
I’m in the middle. I’m ready for next but next hasn't come yet. Can you relate? It’s not that I don’t like where I am. I do. But, I’m ready for next. I’m in the middle. I’m not at the beginning. I’m not at the end.
The hard part about being in the middle is the waiting. What do I do as I wait? Do I prepare for what is? Or do I prepare for what is to come? The reality is that we live in now, not when. We can plan for the future but we have to live in the present. If we don’t live in the present, we sabotage the present with hopes of the future. So, as I wait for next, I’m living in the present and enjoying the present.
It occurred to me recently, while I looked at my cluttered dining room table (cluttered with fabric, measuring tape, thread, scissors and a needle from sewing coverings for living room chairs), that it’s important to finish what you can while you are in the middle. For example, leaving the dining room table cluttered as I wait to finish covering the second living room chair was frustrating to me. The dining room table looked messy and the dining room looked messy. I felt as if I wasn’t accomplishing anything. But, I wasn’t finished covering the second living room chair so I left everything on the table.
I realized that even though I wasn’t finished, I needed to put things away in order to feel a sense of accomplishment. So, I put everything that was on the table in a temporary location (neatly in the corner of the hall closet) and put a new tablecloth on the dining room table. When I finished clearing everything off the dining room table and looked at the dining room, I felt better because the dining room was neat. I wasn’t finished, but because I tidied up the dining room table, I felt better. I felt as if I was making progress even though nothing had changed with my project.
When you are in the middle, it’s important to tidy up. Finish what you can. Make things neat so that when you transition to next, you do so smoothly. Stopping to organize things while you are still working on a project enables you to continue with a sense of purpose. While you wait for next, you can still be productive in the present. Not tidying up causes you to increase your stress level while you wait for next.
I’m still in the middle but I‘m ok with being in the middle. I’ve got a plan for the present and I have things to do while I wait. Are you in the middle? If you are, what are you doing while you wait for your next?
Work is still admirable by those who take pride in doing it!
I was quite impressed with the employees at Pronto car wash on 34th street North, in Saint Petersburg, Florida. What I saw amazed me!
The car detail associates were so focused on doing a quality job. They put a great deal of detail in how they wiped the water off each car as the cars rolled out of the wash tunnel.
They cleaned the chrome; shined the bodywork and made the windows crystal clear to the “Naked” eye.
It was really nice to meet a young man who exuded a great deal of pride in his job at Pronto.
He took the time to care for my car…how he cleared out all of the “Unknown” debris from under the seats (Found a long lost cell phone) and completely detailed every inch of the interior.
When I saw this, I immediately thought about our book “No Work! Just Play!. I must say, I did not see an Artie at that place. However, I did see lots of Antonios!
BE PROUD OF WHAT YOU DO AS WORK!
“Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; And see if there be any hurtful way in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.”
Psalms 139:23-24 NASB
You’ve made that tough decision. The decision you knew you needed to make. You’re wondering if you made the right decision. Now what?
Forge ahead and stay in prayer. Anytime you do something new, it’s uncomfortable at first. Whether it’s something you’ve wanted to do for a long time and you are excited or it’s something you’ve dreaded doing for a long time and you are scared. Neither of these feelings mean you made the wrong decision. It’s new. It’s different. It’s not what you’ve been doing. Give it time. And, stay in prayer.
Start each day expecting to learn more and to become more comfortable – more at ease. Throughout the day, speak encouraging words to yourself and spend time with encouraging people. At the end of the day, reflect on your day. What went as you expected? What was a surprise? Did you handle both situations the way you feel you should have? If not, how should you have responded? Plan for the next day. Relax and get some rest.
The Bible says that God’s mercies are new every morning. God gives us a fresh start every morning. We must choose to have a ”fresh start” mentality every day and then, throughout each day, maintain that mentality. Press on and be encouraged. You are on the right track.
Have you thought about changing careers? Then, why haven’t you? Are you unhappy in your relationship? Why are you staying? Have you thought about going back to school? Why don’t you?
So often we put things off for a better time but we never define what “better time” means. And then “better time” never comes. And then, it’s too late.
Life is too short and God has given us too much to squander the time we have. If there is a valid reason to wait, then wait. But determine how long you will wait. Make a plan that you are willing to adjust if necessary.
What is it that you feel called to do? What are you passionate about? Start there. Once you determine what you are passionate about, start researching what it will take for you to make it happen. Get involved in clubs or organizations that are doing what you would like to do. Talk with people who are doing what you would like to do. Volunteer where you can get experience in your area of interest.
As you seek to determine your “next”, having the right people around you is critical. Some of us are stuck and demotivated because of the people we spend time with. It’s hard to admit that we have friends who hold us back but often that is the case. As you determine your “next”, analyze your close relationships and if they are positive or negative relationships. If they are negative relationships that involve stress and strife, you may have found the biggest reason you are stuck.
Spend some time alone. Clear your head of other people’s thoughts and expectations. Ask God about His plan for you.