My longtime and very dear friend, Deborah, graciously agreed to be my first “guest contributor” and what she has to say will not disappoint. There is so much goodness to be had in listening to and learning from one another. Our stories are important and need to be shared. So, without further ado, please enjoy and be blessed by my friend’s tale of risk.
They say home is where the heart is. Sure, but I’ll tell you where home really is. It’s where you can wear your stretchy pants and make a mess and feel totally ok doing it. Home is where you feel comfortable and secure and you don’t have to worry about impressing people; that is home. I love home. I love the people in my home and I like the safety, security and familiarity of home. And I love when I have friends and family in my home because when my house is full, my heart is full. Ah home, what is there not to love? It’s hard to love when you have to move to a new city. It’s especially hard to love when you didn’t want to go to that city in the first place. And it’s always hard when you are in that new place and you have to make a new house, home.
I am not a risk taker. I like safe and familiar and I like to call it living wisely so I don’t have to face the reality that I’m a sissy.
The most adventurous thing I’ve ever done was work for a white water rafting company…as the nanny. I was not a river guide. I watched the owners kids. I was living in a tent for 4 days a week those two summers. It was pretty rough for this non-outdoorsy girl, but it hardly qualifies for risk and adventure.
It’s probably my fear of failure that drives my reluctance to step out, to try new things and to be the risk taker I admire in the women around me. Oh,perhaps it’s my worship of comfort? Either way, God in his goodness pushes me to places I would not willingly go on my own, for my good and his glory; and that is how I found myself as the new girl in town a few years ago.
I went to college in the central valley of California and appreciated the fours years spent there. I never thought I would go back. Southern California is where I was born and raised. It’s where all my big, Mexican family lived and I intended to spend the rest of my life there, doing whatever God had for me.
So when my husband’s parents asked us to pray about moving back to the valley to work for the family’s farming business I prayed alright. “Dear God please don’t make me move there!” We were about to have our first baby, I was finally going to live the stay-at-home mom, play date life I had been dreaming about. I was going to do all the things with friends and family I always missed out on while working. Everything I had planned for was so close I could taste it.
But alas, such was not God’s plan. Eight months later we were moved and figuring out life in the quaint city of Visalia. I knew four people besides my family: Gunnar’s college roommate Tim, his wife Amber, and their sweet son and daughter. Being the optimist I am, I was thankful and knew it would eventually not be terrible. But seeing that I’m also human I was so sad and honestly mad that God would make me give up all the good things we had going in SoCal to come to this place. After a couple months of sulking, I decided that thankful and cheerful obedience was probably the better choice than sulking obedience and so I tried to accept this place as home.
Jeremiah 29 has lots to say about God’s plans and verse 11 is probably the best known. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” It’s true and it’s beautiful, but it was verses 5-7 that spoke to me:
“Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters; find wives for your sons and give your daughters in marriage, so that they too may have sons and daughters. Increase in number there; do not decrease. Also, seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”
I didn’t really want to do it, but I knew that following God is always the best choice no matter how uncomfortable and un-fun it may feel in the moment. And so I embarked on the best way I knew to settle down…make friends.
I’m a social person and pretty far on the scale for extraversion. I not only like people, I need them! It’s where I get life. But there is a difference between meeting people and making friends. God bless Amber and her willingness to invite me over often to meet her friends and for having an open door when I needed out of mine. She was and is a gift!
Gunnar and I thought that the best way to make friends was to meet people and make connections and what better way than by sharing a meal? And so we made it a point to invite a different family for dinner about every other week. The worst that could happen is some super awkward dinners and the best that could happen was new friends.
This felt like a big risk: inviting people into my home, and cooking food for them to eat! Since I am not confident in my home decorating skills or cooking skills this felt really vulnerable. It was basically exploiting my biggest insecurities, acceptance/rejection, praise/criticism and doing it every other week! It was challenging and tiring and there were definitely some awkward dinners where conversations felt like pulling teeth.
But it was also super rewarding.
There is little more exhilarating than the feeling of knowing you are doing exactly what God told you to do. There were hurt feelings when I felt like someone didn’t want to be my friend or that I wasn’t good enough for them, but there was also the blessing of knowing I was stepping out in obedience and God was blessing me not just with new friends, but with an intimacy with Himself. And in it I learned a valuable lesson: Home is not just where I feel comfortable and secure, but where I am close to Jesus. And the closest I can be is when I abide in him and obey with a cheerful heart.
So we’re almost four years in and I’ve been calling Visalia home for about three. It was a hard first year and there was a lot of heart stuff that God showed me in the risk of inviting people in. There have been wins and friends and there have been failures and missed opportunities. But I have planted a garden, well Gunnar planted it, I just eat it. We have sought peace and prosperity. We have increased and had another son and by the looks of things we’ll be here until our boys grow up and get married. Our home has become a great place for inviting and entertaining. We are doing what he called us to do. And lately God’s called me into a new risk: to step back, be at home more with less people over and protect our family time as my husband does a two-year MBA program. This means saying no to many invitations and not inviting people over as often. This means risking space and distance in friendships and relationships that I have fought hard for and cultivated. This means not actively making new friends and trusting God will provide in the lonely time.
And this risk feels even bigger than the first.
I know God is good and I have to bank on that when I’m tempted to believe otherwise. When he leads me out of the comfortable and familiar and into the lonely and uncharted I have to remember that every time it has been for my good and my growth. I would gladly sit there and worship the safe and expected not striving for anything new, fighting even to keep the old and familiar. But He is gracious and calls us all onward and upward. He’s preparing a place for us, an eternal home, and we have to keep stepping out and into the risk as he prepares us for eternity.
Read more from Deborah at Somewhere Between Donuts and Blueberries