Monthly Archives: January 2014

Celebrating the wrong direction and a 3rd Birthday

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photo via

Grab your party hats, your streamers and your beverage of choice! Today is a day of celebration at Lark & Bloom. It is actually a trifecta of celebration to be clear.

It is the end of our Uncomfortable January series, this blog’s third birthday and a day to embrace and enjoy the truth that at times our risks don’t turn out the way we want them too – which is a good thing more times than not.

Three years ago today, I was sitting in a quiet house with my husband out-of-town and my kids sleeping in their rooms down the hallway. Boxes were accumulating with our move from Seattle to California just weeks away. My head was spinning with emotions and tear-shedding was no longer enough relief. I had to get these thoughts out.

I sat down and wrote the very first blog post at Lark & Bloom. I had failed at one blog before – mostly because I only wrote a single entry then never posted again. Another blog? Do I really have anything to say this time?  I decided that I probably didn’t have anything worth saying, but I went ahead and set one up anyway. My friends were scattered around the world, and I was experiencing a massive life transition. Lark and Bloom was created that night as a means of processing out my thoughts so my friends could read them and stay connected to me between sparse phone calls.

Except that isn’t what happened. Very few of my friends actually read my blog, which is totally fine, because you came. You showed up to hear my words and talk with me about the world and all that it could be. We have been able to dream together, grow together and connect through this space.

This blog failed at its original mission, but it has morphed into something far more wonderful. Readers from around the world bring their beautiful stories and dreams that are truly inspiring. This community is something I never knew I needed – something I never imagined.

Had I known the bigness of what I was getting myself into three years ago, I most certainly wouldn’t have ever typed out that initial post. It would have terrified me.

This month I have heard stories of what you guys are doing in response to An Uncomfortable January. You are risky and bold. Living life – big or small – with intention.

And this is what we are celebrating today. Taking risks that lead us to unknown destinations.

When I kicked off this series a few weeks ago, I talked about being risky in 2014.

You have dreams in your heart worth chasing,  goals that are begging to be accomplished, and ideas to create. There is a person worth developing in you and a narrative all your own that deserves applause. That is worth risking on in 2014.

But there are days we will head in the wrong direction – and we celebrate those too. Respecting the fact that we were brave enough to venture off the path in the first place, embracing the lessons to be learned in the process and acknowledging the little victories along the way.

Maybe we didn’t end up where we wanted to or with the people we intended to be with. The full picture is rarely in focus when we start out. Step by step, the journey becomes a little clearer. In the end, we look back and see the meaning in it all. The guidance of a God who knew the whole story before we even began.

Sometimes where we end up is far better than where we were headed. —> click to tweet

There is destiny within us that we aren’t even aware of yet – destinations never dreamed of. Our lives are bigger than we know. That is why we simply start by taking the little risks  – knowing that these baby steps will eventually cover miles.

Years from now, we will gather with our families in our living rooms and share the stories of our adventures. The distant lands we walked upon, the space we created, the humanity we embraced, the feeble love we offered, the careers we built and the relationships we established. Stories that cause little tots eyes to light up and remind all those within earshot that their lives are meant for something bigger.

We may not end up the richest or most famous, but we will be full because we did what we were put on earth to do. Dreamt the dreams, walked the roads and cried the tears.  Cakes will be baked to acknowledge the milestones along the way and friendships will be forged that enable us to cross the distance ahead.

Here’s to the ones who take a chance and the ones who celebrate going the wrong direction. We aren’t afraid to succeed and we aren’t afraid to fail. Cause we’re risky like that in 2014. 

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Filed under Faith, Fire, Lifestyle, My Life Thus Far, Uncategorized, Uncomfortable January 2014, Whimsy

From Army Ranger to Fashion Photographer

It is the final stretch of An Uncomfortable January, a series dedicated to taking risks. Today I am interviewing one of the riskiest people I know. Ian was an Army Ranger and risked his life for our nation (insert a standing ovation for all who have served our country) and is now a fashion photographer.  Today he is sharing his thoughts with us. Spoiler Alert: His answer to #7 is pure gold.

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Self Portrait Photo Courtesy: Kenneth Takada 2012

1. I’ve known you for about 5 years or so, but why don’t you go ahead and tell everyone a bit about yourself.

Well, my name is Ian. I am from Detroit, Michigan. I grew up there my entire life in a home with my twin brother and wonderful mother. When I was 18 I joined the US Army to pursue a career in the military. I am now a combat veteran finishing my education in the arts. I am also a fashion photographer. I’ve been married for five years now to my beautiful wife, and I currently reside in Santa Barbara, California.

2. My husband has a flag that you carried on a mission when you were an Army Ranger. What made you decide to go through such grueling training and put your life on the line for our country?

To be honest, I had no intentions of becoming a Ranger when I enlisted. It was something that I chose to do because I felt that I was subject to greater leadership. Before I became a Ranger I was with a conventional Army unit, where I had been mistreated and manipulated. I decided that it was time for something greater. Something better. I had learned on my base in Joint Base Lewis-McCord, Washington (formally Fort Lewis) that 2nd Ranger Battalion resided there.

I had no idea who Rangers were or what they did, I just knew that those men were held to a greater standard than I was. I called the Ranger Regimental liaison (recruiter) and told him that I wanted this so bad and refused to be a part of my current unit. Two weeks later, I had orders for Ranger Indoctrination Program (RIP) and Airborne School in Fort Benning, Georgia.

My time spent in Georgia was amazing and at the same time soul shattering. I had just gotten married to my wife Muka, and it would be 4 months before I saw her again. She was motivated to push me through because she knew that I could be a better soldier. Once I had an understanding of what it was to be a Ranger while going through RIP, I could not turn back, regardless of how brash my training was – physically and mentally. I knew this was something I had to do.

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Me shooting in Santa Paula, CA 2013

3. What did it look like for you when you were deployed? Was it a 24 hour threat?

Unfortunantly, because of my role as a Ranger I was held under SOCOM regulations, therefore I cannot go into specific detail about being deployed as a Ranger.

However, what I can say is, we are deployed for a specific amount of time in a foreign country. Given tasks to complete in a timely manner. Our capabilities backed by our training is what allows us to commit to such dangerous and vigorous tasks. Other units in the Army coin us as men who are excited to run towards danger. There is a real reason for that. A Ranger is a mentally tough and highly skilled soldier, therefore whatever task is given to him, he can shoulder it and prevail no matter how difficult the task is. This is what we believe, its in our Creed. There is a phrase given to us: Sua Sponte. It means “Of their own accord.” This phrase is the mentality of your modern-day Ranger, and its used on the battlefield and in everyday life. We are men of our own accord, not because we are told to, but because we choose to be.

4. Whenever someone is working to achieve a goal or dream there are risks involved. Some good and some bad. How did you learn to differentiate between the risks that were worth taking and the ones that weren’t?

The way I see it is, you never really know the risk at hand until you take it. When you take a risk it is taken because of a certain gain. Whether that gain is personal or for others, you take it because you know the potential outcome and that’s what you strive for. The risks I have seen men (Rangers) take in order to accomplish something, it was out of selfishness and gain for their men. So that they shall prosper, not just the risk taker himself. Risks are worth taking if there is a good deed that comes out of it. I believe that, and I know a great number of men who believe the same.

Muka & I at the Richard Avedon Exhibit 2013

Muka & I at the Richard Avedon Exhibit 2013

5. Most of us are not taking enemy fire in the pursuit of our goals, but we do have lots of other things that can serve as deterrents or distractions. How did you stay focused on your goal when you were getting push back?

I wasn’t always taking enemy fire either when taking a risk haha! However, our role as humans, as people who inherit the Earth, is to prevail and fight our lives as we see fit. I have had many distractions in my life, in and out of the Ranger battalion. Even in my own marriage I have been distracted with things that only I have wanted to do, not thinking about my wife. And the older I got, I was able to identify them more.

Most of the time you fail because of those distractions but it is up to you how bad you want those accomplishments. Being selfless is one of them. Your accomplishment doesn’t just affect you. It also affects others around you whether they are near or far. Your deeds are a reflection of you. If you fail, it doesn’t make you a failure, but when you look back at your failure; what was it that you could have changed? What were the lessons learned from that mistake? This is how I continued to stay focused as a man, a husband, and a Ranger. Now I am a photographer and guess what? Those same distractions reappear, but I have been able to identify them, and work through those obstructions.

Self Portrait 2012

Self Portrait 2012

6. One thing I love about you and Muka is that you are dreamers. After you were finished with the army, you took another risk and started a photography business. Becoming a Ranger, owning your own business, moving cities…you guys have tackled some serious dreams so far in life. What would you say to people who have a lot of things they want to accomplish in life but doubt if they can do them all?

Do them! When we decided to up and leave Washington, we said, “Hey, let’s just leave Washington.” We knew it wasn’t going to be easy. We knew the risk, but we knew the outcome. We knew it would mean happiness and joy. We knew it would mean marital development. I still remember what Jady said when he married us, “Your loyalty towards one another will allow you to defeat all odds & you will become better people every day.”

This is something we still stand by to this day. We know that we will have to be loyal to one another, that’s how we have accomplished so much. You have to learn to be loyal. Not only to one another but to yourself as well. If you cheat yourself, what makes your think you aren’t easily capable of cheating and deceiving others? Loyalty to yourself is a huge factor in gaining success because the biggest thing that backs loyalty is Truth!

Me during a photoshoot in East Los Angeles 2013

Me during a photoshoot in East Los Angeles 2013

7. Any final thoughts or words of wisdom on being risky and chasing your dreams?

You know I’ve been getting the word “wisdom” thrown at me a lot lately! As humans, we take an everyday risk. We take risks as soon as we get up in the morning. As soon as we walk out of our front doors to start our daily lives. My mother was a very wise woman, and before she died she specifically told me, “When I leave this place (Earth), you better not sit here and mope around like it’s the end of the world. Go forth and live your life, and live it every day, because tomorrow is never promised to any of us.”

Those words are something that everyone needs to hear. Fear is what kindles in most of us, which is only natural because it is human nature to be afraid. However, the Enemy is what backs our fear. We must never fall for tricks of the Enemy. You have to foster a strength that you never thought you had. You have to engage your issues with power and trust in yourself.

You have to know that failure does exist, but it does not last forever. —> click to tweet

I have failed many times, only to realize that success was just a few steps ahead of me. I always knew that if I could muster the strength to overcome my obstructions, that would conquer my everyday problems. Don’t hold back, don’t hold grudges. Forgive people. Love people.

There are many who have died holding on to evil and deceit, unfortunately they have left what they have held onto for others to burden. Leave a legacy. Make something for the person who comes after you, so that your legacy may have no age or expiration.

Be happy. You’re alive!!! You are loved, whether you want to believe it or not. Last but certainly not least, believe in yourself and be yourself. Believe that you are worthy of greatness so that you may leave a trail of greatness!

– God Bless and Rangers Lead the Way!

Ian E Robertson

Visit Ian’s website to connect with him and learn more about his work–> ianrobertsonphoto.com

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Filed under Faith, Guest Posts, Uncomfortable January 2014

Never too late to dream – from mom to recording artist

If you are just getting caught up on your blog reading, we are in the middle of a month of risking here at Lark &  Bloom. An Uncomfortable January has been full of stories and thoughts from people who are getting out of their comfort zones and chasing their dreams. ( click here to read them all ) Today, I’m happy to interview Jen Stanbro, a stay-at-home mom turned recording artist.

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Describe your dream of being a recording artist? Have you always wanted to do it?

Yes! From the time I was a little girl.

A childhood memory that resonates within me still today is of this time when I was watching one of Mariah Carey’s first ever concerts on TV. She was brand new to the scene so I couldn’t have been more than 7 years old.

I remember listening intently to every note she sang, every little melodic twist and twirl, every colorful vocal nuance. Every detail danced in my ears and all the way to my soul. I was simply and beautifully overwhelmed with appreciation and admiration for the power of music, and at a mere 7 years of age, I was moved to tears.

I wanted to make my own music. I had songs inside me that wanted to shine forth. And I dedicated my time to my craft. I’d sit in my room with my cassette player (did I just date myself?) and practice singers’ vocal riffs till I could sing them. I wasn’t born with as huge a vocal range as some of the crazy amazing singers out there, but I was committed to making the most of what I had.

Although recording my own material has always been a quiet desire, up until recently it was not anything I pursued with any amount of ambition. I just loved to sing…and to write.

What kept you from doing it earlier?

I have always felt brutally uncomfortable with the idea of marketing myself. I’ve tended to avoid anything that would expose me to being rejected by anyone. If no one ever heard my music, no one could criticize my music.

Stepping out to make an album meant displaying my soul-exposed songs for all to hear. The thought of being criticized for self-expressions that are so closely tied to who you are is a scary thing.

Not to mention the other possibility…to be unnoticed (an equally unpleasant form of rejection).

I have this natural attraction to the path of least resistance. Knowing that the pursuit of a recording career could be a very difficult and hurdle-filled road, I was perfectly content settling down and living simple and small.

So up until October 2011 the desire to record got stuffed in a box and buried in some attic corner of my heart, collecting dust.

But as a follower of Jesus Christ I’ve read a great many stories in the Bible where the characters are flawed. I’m grateful for how God in His patience and wisdom allows their flaws to shape their path, while still keeping His providential hand of guidance on their lives.

In my case, as much as my “flaws” kept me from recording in the past, I believe it all worked as it was supposed to and this album was supposed to happen precisely when it did. God gave me the boldness to overcome my fear in the very season I needed it.

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At some point, you bit the bullet and just did it. What was the turning point for you?

A great band, Shane & Shane, came to our church to play a concert. We got to hang out with them a bit and I felt this urge in my spirit to share my music with them. For me the thought of sharing my music or talking about myself to them made me want to find someplace to hide. But the feeling was so strong that night, I couldn’t shake it. So after much reluctance on my part, I shared one of my original songs.

Shane & Shane were super gracious and encouraged me to come record at their studio in Texas. I prayed and prayed to see if this was something God wanted me to do…10 months later I was convinced.

To cover the cost, the producer recommended I do a Kickstarter campaign. At the end of my campaign I had raised more money than I would have imagined in 60 days from 200+ donors.

The following month I was on a plane with my family to spend three weeks recording my first full-length album.

After you recorded your first song, what did you feel like?

Quite honestly I felt majorly insecure about my voice. The musicians were so good, I thought for sure listeners were going to say, ” I wish that singer would shut up so I can hear the awesome music behind her”.

But through it all I felt a true sense of purpose. I felt like all the crazy circumstances that had come together were enough to convince me that God had a plan for this music. Who was I to stand in the way with my silly anxieties? So, I pushed through the nerves and made it happen.

And I’m so thankful I did.

What is the main lesson you learned from getting outside your comfort zone and chasing your dreams?

That it is well worth the risk! As scary as it seemed, deep inside I was not willing to be that “path of least resistance” girl anymore. I’ll never go back to living that way again. I don’t want to be driven by or hindered by what other people may or may not think. I want to do the hard things and reap the greater rewards. And if in the process things don’t go as I intend, I’m willing to learn all that I can from it and keep moving forward.

My personal life quest is to shine God’s light, love, and  goodness on as much of this world as possible. I hope music will be a platform by which I can serve in greater and more practical ways. In order to live to our fullest potential, I believe getting uncomfortable is inevitable.

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Jen

Jen Stanbro is a wife, mom, musician and worship leader, teacher, writer and seeks to be a source of encouragement to everyone around her.

Check out her music and read more about her at JenStanbro.com

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Filed under Faith, Uncategorized, Uncomfortable January 2014

Be Fully Seen

I’ve never really had an addiction to anything until Instagram came along. That is where I found Alisha Sommers whose pictures and captions draw me in every time. She is the coolest lady , just check out her bio at the bottom if you don’t believe me. Plus, I have a total crush on her hair. So, when I was thinking through guest posts for An Uncomfortable January, I knew she would provide a very vulnerable insight about getting outside of our comfort zones. And that is what this series is about – being real with ourselves and taking risks. Alisha is taking us into the risk of being seen. So, go on and read it if you are feeling risky. 

befullyseen

2013 was a transformative year for me. I learned so much about what I want in life, what my true values are, and how I want to move about in this world. I chose the word “illuminate.” I wanted to do things that lift up my soul and show others that there was another way to live if they really wanted to. But I knew the only way to do that was to fully embrace who I was becoming. So I dug deep to rediscover my heart’s desires and learn how to honor the gifts and talents given to me. As I began to write more, share more, and connect with more people, I got more attention. And I got more uncomfortable. Here I was living out this word “illuminate” and feeling uncomfortable with shining. Which meant that I was not living as fully as I wanted.

I am that woman who tilts her head down when someone makes eye contact with her as she walks down the street. When I’m having a conversation with someone I don’t know well, I will not hold their gaze for more than 3 seconds. I suppose it is out of the fear that the old saying is true: That my eyes are the window to my sould and that when you look at me – look into me – you will see everything. I can no longer hide. Yet this is how we truly connect with one another. It is why new lovers lean in across the table. It is why, when I need my children to listen to me, I get down on their level – I want to look into their eyes. But it is scary, right? It is scary because it means that I might face rejection. Just stepping outside of the door every day and choosing to be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you into something else is so uncomfortable. But I choose to do it every day. So many of us do.

This year I knew that I wanted to really embody the rediscovered me that was ready to move forward in her life. This year is all about the integration of what I believe to be true about myself and the world and finally acting upon it. Late last year, when Elizabeth asked me to contribute to this series, I knew that my challenge was to look people in the eye. Because looking people in the eye is not just about being polite or letting them know that I am paying attention to them. It is also about me being okay with being fully seen. It is about me owning my beliefs and values and standing tall in them. It is about allowing myself to be fully seen and walking with that uncomfortable feeling, while trusting that I would still be loved and accepted.

A few weeks ago I went to dinner with a friend who told me about her conscious effort to look people in the eye as she interacted with them throughout her day. She mentioned an afternoon when she saw a panhandler on the side of the street and while she did not have any money to give him, what she did give him was eye contact and a smile. She could have looked away and pretended not to see him like most of us do – like I do. Instead she chose to see him. She said there was just something about that brief moment they shared, separated by concrete and steel and glass, that moved her. I am sure it touched him too.

When we really choose to see people, we remember they are human. We see their essence. We feel a little more compassion. We feel a little more love. When I choose to let you see me, I give you the opportunity to love me too. And Love – that’s something we could all use a little more of.

Even if it makes us uncomfortable.

*** Lark and Bloom goes great with your morning commute, lunch break and bouts of insomnia. Subscribe via email in the sidebar and get posts sent directly to your inbox. ***

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Processed with VSCOcamAlisha Sommer is a writer living in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and three children. She loves fresh-baked bread, laying in the sun, and the smell of the sea. When she’s not knee-deep in laundry and lunch-making, she edits and publishes BLACKBERRY: a magazine, a literary magazine featuring black women writers and artists. She is the co-creator of liberated lines, an Instagram-based poetry course, and a guide in the upcoming writing collective, Our Word. You can find her at her favorite playgrounds, Instagram and Pinterest.

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Filed under Uncategorized, Uncomfortable January 2014

Your Shoes Are Too Small

January at Lark & Bloom is all about getting uncomfortable and taking risks. An Uncomfortable January has been fantastic so far with posts about the risk of staying, the risk of leaving, the risk of loving to name a few. Today’s post is one I actually wrote several years ago but fits this series so well. So, lets get barefoot and risky people.

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You have probably heard about foot binding. It was an ancient Chinese practice which involved wrapping a young girls feet so tightly that they were prevented from growing. It wasn’t uncommon for the bones in the feet to break when their feet were bound. Often times severe deformities resulted, infections set in and girls even died in the process.

The confines of the shoe and the bandages created a handicap that women had to live with for the rest of their lives.

So, why am I telling you that you shoes are too small? You are most likely not Chinese and there is a 50/50 chance you aren’t a women either. But, I bet your shoes are too small too. How do I know?  Because you have big shoes to fill.

Just like little kids feet, we need room to grow or we get distorted and walk with a limp. Why are your shoes too small? Because your dreams are meant to grow bigger. God’s destiny for your life is meant to increase and the fruit we produce is meant to be abundant. Our destiny is to grow.

If we live in the limitations, fears and comfortable places of a previous stage then we begin to get ingrown. We believe a lie that we don’t have anywhere important to go anyway. So, who cares what shoes we wear? Our dreams press against our capacity and we feel inverted and confused. We need new shoes for new seasons.

I need to be regularly putting on larger shoes. Making sure that I have room to wiggle my toes and grow into them as God increases in my life. After growing and risking for a while, there won’t be room anymore. On with another pair. More room for dreaming and advancing. More capacity to run in roomy shoes.

We bind our own feet to often. We are afraid to get bigger.

“What if I walk this road alone? Id rather just wait in this place and grow into these shoes when I get married.”

” If I walk out no one will follow me. They won’t trust what I bring to the table.”

” I just got comfortable here. I don’t want anything to change.”

or the ever popular

” I’m not gifted. I don’t have anything to grow at all. I’m just meant to watch other people do the cool stuff. I observe, others participate.”

Except a funny thing happens. The tissues and fibers of who we are keep expanding anyway. Even when we try and stay in the same old shoes. It begins to get uncomfortable.  Eventually we just sit down and stop going anywhere. It hurts too bad. The longer we sit the greater our disfunction grows.

And that is where a lot of us are. Sitting on a curb waiting for our feet to stop hurting. Dreams, calling, destiny, capacity… they are all pushing against the boundary begging to be let loose. Risking again on love. Risking again on pain. Risking again to breathe.

And then a fabulous thing happens.

When we are rubbing our stubby toes wondering what happened to our lives, Jesus comes. Tells us to stop being so scared. Stop being so comfortable. Stop thinking we can’t walk any further. He puts these enormous shoes before us. The shoes of Heaven that contain limitless hope and strength. We are terrified to put them on because we know we can’t fill them. Not only that, but our little feet are tiny and tangled.

We forget that Jesus is a healer. He touches deformities and they straighten. The skin and bones go back into places and the painful sores go away. He puts the too-good-to-be-true shoes on. The kind we dreamed of wearing when we were little children.

Maybe your new shoes look like a relationship. Maybe they look like a new business venture. A move to a distant land. The revival of a dream that has nearly expired. Could be letting go of a fear that has held you back and controlled you. Leaving behind an old identity for a new one perhaps.

All of us have new shoes waiting to be worn onto fresh ground. But we have to risk taking off our old shoes, healing the deformities we have and putting on bigger shoes that will support our new dreams. It can be scary, uncomfortable and oh-so insecure. But I think we can do it guys. ‘Cause we are risky like that in 2014.

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Filed under Faith, Lifestyle, My Life Thus Far, Uncomfortable January 2014, Whimsy

The Adventure I Didn’t Ask For

Moving to Europe and facing the reality of cancer – two very uncomfortable things I have never done, but today’s post comes from someone who has. This whole Uncomfortable January series is about leaving our comfort zones and risking more in 2014. Beth Stedman struck a chord when she posted this fall about a severe mercy. I know you will love her again as she shares a bit more of her story.

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When I hear things about risk,  adventure, and living uncomfortably, my heart starts to do little excited somersaults. These things resonate with me. I have never wanted to live a normal cookie-cutter life. I have wanted something different. Something bigger. I have wanted adventure. And I have understood that adventure requires risk and discomfort.

So, when Liz first told me about this Uncomfortable January series I wasn’t just excited I was thrilled. These are ideas that have shaped a big part of my life and character. But, then I started to think about the present. I began to thing about what risks I want to take right now, and suddenly I was at a blank. As I stared at the blank page I realized something very uncomfortable for me. Right now, I lack all desire to risk. Where had that heart for adventure and that desire to stretch myself gone?

In order for you to understand where I’m coming from I want to take you on a little journey. I want to show you a snap shot that displays my past love for adventure and one of the biggest risks I have taken, and then I want to show you a snap shot that I think displays why I currently don’t desire risk or discomfort.

Snap Shot One: A Risk I Chose

We walk slowly, hand-in-hand, watching as the sun’s rays disappear over the city of a thousands spires. The bricks that make up the bridge under our feet are hundreds of years old and each step seems to whisper stories to us of times past. We stop near a statue and watch the rushing Vlatava river sweep under us. It has rained most of the week in Prauge but today it is dry and the river sings a merry and contented song.

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Prague

“So, should we do it? Should we move here?” I ask the question with as much fear as excitement and before Bryan has a chance to respond I am processing through my own answers. Admitting my fear. It feels too risky. Too unknown. Too uncomfortable. But, I want that. I want a life that is different from the norm, a life that is bigger, a life of adventure. I want to be the kind of people who move to Europe for no other reason than because we want to.

I fluctuate with every sentence.

Together we talk through every fear, but we keep coming back to one question, “What kind of people do we want to be?” And suddenly it’s clear.

“Fear is not a good reason to make a decision.” My husband’s words seem to echo on the stone bridge. “It is scary to think of moving here, but we don’t want to be people who live in fear. We don’t want fear to dictate our decisions. We want to be the kind of people who intentionally stretch themselves, who take risks and seek out adventure . We want to be the kind of people who move to Europe.” He pauses before adding, ” I think we should do it.”

” I think we should too.” And with that a decision was made that would change my life.

We spent four years in Prague. It is the longest my husband and I have lived anywhere together. The friendships that we made there are some of the closest relationships that I have ever had. Those friends are family.

Living in Prague shaped us and changed us. It strengthened our marriage, it shifted our values, it expanded our minds, and it taught us how very strong we really are. It was not easy. There were dark seasons and heart aches, there were stressful situations and failures. Moving to an unknown country was a massive risk and it was not without expense. All risk comes at some expense though, and often it is worth the cost. Prague was worth the cost for us.

Snap Shot Two: A Risk I Did Not Choose:

Bryan says a shallow goodbye and sets down the phone.

“Who was it?” I ask right away, eager to solve the mystery that has been going on in my head.

” The dermatologists office. They got the pathology report back from that mass that was under my thumb nail.” His voice is controlled and calm. “It’s melanoma.”

The words crash over me like a wave. I feel adrift. I can’t seem to focus or completely grasp what that means.

“What does that mean?” The words escape my lips as a question, but I am not sure I really want an answer. I know it is bad. I know it is cancer, but I can’t wrap my mind around it. Bryan’s young. He’s healthy. It doesn’t mean what I think it means, right? It couldn’t mean that.

chemo

chemo

But, it did mean that. Just over a year later I would be looking over Bryan’s shoulder at a scan of his body that took my breath away. There was one shot where his body was shown in white and the tumors in black. It looked like swiss cheese. I will never forget it. His cancer had progressed aggressively.

I asked God for a life of adventure and now that he’s given it to me, I don’t want it.

This is an adventure I didn’t ask for. This life I have been walking for the past two years, this path labeled cancer, it’s too far outside my comfort zone. It’s too risky. Fear has become my constant companion – and I don’t like it.

My husband and I value risk and adventure and even being a little uncomfortable. We don’t want fear to control or guide our decisions. But, what do you do when you are thrown into an adventure that feels too risky? An adventure that comes hand-in-hand with fear? When all of life becomes a great risk, when the adventure feels too stressful to take anymore, well, what do you do then? You go into survival mode. You stop seeking risk. You seek out comfort, not the uncomfortable. And instead of your life expanding, it shrinks.

There has been a lot of shrinking in our lives in the past two years. At times our fears and pains have been so great that they served as giant blinders keeping us from seeing anything but ourselves.

Right now if you asked me that same question that my husband and I asked each other so long ago on Charles’ Bridge I would not answer that I want to be a person of risk or adventure. In fact, even asking the question, “What kind of person do you want to be?” feels too risky, to grand, to intentioned for me. For the past year ( or more ) my only answer to that question would have been ” an  alive one”.

I don’t want to live that way anymore. I want to keep stepping out and taking risks even amidst a risky uncomfortable adventure that I didn’t choose.

Bryan

Bryan

I want to go back to choosing to risk and I know exactly where I want to start.

With the biggest risk of all … Love.

In the adventures I’m currently walking it would be easy to wall off my heart for protection. Loving is risky. Loving means the potential for loss. But, I don’t want to let the fear or pain of loss serve as a blinder for me anymore. I’m throwing off the blinders. I’m inviting in the hurt and accepting it with kindness. I’m telling fear to take a hike and replacing it with prayerful trust.

I want to choose again. I want to choose to get out of survival mode and open myself up. I want to choose to dream big dreams again and take the scary risky steps to pursue them. And most of all I want to choose to risk opening my heart to all the love that is around me.

Rejoicing in the journey,

Bethany

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headshotsBethany Stedman is a mom and writer who often wishes she was saving the world with a super hero cape, a quill, and some rocking literature. Instead she spends most days playing peek-a-boo with her baby girl, reading Goodnight Moon, and racing around the house with her preschooler. She’s completely addicted to Pinterest, peanut butter, and Doctor Who ( yup, nerd to the core). She blogs about life with God, parenting, marriage, and anything else that comes to mind at http://www.bethstedman.com. Come stop by and say hello.

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Filed under Faith, Fire, Global, Uncategorized, Uncomfortable January 2014

The Risk of Pursuit

Just when I thought I was getting comfortable with being risky, my friend Jonathan Gulley sent me his guest post for An Uncomfortable January. I’ve known Jonathan since I was a kid and have a deep respect for both he and his wife. This past year they have taken extreme risks and I asked him to join us this month as we talk about being risky in 2014 in order to do what we really want to do and become who we want to become. I think you will like what he has to say. Take it away, Jonathan.

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2013 was a huge year for my family and me. It started out like normal. Every New Years Eve, I come up with my one word for the year. I got this idea from a book and really like it. This word helps remind me of the main thing I want to be about for the next 12 months. Doesn’t that sound like an awesome idea? I like it so much I’ve thought about getting it tattooed on my body, but didn’t especially like the idea of 50 words on my skin between now and the time I die.

Last year, my word for the year was ‘Astonished.’ And no one was more shocked than me that after 10-15 years of being in full-time ministry, starting a wonderful and vibrant church in Chicago-land through one of the most amazing and dynamic organizations on the planet that I would hang up my ministry cleats, move cities and churches and change professions. Now, some have thought that I must be having a quarter life crisis. Others have wondered if my reason stemmed from some beneath-the-surface relational fallout. But though people mean well, what makes this journey so crazy is that the opposite is true.

All of my brothers and their wives are in ministry with this organization. Most of my best friends are somehow tied to this church community around the world. On top of that, as far as I know, I don’t have any enemies in the organization. So why, if you have influence, history, a church and staff that love your leadership and well-cultivated relationships over many years with the same tribe, would you leave all of that and embark on a journey with few particulars?

Because, in the words of John Legend, “[she] is crazy and I’m out of my mind.” Just kidding. I just felt God leading me to risk everything again and head in a new direction. Plain and simple! Plain and difficult!

One of the things I have learned in 2013 is that new beginnings are exciting to talk about but they require enormous iniative and energy. Maybe that is why in 2014, my word for the year is: ‘Pursuit’. I believe in order to start anew, I must devote this year to applying myself to the pursuit of people and opportunities like never before. Easy, right? I am not so sure.

No matter who you are, regardless of whether you like the adrenaline rush of risk-taking or not, to pursue or be pursued takes a truckload of courage. You better believe the moment you put your heart on the line, the fear of rejection, the fear of failure, passivity, and in my case, self-protection will claw at you and try to talk you down from being the pursuer you were born to be. If that is true then I believe the largest risks we ever take in life are the risks we take on relationships. Starting a new job in a new culture is a risk. Finding a new church community is a risk. Marrying that person you love but have only known for a short time compared to the years you’ve been born is a risk.

Being a change agent, one of the hardest things for me to do when someone responds wrongly towards me is resisting that urge to change them into someone I’d like to be around. Now, this is something that I’ve never liked about myself. Don’t get me wrong. I love change.

I love dreaming about seeing God-sized change happen all across America, in every industry, and neighborhood. But sometimes I would like to change people more than love them…especially when they are hard to be around.

My Uncomfortable January and the next 11 months are devoted to offering warm pursuit towards those who are colds towards me. Yikes! The risk of pursuit is a risk I will need help with for sure. How about you? What relational risk are you willing to take this month?

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Filed under Uncategorized, Uncomfortable January 2014