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.
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.
“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.
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.
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,
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Bethany 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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