Community: Outside Your Comfort Zone

lyrics for life

There are basically two ways to get community:

  1. You step out of your comfort zone and into someone else’s.
  2. You wait for someone else to leave their comfort zone and step into yours.

One Saturday in late April, five beautifully brave women and two toddlers stepped out of their comfort zones and into my home, while I stepped out of my comfort zone and hosted an (in) Real Life Conference.

What is the (in)Real Life Conference or (in)RL, you may ask? The conference that comes to you, the women behind (in) host a webcast on the last weekend in April and encourage women to meet together in homes across the country.


The discussion centered around community and learning to tell your story. It’s an amazing thing that by one person opening up and sharing part of their story, others find the freedom to do the same. We end up in closer, more honest, community as a result. Through the course of the that Saturday, the six of us were able to share parts of our stories with each other. Even though I knew all the women on varying levels, I was thrilled to learn something new about each one of them as we shared.


Earlier in April, my friend, Brooke, led a women’s training session for our church. She shared a great article by Paul Tripp that fit so well with the conference. In Who Knows You?, Tripp talks about two character qualities to shape your life by:

COURAGE OF LOVING HONESTY. “You will want relationships where truth can be spoken, where honesty lives, and where candor thrives. Truth should be spoken in love (Ephesians 4:15), but you won’t be afraid of what will be revealed about your heart and life.”

HUMILITY OF APPROACHABILITY. “When sins and weaknesses and failures are revealed about you, you won’t rise to your own defense. You won’t summon your inner defense lawyer and try to argue for your own righteousness. You will admit your need for help and run to where help can be found – Jesus Christ and the promise of a new heart.”

I highly recommend you read the whole article.

Don’t wait for someone else to break out of their comfort zone. Make the first step. Grab that courage and humility and dive into life where you can share your story and get to know someone else’s.

What can you do to build a deeper relationship with someone around you? What would be the first step to breaking out of your comfort zone?

**Thanks to a gracious host gift from Dayspring, I was able to offer these gorgeous Lyrics for Life plaques as giveaways to the women who attended the (in)RL Conference in my home. **


Why I Get Excited about the True/False Film Fest

Poster created by artist Akiko Stehrenberger with art direction by veteran T/F collaborator, Erik Buckham. More of Akiko’s work will be on display at Uprise Bakery during the festival, with 10% of the sales going towards the True Life Fund.

Columbia is about to explode with the True/False Film Fest, a documentary film festival, beginning Thursday evening through Sunday, March 2. It’s one of my favorite things about this city. If you follow me on Twitter, you’ll probably see a lot of T/F posts in the next few days.

Tom and I had the privilege to be Juggernaut Volunteers for 3 years, beginning in 2010. It was a purposeful decision, prompted by one of our elders at Karis Church, to be involved in the life of our city, by giving of our time and energy to support the welfare of the city. Prior to volunteering, we essentially avoided downtown during the Fest due to heavy traffic and crowds of people.

We just weren’t documentary people.

Wow. We have so changed since then.

After having missed last year due to a work conflict, we are so excited to be back this year as both passholders and sponsors of True/False. We love the crowds, because it’s a community. Standing in line, you compare notes with total strangers about the films, the buskers, the restaurants, and the parties. Everyone you rub shoulders with during the Fest has a great story to share about how they were touched by a documentary they just watched. I love hearing the passion in the directors’ voices as they share how they were led to create their documentary. It’s a thrill to be part of an interactive crowd whose emotions audibly follow the highs and lows of each film.

I mentioned that our involvement was very intentional. Along with friends of ours, we didn’t want to be Christians who stayed in our secure little corner, only touched by and touching the lives of other safe Christians. Tom summed it up so well in his blog post from our first year’s experience:

“…we, as Karis, are located in the downtown area and we feel a close connection and a real love for our City, and when you love something you want to serve it, and serve it well. So what a better opportunity to serve our City by serving at the Festival.

I didn’t really understand the importance of this, or really even think about it, until early Sunday morning. I volunteered to make a couple of airport runs during the festival along with serving on Rob’s team. I got to pick up a film director in St. Louis on Friday evening and I got to take a festival celebrity to Kansas City Sunday morning. So, at 5:15 am on Sunday, I picked up Jonathan at the hotel so he could make his 8:30 am flight to Los Angeles. When he got in my car he immediately thanked me for volunteering to drive him two hours one way at 5am. Then he asked me, “How did you get involved with True/False and why are you doing it?” So I told him about Karis Church and the “Rob Squad.” I told him that we were a group of people who loved Columbia and we just wanted to be there to serve our City. His response was probably one of the funniest things I’ve ever heard. At first he just sat there with his mouth wide open. Then he said, “You mean a church is out doing practical things and serving a film festival? No f*****g way! Whoops, I guess I shouldn’t cuss in front of you!” He then went on to tell me about Los Angeles where he lives and how churches there are so self-focused and that there was no way any church there would ever do what we were doing. Now who knows if that is really true, but that is at least his perception. Then he thanked me for being part of a church who was not afraid to step out of our own little comfortable box (Not his exact words, but that was what he said in a nutshell).”

Don’t you love it?

Last week, we were thrilled to hear that the NY Times ran an article about True/False and its partnership with a local church, The Crossing, which also seeks to invest in the community around it. You can read that article here, along with a thoughtful response from The Crossing’s pastor, Dave Cover, here.

I’m excited to live in a community that not only hosts festivals like True/False, but also consists of Christians and churches who are willing to roll up their shirt sleeves and get involved, for the good of the city.

You are a hero (minus the cape)

You, my friend, are a hero.

Didn’t know that, did you? As clueless as Lois Lane working alongside Clark Kent, you have no idea of the hero inside you. Cue Whitney Houston song…scratch that. Moving on.

You are a hero. Once in a great while, someone might see that. An author or celebrity might realize it. Most of us miss it.

Look around you. Who is watching you? It might be a child, your own or a friend’s. It might be a lonely neighbor, a disconnected coworker or classmate.

Think about it. There are people who have touched your life deeply, but you never told them. An upperclassman who was kind. An unexpected friend when the world seemed against you. A helping hand from a stranger. A friendly coworker. A camp counselor who took time to learn your name. Someone who made you feel known. Seen. Accepted.

I can almost guarantee there is someone watching your life. Someone who looks up to you. You may never even know it this side of eternity.

But, friend, you are a hero to that one. Make someone feel known and you become a hero to that person. You don’t even need a cape to prove it.


This has been another adventure with Lisa-Jo Baker’s Five Minute Friday community. The prompt this week is Hero. Pop on over to her blog to read other great posts.

Five Minute Friday

Day 11: Rest for your Weekend

Fritz in box

Find yourself a comfortable place to rest this weekend.

Drink in the sunshine while you can.

Fritz in window

Fritz and Chloe

Spend time hanging out with a friend.

Be yourself, even if that means being a little silly.

Chloe in tea

Rest in whose you are

Rest in whose you are, in Christ.
(Be sure to pay attention to the song in that link.)

This is Day 11 of 31 Days of Rest.


Many thanks to my models, Fritz and Chloe for giving of their incomparable talent to this post.

Day 7: Rest Provides Margin

Photo credit: Pauli Antero via flickr (Creative Commons)

It’s been interesting to begin a series on rest when I was having one of the busiest weeks of my year, definitely of my fall (so far). Some of the things on my plate outside of work responsibilities were:

  • completing church communications tasks (writing a newsletter, maintaining a Twitter and Facebook page, reserving rooms, communicating with team members),
  • getting out early for Lead School (and finishing the reading before the session),
  • helping my husband with some graphics and printing needs for his business (and I’m not trained to do graphics),
  • starting up regular exercise again after recovering from foot injuries (to both feet), and
  • continuing to promote the launch of The Wall Around Your Heart (releasing October 15).

And I felt pretty overloaded but tried to find space in the hours I had to make it work. I was trying to find rest in the middle of it all. Some of the time, that meant I had to forego (forewent isn’t a word, is it?) pleasures like watching TV or playing games. Sometimes it meant taking a deep breath and deciding what was MOST important (since everything feels so important at the time). Sometimes it was choosing sleep over getting one more thing done (I had a great convo with Rachel, who is both a super-cool friend and super-smart PhD student, about sleep – watch for a post on that soon).

Photo credit: MoneyBlogNewz via flickr (Creative Commons)

There’s a key point that I’m learning about rest, and it relates to community. By building rest into your life (not sleep, here, but soul rest and spirit rest), you are building in margins. There’s space around you to flex and breathe. We need to have that margin of rest built into our lives, so when we are needed by a friend, spouse, child or parent, we have the resources to give out.

Here is an excellent example shared with me by another great friend: she was told that she had a dime for each day. From waking up until sleeping, there was only 10¢ to spend. Every task costs money and more expensive items cost more emotional, spiritual or physical energy. Laundry was 1¢, a tough conversation with a spouse or friend was 5¢, etc. She had to decide how to spend her dime each day, but when it was gone, there was nothing left.

Rest is like adding deposits to your day’s account. This is why I’m not emphasizing sleep. Sleep adds maybe a penny, but meditation on Scripture = 5¢. We need rest in our lives so we have more to give to others.

Jesus shows us this by His example.. The book of Mark records how Jesus would go into community and heal people and teach, then he would retreat to the Sea of Galilee. People followed him there and he would heal and teach, then retreat to the mountains. People followed him, he would teach and heal, then retreat. He continually sought out moments of rest. The times of rest refreshed Him for ministry.

By building rest into our lives, you/I can drop all the seemingly important things to focus on this one thing (a distress call from a friend or a neighbor in need at the door), because you/I have extra deposits in your rest account.

Does this make any sense? I’m kind of unwinding this ball of thought as I go – I’m learning right along with you here.

Photo credit: on2wheelz via flickr (Creative Commons)

Taking time to rest, in its various forms, provides margin in our lives that we can, in turn, pour out on the community around us. Are you creating those margins in your life, adding deposits to your account? Think about that as you go through your day.

31Days_Rest_thumb  ← Click to find links to each day in the series.

There are 1500+ blogs participating in the Nester’s 31 Day Blog Challenge. We’ve chosen nearly 1500 different topics, organized under nine categories. You’re sure to find one or more topics that interest you.

This week I’m linking up with these blogs:

Day 1: Rest from Expectations

Last night, I got my intro post up for #31Days and tweeted it to my friends, tagging the Nester. AND SHE REPLIED!


Now, I didn’t go all nutso fan-girl like I did when Nester’s sister, Emily Freeman posted a comment ON. MY. BLOG. (nutso fan-girl tweet), but still, it’s Nester. That’s pretty sweet.

Later yesterday evening, one of my elders commented about my blog series that he was interested in it because it follows along with what he will be preaching on this Sunday at Karis Church and then he posted the link to it on our internal church communications site. Whoa.

Later still, I was checking my stats (we all do this, right, bloggers?) and saw that I had hits from 6 different countries, which I’m pretty sure is a new record for my blog. Wow!

I’ve had a number of people I know and don’t know say how much a series on rest sounds like just what they need and they are looking forward to being blessed or they are sure that others will be blessed.

And I love hearing all of these. My goal is for my blog to reach others and to become a ministry.

But Whoa.

I’m suddenly feeling all this pressure. What if I don’t meet up to all these folks’ expectations? I’ve got to bring it. People are looking to me to have these fantastic insights on rest; I can’t let them down!

These are the thoughts swirling through my head even while I’m trying to brainstorm ideas for today’s post.

So I realize that, today, I need to rest from expectations. I want to put expectations on myself of how this 31 Day series will go based on my perception of your 31 Day series or what I think you must expect from me or even based on how my series on prayer went last year.

Rest from expectations.

I got myself in some hot water by collecting expectations about my marriage. Spurred in part by being surrounded by young married couples still in the honeymoon phase, I looked around and then looked inside and concluded that my marriage did not measure up. People around us are having babies and adopting children and I collect another expectation. A successful blogger’s career takes off; I collect another expectation.

Photo credit: Keenan Pepper (Creative Commons)

On one family vacation, my sister and I discovered quartz in the rocks on the property of our parents’ friends. I think we even visited a tourist trap selling quartz that was mined from the area. To our untrained eyes, it looked like diamonds. During that vacation we collected rocks. They were cool rocks. They were glittery rocks. And sometimes we could smash them open and find beautiful colors inside. That box of rocks sat on our back porch for months.

Those rocks are like my expectations. I gather them thinking of how beautiful they could be or how they will improve my life, but I end up carrying a box of rocks around. I don’t know, it’s not a perfect illustration. It came to me as I was typing.

The point is to rest.

Stop carrying around the weight of expectations, whether they be put on you by a family member, friends, society, or yourself.

Rest from these weights. Don’t try to measure up to someone else’s standards. Today, you are you. Trust that you are in God’s hands and He is working to make you all that you will be. He is making you new.

Rest today.

Breathe out – and release the hold of expectations on your life.

Breathe in – and trust the work of Christ in your life.


This is Day 1 of 31 Days of Rest, part of the Nester’s 31 Day challenge. Check out some of the other great blogs participating.


What I learned in September: nerd edition


On my birthday, I managed to break my glasses while I was on my last pair of contacts. I looked nerdier than usual for a few days until I discovered I could crazy glue my glasses together. The first attempt worked until I took my glasses off to clean them and they fell into 2 pieces again. On the second attempt, I got them to stick, then poured glue all around the outer edge of the crack to be sure it was a solid connection. They did stick to my nose briefly, but no lasting harm. 😀

Anyway, September was a whirlwind and October looks to be doubly so:

On to a few things I learned in September. These are more about things I discovered on YouTube. Enjoy.

The Cute: A dog who loves to play in the leaves. Perfect for fall.

The Inspirational: Made Alive by Citizens. We sang this in Karis Church and I loved it right away.

The Voice: I found out my friend’s brother, John Travis, auditioned for The Voice. His audition hasn’t been shown yet, so we’re hoping to see it on Monday or Tuesday this week. #fingerscrossed. Here’s a recording of him from a hometown competition.

The Useful: Skitch 2.0 for my Apple friends. It looks awesome and I hope Evernote will bring it to the Android platform soon.

The Bizarre, but Catchy: I’m sure there’s a small handful of people who have not been exposed to either of these musical beauties. These songs will get in your head and not let go. Fair warning.

What Does the Fox Say? or What the Fox Say?

Dumb Ways to Die. or a song your 5-year-old will want to sing to her classmate, much to your horror. #coworkerproblem

I hear there’s a My Little Pony version of Dumb Ways to Die, but you’ll have to search for it yourself, if you really care.

Of course, I could have included the #hashtag sketch, but… #toocliche #justafad #whouseshashtagsanyway #notgonnadoit

Any good YouTube videos you’re dying to share?


She Haunts Me

Covered in black mud from the Dead Sea

There’s a ghost of a girl who haunts me sometimes.

She’s funny. She’s fearless. She’s sometimes goofy, but confident in her goofyness. She doesn’t worry if she spelled goofyness correctly. If it’s not a real word she’s even more delighted.

karenShe cares for others. She puts her needs aside to listen to a friend. She considers the stranger sitting nearby a friend.

She’s not bold, but she knows herself.

She rests comfortably in the fact that she is loved. She has a heavenly father who cares for her and who is working for her good. She can trust in that.

Don’t get me wrong, she’s ofttimes lonely. She can be comfortable in her loneliness, too. Solitude isn’t all bad.

This ghost isn’t perfect, though. She fights depression and doubts herself often. She desires to be loved by a boy, but keeps pulling her heart back. She’s not quite trusting.


She’s never quite content with herself. She expects perfection.

The ghost breezes by. She hasn’t been here in awhile, but sometimes, when the rain drip-drip-drips outside, she remembers.

What she was, she can be again. What she left behind can be regained. The gray hair may not disappear, but that young girl is still inside, waiting to be released. She only has to awaken.

It’s time to wake up.


It’s time for the Five Minute Friday challenge again. Write for only 5 minutes (with a little grace thrown in sometimes), but no major editing, fixing, perfecting. This week’s Five Minute Friday prompt is She.
Five Minute Friday

Six Things I Learned in August – brought to you by the Letter ‘S’

I’m joining Emily Freeman in sharing things we learned each month. This month, to spice things up, is brought to you by the Letter ‘S.’ See what I did there? Spice starts with ‘s.’ Okay, I’m getting carried away. On to the list…

  • Silly:  Where a rubber ducky dumped into the ocean in 1992 will end up in 2007 and what the world looks like based on number of McDonald’s locations. 

    Here are 40 different maps to help you make sense of the world at Twisted Sifter. They are fascinating and worth spending some time on, so click the link after you read the rest of my post (or promise to come back!). #19 – Map of Where 29,000 Rubber Duckies Made Landfall After Falling off a Cargo Ship in the Middle of the Pacific Ocean – is my favorite.

  • Serious: The Wall Around Your Heart launches in October and I made the Launch Team.

    You may have heard me mention this book once or twice. I’m seriously excited to be a part of this, not just for the experience, which so far is a blast, but I think The Wall Around Your Heart applies to everyone, since we have all been hurt in relationships at some point in life.
    Wall Around Your Heart Launch Team

  • Simple: A celebration doesn’t have to be elaborate to be memorable. 

    We celebrated our 15 year anniversary in August. Earlier, I was disappointed we could not have a romantic getaway. Instead, we ended up with a week-long of simple little celebrations in the middle of life. Tom even took me to a painting party class. And all the simple things added up to a wonderful remembrance of our wedding day and all the years since.

  • Sad: The Back-to-School season (BTS) is becoming one of the saddest times of year.

    After hearing the doctor say we would never have children of our own, Mother’s Day had definitely become the hardest holiday. But BTS season is hard, with the increase of Facebook, Instagram and Twitter posts of all the kiddos’ first day back at school. Midwest schools started in August, but my East Coast friends start up this week, so the BTS season is even extended thanks to social media. Not only do I not have photos for all my virtual friends to see, but I’m reminded during this time of the milestones I’m missing in my non-existent children’s lives. Sad, but true.

  • Superior: Android is superior to iPhone.

    In August we switched cell providers, which gave me the opportunity to switch to an iPhone. I had been using a Samsung GS3 and I switched to an iPhone 5. Twelve days later, I went back to my carrier and traded the iPhone for a new GS4. I only miss two things from the iPhone: its smaller size (better for my hands) and the power button on top of the phone rather than on the right side. In every other way, for me, the Android is the superior phone. It was nice knowing you, Siri, but so long.

  • Surreal: Crafting with Cat Hair is an actual book.

    They sell it on Amazon and it even has 48 5-star reviews. Crafting with Cat Hair: Cute Handicrafts to Make with your Cat was written by Japanese author, Kaori Tsutaya, as a fun way to recycle your cat’s fur, making the most out of shedding season. It makes a great gift for that special someone.

I hope you enjoyed the Letter ‘S’ edition of Things I Learned! Check back at the end of September to see what letter is next and what interesting items I picked up during the month!

Chatting At The Sky also has other bloggers who are sharing their month’s tidbits as well, if you want to check out more interesting things.

Tonight I’m in the in-between

Photo credit: ladydragonflyherworld (Creative Commons)

Tomorrow morning I’m chasing the Wheelmobile to St. Louis to audition for Wheel of Fortune!

It’s a huge risk and gamble for me to just step out there and say, here I am and I’m great and I’d be a great contestant on your show!

But I’m going. I’m  doing it.

This week I signed up to be a Compassion blogger. I’ve read several other Compassion bloggers and found my heart growing more and more tender. I’ve walked with Emily Freeman through her journey to the Philippines. I’m searching for a child to sponsor myself, but I haven’t connected with the right one yet. Soon.

I’m in the in-between.

I’ve stepped away from the shy quiet and just stay at home self. I’m ready to start taking some big risks. But I’m not there yet. I haven’t actually begun. The first step is still tomorrow.

The in-between is that big breath you take before diving in the pool, before starting the first line of the song. You’re committed and it’s happening, but it’s not here yet.

That’s where I am today. Tonight.


Photo credit: bondonialberto (Creative Commons)

This post is part of the Five Minute Friday project hosted by Lisa Jo Baker. Read all of this week’s posts on the prompt, in between.
Five Minute Friday

  • Hi, I'm Janice. I'm part bookworm and part creative. I love both science and music (and the science of music). I'm stumbling around trying to grow closer to God. Click the photo to read more about me.

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