When doing the brave thing means going home

We’re often called to step outside of our comfort zones, which sometimes means physically moving to entirely new places without knowing how long we’ll be there.

And then sometimes we’re called back home.

When I moved out to California a little more than a year and a half ago, I had no idea what was in store for me. I simply knew that God was calling me out here, and I didn’t know what else to do but to trust that He had something planned that I didn’t know about yet but would soon find out. There were certainly moments of doubt and fears and uncertainties when I first got out here, but He constantly reminded me that He was in control, and I didn’t need to worry about anything. More than once, I heard His voice assure me of a truth that has always been true but became much more real in my life since leaving Dallas.

Trust Me—I’ve never once failed you, and I won’t start letting you down now.

I mean, how could I not love it here?

Truth be told, I’ve loved my time in Orange County. The beach is my place of peace, and there’s so much nature surrounding you and so many wonderful things to do outside (I LOVE hiking and walks on the boardwalk). Sure, the culture is much different than what I was always accustomed to in Dallas, but it’s good to be exposed to lifestyles that aren’t the same as ours. But even after making some lifelong friends and trying to make California feel more like an actual home, it’s never felt that way. Despite people welcoming me into their lives (and me sometimes inviting myself in), I’ve still always felt like an outsider. I tried to convince myself that I could live here forever, but I think somewhere in my heart was always the longing to be back in Dallas with my family and all of my people.

Back in November, I started feeling pretty homesick. I remembered that same feeling the year before, so I told myself that it was just the holiday season stirring up some emotions, and I simply needed to get through the next couple of months to feel normal again. But I think that I knew deep down that there was more to it than that. There was an ache for my family that I had never felt so strongly, and there was a tugging at my heart telling me to go back home.

Home—where we’ve always been told is where are hearts are.

I did the only thing that made sense to me: I prayed. And then I reached out to some of my trusted prayer warriors so that they could pray alongside me, as well. I still didn’t feel a complete peace about anything yet, though. I didn’t know what to do, and I didn’t want to let emotions cause me to make a decision that didn’t need to be made yet. Uprooting my life in California and moving back across the country wasn’t exactly a simple thing that I could undo if I thought it was the wrong choice, so I wanted to make sure that those feelings were valid and meant something more.

I’ll never forget the morning when everything became completely clear to me. I was at work and had too much on my mind at the time. I felt overly conflicted and stressed, and I silently cried out to the only One who could help me.

“God, I need You to tell me what to do. When You called me out to California, You made it completely clear that it’s what I was supposed to do. I need You to do that again. I need You to let me know if I’m supposed to go back to Dallas now or if I’m just feeling a bunch of emotions. Please just show me exactly what You want me to do.”

Less than two hours later, I was reading Uninvited by Lysa TerKeurst (a book I highly recommend, by the way) at lunch, when everything became so entirely real and true, and all of the haze and confusion from the past few weeks disappeared. There’s a part in the book when Lysa is trying to talk herself into jumping from a pole in one of those obstacle things in which you’re harnessed in and attempting to grab a bar hanging in the air after your leap. Her feet weren’t moving, so her friend Bob Goff (also another amazing author) came alongside her and finally said the thing that gave her the courage she had been trying to find all along: “You’re absolutely loved. Whenever you’re ready, jump.”

As soon as I read that line, I once again heard that voice that has guided me and comforted me through so much already: There’s your answer, my sweet girl. It’s time.

There was suddenly a quietness that came over me, and I breathed out all of the anxieties that had been haunting me for those past few weeks. If I’m being perfectly honest, though, there was also a little bit of fear inside of me. It wasn’t fear about having to start over yet again or leaving behind some pretty incredible people and a beautiful place of sunshine and beach days. Rather, it was a fear of failure. Did moving home mean that I wasn’t capable of living in a world of the unknown all by myself? Had I let myself down? Was it childish and wimpy to move home just because I missed my people and my place?

But then I had to stop. And breathe. And thank God again. And trust Him. I hadn’t failed. I had done the hard thing, and I had lived through it. I had enjoyed it. I had grown and learned and gained community and healed and led others and become humbled and discovered truths I had never known.

Like LeAnn Rimes, I’m staring out into the great unknown.

So much has happened in my life since I moved out to California, and I started to reflect on how God had worked in my heart and changed it in tremendous ways. As I sat in church a few weekends after that moment of clarity, I began wondering why it is I had been out here for the time I was, and then I heard that calming voice again: I’ve been training and equipping you, and now you’re ready. I don’t know exactly what that means for what’s ahead of me, but I do know that I’m excited (or “stoked,” as some of my Cali people say). I know what it looks like to be brave, and I want to live that way every chance I get.

There are a great deal of unknowns right now, and that’s OK. I didn’t meet the man who will be my forever guy while I was out here (sorry for those of you who were hoping for that), and my career future is definitely still a mystery (especially since I’m walking away from a job I love and some truly incredible coworkers), but I know and trust that He knows what He’s doing. It’s going to be tough to leave my people here, and I have no clue what the future holds, but I know Who holds it, and I’m thankful that He’s taking me back to Texas to be closer to Mare and Skipper and Steffie Robyn and Broski and Teddy and Katie and Livs and Evie and so many others.

We all have different paths and journeys we take in life, and they won’t all look the same. They shouldn’t. In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy said the following: “If I ever go looking for my heart’s desire again, I won’t look any further than my own backyard. Because if it isn’t there, I never really lost it to begin with.” I don’t completely agree with that, though. I think that sometimes you have to allow yourself to step outside of your comfort zone to learn and grow and become the person you were always meant to be. It might lead you right back to your backyard, but at least you stepped out to somewhere new and allowed yourself to be braver than you thought you could be.

Dorothy was right about the “no place like home” thing, though.

When you’re in uncomfort zones

I sort of don’t like admitting this too often, but I don’t really enjoy being taken out of my comfort zone.

At all.

Over the weekend, I went to Portland for a conference. Let’s get one thing out in the open: I’m not a huge fan of traveling. Call me a homebody, but I just prefer to be in the comforts of what I know best. But, I really needed to go to this conference, and the somewhat dreaded day of departure finally arrived on Friday.

I flew standby on a buddy pass—thanks to two very generous friends—but the idea of not being guaranteed a seat on the flight gave me a bit of anxiety. Uncomfort zone. (I know “uncomfort” isn’t an actual word, but from here on out I’m referring to all of the situations that made me uneasy as “uncomfort zones.”) Thankfully, I was able to make it on the first flight to Portland, though we will return to my standby anxiety in a bit. (You can chalk that up as foreshadowing.)

When I got to Portland, I caught a shuttle to my hotel, which turned out to be a much shadier establishment than the woman on the phone who made my reservation led me to believe. The television didn’t even get ESPN. I wasn’t able to watch any SportsCenter. Uncomfort zone.

I had some time to kill, so I took a nap and then went for a run before I had to head over to the college where the conference kicked off on Friday night. When I got back, I asked the guy at the hotel front desk what the best way to get to my destination was, and he told me to hop on the bus that picks up right in front of where I was staying. Public transportation is big in Portland, and I haven’t used it regularly since my sophomore year at Texas A&M. But, I can assure you that the College Station system isn’t very comparable to what I was about to deal with. I knew nothing about the city, had no clue what stop I needed to be on the lookout for to get off the bus, and I didn’t know the time schedule at all. Uncomfort zone.

After what seemed like a pretty long time, I got out my Google Maps to see how close we were. According to the blue dot, we were going the wrong way. It turns out I was on the wrong bus—homeboy at the hotel failed to inform me of a bus change I was supposed to make. The driver directed me what to do, and I got on the right bus, but it had a very roundabout way of getting to the college. My overall bus trip was one hour, 27 minutes.

Important note: The college is 4.1 miles from the hotel.

I was a bit exhausted

A very large man who reeked of smoke (major uncomfort zone) sat down next to me and began typing away on his little device. I figure it’s wise to know a bit about the individual next to you in such a situation, so I started snooping to see what he was so busy using only his two index fingers to type. First, he was commenting on news articles. I saw the phrase “dirty republicans” and figured he must just be really into politics or something. But he moved on pretty quickly and was then on some site called ourtime.com and typing in a box that said “flirt sent.” I chose to stop reading his screen at that point. I was grateful when he busted out his Wild Cherry Pepsi, because the smell of the soda helped drown out the stench of cigarettes just a bit.

I kept wondering how much longer I had to endure this ride—why are there so many flippin’ bus stops?? I’m generally very punctual and began to worry that I would be late for the conference. Uncomfort zone.

Overall, the conference went really well, and my reason for attending was fulfilled. I even got rides to and from the remainder of the conference and a ride to the airport Saturday night (yes, I rode with strangers, but I chose to trust the conference attendees over mass transit). But there was still that truth that kept surfacing the entire trip: I’m too attached to my comfort zones.

And things didn’t stop there.

I only had my hotel for one night, and for various reasons I had to stay at the airport Saturday night until my 5:40 a.m. flight to Denver on Sunday. If you want to talk about a real uncomfort zone, we can talk about sleeping across airport chairs and using a pair of jeans as a pillow. There were no open seats on the connecting flight to Dallas (remember, I was on standby), so I had to buy a ticket on a different airline to get home. (God bless my brother for helping me out on that one.) But there was only a 45-minute window from when one plane landed until the next took off for me to get from one terminal to the next and all checked-in and situated. Uncomfort zone.

There were so many points during this trip when I wanted to cry, and I think the main reason boils down to me being completely taken from the place I’m most comfortable. I can’t say I enjoy admitting my flaws, but this is something that’s not so great about me. It really hard to be in places and situations that make you feel uneasy. It’s scary.

And those are times you have to be brave.

I think God uses uncomfort zones to help us grow. I can’t say I’m a completely changed woman from this trip, but my eyes were open in so many ways—particularly in my aloneness. Because I’m not alone. I may be the most single person I know, but I had so many people surrounding me: Erik and Jade, who gave me a buddy pass, walked me through the process and got me on flights; my friends Laz and Disco, who were checking up on me, offering endless support and encouragement and keeping me entertained with their antics; my mom and dad, who put up with my crazy decisions and still always try to help me; my brother, who didn’t hesitate to take care of me and ensure I’d get home before Monday; Helen, Jill and the other woman whose name I didn’t even catch (I know, it’s horrible), who gave rides to a stranger from Texas; and my sister, who gave up part of her Sunday to pick me up from one airport and drive me to another so that I could get my car.

I may be taken out of my comfort zone every now and then, but the love I’m surrounded with can overcome any anxiety a person can feel. Because love is that powerful.

And that’s a comfort zone that’s with you no matter where you are.