Comfortable being uncomfortable

I’m glad to be here right now, poking at my threshold. I want to get more comfortable being uncomfortable. I want to get more confident being uncertain…

We’ve been doing some poking at our threshold lately. Digging up the hardened surface of familiar, looking for fresh new ground in which to plow small seeds of change.

Change often begins with a shift in routine. Despite the fact that our lifestyle is wrapped in change, it is surprisingly easy to maintain a degree of sameness. If this sameness is dipped in the waters of conscious choice it can be a wonderful thing. If however, it is simply leftover residue from past repetition, it can become inhibiting to growth. This week we made a move toward getting more comfortable being uncomfortable.

New neighbors

As the landscape outside our home has changed, our family has had the opportunity to see needs newly presented. Our experiences in cold climate, small town communities were predominately void of panhandlers. As we drive through cities, concern and alarm has rung afresh, particularly within our kids. There are needs that are not hidden. There is despair on display.

It’s not new to me. My heart has had time to grow accustomed to the poor and needy. My mind has had time to develop conflicting ideas and thoughts about how to help without hurting. Our kids however are seeing new needs from fresh hearts. It is their perspective that I often need. How can we respond in a way that shows love and represents Christ?

New grocery list

The day before Thanksgiving we compiled a list and went shopping. Rather than filling our cart with food items, our goal was to assemble ready-made care packages to distribute as needed.

  • socks
  • toothbrushes
  • toothpaste
  • shampoo
  • deodorant
  • ear plugs
  • playing cards
  • snacks
  • small bibles
  • gospel tracts

The kids had a great time counting out items and making sure we got what we needed. Our cashier wondered where in the world we were traveling to need so many travel size tubes! We explained our plan and she raised her eyebrow, “playing cards?” “Everyone likes to play games,” we reasoned.

packing party

decorating bags

The following day, after we filled our bellies, we set up a packing station and filled our bags. We stood around the table, warm, surrounded by family with full stomachs, filling bags.

love bags

Knowing that the next time these bags were opened, it would likely be held by someone with an empty stomach who is cold and alone was humbling.

“It’s not enough, Lord. Shampoo and deodorant are not enough.”

Yet I was reminded that hope comes in various forms. One of the most powerful is knowing you are not forgotten, knowing that you matter. We closed the day asking that God would help us to see those who needed hope.

…I want to get more confident being uncertain.

on alert

The next day we packed the van with our bags and headed to Nashville. What a difference it made to be ready and willing to distribute freely. We had several things planned in the downtown area: the Tennessee State Museum, Bicentennial park and the Farmers Market. Throughout the day we were vigilantly aware, on alert for anyone who might need hope. No obvious need crossed our path. A strange sense of disappointment filled our hearts as we drove home.

Discomfort

Our chance came however the following day. Driving home from the Adventure Science Museum, Trent noticed a man shuffling along, his profile illuminated by the streetlight. He was moving slowly, pushing a grocery cart full of unidentifiable items. As Trent slowed the car to match the speed of the man’s movements, I found myself wanting to sink into my seat.

I’m ashamed to admit it, but I was very uncomfortable. It wasn’t an issue of safety. It was an issue of heart. My heart was recoiling from the unknown. It was in a new place that wasn’t easy. My easy is donating money online for someone else to distribute. My easy is packing a Christmas shoebox for someone else to hand out. This was not my easy. I’m glad I was not driving. I might have been tempted to try again another day. Instead, Trent rolled down my window and called out to get the man’s attention. As he approached our car, we offered him a bag. His face became soft and receptive. I looked him in the eyes and smiled–my discomfort dissolved.

That evening as we tucked our kids in for bed, we had someone new to pray for; we had a face to care about as the evening temperatures dipped low. I’ve come to see how healthy it is to keep expanding that distance between easy and hard, between comfortable and uncomfortable.

…I don’t want to shrink back just because something isn’t easy. I want to push back, and make more room in the area between I can’t and I can. Maybe that spot is called I will. ~Kristin Armstrong

comfortable being uncomfortable

Yesterday as we drove home from church, the kids spotted a man standing on the other side of the road facing opposing traffic holding a bright green sign. “Maybe he needs help!” was their instant concern. “I think he his likely holding a sign to advertise for a local business,” I reasoned. “But what if he’s not?” they responded.

I had to choose between what is easy and what takes effort. I had to ask myself, will I only offer help to those standing next to me or am I willing to make an effort?

“We better go find out,” I responded. Trent turned the car around and at the intersection my eyes met a man frail, worn and in need of hope. “Could you use something like this?” we asked extending our package out the window. “Oh yes, I sure could, thank you!” His face softened in a sincere, appreciative smile. As we drove away, I noticed my heart had grown. It hadn’t shrunk back from the unknown.

I realize that the issues surrounding poverty are complex and confusing. I admit that I don’t have it figured out. Certainly I’ve got leagues of growth in front me. What we did this week was only a baby-step, but it was a step. I was able to see that I won’t get any closer to being useful in this arena unless I’m willing to change my routine and get comfortable being uncomfortable.

15 thoughts on “Comfortable being uncomfortable”

  1. I’m so proud of you and your family! Learning to be comfortable with being uncomfortable is certainly a challenge for many of us. But as we take those steps we slowly gain confidence.
    Love to all💙

  2. Just looked you guys up because we passed you on the interstate yesterday in our RV and van trailing behind and I saw your website. I wondered if we were headed the same place. I can’t wait to read more about your adventures. This is beautiful, though! Genuinely want my kids to five the same love for loving those on the fringe of society. The ones most people DO forget. Travel safe!

  3. Thank you for this. Our family is full timing as well and we are currently in Bakersfield, CA. Our kids have noticed the large amount of homeless or close to homeless here. Your blog is our new project. Thank you!

    1. That brings a smile to my face Kirk, thank you for sharing that with me. Yesterday we visited New Orleans. Our kids each brought a bag with us to hand out as we walked around town. It didn’t take us long at all to find people who needed them and they all commented on how thrilled they were to have new socks. The socks truly were the highlight so I’d suggest that you be sure you include those in your pack if you do something similar!

  4. Love this so much! (Wiping my tears) We aren’t in a good financial position lately but all my heart desires to do is package a gift for those less fortunate and hand them out on the streets. But as you also explained, there’s the fear of the unknown. I would really like to take action on this though.. We would certainly be giving out of faith knowing God will make a way for us to pay our bills too. I don’t want the kids to focus just on what they receive under the tree but who they were able to give to…

    1. I love what you say here, “I don’t want the kids to focus just on what they receive under the tree but who they were able to give to…” I completely agree. Reading your words reminded me of something I was reading the other day in 2 Corinthians chapter 8 talking about generous giving. Read verses 1-5 and you will see what I mean. I don’t believe it is about the amount we give, but the heart behind it and as 2 Cor 9:7 says, “Each must do just as he has purposed in his heart, not grudgingly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” Both chapters 8 and 9 say a lot of good things on this topic of giving in fact–good stuff!

  5. I am proud of you, for following through on the uncomfortable task set before you, and being willing to grow. I love Ashlyn’s drawing on the bag; what a lovely addition to someone’s day.

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