The Comfort Zone…

“You are about to enter another dimension. A dimension not only of sight and sound, but of mind. A journey into a wondrous land of imagination. Next stop, the Comfort Zone!”  (cue creepy music)

Yesterday the first team that Dan and I were involved with this summer left to head back home.  They were a smallish team–just 11 people–and a shortish team–just 8 days.  They worked hard and connected hard, and I honestly think that when they got back on that plane, they knew that it had been good.

It’s been awhile since I interacted with a team at this level.  True, I wasn’t at the project with them each day–my knee has become a bit of a professional liability–but I had dinner with them every night and got to really chat with them.  It was neat to see their hearts expand as the week went on, and to be excited about the ministry that is happening here and around the world.  Some had been other places, and for some this was their first time off of North American soil.

A couple of nights I was able to listen in as they did their daily debrief, and then Tuesday as they did a final debrief with Dan and Paul before they left for home.  One recurring theme that caught my attention was “comfort zone”.  Being outside of it, what it looks like for different people, how to be a part of ministry and not get so caught up in details that you miss the big picture…I started thinking about “comfort zones”.  And as you all know, when I think about serious stuff I think someone should read it, so here we go.

Our comfort zone may be the most intensely personal thing that we own.  And we do own it.  It’s ours.  Yes, our personality, background, surroundings, genetic makeup and other environmental factors can play a huge role in shaping it, but in the end, it is ours, intensely personal and not necessarily open or willing to change.

I picture it like a bubble.  Some people appear to have a bubble that encompasses the whole planet.  It’s a big bubble.  They will go anywhere, talk to anyone, try anything…for these people, especially in the context of a team, they appear to have never met a stranger.  Little kids hang off of them like they are a jungle gym.  When they sit down, children fight to sit on their lap.  Those who don’t get the coveted lap spot sit as close as possible, touching a sleeve or an arm, jostling for position…and the “Big Bubble” person loves it.  The more the merrier, right?  People with “global bubbles” don’t ever appear to be bothered (or even realize) when things are out of control, but rather see it as an adventure.

The next “level” in the “bubble hierarchy” is the people who have a pretty good sized bubble, but it isn’t a global bubble.  It’s more of a “world as I know it” bubble.  Their community, the world that they know…things that are “controllable”.  They are willing to step out of their comfort zone and go, but the details and experiences need to be pretty manageable.  These people are the ones on teams that make sure that everyone gets on the bus on time.  They are more detail focused.  When it comes to interacting with people, they prefer a more controlled environment.  Rather than having 37 children crawling all over them, they prefer a few children, and preferably the ones who are a little quieter, who want a lap to snuggle on or a hand to hold.  They are the rational ones on the team that make sure things get done and done well.

Then…there are the “bubble-wrapped” people.  This is where I fit in.  My bubble fits me like a second skin.  For the bubble-wrapped person, a missions trip is something akin to a trip to the moon.  The details (and this is just to actually GET there) are overwhelming.  Many won’t even consider it.  Those that do need every detail, every list, every assurance.  Once they get there, assuming that they manage to do so, they are so consumed with the details and the worries about what could go wrong that they often miss the big picture.  They are not going to have mountains of children crawling all over them, or even a few.  You might find them with one child, one very quiet child, sitting next to them.  This whole experience is so far outside their comfort zone that it’s hard to tell if they have even had an experience.  They did, though.  These are the people watchers.  They can read a room, and a situation, like an open book.  The insight that they bring to the table during things like debrief never fails to astound me.

I guess my point is that our “comfort zone” is not an excuse to avoid missions.  Just because we don’t all see, or experience things the same way, doesn’t mean that we didn’t step outside.  For the “Big Bubble” person, stepping outside their comfort zone might mean that instead of being the human jungle gym for 50 children, they spend some time one-on-one with that elderly gentleman that no one noticed over there in the corner.  The “Community Bubble” person might need to let go of the details for a bit and go play soccer with those children.  You’re going to lose–badly–but it will be so good for both of you!  And the “Bubble Wrapped” person needs to stop watching people and actually talk to them.  I know–because I am this person.  And for most of us–I don’t care what kind of bubble you are wrapped in–stepping out of our Comfort Zone begins with stepping out of our front door.  The difference is in how far we step.

How big is your bubble?

“By stepping outside your comfort zone to do something peculiar, you confirm that you can do more than you’ve done. Move out!”
Israelmore Ayivor

We made it home!

I know you all thought I dropped off the face of the earth.  Sorry about that.  We did indeed fly home to Quito on the 24th of May, although it didn’t go quite like I expected it to.

Dan and I ended up with two different routes to Miami.  Patrick and I flew through JFK and Dan flew through Chicago, and we met up in Miami.  When Patrick and I arrived at JFK, we had just enough time to race to the other end of the terminal and catch our connecting flight.  In all of the chaos, I ended up twisting my knee very badly, tearing both the meniscus and the ACL.  By the time we arrived in Quito, I could not walk.  Fortunately Dan had asked in Miami for a wheelchair or I would probably still be sitting on the plane waiting for someone to get me out of there!  *Sidenote.  Coming through Customs in a wheelchair while crying does wonders for expediting their system.  That poor guy looked at me like he thought I was going to keel over right there, and waved us on through.  I will remember this.*

On Sunday, Dan took me to the emergency room to see what was up with my knee.  The doctor there did his level best to be useless, and I must say he succeeded admirably.  He did manage to let me know SEVERAL times that they only had one knee brace there, and it was TOO SMALL for me.  He emphasized this multiple times, just to make sure that I understood.  -_- .  On Tuesday I went to my hand doctor, who is very good at both hands AND knees.  He sent me for an MRI (let’s just say it’s a good thing I only had to be in up to my middle!) and then sent me to get a brace.  I went to the store where they sell them, and the poor guy working there came over and goes “Senora, this is the only…here.  You had better try this on.”  He must have seen the look on my face.  Apparently his momma taught him to recognize the signs of a woman on the edge.  Fortunately for both of us this one fit my very large knee!  (Seriously–I don’t have huge knees.  It was just crazy swollen.)

Coming home unable to walk put a damper on all of my “coming home” plans.  I am up and about now, although I have to be very careful what I do, as my knee is very unstable and keeps wandering off in the opposite direction from the rest of my leg.  Typically, I have everything unpacked and put away, and my house back the way I like it within a couple of days.  This time it took me two weeks, and put a lot more strain on my poor hubby than I had intended!  I am hoping and praying that I can heal this without surgery, as the surgery that my doctor described to me sounds crazy painful and very invasive.

As many of you know, we are facing a move for the first time in 10 years.  Our sweet elderly landlord is no longer able to care for the rental properties that he has, and so he is selling them.  The other half of our duplex was being rented by Extreme Response to use as overflow housing, but we terminated the lease on June 1st, since we did not need it for our teams this summer and we didn’t know how long we could have kept it.  Our sweet landlord rented it AGAIN.  Ahem.  To some kind of security company.  They are hands-down the loudest neighbors we’ve ever had.  I feel like I’m living next door to some bizarre combination of construction site and frat house.  We had originally decided to ride out the sale of our house (the paperwork here could take six months or six years–it’s a terribly long process) but now I am thinking that maybe we need to step up looking for somewhere else to live before my nerves are shot.

We are diving into Team Season–in fact, Dan’s first team arrives tomorrow night.  It’s always a crazy time around here–most of the guys are out with teams all summer.  It is not unheard of for us to have five teams on the ground at once!  I don’t think our schedule is quite that packed this summer, but it will still be a good time!  Patrick and I are looking forward to spending some time with teams this year.  This is the first time in three years that we’ve been home for the summer and we’re very excited about it.

Patrick’s schooling is going well.  We’ve moved to a “summer schedule”.  Because of his learning issues, his retention is not good, so we are going to continue working on a limited schedule over the summer.  Mostly he will continue with reading and some math, and the rest of his subjects will start up again in September.  He continues to make me laugh all the time–he is just a very funny little boy.

I will post a ministry update soon.  There is an awful lot happening here right now, but because of my handicapped status I haven’t gotten out to see most of it.  Hopefully next week, after this team leaves, I’ll have lots of news!