Fearful or Fearless in the Face of the Unknown?

“I’m just going to read the reviews on our hotel one more time before we leave.”

Ten minutes later… “I can’t believe this! This can’t be right.  I’m reading reviews online are they’re all saying our hotel has come under new management; the new management isn’t honoring prior reservations.”

My good friend LaurieBeth and I were just getting ready to leave for a week-long trip to Las Vegas and the Grand Canyon. We had found a very inexpensive travel package and I was already nervous about the price of the hotel being too good to be true. Whenever I had a spare minute I was back online, obsessively checking hotel reviews just to make sure our chances of being murdered in the parking lot were minimal.

The newest reviews turned up just as LaurieBeth and I were getting ready to leave for the airport. Trying not to panic, I called the hotel, which confirmed the bad news: they had no record of our reservation. The fact that we had already paid didn’t make a difference- we could re-book, but we would have to pay all over again, at a far higher price.

LaurieBeth and I made the trip to the airport anyway.  Something would work out, right? We spent the entire hour-long drive to the airport on the phone. Since LaurieBeth spends a lot of time on the phone for her job, I made her do the talking.

My parents dropped us off at the airport and drove away, promising to return if necessary. As soon as we were through security our phones were back out. I had booked our hotel/ flight package through an online booking site and we wanted them to help us out- either by getting us another hotel room or reimbursing us for the non-existent reservation.

Our efforts were not going well.

We decided to just go for it- fly to Las Vegas and find someplace to stay when we got there. We would get out money back. We would find a hotel room. Everything would be fine. Right?

Flying into the unknown

Landing at night and seeing the lights of Las Vegas is something I’ll never forget. I’m glad we booked a night flight. For that reason, at least. On the other hand, it was almost 10:00 when we landed, so the pressure was really on us to find a place to stay.

A google search led us to Excalibur- one of the cheapest hotels on The Strip. Fine. We’ll start there. What’s cooler than staying in a giant fake castle?

Next hurdle: it was Memorial Day weekend. The hotel management told us they were booked. Pretty much everything was going to be booked. At this point it was getting very late and my optimism was waning. We gave the check-in girl big sad Bambi eyes (LaurieBeth is way better at this than me) and duh duh duh dah! She found us a room. For eight times the normal price.

We took it.

Fear of the unknown

What if I hadn’t checked the reviews before we left? What if we had innocently showed up at our hotel, only to discover that there wasn’t anyone there to even let us in? What if we were stuck outside, late at night, in the streets of Las Vegas? (Our “budget hotel” wasn’t in a great area, let me tell you.)

What if?

That’s where so many of us are living our lives right now. What if we get sick, lose our jobs, drain our savings, have to do distance learning again next year?  (Pleeease no!)

What if things never go back to normal?

LaurieBeth at Lake Mead. I’m so glad we took the plunge and flew to Nevada- we would have missed a great trip if we let fear of the unknown keep us home.

Facing the unknown

Four years later, we laugh about the “Hotel Situation.” I would tell you now that it’s one of my favorite travel memories (this was just the start of a memorable trip, believe me). We can laugh because we know the end of the story.

It’s a lot harder to find the humor when you don’t know the punchline yet. I hate not knowing how things are going to turn out. I’m the person that skips to the end of the book and reads that first.  If I could do that with my life, I would. I don’t like living with the “what ifs.”

Fearless in the unknown

It’s difficult not knowing what’s going to come next. Fear of the future is common. If you google top fears, almost all of them are future-related. Whether it’s health, finances, pollution, or global warming, people are afraid of the unknown.

As a single woman, there are many times when fear of the future creeps into my mind. I start to think about who will take care of me in my old age, or what retirement will look like. Those thoughts can keep me up at night and fill me with anxiety.

Strength and dignity are her clothing, and she laughs at the time to come. –Proverbs 31:25

I don’t have to be afraid.

I don’t have to be filled with worry.

The woman who puts her trust in God will never be let down. Health, finances, and circumstances may fail us, but God never does.

We might not know what’s coming next, but we do not have to be women who live in fear.  If we allow God to work in and through our lives, we can become women of strength and dignity- laughing at the days to come no matter what.

This week I’m thankful for the blessing of the unknown. It can be scary at times, but I’m so glad that God enables us to face it fearlessly. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!

Make Your own Mountains

“The train leaves in five minutes. Go! Just go!” My sister and I took off running through the dingy station, dragging our luggage behind us. We had been travelling for the better part of the day and definitely didn’t want to miss this train. My flip flops weren’t a match for the slick concrete floor, so I took them off and ran barefoot. Yes, I was running barefoot through a Scottish train station.

We jumped on the train just as it started to pull away. I put my shoes back on and looked for a conductor. Our stop was only a few minutes away, however, and we disembarked before anyone ever approached us to purchase tickets. On realizing that we had never paid, my always well-behaved sister looked at me and whispered, “We rode the rails.” I have to admit, it was kind of exciting. Criminal activity wasn’t something we usually took part in.

My sister and I were heading towards our last stop on a two-week ramble around Scotland. This particular bed-and-breakfast was waaaay out in the middle of nowhere. In order to get there, it required…  a train, a walk in the rain, a bus, another train (the train of barefoot running and not purchasing tickets), another bus, another walk uphill in the rain, and finally our proprietor’s wife coming to get us in her car because her husband gave us wrong directions. While she was chasing us down our bus driver was actually coming back to check on us at the same time. I’m pretty sure he thought we were crazy.

Maybe we were a little bit crazy.

We had literally found the end of the road. It was, quite possibly, the most remote guesthouse in Scotland. There was nothing around us but five houses, cows, and wild, rugged hills. Clearly, there would be no boat tour on Loch Lomond.  There would be no lakefront attractions. All that was left for us to do was hike.

So we hiked- through remote landscapes, up hills and around sheep gates, never seeing anyone. The windswept scenery felt ancient and powerful, drawing us in. As we stood high on top of a hill and gazed at the fingers of sunlight filtering through the clouds onto the loch below, I turned to my sister and said, “I think this is the most beautiful spot of all.” The powerful beauty surrounding us made the long, crazy trip worth it all.

One of the many stunning views from our trip to Scotland.

That trip to Scotland was the start: It was the spark that ignited my passion for adventure, learning, and discovery.  

You see, I have a theory about life as a single woman: I have to make my own mountains. In other words, it’s up to me to create interest, growth, and excitement in the day-to-day act of living. Since I’m a visual person I often view my life as a long, flat plain that stretches straight out as far as I can see. There are none of the adult “highs” to break up this plain- no thrill of an engagement or excitement of falling in love. No marriage to celebrate or first baby to plan for. No first day of school or family vacations.

 Just a smooth level plain, unmarked by deep valleys or high mountains. As a person with deeply ingrained routines, it can be easy for me to reside on this plain.

It’s comfortable. Soooo comfortable. Not scary, hurtful, dangerous, or embarrassing. Just… comfortable.  There are days when my safe routines make the plain seem really, really good.

I like my routines, but I don’t like the person they turn me into.

So it’s up to me to put some hills in that flat plateau!

Friends, I hear all of your excuses because I say them to myself, too.

“That’s too scary.”

“It’s so hard.”

It’s too late.”

“I would, but I don’t have anyone to try it with me.”

“This just isn’t a good time right now.”

“I could never do that by myself.”

Believe me, I’ve been there. I’m still there sometimes. I’ve said every single one of these things to myself. It’s hard to make your own mountains. But it’s also incredibly rewarding.

Don’t let the fact that you’re single stop you from learning and growing, from being open to new experiences.

I can’t say that enough! What’s something you’ve always wanted to try? Where’s a place you’ve always wanted to visit? What’s a goal you’ve set for yourself but never been able to achieve?

  • Start by seeking God’s will. First and always, commit your life to Him and ask for His direction.
  • Make a plan. Nothing happens by accident.
  • Set achievable goals.
  • Take a deep breath and jump!

Ironically, as I wrote this blog post I was anticipating my first solo travel experience- a trip to San Diego. I was nervous and excited about my new mountain. Solo travel was going to be a whole new adventure and I couldn’t wait. And then, of course, life intervened. Like so many others, I was forced to cancel my trip (I should have left today!) because of the virus.

Now I’m facing a completely different scenario: Instead of sun, surf, and sand I’ve been “gifted” three weeks off work. In Ohio. Everything remotely interesting has been closed. And we’re supposed to stay in the house as much as possible. It is not understating things to say that this is NOT the spring break I envisioned.

I want to make the best of things, though. I believe God is in control of all of this; there is beauty and goodness to be found in all circumstances and situations. I don’t know exactly what the next few weeks are going to look like, but I’m determined to keep an open mind and make my own mountains.

Until then, what mountain can you make in your life? What’s stopping you?

“Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So go, be on your way!”- Dr. Seuss

When is the last time you tried something for the first time?

“Why does this have to be so hard?” That question echoed through my mind as I hesitantly walked through the snow to my neighbor’s house, clutching a loaf of lemon-blueberry bread. On reaching their door, I took a deep, fortifying breath before ringing the bell.

Introducing myself to these particular neighbors was one of my New Year’s resolutions. You may not realize it when you meet me, but I have struggled with shyness and social awkwardness all my life. People do not come naturally to me. My neighbors had been living next door for over two years and not once had I initiated any contact with them. I knew that I should, but I kept putting it off, and putting it off, and putting it off… Two years later, here I am, standing awkwardly on their doorstep.

After I successfully introduced myself and dropped off my bread I walked back to my house with a sense of euphoria. I did it! That wasn’t so bad. And I am reminded once again that shaking my life up is good. So in the spirit of the New Year, I have to ask myself (and you, too)-

“When is the last time you tried something for the first time?”

Trying new things can be HARD. Trying new things alone is even harder. Let’s face it- doing life on your own often calls for a whole new level of bravery. For me, my reluctance to try something new usually boils down to that one thing- fear. Specifically fear of rejection.

That can be a powerful fear. If I introduce myself first, I might be rejected. If I fail or look really foolish, I might be rejected. Often, it feels like it’s easier to not even try. But that is not the way we are meant to live our lives.

What does the Bible say about fear and rejection?

Jesus knew rejection.  Isaiah 53:3 says that “He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces He was despised, and we held Him in low esteem.” 

And because He faced rejection, He also shows us how to move past that fear.

“So we say with confidence, ‘The Lord is my helper; I will not be afraid. What can man do to me?’” (Hebrews 13:6).

We don’t have to be afraid of failure, rejection, or anything else. God is our helper and we can move boldly forward. Don’t let fear stop you from taking the plunge and jumping into a new experience.

We are not supposed to live lives of quiet fear. God enables us to be fearless!

When I talk about trying something new, I’m not just referring to starting a hobby or crossing items off a bucket list. Those things are great, but I’m also thinking about God’s purpose for my life. Some of the most uncomfortable new experiences can be the ones I know God is directing me do.

Starting a Bible study

Witnessing to a co-worker

Discipling a new Christian

Inviting someone you don’t know over for dinner

 Talking to people is often difficult for me, but I know that God wants me to use my life to serve others. It’s certainly easier and more comfortable for me to sit on the beach with a book. That’s what I’d rather be doing (always).  But if I want to live a life of obedience to God, there are times when I need to set my book aside.

This is where I have to make myself do things I don’t want to do. This is where I hold on to God’s truth, take a deep breath, and step out of my comfort zone. Isaiah 41:13 is a great encouragement to me when I face a tough new task:

“For I, the LORD your God, hold your right hand; it is I who say to you, ‘Fear not, I am the one who helps you.’”

What’s stopping you from trying something new this year?

One of the greatest blessings of the single life can be the gift of time. Whether I want to attempt roller skating, start a Bible study, or write a blog, I am BLESSED to have the time to invest in these new ventures.

I’ll say that again. Time is one of the greatest blessings of a single life. Don’t ever let anyone make you feel guilty about your extra time! Remember that God has planned out every step of your life. He has given singles the gift of time so that we can give it back to Him as an offering. Our willingness to accept that gift and use it to explore new challenges will help us discover that we can fill so many important roles.

I encourage you to fully embrace your life, step out of your comfort zone, and challenge yourself to find a new way to grow this year.

One of my favorite new experiences last year was participating in Trunk or Treat at the Cleveland City Mission.

What is God asking you to try for the first time this year?

Tell me about it! What do you want to try for the first time this year and how are you going to accomplish it?

This week I am thankful for the blessings of new adventures. Together, let’s celebrate every SINGLE blessing!