The draw of comfort: either be comfortable and die or get dirty and live

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Comfort is the nemesis of adventure. Life should be lived with your toes hanging over the edge— otherwise it’s just dying in a slow, boring way.

Toes over the edge

Remember toddlers? They ONLY have a sense of adventure. They don’t want to sit and they don’t want to wait and they don’t want to bother with silly social norms like spoons for applesauce.

But it changes by adulthood, doesn’t it? I have recently seen the alarming truth that by middle school comfort over adventure is already deeply ingrained. You see, we went on a field trip.

They took 5th graders to a farm and I was a chaperone. We got to see a whole ecosystem of life. There were cows and horses, ducks and sheep, fields and a fire pit. Now, I’m no stranger to the farm scene so maybe that’s why I smiled deep down into my soul when I stepped off the bus. There’s new life and provision and loving care and nature and bounty on a farm. I know it to be a magical place that we should all revere at least a little. Hey, if there were no farms there would be no McDonald’s. (Although some may debate that McDonald’s is almost purely chemical at this point. You get my gist anyway.)

horses on a farm

I was not a little horrified when I turned my contented face around to look at the kids throughout the trip. Some had their faces screwed up in disgust and covered their faces with their shirts or hands. Several had personal bags they carried with them full of a variety of snacks, electronics, hand sanitizer, and beauty products. Some complained about the amount of walking. At each new animal stall inevitably the same scenario played out again and again. Someone would be standing near the fence and something would happen (i.e. the animal would turn over, the wind would shift or something similarly benign) and someone would scream, “Ewww!” and would pull away in disgust. It even happened with the bunnies. A kid really screamed “Ewww” because of a bunny.

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This handsome kid jumped in and offered his thumb for the newborn calf, just days old, to suck on. Yes, it was slimy and gross. Yes, it was worth the experience. Yes, it was my kid.

These kids who missed the adventure because of the lack of comfort were not mine. But they are the future that my children will run the world with. Now it’s my turn to say “Ewww.” These kids all go to a good school that displays Christian values. I’ve known most of them for many years and they are really good kids. How could so many have turned to the blinding nature of comfort so easily and early?

 

 


I recently talked to a mom about the upcoming summer vacation. She told me that her daughter is expecting to spend the entire summer plugged in to some device and the mother was grieved because she knows it’s not good for a kid. I told her that we plan on spending several weeks and most every weekend at our cabin which has no service for TV, internet, or phone. When we’re there we are 100% unreachable unless we go into the library in town. There was a flicker of longing in this mom’s eye. She saw the adventure. She saw the pure unadulterated life that could be lived at such a place where you stay entertained with pitcher plants and frogs, mud and leaves, hammocks in the sunshine and a gentle breeze.

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We cooked up some foraged food last time we visited that magical place. Spring is great for treats growing in the woods.

“That would be great.” She said with almost a whisper. It seemed too impossible to ever hope for. We saw her daughter and the mom told her, “You should hear what they have planned for this summer.” I told her and her immediate response was:

“That sounds like the most horrible place ever!”

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Are you familiar with Fruit Ninja? Well, the kids used a hand-carved sword and some watermelon rind to make the live game. Very ninja-esk moves going on.

 

 

 

 


My own kids are not immune to the comfort creep. My own middle-schooler is starting to push back against our biking to school. “It’s too cold.” “I’m too tired.” “It takes too long.”

It is true that driving provides great climate control, minimal effort and in a shorter amount of time. But to every adult that feels the void left after becoming an adult to only focus on life we are told we should live—one with nice cars and drive-thrus and a high ratio of pre-made dinners—those adults know that throwing caution to the wind and riding a bike with the sun glaring down into your eyes and muscles aching from conquering “the hill” and wind whipping your hair around is life. Those feelings, those mean you are alive. It means that you can do and that you did do. We think that time is gone and we ache for our kids because they are seeming to miss those times you remember so distantly but fondly.

We all knew it as toddlers.

We lost it by middle school.

We miss what we’ve lost by adulthood.

abandoned skates

BUT NO MORE!!!!!!

Quit the comfort excuses and go out and do it. Walk in the woods with your kids and when you see a rotting log dig in it with your bare hands and see what you can find. It is not written anywhere that as an adult you are just destined to die as slowly as you can. We feel like we are told: “Don’t take risks, be cautious of every stranger, stay clear of germs.” Well don’t listen to ‘them.’ Germs build our immune system, 99% of strangers could be potential friends, and risks are what move us forward.

Jump into a pool even if you think it’ll be too cold. Better yet, jump in with your clothes still on. Have a food fight. Unplug the TV. Try to cut your own hair (you can always pay someone to fix it if you need to. First have an adventure with it.) What else do toddlers do? Stop in your tracks and admire every strange animal you come across, even if it’s an ugly, mean looking dog. Dance in the grocery store when that song you like comes on. Catch snowflakes or raindrops on your tongue. Stop and smell every flower. While you’re squatted down there, inspect the ants and disrupt their path and see how they react. Answer the phone with a British accent. Color outside the lines and in unconventional colors.

messy painting

Those are just the LITTLE things. Since we are now adults we can also do things like: Skydive. Buy an old-run down car and use YouTube to figure out how to fix it yourself. Bike to the store to buy three gallons of milk and then figure out how to get them home. When you’re driving home from church one day blow past the house and keep driving with no plan except to call into work for Monday. Think you have a chance to be the best in something and then go for it. Order the weirdest looking thing on the menu and then eat it—well, at least some of it—then tip the waiter 50%, just because this is life and life is meant to be lived. We can’t be the people we were created to be if we don’t ever do anything. So be generous, take risks on things and people, be willing, have your hands deep down in this life all the way up past your elbows in any and every way you feel even slightly inspired.

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Adventure means stepping out and getting dirty and stretching yourself to be more of who you were meant to be. We should not atrophy into a shadow form of our abilities.

 

 

 


I once said that I didn’t need special bike shorts to get outside and bike. Someone responded, “Those shorts are a necessity for me if I’m riding any length of time.” I get the point she was trying to make but, a fear of chaffing should not cripple your life. It’s just an example of a way we can let the desire to be comfortable creep in to steal away our lives. By all means, ride your bike with whatever clothes you have on and suffer the consequences of being adventurous. Chaffed. Dirty. Sore. Tired. Accomplished. Alive.

We naturally find ourselves finding our way to a more and more comfortable life. I implore you, do whatever you can to fight it.

Sombrero lady

Be weird

 

10 ways to answer that question

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The short answer is wanderlust. The long answer is a little more poetic.

Wait. Did I skip the question? Sorry. The question is there because we can’t keep from GOING. Every time I try to write a post, it ends up half written about the most recent trip. One was about a business trip where we tagged along with Mr. WW. Another was about spending weekends up at our cabin. Then there’s the most recent trip to two different countries in Africa. All while hauling around the kids. So after the realization that I have problems with finishing writing projects, I guess the question is– why?

Why don’t we sit and binge on a Netflix series like normal people?

Plus, aren’t we supposed to be frugal weirdos? (To take a name from the Frugalwoods.) How we do we justify spending the money it takes to always be going?

The long answer is this: We want to teach our kids life.

To not accept mediocrity. We need to realize that life has so much more to offer outside of our comfy couches.

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Real is always better than a screen.

To embrace the unknown with reckless abandon and by so doing breaking apart fears, stereotypes and anything holding you back.

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Mr. WW took a risk. Of course he bruised his tailbone a bit when he didn’t make it far enough but it was still worth it. Did you hear me? It was worth it. It’s okay if you get bruised along the way. Bruises heal but memories last a lifetime.

To realize that our freedom is to be cherished.

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When you regularly find yourself surrounded by people wanting to hear what you’ve experienced because they are not able to experience it yourself it gives you perspective.

To be okay without a set schedule. Life constantly does not go as you expect and that’s okay because we know how to go with the flow.

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At any moment adventure could knock on our door. Are you willing to make it work? One last minute adventure left me pushing my computer battery to it’s limit so I could work in the pool room several states away from my regular office.

To know that most of the time, “no” does not in fact mean “can’t.”

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You could find a lot of reasons to say “no” to going halfway around the world. People blame disease, cost, comfort, etc. to never travel anywhere more different than a park with costumed people wandering around in it. Sometimes you can ignore that “no” and get to meet gobs of boys and girls that all deserve to be princes and princesses.

To learn that pressing forward against the “no’s” in life is what brings growth. We’re talkin’ character. Knowledge. Experience. Respect even.

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It may not seem normal to talk to some people. Children are regularly told not to talk to adults, especially strangers. Sometimes it is highly edifying to let people with differing ages or backgrounds learn from each other. What better way to learn than to talk to strangers now and again?

To appreciate everything— from the fact that water lilies bloom after the pond lilies to the incredible blessing of being able to turn a tap and get water.

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How many living organisms do you think you could find in one square foot of a forest floor?

To learn how little we really need to do anything. We don’t need many changes of clothes. We don’t need a plan. We don’t need electronics. We make do with what we have when we get there.

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Bed? Who needs a bed?

To use the “make do with what we have” to build ingenuity. The ability to think around a problem is grossly underdeveloped these days. To always rely on the known to get through life is very boring.

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This go-kart wasn’t working. That’s okay! With a little people power things are still thumbs up!

To get dirty and know that dirt is okay.

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This jawbone lying in the woods may not be clean but how can you examine it properly if you don’t pick it up?

All of these things are learned by going out and doing.

All of the pictures I posted today are from our own adventures (and I have many more.) In trying to teach our kids about life, we’ve learned so much ourselves.

We have SO MUCH opportunity in life. Every day you could go and walk down your street and meet any number of people with compelling stories. Every day you can lay in the grass on your stomach in your very yard and contemplate the tiny ant or turn over and contemplate the cosmos. No matter your situation, no matter how many “no’s” you hear from others and from your own head, you can have grand adventures. EVERY DAY.

However, there is a catch. If you take these opportunities on your street it doesn’t take long for that to turn into a desire to meet people and ants outside of your street, your town, your country. Before long you’re hauling your kids to secluded waterfalls in the mountains.

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Sitting in a waterfall may not be common but it is much better than standing behind a guardrail because it is a location that is so popular. Thinking out of the box leads to more opportunities.

To villages where no one speaks your language (but everyone understands the universal language of a ball.)

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This village was not a scheduled stop but there were so many willing faces to meet. We stopped and there they were.

And pretty soon they learn to have the confidence to speak to and even teach those older than themselves.

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This is our son’s first time using an interpreter to communicate with an audience. He is leading a craft time. It was his idea to lead it himself. 

This is what it’s like to have wanderlust and I will not apologize. It is a wonderful thing to have. Next time I’ll post about the finances involved in having such a serious case of wanderlust– you may be surprised– if you are still sitting around to read it by the time it comes out.

Go. Have an adventure.

“Can you help?”

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Several weeks ago a woman looking to move to my city with her young girls while she goes to school emailed my church looking for a host family. She’s only here temporarily and wanted to be connected with Christian friends and have someone to watch her youngest during the day while she is at school.

The announcement was made to over 200 women at our Bible study so over 200 families were represented there. Surely one of them had an extra room in their home and the ability to stay home and watch a young child. Since this particular study is during the day it makes sense that almost everyone there was either retired, a stay at home mom/wife or worked from home (like myself.) There must be someone who could do it.

No one said they would help. NO ONE.

Why am I so frustrated about it?

Reason #1  I am frustrated: Because I think it very clearly points out the problems we have as a society.

All over the world families share spaces. But here we tend to be very selfish. Everyone here’s got these honkin’ huge homes and they keep it all to themselves. Everyone “needs” their own home with their own room chock full of their own VAT of stuff.  Everyone “needs” a cellphone. Everyone “needs” their own car. Everyone “needs” electricity 24 hours a day. These “needs”… *shakes head*

Gotta a puddle to bathe in? Then be happy about it!

Gotta a puddle to bathe in? Then be happy about it!

Now, I do happen to know many people who don’t fit this selfish description. In fact I think it’s due to these people that I’m so frustrated right now. Two of them emailed me just this morning. These people are good, close friends that I love dearly and they do EVERYTHING.

One family is in southern Asia right now pouring their heart and souls into young adults. Some of the young adults they’re trying to help are being married off (read “sold off”) at 16. Many of them have nothing and don’t know how to script their newly adult lives. This family I know welcomes ANYONE into their home (including my family a few times) and doesn’t think of their own “needs” except to implore to their Father in heaven for support. (Seriously, when we went to visit it was like pulling teeth to find out what we could bring for them. They don’t want and realize they don’t need anything stuff-wise.)

The other couple that emailed this morning is currently in Central-Eastern Africa pouring all of their earthly resources (including their own health) into the street children there. They bandage feet broken by a lack of shoes and souls broken by desperate situations. They often don’t have electricity and live in such extreme heat that no one here would think it livable to not have the air-conditioning running 24/7. They too never consider using their talents and abilities to land them a nice kooshy job to buy a nice house here with tasty water out of the tap. Instead they email us asking us how our family is doing (even including the dog!) and to thank us for a tiny service I was able to do for them. Seriously. You can’t get any more opposite of selfish with these folks.

I LOVE these people. So many people here LOVE these people and it breaks our hearts that they are so far away and yet they can’t do anything but continue to follow where God has led them and help others. They have so little themselves and then they share it with everyone around them. They don’t just say “yes” once in awhile. It’s their way of life to say “yes” all the time.

Even without the Christian call to help others, many millions of people find themselves sharing their resources, even if just out of necessity. It doesn’t hurt to live without everything you think you “need.” Why do we think we can’t share?

Gotta bowl full of rice and a little extra to share? Be happy about it and DO IT!

Gotta bowl full of rice and a little extra to share? Be happy about it and DO IT!

Reason #2 I am frustrated: Because we are missing out!

Don’t think that my friends are really just suffering. There are many benefits.

Can you imagine all of the adventure they are experiencing?! Nothing get’s the adrenaline running like turning the corner to find a pack of wild dogs (I know, I’ve done it!) No need to book a trip to Spain to run with the bulls. And no need to watch those reality shows. Just walk into any restaurant and point to a random menu item and you’ve got yourself a challenge! Anytime you allow yourself to be put out of your comfort zone you’ve got yourself an adventure!

Careening through the mountains while crammed into a truck with a bunch of people? Safe? no. Adventurous? Definitely. If you ever get a chance DO IT.

Careening through the mountains while crammed into a truck with a bunch of people? Safe? No. Adventurous? Definitely. If you ever get a chance DO IT.

Can you imagine all of the things they are learning?!  The problems you face give you an extraordinarily effective crash course in life. The best way to learn is hands-on. The day I was left alone in a pizzeria was the quickest I had ever learned a new job! And there is SO much to learn out there in the world.

Life lessons. Our eldest had never ridden the subway before. Nothing like a crash course in a foreign country to bring him up to speed!

Life lessons. Our eldest had never ridden the subway before. Nothing like a crash course in a foreign country to bring him up to speed!

Can you imagine how much they are growing and developing as people to have these experiences?! You’ve got to know that adversity builds character. Heck, it’s in the Bible! Romans 5:3-4 Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. Just think of the character of the people who are the most generous are. Are you thinking kind? Happy? Loving? I know that many of them I know are real characters… if you catch my drift. Ah, they’re great. Characters with character.

This is the most beautiful little girl-- usually.

This is the most beautiful little girl… On the outside– usually. On the inside– always SO beautiful.

Can you imagine the friends/support system they have? Everyone loves them because everyone is drawn to unselfish people. The more you don’t seek it (whatever it is), the more it finds you. I know that the most unselfish people I know are the ones I would most likely give my eyeballs to at the first hint that they need glasses. The more you give without expecting anything in return, the more you will be given. I may have not given away my eyeballs yet but I’ve done things like hauled Dr. Pepper to the other end of the earth and I’ve torn through my own closets looking for anything I could give that could be used.

You know what I mean. I’m not just tooting my own horn here. Think about the most unselfish person you know. Now picture them on the other side of a parking lot from you and picture them dropping something while they carry a load. You’re picturing yourself sprinting over there to pick it up for them, aren’t you? I know you are. You want to help them and you’re almost happy for the opportunity to do so.

Friends are important

Friends are important and you WANT to support them just as they support you.

Can you imagine the memories that they will carry with them forever? How about a little kid’s smile when you pretend to take off your thumb or of all the weddings of young adults making lifelong commitments based on values you helped instill in them?

How can you not love looking at those faces!

How can you not love remembering these faces!

This little girl was a result of a marriage that I was able to attend. Two years later we returned and I got to hold this brand new blessing. Ah, memories. So sweet.

This little girl was a result of a marriage that I was able to attend. Two years later we returned and I got to hold this brand new blessing. Ah, memories. So sweet.

It’s amazing how many tears of love and joy you can cry over just the memories. I really think my joyful tears in my short life have surpassed the tears I’ve cried from pain or sorrow. Because I am willing to put myself into situation that may seem uncomfortable to others.

 Because uncomfortable-unshomfortable!

Who cares about comfort?! What mom says she’s rather not have her kids than have to go through the labor? What athlete would rather turn in their medals, trophies, rings, belts, etc. for a life of comfort? What doctor would prefer to go back and not study all those hours and just be a waiter? The memories of attaining that degree, status, etc. are like icing on the cake. They’re something to be proud of. Not to avoid.

These are things that we would miss out on if we say “no” to giving to others and no degree of cell phone, SUV, or nice perfectly clean guest bedroom that is only used a few times a year will ever come close to filling the gap.

Reason #3 I am frustrated: Because the EARTH, that’s why!

It’s like carpooling. Why, oh why, are we using more resources than we really need? A lot of times we are so incredibly inefficient. My friends don’t travel to Africa, see patients for a day and then fly back. What a waste that would be! Why would this mom need to have her own place and then shuttle her daughter to and from daycare?

With a minimalistic mindset everything you own should do double duty (at least.) Your kitchen towels double as oven mitts and your mugs work for both coffee and soup. Why not have a house that does double duty too? The gas is already keeping all that air warm, the electricity is already providing you with light, and the refrigerator is already working to chill all that space– shouldn’t someone else enjoy it too? Let’s do all we can to not be wasteful.

Mr. WW went a little wild in the forest.

The forests are good. Mr. WW went a little wild there.

Reason #4 I am frustrated: Because there are even selfish reasons we’re missing out on!

My example friends above may not have a lot of selfish rewards for their adventure, but this lady is offering to pay for someone to have the privilege to have the adventure, life lessons, memories, etc. The amount she’s willing to pay would have paid my mortgage (back when we had a mortgage) more than twice over! That’s a good little side-hustle, my friends! Wanna kill some debt or build a savings? Bingo! Help and BE helped.

Or how about just having the selfish benefit of having another adult around to make dinner once in awhile? There are even selfish reasons to take up such an offer!

What if she's great at carpentry and can help you update your mud room?

What if she’s great at carpentry and can help you update your mud room?

Why won’t anyone say yes? It’s so frustrating. I wish I could. I really do. That’s a fine adventure right there. Just laying there waiting to be picked up and lived.

Is there the possibility for disaster? Sure. (Especially if you think of disaster in first-world country terms.) But even if disaster happens you still show you can fly in the face of adversity, you still get the adventure, memories, life lessons, etc.

Sometimes you'll face adversity like grass taller than your mower once you leave for awhile to experience life. Sure it's hard work to take care of it but it's still just another experience to learn and grow from!

Sometimes you’ll face adversity like grass taller than your mower once you leave for awhile to experience life. Sure it’s hard work to take care of it but it’s still just another experience to learn and grow from!

C’mon people! If you can all just be a smidge as awesome, inspiring, unselfish and giving as my friends I mentioned above, the world would be a much better place and YOU would be a better person for it too.

Please say YES to whatever adventure life throw your way!


 

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/50188265@N00/183344129″>Help</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/72309532@N08/6522362311″>Autumn</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/”>(license)</a&gt;