California Redwood Forest

It’s almost midnight. Rain has been drenching the redwood forest for the last three hours and shows no sign of slowing. Inside the log cabin, the gold lamplight casts a warm glow. After a full day at the writer’s conference, my friend Ellen and I have curled up with chocolate and hot tea in two cozy, mismatched armchairs.

We are three days into the writers’ conference in the middle of the California redwoods. Each day has stretched us to break out of our comfort zone. Our hearts are full, and our minds are tired. We are excited about pitching our books to some outstanding literary agents in the morning, and we’ve spent the evening practicing.

However, as the midnight hour approaches, we feel like we’re about to turn into pumpkins. I say goodnight, and we share an encouraging hug. Then, I begin the trek across the conference center’s enormous outdoor campus to my lodge.

Rain pours through the redwood branches and swirls in rivers around my boots. The entire forest feels like it is singing. The rain keeps a steady percussion, and the tree branches creak and sway in rhythm.

The sweet evergreen tang of trees and blossoming flowers, mingled with the rain’s petrichor, floods my senses. Rainwater cascades off of the buildings in mighty waterfalls. The handful of building lights cause the forest to sparkle and glow.

And I’m the only one outside to witness it.

I take the long way back to the lodge, ducking under overhangs to keep myself dry. Beneath the dining hall, I pause behind a thick veil of water. It feels like I’m standing in a cave concealed by a waterfall, looking out at the magical forest in front of me — a forest filled with possibilities.

The waterfall stands between me and the lodge. I can go back the way I came, or I can step right into the deluge.

I hesitate for a moment and ponder the obstacle in front of me. I plunge forward under the waterfall and emerge soaked. As I do, I can hear God inviting me to step out of my comfort zone and into something greater than myself.


Walking over a bridge in the redwood forestBreaking Out of Your Comfort Zone

The writer’s conference in California was full of beautiful connections, friendships forged, and courage found. God stretched me outside of my comfort zones multiple times a day over that week in the redwoods.

Here are five insights that I want to share with you that I learned at the conference that can help you break out of your comfort zone.

1. God Does NOT Operate Inside Our Comfort Zone

You and I have secure comfort zones where we feel cozy, safe, and secure. However, actual growth occurs when we stretch outside of those comfort zones. Think of a comfort zone like a seed. The plant is curled up, small and secure, inside its confines. However, when it breaks out of the seed’s shell, struggles through the dirt, and reaches the sunlight, it can grow into a mighty tree.

When we try to limit what we can do — or what God can do — by staying in that comfort zone, we miss out on some pretty incredible things. It won’t always be easy, but it will be worth it.

2. Overcoming Obstacles

How do you react when you run up against obstacles in your life (which is guaranteed to happen)? In my experience, roadblocks tend to pop up in force when I’m on the right path or doing something God has called me to do. How often do we turn back instead of plunging through those challenges like a waterfall? What blessings do we miss that could be just on the other side? Don’t give up when things get complicated. When things seem impossible, ask the God who makes all things possible for His help. He will help you find a way through it.

3. Let Yourself Be Poured Into

The morning of the redwood rainstorm, I had asked God to pour into me. I had asked His Holy Spirit to wash over me like water and restore my soul after facing one of the most challenging seasons of my life. I’d asked Him to grow my life story into something strong and beautiful — like these redwoods — and to open the branches of my heart so that I could drink in His goodness and grow strong in Him.

Letting Him pour into our lives enables us to pour into the lives of others through encouragement, service, and the ability to give love. But how often do we ask God to pour into us and resist His Spirit when He answers our prayers in ways that stretch us? As mentioned in the first point, God doesn’t work inside our comfort zones, and it’s a hundred percent guarantee that He will ask us to step outside of them to answer our prayers.

4. Surrender Your Expectations

Barb Roose says in her devotional book, Surrendered, “Surrender your expectations got God, and He’ll give you extraordinary.” When I went to the writer’s conference, on the spur of the moment and at Ellen’s prodding, I went with the attitude of no expectations. Holding onto those expectations loosely and living with the expectancy of what might happen opened the doors to some seriously cool conversations, friendships, and happenings.

In my newsletter last month, we talked about this a little more in-depth. (Click here to sign up if you haven’t already!) It’s easy to hold tight to those expectations of how things should happen and how things should look in our lives. When we choose to let go of those expectations and go with the flow and are excited about what could happen, we open ourselves up to freedom, satisfaction, and seeing the unexpected blessings that come our way when we’re not looking for them.

5. Rejection Can Be a Good Thing

We all know how the sting of rejection feels. It’s easy to think of rejection as a bad thing, especially when it comes from someone we want to have a relationship with or when it’s something we want. As an author and writer who has pitched my stories to agents and publishing houses, it’s always hard when I receive a response that says, “Thanks, but we’re not interested.”

At the conference, Jevon Bolden and Barb Roose talked about this very topic. Their words stuck with me so much that I wanted to pass them on to you. Maybe, like me, you need to hear it today. Rejection can be a good thing.

Yes, you heard right — a good thing. Rejection helps us fine-tune where we are in our lives or the work we are pursuing and take it to the next level. “No” is necessary for God to guide our steps and bring us closer and closer to the right “yes.”

And even though you and I might feel like we are wandering in the desert during those times, remember that nothing is ever wasted. Each experience is like rain on our branches and helps us grow toward the sun.

As you step into the coming week, which of the five insights above resonates the most with you? Let me know in the comments.

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