Stepping Out Of My Comfort Zone

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Truth be told, this post didn’t come together how I thought it would.  I didn’t expect to be writing in the car at 10pm while driving through who knows where in Colorado.  I didn’t expect to share about this subject!  When a friend suggested it, I thought, “Huh that’s a good subject but not the subject I want to write about tonight.” And then God (being God) laid that sucker right on my heart and wouldn’t let it go!

Stepping Out Of My Comfort Zone … When I was younger I cared a lot about what people thought of me. That’s not necessarily a bad thing to care about.   I cared too much, to the point where I would stick to myself because I was too afraid I would make a fool of myself in front of others. In 2008 my family experienced the stillbirth of my little brother Samuel.  As a 12 year old kid, losing a baby brother is one of the most unimaginable things ever!  I still remember my baby brother’s memorial service like it was yesterday, even though had he lived, he would be six this coming fall.  I remember the service ending and me walking out with my grandma crying and crying into her shoulder.  As people came out of the sanctuary to greet our family I remember two girls who I had only known for a couple of months coming over to me and hugging me.  At the time I didn’t really realize but now I do!  Seeing someone who is sad and crying can be uncomfortable for many. These two girls could have just said “We are sorry for your loss,” and been on their way.  But they didn’t.  They came over and hugged me… They stepped out of their comfort zone and brought comfort to me! It meant a lot then and still does now.

As I grew older, I prayed to become bolder and to not care about what others thought of me.  It took a long time and many prayers but God is working through me and helping me grow to be the young Christian man He wants me to be!  This past year I can’t even number the amount of times I’ve stepped out of my comfort zone to bring comfort to others.   By praying with people, going on many mission tips, meeting new friends, moving to Chicago, leading worship, crying with people, and much more, I am stepping out and trying to share the love of Jesus with others.

Don’t live for your friends or people around you … Live for an audience of one… GOD!  If you are feeling lost, ask God to help you overcome your fears.  Ask Him to help you step out… Step out of your comfort zone so that you can bring comfort to someone else!

(If you have any questions about still birth just email me at graftedmag@gmail.com and I’ll try and answer your questions)

Leading Us to Eternity

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By Sky Walden, Submissions Manager

Food and family are two of the greatest gifts, especially together. Personally, I’ve been thinking about family more than ever lately. In May, we found out my grandma had four brain tumors and would be passing away soon. It’s been eight weeks, and we don’t know how much longer we have with her.

All of my life, my Grandma Ruth has been the best hostess anyone could ask for. She often arranged family get-togethers. She’d serve us ham on holidays. There was always enough food to go around, and not only that, but there was love. She’d ask if you wanted anything, and she was always, always happy to give it: soda, iced tea, Capri Suns, you name it. She was so generous and giving. She still is.

I remember being young and eating Honey Grahams at my grandma’s house. I haven’t eaten Honey Grahams in years, but when I think about these memories, sometimes I can still taste them. Grandma would always arrange girls’ lunches so that her daughters and granddaughters could get together and enjoy each other’s company. I have so many fond memories of sitting around tables at Village Inn or Applebee’s and laughing together. Today, I’d give anything to have more girls’ lunches.

Grandma’s generosity surpassed even food. She was loving, generous, and incredibly giving of her time. She was exuberant and joyful and always loved life intensely. I look back now, and I can’t believe how precious her personality has been. While I’m glad she’s going to a better place, it’s going to be incredibly hard to lose her.

Ruth and Kylie - cropped and watermarked

A few weeks ago, she was able to sit up and talk to us. We had so many precious conversations with her. Even though her physical and mental states are deteriorating, I can still see glimpses of her personality. When she was more coherent, she’d ask me every time I went to visit her what time I got up that day. She asked me to sit with her at dinner several weeks ago, and even shoved her own cheeseburger in my face to make sure I had enough to eat. On that same visit, she bribed me with a cookie. On another visit, she asked a bunch of times if we had eaten. It’s amazing how attentive she is, even when she herself is on the verge of passing away.

So many of these memories are precious to me because Grandma’s health has gone downhill so fast. Currently, she’s sleeping a lot, and it’s not as easy to communicate with her. She’s not talking much, but when she does, it is almost always to say “I love you” or to talk about God’s goodness, love, and grace. She has told us that our relationship with God is all that matters. Even now, in the last days of her life, Grandma trusts God so much, and she can’t wait to be home with Him. She talks about “Glory” and getting to heaven. She is really excited, to the point of even being disappointed that she hasn’t gone yet.

Even though she’s completely bedridden, she still knows how to praise God. On July 4th, our family gathered around her bedside and sang hymns to her. Though she seemed to be completely asleep, she lifted her hands up to praise. Most recently, she told us that God goes with her when she rests. He is her everything, and He has been with her through all of this. Everything has been stripped away to the bare bones of her faith: just her and God. It’s been incredible to see that. In the end, Jesus is all that matters. Grandma and her beautiful relationship with God have reminded me that I don’t have to worry about anything else.

I have to admit that even in the midst of the joyful moments, this has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. Some days the pain is too hard to express. I don’t know how the world is going to function without Grandma; I don’t know how I will. I’m going to miss her so much. All I can do is hold on to every moment like it’s precious gold, and that’s what I try to do. I’m clinging to the memories and the laughter in this; holding onto it for dear life. I’m trying to live the best I can with the moments I do have left with Grandma. One of my favorite quotes currently is by Jack London, and I’ve held onto it as much as I can, along with the memories. It’s something I repeat over and over again when it’s too hard to breathe.

“I would rather be ashes than dust!
I would rather that my spark should burn out in a brilliant blaze than it should be stifled by dry-rot.
I would rather be a superb meteor, every atom of me in magnificent glow, than a sleepy and permanent planet.
The function of man is to live, not to exist.
I shall not waste my days trying to prolong them.
I shall use my time.”

― Jack London

Honestly, death is the worst and there’s no way for me to put a positive spin on it. I don’t even want to. It genuinely wounds and destroys. I’m not happy about this. It’s hard for me to even write this article; it hurts too much. But I have to say this: the one comfort I’ve found in this is that Grandma has Jesus and she is going to be with Him. Singing to her and hearing her talk about heaven and Jesus have meant the world to me. In the midst of the pain, I am holding on desperately to the time I have had with her.

In the midst of transition with our home church, these experiences with Grandma’s faith have helped me to remember we are the church. Fellowshipping with her has been a precious gift, even if it’s just sitting by her bedside holding her hand. At our last visit, we talked about heaven. She is so excited to see Jesus and walk around with him that it brings me to tears. Her steadfastness and love for Jesus touches my heart and has reminded me that there’s more beyond this life.

Even though she’s not eating anymore, I’m breaking bread with her in spirit, and I’m incredibly grateful for the way she’s leading us all to eternity right along with her.

 

Challah Bread: A Recipe

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Since this month’s theme revolves around food (specifically the breaking of bread), I thought I’d share a favorite recipe with you guys! For me this recipe is associated with pleasant memories—my dad used to bake a few loaves of challah bread every Friday night and we would snack all weekend. In my opinion, it’s best served with a little bit of butter and a dab of honey (although it’s super yummy when eaten plain too).

If you decide to try this recipe, be sure to leave your thoughts in the comment box below. Hope you’re all having a blessed week!
—Jessica Rackley, Managing Editor

. . . . .

What You’ll Need

Ingredients

  • 2 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast
  • 1 cup lukewarm water
  • 4-4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup white granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk (reserve the white for the egg wash)
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil

Tools

  • a sharp knife
  • a baking sheet
  • a large mixing bowl
  • parchment paper

What To Do

1. Dissolve the yeast by sprinkling it over the water in a small bowl, and add a healthy pinch of sugar. Stir to dissolve the yeast and let stand until you see a thin layer of froth on top. (This means it’s ready to use.)

2. Mix the dry ingredients. Mix together the 4 cups of flour, sugar, and salt in the large mixing bowl.

3. Add the eggs, yolk, and oil. Make a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs, egg yolk, and oil. Whisk these together while pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl.

4. Mix to form a dough. Pour the yeast mixture over the egg mixture. Mix the yeast, eggs, and flour with a spoon until you form a dough that is difficult to mix.

5. Knead the dough. Turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes. If the dough seems very sticky, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky (but not like bubblegum). The dough has finished kneading when it is soft, smooth, and holds a ball-shape.

6. Let the dough rise. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and leave it somewhere warm for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until it has risen and doubled in size.

7. Separate the dough into three pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a long rope about 1-inch thick. If the ropes shrink as you try to roll them, let them rest for 5 minutes and then try again.

8. Braid the dough. Gather the ropes and squeeze them together at the very top.  Then braid the ropes together like braiding hair or yarn, and squeeze the ends together when complete.

9. Let the challah rise. Line a baking sheet with parchment and lift the loaf on top. Sprinkle the loaf with a little flour and drape it with a clean dishcloth. Place the pan somewhere warm and away from drafts and let it rise until pillowy (about an hour).

10. Brush the challah with egg white. Preheat the oven to 350°F. When ready to bake, whisk the reserved egg white with a tablespoon of water and brush it all over the challah. Be sure to get in the cracks and down the sides of the loaf.

11. Bake the challah. Put the challah on its baking sheet into the oven and bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pan at the halfway point. The bread is done when it is deeply browned and reads 190°F in the middle with a baking thermometer.

12. Let the challah cool on a cooling rack until it’s just barely warm, then slice (or tear) and enjoy!

Faithfulness

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by Dylan Campbell

2000 years ago, there was a man who walked the earth, and his name was Jesus. Historically, it can be proven that Jesus was a real man, with a real family, who really was born in Bethlehem. (Although probably not on Christmas!) However, it cannot be proven that Jesus rose again from the dead, that he made lame men walk, and blind men see. To be a Christian, one must have faith in these things, and believe them without scientific evidence to back it up. This is the point at which many people struggle, for we are taught from a young age that we need to be able to prove something definitively before we believe it.

The debate of God’s existence has been going on for as long as humans have been around, and unfortunately, thousands (or millions, whichever you choose to believe) of years later, there is still no definitive scientific proof of God’s existence–but neither is there proof of no God. To believe in God, one must have faith, and our faith and faithfulness is what defines our relationship with Him.

I have a friend who is an extremely successful powerlifter. He also has almost completed his theology degree, and is on his way to being an ordained pastor. During his time as a professional powerlifter, he coached and helped many others into the sport of powerlifting. He tells the story of one short, skinny red head that was brought to him by his mother, with the request to help the kid gain some self confidence and self esteem, so as to allow the kid to stand up for himself against his bullies.

As time went on, and this kid slowly became bigger, stronger, and had more self esteem, his bullies no longer picked on him, and he no longer had any need to continue to work out. However, he kept at it, purely out of passion. One day, he was bench-pressing 140 kg (approximately 280 lb), and when he decided he could do that easily enough, he asked to be put up to 160 kg. However, his coach had realized that his form was no good, and hence rejected his request to place more weight on. His coach stated that once he could retain the correct form when lifting 140, then they could move on to 160. Three days later, when they were benching again, he again asked to be put up to 160. Again, his form was no good, and his coach refused. After another two days, during another bench press session, he again asked to be put up to 160. Still, his form was sub-par, and hence his request was refused. This continued for almost three weeks. Finally, the coach snapped, and told the student that he was not putting him up to 160 until he could be faithful with his form on 140. That if he had poor form on 160, he was going to injure himself much quicker and easier there than on 140. He had to be faithful before the coach would put more on his plate.

The same can be said for our lives, as too often we ask God to give us more responsibility and new challenges, when we are not being faithful with our old challenges; and then we get annoyed when He doesn’t give us new things! When you prove you can be faithful with the challenges and temptations already given to you, God will give you more. God doesn’t want to break you, He wants to expand you.

Count Your Enemies

Count your Enemies

C.S. Lewis said, “Friendship is born at that moment when one man says to another: ‘What! You too? I thought that no one but myself . . .’”

 

by Sarah Watt

For the last six months I have been doing a little bit of traveling and while being in different parts of the world, I have found this statement to be extremely true. Even just being able to say the “What! You too?” part created connections with people. These little connecting points were like friendship sparks. While mingling through different cultures, different religions, different denominations, different languages, and different upbringings, finding things to relate with people on became a bit like a treasure hunt. Finding fellow Texans set off conversations about our favorite foods, the different cities we are from and words only we say. Obviously people who spoke English were easier to relate to. People who loved music wanted to be friends with me and my guitar. My best conversations were had with people who stayed awake until the same late hour of the night as me. I connected with people because they’d read certain books or drank their coffee a certain way. Relationships started and went deeper with girls who grew up with brothers, and boys who grew up playing baseball. Matching embarrassing stories were strong sparks as were matching ideas or plans for the future.

Yes, friends are brought together from finding abstract things in common. But they can also be united by something as simple as being the same number in the family. Lewis is talking about that moment of discovery when someone “gets it.” It creates a bond no matter what “it” happens to be. Finding someone who is the same on something you thought you were alone in creates a definite friendship, and even the smallest similarities create connections. Each time we find someone who cheers for the same sports team or eats at the same restaurant as us, we, on some level, relate.

Why is this? I think it’s because whenever people come together, they come together around something. Maybe it’s a cause that a group of people have equal passion to fight for. Maybe it’s an idea and the desire for it to be explored. Maybe it’s a favorite dish that everyone sits down at the table to eat.

Yes, I think even the things that are inherently human about us can bring people together. We all have to eat, we all need oxygen, we all use the bathroom, we are all human, we all were created in the image of God. And all of these things are enough for us all to be connected on some level.

If I had to guess which two topics were discussed the most while I was traveling, I would say it was probably God and food. God was the reason I was traveling with nine other humans from different nations. Food was something we all were passionate about. God was who we wanted to bring to the people we met. Food seemed to be what they always wanted to share with us.
Christ’s greatest commandment to us was to love. To love him. To love our neighbors. And the tough one: to love our enemies. But has anyone ever thought about the fact that loving your enemy is an oxymoron? If I truly had a friendship, a bond, a connection and a love for every person, I would have no enemies.

I wonder if Jesus was thinking about this when He told His disciples to break bread and drink wine together. The bread and wine, He says, are to represent His body and His blood. But He could have used something else. He could have given them a cross or fish emblem to put on their donkeys. He could have had them prick their fingers and taste literal blood. He could have told them to take His robe and cover their bodies with it. He could have had them pick a flower or snap a branch from a tree. Any of these could have had symbolism spun into them and any could serve as a reminder of what Jesus did. But He didn’t use these things. He used something that all people, in all cultures, through all generations enjoy sharing together. And He says, “do this in remembrance of me.”

Maybe Jesus used bread and wine to represent himself, because that is what was in front of Him. Or maybe it was because they are things that bring us all together. Let’s say this is why, or at least one reason why. Let’s acknowledge that we all are waiting in line at the bathroom for the same reason. Let’s say that we remembered, whether it’s bread, or bananas, or rice, that we all eat food. Let’s say we acknowledged the fact that Christ did what He came to do for all of us. Let’s start from there. Let’s let these things connect us, draw us together, spark friendships. Let’s intentionally look for more things that we share. And let’s find out how different our lives would look. Let’s count how many enemies we still have. Let’s see if we don’t end up being a bit more like Christ.

Sarah has been traveling and doing ministry for the last six months and is now home and in the process of figuring out what God has for her next. Sarah has been and will continue writing about her adventure at littlewritinghood.wordpress.com.