In Which Life is Like a Water Slide

Last week I went to Six Flags with my sister and my little nephews. We had a blast taking the boys on rides.

carousel

One of these boys, the three year old, was fearless – in fact, he was heartbroken when we told him he wasn’t tall enough to ride the scariest roller coaster in the park. The other boy, the four year old, was…not. Each ride we got in line for was met with protests and pleading. It didn’t matter how calm the ride was or how much he would end up enjoying it.  The kid just hated climbing on a ride he hadn’t tried before. He was afraid of the unknown.

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Here’s a ferris wheel he was afraid to get on. He ended up liking it.

The last ride we went on was a pretty tall water slide – the kind where you can all pile in one raft together. There was a bit of a line, so we had to stand halfway up on the stairs for about ten minutes. All ten minutes he was crying. Everyone in line around us started stepping in to tell him there was nothing to be scared of, but it didn’t matter. It was big and he hadn’t done it before, so he was terrified.

Here’s the thing. I get this way too. Now, I don’t usually cry while I’m waiting in line for rides, but I am afraid of things I haven’t tried. Sometimes I’m afraid I won’t be good enough or successful enough or funny enough. But that fear won’t get me anywhere, and it’s usually lying anyway. Once I try get out there and do something, it usually turns out great. That’s why I joined something called the Start experiment. For 26 days, groups of 26 people are each tackling one risky goal. Mine began as this blog, but I’ve noticed that this attitude of punching fear in the face is kind of contagious. It’s spreading out into different parts of my life too (more about that another time). I’ve always heard that discipline begets discipline, and maybe the same is true for courage.

So here’s to 26 days of crazy courage. I can’t wait to see where this goes.

 

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Three Reasons Divorce Statistics Don’t Scare Me

When you decide to get married at 23, strange things begin to happen. You start to hear a lot about how young you are. People pull you aside to ask if you’re pregnant despite all evidence to the contrary. If you’re lucky, a stranger from New York might call you crazy at your own bachelorette party. Apparently they just don’t do that up there. (They don’t really do it much down here either.)

After all, marriage has taken on a new role in our culture. It’s turned into something you do when you have the rest of your life all figured out. You know who you are, you have your dream job, and you’ve had those adventures in Europe. Settling down with your spouse is the last piece of the puzzle. Those of us who choose to marry young look foolish or even needy to those who are waiting.

You’ve probably seen a whole lot of statistics out there compiled by people a lot smarter than I am, and this is a complicated issue. In fact, there is no right answer for everyone. But there are a few things I’ve learned that might help you understand why I walked down the aisle confidently even though the odds seem stacked against us.

1. We had realistic expectations.

Here’s something you need to understand before you even think about getting married: marriage won’t make you happy. Marriage isn’t the end of the movie cherry on top it’s cracked up to be. It’s hard. It’s time-consuming. It’s wonderful, but it won’t solve your problems or transform you or your partner into a happier person. Getting married is like holding a magnifying glass up to all of your qualities – good and bad. This will make you a better person if you let it, but if you don’t know it’s coming you’ll have a rough go of it. This is true whether you’re 18 or 40. If you have realistic expectations, and I think we did thanks to premarital counseling, then it’s going to be a lot easier to handle.

2. Your life doesn’t end when you get married.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that if you get married young, you lose opportunities to travel the world or go after your dreams. This is simply not true. Marriage does require sacrifices, yes, but if you really want to go after something and you’ve found a supportive partner, there is absolutely no reason you can’t go for it. In fact, the extra support of a spouse when you’re pursuing a difficult goal or even just going on an adventure can make that experience even richer.

3. Life is short.

I actually never planned on marrying young, but when I was lucky enough to find someone I get along well with, someone who pushes me to be better, I didn’t want to spend any more of my life without him. I don’t have a dazzling resume or piles of money, and I sure don’t have it all figured out. I probably never will. But that’s not what it takes to build a marriage. It takes maturity, a sense of humor, and the desire to put a lot of miles on your relationship.

So tell me what you think in the comments. Is it a good idea to get married young, or should more people wait?

My Neighbors Aren’t Prostitutes

Causes have a way of sweeping me away with them. I love to have conversations about the water crisis in the developing world, and the horrors of sex trafficking worldwide. If I’m being honest, though, all that talk doesn’t usually translate into action.

The causes we hear about the most are big and far away. Sex trafficking in Cambodia is a tragic, awful thing, but I don’t live in Cambodia. What can I do from my apartment in the suburbs? Giving money doesn’t feel like it’s worth much, and I’m pretty sure that’s not what Jesus meant when he said love your neighbor anyway. So that’s where I get stuck. Why bother if I can’t do anything important?

I definitely don’t have this all figured out yet, but I’ve decided not to let myself off the hook while I’m working through it.  I’m going to do something crazy and try to love my real life neighbors – the ones in my building.

Neighbors

It looks pretty much like this in my head – don’t ruin it for me yet.

We may not have a prostitution problem in the suburbs, but we have way too much isolation and loneliness. We are starved for community, and I’m part of the problem. Honestly, the last three places I’ve lived I never knew a single one of my neighbors by name. And that’s not cool. So my husband and I have decided to get to know our neighbors this time around. Maybe we’ll even have them over and we can all get to know each other. Maybe the best way to start loving our neighbors right now is to actually meet them.

On DOMA and Grace

Last summer when the Chick-Fil-A controversy blew up, my friend and I drove past a jam-packed Chick-Fil-A on the way to the grocery store.  It was crammed with people showing their support for the restaurant’s denouncement of gay marriage.  The divisiveness of the whole situation made me squirm, but I didn’t know how my friend would react if I told her what I really thought.  You see, she and I grew up together in conservative Christian schools and churches, and for years we took it for granted that our opinions were the same. Eventually, though, I found myself unable to reconcile some of the things I was taught with the love of Christ I had experienced.  Gradually I could admit to myself that I supported gay marriage. I just hadn’t admitted it to anyone else.

In front of Chick-Fil-A that day though, as my friend was getting worked up about what she saw as the tragedy of gay marriage, I could no longer stay quiet about my changing opinions. Among other things, I remember explaining to my friend how it must feel for the government to tell you how to live such a personal part of your life – a part that so many people already make you feel ashamed of.  I remember telling her why I thought that the government’s definition of marriage could not change God’s definition of marriage. I remember going on for quite some time (Okay, I might have gotten a little too fired up…).

My friend responded in an amazing way. Instead of getting defensive, she listened to what I had to say and told me she had never thought of it in that way before.  She actually told me I might have a point. It takes a whole lot of humility to loosen the grip on our tightly held opinions about topics like this one, and my respect for my friend grew a lot in that moment.

Today’s Supreme Court decision brought me back to that day. There are a lot of people whose opinions were trampled today, and a lot whose opinions were reinforced. While I’m celebrating, some people I love are mourning. This is a sensitive topic on both sides, but we all need to remember that we don’t know it all. We need to remember that God can change hearts and minds – and does.

My prayer today is that the Christians who are celebrating and the Christians who are despairing can leave enough room in their opinions to extend grace to one another.  I pray that no one will hold so tightly to their political stance that they crush their brothers and sisters in the process of winning their argument.  God tells us to speak the truth in love, but let’s not get our opinions mixed up with the truth. Let’s focus on loving each other even (or especially) when we disagree.

How to be a Writer

I’m not a writer. I’ve had thoughts of becoming one, sure, but whenever I sit down with a blank screen to fight out the words, they’re uglier than they are in my head and I never hit publish. Or I lose my focus and wander through a paragraph with nowhere to go. Because I’m not a writer.

I’m starting to notice something, though. Nobody wakes up one day suddenly overflowing with inspiration. You don’t become a writer when you gain enough life experience to have a story worth telling, or when you’ve read enough books about writing. Believe it or not, the only way to become a writer is by writing. You work with what you have, and you write past the ugly, past the lost, until you get something beautiful. Or maybe just readable.

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So this is my opportunity to make writing work. To wrestle with a blank page over and over again. To hit publish before I feel finished. To just get something down. I’ll write with the hope that someday I might look around and realize I’ve actually become a writer.