Posts Tagged ‘growing up’

I remember reading the Anne of Green Gables series, how well it taught the lesson.  Anne turned down a silly farmer who asked her to marry him via his sister.  She said no to Gilbert who’d been her rival all through school.  She was disappointed when her best friend agreed to marry the ordinary local, Fred.  But maybe her friend Diana was onto something.  Maybe Anne’s tall, dark, handsome, charming ideal wasn’t what Anne really needed.  As fiction conveniently wends its way, Anne met with such a man at college.  They courted for months.  And in the final breathless moment when he asked her to be his wife, she realized that she’d been wrong.  Her girlhood husband list had been dreamy and foolish.  There was nothing so wrong with this man.  But her heart wasn’t in it.  The truth was, she had been meant for Gil all along, only her stubborn fantasies had kept her from accepting it.

Having a list seemed to help me when I was in high school.  It reminded me that love and marriage were about choice, not just feelings.  I still like my lists, even if only for self-knowledge.  In my case I was over 20 years old when I realized that a man doesn’t have to have a career plan for the rest of his life to make a good husband.  Many of the men I have ever respected (including my own dad) have been hard workers, caring for others, but trying different things, or whatever work they could find.  In a changing world, myself even desiring a bit of adventure, how could I demand stability? So my list has been modified.  As I’ve gained humility about my own certainty of how the world should be, I’ve grown a bit more relaxed about some of the things.

Never mind the unforeseen and unknown; what selfish attitude is it that tells me that I can decide what I want and demand that I get that or else?  How was that affecting my relationships with men?  Is that what marriage is about?  Is that what life is about?

I know lots of examples of people digressing from their lists as they matured:

A friend said she’d never marry someone in the military.  Then she met her husband on a military base in Japan, and she changed her mind.

Another friend said her husband would have to own a top hat.  Would she really turn down an otherwise perfect match because he didn’t own the ideal accessory?  (The answer was “no”, she wouldn’t turn him down!)

Some friends wrestled with more serious questions.  Could they marry someone who was not a virgin?  What if his views on finances (debt, saving, spending) was different from hers?  If God was calling her to ministry, could she marry someone who didn’t have that same calling?

I suppose it goes both ways.  No doubt men have their own hang-ups.  One man I know struggled because his family owned many animals and the woman he was interested in had severe allergies.  I’ve heard that many men planning to be missionaries look only for women who are pursuing the same goal.

Some of these things are generally good wisdom.  A pastor I know counsels people to marry only if they’re physically attracted to one another (successful legacy of arranged marriages notwithstanding).  I know couples who were not attracted at first, but as they proceeded with their relationships, gained such feelings.  I myself would rather not marry someone in the military because of the demands on time and loyalty.  It’s a good idea to be unified about things like money and children and ministry.  But they’re not essential.  And sometimes, especially when we’re young, we don’t know what we need.  One artist friend knew God would provide her with an artist-husband, whose soul could understand hers.  Another artist friend has been married for decades to a man who’s good with numbers instead.

Still other friends now happily married look back and think their “lists” or ideas were lacking some significant points, like respect for parents.

In our society we barely know what marriage is really about, let alone what makes for a good one.  Sometimes parents and mentors advise us.  Sometimes they’re just taking a guess and pioneering new territory they never ventured on in their own relationships. Some of it is good advice, general wisdom.  A lot of it is promoting self-interest.  Some of it is universally-useful advice about trusting God and loving others.

Are there legitimate deal-breakers?  Is it wrong to have a list of things we’re looking for?  What guiding principles are there for deciding to get married?  What is marriage?  What contributes to a good marriage?  If you choose rashly at first, is there hope for a good marriage in the end?

But the fuss we make about who to choose…

~ Miss Austen Regrets

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn


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How can a 25-year-old act so much like a teenager?

Well, why do we make such a distinction between teenagers and people in their twenties?  Why should we expect significant changes?

Perhaps what changes people into the typical 25-year-olds is experience, not time.

The social norm is for 25-year-olds to have graduated college.  They’ve spent time among their peers even freer from elder supervision than high school.  They have met ideas different from those by which they were raised.  Sometimes students move out.  Finances tend to be handled by the collegian, including the huge monetary investment or loan of a college tuition.  After college, a 25-year-old has the pressure to make good use of that degree, especially regarding earning.

Most 25-year-olds have dated.  Whatever you think of that custom, it has an undeniable effect, socially and mentally.  Someone who has been in even one relationship has learned to interact with a person of the opposite sex on a level that is different from any other relationship.  They have also learned to analyze their future in light of that relationship.

Many 25-year-olds are married.  That interaction and analysis begun in dating (or courtship or engagement or whatever) has been made permanent.  They have taken up marital responsibilities towards their spouse, established a home and family of their own.  Commitment is not foreign to the married; they have given the biggest gift they ever can: all of themselves for the rest of their lives.

A lot of 25-year-olds have kids.  Kids are a challenge.  Parenting takes effort and patience and wisdom and sacrifice, right from the beginning.  And it is a guaranteed job for years to come.  Parents have less time to devote to wondering about their relationships with others, to play, to dream about the future.

As a 25-year-old, I have learned a lot and changed significantly since I was a teenager.  My knowledge of the world and of other people’s ideas has grown.  I know myself better.  God is more precious and big to me than ever.  I drive a car, and manage my finances.  Experiences have led me to make friends my parents have never met.  PG-13 movies are no longer off-limits.  School is done.  Institutional church is in my past.  I own a business.  My friends are mostly older than 18.

But I crave commitment.  I worry about the future.  My social skills around (and about) men are not what they could be if I was settled in as someone’s wife, if I had built up the experience of choosing a mate and being chosen.  Kids are great, but I have no idea what it is like to have the burden of raising them or the joy of being the first person on earth to meet them.  I don’t know how to grocery shop or cook every day.  Play is still a large part of my schedule, and it can be at ridiculous hours like 2 AM.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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How Old?

A friend asked me how old I was.  Age is such a strange thought to this fan of time (and time travel).  I don’t like talking about it: ashamed to be so old, timid for being so young.  Strangers sound surprised to find out how old I am – or that I’m older than the rest of my brothers and sisters.  Yet when someone asks, I can’t think of a good reason to avoid answering, so I brave their shock and say that I am twenty-four. 

Two dozen years old and my life is mostly the same as when I was sixteen.  though I am not the same.  When years don’t go as expected, measuring progress is hard.  Some friends matching my years have several children.  Many are married.  A few have stacks of degrees, houses, favorite places to travel.  There’s all this comparison. 

In my wiser moments, I see through the silliness.  My change has been in my forge, not in escaping it.  Transition has happened.  In the old days girls my age were growing up by saying good-bye to parents, brothers, sisters.  God has given me a different challenge: to say good-bye to friends, learning better than ever to build up the family in which I was raised – am still being raised.  I don’t regret my choices, believing I have walked by faith.

“Maybe by the time I’m your age, I’ll be grown up.”  So I used to think, a starry-eyed child imagining life with a locker and football games and a car of your own.  High school was not nearly as packaged and complete as I thought.  So college must be the time, those golden-days of figuring life out, knowing always the right step to take and words to say.  I skipped college, but from what I observed, just after high school is the time to nostalgically cling to a life more laid-out than any of the wild options parading now: ah! the good old days when I was on top of the world as a high school senior.  Well then, college must just be an excuse to stay young; surely after college age, by the age of 22 or so, everyone must be moving along their life-course, certain of their calling, seizing their days.  No, not true either.  I’m not blaming those I observed, being equally lost and struggling to have contentment and faith in the midst of abandoned expectations. 

I’m learning not to do life as Lisa being a twenty-four-year-old, but as Lisa, who is twenty-four.  There is no role for me to play, no definition that excludes me from being grown up when I do one thing, or initiates me into the club if I do another.  Life is not without its direction.  Maybe this was the message all along, that our plan of progression through aging is built on the wrong priorities.  I serve a rather radical and creative God, author of stories.  There is a clear purpose to Lisa as she is today.  Lisa laughs, loves, and serves.  I get to learn, and lean into challenges.  Friends mean so much to me, and I try to pour myself into them.  I believe God is able to speak and wants to speak, so I listen for Him, taking His dares though they hurt and are hard. 

Even if I had the life my “older” friends have, I don’t think I’d have everything figured out like I wish I would.  Some situations would leave me wishing I had more experience and education.  Time yields adventure to hearts open to grow, and I don’t ever want to be satisfied with who I am, this mortal creature.  So there is balance, between accepting that who I am today is reality, so I don’t have to “act my age;” and pressing on for the goal of being like my good Lord Jesus. 

“Remember your Creator in the days when you are young.”

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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One can read over the brim of one’s cup, just as Treebeard the Ent studied Merry and Pippin in his mountain home over his entdraught in Middle Earth long ago.  Such was I doing when I stopped thinking about the words and became more attentive to the taste in my cup.  I was drinking a vanilla chai tea latte, hot, and slightly watered down due to my lack of tablespoon at work.  The flavor is one of the new things introduced to my life in a year that is rapidly flowing to its end.  I like it. 


But I miss hot chocolate.  Not that I never drink chocolate anymore.  That I drink chai tea when I would have been sipping cocoa is undeniable.  Life has changed.  My tastes have dutifully broadened as an expected part of growing up.  If they are broadened, they are also dispersed.  Now the intensity of my appreciation for chocolate is tempered by my acceptance of vanilla chai tea. 


Would my life be better if I had refused to taste chai tea?  If through loyalty I remained zealous for chocolate alone, could I still be a grown up and still be happy?  Would I be happier? 


Life is a choice whether to try new things.  Once surrendered to a new pet topic, to the diminution of my former sole passion, my experience says there is no possibility of returning to a single-passion life.  A new opportunity arises, and if I am consistent, is tried.  Causes ebb and flow, wax and wane now, each replacing the last for its moment in the spotlight. 


I haven’t really written anything in a while.  Inspiration departed.  Whenever that happens I get borderline depressed, because life seems to have lost its flavor, and my passion for each moment has waned.  I don’t like drifting, shallow waves of life lapping around an unresponsive me.  Leaving the metaphor, though, I keep on doing things: going to work, talking to people, checking email.  Even genuine smiles come to my face. 


Now, slowly, I think I’m coming out of my doldrums.  A week ago Saturday night, I completely spontaneously saw a movie, August Rush.  There were so few people in the theater, and I was so tired.  Reclined in my seat, I tilted my head against the back of the cushion, and absorbed a beautiful movie.  The soundtrack was uniquely expressive, imposing its presence and importance.  Music spoke in the movie.  It communicated identity, feelings, direction, summons, friendship, longings, and fulfillment. 


Afterward I escaped the scent of popcorn into a fresh midnight wind.  The air was too cold to linger, but I breathed it deeply, and memorized its touch on my face.  I felt the cold and the current.  My brother and I talked of how we love things and moments with feeling, and flavor.  They say something, and mean something. 


In contrast, the chocolate cake I had just before the movie was bland.  The color boasted bursting flavor, when in actuality the taste was dull and muted.  Not like fudge, or cinnamon, or grape juice.  Those things are so bursting with flavor that they assert their identities. 


Then a few days later was a day full of feeling, and a sense of doing things important, though everyday.  I cried near the end, for a few friends came home.  Tears break the walls of the world without passion.  That’s the metaphor of George MacDonald’s Princess Lightness. 


Yet when the walls are down, and I care about what happens around me, when I’m advancing my might on causes and people, there’s the probability that I’ll see the world in reality, and see myself as I am.  Couple this to just turning 23, to holidays and old friends, and I am sad now – not depressed, but sad in a sentimental way, in a fightable way. 


Sunday I went to Red Robin alone.  They offered me a free burger for my birthday in exchange for receiving their emails, so I went to redeem my coupon.  The staff was nice.  I brought a book about grace.  And in between sips of a chocolate shake and bites of luscious burger, I observed.  The walls caught my attention, bearing an eclectic collection of posters, prints, and photographs.  One fantastic picture showed downtown Chicago along the Chicago River in 1929.  Already the concentration of sky-piercing towers was a marvel.  Chicago is my favorite city.  I can’t lay my finger on the reason, only that when I am there I feel alive.  Every place is a story; every sound has a flavor; and every person has a style. 


I love Christmas for the same reason.  Each song is a tale, each note a rush of emotion.  Every light twinkles mystery into my soul.  Altered from its original intent or not, in December the whole country is united in focus.  No one asks why the stores all play music about snow, bells, peace, and Jesus.  It is understood when you wear red that you’re being festive.  Even those who have dropped out of church make it back for the memories of candlelight at Christmas Eve services. 


So today, especially at Christmas, I want to challenge you to seize the day.  Breathe the moment.  Live to the hilt.  Pursue life.  Feed on truth.  Praise beauty.  Remember.  Cry.  Hope.  Laugh.  Sing.  Love. 


To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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