Enjoying the Ride

Last Sunday my daughters and two of their friends spent a fun, but rainy day at Six Flags Great America in Gurnee. The amusement park was closed for Deloitte’s Friends and Family Day, and even the rain couldn’t keep me and the mom that I was with from giving our girls the chance to experience big roller coasters with shorter-than-normal lines.

“We’ll stay as long as you want,” I told the girls as they raced to their first ride.

Eight hours later, we were taking one last rain-pelting turn on the Raging Bull before heading to the van. Everyone was chilled to the bone but, surprisingly, no one complained. We had made the most of this opportunity we had been given, and no amount of shivering could take our sense of satisfaction away. Especially mine.

In the weeks leading up to the event, I’d had several chances to back out of taking the girls to Six Flags. Like when my husband and I learned that the NASCAR race in Joliet was scheduled for the same day. And when our small group announced that the first meeting of the year would be held while we were at the theme park.

Some might see these conflicts as reasons to put off going until next year, but I couldn’t do that to the girls.

Follow through matters.

Being a person of our word matters. So much so that years ago I made up a rhyme to remind my daughters to always do what they said they would do because God rewards those who follow through.

Henry Cloud agreed on page 159 of his book, Integrity, when he had this to say on the subject: “Perseverance takes courage, stamina, emotional reserves, judgment, creativity, and other aspects of character to do. But without it, great things just do not happen.”

Great things like breaking our record for the number of thrill rides ridden in a single day (which now stands at twenty).

And the look on my face when I learned that the American Eagle car I had just buckled into was about to travel … backwards.

Life is a lot like that wooden roller coaster every time it threatens to take us in directions we never intended to go. Whenever this happens, it helps to remember that what some see as a reason to hop off, could also be a reminder to hold on and get ready to enjoy the ride.

“The ability to keep going when we hit an obstacle, believe that there is a way to get it done, and keep going until we find it is one of the most important character abilities that we can ever develop. It is one of the most important aspects of character that leads to success.” Dr. Henry Cloud, Integrity, p. 159

The Perfect Community

Every summer I tell myself that I am NOT organizing the annual block party and every summer … I do it anyway. If someone were to ask me why, I’d tell them: Because I can’t find a reason not to.

Circumstances allow it.

My husband supports it.

And the hassle I go through to find a date that works for everybody pales in comparison to the sense of community it creates for the people who live on our street. Community in the form of children playing tag in the empty lot a few houses down from ours. And a driveway full of adults dancing to music provided by my neighbor’s son, who is in a band.

Knowing that the outcome is worth the effort I put into it should be enough but, sometimes I just want to enjoy a night out without first having to organize it. Event planning was something I did a lot of when we lived in Nebraska. Because our church and neighborhood were both relatively new, many of the programs that I wanted to participate in did not exist. And so I spent countless hours spearheading everything from fall festivals to summer field trips, childcare coops to supper clubs, and ministry fairs to marriage retreats.

I was ready to taking some time off from serving when Bill and I flew to Chicago to search for a new place to live. His company was relocating us to Illinois and I saw our move as an opportunity to find a church and neighborhood where I could feel like I belonged without having to create the camaraderie.

The problem with goals is that they don’t always agree with God’s will. When this happens, we can accept the hand that He has dealt us or attempt to force our own. I begrudgingly chose the former when the house that had everything we were looking for was on a street where residents barely knew each other’s names. I also acquiesced after it became clear that God was nudging our family to join a smaller congregation instead of the mega-church that I had so wanted to call my own.

As I look back on those decisions and how they motivated me to organize the block party on our street and a newcomer’s ministry at my church, it’s clear that the perfect place for any of us is not the one that has everything we want, but the one with needs that only we are gifted to fill. And what seems like settling is actually submitting to a plan that is better than our own.

Thinking of the ideal in these terms makes me ashamed that I ever considered not having a block party. It also makes me wonder: What the world would be like if every move was based, not on what the new location can do for us, but on how we can make it better for others?

God wants all of us to live on the perfect street and to belong to the perfect church, but it’s up to us to create it. I was tempted to pass this lesson along at our last block party when I heard a man from another suburb say: “I want to live in Elmhurst. We don’t have block parties like this where I live.”

“You don’t need to live in our community,” I said to myself. “You just need to bring a little of it, to yours.”

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.”

Proverbs 19:21