Joy in the Narrowing

I’m fixin’ to turn 29, ya’ll. (For some strange reason, I felt compelled to say this in a Texan accent…maybe it makes me feel more youthful?!)

True to my INFJ personality, I always spend the days surrounding my birthday pondering the past year, the upcoming year, and the passages of time. The past several years, this reflection has been tinged with a bit of remorse. Not that my life isn’t good. I’m blessed with so much: a kind, supportive husband, a loving family, friends, opportunities, ice-cream, and- most of all- the love of my Savior. But as each passing year has brought greater definition to my life, there have also been “little deaths” along the way.

Little deaths are the wild dreams I had as a 19, with Switchfoot being the soundtrack for each dream:

  • Live in Europe
  • Live in Nepal and Tibet
  • Run an orphanage
  • Run an NGO
  • Be an entrepreneur
  • Teach English as a second language
  • Be a world-class photojournalist
  • Marry an Italian with curly dark hair
  • Do all of the above by the time I am 30
Looking back on this list, it’s laudable that I had so many ambitions. With the exception of living in Romania for a semester and teaching English to a Korean immigrant for 1.5 months, I haven’t accomplished any of my original dreams. (I definitely didn’t marry an Italian with curly dark hair- ha! But I did marry the whitest of white American boys, with golden hair to match. And I wouldn’t trade him for all the Marios in the world. 🙂 ) But strangely, I no longer feel sorrow over this.

Along with my many dreams, came a hefty load of confusion. The culture’s message of “Anything is possible, you can be anyone and do anything you want” left me feeling completely paralyzed. With all these choices around me, I certainly didn’t want to make the wrong choice. And I didn’t want to miss out on one good dream because I said yes to another.

This confusion followed me around for a decade.

But what a difference 29 vs. 19 makes. 🙂

The decade of my twenties has taught me that it’s who you are, not what you do, that determines your adventures. It’s taught me that there is joy in the narrowing of life’s scope. It’s all well and good to dream up a thousand glorious dreams. But at some point, you have to decide which dream you’ll LIVE.

Accomplishing some of my original goals would still be pretty rad. But it’s also pretty rad to:

  • Be a devoted wife
  • Be a present mother
  • Be an invested friend
  • Focus on one or two things and keep doing them and doing them and doing them until you do them well
  • Enjoy the fruit that only the long-term-committed taste
These have been some of the grand adventures I have been privileged to experience in my twenties. And I’m so grateful.

Who knows, I still might run a crazy awesome NGO and orphanage in Tibet someday. God surprises us with new adventures everyday. 🙂 But in the meantime, I take great joy in the narrowing.

8 thoughts on “Joy in the Narrowing

  1. This is GREAT! Very well written and so important for EVERYONE!! Without the conclusion you shared, people wander around aimlessly, never accomplishing anything. I know these folks and it is so sad. I might find a gracious way to share this blog with them! Keep writing!

  2. Joy in the narrowing is a wonderful way to express that feeling Elyce. I do feel as I’ve gotten older that I spend more time looking at life through the window of the Lord’s Prayer…this day, this daily bread. Although, from my vantage you’re still a youngin’. (I didn’t know we were both INFJ’s, I’d like to have business cards with this designation printed on it so I could hand them out to people to explain myself without having to talk.)

  3. Hey, Elyse! Happy Birthday! I loved your phrase “Joy in the Narrowing”. I identify with feeling the “narrowing” so much myself. And, I am living with an almost 16 year old son who just had a first taste of it when filling out the personal info for the PSAT test. When he came home from taking the test, he told me how frustrated he was when he could only check one box for potential major. But, taking out a crumpled piece of paper from his pocket, he showed me the names of all the majors he wanted to check. There were about twenty! It is sometimes hard to let go of dreams, but I’ve found there is a real peace and joy when you’re doing what God has actually put in front of you – serving Him, serving your family, serving your actual neighbor, your coworkers,etc. As an ISFJ myself, I often worry about knowing God’s will…but I’ve found over the years that it is most often in the duty He has already set before me. Thank you for your encouraging words this morning.

  4. Perspective is what you will live with your whole life. Try considering your dreams at 81 years. I still have a list of desirables, but none as lofty as yours at 20 or even 30.
    I desire to see you and Josh and daughter again, although I live with reality. Strangely my health is somewhat maintained and who knows what I might do. But I will tell you that keeping the dreams alive at 40,50,60,70 and on is the spice for the sauce. I still want to take a great picture (one or more), and see the ocean again, view a bikini (stuffed), drive a fast car, etc. Life is no regrets but treasuring the love of your family and others being a small part of their lives. You are a special young lady, always have been and always will be. Happy Birthday. Hope to see you soon.

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