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Choose Your Own Adventure

this way, that way
this way, that way

Is life a set of instructions like, 'pass GO and collect $200?' Or is our story more like a ‘choose your own adventure’?

I used to believe in a simple, black and white type of existence (and in unicorns). I thought God had decided for me one husband, one career path, and one location to live. My job was to find out what those ‘one’ things were, and put them all together.

I had no option. I had no opinion. I had no oranges (sorry, I couldn’t think of anything else that started with ‘o’).

Turns out I was wrong. W-w-w-wrong. (There I said it. You’re welcome.)

I don't like admitting when I'm wrong, clearly, but i would like to clarify something upfront. I do believe many decisions have a definite and clear answer. There are lots of times I know exactly what my answer/action needs to be. For example when the Daffy Duck angel/demon cartoons appear on my shoulder, I know I should listen to the angel and swat away the Daffy Duck demon (thanks Looney Tunes for my moral compass).

I believe there are moments God gives us specific direction when we’re faced with multiple options. But what happens when each direction seems as right as the next?

Wanna know what I think? (If not, just a helpful hint that you probably came to the wrong website, I think you’re looking for Wikipedia):

When there are lots of options but no clear direction, when you have prayed but haven’t heard, I think it’s God’s way of saying, “Choose your own adventure.”

As scary as that may seem, the idea that God would trust you enough to make a decision that could alter the course of your life is a huge encouragement.

He trusts you. He trusts your heart. He trusts your decision.

“But what if I make the wrong decision?” I’m glad you asked. Again, here’s what I think (and just in case,

As long as your heart is in a place of humility and malleability, there is no wrong decision.

If you’re facing a crossroad, and what you hoped would be a simple, black-and-white answer is looking more like 50 shades of grey, I have two pieces of advice for you:

  1. Don’t read 50 Shades of Grey. It does not contain helpful insight into making decisions. So I’m told.
  2. Instead of losing sleep over making the wrong decision, take a deep breath and decide to decide. And then... Decide.

Oh, and one last thing. Please don’t "default decide" to the thing you think you ’should’ do. If God has given you options and has asked what you want to do, then do just that!  Which option gives you butterflies? Which direction makes you want to squeal like a five-year-old-girl who’s just seen a Disney princess? Go with that.

Forget responsible. Forget safe. Forget 'should.'

Be brave, choose your own adventure, and let God work out the destination.

So, what's your decision?




Can I Just Skip Dating... Please?

photo credit: Brandon Christopher Warren via photopin cc
photo credit: Brandon Christopher Warren via photopin cc

As a little girl I dreamed of my fairytale wedding. All girls do, right? Secretly, I think all guys do too, even if it was Star Wars themed and the wedding rings were replaced with matching light sabers. Classy guys, real classy.

In my dream I would walk down the long, red aisle. In my dream I was wearing my big, white princess dress with a train as long as an actual train. In my dream the wedding took place in an old, but beautifully restored, church by the sea. In my dream I had my bridesmaids by my side as I married my best friend.

In my dream, it was perfect.

There was just one thing in my dream that wasn’t in your wedding dream, and I’d be prepared to bet money on it. In my dream I was walking down the aisle singing a duet with the groom. Live. Madonna microphones and all.

Way too many Disney movies Elyse, wayyy too many!

You’ll be happy to know I’ve grown out of the duet idea (only recently). But I haven’t grown out of the dream of marrying the man that will make my heart skip a beat. In my dream-land marriage seemed so easy. But now? Now I’m starting to realise it's a little more complicated.

Maybe it's not as simple as just deciding to “get married.”

Have I just been expecting that one day I’ll decide it’s time to get married and nek-minit the man of my dreams will show-up, with his sleeve tattoo, guitar, and bad boy attitude (whilst still being a spiritual supergiant)?I thought I would be one of those people who just knew.

I dreamed it would be a romantic-comedy moment (of course I'm played by Kate Hudson) where we would lock eyes in a room full of people, he would walk over to me and introduce himself. (I'm about to get all Taylor Swift on you, you've been warned).

The playful conversation starts, I counter all his quick remarks, like passing notes in secrecy. 

And just like that, he would hand me the final rose, and we would be engaged. Because that's totally how it happens, right? Wrong. I know, I'm devastated.

There’s that thing we've been talking about calledprocess. That awkward, disappointing, make-me-want-to-vomit, process. Blehhck (yes it's a word).

I’m starting to wonder whether I’ll ever get past my fear of the process long enough to actually marry someone, long enough to actually date someone, or even hold the fear off long enough to go to a theme park with someone (because dinner is overrated, duh).

Confession: I’m so scared of making the wrong decision that I’m scared to make any decision.

It's true. I worry that I’ll marry someone, and realise it was the wrong one. Is there a right one? I just don’t want to settle. I know God has promised me a husband to do life with, someone who will lead me and look after me and someone who will be so in love with Jesus that it will cause me to grow closer to Jesus myself.  And I know he will be hilarious and driven and flirty. And a babe. A total babe.

So if I feel like God has promised me this, where is he? Is God still working on him or is he right in front of me? Have I missed him because I’m expecting the “ready-made-package” when God is offering him to me in “just-go-on-a-flipping-date” form?

But as I think about it, deeper than just the surface thoughts, I realise, it’s fear. This whole issue is just another expression of the spirit of fear. And I’ve battled with it my whole life.

I had nightmares when I was a little girl, and when I prayed that God would replace my fear with peace, He did. In high school I was petrified of what my friends thought of me so I acted different around them. One day I prayed for God to give me courage to be who He wanted me to be, and He did. And now, I’m afraid of choosing the wrong person.

Different stages of life. Different manifestations. Same fear.

But here's the thing, God has proved Himself faithful in getting rid of my fear before. I know He will prove Himself faithful again.

So before I give up on dating and demand an arranged marriage from my parents, I think I just need to chill. I definitely need to chill.

Maybe today you have resonated with my honesty. You might be single and questioning where your husband/wife (just choose one) is. You might have a million and one questions on this subject. Can I suggest, like me, you relax and enjoy the season you’re in?

I’ve come to realise that being open to love is very different to being obsessed with finding it. It’ll come when God wants it too. In His timing.

Maybe today you’re nursing a broken heart and wondering whether you’ll ever be able to piece it together again. I’ve been there and I get it. It hurts. It sucks. For a while life doesn’t feel fun anymore. The fear of getting hurt again clouds the excitement of the possibility of love.  Take the time you need, stay close to Jesus and ask Him to heal the areas that feel shattered. Let Him do His thing. It might not be long before you meet someone that gives you butterflies again.

Maybe today you’re reading this and are petrified to give someone a shot because you’re scared of making the wrong decision. I have a question for your fear. What’s the worst that could happen?

Yeah Elyse. What’s the worst that could happen?



You're Gonna Hear Me Roar

photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc
photo credit: Tambako the Jaguar via photopin cc

Year ten formals are a dress rehearsal for year twelve formals, I think we can all agree on that.

The year ten formal (or 'prom' for my #murica friends) is a time for girls to wear dresses that will later be shown at their 21st party, in the “remember-that-one-time-you-actually-wore-this” category (yes, there’s a whole category for that). It’s a time when your friends put in $10.50 each, so you can hire a limousine that looks like it came straight from Austin Powers. It’s a time when boys give girls floral corsages, and the girls actually wear them. It’s a time to awkwardly dance with your date, while avoiding all eye contact, but managing to step on their toes every three steps.It’s the first time you see your teacher’s dance, and the first time you wish you never had to see your teachers dance.

I remember my year ten formal, and to my delight/horror, it included all of the above experiences. My most vivid formal memory? My dress. It was exceptional, in the worst possible way, and yes, it was shown at my 21st.

It is difficult for me to convey in words just how spectacular this dress was, but for you, I will try (you’re welcome). Imagine a dressmaker taking Bindi Irwin, 1995 (the entire year of fashion), a family of leopards and Nikki Webster (Strawberry Kisses era) and putting them into one magical dress. That was my year ten formal dress.

Let’s just say it didn’t exactly compliment my awkward, teenage figure. The dress finished at my shins (flattering, I know) in a handkerchief style, like leopards had actually attacked me.

I looked like Jane of the Jungle, without my Tarzan, or any hand-eye coordination.

Go with the leopard print, she said. Everyone will love it, she said.

Three weeks prior to my formal, my sister and I were standing in the fitting-room of a major department store in the city; she had taken me out to play the role of “big sister” in search for the dress that would ensure my popularity in senior school. The pressure was on. It had to be perfect. It had to be brave but beautiful. I was stressing and had even had nightmares of turning up in the same dress as another classmate (hopefully a girl)… aka, social suicide.

I had tried on countless dresses and found nothing in the category of brave or beautiful… until these two dresses. They were now hanging up in front of us. The first option was a beautiful, electric blue dress that was very classic, very pretty, very boring. The second choice? One big, bold, brave statement of leopard print.

My sister clearly loved the leopard print dress, and went into sales-pitch mode:

“If you don’t want to be brave, go with the blue one. It’s pretty, I guess, but no one will remember you…”

I want to be brave! I want to be remembered!

“…Go with the leopard print dress, and no one will forget you…”

I don’t want to be forgotten!

“…The blue is safe, the leopard print is a statement.”

I love statements!

I picked up the brave dress (also known as “Jane of the Jungle”) and walked out of the change-room like I had just received the Nobel Peace Prize for bravest year ten girl, ever to live. That’s a valid category, right?

My poor date, Blake. All the boys had asked their dates what colour their dresses were so they could buy her a matching corsage as a gift. When it got to my turn it was clear Blake immediately regretted asking me to formal. The other guys got “pink” or “blue” or “red.” Not Blake. He made his mum go searching florists around the city just to find a corsage that matched the description, “leopard print.” The result? Orange. Crazy hair, crazy dress, and orange flowers stuck on my wrist. I was definitely a sight to be… uhh…  Remembered.

The formal came and went. But it will never be forgotten.

It took about two years for me to be able to look back, to realize and to admit how crazy I looked. But once I realized, I regretted.

In my search to be brave, I forgot how to be beautiful.

To this day I still get tagged in social media posts and receive texts from my friends whenever they see leopard print anything. For so long I didn’t wear leopard print, it was too traumatic. It was only a little while ago I plucked up the courage to admit it, to use the L word.

I actually love leopard print.

These days I wear it all the time, in moderation of course. But hey, year ten formals are a dress rehearsal. I learned my lesson and stuck to classic instead of brave at my year twelve formal.

So what did I learn? Opinions are great, but ultimately we are the ones who wear our decisions. Be careful who you listen to.

Disclaimer: As a response to this blog, my sister would like to be put on the record as saying, “the leopard print dress was awesome, the rest of Elyse’s class wasn’t cool enough to get it yet.”



Life Is Short... Drink Red Wine.

jim and i My uncle went to be with Jesus yesterday. Seven months ago he was diagnosed with end stage brain cancer, but now he is partying it up in Heaven, probably in white, but still wearing his sneakers. I imagine him sitting with CS Lewis, the two of them drinking red wine and philosophizing life, politics and Narnia.

These past seven months I have seen him fight.  I have seen him worship. I have seen him speak in tongues when he could no longer speak words (it bypassed his brain, don’t tell me that the Holy Spirit isn’t real). I have seen him gain a sense of humour unlike any he ever had before. I have seen him up-close and personal.

I have seen and I have learned.

Today I want to share with you some things I’ve re-learned in the last 24 hours. Because sometimes it takes a little reality check to remember the important things in life.

1. Make more friends. To my knowledge, no one on their deathbed ever said, “I wish I had more twitter followers.”

2. Drink red wine (if you are legal, you little rebel). My uncle was the healthiest man I have ever known. His diet was stricter than Miss Trunchbull from Matilda. His one allowance was a glass or two of red wine in the evening. A man after my own heart. When he got sick and moved in with us, this became our tradition. We would sit on the balcony and someone would take the shift, fill up a glass and join him. Some of my best memories of him are with a glass in hand on the balcony. Cheers Uncle Jim.

3. Joy is a choice. Choose it. Happiness is a feeling but joy is a choice. Sometimes we just gotta tell our soul that today, we are choosing joy. It’s amazing how the feeling follows, no matter the circumstance.

4. Prioritise family. It’s a weird moment when you look around and realize that your siblings are your best friends. That your parents are your side kicks in life. I’m lucky to have the best family on the entire planet, and it’s easy to be grateful for them but whatever kind of family you find yourself in, find something to be grateful for. Tell them you love them. They won’t be around forever. Bring out embarrassing photos. Make memories.

5. Offense is a waste of time. Life is too short. Offense only ever kills our joy and poisons our heart. People can be jerks, there is bad in the world, but let’s not get caught up in it. Focus on the good, there’s lots of that too.

6. Love Jesus. I am jealous of my uncle’s relationship with Jesus. Is that allowed? Whatever. I’m not bitter. I’m inspired. He worshipped him at every opportunity. I love that. I want that. I plan to pursue that for the rest of my life.

Life is short, make the most of it. Do something crazy. Go for a midnight swim. Watch the sun rise. Go on a date. Climb a tree. Call in sick and do whatever you feel like. Go all “Yes Man” on your life. Why not?




Burn Baby Burn


I got sunburnt a couple of days ago. I got really sunburnt a couple of days ago. Put it this way, if being “sunkissed” results in a nice summer glow, then on Saturday the sun picked me up, violently made-out with me, and left me with a billion hickeys. The result will not be a nice summer glow. And yet, I knew this would happen. 

I went to my usual spot, at my usual beach, with my usual tanning friend. I spent three hours going between my towel and swimming in the ocean, because people who go to the beach without swimming just confuse and kind of annoy me. In 35-degree heat (95 Fahrenheit). But here’s the worst part… I didn’t even put on sunscreen/suncream (I don’t know which word to use so I’m just using both and you can pick your favorite). I know. I’m sorry mum.

Now before you sentence me to Minnesota (where the sun never shines) to spend the rest of my days, let me clarify… I knew I would get burnt. Did I just make things worse for myself? I know that if someone is in the sun for an extended period of time, without the correct protection, the sun will make out with them and leave them with sunburn and blisters. And yet, knowing all that, I did it anyway. Why?

The idea of a tan was more enticing to me than the consequences of sunburn. You’re totally sending me to Minnesota aren’t you?

And yet, right now, I’m experiencing the consequences. I’m sitting in my bright red, freckled up, burnt skin, trying not to move. Seriously, I look like I’m auditioning for a slow-motion movie, and since slow-motion movies don’t exist, it wouldn’t be a very successful audition. Every time I do move it feels like I’m rubbing against a surface of nails and sandpaper. Right now, I regret my actions. I promise, I will never have a one-day-stand with the sun again.

But it is making me think.  And I’m thinking of more than just my sunburn. Why does it take experiencing the consequences of my actions to rethink my decisions? Why am I only just deciding, now that it’s too late, that I would rather wear suncream/sunscreen than get burnt, go tomato red and shed like a snake, freaking out anyone watching nearby?

Now that I’m here, sitting in my consequence, it’s just not worth it.

Why do we do things that we know are bad for us? Yes you do. We all do it. Why do we think we are immune from consequences? We all have little things we do that, despite the warnings, we act upon. And it’s not until we’re sitting in our consequence that we regret it.

It’s the decision to stay up late to watch that Friends marathon (even though you’ve seen every episode five times before) and waking up the next day angry at the world for your decision. I’m guilty of this on a weekly basis, but seeing as Ross, Joey, Chandler, Mon, Rach and Pheebs are actually my friends, I feel it’s my duty. Shut up.

Going a little deeper, it’s the decision to have “just one more” glass of champagne or beer at that wedding or party, even though you know you should have stopped a long time ago. It’s the decision to go into the house alone with your boyfriend/girlfriend… Just to cuddle. It’s the decision to send that text message when you’re lonely and vulnerable. It’s the lie to cover your tracks. It’s the extra purchase on your credit card even though you’re already in debt.

It’s the sin that we justify.

So why do we do it? Because we’ve gotten away with doing it before. We let the enemy convince us that it’s not that bad, or that it won’t hurt anyone, or that it’ll only be one more time. And as we get away with it, our confidence grows, we keep listening to the lies, and we do it again.

But today, I didn’t get away with it.

While it may seem trivial that I’m relating sunburn to getting drunk or sleeping around, it all stems from the same place. It stems from the thought that consequences don’t apply to us. But it’s just not true. Just ask my skin.

There have been heaps of times in my life where I’ve done things that were against my better judgment.  And the consequence weren’t sunburn. There have been times when my actions caused heartbreak, guilt and shame. Sometimes it was only in the consequence that I felt remorse. And that remorse turned into repentance. Which lead to change.

Perhaps sometimes the only thing that will shake us free from our feeling of invincibility, is the harsh reality that we aren’t.

Maybe sometimes we need to hit rock bottom in order to look up.

It’s only in the repentance that we can fully appreciate His saving grace.

If you right now are in the middle of consequence, or experiencing remorse, look up. If you have messed up or felt like you’ve missed the mark, fall into His grace. His mercies are new every morning.

And next time? Think before you make-out with the sun.

Whatever that means for you.