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You Choose How Life Turns Out: Lazy River Domination

I'm Stephanie May Wilson!

I'm an author and podcaster and my specialty is helping women navigate big decisions, life transitions — creating lives they love.

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Create A Life You Love: Comes out on April 30th!

Carl and I are in Colorado visiting my family for Thanksgiving, and yesterday I woke up to fat, lovely snowflakes falling outside my window.

It was perfect.

Although lovely, Colorado has been quite a shock for us—cold-weather natives who have been spoiled by the mild winters of Georgia. We went to Target last night and each bought a pair of the coziest sweatpants we could find—we may never take them off.

So in my Thanksgiving winter-wonderland, it’s strange that I’ve spent so much time thinking about something that is strictly a summer treat—a water park staple—The Lazy River.

You see, sometimes life begins to move really fast. We come to a fork in the road, and before we know it, we’re making decisions with huge implications, leaving us feeling like we’ve boarded the fast, tunneled water slide with no way out.

Do you ever feel that way? Maybe you’re sitting on one side of a big decision and you know that whatever you decide is going to catapult you in a new direction. Maybe you're choosing a college, between jobs, where to move. You know that one decision is going to change everything. You better make a good one.

It’s a scary feeling—full of pressure, full of consequence, full of unknowns. Yet there you are. And a decision must be made.

And the scariest part is that we feel like we’re stuck—we’ve picked a route, we can’t get off the ride. We’re now at the mercy of the hidden jets propelling us forward into a future we can't see.

Sometimes I picture myself gripping onto the rubber tube—knuckles white on the plastic handles. I squeeze my eyes tight as I am pulled towards a waterfall—shouting to the bystanders on the side of the river frantically—help me! Do something!

Life has gotten hold of me, and I'm at its mercy.

But I'm learning that this just isn't the case.

First of all, Lazy Rivers, as their name suggests, don’t really move very quickly. And they also don’t tend to be too deep. In fact, I think that if I un-scrunched my eyes and got up the courage to jump off my tube, I’d be able to walk to the side and climb out without breaking a sweat.

But our lives, and the decisions our lives require of us, seem so big and so fast and so overwhelming that we so often forget that we have a great degree of control over where they go.

Adult life scares me. Some combination of movies and moms in the grocery store have me convinced that life as a grown-up is as fun as having a cavity filled. I see mothers frustrated with their kids, tired and bedraggled with scrunchies in their hair and baby food on their pants.

I see couples sit at restaurants barely looking at each other, let alone having a conversation. I hear about marriages breaking up, and life hardening hearts until the space between the couple resembles a football field instead of a few feet of sheets and blankets.

It’s a fun-house of perceptions and stereotypes, of half-stories, and bad impressions. It’s an unfinished puzzle in my head that I’ve collected about adulthood, and not a bit of it looks fun.

But that’s what I feel like I’m careening towards.

I’m sitting straight up on my tube, white-knuckling the handles, calling out for help.

Someone let me off this ride, that’s not where I want to go!

Until a gentle voice whispers, “Stephanie, stand up and walk.”

There are parts of life that we have no control over—disease, disaster, and death happen without any help from us.

But there are still so many parts of life that we get to weigh in on.

Marriage doesn’t have to end in a divorce like his parents’. Parenting doesn’t have to look like it did for them. Careers don’t have to take off in that direction. Relationships don’t have to grow cold.

We can walk. We get to decide who we marry, and how we treat them. We choose how we spend our time and our money and what jobs we take. We decide where to live and how much to invest in our friendships. And when it all falls to pieces, we choose how to respond.

Life is scary, and adulthood is scary, and it’s the scariest when you’re faced with big, future-changing decisions.

But even with those kinds of decisions, life doesn’t have to be a lazy river.

A certain kind of life and a certain kind of future isn’t inevitable. You can stop, you can jump out, you can pick a different road, or you can swim upstream.

And when you need it most—Jesus is there to help you—to jump in and rescue you when you’re in over your head.

So as I’m bundled up in our neighborhood coffee shop—I’m thinking about lazy rivers. I'm  realizing, for the first time in my life, that I can stand up and choose where I go.

Where do you want your life to go? What can you do now to paddle in that direction? 

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  1. Great post, Stephanie! I had a pretty intense talk last night with a friend of mine about the very things you mention in your post. The choices we make…are they right or wrong? Is it God’s will? What is God’s will for my life? Obviously it led to some pretty deep analysis. I think sometimes we tend to freak a little bit because of the freedom of choices we actually do have…maybe life would feel a little easier if God would just deal with us directly and tell us what to do…what choices to make. But of course a life like that would take away our opportunities to exhibit faith and trust that no matter the decisions we make that God will always be with us. We can’t let the “what if’s” define us or stall us in our journey. We are made to move forward in purpose, not stand still.

    • Stephanie May says:

      You’re absolutely right Jeremy. I love that thought: “We can’t let the what ifs define us or stall us in our journey.” Amen and amen.

  2. Robin says:

    I use the river analogy for life all the time. Mine is less lazy, and more real though…with rapids and everything haha. But it’s one where I know that I always have a choice: to swim to the edge and thrash through the wilderness, “portaging” the rough bits of life but taking a lot longer to get past it; or to let it take me, only worrying about keeping my head above the water, safe in the knowledge that soon it all will pass and life (the water) will calm down again.

  3. Susan says:

    I emailed you the other day and was just wondering if you got it.

  4. Helena says:

    Oh the truth in this. You do have a choice 🙂 life doesn’t have to be a nightmare, or the rapids. God is so sweet to give us the freedom and the will to slow it down and to choose into every bit of it. And even when life slips out of our control, with tragedies and painful scenarios, the Lord never fails to redeem, to redirect, and to cover with grace. Love your writing, Stephanie. I know it’s moving so many hearts, it’s making a huge dent in the Kingdom.

    • Stephanie May says:

      “The Lord never fails to redeem, to redirect, and to cover with grace.” Sweet Helena, thank you for reading, and thank you for the encouragement. I’m proud to be making dents alongside you. 🙂

  5. Ashley says:

    Stephanie, this post could not have come at a more perfect time.

    First of all, I have absolutely adored reading your blog for the past several months. I feel as though we are kindred spirits that have never met. Both in love with the sweet, little lovelies of life. Both easily impressed by the tender moments of the day-to-day. Both with a desire just to love Abba and love others. Daughters of the same Father, in the same Kingdom, that simply have never met.

    Right now, I am in the very beginning stages of applying to go on a Sept. 2014 route with the World Race. (SO EXCITING!) I’ve sent in my application and I’ve scheduled my interview (See? Super early stages.). But, already I’ve been facing the reality of the vastness of this decision. It is both overwhelmingly exciting and overwhelmingly terrifying, all at the same time.

    With that said, thank you so much for writing with authenticity and vulnerability. It is a breath of fresh air. I am learning a very similar lesson right now (the lazy river metaphor for life) and it is so affirming to know that someone else is learning the same lesson too.

    I want to leave you with a blessing. Open your heart and hands to completely receive from Daddy (my friends and I call this “assuming the position.” Hehe). “May the Lord bless you and protect you. May the Lord smile on you and be gracious to you. May the Lord show you his favor and give you his peace.” –Numbers 6:24-26 Have a wonderful day, Stephanie! 🙂

    • Stephanie May says:

      Ashley! Congratulations on applying for the Race! Even the application process is amazing and growth-producing. And thank you for your sweet comment. I love meeting kindred spirits. And I love when God is teaching several of us the same thing at the same time. Thank you so much for the blessing, sweet Ashley, it is absolutely received and passed back in your direction. All my love!

  6. […] another fabulous post on the scariness of life, being an adult, and making big […]

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