Because choosing love is worth the risk

There are supposedly five love languages (in case you’re wondering, or even if you’re not, mine is quality time), but there’s one that’s missing from the list.

Sports—sports are my true love language.

On more than one occasion, I’ve sat in the exact same spot for nearly 12 straight hours (minus some bathroom breaks here and there) watching college football. I’ve painted my entire body blue (also on more than one occasion) to show my fandom and win a spirit contest at Dallas Mavericks games. And now that I can watch basically any sport on my phone in any location, my life has changed significantly.

There are so many exciting moments in all sports, especially in college football. If you watched the West Virginia-Texas game a couple of weekends ago, you know exactly what I’m talking about. West Virginia was down 41-34 with the clock ticking down at the end of the fourth quarter. The Mountaineers scored and then had a choice—kick the extra point to send the game into overtime or go for the two-point conversion and win the whole thing right then and there. The commentators mentioned that the West Virginia coach is a bit of a risk taker in those types of situations and thought he’d go for it. Sure enough, they were right—Coach Holgorsen called for the two-point play.

A man after my own heart.

Those West Virginia players walked away with that 42-41 win because they had trusted their coach and his plan. He knew their abilities, and he knew that he had prepared them for that moment. I love seeing moments like that as they’re happening (unless it’s against my team, of course). They’re reminders that life is full of opportunities that we can either seize or let pass us by far too quickly.

I honestly have more moments of kicking the extra point instead of going for the two points than I’d like to admit. I can think back to exact instances when I wish I would have said something that I didn’t or do something differently than I did. It serves me absolutely no value to dwell on those missed chances, but they do motivate me to take more risks in my present.

The sign speaks for itself.

I think one of the greatest risks of all is loving people. Whether it’s giving your heart away to the one who makes it beat out of control or giving your heart to show others that they matter and that you care, there are significant risks involved. There’s the risk of that love being unrequited. There’s the risk of that love being questioned and frowned upon by society. There’s the risk of that love being given to individuals who have been labeled as undeserving.

Here’s the thing, though: No matter what the risks are, everyone needs love.

One day recently when I was at the beach, I was watching the waves come in when I noticed a man and woman and their precious daughter. The little girl was playing in the water with her dad and begging her mom to come join them. I watched as the mom barely let the water touch her toes before telling the sweet pig-tailed cutie that it was freezing. (The Pacific Ocean is very cold, especially this time of year. For some reason, kids never seem to notice things like temperatures.)

But then the little girl said “Please, will you, Mom? It will be so fun!” The woman had a sudden change of heart, went for the two-point conversion, and dashed out into the icicles—because she knew that the risk of freezing was nothing compared to the memories she was making with her daughter and husband and the joy they were all experiencing together. She chose love, and it was worth it.

Sure, not every risk you take will end the way you want it to. Sometimes you’ll go for that two-point conversion and walk away empty-handed. But sometimes you won’t. Like those West Virginia Mountaineers, maybe you simply need to trust the ultimate Coach and His plan. And maybe that means you choose love with the complete confidence that it’s worth it.

Don’t settle for the extra point when you know that you’re capable of getting two.

Living in the moment, not the year

The start of a new year is a lot like the release of a new Star Wars movie.

It gets way more hype than it should.

I’ve never been big on making resolutions for each new year. I feel like there’s so much pressure, and oftentimes we end up setting goals that are loftier than they should be, resulting in us not sticking to them—I guess that’s why there are so many jokes out there about how crowded gyms are at the beginning of January and then not so much anymore as the year continues to progress.

I do believe in setting goals, though, and I think it’s something that can be done at any point in the year—it doesn’t solely have to be something that takes place when we have the transition from one year to the next. If I want to start something new and stick to it on May 13, then I can. It doesn’t have to be at the beginning of a year or month or week or whatever. It honestly can be at any single moment when I want to make a change.

But I do see the significance in the “fresh start” that a new year brings. I mean, think about when you have a bad day. You might tell yourself that surely tomorrow will be better and then focus on having a better attitude or outcome the following day. There’s something about newness and fresh beginnings that appeal to people. I guess it makes sense. It’s not necessarily that you’re getting to start over completely, but in a way, you sort of are. It’s kind of like when you run a race or play a game—whether you run your best or worst or somewhere in the middle or win or lose, you get a clean slate the next time you step on the starting line, field or court. You get to go in there with a completely new mindset that good things are going to happen.

And sometimes you need that in order to move past what was a race or game or day or month or semester or year that you simply really want to forget.

This was our way of saying, “Peace out, 2016.”

I think it’s a natural human tendency to want to reflect upon a year that’s drawing to a close and classify it as good or bad, successful or not so successful, difficult or wonderful, and a number of other adjectives that won’t be completely accurate depictions of every aspect of your entire year. I know I could think of a lot of things to say about the challenges and hurt I faced in 2016, but they wouldn’t highlight those precious memories that I want to hold in my heart forever.

So maybe each year really isn’t necessarily a new beginning—rather, it’s a continuation of the stories we’re living out. It’s an opportunity for us to grow and learn more about ourselves and those around us. It’s a period of time to love and make differences as often as we can. It’s a collection of moments full of chances and setbacks, wins and losses, hopes fulfilled and hearts broken, courage and fear, laughter and tears, joy and sorrow, and a number of other ups and downs.

For a good chunk of December, I spent a lot of time waiting for 2016 to end. But, honestly, the turning of a page in the calendar doesn’t magically change things. Sure, there’s the mentality of that “fresh start” notion, but I think life should be lived by moments, not by years. Everything can change so quickly, and we have no clue how long we’re going to be here, so I feel like it makes sense to try to make every single moment matter. I’d like that to be my life resolution. I guarantee I’m going to fail probably more times than I’d like to think about, but hopefully I’ll also do well more often than not.

On the first day of this new year, I sat at a dinner table with a family that has become so dear to me over the years I’ve known them that I consider them family of my own. So much has changed in all of our lives since I met them, and it’s been so wonderful to be part of their journeys and to have them as part of mine, too. We shared stories and jokes and even belted out Plus One’s “Written on My Heart” at one point. (I mean, if you’re not singing cheesy Christian boy band songs after dinner, what are you really doing in life?) It was a refreshing reminder that I’ve been given so many incredible people who have impacted me in big ways—moment by moment.

A lot of things happened in 2016—some good, some bad. Regardless, they happened, and the individual events that happened in each of our lives likely helped mold us even more into the people we are now. Rather than looking at the entire year, I’m going to try to focus more on the moments. I know people often talk about looking more at the big picture, but I think there are times when we need to look at the smaller pictures within the big pictures, instead. After all, sometimes one line in a song can stick with you more than the entire song itself.

And no matter what the year ahead holds for you, there’s a new opportunity in every moment you’re given—and you don’t have to wait 365 days to make those moments count.