I was reading Regina Brett's book, "God Never Blinks" and she was recounting how someone once told her that she lived her life as if she was wearing a party dress but would never go to the party for fear of getting it dirty. I think a lot of us are like that. Many of us are afraid of jumping into life, running into the party for fear of doing it wrong, making a fool of ourselves, getting messy. But when I look at my children, some of their greatest moments of joy are spent as messy as possible. Painting with their hands and playing outside, getting muddy, rolling down the grass, running and sweating and laughing and whooping with joy. "The messier the better" could be a slogan for childhood; maybe it should be for more than just that.

Maybe it's jumping into our lives with both feet that would give us the greatest pleasure, that would allow us to realize our dreams, that would set us free. But that freedom is scary. That sense of actually, possibly realizing our dreams- it's almost as frightening as it is exhilarating. My friend Melissa has a favorite saying from "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory": "Do you know what happened to the boy who got everything he ever wanted? He lived happily ever after." And maybe we won't get exactly what we want and maybe it won't come just as we'd like it, but isn't the chance at our dreams worth a little risk?

It all starts with engagement. We can't realize anything without actively participating in our own lives. Standing on the sidelines is easy. Griping about what's not right and pondering when might be a better time are activities we do to avoid what we want to do, what we should do, what we can do if we believe. Because truly, each of us wants to submerse ourselves in the delicious muddy misty bog of life whose barriers we walk around. We tread softly because we do not know what lies beneath, but we are anxious to find out. We want to run off the banks and into the water and see what it feels like and see if inside it is what it seems from the outside. We cannot know without getting messy. We cannot know the happiness and strangeness of the murky waters without actively engaging. We may not like what we find, but there's a chance we will love it. Yet without getting off the banks, we cannot know the truth. So maybe it's time to put on our best dress and run right out of our shoes... and into what lies beneath.

After all, this is the life.