Take a trip with me in your mind to the beach.  We’re headed to the Atlantic Ocean.  You walk on the boardwalk through the sun-kissed dunes, and you begin to hear the crashing of the waves. The dunes are too high to see the water yet, but you smell and feel the ocean’s salty breeze.  Then your view opens up to a large expanse of sandy white beach at low tide, and beautiful crystal, blue ocean water stretches for miles to the left and right of your visual frame.  You are surrounded by indescribable splendor, and the water beckons you in.  But, wait, it’s winter.


Do you take the plunge?


Many people take part in “polar plunges” when water temperatures are especially low to raise money for charities, celebrate the New Year, or to just feel the rush of the cold on the body.  Public service announcement here:  Although many people take part in these activities, those with a family history of stroke, aneurysm, hypertension, or sudden cardiac death should be evaluated by a doctor before jumping in near-freezing water.  


My children decided that when we went to the beach over New Year’s, they wanted to do this as a family—something none of us had done before.  I didn’t initially commit; my kids gave me a pass, and my husband hesitated at first as well.  The warmest of days was towards the end of our stay, so we talked about the activity a few times before the opportunity to “check it done” occurred.  The afternoon had come when it was time to commit, yes or no, to the polar plunge.  To my surprise, I said I would do it.  My kids’ smiles at my acceptance of this challenge are permanently etched in my mind, and my husband agreed as well.


So, we donned our bathing suits on our lily-white bodies, wrapped ourselves in bath towels, and marched our way to the beach.  Onlookers offered us some interesting looks, and we laughed at ourselves in anticipation.  It was cold outside, so we knew the water would be freezing.  Therefore, there wasn’t much hesitation before we ran to the water.  You know there are two choices at this point:  ease your way in or jump right in from the start.  But, eventually, you have to choose to go under that water and take the plunge.  My kids and I eased into the waves, but after a few minutes, this started to take a major toll on the feeling in our legs.  They began to numb, so we knew it was time to get serious and fully dunk. Once we committed, we felt invigorated, and we stayed in for a minute or two.  My husband took our pictures, because, of course, we needed this documented on film, and now it was his turn.  I walked back up to the beach, and my kids took another plunge with their dad. I watched him slowly squirm into the cold surf until he eventually dove beneath the waves and then ran back to the shore.  


Despite our collective shivering, we all felt an incredible sense of accomplishment and vigor as we walked quickly back to our villa!  It’s a Van Voorhis family memory for sure.  I know it was especially sweet given our difficult year—in many ways, it was a tangible expression of overcoming fear, washing away sadness, and coming out stronger!  


We all need to take time to expand our horizons and “take the plunge” figuratively more often in life.  In fact, when we take the time to learn new things, expose ourselves to novel experiences like travel and dancing, engage in physical activity, and practice healthy sleep hygiene, we can actually form new neural pathways and create neurons even in adulthood.  How will you plunge more deeply into your life and the lives of others this year?


Personal Reflection or Family Discussion


  1. What are some experiences I (or our family) would like to do this year?
  2. Are these novel or repeat experiences?  Is there something new I (or we) would like to also consider?
  3. Have I (or the family) overcome a challenge that needs to be celebrated?  How can we choose to celebrate that success?
  4. What is one challenge I (or our family) dares to take on this year? In what areas am I (or we) willing to “take the plunge”? 


You cannot always wait for the perfect time, sometimes you must dare to jump.

~Author Unknown


But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind.  

James 1:6



Nguyen, T. (6/9/2016).  10 proven ways to grow your brain: Neurogenesis and neuroplasticity.  www.huffpost.com



Resources to Support Change and Growth:


Groeschel, C. (2017). Divine direction:  7 decisions that will change your life.  Zondervan.




Hollis, R. (2018).  Girl, wash your face:  Stop believing the lies about who you are so you can become who you were meant to be.  Nashville, TN:  Nelson Books.




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