Thursday, September 22, 2011

Marbles, Curve Balls, & Life's Disappointments

This afternoon, I was playing Chinese Checkers with my son. And in the middle of the game, the checkers board was suddenly bumped, and all of the marbles went flying. In every direction.
Not a single marble left on the board.

My son started to cry, so I had him crawl onto my lap so I could comfort him. And while I was holding him, he said things like, "I don't want to start all over" and "I want it to be like it was before."

I'm not proud to admit it, but typically in moments like these, I would encourage him to get over it not make a mountain out of a mole hill. (Oh yes, he's well acquainted with that phrase.)
But this time was different.
Very different.
Because as I held him crying, I could relate to him like never before.
Because I, too, recently had my own life marbles get completely tossed in every direction. Without a warning.

A year ago (almost to the date), I landed in a health crisis that I am still recovering from. Completely unexpected, I began a health decline one day in September, 2010 that started with a trip to the ER, included several more, and then hospital admission. In short, I had lost my strength so much so that my husband had to carry me to the bathroom, and at times, feed me. I didn't understand what was happening (and still really don't), but all I knew was that like my son today, I just wanted things to be like they were before.

So as my son was curled on my lap today crying, I told him that I truly understood how he was feeling. And God brought to mind something that He has been trying to get through my thick skull shown me over the past year, so I shared it with him. That is, that God wants me to focus on the things I still have, instead of all I have lost.

That has often been an incredibly difficult exercise for me, one in which I haven’t always succeeded. At the time this health journey began, my son had just started Kindergarten, and I had already enthusiastically filled out all the volunteer forms to be actively involved in his momentous year. I had also started a Bible study that I was excited about. And I had been asking God how else He wanted me to spend my time while my son was at school (all day). So many exciting opportunities! But never in my wildest dreams would I have guessed that the answer would include being immobile for months on end while I watched my husband carry the weight of the world on his shoulders.

After my son calmed down this afternoon, I had to step away to take a brief phone call. When I returned to my son, he was there at the game board trying to put the marbles back where they had been. But he couldn’t remember where they went, so he kept asking me if I remembered, which was a hopeless cause I didn’t. And a little while later, he asked me if I wanted to play a different game instead. And so together, we picked up all of the marbles, put them back in the box, and got out another game. As we started it, he said, “I’m not sad, anymore, Mommy.” And when I asked him why he thought that was, he said that he was happy about playing Battleship.

You know, I’m so challenged by the way that my son handled his disappointment today because it’s a much-needed reminder of how God lovingly invites me to handle my own disappointments in life.

My Heavenly Father wants me to experience the freedom to crawl up into His lap so that He can comfort me when I need a good cry.

He wants me to know that it's okay to be disappointed.

He also wants me to not lose sight of what I have, even amidst great loss.

But the thing that struck me most about my son’s response this afternoon was that at some point, he stopped trying to pick up the pieces marbles . . .
He stopped trying to get everything back to the way it once was.

And it was then that his heart was able to find rest amidst his disappointment.

~ ~ ~
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Linking up with Ann Voskamp's The Practice of Suffering Series


  1. Wow, Tanya! What impeccable timing once again! A great word for me tonight - thanks for sharing. Hugs to you both - I'm so proud of both of you!


  2. Oh, sweet sister. What a wonderful story! Thanks for the encouragement once again to not have to frantically scramble to pick up all my marbles (goodness knows I lost my marbles a while ago! chuckle), but allow God to bring something new & beautiful instead. The board belongs to Him anyway.....and so do we. May He be glorified no matter where our marbles lie (oh, Jesus - easy to say, but please give us grace to live!).


  3. Tanya, this is an amazing post. What a blessing. Your words resonate in a deep place inside me of common ground. In my own crisis of recent years a friend reminded me that it was ok to go to God with all my broken pieces and cry out to Him, to even beat upon His chest in my hurt because He is big enough to take it and that at least there as I beat upon His chest, I would be in the circle of His arms so that He could comfort me in my loss.
    Thank you for honouring Jesus as you live out your love for Him. Bless you.
    love, Steph xo

  4. Well said, friend. :-) Thank you for sharing your heart, and congrats on this new writing journey! May God bless your words to touch many lives for His glory.

    I have not read any blogs for almost a year, but I might just stick my big toe back into the blogosphere to read yours!

  5. p.s. love the name of your blog and love you!

  6. I often find myself trying to "put all the pieces back."

    "Rest among the disappointment." Profound.

  7. "God wants me to focus on the things I still have, instead of all I have lost." Oh, how I need to do this!
    Jill's comment put such a good "twist" on this: "the board belongs to Him anyway." I keep wanting to rearrange the board &/or put the pieces back together, but that's not for me to do.
    Thanks again!

  8. With my chronic illnesses, I can totally relate to wanting everything to be the same as before... Blessings!

    1. glenys, i am truly sorry to hear about your chronic illness, but i thank you for extending the comfort of being able to relate, understanding the {intense} struggle to not look back.
      may the Lord comfort your soul this week with the reality that He is well acquainted with our suffering, that He, too, asked our Father to remove the cup of suffering, yet all the while surrendering His will to the Father's, even when it meant the path of pain, suffering, & death. may the Lord breathe abundant life into your soul, glenys, through the very means of your chronic illness. He is indeed the Giver of Life from the ashes & brokenness of our body and soul.

      blessings to you, sweet sister,

  9. Such a beautiful and genuine post. I, too, have had health challenges so I can relate to life being turned upside down and feeling like you are losing ALL your marbles. Thank you for sharing. Praying for your health ... even better than before.

    1. Thanks so much for taking the time to offer those words of encouragement, Lizzie -- & your prayers! The Lord has definitely drawn the boundary lines of my health in very pleasant places. And as you can attest to, it is far more than a mere physical journey, isn't it? And that's precicely the beauty of it.

      Looking forward to journeying with you,

  10. I just clicked over from your more recent post on the four-letter word. This is beautiful. There was a time when I was suffering from severe migraines and panic attacks, and after a few months I was led to 1 Corinthians 12:1-10. Though I am not thankful for the actual suffering, I am grateful that when I do have the occasional migraine now, I can refer back to that passage and rely on the Rock that is our God. Thank you for writing this post.

    1. hey there, mikah anne!

      thanks so much for sharing about your own time of suffering. my health crisis involved my entire system shutting down, so i cannot imagine having to contend with intense pain like severe migrains, or the stress involved with panic attacks. what a thrill to hear you refer to all that in the past tense. (thank You, God!!)

      and your sentiments about being grateful for God, Himself, IN the suffering, not grateful for the suffering itself, remind me of a wonderful message i heard online earlier this year on habakkuk 3:16-19 ("though the fig tree does not bud . . ."). in it, my old pastor pointed out that sorrow and grief are not incompatible with joy.
      and with that "permission" to feel sorrow, i experienced great Joy.

      thanks again for sharing, & i hope to have you visit again sometime!

      blessings to you & yours,


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