Around our house we love games and puzzles. Okay, so I’m really the only one that likes puzzles, but I haven’t given up the fight to get the kids to join the effort. A puzzle, in all its addictive nature, forces a life-pause. And good conversation can occur in the midst of searching for just the right piece.

So, puzzles – not so much. But the games, we love. And right now it’s cards. Rummy to be exact.

Rummy goes a step beyond the game of Gin Rummy, at least the way we play it. Rummy offers a bit more strategy and gamesmanship. One hand doesn’t make the game. And, you can play off each others hands. The discard pile stays alive. Points are gathered or lost based on cards laid and those remaining in a hand. We usually play to 500. It’s exciting … and fun. And I’m so glad at least one of my kids has caught the Rummy bug. Well, mostly glad. Sometimes he can get in a huff.

“Did you shuffle?” Fury asks, slightly perturbed, as he looks at what he thinks is a less than winning hand.

“Yes,” I reply. “You watched me.”

He eyed me suspiciously. I ignored him.

It was my turn to go first, so I do something that is sure to fire up ire. I begin the game by laying down points.

“What?!” he protests. “That’s not fair…. You had those in your hand?”

I did. What can I do but admit, “I was a dealt a great hand.”

“That’s not fair!” the he protests again. “My hand is terrible.” Then he goes down the road of poor-pitiful-me. “I’m going to lose. That’s all there is too it. I’m losing for sure.”

“You know that’s not true,” I try to offer perspective, trying to remind him it’s a game. His hand doesn’t define him. You know, all that mom-stuff that sounds like squirrel chatter to stubborn, I’ve-been-wronged, feeling-sorry-for-myself ears.

“There are a lot of cards to play,” I encourage him. But he wanted nothing to do with it. He was dying to know my hand. And to lament even further the unfairness of it all.

“What else do you have,” he asked. “I bet you have the aces, too.”

“Oh my word,” I shake my head. “I didn’t do anything to get this hand. It’s a game. You had a great hand last time. Can’t you be happy for me this time?”

“We need to start over… My hand is terrible. It’s the worst hand ever!” he huffed and dug in, determined to be miserable.

We didn’t start over. We played that hand and more. And he actually won the game. He ended with more points than me even though such a prospect looked dim at the beginning.

It’s a little like life, isn’t it.

We start something like a new school year, and we eye each other’s cards, thinking about all the I’m-so-glad-I-got’s – or wallowing in the I-wish-I-had’s. Someone got the teacher our child wanted. The “other” class has a better group than ours. My kid should have been on the other team, or sitting in another desk. OR maybe my kid got it all great. They have a terrific hand. Their cards are everything for which we/they hoped.

But like Rummy, the game is long. It isn’t over after one hand. It doesn’t end with the first play. Lots can change. Life is so much more than a single hand. It’s made up of multiple hands, that work together to make the whole. Still, we try to position ourselves to have the best, to be the best. And, it’s often hard to rest with the hand we’re dealt.

Then we can’t help but wander –what’s in her hand?… what if that card is an Ace? We worry about what everyone else has. And, the agony of not knowing magnetically pulls us to want to know… mostly so I can be sure mine’s okay.

But, unlike the game of cards that truly hinges on luck and timing, the Dealer in the game of life knows never relies on luck. He knows each and every hand that is dealt. Because He creates them. He distributes the cards purposefully. He tailor makes every hand for every player. And he is Lord over all of the timing.

Is it fair to compare life to a card game? Probably not. But I couldn’t help it. I’m tired of there being a right way; I’m tired of the pressure to strive; I’m tired of all the endless spin and positioning; I’m tired of defining based on dealt-hand. It really seems to sap a lot of the joy out of life. Do we lose sight of enjoying all that is around us as we take the be-better-than bait?

I’ve been reading about David and Jonathan in 1 Samuel. Two people dealt two different hands. The latter, by all logic and standards, should have had the former’s hand. He was the heir apparent. But the king card was never his to play. And he was happy. His joy wasn’t sapped. He even celebrated the one who would be king. How could he do that?

I think it had something to do with trusting the Dealer.

Such trust allowed Jonathan to care for and encourage those around him, rather than be consumed by fairIt wasn’t getting ahead or winning or being better, maybe even best, that offered peace. It was in serving, accepting, embracing, doing his best with his hand … that he found freedom to breathe.

I need to remember that. Please … remind me in the midst of college acceptances/rejections, sorority bids/cuts, making the A or C team, teacher/locker/room assignments, party invitations or lack thereof, carpool inclusion/exclusion … to look at the Dealer and to trust rather than have my boat rocked by my idea of a good hand.

Thanks for walking the road with me.


And Saul’s son Jonathan went to David at Horesh and helped him find strength in God, “Don’t be afraid,’ he said. ‘My father Saul will not lay a hand on you. You will be king over Israel, and I will be second to you. Even my father Saul knows this. 1 Samuel 23:16-17

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