Who knew a game of pick up sticks could prop open a stubborn window into my son’s world, releasing the beautiful breeze of his soul?
My middle child and I had been going to counseling for a few months for a behavior issue that my husband and I felt ill-prepared to handle alone. In the end, I found that counseling changed my parenting and perspective more than my son, but the resulting confidence has helped me immensely.
Though he sometimes fought our counseling visits, my seven year old’s favorite part was playing games with me. We’d snicker over role-playing, and his infectious laugh filled the room when we tried to create a story together, each adding one ridiculous sentence at a time.
The counselor pointed out that part of what he craved was simply time with his mom, and the games provided that opportunity. But she also had a knack for turning games into tools to shape us and help my son to talk more.
One of his favorite games during counseling was pick up sticks. Despite my beating him the first time, he was hooked to play again. The second time we played, the counselor asked each of us to share some important part of our life every time we picked up a stick successfully. It could be something that made us happy, sad, afraid or angry…but we couldn’t keep playing until we shared.
How precious to know the joys and even fears of his seven years of life, the things that he counts as important. And how wonderful that he was enjoying the game just as much as I was.
In fact, he enjoyed it so much that after the first time we played, I ordered him his own set on Amazon for his upcoming birthday. When the package arrived, I tore into the yellow bubble wrap to reveal the anticipated toy.
But once past the shrink wrap, I uncovered an unexpected flaw within the small box: the wooden sticks were covered in some kind of mold or mildew!
Disappointed, I decided to return the sticks and get new ones. So I printed the return label off amazon and promptly…delayed mailing the package for weeks. Ahem. I forgot…or I got lazy…or we had the stomach bug. You know. The usual excuses.
The point is, I ended up mailing that package of pick up sticks much later than I planned, on a Tuesday….the day of my son’s last counseling appointment.
That day at counseling we played pick up sticks again while my son shared pieces of his heart. As my son cleaned up the pile of sticks so we could leave, the counselor looked at him warmly and said, “Those are yours to keep. That’s my parting gift to you.”
My son could not have been happier with that little pile of used wooden sticks- it was an absolute treasure to him.
And it ended up being an unexpected treasure for me as well.
As I contemplated the events later, I felt God impressing on me the symbolism of me putting the old sticks in the mailbox the very same day that my son received a set as a gift. It was as though God was reminding me that when I let go of my needs and surrender them to Him, only then can He provide for me in His delightful way.
Which brings me to three questions for myself and for anyone of you who has burdens or needs weighing your soul.
1: What needs do you need to put in the “mailbox” today and give to God?
What stresses, needs or worries are you trying to hold onto or fix on your own that you need to release to God? Is it work? Your children? Your finances? Your dreams? Your marriage or relationships?
Today I’m going to a doctor’s visit that stresses me…I need to put that in. We have new financial twists in our road ahead…I could stand to drop that in the box. I’m trying to finish a book and need clarity of next steps…maybe I need to mail that out too.
Those burdens aren’t doing me any good sitting in a package that I won’t let go of.
2: What is keeping you from putting your needs in God’s hands?
As I mentioned, it took me a very long time to put that small package of pick up sticks in the mail when it could have happened immediately. Putting that package in the box was a small thing, but it required a specific action from me.
In the same way, we sometimes hold onto our needs much longer than we need to, with one excuse or another. We’re afraid to give up control, we’re afraid God won’t answer as we want, or maybe it hasn’t even occurred to us yet to ask God for help. Maybe we think we’ve given it to God, but we find that we keep taking that package out of the mailbox because what if something happens to it in transit? Trusting God seems simple…but it really does require us to act. And that action is a daily, even an hourly thing.
3. What does it mean for you to accept God’s provision instead of yours?
For starters, we all know that giving our needs to God doesn’t always mean that the answer will show up in our hands at the end of the day like my son’s pick up sticks. God’s ways are not our ways, His timing isn’t always obvious to us, and His provisions sometimes don’t look the way we’d expect.
I was expecting to order a brand new game for my son with my money and have it show up in our mailbox. Instead we got a used set from a surprising source.
In the same way, God’s answers may not always come in the timing or manner we expect. But if we give our needs to God and ask Him to help us see His provisions, we may be surprised by all the ways He’s already showing up. He longs to give us good things and for us to trust Him as a child trusts their parents.
I hope you’ll stick a stamp on something you’re holding onto today and set it free…and if you do, please share with the rest of us what you let go of or how God provides for you as you wait.