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  • Writer's pictureLyndsay Terry

But Only If I Know I'll Win

We are quarantined (like the rest of the entire planet). My kids aren't in school, I'm working from home, everything is at a standstill excepting my husband's job. He works in an "essentials" field so he actually has mandatory overtime at least one day a week right now and we are so grateful that he can keep working (and washing his hands). In the meantime, I am at home with our three kids 'round the clock right now. Here's what that's looking like currently...

06:30AM - I wake up to a stinky breathed boy right in front of my nose whispering, "Can I have your phone?" 

​06:31AM - "Shhhh. No. I'm sleeping. Close that door quietly when you leave so you don't wake up your sister"

06:32AM - Slam waaaah! (I just love starting my day like this. It's my favorite.) 

07:00AM - Me: making a bottle. Boys: playing legos in their underwear.

10:00AM - Baby: morning nap. Me: time to get a little work in. Boys: sword fighting in their underwear.

12:00PM - Baby: ready for lunch. Me: ready for a nap. Boys: eating lunch in their underwear.

01:00PM - Baby: playing. Me: helping Judah finish school assignments. Boys: doing school in their underwear.

03:00PM - Baby: afternoon nap. Me: working. Boys: building forts in their underwear.

05:00PM - *This is the witching hour in our house. Baby: screaming. Me: crying in a corner. Boys: arguing and fighting in their underwear.

06:00PM - Daddy: walks through the front door. All of Us: a huge sigh of relief.

I've been trying to really limit my kids' screen time during the week, especially considering we are all home 24/7 right now. It's easy to just turn on a tv and walk away, but it is not good for the attitudes of anyone in our house to do that. It's a temporary fix that causes much bigger problems (at least for us). In trying to limit the screen time while we are all trapped in the house, I'm encouraging the boys to play more games together. We are a "games" kind of family. Cards, board games, dominoes, whatever kind of games - we love them. Today, one of my children asked me to play a game with him (after I made the mistake of letting them watch tv for too long) and I knew, right then, in my heart of hearts, that this was not going to end well. But I said yes anyway.

He pulled out one of my favorite games ("Munchkin" - if you haven't played it, you should!), but I knew it was a little too hard for him. We've let him play before, but it's usually either officially or unofficially on a team with a grownup to help him out. It requires a fair amount of strategy and a little bit of luck. We didn't even have enough people to play it, but I thought, "It's fine. We can just sort of make it work for us and fudge the rules a bit." We were having a good time playing, but as we neared the end of the game, as my character drew closer to the last space on the board, I just knew things weren't going to stay so sweet and heartwarming as family playing games together. I was on track to win and I couldn't slow this train down. Believe me, I didn't want to win. I wanted to let my son win this one, but sometimes you draw the right card (or wrong one if you want to lose) and there is no way around it. 

Immediately his knees were drawn up to his chest, his arms wrapped around his knees, his angry, pouty face working extra hard, and then buried into his knees, "NOT FAIR!" he yelled. Listen. I know I'm a good mom, but sometimes I forget I'm a good mom and my face says more than I want it to. You probably don't know anything about all that because you always remember to be a good mom, right? You'd never roll your eyes at your kids like... in front of them. Because you're a good mom. 

I'm a good mom who forgets her face sometimes and well... I forgot my face. I was so irritated right away. I asked him, "Oh, this is no fun? You didn't have fun the entire time we were playing? You were bored and mad and thought this was unfair from the beginning? No. We were having a great time until I won. Well, who wants to play games with someone who claims 'UNFAIR' whenever someone else wins? No one else is allowed to win when they play games with you? If that's how it's going to be, then we just won't play games anymore. That's fine." 

Writing that, I probably sound like a mean mom, but I promise I wasn't picking on this kid. This has been a conversation we've had for quite some time now: how to be a good loser. If you win, even by a slim margin, he can't handle it. And it's not just disappointment - that would be fine! We are all disappointed when we lose. Even if he was angry with himself, that would be more acceptable than becoming angry at the person who won. Here's the issue, he doesn't play to win, he only wants to play if he knows he'll win. We had the conversation again talking about why it's important to be a gracious winner and a respectful loser. We don't always get to win at everything and that's just fine. You take that loss and you let it teach you a lesson. Failure is a great teacher. All the things. We talked about ALL THE THINGS. Then we hugged, I kissed his cheek, told him I would fight a wild bear for him, and went about our day.

After he left the room and I was sitting there, still irritated just a little bit while thinking about it, and I felt the Lord wanted to give me another parenting lesson... scratch that. I felt the Lord wanting to parent me right then. 

"Do you only play when you know you'll win?" I heard Him ask. 

OOF. I knew Holy Spirit wasn't talking about board games right then. I felt him showing me ways that I haven't stepped out in obedience because I didn't know if I'd win or not. I wanted the promise of success before I committed to obedience. But that's just not how it works with the Lord. Hidden in the very act of obedience is the promise of success. I can't succeed in the Kingdom without obedience and if I obey, I will ALWAYS succeed in God's Kingdom. The key here is this... the success He promises relates to HIS DESIRED OUTCOME which does not always translate to my desired outcome. 

Let's just use the situation with my son today as an example. Obedience in playing the game promised success, but it may not mean winning the game. The success may not be in winning. 

Read that again. 

Your success may not be in winning

Maybe the purpose is to build relationships, to learn something specific, to change how I think, to influence someone a particular way; maybe it's not about the game I'm playing at all

Looking at my life, I can see time and time again where God put something in front of me to tackle, chase after, complete, whatever, and I didn't immediately obey because it looked too big, too scary, I didn't know how, I didn't know why, I didn't know when, I was confused - name the reason - but really it's because I didn't know if I could win. And I didn't want to play the game if I didn't know I could win. For instance - the book I'm writing. 

​God asked me - commanded me - to write back in 2017. Hello. It is 2020. I'm still working on this book because I keep asking "who is going to read this (can I win)?" "Why am I even doing this (can I win)?" "I feel so pretentious (can I win)?" "I have no platform; I'm a nobody (can I win)?" "Why would anyone listen to me (can I win)?" 

Maybe success, in this case, has nothing to do with book sales and publishers and a platform. Maybe it has everything to do with personal growth, helping a few individuals, building my faith, or just plain obedience. Success is imminent when I obey the Lord, but success is going to look like whatever He wants it to look like. And what He wants is infinitely better and greater than anything I could hope or imagine.  

So if you want to win, quit asking "Can I win" before you obey. Your success is hidden in your obedience. Obedience always produces a blessing. 

Like I say to my kids every single day, "Listen and obey." 

It's time to take my own advice - quit asking so many questions and just listen and obey. He is trustworthy. He is faithful. He is true. His ways are higher than mine. His thoughts are higher than mine. And yet he loves me still. 

So tonight, let the Lord parent you a little bit. "Do you only play when you know you'll win?" 

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