Playing the Game Right

Just before Christmas, I found myself in the game section of the store. I often go there because I like to see what is new with the potential of being added to my large collection. On a shelf at the end of an aisle, I found a rather intriguing box with the words Japanese Card Game written on the back. I had no sooner picked it up to examine it, when a man was at my side with a cell phone to his ear.

“You have to get that game!” he said.

“No, honey, I am talking to a person at the store. She is looking at Machi Koro. I am telling her to buy it,” he said into his phone.

He then said to me, “I am talking to my wife, but I had to come over here to tell you to buy that game. It is really fun. We love playing it.”

“Thank you,” I answered.

He disappeared as quickly as he had shown up. But, he did such a good sales job for a guy who was not even employed by the store, that a lady standing next to me decided to purchase the game as well.

I took note of the price, and with all of the holiday shopping I had completed, I hesitated. I wondered if I should buy if for myself or not. It was only about $20, but I still have moments where I wonder if I should spend my money on me. I had one part of me saying I should, and another part was escorting me to a bankruptcy hearing for purchasing something ‘not necessary’.

I decided to buy it and left the guilt at the store in the toy aisle.

Our first attempt to play was a disaster. While it sounds glamorous and worldly to play a game that is from another country, there is also the formality of the rules not being crystal clear. I kept reading this: Game play should be about 30 minutes.  We read the manual from cover to cover and that took longer than a half hour.  What’s interesting is that when people do not comprehend an idea, the reader will read louder to see if revelation will come. I have concluded that the volume of voice does not bring about understanding. After two hours of being baffled, we turned to a YouTube video to lend us a hand.

It was one of those online viewing sessions where after hours of struggle you continually say, “OH!” “Hey!” “OH!” But, you cannot get the wasted hours back of sweating it out at the table wondering if buying the game in the first place wasn’t a huge mistake.

My daughter and I decided to try again the next day to see if we could get through one round. Basically, players are at the mercy of the roll of dice and how many coins they possess. The objective is to accumulate money to buy landmarks to win. I watched as she spent herself down to her last coin while I hoarded mine and spent very little. Time and again, she beat me by completing her buildings before I had barely begun.

I noticed that she had a very carefree attitude about spending her earnings while I clung to what I had tightly refusing to buy anything on my turn. Then, she would get just the right roll, and more coins would flow into her pile which she would immediately spend.

Finally she said, ‘You have to spend your money or you are going to lose every time.”

I decided to take her advice and fight off the feelings of panic when the space in front of me held no money to spend. I actually had feelings of discomfort rise up in me as this went against everything I had ever conformed to.

I began to buy ‘the ranch’ cards which once accumulated can start to make money back for the one who purchases them. By the end of that game, I had actually beat her! It proved itself to be true whenever we played. I may not have won every time, but when I let go of what I had to spend, I ended up farther ahead than when I held on and refused to spend a dime on anything. I became a stronger competitor by trusting that I could make money by spending money.ranch

 

The next day, I was out in the store looking at water purifiers. The mental dilemma surfaced of if I should buy one or not. Suddenly, a vision of our game from the day prior filled my mind.

“Buy the ranch!” I heard her say.

I put the item into my cart and happily went on my way. I discovered that if I don’t allow myself to have things, then my life is going to be about worry and hoarding versus living the life I know God wants all of us to have.  It is a matter of trust and a deep knowing that there is a love so deep that it won’t let you fall off the edge of a cliff into despair.  We have the choice to limit ourselves or to allow good to come into our lives.

In this new year, our slogan now is: Buy the ranch!

In other words, loosen the grip, and put God’s love for you in motion by not saying no to yourself all the time.  Before you know it, you will be playing the game right.

 

machi koro

 

Out of Order

The three of us looked on as many approached, saw the sign and backed away. It was clearly written in permanent marker and in no uncertain terms that the machine was out of order.

“It’s not working, ” she said with a dejection that jumpstarts a mother into action.

It had been a simple request for a pack of hard to find cinnamon mints while walking through the mall. The grocery stores and gas stations we frequented did not carry them, but a large glass encased vending machine at the food court offered every color of the rainbow to those who desired fresh breath. Unless the machine was malfunctioning.

Instead of walking away, I began to dig in my wallet for change. Money and the availability of it had become scarce following the divorce. My oldest child saw what I was doing and said,

“Don’t put your money in there. You will lose it.”

I had taught her well. It sounded like my own voice and practical advice that I had doled out on numerous occasions to her and her sister, yet, I persisted in locating another coin. Maybe there was one at the bottom of my purse.

“You are going to lose your money.”

Despite her warnings, I felt I was to ignore what I was seeing and go after the item she had requested. I clutched two quarters in my hand as I watched another person go up, read the sign and leave.

When I made my decision to try it anyway, she kept trying to talk me out of doing something so crazy. Once the coins were in the slots and I pushed them in, I grabbed on to the metal handle.

This is where things got somewhat tricky. The mechanism would not budge so my coins were suspended and not dropping in to allow my candy to be dispensed. I latched on with both hands, gritted my teeth, closed my eyes and put everything I had into turning that knob to the right. I leaned into it. I grunted inwardly.

After a few moments of mother against machine, I heard the soft clinking sound of my two coins falling into other coins. I opened my eyes to see a pack of red hot mints shoot across the room like a machine gun firing a bullet.

“Go get them!” I said as I watched them fly away. I didn’t have any money left to do it again.

As they both raced to retrieve them, I watched as another person walked up to the machine, read the piece of paper and walked away.

I know that I was not operating under my own impulses that day. How do I know? Because during that time of my life I was hanging on by a thread emotionally, physically and financially. Everything in me at all times feared the worst, and I was in survival mode to make sure my two children had what they needed. The divorce had left its scars on all of us, and I was trying to regain some normalcy.   But, to put my money into a machine that was probably going to take what little I had was not what I would have chosen to do.

However, I had this overwhelming thought to do it anyway because someone great was watching over us. Someone besides myself knew and saw the grief, despair and pain my household was enduring. A love greater than what I could hand out to my kids was watching us struggle to find our footing again like new born creatures. Everything seemed uncertain, so to take a chance by sticking my last two quarters into a machine was definitely not an idea generated by my own thinking.

I was being shown that not everything appears as it seems. It was an inward prompting to trust something bigger than myself, and to bring this passage alive: We walk by faith, not by sight.  Two quarters and a pack of elusive mints taught me one of the best lessons of my life.

When the divine is allowed in to bring healing, love and hope, nothing can ever be out of order.

outoforder