Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Power of a Box

There is power in a box. I’m not talking about what arrives inside the box; I’m talking about the box itself. Doesn’t it just make your day when the UPS truck pulls in and the happy man in brown walks up to your door with a box? (OK, my brown guy isn’t always happy and sometimes he tosses the box on my porch with very little flourish while scanning the horizon for my dog who is on record for having bitten a UPS man – the only person she’s ever bitten in her 15 years – I swear!)

Years ago I signed up to be a Mary Kay consultant mostly because I loved the little boxes that the products came in. Recently, I ordered jewelry from a friend who does home sales and adored the boxes that arrived - they were decorate on the inside! Even when it’s just more vacuum cleaner bags, I’m still happy to see a box arrive with my name on it.

But the best boxes, I mean the very best boxes, are the BIG boxes. The ones that come with the new refrigerator or other large appliance. Those boxes have real power.

When we first moved in to the house where we live now, the packers used enormous boxes. Boxes large enough for three children to fit inside. My children had an endless supply of “Transmorgafiers.” What?  You've never heard of a “transmorgafier?” Well, a transmorgafier can do anything – change you in to a different species altogether, plus it has its own weapons system and can travel through time and space.

A big box could grant my children hours of escape from the reality of gravity, time, and the normal disdain for a sibling. After we had settled in to our new house, we were blessed with big boxes once again as we had to replace each large appliance in the house one by one. More transmorgafiers, and eventually simple time machines that catapulted my kids back in time to before the dinosaur age. They would hide from us and then chatter on walkie-talkies about the strange beings on two legs and the even stranger ones with fur and claws.

I just love the power boxes have over children. So when my birthday present arrived on Saturday in the biggest box ever – I wondered if the magic still worked. We unloaded the beast, a treadmill which was thankfully in pieces, and left the monster box on the front porch. All of my children were happily ensconced in front of their respective favorite boxes (computers). So I casually approached the nine-year-old, figuring he would be most susceptible to the thrill of a big box. “There’s the biggest box I’ve ever seen on the front porch,” I said.

Without even looking up from his screen, he said, “Uh-huh. I’ll come at look at it when this is over.”

A few minutes later, I heard a loud whoop, followed by his cries for his siblings to come see this! His 13-year-old sister could not be bothered and when I told her it was a big box, she said, “So?” and went back to her personal box.

My 15-year-old was wandering around with his ear buds in and watched his little brother with growing interest. The 9-year-old retreated to the house for markers and his nerf weapons. He proceeded to draw all the necessary buttons and levers on the inside of the box, still yelling for his siblings to come and be amazed.

When my husband and I looked out a few minutes later, both boys were in the box. They were discussing the control panel. We overheard the oldest say happily, “I feel like I’m four years old.”

As expected, once there were two boys in the time machine, their sister had to crash the party. She wandered around saying how silly they looked for awhile, but in the end she joined the nerf battle that broke out and soon all three were running around the yard with nerf guns battling whatever creatures they had encountered in the next galaxy.

My husband came inside after sneaking a few pictures and said, “That’s the best Father’s Day present ever.”

I love boxes. They have the power to keep my kids, kids.

Some past favorite boxes -

Addie in the first transmorgifier

Many boxes became fortresses to be defended

Friday, June 8, 2012

Faith Like a Rock

Unloading the dryer this morning, I found the source of last night’s clanging. I put a load in when I went to bed and soon heard a distinctive “ping” acknowledging the fact that someone left something in a pocket of the jeans that were tumbling dry late in to the night. I was already snuggled in, the house shut up tight, so I ignored the pinging. I figured it was a marble from my youngest or a rock from my contemplative oldest child who picks up stones to roll around in his hand as he listens to his ipod.

It wasn’t a marble and it wasn’t a rock. Well, actually it was supposed to be a rock, but a synthetic one. It was brown with green mottled markings. The top was lumpy, but the back smooth and flat and obviously machined. I’d guess there are thousands just like it, but I have no idea where it came from or whose pocket it fell out of. On the top of the rock the word, “faith” was stamped, which leads me to believe it was a gift from a Sunday school class. My kids haven’t been to Sunday School in at least a month, so someone has been carrying this inspirational manufactured stone around for awhile.

I pocketed the rock, but it’s been nagging at my conscience all day. I can’t help but wonder which child will claim it, but even more so, I wonder how that child interprets the rock’s message. “Faith”, as in have faith in God or “faith” as in have faith in yourself or “faith” as in have faith that everything will be okay? Or, if it belongs to the nine-year-old who confessed recently that he has no idea what they’re talking about in Sunday School, it might mean nothing other than a stone that would be great for tossing at the chickens to see them run.

What do my children think of the word faith? What do they understand about it? Do they have faith? As a former Youth Minister, you’d think my kids would be Sunday School standouts, but ironically they would more easily be labeled Sunday School slackers. I’ve always believed that everyone’s faith is between that person and God. I wouldn’t presume to tell anyone what to believe. My own kids included in that everyone.

But I hope I have instilled in them that they should believe something. We say grace before dinner each night and I’ve prayed with all three when I tucked them in to bed when they were little. The nine-year-old won’t go to sleep without his prayers – one with Daddy and one with me. If we are away, he’ll call on the phone and insist we say prayer with him long-distance. My husband has said prayer with him while riding in a crowded taxi cab in Bejing and I once recited a prayer with him while riding on a bus with suddenly quiet drunk people on our way home from an afternoon and evening in the honky-tonks of Nashville. But what does prayer mean to this child?

I hope it gives them a sense that there is something more powerful than us. I hope it gives them peace to know there’s a plan. How that “something” is interpreted has created and destroyed countries, races, lives. I would like to believe that my children see that something as benevolent, not judgmental. I think that is the belief that has driven me away from church. I want to put my faith in something that builds up, offers grace, and encourages exploration, but too many times the church demands that we parrot a set of beliefs and live, vote, and love accordingly. That doesn’t require faith, only obedience.

Faith is huge and complicated, yet remarkably simple. Carrying faith around in your pocket seems like a very reasonable religion. One that I’m hoping at least one of my children follows. Either that or he’s just waiting for the right moment to scatter the chickens.