Thursday, November 10, 2011

Connecting the Dots During the Game of Life

I ask myself, “What have you learned?” Perhaps it is the respiratory infection that clouds my thinking or an ADD brain in an information overload world, but I am aimlessly searching for a bullet list. How do I make a concrete list about visceral experiences? I expected that Son #1 would learn a lot through his international adventure. I hoped I would learn as much. I hoped we'd both be able to quantify and qualify the experiences.

When the foggy film of jet lag began to evaporate, I asked, “Can you come up with a bullet list of what you learned while you were away? The 5 big things. Just 5?” He stared at me with an empty gaze. I could see his brain start to fire. He stared out in space and shook his head as if trying to organize his thoughts. The light of understanding flickered out just like a match flare on a windy day. Too soon.

I chuckled. “Don't worry. I'm having trouble with that as well. We both need to rest and percolate on it for a while. I know we learned something. We just need time to figure it out.” Rest overcame him again. The respiratory crud washed over me in waves demanding any extra energy I might direct toward lofty, bullet list driven thoughts.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Somewhere between sleep and productivity the finger of time reached up and poked me. “Look,” it said. “Remember?” The conversation came back to me. I tried oh-so-hard to recall the scene. I found myself squinting as I tried to visualize the memories.

It was a normal, mundane school day. The kind that peppers the lives of those of us who step out of the traditional mold of schooling. We were going thru the motions, so we could check off one more of our required 180 days. This day, a discussion of Tom Friedman's book, The World is Flat, was on the agenda.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative - Australia 2011
The premise at hand concerned the impact of technology on employment. Technology had 'flattened' our world making it easier to do business all over the globe. Of course, having married a technologically inclined fella and having birthed 2 more, we were all about technology. The more the better. I had no idea as we read the book where life would take Son #1. Looking back, it almost gives you chills.

On this boring, unremarkable day, I alluded to Son #1's struggles with insomnia. I said, “You know....the world of work you will navigate will be unrecognizable from the one your dad navigates. For all we know, God designed you with a 'backward' biological clock because he wanted your most productive hours to be when the other side of the world is awake. For all we know, you will be doing business with some entity that is hard after the work day when we are sleeping. Your hours of productivity may uniquely suit you to conduct business with someone half a world away.”

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative - China via O'Hare Int'l. - 2009
The days and weeks rolled on. We did what needed to be done to fulfill the letter of the homeschooling laws. After that obligation was fulfilled, he immersed himself in photography and photo-editing. He spent long hours doing research about different countries in far off places. He compared the cost of real estate in Eastern European countries. He learned to comb cyberspace for obtuse bits of information. Some days, I questioned my own sanity for staying true our decision to homeschool to the end of his high school career. In the end, what would come of all this creative approach to learning?

Courtesy H. Wills
The dots of life were amassing before my eyes. At the time, they were a confusing, messy maze that often made no sense. In the scariest times, even Son #1 looked back with wonder and dismay asking, “Maybe we should have done something different at some point in time?” Oh, the agony. 11 years of hard labor had left us both with nagging doubts, questions, and insecurities.

In those horrid moments of doubt and confusion, I would think back to our 3rd year of homeschooling. In those days, I would administer one set of achievement tests. As a control, we would hire an outside testing agent to administer another set of for comparisons sake. If anyone accused me of 'throwing' the test I gave, we could always show that the independent test confirmed my results.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative - China 2009
As I prepared for our 4th year at home, I was ready to buy curriculum but hesitant to do so because neither set of tests results were back. I feared buying something that was ill-suited to the direction scores would show I should take. As I walked through the huge warehouse, I breathed a prayer over and over again. “Help me. I have no money to spare. You know what he needs. You know I know his strengths and weaknesses. Help my choices magnify his strengths and bolster his weaknesses. Help me.”

The scores for both sets of testing came within a few days of each other. Once again, the independent scores verified the scores for the testing I had administered at home. When I looked at the sub-test scatters and compared them with the curriculum I purchased, I breathed a sigh of relief. My good God had heard and answered my prayer. My purchases matched his needs. The dots connected.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative 2011
I am laughing now because, if you have read much of this blog, you can connect the dots for yourself. Once upon a time, not so long ago, I talked to my son about the future. I hypothesized a world in which he might do business with an entity whose days occurred during our nights. Once upon a time, he wandered the globe via the computer. His passport allergic mom turns the pages of his little booklet and runs her fingers in wonder over the stamps for China and Australia. Business has taken him to places I have only dreamed of. To places where our day is their night.

Tonight, I can almost hear it. My good God laughs at his own sense of humor as tears of wonder spill down my cheeks and onto the keyboard as I type. Who knew? God likes to play connect the dots too....

Courtesy B. Creasy

Psalm 139:16 (NIV)
your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.


  1. This is beautiful, Carol Anne. God's got the dots connected long before we can imagine the picture. We have to learn to trust in that!

  2. For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
    Jeremiah 29:10-12

  3. Thank you Don and Colleen. In my frailty, those facts are often ones I struggle to keep in sight. Where would we be without iron to sharpen iron?