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Dominoes have gotten a total make-over in recent years, from six dots to twelve to fifteen, eighteen, even twenty-one. The larger the number of dots, the more players. What fun!

And now those dots come in multi-colors.

Growing up, dominoes were boring black with white dots. The largest was the double-six.

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domino-65136_640Decades later I was introduced to Mexican Train with a double-twelve. I found my new favorite game.

This was a challenge I could win!

So easy to arrange all my tiles in neat rows from largest to smallest. Simple strategy.

Private trains. Public trains. Branching doubles. It all made sense and more often than not, the tiles I chose worked in my favor. Game nights with friends became the highlight of my crazy life.

Until they introduced me to Chicken Foot.

But first, a little back story, if you don’t mind…

Our life had taken a major detour, re-routing our small family to a huge metropolis in the Southwest. We were warned it would be expensive to live there, and would require more than one income. Next to impossible for this stay-at-home mom. But moved we did.

The Preacher worked lots of overtime. I ran a day care in our home. And did tele-marketing from home. And taught my kids (as in, school) at home. And I was involved in multiple ministries at our church. And cooked and cleaned and did laundry and ran errands…

Our vehicles were in the repair shop more often than not.

Hello, Mr. Croft. What’s the problem this time?

The big city mechanic knew us by name. Not good.

The paychecks never stretched as far as we needed. With a hungry teen and a growing little girl, no medical insurance, old cars and an older house (with summer lasting seven to eight months of the year, requiring electricity to keep the a/c running 24/7).

Every morning I awoke enveloped in a thunderhead of gloom.

At lunch, I banged my head on the fridge, while getting more juice to fill sippee cups for toddlers and pre-schoolers.

At bedtime I fell asleep with tears soaking my pillow… hating life, mad at my husband, believing God was a cruel taskmaster.

WHY does everything have to be so hard?!?!?!?!?!?!?!

Those seven years I’ve since referred to as, our wilderness wanderings. No matter how hard we worked, it wasn’t enough. Not enough hours. Not enough money. Never able to make ends meet.

Our debt piled, steadily, month after month after month.

(When our detour through the desert ended, and God moved us back into full-time pastoral ministry, we owed close to $20,000. Moving there had been a mistake, the Preacher later admitted.)

Life constantly threw unexpected difficulties our way, and for the first time in my contemplative, sheltered, ordered homemaking career, I came dangerously close to losing it.

Enter, Chicken Foot. The game.

Only, it wasn’t a game to me—just another unwelcome challenge full of frustration. Too much resembling my miserable existence.

After lining up my tiles in just the right order, I expected to place them in a row in exactly the same order. I also expected to win, or at least come close to winning. Or maybe have a chance at winning?

Is that too much to ask?

But, in Chicken Foot, when a double tile is introduced to the round, all the players’ plans for strategy are suspended. Meaning, all play on our own branches ceases. Sabotaging and derailing my tactics, upsetting my ordered tiles, robbing my neat little collection of necessary pieces to reach the goal…

all in the attempt to form a new chicken foot—something I hadn’t originally planned on doing. And had no desire to do.

Who came up with this idea, anyway?

Stupid game. Completely maddening.

When game night started looking way too much like real life, dominoes were no longer fun.

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That was close to fifteen years ago.

I guess I’ve learned a few things since then. Because this week I played Chicken Foot. And had a great time.

No tears. No shrieks. No pounding fists. No leaving the table to hide my depressed, agitated mental and emotional state in the bathroom.

(I’m exaggerating, of course. But only a little.)

Or I’ve just become flexible. Learned how to go with the flow. Accepted the ups and downs and the insane loop-de-loops of this crazy life.

Matured a bit over the years, too, I think. No more banging my head on the fridge. No longer mad at my husband. No more viewing God as a cruel taskmaster.

I’ve come to see the larger picture. To understand the un-predictability of life—of yours and mine, of those before us and everyone’s around us.

The more I read of history, the biographies and autobiographies of men and women who made a difference, the more I realize how each life is plagued with the unexpected. I’ve also seen God use what we view as complications in a way that later fits perfectly. As if by design.

A young Israelite girl, uprooted from her native land and family during a conflict, became a slave in a foreign country, in the home of a commander of the enemy’s army. Accepting her new position, she served his wife, waiting on her and meeting needs (2 Kings 5).

Scripture is silent as to her name. But she carried out her duties with diligence and faithfulness. Eventually some amount of affection grew between the girl and the couple, and she told them of a prophet who could heal her master of his leprosy.

What became of her family? Did she ever return home? Would she be reunited with loved ones?

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Esther also experienced unwelcome disruptions to her quiet life. Already an orphan and living with relatives, had she made plans to marry, to raise children in her hometown, to worship freely the God of her fathers all her life? (Old Testament book of Esther).

When the Persian king sought a new bride, Esther was not the only young woman whose life underwent sudden and permanent change. (I don’t think the king expected the queen to refuse his command, especially in the presence of his royal peers.)

Nothing takes God by surprise. Nothing takes place without His purposes remaining intact.

For I know the thoughts (plans) that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.  –  Jeremiah 29:11

Even in the unexpected, no matter how turbulent our circumstances shake us, when unexpected detours take us by surprise, our God sees and knows and allows all things for our good. His plans are never disrupted.

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