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...a life-size board-game?
Yep, that's what I said!
The Candyland game - come to life - to be exact.
On the fourth day of Christmas, I took the kids to our local Penitentiary Glen, a truly unique part of our park system that my family has enjoyed for years. This year, the Glen had turned its main display and conference room into a life-sized version of the board game Candyland. (Thank goodness it wasn't the game of LIFE; we would have been there all day! I am also not sure how that would have worked...what with adding baby upon baby into the blue and pink cars...)
Anyway, true to it's confectionary namesake, this game setup was a visual delight as well as a unique meeting of Christmas and fantasyland, and we enjoyed traipsing up and down the paths, following the orders given by our own personal set of cards depicting the familiar colored squares. We even found ourselves crossing a wooden footbridge and their own beautful version of rainbow trail. The Nature Center also added its own special twist to the challenge, combining local plants and foods native to the area with tidbits of information about them scattered throughout the display.
Still, as much as we were enjoying ourselves, the game's unmistakeable likeness to real life was impossible to miss. As we all know from our own lives, we are dealt cards that we have to follow, whether we like them or not. In our Candyland game, some cards presented double colors that initially convinced us that we were advancing quickly. At times, this excitement would come to a halt as we were greeted with disappointment upon the discovery that we had ended up on a "lost turn" square or had been sent back to an even further square than when we had started.
As an adult, the correlation was striking. We've all experienced these cards dealt to us, although some seem to draw far more than others. Just like the double-colored cards, we sometimes feel as if we are making great progress in some area - our vocation, schooling, our job, our spiritual life. We truly need to be grateful for this progress because these moments are a gift. However, although it is important to develop the "gratitude attitude," we also have to be aware that as children of God, our paths will never be stagnant. Combining our own way to heaven with the the way that God actually intended will include the occasional lost turn (often by our own doing) and the sometimes crushing backtrack that leaves us feeling lost and defeated. However, these disappointing and sometimes devastating cards actually present us with an opportunity that cannot be discovered at any other time in our lives. In reality, these particular cards land us on a very special space.
Imagine landing on a board game space that is divided in half by a single line. One half is colored black and labeled "Defeat," while the other is gold and labeled "Conquer." If one were to imagine following the rules of the Candyland version of our own personal lives, we would begin to notice a trend as we progressed in the game: this trend would include the frequent landing on this space over and over again. Why?
The truth is, we NEED this space. Without it, our lives would wither and die, finding us sunk in a molasses mudpit of fear and dormancy, unable to move ahead. This space allows us a choice. We can choose to step into the "Defeat" half, allowing ourselves to succumb to the sticky trap of pain and despair, or we can choose to step into the "Conquer" half where we can choose determination and perseverance to conquer our challenges, allowing us to progress. Albeit not easy, in this space, the choice is ours.
As we progress in our celebration of the Christmas season, I pray that we recognize the moments when we land on this special space. Although it may be tempting to fear it, I encourage you to embrace it, claiming it for what it is: our chance to progress to our ultimate victory: the crowing glory of heaven.
I alo pray that you and I will have the strength to continue to step into the "Conquer" half of the space. And, as the ultimate "Candyland Castle" eventually comes into view, you and I will tremble with joy (and not just from a sugar high!) as we get ready to cross the candycane bridge, right into the land of perfect gumdrops and the sweetest love we have ever known!!
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May your Lent be truly fruitful and fill you with longing for His Resurrection!
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Hi! I'm a Catholic mom who loves to encourage and support others in their journey to live the beauty of our Catholic faith in a modern world. It can be a struggle, no doubt, but God has given us the tools we need! Join my family (both immediate and extended!) and me as we take on this incredible journey of our path to holiness.
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