Our house guests have created havoc in my life.  Well yes, in my home too.  More than that, though, my spirit is full of noise and activity, to say nothing of the accumulation of snuggles and glorious smiles.

They came in like a tornado, all noise and motion.  I am speculating that they will leave in much the same manner.  I will readily admit that the walls of my comfortable existence have been shoved a little out of kilter in the process.

Kids.  They have three of them.  As I understand the unofficial rulebook, since they are not my grandchildren I am not required to love or even to like them.

I do anyway.

Who could resist that gorgeous smile from the little sweetie as she peeks out from her hiding place beside my recliner, or the lit-up face of the all-boy artist as he shows off the glowing picture of the dolphin he has just created on the old-school Light Bright?

Yet, in the midst of my enjoyment (and exhaustion), I suddenly realize that these small people are not just children learning and growing and enjoying life.  I have become aware that they are teachers, opening the door to lessons I should have learned ages ago, but have lost in my single-minded focus on making ends meet and racing into old age.

The  boy, with his creation of plastic and light, shoves his way to the front of the classroom to drive home the point.  His completed art project is destined for destruction, but not tonight.  His sisters want to remove the pegs and begin a different picture, but he is adamant.

“I built this.”  This is said as he crosses his arms and prepares to take on all comers.

In his mind, it is all the explanation needed.  I understand perfectly and I concur.  I have actually been considering this very thing for awhile now.  

Just a couple of days ago, I helped the Lovely Lady straighten up the house after the grandchildren had been for a visit.  They do their share of creating havoc, too.

Off and on, a favorite toy of the kids has been a ziploc bag full of plastic geometric shapes which hook together and form whatever object that child’s mind imagines they resemble.  Bicycles, airplanes,  guns–if their fertile genius can visualize it, that is what the shapes become.

On this day, one of the little girls had left her creations lying intact on the corner of the dining room table.  I picked them up, knowing that they were destined to become flat one-dimensional pieces of plastic momentarily.  All I had to do was to disconnect the pieces from each other, nothing more.

In my mind, I heard the little cutie’s voice naming off the objects she saw in the little plastic projects.

“Look, Grandpa.  I made an airplane!  And, this one’s a car!”  They were exact replications of the original–in her imagination.

I stood there, with the unrecognizable objects in my hand, and could hardly bring myself to take them apart.  She built them.  They represented her talents, her efforts.

They were a part of who she is, a product of her labor.  How do you destroy that?

Foolishness!  Take the silly things apart and get done already!  I hear the voices in my head, but still–just for a moment–I hesitate.

A couple of months ago, against my better judgment, I placed a little antique table near a window in our living room.  The Lovely Lady wanted it there.  It is the same table we placed in her mother’s room at the nursing facility a couple of years before she passed away.  It is sitting in the living room to be used for the same purpose it served for my mother-in-law.

Every few days, a cardboard box is placed at the edge of the table and the Lovely Lady stirs her hand around the contents inside.  One by one, little pieces of thick glued paper are pulled out, first the ones with one flat edge.  These are hooked together to form an outside perimeter for what will eventually become a beautiful picture.  After that is complete, hours (and I mean literally, hours) are spent in searching for pieces which have tabs and sockets that fit together to form the balance of the picture.

Puzzles!  I detest them!

I have for years.  I never could quite put my finger on the reason.  Until I stood in the dining room the other day with the little girl’s creation in my hands.

Now I know.  I hate to take apart something which is the product of someone’s labor.  When it is taken apart, there is nothing left to show that the thing was ever done.


Hours spent in fruitless labor, the only evidence of the deed, the movement of the clock, the passing of time.  The work complete, the laborers do the only thing that can reasonably be done with the product of their efforts–tear the puzzle apart and start another.

I want to leave evidence of having been here.

I want to make a difference in the world I leave behind.

I wonder.  Am I just building puzzles?  Am I leaving behind unrecognizable geometric shapes that will be flattened within moments of my departure?  Is all of this just a Light Bright creation, destined to be dismantled the instant I am not here to protect my work with my arms crossed and eyebrows threatening?

I want to be a builder, a craftsman.  I desire to leave a legacy for future generations to see and from which to learn.  It will take careful selection of materials.  It may even take a calculated plan of action.  No more throwing these frantic ideas from my helter-skelter brain on the page and expecting a masterpiece.

The all-boy artist in my house tonight told his parents the other evening that he was sure of what he would be doing the next day because he already had a road map in his head.

I want that, too.

I wonder if I will be able to ascertain the route that the Master Cartographer has already placed there.

I guess I may have to work on my navigational skills, too.

This is one road I don’t want to miss.  You coming along too?

“The Christian shoemaker does his duty, not by putting little crosses on the shoes, but by making good shoes because God is interested in good craftsmanship.”
(Martin Luther ~ German theologian/reformer ~ 1483-1546)

“‘Leave your country and your people,’ God said, ‘and go to the land I will show you.'”
(Acts 7:3 ~ NIV)

© Paul Phillips. He’s Taken Leave. 2014. All Rights Reserved.

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