Sudoku

In a house with 4 kids who go to 3 different schools, weekday mornings can be hectic. Breakfast must be eaten. Backpacks must be packed. Lunches must be made. Pajamas must be traded for school clothes. The majority of my kids are relatively self-sufficient, but I still need to be available to monitor the morning progress if I want everyone out the door and to school on time. So the busyness of the morning makes completing the newspaper puzzles fairly difficult.

 

Since my older sister homeschools her 4 kids, her mornings are a little less hectic (but the rest of the day is pretty busy!). Therefore, she prioritizes her morning time and her newspaper puzzles. She has told me, “I do the top left scramble, then the sudoku, the bottom scramble, the crossword and then the cryptoquote. Brain work!!” She said that the first 4 puzzles are her prep work for the tricky and often perplexing code-breaking exercise of the cryptoquote.

 

If I do get around to completing any puzzles, I usually only do the sudoku puzzles on Mondays and Tuesdays. This is not because those are our less crazy days of the week. It’s actually because I’m aware of my limitations. The difficulty of each sudoku puzzle is noted with a number of stars. Monday is usually a 1-star and Tuesday is a 2-star. I’m just not willing to devote the amount of effort to a puzzle that’s more difficult than that. Call it lazy or call it self-awareness, but it’s true.

 

According to sudokudragon.com, the name sudokuis “abbreviated from the Japanese suuji wa dokushin ni kagiru, which means ‘the numbers must occur only once.’” Because of its name, many might assume the sudoku puzzle is a Japanese invention, but there’s a lot more to its origin story.

 

It started out as the invention of a Swiss mathematician named Leonhard Euler in the late 1700’s. It eventually made its way to French newspapers between 1890-1920. Then the puzzle showed up in an American magazine in 1979. By the 1980’s, Japan started printed the eventually-named Sudoku puzzles in their magazines and newspapers. The Japanese people love a good puzzle as much as anyone but found that the structure of their language and lettering made it difficult to construct a Japanese crossword puzzle. A number puzzle worked much better for them.

 

For those who don’t really care for newspaper puzzles, the history of the sudoku might seem as mind-numbingly boring as actually completing a sudoku puzzle, but there’s an interesting evolution to its existence and popularity. This grid made up of 81 boxes and a few well-placed numbers, has changed over the last 250+ years as it was altered by various cultures. Instead of keeping it just so, when a new group discovered it, they would look to make it better or more challenging or more universally appealing.

 

Though the name Su Dokumeans “number single,” its persistence in so many diverse places shows its multiplicity. It’s an excellent example of the melting pot theory. Learning from and sharing what we love with others can create some pretty amazing things.

Make your paths straight

If anyone is looking for me on most Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights, they can find me in the preschool wing of my church. Our curriculum has a video series which we show the 3 year-olds to kindergarteners to reinforce their classroom lessons. The kids begin in their rooms, then about 15 minutes into Bible class time, they all come out to me on the area we call the “green triangle” (named after the color and shape of the carpeting in front of the television).

 

We sing a few songs, and then I ask someone to switch off the lights. [Side note: Being the Chosen One who turns off the lights is a GIANT deal. I always choose a child I know can handle the task without a) needing assistance from me which would remove me from my post, or b) run out the door to escape. For the last two years I asked my youngest son to complete this task most of the time. Knowing he was about to age out of the preschool and move on to the elementary wing, I had him mentor a few reliable 4 year-olds. It was an interesting take on discipleship and a reminder that people like to be made to feel special.]

 

Once the lights are off and the mood is set, we watch the video which shows a character who is questioning or struggling with a problem. An animated owl named Ollie overhears and offers a related Bible story to help them resolve their issues. Each month, there’s a new theme and Bible verse. Before we watch the video we practice the verse. This month it’s Proverbs 3:5—just the first part. “Trust in the Lord with all your heart.”

 

I love this verse, especially when you look at the complete thought – Proverbs 3:5,6

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)

 

Working on this with the kids helped me I realize that I learned this verse in different versions:

“In all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.” (NIV)

“In all your ways acknowledge Him,And He shalldirect your paths.” (NKJV)

“In all your ways know him, and he will make your paths straight.” (CSB)

“Seek his will in all you do,and he will show you which path to take.” (NLT)

 

I started thinking about the difference between God “showing which path to take” or “directing my paths” and “making my path straight”.  They seem different, don’t they? The most literal translation is “make your paths straight.” The idea is clearing all obstructions and obstacles out of the way.

 

That’s not to say God doesn’t want to tell you with path to take. In Isaiah 30:21, we learn that “Whether you turn to the right or to the left, your ears will hear a voice behind you, saying, ‘This is the way; walk in it.’” (NIV)

 

But the Scriptures teach us about the versatility of God, and His willingness to wait for us and find us and know us. So sometimes He will whisper to tell us which way to go and sometimes He will remove obstacles in our path. In the end, He just asks us to trust him.

 

When I look back at the ways God has used me and challenged me, I see times when God removed the obstacles to pave the way for me to act. Upon reflection, I’m given the blessing of standing further down a road and looking back to see where I’ve been. Often I can understand a little better why the detours and the roadblocks came just when they did. God was providing me with a path made straight both by His foresight and His desire to bless me.

Trust


As we were walking to school today, my youngest son Ezra closed his eyes and asked me to hold his hand while we made our way down the sidewalk. “Don’t let me run into anything,” he said. “And don’t let me fall.”

 

I promised him I’d do my best. We crossed streets and I navigated his steps over puddles. We didn’t walk side-by-side, like we usually do. Instead, I was a few steps in front, pulling him a bit as he lingered behind me. He was willing to keep going but there was some hesitancy to his strides, like his foot was testing what was in front of him before fully planting it on the hard concrete.

 

When we were more than halfway there, Ezra suggested that we switch. “Now, you close your eyes and I’ll hold your hand,” he proposed. I looked at what was ahead—crossing a busy street where a crossing guard controlled the intersection—and I said it wasn’t a very good idea. Ezra asked why.

 

“Because I’m the grown up and I’m supposed to lead you,” I told him. (Not to mention the fact that the crossing guard would think I was crazy!)

 

“You don’t trust me?” he asked, a tiny bit of hurt in his voice.

 

“It’s not that,” I assured him. “It’s my job to get you to school safely, and it’s your job to follow me.”

 

I think that he does trust me and my husband in most situations, and we’ve worked hard to gain that trust, but allowing yourself to be led isn’t always easy.

 

A search of the word “trust” in the Scriptures uncovers a slew of times when God instructs His people to trust Him. He tells them what will happen if they do trust Him and what will happen if they don’t trust Him. He reminds them of his history of coming through for them in the past. He proves Himself over and over to his people, in spite of their inconsistent allegiance. But, like a good parent, He is often compelled to fulfill his word and punish them. (We can trust Him for that, too.)

 

When I think of leading Ezra down the road, eyes closed and hand firmly grasping mine, I think of Proverbs 3:5,6 – “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.”

 

I’m a far cry from being the Perfect Parent my God is, but if I can show Ezra that he can trust an imperfect parent like me, I pray he will be able to put his trust in the One who will never fail him.