The King and Us

When I was in high school I was very involved in our drama club. I did just about everything for our school theater group—built and painted scenery, ran spotlights and sound, props manager, stage manager, house manager, and even assistant director. In other words, I was busy BEHIND the scenes.


When our drama teacher announced that our spring production my junior year would be Rogers and Hammerstein’s The King and I, I was determined to step out from behind the curtain and participate onstage. By then, I had established a reputation for being organized and dependable—characteristics important for the backstage team. I knew what beverage our director liked in the afternoon (orange juice over ice), I knew all of the shorthand notations for blocking scenes, and I knew every inch of our theater—from the basement green room to the followspot booth. So our director was hesitant to “waste” my talents as a lowly actor.


After some begging and promises to be the director’s personal gopher (the assistant to the director), she allowed me to try out with the understanding that I would have a small part, literally small because I would be a child. The King of The King and I has a slew of kids so that was the part I was aiming for, but when I checked out the audition form, I saw that the princesses had to be 5’3” or shorter. Being that I was 5’4” at the time, I lied on the form and said I was shorter so I could get that part. That was the one and only time I’ve ever lied about my height because I was too “tall”!


Once I had wowed them with my average talent, they stood all of us potential princesses and princes in a line. Some at the audition were actual children, so my lie became evident. I was not 5’3”! Gasp! The director rolled her eyes at my obvious attempt at deception and consented to giving me a part, although now I would be a prince instead of a princess.


When I think back to that production so many years ago, the things I remember most didn’t actually happen onstage. I remember hunting all over town to find enough black hair spray for all of the actors. I remember having to tell the director about the accident involving the huge ceramic panther statue we had borrowed from a local store and my dad’s pickup truck. Yikes!


In the end, I realized I wasn’t made for acting. That just wasn’t my gift. But the beauty of being involved in a team as large and as complex as one which puts on a play is that I began to understand I didn’t have to be good at acting to be involved. I just had to be willing to play my part, even if it had nothing to do with memorizing lines.


Last weekend, I saw The King and I at TPAC. It was gorgeous and moving and I loved every minute of it. I get teary every time I’m in the audience during a standing ovation, and that matinee performance got me, too. I know just a tiny bit what it feels like to be on the receiving end of that kind of applause. It produces a smile from ear-to-ear that seems to say, “Thank you for recognizing how much work it took to do this thing we love and overlooking all our imperfections along the way. And thank you for not noticing that gaping hole in the neck of that giant ceramic panther.”


Soccer fanatic

It would be an understatement to say that our 6-year old son Ezra loves soccer. His pet fish is named “Messi” after the Argentinian soccer star Lionel Messi. His favorite thing to wear is a soccer jersey. He thinks that the best possible scenario for fun is the combination of him, his brother, his father, and a soccer ball.


Seeing that Ezra has only lived with us for just a little more than a year, we know that this love of soccer can’t be wholly attributed to our prompting. It started way before we met him. Though soccer ranks somewhere around 6th place in popularity in America, it’s #1 in the world. All you have to do is take an international trip to experience this. My husband and I saw this firsthand when we traveled to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ezra’s birth country.


Ezra was 3-years old at the time. He was shy and uncertain of these American strangers (us) who were so foreign to him in speech, appearance, and pretty much every other way. Bouncing a small soccer ball, we persuaded him to come outside to a gravel parking area near our hotel room. Once outside, I videoed Ezra timidly playing a game of catch with Brent. Then, without warning, instead of just catching and tossing, Ezra stuck out his head to make contact with the ball and bounce it back to Brent. For the next 4:37 minutes of video footage, Ezra expertly headed the ball as Brent happily realized that this was a soccer-loving, little boy.


Fast forward to present time. Ezra is on a soccer team with 5 other kids. Chanting like a cloistered monk, he prays the night before a game or practice: “Please no rain. Please no rain. Please no rain.” He cheers for his team’s victories—large or small—and empathizes with the opposing team’s defeat (which is tricky because it’s always anyone’s guess who actually wins these free-for-alls).


This past Saturday his enthusiasm may have exceeded his sportsmanship. When he stole the ball from an opponent and dribbled it down the field in an uncontested breakaway, he mockingly waved to the players as he passed them, saying: “Goodbye everyone.” Then he took a shot and hit the post. Pride goeth before a fall.


Speaking as a completely unbiased observer, Ezra is the best 6-year old soccer player in the universe. As I watch him play now, I think about the countless hours he and his Congolese friends played soccer in the dry dirt of the lots surrounding his orphanage. This was a game meant to engage a variety of ages and sizes. They only needed a soccer ball—or something homemade resembling a ball—and rocks or sticks to designate the goals. They didn’t wear fancy cleats or shin guards or uniforms. They were barefoot in hand-me-downs and the best thing they wore was the smiles on their faces.


Who’s to say if Ezra will continue to play soccer or if this is just a passing fancy? Time will tell if his love for this game will diminish and he will make room for other sports and activities in its place. What I can tell you is that his experiences playing soccer as a small child has made him the player he is today—fast, skilled, fearless. It has shaped and equipped him.


When I’m in an especially introspective mood and I think of my past, I can see how I was being prepared for my present situation. Relationships, jobs, events, heartbreaks all work together to give me a piece of what I might need now, just like Ezra’s early Congolese soccer experiences combine to create the soccer enthusiast I see each time he runs out onto the field.

Frost Flowers

I’m just not very creative.

This is the phrase I often hear from friends. They see some amazing drawing or watch a skit at church and they make comparisons to their own lacking skills. Since they’re not particularly gifted musically or artistically, they feel like they don’t have much to offer in the creativity area.

But God, the authority when it comes to creativity (crediting Him as the Creator of the Northern Lights and the Giant Sequoias and the duck-billed platypus), made each of us with something to offer. He made us in His image so that we could be creative, too. So our job is to find those possibly dormant abilities, give them a little room to breathe, and see what can be done for His glory.

Consider the natural phenomenon of frost flowers. My friend Annie works at a nature center and she explained them this way: “Crystallofolia is a more scientific name. They occur when woody stemmed forbs, like milkweed, have thin layers of water in the stem that freeze and break through. The patterns are just due to the natural crystalline structure water produces in its mineral stage (or ice).”

This commonplace undergrowth is perfectly positioned in wooded areas where no one—except for maybe a few bees and butterflies—pays much attention to it. Then the temperature drops. The specialized milkshake inside freezes and bursts out, creating magnificent, cascading beauty for those fortunate enough to find it.

These frost flowers are what I picture when I think of those who say they aren’t creative. They don’t appreciate the value and substance of what lies within. For instance, I have a friend who admires my daughter’s ability to do fancy lettering and calligraphy. She wishes to be creative, but she already is. My friend can take loads of confusing information and lay it out on a spreadsheet where it will flow and make sense. She can organize a group of people so that they all understand what’s expected of them and give them support. She creates unity and organization.

I have another friend who looks at my crochet projects and bemoans her lack of creativity. But, in reality, she creates something—though intangible—infinitely more important than a crocheted scarf or hat. This friend is an architect of connections. She checks on you when you mention you have a head cold. She asks about sick and struggling relatives. She remembers. Her creations come directly from her heart.

Galatians 6:4-5 (The Message) – Make a careful exploration of who you are and the work you have been given, and then sink yourself into that. Don’t be impressed with yourself. Don’t compare yourself with others. Each of you must take responsibility for doing the creative best you can with your own life.

Photo Credit: Annie Holt

Photo Credit: Annie Holt

Photo Credit: Annie Holt

Photo Credit: Annie Holt