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Growing up the middle sister of three girls, we had a lot of Barbie dolls. We liked to make haute-couture dresses for them using scraps of fabric we would sew directly onto the dolls and then cut the dresses off of them when we were ready to change their outfits. (Our Barbies were so fashionable! They wouldn’t have dared wear any of their wardrobe more than once, anyway!) For their house, we would use lengths of yarn to mark out rooms for them. Then we’d create furniture in these rooms out of whatever we found lying around—wooden blocks, Legos, cardboard. We weren’t a Barbie Dream House-kind of family. We were more like a “dream it up yourself from junk around the house” kind of family.


It would drive me crazy that we would work and work to get everything set up—the rooms just so, the outfits picked out, even a storyline devised for Barbie and Ken and their friends—then, just when we were about to start actually playing, my older sister would decide she was done. She would leave me and our youngest sister to either play out the drama by ourselves or clean it up. Normally we would just abandon the game at that point, too. All the fun was gone without the leadership and participation of our oldest sister.


Since it’s been quite a while since I last played with Barbies, I’ve come to realize since then that life is nothing like playing with dolls. With dolls, you can make them say and do exactly what you want. You hold your Barbie’s waist and make her hop up and down while she talks to the other Barbies. When you want her to go to bed, she lies down and instantly goes to sleep. When you want her to wear high heels, she doesn’t complain. (Although, those shoes rarely stayed on her tiny, tippy-toed feet.)


In real life, you can’t get people to do what you want AT ALL. They don’t respond the way you want them to, and they often behave in unpredictable, irrational ways which are completely off-script. The older I get, the more I realize that life is so messy. Couples fight. Kids make bad choices. Adults are selfish. Being a human around other humans can be downright impossible at times. After a while, we no longer recognize the life we’re living day to day because things didn’t turn out quite like we thought they would.


So what’s a former Barbie operator to do? Proverbs 19:21 gives me a good starting place. “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.” Or in James 4: “And now I have a word for you who brashly announce, ‘Today—at the latest, tomorrow—we’re off to such and such a city for the year. We’re going to start a business and make a lot of money.’ You don’t know the first thing about tomorrow. You’re nothing but a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing. Instead, make it a habit to say, ‘If the Master wills it and we’re still alive, we’ll do this or that.’” (The Message)


So I’ll start by acknowledging that I’m not in control. Then I’ll honor my commitments, even though those commitments are made with other flawed, disappointing humans. I’ll try to die to self and live for Jesus, which won’t usually result in me getting my desired outcome on my terms. And I’ll have to wake up every day that the Lord gives me and start that list over again. Because I don’t live in a Barbie Dream House. I’m “a wisp of fog, catching a brief bit of sun before disappearing.” And God has called me to love big through this chaotic mess.

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Playing with dolls

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