An Origami Failure Learns to Fold

I am a failure at origami.

My oldest daughter, crafty soul that she is, begged me to help her with some origami projects.  Knowing my handicap for all things artsy and craftsy that require following a pattern, I decided that our best option was to purchase an origami book for kids, complete with simple step-by-step instructions and special papers.

Surely if children can supposedly follow these directions and magically fold panda bears and peacocks, I (in all my grown-up wisdom) could also understand and succeed in folding a paper zoo.  I can, after all, read, and that seemed to be the minimal requirement here.

I was wrong (of course).001

Our origami sessions together typically go like this:

Open book, choose the simplest pattern we can find and then select an appropriate paper.

Fold the paper in half.  Then open it back up.

Fold it in half the other way.  Then open it back up.

Crease here, flip the paper, crease there.

Smile in confidence at one another in the assurance that we have finally mastered this whole origami thing.  Look at us!  Our paper absolutely totally matches the diagram in the book.
We return to the instructions with renewed confidence.

Reverse internal fold, flip, crease, outside reverse fold, open up, fold to center, reverse, flip, spin around, repeat, pull out the flap, push in and squash, inflate, rotate, fold and unfold, mountain fold.

Wait, what?

Pretty soon I’m sputtering in frustration and my daughter is just randomly folding and flipping her paper.  I’m talking to the book as if it could answer me, “What does that mean?  How do you do that?  How come you don’t show a picture of the step in between this and that?  Is this what it is supposed to look like?”

I begin sighing those deep-shoulder heaving sighs that say, “Oh, I should never have bought her this origami book for Christmas.”

Then I declare with supreme Mom-wisdom that what we really need here is a YouTube video with step-by-step instructions.  We Google search.  We find a video.  We pause it after each step and make our paper look like the paper on the computer screen.

We fold.  We create.  We conquer (sort of).

The fact is that I’m not adept at following picture patterns in books and matching my every move to the instructions given, not with origami, sewing, knitting or crafts of any kind.

I have too many questions that the pattern doesn’t answer and too many places where I can go wrong.  I can’t visualize the finished product and the steps needed to get there.

What’s true for me in arts and crafts is sometimes true in life also.  We all can choose the patterns for our lives and then we make continual choices, daily decisions, to yield, bend and fold . . . or not.

Paul tells us:

Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2 NIV).

The pattern of the world isn’t meant for us.  The world’s priorities, its pursuits, its dialogue and messages, and its destination all fold us into a crazy mess of disorder and frustration.

We can choose instead to “follow the pattern of the sound words . . .in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 1:3 ESV) and to “obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance” (Romans 6:17 ESV).

Yes, Scripture is our pattern to follow and Christ is our model: the picture in the book that tells us what we should look like in the end.

Yet, while we may choose which pattern to follow, the world or the Word, God Himself takes a hands-on approach to our lives.  “We are God’s handiwork,” after all—the result of His efforts, the creation He forms and re-forms daily (Ephesians 2:10).

So, He is at work folding and unfolding—sometimes moving us forward and then back again.

He creases us now, teaching us and working on us in ways that we won’t understand until years later when He uses those grooves as part of His plans for us and our ministry.

He flips us around.  He pushes us beyond what we thought were our limits.  Sometimes He trims our edges.

Sometimes we complain and balk at the confusing pattern as it unfolds.  We look at the folds He has made in us and think He must be getting it all wrong.  Surely this can’t become that.  It’s confusing and we don’t see and understand.

But He does.  He knows what it takes to transform a piece of paper into a penguin or a peacock.  He knows how to conform us “to the image of His Son” (Romans 8:29).

Originally published on August 6, 2012

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  Her upcoming book, Ask Me Anything, Lord: Opening Our Hearts to God’s Questions, will be released in November 2013!  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2013 Heather King

“Terrific, Terrific, Terrific” and Why The Goose Repeats Herself

But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves.
James 1:22

My daughter’s teacher just finished reading Charlotte’s Web to her first grade class and my girl came home with one important question about the book.

“Mom,” she said as she climbed in my lap, “there’s something I just don’t understand about it.”

I prepared to offer deep words of wisdom to whatever philosophical question she posed.  Why did the spider have to die? What made Charlotte and Wilbur such good friends?  Why was Wilbur worth saving?  Why did only some of Charlotte’s babies stay in the barn after they hatched?

Why aren’t we vegetarians?

Instead, she asked, “Why does the goose talk that way?”

Hmmm.  Surely, the mama goose in Charlotte’s Web does have a particular speech pattern.  She never says anything once.  When the animals are debating hotly over what new word Charlotte the spider needs to spin into her web in order to save Wilbur the pig’s life, the goose suggests, “terrific, terrific, terrific.”

Because one “terrific” is never enough.

And how should an ordinary barn spider spell such a large vocabulary word?

According to the goose, it’s, “T double-E double-R double-R double-I double-F double-I double C, C, C!” (E.B.White, Charlotte’s Web).

At first, when my daughter asked me to explain why someone would talk so funny, I mumbled something about how people talk in different ways and everyone is unique, something that sounded intellectual enough to impress her and qualify me for “Wise Mom of the Year.”

Later that night, though, I listened to the way I talked to my kids and had a life-changing epiphany.

The goose always repeated everything she said because . . . she was a mom.  Perhaps she had been repeating herself to her goslings so long, she began to talk that way perpetually.

Yes, I myself find that I don’t ever get to say anything once.  Usually it takes three times before my children even realize I’m talking.  So, typically my announcements sound something like this:

Time to brush your teeth.
Okay, it’s really time to brush your teeth!!!!!

By the time I’ve tripled my statement, my middle girl finally looks up from the couch and wonders why I’m in her face with my voice raised (usually holding her chin so she’s forced to make eye contact with me).

It’s not that I’m prone to yell or enjoy being loud or even generally live with the volume turned up.

It’s that unless I’m loud, she’s not listening.

By the time I’ve reached my third repeat, my middle daughter always looks surprised and excuses her lack of obedience by saying, “Oh, I didn’t hear you.”

To which I explain that my voice trumps all other voices and all other noise.  The moment she hears my voice making any sound at all, she needs to focus on what I’m saying, which requires her to stop looking at the TV, cease listening to her music, put down the book, and pause for a moment while playing with her toys.

This has all made me wonder whether God ever has to combat my own inattentiveness with repetitive messages and some volume-raising.

Is that what He’s doing when I hear the same lesson from every radio preacher, sermon, Sunday School lesson, Bible Study chapter, and devotional reading?  Is that what He’s doing when He escalates His discipline in my life, all because I’ve tuned out initial warnings and overlooked His initially gentle correction?

Does this happen because we’re not listening?  And if it does, then the challenge to us is to focus on His voice immediately, turning away from all other sources of noise, every life distraction, every demand of busyness, and responding with Samuel’s, ” Speak, Lord, for your servant hears” (1 Samuel 3:9).

Ultimately, though, this isn’t just about our ears sensing the ripples of God’s voice or even our mind evaluating the sound waves and forming the complex audio signals into words.

It’s not enough to hear.  It’s not so much whether or not my daughter hears me the first time I declare that teeth brushing should commence. The issue is whether or not she bounces up from the couch, walks to the bathroom, squeezes the toothpaste onto the toothbrush and actually brushes her teeth the moment she hears my command.

This is what matters to God, as well.  This is why when God gave His people the commandments, He said, “Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them (Deut. 6:3, ESV).

Even more significant is the fact that the Hebrew word most often translated as “obey” in Scripture is “shema,” or “hear”  (Walking in the Dust of Rabbi Jesus by Lois Tverberg, p. 29).

Since “hear” and “obey” are generally the same word in Hebrew, Tverberg says “to hear is to do, to be obedient” (p.29)  God expected them to be the one and the same action—we hear/we obey.  It’s as simple as that.

So, when Jesus sounded a little like the Charlotte’s Web goose whenever He made one of His favorite announcements: “He who has ears to hear, let him hear,” what He really was saying was:

“If you hear what I’m saying, then obey it, do it, live it, put it into practice”
(Matthew 11:15, Luke 8:8, Matt. 13:43, Mark 4:9, Luke 14:35).

I once heard a college friend  pray, “Please teach me gently, Lord.  Don’t bruise me.”  Oh, how I have prayed this same prayer!!!  None of us seek out God’s discipline or firm hand of correction or even the raising of His voice when we decline to listen.

Yet, if we desire God’s gentleness, His loving guidance, His soft hand resting on our shoulder, then we must live a responsive life.

Our spirits discerning.  Our hearts receptive.  Our lives obedient.  This is how we respond to God, moving gently and without resistance to His instruction just as a blade of grass shifting with the wind.  God speaks.  We listen.  We obey.   As simple as that.

You can read other devotionals on this topic here:

Heather King is a wife, mom, Bible Study teacher, writer for and worship leader.  Most importantly, she is a Christ follower with a desire to help others apply the Bible to everyday life with all its mess, noise, and busyness.  To read more devotionals by Heather King, click here.

Copyright © 2012 Heather King