Hope is an Anchor

"Ahoy matey!  Prepare to sail the seven seas!"

If I had a dollar for every time I've heard Cadence say this, I wouldn't think twice about flying my friends down here for a visit. (Mmk, but seriously guys: come get out of the rain for a few days)

My niece absolutely loves playing pirate.  We go on at least two nautical-themed adventures daily.  At first I thought only the jungle gym at the park near her bus stop could be converted into a pirate ship, but I quickly learned that location has absolutely no impact on her favorite game of choice.
(^) Here she converted two patio chairs into a very miniature pirate ship in our backyard.
Her imagination, much like her allegiance to her "favorite" auntie, is both intensely passionate and exasperatingly fickle.  Try as I might to suggest new destinations (I'll have you know I'm quite the regular now in Mermaid Lagoon), characters, or plot twists; she insists we play things her way.  My ideas are shot down faster than clay pigeons in Eastern Oregon 
(Even I'm cringing at this pathetic analogy, but it's kinda the best I've got for right now).

But if there is one thing I can always count on personally contributing to our pirate play, it is raising or lowering the anchor. This consistent act of duty is something my pint-sized captain frequently overlooks, but never denies of me when I seek her permission to complete it.

And thank goodness for that.

If my background in child development has taught me anything, it is that children learn, explore, and express themselves through play.  So let's take a step outside of Cadence's imagination and look a little deeper into her heart.

While mostly tender, affectionate, and eager-to-please; lately this little girl has been light on the sugar and heavy on the spice.  Her impromptu tantrums rival that of an overly emotional, irrational, PMSing high school freshman (or perhaps a first-year teacher attempting to survive those last few weeks before winter break...can I get an amen?).

Fingers jammed into her ears and eyes squinted shut (the international pose for "I'm not listening!"), 
toys and clothing items thrown (with threats next time to aim at our heads),
doors slammed,
voice raised,
and a seemingly endless supply of tears.

Her parents and I are left desperately trying to avoid the line of fire while attempting to ascertain the cause of the flames.

It's no secret that Cadence's little world is changing rapidly.  This is her first year of mainstreamed schooling, after graduating from two years of special education preschool; her mom is mostly couch-ridden, save for her bi-weekly doctor appointments; her dad is working insane and rather unpredictable hours; her baby brother is preparing to make his grand entrance into the world, which comes with a wealth of changes in and of itself; and to top it all off her crazy hippy, social-worky aunt moved in, shook everything up, and took over all of her routines.

Not that her extreme behavior is excusable, but it is certainly understandable when viewed through the lens of a small child attempting to exert influence and control over her life.

(This post has already drifted rather far away from my original intent, which I suppose only adds to the metaphor I'm trying to create here...)

You see, as a current prominent adult figure in Cadence's life, I believe part of my role right now is to help her learn to manage the rapid waves of emotions constantly vying for control of her heart.  While she is still very much the captain of her own ship, I must not neglect my duties as a crew member...even when she forgets to delegate tasks. Therefore, when I see a rush of feelings swell up and threaten to sweep her away into unchartered territory, it is on me to help lower her anchor until it digs into some solid ground and she can regain her equilibrium.

My year as an elementary school counseling intern equipped me with a whole bag of tricks for anchoring little ones on the verge of emotional ship wreck.  Depending on the level of threat, sometimes all it takes is a quick reminder to "shake it off" or "turn it around, girlfriend" (which she always responds to quite literally, one of the many things I adore about this child).  Other times I will encourage her to take some space until she has cooled down enough to be polite. Still other times she loses privileges.  But lately, we've been doing a lot of belly breathing and prayer.

Two nights ago, she completely fell apart when I peeked into her room and caught her playing with her stuffed animals rather than working through her bedtime routine.  She bypassed any warning signs and went straight into crash and burn mode...for approximately the 17th time that day.  I was thisclose to losing it right back at her when something in her eyes caught mine: panic.  She was totally freaked.  She knew she had lost control, but she could not figure out how to get it back.  Her sea was storming and she was no longer capable of commanding her own ship.

And so, rather than chastising her or leaving her to figure it out for herself, I scooped her into my arms and began to pray softly.  As the words tumbled out of my mouth, the fight slowly left her body.  She breathed more, flailed less.  I pictured myself standing at the edge of her ship, methodically lowering the anchor through a sea of emotions until finally it sunk into solid ground and she knew she was safe.

Later that night, as I laid in bed and mentally sifted through the debris from my own emotional shipwrecks over the past year or so, I realized how much my soul needed an anchor.  I, too, longed for someone to recognize the panic in my eyes, scoop me up in their arms and whisper words of love and truth over me until I calmed enough to find solid ground.

And while I'm certainly hopeful someday Mr. Right will help ground me from time to time, I also know that my anchor should never be found in man alone.  For man, no matter how wonderful (and let me tell you folks, he will be wonderful), is limited.  But my God is ultimate.

"Make the conscious choice to move the attention of your anxious heart away from (the) waves and direct it to the One who walks on them."
-Henry Nouwen

As I mentioned, lately He has been directing my heart to take this season of waiting and confusion and tremendous transition and channel it all into hope. Hope for the amazing things to come.  Hope that I will never truly be lost because I always have a home in Him.  And just to make sure I really got the message this time, the following morning after Cadence's-epic-tantrum-to-top-all-tantrums and my subsequent evening-of-reflection, I read this verse as part of my daily devotional:

"We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure." Hebrews 6:19

He is my anchor, my captain, my sea, and my ship.  He created it all, and He holds it all as precious in His hands.  


Vanessa's Dad said…
You are such a good Sister and Auntie and Nannie and Godly counselor to others and to Self.

Merry Christmas in the Desert,