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Where Jesus is Kermit the Frog

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By Nancy Kennedy

A few weeks ago I met with a friend who’s a play therapist.
She works with troubled, abused and damaged children, letting them play while she observes and does some other stuff — therapist stuff — that helps them express and process their thoughts and feelings.
There’s a lot more to it, but that’s my reduced-to-bare-bones version of what she does.
She’s got tons of toys, mostly figures of people and animals, some scary like snakes and spiders and monsters, some from pop culture like Daffy Duck, Homer Simpson, Disney princesses. In her playroom there’s a doll house and dress-up clothes and I forgot what else.
One of the therapies she does with kids and adults too is sand tray therapy.
You have a tray of sand in front of you and you take a little basket and “shop” among her hundreds of figures and then you set them up in the sand however your imagination and subconscious directs.
The theory is, the result is a microcosm of your inner world. According to some of the research I did, what you create may or may not even make immediate sense to you once you’re finished, but every piece has meaning, from what you choose to where you place it.
My friend the therapist invited me and another friend to come play in the sand. At first it sounded scary. Like, what if we did it wrong? Or what if the therapist could look into our souls and see something evil and awful? What if our sand world meant that we were serial killers?
I decided that I would go, but only to observe and take mental notes.
However, shortly after we got to the play therapist’s office, one of the three trays of sand that sat out on tables drew my attention, a tray of beautiful, messy damp sand.
I started smoothing it out, talking about the huge sand box we had as kids, a fourth of our back yard and how we spent hours playing in it.
When I got the sand as flat and level as I could, I said, “This is how I eat ice cream,” and dug a shallow moat around the sides, then leveled off the middle. That’s the way my dad eats ice cream from the carton.
I am my father’s daughter. I like order and precision and everything level and straight, smooth and even. No bumps or surprises. Everything in my control.
My friend who had come and who also hadn’t wanted to play made her sand tray into a scene and a metaphor of her life. We had agreed to keep everything confidential, so I can’t say what her sand tray was about, except that it was quite meaningful to her and therapeutic.
Our therapist friend told us the story of her life with her sand tray. Of course, she’s done this before so she knew what she was doing.
Not to be left out, I decided to go ahead and make my own sand world.
First, I needed the ocean, my ultimate place of peace, restoration and wholeness, so I used blue and green glass stones as the water.
Then I placed my toy figurines in a semi-circle facing the water: Shrek and Fiona (from the animated movie “Shrek”), Snoopy, a dancing gypsy, a bride and groom set of teddy bears that were fused together, a dad with a front baby carrier, a girl soccer player, a California Raisin with sunglasses, a Tasmanian Devil, Tigger from Winnie-the-Pooh and a pretty blonde girl.
In front of the ocean and facing the other figures I put an open-armed Kermit the Frog.
These figures represent: my husband and me, my daughters, my mom and dad, my son-in-law, my granddaughter, my daughter’s significant other, my two brothers and my sister.
Kermit the Frog is Jesus.
In sand tray therapy there are no rules, no textbook list of meanings. I’m not sure why I chose Kermit as Jesus and not the standard Jesus figure the therapist had on her shelf. I may have also chosen different figures for my family or would have included more if I had taken more time.
But it is what it is, as they say.
For me, I realized that what was in my sand tray was a picture of my highest, deepest, mostly unspoken prayer — that my family would one day be all together, at ultimate peace, fully restored and whole, embraced by the open arms of Jesus.
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.