Let’s Play!

It’s been a crazy season.  Who am I kidding, every season is a little crazy, but there’s something about May that breeds its own kind of crazy (…like December).  So here I am, over two months later, writing another post.  For those still hanging with me, thanks!

During this crazy season, my family adopted a dog.  This dog is a good dog.  I love all dogs.  I’ve had 3 dogs before this one and I would say all were good dogs, but not like this one.  You see, this one is also well-behaved.  He doesn’t destroy things.  He doesn’t beg.  He doesn’t jump.  He plays well with other dogs.  He doesn’t bark or lick incessantly.  While this dog still hasn’t stolen my heart quite like my other dogs did (give it time, he will), it’s obvious that he is a very good dog.

But there’s one thing we noticed this dog lacking when we first brought him home: he wouldn’t play.

Even my most recent dog played…and he was fifteen when we lost him.  But this dog just wouldn’t play…and he’s one.  He’d snuggle and give kisses and wag his tail, but he wouldn’t play.  We took him to PetSmart and he didn’t pick up one toy.  We would throw a ball, squeak a squeaky toy…still nothing.

For my family and I, his lack of play was sad.  We got him from our Vet, who had nursed him back to health after he’d been hit by a car.  Thankfully for the dog (and us), he’d been socialized, walked, and loved after his accident by the staff.  I’m sure they also tried to play with him, but my mom and I couldn’t help but wonder if his lack of play was because he’d essentially lived in a kennel for over 7 months.

Then one day, something changed.

Milo played.

The toys we’d purchased for him suddenly became interesting.  He jumped around, looking ridiculous, as he carried his ball around, tossed his tug-of-war rope, and chewed his squeaky toy.  He still doesn’t get games most dogs understand (like fetch, tug-of-war, or actually squeaking the squeaky toy), but he does play.

My Psychology mind can’t help but think that Milo now feels safe.  We can’t play unless we feel safe.  For Milo, that took a little longer than the average 1-year-old dog, but it came.

So what does it matter if Milo plays? Sure, it’s cute.  It brings my family joy to watch him.  I think it also helps him though.  The more he plays, the healthier he seems.  It’s almost like each time he plays, looks absolutely ridiculous, and is still praised, the more confident he is about his new home and his new family.

There are some obvious implications about Milo’s play for kids and I plan to write more about that on my website later, but I think there are also implications for adults.

  1.  Play is good.  Our society sexualizes and cheapens play.  Yes, play can be sexual and sexual play is good in the right context, but play isn’t always sexual and it certainly isn’t dirty…at least in the way it was designed.  Adult play is associated with sin in our culture, but God designed us to play.  When Jesus says “let the little children come to me” in Matthew 19:14, I can’t help but think that part of the reason this teaching was unusual was because most rabbis were not into the sticky fingers, silly games, and endless questions that come with kids.  Play is interwoven in each aspect interacting with children, but Jesus welcomed it.  He wasn’t afraid to play and I have a feeling He was willing to look silly too.  I think we are buried so deep in sin that we sometimes don’t even know how to play in a way that honors God.  So, we work.  At the office.  At church.  At home.  (Or we play in ways that don’t honor God.)  Even the silliest activities can be fun if you’re willing to actually engage, like watching my goofy dog play with his newly discovered toys.
  2.  Play is needed.  Like Milo, we all need to play.  It’s a way to rest, recover, and heal.  Play is also how we connect to others.  You have to be vulnerable to play.  If you want to play with someone, you first have to ask or initiate.  That could result in a “no,” but it could result in a “yes.”  The “yes” could mean doing something silly or embarrassing in front of another person.  There’s something about that vulnerability that helps us connect and bond…and we all need relationships.  Play also required our full attention, which goes hand-in-hand with connection.  To really play we can’t be on our phones or multitasking, we have to engage.
  3.  Play has to be intentional.  Yes, the hallmark of play is spontaneity, but how often are we really spontaneous in our culture? Rarely! If we don’t really set out to plan and prepare for play, we won’t play.  For Milo, he needed tools ready for play, so he had them there when he was ready.  He also needed the time to play.  His playing was eventually organic and spontaneous, but it wouldn’t have happened without some preparation.  For us, that probably means getting enough rest that we feel like playing and planning times to play.  What would it look like for you to be more intentional in that area?

So, let’s play! I’m leaving here to toss a ball to the furry friend sleeping by me, what are you going to do?

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A Legacy

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When I think about the word “legacy,” a couple of things immediately come to mind. One of the first is the title of a publication for an agency where I used to work.  I remember spending hours trying to format that publication.  The word “legacy” will always be associated with that publication as a result—for better or for worse.  As a twenty-something, I also tend to think of older generations.  Legacy sounds like something for people that are my parents’ or grandparents’ age.  It just doesn’t sound like something that really applies to me, the girl barely out of school and still referred to as a kid in many settings (though admittedly fewer and fewer as the years go by).

The past several years I’ve heard several fantastic sermons and read several blogs, devotionals, and Bible studies on leaving a legacy, forming a legacy, and so on. Hearing and reading those messages has made me associate the word “legacy” with things more powerful than grandma’s inheritance.

I think about the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-17).   I am utterly amazed by how perfectly the Lord pieced together that lineage, but how He did that with such ridiculously imperfect people.

I think about the race we’re called to finish well (Hebrews 12:1; 1 Corinthians 9:24; Galatians 2:2).

I think about the countless Bible accounts where godly men and women finished so poorly (Solomon, Moses, Judas, David…and so many others).  Similarly, I think about how God redeemed even the worst screw-ups’ legacies (Exhibit A: Rahab being included in Jesus’ genealogy).

But I also think about the countless godly men and women I’ve seen destroy their reputations, and the many men and women I’ve seen the Lord use to redeem legacies. It is truly amazing to me how God can use one person (or couple) to break generational sins.

Maybe you clicked on this blog out of boredom and you really don’t see how a legacy applies to you. Honestly, I’ve been there.  When any preacher introduces a sermon with something about a legacy, there have been times when I just want to roll my eyes.  It’s easy to feel like this topic is overdone and it’s easy to feel like it isn’t applicable.  How in the world could leaving a legacy apply to me? I’m not married and I don’t have children.  Currently my family tree looks like it’s about as big as it’s going to get.  While I pray that many of the generational sins tainting the color of that tree stop with me, I don’t see new life budding without those stains.  Right now I just see the sins stopping and then the tree being chopped down for someone to use as firewood.  What kind of a legacy is that?

It’s not one.

But it’s also a lie from hell.

Remember Matthew 12:49-50 (HCSB),

And stretching out His hand toward His disciples, He said, “Here are My mother and My brothers! For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven, that person is My brother and sister and mother.”

Yes, biological family is a blessing from the Lord. Yes, God designed families.  But God designed an even more amazing blessing through a family of believers.

Don’t get me wrong, I love family.  Saying “good-bye” to my grandparents as a little girl was horrible for me.  The thing I wanted more than anything was to live in the same state as my family.  Since I was a little girl I’ve prayed for family.  Since I was a little girl that prayer continues to go unanswered.  Instead of drawing family closer or growing my family, it seems like more and more family members die or move away.  Don’t get me wrong, I absolutely adore the family I have, but I yearn for that to grow and for them to be closer.

God has answered the heart of that prayer though.  He’s provided grandparents, parents, siblings, and even children through His Church.  We may not look alike or share the same genes, but the bond and unity that lies within those relationships is something words don’t do justice.  It’s too much of a deep, beautiful experience to describe.  My heart still aches for biological family, but oh how sweet the spiritual legacy God provides.

So what’s your legacy? Who has the Lord used to bring spiritual life? For me, it would take more than a 700-word blog to list those that have gone before me in my spiritual family tree. Finally, who are you pouring into? The branches coming from mine are more sparse than they should be, but what an encouragement to see the ones I have blooming.

 

Christmas with Characters

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Christmases in my family involve a lot of characters.  You may be thinking characters like crazy relatives and guests…and you’d be right! But my Christmases also include a lot of other characters.

Like Barbie.

 

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You may be wondering what Barbie has to do with Christmas.  In my family, Barbie is a key player.  We don’t have little girls in my immediate family (or even my extended family…we are currently low on kids), but our Christmas tree is covered in ornaments resembling toys.  Years ago, my mom started buying each of us (me, my sister, and my mom) a new Christmas tree ornament each year.  Being a toy lover, the ornaments my mom bought always looked suspiciously like toys.  My sister and I loved toys, so this arrangement worked great for us.  As adults, it’s so fun to look through our ornaments, seeing collections of ornaments we’ve collected…and get new ornaments each year.  It’s a great excuse to keep getting toys for Christmas.

This tradition is made more fun by the specific characters we each collect.  My sister has a lot of Barbies (like the one pictured above), fairies, and anything girly.  But my sister also has another ornament she really likes: any African American ornament.  My sister is as White as me, but as a little girl (like a toddler) she went with my mom to pick out her ornament and was determined to purchase this one.

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This little angel looks completely different than our family, but it’s been one of our most treasured ornaments because it displays my sister’s past innocence and continued love for everyone so well.  We have very diverse Christmas ornaments, thanks to her.

My mom’s ornaments also represent her pretty well.  She also likes Barbies, but she likes the classic Barbies.

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These Barbies look a lot like the ones she had as a child, the same ones she let us play with on occasion as children.  My mom also likes Dalmatian ornaments.  She has countless spotted dogs on our tree, celebrating a sweet dog named Justice that she had years ago.

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Now my ornaments are the best, so every year I lump them together in the most visible spot on the tree.  I have a lot of Disney ornaments, but my favorite are my I Love Lucy ornaments.

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Since I was a child, I’ve loved I Love Lucy.  To my delight, my eighth birthday included an I Love Lucy marathon.  I remember thinking, “How did the TV people know?” What I found out was Lucille Ball and I share the same birthday, which is why there was a marathon that day.  No wonder I’ve been collecting Lucy ornaments for so long!

I’ll admit that our tree is kind of silly and certainly worldy, but it is filled with immense joy and celebration.  If I ever have my own tree or family, I’ll definitely include ornaments that exalt Christ more blatantly.  However, I think the spirit of this tradition is something worth sharing.  The point in celebrating Christmas is, after all, all about remembering the beautiful gift God sent to the earth and the amazing work God has done.  Too often that remembrance does not include sufficient joy.  This silly Christmas with characters that I experience each year is a great illustration of remembering with joy.  I hope to do that with Jesus with even more enthusiasm.