I used to know how to play. I used to know how to dream from the large branch of a tree or beside a stream. As a little girl, I used to lie flat on my stomach to direct the choir of “Johnny-Jump-Ups”…they looked like little faces ready to sing from the steps of a choir loft in our garden. I did know how to play! Really, I did! I used to love to ski, both downhill and cross-country. When I did either, I played, I mean really PLAYED! When I downhill skied, I would sail through the trees, often laughing, giving a “Yippee!!”
! When I cross-country skied, if the ski area had swings hanging from the trees, I would sit in the swing to eat my lunch, swinging away as if I were a six year old. I would lie down in the soft snow and make a snow angel. When I taught first grade, Kindergarten, I would sit on the floor with the children to teach, read, play a learning game, draw. Sometimes, I would even lie on my stomach and read like the kids did during afternoon reading circles. I jumped the rope at recess with them. I used to know how to play when I was a younger adult. I was a rather serious child, and the oldest of three, but I did know how to play then, at least to some degree. In my very recent past, the most fun has come when Ken and I travel in our fifth wheel trailer. We both love getting away and spending time in God’s country. Yet, once home, I am back into the routines, and life’s seriousness. I am such a structured person, have had too much seriousness in my life of late, that playing has become hard for me.
I am 64. When did this all change and when did I allow fears, responsibilities, irritable issues to interfere with my ability to be a child at least once in a while? ~ fourteen and a half years of care giving, Mom’s ever-increasing dementia and physical concerns, fear of Mom dying while I am away, fear of her living longer and longer, losing so much of herself with each year; old tapes playing in my head from when Daddy would travel with the Navy to be a part of the Manhattan Project tests, or as the Navy physician to the Secretary of the Navy and the Surgeon General of the USA – he would ask me, his eldest, to “take care of your Mommy and sisters for me while I am away”…an innocent request, I believe, but one I took seriously, and then he died when I was one month from 13, and that request became ingrained in me for he never came back. There have been financial concerns (not trusting in God’s steadfast provision), a sister’s false accusations that hurt so very deeply. Plus, I have fallen a number of times, have aches and pains from spinal issues and from fibromyalgia, and then have had three surgeries since last May. I also watch and read some news where wars, famine, politics, greed, and all else cross my vision or filter through my ears and touch my heart and soul, becoming stressed by most of it, or become so disappointed by the way others treat one another, or feel such a heart for the people of this world and nation. I feel worn out and weary. Play does not seem to fit into my way-of-being these days.
YET…God is calling me to spend time with Him…more time. He wants me near…nearer still. He desires my company…more of it. I thought, while I was recuperating from surgeries, I would have so much time that I would be able to spend more time with my God. Yet, the pain, the therapy, the recovery, the stress just sent me running in anguish to the farthest corner. It was not the way I had hoped. I wanted to sit at His feet, to be near. I wanted to seek His face. I desired the closeness He wanted with me.
I picked up L. L. Barkat’s book, God in the Yard, again, and journaled the many questions throughout the fifth chapter, “Sky: Gratitude”. Laura says on page 47: “Spiritual exchange, a rhythm of give-and-take with God and others, that is both based on and produces gratitude is not something we can easily practice. At least in my life, making lists of what I’m thankful for doesn’t necessarily create the requisite openness and trust. These attributes require deeper soul work, of the kind we’ve been exploring.” I do make lists and they do remind me of the daily, ever-present gifts from God. But, I seem to be unable to find that openness and trust that children have in their earliest years with only a list. I need to regain the sweet relationship I have with the LORD, that relationship that has slowly gravitated away. As I neared the end of chapter five, I happened upon the real eye-openers for me: I was to make (or draw) a house with openings…doors and windows. Then I was to cover them up with complaints, including fears, anything that caused irritability or jealousy. I did this. I was surprised at most of my answers.
The following questions are asked:
- Do I see any patterns to my complaints?
- What do I make of them?
- Would I like to be able to remove them?
- What gifts might come inside my house if I did?
- What gifts might leave me to bless the surrounding landscape, (those who come across my path)?
As I answered these questions, I prayed…Abba Father, I want to share a lightness, and openness with you and not live in this heaviness I feel every day. I so want to sit at Your feet daily…not sporadically, but daily. I want Your love to flow through me, washing this spirit of weightiness out of me. I want to find the girl, Linda Lou, again. She seems distant today, yet I know she is there. Please bring her to the surface so we can play, lie on the grass, looking up at the sky to find gratitude in the color blue, in the white billowy clouds leaping across the wide open sky-prairie, in the smell of the Texas Mountain Laurel blossoms, in the joy of being in love with my husband, in the kindness of Your people. I want to frolic along the creek’s edge with You in the soft meadow grass and hear the gurgling waters rolling over rocks. I want You. I want to be less serious, less structured for play, more serious and more structured for setting time to sit with You, yet less order so that Your will shall be done in our time together.
Can we find that swing where we used to sit, pumping higher and higher? I feel the lightness of my body, mind, soul, and spirit already, Abba. Deepen my trust in You, that I won’t carry the fears, the pain, the struggles. Jesus told me: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 ESV)
Thank You for sending Your One and Only Son for me, for me. He is Light, Life, Truth, and the Way.
May You and I play along this Way while I learn from You. May I be present with You and learn that the beautiful gifts You give to me, the ones I take into my house, are to flow through my heart and hands and be passed on to others. O LORD, may I play once again. In trust I sit in Your lap. With a lighter heart, I smile. With a light heart, I laugh as a child, as I once did and could! Amen.