Play toys, Mama!

Today, I'm linking up with Five Minute Friday. The rules: Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking.

This week's prompt: Play.

Play Puzzles

“Hope-girl, what do you want to do today?” I ask my two-year-old daughter.

Her lips fuse together in a look of deep contemplation. Before long, she happily responds, “Play toys, Mama!”

Always it's the same. “Play toys, Mama!”

I'll admit, I seldom want to play toys with the frequency or intensity that Hope does. I'd much rather read her books or take her to the zoo than sit in the house and play puzzles or blocks or legos or pile all her toys onto an imaginary boat and go for a ride.

But whenever she asks, I play with Hope because she wants to and I delight in her. Plus, I know imaginary play is good.

So we go upstairs, sit on the floor, and play.

Hope lines her cars up and we build a racetrack.

Hope puts her stuffed animals in a circle and we fill her megablocks up with imaginary water so they can drink.

Hope carefully arranges her blocks onto plates and feeds me a hot dog, which I chomp down on with a smile on my face even though in real life I despise hot dogs.

That's the thing about imaginary play though.

No matter how much I dread it, it always brings a smile to my face. Partly because Hope's smile is so big it's contagious and partly because playing with my daughter is fun. Seeing her imagination at work always leaves me awe-struck, in part because I know it comes from God.

God, who I've never pictured as playful. Stern, old, curmudgeonly - yes. That's the God I've created. Not playful.   

But one of my core Christian beliefs is that we are created in God's image. That means Hope's desire to play reflects God's. Moreover, it means God is playful.

The more I realize this, the more my image of God changes. 

God is no longer the old man yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off his pristine lawn.

Instead, he's the neighborhood grandpa who sets out the sprinkler, invites the kids to come over and run through it, and then plays right along with them – dancing through the sprinkler himself, squealing in delight.

Jen Bradbury on Youth Ministry

Jen serves as the director of youth ministry at Faith Lutheran Church in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. A veteran youth worker, Jen holds an MA in Youth Ministry Leadership from Huntington University. Jen is the author of The Jesus Gap: What Teens Actually Believe about Jesus (The Youth Cartel), The Real Jesus (The Youth Cartel), Unleashing the Hidden Potential of Your Student Leaders (Abingdon), and the forthcoming A Mission That Matters (Abingdon). Her writing has also appeared in YouthWorker Journal, Immerse, and The Christian Century. Jen is also the Assistant Director of Arbor Research Group where she has led many national studies. When not doing ministry or research, she and her husband, Doug, and daughter, Hope, can be found traveling and enjoying life together.

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