The park

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

This week's prompt: Park.

Five Minute Friday 4 300x300

“Shoes. Door.”

They're typically two of her first words after waking. Strung together, they almost make a sentence.

After we eat, she makes her demand again.

“Shoes. Door.”

We happily oblige, walking across the street to our neighborhood park.

Park Swing August 2016

There, she heads for the sandbox, which is typically swarmed with other kids. She walks up to the nearest group and moves in. She's desperate to be included so she shares her sand toys, perhaps her version of a peace offering. Before long, she yanks them back. She hasn't quiet mastered this sharing thing yet. But the park's sandbox is her learning lab.

Before long, she runs to the slide. Just this weekend, she mastered going down the tall, windy slide herself. Her mama's not quite ready for that. And yet, she knows she can do it. This place, this park, is fostering her independence.

She flies off the slide and heads to one of the climbers. At 17-months, it doesn't seem like she should be able to do this. And she can't alone... But with a little bit of support, she's learned to move her arms up a rung to make way for her feet to follow. This place, this park, is teaching her to know her limits. It's also showing her that asking for help is brave.

She arrives at the top of the climber and stands triumphantly, flashing a proud, toothy victory grin before darting to the little slide. She positions herself and sails down, grinning the whole time. This place, this park, is showing her the joy of outdoor play.

She gets up from the slide and takes off. She's just figured out how to run... So a few steps later, she's sprawled out on the ground, having tripped over her own feet. She wails. I go to her, dust her off, and hold her, assuring her she's OK. With tears still rolling down her face, she points to the ground. I set her down, and off she goes. This place, this park, is teaching her how to get back up after she falls.

When we bought our house five years ago, we hoped that one day we would bring a child to the park to play. But we never imagined how great a teacher this place, this park, would be.

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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What Teens Actually Believe About Jesus

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