Our Creative Space for Restful Play

We used to sing the hymn “Take Time to Be Holy.” But perhaps we should be singing, “Take time to be human.” Or finally, “Take time.” Sabbath is taking time … time to be holy … time to be human.
― Walter Brueggemann, Sabbath as Resistance: Saying No to the Culture of Now

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It’s just a foosball game, but it’s a foosball game. I feel a little nostalgic as I twist the handles back and forth. Inadvertently, one of my stiff players kicks the ball into my own goal over and over. Kyle grins big as he adds point after point to his scoreboard.

This is restful play. Planned, intentional time to be spontaneous.

Scheduled hours to do nothing.

Or whatever.

We’re at an AirBnB condo on a pre-Christmas family weekend. In the upstairs loft, this nostalgic game of foosball captivates our nine-year old son’s attention. The quick round I play with him is nothing compared to the extended tournament he and his dad engage the next morning. From downstairs, I hear trash talk and foot stomping. I feel a rush of cold air from a door someone opened to mask the unmistakable odor of man sweat. They failed.

The little getaway is a decision to rest and play.

We escape for 36 hours, pay a few hundred bucks, stay under a different roof, eat at new places, see a fresh city, and do things we wouldn’t normally do at home.

Mini-adventures stand firm as one of our family’s spiritual practices. We engage in activities we don’t have at home—things which get us out of our heads, our shoulds and to-do’s, lists and responsibilities.

We step out of comfort zones. We learn flexibility, grace, togetherness and trust, in each other and God. Maybe it’s not not for everyone, but for my hubs and me (and we hope for the kids), this is fun. Creative space to write whatever story wants or needs to unfold.

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Restful play is more about being human than relaxing.

When we take time off work to rest, either for a few minutes, a full Sabbath day, or a much needed vacation, we halt the endless cycle of productivity and achieving. We reconnect with people, purpose, and ourselves.

Our vicegrip on control? Loosened.

Our agenda for every minute of every day? Shredded.

Our expectations? Obliterated.

Our anxiety? Silenced.

Restful play renews our trust in God’s provision of time and space.

Our whole being opens to a fountain of untapped creative resource because we are present with our bodies and attention. We have time to goof off and let go. We observe, laugh, respond, and think. We remember we are creatures. The world doesn’t rely on our superpowers. Who knew?

A game of foosball may seem like just a game, but I struggle to enjoy my life. I get so wrapped up in tasks I forget to give proper attention to my people and to even take care of myself. Quite often I wonder to myself: what do I love to do? That’s when I know something’s out of order.

I need to take time to be human.

I can’t always get away for the weekend with my family. We don’t even have a foosball table at home. What I’m learning to do instead is to PLAN TIME TO ENJOY MY LIFE.

Making time to be human is one of the most subversive and reverant things a person can do. God made us creatures for rest. Not only are space and time included, but also play, creativity, and pleasure.

What makes you come alive?

It’s one of my favorite questions of all time. My son loves to play games. I enjoy adventures. My husband is building an airplane. Each night he goes into his workroom and plays a little bit on his project, even if he only has five minutes. It’s his intentional discipline of creative discovery. Restful play. This stuff doesn’t just happen like a spontaneous foosball game (although it certainly can). In our busy lives, most of us need to think about it and then accept the invitation.

Writer Trevor Hudson says,

Make a date with yourself and say yes.

I make what-I-enjoy lists. Instead of doing one thing I love monthly or weekly, I try to do it for just a few minutes each day.

Here’s my most recent list:

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  • Take a nap
  • Read theology, a novel, memoir, or poetry
  • Dig in the dirt (AKA as gardening)
  • Travel some place I’ve never been (sometimes a book, photo, or video must suffice)
  • Stay up late
  • Watch a drama or documentary with someone
  • Eat good food in a place with atmosphere
  • Coffee with a friend
  • Research a crazy idea
  • Learn a few words in a new language
  • Browse a used book store
  • Walk through trees or by the lake
  • Pray with a prayer app
  • Do yoga outside
  • Write in my journal with a smelly-good candle nearby
  • Listen to Indie music
  • Play a board game
  • Dance crazily with my kids
  • Cook something from scratch
  • Laugh with my daughter

Over the holiday break, experiment with time you have for restful play. Ask God to show you what makes you come alive. Make time to be human.

Remember, a foosball game is more than just a foosball game. It’s holy.

Our Creative Space for Glory

White feathers adorn her layered cape, shoulder to floor. Behind her bent head, a white sheet several stories tall hangs from the auditorium ceiling. “This might be a bit over the top,” I whisper to my husband.

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One of my favorite artists has taken the stage. She writes and sings with a desperate fullness few songwriters capture. She’s ruthlessly honest in her art and pushes the drama’s edge in her music genre, costumes, and set design. I love how she worships God as herself.

As the music begins, shadows of silk aerial artists mesmerize us. Then her voice—it rings clearly, simply. With every breath she crescendos the blessed announcement: “It Came Upon a Midnight Clear.”

I experience what I can only call glory. The unabashed soul-stirring act of praise.

With each new song, she pushes the bounds with movement, style, and energy. I wonder how she has such energy on an opening night. She isn’t doing her art for anyone in the audience. She is praising the Lord.

She brings her whole self to the stage—to an auditorium half-filled. She sings and moves as if no one is here but her and God.

As she ends, she says, “Know this: if nothing else—You are loved, just as you are.” She understands the thrill of hope. She couldn’t embody it if she didn’t. I feel myself tremble with the same longing.

My heart is ready to be cracked wide open this Christmas.

I am ready for God’s glory. I long to worship him in my life and my art. I don’t want to hold back. I want to be salt and light, a city on the hill, wherever God places me in whatever time He grants.

A few days later I get a chance to lift my voice with the church band on a Sunday morning. I choose not to overprepare. Instead, I pray, “Lord, help me to do my best. I bring my whole self.” As “Angels We Have Heard On High” spills from my lips and into the air, I realize my hands freely move with the music. Today I will not restrain them.

Freely, I glory in the creative space my Lord grants me this Christmas.

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As I write this, I look across the room to see a white feather on my wood floor in a dusty corner. Glory is not just an epiphany of hope, it’s freedom in Christ the Lord. He is not about stages or full rooms, but quiet corners too. Jesus came as gentle majesty into such a place: the dusty corner of Bethlehem, far from the world’s gaze. What an understated over the top act of compassion, pushing the bounds of comprehension, time, and space.

We celebrate Christ’s entry into our space: fully God and fully man. Let us bring our whole selves to worship the One who thought enough of us to bend low in love. The One who makes the ultimate unexpected entrance, announced with angelic song, born into the strange comforts of straw and human hearts. He lifts us into His radiant splendor.

Shout hallelujah!

Tremble.

Sit still.

Dance in His silent night.

Step into glory’s space.

How to Stay Grounded When Chaos Strikes

by Christina Hubbard. “Dangerous lightning” popped up on my weather app that morning. Every few seconds thunder bellowed, then a flash lit up the sallow sky. In order to keep ourselves safe from lightning’s danger, we take shelter in a place which is electrically grounded. (I love watching storms from inside my four warm walls!) It gives the negatively charged particles a positive place to connect. In the same way, a lightning rod on a tall building gives the strike a focused place to go, averting shock or fire.

When life gets chaotic with a schedule, work, emotions, or stress, which are often unavoidable, we can prepare grounding places for our souls. You might be thinking of a weekend away or a planned retreat to escape. While these are wonderful, they are not always a possibility. I’m talking about minimal prep and a few minutes of thought, which is. We all desperately need soul grounding spots of peace, sanctuary, and safety.

Five Minutes of Focused Rest

  • Go outside for a walk.
  • Read aloud from a storybook.
  • Close your eyes and take ten deep breaths.
  • Listen to a song (check out the Verses Project).
  • Look at a piece of art.
  • Read a poem.
  • Notice five new things around you and say, “Thanks, God.”
  • Doodle or draw.
  • Shift your perspective. If you’re sitting, stand. If you’re standing, lie on the floor. (If you’re already on the floor, you’re hilarious.)
  • Shut off your screen and just be.

These are a few ways to give the electricity in your life a protected place to land, while you watch the show in complete protection. Think of it as practicing presence in the midst of distractions and disruptions. The peace of God does not promise the absence of chaos. Lightning will strike and mayhem will muddle up plans, but we can take cover in Christ. He’s solid and grounded.

The next time dangerous lightning pops up on your mental radar, remember you belong inside where it’s safe and warm.

What Christopher Robin Reveals About Productivity and Personhood

winnie the poohby Christina Hubbard. It was one of those movies where I looked over at my 9-year old son, still so small in the plush oversized theater seat, and I gulped back tears. His little life matters so much. He bounced a bit in his seat like Tigger because that’s what he does when he’s engrossed in a good story.

Here we are in this big black theater in the middle of suburban normal Kansas. This kid, whose only job is to have fun and learn about the world—does he know how much he matters? 

I put my arm around him and turned my eyes back to the screen. I hoped he couldn’t hear my sniffles, and I vowed to preserve the poignant lessons we were learning from the imaginative movie unfolding before us: Christopher Robin.

The Screenplay in Short

The plot begins after Christopher Robin (played by Ewan McGregor) leaves The Hundred Acre Wood, which is his world of imagination and play, and heads to boarding school. His friends Pooh, Eeyore, Owl, Tigger, Roo, Piglet, Kanga, and Rabbit remain behind, holding fast to his promise he will return often. His father passes away and at the wake, he is “deemed man of the house.” Christopher grows up, fights in the war, marries, becomes a father, and gets a job as a luggage department manager at a large company.

We no longer see Christopher Robin, the exploring creative boy, but a withdrawn workaholic faced with a weighty choice. Preserve the last days of summer and reconnect with his wife and daughter for a long-promised and desperately needed holiday in Sussex or work the weekend and figure out how to save the company by 20% without laying off his entire department and losing his own job.

Sticky Points

I won’t ruin the beautiful story for you by telling you what happens. But I will tell you two things:

  1. Winnie the Pooh (who is animated superbly and keeps Christopher cleaning up his disasters with honey), offers many a jot-worthy line and proves an unlikely fount of simple wisdom.
  2. Now, more than ever, we need stories like this to remind us: Productivity does not define a person’s value.

The Real World

In a world bent on rewarding overwork and high achievers at the expense of connection, creativity, and imagination, perhaps we don’t realize how much we opt into this mindset without even thinking.

  • We rush ourselves and even the smallest of children to multiple weekly activities under the call of well-rounded opportunities, which leave us exhausted.
  • We keep our phones on and laptops open in the name of staying connected and being available while not quite feeling “all there” in our real lives.
  • We cut off our presence to people who need us under the pseudonyms of not right now and there’s never enough “me time” while we wonder why we feel so isolated and alone.

As we ping from opportunity to commitment, we can lose ourselves in doing and forget what it means to be truly human. To get lost in the woods. To laugh. To fall asleep to a fantastic story. To feel. To color outside the lines. To listen. To do nothing on a weekend. To wonder. To sit under a tree. To play. To be.

God designed us to live with the gift of significance.

In a post-modern world where slavery still exists and technology allows us to always be working, and thus, producing, we can lose ourselves in a dehumanizing machine of more. I would compare it to Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann’s depiction of our contemporary lack of Sabbath. He likens it to serving Pharoah.

In the film, Christopher Robin’s boss Giles Winslow says, “We should be working this weekend, Robin.”

Christopher protests, “I promised my wife and daughter I’d take them away this weekend.”

Giles’ responds, “All hands on deck.”

Work is good and necessary, but at what expense to our souls?

Pooh Can Teach Us a Thing or Two

Pooh is not a mouthpiece for Christian belief by any means, but he does point us to glimpses of how to live today with an eternal mindset. Let’s look at some moments from Christopher Robin and examine the rather simple, but profound truths they speak into productivity, personhood, and the present.

We don’t have to fill every moment with busy.

A scarlet thread line runs throughout the film, first spoken by a young Christopher and later by Pooh, back to him as a reminder of what to do: “Doing nothing often leads to the very best kind of something.” Great creativity and ideas often when we are doing seemingly unproductive activities like daydreaming, imagining, and playing.

We can say thanks for the gift of today. 

Winnie The Pooh: What day is it?

Christopher Robin: It’s today.

Winnie The Pooh: My favorite day.

We can see people, not as problems, but as fellow creatures. (And if they are human, made in the image of God.) 

Upon seeing Pooh for the first time as grown-up Christopher Robin, he shouts, No, no, no! This can’t be happening! It’s stress.”

But it’s not stress. It’s Pooh.”

We have enough.

Christopher Robin: If I work really hard now, in the future our lives will be…

Evelyn Robin: Impressive? Worse? We don’t care. We want you.

We can rest in the One who knows us inside and out.

Christopher Robin: I’m not the person I used to be.

Winnie The Pooh: You saved us. You’re a hero.

Christopher Robin: I’m not a hero, Pooh. The fact is, I’m lost.

Winnie The Pooh: But I found you.

We have more power over our lives than we believe.

Evelyn Robin (Christopher’s wife): You won’t be coming to the cottage?

Christopher Robin: It can’t be helped.

Evelyn Robin: Your life is happening now, right in front of you.

We are most truly ourselves when we live unburdened by the cares of this world.

The adult Christopher Robin encounters his old pals in the Hundred Acre Wood, “Hello, Eeyore!” Eeyore pauses and sees the boy underneath the wrinkles and suit, “Christopher Robin, it’s you, playing again!”

When we celebrate small delights, we are really living big.

Christopher Robin: There’s more to life than balloons and honey!

Winnie The Pooh: [doubtfully] Are you sure?

We were made to find glory.

Winnie The Pooh: There’s always time for a smackeral of wonder.

Everyone Needs to Know This No Matter What

Life, in its harsh reality of putting productivity over personhood, tends to strip us of our sense of wonder and worth. Maybe we have not forgotten completely, we just got a little lost, like Christopher Robin.

As we exited the theater, Kyle asked, “Who’s your favorite character?”

“Kanga,” I said. She’s such a calm, reassuring mother (which I hope I am, but still have a long way to go).

“Yours?”

“Piglet.” This surprised me. In the film, Piglet is rather fearful and doubtful of his worth to the rescue plan:

Piglet: I-I think I’ll just s-stay here… Y-you don’t really need me anyways.

My son is incredibly unique and bright. He has a vocabulary beyond his years and a deeply, caring heart. But most people wouldn’t know his giftedness brings immense challenges in a society which overemphasizes staying on task instead of making forts in the woods and ranks performance way above imagination. My son’s bouncy exuberance covers up a universal question resonating in his soul: Do I matter?

Winnie The Pooh: Oh Piglet… but we DO need you…

Piglet: Y-you do?

Winnie The Pooh: [takes Piglet’s hand] We ALWAYS need you, Piglet.

Ultimately, what will save Piglet, Christopher Robin, and us, is love.

 

August Shakeup (It’s a Crazy Ride Between Centered and September)

by Christina Hubbard.

I swear. There’s an earthquake

Each year come August.

Here’s Summer, mosying along,

Cannon-balling into the pool,

Climbing trees,

Riding her bike.

Chlorine-soaked strands

Stream behind.

Free.

Then the tectonic plate of school,

(With some ungodly fury of busy and hurry)

Drills its gargantuan nose right under

The ground upon

Which she stands.

 

Wheel veers.

 

It’s not her fault. Or yours.

Or mine.

She always sees it coming.

Buckle your seatbelt, sister.

We can’t escape it.

Prepare, as we do.

 

A bone-throttling jolt.

Then the split.

 

A little shaken, a whole lot stirred.

She pushes herself up.

Frame bent, hair disheveled.

 

Close your eyes, breath deep.

Look up at stars.

Read aloud.

Walk. A.

LOT.

 

Embrace routine’s help.

Loathe anxious thoughts.

Change it up.

Spot life.

NOW.

 

She picks up the bike.

Mounts.

Welcome the fall.

10 Summer Reads to Spur Your Kids to Courage and Compassion

by Christina Hubbard. One of my favorite ways to spend an afternoon is combing the library shelves for great summer reads. Not for me. For my kids. I love matching their interests with books which will challenge and expand their understanding of the world. If you’ve spent any time on my blog, then you know courage and compassion are core values in my family. I want my kids to be confident, empathetic, and brave.

Sadly, one of my kids has decided reading is not his/her thing anymore. I’m out to prove that wonderful kid wrong! Here are a few things that help us with our summer reading, including a list of what we’re reading.

It’s not quite bribery…

It can be hard to motivate our kids to read when they’d rather be playing XBox or living at the pool. In our house, we dangle carrots. When a kid completes a set amount of books on the list (they get to choose the ones they find most interesting, they earn a reward. For my 13-year old daughter, this year will probably be a gel manicure. For my 9-year old son, the incentive will be a sleepover or a cool outing. Consider what would motivate your child to stick with it.

Real books, audio books, and snuggle time all help

Did you know? Most kids prefer physical books. I don’t know where I read that recently, but I think it’s pretty true. There’s something about touching those pages which helps the brain to connect the tangible with memory retention.

No matter what anyone has told you, audiobooks count as real books. My kids listen to them for hours on end. It builds auditory skills and allows the brain to really engage with the text in a way that reading from the page cannot.

Snuggle time and reading aloud promotes authentic connection. Not only can you practice your silly voices and accents, you can even encourage your child to read to you. You also get to love on that rambunctious kid and tighten that parent/kid bond while you’re at it.

What I do

I don’t read every book on the lists I create. It’s impossible for me to keep up with my kids’ voracious reading (at least one of them), BUT I do research each book. I look for compelling characters, descriptive writing with fabulous vocabulary, and solid recommendations. Great sources for amazing reads have been Sarah McKenzie at the Read Aloud Revival, Tsh Oxenreider’s lists on the Art of Simple (search for summer reading guide: there’s several), and Amy Sullivan’s Gutsy Girls Facebook group.

Here are ten reads I’ve pulled from my kids’ lists to encourage kindness and boldness.

Most of these books will get a thumbs up from either gender. Keep in mind, these recommendations are for a tween and a high-level reading upper elementary kid. I hope one of them finds their way into one of your kids’ hands or your own! (Also, if you have an adblocker turned on, you will not see the images.)

    1. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness (The Wingfeather Saga) Description: Janner Igiby, his brother Tink, their crippled sister Leeli are gifted children as all children are, loved well by a noble mother and ex-pirate grandfather. But they will need all their gifts and all that love to survive the evil pursuit of the venomous Fangs of Dang who have crossed the dark sea to rule the land with malice and pursue the Igibys who hold the secret to the lost legend and jewels of good King Wingfeather of the Shining Isle of Anniera.
    2.  The Apothecary (The Apothecary Series) Description: It’s 1952 and the Scott family has just moved from Los Angeles to London. Here, fourteen-year-old Janie meets a mysterious apothecary and his son, Benjamin Burrows – a fascinating boy who’s not afraid to stand up to authority and dreams of becoming a spy. When Benjamin’s father is kidnapped, Janie and Benjamin must uncover the secrets of the apothecary’s sacred book, the Pharmacopoeia, in order to find him, all while keeping it out of the hands of their enemies – Russian spies in possession of nuclear weapons. Discovering and testing potions they never believed could exist, Janie and Benjamin embark on a dangerous race to save the apothecary and prevent impending disaster.
    3. The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind: Creating Currents of Electricity and Hope (P.S.) Description: William Kamkwamba was born in Malawi, a country where magic ruled and modern science was mystery. It was also a land withered by drought and hunger. But William had read about windmills, and he dreamed of building one that would bring to his small village a set of luxuries that only 2 percent of Malawians could enjoy: electricity and running water. His neighbors called him misala—crazy—but William refused to let go of his dreams.
    4. Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young GirlDescription: Discovered in the attic in which she spent the last years of her life, Anne Frank’s remarkable diary has become a world classic—a powerful reminder of the horrors of war and an eloquent testament to the human spirit.
    5. The Green Ember (The Green Ember Series: Book 1)Description: Heather and Picket are extraordinary rabbits with ordinary lives until calamitous events overtake them, spilling them into a cauldron of misadventures. They discover that their own story is bound up in the tumult threatening to overwhelm the wider world.
    6. Watership Down: A Novel Description: A phenomenal worldwide bestseller for more than forty years, Richard Adams’s Watership Down is a timeless classic and one of the most beloved novels of all time. Set in England’s Downs, a once idyllic rural landscape, this stirring tale of adventure, courage and survival follows a band of very special creatures on their flight from the intrusion of man and the certain destruction of their home. Led by a stouthearted pair of brothers, they journey forth from their native Sandleford Warren through the harrowing trials posed by predators and adversaries, to a mysterious promised land and a more perfect society.
    7. The Bronze Bow Description: The Bronze Bow, written by Elizabeth George Speare (author of The Witch of Blackbird Pond) won the Newbery Medal in 1962. This gripping, action-packed novel tells the story of eighteen-year-old Daniel bar Jamin—a fierce, hotheaded young man bent on revenging his father’s death by forcing the Romans from his land of Israel. A fast-paced, suspenseful, vividly wrought tale of friendship, loyalty, the idea of home, community…A powerful, relevant read in turbulent times.
    8. The Trumpet of the Swan Description: The delightful classic by E. B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web and Stuart Little, about overcoming obstacles and the joy of music.
    9. Emily of New Moon Description: This early work by Lucy Maud Montgomery was originally published in 1923 and we are now republishing it with a brand new introductory biography. ‘Emily of New Moon’ is the first tale in the ‘Emily Starr’ series, and tells the story of an orphaned girl using her wit and courage to face the harsh world.
    10. Edge of Extinction 1: The Ark Plan The Edge of Extinction Description: Five years ago, Sky Mundy’s father vanished from North Compound without a trace. Now she has just stumbled on a clue that not only suggests his disappearance is just the tip of an even larger mystery, but also points directly to the surface. To find her dad—and possibly even save the world—Sky and her best friend, Shawn, must break out of their underground home and venture topside to a land reclaimed by nature and ruled by dinosaurs.

(Book descriptions are copied from Amazon. Also good to know: links above contain Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase a book through one of them, I get a small percentage, which goes to keeping the lights on the blog.)

Happy reading!

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