Youth Restored

shutterstock_95623018(1)God speaks to us in a myriad of ways – you know…His word, blinding light, a donkey – and most recently in my life a beautiful seventeen year old girl bursting with energy and love.

You see I went on a women’s “retreat” for lack of a better word for 5 ½ days last week and throughout this whole week of undistracted time with the Lord, He really had an opportunity to talk to me about some things. I was obliged to listen.

This particular time with the Lord dealt with many deep seated hurts, longings, issues. In effect – a life changing experience. In an activity that we were asked to do, I used crafts to create something that I had not since I was in elementary school. I truly felt that it was a reminder of youth, fun, spontaneity. I had been accused of being too serious, too “deep” and told to lighten up more times than I care to admit. As a young teenage mother, I learned how to be practical. Now, don’t get me wrong, I knew how to party. There is a truly big difference in someone being light-hearted and fun-spirited and someone who can get drunk and think they are having a good time. Very, very different things. But I digress…

In the midst of my healing during this last week, a day was spent mourning my youth. Granted, I didn’t even know that I needed to mourn my lost youth. I was the kind of girl who just felt like you had to move on, what other choice do you have? God said otherwise. And into my life walked whom I now affectionately call my “little sister in Christ”. Bouncy and bubbly she showed me a reflection of a part of me that had been missing. Spontaneous fun, laughing, joking – no worries, no responsibilities. She showed me what it looked like to love the Lord unabashedly and without restraint. She showed me how exhilarating it could be to sneak out at midnight and scare the pants off of your sisters in the house down the road. (Haha!)

At the same time God did something for me that showed me how much He cares about the desires of my heart. A longing of mine had been to go to university to study – 1) because I love to learn and 2) because I truly longed for the experience to meet people and form relationships with people from other parts of the country. That is one thing I had always envied about people who went away to college, the lifelong relationships they made (and the friends to go visit on vacation!). Needless to say, on this retreat there were 27 women from 10 different states. I told the Lord that this was like college! And I clearly heard Him tell me that that was how much He loved me. I later found out that this was the first time there were that many women from that many different states at this event. Coincidence? I think not.

He forgives your sins—every one.
He heals your diseases—every one.
He redeems you from hell—saves your life!
He crowns you with love and mercy—a paradise crown.
He wraps you in goodness—beauty eternal.
He renews your youth—you’re always young in his presence.
Psalm 103:3-5 (MSG)

God crowned me with love and mercy and He renewed my youth. If you see me singing at the top of my lungs in my car or dancing down the street, you should really come and join in. Life is more fun like this. 😉

Written by Jamie Stapleton

Playfulness

shutterstock_113583727Playfulness is described as full of play or fun, high spirited state, lightheartedness & waggishness (more on this word as you will see).

New Years Eve my husband walked in our door with the most peculiar and intriguing flower. He carried in his hands a small clear vase he had just bought at the local grocery store. The vase held a bulb with white roots and green shoots portraying an enclosed tight bud that would soon reveal a flower of some kind. The picture displayed a hyacinth on the rim of the vase. Curiosity had my attention so I quickly looked up the flower meaning for hyacinth since this was new to me. The first word that popped out at me was playfulness. At that moment a word was given to our family for 2014. Playfulness. Encouraging play in the most creative, spontaneous, adventurous, casual, and eventful times. Big ways and little ways to add play in our days.

The bloom of the hyacinth was revealed about a week later and the pink flowers and fragrance that come from it is so sweet. It is in our kitchen and serves as a reminder each time I see it of our family word for 2014~ PLAYFULNESS.

Take time to play. Encourage playfulness. Having two very active boys ages 13 and 6; our home and days are full of playfulness in abundance of ways. They keep us on our toes in their activities in football, basketball, fishing, hunting, ping pong tournaments, sword fighting, lego building, creative play in so many ways. They love for us to be involved in their play and encourage them as they well… PLAY!

Our family gained a new addition two days before Christmas and this tiny little thing has brought on a new sense of play in our lives. A puppy. His name is Howie. He is a rescue dog from Homeward Bound. He was ran over by a car and broke his front leg and was in a cast for 10 weeks. Sad. We adopted him after his recovery and he has introduced us to a new sense of playfulness. He makes us laugh, growl, bark, rough house, and an increasingly amount of puppy time has been our family togetherness that is shared between all of us.

The waggishness that is mentioned above made me laugh when I saw the definition. It could not be any plainer than that. This little puppy wags his tail, follows us around and wants to go everywhere we go. He is a jackawawa… that’s right. Part jack russell, part chiwawawa- hence our nickname jackawawa! He is the cutest little thing ever. He has stolen our hearts.

My son has been known to reveal my lack of love for dogs in the past. When dogs would come around and try to get close or get my attention, Logan would say to their owner matter of factly… Umm, my Mom is a baby lover, not really a dog lover. They would laugh and instruct their dogs to keep their distance. We have had family dogs, but they stay outside and run around and play. Bringing this new puppy in our home has been an adjustment and has increased my love for puppies!! A new season. I am embracing this puppy. Literally, he is in my lap now all curled up in a ball… how cute is that.

I started thinking of the symbolism of the playfulness that has been increasing in our home. Did you know that Jesus inspires playtime? He loves for you to take time to enjoy yourself and play. Play with your little ones. Play with your friends. Play dates. Adding play in your day in some creative way will bring enthusiasm and joy to yourself and those around you. Doing something that stirs passion in your heart, a favorite hobby, a love that you have. Whatever fills your days, it may be school, work, many duties, but there is still some time for you to enjoy yourself. Make time for fun. Take time to play.

Write out some of your favorite ways that you used to play as a child. Let those memories inspire you to pass on some of those creative play to your little ones. Maybe it was to swing as high as your legs could possibly go on the swings until you felt as though you were flying. Maybe it was to blow the biggest bubble with your wand, or fly a kite in the wind, run around carefree and play games… these are just some samples to get you thinking. I encourage you to take time for PLAYFULNESS this year. You will be so happy you did!

Even in my writing, I am learning to use playfulness. I looked up the word in biblegateway reference and this passage spoke to my heart.

Words are tools… The word of God comes asking the prophet what he sees. He responds that he sees something rather ordinary. An almond tree. God uses this ordinary sight to give him an extraordinary message. There is a play on words… a playful and clever use of words gets Jeremiah’s attention… it stirs prophetic imagination so he will similarly use poetry, word play and object lessons to get the attention of his listeners… {Jeremiah 1:13 THE VOICE}

Written by Salina Duffy