Play it Forward: A Workshop to Improve Your Writing through Play

Mama always said I was an old soul.

“You were always so serious,” she said. “Even when you were a baby.”

When I was six months old her mother—my maternal grandmother—was diagnosed with breast cancer. And she had to wean me from her breast for the struggle of it—the hard work of balancing the care of a newborn and that of her dying mother.

This is the world I was born to: one of hunger, poverty, addiction, complicated parent-love. Play was always a serious business for little girl me. I went inside the world of imagination to escape the reality of life. It was a solitary task, a quiet thing. Something in my makeup resisted the kind of play lived out loud.

It’s taken me almost fifty years to understand that this is okay. Yes, this is okay, but there is so much more to play. And I have only just begun.

Play looks different for different kinds of people. When we understand this and accept this, it opens us to new ways. New ways of playing, new ways of seeing, new avenues of creativity, new ways of being.

Play is a powerful thing.

Will you come along on a play journey with me? Sometimes these things are best undertaken with a guide. How about two guides? My friend (and fellow writer) Laura Brown and I are embarking upon an exploration of all things play. Over the course of eight or twelve weeks (you choose), we will lead an adventurous few through an odyssey of play—sampling different ways of play that might enliven our creative lives, enrich our writing and hopefully, add beauty to our everyday living.

Read more about it over at TSPoetry. It’s going to be a grand adventure. It may be just the thing to breathe new life into your writing practice. It may be just the thing to awaken the old soul in you to a fresh view of this tired world. After all, writing is a form of play—a way of seeing. To write well requires opening the eyes in new and different ways. We’re going to have so much fun finding playful ways to achieve this.

Photo by Samuel David Rinehart, Creative Commons, via Flickr.

Playdates with God: Supermarket Poetry

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At the supermarket the other day, minding my own business. Little cutie and mom wander into my shopping space. She couldn’t have been more than three.

“Mommy,” she says, “I have a poem I want to tell you.”

Mom is distracted. Looking at cans, putting things in the cart. She doesn’t respond.

“Is that ok? Just a little poem?”

Mom says something nondescript. Still no eye contact. We moms have a lot on our minds.

I pause. Pretend to read the label a moment longer.

“I smell the flower, it smells sweetie sweet.
The birdie sounds tweety tweet.
Berries are my favorite tweet.” (She actually said tweet instead of treat. Cute, or what?)

There was more, but mom was walking away and taking the poem with her.

I stood in the aisle, lonely now, repeating the brilliant words of this poem in my head.They made me smile. How sad, thought I, that the mom missed this precious moment.And then:How many moments like this have I missed? Too many.

Life is crazy, and sometimes … sometimes I just don’t have enough to give.

But here is what God has been working in my heart for several years now: Every moment is sacred.

Life goes too fast. To slow down and actually be there in each moment; this is what true living is all about. Instead of impatience, always thinking of the next moment and not appreciating the present; instead, to see my world with eyes of love … this is what Jesus wants me to do.

To be present in each moment. It sounds so simple. Yet … I know I will fail. Over and over again. I do so many times.

But I must try. Because I want to smell the flowers, sweetie sweet. And hear the birds, tweety tweet. But most of all, when this life is over, I want to know that I let love lead me through it. Not time. Or fear. Or shame. Not money, or things. Just love.

Every moment is sacred. I want to live like I believe this.

Because I do.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess

Playdates with God: The Sweetness of Things

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Today we go back to the normal. Normal has been interrupted by Winter Storm Jonas these past couple days. We’ve been digging out from under 16-17 inches of snow, bit by little bit. But today I return to work, Jeff resumes his teaching schedule, and though school is closed for Jeffrey, he won’t be snowed in the way he was this weekend. Temperatures still sleep below the freezing mark, but yesterday the sparrows sung the sun high and we warmed under her gaze. Still, all this white is going nowhere—save for one shovel full at a time.

There is something so sweet when normal is interrupted. We huddle together and light the fire in the fireplace and hearts are soft to one another. We walk together through snow drifts, slipping on ice patches here and there, giggling and holding on to each other like we haven’t for years. We catch snowflakes on our tongues. And our eyelashes. And shoulders and the tops of our heads. Both of my boys had birthdays this past week and though we celebrated with Teddy before taking him back to school, I kept finding myself near tears as his day came to a close and I did not get to see his face.

“I miss you today,” I texted him. “First time you’ve not been home on your birthday.”

“It’s the way it has to be, mom,” he replied, always the practical one. The new semester has only just begun and he is busy learning his new schedule, getting the lay of the land on the new classes.

“I know,” I replied. “It’s how it’s supposed to be and it is good. I’m glad you are having some fun.”

I watched the birds hop atop the frozen crust of snow under the feeder. A Cardinal pair, a handful of snowbirds, some house finches. The day before, an Eastern Towhee stopped by, his cinnamon breast and side a sharp contrast to the pearly world he haunted. But after all that snow, today the sky gleams brilliant blue and the glistening trees carve their shapes into its void. In all this alabaster I struggle to feel what is greening inside me.

Belden Lane quotes Jonathan Edwards as saying, “The works of God are … a kind of voice or language of God to instruct intelligent beings in things pertaining to Himself.” When I watch the birds I am listening to the voice of God. It’s a kind of synesthesia—every sense engaged in this knowing.

I watch the male Cardinal tap a sunflower seed against the mottled trunk of the Maple tree. His insistent tapping sends an avalanche of snow from the slender branches and the air is filled with flashing shafts of powdered light. My throat catches at the sheer abundance of nature. I remember the question Augustine asked of God,

What do I love when I love you? Not light nor the fragrance of flowers, not the taste of honey, nor the gentle touch of the human body. None of these and yet all of them! I do love a kind of light, a certain fragrance, a food and an embrace when I love my God … I said to all those things which stand about the gate to my senses: ‘Tell me about my God … ..’ And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘He made us.’ My question was in my contemplation of them, and their answer was in their beauty.”

This interruption of the normal has been a gift of space for contemplation. For a short while, life slowed to a stop, warmed under a blanket of snow, baffled in white, breathed beauty in every language.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess

Playdates with God: Time Bandit

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Call me thief, the way I rob time—pick the locks of the moments and steal the treasure inside. Busy is a disease, a dis-ease, more skilled at thievery than I. Saturday, we took Teddy back to school and that morning my laptop crashed, another heist. Although I have my data on backup, finding and re-creating it all has been costly. Passwords, documents, setting up the accounts … I’m on a temporary iPad, thanks to my mother-in-law, and this necessitates finding new ways to do the old familiar. My old brain is tired. When we left Teddy in front of his dorm my heart felt as dry as dust.

I’ve been asking God a lot of questions. Working every day at the hospital, writing, doing ministry, tending the family, taking care of my health … So many good and beautiful things in my life. Out of necessity I’ve shifted focus to the small, trying not to ask too much of each day. In the night, I am depleted, and lean heavily on the Spirit for refreshment.
I remind myself about seasons, as I watch the moon lift her swelling belly into a sea of darkness each night. And I remember what I used to tell my boys when they were younger. “It’s how we handle the hard times that determines our true character.”

So I watch the wind sway the pines on the hills, I feel the current of air underneath a thousand wings ascending into the sky, I study the underside of a moth alight on my window.

Every day, every moment, every second committing a beautiful larceny. This type of robbery is not so difficult. My only weapon is my eyes.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess

Playdates with God: The Dance

 

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I am collecting the small moments, savoring each as it arises. Look, the voice inside says to me, Listen, … Touch. My eyes are opened as if for the first time and all the world is new.

Yesterday, a cold front blew in, bending the trees beneath her hands and strumming the cords of the meadow grasses with the tips of her fingers. The resident squirrel wasn’t deterred from robbing my feeders during the winds, dangling upside down on the tube feeder and swaying back and forth like a flag. Cardinals flitted to and fro in front of my window, braving the tempest with fluffed feathers. The hornet’s nest lost its clutch high in the maple tree and I watched its papery form blow about the back yard. I wondered about the sleeping larvae, I wondered if anyone was home. I could see the honeycombed inside of the thing—broken open and bared to my eyes. I wanted to go out and rescue it from further tumblings, poke it with a stick, peer deep into its inner workings. But I was safe inside and warm, so I just watched its papery edges lift with each frosty gust.

It began to snow, thin gossamer flakes stirred by an unseen hand. Winter has been coquettish this year, teasing us with quick glimpses and then withdrawing. I knew I must say hello. So I bundled up, leashed Bon, and let the wind carry me down the street, twirling with my sister snow. My blood has grown thin from the mild temperatures and my eyes dim with warmth, but when the wind bit my nose and kissed my cheeks, my spirit felt the frolic. Bright-eyed and rosy-cheeked we went, companions to blowing leaves and circling flakes of snow.

I have been a valley of dry bones, but this breath of the Spirit breathed new life into me. Small, I whispered, and let the wind carry the word up into the sky. And the world blew all around me, catching me up in her arms for the dance.

Every Monday I share one of my Playdates with God. I would love to hear about yours. It can be anything: outside, quiet time. Maybe it’s solitary. Maybe it’s loud and crowded. Just find God and know joy. Click on the button below to add your link. I try to visit a few of your stories every week, so if you are a new visitor, be sure to let me know in the comments so I can welcome you. Grab my button at the bottom of the page and join us.

Laura Boggess