Thursday, August 25, 2016


I climbed the steep hike huffing and puffing, sweating and swerving on the narrow trail. My friend, Laura and I were almost to the top, just a few more steps. My harness felt heavy and the my heart pounded inside my chest. The altitude was high but honestly my nerves were a bit high. Once to the top of the mountain, I could see everything, the trees, the hills, the camp, and the lake I would soon crash into with a force I could not yet comprehend.

Laura and I had the trained guide at this station make sure our harnesses were tight enough as he hooked us up the zip line above our heads. The only thing left to do was to run and jump off a piece of wood that stuck out over the mountain. It was liking a diving board but a very VERY high one. I had thought of turning around. I could do this once I was zipping down the mountain of course but why did I have to literally walk off a chunk of wood into thin air? I could crawl off I suppose but I what I really wanted was to get it over with already. The suspense was too much. My friend and I counted to three and took off running (read nervous skipping/trotting) into thin air and down we raced to the lake. It was absolutely exhilarating. All I could think about was the feeling of flying down the mountain. After we collided into the lake I felt so refreshed and invigorated, laughing at my shrill screaming the whole way down.

This past year something was missing from my life.  I was very good about date nights, my work schedules, my self-care routine, connecting with friends, eating enough, getting enough sleep, generosity and pursuing my faith. However I think I completely left play time out of the equation, partially because working and studying for my licensure exam was so overwhelming I couldn’t think about anything else except trying to schedule in self-care like a massage or pedicure from time to time. But time to play? There was no time for that.

To be honest, I think I forgot how it felt to play this past year. We know how developmentally important it is for children to play and for our pets to play, but do we know how essential it is for adults to take time to play?

This summer I was lucky enough to remember what it felt like to play. The school year ended, I passed my first exam and Scott and I were off on many adventures of traveling to see family and to work at Young Life Camp. We got to paddle board on a lake in Minnesota, jet ski and inner tube with my sisters, ride a giant swing at camp, zip line down a mountain in Arizona, play with paint, go down water-slides in the middle of the night, go to pool parties, pick wildflowers and lastly spend time playing with our puppy. Puppies really know how to play. They are so present and in the moment. They smell and taste and feel everything right as it’s happening.

There’s something about play that makes everything come to life. The color is brighter, the smells more noticeable, the sensations more sharp.

Research shows that play actually helps shape our brain. It can help develop empathy, open up the imagination, foster creativity, and can actually help navigate complex social groups (the most surprising one to me!). **

I’d like to think play also develops resilience in us. It helps create this deep reservoir that we can draw from when life gets tough as it inevitably will. It can helps stay present and remember that our worth really isn’t tied to our productivity (as I remind myself daily).

I am excited to start integrating more play into my life. I’m curious to know how other people play. I don’t want to always have to go on a trip or back to camp to learn how to play. I want to figure out how to do it in my own backyard. How do you play?  What is one thing you did this summer that felt invigorating and fun?

*Please avoid googling "adult play" #yikes

** Research done by Dr Stuart Brown (Psychiatrist) and Dr. Brene Brown (LMSW)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

The Longest Table

Today I'm still reflecting on the past month Scott and I had at camp. Scott works for Young Life full time and part of his job is going on a camp assignment for a month every summer. Our assignment was at Lost Canyon in Arizona, up in the mountains, about 45 minutes from the Grand Canyon.

There were a lot of things that stand out to me about our camp experience. The smell of fresh mountain air every morning is something I miss terribly. I also miss the way everything cools down after a thunderstorm as it was monsoon season there. I'm completely nostalgic as it's 90 degrees in San Diego and Scott and I don't have air conditioning. (there is no rain in sight, just blinding heat). I miss living in staff housing where I was constantly surrounded by people working for the same goal. I miss having people cook and clean for me (thank you work crew, you are the best, thank you to my #campcrush, Scott for cleaning our toliets. #iloveyou)

But I keep reflecting on how I just felt saturated by God's presence while being there. It felt thick and rich and alive. Every day the staff spoke good news into high-school kids lives. They spoke hope. They acted in love. I know I'm not a camper or a high-schooler but they reminded me that God is still alive and well. With every dish they cleaned, they let kids know their worth and value. With every mint on their pillow they reminded kids that they were thinking of them. With every zip line and horse-back ride they let kids know it's okay to be kids, to play and have fun and that this place is safe.

One night the whole work crew set to work to throw a banquet for all the campers. The staff hauled large tables and chairs down to the the lake. The chefs prepared easily transported food. The campers dressed up for the occasion and came to dinner expectant. I won't do it justice when I write about it but I'm hoping this picture will do a little bit to give you a visual of what I saw. All the kids gathered around the lake, around this very long table to eat and be together. I found it to be so sacred.

It reminds me of Jesus when He talks about inviting everyone to the banquet.

"Go out at once into the streets and lanes of the city and bring in here the poor, and crippled and blind and lame...Go out into the highways and along the hedges and compel them to come in, so that my house may be filled" Luke 14:21,23

Everyone is invited. Everyone is in. The table is long enough.

And we are told to pay special attention to those that are socially more vulnerable, you know the ones with physical disabilities, the orphans, the widows...the ones who don't have access to resources. We need to take notice of those who don't have easily attained privilege...the ones who don't feel safe in their skin or in their gender or in their home. Those who culture has deemed "crazy" or "worthlesss" We are to invite them to this very large table that I am convinced is long enough and wide enough to hold us and all our differences and all of our vulnerabilities. Love doesn't run out. It can hold us. We don't have to tell someone there aren't enough chairs for them or there isn't enough food for them. There's always enough.

But we have to be the one to pull out the chair for them. We need to set the table for them. We need to invite them. They won't come if they don't feel wanted.

 If you're white and have grown up in a middle class lifestyle you hold lots and lots of privilege. So let's use it for good. Let's extend ourselves for those who have less. And let me let you in on a little secret: We've all been vulnerable from time to time. Remember when you have felt vulnerable and scared and alone? Remember when you felt like the under-dog? Access those feelings and then go set the table for your neighbor, cause you've been there and even if you can't understand fully, you know what it's like to feel fragile and scared. Add an extra chair. I promise there's room.