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road trip with Jesus

Play: Unwinding Yourself from the Cords of Striving + Stress

On a recent trip to the Oregon Coast my husband and I were sitting on a bench staring out onto the crashing waves and sandy beach. I expressed to him my concerns and angst about my intentional stepping away from social media for a time. It wasn’t easy for me to quiet down, to limit my ability to share my work and life with others, and to remove myself from the constant flow of status updates and people’s latest pursuits and product launches.

Removing ourselves from the barrage of voices, clearing the clutter of our soul, focusing on our imperfect reality instead of escaping into the intangible online world, quickly reveals our secret motives and sources of life.

Over the last year or so I have forgotten what it’s like to live without a pressure to produce or perform for others, to be myself without trying to squeeze into a perfect square image, and to experience my  day to day with comparison lurking in the shadows.

As my husband listened (he does this so well!), he heard the unspoken cries of my heart.

He looked at me with understanding and compassion, and I knew he was about to pass on message I wouldn’t forget.

“Charissa,” he said, “it’s time for you to play.”

I knew exactly what he meant.

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If you’ve ever been around kids for any length of time, you know they are masters of play. Play is where they learn to make sense of the world and their own heart. Play is what they do, it is their full-time job and they take it seriously. {Read this article, 5 Things Kids Wish Grown Ups Knew About Play}

Have you ever noticed kids are content to play in private too? They don’t need an audience (except maybe the proud eyes of a Papa or Mommy), a stage, or special lighting. Their contentment is other worldly; they are enraptured with the play-doh, paints, Legos, or dirt between their fingers.

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I’m convinced the simple playing of a child is a form of worship to the Father- their laughter, smiles, and wonder-filled hearts bring Him true glory and praise. 

God didn’t have to create the sandy seashore in front of me, but He did. A playful God knew we’d love and need to walk barefoot on the beach, find seashells washed ashore, fly kites in the ocean breezes, and let the waves crash against our bodies.

Sadly, you and I have forgotten the significance of playing and even how to do it.

For us older children, play is only what we do once we’ve worked hard enough or saved enough money. Play may be fun for a moment, but deep down we can shake the belief that it’s a waste of time.

Couldn’t we be doing something more productive?

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What would it look like for you to play with life…to find out how to enjoy your work again…to do what you love and all the while remaining hidden in the heart of God, worshiping Him through your simple, soulful offering?

In the moment play feels like it has little purpose, that’s why it’s hard for me. It smirks in the face of my productivity and irks my accomplishment driven, accolade-seeking heart.

But without us even realizing it, play encourages us to come alive to our own adventure. Play invites us deeper into the heart of God, where we are happy children at peace to live in His presence, creating for His eyes alone, and inspired by His delight in us.

Play means accepting the invitation to write and create and work, more for revelation and delight, not for responses– worrying less about how many people acknowledge your work, read your words, or affirm your talent.

I keep coming back to these words from author Sara Hagerty, “We’re in a unique time in history when creating in a closet or producing something or experiencing the beauty of God, alone, and in private, feels antiquated.”

So how will you purposefully seek out opportunities to play, to get back to living your days from a place of joy instead of heavy pressure and smooth performance?

As I’ve discovered over the last month, the rhythm of playing gracefully unwinds us from the cords of striving and stress. Success is no longer based on numbers or achievements, but the amount of peace and freedom bursting from our heart.  


How will you practice playing this month?  In what areas are you lacking joy? Is God’s smile over you enough?

If you need a few ideas, May’s adventure practices are all about barefoot running and making messes…get your free PDF here!

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