An Invitation to Play

Don’t you just love summer? Long days of sunshine, lightning bugs flickering in the pasture, fresh herb cocktails, late night dinners on the grill, impromptu gatherings with friends…these are a few of my favorite things. But do you know what else I love about summer? Baseball. {It mimics life like you wouldn’t believe. If we had all day, I’d tell you how.}

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I don’t have boys, and my girls don’t play, but the game is in my blood. From age 8 to 18, I spent my summers on the pitcher’s mound. I wasn’t the fastest or strongest, but I threw six different pitches and could place the ball almost anywhere I wanted thanks to year-round practice, sheer determination and an intensely competitive spirit. And while I don’t play a sport of any kind these days, a good ball game still makes me come alive.

So here I was watching the College World Series at home, and freaking out because Vanderbilt made it for only the second time ever! {I can’t tell you what a big deal this is for a small school known more for its academics than athletics.} As we made it further into the tournament, I felt a strong desire to go to Omaha. Not exactly my dream vacation spot, but it’s where the College World Series is played.

So last Sunday, when it was clear Vanderbilt was going to the finals for the first time in history, my husband asked if I’d like to go. REALLY?!?! He doesn’t even like baseball! But he knows I do. And we needed some playful spontaneity in our marriage like a bird needs wings. So within a few hours, we booked our flights {to Kansas City, 3 hours from Omaha}, rented a car, reserved a hotel room, and pieced together coverage for the girls here on the farm.

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All of this fast, last-minute planning and unexpected travel was way out of my comfort zone. {Not that I’ve really found my comfort zone since leaving my hometown of Houston and moving to a farm!} But I knew we were supposed to go. And I knew it was about much more than baseball or Vanderbilt making history. Those two things were just icing on the cake!

I love watching all nine innings of baseball, while JD would prefer the highlight reel. But we both felt the same about one thing: this trip represented playfulness for us. It was a spontaneous, impractical, unplanned way for us to be kids together instead of adults who get all tangled up in work, responsibilities, tasks, projects, finances, decisions, etc.

The last two years of marriage have been hard ones for us. I don’t think I have enough perspective to process it all just yet, but I can say this: a major life change plus digging into our stories through counseling has turned us inside out. The ways God has been changing us are all good, but adjusting to those changes is a lot harder than we imagined. It’s like we’re doing this dance in marriage, and all of a sudden the music changed…which means our old dance moves no longer work, and we’re stepping all over each other’s toes! But we’re both confident that we’re going to learn to dance again, and that it’s going to be better than the old dance ever was. We’re committed to working at it…even when it’s hard, unfamiliar and uncomfortable.

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A year ago, a marriage counselor encouraged us to take a break from counseling and find ways to play together. That sounded good, but we had no idea how to play. The counselor made a few suggestions…hikes, bike rides, picnics…anything that didn’t feel like work. {We work HARD on the farm, and we enjoy most of it, so we forget that we still need to play.} To tell you the honest truth, a year went by and we were no better at playing than we were the first year we got here. When we tried, it felt forced…and often ended in tension. Maybe playful just isn’t our thing…so we thought.

Recently, my individual counselor asked me what it would look like if Little Linsey asked Little John David to play instead of getting all tangled up in a mess of old hurts and wounds, most of which are rooted in our childhood stories. {Unhealed pain always find its way back to the surface.} Being playful children sounds good, but how do two grown ups who’ve forgotten how to play invite each other to be playful? I had no idea, so I asked God to show us how to play. Little did I know, He’d answer with baseball just days later. {He knows me so well!}

When JD asked if I’d like to go to Omaha, I knew the answer was yes no matter what it cost…not just because I love baseball or because Vanderbilt was in the finals. And not because the College World Series was on my bucket list. {I don’t even have a bucket list.} I knew this was an invitation to play…to be youthful, spontaneous, unscripted and impractical. When you get right down to the heart of it, isn’t that what playfulness really is? Playfulness isn’t so much about what you do; it’s about how you do it.

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With the Vanderbilt win and a husband who took three days off to watch baseball by my side, you’d think all was perfect in my world. But there’s no such thing as perfect, remember? On the long trip back to Franklin, we stepped on a few emotional land mines with words that triggered old wounds, and the enemy had a field day. We went from victory to defeat in minutes…and stayed there for over half the day. I hate it when this happens! {When the good things of God are assaulted – marriage, playfulness, life to the full – you can bet there’s some spiritual warfare involved. Once we see it for what it is, half the battle is won. For more on the enemy’s tactics, I love C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters and Stasi and John Eldredge’s Love and War.}

I really wanted to come home and write about playfulness…and only playfulness. I was sure that’s what this trip was all about. As we struggled to converse and connect during our long trip back to Franklin, I was angry, hurt and confused. It seemed that playfulness had been stolen…that the whole point of the trip was ruined. Because all this time, I’ve believed that playfulness and pain can’t share space. It’s one or the other. What a lie! The truth is, you don’t trade pain for playfulness. You learn how to hold both in your heart. And sometimes, being fully alive in your heart and present to life means choosing playfulness in the presence of pain…instead of waiting until pain is fully resolved or healed. There’s room for both. Real life is both.

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Learning to hold opposing emotions in my heart has been one of the greatest lessons of our move. I never imagined beauty and brokenness or playfulness and pain could share the same space in my heart. I’m pretty sure I used to exhaust myself trying to prevent or avoid the pain and brokenness of life, and truth be told, I still don’t fully embrace it or want it. {Who does?} But I know this much is true: holding opposing emotions expands your heart’s capacity in every direction and allows you to experience life with all of your brave and beautiful heart.

Do you need an invitation to play in the midst of pain, struggle or imperfection today? And if the invitation comes, are you willing to drop everything and run after it like a child? Making messes along the way? What would it look like for you to say yes to playfulness today? It can be a small thing. The main thing is that you say yes. Go ahead. I give you permission! Blessings to you!

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  • Rie - Thank you for sharing this, Linsey. My wasband and I are taking our daughter to Italy for high school graduation. A set of divorced parents and an 18 year old sharing a room for 10 days! I’ll make room for the inevitable opposing emotions you so well described instead of my habit of blindly hoping for the best (and being disappointed when inevitable conflicts arise)!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda Hampton - LOVED meeting you yesterday! I needed to hear this. Love every bit of it. Thank you for sharing. I want to play more in the midst of my pain!!ReplyCancel

  • Dianne - Thank you for sharing. I love that you are always so honest. Your words are not wasted.ReplyCancel

  • Gracia Gilbertson - Linsey, thank you for sharing your thoughts in this post. I needed to hear it today. Our lives too have been full of challenges and downright pain the past few months especially, so it’s good to be reminded that joy and playfulness can coexist with life as we know it. Will be praying and looking for a way to be playful this week! Your insights and honesty bless me.ReplyCancel

    • Bravehearted Beauty - One thing I know: if you ask God to show you how to play, the invitation WILL come! Up to you to say yes! Go for it!ReplyCancel

  • Andrew Fockel - Thank you again for your wise words Linsey! And thanks for the courage to share not just the easy and light parts of your recent experience.

    The Father must really be wanting this theme to be central right now – I just finished reading Morgan’s latest post centered around rest and play. He included a great quote from Dan Allender’s book Sabbath that says “one way to the heart of the Father’s offer is to begin with this question: What would I do for a twenty-four-hour period of time if the only criteria was to pursue my deepest joy?.” I need more of God’s heart for me here.


    P.S. Love & War is awesome! We are actually reading it again right now. We didn’t finish it the first time we tried a few years back (surely warfare involved there) but we are committed to finishing now!ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - Dearest Lindsey…
    I recognized that stadium before evening reading your words. You are so right, Omaha is not a vacation spot. But, I am so excited that this big town was a blessed retreat for you both. I follow your blog from a quiet distance. I found your beautiful home photos just prior to your move. But, it was your honest words, insight and faith that have kept me close. My heart has tugged many times as your Franklin journey has unfolded. I can simply relate to the challenges and vulnerable growth that takes place with such a life change. Omaha has been home for 5 years and will likely be the town we leave behind as our journey continues. I am so happy that you had such a happy memory made right here.
    Blessing, LisaReplyCancel

    • Bravehearted Beauty - Lisa, wish I had known that a blog friend lived in Omaha! We didn’t explore very much since baseball was our focus, but enjoyed the Old Market area…the buildings especially. Though I did sense an interesting spirit in the town. Couldn’t quite name what it was. Just different than anything I’ve sensed before. Blessings to you as your heart is tugged in the ways that God leads you!ReplyCancel

  • Lisa - I meant Dearest Linsey! (Oh how I try to be thankful for my auto-correct 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Amy - Thank you for this post Linsey. The reminder for play was perfect for me right now. I left a really great job a year ago to start my own freelance business. Money is tight, and I have started working a retail job…not what I dreamt about when opening my own business! Yesterday, the piano player at the store found out I’m a singer, and invited me to the piano to sing some show-tunes. It was the most fun I have had in years!!! And getting applause from customers in the store reminded me how much I LOVE to sing. It’s a gift given to me by God, and intended for me to use it for His glory. I then got in trouble from the store manager. But guess what? I would go sing show tunes again in a heart beat! iIt reminded me I am more than the job I am working. God gave me my talents for a reason, and some of those reasons are just for fun!ReplyCancel

  • Amanda - Precious Love. I just had to comment . . . Your willingness to be vulnerable is BEAUTIFUL. It’s raw, and I feel my soul KNOWING and ACHING right along with you. I may have told you this, but it’s just SO GOOD, so if this is the second time around–please forgive me! We long for comfort. Familiar, known places, predictable settings, and for others to know our feelings and anticipate our needs. God did not design us to be comfortable. He designed us to be comforted. By Him. To need Him constantly, long for Him daily, and to turn to him faithfully with our hurts. So that He can do the healing, the mending, the perfecting within us. I adore you. Thank you for making a girl in Texas feel so close to your soul this morning. Love you!ReplyCancel

    • Bravehearted Beauty - Amanda girl, I love knowing you’re out there reading. It always makes my heart happy to hear from you. God didn’t design us to be comfortable?!?! What?!?! {Wink!} xoxoReplyCancel

  • Meredith Crow - Love this Linsey! Hugs to you all!ReplyCancel

  • Laura J. - This makes me feel sadness, reading about two beautiful young people, blessed with life and darling children, unable to completely enjoy this sweet, impromptu and special time together…
    On the road of life, if you spend all of your time looking in the rear view mirror, you will crash. You can only move forward by looking ahead, steering in the right direction…someone told me that years ago, and I think about how logical that is…
    I am hoping you find the way to have more happiness than sadness, more joy than sorrow, with a grateful heart to appreciate every small blessing.ReplyCancel

    • Bravehearted Beauty - Oh, we enjoyed it for sure, but we’re also learning how to feel our lives deeply as we go through a healing process, and it’s not always pretty. We have some painful things in our stories. Exposing ourselves to healing is a lot harder than we thought, but we know it’s worth it. And I’m with you, I’d love more joy than sorrow. Absolutely! And learning to give thanks for all of it has been saving grace for me. Thanks for writing so honestly.ReplyCancel

  • Heather - I found your blog through the wine box garden but love your new garden of whimsy even more. Your honesty is refreshing and your desire to embrace life inspiring. This non-cat (non-pet really) girl is considering getting a cat for her son who has been begging for a long time thanks to your wisdom. We recently spent time on a friends’ farm and I was reminded of your post about suburban concrete living versus farm dirt. Their home was dusty and grimy but oh so beautiful and welcoming. That’s what I hope for my home now, not spotless floors that tell the neighbor boys to stay away! Well that’s my prayer at least.ReplyCancel

    • Bravehearted Beauty - Hi Heather! I love knowing the ways people end up here. No accidents! I love that you’re considering a cat. I never wanted a pet, much less so MANY! But it’s been SO GOOD for me…and of course for my children. Go for it! Bless you!ReplyCancel

  • Family Time in Vermont & Maine » Bravehearted Beauty - […] homebodies and farm folk, we sure have made the rounds this summer…from the beach, to the College World Series to visiting family in New England. I know a whole lot of farm folk who never leave town, so three […]ReplyCancel