Cultivating play and rest {Book Club}

How lovely that this week coincides with Sabbath – I would like for you to think the Velvet Ashes team is so with it, we planned this. But the truth is God really wants us to get the theme of Sabbath and He is the one who lined this week up.

For me, that makes this chapter and week more meaningful. It’s not something orchestrated by VA, instead God is taking an eternal truth and practice and helping us unpack it in our time and contexts. Today we’re looking at Guidepost #7–Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth

A few years ago my boss got tired of us in the Beijing office, on staff for our company, sprinkling the word “busy” into conversations. It had becoming our defining attribute and combined into an amalgamation, part badge of honor and part greatest frustration. We even spent time at a staff retreat talking about how we weren’t going to talk about being busy J.

How easy as cross-cultural workers to, as Brene said, “base our worthiness on our level of productivity.”

Throw into the pot:

  • Supporters – and the sacrifices we know some make on our behalf
  • The voice in our heads that asks, “what do you have to show for today?”
  • Blurry lines between what is work and what is play. Is having local friends over for a meal work or play? Is playing basketball work or play? I didn’t have these kinds of conversations when I had a more clearly defined job as a junior high math teacher.

When Jesus said we are to come to him like little children, I think we often focus on their innocence. What if part of the reason Jesus wanted us to be like children is because of their ease with play?

Dr. Stuart Brown “explains that play shapes our brain, helps us foster empathy, helps us navigate complex social groups, and is at the core of creativity and innovation.” Wow. Shapes. Helps. Is at the core.

It saddened me to again be reminded how the enemy has hijacked the idea of “Adult play” to be the opposite of true God ordained adult play. The current idea around adult play is anything but playful as it can rewire the brain in unhelpful ways and fosters distance, hiding and shame. It robs and destroys.

I am thankful I grew up in a family that took both work and play seriously. When it would start to rain –and in Colorado the rain storms would come in for a few minutes and then often move on – most other moms called the kids to get out of the rain. My mom hollered for us to all get an umbrella and the four of us, my mom and sisters and I, would dance and kick water in the gutters.

Even with this solid foundation and modeling, I have had to keep reorienting myself to VALUE play and not see it as a “waste of time.” Though I see and experience the benefits when I do play, those messages from our culture and the enemy of our soul are loud, are they not?

How about you, what stood out in this chapter? How are you with incorporating play and rest into your normal everyday life? What are the challenges of letting go of the status symbol of being busy? What subtle ways does our line of work impact your understanding and relationship with play and rest?

See you in the comments,


P.S. Here are the posts related to The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown:

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  1. Shelly Miller April 22, 2014

    Love that book as you know Amy. I’m not good at the play part of life but I’m learning. It seems I was born an adult sometimes but I think being in a home with an alcoholic is part of that. Play was much too vulnerable an endeavor. But then God says there is redemption. Lovely thoughts here. Glad you invited me.

    1. Amy Young April 22, 2014

      Shelly, I’m so happy you’re here this week (and, dare I hope, for future conversations as well?!). I hadn’t thought about the luxury of play and the ways in which it is a vulnerable act. But I can see how play does require a level of safety for a person to release themselves to it. I can tell I’ll be thinking about this comment more 🙂

  2. Elisa April 22, 2014

    The quote that made me think and reflect the most was:

    “We’ve got so much to do and so little time that the idea of spending time doing anything unrelated to the to-do list actually creates stress. We convince ourselves that playing is a waste of precious time. We even convince ourselves that sleep is a terrible use of time.”

    This quote is almost verbatim the way I feel when I have too much on my plate. In my last term I found myself in what I like to refer to as the “overflowing plate cycle”. On the field it’s easy for us to keep piling up our plates with responsibilities because there are so few of us and we see a need and want to make sure it gets met. Sometimes I would continue adding to my plate with what seemed like light and small portions but I wouldn’t stop piling them on. When I did stop I was so overwhelmed and tired that I then was desperate for rest and quiet while still being fearful and stressed by all that was sitting on my plate waiting to be done. Enter procrastination and finding my value, worth, and purpose, in my jobs (all of them) and you have a pretty messy plate with no time to play or rest built in.

    When I would finally find time to rest/play I would fall into another unhealthy cycle, the “never-wanna-work-again cycle”. I had dug for myself a deep “work hole” and was so exhausted that I became desperate for rest and play. So desperate that I would overdue rest and play; thinking I would never get a chance to rest or play again. What a vicious cycle. This chapter helped me work at articulating the unhealthy cycles that I have lived in overseas and motivated me to use my home assignment to learn from the Word and others what it looks like to glorify God in both working and resting.

    1. Amy Young April 22, 2014

      Elisa, I think you know I don’t subscribe to the idea of balance, but I can see (as can you) how easy it is to fall into extremes! There’s got to be a middle — albeit messy :). I think this is one of the reason God commands Sabbath — the work will always be there. But by stopping, I’m able to build in a bit of rest and play. And really, I’m preaching to myself here, just started it off by using your name :).

  3. Kimberly Todd April 22, 2014

    I’ve been thinking on two things. First, the weight of play as a critical part of wholehearted living, not a sidebar – oh, and if you get around to it, play – but clear out your schedule of the worthy things and unstructure your time. I’ve done this to make space for rest, but not for play, though I’m sure they’re linked. Contemplation is so much easier for me than play. The second, you brought up. What qualifies as play? I know what it feels like to play, but they feel like rare magic moments. How does one go about cultivating a playful lifestyle?

    1. Amy Young April 22, 2014

      Kim, I love how you touch on the reality that parts of this life are going to come easier to me / you / whomever than others. I’m not the best at rest (joked that my dad and one sister got the “gift of napping” while other sister, Mom, and I did NOT). Resting feels so … wasteful and I become agitated :).

      As to cultivating, I think it might start off with something as simple as a willingness to be open to playful moments or opportunities. I think if we say, “by gum i AM going to play more” — we’ve kind of missed the boat :). And to know that play will look different for each one of us! When i was a kid, play looked like (please no snickering 🙂 … OK, just a little), organizing people. For my sister Eliz, it involved paper and pens and being by herself. My sister Laura loved stuffed animals and Barbie dolls and doing things with them. — you can imagine we didn’t play together all that much. Except for when I was organizing them, having the time of my life and annoying the c-r-a-p out of them :).

  4. Brittany April 23, 2014

    I’m not sure what play looks like for me right now. My husband and I have really tried to implement a sabbath day, especially since being in the field. No language homework, no ministry, no errands. Just being together as a family. That’s been great, but sometimes we just don’t know what to do with ourselves! There’s a learning curve for sure! I’ve never been one to have hobbies much. I don’t know what I like to do that gives me rest and rejuvenation. So I’m trying to figure that out. =)

  5. Kara May 13, 2014

    I’m late to the conversation, but appreciate reading this. I have been challenged to play by my husband, who loves to play with our kids. He plays board or card games, giving them the attention they crave, and has fun himself! I tend to see time with my kids as work, and long for escape to read a book or blog by myself.

    I have also realized that though I long to go walking or running by myself, playing tag or soccer with my kids is great exercise and makes their day.. and is actually fun for me, too!

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