Path to Story, Chapter 27: God’s Toy Maker

Perhaps you are frustrated with the skyrocketing prices of all the new toys and video games out there, or maybe you are tired of trying to find that perfect gift for your kids that they will forget about the very next day, or you’ve become overwhelmed as you try to find anything that won’t turn your kid’s brain into mush, if any of this is the case let me point you to God’s toy maker. It’s a tree, and it’s totally free.

It started with a thought: “There’s got to be something more and better for our kids than staring at a screen.” So one day I challenged my kids to go in the backyard and make a toy out of whatever they could find. I wanted them to go outside and use their imaginations to create something. I tell my kids as often as I can, “Be a creator, not a copier.” So they did. The benefits of doing this are more than I know. Along with storytelling, making their own toy enables kids to get a taste of the power of their own imaginations. A power that seems to get stunted behind flashing lights and sound effects.

There is an oak and a maple tree growing in our backyard, but the one that gave my kids everything including the glue was the pine tree. I didn’t give any plans, just a mission. My kids took an hour or so digging around and collecting stuff in the dirt. They came back with warriors and a princess made from pine branches. They had acorn faces with helmets and were clothed with cloaks made from the leaves. I was impressed and gave them a marker to draw their faces with.

There is no reason to get caught up in the mad dash for the “new”. Parents want to give their kids good gifts, Matthew 7:11. The best of gifts is enabling and equipping them to know the power they have in their own minds. This life is harder than any addiction can distract us from. If our kids wake up to what they can do for themselves they will depend less on gimmicks and will have a more stable ability to navigate the blackouts of life.

So go ahead, have your kids go outside. Quote Bill Murray’s dad from the movie, “Scrooged” and tell your kids, “Get a job and buy yourself a choo-choo!”, or rather, “Go outside and make yourself a choo-choo!” You’ll be saving them from the mentality that they can only have fun if they get whatever the new thing is.

A Path to Story Ch. 16: Unlock the Epicness

By now hopefully, you’ve found some encouragement to see things as opportunities for story.  From car trips to surviving life and death struggles, this new way grabs ahold of every day revealing the adventure within them.  It can open the door to greater family memories than the ones we get from movies and video games which are ultimately the imaginations of strangers.

Now some days it takes a lot of imagination to see the adventure in them.  Others, the story can come running in through your backdoor.  Here’s a tale of a quest to save a damsel in distress.  The damsel was my wife, and the quest was to find whatever it was that scared her so bad she ran back inside:

Hunt the Beast

One morning, my wife was frightened by a beast of legend that was hiding amongst the long grass in our backyard.  She didn’t get a good look at it, but it flashed through the grass at an alarming rate headed right for her!  She let out a surprised yell and ran for it.

Mom’s description:

  • not furry
  • not scaley
  • small, about two inches wide or so
  • light brown

What we thought it could be:

    • a deadly bunny (a common sight in Michigan)
    • a vicious baby groundhog (a full grown one had just moved in under our shed)
    • a fierce kitten (lots of strays in our neighborhood)
    • a rabid puppy (our neighbors have Chihuahuas)

Just after lunch, we talked about it.  There was no way we would let this beast, whatever foul creature it may be, scare Mom out of her own backyard.  So we suited up and went a-hunting chanting “Hunt the beast!”

My daughter grabbed our family pike (a broom). One of my sons got a sword and shield (made of wood).  He hit his shield with his sword as soon as I started the chant. My other one got a dagger and shield (made of wood but broken).

We went right to the crime scene and investigated.  Right away, one of my boys attacked the entrance to the groundhog’s home.  The other attacked a spotted mushroom (bouncy ball).  My daughter stayed close to her Mom to shield her from any further attacks.

We found no sight of a beast but my wife did find a stick that could fit the description.  If she had kicked it just right, the stick could have looked like something coming right for her.  But we kept searching just in case.

My daughter spoke to some Purple-Princess-flowers to see if they knew. They told her just a little deeper in. Our warrior dog bravely went first.  After a quick search, we came up with nothing and the flowers said it must have moved on.  My son heard from his defeated mushroom ball that it ran toward the shed, meanwhile, my other son searched the pines.  He found an evil basketball hoop monster and soundly defeated it by knocking it to the ground.

Pesky mosquitos were relentless, but we continued on.  I went in for a closer look toward the deepest grass.  Just before I was going to yield and send my kids inside, I saw amidst the green a familiar deep purple cluster. Blackberries!  I called the 3 to me and with Mom’s help, we feasted like kings and queens.

We determined the stick, I mean the fierce-and-deadly-pointed-monster, was the beast.  My wife gave it what-for and threw it on top of the kids’ stick fort and secured it to the roof. She made sure its terrifying days were over.

I know we all are tired.  We work too much to make too little and we have just enough energy to do it again tomorrow.  But it doesn’t have to be that way.  Being willing to see the different opportunities life gives us for adventure can unlock the epicness loaded in each one.

Be bold, be brave.  See the adventure.