When Jesus Went to the Park

Toward the end of summer, the family and I took a road trip from Big House on a Little Prairie to the west coast of California. We were on the road for 15 days and made memories that will last us the rest of our lives.

It’s one such memory I feel compelled to write about today.

On the return trip, we stopped for a couple of days outside of Denver, CO, to spend time with Hub’s uncle. He has two dachshunds, which the kiddos were smitten over immediately. It was our second day visiting him, and he suggested we all go for a walk, so the kids could each walk one of the dogs.

Keep in mind we had experienced multiple adventures before this point, but if you ask the kids what their highlight of the trip was? They’ll tell you it was Uncle’s house with the dogs.

We set out on a path that wound its way through the neighborhood and came out at a park. It was a hot August day, and while the kids ran to the playground equipment, I stayed under the shade of a gazebo.

I was tired, not from the walk, but from our trip. Quickly, I was coming to the end of my energy and I didn’t want to play with the kids or talk to the adults. Simply stated, I just wanted to be alone and recharge for a minute.

There were a few other kids already playing on the playground when we got there, and Little Man was doing his best to befriend each and every one of them. One of his tactics was to roar “like a dinosaur” directly in their faces.

I walked over to the jungle gym to tell him that wasn’t how we made friends, and he should stop roaring and just play. As I walked back to the gazebo, one of the other moms turned to me with a smile and said, “Aw, Mom, but I was having so much fun!” I laughed and said something awkward about people skills, and something within me whispered, “She’s a believer.”

I wasn’t sure what to do with that, so I ignored it, kept walking, and returned to the shade and shelter of the gazebo.

Eventually, it was her two boys and Little Man left on the playground. (Little Miss was lost in her own world with the dogs.) They ran over to one area of the playground where there were tunnels they could talk to each other through and Little Man yelled, “When I grow up, I’m gonna be big and strong!”

His new little playground friend replied by sweetly shouting into his end of the tunnel, “But you can never be as big and strong as God!”

I looked at the other Mom, she smiled and shrugged, and I made my way from the shade of the gazebo to the shade of the slide where she was sitting.

We chatted for a good 40 minutes. We talked about raising kids to know the Lord, family, work, country life, and city life. We talked about how she was 10 weeks pregnant with their third, and how she missed living in Michigan, and it was hard to be away from family, especially her sister.

We talked about so many things and were having a most enjoyable conversation, but soon it was time to head our separate ways and leave the playground.

I asked her if I could hug her (because I am a hugger but I know not everyone is; also, I’m straightforward socially awkward), and told her I would pray for her in her pregnancy in the coming weeks.

And I never even learned her name. Or got her email address. We just walked away.

Hubs teasingly asked, “Did you make a new friend on the playground?” and the kids ran ahead, each holding the leash of one of the dachshunds.

I was so glad to have met her and had such a rich conversation at the park that day, and I don’t believe it was a coincidence.

I had been on the road, away from home, away from my familiar people and surroundings, and I was getting tired. I was wearing down in a hurry on that return trip.

Right when I needed my own tank filled, the Lord plopped me on a playground at the same time this sweet young mother was there with her little boys, so He could fill me up through her.

It never ceases to amaze me, when “little” things happen that blatantly and boldly remind me how very loved we are. It might seem inconsequential that I met a friendly mom at a park in Colorado, but it was so much more than that.

Jesus is everywhere. Even on a playground, 885 miles from home.

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