Ray and I have always lived near universities. Our current church is the first one we have been a part of during our entire marriage that has not had a ministry to college students. As our children were growing up, we always had friends who were in college. Because of that, our children were given many opportunities to be guinea pigs–under our watchful supervision.
When John was very little, a college student took a series of black and white photos of him. She must have developed them in a darkroom herself, because she gave me several 8 x 10s, which I treasure. One time an education student made a big set of wooden blocks for a class project and gave them to us. John got so many hours of creative fun out of those spray-painted squares, rectangles, circles, and triangles in black, dark green, and dark blue.
When John, Bethany, and Mary Evelyn were teenagers, a friend working on his doctorate tested their IQs.
One of our guinea pig experiences was not a college course at all, but a 4-H project. The daughter of close friends was working on child care for 4-H and chose Bethany as her project. One of the projects Janay made for Bethany was a box of dress-up clothes. We have added to the collection again and again over the many years since. That seed of an idea gave our children many opportunities for creative play. The tradition continues with our grandchildren.
Last year I made costumes for the grandchildren to use to act out the birth of Jesus. I went to my fabric stash. I cut one rectangle of brown fabric and one of blue. In each of these, I cut a hole and a slit in the middle. I left the edges raw. Henry was Joseph and wore the brown costume with a piece of brown webbing for a belt. Clara was Mary, and she wore the blue one with a belt of white cord (by the way, I think children should be supervised with long thin things that we don’t want to get wrapped around their necks!). I sewed the corners of two white hand towels together for Eva, so she could be a sheep. Wesley was very little at the time and didn’t need a costume to play baby Jesus. We just sat him in a big oval basket.
A few weeks ago Clara remembered the time she acted out baby Jesus with her brother and cousins and wanted to do it again with Notty and Little. We had to do it in the exact same spot in the living room where we had done it so many months before. I was glad that I had come across the costumes a short time before and could go right to them in our costume closet (our costume stash outgrew that box a long time ago).
Those costumes have stayed downstairs ever since and we have used them again and again. The other night Clara wanted to act out the story about baby Jesus again. This time she wanted me to be Mary and told me, “I want to Mary you up.” I was puzzled for a moment, but soon figured out that Clara has picked up on our American practice of turning nouns into verbs. She soon demonstrated what “Marying me up” meant. She pulled the little blue costume made for a two year old over my head (it looked more like a 1980s collar on me), put the white belt around me (it went around me and tied, but barely), and then fixed my hair for the play (I was quite a sight)!
Many years ago Janay did a good deed for Bethany. She made a costume box. The fun from that seed has increased a hundred fold.
And He said, “How shall we picture the kingdom of God,
or by what parable shall we present it?
It is like a mustard seed, which, when sown upon the soil,
though it is smaller than all the seeds that are upon the soil,
yet when it is sown, it grows up
and becomes larger than all the garden plants and forms large branches;
so that the birds of the air can nest under its shade.”