The Art of Rough Housing

January 28, 2012

Playing For Our Future

(as paraphrased from the Ted Talk by Anthony DeBenedet)

“We’ve become more frightened of a skinned knee or a bruised feeling than life’s real dangers – apathy and stifled creativity.”

Play is really good for kids and adults. We know this.

When it comes to child development and perhaps adult happiness science is pretty clear – play can do it all!

That’s pretty amazing!

There are different kinds of play and all are really good for us – but there is one type of play that rises above the rest.

We’ve actually kept it silent because we’re afraid of it. We’re afraid it will create hyperactivity and chaos where actually is does everything in the opposite direction.

It’s rough and tumble, rowdy, physical, interactive play.

So what is it exactly? Well, anyone can do it and it’s what you think it is.

It’s pillow fighting, it’s playful wrestling, it’s also set and planned. It’s a flip or a twirl you’ve been working on or a physical challenge.

So why does rough housing stand out above other types of play?

It’s because when children are engaged with in this way they are given a triangle of benefits:

Intelligence, Creativity and Connection


When children are engaged in rough housing multiple parts of the brain are firing all at once. This is called simultaneous activation.

Why does this matter?

Because we know from neuroscience that when all parts are on at once – this is the way brains develop best.

Emotional Intelligence means being able to sense the emotions of others.

In rough housing there is a period of rev up and wind down. As children experience this they begin to manage and understand their own emotions.

Rough housing is all non-verbal communication. It’s eye-contact. It’s body language.

During this type of play children learn to sense what others are feeling. Then they translate that into the real world when they’re with others.


Rough and tumble play presents many opportunities to inject imaginary problems

“Lava is pouring in the window, what do we do?”

“Is that a herd of elephants I hear coming towards our tea party?”

In the midst of this play their creativity neurons start firing like mad, they’re becoming divergent thinkers, they’re creating their own boxes. They’re also becoming behaviorally flexible.

They’re realizing that there’s not one answer to every single problem.


This is the X Factor. This is everything.

Endorphins are released during rough housing, the same as when exercising – that make us feel happy. That’s part of building connection.

But there’s another chemical that’s released in massive quantities – it’s oxytocin.

Oxytocin is the cuddle chemical. It’s the biological basis of empathy. The physiological foundation of connection.

When rough housing with kids in a mindful and healthy way, oxytocin is released like no other. There’s nothing like it that brings out deep feelings of love, affection and connection.

When rough housing you are sending a strong message – to your own children and children everywhere.

The message is this:

“Your power is welcome here. This is a space where you can learn to be strong and confident and we will be more connected than ever before.”

And that’s playing for the future.


Tijuana Here we Come…!

January 26, 2012

Well, not really, but that got your attention right?

And we are headed to Tijuana…  Virtually!

For those of you following along on our journey right now, you might be aware of how absolutely insane it is right now. We are working dawn to dusk, cleaning, repairing, doing renovations, painting, trying to get our new home into a live-able condition. All by… Tuesday! Yikes!

Could things get any crazier… yes, they could!

In the midst of this we have a prior commitment made months ago to teach in University of the Nation’s Children at Risk School in Tijuana, Mexico. We are doing this over skype for two weeks straight.

In praying about it, we felt we needed to stick to our commitment and we know what an honor and privilege it is to be able to share with students of the children at risk school. We only wish we could be there in person, but we’re praying that it will go well over skype.

I just received this email from the school leader, Amanda Nino:

 Lisa and I prayed for you guys this morning and pray that these next few weeks wouldn’t be distracting from all that is going on in your lives, but rather, that the Lord would use it to remind you why you are committing your lives to do what you’re doing.

I pray God uses these teachings to fuel what you are doing instead of take away from it.  

Amen to that. I’m excited – new house, fresh paint, sharing our passion with students who have a heart to impact children at risk around the world.

Sometimes I think we’re the luckiest people in the world.


Saying Goodbye

January 25, 2012

“You’ve left footprints on our hearts, just like footprints in the sand.”

“No, not like footprints in the sand, because those can be washed away, you’ve left footprints in cement on our hearts.”

“Jaco needs more people like you.”

“You are so patient with us. Anyone else would have just kicked us out, but you always let us stay.”

“We never wanted to leave this place because we just wanted to spend more time with you.”

“We will be here waiting until you get back.”

Those are just a few of the things the kids of Jaco said to our intern, Aimee Griffin at her going away party last night.

This morning we drove her to the airport for a tearful goodbye. Aimee has been a huge blessing to our family, to the ministry here and to the whole community of Jaco.

Aimee’s plan is to go home, share about her time in Jaco and the needs here and return in April for a year. When she comes she will be our very first full-time staff member. Not an intern, an actual staff! Hoooray!

We love you, Aimee!

You’re Blessed

January 24, 2012

You’re blessed when you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.

You’re blessed when you feel you’ve lost what is most dear to you. Only then can you be embraced by the One most dear to you.

You’re blessed when you’re content with just who you are – no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.

You’re blessed when you’ve worked up a good appetite for God. He’s food and drink in the best meal you’ll ever eat.

You’re blessed when you care. At the moment of being ‘care-full,’ you find yourselves cared for.

You’re blessed when you get your inside world – your mind and heart – put right. Then you can see God in the outside world.

You’re blessed when you can show people how to cooperate instead of compete or fight. That’s when you discover who you really are, and your place in God’s family.

You’re blessed when your commitment to God provokes persecution. The persecution drives you even deeper into God’s kingdom.

Not only that – count yourselves blessed every time people put you down or throw you out or speak lies about you to discredit me. What it means is that the truth is too close for comfort and they are uncomfortable. You can be glad when that happens – give a cheer even! – for though they don’t like it, I do! And all heaven applauds. And know that you are in good company. My prophets and witnesses have always gotten into this kind of trouble.

~ Matthew 5, The Message

The Heavens Rejoice

January 15, 2012

Everything came full circle today. Look at this boy and his smile.

He just came to know Jesus Christ last Sunday and today at church received his first Bible.

My heart overflows, and I had goosebumps head to toe. Because this is exactly it. Exactly what we hoped and prayed would happen – is now happening! And it will continue – this is just the beginning.

We opened El Refugio, a safe haven for children, in April 2011. Since then we have been welcoming children everyday, getting to know them and their families and enjoying our afternoons together.

Then we started bringing a group of 7 children to church with us each week. That is the goal. To plug them in with the local church  – a body of Christ where they can grow and begin a true relationship with Jesus and then have encouragement in their new walk with the Lord.

The teacher of the Sunday school at Iglesia Radical is Paula, who is 15 years old. She came to know the Lord through the ministry of the church into her community, known as “the river.” She first was introduced to the Lord by the pastors of the church when she was 9 years old.

When we were in class today she asked me about the group of kids, “Do they always misbehave like this?” Yes, they do. She understood.

“I was just like them,” she said, “But I changed a lot.” She explained how her pastors reached out to her and showed her a different way to live. She encouraged me to keep doing what we’re doing and they will change, too.

Then, this precious girl led one of the boys to the Lord. She told him about her relationship with Jesus and asked if he wanted to know Jesus, too. He said yes and they prayed together.

Today after Sunday school the youth pastors surrounded him and prayed for him and I signed his first Bible and gave it to him from our family.

For those of you that are our prayer warriors, lift Esnider up today. Pray for hits new faith, that the seeds that have been planted will be watered and will grow, not snatched away.

And rejoice with us, too, because the all the heavens are rejoicing today!

Prayer Request

January 10, 2012

Just sending a quick shout out for prayer this morning.

If you’ve been following along on our journey, you probably recall that  one of the main things holding us back in taking this ministry to it’s full potential is the need for us to live on the property site where we work.

We’ve been trying to come up with ways to make this possible, trying to raise a huge amount of money for an extension. Well, this week we came up with a new plan that would get us onto the property immediately without having to raise money for an addition.

The decision whether or not this will happen takes place in a meeting tomorrow. Please pray for this meeting. Pray we can rent the property for a price that is within our range.

Thank you our praying friends! We’ll keep you posted!


January 10, 2012

Certain days pass where I think, I can’t let this day go by without sharing these stories.

For safety reasons I can’t share everything about what’s happening, except to say that we are uncovering the depths of the darkness here.

It is deep. Very deep. Like, I can’t sleep at night kind of deep. Ugly, sickening and scary.

But in the midst of all that are two shining lights – Yacser (12) and Cristian (14). Oh, these boys warm my heart.

We walked through their neighborhood today, passing out fliers describing what we do at La Ola. They rolled up their fliers into megaphones and shouted, “WE INVITE YOU! WE INVITE YOU!”

They handed out fliers at every door, proudly greeting their neighbors.

“If all these kids show up you guys are gonna have to help us!” I said. They smiled.

By the time we got back to La Ola the property was already filled with kids! Yacser and Cristian grabbed rakes and brooms and helped us quickly clean and set up.

We have a visiting artist here and pretty soon the back table was completely full of children painting and drawing.

Three moms showed up from the neighborhood who have never come before. They were delighted to see their children run up to show them their paintings and projects they worked on. The moms loved the program and said they would be back tomorrow.

Yacser and Cristian were the last to leave. They stayed and made sure every game piece, puzzle piece, paint brush and scrap of trash was picked up. They made sure the closet was in order and then grabbed brooms to sweep up.

“Let’s sweep tomorrow,” I said, exhausted. I was ready to go home.

“Ok,” the boys replied, “What time should we be here? We should probably come early.”


I could tell they really enjoyed helping out. They’ve been coming here for so long that they feel an ownership and investment into what goes on here. Now they had the chance to invite their whole neighborhood and welcome them in.

Well, Scott is painting the gate tomorrow in the morning, would you like to help? They nodded their heads eagerly and arranged a time to show up.