In the simplicity of life, we find our greatest joy. This was never truer than last weekend.

As I’ve written, I built a swing set for Titus the Honorable and Cohen the Goodhearted not long ago. The problem is that they never want to go home. They love swinging, climbing and playing on our modest swing set. So their dad decided he was going to build them one in their own backyard. He worked for weeks, looking at ideas and plans. Then he took out a piece of paper and designed his own. He started building last week.

The boys’ father is a much more skilled carpenter than I am. Whereas the swing set I built came from a kit, he is building the Taj Mahal. Mine is eight feet high; his is 16 feet. It takes a lot of lumber to make something of this size. As he was cutting the boards, small pieces fell to the ground, and the little boys scrambled to gather them.

Sitting in the grass, Titus and Cohen started their own building project. Cohen was stacking boards upon boards. After they reached a certain height, he yelled, “Daddy! Look at me! I am building a house!” I loved seeing the joy he displayed as he took random scraps of lumber and built them into what he thought could be a home.

At the same time, Titus stacked three boards on top on each other, then took a longer one and laid it perpendicular to the rest. He told his brother, “Cohen, I made us a see-saw. You sit on one end, and I will take the other.” Laughing and giggling ensued as they went up and down, up and down. I didn’t know Titus even understood the principle of a fulcrum. All day long, they played with these scraps, using their imaginations and building whatever they wanted.

I love the joy that comes from simplicity. Titus and Cohen sat with a blank slate in front of them, to dream and build whatever they could build and dream. No instruction manual told them how to build; no diagram told them what to build. After all, why build someone else’s dream when you can build your own?

Yes, it was only two little boys and a handful of scrap boards, but this was coupled with the imagination of the Creator that had been instilled in them. Dreams do not have fences, walls or limitations; God gives us the freedom to dream outside the box.

Maybe that is why I am a dreamer. I grew up in rural, small-town America. We weren’t poor, but we had no extra cash. We didn’t have kits that told us we had to build something just like the picture on the box. In the simplicity, I could dream, using the imagination the Creator gave me. 

What happens when you finish building the picture on the box? You have to get a new box—and another box after that. Only in the simplicity can a house turn into a see-saw that turns into a fort.

Every year, I take students to the mission field, where there is no electricity, no running water, no cell phones, no internet, no Facebook and emails. They go through a withdrawal and detoxification process from the things they have held onto so tightly, only to discover that a greater joy comes in simplicity: seeing the smile on a child’s face as he waits for you to step out of your hut, standing on a river bank and seeing who can skip a rock the farthest or worshiping at night with the stars as your background.

Sometimes I think we give our children too much. Their toy boxes overflow with toys they don’t use. The more we give them, the less satisfied they are. A child who learns to lives with simplicity will be a child who can find joy in the dream.

I find it interesting that the author of Genesis wrote, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). The Hebrew word used for “created” is “bara.” This means God reaches into nothingness and created everything He dreamed of. He didn’t create from a box but from a blank slate, and out of His heart and mind, it became.

Only God can create out of nothingness, but our children can learn to create out of simplicity when they are in sync with the Creator.

Since Titus and Cohen’s father is building a bigger swing set, I have now hooked up a water misting system to the one in our backyard. The boys can swing up through a water mist or fight the spray as they climb the rock wall. And that, my friend, didn’t come in a box.