The Power of Imagination


James was pretty stunned on Christmas morning when he pulled the sheet off his present (which of course we spent three hours assembling Christmas Eve!).

One of my two-year-old grandsons (now two-and-a-half) has a play kitchen that is very cool. If I had had one when I was little, I would have loved it as much as he loves his.

Sometimes it seems like we all lack imagination when it comes to solving small and big problems in the world.

As soon as he could walk and play, he was fascinated with watching Mommy or his grandmas cook. He begged to be held up where he could see, or donned potholders and improvised with pots and pans to mimic Mommy. (The division of house chores in their home includes Daddy specializing in cleaning and Mommy focusing on cooking, with both helping each other out as the occasion merits.)

Both Grandmas love to indulge the little boy’s love for his play kitchen and shower him with the latest gadgets in toy miniature–sized items they find in stores or online. This boy’s favorite section of a department store is not toys or stuffed animals, but yes, the kitchen department. He wants to see the mixers, blenders, and huge, brightly colored red or blue pots and utensils. He gazes in wonderment.

One day he was play-cooking breakfast and wanted to stir up pancakes like his mommy. “I need a mixer,” he stated plainly. His mother said to herself, Oh wouldn’t that be fun for him to have; I’m sure one of his grandmas would be happy to oblige. But she also said to herself, What two-year-old needs a fancy lifelike mixer?

“Well, I’m sorry you don’t have one,” she empathized with dear James. “Do you think you can use your imagination?”

James thought a bit, then picked up a little play box of fruit snacks among his many kitchen items. “This is a mixer,” he announced.

And indeed it was. In the mind and play of a two-year-old, a small box can become a kitchen mixer; an old car seat box a marvelous hiding place for both Daddy and son, and much more.

I was proud of my daughter for encouraging the use of imagination in her son, and that he already had some concept of the word and what it meant.


Sometimes it seems as though we all lack imagination when it comes to solving small and big problems in the world.

One of my favorite vows that those assuming the office of elder in my church respond to is a statement asking, “Will you seek to serve the people with energy, intelligence, imagination, and love?” That line frequently brings a smile and a brightening of the eyes to those taking the vows. Someone had some imagination when they came up with that particular wording.

In July, the Juno probe reached Jupiter after a five-year journey. The event made me recall several months ago when my husband and I watched The Martian, a movie about a biologist accidentally left on Mars. My head immediately went to real-life scientific exploration and experienced a little of the wow, thinking: The world has put a piece of technology from earth on far-off Jupiter! What did it take (besides way too much money, maybe, and years and decades of work)? Imagination. Someone or a bunch of someones said, “Can we do this?” And did it.

Imagine it. The bestselling More-with-Less Cookbook was born out of people asking how to respond to the world energy and food crisis in the early 1970s. Doris Janzen Longacre recalled how in Mennonite communities across North America in those years, she witnessed a kind of “holy frustration” where people were asking, “We want to use less, but how do we begin? How do we help each other in our affluent society?” From those ideas and stirrings, Doris began to formulate the idea of compiling a cookbook offering ways to eat less meat and more healthily. It became not only a bestseller, but—even better—a movement that still goes strong, perhaps even stronger today as many, many people approach cooking and foods from this perspective. The book celebrates 40 years this fall with a new 40th anniversary edition due out September 27.

What have you imagined? Have any of your dreams and hopes come to pass? What do you dream for the future? I would love to hear from you in the comment section for this column online,, or by email or postal mail below.

I’m glad God gave us creative imaginations along with our bodies and spirits.


Write to me at or Another Way, 1251 Virginia Avenue, Harrisonburg, VA 22802.