I awoke the other morning to the almost frantic chatter of birds outside my bedroom window. They are the earliest sign of spring. They are no longer sleeping, but are busy at work enjoying the full length of the day. All this fluster of activity in the bird world reminds me it is time to get outside myself. It is an invitation to explore all that the Creator has made.
We are nearing those long summer days that close with grass stained feet and shirts stained by fruit. In spring our whole family is itching to go camping, hiking, biking, fishing, kayaking, swimming or anything else we can do with our hands and feet outside. We are not rushed to build nests and feed baby chicks, but there is a different type of urgency. Ours is one of making space for each other and exploring together.
Many of us have something exciting planned for the summer. These exciting plans don’t often leave room for time to be an eyewitness to a blooming creation, feel the dirt under our toes, or spy the Milky Way from the glow of a campfire.
Many families have traded in sheer delight in God’s creation with crammed schedules. For my own family outdoor experiences have become a sanctuary. Setting aside time together outdoors allows us space to dream together. We can see how God is shaping each of us into a person more like Himself. We can marvel at all he has made and peer into each other’s eyes, thinking, “Isn’t He good.”
My childhood memories are crammed full with the myriad of places I explored outside. As a child, my family moved often. My memories of the actual houses we lived in are limited, but the memories of my outdoor world of adventure are vividly detailed and treasured. In one of my memories I can still run the trails through the woods that lay just across from my driveway. I can smell the loamy richness of the soil and hear the tinkle of the stream as I near it. I know the sharp turn to take down to my neighbor’s sheep pen. I can also picture the most cherished space, the fallen maple that I could jump on and balance up to the top. The most magical part was the sunlight streaming from the hole in the tree canopy where once this thriving maple stood tall. The golden light surrounded the maple and my legs couldn’t enter the woods without following the trail to this single spot. To me, it was the deepest part of the woods. It held treasures untold.
With children of my own I’m convinced that these intricate memories of adventuring outside have molded who I am today in some of the most profound ways. At the time I didn’t always see it was God whispering to me in those magical places, in that golden light. If my mother had done nothing but let me have free play and get as dirty as I wished (which she did) that alone would have provided awe and inspiration for a lifetime.
This inspiration as a child has translated into lavishing my children with opportunities to have adventures of their own. When given the space they will collect flowers or catch garter snakes. Our older boys have kayaked across a lake to fling themselves from a swing into aqua waters below. Building fires, setting up tents, waiting out thunderstorms, and sneaking past a black bear with her cubs have been stories they tell over and over again. Simply tracing a determined trail of ants has filled their minds with wonder.
If you are looking at your summer calendar and sizing up the possibilities, may I suggest a heavy dose of outdoor exploring? Schools, churches, and rec programs have endless lists of activities and week-long camps promising to dish up just what your child needs. My hope is you would consider a family hike or a weekend outside with nothing other than hitting the trail or trying to catch a fish. The research is out there showing that kids today are severely lacking the benefits that the outdoors alone can give. Too much time in the classroom, in front of screens, or doing guided activities is taking from our children the simple and profound pleasures God gives through finding animal tracks or collecting firewood. I’m certain that making the space to spend uninterrupted and unscheduled time with our kids outside is a healing salve for some of the biggest struggles we face with them.
From the edge of our backyard I can spy the outline of the Bridger Mountains. Their peaks are still covered with snow but soon they will be blanketed in wild flowers and teaming with life. I can point to spots that we have climbed to and with held breath have glimpsed Gods vast creation. We are eager to venture there again. The birds outside my window are reminding me that the peaks, though quiet for now, are readying themselves to be explored by us once more.
Featured image by freepik