Our sons don’t always look forward to our hikes. I am not delusional. I live in the real world. I know that sometimes (okay most of the time) they would rather be watching You Tube videos or building with Legos. Or gaming with their friends or sleeping or honestly doing just about anything other than trudging over hill and dale with their hippy dippy tree hugging parents. We are not the Von Trapp family from “The Sound of Music.” (We never ever wear matching outfits nor do we sing while hiking!)
I get it. I really and truly do. Because sometimes I make ME go for a hike when I would rather be sitting on the couch knitting while reading a good book. After all – if I am sitting still for more than 30 seconds you can bet that I am knitting and reading or at the very least thinking about reading and knitting . . .
But the thing is – there are solid reasons for these hikes. (Other than tormenting our beloved sons on a Saturday morning and again on a Sunday afternoon which is always super- duper fun!) These hikes are really and truly good for us. And I don’t just mean the family bonding stuff (which is awesome)!
One of the neatest books I have read in years is called “The Nature Fix: Why Nature
Makes Us Happier, Healthier, and More Creative.” The subtitle more of less summarizes the whole book. It is all about our need to be outside and surrounded by God’s creation, because human beings feel a whole lot better when we spend time outside. Science shows that when we get up off the couch and step away from our electronics and head outside into the great outdoors – we are healthier and happier and much more creative. And the greener the space the better. So the McFarlands head outside every single day, and we head to the woods as often as we are able to. After all – who doesn’t want to be happier – healthier and more creative? I know that I sure would love to be all three! (On Sunday going for a hike even helped with my stupid migraine . . .)
I know that I have been accused of being an evangelist for both Jesus and hiking/nature. And I am absolutely cool with that. After all – God made all of this lovely nature and called it good!
Jason and I are both especially adamant about our family’s daily exercise/weekend hiking routine right now during this incredibly stressful time in our lives. These are anxious – frightening times. We can’t change that (oh – how I wish we could). But we can share with our sons the blessing of God’s glorious creation. We can remind them that they aren’t alone in this time. We can help them see reminders of God’s presence in our lives.
And so bright and early Saturday morning before the threatened rain arrived – the McFarlands were off to the woods for a brisk hike and then some promised playtime in/near the river.
As usual – Jason and I were more pleased about the initial launch of our hike, but we are always realistic about our hiking companions. Again – we don’t expect our sons to thank us for dragging them away from their electronics. But when we were only about half way up the first big hill and Will stopped dead in his tracks and sat down I have to admit I was a bit surprised. The hill is a bit steep, but Will is a pretty good hiker and he has gone much – much further without too much complaining. Will has actually run up this very hill before while chasing Jack. “Oh great-” I thought to myself “it is going to be one of those days . . .”
But no I was wrong. (There is a first time for everything!) Will was having a God sighting moment. Will had noticed a teeny-tiny snail on the trail, and had stopped to take a look.
So Will and I stopped what we were doing. We pushed the pause button on our lives. And we sat right down on the side of the trail and enjoyed God’s glorious creation for a few minutes. We soaked in just how amazing that little snail was. How perfectly – perfect. We talked about the swirl of its shell. We talked about how tiny it was.
We talked about how if he hadn’t been using his “looking and thinking eyes” he would have missed it.
We talked about how it reminded him of all of the leaf cutter ants we saw in Mexico. Those were seriously cool! Will and I spent hours watching leaf cutter ants at work during our sabbatical in Mexico.
We took some time just to take in the amazing – awesomeness that is a teeny-tiny snail. A snail that most of us would have walked right by and never even seen. And you know what – it was really cool. It was beautiful. It was amazing. Then Will carefully found a home for his snail in the tall grass were it could live safely and we hopped up to resume our hike with new eyes.
The thing is when we set off on one of our family hikes – I never know what is going to happen. What we are going to see. What I am going to learn. What we are going to chat about (or if we are going to annoy each other to distraction). But I always – always come home glad I got off the couch and headed outside. I never regret heading into God’s creation for a few hours. Nature is very healing for my soul.
This time Will reminded me to look for God’s presence in the small stuff. That God is everywhere – all of the time. We just need to open our hearts and our eyes. We need to look – to listen – and to be willing to see and to hear.
I encourage you to spend some time today looking and listening. Where do you see God? Where is God making his presence known in your life? God promises us he is with us always. We can cling to that promise.
“Be strong and bold; have no fear or dread of them, because it is the Lord your God who goes with you; he will not fail you or forsake you.” – Deuteronomy 31:6
You are all in your pastor’s heart, thoughts, and prayers.
In Christ and with Love –