Friday, March 19, 2010

Glory in the Sticks

But ask the animals, and they will teach you,
or the birds of the air, and they will tell you;
or speak to the earth, and it will teach you,
or let the fish of the sea inform you.
Which of all these does not know
that the hand of the LORD has done this?

Job 12:7-9

This afternoon was an amazing 70 degrees outside, and it was the perfect day for an adventure in our yard. With Lydia in the Ergo, and the boys dressed in their boots, we set out to explore the woods beside our house.

Believe it or not, in the 15 months that we have owned this home, I have never been to that part of our property…and our land is less than an acre! Our side yard is a wooded corner lot, providing just a taste of forest wonders before one meets the road, and until today I never had the simultaneous time, desire, and appropriate weather to investigate it. Today, after a brief lesson on the proper method of carrying a walking stick (so as not to impale one's brother), our first stop was by the edge of the large ditch that still held water from last weekend’s heavy rains. The boys thought it was the perfect spot to go fishing.

They found a “cuttlefish” plastic soda bottle and some “jellyfish” made of pine needle muck. Watching them play at the water’s edge reminded me of my own childhood, when I would explore the woods behind our house, making up all kinds of stories in my imagination as I crossed brooks, gathered sticks, and played beneath spruce trees. When they were done fishing, we investigated some fallen trees – and even a fallen telephone pole – and gathered some nice dry sticks for Daddy to burn in our next campfire. On our way back towards the front yard, we discovered a completely isolated evergreen; amidst young and old pines, and a few maples, was a random Christmas tree!

Before heading inside, we spent some time in our little strip of front yard (the only place where we have anything that resembles grass). I let Lydia loose on the dead grass, and she was both serious and delighted with her first real outdoor encounter.

We saw the mail carrier deliver our mail, and a few neighbors visiting their mailboxes, including Mrs. K., an older lady who lives across the street. In our brief conversation about the beautiful day and how busy I must be with three children, she commented that it’s nice I can be home with them. Watching my baby girl pluck fistfuls of grass and sneak a taste of tree bark, while my boys entertain themselves by banging sticks against the maple tree, I could not agree more.

I am so privileged to have this job of teaching little ones about the world God made for us, witnessing their wonder and delight, and striving to answer their many questions. I am consumed by the great responsibility that their words, their actions, and their attitudes will be shaped by mine. And I realize that my life must be characterized by constant prayer, both in praise for God’s blessings, and in seeking wisdom for the many decisions to be made each day.

I don’t like bugs or dirt or neglecting chores that need to be completed, so I do not often look forward to taking the children outside. But once we are out there, basking in the waning sunshine, I realize how much I love it. There is something so peaceful and simple about interacting with nature, something that no human-created environment can duplicate. In the style of Charlotte Mason, I have a sense that these outdoor adventures are as much a part of the children’s education as any formal lesson. Any inconvenience of getting outside is forgotten when I realize how worthwhile it is to be there.

Raising children is a backyard adventure. There are trails to blaze, hills to climb, and mud puddles to wade through. It takes time away from other activities that we may prefer, but with the right attitude, we find it rewarding. It may not have the glamorous sound of other professions, any more than exploring our yard sounds like swimming the English Channel or hiking through Yellowstone. It is full of things that seem commonplace on the surface: sticks and stones and trees; crawling and reading and baths and laundry. Yet when we take a few moments to examine the pattern of a leaf, to feel the texture of grass or a smooth stone, to discover the brilliant color of a wildflower, we realize that God’s glory is revealed right here in the small things. I may not be feeding orphans in the streets of India or preaching the Gospel to African tribes, but I am here in the yard, doing the work God gave me, and seeing His glory in the sticks and stones and smiles.

Thank you Lord, for blessing me with three willing explorers, and for Your faithful guidance as I help them discover the world.

1 comment:

  1. I agree. spending my days teaching my girls is so incredible! I'm so thankful for the ability to be with them every day. sounds like you and your little ones had a GREAT day exploring! we went on a walk today too but it was still a bit windy and the girls were cold. soon though... :)