936 Pennies: Discovering the Joy of Intentional Parenting
Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!
Bending low to the earth, she tosses aside one dandelion to make room for another in her palm. The flowers act as her only guide as she meanders through the meadow. It dawns on me that she has yet to voice a protest or raise her arms to be carried since entering the wilderness two miles ago. Instead, dutifully and determined, she follows after her three brothers. Although these days, it’s often her in the lead.
Not every family hike preceding this has been flavored with such serenity. I recall one venture in particular with her strapped to my back, wailing. We desperately nursed our last bag of fruit snacks. Warmed and gooey from the sun, we squished them into halves, doling her a piece every few strides to subdue her great and loud displeasure.
These hikes dot our family’s story. Just like the hills themselves, there have been highs and lows. On our first family hike in Colorado seven years ago, my husband and I arrived at the trailhead and hoisted our then two boys onto our backs. We set off on a climb far outside our abilities or lung capacity. Yet along that trail, it hit me — we need this. I was breathless and hooked.
We understood the more hours we spend outdoors as a family, the deeper our kids will understand our Creator God. Family hikes have become a primary way of deepening our kids’ faith, as set forth in Romans 1:20, “For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, being understood by what has been made, so that they are without excuse.”
We ached for these hikes to punctuate our family’s days, and for that, we have fought hard. We’ve pressed through many less-than-dreamy outings, made mistakes in our preparations, and clung to final strands of patience to make it the last mile. In doing so, we’ve learned a few things about making our family hikes more successful. We’ve also discovered a sweet offset — that the balances are bent in our favor. The more we hike, the greater the hiking becomes. Occasional disappointments are far outweighed by ever-increasing days spent amongst the wildflowers. We give no mind to the mile markers anymore, only to the memories.
Rather than trying to make a certain distance, we wander along as we play in the woods. With toddlers, we went from a carrying pack, to them walking flat sections, to them running ahead of us. We let the kids stop and play at creeks, but not always. Sometimes their requests are answered with, “Let’s hike a bit farther, then we’ll stop to play.” Nowadays, by the time we return to the trailhead, we’re surprised to look at our mileage for the first time and find we hiked further than we thought. As kids (and adults) practice simply enjoying time in the woods, distance becomes a lesser factor in a grander agenda.
Early in our family hike days, many adventures were underscored by a treasure hunt as we went about Geocaching. We’ve also incorporated fun challenges like counting creek crossings, or bringing books from the library, and identifying local birds, flowers, and insects.
Our kids lose track of time, distance, and even sore muscles when they’re excited about the river crossing, bridge, waterfall, stream, or climbing rocks up ahead. We enjoy winding trails with differing landscapes over straight routes where the endless path ahead feels daunting. Curiosity about what’s around the bend keeps little feet hiking on! Use an app like AllTrails to find great areas to adventure!
Nothing detours moods like mosquitoes without insect spray, harsh sun without sunscreen, or rain without rain jackets. After being turned around too many times by unexpected conditions, we’re learning that packing properly can add hours to our adventure. We pack plenty of water, a first aid kit, lightweight ponchos, insect spray and sunscreen, and more snacks than we think we’ll need (this one we often get wrong 😉 ). We bring jackets for higher elevations, even if the weather at home is warm and toasty. When the rain rolls in, being prepared has allowed us to hike on and enjoy a rarer experience of a wet, fragrant forest. One of our favorite hikes was on Christmas day. Snow moved in and began cascading down around us as we hiked through the mountains, prepared with cold-weather gear.
Watching my daughter wade through the stream in the wake of her brothers, I know that not all hikes will be this beautiful. But I know, so long as we keep hiking, that we’ll win. In a couple decades from now, they might look back and remember some rain, bug bites, and sore muscles. But far stronger will their memories be of days like this, following trout downstream as we clamber over beaver dams and count butterflies.
Raising kids stirs something deep in our souls — an innate knowing that our time is finite. Taking my kids outside in creation, I’m discovering how to stretch our time and pack it to the brim with meaning. God’s creativity provides the riches of resources for teaching the next generation who He is and how He loves us. Join our adventure and discover inspiration and resources for refusing rush, creating habits of rest, living intentionally, and making the most of this beautiful life!