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!
Six boys make their way upriver — three of my own along with three nephews. My daughter trails after them, not ever far behind. No clock hastens their steps. They explore at the pace of their own curiosity. Measured steps carry them rock to rock, isle to isle until, toes wet, they abandon all effort to sidestep pools. They give themselves entirely to the cold current.
In two months, this river will teem with life. My gaze won’t know where to land. Hemmed in red rock cliff and the lake, this winding river will be flush with color. This funneling of space routes life, makes things grow as I’ll never know how to. Dozens of species of traveling warblers will dress the trees. Tiny legs will carry them up and down limbs searching for fuel for the next stretch of their journey. Today’s deserted nests will fill with Blue Jay eggs. Orioles will weave hanging homes from the branches of cottonwoods canopying the river.
Today the river’s activity centers around those seven children. Looking carefully, we can spot winter life. A mink skips across the dam. A pair of kingfishers eye the waters from top branches, darting in zig-zag patterns upriver in search of lunch. Chickadees enjoy their hard-earned, winter-enduring rewards of a quiet forest. Fellow winged friends who left in the fall enjoy the tropics while the chickadees hunker down. These tiny birds are familiar with a low octave of the woods that few other birds know. They put up with my boys’ laughter echoing off their quiet trees.
The river pulses with activity, a vein of life etched through our planet, branching with its tributaries to reach more, grow more, support more. It’s as if God, staring at the earth, pulled out a highlighter and sketched up the landscape, as if exclaiming, “Life grows here.” The boundaries of the waters hem in an ecosystem designed to thrive.
We see it in Psalm 104, this carving out of life-giving boundaries. After establishing the earth’s foundations, God “covered it with the deep as with a garment; the waters were standing above the mountains. At Your rebuke they fled, at the sound of Your thunder they hurried away. The mountains rose; the valleys sank down to the place which You established for them. You set a boundary that they may not pass over … He sends forth springs in the valleys; they flow between the mountains they give drink to every beast of the field; the wild donkeys quench their thirst. Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell; they lift up their voices among the branches. He waters the mountains from His upper chambers; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of His works.”
The kingfishers call to one another as they crisscross above our heads. An echo of the Psalm, they lift up their voices from the branches. Eagles cry from the cliffs. Tiny purple petals of the common stork’s-bill stretch from their buds after a hard fight from the soil. The groundcover flower is a feast for our eyes after a long winter. Yes.. the earth is satisfied with the fruit of His works.
I watch those seven children. They slow at every whirling pool where water wraps itself around the rocks. The children look free within the bounds of this river. Without these boundaries, it all falls apart. We’ve seen it a few miles south, where former sand and gravel pits created unnaturally steep riverbanks. Spring’s generous ice melt from the mountains could no longer flow into nearby ponds. Shallow habitat creatures died or left. Today, after a decade of restoration work, the ponds are rimmed in native plants. Birds are returning. Tall sedge grasses hem the waters, returning to their namesake as “swamp dwellers.” At last, they’re willing to dwell here once more. As restoration efforts leveled the water’s boundaries back to their natural height, water carried life back to these spaces. Here, borders do not confine — they liberate. They support. They make space for life.
King David knew well the essential nature of God’s boundary lines. Rather than chafing against limits, He saw how God’s designs bring guidance, peace, protection, and life. In Psalm 16, he states,
“The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places; surely I have a delightful inheritance. I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me. I keep my eyes always on the Lord. With Him at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure.”
Cottonwood trees hug the river’s edge, their roots winding deep into the soil. Their buds are beginning to unfurl. After today’s catch is caught, the kingfishers will return to their burrow nests six feet deep in the bank. They know well the protection of this river’s boundary. I pray my children will also — that as they wind their way from bank to bank, stick sword-fighting and minds wandering everywhere and nowhere, they’ll glimpse the edge of these waters and know: the One who wound this river has a magnificent design for their lives, too.
I pray they won’t, as the gravel loaders did, attempt to reconstruct those lines and, in doing so, suffocate the life they support. I pray they will trust the One who carved these ribbons, shaped the caverns, poured the water, and funneled it all to bring life, protect life, support life. I pray as they gaze at these trees, tracing their branches until they spot a kingfisher or chickadee staring back, that they’ll embrace boundaries as eagerly as these cottonwoods do, that they’ll be, as Psalm 1 invites, “like a tree firmly planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in its season and its leaf does not wither; and in whatever he does, he prospers.”
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!