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!
Winter groans like an old, achy house wanting to stretch but unsure how. Our spirits follow suit, longing for the newness of spring. Nostalgia nudging our souls, we count the days until the ground, thoroughly warmed by the sun, coaxes wildflowers out from their hibernation.
At the first hint of “petrichor” — that wet, earthy aroma of spring soil — my kids flock outside to investigate what winter’s melt reveals. What I see as brown, soggy aftermath they view as potential. They are eager to cake softened soil beneath their fingernails, to feel the thrill of working the earth whether by trowel, hands, toy trucks, or sneaker treads. It doesn’t take me long to follow their lead. And when I do, any bitterness of winter melts into spring’s whisper, which sounds a lot like contentment.
We recognize nature’s potential to shift perspective by spending time with our kids outside. The only groan we hear from creation’s song is one of longing for more of God, “…creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the freedom and glory of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time.”
Listening to nature’s groaning, which sounds a lot like an anthem, a change takes place in our souls — like hard earth thawing beneath an eager sun. Harsh conditions lean into spring perspective as we watch the birds returning and green shoots jutting up from chilly soil. Nature composes our souls. The one thing this swivel away from restless discontent requires is time spent outside.
Gathering my children around one afternoon, my husband and I explained our hike would be silent. Although the first few hundred yards required plenty of reminders and separating two kids who refused to subdue conversations, it was well worth the effort. For over a mile, we listened to the sounds of the wilderness. In whispers and pointed fingers, we directed attention to birds, plants, and animal trails. In walking quietly, we offer our souls a chance to breathe. This practice is sometimes best done with one child rather than many. It can also be turned into a game. Begin with a challenge to remain quiet “until we reach that next tree up there.” Tell your children, “Ok, we’re going to stay silent until we get to that bridge up there, and then each of you can share a sound you heard in the forest.”
Psalm 131:2 says, “I have composed and quieted my soul…” the AMP translation notes this word “composed” as meaning “freed from discontent.” Its Hebrew roots allude to “yielding.” Stepping outside distractions and away from discontent, we yield ourselves to God’s gifts in nature, allowing them to rearrange our desires and remind us of everything lovely, true, and worthwhile.
Allow your children to engage with nature at their pace and pleasure, and lessons will come independently. Find a creek, a pond, or an open space with trees to climb: something to inspire and guide their play. Children love encountering challenges, and nature provides ample opportunities to practice logical thinking and problem-solving skills. Maybe a creek needs to be dammed (only remember to have them disassemble the dam once finished.) Perhaps the rabbit in the brush could use a cozy log-stick home. Unlike walking quietly, this activity is often best done with friends. In collective imaginations, there is endless inspiration. I have watched my children spend entire afternoons building log forts in the forest with new friends they only met that day, creating river crossings with neighbor kids, or exploring boulder caves with hiking buddies.
What often brings discontentment in today’s age is an onslaught of media — relentless demands on our attention and exposure to everything we don’t have. Yet, in nature, we discover meaningful work that brings lasting gratitude.
We can reconnect the dots between creation and Creator outside with our children. It does not require a degree in biology or teaching certification. All it takes is time outdoors and a basic familiarity with nature narratives in Scripture and how Jesus used nature to teach. Then go on a walk with your child and practice naturally bringing these truths into your time outdoors. Begin with my free devotional: God of Wonders: 5 Lessons for Teaching Your Child Who God is and How He Loves Them
As your child begins seeing God’s activities in nature, they will be reassured of His presence and provisions. We can observe God’s great plans throughout everything He has made, and those great plans also extend to our lives.
Jesus was present at creation, taking part in everything made. Colossians 1:16 says, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.” Turning out attention to nature, we simultaneously turn our eyes to Jesus. As the hymn puts it so well:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus Look full in his wonderful face And the things of earth will grow strangely dim In the light of his glory and grace
Flipping over rocks in search of worms, scaling a tree at the park, wading through a cool creek, or watching clouds journey across the sky, we meet God amid His creation. Further, we learn how good He is at meeting our needs. As we do, distractions and discontent dissolve into fresh perspective and lasting contentment.
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!