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!
A thick, obscuring fog had settled over Yosemite. It should have been unsettling, but it wouldn’t deter him. His mind was set on the summit, and his legs ached within the tent to get going, to put miles behind him.
My legs ached also, under the weight of my toddler daughter strapped into the hiking pack on my back. The good kind of ache – one that tells of moments and miles on the trail. My husband hiked up ahead, our three boys sandwiched between us. This was one of those trails where we bookend them. It’s cougar territory.
With only a pocket full of peanuts, he made his way to the trailhead. The path was well used in the summer, but today was a cold and silent mid-December morning. The only person he met along the way was a park ranger. The ranger warned him that it was not the best of conditions to climb the mountain. Sure enough, as he ascended the hill, the clouds did not break, they only grew heavier.
“I’m watching them.”
My husband had caught my nervous upward glance. Dark clouds were pressing in on two sides.
“I’ll let you know when we should turn back,” He assured me.
Drizzle turned to rain, and then gave way to snow. In the silence, he began making emergency plans in his mind. But was it already too late for an emergency plan? As his legs began to weaken beneath him, he noticed footprints in the trail. They were fresh. His mind was growing hazy, but he had enough whits about him to realize these were not a man’s print. A bear was circling.
“Boys, what do you feel right now?”
My husband paused our crew. The boys stopped their bounding and listened carefully. Everyone was still.
“It’s cold, do you feel that? Zeke,” he turned to our oldest, nearing eight-years, “what do you think?”
Weeks before we stood on a different mountain, lightning to the west. All three boys huddled close to the ground as my husband explained to them the steps to staying safe in a lightning storm. He explained how electricity travels, and what a cold front means. He had them throw dust in the air to see which way the storm was traveling. Today was their opportunity to put into practice what they learned that day.
“I think we should turn back,” Zeke said confidently.
With that we began retracing our steps, this time with more haste than our original pace of leisurely exploration.
At last, with little life left within him, he collapsed at the door of a cabin atop the mountain. The gentleman warming it was surprised to find the young man at his door. He hurried him inside, where he would tend to him and bring him safely back down the mountain the next day.
Three minutes after we made it back to the trailhead, we huddled underneath the open back hatch of our SUV, watching hail cascade down around the trail we had just come from. Sun eclipsed the dark clouds, a stunning contrast of weather and light. Thunder growled, hummingbirds zipped by with the songs of their wings.
As Nate Saint settled back into his tent at the bottom of the mountain, he thought about “how closely he’d come to dying from cold and exposure! And it had happened because he’d been foolhardy. He had taken an unacceptable risk.”
A month before our stormy hike, my boys sat huddled around me as I read them the story of Nate Saint, his foolhardy hike, and the call God had on his life for so much more. I watched the concentration etched across the face of my oldest son. He’s coming into an age where he realizes life is about more than only him – there is passion and purpose and calling behind his days.
This is one reason we brought our children here to this wild land – to help them see beyond themselves, to glimpse a grander narrative that they get to play an important role in. And equally important, to learn how to safely navigate the risk all around them. To train them in identifying red flags, and knowing when to turn back. We want them to take risks in life, just as they’ve seen their Daddy and me do – but to measure and weigh those risks. To turn a decision, an opportunity, a thrill over and over in their minds until it’s well polished with integrity and wisdom.
Whether in hiking, time management, school, career choices, marriage, or any other crossroads they might stand at one day, we want them to be well familiar with choosing a wise path, and to hold firm to Proverbs 4:25-26,
“Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.”
Our strategy has been far from perfect, but God always meets us in the gaps of parenthood, and He’s working in our children in ways we could never orchestrate. Here are three ways we’ve sought to teach our children to know when to turn back on a plan:
Identify the red flags. Is there anything that is making you feel uneasy? Is there a danger you did not anticipate or prepare for? Do you need to stop, retrace steps, or try this again in the future when you are better prepared?
Be transparent. We’ve been vulnerable with our kids about decisions and plans that we have made in the past that were a mistake. In an age-appropriate manner, we can talk with them about the details of our plans, what the decision process looked like (or didn’t look like), where a plan went wrong, and what we learned from it.
Let them practice. Just like on the trail that day, we try to give our kids opportunities to make decisions. It begins small, with what direction to take on a trail, to how we might spend an afternoon, to whether we take a toad home from the pond, or leave him in his natural habitat. Through these smaller decisions, we help them think through a choice from beginning to end, and the possible outcomes it might bring.
Most of all, we pray. As parents we ask God to do what only He can do, and trust that on that day when we are not there to help our kids with their decisions, that He will bring to their mind and heart exactly what they need to know.
“For He guards the course of the just and protects the way of his faithful ones.
Then you will understand what is right and just and fair—every good path. For wisdom will enter your heart, and knowledge will be pleasant to your soul.
Discretion will protect you, and understanding will guard you.”
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!