My husband and I were married for six years before we had kids. Much of the time leading up to that point was filled by late nights with friends, vacations on a whim, and the luxury of sleeping in. But, by far, our most coveted pastime was eating at new restaurants. We absolutely love food and in the days before children, we thought nothing of indulging at pricey places for hours on end. There was only ever one part of our dining experience that became an annoyance…observing parents, deep in conversation, while their children played on an iPad. I mean, what kind of person can’t parent enough to make it through one dinner without an iPad?! Our conversation always went the same way, “when we have kids, there will be absolutely NO screen time! Not at the table or anywhere else. The screen will NOT be a babysitter because we will actually be present parents.” Flash forward six years to us sitting at Cheesecake Factory while our boys watch Disney videos on my phone.
Since we both work from home, my husband and I do our best to balance quality time with our boys and making a living. Our boys are adventurous, but I’d be lying if I told you they always played outside and never watched a screen while we worked. I often get worried that they’re missing out on childhood experiences on the days where they watch, what is in my opinion, a little too much television. But then, my guilty conscience is renewed when we have an epic day outdoors doing nothing but having fun in good, clean dirt! However, even on those days, it seems, they always ask for screen time as soon as we’re home. I always wonder if technology disappeared today, would they have the wherewithal to fulfill a lifetime of boredom with what they could find outside?
In September, our Messy Church decided to get back to nature and host an entire Messy night at Shipley Nature Center. Located just down the street from our church, Shipley’s is a magnificent 18-acre fenced nature preserve where families can come to observe breathtaking trails, a fresh water stream, and over 50,000 California native plants. All of our activities were done using what God gave us in nature. Since it was in such a beautiful setting, we didn’t have nearly as many crafts as usual so people could walk in leisure while taking in the beauty surrounding them. I, however, watched in horror as our boys were part of a big group of kids working their way through the preserve at warp speed. They ran from one activity to the next so quickly that I dreaded the “I’m bored” comments that would surely come when they ran out of fun things to do on the trail. Yet, when we reached the last table, and I waited for the complaints, I witnessed what God had in store to ease my worry. My boys simply handed over their finished craft, turned around, and ran into the woods.
Taking the time to soak up God’s handcrafted nature
is a necessity we need in our lives.
After dropping off our finished work with our other belongings, I began to jog on a trail, taking in the beauty around me. It was an unusually serene couple of minutes as I usually have ear pods in and a podcast on when I run. I could hear the nearing laughter of my boys and their friends when I came to an opening in the trees. My boys, and two of their friends, were hauling a large branch to use in a fort, while one lead the way with a walking stick and the littlest one supervised in the back. Using what they could find along the trail, the four of them were happy as could be building a palace of their dreams with rocks, sticks, and dirt. Then, a sudden revelation came over me. If all technology disappeared today, they’d be fine. They’d be fine because everything these little guys need, everything any of us need, is here in what God has provided for us. It’s why what’s provided in nature seemed like the newest groundbreaking toys to our kids. It’s why I felt more refreshed after a silent two minute run than I do after a 45 minute one with headphones in. Taking the time to soak up God’s handcrafted nature is a necessity we need in our lives. We just can’t get too caught up in the “busying” things of life to miss the beauty of His work.