“Thou wilt shew me the path of life: in thy presence is fulness of joy; at thy right hand there are pleasures for evermore” Psalm 16:11
I recently took three children, aged 5-8, on a hike in a nature preserve. Some may think I was a little crazy, but I found it to be absolutely delightful! We stopped and counted the rings on an old tree stump to figure out how many birthdays the tree had celebrated. We observed holes in the ground, imagining what animals might live there: maybe a groundhog or a small dinosaur. We found a rock quarry and climbed up on the rocks, shouting with glee as if we had conquered a giant. We lunched on a rock slab, devouring peanut butter and jelly sandwiches while popping juicy grapes in our mouth. On the way home we found an old railroad boxcar. I shared with the kids a dream I have of restoring a boxcar into a playhouse, a place for escapades with my grandchildren. It was an exhausting morning filled with magic and adventure!
All too often, we adults lose this sense of magic. I am not talking about hocus-pocus magic. I am speaking about wonder, curiosity and joy! We get caught up in the busyness of life, and forget to pause. We let stressors take precedence, or a list of tasks rule our lives. We start our morning with a mindset of what needs to get done, and at the end of the day fall into bed exhausted, feeling guilty about tasks left uncompleted. We often say things like, “if only I could catch up and then I could relax.” Even our ways of relaxing leave our minds numb: things like binge-watching TV shows, scrolling through our Facebook feed, or browsing Pinterest. We forget to belly laugh, to enjoy doing nothing and to find pleasure in simple things.
Wonder, as defined in the dictionary, is a feeling of surprise mingled with admiration caused by something beautiful, unexpected, unfamiliar or inexplicable. By its very definition we can’t find wonder if we are always busy. One of the reasons I love to hike with my husband is that we often pause to listen to the birds or the rushing water of a creek, watch a turtle creep across the trail, and admire the moss carpeting our path. We have a destination in mind, but we are not afraid to stop and enjoy the beauty around us. Yes, we have an endless list of tasks that could be completed on a Saturday morning, but hiking restores and refreshes us. Often, we return from hikes energized and more productive than if we had not gone. Ultimately, it makes time for us to enjoy God’s gift of beauty in the form of nature.
One of my favorite children’s books is the series about “Curious George”. I love the crazy antics that George, a little monkey, embarks on solely from being a tad bit too curious. Curiosity is defined as a strong desire to know or learn something. When my children were little, I saw a sign on a local children’s museum stating that the average toddler asks about 300 questions a day. I always chuckled because my son typically used up that quota before lunch! Upon reflection, my children’s curiosity awakened my narrow-minded adult thinking. I researched carnivorous plants, laughed at the battles between the frigate bird and the blue-footed booby, and learned to speak like a pirate. I continue to be inquisitive, diving into books about the Appalachian Trail and the hunt for the extinct Imperial Woodpecker, exploring museums and listening to people’s stories. I had the privilege of sitting next to a blind woman on an airplane. She was embarking on a skiing trip! It was amazing to hear about her adventures skiing while blind. Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Great minds talk about ideas, average minds talk about events, and small minds talk about people.” When you cultivate your curiosity, it’s easy to focus on ideas because you are filling your mind with answers, concepts and, ultimately, more questions.
Joy is something that comes easy in my life. Those that are around me for any length of time have heard me say, “This makes me happy!” I use this statement for a myriad of situations, objects and people, such as eating a Caprese Salad with colorful heirloom tomatoes, reading on my patio surrounded by flowers and herbs, playing Monopoly with my family, week-long visits with friends, or finding the perfect coffee mug that sparks a smile in my morning. I love to surround my home with things that are delightful and whimsical. Instead of an expensive vase, I have a yellow gnome gracing my floating shelf. I try to capture joyful moments in my life by setting reasonable expectations and remaining grateful.
I want to end this blog by sharing a list of things in the last few weeks that have sparked wonder, joy and curiosity in my life. They is not in order of importance, but rather the top things that have provided levity in my life and delighted me.
- Making a fruity yogurt popsicle in my new molds
- Watching a group of neighborhood children climb our maple tree
- Discovering a blue gingham pattern inside a “Bath and Body Works” package
- Watching a pair of mallard ducks nap under my blackberry bush
- Adding books from new authors to the Goodreads App on my phone
- Listening to new friends share their love story
- Folding my son’s newborn frog outfit as I prepare to pass it on to my grandson
- Completing a bike ride that had defeated me last year
- Listening to a five-year-old yell, “That’s epic!” while riding his bike
- Watching the peonies unfold their blossoms in my yard
- Focusing on a few scriptures during devotions that demonstrated the compassion of Jesus
- Rereading the classic “Winnie-the-Pooh” with my husband who has never read the book
None of these things are life-changing moments, but they are life-defining moments. They won’t alter the course of my life, but they can alter my attitude. They are small moments, or memories, that I can point back to when life is rough, to remind myself of the goodness of God. I love what it says in James 1:17; “Every good and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights.” Just like I can’t wait to shower my new grandson with gifts that provide joy in his life, God is constantly showering me with gifts in my life! I just need to step out of my busyness and look for them. So tonight, instead of browsing Pinterest, I am planning to giggle while reading about Pooh and Piglet!