Have you ever wondered why the sky is blue and why that specific color gives you a feeling of peace when you look at it? Have you ever wondered why the scent of a pine forest or the grass after rain brings calm and refreshing to your spirit? Is there some magical reason why the simple sound of a bird singing makes you feel happy inside?
My family and I once drove up to the top of Pikes Peak, the highest summit in the Rocky Mountains. Around 14,000 feet above sea level, we took in the breathtaking views of winding mountaintop lakes, rock formations, forests, and soaring mountains on all sides. The whole scene has been etched into our family’s collective memory, to be shared over and over.
Some years ago, a friend and I were on an overnight bus trip to another part of South Africa. We stowed our bags, connected our headphones, and braced ourselves for the long uncomfortable hours ahead. Before the journey began, I remember thinking I wish teleporters existed, and we didn’t have to waste all these hours just to get somewhere. Little did I suspect what was coming.
“If we can climb this mountain, there’s nothing we can’t overcome together!”
I remember my dad struggling to smile and look hopeful as he pointed toward a rocky mountain about 100 feet from the highway. I was 13, and my dad, my older brother, and I were driving through the scorching rocky deserts of Mexico back to the United States to take care of some business.
I’ve kept a journal of some kind since my preteen years. At the beginning of this year, I decided that I would not only record things of obvious significance when they occurred, but I would write at least a line or two every single day, whether or not anything apparently noteworthy took place. I’m happy to say I’m well on track to finish strong.
Another stressful, exhausting day was finally over. Frustration and fatigue hung heavily over me, a combination of hassles with my cranky computer, a gloomy sky with drizzles and chilling winds, the exasperation of burning the chicken for dinner—and a dozen other everyday annoyances.
After dinner with the burnt chicken, I set out for a nearby park. My mom often says that “nature can soothe ruffled nerves like nothing else can,” and I decided to put her advice to the test.
Living in a big city can take its toll on our spirits, minds, and bodies. The crowded conditions, the selfishness, the barrage of media, the stress of normal life, relationships, health, finances, family, friends, coworkers … it can all get to us if we do not take time daily to refresh our spirit with a good reading of God’s Word and prayer.
On one of those glorious spring days that make your heart sing, our family went on a day’s outing to Bodnant, a famous botanical garden in North Wales. We spent hours exploring 80 acres of lawns and terraces; bathing in a cascade of color and fragrance as we walked amongst the rhododendrons, tulips, and lilies; admiring the specimen trees lurching up to touch the blue sky, framed in the distance by the mountains of Snowdonia.
Walking along a narrow path in the tropical forest we often visit for a Sunday walk, under the radiant early-morning African sun, I notice a magnificent cactus and stop to take a closer look. The dark-green rubbery leaves are fat and oval and interspersed with large pointed thorns. In contrast to the feisty exterior, tender blooms emerge from the tips of some leaves. Shades of yellow and an intricate design make these lovely flowers dazzle. How like Jesus’ presence after a thorny stretch of life’s journey. Just like a flower appearing in the most unexpected circumstances, He reassures me of His love and care.1
I remember learning about the word “microcosm” when I was in fifth grade. As homework, our teacher handed each of us a 36-inch string and told us to make a circle on the ground. Then we were to look at everything within the circle, study it, and see what lived in our tiny world.
From then on I was fascinated with little worlds. I spent hours sitting in the grass creating environments for ants and little bugs. I made chairs out of leaves and gowns out of petals. I made tiny roads and houses out of twigs. But mostly I just watched.