The parking lot was brimming to overfull, only a few hundred feet from where the girls and I were playing in the Virgin River at Zion National Park. But from the place we were, all you could hear was the babbling of the river.
You’d never guess we were close to so many cars and people. We had paused and set up “day camp” by the river where we could arrive, enjoy, and soak it all in.
A long, long line extended beyond the shuttle area, curving around, beyond the restrooms, where everyone shuffled forward and waited dutifully to get somewhere else.
Even in our day outings, we can be rushing to see and do more!
We had stepped out of the line, found our spot, and slowed the pace to be present in the moment. As I sat on a rock in the middle of the river, I could hardly take in the thousand gifts of the moment.
There is an art to creating space for our souls to rest. It is something we must be intentional about. We are all in motion, constantly moving, waiting and working toward getting somewhere. But in all of this activity, are we ever arriving?
For people of any age, a day outing with a pause to enjoy one place is a great way to “arrive” and be present in this moment. Setting up “day camp” can be the destination itself, or an intentional pause between the other plans and places.
Some benefits of settling into one place a while:
- Rest for body, mind, and soul as we slow our pace. We can take a break from the usual work and stress, to-do lists, and distraction of daily life. Since I work at home as a homemaker and life coach, these outings are restful as I leave my to-do list behind!
- Soaking in God’s love. God’s nature is expressed in creation, which gives us the opportunity to connect with Him and remember who He is.
- Enjoying and noticing nature. Being still in nature allows our senses to notice the air, sounds, light, and details of nature we usually miss. Pause to gaze and take it all in.
- Space to be curious and learn and explore. This is as much true for me as it is for my girls! It provides terrific way for children to learn about nature and express creative play. We have been fascinated by discovering clay in the bank of the Virgin River and watching nine-inch fish swim.
- Create memories and build relationships. Shared experiences and memories grow our relationships. They create common ground and moments for getting to know each other better.
- Unexpected surprises! Our Zion Outing included the surprise of myriads of tadpoles, little plants growing on the side of the rock, and seeing emus running around a field!
Here’s some practical ideas to help you do this. Each outing begins with a destination, usually within an hour drive. Any place with natural living things will do, whether a state park, city park, gardens, or other public space.
It’s great to be spontaneous! But it’s more likely to happen if we intentionally set aside time, so I jot it in pencil on the calendar.
Keeping things in my backpack and van makes outings more easy. Why unload and reload things unnecessarily? In my van, I keep sunscreen, hats, a first aid kit, and a picnic blanket. I’m glad to have our sunshade tent on hand, too, since it creates shade and a nice resting spot.
I grab my tote bag or backpack, and fill it: water bottles, snacks, napkins, as well as Keens, towels, and a change of clothes in case we get wet. Some items stay in my backpack: band-aids, chapstick, tissues, antibacterial hand-wipes.
When we arrive at our destination, we scout the area out for our day “campsite” and set out the blanket or sunshade tent. We settle in and make the space our own! The secret of setting up “day camp” is to settle in and stay in one area for at least an hour or two.
One particular book, For the Children’s Sake, has inspired me to put forth the effort for day outings. Susan Schaeffer Macaulay lived in London with her children, so they would ride the bus to the countryside once a week (p. 133). She modeled intentionally creating time to enjoy nature regardless of where we live. Her book is full of ways of thinking and living so we can help our children grow as people and in faith.
In daily life, we are often restless, in motion, and trying so hard to get somewhere! Yet we can intentionally choose to slow down.
Rather than rushing on a day outing to see and do more, we might find rest for our souls and deeper appreciation of the moment by settling in and enjoying one place a while. With eyes open to see the present moment, we can experience rest for our souls.
My summer challenge for all of us: Create pockets of time to just stop and enjoy one place, for at least an hour. Where will you do this? When? There are so many possibilities!