by Bonnie Gray
Fall is my favorite time of the year.
Summer is so bright and intense, I wake up feeling obligated to go somewhere and do something. People often ask, ďWhat are your plans for the summer?Ē There is pressure to have an exciting destination in your back pocket.
Fall is more my style. It gets darker sooner and everything slows down. Itís the perfect time to be outside too, if you ask me. Take hiking. Thereís a lot less dust and it's quieter, except for the sound of a crunchy trail blanketed with falling leaves. Itís hard to beat.
Just as Autumn brings the beauty of falling leaves, going outdoors frees us to shed busyness and draw closer to God and each other.
When we take the time to leave the four walls where we make a life, we give ourselves permission to stop and enjoy the life we've been given.
We let our souls breathe.
We say to ourselves: We want to live more-than-functional lives. We want to enjoy God's company and the people we love.
We long for a taste of the life God intended in the Garden of Eden -- moments that are free from distraction, enjoying God's creativity reflected in nature and the hearts of people.
We want to enjoy the simple things in life again.
Secret to Simplicity
Fall is the ideal time to enjoy the simple things in life, because the secret to simplicity comes from our ability to rest.
The breeze is just crisp enough to take our breath away, with the sun reflecting leftover warm summer rays against the amber colors of fall.
Just as Fall brings beauty and comfort, going outdoors frees up pockets of relational opportunity.
We make room for God to speak to us apart from productivity. We remember how great it feels to laugh, smile, or just enjoy some quiet with others.
Being outdoors in the Fall reminds us that we can rest, because God is our rest.
We see God's artistry in the randomness of acorns starting to carpet nature's floor. We hear the soothing sounds of waves that sing to a Creator's rhythm. We look up to drink in an overflowing painted canvas of sky, bringing a breeze of musty leaves mixed with soil and sand.
We can't help but ask ourselves: Can God make beauty out of my life too -- even if the pieces look random?
God's word tells us yes.
"The whole earth is at rest and is quiet; They break forth into shouts of joy." Isaiah 14:7
Stop and Enjoy
Rest. Isn't that what we really crave down in our tired bodies and over-analytical minds?
We first see God in the Bible working hard for six days. Then, God takes an entire day off to stop and enjoy His work.
Isn't that what we do when we encounter nature? We stand still at a sunset. We freeze our steps as a bird darts across a hiking trail, and somehow our body knows beaches are for lingering.
Rest is the finale of a workweek.
Keeping Things Simple
To keep our bodies and hearts familiar with rest, my family and I have prioritized living a restful life.
One ingredient to a restful lifestyle is spending time together outdoors.
Now, before you picture me in Birkenstocks and imagine only granola bars inside my backpack, I want you to know that simplicity is what underlines our family's outdoor activities.
We are not super adventuresome. With kids so young, there is a limit to how long we can spend outdoors without needing a bathroom or a stroller for a tired toddler.
The key is this: keep things simple.
My husband and I try to keep things simple, so that we'll want to go outdoors. Make it too complicated, and we'll not want to attempt it again.
We've given our outings a name, so our kids can get excited about them: "Family Adventures." Actually, they are mostly two-to-three-hour outings that have us outside one day of the weekend, in the morning or afternoon.
Two principles that guide our outdoor activities:
If we end up more rattled about what we're doing rather than enjoying each other's company, we change it so it's simpler.
This is how we can model God's rest to our children: be restful!
You'd be surprised. It is easy to talk about God once you're out in nature. You don't even have to plan any object lessons (feel free if you're so inclined!). Your heart opens up to them naturally. And so will theirs.
As for growing closer to God, children experience love and intimacy through spending time with their parents. There is a time and place for teaching Biblical principles, reading Scripture, and praying together. For us, spending time outdoors is focused on relational closeness, the glue that makes the reality of God stick on their hearts and reach into their souls.
Being outdoors is a great way for children to experience quietness, without television, music, or anything electronic. It sets the stage for quiet walks with God later as they grow older. When they can read and write, there will be opportunities to carry a journal and a Bible verse and do some journaling.
What do you say? Would you like to try some outdoor activities this fall?
10 Fall Outdoor Activities to Grow Closer to God and Each Other
To whet your appetite, I'd like to share my list of Fall Outdoor Activities to Grow Closer to God and to Each Other.
This list can kick start some ideas for families with young children, but I'm counting on you to adapt it for your family's personality, local climate, as well as for the single person.
1. Biggest Pine Cone Walk (Save the pine cones for home fall decoration that last through to Christmas). Take a walk around your neighborhood and collect pine cones and leaves. Your bag can fill up quickly, so tell the kids to find the three biggest pine cones or the ones that aren't as cracked/broken. It is fun to put them in a bowl and the kids love pointing out whose is whose.
2. Colorful Leaves Collection Walk (Tape the biggest ones to construction paper and pin them on our message board). Take another walk on a different day to have them collect different colored leaves. Return home and pick a handful to put up. I am craft challenged, so this is just my simple version showcasing their leaves. I'm sure others of you more crafty have more artistic ideas.
3. Fly a kite. It's breezy enough. Warning: this requires more running than actual flying.
4. Pack a lunch and go play at a park. It's often very empty and quiet Saturday mornings. Make sure you put in some treats you usually don't have during the week. It makes it extra fun.
5. Invite one other family to meet up with your family at the park. Keep it small to encourage "real life" conversations which children will overhear and soak in relational converations.
6. Google the state parks around you and plan for a 30 minute "hike." To keep kids entertained, we tell them look out for banana slugs, squirrels, birds, or lizards. We make a big deal when they find one. It keeps them walking and busy. Distance is not the goal. Just time together.
7. Have a leaf "boat race" at a nearby creek. Drive to a nearby creek and just walk down to the water and throw pebbles. Then, each pick a leaf and float them downstream for a fun race. Be sure to pack bring an extra pair of dry socks and shoes.
8. Grab some sweatshirts and picnic on the beach. The beach is breezy at this time, but so very quiet and beautiful. The ocean becomes backdrop for food, pastries, coffee, and sand toys (books for the older kids.)
9. Train Ride. Take a train ride together and walk to a nearby sandwich shop or cafe. Surprise your kids with some an inexpensive toy (Hotwheels are great, as are coloring books).
10. Play tourist. Grab a tourist book from your library and take in the sites. Take lots of pictures, buy candied apples and enjoy an ice cream cone. What tourists do best is to enjoy wasting time. Some of our most memorable family adventures, like ferry rides, wondering along the waterfront, have come from pretending to be tourists during the fall, when there are very few tourists.
No matter what you do, keep it simple. Focus on whatever is restful and spend time with each other.
After a tough work week, wouldn't it be great to enjoy a God-inspired finale: rest?
You will be creating memories of resting together as a family, enjoying the outdoors and the beautiful coolness and warmth of fall.
About the Author:
Bonnie Gray is an inspiring Christian writer and blogger, offering encouragement to keep faith fresh in the daily grind. Her writing springs from the belief that the beauty of faith often takes place when life goes off script. Bonnie is the Founder of FaithBarista.com and featured writer for Hallmark subsidiary DaySpring's (in)Courage. Bonnie is a native Californian living in the heart of Silicon Valley with her best friend Hubby, wrangling their two heaven-sent boys on the homestead. Join Bonnie at http://www.FaithBarista.com
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