Spring break vacationing in some fancy resort was beyond our budget. I wanted to make the vacation time special even if we could not afford a grand getaway. So, just over an hour after leaving home, we arrived at the State Park. Our four children rolled out of the van and we unpacked the picnic lunch we had made together that morning. We sat on tattered blankets, heads bowed to pray our thanks. There was sun on our shoulders on that beautiful day as we shared a simple meal.
After we ate, we left our cell phones behind and headed for the wooded trails. Conversations began quietly. Instead of heading for the hardest paths, we chose level plains that led to caverns and waterfalls and rivers to enjoy. We sat when we were tired, faced forks in the road together and soaked up the wonder of nature around us. We remembered that "the heavens declare the glory of God, and the sky above proclaims his handiwork" (Psalm 19:1). We watched turtles sunning, fish swimming and dragonflies dancing about. Wandering knee-deep in water, our children stood under trickling falls, giggling freely with hands lifted high.
With the lack of electronic distraction, the interaction between our children increased. Teens talked with third graders, little ones laughed out loud. And we got to watch it all. Our family together, walking, talking, living the day without the world pushing in. It was a good reminder to me that sometimes we have to step out. As we unplug from distractions, we can tune into God and one another. God has called us to an awareness of his presence saying, “Be still, and know that I am God" (Psalm 46:10). Stepping into God's world his presence in creation drew us together.
Sometimes, when life gets so busy and full and our attention is pulled away, we have to take a drive. We have to carve out a little space to remember that we are in it together. We have to circle the wagons and look at each other and hold out our hands and take a walk to remember that this is what matters to us. This is the gift we have been given: our little family walking free in creation on a simple and sunny day.
We may not be able to go off on vacation and stay in some fancy resort. But this? This we can do. We can clear our schedule for one good day and drive to a local state park. We can pack some food and sit together and look around and remember. We can laugh out loud and dip our toes in a pond and watch the minnows swim. We can take a deep breath with our family close by and count it as rest and retreat. And hand-in-hand with heads bowed low, we can whisper a word of thanks--not only for a meal packed earlier that day, but for nature and family and sustenance and time.
Because sometimes, this is just what we need. Communion on a tattered cloth. Sacred simplicity and a gift of grace. And it is totally worth the drive.
Rev. Dr. Rob Toornstra
Rev. Deb Koster