I was writing the second and final part of the story about backpacking to Canada when something magical happened: it snowed! As I type these words, there are three inches of fresh fluffy flakes outside my window. The green grass and barren trees of yesterday are all coated with white. A Christmas gift has been delivered to my doorstep! …and to my rooftop! …and to my lawn and driveway and neighborhood! That naturally reminded me of a few of God's natural gifts this holiday season.
1) A couple years ago our family rented a nice house/cabin through AirBnB on the Columbia River. It was down a dead end road and up a hill in the woods. It even had a fireplace! We spent half a week together walking along the river and getting acquainted with Astoria, especially with the sea lions below the fish processing plants. It was nice quiet family time away from a lot of distractions. We all felt it put Jesus back in the heart of Christmas.
I realize this suggestion is a little late for Christmas, but anytime this holiday season or on your next vacation might work. Rent a cabin or AirBnB or even an offseason motorhome and take it to the coast. We all enjoyed the quiet family time away from the routine and the artificial pace we lock ourselves into.
2) It's not New Years and the standard time for resolutions, but with the extra holidays, now is the time to start establishing a better exercise habit. If you wait until January, then work takes over again and you might be more inclined to forget. Where ever you are this time of year, walk (or in my case, ski) and sing and give thanks to the Savior who has given Himself to us as a free gift.
3) I'll share more tips about backpacking next time, but now is a good time to start dreaming up some special trips for next year. Whether by yourself, with spouse, or with friends or family, plan an outdoor trip each month. It need not be expensive or far away. There are a thousand places in the Cascades and on the coast. Ski or snowshoe in the winter. Backpack in the mountains from July to October. Camp near the coast in the other months. I guarantee God has special places and times in mind for you!
4) Bring nature closer to you by planning your garden or windowbox now. God puts His life in every flower, bush, and vegetable. We gain health, happiness, and usefulness the more we put God's ideals into practice. Ellen White said of Israel, "By the distribution of the land among the people, God provided for them, as for the dwellers in Eden, the occupation most favorable to development--the care of plants and animals." (Ed. 43)
5) Explore. Do anything but hide from winter. The air may be cold, but it is fresh and invigorating! You never know what little joys and special experiences God has tucked away somewhere for you!
6) Don't forget the critters! Feed the squirrels and the pigeons in the parks. Put out seed and water for the little birds that are wintering in your neighborhood. Hang a suet feeder or just put some peanut butter on a branch. Then get ready with your camera. If you make no sudden movements, you may get some to eat out of your hand! All the bird pictures were taken this morning on my front porch. They are Dark-eyed Juncos, Oregon variation.
7) Get a camera, binoculars, or spotting scope for you and/or someone else. My camera has definitely helped me appreciate the richness of creation from wide landscapes to tiny birds. It focuses me, draws me in, and encourages me to learn, remember, and wonder! All of nature is a year-round Christmas gift from Jesus. Open it, often!
Season's Greetings to all!
from the great outdoors, Ed Lyons, 12/22/17