As it turns out, this park also includes a large, castle-like playground.
When we pulled into the parking lot, my 2-year-old daughter launched into her requests. "Mom, can we go to the playground?"
Not wanting to just stand around a playground wondering which turret my daughter had disappeared to in a given moment, I said "No, Sweetie not today. Mommy and Nana want to go for a walk and so we are going to go for a walk."
This back-and-forth continued into the first several minutes of the walk. Finally I realized I needed to make the woods a playground - and fast - or this wasn't going to let up and the walk was going to drive me crazy.
"Hey - did you know that God made these trees? And that water over there? And the rocks?"
Within 5 minutes my daughter was jumping off of railroad ties with Nana and chucking acorns and rocks into the brook. Not another word was spoken of the playground until we were leaving and it was back in sight again - and when I told her that we didn't have time because we needed to go get her big brother at school, she let it go.
Look, playgrounds are beautiful, wonderful things. I have many a memory of swinging high and jumping off, of trying to climb up hot metal slides and figuring out the best way to slide down without burning my legs, of pretending structures are forts and hiding out with my friends. I watch as my kids declare their favorite small play structure at a local playground their "Bucky" (it's a pirate ship from one of their cartoons), climb up slides, hang from bars, and laugh with joy as they swing on the swings. The advent of indoor playgrounds means my kids get to experience the joy of inflatable slides more regularly than my generation ever did. I love a good playground and my kids do too.
Sometimes, though, we need to take the time and look at what was created well before an engineer ever took pencil to paper and designed a set of monkey bars.
God created the heavens and the earth and everything that fills it - including us. For me, the place I have felt closest to God is when I am sitting at the side of the sea; the quiet whisper of the waves, the cool of the water, the gentle touch of the breeze, and the vastness of width and depth of the ocean. For those who love hiking, standing at the top of a mountain taking in all that God created below them is where they feel closest to Him. There are so many places in the world that show the beauty and wonder of the nature that God created, so many things to discover and explore. One of my kids' favorite shows is "Dinosaur Train", and at the end of every episode the paleontologist says "Get outside, get into nature, and make your own discoveries". I LOVE this - God has placed so many things in nature that even if you go to the same place every day there is always something new to see, explore, observe, and wonder at.
So this little girl who so desperately wanted to go to a playground stood at the edge of a little pool of water yesterday, tossing different sized rocks in with different forces. Some of the rocks created such a splash that droplets of water came up and tickled her face. Then Nana threw a REALLY BIG rock, and the splash was so big that a bit of mud got on Evie's face, Mommy's pants got a little wet, and everyone laughed. When the tossing of rocks got boring (briefly, it's actually amazing to me how long kids can just stand there throwing rocks into water), we paused and looked at the pool and saw some tiny fish swimming around. She climbed on rocks and picked up sticks bigger than she was and jumped off of boulders and looked down from bridges into the brook below.
We had so much fun together and experiences in nature are things that no manufactured playground can offer. We are wired to discover, to delight in the world, and to share in all that God created. There is joy to be had when we open our eyes, our hearts, and are willing to stretch ourselves to let God give us the gifts of His handiwork.
Get out into God's playground today, find where He pulls your heart, and enjoy all that He has created.