Thursday, July 31, 2008

Country Drives

Falling gas prices, to me, mean more peaceful, just-because country drives with my children. They started out, a few years ago, as a sanity saver; when the kids are strapped in their carseats, it translates into a much needed toddler-chasing break. The entertainment director (aka Daddy) comes home at three in the summer, so I shouldn't complain, but still, eight hours is a lot of solo time with young children.

Daddy's the one they count on for long-play action. He's just such a thoughtful Daddy, making sure every afternoon that he spends special time with each child before dinnertime. Mommy tends to jump up and abandon an activity every time the dryer buzzer sounds. Sometimes I'm very grateful for that annoying buzzer, ya know? While I love being a stay-at-home mom, it lacks the small sanity breaks that are a perk of the workplace. Don gets that, totally. He is happy to give me an hour alone when he comes home, knowing that he just had nine hours to relax while at work.

We live in a housing track, but the countryside around us is predominately greener-than-green farmland. In fact, right down the street is a farm that sells the best sweet corn you've ever sunk your teeth into, and later in the year, the best looking pumpkins you'll find. Around these parts, their corn is the highlight of every one's summer palate.

Most of the homeowners around here own a lot of land, whether they actually have a working farm or not. Many have lovely ponds of their own, sometimes inhabited by ducks or geese, and always surrounded by green field or woods. A simple country drive is always full of soul-soothing landscape, and most of the time God blesses us with special nature surprises. Today we passed plentiful meadows, some with farm animals, and Rosey got her first glimpse of a miniature pony.

There are lakes, in a few areas, on both sides of the road. Today we saw a baby turtle cross the road, and in the same area a blue heron, a kingfisher bird, and some swan.

I usually can't help coveting the landscape, wishing we lived on it. It's a familiar emotion; one that I always had during California vacation drives. While feasting my eyes on the jagged, majestic, High Sierra mountains, which loomed above meadows, creeks, wildflower fields, or rolling hills, I found it impossible to suppress that feeling of wanting to possess.

Daniel, my six-year-old, is struggling with the same emotion, when he sees wildlife. Lately, a lot of his "pets" have died. The two treefrogs, the praying mantis, and the mole all died within two days of each other. Slowly, we're trying to teach him that nature is one of God's greatest gifts, and that, like everything else in our lives, we can't really possess it. The earth and everything in it belongs to the Lord. As much as we'd like to own every cute little baby frog, every field of wildflowers, or every enchanting pond, we can't.

After this wave of pet death, Don convinced Daniel to release the next two tree frogs that came from our tadpole bowls. And recently, Don and Daniel discovered two frogs living out back near our air conditioning unit. Each day, they've checked on them, but Daniel has suppressed his desire to cage them. I'm proud of him.

He's young for such wisdom, but having it will prove to be an important part of his relationship with God. How will he feel if a fire took everything he and his family had? Or if a hurricane or flood devastated his home? Or if, in a mass of layoffs, he lost his job? Or if someday, his wife suffers a miscarriage? He'll survive it all if he learns not to covet, or possess. And by survive I don't mean to just continue living. I mean going on without with ever-present peace and joy.

I want him to know that, above all, we are to appreciate and always give thanks. I don't want my children to ever spend too much time in a building or a house. God wants us to feast our eyes on his creations, on his land - for it brings us closer to Him. Holding it all loosely, while still appreciating, can take a lifetime to learn. Six is not too young to start. At forty-two, I'm still learning.

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