The memory of camping out on our deck under an endless expanse of twinkling stars, aspen leaves shivering and whispering in the mountain breeze, staring into the vast canopy of space and squinting to see a fleeting shooting star, is still as vivid to me now as it was when our family experienced it so many years ago. Even in the midst of the overwhelming, nonstop craziness of our family life, those nights of sleeping out under the stars were transformative. The simple act of going outside and enjoying nature changed the entire tone of our life together.
In the bustle of a busy household, especially when people are overworked and tired, tempers tend to flare and unkind words are spoken. It happens to everyone, and it certainly happened to us— often.
In my urge to get things done, I would turn into a drill sergeant and the rest of the family, depending on their personalities, would rebel or turn sullen or simply disappear.
At such times, what we all needed was a vacation—time to rest, play, and escape the machine of busyness for a time. A vacation wasn’t always feasible, but we found that camping at home could be just the ticket to ease our stress and cool our irritations.
The night would invariably begin with pizza and root beer floats for the kids. We would take our meal outside and enjoy it in the cool, refreshing mountain air. Once done with dinner, the kids would take to our expansive yard, running wildly around playing flashlight tag as dusk descended. I would watch from the second- story deck with Clay, gazing out toward Colorado Springs. Our house at the time sat on a long ridge nestled up against the foothills of the Rockies, more than a thousand feet higher than most of the population in the city.
So when I looked out, I could see the whole metropolis spanning before me, the infinite lights sparkling below. Even after a few short minutes, I could feel myself relaxing, my spirit growing quieter.
(It was on one of these amazing evenings when four-year-old Joy said, “Mama, wif all dese lights in de sky sparkling, everybody can see Jesus is a good Artist.”)
My life in those days was hyper-focused on the mundane challenges in my immediate line of sight. But God wanted to show me that there was so much more of beauty, light, and life to be experienced just inches above the surface of my hectic life. I could not perceive it because the false lights of the world and the noisy voices of others had drowned out the beauty God meant for me. But He patiently waited for me with a world of beauty prepared to overwhelm my senses and transform my perspective.
Do you remember the story of Jesus’ friend Mary, who loved to hang out with her Lord, and of her hardworking sister Martha, who bitterly resented it? Martha complained, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to do all the serving alone?” (Luke 10:40).
Jesus immediately understood what Martha needed most—and it wasn’t help with the housework! He answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her” (verses 41-42).
I have spent far too much of my life in Martha’s place of workaholic anxiety, lost in the maze of my worries. I always intend to enjoy each day, to enjoy time with my husband and children, to memorize the golden moments that make the love in our home so special to my heart.
But all too often I have just kept on trudging forward, obsessed with getting things done. By the time I begin to question whether I have truly captured the essence of God’s presence in a given day, I have already lost what could have been the joy of the Spirit moving in my life. How easy it is for me to focus on the to-do list and to miss what could be experienced and enjoyed.