An hour and 15 minutes after leaving home, we arrived at the State Park. After finding parking, 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 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 little 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. 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.