Family

Nature’s Abundant Gifts for Families

Time spent outdoors reminds us of God's artistry, joy, and love

One of the best ways for families to enjoy the magic of Christmas comes without any price tag at all — and it’s something we too often take for granted. Simply take a walk in the woods — or spend time in your backyard.

Here in New Hampshire, where I live, our first snowstorm of the season has finally happened — a silent shower of snowflakes floating down from the heavens. It is a welcome sight for those of us who live in New England and relish the change of seasons. For us, it just doesn’t feel like Christmas without fluffy white snow blanketing the region at least once before Dec. 25.

God’s creatures go about their business, leaving a tale of how alive the woods are — and a road map of their lives.

The pine trees all look like Christmas trees, as snow and ice become nature’s decorative lights. The woods glisten with a shine that we can only try to recreate as we decorate our own Christmas trees. The snow muffles and insulates, offering peace and quiet to those who walk in it. When sunlight or moonlight hits the snow, everything sparkles like an enchanted village, a magical place provided by our Creator just for us.

What a gift He has given us — if we will take a moment to enjoy it.

Snow brings an entirely new playground for God’s creatures.  A hike in the woods through this bright white landscape uncovers all the activity that happens in the quiet of the trees and trails. Winter is an active time of year for all living things, and winter brings to them a new environment and new challenges.

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My husband and I watch the chipmunks and squirrels gathering and storing acorns — it seems that for them, time is of the essence. Various prints in the snow reveal all the activity happening deep in the woods. Small prints belong to rabbits, foraging for a blade of grass. Larger paw prints are those of a bobcat that roams the area, hunting for her next meal. Hoof prints are made by deer that stroll close enough for us to study them. Bird prints are made by a flock of wild turkeys who, although they can fly, usually walk. God’s creatures go about their business, leaving a tale of how alive the woods are — and a road map of their lives.

Related: Adventureless Kids Aren’t Kids

My dogs and horses love the snow — there is something about the crisp air and the soft place for them to run and roll that the snow provides.

My horses are majestic creatures with gentle natures and large, almond-shaped eyes that take in every movement and sound as our feet crunch in the snow. Their winter coats have grown in to keep them warm, and snow settles on their backs, between their ears and on their eyelashes.

A long workday becomes a distant memory as I enjoy my dogs’ slumber. This is their gift to me every day.

Ice forms on their nostrils, and as they huff and puff, I can see their warm breath hitting the cold air.  There is nothing better than heading toward our barn, watching them run and kick up their heels, swinging their heads.

They are so happy to just be. It brings us joy to watch the snow come up in clouds from their hooves as they run for home, for their dinner.

My dogs act as though they’ve found the fountain of youth in winter. No longer panting from the heat of summer, they have a spring in their step from the cooler temperatures as they run and wrestle in the snow, and bury their faces deep into it. When they’ve worn themselves out, they come inside to a nice warm fireplace. Contented, they settle in for a nap.

My long workday becomes a distant memory as I enjoy their slumber.

This is their gift to me every day.

Related: Why It’s Always Better to Give Than to Receive

The Christmas gifts that nature and God’s creatures provide are abundant: beauty, solitude, peace — and a look into our Creator’s artistry. These free gifts of the season exist all around us, just waiting for us to notice.

Lisa Ferrari is a freelance writer in Nottingham, New Hampshire.

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