Where I grew up, it felt like I was way out in the country with all the privacy in the world. I grew up on a farm, which over time became surrounded by suburbia. Although it felt very safe and isolated on our homestead, I realize now that I was really in town but with the impression of being in the country.
Fast forward to young adult life. After living in college dorms followed by apartments, I couldn’t wait to have a house and yard again. I took for granted how blessed I was to have had such a nature-based upbringing.
My husband and I bought our first home in a subdivision which felt like so much space compared to our apartment. It was exciting to have our first house together and be able to fix it up, decorate, and play real house. Over time, however, I really began to crave my private outdoor time. I felt like God was calling me back home. In fact, since each of us originated as country dwellers at Creation I believe we will all be drawn back to our roots, to the place where man first met God.
For those who live in the city, suburbia, or are just looking for some fresh ideas to keep nature new and exciting, this post is for you. How can we spend time in nature and teach our children to be lovers of God’s nature when we aren’t necessarily surrounded by it?
One of the most important things is to enjoy the outdoor space we do have. If it's a small yard, or even just a balcony or patio, fill it with nature. Add plants, create a children’s exploration garden or an edible garden. Grow flowers and vegetables in containers if need be. Even though we didn’t have much land in our first home, we did have a little dirt to dig in, so we made use of it and planted plenty of plants, shrubs, and flowers. Just getting our hands in the dirt and seeing the fruits of our labor is so rewarding, not to mention great for our health! Whatever the space or lack thereof, we can aim to create the impression of being surrounded by nature.
Another option for gardening in a small space is vertical gardening. When we didn’t have land for a traditional garden, we had a hydroponic tower garden in our home. It was fabulous for growing food in a small space and a fun project to do with kids. We daily checked the water and chemistry levels and measured the amount of nutrients to add as needed. As another bonus, the watering system adds a soothing waterfall ambient sound to your space.
Even if we can’t get outside in nature all the time, we can bring nature in to us! In a previous post I mentioned adding houseplants, nature trinkets and treasures, nature pictures, and nature themed decor for the times when we can’t be outside. Another idea is to create a nature aura through sound. Something as simple as playing bird sounds in the background can change an indoor atmosphere into feeling more like a relaxing nature space. We personally love the free Nature Sound app. The great thing is that it will keep playing even while other apps are open. My favorite mix is Nature Sound bird songs combined with the classical music station on Pandora. Heaven.
If nature isn’t just outside the front door, go find it. Check out parks, nature centers, farms, aviaries, aquariums, botanical gardens, and plantations to explore. Make finding nature an adventure. If you’re indoors most of the time, try to plan outdoor field trips as much as possible to balance it out. One of our absolute favorite places to go is the Percy/Edwin Warner Park and nature center in Nashville, TN. It has a large creek that is kept pristine and is suitable for walking and playing in. We typically take our galoshes or water shoes (Vibrams for adults, Walmart/Target brand for growing kids) and instead of walking the trail through the woods, we hike the creek. We have gotten some of our most beautiful family photos at this place and have made some lasting memories - like the time a baby crawdad swam into our daughter’s shoe! Priceless.
Nature-based vacations are a lot of fun too. Especially if we don’t live in nature, an outdoor-based vacation can be an unforgettable experience. I’ve not done a lot of camping, though I’m hopeful to do more in the future, so while this would be an obvious choice for outdoor vacations, it’s not the only one. As a kid, it was my goal to visit a zoo on every family vacation. I planned to visit at least one zoo for every state we visited. My mom also loved taking nature walks, so that was prominent on our vacations as well. In fact, my best memories from childhood family trips involve nature - feeding a giraffe, swimming with dolphins, getting my foot chomped by a clam (or something), hiking to waterfalls … The times spent in nature with my family are unforgettable. I want to carry on that tradition with my own children.
Even if you don’t live on a farm or in the country, there’s no better time than the present to prepare and live like you are in the country. We can start growing our own food, even if it’s just herbs on a windowsill. Study birds, animals, trees, flowers, and learn about food preservation. Research beekeeping, gardening, maple sugaring, chickens, anything and everything related to country living that piques your interest and keeps your hopes alive.
My husband and I periodically talk about our dream home, where we will have plenty of animals, an orchard, bees, a garden, a swimming pond … We keep our hopes kindled by reminding ourselves that this, where we are right now, is a training ground where God has purposely led us to learn more about how to serve Him better.
We may never get to our dream home here on Earth, and that’s ok. Our purpose, as followers of God, is to be preparing our hearts and our children for a better land. Though we may not be able to live on a farm, in the country, or on the perfect plot of land here, I believe we can all still have an Eden mindset. May we allow God to guide and cultivate our hearts on our journey heavenward.
“I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to myself; that where I am, there you may be also.” John 14:2,3 NKJV