My Favorite Reason To Get Outside

This morning my daughters and I spent some time hiking at a nearby park. There are several trails leading through the woods, and we always end with some time on the playground. Tucked in the forested hills is a stream that runs alongside the main trail. It is always a beautiful and bonding experience for us. Some of our favorite memories as a family are from our times in nature.

I have always loved being outdoors. Growing up on a farm I spent a good amount of time outside, whether it was tending the animals or the garden. Sometimes I would grumble at the work (weeding and cleaning pens in particular), but it only took a few minutes of being outside and my mood would undoubtedly improve. Each summer at our Church camp located in the mountains of Pennsylvania I would sign up for as many outdoor activities as possible. I really enjoyed stream hikes, canoeing, outdoor obstacle courses, and swimming. As I got older, I began to enjoy bike riding, kayaking, and running. There has always been a pull to get out of the house and do something outdoors. But now that I have more responsibilities of family life, it seems like it is increasingly difficult to answer that call. In addition to cooking and cleaning at home, Mass, preschool, the library, the grocery store, and all the other things to be done take place inside. Sometimes it feels like there simply aren’t enough hours in a day to squeeze in some time outdoors.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the average American spends 93% of their life indoors. That is a pretty bleak statistic. But the thing is, all it takes is a little effort to spend more time in nature. There are countless benefits to spending time outside including improved mental and physical health, increased stress relief, and improved well-being and happiness. But there is one reason in particular that we should each spend more time outside: to discover God in nature. It never fails that whenever I spend time outside God has some beauty to reveal to me. Whether it is a magnificent sunrise, gorgeous view of the mountains, sweet smell of the flowers, captivating flight of a butterfly, pleasant song of birds, gentle rainfall, stunning sunset, or any other number of lovely moments, God always shows up when I walk outside. It is no wonder that St. Augustine, St. Anthony, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Therese of Liseux, and so many other Saints loved discovering God in His creation. They learned that it is through the greatness and beauty of nature that God can be seen. Psalm 96:11-12 reads “Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound; let the plains be joyful and all that is in them. Then let all the trees of the forest rejoice.” Nature glorifies its creator simply in its being. All I have to do is open my eyes to it.

The earth is full of God’s love. He speaks to us through all of those little moments, the sunrise, the birdsong, the butterfly, and He is whispering “I love you.” We all need a reminder of God’s love, to be in awe of His strength and beauty. My family and I try to go outside every day, even if it is only for fifteen minutes. Whether it is taking a walk around our neighborhood, venturing into the woods, going to a nearby park for a hike and picnic, having dinner outside, reading on the deck, playing soccer in the yard, or just blowing bubbles in the driveway, we have learned that all it takes is a little effort and we are able to enjoy more time outdoors. Sometimes it seems like a hassle, or we have to plan our time around the weather, but we never regret it.

God always has something in mind for me when I go outside. The beauty of nature is waiting right outside the door. God’s beauty and love as revealed in His creation draws me closer to Him. And growing closer to our Creator is my favorite reason to get outside.