The Blessing of Curiosity

When I was in Nepal, some friends came to visit and we decided to take an airplane flight around Mt. Everest. I wasn’t much of a hiker then, so even trekking to Base Camp didn’t hold much of an appeal. But I knew I wanted to see the highest peak in the world.

IMG_1243The flight was incredible. We were in a tiny plane and my friend, who once held the title of Navigator of Air Force One turned a blind eye to all of the FAA code violations. But, when we saw Everest through the windows, it was breathtaking.

I’ve always been someone who’s held a healthy reverence for Nature. I’ll be the first to turn around if a thunderstorm threatens us above tree line; I prefer to hike with buddies; I’ve never set out to push the limits or conquer a mountain or a trail. I feel like the vast majority of the time man goes up against nature, nature will win.

When Frank and I were talking about “walking humbly with God,” he said hiking immediately came to mine. The vast magnificence of nature keeps him humble. (Though, I challenge you to have a discussion about life with Frank that doesn’t somehow circle back to hiking and/or nature…)

There is something humbling about nature and all that we don’t know. When I’m on a trail or in the Grand Tetons, I’m in awe of how huge our world is. And then I read about new discoveries, deep in the ocean and am reminded even more so that we don’t know a whole lot about this earth. If I’m really ready to be awed, I’ll start to think about the scope of our small planet in a vast universe….

When I think about my friend’s advice to start reading the Bible deeply, one book stretched over many months, it reminds me of how vast this story is. I suppose that’s how we have hundreds of years of theology and graduate degrees uncovering all that we don’t know.

Her advice also reminded me to think about the humbling experience of walking through nature. I would never presume that I was conquering a trail or hiking a mountain for the sake of crossing it off my list. In some ways, that’s how reading the Bible in a year felt – like an accomplishment to cross off a list.

What if I approached my faith and study of that faith with the same humbleness I approach nature? What if I knew I was learning for the sake of asking more questions, rather than finding answers? How would that change my relationship with God?

I wonder how this would change my relationship with my community? If I went into conversations for the sake of finding out more and more, rather than knowing a story?

I’ve been reading more about God’s curious nature. In Jan Richardson’s In the Sanctuary of Women, she reframes the story of Eve through the lens of curiosity. For so long, we’ve viewed this character trait as the root of our sinful nature. What if this is an expression of the glory of God? How would we approach life and faith differently if we viewed curiosity as a blessing rather than a curse?

Walking humbly doesn’t come naturally to me. I want to know and to check off the knowledge boxes. But humbleness is grounding myself in the unknown and breathing in the slow walk of discovery.

What’s your view of curiosity – is it a blessing or a curse? How do you approach curiosity in your faith journey?

BackyardThis post is Day 25 of the Write 31 Days Challenge. I’m spending the month of October writing about the Backyard Justice. You can find the entire series over at my Backyard Justice page.

Discover the Forest

Before we had kids, Frank and I took for granted how much we would expose our future children to nature. It was easy for us to get up to the mountains on a regular basis. Nature and being outdoors is an important foundation of our family’s values – after all, we met on a snowshoe hike, went camping in national forests for our first dates, and honeymooned in a national park. When we are stressed, nature is a life-giving way to reconnect with each other and a reminder of what’s important.

Bea’s first hike was when she was 2 weeks old. We took her up to Golden Gate State Canyon, one of our favorite destinations. In fact, our hiking patterns didn’t change much her first year of life. I bought an Ergo jacket that fit around the carrier and we took her snowshoeing in the winter and hiking in the summer.

Hiking with Dad
Hiking with Dad

Things started slowing down as she got into a napping routine and we had one too many meltdowns on the drive home. But, we found closer hikes and continued to bribe her into the pack with snacks. Last year was the first year our hiking drastically changed. Bea no longer was interested in the pack and insisted on walking it all herself. We found beautiful two-mile hikes but it seemed like a lot of effort to drive all the way into the mountains for such a short excursion.

When we were looking to move last year, we never dreamed we would move away from the mountains. The reason we live in Colorado is to enjoy what it’s known for: hiking, nature, exploration. Even though our new home is just six miles east of our old house, it added just enough time to make the mountains feel even farther away.

So it was a pleasant surprise when we first drove over to Cherry Creek State Park, just 10 minutes from our house. We had been before on occasion, but not often. The past six months, it has become our go-to hiking destination. Having a state park so close has made a world of difference! We can go for a hike and be home by lunchtime. Plus, the park is filled with kid friendly trails. Our favorite is Butterfly Hill, a loop that Bea can easily do on her own.

We also found that we are within 2 miles of Jewell Wetlands, 50 acres of paths and overgrown trees. Bea loves exploring the seemingly endless trails, visiting the wildflower and butterfly garden, and feeling as though she is lost in the woods. It’s a good reminder that getting out and exploring doesn’t need a parks pass, a long drive, or a big time commitment. It can be an hour of tramping through the swamp, looking for spiders and bugs, and talking about nature.

We’re happy that we can continue to reinforce our family values of being out in nature, even if that nature is in the middle of the city.

Here’s the thing – getting out in nature isn’t just part of our family’s values. Research has shown that exposure to nature improves kids’ awareness, reasoning and observational skills. It helps build imagination and lowers their stress level.

Tomorrow, September 26, is National Public Lands Day. Families are encouraged to explore forested areas near their cities. Check out Discover the Forest to find a park near you!

Discover the Forest is a public service campaign created by the U.S. Forest Service and the Ad Council with the primary goal of inspiring kids and their parents to re-connect with nature. The campaign brings to life the joy and excitement kids have when they discover the wonders of nature, helping create lasting memories, interest in their environment and a lifelong relationship with it. The campaign website, www.DiscoverTheForest.org, includes an interactive tool that enables users to search for nearby forests and parks, as well as downloadable activities for them to print and take with them when they visit. The campaign also features online communities on Facebook and Instagram(search Discover the Forest) and Twitter (@cheecker).

You’ll most likely find us at Cherry Creek State Park tomorrow, hiking slowly with our girls. Where is your favorite place to enjoy nature?