This painting hangs in my living room. It is a rendition of my family’s cabin which is nestled in the woods and sits a few feet away from the Upper East Verde River in the Tonto National Forest, outside of Payson, Arizona. My parent named our cabin “Oh Be Joyful” and if you look closely at the painting you can see a small wooden sign that my dad made with those words printed on it. You can also see the fire ring that he built, and I have many memories of sitting around a campfire there with family and friends as we sang with a guitar and roasted marshmallows.
When I was a girl our family spent every summer at the cabin, and some of my fondest childhood memories are of hiking, playing, and fishing in the forest. I think it was at the cabin that I developed my profound appreciation for nature, although it would be many years before I came to the realization that it is when I am aware of the beauty of God’s creation that I feel most connected to Him.
At the cabin there were many kinds of trees, some so tall I would almost fall over as I leaned way back to try to see the top of them. There was a seemingly endless multitude of styles and colors of beautiful wildflowers and other plants. We would pick the wild blackberries that grew there and mom would make blackberry cobbler for us. I distinctly remember how it smelled there in those woods and to this day if I close my eyes and think about it, I can still smell the pine and other aromas of the forest
There were also animals. We would leave food out every night for the raccoons so they wouldn’t get into the garbage cans. Of course, there were also families of skunks, and once we even saw a fox. We would take our places inside the cabin next to the windows to watch and wait for them to come, and they always did. In the summertime it was what they called open range for the cattle from the nearby ranches and we would often see cows roaming around in the forest and even on our property. There were also squirrels, chipmunks, lizards, snakes, fish, and thousands of different species of insects. How is it that God made so many living creatures? His creativity knows no limits!
I vividly remember the sound of that river rushing by all day, every day, and how it lulled me to sleep at night as I laid in my bed, up in the loft that I entered by climbing up a ladder. There was a period each summer where the monsoon clouds would build up over the rim above our cabin all morning long and then in the afternoon there would be a sudden, powerful, and very loud thunderstorm that would literally shake the walls of our cabin. They wouldn’t last long, but we would all head inside to wait it out before heading back to our adventures in the woods. Even now I love thunderstorms, although in Southern California we don’t get to experience them very often.
I can remember mornings when my dad would throw his arms up in the air and exclaim, “This is the day the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it” or “Oh what a glorious day”! He loves nature and is truly joyful when he is out in it and I think it is he who taught me to appreciate and marvel at God’s handiwork. I guess that is one of the reasons he and my mom named their beloved cabin “Oh Be Joyful” and one the reasons that nature has become so important to me.
Today, I experience the Lord in a very real and profound way when I am seeking Him through the beauty of what He has designed around me. I can see Him in a sunset or a sunrise and I am easily overwhelmed with gratitude and amazement when I see a beautiful plant or flower or even a body of water. Whether I am at the beach, in the mountains, in the desert, or taking a walk in my neighborhood I can see and sense God all around me by looking at what he has created. I can feel joy seeping in as I meditate on His wonderful works regardless of what else is going on in my life.
No matter what our situation is or how much we hurt over the circumstances with our children, if we will take the time and be intentional about shifting our focus to what God has created around us, we cannot help but experience joy, even in the midst of our pain. God’s creation speaks to the “glorious splendor of His majesty” and is a constant reminder that He loves us, He loves our kids and He is in control.
“They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty – and I will meditate on your wonderful works.”