It all began with my five-year-old’s sighting of a bright star out the window early one morning. Baby Jesus may not have been under it, but God was there, revealing His beauty to us.
by Lynda Marie
Most mornings, just before sunrise, my two young boys have made a habit of crawling into bed with me after they hear their daddy leave for work. One of each side of me, they call it their “cuddle time” and I admit, it is my favorite part of our day. One chilly morning last September was no different. However, that morning, instead of flopping over onto his belly as usual and falling back to sleep, my five-year old sat straight up, looked out the bedroom window, and asked, “Why is that star so bright?” His younger brother, never one to be left out, immediately responded by also sitting bolt upright in the bed, and I began to realize that my good night’s sleep was over. Slowly opening my eyes, I squinted out our east-facing window and sure enough, there was something very bright shining through the maple leaves, high above the horizon. I groggily sat up and clumsily reached for my glasses. It was certainly something celestial, and it was certainly something we’d never before noticed outside our bedroom window.
“It has a baby under it,” my four-year old said. Puzzled, I asked “What baby?” to which he replied “Jesus, mommy.” Ah yes, baby Jesus under the star.
The wonder of children
I found my smart phone and typed in “bright star in eastern sky” and soon learned that it was not a star at all, but actually the planet Venus. Look to the east just above Venus and we should be able to see Mars, the website said. When I shared this information with the boys, they jumped off my bed and excitedly ran for their shoes and jackets. “Hurry up, Mom!” they shouted, “we have to find Mars!”
All of this happened in the first thirty minutes of my day. Later that morning, as I was driving my four-year old to his preschool, we passed a spot on the roadside where we have a wide-open view of the Appalachian foothills in the distance. Sometimes, we will catch the sun rising over these mountains, and they will be painted with the reflection of a pink and orange sky.
On this particular September morning, the view of the mountains was especially pretty because they provided the backdrop for a large field of yellow wildflowers blooming along the highway. “Look Mom, aren’t those mountains beautiful!” my son exclaimed. In spite of having seen it dozens of times before, he was captivated by the scene. It’s our favorite point along the fifteen-minute drive, and as we drove by it that day, I wondered how many people would pass that same spot that day and never notice the mountains nor see the wildflowers.
Learning to see beauty
It is so easy to overlook beauty. A glorious neon sunrise over the mountains is difficult to miss, but the wildflowers along a roadside or a bright star on the horizon can easily go unnoticed. Like most things in life, it is the spectacular, the grandiose and the extravagant that capture our attention. It is what we see because, so often, it is what we have been trained to see. As a result, we miss so much.
As I raise my two little boys, I have tried to make a conscious effort in helping them see the beauty in the world around them. It’s not too hard to do, as small children seem to have a natural disposition for being able to see wonder and beauty in things that we adults tend to overlook.
Together, my children and I are honing our ability at finding beauty in our day-to-day, and we are using the natural world just outside our window to do so. My sons rejoiced in seeing Venus most likely because, a month earlier, we’d sat outside in the dark and waited for streaks of light to flash over our heads during the Perseid meteor shower. My four year-old soaked in the view of the distant mountains on our drive to school because he’d heard me exclaim on previous trips how much I loved watching the sun rise over those hills.
By bringing their attention to the hungry Swainson’s thrushes feasting on the ripening berries of our dogwood, or showing them the featherlike pattern of the moss growing under the white oak, or helping them find the green snake hidden in the honeysuckle, it is my hope that they are learning more than just biology. My hope is that they are learning to look for and see what lies beyond the obvious, and to find beauty in things that others find mundane.
As they grow older, my children may have little interest in the names of the birds, or the locations of the planets, but if they know how to look for and see beauty in the ordinariness of their day, and to see it as a reflection of God’s love for them, I will care very little if they remember anything else from our time spent outside. Seeing beauty is a lesson not easily learned in our busy world today, but for a child, there is no better classroom than the outdoor world for learning it. It is the classroom that God made just for them and just for us.