For my husband, I believe it was the first time he saw the ocean. Our family went to South Carolina on a rare family vacation, and I can remember his face the first time we went to the beach. Being from southern Illinois, he hadn’t known what to expect. The beauty of the beach, the size of the ocean, and the sound of the waves were beyond what he’d imagined.
After listening to her describe them, I believe it would have to be the Rocky Mountains for my mom. When I tell her I don’t understand her fascination with them, she tells me it is only because I have never seen them. She may have a point, but I’m not wavering in my choice.
If I were to choose that one place that caught me unprepared for what I was going to see, it would be the Smoky Mountains. I know it isn’t the rugged grandeur of the Rocky Mountains, but there is a beauty that cannot be denied in the Smoky Mountains. We passed through them on the way to Charleston, South Carolina for that family vacation to the beach. We have hills, trees, and cliffs in southern Illinois. They’re beautiful, and I love them. But seeing the Smoky Mountains rise up in front of me, covered in vibrant greens took my breath away. I’ve gone back through the area a couple times since then, and it still amazes me. One day, I intend to visit in the fall. I love fall. And I feel at peace even imagining myself wrapped up in a blanket on the front porch of one of the cabins nestled high in the mountains, drinking hot cocoa and looking out over a riot of colors for inspiration as I write. I can’t imagine anything better.
That feeling of contentment and awe was instantaneous for Sarah Crawford as she set eyes on the beaches of South Carolina in Regina Rudd Merrick’s novel, Carolina Dream. Being one to call Kentucky home, she first experienced that feeling on a family vacation. Returning years later to get more information about an unexpected inheritance, those feelings only intensified. As she spent her days walking the beaches and enjoying nature in the area surrounding the southern mansion her family inherited, Sarah was amazed time and again by the beauty she saw and the contentment she felt.
Even in the midst of difficult decisions about how the family should proceed with the inheritance of the mansion and a portion of a real estate business, Sarah could find peace in her surroundings as she met with the One who created the landscape she enjoyed. As partnership grows to friendship and friendship teases the possibility of a more personal relationship with the real estate firm’s other partner, Jared Benton, time spent together on the beach and mansion grounds helps draw them together. No matter what is going on or what questions Sarah wrestles with, God uses the serenity of His creation to encourage her to not only seek Him but to also listen to what He wants her to hear.
It doesn’t matter where we are, God can use His creation to bring us closer to Him. I don’t have to be in the Smoky Mountains to feel His presence, though I’m thankful I’ve had the opportunity to experience that feeling of complete amazement at what He’s created. Right here, in southern Illinois, even in my own backyard, I can enjoy the presence of God and get to know Him better through His creation. There is a single tree, apart from the woods behind our home, that brings out that feeling of peace and contentment in me every time I pull up in my driveway or look out my kitchen window. I’m not sure why that tree is so special. Nothing happened there. It’s just a regular walnut tree, but I can’t deny there is something about it that speaks to me.
God’s creation was meant for that. Job 12:7-10 tells us nature knows exactly who its creator is. And we think we’re the smart ones! There are several scriptures about nature praising God. I think it’s this unheard song of praise that we respond to whether we realize it or not. One of my favorite nature scriptures is from Romans 1:20. “For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” When we look at the world around us, we see the kind of God we serve. We get to know Him better. We see more of what He values. We can stand in amazement at His awesome creativity, provision, and power.
Knowing the One who created everything our world, it’s no wonder we often stand in awe as we drink in the natural world around us. It’s not surprising that we feel contentment and peace. And when we take the time to acknowledge His hand in each of these amazing scenes of beauty, we will also begin to feel His presence right where we are.
By the Book: Where have you found yourself in awe of God’s creation? Thank Him for those experiences, but don’t limit yourself to times when you can travel to new places. Take time to get to know God through His creation in the place where you live.