This World is a Gift

Jessica McGhee


A few years back, I was brought to my knees by a rather unfortunate series of events. It wasn’t the first time life had broken my heart. I was sure it wouldn’t be the last. And I was tired. I was so tired and so disappointed, and even with all of the good life had brought to me, the bad continued to be exhausting and heartbreaking. I didn’t really see the point. To keep going seemed like a waste of time.

I was so sad.

I don’t even really know how or when or why it happened, but one day, in the middle of all of this, my husband brought me to Emiquon. Emiquon is a wildlife refuge for all sorts of birds, and to be there and to walk by the water brought an immediate and overwhelming sense of peace. I spent hours there — listening to frogs, watching the fish come to the surface of the water, muskrats building homes, turtles basking, smelling wild herbs and sitting by the rocks, watching the water touch the shore. Just being.

I started running on a trail along the river, chasing butterflies, sidestepping wild geese, laughing at groundhogs and stopping to marvel at a heron taking off in flight.

I began to heal. All of this time, all of these years, I wondered where God was in this mess that was my life, and…God was here all along.

I started to paint murals outside, and I met so many amazing people, and here was God. I found a caterpillar in my front yard and watched it turn into a butterfly, and here was God. Somehow, I ended up in another country, cleaning a beach and working with these amazing ocean creatures, and here was God. I came home and felt like I had a purpose and an awareness that I had always kind of known and touched on throughout my life, but was now it was a priority.

I see God everywhere. I see God in the people who live on the street and in my husband and in my dogs and in sea turtles in Costa Rica and a muskrat in the middle of Illinois and a heron taking off in flight and a butterfly in my front yard.

The world is this amazing gift that we have been given, and to truly see it and sense it with every fiber of my being is a feeling of wonder that nearly knocks me out. Life is breathtaking. It is awe-inspiring. God is everywhere.

I was asked to write about “Love of Creation,” and I joked around that I was just going to write one sentence that was snarky and basically said, “OMG, just love the planet”  because it seems like such a natural and obvious thing to me now: this world is a gift. It’s this great, amazing, awe-inspiring, wonder-inducing gift, and why wouldn’t we want to take care of it? Why wouldn’t we want to throw our arms around it and protect it from harm so that our children and their children and people all across the world can enjoy this same gift? So that it can heal them, the way that it healed me? But to do that means we have to change our habits. Give up some little luxuries. Look at the world through a different lens. Inconvenience ourselves.

It’s a choice we have to make — actually, a lot of choices. It can seem overwhelming at first, but I like to remind myself — all of the time — I cannot save everyone and everything. I can just try to make responsible, ethical, earth-friendly choices whenever possible. Appreciate the beauty around me. Love this beautiful gift of oceans and mountains and trees and flowers and stinky dog breath and birds that sometimes sing too early in the morning and surprise rainstorms and lightning painting the sky and a groundhog in my path and just love it and cherish it and take care of it in the way that I believe God wants us to. So that others can appreciate all it has to offer for years to come.

Jessica is a full time artist, focusing on nature and conservation. And murals, because murals pay the bills. Her hands and clothes are always covered in paint, and she’s never dressed appropriately for the occasion. She lives with her husband and their five dogs, and she’s very happy.

Christina Hite