(c) 2000 The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS, May 10--One morning, as the sun began to turn the sky those breathtaking shades of pink and orange that seem magnified in the country, Stacey Brooks went for a run. She passed a huge patch of bluebonnets. And then she did something that wasn't usually part of her exercise routine: She stopped.

"I had to, because it was breathtaking," she says. "It really made an impression. Out in the country, you can't find a better place to be close to God."

That yearning for closeness played a big part in the Brooks family's decision to change their lives. About six months ago, Stacey and her husband, Greg, sold their 4,200-square-foot house in Dallas. In January, they moved with their two sons onto 800-plus acres in Hamilton County in central Texas. Their new home is a two-bedroom, one-bath stone farmhouse with just under 1,000 square feet of living space. There are so few electrical sockets that the family must decide between using the coffee maker or the microwave.

Greg, accustomed to days behind a desk in his law office, recently shot a rattlesnake 30 feet from the house. Stacey worked as a language therapist while her sons were in school; now, she teaches them at home. In Dallas, Garrett and Carder Brooks spent time participating in sports, playing with friends, watching Nintendo. Now they hunt rabbits, help their dad fill deer and turkey feeders, weed the garden. Garrett, who just turned 10, often just finds a quiet spot to read.

Stacey took the boys outside for their Bible lesson. They watched a monarch butterfly land on a milkweed leaf and lay her eggs, and they couldn't stop talking about what they'd seen.

Actually, when Greg and Stacey were contemplating the move, Garrett and his books offered another reason why they should. "One day, Garrett was so cross," recalls Stacey, 36. "I said, 'What's wrong?' And he said, 'There's no time. I go to school, to soccer practice, to piano, and I never have time to read my book.'"

The Brookses loved their life in Dallas. They had wonderful friends, a lovely home, weekends filled with sports and social activities. But, under more intimate examination, they realized their older son was halfway to manhood, and the years were slipping away.

"When we came up with the idea of possibly moving out here," Greg says, "it was with an eye toward focusing on relationships between us and God, between us and our children, between my wife and me. It was a combination of focusing on those relationships and experiencing a lifestyle we couldn't provide them while living in a big city."

Hearing them talk a season later, the change in their lives can be summed up in a single word: moments.

Like the time they pulled 50 radishes from the garden, and Carder, 6, insisted on washing every single one before eating lunch. As his hands helped the water rinse the dirt away, he turned to Stacey. "Mom," he said, "it's really neat to have a garden, even if I don't like to eat anything that comes out of it."

Then there was the beautiful morning Stacey took the boys outside for their Bible lesson. They watched a monarch butterfly land on a milkweed leaf and lay her eggs, and they couldn't stop talking about what they'd seen. Or the time they looked up in a tree and saw a huge spider wrapping a grasshopper in her net.

Each family member keeps a journal, speaking privately into a tape recorder. The four eat all their meals together. They bless their food, and they pray every night. After breakfast, they have a devotional.

"I have definitely gotten closer to the Lord out here," said Greg, 40. "I wish I could say I spend an hour every day or night reading the Bible and praying. But what I do, and do a lot more, is to say little prayers during the day. I'm likely to stop and look over the ridge and say a little prayer. The spiritual side has given me comfort in knowing this is the right thing to do."

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