I started this summer with what I thought were small, manageable goals. Very low standards. Realistic expectations. My only goals each day for the children: Read every day, practice your piano, and eat some fruits and vegetables.
And guess what? We haven’t even met those measly goals. Days at the lake have been so fun and exhausting that nobody has the energy to read. Rainy days with six children at home are simply so very loud that I just can’t work up the energy to tell them to practice their piano. Sometimes, Grandma comes, and we throw out our nutritional standards and fill our bowls with Lucky Charms, Mountain Dew, chips and dip, and candy bars. (Figuratively speaking, of course.)
And yet, I do not think we are “failing” this thing called summer. Though I am a creature of routine, and I love setting goals, reaching them, and feeling successful, I am certain that “success” can be defined very broadly in the summertime.
Eight ways to define a “successful day” in the summertime
(Just one of these things today means success!)
Last week, I sat with my mom on the swing in the yard and we drank coffee. For hours. That night, I watched sitcoms with my dad, and after my girls kissed him goodnight, I kissed him, too. In real life, we live six hours away from each other, but in summer, there is time: time to connect. Treasure those small moments sitting poolside or around the campfire connecting with those you love.
My kids swam for five hours today. Last weekend, the entire family rode bikes for miles in the sweaty heat. We’ve picked strawberries and planted flowers. We’ve hiked in the woods, hunted for bullfrogs and lightning bugs, and climbed trees. There are a million wonderful ways to exercise in the summer. Let the treadmill collect dust, and play outside.
Apparently, when children get old enough to pour cereal, mother is no longer needed before 6am. This summer, I have been allowed to sleep in, more than once! Rest is wonderful. Even my big kids have enjoyed a nap or two. Because of the heat, the children take their own breaks from constant motion: I’ve spent many sweet moments on our outdoor swing, my lap getting wet from the towel-wrapped child whose eyes are getting too heavy to watch the other children play.
Adventures in Words
I have noticed my big kids, freed from the pressure of reading for homework, choose books both incredibly above and below their reading levels. It is a unique joy to have children who can delight in The Lord of the Rings as well as laugh along with Elephant and Piggie with their little brothers. What a great time to enjoy freedom from assigned reading, tests, and other people choosing the books! Scatter books randomly around your house (Why not? It’s a mess anyways!) and watch how your children are drawn to them like magnets.
Adventures (Adult Version)
Once again I have become acquainted with the sweet, quiet hours in the middle of the night. Give me a good book and the magical quiet of a sleeping household; and take away the fear of the early morning alarm, and suddenly I am rediscovering my old love for good books. They are my friends when I’m sitting poolside, too, and on those long car trips.
Have you seen the way God orchestrates the clouds as a storm rolls in? Have you noticed the smell of honeysuckle, walked barefoot in the grass, or tasted a fresh raspberry? “The heavens declare the glory of God!” (Psalm 19) and we spend our time wisely when we stop, open our eyes and ears, listen to the glory declared all around us, and give thanks.
Oh, the food we will eat in the summer! Strawberries right from the garden, and meat on the grill! We might plan to grill and make homemade ice cream with some friends. I might embrace the chaos of the pantry, and declare another “whatever meal,” letting the kids loose to fill their plates with whatever they can find (hide your Oreo stash if you do this.) In both cases, bellies have been filled, and it is good.
We do not rest truly until our souls rest, too, in the grace of God in Christ. We might take in our soul-food on the fly (by reading Psalms in the car), and we might come to church smelling like chlorine, but we will not take a vacation from God’s Word. In and out of “normal routine,” Jesus is our stability, our peace.
When summer melts away our usual routines, our rigid definitions of “success” can melt away too. Let it happen. Embrace the hot, slow, disorderly beauty of summer. Redefine “success,” and find yourself less irritated by the soggy towels on the floor or the Popsicle wrappers in the yard. Let the routines go; make room in your hands for the gifts God gives in the summer.
How would you describe a successful summer day?
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