Depending on your time zone, the official beginning of summer is today or tomorrow. But if you're like me, you don't wait for Summer Solstice to start acting like summer is here. By Memorial Day, I'm so ready for a break after a busy school year and spring that I'm tempted to envy A.A. Milne who quipped, "People say, 'nothing is impossible,' but I do nothing every day!"
I feel like I could just breathe a huge sigh of relief and spend the summer doing nothing. Though as a mother of many children, doing "nothing" may very well be impossible. Still it's tempting, and possible, to be busy, all the while wasting the blessed season of summer.
Recently I spoke to a group of women -- single, married, young moms, empty nesters, grandmas and more. They asked me to talk about ways to make summer personally meaningful and fruitful. While preparing what I would say, I realized how little planning I'd done for my own summer. Without that invitation to speak, I probably would have let it unfold like so much laundry. Though summer is upon us, it's not too late to do a little planning. Like a purse full of money, you must decide how to spend your summer. Once it's spent, it's gone. What will you get for what you do with the days ahead?
Start by asking yourself some questions:
- What do you need from summer? Rest? A de-cluttered home? Books read? Skills learned? Children trained? What do you put off during the school year? How do you mark the season and make it distinct? What makes summer different?
Summer should feel different but it shouldn't be marked by laziness or randomness -- it shouldn't happen to you. You should happen upon it. Bring Proverbs' "Lady Wisdom" to summer. She is one who prepares (Proverbs 9:1-6). She moves in sharp contrast to the lazy man of whom Proverbs 24:33-34 says, "A little sleep, a little slumber, a little filing of the hands to rest, and poverty will come upon you like a robber, and want like an armed man."
How can you make the most of the season ahead?
Plan. Summer is a distinct season. What will be your focus? Set priorities. Put the big rocks in the jar first. A little planning goes a long way. Review your annual plan if you have one. The easiest thing is to just let it happen day-by-day, but that's typically the least effective. I regularly assume I can do way more than is possible. Do you have 100 things you want to do? Choose your top 2 or 3 and make them the priority. Being intentional toward the big goals often has the added benefit of making you more intentional (and more productive) with the little things on your to-do list.
Pray. Ask God for wisdom and guidance. What does He want you to do with the summer, the longer, less-structured days? The hours of more time with your children?
Pray more. Read more of the Bible, and study what you read. Take advantage of later starts without the pressure to get your kids to school, or to get school started. Spend a longer time reading the Bible each morning, relishing the absence of "the school-bus-is-coming" pressure.
Play. Make time for what Charlotte Mason calls "Mother Culture." Nourish your own mind and soul. Read. Be still. Listen. Think. In A Charlotte Mason Companion, author Karen Andreola recommends keeping several books going at once, each with different levels of challenge (one hard, one not so challenging, one easy). I like to read the tougher books first thing in the morning, and move toward the lighter fare by bedtime. At her recommendation, I'm presently reading Edith Schaeffer's L'Abri, one of the most inspiring, refreshing books I've read in a while.
What will you play at? Here are some ideas:
Get outside. Plant a garden. Take walks. Enjoy God's creation and more daylight before it gets crazy hot. This can continue into the hot months in early morning and evening.
Unplug. Losing track of time online has a numbing effect and is rarely, if ever, refreshing. Turn off the TV, the computer, the Wii, your phone. While it's entertaining to read and engage social media online (at least at first), it's a lot like gorging on your favorite junk food: tastes great going down, but leaves you feeling heavy, tired, and frustrated that you missed out on some good fuel. Too much time online leaves me feeling guilty (or more accurately, sad, because of all the real life I've missed out on).
Get Moving. Light exercise is a great way to keep your energy up and kids love to join in (think tennis, swimming, nature walks, frisbee, etc.)
Make a new friend. Invite someone over for coffee. Reach out.
Cook and eat lighter. Plan a few menus. Try some new ingredients. Read through your cook books in search of new, lighter, recipes.
Capture memories as you go. I have boxes of half-finished scrapbooks and even more boxes of photos yet to be placed in said scrapbooks. One of the nice features of technology is how easy it makes bookmaking. My new favorite is Mosaic. For just $20, you can upload 20 photos (or photo collages, I use the Diptic app to make them) from your phone (think Instagram) to a high-quality photo book. They make great gifts for family and friends, too. They're a fun and easy way to display your favorite photos from special events and vacations.
Other ideas for on-the-go-memory capturing are Flip videos. A daily, or weekly, journal. Even something as simple as a calendar with room for notes and quotes.
Create beauty. Think fresh flowers. Clean sheets. Paint a wall, or a room. Create a peaceful place to read. Supply a basket of books beside your favorite chair. I love the way Cheryl Mendelson, author of Home Comforts, talks about making the most of what you already have. No need to buy new anything.
Enjoy the summer! Relish the down time. (And once you're refreshed, play with your children if you have them. You are your child's favorite toy.) Ask God to show you have to do all of it in a God-honoring, fruitfulness-seeking way. Remember the excellent wife: "She looks well to the ways of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness" (Proverbs 31:27).