Now It’s Really Summer, Part 3

Family Having Picnic Beside Pond

This is Part 3 of Now It’s Really Summer. Read Part 1 and Part 2 here.

In Part 1 and 2 we talked about redefining what “your family’s best summer ever” might be.  I encouraged you to pray, talk to your husband, realize that God changes our plans, and remind us all that He may have lessons for us to learn in what might not feel like “our best summer ever.”  Next:

4.  Consider all the family’s goals.

What are the activities that will make you feel like, ‘Now it’s truly summer.”  I encourage you to enjoy simple pleasures.  The breeze on a summer day.  The sun on your face.  Swinging from a tree swing.  Running through a sprinkler.  Reading a really good book together under a tree on a blanket.  Having a picnic.  Younger children can tell you what they would like to do and you can write it down.

As a stay-at-home mom and Homeschooler, it was easy to let comparing myself to others guide me.  Just because my friend grows a massive garden and cans hundreds of jars of tomatoes each year doesn’t mean that’s God’s will for my family.  I don’t have a green thumb at all, but I used to try, because all my friends were doing it. I thought I had to have a massive garden and do lots of canning to be Godly.  Though I’m not very good at gardening (I can kill just about anything really well:), I saw a natural gifting and interest for gardening in my daughter, and know that it’s a valuable skill to have, so I worked to train her in that, and now I leave gardening to my husband and daughter, who love it and are good at it.  She has a wonderful herb garden, among other things she grows, which blesses our family.

Goals May Change from Year to Year–And, That’s OK

Goals and objectives may change from one year to another.  Illness, relatives or friends staying with you, or a baby’s arrival may impact your planning.

Our emphases were different from year to year:  One summer we were preparing for our baby daughter to arrive.  That summer we also grieved the loss of my father, and my mom came and stayed with us to help with the baby.  One summer we were going through a crisis in our church which consumed our emotions and time.  One summer we were focused on going to chemotherapy treatments, after finding out I had ovarian cancer.  Some things will be planned, others won’t.

My husband and teenage son built a deck together one summer, and another summer they cleaned up all the rock beds and landscaping.  These were valuable lessons in building a strong work ethic, and bonding between father and son.  When our children were 10 and 14, our summer vacation was centered around an inexpensive family vacation.  We purchased a family membership to our state’s Historical Society and took day trips to state historical sites.  Then we had them write reports and put together a booklet with photos.  These are not only treasures, but reinforce the love for learning, and accomplish “school” in a fun way.

If you have a family reunion to attend, read my article on how to handle when relatives question your child-raising and decisions (these situations seem to pop up).

Perhaps this summer your family is feeling a need to pull back from activity and rest more.

5.  Plan for Margin.

Allow for unexpected activities to spring up, because they always do.

Margin–that white space around all the words on a page is like the non-planned time around all the scheduled activities in your life–and it is absolutely necessary!!! Your body and family will demand it, whether you plan it in or sickness and stress make it happen. I first heard about this concept at a state Homeschooling convention many years ago in a workshop by Dr. Richard Swenson, who wrote a book by this title, but I have experienced the truth of this principal, and lived it out, ever since.

Margin:  Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives, by Dr. Richard Swenson

For me, picturing summertime from a century ago is therapeutic.  Sitting under a shade tree on a blanket enjoying a picnic lunch.  A breeze gently blowing the wispy curtains through an open window. I hear the birds and…quietness!  I envision myself swinging lazily in a hammock reading a really good book.  Your picture of how your “margin” will look may be different than mine, but we all need it.

If we commit our works to the Lord, our thoughts will be established.  Proverbs 16:3.  I pray you and your family will have a wonderful rest of the summer.

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Now It’s Really Summer, Part 2

kids running outside

The first step to having a wonderful summer may be to put aside the expectation that you should have the “best summer ever.”  Click on the links, if you haven’t read Part 1 of Now It’s Really Summer and Now It’s Really Summer, Part 3.  I can so easily fall into pleasing myself, seeking my life, rather than losing it for Christ, flesh-pleasing as opposed to dying to self.  Ingratitude for the simple blessings of life that God gives.  How does that happen?  It’s the little ways of thinking, little choices, that are turned just a tiny bit in the wrong direction that spoil a life.  You will head in the direction that you are looking.  And, before you know it, the little foxes spoil the vines. Song of Solomon 2:15

Building a close, Godly family that loves the Lord and is being used of Him, that is growing in Christlikeness and bearing much fruit doesn’t come automatically from being busy.

We need to:

  • continually yield ourselves and our plans to Jesus Christ
  • train up our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, and
  • guard against Satan’s sneaky, subversive attacks.

One of his attacks is to make it hard to read my Bible when I need it most, and when I’m busy, and to choose entertainment over time in the Word when I want to relax.  Another is to get so caught up in the outward appearance and actions of myself and my children, that I forget that the heart is most important.

It will be my example that my kids follow. It’s not only important what choices I make, but how do I make those choices?  What is in my heart and important to me? Am I selfishly thinking I deserve a little pleasure, a little me-pleasing, because I’ve worked so hard?  Do I demand my “rights” and have a list of expectations? Do I want my children to “perform” so that everyone will think highly of me? Is that what’s directing me?

Is this question even valid:  “How can you have the summer you’ve dreamed of, and the kind of summer that you and your children will remember forever?”

If you do have this kind of summer, you should thank the Lord, and treasure that, because you probably had nothing to do with it, and it came with some trials, lessons learned, and work attached!

If we need encouragement and refreshment, the Lord knows it, and He will meet our needs. May we always, no matter what the season, seek to strengthen our marriages, make brothers and sisters best friends, train children to work hard and be disciplined, and live so that we come closer to the Lord, build close family bonds and increase Christlike character.

I said in Now It’s Really Summer, Part 1, first, Pray.  Seek wisdom first.  It’s most important. Proverbs 4:5-9:

5 Get wisdom, get understanding: forget it not; neither decline from the words of my mouth.

6 Forsake her not, and she shall preserve thee: love her, and she shall keep thee.

7 Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom: and with all thy getting get understanding.

8 Exalt her, and she shall promote thee: she shall bring thee to honour, when thou dost embrace her.

9 She shall give to thine head an ornament of grace: a crown of glory shall she deliver to thee.

I know that the Lord wants my best and wants to help me and guide me, so going to Him and asking Him what we should do is so important.

2. Plan Spiritual growth and fruitfulness first.

Plan the important, the eternal.  Put it into your life first. How will we be in the Word and study the ways of God this summer? Let’s be intentional.

I’m trying to get caught up right now on Bible-reading goals. I’ve tried, but not succeeded, in reading through the Bible in a year for several years now, and my goal was to not get behind in the first place this year, but life happens, and somehow I did.  Whenever possible this summer I’m spending extra time in His Word, knowing that, for me, beginning in the fall, busier times are ahead.

What “living books” are you planning to read as a family?  For many, summer is a time when special reading can happen.

Do you have plans for family ministry? I’m not referring necessarily to church programs.  Family ministry will look different for every family, as God uses your specific gifts, interests, and skills in your family, making you uniquely able to minister in your sphere of influence.

A shameless plug for Family-integrated churches

Churches tend to separate families by age, and rarely can the whole family be involved in the same place at the same time.  We have attended churches of many different kinds.  For the last 10 years we’ve attended a family-integrated church, and I appreciate that it encourages families to be strong, worshiping and serving Him together, which helps to accomplish the above goals.

What Can Your Children Do that Will Last a Lifetime

Are you feeding your appetites for entertainment and having fun? Will your children grow up being mighty in Spirit? What skills are your children learning and practicing that they can use for a lifetime to bless others and serve the Lord?

I heard something interesting recently.  A healthcare professional was talking to my 92-year-old mom, who has been very involved in music all her life, playing the piano and singing, and the woman said to my mom that this generation is going to find out that sports don’t contribute to a longer, healthier life–but music does–and also using your mind, doing things like crossword puzzles, and playing games that require thinking skills (probably doesn’t include electronics).

My mom has been playing piano and organ and singing from the time she was a little girl up until now.  At 92, she doesn’t play often anymore, but she still finds enjoyment and blesses others when she does!  Up until a year ago she sang in a seniors singing group, average age of 85, which presents music programs and concerts to groups at nursing homes, schools, and other places. The really unique thing is that they memorize the words to all their music!

3.  Ask your husband what he would like to do this summer.

Want your husband to lead? Here’s a good place to start!  Ask your husband what his goals are for you and your family.  You and your husband may be on different wavelengths, so communication is important.  Don’t go ahead and plan the rest of the summer without his input.

(This turned into a three-part-series, so make sure to read Part 3 of Tips for Your Family’s Best Summer Ever.)

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