Are You Having Fun With Your Kids This Summer?

This summer has been very unique for me. Fourteen of my last sixteen summers were spent, in some capacity, traveling and working summer camps. Those summers were memorable and life-changing, but they were also hard work and busy!

This summer I had one goal and one goal only for all my “free time” now that I’m off the road: to have lots of fun with my family!

I told my husband just this week that if he ever thinks to himself, “I wonder if my wife and daughter would like to go to the pool today?” . . . The answer is YES! Always, yes!

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At the beach in June. Fun!

I know as parents, we can grow so weary. Trust me, I know. Most days, I’m up at 5:45, at work by 7:30, picking Abigail up at 4:45, then we’re home to help cook dinner (I say help because let’s face it, I do about 25% of the actual cooking in our house), clean, do laundry, give a bath and somewhere in there I’ve got to try to work in exercise, time with my husband, time with friends, time in the Word . . . Whew! We’re exhausted. When is the fun supposed to happen again?

I’ve taken on a new philosophy this summer. In non-summer mode, I think our house generally stays pretty clean. On a scale of 1 to 10, (10 being Martha Stewart and 1 being Obama just called in FEMA) I think we usually land somewhere around a 6 or 7. Hey dust bunnies, I see you. But the things are picked up and in their places, the dishes are done, most laundry is put away, the kitchen counter is wiped down and the bed even gets made most days (Thanks husband!). Enter summer. I think this month our standard level of clean has dropped to about a 4. Why? Because I hate being in a messy house and my kid loves to be outside, so what do you think we choose to do? Since I work, my hours in the day with Abigail are already short. Too short. I could spend those hours cleaning. Or I could spend them running, swinging, chasing, swimming and eating ice cream with my daughter. I’ll clean my house again, for real, in September.

Listen, I know summer can be stressful. We’ve all heard the phrase, “The days are long, but the years are short.” Well, guess what? In the summer, the days are longer. Longer! There are already days in the dead of winter where bedtime can’t come fast enough. Now the days are longer! What if the days being long wasn’t a bad thing? What if instead of seeing this as more time to “fill”, we saw this as more time to have fun? To enjoy our kids. To play and do crazy things – things we wouldn’t normally do when the sun goes down at 4:30 (Seriously, what’s up with that Middle Tennessee?).

I felt like I had a choice to make. I could choose to stick with my normal routine of coming home, cooking, cleaning, bathing, and putting to bed by 8:15 sharp. Or I can choose to sweep the dust bunnies under the rug and take full advantage of this magical thing called summer with all it’s warmth and extra long days and sunshine.

We chose fun. We bought fresh peaches at the farmer’s market. We swam. And swam and swam. We stayed up way past our bedtime. To watch fireworks and eat ice cream.

This is a chocolate frosty and this photo was taken at 8:30 pm! Fun!

This is a chocolate frosty and this photo was taken at 8:30 pm! Fun!

On several occasions, I have rushed home from work and thrown a random assortment of food items in a bag to head to the park for a picnic. Our child has gone down a slide no less than three hundred times. We got very dirty and very sweaty. We brought a lot of that dirt into the house. It did not all get swept away promptly. We survived.

We’re doing more than surviving though. We are having fun! We are enjoying each other’s company and laughing and making lots of memories. (Oh hey, and bonus: all that running and swimming and playing has burned quite a few extra calories!) (One other side note: I certainly don’t think it is a parent’s responsibility to entertain their children all day, every day. I’m not talking about entertaining. I’m just talking about getting out of your routine and getting the most out of summer with your kids. Or friends, or other significant people in your life, if you’re not a parent.)

I think this is what a child's knee should look like in the summer. Fun!

I think this is what a child’s knee should look like in the summer. Fun!

What about you? Are you enjoying your summer? Are you occasionally forsaking normal household responsibilities to play outside in the sun or have a picnic or take a walk? Don’t just send your kids outside to play. You, parent; you need to have fun too! With your kids! It doesn’t have to be expensive to be fun. The possibilities are endless. The days are long. But they won’t stay that way. Cooler weather is just around the corner. Schedules and bedtimes and regular bath times will all fall into place again. (Okay, maybe not overnight, but they will.)

The days are long, but summer is short. Make time to enjoy the precious people God has placed in your life. Make memories. Have fun.

The Doctrine of “For Now” and “Not Yet”

For you astute theologians out there, you may be thinking this is going to be about the Kingdom of God and how this Kingdom is both earthly and heavenly, expressed in the here and now through Christ’s followers and is also yet to come in the perfect culmination of all things when we are with Him in Glory.

And you would be wrong. Sorry to mislead you.

No, it’s just that I have found myself saying those two phrases a lot lately. A lot. Here they are in context:

Michael says, “Well, we finally got the leak downstairs taken care of.” I say, “For now.” Michael says, “Got the faulty pipe replaced and we don’t have any more water coming into the basement.” I say, “Not yet.” Michael says, “All the doctors bills have come in from Abigail’s (not broken) arm and we’re all caught up.” “For now.” You see where I’m going with this?

Here’s the gut-level-honest-truth: February was a rough month. It was just one of those months where you find yourself saying, “This is just getting old.” I’ve never been so glad that February only has 28 days! We were ready to move on to March!

But regardless of what circumstances we are facing, this Debbie Downer mentality of “something worse is probably just around the corner” is pretty much the exact opposite of faith.

Part of Abigail’s bedtime routine each night is to sing a few songs as she goes to sleep. After we’ve read the books, after we’ve turned out the lights, we sing. I think it helps her calm down, but honestly, it’s refreshing for me too to sing a few minutes of quiet praise at the end of the day. One of the songs that almost always makes it on the bedtime playlist is one that I learned as a child. It’s simple. It goes like this:

“Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. And all these things shall be added unto you. Halle-ju, Halle-ju-jah.” If you know the tune, I hope you were humming along.

These words of wisdom are straight from Scripture in Matthew 6 where Jesus spends a great deal of time telling us not to worry (which is again, the opposite of faith). The passage on worry begins in verse 25 with the phrase, “This is why I tell you.” I’m not sure that I’ve ever noticed that little phrase before. So I backed up to see why He was telling us not to worry. Interesting. Just before Jesus gives His command to not be anxious about anything, He is giving some cautionary words about money and possessions having too much power in our lives. I don’t know about you, but I find that worry and financial stress OFTEN go together. I guess Jesus is on to something here.

Jesus goes on to paint a beautiful picture of how delicately and intimately He takes care of some of the smallest members of His creation: birds and flowers. He cares for them and provides their every need. Won’t He do much more for you? Ok, I want to stop there, but He doesn’t. Actually He says, “won’t He do much more for you-you of little faith?” (v. 30, HCSB)

I’m confident that when my response to God’s blessing in my life is “well, it can only last so long” I am guilty of having “little faith.” My favorite part of Jesus’ teaching here on worry is verse 34, “Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (HCSB)

Wait, what? In a passage where Jesus is condemning worry and assuring us of His provision, I want Him to finish off with something more like, “Therefore don’t worry about tomorrow because I’ve got it all handled and it just gets better from here.” No, Jesus doesn’t beat around the bush here. His command to not worry about tomorrow doesn’t change, but it’s not because He promises nothing bad will happen. No, in fact, He assures us that tomorrow will bring challenges. No doubt about it! God’s provision today does not eliminate hardships tomorrow. Actually, His provision today doesn’t even eliminate hardships today. Faith doesn’t cancel out our difficulties. It cancels out our worry.

I have no idea what tomorrow brings. But I know today God will provide. He provides “for now” when only He knows the “not yet”. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. And all these things shall be added unto you. Halle-ju, Halle-ju-jah.”

In Sickness and In Health

If there’s one thing I hate more than anything, it’s the dreaded “24-hour stomach virus”. For one thing, it’s never really 24 hours. Yes, the sickness may go away, but it usually takes me a solid three days to recover and feel like I can actually rejoin the human race again without being mistaken for a zombie. The other thing I hate is that you have no idea it’s coming. No warning at all. Most sicknesses, you can feel them coming on – a light sniffle, a slight ache, a gradual fever – but not this. At 10:00 PM you go to bed mentally organizing your to-do list for the next day and at 3:00 AM you realize nothing on that to-do list is going to see the light of day…for several days. I actually woke up Monday morning around 2:00 AM and knew that the sickness was inevitable, but I’m stubborn. So I fought it for a solid hour. But by 3:00 AM, there was no more fighting. What happened next brought tears to my eyes for two reasons. One, I HATE throwing up. Hate it. But two, as I’m finally giving in to this inevitable sickness, even with my eyes closed, I realize that my dear husband is standing in the doorway, just a few feet away from me. Yes, at 3:00 AM, at clearly one of my finest moments, there he is. There was an overwhelming feeling of, “you’re going to be ok.” Some people may think that’s completely disgusting. And those people would be right. But in the moment, I was just struck by how much he cared. By how concerned he was that I was sick. I was impressed at how immediately he was by my side, taking care of me. At the exact moment I needed him, he was there.

It’s not like I’m just having this realization. I have the most amazing, caring, sympathetic husband alive. He completely embodies Romans 12:15, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep.” On the spiritual gifts survey, he’s off the chart in the area of mercy (where I, on the other hand, score a 5 because you have to at least give yourself 1 point for each answer). So I know who he is and how much he loves. But what an outstanding reminder I had this week. I’m so very thankful to have a husband who rushes to my side to comfort me. In sickness and in health.

PS (Just so we don’t seem too sappy and romantic)…Our conversation at about 4:00 AM went something like this:

ME: So at what point can you just take me to the hospital? (only slightly sarcastically)

Michael: Well at least you’re still able to make jokes.

ME: I’m not joking. (still only somewhat sarcastic)

Michael: Get some sleep honey.