Temperatures are sweltering here in Arizona, but the school year is already underway, making it official: summer is over. But don’t fret, I’ll give you a summer recap in throwback style.
“Here’s what I did this summer…”
Lounging on a Hawaiian beach has been one of my #goals since before there were #goals and this was finally the summer for making my dream a reality. My husband and I hadn’t been together without the kids since our honeymoon, so doing whatever I pleased, going to bed as early as I pleased, and never once cooking a meal was a shock to my system and a dream week come true. The waves were relaxing, the Hawaiian people were simple and kind, and the aloha culture was calm and unrushed. When we boarded the plane to come home, I felt completely refreshed. My beach vacation had ended, but I wasn’t bummed, because I was bringing the spirit of aloha home with me – like a souvenir for my insides. I couldn’t wait to share it with my children. We would enjoy each other and a laid back summer break.
And that’s exactly what we did. We played board games and did puzzles, we swam and watched afternoon movies, and for a solid month or so, our house was the hotspot for friends and neighbor kids. Most mornings I even slept in past 5. It was an extraordinary summer of ordinary moments and laid back living.
One afternoon, the kids and I were going about our summer business, headed to the Dollar Store for summer delights like candy and cheap pool toys, when we were suddenly bombarded by ‘2 cool 4 school’ signs and giant bins of glue sticks and index cards, all displayed next to the 4th of July decor. I was tempted to grab some eraser caps and lined paper, you know, to make me feel like I had a jumpstart on the back to school thing, but I had plenty of summer left to enjoy and I refused to be rushed. I remained calm and squeezed in a few more laid back weeks before beginning the back to school preparations.
Turns out, there was quite a bit of back to school preparing to be done. My children were passing the summer days in leisure, but their bodies had been growing at a less than leisurely pace. We made our lists and even though they were longer than usual, I had every intent to keep things easy and breezy. The office supply store was first, then a couple department stores, and then Dairy Queen – to rejuvenate. We hadn’t found everything we needed, but we figured we’d finish up the next day. Nope. Weeks of precious summer were depleted skimming through clothing racks and rows of expensive shoes (even cheap shoes are expensive), filling the cart and emptying my wallet, checking pencils off the list only to realize we still needed binders, and then finding the binder shelf empty. What had happened to my laid back summer? I felt like a half-crazed hunter-gatherer collecting items for my offspring and it was during these last few days of summer vacation that I uttered something I rarely utter: “I’m ready for the kids to go back to school.” The Aloha spirit that set the summer ablaze was hardly a flicker. Time for a new season.
New seasons bring fresh energy, but the first day of school brings unique energy. My kids were awake and ready early, chattering all through breakfast, and smiling big and proud for pictures before they left. It’s the fresh start, I think. It’s the unmarked notebooks and the unscuffed shoes and the clean slate with a brand new teacher. I had a fresh start, too. I had a quiet house (that stayed clean all day!) and new energy for endeavors that the summer noise couldn’t accommodate. But new seasons also bring new challenges. Quiet days quickly become busy afternoons of carpools, and math problems, and dirty school uniforms. Kids come home tired from structured days and no longer find it thrilling to wake up before the alarm. Within a week, the fresh energy of the new season was already gone.
Late the other night, my daughter sat on her bed – the bed she should have been snuggled in – surrounded by books and papers. Her eyes were too tired to read and too bewildered to close. She was overwhelmed. I was stretched across her bedroom floor doing my best to reel her back in and assure her she wasn’t destined to live in a cardboard box if she didn’t make straight A’s as a high school freshman. She was struggling to fit cheer, homework, downtime, and adequate sleep into the rushed school week and I was attempting to offer good solutions, but nothing sounds good to a tired teenager, or a tired mom. I was also overwhelmed and doing my best to reel myself back in from believing that the public school system was ruining my life. How would I shuttle children to activities, help with homework, get an adequate amount of sleep, and still find time to enjoy life? I headed to bed frustrated and half convinced I was packing up the family, moving to Hawaii, and reclaiming my aloha.
Exhausted but unable to sleep, I crept back to my daughter’s room to find her lying under the covers, her room dark except for the glow of the full moon on her face. She was turned toward her window, peacefully gazing at the sky. Her unfinished assignments would keep until morning. She asked why sometimes she could see the moon and other times she couldn’t, and I reminded her that the earth and the moon are always moving, making the moon visible from her window during different seasons. We admired the view for a little while. It was beautifully ordinary and soothing, just as our summer had been. We prayed together for refreshed minds and renewed spirits. We were in a busier season now, but perhaps we could still enjoy some laid back moments – we’d just have to be more deliberate about finding them. As I left her room, I whispered to my daughter – as much as to myself – “God is good to give us different seasons.” She agreed.
When I’m overwhelmed, I may benefit from a vacation or a little more sleep, but if I want to be truly refreshed, I need a renewed spirit. A renewed spirit is a shift of focus from the inside, like a change of pace for the soul. A renewed spirit is kind of like an aloha summer – it’s embracing the moment, and knowing when to do more and when to do less. I can’t avoid the challenging seasons, but I can trust the Giver of changing seasons is also the Provider of energy for each season. He’s taken great care in creating beautiful moments for every season.
So embrace your season and enjoy life, one moment at a time.