The sun peeks out earlier each morning, and the birdsong drowns in the noise of a hundred frogs. Before long, we will plow through popsicles and watch our librarian swipe the nearly glowing card, handing it back with a towering pile of titles. Meals will be built around sweet peaches and ripe tomatoes while throwing the pool towels back into the dryer for another spin.
Summer is coming in all its colorful glory.
But may I confess something? I am notoriously bad at summer.
Instead of soaking up the rhythm of the lighter, more restful months, I fight and struggle against the temptation not to view every single free moment as an opportunity to redeem all that I have not accomplished this year.
With two daughters under 11 who are homeschooled, I crave the months in which I am just their mother and not the teacher. I wait for summer all year long. But, since the freer months are when the words begin to flow, I don’t usually allow my writing self to slow down much in summer; it is a time when I’m relaxed enough to take in the beauty around me and translate it into written words.
I know that with our leaner schedules, summer has the potential for more togetherness and rest. In theory, it’s a time to be present and tend to those parts of ourselves that are still weary from the marathon of spring. But even though summer feels like abundance, my mindset can quickly turn it into another season of scarcity and stretching.
I forget that summer isn’t a reward for those who have earned it or a gift endowed only to teachers and 5th graders. Whatever your daily life looks like, summer is for you, too. Wherever you are, summer is yet another gift from a good Father which we don’t have to earn to enjoy.
It is a rhythm we all need in some way—the dance of the seasons taking turns and illustrating in nature exactly what we need to mirror in our bodies and lives. We know that we need summer like we know eating regularly makes us nicer people. It’s okay if we need to be reminded to play, to enjoy the days of fluidity, and then not feel guilty for them later.
If you are like me, you may often arrive in late August with a mental list of all the things you did not accomplish in your home, your work, your art—in anything. Friend, that list of unchecked boxes can sour a summer long before the transition to fall.
So how do we effectively manage a real life that rarely takes a summer holiday? How do we steward what we must do with all of the rest and presence that a whole-hearted life craves? We mustn’t give up the search for balance between both the good rest and the good work, but we can choose what has the most value and walk confidently in the direction of those things. Even if those certain things are pool time and reading a long novel without guilt.
I believe in having a summer list of things that mean the most to my people, but I also believe in having a list of things I will not do this summer. Not a bossy, shouting sort of list, but a kind reminder for my heart during what can be the most carefree time of year.
This is my manifesto for summer, and it is a gift to you—a set of markers for that slice of time between May and August. They are reminders that rest is a good and needed gift and that we can choose to be present, choose to be absent—and not allow guilt for either.
A SUMMER MANIFESTO
I will open my hands willingly to the swelter of June, July, and August, and collect their slower gifts.
I will breathe in summer and not hold it up against seasons of greater productivity.
I will create when I can and be happily content with the art made in the quiet cracks between less quiet summer adventures.
I will smile at these days of fluidity and fun, and welcome ‘wasted’ time with people I love.
I will invite my children into creativity and remember that the messy often makes for good memories.
I will not stop trying to balance both the good rest and the good work.
I will see beauty in a season of less and embrace the knowledge that if rest is offered me, rest is where I am most needed.
I will eat popsicles, and know again the drippy, sticky happiness of being nine years old.
I will focus on the faces in front of me.
I will notice new constellations of freckles on her nose.
I will see the way his eyes reflect the pool blue of the deep end.
I will remember that cultivating an atmosphere of simple fun and unabashed joy means as much as creating a magical masterpiece of a summer.
I will choose wave skipping and a seashell search over chasing someone else’s good goal.
I will stay in my own lane and swim happily in it.
I will take this summer, however it looks, with my whole heart and I will not make it smaller by comparison.
Together, we will remember that this summer—our summer—is a gift wrapped in beach towels and tied with a jump rope bow—and we will love every imperfect minute of it.
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