As I breathe in the last few weeks of summer, I am reminded of one truth a wise mom shared with me when I was struggling with a couple of toddlers. “The days are long,” she said, “but the years go fast.” At the end of each summer, I feel the truth of this statement weighing down on me. The years have gone fast, and they show no signs of slowing.
I cannot help but begin counting down the summers I have with my eldest child.
I’m forced to recognize the numbers of summers I will still be in my forties.
Only one. (Yikes!)
I’m reminded of the summers I will still have with both of my parents still living.
I am a summer girl. I love the sunshine, the green grass, the lake, and lazy afternoons. I love sitting on the dock with my feet in the water. I love popsicles, watermelon, and corn on the cob. I love watching baseball outside and feeling the sand in my hair after a day at the beach. I love golf and waterskiing and watching the sail boat races from our back deck. I love time with friends and staying up late.
But when August hits, I feel the relaxing tide begin to turn. I start thinking about preparing for classes, my kids start practicing for fall sports and start panicking because they haven’t yet made it through their summer reading list. The sun sets a little sooner and the weather feels a bit cooler. I stop watering my hanging baskets, and I start thinking about shopping for school.
My son saw the Sunday circular out on the table with the pictures of brightly-colored school supplies and his mood shifted. He grabbed the paper, crumpled it up, and threw it into the trash can with a vengeance. “Summer is NOT OVER,” he shouted. You know what? He was right.
It’s times like these that I have to force myself to stop rushing my life, to stop being anxious for what the future holds. There is still one month left of summer. Why am I rushing to the next thing?
Often times, I think about the ministry of Jesus and how he had a mere three years to lay the foundation of truth that would change the world. He had a very short time to instruct his disciples, and yet he walked through his days without rushing, without a to-do list, and without a sense of hurry. He took time to build relationships. He took time to listen. He took time to live life with those he loved and offer life to those he had yet to meet.
Jesus spent time teaching his people not to be anxious, and not to worry about tomorrow. Even when telling the disciples about what he would need to endure, he did so with an air of peace. He spoke the comforting words in Matthew 6:25-34 just for us, to help us overcome any anxious feelings we may be having. His kingship has already been established, and we need not fret about the future. Our heavenly Father knows our needs now and forever.
And here I was skipping the last weeks of summer so that I could get the first crack at the notebooks and pencil pouches at the local discount store.
So, I’ll stop looking at the calendar and I’ll forget about the school supplies for a while. Instead, I’ll drop my feet back in the lake and grab a popsicle (cherry is my favorite) and enjoy these last lazy days of summer with my kids. Hurry can wait.
But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.
Amidst the wonderful smells of turkeys basting, gravy simmering, and pies baking, I smelled something foul this past weekend. I caught a whiff of it on the way to Grandma’s house, passing homes basking in the glow of twinkling lights and plastic nativity scenes. I stole a sniff of it when I noticed the peppermint creamer served alongside the caramel macchiato and pumpkin spice varieties. I couldn’t ignore the disgusting odor settling into our conversation around the Thanksgiving table as well-meaning aunts and uncles asked my kiddos what they were hoping might show up under the tree next month. The scent is not easy to ignore. It’s the sneaky stench of Christmas panic.
This panic likes to boil up like a pressure cooker. It starts sometime in November and increases in strengths and potency as we move into December. I don’t really know if this sense of panic is only reserved for mothers. I can’t imagine this impending dread is gender specific. I just know that it’s real, that it’s palpable, and that it is already threatening to overtake that sweet, lingering aroma of Thanksgiving thankfulness—a time that we are supposed to give only gratitude. No gifts. Just thanks.
I have decided that this year, I’m going to be intentional about keep the air around me fresh from the stench. I made a choice to at least preserve the month of November as stench-free. This is not easy as my stack of Christmas cards sit unlabeled on the dining room table. The smell is difficult to ignore as I open up the paper stuffed with shopping ads and coupons. The aroma of greediness and busyness threaten to overpower my sweet smell of peace. But I am trying. This year, I am trying to ignore the sneaky stench of Christmas.
Each year as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, I open up the box of decorations and begin to place them up around my house. In that box is a beautiful cornucopia that I get to fill with colorful gourds and squash from the garden store, flowers in oranges and yellows that I place strategically on tables, and candles that smell like pumpkins and apple spice (my favorite) that add both wonderful smells and a warm glow to the rooms in my home. There is one decoration that I hold most dear. It is hand-made by my then-first-grade son. Bordered in orange construction paper, it’s a hand-turkey… you know, a young son’s handprint made to look like your favorite gobbler. You probably have one of your own somewhere. Below it is a hand-written message, “I am Thankful For…” And my sweet 7-year-old boy wrote, “that my Mom is retiring.” The first time I saw this artwork, I was waiting in the hallway of his elementary school, anticipating an exhilarating conference with his teacher. As I walked in, she mused, “Well this is the first time a parent has cried before the conference begins!”
I really wasn’t retiring. While I am certainly one of the older moms of the group, I am not even close to retirement age. But the previous year I had left my part-time, flexible job and taken gone back to full-time ministry (is there any other kind?). My sweet little boy had noticed that Mom wasn’t quite herself lately. The pressures of running a home and a church had dampened her spirit, and he must have felt it. But…he never said anything. I read about his feelings in the hallway of his elementary school.
But I have to admit, I had felt it too.