First – ground rules.
You cannot, will not, get good rhythms going if you can’t clear your head and produce organized thoughts and goals. You don’t have to BE an organized person; just fake it with a brain dump. Sort it all out for thirty minutes, and share with your roommate or husband or mom or kids. I promise, it’ll make a difference.
What is a rhythm? It’s like a routine, for the heart and the soul. It’s that feeling when you wake up and breathe easier because you have a general idea of how the day is going to go, and how you’re going to treat people, and what’s expected of you, and what you expect from others. It’s that sense of being connected to the Father, because you’ve already cast your cares upon him and his burden is light.
What do our summers look like? I continue to work full time out of the home. Chris continues to work full time in the home. The big kids kind of do their own teenage thing and the little kids are in as many vacation Bible schools as possible. Chris and I wake up at the same time every morning and do the Bible thing together. We still go to the gym, because the free hour of childcare gets a facelift in the summer. They turn it into a mini camp with extra activities and staff. At home, the kids play outside a lot. We try to hold off on screen time until the afternoons (they do use their tablets early in the morning if they wake up before our alarm). We still eat dinner at the same time, and the bedtime routine stays the same. All of the kids sleep wherever they want in the summer, typically in a pile on the floor of their room or in each other’s beds. Everyone’s chores and household expectations stay the same. Nobody is assigned anything specific or additional, but we expect everyone who lives here to help out at the bare minimum. My motto for a healthy work environment (or school, or government or household) has always been that if everyone would just do the bare minimum, systems would work.
We don’t take long vacations; just a few day trips and short vacations spread throughout the summer. Everyone agrees it’s more fun that way, and it’s easier to pay for and take time off of work. Some of our greatest memories have been crammed into a car for a quick getaway and a yummy meal somewhere.
Last year, I focused on three words to infuse throughout the summer – contentment, peace, and joy. I wanted these words to be dripping out of my heart and family and work and play all summer long.
This year, I wrote down more specific goals for the summer – a vibrant and powerful family prayer life, a sense of fun and adventure incorporated into everything we do, and to get prepared for grad school (physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually).
I also selected a verse to memorize and spout off to my family and write into the nooks and crannies of my life. “From the rising of the sun to the place where it sets, the name of the Lord is to be praised.” Psalm 113:3
One new rhythm we’re adding in this year is the family time we named “Summer Sabbath.” Every Saturday morning that we’re able, we’ll make time to have fun and reconnect. Sometimes two or three days go by where we don’t see each other during the week, because some of us are coming and going while others are sleeping. Instead of trying to force a family dinner every night, we’ve decided to focus on Saturday mornings. The rules are as follows: it’s just the family, no phones allowed, the activity is only one hour long, and breakfast always follows. This can look like anything from tennis to a family walk around the park to a historic site tour. I’m really excited for this one.
The prep work only takes a little effort and time, but it’s so worth it. If I know I want to get to the end of the summer with a stronger prayer life and adventures with family under my belt, then I know how to make daily decisions that will help get us there. If I know the next three years are going to be challenging with grad school, then I know how to spend the next few months getting ready with help from others. Everything in life just feels easier and more purposeful if I have vision for it. And isn’t that what life is supposed to look like anyway? As a follower of Jesus, I believe everything SHOULD have purpose and vision. Every move I make should be one that shares the Light and Life I carry. Everything means something. Otherwise, what else am I here for?