#Back2School in #31Days: Day 6 – Finish Summer

Looking forward to #Back2School can be fun, but one tricky thing about beginnings and fresh starts is managing the the present well.

Back2School Logo

It can be fun, easy, inspiring to plan and prepare for things to come – but if that keeps me from being grounded, present, and aware of this moment right here then what’s the point?

Plus only looking ahead or behind can be dangerous. Fantasizing what life could be or regretting what was.

So I want to take time in my #Back2School preparation to have a little talk with myself about these 2 sidetracks.

First, too much looking ahead leads to fantasy and unrealistic expectations. If my vision isn’t based on a present-minded, goals oriented, and personality-based plans, then I’m probably getting excited for nothing and setting myself up for failure (more on planning for failure later).

This is one of the reasons why I like the Bullet Journal (again, the post explaining this is coming soon!). I may be weirder than weird, but I think I may never buy a calendar driven planner again.

My brain just doesn’t work that way.

For me, too much looking ahead creates false hopes and fills days with endless good deeds. I forget how to take things step at a time, and I bite off more than I can chew – and all those other metaphors for not being realistic.

Second, looking behind can only be helpful if I’m teachable. How can I learn from my mistakes? What can I discern as contributing factors to failures in behavior, schedule, attitude, etc.?

Last year was just okay as far as planning ahead went. I did better than the year before, but I still didn’t have a good grasp on goal setting and accomplishing.

But farther back than last year, and I am a wreck when I looked back.

I need balance. Patience. Gentleness.

This interesting to me: I’m discovering that underneath my regret is impatience.

And that underneath my fear of the future is laziness.

To move forward, I accept both the impatience and laziness as challenges to overcome, and I talk gently to myself with reminding, preaching, and encouraging thoughts.

So the point of this day was to be in this day. To stay present in the ending of one thing before busily bustling into the next. I don’t think it’s good to rush things, or forget things.

Fear of endings, closure, goodbyes isn’t pacified by ignoring that it’s happening.

I want to own the endings in my life. To model how to calmly bring something to a close. To celebrate goodbyes by honoring memories, capturing moments – staying in the present.

I want to finish summer strong by completing our commitments like our summer reading programs. I went back and thought about all the things I said I was going to do, and made plans to finish them.

  • Summer reading programs
  • Slumber parties
  • Play dates
  • Discovering a (new to us) hiking trail

I want to be a finisher because the heart of my son depends on it. He remembers every word I say, every time I think out-loud and agree to try something new.

He thrives when I keep my word.

B2S Day 6 Finish Summer 1

Which is why I know I need to save the talk about routines, meal times, chores, and all the changes that are but a few weeks away, and just jump in the van and drive around town handing in our completed summer reading programs – while doing little victory dances. (Victory dances look more like bench sitting and pouring over new free books.)

B2S Day 6 Finish Summer 2

It’s the little things, and the sanity things.

Like not rushing to finish all the boxes of the reading chart in one week (we were that family last year, and literally handed our charts in on the very last day).

B2S Day 6 Finish Summer 3

And to my surprise, the boy who wouldn’t read a fiction book when I told him he could buy whatever book he wanted – and as many as he wanted – finished his free fiction books (both!) in less than 24 hours. I’m shocked. When did he decide it was time to finish 200+ page fiction?

B2S Day 6 Finish Summer 4

I guess this day was as much important for me and it was for them.

Noticing how much we’ve changed and how much we all stay the same. Respecting the seasons for growing, stretching, and deepening us.

For today, we celebrate and finish. We live into the day we have right now, not looking back or too far ahead, but staying present we are filled with gratitude for receiving such a full summer.



This post is a part of a #Back2School Series, click here for the index.

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Intentional Summer: December is coming.

What a dooms day, Debbie-downer title. Right?

I don’t mean to rain snow on anyone’s summer parade, but being helpful is what I do – encouraging change and growth. So, as I write the winter portion of the seasonal planner I’m working on (mentioned here, your continued patience in the publishing of said resource is appreciated) I want to share some of the thoughts with you now – while you can still use them.

As a parent, sometimes December takes me off guard.

Usually, I have established a big “Back to School” ideal. We prioritize, plan, prepare, and purchase everything we need to set up a learning environment that suites our needs.

Kids thrive with a balance of healthy change and routinesLife feels like it could go on like this forever. We have had our fill of summer and September has brought a fresh change.

Fall arrives, the plan goes into motion and I coast. It feels right for a few weeks, but then the texts, emails, church bulletins, and family engagements start filling up the calendar.

October has slowed our pace and by November my kids are sick of the routine, they are in great need of physical exercise, and I am in need of tasting some good fruit from all my effort.

December isn’t a time for tasting fresh fruit (at least not in Michigan and not in the symbolic way either), but winter’s atmosphere can still be sweet.

I have to intentionally create an anchor atmosphere for every season, or my mindset will be carried with the wind.

Two things I need for my intentionality to continue to thrive (and for my sanity):

  1. Planning ahead
  2. Preserving
Photo credit: words added

Photo credit: words added

Planning ahead: the rebel in me doesn’t like to see “Back to School” displays in July, but that is when stores start to promote it. Sure, they are motivated by profit, but the reminder is free.

Procrastination hurts intention every-single-time. Don’t be a fool for the lie again – that you can do the work later. This is the lie that says that July is too soon for planning to change the routine. Planning ahead does require work, but a little bit of it today will go a long way when it comes time for the routine to change.

Taking time to consider the winter months today will smooth the transition. You will have already done some of the work which builds momentum.

Planning ahead allows for a different perspective. Sometimes it feels impossible to change a season’s atmosphere. So it’s important to learn from the past seasons and begin to apply the changes you’d like to see.

To do this: look at a calendar for the whole year – and next to each of the winter months, jot a single word that usually summarizes your feelings in that month. Then write one word that summarizes the deeper purpose you commit to prioritize.

For example, my December would look like this:

Feeling: Overwhelmed
Purpose: Family Time

Now, when those months start to approach begin to plan your weeks holding the second word close.

If it’s “family time” then start crossing out blocks of time that will be reserved for family – making those urgent requests for more of your time an easy “no, I already have plans.”

Or if it is, “rest” then you can start listing activities that help you relax and start penciling them into your weeks. Also, begin to take note of things that make you feel overwhelmed – try to eliminate those activities during this month by taking the time to plan to accomplish some of the important tasks now. (Like ordering Christmas cards.)

Trust me, even if you’re thinking – I have small kids, so they would be written on my list of things that are overwhelming and I can’t cross them off my list. I know it’s hard to manage self-care and child-care. But habit training is possible, and you can teach your children to be calm. It is possible for them to honor your need for rest.

Photo credit: words added

Photo credit: words added

Preservation: just as canning fruits means I can enjoy them year round, so living well in every season preserves my spirit.

A misconception of planning ahead is that one is always looking forward and not fully enjoying the present. Not if you can balance it with preservation.

The amount of time it takes to be intentional pails in comparison to the amount of time I’ve wasted on living week-to-week. What I’ve gained from discipline and follow through is a full well of memories that I can draw from when I’m feeling drained.

Preservation is another means of self-control.

If I want to have blueberry smoothies in December, then I can’t gorge on the berries that I pick in July. I have to weigh the joy these berries will give me in December as heavier than the fleeting pleasure of eating one more handful now.

Preservation is also a way of respect. I honor the choices I make today and live fully within them. Not looking back in regret, nor forward in fantasy. I measure my days, make the most of them, and save them as proof of fruit from a life lived with much sowing.

Respect has a way of balancing by setting limits.

Write a letter to your winter-self from your summer-self. No, I’m not into predicting the future – that isn’t the purpose for this. Set aside a list of things you accomplished with the time you were given in the summer. Be honest about the trials you endured – great and small. Give credit to the lessons you faced that are unique to this time of year. Preserve a little bit of the feeling of the summer months to compare and contrast the atmospheres.

Then when winter comes, make a second list of things that anchor you to this season.

No season is “perfect,” but every season has purpose. With these suggestions, I hope you can see what atmosphere you are able to create within each month and enjoy the benefits of living with satisfaction in every season.

Some resources for further reading:

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Spring is coming.

I was having coffee with a dear friend who is currently in college. We were meeting for our usual “catch up” and sharing with no agenda. We have been doing this for almost 5 years now! And I can’t tell you how much I love it.

So as we were talking, I had a timeline moment :: when you’re thinking back on a stage in your own life where you can relate to someone else’s experience and then you fast forward to the present and realize how much grace God has truly given and how much closer you are to realizing God’s purpose for your life? Just like that. This is that timeline.

God’s calling to write for Him was a seed that he planted when I was much younger. The desire rose within me soon after coming to true repentant faith around the age of 15.  I remember writing poems and songs, and the value of words began to gain more weight in my soul. My senior year of high school I was dual enrolled at Hope College in order to take writing classes – best gift my parents could give me: encouraging and enabling me to become a better writer. I look back and know with confidence that my English 111 class “The Defining Gesture” had an eternal purpose for me. The professor taught me how to self-edit. How to write it all out, and then rip it all apart. How to find the hidden gems within the rough draft, and then carefully reconstruct a piece.

God call

And yet it took many more years for the soil of my heart to be healthy enough to write anything that would be a ministry to others. I tried many times to write for myself, and it always felt empty. I knew there was a seed within me, the desire and drive to write – but when would it ever grow? Growing restless, I would give up on writing during dry seasons in my 20’s, yet God was faithfully working on the soil of my heart. The deeper layers of who I am in Christ. My heart soil had to be dug up and turned up. To be weeded and de-thorned. So, I waited. And watered. And struggled and wrestled. And languished in the dry sun waiting. Through season after season of not enough fruit to make my life feel like it was good enough, I didn’t realize that roots were growing down deep, roots in Christ. All I had eyes for was above the ground. I wanted instant fruit from one time soil tending efforts. But oh, how this process, 15 years and still going strong, has been useful in my life.


All the years that I mourned for the death of one seed, thinking that if it had not grown yet then I must have done something that caused me to lose God’s favor. I studied the one spot in the soil where I knew that seed was planted. I didn’t realize that the Spirit was at the same time working throughout my whole heart. Planting more and more seeds than just the one I liked the most. God lead me through many seasons of life. Summer, learning to rest in His warmth. Fall, learning to let things, people, and hopes pass. Winter, learning to live by faith when everything around me seems dead. Spring, learning that new life always comes after the cold. Dark. Night of life.

Now, in this season {heart season : spring} I stand back and see the first new shoots of life bursting forth from that soil that I thought was never going to produce. I’m surprised by joy as I turn and see a whole garden He is cultivating in my heart. Not just one plant, but many. I just stand in awe. The Gardener knows better than I, and He has fruit planned that is far better than I could ever imagine. And I’m humbled because I don’t know or understand the plans He has for me, but I trust that they are plans for hope and a future.


So my seed, my calling, came with a vision. A hope, that when I misunderstood it and set my sights on the instant gratification of being all God wanted me to be, was dashed. But a hope that is now restored because even though it wasn’t easily seen or discerned at the time, He was building {and continues to build} my hope in Him. Showing me that I should never put my trust in a seed, but always in the Gardener.

And my dear friend? Well, she may be living in a season of waiting for fruit. I know the feeling well. And even though I can’t bring her through all of life’s seasons and fast forward her soil to show her future fruit, I can teach her to do the humble and faithful work that got me to this place of rest and trust. Of always looking for new growth. Spring is coming.

Summer :: Coming Soon

I’ve been thinking ahead for a while now. Baby #3’s confirmation was my initiation into a bigger and broader world of family life. I immediately starting planning for how to transition my older kiddos into more responsibility and myself into more personal discipline. It has been a productive nine months over here! All this thinking ahead helped me process change slowly :: and that’s my comfortable pace.

Major change #1: Chores for the kids :: Check


Major change #2: Changing curriculum and deciding on our homeschool schedule for the next year :: Check


Major change #3: Deciding in advance what our summer schedule feels like :: In-process


I’ve been thinking a lot about the best way to savor this summer. Of course we will be spending a lot of time getting into a new normal as a family of five, but I didn’t want that to define our whole season. I’ve put a lot of thought into summer plans, and I wrote about it over on Examiner.com. Check it out here.