Create an intentional summer the easy way – some of my favorite summer posts on life, memories, traditions, and experiences

Summer time is my favorite time. Summer is easy if we let it be easy. Spend much time on Pinterest and you will feel like you must create amazing systems, schedules, and creative experiences. But just let all that roll by you and embrace the beauty of a simple summer.

Today I’m sharing some of my favorite summer posts over the last several years. Here’s links for a few of them.

We Only Have 18 Summers

“I’ve said it before – Lord willing, we only get 18 summers with our children. That’s it. 18 summers.

I do believe that living intentionally allows us to move from stage to stage with a deeper sense of satisfaction. There is a sense of fulfillment that comes from knowing we chose to live fully in the moments. Doesn’t mean it won’t be hard, but we can at least look back with fewer regrets over how we spent our time.”

Summer is for simple moments

Summer doesn’t have to be complicated with filled with expensive bucket list items.

Summer is for taking back time.
Summer is for championing for our families and friends. For cheering and celebrating life.
Summer is for friends. Summer is for simply investing in life-giving relationships.
Summer is for simple moments.
Summer is for slowing down and simply being.
Like all of life, summer is a gift.

Mission Mondays – A Summer Tradition

Sometimes summer can turn into a time of “all about us”. We become so focused on creating a summer to remember for our kids, we fail to remember one of the greatest things we can do for our kids is create hearts of compassion that care more about others than themselves.

Blackberry Moments (P.S. This was one of my very first blog posts when my blog turned from simply a family yearbook to an intentional ministry. While the writing has changed over time, the heart of this post remains one of my all time favorites.)

“To grab the moments, we must be available. Life needs to be a little less complicated, a little less distracted, a little less busy. Buffers of time must exist in order to capture the moments that sometimes crop up unexpectedly, without warning.

We have one chance to paint a beautiful life. Lord willing, the day will come when we have more time on our hands than we know how to fill. Our houses will be quieted. Our homes will look the same way at 7 am, 12 pm, 5 pm, and 8 pm. Because there will be no block towers built, no army scenes created, no pillow forts constructed, and no sword fights fought.”

Don’t Blink, Then I Blinked

#dontblink – a common hashtag when celebrating graduations, birthdays, a new school year, or a life change.

#theniblinked -it’s like a sudden realization that time actually does move at a pace that is frighteningly slow in real time yet megafast in the replay.

One day we are wiping smashed peas off chubby cheeks, then we seem to blink as we watch that same child wiping milk from our new grandbaby’s mouth.

Each blink is a gift full of opportunity. How do we blink through life without missing a moment?

What if we never stopped playing?

I have to work to play. Work comes easy. Play – not so much.

My kids want me in the pool with them. On the basketball court. Not on the sidelines.

I’ve come to a new conclusion on play. Play is important no matter our age. In fact, maybe play is even more important for grown ups than it is for kids.

Maybe if we played more, we’d snap less.

Maybe if we played more, we’d grumble less.

Maybe if we played more, we’d let the little things go with ease.

Maybe if we played more, we’d sleep sounder.

Maybe if we played more, we’d laugh harder and linger longer.

Maybe if we played more, we’d listen closer.

Maybe if we played more, we’d love more intensely.

Maybe if we played more, we’d rekindle what’s dwindled.

How Not To Waste A Life

I’m living my life fully spent. I’m not saving an ounce for the future because I don’t know what tomorrow holds. Each day I’m falling into bed exhausted with nothing left to give, yet sleeping with complete peace knowing I’m exerting every ounce exactly where He has me right now.

It’s a different kind of exhaustion, the kind that comes not from overcommitting or trying to do everything placed before me. It’s the kind of exhaustion from living fully right here.

I’m trading in being a saver of life so I can savor life.


Ok- so creating this post for you today was more for me than I realized. That is typically how God works in me through my writing. I sit down wanting to minister to you and serve you. But when I’m done, I feel God has given me an incredible gift. I stopped after 7 posts.

I don’t intend you to sit and read them all in one sitting. Save today’s post and read one or two a day. Let the Lord move you in the direction of intentional simplicity. Living life to the fullest. Life is a beautiful journey. Each moment is unique and will never exist again in the same exact way. Embrace and live.

In case you’ve missed it, I’ve created a tool to help you simply sit with Jesus. There’s a sweet joy in letting go of the frantic pace of life for 10 sweet minutes to sit at His feet. I tend to be more like Martha than Mary, working more than sitting. Jesus loved Mary’s offering.God is inviting you to simply sit at His feet. You don’t need a book, or a group, or an extra night carved out of your schedule. You simply need an email address.

When you order Illuminate, it will arrive quietly into your inbox. It will patiently wait on you. And when you listen, God will speak to you. I’ve prayed for your time with Him as you allow Illuminate to help you to focus your heart and mind simply on God, the lover of your soul.

It’s $10. It’s yours forever. It would make a sweet gift to someone the Lord brings to your mind who could use some encouragement and reminders of who loves them with a reckless love. Click the picture for more information.

audio devotional





We Only Have 18 Summers


Last week was an emotional week full of activity. Thursday Andrew graduated kindergarten, Jacob and Zachary each won awards in their grades that had me and Steve sobbing messes, and Friday ended the school year.

Saturday I attended the senior graduation ceremony at our small christian school. I expected it to be like any other graduation I’ve attended. Basically a reading of names, a quick inspirational speech or two, the passing out of diplomas. We expected to pop in, show our support to our senior class, and quickly escape to Andrew’s baseball game. I took Jacob and Zachary with me to show them what they have to look forward to one day.

I didn’t expect to sob for an hour over children who aren’t mine. That was quite a surprise. I embarrassed the daylights out of Jacob, who asked me numerous times to stop crying, or laughing, or showing any emotion for that matter. (I think it’s the 11-year-old in him).

Life is fleeting. It will pass at a speed that will blow us away. I can’t pause time, but I can fully enter it. I can be all in when I’m in.

I knew it before my children were born. I’ve been told by every mom who has reached the point of letting go. Not one person has ever told me that time crawled. None. No one I’ve ever talked to told me when they sent their child off to college that the years were slow. Instead, it’s been “Hold on. Don’t blink. You won’t believe it when it arrives.”

I believe these people. I see the tenderness in their eyes. The pause of contemplation. The grins that tell me they don’t want to tell me how painful it will be.

I listened to 8 seniors (it’s a tiny school) stand on stage and express their hearts to their friends, families, and teachers. Each student shared words from their heart that parents long to hear. Thank you for modeling Christ to me. Thank you for educating me. Thank you for encouraging me and supporting me even when I didn’t show you gratitude. Thank you for investing in me. Thank you for loving me unconditionally.

I could hardly hold it together.

In those 8 faces, I saw my little boys. They will stand on a stage one day, Lord willing. I will look at their man-sized bodies and see the little boys we’ve raised. I will reflect on the years I held chubby hands to cross a street, sat side by side reading aloud for hours on end, tucked into bed praying our hearts out together.

I will miss it. Deeply.

I’ve said it before – Lord willing, we only get 18 summers with our children. That’s it. 18 summers.

I do believe that living intentionally allows us to move from stage to stage with a deeper sense of satisfaction. There is a sense of fulfillment that comes from knowing we chose to live fully in the moments. Doesn’t mean it won’t be hard, but we can at least look back with fewer regrets over how we spent our time.

When my children stand on that stage, I won’t reminisce on the bickering. I won’t remember the exasperation from telling them over and over to clean their rooms. I won’t remember the irritation of a staircase piled with toys, books, and clothes. I won’t think about how tired I was. I won’t be grateful that there will be no handprint smudges up the white walls or holes in sheetrock from a baseball gone wild. At least I don’t think I will.

Because when I watched those 8 seniors, all I could see was love, joy, and gratitude. If it were my boys standing there, I’d be thinking, “My goodness look what God has done with you.”

It’s officially summer in our home. Today I thank God for another school year. For the beginnings of another summer. For hot days and lazy mornings. For a slow pace and curiosity driven explorations. For legos and army men. For bike paths and healthy legs. For wild blackberry discoveries. For time.

Summer is the burying of “Hurry up!” or “Let’s go, we are late.” Summer sees no alarm clock. Summer is for sitting on the couch with Bible and journal until the first boy appears groggy-eyed at the bottom of the stairs. It’s for snuggling as we start our day in His Word together because the clock stopped bossing us around.

Summer is for lingering longer at dinner, not rushing away for showers and bed. Summer is for water tag, horse, or pickle after dinner. It’s for going to bed sweaty and tired, exhausted from a day well played.

Summer is for books read aloud on the couch for hours because we have no place to go.

Summer is for noticing. Noticing what happens when I move slower.

Summer is for backyard campouts, bonfires, and lightning bugs.

Summer is here for now. It will not last long. Like the rest of time, it refuses to halt at my command. I only get 18, so I will take each moment this summer. I’ll hold it, taste it, feel it, fully enter. We will laugh hard and play loud.

With each passing moment, I will say, “Thank you, God, for just one more.”

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7 Organizational Tips for an Intentional Summer


(Photo from 2011)

I have 2 favorite times of year:  Christmas and Summer.  Partly because I have my little guys home with me for an extended period of time.

We are on the brink of summer break.  I always have high hopes of long leisurely days together, reading book after book, sipping lemonade in the sun, long walks and talks, and late night cricket concerts.  And of course I envision the 5 of us basking in each other’s presence, relishing in our time together, warmth and love flowing from person to person.  Moments of beauty throughout the day.

Usually by day 2 reality sets in.  After 9 months of a structured schedule and relatively little time together, we need to readjust to being together for so many unstructured hours.  And by the end of Week 1, I find myself already sad that we are one week closer to the end of summer.

Each summer is bittersweet.  It’s a beautiful time together, but I’m always reminded that we only have so many summers with our children.  I want my boys to know that every ounce of my being wants to spend as much time with them as possible.  I never want them to believe that I dread summer when they are home.  I cringe when parents say (in front of their kids) that they are already looking forward to August when the kids go back to school.

To make the most of the fleeting moments of summer, we must be intentional.  And a bit more organized.  Here are a few tips for organizing an intentional summer before the season hits.

  1. Create a summer bucket list.  Involve the kiddos.  This is such a fun way to get everyone excited for the season ahead.  And it is so fun to look back on at the end of summer and remember the great times and memories created.
  2. Create a chore chart or system.  Some way to get the kids involved in the daily tasks around the house.  Chores help them to feel like they are making a difference in the family.  And when they know that fun can’t take place until after work, you will be amazed at how quickly and completely they can work!
  3. Create a daily schedule.  Now I don’t mean a strict time schedule that you will follow every single day.  More like a guideline for the days you will mostly be at home.  I used this website for some great inspiration.  I really loved some of her ideas.
  4. Create a reward system.  We are using a reward chart for reading and math.  Once they fill up their chart, we go out for ice cream.  20 minutes of math and 20 minutes of reading earns one sticker for each.  This potentially means ice cream every other week!  Completed books earn a treasure box trip.
  5. Determine any goals you have for the summer and write out a plan for achieving them.  This may require scheduling things ahead of time to ensure you work towards the goal.  Every Monday is Missions Monday.  I created a list of projects we will do every Monday during the summer.  I like knowing I don’t have to scramble around to get our project ready.
  6. Create a summer bulletin board in your home.  Our summer board has our daily summer schedule.  In addition we have a section of summer fun food coupons and summer outing coupons.
  7. Determine what is important to your family and if it is possible go ahead and print out a schedule.  The summer $1 movies are a big hit here, so I print out the schedule ahead of time and schedule in which movies we will plan to see.  It helps me to make sure we do the things we really want to do.

Being organized not only keeps me sane, but it allows me to make the most of the time I’m given.   I spend less time thinking and more time doing.  The thinking, planning, preparing are done ahead of time.  So when the time arrives, I can be fully in the moments.

Here is a glimpse of what we are doing to organize our summer:

  1. Summer Bucket List-Completed by entire family
  2. Each child has their own clipboard.  On the clipboard is their chore chart, library and bookstore reading program charts, our reading/math reward chart.
  3. We have a daily schedule
  4. We have the schedules for summer concerts and movies we plan to attend
  5. We have Mission Mondays planned and ready to begin
  6. My boys don’t enjoy going to VBS or Bible Clubs.  So I’m doing a Bible study with them this summer.  We will have Home Bible Study every Wednesday morning.  Last summer we read through Case for Christ for Kids together (awesome, awesome, awesome book…my kids were a bit young for it though).
  7. As a Kick Off Summer gift, I’ll be giving each boy a new journal.  They can use it for journaling away these long summer days.

What are some ideas that work well for your family?  How do you create fun summer times and keep the stress down?  We’d love to hear your thoughts!