10 Ways to Receive Your Summer Life with Less Envy and More Gratitude

10 ways to receive summer life

Last summer I wrote a post called “How to Receive Your Own Summer Life.” I bared my struggling summer soul, which has a way of overflowing with envy and discontentment during the season that’s supposed to be the happiest, most easygoing time of the year.

I’d love to report that I have matured a year later. Alas, I’m fighting for acceptance and gratitude all over again.

In the midst of this struggle, I’ve been thinking a lot about what it looks like at street level to receive my own summer life instead of pining for opportunities and experiences that aren’t mine to have. This post could be an instructive piece about the evils of envy and how we should instead be grateful and realize how #blessed we are.

And this is true. Envy is bad. Gratitude is where it’s at.

But if the truth doesn’t travel to my heart and make a home there, it’s all just knowledge. I need truth to link arms with me in everyday ways so that what’s in my head can sync with my heart and overflow with love into my real life.

Thus these 10 tactics or suggestions or considerations or whatever you want to call them. They’re helping me in my quest to receive a summer life that does not include an Airstream, a fancy vacation, super lazy days, or even our annual July trip to Michigan.

If your summer feels ordinary or less-than, if you’re fighting to receive your summer life too, I hope these truths set you free to embrace the summer you have, even if it’s not the summer you want to have.


1. Don’t compare your sink full of dirty dishes with someone else’s summer highlight reel.

Imagine this moment: The day has just begun. You wake up to a headache, last night’s dishes, and children fighting over the iPod charger. You pour a cup of coffee and open Instagram or Facebook, only to see friends on an anniversary trip, skipping through the blue waters of Tahiti. They are so #blessed.

Suddenly your life is the worst.

messy kitchen

You do not appreciate your home, your night of sleep, the food in your pantry, or the fighting children. Because Tahiti.

But real life is not lived in highlight reel moments. When we receive those moments, they are worthy of celebrating. But the mundane moments matter too. And to begrudge them because everyone else seems to be living their best summer life now, well, it makes a mockery of our beautiful, ordinary lives.


2. Disconnect if it helps you stay present.

I know, I know. Being “present” is such a buzz word right now. But guess what? We’re still not doing it.

From time to time I simply have to go off social media and the internet. My emotional responses while scrolling through Instagram are almost always a barometer for the state of my soul. Judgmentalism? Envy? Eye-rolling? Anxiety? When those familiar companions show up, it’s time for me to walk away for a while.


Whether it’s the envied experiences of others or an attention-grabbing post we just have to read, the truth is — we don’t have the capacity to handle all the input that’s catapulted at us day in and day out.

Last Saturday I left my phone on the kitchen counter and went for a walk in the hottest part of the day. I didn’t care; I just knew I needed the space to disconnect. As I walked and sweated and prayed, my head cleared and my soul breathed. An hour later I returned with peace and perspective, feeling more at home in my own life.

We’re the only ones who can put up boundaries and choose what we let in. Each one of us has different thresholds, but here are some things I’ve noticed about myself:

  • When I walk away from the online world, I’m more attentive to the little world that’s right in front of me.
  • I notice the gifts of my own life and feel content to tuck them away in my heart, just for me. 
  • I pay attention to the people who matter most. 
  • I’m more engaged and focused.
  • My mind feels less cluttered. 

I’m not hating on the internet or on social media. I became a writer because I started a blog ten years ago. I earn a living creating online content. I love Instagram. Some of my dearest friends are those I met through the blogosphere. But I’m learning when and how to draw boundaries that help me receive my own summer life instead of feeling like it doesn’t quite measure up.


3. Fight back with gratitude.

Apparently Ann Voskamp was on to something when she started that one thousand gifts thing. Here’s a little story from a few weeks ago:

I was in a beautiful place with people I love. But for two days, all of it was shrouded in gloom because I wasn’t getting my way about a few things. There were experiences I wanted to have and none of them were working out. For a while I clung to my resentment, miserable though I was, because there’s a sick sort of satisfaction we get from entitlement. Thankfully I got fed up with myself.


“Fine!” I said to no one in particular. “I’ll start counting the gifts.”

By the time I’d named even a few things I was grateful for, the entitlement began to melt away and thankfulness took up residence in its place. Self-pity and  resentment are powerful emotions. But here’s the good news: gratitude is a powerful emotion too. It’s like Ann says, “Fight emotion with emotion.”

It works.


4. Remember that selfishness never takes a vacation.

It’s why families still fight at Disneyworld, the happiest place on earth.

This ever-present brokenness is something it’s taken us years to remember and to plan for. But summer, with its more relaxed schedule, special travel plans, and happy expectations, is one of those seasons when I subconsciusly expect all sunshine and no rain. Ironically, some of our worst marital conflicts have actually been on vacation. And some of our kids’ ugliest moments have also been on vacation.

Also, these lazy days of summer seem to bring out the worst sibling squabbles. IMG_4531

Knowing that brokenness travels with us wherever we go and accompanies our families in each and every season — it’s strangely helpful. When family togetherness goes off the rails, we don’t fall into a shock-induced despair. We know that we’re messy people living in a messy world. We look to God to fill us up with grace for ourselves and for our people.

Which is the perfect segue to my next point.


5. Lower your expectations.

I have an honorary doctorate in high expectations. This applies to myself and to those around me. Bless us all.

But when I allow for my life and my people to be messy, for things to not go as planned, we’re a much happier lot. I call it “expectational margin.” This point about low expectations may sound dismal and lazy, but I like to think of it as grace.

rubbermaid pool

I will forever love this photo of my niece. Is she depressed that she’s swimming in a rubbermaid container on Aunt Marian’s driveway and not at a beach resort? She is not. Tiny Tabitha has delightfully low expectations and is just happy to be here. #blessed


6. Know that every day doesn’t have to be a memory maker.

Raise your hand if it feels like there’s a lot of pressure to make all the summer days special-ish. We live in a Pinteresty, Instragrammy culture of bucket lists, of moments we can hashtag, of documenting every adorable experience. And while that can be fun, the cumulative effect is that it makes our everyday moments feel like they’re not measuring up.

My kids tend to remember summer not for all the special things we’ve done but for the break from school, the later bedtimes, the relaxed schedule, and watching TV together as a family. That’s how I remember the summers of my childhood too.

Summer is its own stand-alone kind of special. This reminds me that the pressure’s off.


7. Remember that the free stuff is often what we remember most and best.

My boys found a bunch of wiffle balls at the park and it was like Christmas.

My youngest son is watching dog training videos on YouTube.

My daughter and I are partaking in the glorious Ministry of Netflix again this summer.


I was reflecting this week on what I loved most about summer as a kid:

  • Playing with kids at the church softball field and how the water fountain leaked enough for us to make mud pies in the red Carolina dirt
  • Riding my bike down to the creek and the freedom I felt
  • Watching the Sunday night ABC family movie
  • Having picnics in the living room
  • Catching fireflies


Childhood is its own sort of vacation.


8. Celebrate summertime with story time.

Novels, audiobooks, read-alouds, movies. Summer begs us to slow down and get lost in good stories.

ed tulane pic

Even if I’m staying at home all summer, a good book or evening movie feel like ridiculous luxuries. Especially if there’s ice cream in the house.


9. Consider each summer season’s pros and cons.

Every season of parenthood has its summertime pros and cons. When my kids were little, taking them to the pool felt like an Olympic sport. {Guess what I don’t miss? Swim diapers.} But then those exhausting cherubs came home exhausted. They took naps and I had time to also take a nap or read a book or paint furniture or write. Bonus: They went to bed earlier and we enjoyed kid-free evenings.

These days they can get dressed and take showers and fix food ALL BY THEMSELVES. It’s glorious. But I’ve been crazy stressed because summer hasn’t felt relaxed. I’ve been driving people to and from places. A lot. And it’s a challenge to find long stretches of time during the day to get my work done.

It’s a busier summer because the people who live here are older and have more scheduled lives.

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They no longer go to bed early. (Boo!)  But we can all stay up late watching movies together that aren’t animated. (Yay!)

Each season has its own gifts and its own burdens. Being mindful of this reality helps me receive this current summer season with more grace and optimism.


10. Take time to nourish yourself.

I did an Instagram post a couple of weeks ago about how fixing myself a proper breakfast mid-morning changed the emotional trajectory of my day. I had been up half the night for no particular reason. Which meant I slept through my alarm. By the time I woke up, the kids were fighting and resistant to responsibility. I’d lost precious early-morning work hours, and I commenced to stressing and hollering.

My default is to grab coffee and race downstairs to crank out some work. But I went against my instinct. I slowed down. I cooked an actual meal for myself. I read for a few minutes. This 30 minute time-out nourished my body and my soul. It’s hard to be kind to others when you haven’t been kind to yourself.


I really do love summer, but each year it’s an adjustment. This introvert mom has frayed nerves by the end of the day. Because I work from home but my kids are also at home, it gets a little cuckoo around here. Nourishing myself in small ways, like a real breakfast {or that ombre pink drink from Starbucks}, feels like kindness.


I’d love to know how you receive your summer life. You can share in the comments, shoot me an e-mail, or leave your thoughts on social media.

Happy ordinary summering, everyone!

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  1. Jenny says

    This blog post was like water to my thirsty soul. Everything on the list spoke to me. We are moving in August…so this summer does not feel relaxed. I struggle with trying to create memories one minute and/or pack boxes the next. Also, I have 3 teenagers who are lamenting that we are not on a trip to Europe or Tahiti (thanks instagram). I am an introvert and find that having everyone home all day is such a challenge. Truthfully, it works itself out over the summer but it takes time. Thank you so much for the reminder to slow down, be thankful, and take time for yourself.

    • says

      Social media is the WORST for reminding our teenagers (and us) that we’re not summering abroad in Europe. Also, we moved 2 summers ago and that can feel like not having a summer at all. Solidarity, sister. It does have a way of working itself out.

      Thanks for your words here!

  2. Hallie says

    Oh my! This really speaks to me! Every single idea is doable. I have a new term to share with family–“expectational margin”. Thank you!

  3. says

    I can so relate to your summer envy and disappointment! We have spent the rest of the year in Argentina and have had amazing opportunities to explore that beautiful country. It’s amazing how quickly all that is forgotten as I watch neighbours drive off for another long weekend camping trip and I’m stuck home with four kids.

    And yes, little outings and movie nights are special to the kids. It doesn’t need to be Tahiti or Disney to be a good summer memory.

    • says

      So, so true! I too am so quick to forget all the goodness and beauty that has come my way in seasons past. Glad to have you here, Colleen.

  4. Colette says

    You hit it again! So happy with every post of yours it is so real and relatable. Our oldest is 10 and stays up late in summer, our youngest four year old is alive and kicking from 5.30 am… so where’s me time when work needs to be done and kids are all day at home? summertime knows loads of precious moments garnered with total meltdowns… expectational margin helps a lot! Love from the Netherlands. Don’t cross oceans expecting Paradise…envy and Instagram perfect is everywhere we allow it to be!

    • says

      I love having a reader in the Netherlands! : ) Thanks for your words here, Colette. It’s good to know that isn’t just an “American” thing.

  5. Nancy says

    Wonderful article! With my mom’s passing in January and then my cancer diagnosis in February, this is no ordinary summer for me. Everything has changed. I’m not even going to the 4th of July parade in my town that I always attend each year. I am pretty sure that the old “normal” way of life will never return, but have to keep reminding myself that the new normal is what’s right for right now in my life. Chemo is never pleasant, but especially during the summer with the warm weather. Things may have changed, but I am a survivor and must live in the present because, really, that’s all I/we have.

    • says

      Nancy, what a difficult season this has been. I’m so sorry. Thank you for the reminder that our right-now lives – whether fancy or ordinary – are a gift. May you feel God’s goodness in a personal way this summer. Thanks for your presence here!

  6. says

    thank you marian.I feel like summer has always brought to the surface envy, insecurity, discontentment more than other seasons for me too. It’s good to feel like I am not alone in the battle of receiving my own summer with more gratitude and grace.

    • says

      Sweet Melissa, thank you. You’re definitely not the only one who struggles with summer on a soul level. May July bring sweet and unexpected gifts your way! (Hope that doesn’t sound too much like a fortune cookie saying!)

  7. Alisa says

    Thank you SO much for another great post. Inflated expectations coupled with everyone’s seemingly perfect social media “highlight reel” can make a mama lose sight of the beautiful ordinary. Your words were a much needed reminder for me today. Printing this one to keep close by!

    And that red Carlina dirt? I spent lots of time trying to clean that stuff out of toddler clothes when my boys were little. There’s nothing quite like it! ?

  8. says

    I just discovered your post from Emily Freeman’s weekly roundup and really enjoyed this post. I’m also trying out Hope Writers for a week so I might see you there! Thanks again.

  9. Megan says

    Oh this is so good!! I remember your post from last summer and how life giving it was. I find myself transitioning from “working outside the home ” mom (teacher) to “staying at home for a few years ” mom. And it’s somewhat bizarre that summer is at the beginning of it because it just feels like a Normal summer so far but I know I’ll be adjusting for a while into the fall. I’m realizing what structure we will need for being at home together and adjusting my expectations. Staying at home with my boys won’t be #endless summer (like some of my teacher friends might say) but thankful nonetheless. This post will help me far past summer!!

  10. Tammy says

    My 8 year old is having a lot of trouble this year with summer gratitude! I am not quite sure why, but her expectations are very high. We’ve already taken a short vacation and have done fun things here and there. Everywhere she goes people will ask her, “Are you having a fun summer?”, and she always replies in the negative. She doesn’t have access to social media and I don’t think any of her friends are doing anything all that spectacular, but her heart has been set toward discontentment. I’m going to reread this list to see which items I can use to help her!

  11. says

    Thanks for sharing your honesty and perspective! I was nodding through the entire article. My boys are 2 and 4, so I am in the parenting phase of enjoying the post-beach naps and the early bedtimes. I’ll miss those when they’re gone!

  12. says

    Marian, this is exactly what I needed to read today. I’ve been struggling through this summer and scrambling to find a healthy balance between relaxing and “going.” I’ve been wrestling with the fact that the past three seasons, when our oldest was in school for the first year, were “easier” than this summer has been. I want to enjoy these days, but sometimes I find myself longing for autumn. Even after writing articles about this struggle and deciding I’d figured it out, I find that every day is a new opportunity to juggle the difficulties and joys of the season, and it’s not simple. Thanks so much for these words. They helped with my perspective very much.

  13. says

    Marian–LOVED this post. Thanks so much for this much-needed pep talk!

    (P.S. In that last parenthetical about clicking here to learn more about the gift for subscribers, the link is broken. Just wanted to let you know!)


  14. Lena says

    Discovering your blog seemed to me to be an “accident” but I now realize it was purposeful. I kept saying – yes, I know, me too, throughout your entire article. I could have highlighted the entire thing. I want to blast it out to everyone yet keep it close to my heart. My kids are grown men ( 29 & 27). One is married with a baby daughter whom we adore. You took me back to my own childhood summers, the summers of my children and now the new summers as nana and papa. I didn’t have social media when I was growing up and my kids were at the edge of Facebook (it began when my oldest son was in college). I escaped it in those seasons yet here it is in this new season. The Tahiti trips, European vacations, abundant time with grandchildren, etc (we see our granddaughter about every 6 weeks) seem to scream at me as I sit at my desk at work. I tell myself to choose joy, to take delight in the ordinary. Thank you for your honesty and desire to share this with us. This morning I took a photo of my washing machine with junk piled on top and clothes strewn about. This is real, this is my life, and I am blessed.


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