How to Receive Your Own Summer Life

  pink flower

How’s your summer going? If that feels like a loaded question, this post is for you.

We think summer is all about freedom, but then we’re bothered because this lazy season doesn’t it take a break from comparison, envy, and unrealistic expectations. I know it’s not just me because occasionally I get out and talk to people.

We don’t all have community pools, live in idyllic neighborhoods, or pass the days on a family homestead dotted with gurgling brooks and bunnies. We may not have any accessible watering holes. We may not live in a neighborhood. We may have zero budget for vacations.

Summer can sure mess with our gratitude, especially when we’re bombarded with the realities of everyone else’s seemingly better summer. “Oh, you went to Belize? How lovely. We went to our local lake one day where I fished a used diaper, a Lunchables container, and the plastic part of a needle out of the murky water all in the same outing.” {True story from when my kids were little.}

I remind myself that one never knows the truth behind the Facebook or Instagram photos. Remember how our summer kicked off with a celebratory lunch turned complicated mess? I could have taken a super cute family selfie on said trip to Chick-Fil-A, all of us smiling as we launched Summer 2016 with ice cream and happy togetherness. You would have thought, “Those Vischers. Look how much they love each other.”

The real story is a sketchy parking lot on the way to Chick-Fil-A, peace negotiations within the confines of my minivan, and a mom who was so ticked off, she almost drove home and let everyone eat microwave popcorn for lunch. “Happy First Day of Summer Kids! Here’s some kernels coated with chemical butter to help you celebrate!”

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I’ve been writing and even speaking about this thing of “receiving your own life” for a long time. But lately I feel as though I’ve regressed all the way back to kindergarten. This makes me feel like a fraud. Also? It’s frustrating.

For my most recent birthday, a dear friend stamped these words on a bracelet for me: “Receive My Life.”

receive my life bracelet

She had no idea how much I’d need it this summer as I ache with invisible scars and fight for gratitude as though my life depends on it.

Because my life does depend on it. And so does yours.

In many ways, we’re having a great summer. We’re not getting a house ready to sell like Summer 2014. We’re not buying and selling a house like Summer 2015. We’re not sprinting after toddlers who can’t swim like Summers 2001-2012. My kids can feed and entertain themselves while I work from home. The guys have golfed a lot and my girl and I have watched Netflix together like it’s our job.

This summer provides enough commitment to keep us in a routine but enough downtime to sink into a lazier rhythm. Plus I have a screen porch.

It has been lovely in so many ways.

But beneath the lovely there is still junk. Plus a rogue arrow of envy that has come out of left field and pierced my heart something fierce. “Summer, why won’t you give me a two-month break from what ails me and leave me on my porch with house magazines and cold beverages?”

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But summer hasn’t given me a break from the brokenness of the world around me or the brokenness of the world within me.

Instead, summer gives me a choice: open my hands to receive it all as grace or keep my fists clenched, shaking them at God and others.

I don’t always make the right choice.

Here’s what I’m still learning the hard way. You can spend your seconds turned minutes turned years wishing for a life that isn’t yours, making yourself and everyone else miserable in the process. Or you can choose to receive the beauty, provision, and even heartache of your actual life. I have a million things to be grateful for. I simply forget. And so do you.

There are things we shouldn’t have to receive, situations that it’s okay to fight against. I’m not talking about being a doormat; I’m talking about accepting that which we can’t really change — the baggage, the fallout, the limitations, the people — as we walk the path of healing, acceptance, and possibility.

I make it sound easy but let’s be honest; it’s war. Every day my real life — with all of its brokenness, lack, fear, and questions — puts up a fight and goes to war with my contentment.

And so I fight.

exercise ball
  • Sometimes that means I avoid certain people and places on the internet. Because even though I know there’s no perfect, certain things are just too much for my fragile spirit.
  • Sometimes that means I pour all of the brokenness into a journal so that my mind and heart have more space to receive the everyday gifts.
  • Sometimes that means I scrawl out my edited thoughts in this online space, pressing publish and blowing words into the world like the seeds of a dandelion, hoping they’ll land in the meant-to-be places.
  • Sometimes that means I pray. And sometimes it means that others pray for me because I am fresh out of energy to articulate my lament.
  • Sometimes that means I stop what I’m doing and eat from the word of God. Otherwise I walk around spiritually anemic, wondering why I’m so cranky and angry without an ounce of perspective. “Oh yes, I’ve forgotten to eat. No wonder I’m thinking and talking and acting like a crazy person.”
  • Sometimes that means I simply keep living, doing the next thing and not letting the hard stuff of my own life or the envied goodness of others’ lives define me.

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This season invites me to slow down, to enjoy my people, to rest in the undone, and to make time for beauty.

sofa on screen porch

But as I’ve learned from prior seasons of rest — sometimes when we slow, the stuffed-down grief rises to the surface. It’s only June but summer is already reminding me {for the hundredth time} that life is a broken + beautiful mashup, that it’s okay to live in the tension because I’m not alone. I have Jesus, my friend who is no stranger to living in the tension. Jesus, who feasted with dearest friends one night while being led to his death soon after.

I tell him how I feel because He knows. I quit trying to fix broken things because I’m too tired and besides, that’s his job.

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This feels like a heavy post for summer. I wish I could share with you a fun recipe for fruity drinks or 10 Ways to Make This Your Best Summer Ever. But this is the true state of things and to give you anything else feels duplicitous.

Instead, I tell you that it’s okay to laugh with your friends one minute and cry into your iced coffee the next. To receive the slower pace while you also seek healing for wounds that won’t stop hurting.

In both fresh and familiar ways, this summer invites me to “receive my own life,” to etch hopeful patterns in my troubled mind and anxious spirit, even as I enjoy my kids and my porch and sleeping in.

Maybe summer is inviting you to do the same? To receive your own unique season of parenthood, your own summer plans {or lack thereof}, your own summer budget, your own real disappointments, your own real life.

And because I’m not going to Belize or doing anything impressive, I’ll be right beside you in all my ordinary, real-life glory.

you may also enjoy

When Life is a Broken + Beautiful Mashup

Choose Life, Even When It’s Falling Apart

When Summer Gives You Crazy and You Give It Right Back


 

I’m all about helping you recapture the possibility of your right-now life.

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{P.S. I’ll be hanging out on Instagram this summer. Join me?}

 

A Few Words of Rest for Your Weekend

rest quote

July weekends may conjure up vacation-y vignettes of water and fruity drinks and backyard barbecues. These are the lazy days of summer, are they not?

But as we all know, worry doesn’t brake for weekends.

Just because it’s summer and July and chill, there may still be ends that don’t meet and kids that don’t mind and outcomes that don’t match our expectations.

Savor the gifts. Because they’re always there if you look.

But acknowledge the sorrows too. For our days are surely a sacred swirl of both.

I’m learning to honor the sweet and the severe mercies, knowing that Christ sits with me at the center, the only comforting constant in a world that swirls unpredictably.

A few words of rest for your weekend:

If we are going to live out of a heart at rest, we must make the fundamental faith decision that no matter how deep or urgent the need is, it is ultimately not all up to us. We must choose to believe that God is at work in small things, in underground things, in unseen things, in not-yet-known things. As we rest in this foundational reality, the stress of what we cannot handle becomes a gate to rest.       

Choosing Rest: Cultivating a Sunday Heart in a Monday World by Sally Breedlove

This weekend, may you be able to stay present for what’s right in front of you, knowing that a loving God handles the unseen things. May quiet trust be “a gate to rest.”

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a few summer posts you may have missed

Essentialism for the High-Maintenance Soul

What We Need to Know When Our Spiritual Leaders Disappoint Us

5 Things I Learned in June

For the Christians Who Fear They’re Not Enough


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Two Life Lessons I Learned in the 45 Minutes it Took Me to Write This Post

desk horiz

Writing, for me, is like a sacrament. And going too long without it leads to feeling rather malnourished on a soul level. The days have ticked by and I haven’t written here.

Restless and scattered, my soul has been without one good exhale since I don’t know when. Sometimes the days are too full of lists and demands and busy-ness that you never asked for. And some that you did. And then those days turn into weeks. And then that heavy weight that sits on your chest every so often just sits there all the time.

I crave soul rest but when given the opportunity to partake of it, even in a small way, I’m prone to saying no. Instead I leap in the direction of productivity or looking at the to-do list again or spinning my wheels in something that seems productive but that is actually ridiculousness. Or something that I know is not in any way productive and is straight up ridiculousness. {I’m looking at you bobbibrown.com and your dreamy makeup that I covet and pretend shop for. And also at you vintage brown leather purses on ebay.}

Like an addict, I run from what I need and cozy up into the lap of what I want. I find instant almost-gratification {since the shopping is still pretend, whatiswrongwithme?} but no actual renewal.

When life presses in, our real coping mechanisms spill out.

Yesterday I told a friend that I feel afraid of the future that’s right around the bend — one kid in high school, one in middle school, one in elementary school.

I’m afraid of the demands that I’m already struggling to meet and how those will only increase.

I’m afraid of failure — mine and theirs.

I’m afraid of so many expectations.

I’m afraid my to-do list will murder me in the middle of the night while I’m sleeping.

I’m afraid that I will have no rest.

I’m afraid we’ll never sell our house and move.

I’m afraid we will sell our house and move.

I’m afraid of how certain others feel about me.

I’m afraid of really and truly becoming a crazy person who rants in customer service lines and spends all of her real time spending pretend money on pretend make-up.

And just seeing all of these words right here on the screen, one “I’m afraid” after the other — well, the tears well up out of nowhere and I remember that this is why I write. Writing dredges up the deep stuff of the soul that I can’t articulate, not even for myself. Ninety something percent of the time I show up here and I don’t know what will come out but something always does and it’s always the truth of the matter.

So when I say that my soul can’t find rest because life is too busy, I’m really saying that I’m afraid. I’m just afraid.

Busyness isn’t the primary reason for my breathlessness. Fear is. And that’s why I can’t find rest. I’m too busy hooking up with fear. And Fear feels a lot like a big mean guy holding a cattle-prod and chasing after me.

There’s this simple line from Grace for the Good Girl: Letting Go of the Try-Hard Life by Emily Freeman. It came to me the other day and it comes to me again now:

Fear drives. But love leads.

Two things I learned since I started this post. 1. I’m not living loved. I’m living driven. 2. I’m not writing enough.

I have to make time for it even if it kills me. Because not making time for it? Also kills me. I am actually writing as part of my job. But it’s not “writing the real” like I do here.

I don’t have a neat and tidy end to this post. But today is my birthday and I simply needed to show up and give myself this gift — a post about busyness and not writing and fear and pretend makeup shopping.

Writing is not everyone’s thing. It’s not even most people’s thing. But I bet you have something that gets at the heart of the matter for you — a practice, a person, or a place that invites the unclear forms to take shape and the fears to be named and the soul to be soothed.

This weekend, I give you the gift of permission. Permission to take some time and tend to your insides, even if it’s just for a bit, instead of tending to all of the other things that call {or scream} for your attention.

As for me, I plan to do some more writing. And sip an iced macchiato or three. And pay a long-awaited visit to the actual Bobbi Brown counter for a complimentary makeover.

I realize that I just went from soulful to superficial in half a second. It’s my birthday. Don’t judge.

I’m curious. What’s your “thing?” Your practice, person, place, or whatever that brings clarity, confession, and comfort? 

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