After the first week of summer, daily habits start to change from setting alarm clocks for meetings and classes to lingering on the front porch with family and friends. In this habit shift, we begin focusing more on the human faces around us rather than on the clock faces in our homes. Summertime offers amazing possibilities, especially this summer after experiencing two years of the pandemic. In this summer season, consider dwelling deeper in relationship with God and neighbor by vacationing with loved ones, serving others in need, and exploring a new skill in community.
In our living room a large, blue clock hangs above the fireplace mantle. On the opposing wall, a calendar organizes time not in hours or minutes, but in days, weeks, months, and years. Our family's wall calendar highlights seven squares during the month of July with the words “family vacation.” Often our family's annual week-long vacation occurs at the same beach destination; however, sometimes we choose an unfamiliar location with different challenges and comforts to experience together.
One year, our family crossed over rainbow bridge for a seven day adventure in Niagara Falls, Canada. We left our beach towels behind and packed ponchos for our boat ride on the Maid of the Mist. Throughout the week, we admired the amazing falls and enjoyed the various water sports in the city.
The following summer we decided to travel north again, but not as far this time. We stayed near Lancaster, Pennsylvania at a quaint farm bed and breakfast operated by a local Mennonite family. In the mornings, our daughters gathered eggs from the hens for the breakfast meal. In the afternoons, they enjoyed playing with farm animals which included kittens, dogs, lambs, and one donkey. Instead of visiting an aquarium that year, we visited an Amish family in their living room. While learning about their customs and traditions, my eyes noticed a kitchen absent of appliances and electrical outlets. The space contained only one battery operated light hanging down from the ceiling in the center of the kitchen.
On our tenth wedding anniversary, our family visited Marsh Harbor which is located in Abaco Islands, Bahamas. After my husband fished for bonefish and my girls searched for starfish, we rode the ferry over to Man-O-War Cay. While driving a golf cart around the island we reminisced about our honeymoon in this special place. Then we dined at the local restaurant, talking with the locals and eating seafood delights like conch fritters. Regardless of familiar or unfamiliar vacation destinations, the treasured memories formed with loved ones will last for a lifetime.
Every day on the calendar, each hour on the clock presents opportunities to serve God and love neighbor well. Similar to setting aside time for a week-long vacation, the summer months provide the possibility of serving either near or far from home. While extending God’s goodness and loving kindness to individuals experiencing a season of hardship, we join our Creator in the good work God is already doing in the world. An intentional mission week rooted in mercy and understanding, shapes us and forms us as Christ’s disciples. These days on the calendar and hours on the clock remind us of the Lord who dwells with us during all seasons and throughout all generations. In our serving, we embody the prayer attributed to Moses in the Psalms; “Teach us to number our days so we can have a wise heart." (Psalm 90:12, Common English Bible).
Along with the weeks spent on vacation and in mission, the summer months allow a special time for developing new skills or improving upon old ones. Intentional study of a new skill like scuba diving or baking cakes can offer growth in the mind, body, and spirit. This summer, I am exploring the art of writing with an expert in the field. Whenever writing assignments are due, I anticipate frustration with the blank page, but look forward to improving the craft of writing with a joyful flow and creative spirit. Regardless of the writing, my hope is for readers to hear the divine voice held in the spaces and words on the written page.
In The Writing Life, Annie Dillard says, “How we spend our days is of course how we spend our lives." This summer, may we spend more time being fully present in relationships, thus setting a course of how we spend the rest of our lives. Let us sit on the front porch with a friend. Let us serve a stranger in need. Let us learn from experts in the field. In the summertime, let us establish a sacred rhythm during the months on the calendar and the hours spinning on the clock. In silent spaces and in powerful words, may we listen for the divine voice leading us to love often and serve well.