For those of us living in the south, summer is in full swing. For those of you living on the east coast, school is just letting out and your summer is just beginning. Regardless, my prayer for you is that this will be a summer full of celebration wherever you live. Below are some suggestions to help you make this a summer that is rich in God's purpose for you and one full of treasured memories. Perhaps you would like to try out a few ideas each month and add your own. In fact, we’d love to hear your thoughts on how you celebrate summer in the comments below or on the social media page where you are reading.
I spoke to a young mom today and she talked about how busy summer was for her with all the kids activities. We long for the lazy days of summer when we were children. Be sure to take time to rest this summer so that you can actually enjoy the days. Some of us simply need to give ourselves permission to slow down. Take a nap!
Read through a book of Scripture, or spend the summer in the Psalms or Proverbs.
When you get out of your routine it can be easy to lose your focused time in the Word. Consider using a different translation than you normally read to keep things fresh. Or choose an attribute of God’s character to focus on this season such as God’s faithfulness, holiness or grace or one of the names of God such as Shepherd or Creator. Spend time reading and meditating on Scriptures that teach about the attribute or name you choose.
What could be better than spending your summer deepening your understanding of Christ and His Word?
Expand your mind.
We live in a world that bombards us with information in all forms of media that invades our minds constantly.
Be sure that you are giving spiritual truth a priority. I like to spend some of my summer days in quiet time reading a good sacred book. My current summer reads are The Next Right Thing by Emily Freeman and just published, The Heel Catcher by my pastor Steve Foster. I also like to read the classics in sacred literature. Recently, I pulled out Abide in Christ by Andrew Murray. What a treasure!
Engage in some of local culture.
There are typically lots of wonderful free events in the summer such as music concerts and festivals. Visit a local museum, an art gallery, or go see a play. Check out your community calendars for ideas to get out and have some fun!
Pack a picnic and enjoy a lazy lunch outside.
We are picnic people! Through the years, we’ve gone to parks nearby, or just had a picnic in the backyard. For years with our girls and with our friends on vacation we would always ride our bikes to our favorite point for a picnic with our children.
It has become our tradition on vacations to search for the perfect picnic spot. Sometimes, I fix an elaborate picnic spread and other times we just pick up a sandwich or fried chicken. The point is to enjoy nature and each other!
Recently on our vacation in the Canadian Rockies, we found some pretty special places to eat a sandwich! I spotted this beautiful point at Horsehoe Lake and so we made the climb for one of the most spectacular picnic spots ever!
I just packed that backpack cooler in my suitcase headed for Canada. A visit to the local bakery for a loaf of bread, cheese and meat and we were off and ready for an inexpensive lunch on the road with a view no restaurant could match!
Make something creative.
Explore your artistic side with a handmade card, paint a little canvas for fun, create a piece of jewelry, press some flowers. Just have fun and play at something new. Let go of perfection. Maybe buy a summer herb plant, paint a flower pot and plant your herb to grow in the windowsill. Then you can snip the fresh herbs for summer roasted veggies or salads.
Keep a gratitude journal.
Look for three things that you are thankful for each day. Jot them down in a journal before you go to sleep as a reminder to be grateful. You’ll be amazed at how this simple practice can change your perspective to one full of gratitude and joy.
Clear out some clutter.
Breathe in the space. My tendency here is to over plan too many projects and then I end up feeling disappointed when I don’t complete my list. This year I’m starting simple. Clean out a drawer, a closet, a shelf and celebrate the little progress I am making toward decluttering and simplifying my home.
Visit your local farmers market and buy something to support your community.
Try out a new recipe.
Cook something new with the fresh ingredients you found at the farmers market.
Put some fresh flowers in your home.
Buy some fresh flowers or cut them from your garden. Something as simple as a vase of flowers adds a little color and cheer to your home. Consider bringing a simple mason jar of fresh flowers to someone else or drop them off anonymously on your neighbors doorstep.
Invite some friends over for dinner this summer. Practice Hospitality.
Keep it simple with something like a charcuterie board or a summer salad. The point is to connect and enjoy an evening together with life giving conversation. Put on some fun music, laugh and savor friendships that can easily get lost in the busyness of our lives.
Make choices that keep you engaged in relationships.
Look at that calendar with a careful eye. Is it too busy? Have you allowed time for the important relationships in your life? Are you making an effort to engage in a new relationship?
Consider a media fast for a period of time this summer.
For a day, a week, even part of a day - turn off the phone, the tv, the computer, and let your mind rest.
Turn off all those notifications that distract and interrupt your train of thought.
Journal how you felt after your fast. Were you more able to fully engage with others? What did you learn about yourself?
Put on some of your favorite music and dance!
Make a Care Basket for someone who needs a special touch of love.
I like to collect things for care baskets all year long and keep them in my gift closet so that I have things ready to gather when the need arises. Then I add things to it that I know would mean something special to the recipient.
Here are some of the things I typically include - an encouragement card, a candle, tea and usually a pretty tea cup, something homemade like a loaf of pumpkin bread, homemade granola or cookies for example. I usually include some wonderful body lotion or bath salts, or a pretty journal. I always include a few pieces of dark chocolate (because chocolate just makes everything better) and fresh flowers or a pretty blooming plant. I collect pretty tea towels when I see them on sale and line the care basket with one and tie the goodies up with a pretty ribbon. I often include Scripture cards or quotes of encouragement. There are so many wonderful and different ways to make a special care basket.
It doesn’t have to cost a lot of money to be special. You’ll end up being the one blessed!
Watch the sunset or wake up early and catch the sunrise. Soak in God's presence!
Take in the vastness of the night sky.
Drive somewhere away from the city lights, bring a blanket and lay out and look at the stars. Listen to the quiet.
Psalm 148:2-4 “Praise him, all his angels; praise him, all his armies! Praise him, sun and moon; praise him, all you shining stars. Praise him, you heaven of heavens, and you waters above the heavens.”
Psalm 147:3-5 “He heals the brokenhearted and bandages their wounds. He counts the stars and calls them all by name. How great is our Lord! His power is absolute! His understanding is beyond comprehension!”
When I look at your heavens, the work of your fingers,
the moon and the stars, which you have set in place,
what is man that you are mindful of him,
and the son of man that you care for him?
Plan an adventure far away or close to home.
This year my husband Ken and I began our summer with an adventure that had been on our wish list for almost thirty years. We made a trip to the Canadian Rockies - Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper -to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary! It was all we dreamed it would be and more. The splendor of God’s glory on display was unlike anything I have ever experienced. We spent time out in nature, in the beauty of the snow capped mountains, and crashing waterfalls, hiked through canyons and saw wildlife in abundance. The sights along the Icelandic Parkway, which is considered one of the top drives in the world, filled our eyes and hearts with awe. Each turn seemed to bring another wonder to behold. We reconnected as we pulled away together, celebrated and remembered the hand of God and His faithfulness and grace in our marriage and ministry through the years. We ate delicious food - found amazing new picnic spots - and stretched ourselves beyond what we thought we could do physically as we hiked into canyons seeking out glimpses of God’s glory. Amazingly, at each of the three hikes to waterfalls, God gave us a rainbow! Along the way we saw some of God’s magnificent creatures, (bears, elk, and big horn sheep, mountain goats, beavers, beautiful birds, and even a porcupine!) We came home blessed beyond measure! It was the trip of a lifetime, one we had saved and dreamed of making for so many years.
I encourage you to dream and plan an adventure of your own. You may have to wait like we did, but don’t let that stop you. In the meantime, consider taking in some of the sights and beauty waiting for you a little closer to home. Oh, how we need to get out of our routine, our offices and computers and let nature restore us!
The Scriptures are filled with visual images of water, mountains and valleys. They can so beautifully depict our faith journey. It’s good to get out into nature and soak in the beauty. It gives our souls space to breathe. As we traversed through the deep canyons in Canada and made our way up and up in search of the promised reward at the top, a glorious waterfall, I thought about how that path mirrors the journey of our souls.
There were deep crevices that the water had carved through the rock as the force made its way down from the mountain peaks. We began our hike at the base, in the valley and the path was full of challenges, much like life that often twists and turns and is sometimes hard like the rocks in those canyons. But the living water of Jesus brings life in those hard places. The trees clung to the rocks and beautiful green mosses covered the ground, nourished by the splashing water.
The pressing onward is always worth the effort. Along the way, in addition to incredible beauty, God gave us a special bonus. We met people from all over the world - Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Europe, India. We came from different cultures and faiths and yet deep within us God has placed that yearning for beauty, for adventure, for something beyond ourselves, for we are created in the image of the God who created the universe!
When we reached the top the gushing, abundance of water was such a beautiful metaphor of the sustaining life-giving power of Jesus.
Nature knows to yield to the waters force and let it have its way. We even saw one canyon where the water had completely changed its course.
Sometimes, God does that in our lives. I’m so glad that Ken and I have learned to yield to His way within us even though there has often been pain in the process. The Lord has lovingly etched out the path He wanted us to take in our lives and ministry.
His goal is always the carving and molding of our lives so that we will be a display of His glory.
As we drove through the valley, the snow capped mountain peaks surrounded us. It was to me a picture of God’s glory, strength and presence - always there - majestic, beautiful, and powerful.
Nestled in the mountains were the most beautiful glacier lakes. They were colors of deep turquoise and green like I had never before seen. We have such a creative God! He is the Master Artist, painting His wonders for us to behold and enjoy. Truly His glory was on display in the Canadian Rockies for us to celebrate and savor! The extravagant beauty of them will always remain in my mind.
The day after we returned, from our wonderful trip I found myself in a deep valley of physical illness that lasted for over a week including four days of high fever. The shock of it stunned and exhausted me physically. I was forced to yield and rest. In the mountain top experiences of our lives we feel overwhelmed by the goodness and majesty of our great God and in the valleys we often feel vulnerable and shaken. I began my summer with both of those experiences.
Here is the truth that remains - Our great Lord is with us through them all, sustaining us with His power and love every step of the journey.
A song of ascents.
I lift up my eyes to the mountains--
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord,
the Maker of heaven and earth.
He will not let your foot slip--
he who watches over you will not slumber;
indeed, he who watches over Israel
will neither slumber nor sleep.
The Lord watches over you--
the Lord is your shade at your right hand;
the sun will not harm you by day,
nor the moon by night.
The Lord will keep you from all harm--
he will watch over your life;
the Lord will watch over your coming and going
both now and forevermore.
I’ll close out today's Musing with a slide show of some of the wonders we saw in the Canadian Rockies. If you only knew how hard it was to choose from all the photos! Even if you can’t make a vacation trip this summer, take a moment to enjoy some of His beauty where you live and dream about future adventures to celebrate summer!
So what about you - what are some thoughts you have about how to celebrate summer?
Please share them on social media where you are reading this or on the website in the comment section below.
We would love to hear from you!
Grateful and blessed to be celebrating summer!
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