We have forgotten who we are and so have forgotten how to be.
Madeleine L'Engle, The Rock That is Higher
Call me crazy, but I am starting this summer off with a Not To-Do list.
Summertime is for refreshment. Think blueberries, watermelon, iced tea, swimming, firefly catching and star gazing. I like to think of summer like a Sabbath season, a rest for my heart land. Like the practice of a weekly Sabbath, I don't mean lazy. I mean rest, release and recovery from our hardworking year. I mean refreshment.
Summer is a perfect time for uncovering what's underneath. We do it with our clothing, less of it: tank tops, shorts and flip flops. We do it in our menus with lighter fare: hand-picked fruits, farmer's market vegetables and iced drinks.
Let's do this uncovering in our souls: lighter obligations, fewer deadlines and more freedom to be our uncluttered, unadorned, natural-beauty selves.
When I think about it, I started this back when I was in the thick of raising the Whippersnappers. I have told you before that I love my routines, but I am adventurous too.
Who says we have to choose?
I can be a Rebel to My Routine and come back refreshed. But I can also stay home and do it right in my everyday life.
When the Whippersnappers were littles, I decided I didn't want to be a mama who complained about having four kids underfoot around the clock with no school schedule to break up the day. They would be of course, but I set out to enjoy their little hearts and dirty feet every long day of summer.
Just the other day, I told my friend, Jackie, I used Luke 2:52 to guide our summer to-do list of activities,
"So Jesus grew both tall and wise, and was loved by God and man."
Those simple words helped me choose an activity in each area (body, mind, faith and friendships) or even richer, maybe one or two that encompassed them all. There were a few camps, but also some more individual activities. I was looking for ways to grow the whole child.
Of course, what's good for the Whippersnappers is good for the Mama.
I gave myself grace to read more, dream more, nap more and play more than seems possible with four kiddos during the school year. But I also gave myself permission to do a few things less. I made a point to drive less, hurry less and just plain go less.
Yep, I decided to incorporate down time, down time to the point of boredom. That is the only way creativity can open the skies in a child's soul.
When we finally slowed down and had to figure out what to do, it was like a ceiling fan on a hot summer day, like a sweet surprise visit from a tried and true friend. Welcoming, awakening, reviving.
If you allow time for exploration and discovery, your littles might find something new and true about their hearts. If they ever get down that far, they might find wonder, awe and beauty right inside the bottom of their souls. Mama might too. And Daddy.
We stayed home and found things to do. We filled the kiddie pool, blew bubbles and ate otter pops, drew hopscotch squares with sidewalk chalk, painted on an outdoor easel, built with legos, wrote stories, made treasure maps, built forts, rolled down the hill in our yard (with our bodies and the Cozy Coupe) and read stacks and stacks of library books.
Some sweet memories from the down times still make me smile years later. The Whippersnappers played Harriet the Spy finding mysteries all over the yard. They were FBI agents with homemade flip up badges. They made video commercials and short films complete with screenings. We hosted what we called Friendship Parties on our back deck inviting all the kids in their classes.
My Whippersnappers are older now (yikes, so am I). No matter our age, we all still need the stuff of childhood: room to be, freedom to explore and wild space for creativity.
Some of these not-to-do's I began a few years ago in my quest for a simpler, uncluttered, white-space-loving life. These edits are my attempt to allow for dreaming, reading, writing, visiting, listening, and just plain being.
Here is my Summer Not-To-Do list:
Errands (can I skip it?)
Center aisle of Costco (don't need it)
Malls (really don't need it)
Driving (can I walk or bike or stay home?)
Single bottle beverages (save the recycling)
Handle paper (get off mailing lists)
Email (unsubscribe all over the place)
Fire up the oven (make fresh salads, charcuterie boards or grill outside)
Wear makeup (let my freckles show)
Wear socks and shoes (go barefoot or choose flip-flops)
Of course, some of these must be done at some point, but maybe not so much. See if any of these Not-to-do's might make your summer lighter, free-er, wilder, dreamier, you-er.
You might find a new dream or time for an old one.
You might find some stay out of your schedule all year long.
What's on your Not-To-Do list this summer?
*Written at Thump Coffee in Bend, Oregon.