Summer Time (and why it shouldn’t be wasted)

Yesterday my 15-year old daughter approached me in the hallway of our home and asked me a question. With utmost sincerity and concern, she said, “Mom, are we having money problems?”

 

“Money problems? No. We’re not having money problems,” I answered. “Why are you asking me that?”

 

“Because I noticed that this week you keep turning off all of the lights in the house.”

 

“Like in the rooms that no one is in…in the middle of the day?” I asked with utmost sarcasm and cynicism. “Of course I’m turning them off. IT’S WASTING ELECTRICITY!”

 

I couldn’t believe she had asked me that! I mean, she’s lived with me for 15 years so even if I had only said, “Don’t leave the lights on. That’s wasting electricity!” once a week for the entirety of her lifetime that’s 780 times! And I know I say it more than once a week. (It’s from my Mom Playlist which is on constant rotation. Others hits include: “For the love of air conditioning, close the door!” and “Why are there so many shoes in the living room?” and “This is my drink. Get your own.” and for our youngest family member: “Are you wearing underwear?”)

 

There’s just something hardwired in me that can’t stand to waste things—electricity, water, food. It feels so extravagant (not in a good way) to dump half of a casserole in the trashcan because you forgot it was there and now there’s a gray fur growing on it. So much time and effort and cream of chicken soup to be discarded as if there aren’t starving people all over the world! It bothers me to no end.

 

Even Jesus saw the value in leftovers after He fed the 5,000 with 5 loaves and 2 fish. He told the Apostles to wander all over their mountainside picnic area and collect what wasn’t eaten. I’d like to think every bit of the contents of those 12 baskets were eventually eaten and savored for the delicious, miraculous leftovers they were.

 

Now that I’m in the slow, sweet days of summer break—a place that really only feels different from the rest of the year if you’re a teacher, a student, or a parent of a student—I feel extra motivated not to be wasteful, and I don’t want my kids to waste this time either.

 

I want them to play in the rain.

I want them to catch lightning bugs.

I want them to lose track of time while they read good books.

I want our family to do things after 8:00 pm on weeknights: start a movie, go get ice cream, play Frisbee or freeze tag or some game we invent on the spot in the backyard and commit to it until it’s too dark to see each other’s faces.

 

We are so often warned to be good stewards of all the blessings we’ve been so graciously given. Perhaps the most abundant yet most wasted gift is time. I will try—starting with the months of June and July—to make the most of what I have.

Ready or not

Before a recent soccer game, I overheard a conversation between two of my 6-year old son’s teammates.

 

“Where have you been?” a little boy asked his tardy teammate as she walked up to the group. “The game is starting.”

 

“I was eating some hard candy so I would be ready,” she answered.

 

Though I had a difficult time connecting the hard candy to any pregame regimen, her response was apparently satisfying for her friends so the game began.

 

I feel like the two words I say most frequently around my house (other than GOOD NIGHT and LOVE YOU and GREAT JOB, of course…I’m not a monster) are GET READY. There may be some nuances to the phrase like: “Why aren’t you ready?” and “Not until you’re all the way ready.” and “Is that enough time for you to get ready?”

 

So what am I getting them ready for, anyway?

 

As in any job, it’s helpful to take a moment and evaluate how I’m doing as a parent, and this end-of-the-schoolyear time seems like a perfect opportunity. As a part of my self-assessment, I’ll ask the question: Are they ready for what’s next?

 

My twin daughters just finished their freshman year in high school (which is weird because I pretty much just graduated from high school myself, right?). When I see what’s just around the corner—dating, college, jobs—I’m excited for them but also anxious to walk through it with them and tell them every step of the way where to set their feet next. I want to hold their hands like I did that first day of kindergarten, a daughter on either side, Barbie backpacks and monogrammed lunchboxes and new back-to-school clothes.

 

But I know that’s not reasonable or healthy or appropriate (or allowed by high school administrators). I know that at some point I have to let go and hope that they are prepared to make the right choices to be safe and sound. And I have to be okay with the fact that I can’t protect them from everything. (Yuck.) I pray that they are ready.

 

My nearly 7th grade son is teetering at the edge of his teen years. He’s been marching uphill to this next chapter where there’s more freedom and more responsibility. Less hovering by me and more expected of him. I worry about what he’s exposed to and who he spends time with. I pray that the values we have underlined over and over in our family play book will stand out to him when the time is right. I pray that he is ready.

 

My youngest, our baby from Congo, will go to kindergarten in August. He hasn’t been away from one of us, someone who lives in his house, for more than a few hours at a time, and I wonder if he’s ready to fly the coop. Is he ready to go to school 5 days a week for 10 months?

 

He still struggles with his English—his color words, letters, numbers. We’re trying to remind him how to ask for what he needs. He’s holding on to a handful of words from his birth language: bango means them, mingi means lots, biso means us. We tell him to pick another word. We tell him this will help others understand him. I pray that he is ready.

 

As parents we make so many deposits in our kid’s integrity account, hoping it will add up to an exceptional character with strong convictions and valuable common sense. But, regardless, we eventually have to let go. We have to adapt to the idea that there’s never enough time for preparation.

 

So after I’ve prayed that they are ready, my next prayer is for myself. I pray that I am ready to change my 2 most frequently used words from GET READY to GO TIME.

A day is like a thousand years

How often do you say the following: “It seems like just yesterday” or “This is the longest week ever”? A minute will always last 60 seconds and an hour will always last 60 minutes but it doesn’t always feel like it. Time should be a concrete concept but it seems so fluid.

 

I have a friend who recently told me about an out-of-body experience she had while holding a new mom’s infant daughter. A precious 4-month old sat in her lap and my friend was instantly transported more than 17 years in the past to the nursery of her own now-teenaged daughter. The years disappeared in a mist. Suddenly she was the new mom with the tiny daughter. The sweet, baby smell, the touch of soft baby skin—it felt like it was just yesterday. Tearful, my friend felt that time had passed too quickly.

 

When you’re anxiously waiting for something to happen, time seems to slow to a crawl. It was true when you were a kid, waiting for summer vacation or Christmas morning, and it can still be true for adults. Time stretches out in front of you like an endless horizon. It’s January, bleak and cloudy, and you look at your covered swimming pool, thinking, “We’ll never get through with winter. Summer seems so far away.”

 

Then there are periods of time and phases of life that seem to go quickly and last forever simultaneously. The anniversary of something tragic like the death of a loved one or a long illness or the day a spouse moves out and moves on, can create a desire for introspection. Upon examination, you might realize that while you’re living through it, your heightened feelings make time tick slowly. Your anger and frustration burn so brightly that little else enters your mind. This concentration slows everything down. But when the phase is over, you look back at the towering mountains you climbed and the raging rivers you crossed, and you wonder how you got through it in the amount of time that has passed.

 

Intellectually, we know that time is a fixed thing. We check clocks and watches and cell phones often throughout the day to gauge what we should be doing and where we should be going, and we rarely question what we see. But emotionally, time is not fixed. And our perception, however unreliable, can become our reality.

 

It’s okay if time feels fluid. In the Book of James, we read that “To the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like a day.” He measures time differently, too. So maybe, in the end, it’s not the quantity of time we’re given—the number of seconds and minutes and hours that pass in a lifetime, but how we spend those minutes that really matters.