On the last day of August, I reflect back to the beginning of the month. We started August with Vacation Bible School; my oldest daughter was on her youth group pilgrimage. Now, at the end, we are wrapping up the first week of a new school year. In many ways VBS feels like it happened ages ago, especially now that we are immersed in class schedules and new routines.
But before we get too wrapped up in all-things-fall, I want to take just a few moments to capture what not only August, but the entire summer meant to me—what I learned, discovered, and grew to appreciate.
Here are six things I learned this summer:
1. Living out our charisms means being open to what God can do through us.
Writing is a desire of my heart, and it is a charism that God has given me to help build His Kingdom. It brings me incredible joy and breathes life into my soul. And yet, I often second guess myself and wonder about my place in the writing world. What do I have to say? What is my message? Thankfully, there are folks out there whose confidence in me keeps me going. Thankfully, they let me lean on their hope, when mine feels a little fragile. Thankfully, they help me remember that it’s not about my abilities but what God can do through me.
2. Sometimes, we just need a day to breathe.
After a really hectic week, when I’ve committed to too much, I often feel frazzled and disconnected. During those weeks, I only do half-loads of laundry, and our pantry begins to look sparse. After a week like that, my to-do list consists of a million things, and my natural inclination is to start checking things off as soon as I possibly can. But sometimes, it’s better to go to the pool and spend the day floating down the lazy river, splashing, and laughing with your children. The to-do list will always be there, but my precious children will not. Sometimes it’s OK to put off the work. Sometimes, we need to let go of the anxiety and frazzled feelings. Sometimes, we need to remember our purpose is more about hearts and less about hustle. Yes, sometimes, we just need a day to breathe.
3. Even in times of struggle, we can still help each other.
God is showing me that even in the midst of struggle, He invites me to offer help and hope. I might not have a lot of wisdom, insight, or answers to share, but I can listen, empathize, and pray. We can wait and hope in Christ … together.
4. God uses moments of suffering to heal in unexpected ways.
As much as I can offer hope when I am struggling, sometimes, I need to be the one to ask for help. And I am not good at that. But one day this summer, after a huge disappointment, I courageously reached out to sisters whom I desperately needed.
They responded with compassion. They cared and loved me. They prayed prayers I couldn’t pray myself. I felt heard, cared for, and loved. Reaching out, crying, and praying with sisters in Christ cleansed my weary soul.
I set out for healing in one direction, and it lead to disappointment. But God set up a detour and pointed me in a different direction. He offered me healing and hope, through the help, prayer, and support of friends.
5. When we let out the kite strings, our kids soar!
This summer was a season of letting go. And that reminded me of flying a kite. In my meditation, I begin with the kite on a short string, and it is comfortable, and I feel confident. But as the winds increase, God invites me to let out the string, to let the kite fly a bit higher. Letting out the string is a little scary, but as I let the string out, I observe with delight how the kite dances in the sky. I see that the kite needs me to let go in order to be what it is meant to be and do what it is meant to do.
Letting out a kite’s strings is a lot like learning to let our children go. Little by little, God invites us to do that, so they can be who He created them to be and do what He calls them to do. As hard as it is, the more I let go, the higher my kite (my kids) soar! And oh, what a beautiful sight that is!
6. Life is like paddle boarding.
This summer, I tried paddle boarding for the first time. Standing up was a bit scary, and I felt unstable and tense. But as long as I kept moving—staying focused on my task, rather than on how I felt about it—I was okay. Eventually, I ended up falling, which caused fear, doubt, and uncertainty to fill my mind. And because I lacked self confidence, I immediately fell again. My instructor flat out told me my form was perfect, but I didn’t trust myself. She was right. When I got up the third time, I didn’t think. I just did. And it made all the difference in the world.
This experience was analogous of my life. Sometimes I let fear get in the way of doing. I overthink, and I analyze to the point of paralysis. I’m even afraid of success, because the path might be hard. This led me to wonder: Do I get in the way of God’s plan for me? Do I lack trust in Him? Do I lack faith in what He can do through me? What is my full potential? What does God see when He sees what I could be if I gave ear to the voice of grace? Yeah, I think I might be surprised at what God could make of me. Would you be surprised, too?
What have you learned this summer? Please share your life lessons in the comments.