I think if I could summarize my summer I’d say it was all about going back to basics. As everything quietened down I felt God beckoning me back to the simple truth of loving Him and loving others. Many of the things I learnt or processed weren’t rocket-science but rather a gentle reminder of what’s important. And what isn’t. So, in no particular order, here’s 9 of the things I learnt, processed, or re-learnt this summer.
I’d love to know some of the things you’ve been learning or processing too, so feel free to add them in the comments section.
1. I will fail, while daring greatly
I re-read Roosevelt’s “Man in the Arena” quote this summer:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again,because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.
– Theodore Roosevelt
I don’t want to criticize others whilst standing on the edge of the arena, but instead want to be right in the arena, being who God’s called me to be, doing what He’s called me to do, alongside those He’s called me to be with. And in doing that I will fail while daring greatly. I will know both victory and defeat. Conversely, I will choose carefully whose criticism I receive. I will listen to constructive criticism from those who are also in the arena – it may be a completely different type of arena – but from those who are also taking risks and daring greatly, with their sleeves rolled up, and their faces marred by dust and sweat and blood. And I will ignore the rest.
2. Perspective is crucial
If you’re a parent you’ll certainly know how sleep, or lack of it, can radically affect your perspective. I remember the first morning I got a full night’s sleep after our first-born. I felt like a completely different person. Life looked different, although my circumstances actually remained unchanged. Renewed sleep had brought renewed perspective. Slowing down the pace of life, taking holiday, allows opportunity for fresh and new perspective. Our circumstances may remain completely the same but perspective means that we see everything differently. Summer is a great opportunity to allow God to re-focus our lens, our perspective,so that we see circumstances, events, people, as He does.
3. Prayer changes things.
It’s one of those one-liners that any Christian would profess to believe.But it really does. And it changes me too. So I’m praying some more. It’s good.
4. My behaviour directly correlates with my kids’ behaviour
It’s obvious stuff but when I’m relaxed, so are the kids. When I am/we are stressed our kids become stressed. As the pace has slowed down over the summer and as I’ve relaxed I’ve really enjoyed having fun with my equally relaxed kids. Good to remember….
5. There’s no such thing as “I’ll just”…..
A wise man on our team made this comment at the beginning of the summer: “There’s no such thing as ‘I’ll just’.” Our throwaway moments of “I’ll just” are always much more than that. “I’ll just check on facebook” involves reading through a few status updates, maybe clicking on a couple of links, and before you know it 15 minutes of your life has gone. Which is fine. But I need to bear in mind that it’s more than just an “I’ll just…” Life needs to be made up of more than a series of “I’ll just’s”: “I’ll just clean the house.” “I’ll just make a phone call.” There’s no intentionality in “I’ll just”.
6. Exercise can actually be enjoyable
I’ve always been slightly skeptical about people who enjoy exercise. I mean, really? Are they lying? What is there to enjoy? But this summer I’ve discovered enjoyment in both the activity and benefits of exercise.
7. Memorizing scripture really does transform the mind
Instead of my normal background noise of “what will we have for tea” or “I’m not good enough/skilled enough/clever enough to do this” I’ve found the simple act of memorizing scripture has meant that my background noise has been more along the lines of “Since then I’ve been raised with Christ I’ll set my heart on things above, not on what’s going on here on earth.”(my paraphrase) Changing our background noise is life-changing. After all, the little thoughts add up to become the big thoughts.
8. Rhythms and routines are good – even in the summer
Oh, spontaneity how I love you. I love the unexpected , of waking up in the morning and seeing where the day will take us. We had 2 weeks away in France and within the spontaneity I still created a little routine. Each morning, before breakfast, I would walk a little way to the beach, and call in for baguettes on the way back. It was my time to say “hi God, this day is for you. What do you want to say to me and do through me today? I’m yours today.” It was just a short time each morning but the regular pattern helped me to connect with God. Routine is not the enemy I once thought it was.
9. Love, love, and more love – it’s the only thing that counts.
There have been times this summer where choosing to love has not felt easy. And I haven’t always chosen it. But making a choice not to love or to withhold love only leads to death. After all God is love, so choosing anything but love is moving away from who He is. Without the love of God I am nothing – I’m just noise. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love, blessing and forgiveness always triumph. I want to keep choosing them.
“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love”