Oh ya’ll. I think I say it every year, but I feel like THIS summer was maybe my favorite? I’m pretty sure the age of my kids has everything to do with it. Everyone can function fairly well AND everyone still wants to spend time together. Their world is getting bigger AND they still want us in it. These years are incredibly sweet.
Another element that made this summer special was that Joel and I celebrated our 10th anniversary and it was so meaningful to reflect on how God has provided for and grown us over the years. We both decided this marriage gig gets better over time.
Throw in the privilege of taking a team of students overseas on a missions trip for 5 weeks, getting good recovery time at home and then spending rich time visiting friends and family, this summer gets my stamp of approval.
Here’s my “What I Learned This Summer” but it’s also sort of a “Favorite Things” post…so I double titled the post. Yep. This blogger has officially let her cyber-hair down. What did you learn this Summer? What were your favorite things? Here are mine:
- Being in nature is extremely restorative to my soul.
The city recently put a quarter mile paved greenway in right by my house and from my front door, around the loop and back is a perfect 1.5 miles. Me and ole Duke have been getting up and OWNING the loop lately and it’s been so energizing. Duke goes nuts when he hears we are going for a run and I realized that it’s the GREEN that is so nourishing to my spirit! I need more nature in my life but dang, it’s hot and sticky in Mississippi, so I don’t really enjoy being outside in the summer unless there’s a pool nearby, these morning jaunts around the loop with my favorite 4-legged friend have really been a game changer. (See also: endorphins)
2. Paying a babysitter so you can have time with the Lord is totally worth it.
About mid-July every summer I kinda hit a wall and I realize that my introvert hurts. Days at the pool are awesome. Traveling is great. The flexible schedule of summer is wonderful. But I begin to feel like I can’t hear myself think and I start to feel disconnected from my own soul.
The kids had a Science, Nature, Art Camp at the museum a few weeks ago, Joel was out of town, and I was needing some soul care. On a whim, I paid a college student to pick my kids up from camp, take them to lunch at McDonald’s (Lizzie, you’re a saint) drop by the library for a while and then hit up the pool. Basically, I paid her to not bring my children home. I went and worked out, had a meal by myself and then crawled into my bed to spend time with the Lord. Hours went by and it was sooooo good. There was time for prayer, journaling, an online course, some reading, a counseling/spiritual direction session, solitude and silence. It was absolutely glorious and I can’t believe I haven’t made that type of investment before! It’s totally worth spending some of the babysitter budget to take extended time with the Lord! (It’s also worth it to have a monthly session with a counselor/spiritual director in the budget!)
3. “Included In Christ” is an fantastic Bible study, especially for writers.
I think what made my time with God so meaningful was this Bible study. Heather has a very caring and encouraging voice and she walks through Ephesians in a way that really speaks to the writer within. I highly recommend it!
4. Having a “usual” and even a “uniform” is mentally freeing for me.
You know when your phone flashes you that annoying “storage full” message? So you go to dump your phone onto your computer but then your computer sends you a similar message that you’ve used all the space on your hard drive? And then you get that eery feeling that your devices are a reflection of your brain and your life that both feel completely out of space… The struggle is real.
Any time I can automate even the smallest thing in my life it takes away “storage” and mental fatigue.
Anytime I can not have to think about what’s next or pause to figure out what to do it’s just so nice. For example, I am no longer trying to think of when I’m going to work out or if I am gonna walk the dog. It’s just two birds I am killing with one stone first thing in the morning.
Enter the usual and the uniform per one of my favorite podcaster’s suggestion–The Lazy Genius.
Usual–I always struggle with what to feed my kids for lunch. I don’t even like lunch! So this year since we are home most days I decided instead of having to rack my brain for ideas I’d just have the kids eat the same thing each weekday.
We are on a rotation of:
Monday-Mac and cheese with sugar snap peas and carrots
Tuesday-Soup and baked potatoes
Wednesday-Turkey and cheese roll-ups and whatever fruit that’s in season
Thursday-Frozen pizza with fruit and vegetable
Friday-Peanut butter and banana with granola and yogurt
Uniform–Same song second verse to the tune of what-the-heck-is-a 35-year-old-homeschooling-mom-who-has-to-still-look-somewhat-relatable-to-college-students-who-are-now-born-in-the-year-2000-which-is-the-same-year-I-graduated-from-college.
My new uniform includes 4 dresses, jean shorts with a flowy top and workout clothes. That’s what I am wearing basically on rotation M-F. These swing dresses make me feel put together but even more comfortable than slouchy workout clothes. Can’t recommend them enough!
5. Cook once. Eat twice.
We all know how obsessed I am with freezer meal cooking…it just makes long days so much easier! I stocked my freezer pretty well this summer, but then I would get really bummed as I saw it dwindling down just as the school year was about to start. SO, I started being more intentional about cooking once and eating twice. For example, I am in love with this Honey Garlic Dijon Pork Tenderloin recipe I found on Pinterest and it’s so simple to make one for the freezer and one for dinner all at once! Just double your recipe, eat one and freeze one!
(Image and recipe via The Well Seasoned Mom)
You just dump all this in a bag and toss it in the freezer!
- Pork Tenderloin
- 1/2 cup Honey
- 1/2 cup Dijon mustard
- 2 Tbs Soy sauce
- 1 Tbs Minced garlic
- pinch of rosemary
- pinch of thyme
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
On cooking day set aside the remaining ½ of the marinade in a separate bowl, cover, and refrigerate for later.
Remove pork from the marinade and place in a baking dish that has been coated with cooking spray. Discard bag with the marinade. Allow pork to come to room temperature while you preheat the oven.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.
Remove cover, brush with reserved marinade, and place under the broiler for about 5 minutes (or until a crispy crust forms on top), and pork reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees F.
Remove from oven and allow pork to rest for about 10 minutes before slicing.
Another winner this Summer has been Crock Pot Salsa Ranch Chicken Pasta from The Country Cook.
Again, dump, freeze and then cook the day of! Easy peasy!
- 5-6 chicken breasts
- 1 can cream of chicken soup
- 1 cup salsa
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup Hidden Valley Ranch Cilantro Lime dressing
- 1 lb box rotini pasta
Dump all ingredients except pasta, dressing and sour cream into freezer bag.
On cooking day defrost, pour into crock pot, cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
About 30 minutes or so before this is finished cooking, begin preparing the rotini pasta according to package directions.
Once chicken is cooked, remove chicken breasts and shred them or cut into chunks.
Whisk in sour cream and Hidden Valley® Ranch dressing into cream of chicken/salsa mixture in the slow cooker.
Add chicken back into the slow cooker and stir in prepared rotini pasta.
**Bonus Favorite Thing/Something I Learned This Summer: Awareness of and a Whole-hearted Embracing of My Gaps
While it was 100% my favorite summer, I have never before felt my gaps so severely. No, I am not talking about thigh gaps. Ain’t none of that over here after all the Salsa Ranch Chicken Pasta. What I mean is that my awareness of all the ways I lack was painfully obvious this Summer.
In Rome, there was no way to meet all the needs of students and family. There was no way to not be dead dog tired and see that there was no way I could push or pick myself up and keep going. And actually I became okay with it. It was unbelievably freeing being okay with the gaps between my ideals and my reality.
When we got home there was no way to reign in our transition and make it more neat and tidy. Also, no matter how much you try it’s nearly impossible to work off 5 weeks of chocolate croissants and nutella pizza. GAP.
As we started school it was impossible to manage outcomes of learning and development.
My lack of self-control.
My lack of ability to maintain depth of relationship with friends I love dearly.
Even down to my daily Bible reading app reminding me JUST how far behind I am on my read-thru-the-Bible plan…gaps.gaps.129 days of gaps.
But my gaps were met with God’s love. Raise the roof. The space between my ideals and my reality were met with irresistible kindness, patience and grace. They are the cherished places I am growing in my awareness of my need for my Savior.
My favorite thing all Summer was being reminded that I am a beloved daughter of the King regardless of my performance, production or outcomes and I am deeply and loved because I am deeply loved. Irresistible, I tell you!
I hope you’ve had the best Summer. I’d love to hear more about it! Comment below or let’s chat on social media!