I have to confess that for a brief moment I was discouraged by last week’s summer ideas.
Don’t get me wrong…your ideas were amazing; and over the weekend I excitedly compiled a list of all the things I wanted to do with my kids this summer. I began to imagine all the fun memories we’d make, the goals we’d accomplish, the ministry opportunities we’d seize. I was going to be organized, intentional and fun. Thanks to you, we were going to have an incredible summer.
But then, reality sank in: I’m moving in a couple of weeks. As much as I’d like to, there’s no way I can have ministry Thursdays or do activities for every letter of the alphabet. I have boxes to pack!
For a few minutes all these great ideas felt like a burden—just so many reminders of what I was not doing for my kids this summer.
Maybe some of you feel the same way. You too are moving, or you are pregnant, or are in a trial or an unusually busy season. Summer isn’t going to be all you’d like it to be.
What helped me was to remember the truth that God has ordained my summer circumstances. The boundary lines have fallen for me in pleasant places (Psalm 16:6). Instead of sinfully comparing myself to the rest of you creative people, I need to receive God’s plans for my summer with gratitude. (And I am so grateful for God’s provision of a house!)
So I asked myself, what are some simple ideas that would serve my family this summer?
God graciously used many of your ideas to help me formulate a plan. I’ve got four simple goals for my kids: Scripture reading/memory, household chores, school and reading. At my “morning meeting” with the boys today I gave them each an index card with their responsibilities. They’ve had so much fun checking them off as they go along.
And simple activities? Today we made red and green jello. Of course I’m going to get some mallets so they can smash fruit loops on sidewalk. Water painting on the driveway and squirting soap bubbles in the air will also fit the simple theme.
The rest of your ideas won’t go to waste: watch out, Summer 2009!
After dinner on a recent date night, my husband and I wandered into a Barnes and Noble—not an uncommon leisure activity for the two of us. I flipped through a book on the new release table and came across a ten-year reading plan at the back of the book. Hmmm…that’s a good idea, I thought. I’m always reading—commentaries, books on women’s issues, doctrine and the Christian life, and even the occasional history or classic novel—but I want to have a long-term plan to make sure I’m reading the most valuable spiritual classics.
So on our way out, I asked CJ (whose appetite for devouring books ever inspires me!) to give me a reading plan for what he considered the most important spiritual books to read in my lifetime.
Though I’ve read parts of almost all of these books, I’ve not benefited as I know I will if I read them from cover to cover. So, I’m going to line these books up on my shelf and start reading. Let’s see…..eight books, at one per year; I should be finished by 2016. God willing, I’ll finish these books and ask CJ for another reading list.
A final word on summer, from John Piper: “Don’t let summer make your soul shrivel.”
The danger with all our summertime ideas (even the more ‘spiritual’ ones) is that we would enjoy or pursue them to the neglect of God himself.
“Flight from him into Christless leisure makes the soul parched” warns Piper. “At first it may feel like freedom and fun to skimp on prayer and neglect the Word, but then we pay: shallowness, powerlessness, vulnerability to sin, preoccupation with trifles, superficial relationships, and a frightening loss of interest in worship and the things of the Spirit.”
The solution to a shallow summer? “If then you have been raised up with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth” (Col. 3:1-2, RSV).
Remember that, “Jesus Christ is the refreshing center of summer. He is preeminent in all things (Col. 1:18), including vacations, picnics, softball, long walks, and cookouts [and square foot gardens, pinnebrød, and popsicle trees].”
Or, said another way: “The summer sun is a mere pointer to the sun that will be: the glory of God. Summer is for seeing and showing that.” Heavenly Father, may we not be guilty of “Christless leisure” but may we “see” and “show” your glory in all we do this summer. Amen.
This list of helpful summer schedule ideas concludes our week of summertime tips. Thanks to all of you who participated. I can’t tell you how grateful I am for these ideas—many of which will make for great summertime memories for years to come. Our winner today is Elizabeth who has a commendable ministry focus to her family’s schedule.
I have four children ranging in age from 8-12 and I actually just finished up making our summer schedule. Our household tends to run much smoother when there is a “plan”. I wanted to incorporate some fun ideas and still have some structure to the summer.
One of my favorite things that we are planning on doing is having a “ministry day” (ours happens to be Thursday). On that day we (the kids and I) will use that day to find a family, or person in which we can minister to. Ideas would be….babysitting a new mom’s other children, baking cookies for an elderly couple or person and visiting with them for a bit, yard work for someone ill, making a meal (having the kids involved) for a needed family….etc. I think it is so important that we teach our children the importance of ministering inside our local church. It gives them opportunities to step outside themselves and give of themselves…a servants heart!
Another idea that I have incorporated is on Tues. and Thurs. mornings I will have them email a missionary. My husband will set up an email account specifically for that reason and they will get to email them and let them know how we are praying and then also get to hear from them in return and be able to “visualize” the ministry there. Thankfully, our church has a list on their website of all our missionaries and their email addresses so they have made it easy for us in that respect. We are also going to use the prayer cards that we have and put them in a flip over (on the stand type) picture album. We will pray for one at dinner each day and flip to the next one.
You all suggested enough summer activities to keep even my energetic boys busy for more than one summer! Rita is our winner for today:
When my children were little and it was a hot summer day, I made sure they were all occupied with something in the house. Then I took a box of popsicles I had purchased from the store, used a hole punch to puncture the wrapping, tied a string to the popsicle wrapping and then hung them from the tree branches of our front yard tree.
I then went into the house and announced, “The popsicle tree is blooming! The popsicle tree is blooming!” They ran outside and saw our tree covered with hanging popsicles! They ran and got their little neighborhood friends and everyone sat outside enjoying popsicles.
To this day, that is the one summer memory they will almost always bring up! It’s inexpensive, easy and a fun surprise!
Some more great ideas coming your way today and three more winners to congratulate for their worthy endeavors. May God prosper all of your summer goals and projects!
SUMMER GOALS AND PROJECTS
Create “square foot” gardens with the children (build a garden for each child 3’x3’ or 4’x4’ and let the child choose what they will grow and help them (if they need it) with planting, watering, weeding and let them serve the family (and even neighbors) by sharing the fruits of their labors
The first is something that I’m nervous about, but I think God is calling me to do it. I will be babysitting for two kids from a broken home this summer, 8 hours a day, 3 days a week. That is a lot longer than I have ever worked before! My goal in this is not only to minister to that family, but also to train and prepare myself for my dream job: being a mother.
We’re planning Summer Without Television. We’re doing this because every summer we are easily, easily sucked into hours of watching television. So we’re coming up with activities that will be more interesting, and more fruitful.
The plan is to list things we’d like to learn, or places we’d like to visit, and group those things by theme (art, outdoor activity, etc.) Each theme will get its own day of the week.
So far we’ve got one child who wants to learn how to make stained glass, bake extravagant pastries, draw, and go canoeing. The other wants to make jewelry, learn macrame, knitting, preserve some jellies and jams, and go horseback riding. Both want to visit museums and go hiking and camping.
So, Monday may be designated Art Day, when we’ll work on some projects together. Tuesday could be Baking/preserving Day, (I forsee a lot of care group members getting jellies this Christmas!) Wednesday may be Parks&Rec Day, when we see what the local parks have to offer. Thursday will likely be Visit the Museum Day (almost all of them have free days that we’re taking advantage of)....and you get the idea by now. We’re throwing in a couple weekend camping trips for good measure. (And for those days when everyone wants a break from the schedule, we’ll just pack up some juice boxes and head for the pool!)
If all goes well, we won’t know if America’s Got Talent, who The Mole is, or who wins the NBA finals. But we will have some new skills, and some great memories.
Today we’ve combined in one document ideas for summer vacations and summer traveling with kids. Once again, you all are amazing! These ideas are so great they make me excited to go on a road trip with my young kiddos. We could only narrow it down to three winners—one for the Summer Vacations category and two for the Summer Traveling with Kids category. Congratulations ladies, and let us know what book you’d like to receive. More super summer suggestions come your way tomorrow….
SUMMER TRAVELING WITH KIDS
My idea for summer traveling with kids comes with a little story:
When my oldest son, Tim, was 2 1/2 years old my Mom moved to Northern California. Many of our vacations included a 6 1/2 hours drive from southern California to “Grandma’s house”. To help answer the questions of, “how long until we get there?” and ” how much farther do we have to go?” I gave Tim a visual aid. I used a highlighter pen to trace our route on a Calif. map which I then covered with clear contact paper. A sticker was used to represent us and it was at first situated on the location of our house on the map. As our trip progressed the sticker was peeled off and repositioned to our current position along the route on the map. This helped give Tim a grasp of how much distance we had traveled and how much was left. Over the years, as Tim became a reader, he was able to read road signs and move the sticker on his own. Tim grew to be fascinated with maps and traveling. (In elementary school he even started a collection of maps from all 50 states). He is now 23 years old and enjoys planning trips and has even traveled to China and throughout Europe.
One of our favorite things to do on a trip is to read a missionary biography together as a family. Geoff and Janet Benge have written a series of books Christian Heroes: Then & Now through YWAM. We have read about Eric Liddell, Nate Saint, Amy Carmichael, George Mueller (who had a very interesting life before God got a hold of his life, his in particular gave us great topics of discussion). Around a campfire or even in a hotel these are great things to read before the kiddos head off to bed. This year we will be reading about Betty Greene who helped found Missionary Aviation Fellowship. We have also memorized a passage of Scripture together as a family. I make verse cards for each of the kids and then we can practice in the car as we travel. It’s humbling how quick the kids can memorize, but it keeps us faithful when we are all memorizing the same things. This year we are hoping to memorize a section of Ps. 119.
Plan a “surprise trip.” When our 4 kids where all under 10, we packed
all their bags in advance and then awakened them early (4:00 AM) one
morning, put them in the car and headed to Disney World from Virginia!
They learned of where we were going when we stopped for breakfast after
3 hours of travel and put a toy Mickey Mouse on the table! They still
say this was one of their favorite memories. It doesn’t have to be a
big trip like Disney; just any surprise get-a-way (maybe Grandma’s
house!) will make a cherished memory!
Wow—you outdid yourselves this time! We received so many wonderful entries for our summer contest. As always, we’re sorry we can’t post them all.
Let’s begin with summer meals. You can download this Summer Meals pdf which contains over thirty delicious looking recipes and creative tips for simple and yummy summer food.
Our winner for today is Talitha. She sent in four creative ideas for summer eating fun. Congratulations Talitha and thank you for sharing these suggestions with all of us. Let us know which of the fabulous books you would like to receive.
To all of you, my husband and three growing boys thank you for the new recipes they’ll enjoy this summer! SUMMER MEAL IDEAS from Talitha
Have a Picnic
Number one is the obvious one and not really original but… eating outside is one of the most enjoyable things to do in the summer! With family and friends enjoying good conversation, a ray of sunlight in your hair and fresh air while eating your lunch. From breakfast to supper, outside is the place to be when the sun is shining.
Make Your Own BBQ
One of the fun things to do is make your own BBQ roaster with branches and aluminium foil. When we were little we often roasted little sausages outside. Each of the neighbour kids had to bring something: ketchup, a can of sausages, bread… This way we made our own hot dogs. (First ask the parents for permission of course)
My brothers also liked to build special ovens in the ground. (We, the girls, had to carry along the heavy stones…) We worked a whole week on it, every day a little further towards the final result. At the end of the week we could bake food on the stones. Fun! You can find inspiration for different kinds of ovens to build in survival books.
Make Norwegian Pinnebrød
Another all-time popular thing to do outside is baking bread in a small fire. (You can even do it in a fire basket or inside on a rainy day.) Since I learned to bake pinnebrød in Norway we have repeated it many times on parties or family & friends nights. You just make dough for a white bread and gather some sticks. You roll a small piece of dough and twist it around your stick. You hold the stick above the fire for a while and watch your bread until it is finished. The first time you have to give yourself some time to learn, so be patient.
You can also put a sausage inside the bread. Another idea is to put cheese, smashed tomatoes, pizza spice in the bread. You get a very tasty pizza bread! As dessert… you eat some more bread But now you put brown sugar, cinnamon and butter in the dough. It is fun for young and old to do! I did it last month again on a party with and everybody enjoyed it so much!
(UPDATE Another reader, Karen, wrote in with a suggestion to add: We call the Norwegian Pinnebrød “doughboys.” We use the inexpensive biscuit dough, wrap around a thin dowel, and bake over the fire. It has replaced smores as the favorite dessert while camping!)
Do a Snack Bar with Kids
Since I have no family on my own I like to cook together with my little nephew and niece. This morning we cut potatoes into chips, cut vegetables and set the dinner table. It is a morning-filling activity—really time consuming but rewarding!
One time as children we had our own snack restaurant as a family event. We did everything, including baking the chips, preparing the pitas, hamburgers… Much fun for older children! First of all the preparation, building the bar, putting up a plate with the name of the snackbar… And then the fun of ‘playing’ with real food and customers.
I love the Friday Funnies we receive about kids. This cute one is from Dina.
Looking forward to summer ideas week! Nicole for the girltalkers
One date night my sweet in laws were over to babysit our then young family, so we could get out on a much needed date. My nice father in law was holding my young son, about 6 years old, tossing him up and down, and wrestling in the chair for fun. At one point, he was holding my son upside down. Then all of the sudden, our son asks sweetly, “Grandad, why do you have eyelashes in your nose?”