I took a breath as I flipped the calendar to July. Normally that particular flip is met with an inhale and exhale of relief. In the past, July has meant a return to a slowed-down pace I delight in and look forward to.
This year my breath was shaky and shallow. Anxious. A little uptight. I looked below my kids’ smiling faces on the feature page to the boxes. So many were already filled with…something. On top of that, the harvest and farm work that usually pack out June instead infiltrated more of those precious July boxes I wanted empty.
Margin. White space. Next to having my kids home with me for a few months, slowing down is what I most look forward to during summer. Taking time to breathe and rest is important to me. It’s just not meeting my expectations this year.
And that, I’ve learned, is probably one of the biggest internal battles I routinely face. I tend to let my expectations grow large. I build things up in my head. I envision how things should go. I entertain those shoulds and coulds until they feel like reality. Only they aren’t. And when my expectations aren’t met, I often wrestle beyond disappointment. I wrestle with discouragement.
I wrote this recently on my Facebook writing page:
“I feel discouraged today. For whatever reason, the transition into summer break has felt a lot longer than usual. Normally the first two to three weeks are rough, and then the waves even out. But here it is July, and it still feels choppy.
“Perhaps I’m discouraged because flipping to July means we’re in the second half of summer and school is fast approaching—and I’m not ready.
“Perhaps it’s because July is usually our slow month—and I love it that way—yet we’re still not quite finished with harvest and swim team doesn’t come to a close until after the second weekend rather than the first. And then there is a shower to throw, a vacation to go on, a surgery looming, and I’m mourning that loss of margin I so cherish.
“Maybe I’m just tired.
“But whatever the reason, I’m clinging to a treasure I found in my study of Psalm 119. Verse 168 says this: ‘I keep your precepts and testimonies, for all my ways are before you.’
“All my ways are before Him, not behind Him. I’m thankful that my discouragement isn’t hidden from His face. I’m thankful for transparency in my relationship with my Father.
“Like the psalmist, I want a heart that stands in awe of His words, no matter my circumstances. I want to rejoice at His word like one who finds great spoil. I want habitual and continuous praise flowing from my lips. I want exceedingly great love for His testimonies.
“So I will raise those desires to Him. I will bring my cry before Him. And I will wait on Him.”
This particular post resonated with a lot of people. Several adults shared similar feelings about the summer and about longing to rest. I’m sure the reasons for lack of rest are different for everyone. I’m sure some really do need to re-evaluate schedules. I’m sure some had unforeseen circumstances come up that changed summer’s trajectory. I’m sure others are like me, building up expectations only to have them fall lackluster.
Reasons aside, this “adulting” gig leaves many of us gasping for breath.
My kids, on the other hand, are different. They looked at July with excitement. They are able to make treasure out of the simplest things—saving back confetti from Fourth of July poppers, deciding a pinecone is worthy of treasure-drawer space—so for their young minds, a multitude of full boxes on a calendar is nothing but extra adventure. No big deal.
I want to be more like them.
But that’s going to take effort on my part. It’s going to take changing the way I think. It’s going to take a realization that while the wider picture doesn’t look like much margin, my day-to-day is different. I have white space almost every day.
It might look like a cup of coffee while watching HGTV to wake up in the mornings, kids snuggled at my side.
It might look like feasting on scripture as I study.
It might look like tucking into the back of Rhubarb Market, drinking raspberry truffle cold brew while catching up with a friend, near and dear, or chatting on the phone with another friend, far in miles but close in heart.
It might look like sitting on a pool chair during break time, listening to the relaxing sound of fountains and lapping water.
It might look like family dinner, comfortable and genuine.
Those moments are there. Countless more exist. My expectations might just need to topple in order to see them.
Malinda Just has been writing Lipstick & Pearls for the Free Press since 2008. To read more of her writing, visit her blog, www.malindajust.com, or join her on social media, @malindadjust