I am writing this on my first child-free day in six weeks. The summer holidays have been a whirlwind of fun – visiting friends and then what seemed like endless camping trips finished off by celebrating my 11-year-old's birthday with a disco/karaoke/pampering/movie/sleepover party. No, there was not much sleep to be had that night...
After a very stressful summer a few years ago, when work commitments forced me to send my children away to relatives so I could meet the deadlines, I now try to take as much of the summer off as I can. It means a manic time in the lead up to the holidays, trying to squeeze in extra article writing among the endless assemblies and sports days so that I'm ahead of myself. But it also usually creates a backlog of work that I can get stressed about during the holidays if I let my thoughts linger on it.
Even with the pressure either end of the holidays it is so worth it – to have time with my children. I love getting them outdoors, away from computers and Xboxes, as their imaginations start working as soon as they breathe in the fresh air.
I have to be honest, though, and say that we do always seem to cram in too much. We haven't had many days at home this summer – and I'm feeling it. I was talking to another mum at church and we both said we felt like we needed another week's holiday after the kids are back at school for ourselves. There isn't a lot of space to just 'be' during the holidays, and we both felt that we'd lost ourselves a little. As I reflected on this, and the fact that I needed to hit the ground running with my work, I began to feel a little panicked. It was then that I felt God whisper: "just breathe".
With so much crammed into each summer day, and an Autumn packed with work and church activities, I knew that my connection with God was looser. Being out in nature so much had given me fresh perspectives, and I did feel Him in the everyday, but I hadn't had my usual me and God time each morning. I felt He was simply reminding me what it says in Psalm 46:10: "Be still, and know that I am God".
As my husband and I sat down last weekend and went through all our summer holiday photos, it struck me again how our priority had been the children. Again, I felt God gently say to me that that is what He is like with us – as His children we are His priority. He also reminded me of the verse: "If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!" (Matthew 7:10-12). We may have worked hard organising fun trips and activities for our children, but how often do we consider how God is working on our behalf?
We can trust our heavenly Father with our very lives. Today, I am trying to take the time to slow down and trust that He will help me get through the copious amounts of emails and huge pile of work I have to tackle this week, rather than panicking and trying to catch up all in one day. And, yes, among it all, I will also be reminding myself to "just breathe"...