Simplicity: One Key to a Lifegiving Summer!

"There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven-

A time to give birth and a time to die;

A time to plant and a time to uproot what is planted.

A time to kill and a time to heal;

A time to tear down and a time to build up.

A time to weep and a time to laugh;

A time to mourn and a time to dance..." Ecclesiastes 3:1-4

My sweet friend, Misty, is one of the most beautiful, soul-rich women I know. I loved this article she wrote for us and am now motivated to write out all of these ways I can simplify this summer. Let us know what you are doing to simplify and enjoy your summer. Thanks, sweet Misty, for this great encouragement.

Walking through powdery sand, fishing off the pier, building sandcastles, riding a trolley, and trying funny new doughnut flavors (maple/bacon or siracha, anyone?) were just a few of the fun experiences our family had last week. After several years of our summer family vacations being replaced by moves, cross-country weddings and other atypical life happenings, it was wonderful to have a few days of sun and sand and nothing else on the calendar. It was time for summer.

With the season of school days ending for so many of us, this is a wonderful time to think about creating new memories together as a family. As I brushed beach sand off the coffee table to replace my embroidery basket and gathered my youngest up on the couch next to me for a bit of reading last week, I thought about why we were enjoying our time there so much. There are a few things typical of a week at the beach which aren't typical of our regular, everyday lives, but there was one thing in particular that stood out to me which had nothing to do with sand and salt water or even spectacular sunsets: simplicity. Here are some tips on simplicity while vacationing with your own family this summer--and some ways to incorporate that lifegiving, simple summer feel into your life back home, too!

Simple Schedule

On Vacation:

We made time for several visits with family and friends--and those were highlights of our week! But one of the most wonderful things about vacation for all of us was that we didn't have to watch the clock. There were no classes or lessons or appointments cluttering up the planner or causing my phone to chime--a very welcome change from the usual. Consider *not* filling every moment of your vacation with activities. Even a trip to Disney benefits from a break in the afternoons for naps and a dip in the pool! Leave some time to explore the forest or seashore or even your own hometown.

At Home:

This summer, wherever you are, consider white space on the calendar your friend! Does your child really have to run here and there and from class to class? Or might some time left open, to allow them to be bored, even, be a surprising gift? Are there places nearby you've never had (or taken) time to explore together? Time to breathe is definitely lifegiving, and needed by everyone.

Simple Spreads

On Vacation:

One thing that's tricky about renting a house for the week rather than staying at a hotel is that there are still meals to be made--and who doesn't want a break from that? We decided early on to keep our menus simple, and shop early in the week for some inexpensive choices. Going out for doughnuts was a fun treat one morning, but bagels with cream cheese, a simple scrambled egg and cheese dish, fruit yogurt and cereal bars all made breakfast time easier for the mornings we stayed home--and meant no one had to be urged out of bed at a particular time. Cold-cut or tuna fish sandwiches with apple slices and chips or a bowl of soup made everyone happy for lunch, and dad was happy to grill burgers and hot dogs for dinner. We went out to eat just a few times, which was easier on our budget, too! One of our favorite meals was just a big platter of cheese and crackers, grapes, and watermelon slices enjoyed in the back yard next to the pool.

At home:

Making a simple summer meal plan is a great idea. You can even plan two weeks' worth of easy menus and just repeat that plan all summer long! Think about making big batches of potato or macaroni salad, tuna salad for sandwiches, etc. so you're ahead of the game for lunches and dinners; make homemade pizza dough and let everyone add their own toppings; consider having each of the kids be in charge of a meal or two on a particular day of each week. We like to eat on pretty plates and even pull out the china regularly, but in the summer, paper plates can be a mom's best friend (especially for lunch time!) Much of the typical stress of mealtime comes from not having a plan. Why not offer yourself some mealtime lifegiving peace in advance?


Simple Surroundings

On Vacation:

One thing I'm always struck by on vacation is how little cleanup needs to be done. A quick pickup and a run-through with the broom put everything back to rights in just a few minutes each afternoon. There's one simple reason ... we don't take ALL our things with us when we travel! Our lovely spot was bright and beachy, but gloriously devoid of clutter. Only a few choices for pots and pans, limited decor, no out-of-season clothes falling off shelves in the closets ... a lack of extra, unnecessary stuff makes for less stress and less work.

At home:

Summer has long been a favorite time for purging around here! Used-up notebooks from the past year, worn-out clothes, unused kitchen gadgets, old magazines, etc. etc. all find a home in the circular file, and the house will surely breathe easier for the newly reclaimed space. It's been said that we should only keep things we know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. The less there is, the less there is to be cared for and arranged and moved to be cleaned under!

Simple Style

On vacation:

I'll admit I failed at this one, this time. It's been so long since we visited Florida, I forgot there'd be no need for the sweater I brought for cool evenings (non-existent!) or jeans (too hot!) My boys packed their own clothes, which actually turned out surprisingly well. Next time, though, I'll definitely use a tip from the past: packing each day's outfits into a large ziploc bag and then packing those bags into their larger backpacks. That way, everything's in one place, you know there's enough underwear and socks (and also that those are being changed!) and you won't find yourself walking around town with a child in a red striped shirt and blue/green plaid shorts ... which may or may not have happened to me.

At home:

To capture a bit of vacations' wardrobe simplicity, it's time to sort closets and dressers and storage spaces at home. Kids have moved into new sizes, and some clothing has just worn out. I've never had luck with putting outfits together in any sort of Monday-Friday closet system, but I do find that if I locate a store with great sales I can usually get several outfits from one line which are made in similar colors so they're easier to mix and match. To avoid the stripes-and-plaid issue, I'll make sure future shopping trips focus on solid shirts and printed shorts! Fewer things in the closet=fewer things on the floor and in the wash.

Simple Satisfactions

On vacation:

Getting to go away for a week was a great treat for us, and one I don't take lightly. We drove rather than flying, which of course made for a few tussles in the backseat and more than one wail of "Are we there yet???" both coming and going--but saved us lots of money and also meant our truck was available to us once we got there! During quiet afternoons I read from a favorite poetry book a few times, and in the evenings we pored over The Burgess Seashore Book for Children (highly recommended!) so we could learn about all the new animals we were seeing. I found quiet each morning by waking early and carrying my coffee cup down to the sand's edge for prayer and Bible reading and the occasional podcast, of course! And we tried to make sure everyone made it out to the beach to watch the sun set every evening.

At home:

There have been many years a getaway family vacation was just not possible for us. But that didn't mean we couldn't enjoy some special time together during the summer! As my husband was growing up, his dad decided that rather than take a week or two off from work, he'd take every single Monday off all summer and their family would pack lunches and drive to the beach just for the day. You'd probably be surprised at how many fun things there are to do within an hour or two of your own home! Visiting a friend with a pool, running in the sprinkler, planting a garden, making s'mores in the backyard, riding bikes to the library or the park, even having a stash of cash for the ice cream truck's weekly rounds can all add up to a special summer. And don't forget to make time for some special read-alouds with your children--! Storyformed will be giving lots of wonderful tips on this all summer, and be sure to check our Lifegiving reading resource page, too.

And of course, we'll have our 10 Gifts of Heart series here beginning in June, with free scripture memorization printables, recipes, book suggestions, and tips for a wonderfully intentional, lifegiving summer! As Sarah writes in The Lifegiving Home ...

"Home is not merely a dwelling. It's not merely a state of existence. It's a story, a narrative spun out day by day, a story molded by the walls and hours and tasks and feasts with which we fill our time, reflecting the reality of the God whose love animates every aspect of our being."

~ Sarah Clarkson

What story will you write this summer? Here's to a simply spectacular, spectacularly simple season!