The title of this post could be a little misleading, but that isn't my intention. I didn't take an entire summer and sit on a beach with a drink in my hand, while the water slowly lapped up onto the beach, but I did take the summer off -- at least my version of off. Let me explain...
I have written about it before, but I will say it once again. For the past seven years Brooke and I have been professional wedding photographers. That meant when everyone was out enjoying the great weather on a beach, or their annual summer vacation, we were inside editing wedding photos, e-mailing brides and gearing up for another weekend of shooting. After June was born we decided to retire from the wedding world, move on and focus on our other business - walk in love. So, we finished up a few final weddings in the summer of 2015, enjoyed the fall season, enjoyed winter, got tired of winter, and were really looking forward to spring. Toward the end of our photography career we stopped shooting between November and March anyway, because it was too cold and the sun set at 3:00pm - which just meant that during those fall/winter months (October - April of 2015/16) it hadn't really hit us what life without weddings would be like.
Then as the weather began to change, we noticed that we were home on those early spring weekends. Then it happened again, and again, and again! With each weekend that passed, we were amazed how much we noticed. Then May turned to June, and we were going to the pool on SATURDAYS and following that up with trips to go out to eat and long evening walks. There were even Saturdays that we did yard work. YARD WORK! And we were excited about it!
It was about half way through the month of June, with our front porch scattered with pool towels, bathing suits, and sunlight, that Brooke turned to me and said, "I feel like we are on vacation."
We actually didn't have a vacation planned for this summer. Financially we couldn't really make it happen and so we decided we would skip a traditional summer vacation in lieu of saving money. What happened was not a week at a beach house, but was nonetheless incredible... and I was totally missing it, until my wife pointed it out in that moment.
We were having a summer worth of vacations. Not the traditional kind, but the kind we had given up because of the career path we had been on. For the previous seven summers we had missed bar-b-q's, pool parties, 4th of July fireworks, last minute dinner parties, and all because of weddings. And this was the first summer that we were able to do it all.
So, back to that moment on our front porch: I realized then that I could cram another summer full of work. We could put the pedal to the metal when it came to walk in love. and use all of our newly given time working... or we could take a breath, a beat, a pause, and take a summer vacation. A summer vacation made up of all the previously missed summer vacations.
And we did just that. We didn't announce it to the world or even to each other. We just let God lead us into a season of life where the waters were calm. Where we could focus on living the type of life, at the type of pace we always hoped for, but for a bunch of reasons couldn't afford, grasp, or weren't brave enough to take in the past. And that didn't mean life wasn't happening or we weren't engaged. We just took it with deeper breaths and more stillness before it happened. We focused on what brought us joy instead of what needed to be done right now. We let go of things we didn't need or couldn't afford -- both financially and emotionally. We did flips off the diving board, ate grilled cheese every Tuesday night with friends, celebrated birthdays and new business ventures, watched parades and nourished new friendships, kissed June and each other and shopped at Target a hundred times.
Maybe you are reading this and thinking that I am full of crap. Maybe you think that you can't have a time of calm waters because of this, that, and the other thing. I used to live there. "We can't ever stop weddings because we can't pay our bills." "We can't ever slow down because then we will have slowed. down.!" Well, all our bills were paid this summer. We certainly made cuts in the things we did, but all our bills were paid. Maybe you are telling yourself that you can't because you have more kids than I do. Well, I would counter by saying maybe a season of calm waters for you is enjoying your kids and ALL that they bring. Maybe it's learning to enjoy them when they want to run around all day and not stop. Maybe it's enjoying them by not trying to schedule every second of their free time and instead actually giving them free time to build forts, dig in the dirt and climb a tree or two! Maybe it's enjoying them by not demanding so much from them. I don't know, but I had a toddler all summer with her teeth growing in, and yet my summer was more peaceful than ever before.
There are a lot of reasons never to take a breath. Our society seems to be 24 hours, 7 days a week, and if you want to keep up with the Kardashians or the Joneses or the Whoeveres, you have to do this and this, and your kids have to wear this and this, and so on. It will never end until we put our foots down to end it -- until we give our lives the space it needs. It doesn't take long to realize that a non-stop, always moving, lifestyle is damaging both physically and emotionally.
Summertime worked for me to make that space, but I know that autumn or winter wouldn't. Maybe your life is the other way around. Maybe you can take a breath when it's freezing cold outside and you're inside because of snow anyway. I don't know, but I think it's important to recognize right now, with whatever season you're in, that it needs to happen. And probably soon.
My summer vacation is over. I realize that now I have some serious work to do before the end of the year, and honestly, I am really looking forward to it. I would never want to be on vacation forever, because we aren't wired that way. I am excited to get back to the grind. Actually a better way to say that is, "I am more excited than I have ever been to get back to the grind." And that's because I took time. I took space and I let God move in my life during a season of calm, so that I can move into a season of "chaos" knowing that I can handle it.
When we go, go, go and never stop, we never let God use the stillness to speak. Most of the time God speaks in the Bible is in stillness, in quiet, in peace. Yet, we try to hear His voice when the noise is turned up to 11. And if you think God doesn't speak in stillness, just remember how He gave His son to the world.
I challenge you to take some time, maybe it's all summer, maybe it's a month, or maybe it's 10 minutes every morning before anyone else wakes up in your house, to be still before the Creator of the heavens and earth. To be still and listen. To be still and know. It will never be time wasted or regretted.
I will never look back to the summer of 2016 and think, "Man, I am so upset that I took a summer to take a breath and re-focus on what matters." It's because of this summer I have been making it a point to wake up early and spend around 30 minutes in the silence of the downstairs to read, listen and pray. Brooke has already said that she has seen a difference in the way I handle the day, handle my moods and handle stress. Try it. Take a mini summer vacation every morning without ever leaving your house to listen to the Spirit of God. Maybe He has been speaking to you for years, you've just never given Him anytime to actually hear what He is saying.
The Rest of SUMMER 2016 looked like this!!
I think the funniest part about this summer is that we ended it by actually shooting a friend's wedding. It was in Bermuda so no complaints here!