When most people think of summer, it conjures up images of long, lazy days lounging in the sun, no alarms, schedules, or agendas, and basically not doing much of anything. Where I live, summer is glorious, but also incredibly short – too short for a lot of lounging around, in my opinion. I tend to want to cram in as much fun as possible every waking minute of the day. But neither scenario – too much activity or not enough activity – is ideal, and summer can take a toll on our spiritual lives. How can we find the perfect balance between making the most of summer while also allowing time to slow down and recharge? All it takes is a good plan. Here are some steps for all you summer slugs:
- Step 1: The first step is to figure out what sabotages your spiritual growth in the summer. Do you over-do (like me) or just get lazy? If you don’t know, a visit to confession will usually make it very clear.
- Step 2: Find your “summer groove.” Perhaps pick a virtue to work on, such as “charity in speech” or “kindness.”
- Step 3: Make a concrete, but realistic plan. Determine what you need to do each day to stay on track. Routines and goals are still important, but allow room for flexibility and spontaneity. Remember, the spiritual life is a marathon, not a sprint.
- Step 4: Stick to the plan. Before your feet touch the ground each morning, offer the day to God. Your prayer can be something as simple as: “Thank you, Lord, for this day. Help me to live it the way you’d want.”
- Step 5: Remember that you’re human. If you fall “off the wagon,” tomorrow is a new day. To encourage and remind yourself, put sticky notes around the house, write on your bathroom mirror with a dry erase marker, or even put an alert on your phone.
- Step 6: Prayer is always a priority. Fifteen minutes of extra sleep won’t do much for you, but 15 minutes of prayer will. (You may need to wake up before your kids do.)
- Step 7: Avoid the temptation to visit the Church of St. Mattress. In other words, don’t make excuses to miss Mass; the sacraments are your life-line!
- Step 8: Unplug to recharge. Get outside and connect with God in the beauty of creation. Ditch technology in favour of real, human interaction.
- Step 9: A good book goes a long way. Enjoy some mindless fiction, but choose one, good spiritual book, too. I’m reading Fr. James Martin’s My Life with the Saints. It’s funny, engaging, and filled with countless spiritual gems. It’s the perfect book for summer because each chapter stands alone, so it’s easy to put down and pick back up without losing the flow of the story.
- Step 10: Your kids are home – enjoy them! Like Pope Francis suggested recently, “Waste time on your children!”
- Step 11: Live in the moment. (If there’s one thing Calgary weather has taught me, it’s this.) Each day is a gift – use it well.
- Step 12: Summer is a time to lighten your load, but not lessen your standards. Dress and behave in ways that reflect who you are as a person and as a Christian. And remember that bad decisions can have long lasting effects.
Let’s face it. Persevering in our Christian journey takes discipline and determination, especially in summer when schedules are lax, or thrown off by travel or having the kids home. But Jesus wants to accompany us wherever we go and whatever we do this summer. Don’t be that slug that eats away and eventually devours the garden; be a fruitful plant connected “to the vine.” For staying close to Jesus is the only sure way to stay healthy and continue to grow.
– Kelley Holy