Summer. It’s the time of year most kids look forward to the most. The bell ringing for the last time and the sense of freedom as you walked out the school gate. No homework to be completed, no assignments to be researched and written. The next few weeks were all about fun and adventure. Long summer days spent with friends and family with not a care in the world.
At least that’s how I remember them. Or maybe it’s how I want to remember them.
Life is so different now. This “adulting” thing seems to make it a lot harder to enjoy those long summer days like I used to.
The long summer days I remember was often of camping adventures.
It was a cheap way for Mum and Dad to take us away as a family. After Christmas and New Year were done, we would pack the car and trailer and head out of Auckland.
The place we traveled to was about an hour and a half out of Auckland called Mangawhai Heads. It’s a beautiful spot. The campground sits a few meters from a large estuary and overlooks some amazing sand dunes.
As kids, we couldn’t wait to get the tents set up and gear unpacked so we could head down to the sand and start playing. We would start arranging where we were going to build our sand spa pool. Important factors such as how many people it would seat were negotiated, then the digging began. We only stopped to eat or when it became too dark.
Then it was into the tents and torches switched on. A pack of cards would be produced and everyone gathered around to play and laugh together. When the yawning finally took over, we would brush our teeth and crawl into our warm sleeping bags. Ready to dream about the next big sand project to build the next day.
Now 25 or so years later, I found myself sitting on the same grassy hill that my parents used to sit on. Just as they used to watch over us as we played, I was now doing the same for my 2 kids as they played on the beach.
The day wasn’t what you would call a typical summer’s day. There was a strong wind blowing, and even though the sun was out, it still felt cold. I hunkered down in my seat, trying to escape the chill of the wind and wondered why on earth they still were bothering to play.
As I watched them laughing and having a great time, it occurred to me that their attitude to the current circumstances was far better than mine. They were seeing something in the situation that I had clearly missed.
Only a couple of days earlier I had written down that I wanted to BE more in all areas of my life this year. Sensing an opportunity to learn from them, I put my grumpiness aside and decided to stay. I wriggled further back into my seat and started to just observe. Over the next hour or so while they played, these are the five things that my kids taught me.
1. Look Beyond My Circumstances
As they ran down to the beach with their toys in hand, I don’t think they even noticed the wind. How you could miss it though I’m not quite sure. It was picking up the dry sand and blowing it across the beach like it was shot from a sandblaster. Their sole focus was getting down to the beach so they could get started on their next sand creation. They divided up the buckets and spades then proceeded to dig and create.
Now and then a large gust of wind would whip up another wave of sand and propel it across the beach. The kids simply turned their backs to the wind and continued their focused efforts. The ideas they carried in their head of what they wanted to achieve were enough to look beyond their external circumstances.
Have you ever allowed circumstances to distract or stop you from reaching a goal or achieving a dream? I’ll put both hands up and admit that there have been times I have allowed that to happen. I say allowed because I always have a choice in how I respond to circumstances. In fact, in 1 Thessalonians 5:18 we are told to be thankful in all circumstances!
I don’t know about you but some of the circumstances I’ve faced, the first thought has not been one of gratitude. So why would Paul, who is the author of the above scripture, give such an instruction. The answer lies in Romans 8:28.
” And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God”
Peter encouraged the Church to give thanks in all things because he knew how to look beyond the present circumstances. He knew his heavenly Father was in control, and by faith, knew that all things would work together for good.
It’s reassuring to know that my God is sovereign and He is more than capable of redeeming any situation. Even the ones I create because I forgot to look beyond my current circumstance.
2. The Joy Of Imagination
Every child I know has a pretty good imagination. Some have a more vivid imagination than others, that’s for sure, but it’s still there none-the-less. I watched as my kids used their imagination to create a little world for themselves on that windy beach. It wasn’t just one idea that they went with. Every now and again one of them would have a brainwave of a way to change what they were doing. Excitedly they would share that with the other, and once they agreed, the game would take a slightly different direction. It was clear to anyone that could see them, they were having a great time.
When was the last time you stopped and took the time to dream?
New Year is often the time I sit and think about the year ahead and dream a little. But to be honest, that’s about where it stops. Once I’m back into the daily routine of family, work and Church, I tend to forget to stop and dream. Yet it really should be something that I set aside time throughout the year to do.
The dreams I’m talking about are not where my next holiday is going to be, or what car I would like to buy. They are God-centered dreams.
What do I mean by that?
For me, that means that the things I am dreaming about should be aligned with what I feel God is asking me to do. It’s then taking those ideas and imagining what God can do and praying faith-filled prayers over them.
This blog is a good example of a dream. I dreamt about it for over a year before I finally had the courage to trust Him and just do it. It started with the idea that if one life was changed then that was enough. Even as I write this post I’m being challenged that I’m not dreaming big enough. Not even close.
That’s the beautiful thing about dreaming God-centered dreams. It takes us from what we think is possible and allows us to get a glimpse of what is possible with Him.
3. Be In The Moment
By now the kids were well engrossed in their play. So much so that afternoon snack time slipped past without either of them noticing. Now for our kids, that’s pretty unusual. If we are home during the holidays, they will often be begging for a snack not long after breakfast. They’ll give all sorts of reasons as to why they need it right then and there. Often it’s just that they are bored and looking for something to do.
On the beach however they were happily enjoying the moment and were making the most of the time they had. As I watched them play I knew that there was something that I could learn about enjoying the moment and not being in a rush to move onto the next thing.
I’m a punctual person. Always have been. I inherited that from my Dad who saw it as a personal flaw to be late for something. I have the same tendency, just ask my wife! It’s not a bad personality trait to have, but it does have a downside if left unchecked. I’m always clock watching to make sure that we won’t be late for our next engagement or appointment. Because my mind is already thinking of the next thing, I can tend to lose sight of the present.
You never know when God is going to bring someone or something across your path, and I sure don’t want to miss out on that!
So this year I am going to be intentional about being in the moment. Making sure I enjoy and make the most of each moment and experience. I’ll try and remember to write an update later in the year and let you know how I get on.
4. Make Room For New Friends
One of the key difference between my son and I is how we interact with new people. I am very much an introvert where he can be quite outgoing and friendly with people he’s never met before. That was on display again while we were camping. As our two kids played on the beach, my son noticed a boy who had approached with interest to see what they were doing. I was too far away to hear the conversation, but it was pretty clear what was happening. Soon the other boy was joining in and fully involved in their little world.
I loved seeing my son making room in their game to include someone else. As I watched the three of them play together, I had to admit to myself that I would have found that much harder then he did.
I have a good group of close friends who I love to spend time with and enjoy their company. But as I watched my son, I felt challenged that this year I will need to make room for new friends. And here he was giving me the perfect demonstration of how to do just that. Get to know them and invite them into what I am doing.
The ultimate example of this was of course Jesus. He saw the people on the outside, ones that others had rejected. He took the time to get to know them by name and invited them to sit and spend time with Him. What an amazing feeling that must have been for some of those people to be asked by Jesus to sit with Him after others had rejected them.
5. Find joy in the little things
It was now approaching the two-hour mark of sitting on the beach. I was cold and ready to go back to the relative warmth and shelter of the tent. There was one more thing that struck me as I readied myself to head back. They had found joy in being there on the beach and making the most of what they had at hand.
Now as a parent, do I wish they could do this more often? Absolutely! It’s something that we try and encourage them to do in their daily lives.
But here on the beach, they had nailed it, and it reminded me that there are times I need to learn the same lesson.
There are times that I have allowed myself to be robbed of joy, simply because I allowed the situation to dictate my mood. The truth is that most things are what you make them. I know that if I was to look a bit harder at some things that I find boring or mundane, I’ll bet I could flip the script. Change the approach and intentionally seek to find some joy in whatever the situation might be.
I packed up my chair and waved the kids back up from the beach. Reflecting on the afternoon as I waited for them, I was glad I had spent the time just watching and observing. It had been rewarding watching them play for so long without things descending into arguing and bickering. But more than that, it was humbling to know that I can still learn from my kids.
As we wandered back to the tent area, I knew I had discovered one of the keys to reaching my goal this year to ‘BE more’. Being open to learning from anyone, even from my kids.