On the last day of school I had grand ambitions for the dog days of summer: baking, painting, zoo trips, and homemade slip & slides. I think we accomplished two things before my expectations overwhelmed me, and I needed a break from summer break.

I know these Mary Poppins moms exist. I see them on Facebook successfully pulling tricks out of their bags. They’re taping racetracks on their carpet and building mazes out of refrigerator boxes—attending all the library days, the pool days, and the free movie days. They’re even wearing makeup and smiling. I see them as I’m jealously stalking their Instagram feeds. Alas, our less showy summer proves I’m no Mary Poppins.Picture by Ryan McGuire

In my home, the word summer is not synonymous with vacation. When school books close and the broken crayons and stubby pencils are thrown in the trash can, my mom duties as a concierge/cook/maid/relational coach/referee all intensify. And let me confess: intensity does not do good things for my creativity or endurance. All the pressures of the long hot days melt me like a popsicle on the Houston sidewalk.

Maybe your summer hasn’t been stellar either. Maybe you aren’t crafty; maybe you’ve had sick kids, a crammed schedule, or a revolving door of family visitors. If you’re feeling disappointed your summer hasn’t been the smorgasbord of fun you’d hoped for, take heart. I have good news, moms—you can minister to your kids and love them well even when your summer isn’t so spectacular.

Maybe instead of asking the question “Why isn’t my summer over-the-top amazing?” ask yourself, “What is my goal?”

What Is the Goal of My Summer?

Is my goal to compete? While I’m unable to top the trip to Disney World or the Grand Canyon, it’s easier for me to try to replicate or outdo my friends in creativity or commitments. But my goal shouldn’t be to competitively outdo my friends. Instead my goal should be to recognize my strengths and weaknesses, while providing for my children in the ways God has uniquely enabled me and rejoicing with my friends who do so in ways that may look different.

Is my goal to constantly entertain? I’m all for fun and having a good time, but keeping a constant go-go-go carnival of activities on the schedule can sometimes undermine other good things I hope to instill in my children. For instance, the rhythm of work and rest, and the fruit born from moderation completely goes by the boards when the activity never stops. A little fun goes a long way but a lot of fun produces demanding and entitled kiddos. Do I regularly prioritize fun experiences at the expense of important lessons?

Is my goal to impress? While I genuinely enjoy building a tent in the living room and roasting marshmallows in the fireplace on a summer afternoon, what makes me take a picture and post it on Facebook? Sometimes it’s innocent—documenting the moment or an impromptu emotional gush. But I’d be lying if I said I've never written a "look what a great mom I am” post. Am I creating things for my children to enjoy purely for their delight or because it will boost my cool-mom points?

Is my goal to disciple? Oh, that my longing to disciple my children in Christlikeness would overshadow my desires to compete, to entertain, and to impress! Serving my children requires understanding our family’s obligations, dynamics, personalities, and specific strengths and weaknesses. I don’t need a circus, a water park, or a baseball game to communicate the gospel each and every day of the summer. I can teach them God’s grace just as faithfully through dishwashing, laundry, reading books, juggling ministry events, and occasionally going to the pool. 

What Is the Hope?

While I’ve lost hope in my own creative endeavors and in my ability to dazzle my kids with daily entertainment, I am not without hope for this summer.

I hope in Christ’s ability to sustain me in the long days. I hope in the Holy Spirit’s ability to sanctify me through both the joys and the trials. I hope in the Word’s ability to renew and refresh me when I am dragging. Because of my relationship with the Savior, I am confident the details of my summer days—busy or boring—can be used to his praise and glory.

Burned-out moms, your primary goal this summer is not to make sure your children create every Pinterest craft, visit every museum, or splash at every splash pad. Don’t let burnout cause you to throw in the towel this summer. Instead, seek the Lord’s eternal treasures for your family. Store them up where moth and rust do not destroy. Toil from your couch, the sticky heat of your backyard, or the front seat of your minivan. But work for the fruit that lasts beyond this season and into eternity. May Christ be exalted despite our burnout—even in the most ordinary of summers.

Lindsey Carlson is the wife of a worship pastor, mother of four, and writes when sleeping children permit. You can find more of her writing on her blog Worship Rejoices or follow her on Twitter.

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