It’s the first day of school in the Doepken household. This means that “The Short Louds” — our 7-year old twins (who are becoming less short) — are off to second grade. It means our older girls — our 16 year olds — are off to their junior year of high school. And it means my wife is off to her first day in the school library for the year.
It means my days will have some regularity once again. One of the things I struggle with in the summer is that each day is a new day. While that is invigorating in some ways, I always end up feeling kind of scattered. Schedules vary daily, it seems. People are coming and going. It’s a season of outdoor activities every time the weather is nice. There is a hustle an bustle to the community as it’s the season where everyone makes their money around here—fishing and tourism are the bread and butter of the economy. And so there are many church folk who are gone from church for the three months of summer, making their money for the year, and I rarely see them. And it’s the time where we have visitors from “Outside” to entertain and where we head off to lower-48 for our own vacations.
In the hustle and bustle, in the excitement, in the travel, in the soaking up of the Alaskan summer, I, spiritually, can feel quite exhausted. I have noticed it more and more as I get older. While I used to think I thrived on chaos, I truly appreciate the space just to breathe, to center myself, to have some schedule and regularity, to plan, to dream, and to work. It helps me feel grounded.
And so, this morning, after the five ladies in my life had left the household, I made my way to the coffee shop for a latte, and some news, and some conversation with friends. I opened up my computer to start on this blog post, intent on trying to make this a Tuesday ritual once again after a summer where I never knew what day of the week I was going to have what amount of time to think and reflect and write.
In my head my week is taking shape with meetings and tasks and activities.
I feel I can once again get a todo list together and help it shape my day.
I look forward to our fall programming at church where I can reconnect with folks I’ve felt so disconnected from recently. (When I first got to Seward, another pastor said to me, “Jim, get prepared to take three steps forward every fall and four steps backwards every summer. Summer is like a whirlwind and it’s easy to get lost in it.”)
I’ve started a morning devotional pattern again, beginning my day with a reflection and a prayer. I’m almost three weeks in at this point.
We had the start of a missional community last spring but never met at all during the summer and I long to gather with them once again.
The preschool at church is set to begin and that, too, shapes my activities during the days.
Once again I feel as if I can breathe.
Jeremiah 2:25, according to Peterson’s The Message translation, says:
“Slow down. Take a deep breath. What’s the hurry?
Why wear yourself out? Just what are you after anyway?
But you say, ‘I can’t help it.
I’m addicted to alien gods. I can’t quit.’
Not sure I’d classify the business of summer with “alien gods” but I’m all about that “deep breath” we’re called to.
This time of year is a time of transition for many people. For those of us wedded to the school system or in seasonal businesses, it’s a major change. But for me it’s a good transition. It centers me. I want to take a deep breath.
But that’s me?
What does this time of year do for you?