I've thought of several ways I could frame this, how I could approach it with coy phrases or embellished truths, how I could make it seem more holy than it actually is.
As we transitioned into summer 2014, Kyle and I had a big Come To Jesus Meeting, and the final outcome was some pretty dramatic financial restructuring. And see, I've wanted to write it as, "we've decided to practice the economic principles of the Kingdom, spending less on ourselves so that we might have more to give to others," or "we've decided to return to a simpler time when people just made do with what they had or else they found a way to make or barter or do without." And while those things and some other high-minded aphorisms are actually 100% true here, it would ultimately be 100% disingenuous to pretend that's all that brought us to this place.
Because the thing is: money. We ain't got it.
Well, no. Now that's not true exactly either. We do have money, enough for all that we need. We have also, however, started a new venture* that is requiring us to get extremely cuckoo-crazy about how we define exactly what our needs are and has offered us the oh-so-gracious invitation to go over our budget with the proverbial fine-toothed comb, a joyous endeavor in the life of any marriage! Ahem.
So, money for our needs? We have. Disposable income? Not right now.
This meant eliminating some things like our zoo membership and superfluous trips to Target and jaunts out and about to museums and cafes and - oh yeah - also no camps for the girls this summer.
As June opened up before us, I was both terror-stricken and morbidly curious about how this was going to play out. My expectations were low that we would do anything except survive with only scraps of what little sanity we had in place.
No one - no one - could have convinced me in June that the eight weeks ahead of us would be some of the best in our family. And yet, strangely enough, that's exactly how things played out.
I wasn't so much nervous about the twins. In fact, the stage they are in now - early toddlerhood, that brutal combination of exhilarating mobility and death-defying bravery - actually lends itself to staying in the toddler-proofed confines of our home and backyard.
It was really the girls I was worried about, the girls whom I've allowed to become accustomed to my extroverted ways, the girls for whom summer means LET'S GET OUT OF HERE AND DO SOMETHING, the girls who are all-too-often at each other's throats over the goofiest of disagreements.
But once the idea settled in that we really and truly were going to be home for most every day, a peculiar thing happened: my kids all became friends.
The girls love their brothers, and for the first time, discovered how delightful it is to make a toddler laugh. (They do laugh so easily after all!) The twins were thrilled to have the constant entertainment and they kept the girls plenty busy with reading books, knocking down block towers, and rambling around the backyard.
Even more surprising was how well Dacey and Aliza Joy got along together. Of course, they still squabbled sometimes, but they also created silly and elaborate games, worked on projects with each other, found YouTube channels they like to watch together, and seemed to really get to know each other. Amazing.
Our days were busy and full, but at the very same time laid-back and lazy. And when school started on the 4th, we were all more wistful than in Augusts past. We talked about how with this return to school, we would genuinely miss each other.
Our no-plans, laid-back, don't-spend summer is challenging me to think about family life in a broader sense. What is possible when we surrender up what we think we must do to fill our time and allow ourselves to be content with the only-what-is-needed remains? It's something I'm thinking about a lot in the quiet space they've left behind.
* (absolutely not trying to be coy with not naming the new venture, it's just tied up in some legal stuff. as soon as I am able, I'll fill you in on details!)