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The Beauty of Nothingness: The A, B, Cs of a Sunny Summer Outlook

Do you see that picture? That's my kids' summer schedule, and it's a thing of beauty. All those color-coded, scheduled events read like a Monet painting to my eyes. But I've sort of always been that way. I like structure and schedules, knowing what's coming next, and having plans B and C ready to go in case (heaven forbid) my original plan gets shredded.

But while I really like to have something set for every minute of the day, I know it can be trying on my kiddos. So, I made a radical (for me) decision for this summer. I decided to schedule weeks of nothingness amid the camps and trips.

Now, let me explain why this is a big deal for me. And by big, I mean HUGE. When I first met my husband, I was about as rigid as you could get. I liked to be spontaneous, as long as it was carefully planned out. And sitting down for a "quiet moment" was not among my favorite things. I felt antsy, like I needed to be doing something more ... productive. My husband, Dan, on the other hand, was a master of nothingness.

He could sit and listen to nature for hours, enjoying hearing the wind moan or the birds tweet. Meanwhile, I can be sitting next to him mentally tallying up our grocery list, planning out the next week's afternoon calendar or thinking about the laundry. I'm just not good at doing nothing. Which might be why I'm tied up in knots much of the time.

While I've learned to relax more over the years, I've certainly still not mastered the joys of doing nothing. And that realization is what did it for me. It dawned on me that I was passing down this rigidity to my own children. Hence, the new improved summer schedule.

You see, while I understand it takes all kinds to make the world go 'round, I notice that my husband has a calm about him that I envy. He's rarely rattled, and usually is even-keeled emotionally. As to where I am more intense, energetic and emotional, which makes me a ball at parties, but not so much in moments of chaos. I have a theory that adding more of "nothing" to your life will improve one's emotional state including:

A. A Balanced Perspective - When you contemplate the beauty of God's nature, you begin to realize, just as Jesus pointed out in Matthew 6:26: "Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? 27Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to your lifee ?" When we consider their worry-free life, we can't help but look at our own worries as petty in the life of eternity.

B. Reliance on Imagination - Our children are constantly entertained - by T.V., video games, computers, cell phones, you name it. Everything is geared toward filling their "down time" with some sort of diversion. Very little is required of our children's own imaginations. By reducing my children's outside activities for several weeks during the summer, I'm asking them to make their own fun. While some of this "at-home" time does include a movie or two, many of the hours are spent playing outside and in their rooms with little else but each other and their make-believe worlds.

C. An Appreciation for Extracurricular Activities - Let's face it, we dump so many outside activities on our kids throughout the year, that expensive summer camps and road trips seem like white noise, blending into the rest of the busy-ness. More time at home, just being, builds up my kids' excitement about the other events I have planned for them later in the summer. So, next week, when I get them suited up for a fun church camp, I'm not going to hear moans and grunts. Instead, they will have had enough decompression time at home, that they will be eager to get out, make new friends, and dive into the summer fun.

Four days ago was our first day of summer. I decided to have someone come to the house to watch the boys while my husband and I went to work instead of scheduling them for a camp that week. They slept in, stayed in their pajamas, played board games, you name it. But they never left the house.

I was curious to see if my A, B, C theory would hold water. The result: a resounding "Thank You!" from them both. Not once have I heard the words, "Mom, I'm bored." Or "Can't we go somewhere?" In fact, while they were happy to go swimming with me in the afternoon after I got home from work, they weren't begging for me to take them, either. This proved my theory.

We must all learn to embrace a little more nothingness in our lives. As Americans we are told that we must get up, work hard, never give up, always strive for better, and so on. And all that is very true. But it doesn't have to consume our every waking moment. In fact, we might be more productive if we build in time to do absolutely nothing for an hour a day. That's right. Just sit and listen, with no cell phones or ipads to distract us. Find a spot, close your eyes and marvel at the "birds of the air" and the "lilies of the field."

Because, once we do that, we, like my kids, might just be more enthusiastic about the experiences that lay ahead.


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