I ended the school year a few days ago by high-fiving my seniors au-revoir at their graduation and have now set about making lists of #allthethings I hope to do with my girls this summer. Enter: the Summer Bucket List. In sharing my ideas with friends and building said list, I was motivated by two things.

  1. An authentic hope for my girls to have a fun summer, one characterized by laziness and rest as well as active play, adventure, and unstructured time with Mama and Dada.
  2. A tangible way for me to literally check things off and accumulate motherhood points to win “the game.” To count myself as “enough.”

So, yesterday was our official first day of summer. I tacked the Summer Bucket List to the wall in all its colorful and hopeful glory. I shoved my hair into a ball cap, slipped on my converse, and laid down the little law that Annie would watch no more than 30 minutes of television each day (HAHAHA). I hosed and scrubbed off all our outdoor toys: the red and yellow buggy car, the baby pool, the water table, the tricycle, the swivel car. They sparkled. I tore off the tags of the girls’ new neon matching Target swimsuits and charged my phone for the splendor that would be my Insta stories. Visions of my girls making s’mores (KK isn’t even one, y’all…), building sandcastles, splashing in the creek by my parents’ river house, eating popsicles in the driveway, and staying up way past bedtime with their cousins danced around in my head. This list, surely, would make for their #bestlifenow, and I would be the grand puppeteer that orchestrated all of this happiness. I would be in control of SUMMER2018.

This list, as mentioned, is borne partially out of a desire to feel as if I am doing a fine job as a mama, to feel as if I have earned that pat on the back from my husband at the end of the day (and perhaps also to make it okay that I never unloaded the dishwasher). But it also serves as an avenue for me to feed my fear of scarcity and as a means for me to hide my sin: “If I can check off more activities, more adventures with my daughters, the less I have to see the fact that sometimes I may or may not daydream about dropping them off at the local fire station and bolting to Nordstrom.” (Solidarity with my #unmapped ladies.) This list gives me a way to hide the shame I direct at my toddler for spilling my coffee. To sweep under the rug the moment I yell at her for stepping on my laptop. To soften the fact that KK squished her fingers in the door while mine were scrolling social media. This list lets me hide that which makes me feel less than.

I’ve been reading Jennie Allen’s Nothing to Prove for like six months now (totally recommend for women), and I just cracked it open again this morning to review my annotations and jump back in. Here’s what Allen says about fear and hiding: “Nothing hijacks identity like fear. Satan wants you shut down and living in his lies, believing you have to hide, believing you are not enough.” She then discusses one of my favorite Netflix obsessions: Downton Abbey. She makes the interesting parallel that we, like the servants to the Crawley household, “stay downstairs.” We often let ourselves live into the lie that we are unworthy and therefore, cannot join the “family” upstairs. But in truth:

“Our identity is secure. We are part of the family, but you and I too often hesitate to go upstairs and enjoy it. We stay downstairs in hiding. We know in heaven that we will be with God, at His table and enjoying Him and all He has for us. But for goodness’ sake, if we can go upstairs today and have a great meal and enjoy the gracious Downton lifestyle, I’d like to do that!”

As long as you seat me next to Matthew Crawley…#amiright?

A few summers ago, John and I were invited to a wedding in the heart of wine country. At the time, we were unsure of a possible family vacation scheduled around the time, and cost, of course, is always a factor with destination weddings. We declined the invitation with a bit of sadness; it would be a nice one with a fun group of college friends. About a week prior to the wedding, however, the bride and groom called John. It was possible that their officiant could be called away from the wedding festivities at the last minute due to a family member’s disintegrating health, but he wouldn’t know until likely days beforehand or possibly even the day of. Our friends then graciously offered to cover our travel expenses if John could essentially be there as a backup officiant. Uhhhh #priestperks. What a gift! And of course, he would love to step in if needed, especially since our family vacay plans had fizzled.

So we jetted out to California, and though John’s mere presence offered the bride and groom the assurance that they would, indeed, have someone there to actually marry them, he ended up not being called upon to officiate. While I felt pretty jazzed to be there as John’s plus-one, there was a moment connected to these circumstances that left John feeling uncomfortable. When we arrived at the wedding reception, we found our names at a welcome table indicating what table number to proceed to for our seated dinner; upon arriving at Table 10, however, and after a few laps around the table set for eight with place cards displaying eight other friends’ names, we began to realize that we awkwardly didn’t have seats. It was clear what had happened: our late RSVP and names hadn’t quite made it all the way to these table arrangements. So while the wedding officiant offered a slam-dunk prayer over the meal about to be served and a blessing upon the newly married couple, my husband and I stood beside a table of otherwise seated guests (with heads bowed), waiting for wedding planners to bring us two extra chairs and squeeze in a couple more place settings.

While I was content with my multiple trips to the sushi bar, it was hard for John to enjoy the rest of the evening, and we excused ourselves earlier than usual, in part due to an early morning flight. In reflecting with our counselor on the angst that John felt in that moment standing beside Table 10, she took a long look at us both and was like, “Well, you do see what happened here, right? You literally didn’t earn your seat at the table, and you had a hard time still accepting the gift.” [Insert mind-blown emoji.]

To feel welcome at the table, as a member of the “family,” as enough (without having to earn any of it, without having to prove ourselves or check things off any kind of list): these are not feelings that come naturally, particularly in a works-driven, performance oriented culture. Sometimes it takes intentionality and a refueling of grace. So this morning, as my feverish 11-month-old hobbled around the living room and I re-heated my coffee for the third time, I got super cheesy and added “Take a seat at the table” to our Summer Bucket List.

And it will be a fun, messy, hard, but hopefully grace-filled couple of months for our little tribe. So to all my fellow mamas embarking on a summer with kiddos in and out of day camps, and little ones asking for more snacks, more activities, more of you: you are beyond invited to the table. So take a seat, and just pull up the high chair.