Summer Night

Dear Joy,

It's Friday night, and I'm writing this from the screened porch in our backyard. Cicadas are buzzing hello, and there's a thick, heavy stillness all around. It's less hot than it has been, but still, I'm in my shorts and bare feet in the middle of all this warm air, and it's hard to believe that we'll be cuddling under blankets and warming up the coffee in less than a handful of weeks. Still, for now, it's warm and green. Our deck is littered with a bunch of random wires, tools, pipes, and electrical tape – anything safe that I could find in the garage and stuff into a bucket – the remnants of my desperate late-afternoon Hail Mary play with the kids. (“Here. Take all of this stuff and invent something. GO.”)

It's been a summer of adjusting, tweaking this and trying that and letting a whole bunch of stuff go. We've watched hours of PBS Kids morning TV, cooked hundreds of pancakes and eggs, trekked to and from the library a dozen times with piles of books, DVDs, and puppets in tow. We've done a little bit of hosting and a lot of crashing at Grandma and Grandpa's house. I've been getting my feet back under me, working out the logistics of life with three, and realizing that – surprise? – I can't do it all. I can't even do most of it.

I've been reading again, this summer, and it's been so good, like crystal clear ice water to this girl's thirsty soul. I'm reading fiction, non-fiction, fantasy, devotionals, how-to's, blogs... anything but the news. The news is the one thing I do not read. Whenever I question this decision (“But world events! Culture!”), I watch CNN highlights at the gym, and everything is reconfirmed. No news. Maybe in five or ten years, when I can walk down the driveway in my slippers on Sunday morning, pick up the paper, and take fifteen minutes to read it, curled up on the couch. (Somehow, I feel like my slippers and the crossword puzzles might cushion the gut punch a bit.)

It's been a summer of podcasts (The Happy Hour with Jamie Ivey is my go-to), of not-gardening (the weeds in my unkempt garden beds are yea-high [points to her waist]), of Blue Moon (the beer, not the astronomical occurrence), of potty training (see, the beer). We haven't traveled too much, but this summer, I've stood on a southern beach at sunset and felt the salty waves wash over my feet. I've been in the city just after sunrise, when everything is sleepy, the streets are empty, and the buildings loom beautiful and silent. I've walked through fairgrounds, farmers' markets, churches, zoos, grocery stores, water parks, warehouses. We've fed our kids drippy ice cream cones and broccoli and french fries. I've watched my newborn baby girl grow into a sturdy 6-month-old with a world of a personality and a smile to match it.

Does this sound all peachy and dreamy? Hold on. It's also been the summer where I've practiced putting anger away, again and again. I have stood in my kitchen, day after day, sweating, baby whining, pot boiling, and all I've wanted to do is yell into the phone. (A lot of times, I have. We're probably at 60/40, this week, and I'll let you guess which side of the ratio is “Have yelled/Have not yelled.”) It's been a season of honesty and vulnerability, even when it makes you look a little bit ugly. I've learned that there's something beautiful about people coming together, over and over again, to tell each other the truth. This is why it's important to keep showing up – to family dinner, to church, to mom's group, book club, Bible study, to that morning kiss-before-you-run-out-the-door.

It's been a summer of courage, of noticing brave women, all around me. There's been deep, profound heartache, piled up on the backs of so many of my dear friends. These things have challenged my view of God, stretched me to the limit. I have hundreds of questions. It's been a summer of not writing, not even journaling, because I haven't had any words.

It's been a summer of wishing upon a star for a nanny and a housekeeper a thousand times. This has been a summer of microwaving frozen veggies in a plastic bag, cooking some noodles, cutting up a watermelon, and calling it "dinner." When one of my friends had a baby recently, I first offered to cook her a meal, but then had to go back the next day and tell her, “Honestly, I don't even cook for my own family. You don't want me to cook for you. Can I buy you a gift card?” However, things are looking up around here: I've recently been checking out recipes, flipping through cookbooks, starting to get interested (trust me, this is an improvement). I even marked a recipe for beef bourguignon, and I'm trying to figure out where our dutch oven is... so let's just hope that maybe, in the kitchen department, Stella's got her groove back.

It's been a summer of tears, joy, and keeping it real – a summer of grace upon grace upon grace.

It's dark now, in my backyard. The neighbor's twinkle lights are shining next door, and the cicadas are singing “goodnight,” I think. My babies are sleeping, my hair is frizzing, the (actual, astronomical) moon is shining. Hey, Summer. You've been good. Stick around a few more weeks, ok?

Love, Sherah