I want to experience the goodness that summer has to offer, but I don’t want to experience my toddler’s meltdowns or feel guilty about tasks left undone.


Whether in the shape of lazy days by the pool, late nights by the campfire, catching fireflies, drinking lemonade or swinging at the park, summer days are meant to be savored. Yet with such a finite time span, summer can also be stressful and less than the picture-perfect-Instagram-post updates that we see.

I want to experience the goodness that summer has to offer, but I don’t want to experience my toddler’s meltdowns or feel guilty about tasks left undone.

I’ve written a summer to-do list for little Lutherans in the past. This year I want to take that pressure off myself, so I’ve created this summer not-to-do list for myself—and other parents, in case you’re feeling this way too.

I will not compare myself to anyone else.

Whether it’s the endless scrolling on Instagram or worrying about my daughter’s lack of speech, it’s easy to feel like I’m coming up short as a parent. There’s always something more I could be doing. If I’m not careful, I can spiral into envy quickly. Ultimately, focusing on what everyone else is doing keeps me from seeing what’s right in front of me—a precious family and life. This summer I will not compare myself to others. Rather, I’ll look at my life and know that I am enough. I will remember that I am a beloved child of God.

I will not worry about the state of my house.

With two children and a dog, there’s always something to pick up and always something to trip over. Each time I see the state of our living room or piled up clothes, I think I should do something. Again, I picture everyone else’s houses and their cleanliness. But ultimately, undone dishes and toys strewn about never hurt anyone. So this summer I will not worry about how things look from the outside but rather see joy in the abundance around me. I will remember that everything we have is a gift from God.

I will not forget to worship.

This may seem like something to do, but really, when my family and I gather for worship week after week, it’s a gift. A chance to be in community. A chance to hear God’s word. A chance to sing and pray. A chance to serve. It’s easy to be so busy and do so much that Sunday morning becomes the only time to rest as a family at home. Yet missing out on worship means missing out on a vital part of our faith formation. In worship, we learn best about God and faith with others. This summer I will not forget to worship. I will remember worship compels me to see others as beloved children of God.

I will not forget to breathe.

Usually it’s the end of the day when I get a chance to sit. To really rest. Or more realistically, to collapse on the couch. Yet, the summer’s landscape provides plenty of opportunity to be present if I give myself permission to really notice it. I want to revel in the sound of crickets and cicadas, feel the rush of wind on my face, taste fresh tomatoes and strawberries from the garden, and to sit quietly next to my loved ones. This summer I will not forget to breathe. Fully present in the moment, I trust God loves me and I hear God’s voice declare to me: You are my beloved child.

Here’s wishing you a summer full of all the things that matter most, especially God’s love for you.

Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, Mo. Her website is kimberlyknowlezeller.com.

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