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The best of summer

Bringing a spiritual perspective to daily life

"Roll out those lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer," went the first line of a Nat King Cole song, popular when I was young. In those days I spent my summers at a nearby beach, and the lazy, hazy part rang true. Now, with a family of my own, the crazy part has taken on new meaning.

We all look forward to summer with expectations of vacation and plans for fun in the sun, but with work schedules to coordinate with visitors and the kids' various activities, I sometimes wonder how we'll find time to experience the simple pleasures of the season.

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I realized that I wasn't the only one losing summer to logistics when I tried to organize an overnight camp out for my daughter's Girl Scout troop, and had to go through five rounds of calls and e-mails with the other families to find a single free night from June to September.

The demands of a grown-up life mean that we have to structure our time. But there is a way to continue to have the sorts of experiences of freedom, exploration, and friendship associated with summer. We can uncover these precious qualities in our lives, because they are not created or limited by seasons - they don't originate in clever scheduling and can't be destroyed by over- or under-planning.

A few summers ago, I unexpectedly discovered a more reliable and practical approach to making the most of summer. One remarkably hot day, I was hurrying across town to pick up one of my children at day camp. I felt rushed and annoyed because it seemed as if every road in town were under construction, and the detours meant that I would probably be late and have to pay a fine for extra child care.

With a mile to go and the car clock reading three minutes to pickup time, I got stuck in traffic. As I was drumming my fingers and muttering to myself, a thought came to me: "You don't have to feel this way." I stopped tapping and considered it.

What impressed me was that this thought clearly wasn't part of the train of thought I had been indulging; it was a thought much calmer and more loving, the kind of thought that I associate with prayer.

Christian Science has taught me that even when I'm feeling separate and distant from God, His love and spirit are present. This reminder of God's presence made me think of something Mary Baker Eddy wrote in "Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896": "According to my calendar, God's time and mortals' differ. The neophyte is inclined to be too fast or too slow: he works somewhat in the dark; and, sometimes out of season, he would replenish his lamp at the midnight hour and borrow oil of the more provident watcher. God is the fountain of light, and He illumines one's way when one is obedient.... Be sure that God directs your way; then, hasten to follow under every circumstance" (page 117).

In that moment, I decided that I would let God direct my way for the rest of the drive. Though I ran into detours, I felt no more anxiety.

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As I turned down the last street, I passed a man and his dog standing on the sidewalk, looking dazed with the heat. I slowly drove past, and our eyes met. We smiled at each other, and I felt in that moment as if we were sharing the recognition of something wonderful that canceled out all the dust and heat. He seemed to be aware of it, too - something to do with our real purpose and being as God's children, sharing His love and divine goodness. I felt blessed and grateful to have been there.

When I pulled into the parking lot, filled with a renewed joy in life and affection for my neighbor, I looked at the car clock - two minutes to spare. It was inconceivable, but utterly in keeping with the sense of God's overarching control. The rest of the day, unplanned-for good kept appearing - it was one of those classic summer days. "If this," I thought, "is what comes of yielding to the divine Mind, then this is how I want to live."

These are the sorts of moments and memories I most want for my family and myself. You can't necessarily make those moments happen yourself, but you can always find them because, as Jesus said, "The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:20, 21).

It's a truth that can help with summertime and all the time.