Summertime. It’s a magical season of the impossible becoming possible: losing weight, getting organized, writing tons of material. As a high school teacher, my summers off provide the time to do all the things that seem impossible to do during the school year. Lost amid sheaves of papers to grade, meetings to attend, and a home life to orchestrate, writing just seems to slip way down on the priority list once the calendar page turns to September. My burning desire was to write up a storm this summer on the blog and try my hand at freelancing. Unfortunately, my writing productivity slowed to a drip. It’s been a quiet season for me as a writer.
Incidentally, the organization of my house could still be described as chaotic-chic and I have gained 8 pounds since the beginning of June.
That drip was deafening in my ears, stirring up feelings of inadequacy and guilt for not budgeting my time more wisely and being more productive as a writer. I’d so hoped to start on the book I have already outlined. After poring over the 2017 Christian Writers’ Market book, I was sure I would be dashing off article solicitations like crazy. Certainly with the “whole summer” before me, I could drum up some business as an editor and speaker. Nope. Just the drip-drop in my mental ear of only 6 posts between the last week of June and now, early September.
Incidentally, the organization of my house could still be described as chaotic-chic and I have gained 8 pounds since the beginning of June. Ugh. Very little that was in my queue of “to-do” has come to pass. A few weeks ago, I had been feeling the pressure to produce something worthwhile and I told my next-door neighbor about it.
One evening, I stopped over to drop something off to her and she invited me to sit and chat. Her husband wasn’t home and my family was out also. As we began talking about things, I found myself confessing to her my feelings of regret because I felt so unproductive this summer. Immediately, she shot her hand up in protest. She reminded me of all the things I’d done this summer, including attending a writers’ conference, going on family vacation, and spending a week out of the country on a missions trip. Her argument was that these things were, in fact, productive.
She continued to say that summer is a time of respite and recharging, a time to garner strength and peace of mind before returning to the classroom. As I listened, I had to agree. Never once had it occurred to me to view it in that way. Later on, after I went back home, it also occurred to me that I had started a writers’ critique group this summer. Plus, I’d gone down to my sister’s family’s new farm several times to visit with her and help her get things set up. I’d also gotten to spend time with some long-lost friends over coffee. My quiet season as a writer was actually one that has refreshed me and inspired me.
The collective activities and experiences of my summer have bolstered my spirits, enriched my relationships, and strengthened my skills. All of these are productive and good. Initially, I had expected my output of written material, a clean house, and smaller numbers on the scale to somehow be the measure of my productivity this summer. But they weren’t, and that’s OK. As I pondered all this, I was reminded of the verse from Ecclesiastes 3, which was famously used as the basis of the Byrds’ 1960’s hit song Turn! Turn! Turn! (To Everything There Is a Season).
The passage, written by Solomon in his later years, is a collection of “Proverbs, maxims, sayings, and is largely an autobiographical story” (www.biblehub.com). By the end of his life, he’d taken stock of the mistakes he’d made and wrote this book as a cautionary treatise on the importance of keeping focused on God, not the things of this world.
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
a time to be born, and a time to die;
a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted;
a time to kill, and a time to heal;
a time to break down, and a time to build up;
a time to weep, and a time to laugh;
a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
a time to seek, and a time to lose;
a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
a time to tear, and a time to sew;
a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
a time to love, and a time to hate;
a time for war, and a time for peace.
In a productivity-oriented culture, it is so easy to get caught up in output. I’d argue that input is just as important, having reflected upon this after my neighbor encouraged me to see a different view. Being so fixated on a certain kind of productivity was a mistake because I’d nearly missed out on the good I’d done myself and others by being available in other ways this summer. For the tired folks out there who are feeling like they “haven’t accomplished anything” I would encourage you to re-examine that idea. Who have you spent quality time with? How have you enriched your soul by spending time with God? When did you serve someone who needed your help? I’m so grateful to my wise friend who gave me a different perspective, reminding me that “for everything, there is a season”, even if it is a quiet season.