Summer is finally slowing down and stretching out, like long shadows on a lazy afternoon. June and July were energetic. Three different VBS weeks, baseball, family camp, drama, church activities. We practically ran from one event to the other, powered by the drugs of early morning sunshine and fresh cut grass.

But eventually, the adrenaline wears off and tempers wear thin. Structure, even fun structure, becomes a prison. And so we limped into August and fell head-first into a calendar filled with nothing but white space.

So here we are, week three of August. We have three weeks of summer vacation left. And I'm starting to feel my shoulders relax and come down from their perch by my ears. These are the days when I make plans with friends because the openness of our days scares me a little, when I let the kids stay up until 11:00 to watch family videos, when I say, "Oh, all right" when asked if they can have a treat after eating a paltry serving of vegetables.

This is the summer Sabbath. A time to rest, for sure. To recharge and refresh. But also to celebrate and enjoy the work of our hands. August is when I remember how much I like being with my kids when we have no demands intruding on us. It's when I treasure the simplicity of life as it is right now, when I have enough silence in my soul to behold it. Little ones in fresh-smelling pajamas. Connor and Natalie laughing over a video. The sound of lullabies competing with the hush of the trees after dark.

These are the days I wish August could last forever.

Coffee, Smoothie and Lucky Charms: Life at 43

I turned 43 last week. On my birthday, I posted this picture on Instagram.

It made me laugh - because Lucky Charms at 43 feels vaguely rebellious. But as the day passed, I began to think of it as prophetic. That breakfast is a fairly accurate snapshot of my life at this age.

Coffee: I know what I need. I am comfortable in my own skin. I'm not wasting any more time "looking for myself." I'm right here. I know myself, and I like her. Certainly, I have flaws; I have accepted that I cannot do everything I want or be everything to everyone. But I am OK with that now. I am done striving. I feast daily on grace. Give me this day my daily coffee. It's what I need to get through.

Smoothie: At 43, I am not who I was when I was 23. This seems obvious, but it's not when you are the one inside your own skin. It takes wisdom and observance to realize that age is happening to you. Change is required. Maturity doesn't just happen. So a few years ago, I stopped eating empty calories. I cut out obligations not suited to me, fighting the guilt that says "but you should; there's a need." I created margin in my life. I went to bed at night. I started to work out again - gingerly, after four babies. I gained new respect for my body, this physical frame that carries me through. I fell deeper in love with my husband. I started listening only to Jesus, and stopped craving other people's approval. I discovered what it's like to be nourished. My new way of life became less about what I gave up and more about how good I felt on this side of the divide. That's when change has roots. So now I start most days with a spinach-berry-OJ smoothie - not because I have to or because I fear gaining weight if I eat toast or because I want to appear Pinterest-worthy. I drink that smoothie because I love it. I do it for me, and for the God who made me.

Lucky Charms: I want to grow in wisdom and love and grace and truth. But I do not want to grow into a person who is dour and practical and predictable. Life is a gift. So let's celebrate! Have a dance party! Teach the kids to love Bon Jovi! Go for ice cream at bedtime! Love someone anonymously! Carry granola bars and water in the car to give to the homeless! Sing loud! Mourn with those who mourn. Laugh with those who laugh. Savor the sunset. Every dawn, a new party is laid before us. At 43, I'm done missing it. I color my hair aquamarine and purple, and I dance my heart out at Zumba, and I make no apologies.

This is good news for my friends who are 23 or even 33. It's your choice, of course, but life can get better with each passing year. Pain cannot dull the colors, loss cannot diminish the gift. It just grows more precious and beautiful.

At 43, I know what I need, I know who I am, and I've learned to savor. I'd say that's learning to love well.