The end of summer is bittersweet.

Bitter because it’s the end of the best season ever.

Sweet because we return to a kind of normalcy of rhythm that we tend to like.

Or, at least, this is how it feels when we are longing for some sort of rhythm. In reality, the return to “normalcy” is often going back to the frantic pace that summer provided such a welcome relief from.

I remember well getting into the back-to-school grind when my girls were young. Packing lunches, doing homework, running to sports’ practices and dance, and trying to still find time to eat dinner together – all compressed into what the fall would become for us. It was a far cry from what I wanted when summer came to an end.

Fall became a time when it felt like much was at stake. The daily demands, along with all things extracurricular, piled up and it seemed as if our very futures hung in the balance. On top of that, it was during those same years, that my job was requiring more of me and there just seemed to be less financial resources to manage it all.

All the pressure caused a seriousness to creep into our home. These pressures we felt were actual responsibilities. They were not unnecessary things that could just be left undone. But through it all, I sensed that the culture of our home was being affected (and infected) by this pressure. My tone with the kids, always feeling hurried, and overly annoyed by normal parts of my day were all clues to the serious nature of the seriousness I felt. It seemed as if the whole back-to-school season was conspiring to undermine the very thing that was most important to me: my family.

During that time, I read a book entitled, Three Questions for the Frantic Family by Patrick Lencioni. (It sounded quite fitting!) This book doesn’t provide 3 simple steps to eliminate the chaos raising kids (which is impossible!), but rather helps parents get a vision for how to navigate the normal chaos of life and provide clarity to what matters most.

We all need a way to see what matters most (this is the foundation of My One Word). We need to see what matters in order to arrange our life for it to actually matter.

And what mattered to me was our family – the relationships that we enjoyed and valued. And we needed a way to ensure that the demands on our family didn’t steal our enjoyment.

One of the practices from the book is to create a rally cry by considering what is unique and important to your family. The rally cry is then a short crisp phrase that captures the answer to that question.

So, my family had to decide what was uniquely important in our lives and what was most critical for the culture that we longed for in our home. We talked about what we enjoyed and what threatened our enjoyment. We knew the season was just demanding. And we knew that the things that were demanded of us were also necessary. We could not immediately stop doing what we were doing, but we could reframe how we went about it.

We decided that the way to combat the seriousness and sometimes the necessity of being busy was to inject it with fun. This immediately provided a lens to see all the chores and errands and limits of our schedule in a different way. For me, this meant I couldn’t afford to take everything so seriously.

Our rallying cry became: HAVE FUN

And lest you think that we simply abandoned all the mundane chores for a bunch of fun and games, we didn’t. We didn’t change what we did, but we immediately changed how we did it. And everyone had to be in on it. Carpooling was an opportunity for Karaoke. After dinner dishes became a dance party.

Now this took some work. I am serious about my dishes. I have a particular way that I think the dishwasher should be loaded and I am a pre-rinse fanatic. But these preferences – at times demands- gave way to a bigger vision other than just getting stuff done and getting through another day.

HAVE FUN became the rally cry for homework, housecleaning, bathtime, bedtime, and everything in between. Sometimes, it was a declaration of our enjoyment and other times it was a pointed reminder of what we really wanted. In that season, we learned some very important things about very important things:

What most easily stresses us threatens what’s most important to us. Be aware and intentional.

The pressure that says it’s life or death is almost always a lie. Have perspective.

That season truly shaped the culture of our home and it has lasted to this day.

As this summer ends, don’t just let it bleed into the fall. Draw a line. Fall is kind of like a new year. I am not suggesting that you make a bunch of promises about how this fall is going to be the best one yet, but maybe you need to come up with your own rallying cry in light of where you are and in anticipation of what’s ahead.

What you do in this next season, or more importantly, how you do what needs to be done, could be very different. The frustration and futility that comes from simply trying to get through might just give way to seeing how transformative going through a season can be.

God wastes nothing. And if we can approach the season ahead with a sense of purpose, I believe we are likely to see a sense of purpose, even when it becomes a chaotic blur or monotonous grind.

But first, let’s draw a line at the end of this summer. Let’s bring it to a conclusion.

Celebrate the great memories. Grieve the losses and missed opportunities, but refuse to let those things alone define what’s next. Instead, trust that everything, both the good and the bad, the wins and the losses, the joys and the hard , the overly busy and the overly boring times – are all incredibly important and beautifully contribute to the life we have yet to live.

God is doing something in every season. And when we learn to draw a finish line and create conclusions between seasons, we begin to see our lives as a story He is telling.

What can you celebrate about the summer?
What do you wish could have been different?
Honestly consider what is ahead. What is the fall likely to be like?
What will you and your family need most? What do you most want forged into the culture of your home?

Once you settle on what matters most, make it your rally cry. This will serve as both your declaration and your reminder of what you really want for the months ahead. This fall, let’s rally around what matters!

You can read more about starting points and finish lines in my book, To Be Concluded!