Growing Up on Summer

I've always measured my life in summers. The haziness that falls over the city, the lightning bugs dancing on the trees, the warm breezes and the sunsets that paint the sky purple and pink. That's what milestones and memories are made of.

There was the summer I learned to ride a two-wheeler in the church parking lot across from my grandparent's house. We celebrated by piling in my dad's truck and driving up to the snoball stand where we got that glorious Styrofoam cup filled with sugary, colored crushed ice and a thick layer of marshmallow fluff on top.

There was the summer I auditioned for a community theater. It was just an audition for "The Wizard of Oz" but to me, it may as well have been American Idol. I got into the show and I had one line--but that was the shining moment of my 11-year-old life. I remember those muggy rehearsals in the dance studios at night, as a warm breeze blew in the propped open door. I beamed as my parents sat in the front seat on Opening Night.

And then, there was the summer after my freshmen year, my grandpa died. A short battle with pancreatic cancer was all it took to take away the man who, aside from my own father, was the man I trusted and admired most in this world. I never heard him raise his voice, complain or say a bad word about anyone (except maybe the umpire when they made a bad call against the Orioles). At his funeral, someone remarked that he was "one of the good guys". That summer, I watched my tight-knit family grieve in their own ways and I wondered if we would be okay.

Freshman Annie

Freshman Annie

There was the summer I went to Young Life camp and my life forever changed. I was oblivious to it but before I went to camp, I was desperate to be loved. On the outside, I was confident and well-liked, but on the inside, I was desperate to be accepted and fit in. I grew up in a Christian house but it never changed my life in any way. But when I went to camp that summer, I heard of a Love that desperately wanted me and was pursuing me at every turn. I began to realize that I had been loved and accepted this whole time. I sat in a field, surrounded by mountains that summer, with stars crystal clear and far away from the city lights, I cried. Because I knew it was true. I knew I was loved and there was nothing I could do about it. I realized Jesus was more than just a cheesy song or a Sunday school story for kids. My best life was waiting for me. I returned home a different person. Everyone saw it. My life has never been the same.

My Young Life leader became one of my best friends and is one of the best people I know.

My Young Life leader became one of my best friends and is one of the best people I know.

There was the summer that I narrowed down all my belongings to a few boxes of whatever could fit in my parents' van. I needed to get away from this city so I moved away to Delaware. My heart broke as I said good-bye to my siblings, knowing I wouldn't be there to help with homework, go to school plays or just hear about their day. I wondered if I would become the distant sibling, who was never really around. I didn't cry when I said good-bye to my parents, but I sobbed in the bathroom after they left because this introverted homebody wondered if she made a terrible mistake by choosing to live in a college dorm. I wanted this new life in a different state, but sometimes, things aren't like you think they're going to turn out...

So the next summer, I packed my things up again and filled my white VW Bug to the roof with my belongings. I left without saying good-bye to anyone because sometimes, you just need to go. I came home with a sadder, but stronger heart; confusion but confidence; pain but good times too. Baltimore welcomed me home with open arms and I didn't know what I was going to do next but I was ready to do it.

Dorm room life.

Dorm room life.

There was the summer I spent trying not to like the crazy, loud boy in the flannel and Snapback. I wasn't even sure how I knew him (mutual friends, I suppose), and I certainly wasn't sure how I ended up sitting on a blanket with him, under the firefly glow, while he smoked the last of his cigarette and sipped beer from a brown bottle. The carefree-ness and spontaneity of his bad-boy demeanor was appealing to this uptight Type A perfectionist. He said what he thought without filter and he did what he wanted when he wanted to. There was something about him that intrigued me against my better judgement. As we flirted our way through the summer, I was surprised at how easy it was to be myself around him, as I am the queen of building walls and keeping people away. He taught me authenticity and vulnerability that summer. And I guess I discovered that the bad-boy thing was just an act..

Babies.

Babies.

There was the summer that I flew to London to study abroad. There was the summer I drove across country with my high school best friends. Both experiences dipped my toes into the pool of wanderlust and both of these trips deepened my desire to see the world. Yet simultaneously, they deepened my appreciation for home. This has taught me that no matter where I am, near or far, home or in a different country, there is ALWAYS beauty and adventure everywhere you go. This has grounded me when I am tempted to want adventures that aren't mine to have.

There was the summer where he asked me to be his wife. My feet were already cold and I hate change, but I couldn't imagine a future without him. And it was getting hard to remember what my life was like before he was here. So that hazy night, he drove us to our place, our spot, our hill. The hill where we watched countless sunsets and sunrises, the hill that I took him to when he was new to Baltimore, the hill that we would drive to in order to end fights, or fight time as it drew nearer for him to go back home and long-distance to take its place again. But that night, he gave me a ring and I weepily said yes and it was all blur.

And then there was the summer where we wed under the trees. We promised to cherish, to stay loyal, to remain faithful. We promised to fight like hell for each other and to never let anything jeopardize our marriage. We promised to be there when we were sick and broke, as well as healthy and rich. The warm breeze, the birds on the pond, the grass dancing on the rolling hills all seemed to celebrate with us. But the sky wanted in too, so it poured down on us, trying to take part in the celebration. At first, I was upset and my dress was soaked. But then, I laughed and twirled in my soaking, ripped dress. We toasted with glass soda bottles, ate cotton candy and played giant Jenga.

And now, we're at this summer. I don't have any huge plans for this summer, but I just keep hearing a whisper inside saying, "Life is about to begin again." I know we're in the middle of new seasons but I can't help but feel like there is something big on the horizon, lots of change for the better. I feel myself rising to it, and I know this will be a summer we'll measure our life by.