The romantic in me loves autumn. The melancholic in me needs a little bit of winter. The optimist in me thrives with the hopefulness of spring.
But the child in me needs summer.
Summer, oh summer.
Summer is a dip in the deep end of a pool and the smell of fresh-cut grass on the lawn. It’s the elated cry of School’s out! as kids stream out of the building and pile into yellow buses for the last time until fall. Summer is fireflies in the air, kittens in the barn, and hamburgers on the charcoal grill. We’ll serve those burgers on skillet-toasted buns, alongside sliced tomatoes and Iowa sweet corn slathered in real butter.
For farmers, there’s still work to be done in summer — they need to keep a keen eye on things like pests and weeds and weather. Animals need feeding; fences need mending.
But on our farm, summers offer brief respites when we can get away.
When the girls were quite young, we started saving up money for summer road trips. We didn’t want to wait until “someday” to make memories together, out in this great big wonderful world with its breathtaking mountain vistas, bubbling trout streams, and expansive cities of tall, mirrored buildings.
Of course, traveling with little humans was intensely chaotic. There’s nothing quite like a road trip to test the limits of a family’s love. Someone always needs to pee when you’re miles away from a bathroom. Someone is always blaming someone else for farting, chewing too loudly, or crossing over the iconic invisible line that has, for generations, existed to keep one kid from invading another kid’s personal space. Thanks to the Tetris skills my husband and I honed in high school, we could arrange the trunk with all the required equipment we needed in the early days: breast pump, portable crib, diapers, strollers, DVDs, gallons of hand sanitizer, an unreasonable number of “must-have” blankies, and the children’s weight in Goldfish crackers. Once, before we set out on an adventure, our young Anna secretly emptied her suitcase of all of its contents and replaced it entirely with stuffed animals. We didn’t realize what she’d done until we arrived at the hotel late at night. She was without a toothbrush or clean underwear, but hey, she had enough plush critters to fill a small ark.
Even with the chaos, we insisted on traveling each summer, partly to learn about the world, and partly to learn about ourselves. Travel is mercifully easier with teens who own AirPods. The girls are (mostly) kind to one another, mind the invisible line, and even help plan the itinerary. When I look at my girls, I see summer personified, growing brighter as days lengthen and carrying a warm light and curiosity within them. I never thought I’d enjoy parenting teens — I harbored mild trepidation that this would be an angst-filled season — but spending time with them is one of my greatest joys. Our summer trips have occasionally taken us far from home. In mid-June, after the corn and soybeans had been planted, we caught a flight across the ocean. Our family spent two weeks touring London, Bath, and Paris, staying in Airbnbs and stopping at vendor stands for cheese, crepes, cappuccinos, and crusty bread wrapped in paper.
While walking the cobblestone streets of Bath, Lydia carried with her a backpack of books, and at points in the journey — the Royal Crescent, the Pump Room, the Theatre Royal — she would produce a Jane Austen novel and perform for us a short reading, accompanied by grand flourishes and a terrible British accent. The theatrics annoyed her younger sister to no end.
While we each had varying interest in Jane Austen, we could all agree on the impressiveness of Europe’s palaces and cathedrals. I don’t think you have to build a big cathedral to impress God, but there’s something very breathtaking about a structure like that — one that rises high to scrape the sky, amplifying the voices of centuries of dreamers and grievers and saints and schemers and vagabonds and anyone who accidentally encountered something holy when they thought they might simply “get a nice photo” of a building.
All around us, permanence and legacy made itself evident. Everything was, as they say, “built to last” — not just in those grand structures like Westminster Abbey, the Royal Crescent, or the Arc de Triomphe, but in tucked-away places like old hotels and centuries-old taverns.
One afternoon, while walking in London, we stumbled upon a bookstore called Hatchards. We marveled at the five-story building with its impressive wooden staircase. A saleswoman helped Lydia peruse the Jane Austen section and later told us that the shop had been selling books since 1797. Think about that for a moment. The creaky floorboards of that building have supported the written word for something like eight generations.
“Built to last.”
Those were the words Scott kept repeating as we walked around the city.
After we returned home, I asked myself, What does it take to grow something that’s built to last?
For Hatchards, longevity is credited to a great location, a charming facility, a dedicated and knowledgeable staff — and the mad audacity to keep pushing forward no matter what. I want that kind of mad audacity reflected in my own life.
In a throwaway culture driven by consumerism, Hatchards stands out. The store is an exception in a world that seems to favor excessive, single-use production. Instead of repairing, we replace. We don’t patch things; we purge.
Washing machines last — what? — ten years?
Some of what we buy is actually built to fail. It sounds crazy, but it’s true. There’s even a term for it: “planned obsolescence.”
Planned obsolescence is a business strategy where products are designed to deliberately fail. They cannot be repaired, require updates, or have a set lifespan.1 If you’ve had to go to the store for an update on your mobile phone, you have experienced planned obsolescence. Not only do you eventually buy an upgraded phone, you have to purchase a new charger or adapter to go with it. The entire fashion industry is built around what’s in style — a form of planned obsolescence where you’re convinced that the clothes in your closet are outdated.
It’s not a stretch to say that this mindset infects what we care about most: relationships, faith communities, our health, even the land. We all want new and beautiful things to spring forth to new life. We want our lives to reflect meaningful work that can change the world. But growth that stands the test of time simply cannot be rushed.
We can’t expect to have Hatchards longevity while running at a Hardee’s pace.
Yet we are running at warp speed with an insatiable hunger for immediate results.
People want meaning and connection, but they don’t always take time to build the foundation that will help make a relationship last.
A couple starts attending a new church, but even a little dissatisfaction can send them out the door in search of something better somewhere else.
We eat so fast, we don’t taste our food.
We rarely take the long way home, missing the scenery, because we want to get where we want to go, and we want to get there now.
Hurry is the enemy of beauty.
Beauty comes when we stay instead of run; when we taste instead of shovel in; when we take the long way home after work and see the brightest blue sky open before us.
Quicker is not always better.
There’s nothing wrong with meeting goals swiftly. Some moments really are made for hustling. But the desire to build quickly is dangerous. It can hurt the foundational pillars that hold up our relationships, businesses, and health.
Let’s stop glorifying the end results and start embracing the day-by-day process of building something beautiful with our lives. We have bought into the deception that a meaningful life is the result of achieving goals, but meaning isn’t found in the rush for results.
Quite often, meaning is found in the struggle.
With all that is within me, I am convinced that God is far less concerned with how quickly we meet quotas and more interested in the people we are becoming as we embrace slow growth. He takes joy in seeing how we are willing to walk in obedience while refusing to compromise our personal integrity in the name of achievement. God delights in watching us grow the virtues of patience and perseverance in our lives. It brings Him happiness to see us grow into the kind of women who hold ourselves to high ideals, who develop habits of fidelity and humility, who lean on Him in the struggle, who sacrifice, who trust that He will keep His promises even when we can’t see progress.
Slow growth is less fixated on the end prize and more about long-term personal transformation. God is making each of us built to last — like Hatchards with skin on, with souls and hearts that beat like this: Jesus, Jesus, Jesus.
1. Gaia Vince, “The High Cost of Our Throwaway Culture,” BBC, November 28, 2012, https://www.bbc.com/future/article/20121129-the-cost-of-our-throwaway-culture.
Excerpted with permission from Growing Slow by Jennifer Dukes Lee, copyright Jennifer Dukes Lee.
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If you’re “growing slow”, welcome to the party! We’re in this thing together, friends. God loves a slow pace, doesn’t He? He is more interested in our character and our faithfulness than He is in our output or production. He created us to be much more than to do. Come share your thoughts with us! ~ Laurie McClure, Faith.Full