We have concluded the month of May and with it have set behind us the academic year; we can now enter a season of rest. As an educator with a busy and often overwhelming year, I found respite and encouragement from colleagues, friends, and my family. This summer, I will set aside writing new curriculum, grading, lesson planning, and professional development, for time with my family.

This school year was a true zeitgeist for our family as the pinnacle of the teenaged years, with all 3 of my daughters in high school for one monumental year, along with one of their cousins. We started the school year in masks, after all, and I recalled in August that my expectations must be held lightly about my eldest and her senior year activities or events. Truly, none of this mattered, as being present, loving, healthy, and intentional held the true depth.

All we accomplished this past school year was challenging but meaningful, and some really difficult days are behind us. Some moving and powerful days are in the past, too, and we are grateful to be there for family and friends who had milestones this year.

There were also many incredible moments, with high school graduation, some fundamental life choices my eldest made about her future, where she will attend college, and what major she will study while there. I now shift my focus on preparing her for moving to college, for life away from home. I already feel the shifting winds in our home, and I know the mental and emotional struggles which will ensue in August.

Still, I return to these vital words and ideas:

“Our humanity comes to its fullest bloom in giving. We become beautiful people when we give whatever we can give:  a smile, a handshake, a kiss, an embrace, a word of love, a present, a part of our life…all of our life.” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Life of the Beloved

My daughters know what brings others joy, and how to give and love without expectation. They are learning their gifts and talents, and this year especially have welcomed others with open and gracious arms of friendship.

Nouwen also writes, “To give someone a blessing is the most significant affirmation we can offer. It is more than a word of praise or appreciation; it is more than pointing out someone’s talents or good deeds; it is more than putting someone in the light. To give a blessing is to affirm, to say ‘yes’ to a person’s Belovedness.”

When I live and act and engage as one truly and wholly Beloved, I show my own daughters they, too, are beloved.

One daughter is determined to find the shortest and quickest path to success, completion, freedom, and accomplishment. This is likely my most challenging and emotionally-draining child, the one who believes she is low-maintenance but is high maintenance, the one who sighs when discussing the symbolic nature of poetry or the theme of a novel. She is often served dinner last, is tasked with chores least likely to attend, and is challenged in specific ways due to her impatience and lack of focus. My love for her well being as an adult is tempered by knowing the character traits she must develop before adulthood. She knows that she is Beloved.

Another daughter seeks most to make sure others are safe and happy on life’s path, cared for, and comforted. She loves deeply, notices details about the lives of her loved ones, and takes incredible effort to ensure her family is content. However, I often remind her to pursue her own dreams and not worry so much about how others are faring. After all, some of those “helper” personalities wait too long to care for their own physical and emotional wellbeing, and often sacrifice happiness for what is perceived as others’ happiness. I fully understand her personality, and much of her uncertainties hover over a fragile self-esteem which is borne out of true love and humility, but often will regress into unhealthy tendencies. She is learning to call herself Beloved, first and foremost.

And another of my daughters is content to seek out the birds, trees, and precious stones which are charming and meaningful, eventually forgetting about the hike to the waterfall. Her meandering and wandering are both endearing and irritating, as one wonders if she will settle upon anything steady, reliable, and certain. Those qualities bore her, so she prefers friendships and music, art and fiction to soothe her cares. She has a drive for many things, but her definition of academic success hinges more on personal effort than achievement. Many of the accolades and honors others her age seek out simply mean nothing to her. Friends turn to her in crises and for support. In a sense, she’s an old soul and has understood at an early age that the greatest identity she could capture is the one of being Beloved.

As we step into summer together, a slower pace, more time to linger at the kitchen table over lunch, I know my best hope is to live in the present and enjoy each day with my children, from hiking to swimming, or quiet days reading, traveling to the mountains, encouraging them to become their best selves as they discover who they are.

My children bring incredible laughter and a richness to everyday life I never thought possible. And as we progress through the summer, my hope is they continue to primarily define themselves as Beloved and believe this fully. I hope they learn more of who they are and discover how to best give of their talents and care to our world.

This summer, may we reach out to others in a more kind, loving, gracious, and compassionate way, because we are so loved.