Plan Ahead for Summer

Happy Summer! I thought some of you who read my blog might enjoy this re-post of an article I wrote for a great online health newsletter, Fit For the King(FFTK). There are many inspiring articles and tips for summer and more in this month’s edition. You can read FFTK in it’s entirety at


Plan Ahead for Summer

As a mom of four kids you can imagine my life gets pretty hectic at times.  My husband, my children and I all wear multiple hats and go in many directions. Family, work, ministry, extracurricular activities and friends keep us on our toes. The bulk of what we do falls in line with a school calendar year, and summer tends to be low key in comparison.

Several years ago, when my youngest started pre-school, I mistakenly thought that when summer came all four kids would be so happy to downshift for a season and co-exist under the same roof, that we would have “Kodak Perfect” family moments unfolding before our very eyes. I had visions of all three boys getting along great with one another and their baby sister. The house was going to stay clean, no one was going to get bored and all would go well. Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong! After the first week I knew I was in trouble, and by the end of the summer I was at my wits end!

That summer taught us that we needed to have a plan for our family summers to unfold well. So, the following summer we decided to get away for a family vacation at the beginning of summer, without realizing what a blessing this would be. What we found, was that getting away together at the beginning of summer enabled us to reconnect, re-calibrate and get used to being around each other again. We were so thrilled with the way this changed the tone of our summers, we have applied it ever since. We also learned to be okay with the transition time it takes for us all to be back together, in close proximity, for longer lengths of time. And we learned to lay out plans and guidelines to help things flow smoothly, while still allowing room for flexibility and individual summer goals to be met.

What we learned here really can be applied to every area of our lives. When we have a plan, rather than just waiting and hoping things will come together, we are much more likely to reach our desired end destination. It’s like I always say (but sometimes forget to follow myself-ha!), “Begin with the end in mind!” It’s true for our lives personally, with our families, with our health and fitness goals. When we know what it is we want to see accomplished and set a plan to reach it, we are much more likely to get there.

Summer truly is a great time to re-calibrate, to rest and reflect, to reset and get ready for the fall and the busyness it brings.  It’s a season to carve out time with those we love… enjoy a barbecue or two, or more…  soak in some vitamin D as we sit in the sun… take advantage of the longer days… and starry, warm nights… and play a little more… to be a kid again ourselves. I am praying this summer you begin it with the end in mind and that as it comes to a close you will look back and say, “That was the best summer ever!”

Happy planning for a summer filled with great memories!

Amy O’Donnell



Vision Leaks


Where there is no vision, the people perish… Proverbs 29:18

Have you ever gone through a season where you felt you lost the spring in the step of what you do? Maybe you are there currently, and you’ve gotten to the point where you are praying, “God, just help me make it through today.”

I know what it’s like to go from being passionate about something, to feeling like I’m punching in and doing my time, asking God to give me the grace and strength to stand, even when everything in me feels bored, tired of my post and so wanting a bigger adventure and taller mountain to climb.

In those moments, the problem is often not our post, but our vision. Chances are it is lacking. The truth is, vision leaks.

If you have found yourself in a place where you can relate, I want to encourage you to be diligent about remembering why you are where you are, doing what you do. Think about the future you are working toward. What do you want to see accomplished in your relationships with your family and friends? How does what you do in the workplace or ministry contribute to making people’s lives better? What do you want your life to stand for?

When I find myself in the place of feeling unexcited about what I do, I go to God and ask him to show me again, tell me again, and fill my heart again with his passion for the lost, the hurting and the broken. I ask him to lead me by the Spirit and to use me. I take a step back from the tasks in front of me and scan the big picture again… and again, until I remember why I do what I do. And I spend a lot of time in prayer about it, because I recognize how important it is not to lose sight of “The Why.”

We extended the desire to live with vision to our family. We want to teach our kids to remember they were created by God to make a difference in the world. To help with this, we came up with a family mission statement. I am thinking about having it framed and hanging it on our door to remind us as we step into the world what our vision is, “ The O’Donnells live to unveil God’s love and glorify Him in our every day lives.” That statement pretty much covers it all for us – inside and outside the home.

How about you? What do you do to keep vision alive and fresh? Does your family have a mission statement? Do you personally?

Parenting Through the Hiccup Moments

Earlier this month, David had to travel to Dominican Republic for two weeks. While he was away, I had help from his mom and from some of my friends, but in the areas of disciplining the kids and making sure order was maintained in the home, I was on my own for the most part, as David was so far away and inaccessible the majority of the time.

Our four kids range in age from five-thirteen years, and they really are great kids. They generally are well behaved, but every so often it seems like we go through what I call a “recalibration time”. This happens when one or more of them seem to have gotten a little fuzzy on the rules and expectations we have set for them, when they slip a little on getting their chores done, have trouble respecting us or one another, or any combination of the above. We handle these bumpy times with consistent reminders and consequences to get them back on track.  

During the two weeks David was away, wouldn’t you know it – we experienced one of these little hiccup moments. It started the day after he left when I caught my youngest cleverly hiding her lunches in hopes of getting hot lunch at school, since we had missed the deadline to order them daily. That same week I caught another forgetting to turn his homework in, two of my boys in a near fist fight after church Wednesday night, several incomplete tasks and chores done around the home, and more. In addition to those parenting challenges, one came down with strep and two with the stomach bug. And, I still had my household and ministry responsibilities to keep up with… All I can say is, it would have been two weeks for the books if David had been there!

One of the things that brought me the most comfort during that two week window David was gone, were people telling me they were praying for me. Each time someone asked me how they could specifically be praying, I would ask them to pray Psalm 103:8 for me, which says, “The LORD is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.” I picked this scripture, because it shows how God handles us, His children, when we are in need of correction, love, compassion and more, and I wanted to respond to my children in the same way.

I am happy to say we made it through the two weeks, and our little recalibration moment – stronger and more tuned in and in sync with one another, and the kids were back on track. At the end of our time together, before David came home – I had a few minutes to reflect on the journey of it all, and I was thankful – for my children, for the reminder of how important it is to train them up in the way they should go, for friends who lift me up in times of need, and for a compassionate and gracious God; who through loving us, teaches us and empowers us to love others better, even our own children.

What a beautiful time it was… But I hope I don’t have to do it again anytime soon! 🙂 And, my hats off to you Single mom’s and mom’s with husbands who are deployed – you are my hero’s!

Copyright © 2011 by Amy O’Donnell. All Rights Reserved