While I was growing up, there were three great days in the life of young Walker. Christmas topped the list; my birthday came second (I think there was a theme going on here), and then the first day of summer vacation.

Do you want to know what day made the bottom of my list? Valentine’s Day. No 9-year-old boy should have been forced to sign his name on those cards decorated with little hearts and give them to the girls in our third-grade class.

Summer vacation was never about how I was going to spend it but more how was I going to cram it all in. Summer meant barbecues, baseball, running through the woods, spending two weeks at our grandparents’ farm, catching hundreds of lighting bugs in a Mason jar, riding my bicycle, working in the garden, the neighborhood kids coming over to play Annie-Annie-Over or Red Rover, playing in the rain, a drive-in movie, church camp, Vacation Bible School, mowing the yard, going to the library, camping trips, fishing in the pond, shooting BB guns, swimming, climbing hay bales in the barn, spending a night or two in a tent, the smell of fresh-cut grass, running around with nothing on but a pair of shorts, catching a snake or two, riding in the back of the pickup, playing with my dog, tent revivals, driving tractors, playing in a stream, listening to the Kansas City A’s baseball game on my transistor radio, and did I mention barbecues?

Of course, summer also meant crawling into bed each night, exhausted. There wasn’t enough daylight to get everything in.

My second least favorite day was the last day of summer We had to get new clothes and go to bed early, so we would be ready for school. All good things must come to an end.

As a parent, I didn’t realize how much summer meant to children until it was too late. One of the things I regret with my boys is not having enough family activities during the summer. As a youth pastor. my summers were taken up with youth camps, mission trips, Sunday School parties and more. Oh, we did a few special things, but the boys spent most of their summers tagging along with their dad. I didn’t recognize the importance of this season. Eccl. 3:1 (ESV) says it best: “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven.

The folly of being a young parent is not recognizing that each season has a purpose. My family were farmers, and the seasons dictated what we did. Spring is the time of the year when the soils are tilled, fertilizer is put down and seeds are planted.

During the summer we watered, weeded and monitored our crops. Rain was the most important ingredient of the summer; we needed just the right amount to have a great harvest. Fall was my favorite as the harvest was upon us. The combines churned as they plowed through the fields to gather the crops. Winter was the season of rest, a time to repair and replace equipment. After that, the cycle started all over again.

The same is true with a family. The spring is when, as a young couple, you get to know and grow together. It is a time of fun and spontaneity before the great responsibilities of having other lives in your care. During this season, you create memories and lay your foundation as a couple.

Summer is when have your children and experience the joy of being their guide. In this season, you will discover your strengths and weaknesses in your “miniature me.” You will also sacrifice your wants for the needs of your children.

In the fall, you see the rewards of raising your children according to the Word of God, and they start the process of leaving and cleaving with their life mates. They are becoming capable, responsible and self-reliant. A sense of wellness becomes yours.

Winter is a time for rest, renewal, reflection and re-enjoying your spouse. Then along comes the grandkids, and the seasons start all over again.

Summer is upon us, and I desire that you fathers and mothers use this time to do something simple with your children. Many of my fondest memories are not about what we did but that we did it together.

We see in the Bible that, in every season, Jesus spent quality time with those closest to Him. Whether he was traveling with His disciples, going out on the lake or eating a meal with them, they must have cherished the time and love He shared. And did I mention that at least some of those meals, especially in the summertime, must have included barbecue?