In the beginning of July – Jabez, Lydia, and baby BK graciously spent their vacation week visiting us here in Pennsylvania. That week alone satisfied so many summer musts for me. When I asked Liddy if she had a good week, she said “Yes, our buckets are full!”. I thought that was a beautiful way of saying it. Other people have bucket list items that they’re trying to cross off every summer. Lydia had a bucket that she wanted to be filled.

Here are some summer activities we did that week that are sure to fill anyone’s bucket:

  1. Picnic at the park. A picnic needs little to no planning and the food doesn’t have to be fancy, but if you can get some of the best cheesesteaks in Philly… then, by all means, do that. Also, eat it in front of the river and a city landmark if you can so you can take photos afterward. We picked up some Dalessandro’s and drove to Fairmount Park, right behind the Phila Museum of Art and next to the Schuykill.

    Jabez and Lydia met in Bible school just outside Philly so they lived in this area even before Miguel and I did.


    The gazebo behind the museum is where Jabez proposed to Lydia. Sentimentality runs deep in my family and I’m all for it. After a visit to the museum’s backyard, we went to get ice cream sandwiches at Weckerly’s in Fishtown. With flavors like “lemon verbena”, “basil” and “roasted strawberry shortcake”, Weckerly’s offers the kind of ice cream that grownups would be proud to Instagram but are still actually edible, nay, extremely delicious.


  2. Visit the fruit orchards. We went to Kauffman Orchards to pick cherries, raspberries, and blackberries. If it was earlier in the summer, strawberry-picking would’ve been a must too, of course. But as my mother pointed out: cherries grow on trees and are therefore kinder on her everyone’s back. We spent the next several days literally eating cherries out of that bucket. I have a running theme here.
  3. Eat ice cream at a dairy farm.  We had brunch at Rachel’s (a must in Lancaster City), then headed for ice cream at Pine View Dairy. This was BK’s first time seeing cows and we could all see how much she loved animals already. We got there just when they were bottle feeding the calves and we even got to see the mama cows getting milked while we ate the ice cream made from their milk. Perks of living in PA farm country. Also, can you tell we like our ice cream?
  4. Go to the beach. Or “the shore” (is it still “the shore” even if it’s not NJ? asking for a tourist friend…). It doesn’t even matter if it is on the 4th of July and the beach is crowded! Quiet, secluded beach days are a must too. However, if the company’s good (have your best friend from Florida drive up the coast to visit you for a day – thanks Jessie!), you’ll end up with an experience that will have you laugh-crying the whole time. Picture it:  choking humid Atlantic air, scarfing down hot boardwalk pizza, soft serve ice cream dripping down your hands, sticky cinnamon mini donuts, a cooler packed full of Mountain Dew and Canada Dry, three days worth of clothing – all loaded on a full wagon you’ll have to drag on the scorching hot sand. Seriously, we had all that plus diving into saltwater waves all afternoon – it’s what summer memories are made of 🙂
  5. Watch a fireworks show. On the way home from the beach, we realized we won’t get home in time for fireworks. Fortunately, we were in Delaware (the first state, baby!) and an impromptu stop at a Starbucks in Dover gave us good seats to the fireworks show. This 4th of July was especially sentimental for me for many reasons, one of which was getting to watch it with BK, who is the first American-born Manuel. She’ll have no memories of that day but her Manuel family will cherish that day for years to come. Our Liddy and our B: we love our American girls ❤ 

I’m certain we’ll cherish that whole week for years to come. Summer days don’t have to be perfect or full of big events. The best summer memories are made on the days we often take for granted. Being #blessed all the time is not cheesy. It can certainly be the reality of life when we keep our minds focused on God and all the little, fleeting moments through which he shows up glimpses of eternal satisfaction. There will be a time when our bucket will forever be in overflow, a time when there’s nothing else we could want anymore. Until then, I’m thankful for how God satisfies all our needs, even the earthly ones. Globe-trotting adventures are nice (about to hop on a plane to Asia as I write this!) and welcome! But this homebody wouldn’t mind spending a whole summer watching my niece learn to crawl or eat parmesan cheese or blow spit bubbles all day. These days, even just seeing her face light up my phone screen is enough to make any day a good day.

However you’re spending your summer, I hope you’re in good company and that your bucket is always full.





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