When you really want to love summer, but you’re getting crushed

Version 2

Summer and I have a complicated relationship.  

As a stay-at-home mama, I treasure the slower pace, the extra time with these precious children of mine.  I relish in the opportunity for white space and rest and sunshine and making memories and the kind of boredom that frees the imagination. 

From the heart of May, the heart in my chest starts to swell with anticipation of watching my people run through the sprinkler with their buddies, and the tiny wet footprints that will cover my floor.  I imagine their sibling friendships flourishing with giggly pillow fights and giant forts and long days splashing around in the pool.  

I can’t hide my grin when I think of swim team ribbons that will be won, diving board tricks to be mastered, finger paint creations to be hung on the wall.  

I imagine the books read and the dreams dreamed that could never be, without the extra wiggle room.  I’m fully committed to spending at least a handful of days in pajamas, and several handfuls in bathing suits, from morning straight on ’til night.  

Summer is bursting with potential.  Two whole months with nothing much to do…I should have a chance to patch up all the mommy failures of the school year, and do all of the things well.  I imagined in summer, I would climb into bed with each of my children just to scratch their backs and chat in the way that only happens when toes are tucked under covers and faces are surrounded by beloved stuffed animals.  I would linger and listen…really listen…about hurt feelings and lizards and swim meets, until my little ones’ eyelids got heavy and they were ready to let the moment go.  I would move slow and soak up the silly little moments that add up to a childhood.  I would be patient, and tell the clock that it can take a break.  Everyone would be well-rested and would get along.  I would have long date nights with my hubby and long family adventures, and we would make sweet family memories together. Summer would make it all better. 

From the heart of May, it all seemed so simple.  

But right in the middle of all of this potential, the boredom intended to lead to imagination and beauty, becomes a reason to pick a fight, just for something to do.  Family adventures turn to whining, and the only moment I enjoy is the picture I snap when I trick everyone into smiling for a gummy bear.  

I get tired of hearing my own voice encouraging little ones to be grateful when it’s too hot or too rainy or too sunny or not sunny enough… when we never have enough time at the pool…when it’s never the right time to put on sunscreen….when it should always be the right time for ice cream…and everyone is Always.  Always.  Always. Hungry. 

Thankfully, after an adventure turns sour, my children only seem to remember the fun.  As it was for me as a child, summer is a time for nothing much to do, except practicing handstands in the pool.  

So, perhaps my high expectations of summer come from my view being shaped in childhood, when summer was nothing but sparkly brilliant adventure.  

But the thing I now know, though I’m still making peace with it, is that the rest and relaxation of a child comes partly at the sacrifice of his mama’s.  Someone has to hang and clean and pack and unpack and repack all of the swim suits and goggles and floaties and towels and snacks and water bottles and sunscreen.  A leisurely picnic for the family comes at the cost of cooking and packing the food and paper plates and blankets and hats and bug spray.  Someone still drives.  Someone still cooks.  Someone still cleans.  Someone still launders.  Someone’s ears receive all of the screams and tattles and needs and questions.  Someone carefully places what feels like thousands of things into a bag for each and every adventure.  Someone facilitates the fulfillment of everyone else’s summer dreams.  

So, thank you, Mom, for making my summers magical.

And thank you, Jesus, that you are multiplying the magic in the lives of my children.  They really do love it.  And that makes it well worth all of the effort.  

But can I just admit that I sometimes I feel kind of crushed by all of this fun?  Some days I am so, so tired.  Some days I feel like I cannot muster the energy to answer one more question or settle one more argument.  Some days I am pressed by the sheer number of words exchanged, by the number of time outs, the number of Band-aids, the number of wet floors I have wiped up, the number of minutes I have spent spreading sunscreen on tiny bodies. 

There is an undeniable blessed abundance in my house that I do not take for granted for a minute.  I treasure the opportunity to be home with my little army of children this summer, and I would not trade it for anything in the world.  

But sisters, sometimes…Summer. Is. Hard. 

There is this ugly side of summer mixed up with the ugly side of my heart that says “JUST GO BACK TO SCHOOL, ALREADY.”  

I want to be the mom who never wants summer to end.  But even before I finished the giant exhale of relief of less – less hurry, less homework, less calendar, less daily grind…Before I even let the exhale settle my soul, there was an equally strong and competing inhale of more – more opinions, more noise, more voices, more sibling arguments, more complaints of boredom, more questions about what we’re doing and when and where and with whom and for how long, more entertainment, more meals to make and clean up at home, more decisions to make about wide open hours.

Summer and I made our first transition when I entered the working world, and I realized that summer break was no longer a thing.  And now, we’re making another.

I think somewhere along the line, I started to think that staying at home with my kids meant I would get a summer break again.  But this year, I’m letting it go.  I’m wrapping up the gift of summer — all of my expectations and hopes, all of my rest and relaxation — I’m wrapping it up and tying a bow around it, and I am presenting it as an offering to my family.  I am believing that abundant life happens right on the other side of giving my own summer “break” away.  I’m believing that my gift in summer will be the life that only comes when you give it away – the abundance of living that only happens when you die to yourself.  I begin to truly delight in my children and their fun, when I stop being concerned about my own comfort.

This year, I am finally admitting the thing that has stood in the way of my rest.  I am admitting that a relationship between summer and a stay-at-home mama is not simple and straightforward.  It’s not a break, a vacation, or a retreat.  It’s simply a shift.  As I facilitate rest for my children this summer, I can trust the Lord to bring rest to my soul.  I find life in giving mine away. 

So friend, if summer is hard, you might be right where you should be…pouring out your love and energy and effort to facilitate a culture of rest and adventure in your home.  The next time you are packing the pool bag, or breaking up a sibling squabble, remember that you are SEEN by your Father God.  Let the work of your summer be a dance of worship before your King.  

Whoever finds their life will lose it, and whoever loses their life for my sake will find it. Matthew 10:39

Whatever you do, work at it with your whole being, for the Lord and not for men, because you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as your reward.  It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  Colossians 3: 23

How to live motherhood like a dance of worship

This guy has already learned one of my best “dance” moves.  He doesn’t let us leave the house without sweeping the floor.  🙂

Wearing a linen ephod, David was dancing before the Lord with all his might, while he and all Israel were bringing up the ark of the Lord with shouts and the sound of trumpets.  As the ark of the Lord was entering the City of David, Michal daughter of Saul watched from a window. And when she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she despised him in her heart.

They brought the ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the tent that David had pitched for it, and David sacrificed burnt offerings and fellowship offerings before the Lord. After he had finished sacrificing the burnt offerings and fellowship offerings, he blessed the people in the name of the Lord Almighty… When David returned home to bless his household, Michal daughter of Saul came out to meet him and said, “How the king of Israel has distinguished himself today, going around half-naked in full view of the slave girls of his servants as any vulgar fellow would!”

David said to Michal, “It was before the Lord, who chose me rather than your father or anyone from his house when he appointed me ruler over the Lord’s people Israel—I will celebrate before the Lord. I will become even more undignified than this, and I will be humiliated in my own eyes. But by these slave girls you spoke of, I will be held in honor.”

2 Samuel 6: 14-22

In these days as a mom of little ones, packed with these mostly invisible and seemingly insignificant moments, folding shirts and sitting in waiting rooms and midnight snuggles, packing lunches and carpool lines, tripping over toys and tripping over words that I can’t seem to make come out of my mouth as sweetly as I thought they would.

It is an abundant and blessed season, but full of these unseen and unappealing things that can leave a mama feeling lonely, isolated, discouraged.

All the things we must do – the long lists, the piled-high messes, the endless chores and the discipline failures – can cast a giant shadow over the purpose, the joy, the blessings of raising children.  I can find myself wondering if I’ll just be another little old lady in the grocery store saying “Soak up every minute.  You’ll blink and you’ll miss it!”

How do we hold in one mind the tremendous gift and privilege, and the weariness and struggle?  How do we hold in one heart the immense delights and the hopes for beautiful futures and generations, and the dreams we fear died the day we brought that baby home?  How do we lift these same eyes to the heavens, when we can barely keep them open to drive our kids to school?  How do we bend the same knees before the throne of grace that are working so hard to keep standing?

Several years ago, I walked through a season of being stripped raw by exhaustion, by failure, by weakness, by my constant awareness of my brokenness, and feelings of inadequacy about what God has given me.  We had a newborn baby, and my husband was traveling for work.  It was a year full of trips to the ER, sickness and asthma and injuries, trials in our marriage, friends moving away.  I was facing fears about not being able to control our circumstances, protect my children, my marriage, my friendships, or even my own image and identity.

Everything I had once felt competent at felt like it was slipping away.  I went from an organized, always on time, fairly dependable person to always late, never returning phone calls, snapping at my kids, forgetting friends’ birthdays, and living in a house that mostly existed in that ‘state of emergency’ kind of mess.

My sense of identity crumbled, and my ideas about how my faith should sustain me seemed to be failing me.

Though I had walked with Christ for many years, as real life was happening, I came up empty. I found myself writhing with worry, fear, self-doubt, loneliness, discouragement, hopelessness.

I knew that God can grant me a peace that passes understanding (Philippians 4: 6-7), so why was I writhing with worry and fear? 

I knew that the God of hope can fill me with all joy and peace, overflowing with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Romans 15:13) , so why was I so miserable and hopeless?

I knew God could renew my strength like the eagle and make me to run and not grow weary, so why did I feel so depleted all the time? (Isaiah 40: 31)

I knew that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free (Galatians 5: 1), so why did I feel so chained up and with insecurity and self-doubt? 

I knew that His divine power has given us everything needed for life and godliness (2 Peter 1: 3), so why did I feel completely inadequate and ill-equipped? 

I knew that God is faithful to forgive our sins (1 John 1: 9), so why was I drowning in a sea of shame and guilt?

All the promises of God’s word felt elusive, and my faith felt thin, and I felt bitterness creeping up in me about how my life was slipping away behind my family.

In this season, I desperately needed God to be real for the real moments of my days.  I desperately needed the promises of scripture to be true.  But I couldn’t escape the cyclical rhythms of waking and sleeping and feeding and clothing and bathing and comforting and shepherding.

It seemed that all the moments of my day were accounted for, and I couldn’t imagine discovering the margin to rediscover God.

And so, right smack in the middle of my crazy, I began a journey with a mustard seed of faith to simply CALL the Lord the things I was struggling to believe He was.  To ascribe to the Lord his beauty and worth. To tell God what I knew to be true of him and simply dare to wonder that the power of it might be able to infuse my life that wouldn’t seem to slow down for thorough theological study or lengthy silent prayer or long journal entries.

I needed faith with skin on.

Like David throughout the Psalms, I began to tell my own soul to stop feeling so sorry for itself and get up and praise. And something broke in me.

Bless the Lord, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name! Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits.  Psalm 103:2 

Lord, your grace IS sufficient. 

God, your power IS made perfect in my weakness. 

Father, you ARE strong and mighty.

You ARE the protector, defender, the counselor, the King.  

God, you ARE so good.

This became my dance.  What I was desperate for him to be in real life I began to simply tell Him (and my own soul) that He Is.  I began to offer up a sacrifice of praise.  (Hebrews 13: 15).

When our hearts are postured in praise, the magnitude of God and his character of mercy and grace begin to shrink our worry, our fear, the size of our needs and requests.

I began to have eyes for all of life as worship.  Everything we have to give away, everything we can pour out, every moment when we have no idea what to do, or what God is doing, or whether we are going to make it through…that everything is an invitation to worship.

When I was weak, I began to lay my ounce of energy on the alter before him, to pour it out with joy and watch Him renew me.  When my schedule felt overwhelming, and I felt like too much of a mess, I began to let others come in the door, just to see what God might do.  When I felt I had nothing to offer, I said “yes” to teach or lead or serve, not out of obligation, but as a proclamation of faith to God and my own heart, that He could use even broken mess of me.

Our praise, our gift, is not about the amount, the outward beauty, or the obvious value.  It’s about the posture of our hearts.

It’s about self-sacrifice.

It can’t be done in a way that keeps us in tact and protects our sense of control, but in a breaking open and pouring out.  Like the woman who broke the alabaster jar at Jesus’ feet…Like David shamelessly dancing before the Lord… Like Abraham placing Isaac on the alter…

True praise and adoration requires us to break wide open too.

In this season I began to see that I could spill myself out in adoration to God and that my little offerings could be priceless to the eyes of my King.  I began to feel as though I was being pulled close into a sacred secret romance with him, connected to his heart in my invisible service, my invisible dance of worship.

In 2 Samuel 24: 24 we read the words of David, a man after God’s own heart, “I will not offer burnt-offerings to the Lord my God that cost me nothing.”

Something shifts in us when our giving, our praise, costs us something, when we offer it up not just as a happy Sunday morning refrain, but as a pouring out of a broken soul in a sometimes painful declaration of faith:  “You, O God, you are who you say you are.”

When I feel God got it all wrong, I proclaim that He is good. When I am empty and failing, I proclaim that His power is made perfect in my weakness.  When I feel weak, I proclaim He is strong.  When I can’t hear His voice, I proclaim that He is the God who loves to speak tenderly to his children, in hopeful expectancy.

The pouring out of our lives, our comfort, our sleep, our work, our energy, our tenderness…is an act of faith that proclaims that we believe God is a worthy recipient of our whole selves.  In all the little things, all the in between moments, in all the mundane that threatens our joy…a habit of adoration is transforming the way I see everything.

Poured out in secret places, we are invited deeper into the heart of God.  And it can all begin to feel like a dance of worship – from diapers, to emails, to late night chats, to business meetings, to carpool drives up and down the same road a hundred times a week, and everything in between.  My hands dance in praise in the scrub of the pan, or the stroke of a child’s face who has just made a poor choice.  My lips dance in praise as I choose gentle words, and as I proclaim God’s goodness, whether or not I feel it.

When we break open and lay it all down before the Lord in praise, we are free to dance.

Romans 12: 1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.