A lot of moms I know (…that’s code for the fact that I’m talking about myself…) survive the May madness of end of school activities by focusing on a blissful vision of summer… Sleeping in, time to read, go for leisurely walks and relaxing vacations and evenings of socializing and family time.
By mid-June, reality has set in and what helped us cope with the insanity of May schedules has vaporized like a daydream. No school schedule means all day taxi-service for sports and social engagements, kids home more means an unending siege of the fridge and the only books you can get to are those that rhyme and can be repeated to the glee of your audience, day after day after day.
Our Lord asks us to pray constantly. And deep inside, we long for that, for that peace and connection to him. Even if you’re a mom and its summertime. So how do we reconcile that with the life He gives us and the “opportunities for self-giving” 24/7 in the summer time?
From 19 years of experience with 6 kids, here is what works for me. Lots of coffee dates, summer dance lessons, and double-checking my to-do list….
- Lots of Coffee Dates
You really, really will benefit from finding a way to carve out time for silence and prayer every day. It’s worth it. I promise. Even if you can only manage 10 minutes. But try for more if possible. A few minutes to reflect on the gospel, to close your eyes and breathe in the love of God. To let go and just be held. To trust. To adore Him and be loved by Him. In the morning, our mind and heart and hands are not yet full of the cares of the day. This is important because you can’t receive a gift when your hands are full. To receive, you must be empty. A space must be kept within you. To receive God, a great and sacred space must exist, a silence. A silent space carved in prayer.
Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love, for I have put my trust in you. Show me the way I should go, for to you I entrust my life. –Psalm 143:8
Meet God for coffee. Seriously. Program your coffee maker to start 30 minutes before your earliest riser gets up. Cajole yourself out of bed, if necessary, with the promise that you can go back to sleep AFTER your early morning rendezvous with the Divine One. Get your coffee and sit down with him. Say good morning, thank him for the sunrise and the day he has created for you, out of love. Pick up the Gospel or a book that brings you to lift your heart to Him in prayer. You’re still not quite awake or preoccupied with the day so it’s the perfect time to just quietly open your heart to Him. Listen to the silence, to what moves your heart, to what you see in Him and what he sees in you. Admire His beauty, Let his love touch your heart, and touch the day ahead. Let him fill you with his love and ask him to help you pour it out on the crazy crowd still sleeping peacefully in your house. Enjoy your coffee and enjoy your God. Give him your day before you start it. And then remember, it’s his. He’s got this. No matter what.
Take Dance Lessons
Praying always means letting God lead. Like in dancing. I am not a good dancer and I am not a good follower. But I have learned that when I give God my day, he wants me to follow his lead through the day, not chart my own course try to teach him to dance to my own crazy steps.
To be a good dancer,
with you as with anyone else, it’s not necessary
That we know where it will lead.
We only need to follow,
To be cheerful,
To be light,
And above all not to be stiff.
We don’t have to ask you for explanations
About the steps that you choose to take.
We need to be like an extension of yourself,
Quick and alive,
And pick up the rhythm of the music through you.
We must not desire to push ahead at all costs,
But allow ourselves to be spun, to be moved to the side.
We have to know how to pause and slide, and not walk.
And the steps would be rather clumsy
If they were not in harmony with the music.
But we tend to forget the music of your spirit,
And we turn our life into a gymnastic exercise;
We forget that, in your arms, life is something to be danced,
That your Holy Will
Is inconceivably creative
And all monotony and boredom
Is left to the old souls
Who play the wallflower
In the joyful ball of your love.
Lord, ask us to dance.
We’re ready to dance this errand for you,
These accounts to do, this dinner to prepare, this vigil to keep-
When we would prefer to sleep.
We’re ready to dance for you the dance of work,
The dance of heat, and later the dance of cold.
If certain melodies are often played in the minor key, we won’t tell you
That they’re sad;
If others leave us a little breathless, we won’t tell you
That they knock the wind out of us.
And if other people bump into us, we’ll take it with a good laugh,
Knowing well that that’s the sort of thing that happens when you’re dancing.
– Servant of God Madeleine Delbrel, from “We, the Ordinary People of the Streets”
So I dance, with not-always-graceful moves, to the breakfast table, and to the dishes and to work, and diapers and driving kids around, and the beach and the grocery store and a thousand other things. And know I am in His arms. That he is leading me. If it feels like awkward and uncomfortable sometimes, that’s ok, because He is leading and I am not. I just need to be present in the dance and keep trying to let him lead. Yes, I will always want to hold on to control of my day, my life, my family, my plans, my dance. But I am not imprisoned by that desire. He picks me up in his arms and carries me when I don’t know how to follow his lead.
And hopefully I won’t step on his toes too often. But if I do, he will forgive me quickly, and we go on. And while we dance, I learn to worry less and smile more. God is in control – and although I have to do my best to follow him, regardless of my mistakes, God is still God. He can do good even with my imperfections. I smile more because I trust that his arms hold me and we are going where his Holy Will leads, and I don’t have to be concerned about messing up or looking foolish, because he is such an incredibly good dancer, and he makes up for all of my lack of ability and coordination.
We dance and we invite others to dance with us, Jesus and I – my husband, our kids, our co-workers, the cashier at the grocery store, the soccer coach…. The day is a dance with God and others. We dance together.
- Double-check your to-do list
In the morning when we meet for our sunrise rendezvous and throughout the dance of my day (when I manage to keep my eyes locked in His) He tells me
“You are precious and honored in my sight,
and I love you…” Isaiah 43:4
He also goes on to say (Is 43:19-20):
“See, I am doing a new thing!
Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?
I am making a way in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland.
The wild animals honor me,
the jackals and the owls,
because I provide water in the wilderness
and streams in the wasteland,”
…which is perfect and very reassuring because that perfectly describes my household in the summer time (just kidding…kind of).
My vocation is my path to holiness, and the second Vatican council teaches us that all people are called to the fullness of holiness. That is union with God, the beloved with the Lover. My vocation, lived in the dance of family life, makes me shed myself, give up my fear and desire for control and let God love through me. Loving through me, he is loving me. We are in union, in his will.
How many times have I wanted, like Peter, to stand in the face of Holiness and DO SOMETHING…
After six days Jesus took with Him Peter, James, and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light.
Suddenly Moses and Elijah appeared before them, talking with Jesus. Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here. If You wish, I will put up three tents: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.”
While Peter was still speaking, a bright cloud enveloped them, and a voice from the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Listen to Him!” When the disciples heard this, they fell face down in terror.
Then Jesus came over and touched them. “Get up,” He said. “Do not be afraid.” And when they looked up, they saw no one but Jesus.
I know by faith that Christ is with me. I know my life is his tabernacle and I am in the presence of the Divine hidden in the daily.
In the face of that Holiness, especially when He reveals His love and inflames me with enthusiasm for loving those around me and those whose lives he wants to touch through me, I too want to make 3 tents. 3 really good, professionally decorated tents. In the perfect location. With comfortable furniture, enough room for family and guests and a beautiful back yard. I want to bring my family, my friends, other people to those tents. I want to feed them a lovely meal, lead an educational and spiritual activity, enjoy peaceful and fun fellowship and then mandate a reasonable bedtime…. My Father’s voice in my soul stops me after I announce my plans and reminds me to just be present and listen to the Beloved, to trust. To let him lead and to just lead others to see his face and follow him too. By following his plans and not mine.
Summer is tense sometimes. On the one hand I feel frustrated because I can’t accomplish my plans, on the other hand I feel exhausted by all the demands made on me. It’s a perfect time to learn to trust that whatever God puts into my day, whatever demands are made of me, whatever plans he doesn’t let me accomplish for whatever reason, I can trust him. That regardless of what my inner control-freak and selfishness and fear tell me, I am made to be a gift of self, and that is how I find fulfillment.
I have come to find God’s will in the balance, in the struggle to plan my day to love Him and others, and then to readjust and trust as he changes those plans. That means that when I’m at that point of tension, I can recognize it as a good thing and an invitation to follow. Yes, God is pleased by what I want to do for him and others, and yes, I can let go of those plans and follow him instead. And tomorrow I will make more plans, and adjust them again, and hopefully day after day start doing it with more sensitivity, trust, peace and joy. I’ll become a better dancer…
God will guide my day, my summer. I’ll look for his face hidden in the daily. In the people, in the tasks, in the activity he leads me in. I will make my plans, but if he wants to change them, I will dance along- sometimes clumsily and sometime with more grace.
I will meet him for coffee every morning, hear him whisper in my empty heart, or just sit with him in silence. And I will try really hard not to wish for the beginning of the school year and a return from the wilderness, wasteland and wild animals of summer time.
It reassures me to know I’m not alone. Moms, we’re all in this summer dance together. See you tomorrow morning for coffee….