Six people and all of our detritus for a month fit snuggly into the once-new-to-us suburban — that in two years of our vigorous use has become rusty, old. We belted songs, loud, and listened to books and counted hawks on telephone wires all the way across middle America. All of us full of the expectation of what summer might hold.
For me, summer has been rest and rest comes from calm and calm happens when the boxes are checked and the shoes are in their bin and all the trains run on time.
But this June, He began redefining summer for me, this Lord of the seasons.
Ten days into the trip and I’m muttering to Nate from the front seat, “I need to breathe.” Old friends and late nights catching fireflies were colored by “Mommy, I can’t find my shoes in this suitcase again!” and “this seatbelt is scratching my belly!” I was spent. Already. We had weeks to go.
The tail end of our trip was at the ocean, the place where my heart so often comes alive. The sea births the sun in the morning and the bay welcomes it home at night; the cadence of God’s creation is within my reach at the ocean in the ways it isn’t when I’m locked inland.
The first day we arrived at the beach, the one that saw the spunky teenage version of me twenty years ago trolling with friends from home and making friends out of strangers and calling it all summer love, I was reminded of the expectation I had when our trip had started. I had a history with the beach. It knew me before I knew Him and, summer after summer, as He reclaimed parts of my heart, the ocean became His deep, to me.
This June would be no different.
This time, I trolled the beach with four in tow and our eyes weren’t on people but on crustaceans and shells, with the ocean’s tide surfaced at our feet. My mind was elsewhere though. I was stuck in the awareness that things weren’t going just as planned. Schedules were off, clothes were missing and I still hadn’t had those long stretches of quiet for which I craved.
Three weeks of life-in-flux had left me ragged and, mostly, I was disappointed at my own response.
I was grumpy and ungrateful and fixed on all this trip had not yet been. This beach walk was just a place for my mind to go over and over all of which felt “off” within me.
Until I was interrupted at one, familiar spot — one that had marked me, years ago. There, within arms reach, were scores of dolphins making that spot their playground. Circling round and round, they stayed central for our viewing. They flipped in and out of the waves, revealing the smooth contours of their shape against the jagged water’s tide. We saw their eyes. They danced upright into the air for us and my children were stuck in wonder at these large creatures and the egocentric assumption of youth: this moment is mine to have.
And that’s when I received my new definition of summer. His plan for me this summer.
Summer — for them and for me — is sand-filled bathing suits and the dirt from yesterday’s weeding still underneath your fingernails. It is His beauty in the interruptions and the freedom that comes when our control and our order is trumped by holy distraction. It’s her head on your shoulder, just before you planned to tuck her in, asking the question that the canopy covering of night has made safe for her to ask. It is the butterfly that landed right smack dab in her hand and slowed your family walk to a halt.
It’s where we see that letting go of schedules and lists and even the necessary order for running a home opens our eyes to the rushing wind of His Spirit.
Summer is the unplanned – not what was interrupted but what did the interrupting. Summer is a chance for me and my girls to see Him and His Holy Spirit, anew.
Our God is a God of seasons and this summer, for me, is when I let my life break rules of the order I’ve created so my girls (and boy) can find Him in the unexpected. Our fingernails are dirty and we’ve brought half the beach’s sand home in our car, but I’m finding the wonder of God outside my confines and praying my girls will do the same.
Let your girls climb high trees this summer and swim in waters, too deep for your mama-fears. Take a break from calling your fear, “wisdom”, and let Him be the protector of your children in that one area where you cling so tightly. Unplug the computer and let that inbox get bloated while you hike up your shorts and catch crawfish in the creek behind your house. They need to see you taking gulps of His wonder, outside of your norm, to learn that His Spirit can break them out of old molds, too, one day. Bake cookies after bedtime and watch for shooting stars. Hold them tight and let them watch you let go.
Summer is for falling in love with our God, anew. Summer is for holy undoing and His holy reclaiming of what was never ours to hold.
Our girls will follow our lead.