By Joy O’Neal
Summer, summer, summertime…the song I’m sure every teacher is singing right now. I surely am! It’s summer! Us moms have a love-hate relationship with summer, don’t we? If your children aren’t school-age yet, then it’s just a warmer part of the year with more opportunities to play in the sun, but if they are school-age, then your entire world just changed for the next twelve weeks into beautiful chaos. The game of tug-of-war between relaxing vs. go has already begun. For me, summer has already whispered a beautiful soul lesson of restoring peace and surrendering to God’s presence inside of motherhood.
The school year ended, and the excitement for a much-needed break was rising throughout my home, but I continually heard the shout of one word, STOP! I knew where it was coming from. I knew why this four-letter word was all I could hear. I knew that my soul was weary, but I resented the wrestling match that would follow. A collision I’ve felt many times as an ambivert. I was empty. I sat the kids down and explained to them that this summer, our theme was rest. I told them other than a few local attractions we wouldn’t be doing much. I was extremely surprised when each one met me precisely where I was. It was clear. We all needed rest.
Cue wrestling match. Each morning I would sit and attempt to usher in the silence. Only a few days passed, and my mind battled between the thoughts of how many tasks I could complete this summer and resting. I would enter my office and see all the lesson plans and books and for a moment contemplate diving into the space. Again, STOP! I knew I needed to go the extra mile. I began to pack up my office and remove everything that called me into teacher brain. I searched Facebook Marketplace for an oversized chair. Once I cleared out my office and found my chair, the word shifted from STOP to SIT. I don’t know about you, but as a mom sitting is hard! Doesn’t it seem like once our bottoms hit a chair our children have an inner alarm system? Then the most beautiful thing happened—it rained! And I love the rain. Growing up in South Carolina afternoon summer rainstorms were a daily occurrence. Each evening it rained, and each evening I would sit.
Once I started to get the hang of sitting the word quickly switched to SEARCH! This beautiful rest and peace that was being restored caused me to search for the deeper why behind its previous exit from my life. How did Jesus manage to stop when He was being pulled? How did He choose to sit when He was sent to this world to spread a message? As I searched through Scripture, I found beautiful similarity between the life of Jesus and the cry of my heart. Verse upon verse, it was clear. Even Jesus knew He needed to slip away. Scripture refers to these places as a Solitary place (Mark 1:35), Lonely place (Luke 5:16), Quiet place (Mark 6:32), and Certain place (Luke 11:1). Jesus knew the importance of having a spot.
How as mothers and professionals do we maintain a quiet spot? How do we bring this certain place into the school year? How do we acquire time of solitude amid so much activity? We can’t. We can’t until we let go of the fairytale quiet place we’ve mentally created and replaced it with Susanna Wesley’s prayer apron.
Susanne Wesley was the mother of John and Charles Wesley. These two men grew up to lead millions to Christ. Now there’s a mom goal! John and Charles weren’t her only children, though. Susanne had 19 children, but only ten lived through infancy. Studying her life feels a bit like a chapter out of Job. Her marriage was in constant conflict; one of her children was crippled, and another couldn’t speak until they were six. Susanne’s husband couldn’t manage finances and provoked the anger of his congregation, which lead to multiple attacks on their home and livelihood. Finding time to stop, sit, and search would seem impossible in Susanne’s life. When Susanne was young, she made a vow with God that she would never spend more time in entertainment or leisure than she did in prayer with Him. A house with ten kids doesn’t seem like a setting for a quiet place, but Susanne created her own spot by telling her children that when they saw her with her apron over her head, they were not to bother her. Two hours a day, Susanne would meet with God in her apron tent and pray.
Just like Susanne, we have to be creative with creating our places of solitude and quiet. Maybe it’s the car ride to daycare? Maybe it’s waking up 20 minutes before the house gets busy? Maybe it’s folding the towels or creating a ‘Do Not Disturb’ apron moment of our own? One of my favorite songs right now is “You Are My Hiding Place” by Selah and each time I hear this song I am reassured that it’s in our moment with God when we are restored. However this practice of stopping, sitting, and searching looks for you, I am convinced that when our hiding place is in Him, then our peace can be anywhere. Cheers to summer!