Today is the first day of summer vacation and my oldest son, an almost 13-year old who has inherited a bit of both me and Ryan's sarcasm, came upstairs this morning, let out a big sigh and said, "Ok, let's get the summer lecture out of the way." He's saucy, I know. But he was also right. I sure did have some things I wanted to say.
Last summer I tried to do a Bible study with my kids and it was an epic failure. There were tears and arguments and groundings and it was so opposite to the whole point of it all that I threw in the towel by week 3. It was also a solid reminder it's probably a good thing for us all that I don't homeschool anymore. Anyways, I struggled with the fact that my kids weren't loving this whole "living for Jesus" thing. They'd rather play outside or watch TV than sit and talk with me about loving thy neighbour. Ugh. Kids. They were really ruining my whole "I'm an awesome parent" vibe.
Fast-forward to a few weeks ago, when I started the mental gear-up for summer break. You know the little pep-talks we moms give ourselves a few weeks before the school year ends? The ones where we tell ourselves this will be the best summer yet; that there will be no complaining or laziness because we will be one step ahead of them. We will have chore charts assembled and day-camps scheduled. We will have a running list of all the best free things to do within a 20 minute drive of our homes. We will have crafts picked out and ready to go. Who knows? Maybe the kids will even fall in love with the "prepare for your next school year" workbooks we bought them. Our kids won't be TV and video game zombies because this is the summer we will have finally out-prepared them. (Although, for real, if you need ideas on how to transition your kids away from TV and technology, check out my friends over at thinkbaby.org - they have some solid suggestions on getting kids active!)
It was in the middle of all this mental madness that I started thinking about pulling out the half-finished Bible study from last summer. The kids are older, I reasoned. It may be a little less like pulling teeth. But I felt this small, subtle voice whisper to my soul no. NO? Don't do the Bible study? I gawked. I'm a Bible study girl; I love doing them, teaching them, reading them, even writing them for heaven's sakes. Get thee behind me Satan, I thought. But that little voice has persistently (and loudly) continued over the last several weeks nailing thoughts, ideas, and solid convictions into my spirit. It confirmed that yes, God was in fact telling me no. No Bible study. No more talking. No more sitting. No more "one days." Lets do something new, he said. Let's take your kids on an adventure. God's ideas are always so much more exciting than mine.
"So here's what we are doing this summer," I told my kids as they gathered around the table for my lecture. "We are not sitting and studying the Bible" (I'm sure I shouldn't mention to you that they all cheered because I feel like this somehow indicates something about my mothering. But I'm also an open-book type of gal, so there it is. They cheered and smiled at one another as if they had narrowly escaped a forced summer school with their mom). I ignored their cheers and pressed on. "We are not sitting and talking about the Bible either. We are going to get up and do what it says. Perhaps," I told them, "we will learn everything better simply by doing it rather than just reading about it. So this summer, we are going to do an experiment in love."
Sidenote: I'd only recently heard of Bob Goff's ministry and book, Love Does (I KNOW. I'm so late to the game). In fact, a few weeks ago, in the middle of all my "summer prep," I scribbled the following on a sheet of paper:
Without reading Love Does or even knowing much about Bob or what exactly it is he does (sorry Bob!), I simply loved the title. The idea of "doing love" resonated so deeply with what God has been stirring-up in me to teach my kids. So I bought the book and we started reading it this morning.
Back to the scribbled notes up there. These are the two questions we are keeping in front of us this summer: what does love look like? and what would love do in ___________ (you fill in the blank) situation. I let my kids make a list of ways we could be tangible with love these next couple of months. The ideas they came up with blew my mind. By 11:00 we'd already signed up to deliver meals to home-bound elderly people in our neighbourhood. Tomorrow morning we are helping out at a local recovery home that we love. Seth has always had a heart for the homeless and the next thing on his list is to have a fundraiser and donate the proceeds to the local homeless shelter ("Maybe it'll be enough for one of them to buy a house?" Seth wondered). I'm sitting here looking at a whole page full of ideas, far too many than we can do in one summer, and that excites me to no end.
We are also working on the whole "doing love" thing at home. Simple things like sharing blankets or letting the other brother sit in the front seat of the car or letting someone else eat the last bagel even though it's your very favorite. And some not so-simple things like forgiving serious hurts and with-holding cutting words. We've already learned today that sometimes love stays silent when anger is trying to break through. My kids even asked me "mom what would love do" when I was at a certain tipping point today. Oh man. This sure is going to be a fun adventure.
I have a lot of dreams for this life. I think some of them are God-breathed dreams he put in me and some are God-sized dreams only he can carry out. But none of them hold a candle to the desire I have for my kids to be head-over-heels in love with Jesus Christ. Not brainwash them with doctrine or inundate them with Sunday school facts. But that they'd taste and see, for themselves, that when we are extravagantly loved by God, we can't help but extravagantly love others.
I'm not foolish enough to believe that this summer is going to be perfect. But maybe I'm just foolish enough to believe that this adventure could change us all. Because at the end of the day, I just want my kids to love Jesus….and for my boys to put the toilet seat down. I'm not saying it's a close second, but it sure would be amazing.