Summer is in full swing, and I’m stuck finding the balance of being a fun, spontaneous, and carefree mom and struggling with the daily challenge to purposefully engage our children’s hearts and minds amidst their expectation of total relaxation and lots of screen time. Yes, our kids have more free time on their hands, and I have lots of work deadlines to meet. Honestly, it’s just easier to make summer a free-for-all, but I know that’s in no one’s best interest. The struggle to find balance is real, my friends. Please tell me I’m not the only one.
My own mom must have wrestled with something similar because I’ll never forget her simple declaration to me when I was fifteen. “Honey, with summer break beginning, I’ve signed you up as a weekly volunteer at the nursing home.”
You did what? I didn’t say it, but I thought it. Dread, discomfort, and nerves set in. I wasn’t comfortable around old people. This was not how I envisioned my summer break. Yet my mom knew her high school daughter and knew what I needed more than I needed television and endless free time.
My mom was (and is) a studier of my spirit — a wonderful lesson I’ve gleaned from her and applied with my own children. By stripping away my comfort zone and cracking open the door to a God-sized appointment, she knew my selfish heart would soften.
It took two weeks for me to get past the bad attitude. Two weeks of complaining, two weeks of discomfort, and two weeks spent attempting to change my mom’s mind (sorry, Mom), but then it happened: a whole new world opened for me. A self-absorbed high schooler crossed generational lines and experienced fully what Psalm 78 talks about: the “things we have heard and known and that our fathers have passed down to us” (v. 3). I sat at the feet of wisdom and soaked in stories that breathed of lives well spent, as well as desperate cries from those whose paths held soul-wrenching regret, who longed for a do-over.
It was as if the Holy Spirit whispered, “Listen up, young thing. Open your heart to what I have in store for you this summer. Tear off the blinders and learn from the past generations. Heed their words, share their stories, and remember.”
I remember all right. I remember the hard mixture of smells — of sickness and fragility and disinfectant and lots of sweet, soft perfumes and tobacco. I remember the juxtaposition of sounds — of love and laughter from a grandchild’s rare visit, hidden amid cries and cursing during physical therapy. Those sensory memories never quite leave you.
But more importantly, I remember the transforming power of their life stories. Stories that opened a door through which He boldly stepped and carved a new path. Stories of chivalry and war-torn loves. Stories of sacrifice through service. Stories of loneliness and loss, of burying both child and spouse. All summer long, I soaked up sentiments shared by generations who had gone before, wisdom weathered through decades of life and death, gleaned from people who could never accept an invitation to come to the house but who could be part of my life if I’d only go to theirs.
That summer marked me. In fact, being pushed, or more like catapulted out of my comfort zone, marked me in such a way that this summer I’m passing on a similar gift to our fifteen-year-old daughter as I invite her to expand her boundaries. Here’s the reality for us all. Our natural instinct doesn’t call us to step out of our comfort zone and choose to serve when it’s hard or hot, dirty or discouraging, but we get to. In fact, minutes before finishing this post, my daughter and I had a
huge argument “love spat” about summer expectations, goals, and chores, so don’t assume it’s always cupcakes and glitter. We regrouped and shifted our “have to” mentality to a “get to” partnership with God’s plan.
For you were called to be free, brothers and sisters: only don’t use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but serve one another through love.
Galatians 5:13 (CSB)
We brainstormed ways to serve and one option included volunteering at a multi-generational, special needs horse camp. Months into it, the stories written on her heart are too numerous to include, but I’ll leave you with this.
She second-guessed her ability, her age, her experience, her gifting. Se felt so uncomfortable since she didn’t know anyone, but after her first day, she jumped in the car with joy on her face and horse manure on her shoes exclaiming, “I get what you mean when you said, ‘As you pour out, He’ll pour in and fill you up’ because He did it, Mom. You know how nervous I was, but it was amazing. As I spent time with them and learned their stories, it made my heart come alive.”
Are you experiencing that kind of excitement in your own life? Does your heart come alive?
It’s often hard, yet I continue to preach to myself, “As I pour out, He pours in and fills me in ways I could never expect.” That’s abundance.
Can you join me this summer as we step our of our comfort zone?
As I pour out, He pours in and fills me in ways I could never expect. -Jen Schmidt (@beautyandbedlam): Click To Tweet Leave a Comment
Ahhh what spot on wisdom & also spirit led.. you inspire me to share intentionally with my 11 grandkids! Praying a few will take the suggestion and their parents will realize that it cannot be a free for all summer in the screening way y’all are familiar with.. thanks Jen.. blessings to all of your family and enjoy the special God winks of summer:) sunshine, sunsets, beautiful creation and amazing grace abounds in all your days
Jen Schmidt says
Thank you, Sadie –
Yes, my mom is passionate now with her grand kids about investing in them as well. Your 11 have a gift in you, I know.
Thanks, Jennifer! I was a nurse, before I retired 5 years ago. Now I volunteer for hospice. My patients bring me so much joy and open my eyes to new things with each visit. I take them homemade brownies and flowers from my garden. But mainly I hold hands, adjust hearing aids and just listen. We exchange stories.
Giving always reaps rewards, either right away or in heaven later on. Your daughter is growing and blossoming before your eyes!
I can’t imagine how difficult hospice work is, but I know that you have such an amazing opportunity to encourage and point them to Jesus’s love in such extraordinary ways.
Grateful for your servants heart.
Beth Williams says
You and your mother did a great service to your children. You taught them valuable lessons that will never be forgotten. I wish my parents had done the same for me. It would be nice to have some experience to draw upon when deciding on what career path or job to take. More than that you taught them to serve others. Showing them that giving is more rewarding than receiving. Young people often feel inadequate for some jobs. It takes someone giving them the push out of their comfort zones. You also taught them to value & enjoy being around people different from themselves. To listen & care for others. Those stories they hear will be forever embedded in their minds, hearts & souls. For me I am always on the look out for ways to help others. I was caregiver for my aging parents. That involved weekly visits, shopping, numerous hospital visits, etc. There were days I didn’t like it, but now I feel rewarded by knowing I helped them when they needed it. God spoke to me through another man. At lunch one day dad was having trouble eating. I offered to feed him. The man sitting to the right said “You will get jewels in your crown for this”. Now I look for opportunities to cook or gather food for less fortunate. Enjoy helping others. Your children will benefit this way also. Thank you for pushing your daughter out into the world & showing her how to make a difference. We need more people like that.
Beth – I’m continually encouraged by your servants heart and the way you look to pour into others.
Thank you for pointing others to Him.
And yes, my parents using these intentional times to model and point us to the most important things is a gift I do not take for granted.
Thank you for this. I’m a mom in my mid thirties with 2 boys, 6 & 9, & I’m constantly wondering if I’m doing enough to shape them into God fearing, God following, service oriented young boys. So many times my older son gets frustrated with me & I wonder, am I too hard on him? Do I expect too much? Have I spoiled him? I pray constantly that I can instill in my boys the kind of confidence & selflessness you write about here. Your article is an inspiration to keep on striving for that!
Lisa, being a mom is tough. I raised to girls , they have left the lord, left me, we work hard to raise them but then they have free will, i should have prayed more . Just do the best you can live your boys but remember in their adult years they have free will, when my kids came out of college they were different . Not sure what happened while they were their. Prayers, prayers, prayers, to all the mums.
I’m sitting in the low summer sun. Watching my young children dip in and out of the lake. This tugged at me. I’ll think about how we can “pour out” together. Thank you.
I love this, what a great idea and opportunity provided by your Mum and now by you. Acts of service for others is a wonderful experience!
Jennifer, thank you so much for sharing this and by doing so, for encouraging and inspiring other moms or even single people to get out of their comfort zone, iIt reminded me on my own parents. Growing up in communist Germany (East Germany) without knowing God, my parents always made sure we (5 siblings) know how hard it is to earn the money to buy just the necessary things like food and clothing, not to talk to pay rent and all that comes with it. From the age of 14 we were allowed to work during our 8 weeks summer break, but only for 4 weeks of it and only 2 weeks in a row. So my parents helped us to find useful “jobs” (places to serve) for 2 weeks, then we stayed home by ourselves for 2 weeks doing chores around the apartment we lived in, played outside, did some work for school to not forget everything, and spent a lot of time in the public library. Then we went for the second 2-week work and then we had another 2 weeks to relax and to slowly prepare for school again. We had no money to have vacation with my parents but for us, every day was like vacation with our parents because in the evening we got to share about the day and it was so full of joy and learning and laughter…
I applied the same “pattern” when my son was about 14. Fortunately, by that time the Wall between East and West Germany was down already and I was working in a law firm as a legal assistant. Thankfully, the lawyers allowed me to bring my son and had him do some useful jobs like organizing files, filing papers, printing…and they paid him for it. My son loved this kind of jobs more than the money and did this for all the years to come until he graduated after grade 13 (yes, at that time we had 13 years of school). He could spend time with me, got work experience, and on top got paid. He took here and there a day off to spend with friends. He usually also spent the last week of summer to prepare for school and to visit more with friends. Oh, I can tell you, it was so much peace and joy in my heart about that.
Reflecting back on all of this, it definitely was God’s Spirit guiding my parents and then myself to help the next generation find their way to serve out of their comfort zone. My son now volunteers on a regular basis in an “old folks home”, he still lives in Berlin, Germany, is a proud dad of a now 8 year young son himself and has all intentions to raise his son in the same way (he is a single dad and accepted Jesus into his heart and life a couple years ago)…so grateful for that!
I myself accepted Jesus into my heart and life in 2009, just 2 years after I came to Canada. I am a passionate Christ follower that goes out of her comfort zone on a regular basis because this is how we learn and grow. It is always amazing and fascinating to see and our experience what we are able to go when we follow the sometimes soft or not so soft push or call to step outside the “box”.
Thank you again for sharing that. A great reminder of us not to get too comfortable in a world full of needs.
Bless your servant heart,
Amy Harper says
Thank you for sharing! Summer is definitely hard on us parents.