My kids love to build lemonade stands. But I hate them. I am really ashamed to admit this because it seems like something a mother should embrace as the joy of summertime. Kids selling lemonade is so small-town sentimental, so community creating. The idea that people might stop on their walks or pull over in their cars or on their bikes and give 25 cents to some kids for a half-filled cup of diluted sugar water is one of the simpler ways to happiness. Also, we live on a busy street and my kids and their neighbor friends have a primo spot with lots of traffic and customers.
But I dislike the sticky mess they make in the kitchen while they slosh pitchers of lemonade out through to the front door. It honestly just seems like more work for me.
Summertime in general seems like a lot of work and sometimes cramps my style. Yet, I long for time to experience God, his presence and his peace, and I long to enjoy the gifts of summer. Also, I want to do something big for God, if I can.
God with Us
One thing I’ve figured out is that if I can get up early in the morning, especially before the kids get up, I can sit in the quiet alone. I invite God to that time as I read devotionals, my Bible, and pray. But it has to be early because once the first kid rolls down, I am distracted, even if one of my daughters is just sitting quietly at the counter. I’ve never been good at ignoring them, even for a few minutes. I shut my spiritual books and dig in for the day, sometimes forgetting the peace of the morning. Oftentimes, longing for it to return.
I say I believe in the presence of God, who is with me, in both the quiet morning and in the chaos of plans and schedules for four children in our busy summertime. But I wonder how to invite him in. I long for stretches of uninterrupted productiveness like I have in the school year.
I find some answers in the prophet Isaiah who had a vision of the coming Messiah. Looking far into the future, he saw a virgin conceiving a baby, a miracle (Isaiah 7:14). The miracle would be born and be called “Emmanuel.” This was Jesus, born of Mary, a fulfillment of the prophet’s words (Matthew 1:23).
Emmanuel means “God with us.”
I think about God with me, in the sandbox, at the park, and perhaps during late nights with neighbors over impromptu bonfires and s’mores. How can this happen?
Can I hope to seek him in the ordinariness of my day when I believe, really believe, he is available to me in each moment? Is it too much to ask for all of my life to be imbued with the sense of the Holy?
I read last summer about a man who visited a reclusive monastery in Greece. The monks there were performing the ordinary tasks of life: chopping vegetables, taking out the garbage, sweeping the floor. During the mundane, they have cultivated the discipline of choosing to set their minds on Christ to allow the Holy Spirit to have his way, even in what seems to be the unholiest of tasks, such as cleaning the toilet.
God in Lemonade Stands
Every August for the last few years the Susan G. Komen 3-Day Breast Cancer walk happens on the sidewalk in front of my house. Our home is about two miles in from the beginning of the walk, the route smoothed out by concrete-eating machines that go after the uneven pavement in the sidewalk. People decked out in bright pink gear walk for people they have lost; they walk for friends and family who have been affected by breast cancer, or they walk because they feel compelled to stop cancer from devastating lives. For about 30 minutes our sidewalk is full of people—of humans that have their own chaotic busy lives, their own pain, their own stories and longings.
One year, I couldn’t help watching this constant flow without running to the bottom of the stairs and yelling, “Girls!! Let’s have a lemonade stand!” We had a few cans of the frozen mix left over from the week before’s business venture.
My kids were game and we couldn’t pull the table out to the end of the driveway and fill the pitchers fast enough. We offered cups of pink lemonade (free, of course) to the people who walked by—profound, lovely humans.
Suddenly, the sticky mess didn’t matter; all that mattered was being kind.
Later, when one of the walkers asked if she could use our bathroom, it was the least I could do. Later, she stood at my front door and we both cried as she told me about her mother who had lost her life to cancer. To offer my bathroom, my time to listen, was so easy for me; the clean up of the sticky counters was so little.
What that lemonade stand taught me was this: I want to do this more, to cultivate an attitude of seeing God in opportunities without having to get on a plane and fly far away. In my own front yard on a summer morning I can serve, listen, and show love.
In John 6, I read the story about a little boy with five loaves and two fish who showed up to hear Jesus speak with the multitudes. This story is for me, a mom of four children who can’t do a lot about the refugee crisis or world peace but can do some “little thing with great love,” to reference Mother Teresa.
I can do my small thing in my little part of the world and feel the presence of God in it, to invite the presence of God to my workaday world with kids and messes and lemonade stands.
How are wars stopped, people redeemed, suffering abated? I don’t know, but I have to believe it begins with minute acts of service. That where we are, in our own kitchens, at our own desks, we spark into fire the mighty power of a Savior by small, simple acts. Like the young boy who supplied his lunch, I can give God what I have and trust that he will do with it as he pleases.
My little lemonade stand that day didn’t change history, but it was enough of an offering for God to use. He will work through our faithful acts to influence lives and change things. We only need to be conscious of the opportunity to do what we can, even if the ways to act are tiny: the way we speak of others, the way we give of our time, or even how we give small cups of lemonade to quench the thirst of weary walkers.
God, this is my offering to you. I give you my front yard, my time at the park, my kitchen to be a holy offering.
Summer is an expansive time with kids and includes some natural disorder. God calls us to inhabit each moment and to do everything for his glory. It simply takes our willingness. This is the summer of my offering. Let this be my summer of small things done with great love.