I just returned home from dropping off my three children at their first day of school. It’s hard to believe that the summer is over! We’ve had a great summer. Nothing spectacular happened, but there was a sense of peace and calm that seemed to be the overwhelming emotion of our home. We had planned to take some mini-vacations, many of which did not happen. But, we enjoyed our friends and neighbors—and simply being together.
As I dropped my kids off at school today, I experienced a multitude of emotions: joy, sadness, disbelief, pride. For the first time, I do not have any children in the elementary school. My two boys got out at the middle school together, and then I dropped my daughter and her friend off at the intermediate school. I don’t know how my children grew up without me noticing, but they have. They are all amazing little people, and I know that it will be a great year for them. But, they aren’t kids any more.
My morning has been spent reflecting on this upcoming school year and the journey upon which they are embarking. As a mom, I always hope that I have made all of the proper preparations for back to school. Last year, in the midst of the chaos of juggling life as a single mom, I found myself at the local office supply store the night before school started. I was frantically throwing school supplies in the basket regardless of the cost. We managed to get to school with (almost) everything they needed, but I promised to be better prepared next time. This year, I managed to purchase school supplies about two weeks in advance—and get some great bargains. It was nice to enjoy the final days of summer without the stress of school supply shopping hanging over my heads.
By his divine power, God has given us everything we need for living a godly life. We have received all of this by coming to know him, the one who called us to himself by means of his marvelous glory and excellence. 2 Peter 1:3
As we loaded their school supplies in their bags, I could only pray that they were spiritually ready for the upcoming school year as well. With two children in middle school, I know that peer pressure is increasing. I want the assurance that they are prepared to handle the pressure, that their faith is strong enough to face attacks. I want to know that they have everything they need to live their lives for God’s glory. Just as I checked and rechecked hoping that my children had a generous supply of school supplies, God has ensured that my children have everything they need to live a godly life in the face of peer pressure. I must remind them daily of His love, of His provisions, of His promise of a way out in the face of temptation (1 Corinthians 10:13).
Each of my children—especially my daughter—has been carefully contemplating what to wear today. My middle child (who is experiencing his first day of middle school) has been told that the first day sets the tone for the next three years. He wanted to make sure that he was wearing the right shoes and socks. Gone are the days of shopping at the discount store, the days of mom picking out their clothes on her own. Now, we are facing the pressures of wearing the right brands and expressing our personalities through our clothes choices.
So, chosen by God for this new life of love, dress in the wardrobe God picked out for you: compassion, kindness, humility, quiet strength, discipline. Be even-tempered, content with second place, quick to forgive an offense. Forgive as quickly and completely as the Master forgave you. And regardless of what else you put on, wear love. It’s your basic, all-purpose garment. Never be without it. Colossians 3:12-14
While I remind my kids that labels are not important, I also want them to be proud of their appearance. But, even more importantly, I want my children to be dressed in God’s wardrobe—a wardrobe of love and forgiveness, kindness and humility. I must trust that my constant exhortations to speak with kindness and respect, to respond as God would want us to, have not fallen on deaf ears. I must trust that God’s spirit living within each child is there, convicting and guiding their attitudes and their hearts.
Last night, I watched as my children looked over the school lunch menu and decided whether to eat at school or pack a lunch. My children are discovering that when they pack their lunches, they get to pocket their lunch money AND they get to feed their bodies with healthier options. Although the cheese fries may look good, it is not the best way to keep their bodies in optimal health. I am proud of their choices.
But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!
Just as I want them to feed on the proper food choices, I want my children to have a steady intake of the Word of God. Therefore, we make church attendance a priority and we read scripture on the way to school each morning. I encourage my children to read the Word themselves, to take the initiative to seek God. I know that the word of God will never return void (Isaiah 55:11), but that the result will be fruit in my children’s lives. A steady diet of God’s word will always accomplish His purposes.
Perhaps the most important part of this upcoming school year is the education that my children will receive. We put a very high priority on education in our home, and good grades are not optional. My children were all blessed with above average intelligence, and I expect them to give their best efforts in class. I have always encouraged the joy of learning, and I want them to participate in any extra activities that might enhance their classroom education. I want them to be prepared for college and beyond when they graduate from high school, and I want them to have a strong foundation.
Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
My children have heard me quote this scripture for many years. I am a firm believer that victory over sin comes by bathing our mind in scripture, by taking up the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:16), by thinking on those things that are lovely, noble, true, and right (Philippians 4:8). Victory comes from an inner transformation that comes through the mind, a transformation that travels from our mind to our heart and impacts our actions. I encourage my children to be very cautious what they watch and think about because what we allow into our minds impacts our daily lives. I pray every day that my children will have pure minds that are focused on God so that He can keep them in perfect peace (Isaiah 26:3).
As I handed off my children to their teachers today—individuals who will have a huge impact on the success of their school year—I pray that these teachers will also share our faith. I pray that they will love and care for my children in my absence. I pray that they will have a positive influence, that they will encourage and push them in their education.
Father to the fatherless, defender of widows—this is God, whose dwelling is holy. God places the lonely in families. Psalm 68:5-6a
In recent months, I have discovered that God never intended for any of us to solo-parent our children. Yes, I am a single parent with very little assistance from the father of my children. But, married or not, God wants to be the co-parent. In reality, He doesn’t want you to parent at all; He wants to parent through you. Just as I hand my children off to their teachers, I have been releasing my children daily into God’s hands, begging Him to be the father to my children. I remind Him that my children are His and that He must guide them. I offer myself to Him as a vessel through which He can impart His wisdom and guidance to my children.
The new school year brings new challenges, new friends, new responsibilities. It brings new, often very hectic, schedules. It brings opportunities for growth and change. It’s a new beginning, a new adventure. We are filled with excitement and anticipation as we begin a new phase of life.
For now, however, I will simply soak in the sounds of silence and peace. After all, the kids will be home in a few hours…