Today is the first day of school.
This morning, my kids got up, got themselves ready, and went out the door to catch the bus (even though Mom was planning to take them…not sure how I feel about that!). My precious daughter is starting fifth grade…her last year as an elementary student. My middle child is smack dab in the middle of middle school…how appropriate. My oldest walked through the doors of high school for the first time…how did that happen? They are growing up so quickly, and I’m not sure where the days have gone.
My home has gone from diapers and bottles and learning to read to basketball and card games and algebra. We’ve gone from a fairly quiet little home where everyone plays with their toys to the home where all the teenage boys hang out. There’s rarely a quiet moment and certainly never a dull moment.
Over the weekend, one of the neighbors and his son had gone fishing. They brought their catch of catfish to the house last night, and we had a big fish fry! Before I knew it, I had eight people gathered around my table (two adults and 6 kids) playing a rambunctious card game called Squares. The noise was almost overwhelming at some points! But, the laughter and smiles made it all worthwhile. It was a great way to end our summer.
Today, however, I’m struggling today to accept that summer is actually over already. Normally, the return of school is a return to sanity—albeit a frenetic sanity. We have a schedule. We have a routine. We replace some of the chaos with some semblance of order. Gone are the days of sleeping in and staying up late (not that working moms get that pleasure). Gone are the lazy days of running around the neighborhood. Gone are the days of late night basketball in the driveway. Gone are the days of kids calling me throughout my work day, peppering me with questions: How do I make enchiladas? Where is such-n-such? What time will you be home? Will you stop and buy ___ on your way home? Can someone come over and play?
We return to packing lunches and preparing for the next morning. We return to daily showers (yep, we still fight that battle with some of my kids). We return to school all day followed by soccer practice and basketball games and Wednesday church activities every night of the week. We return to non-stop activity that causes us to simply fall into bed at night, collapsing from sheer exhaustion.
But, I’m not ready this year.
I seem to be referring to this summer as the summer that was not. My kids spent a large portion of the summer with their dad for the first time ever. I found myself alone, in an unusually quiet house for five weeks. Despite the anxiety leading to that time, I survived—and actually enjoyed some solitude. My kids, however, missed out on five weeks with their friends. They, too, feel as if their summer was not complete.
In addition to being separated for a large portion of the summer, our vacation was canceled. I had planned a week off work as soon as they returned from their dad’s. We were going to spend our days hanging out together at the lake, fishing every morning and night, playing in the water all day. We were going to spend our days enjoying the boat and the water toys. We were going to simply enjoy being together without the interruptions of technology.
Instead, we’ve spent the last week and a half recovering from an unexpected surgery. No running the neighborhood with our friends. No basketball. Confined to the house. More technology than we cared to see. More movies and video games than anyone should watch or play. Fortunately, we have good friends who enjoy hanging out and supporting even when we can’t do anything active.
But today, the carefree days are over.
As I reflect on the summer and my precious kids—growing up all too quickly—I find myself praying special prayers for them as they return to school. Life is precious. I have been granted about 18 years with these little ones here under my protective shadow, 18 years of being able to mold them into the people God created them to be, 18 years to give them roots and wings. I’ve been given 18 years to lead them down the path toward adulthood. I’ve been given 18 years to teach them to walk with their Savior. I’ve been given 18 years to pour my life into them.
And, those years are passing all too quickly.
Sure. I will—Lord willing—have many more than 18 years. But, I know that my level of influence is dropping in their lives as they begin to seek freedom and independence, as they increasingly try to discover who they are apart from me. It’s a blessing to watch them grow and assert their independence, but sometimes I realize just how fleeting the days are.
So, today I pour out my heart to the Father for my children and this new school year.
For Blake, my oldest son, my gentle giant. I love how you still enjoy hugs from your mom! I love how you look for opportunities to make others laugh. I love that wry smile that sneaks across your face, revealing that single dimple in your cheek. I love how you are happy to be you, to be friends with anyone. You don’t see physical imperfections in people. You simply look beyond skin color and birth defects, and you make friends with those that others might choose to ignore. You are far less concerned with popularity and looks, and far more concerned with living your life the way God would have you to. Yes, you enjoy picking on your siblings and creating a little chaos here and there. But, I see your heart! And it is so BIG! And your leadership potential is beyond BIG! All of the kids flock to our house because of you! You have no idea how much ability you have planted inside of you!
For you, my precious son, I ask that God shows you the beauty deep within your soul. I pray that he gives you an amazing sense of confidence, an ability to recognize that greater is he that is in you than he that is in this world! I pray that you would see and know that you have great power working in you, the same power that raised Jesus from the dead (Ephesians 3:20-22)! I pray that you would know that nothing can stop you and your dreams if you fully submit them to your Savior. I ask God to show you that when you give your first and your best to him, he will bless you with the best. I pray that the spiritual hunger that has begun to take root in your heart would grow and blossom until the fruit is ripe and ready to be picked. I pray that you would tower over your peers spiritually as you do physically, that your faith would grow so wide and deep and high that you know mountains are going to shake in your presence!
To my little powerhouse, my invisible middle child, my Cole. I love your laugh! It is so incredibly contagious, and I absolutely love how you have no control of your laughter once you get started! You are passionate about life, and your enthusiasm has no boundaries. What you lack in physical stature, you more than make up in personality. And, don’t worry, I believe one day soon you will grow physically! You have never shied away from a challenge. You live your life with gusto, never letting fear deter you (It’s kinda scawry, but I can do it!). You have such an amazing way with people. I don’t think you will ever have an enemy! Your heart is so tender, compassionate, and kind, and you make me proud! What a joy it has been to be your mom these 12 years, and I can’t wait to watch you grow into your personality!
For you, my dear son, I ask the Lord to take your power and to make you meek so that you might inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5). I pray that you would learn to seek the Holy Spirit every single day so that you might live a spirit-controlled life. I pray that you would learn to love and accept yourself exactly as God made you, knowing that his way is best and he makes no mistakes. I pray you would look within and find the amazing gifts and talents God has planted in you and commit to using them for the glory of God, the furthering of his kingdom. I pray that you would take that inconquerable spirit, that passion that burns bright, and channel it into seeking your Savior and serving him whole-heartedly. I pray that you would spread your contagious joy everywhere you go, every day you live.
To my baby girl, my encourager, my star of the show, my Cassie. What is there to say about the little lady who steals hearts everywhere she goes, who steals the show every chance she gets? You are the girl who has known exactly what she wanted from the time she was born… and you don’t take no for an answer! You have such persistence! Even as I sit here typing, you have a microphone in hand, singing your heart out as if you are on the stage of America’s Got Talent! There’s no doubt God has great plans for you! From your striped socks to your outlandish sense of style, you make a statement wherever you go. But, you are so much more. You have a faith that makes adults jealous. You have the innate ability to know when someone needs encouragement, and you are quick to give it. And, you have a deep desire to see your friends come to Christ. What a blessing you are! I learn so much from you.
For you, my angel, I ask my Savior to take your talents and develop them so that they might be used for his glory all the days of your life. I pray that you would never lose that child-like faith, but instead that he might continue to grow your faith so that you might be an example to the world—your stage. I pray that he would use you to impact your circle, showing your friends the unconditional love of Jesus Christ, drawing your friends into the kingdom. I pray you would always use your words to lift others up, to encourage as God leads you. I ask the Father to keep your heart sensitive to his leading and obedient to that still small voice that prompts you to give of yourself for the good of others. May God use you in mighty ways in his kingdom!
The summer wasn’t a total loss for my kids. Their grandparents made their summer by giving them this little lady (on the right, shown with her sister who is now with my brother and his family). I suppose I’ll forgive my parents since Sadie brings such joy to my kids!