Today is the second day of school. We crushed day one. Knocked it out of the ball park.
I only forgot to make one lunch.
Only one kid forgot her water bottle.
I only had to make one school run to drop off a lunch.
I took absolutely no pictures of any of my children.
We did not get any new haircuts or backpacks or first day of school outfits.
Only one bus got lost.
Only one kid lost his lunch box. (thankfully not the child who insisted on the Vera Bradley lunch box, that has obviously been designed and hand crafted for the child who doesn't eat. It has room for about four grapes and two crackers. Maybe three..if you crush them.)
Only one teacher is highly questionable.
Only one kid said, "I don't like school," before heading off to bed.
Only three children brought 6,000 papers in giant envelopes home for me to sign, as opposed to the 8,000 forms I got last year, when I had four kids in grade school.
And only one kid might have already annoyed his teacher.
Oh, back to school. I really am not a fan.
The day before the first day of school, I sat on my front porch in prayer. You might have heard me shouting, "Saint Monica!!!?? Are you there??!!" Because kids, school, and all the worry that comes with it, like a stupid package deal...all of it...it is just a lot. And I figured Saint Monica, our Patron Saint of Mothers, would understand. I figured Saint Monica, who knows about kids and about worry, could help.
It can not just be me, right?
School? It is a lot.
But we make it a lot, don't we?
I mean, we start preparing our kids for college when they are still wearing pull-ups.
We start touring colleges when they barely know their way around the high school.
They practice sports 56 times a week because clearly, they are all professional athletes just waiting to happen.
We ask 17-year-olds, who barely know how to hold a conversation that isn't in texting format, "What do you want to do with your life?"
Third grade teachers look at their students on the first day of school, and say, "If you want to make it in the fourth grade...."
We ask 18-year-olds to declare majors, otherwise they will be labeled undecided. Undeclared. Might as well call them unworthy. Unimportant. Unsuccessful.
You know what it is like? It's like telling a four-year-old to get ready because Christmas is almost here, and that Santa is coming with all of their presents....in July. Then we expect them to not cry or complain when they realize how long they have to wait.
We whip them up into butter, get them thinking about everything yet to come and all of the things they will need to do, and then we sit back, pour our fourth glass of wine, and shake our heads wondering why kids today have so much anxiety.
Can I just say, I have spent nearly my entire life undecided. I basically majored in "Undeclared," with a minor in "I know absolutely nothing." Amazing that I even graduated, really.
And dare I say, as I write, I am still undecided on so many things. Especially what to make for dinner.
But there is ONE THING I am decided on.
And on this, I do not waver.
I am decided on the one thing that actually matters.
That one decision, that one declaration, that makes everything else...all those indecisions...just a little bit easier, a little more clear.
I decided long ago never to walk in anyone's shadow. If I fail, if I succeed, at least I know that I believed. No matter what they take from me, they can't take away my dignity. Because the greatest love of all, is happening to me. I found the greatest love of all inside of me....
Just kidding. Sorry. I couldn't resist singing that.
So, for real.
That one decision?
Life changed for me the day that I decided that my identity was not in my talents, in my job, in my children's success, in my mothering, in my finances, in my home, in my body, in my baking, or in how good of a wife I am (and thank God for that).
My identity is in CHRIST and Christ alone.
No one else.
Because here is the thing. If you do not know that you belong to Christ, that you are a beloved child of God, that your worth is not in what you do, but in whose you are, then being undecided about things like school, and marriage, and career and where to sit in the cafeteria, can feel really, really, REALLY horrible. And our children?? What about them? In a time when God is unpopular and removed from everything and they are told to do whatever they want so long as they are happy, where do they stand? In a time where we spend so much of our energy making sure that they play the right sports, and get those good grades, and apply to the best schools, and get those scholarships, what about them? Have we told them why they matter? Or have we been too busy telling them what they must achieve? Have we reminded them that their worth has nothing to do with how many followers they have on social media? Do they know there is something, someONE, so much greater than what many have settled for? Do they know their true identity? Do they know whose they are?
Because I don't think that they do.
I think that they think that they belong to the world.
And friends, this breaks my heart; when I picture how hard life will be for our children, should they never come to know their true worth, and how frightening it must be for them to wake up not having any idea as to who they are. And when my mind goes there, well, that's when you'll hear me screaming for Saint Monica, to come quickly, to intercede, to put my tears to good use. Our children deserve so much better than to be defined by anything other than their names etched in the palms of God's hands.
You know, I am not the kind of parent who really cares that much about grades. I am the parent that cares more about their hearts. Maybe because my own grades were not that good, but I think more so, because I have lived much of my life with a misdirected heart. And I just see too much worry in our children's faces today; too much pain, too much comparison, too much obsession and worshiping of all the wrong things. And as I prepare to send my first born off to college this weekend, all I can pray and hope for is that the foundation I have laid down for him is solid. The seed has been planted. My whisper in his conscience will one day be louder than the screams of this world. The sports, the grades, the college years...sure, of course, they matter. But it is what has been learned under our roof that matters the most. The domestic church. This is where it all begins. And you pray that just a little bit of what you have done...not said or preached, but actually lived out strong...you pray to God that just a bit of it sticks when they are gone.
Funny. Yesterday morning I asked my 6th grader what sort of things he wanted me to pack in his school lunches, and in confidence he said, "We'll figure it out." I was hoping for something a little bit more clear...like, I don't know, a sandwich, or apples. "We'll figure it out" was not sounding like much help at all. But an hour later, kneeled before the altar, with three kids at school and one still in my basement, I stared at the crucifix, thinking that maybe, if I stare hard enough, I will hear some answers. And so I prayed...keep them all safe, Lord...they will be safe, right??....and guide them to good people, healthy relationships...please, Lord, lead them to You, You can do that right?....teach them that their identity has nothing to do with anything but You, ok?? Will you promise me, that Lord??...and I stared and stared until finally...I heard.
"We'll figure it out." He said.
But not so much a "you and me, Laura...we got this" more of a "I have got this...and when it is all revealed, you will see...it will all be figured out."
I am happy to report that everyone left this morning with a lunch, no water bottles were left behind, and we are hoping for smoother bus rides that arrive on time and that maybe that one teacher was just having a rough day. The young man in the basement, who packs up and goes on Sunday, just surfaced to say that he is bored, which only means he is ready to move on. And yes, in case you are wondering, he is undecided. And that is not a bad thing. It gives God much to work with, actually. And He is already working. And I believe that if my son were able to sit still for just long enough, without comparison to his peers, he too would hear Him say, "We'll figure it out." And as I call on Saint Monica I can't help but smile, because I am reminded that it is ok to have a child who is undeclared, so long as he has a mother who declares; who declares day and night, truth and love, over her children, who will never let go of hope, whose tears matter, who does not need to figure it all out, because He already has.
My children? I declare that they are not their grades, they are not their schools, they are not their sports, their looks, their talents or successes. I declare that they are the worthy and beautiful and good children of an Almighty God, a faithful God, a gracious God, a God that has good plans for them, a God that has it all figured out. This, I have decided, and this I declare, so in case they ever forget their identity, they will always have a mother around to remind them, to declare truth over them, when the world tries to decide truth for them.
And if they ever forget their lunches, well, I will take care of that as well.
Regional Area Coordinator
Walking with Purpose
Read Laura's blog here: http://www.lauramaryphelps.com/