Hey, y’all! This week we’re talking about the start of school, football time in Texas, my trip to Lifeway, our school mascot, and more! Thanks for listening!
She was nervous. It was first-day-back jitters–the kind where you wonder if your friend circle has shifted over the summer without your knowledge. When you’re not entirely sure how things are going to be when you walk through the school doors. I remember that feeling so well. Eighth grade is not a place I would ever want to be again. I hugged her tight in our cozy kitchen.
When I was younger I used to wonder what I would say to my children as we parted ways for the day. Back then, when they were all in our little nest, underfoot all day long, my buddies, it was hard to imagine what it would be like to send them out into the world. And then the world changed. How could I have possibly dreamed up THIS world, this place where my 13 year old, even with no access to social media or the internet, deals daily with kids her own age who are questioning their sexuality, who are suicidal or self-harming, who are already beginning to struggle with addictions, who have no frame of reference for who Jesus is or how things could be different? This, in small town America. The world has certainly shifted right underneath our feet.
All of those little phrases I used to imagine saying to my kids as they skipped off to school just don’t seem sufficient in the spiritual and moral turmoil of our day. In the lostness. In the wandering. So, this morning when my first-born stepped out of the car for her last first day of junior high school, I looked into her beautiful, clear blue eyes and said with a little smile, “Just honor God.”
It’s the most we can ask of each other.
It’s what we must ask of our believing children. And it’s what they should be able to see in us. These are days for courageous obedience. For fierce faithfulness. For total surrender.
“Just honor God,” I told her, and she nodded, turned, and disappeared into the crowded hallways of her mission field.
Well, school starts tomorrow, and usually this is where I would write my annual woe-is-me post about my kids going back to school. This isn’t that. But, do know that in my heart I am absolutely grieving the beginning of another school year. It’s not that I’m not excited for the kids–I am. It’s just that I simply hate to see them go.
With the idea of clinging to the last few glorious moments of summer in mind, I wanted to tell you about a fun tradition that the kids and I have in the last week of summer. It’s simple, it’s inexpensive, and it helps to create a unique and fun keepsake that I hope they’ll enjoy for a long time to come.
When Adelade was about to start kindergarten, I took her to the mall the day before. I just felt like I had to get one last fun thing in before she skipped away into the sunset with her amazing kindergarten teacher. I bought her a cookie with rainbow icing, and after we window shopped for awhile, we walked past a photo booth, and on a whim we climbed into it and took some silly pictures.
Little did I know that day that we were beginning a hilarious and fun end-of-summer tradition. For the past seven years, we have managed to find a photo booth sometime during the last week of summer, and we keep climbing inside and documenting our hairstyles, height changes, and wrinkle progression (ahem).
Our rules are that you can’t start doing your pictures until the week before kindergarten. So, Emerald doesn’t have any yet. And, on the final pose (of the four pictures the booth takes), all school aged kids jump in and smile. I let the kids choose whatever wacky pattern they want (Sawyer’s past two years have been cats in space and pizza and tacos). When the kids are seniors, I plan to have all thirteen photostrips framed with a custom mat. Each time you go, the booth gives you three copies of each photo strip, so I’ll be able to make a framed gift for each of them and one for myself!
It’s going to be such a fun keepsake. But, I think what I love best about it is just the experience. We all look forward to going, and we laugh and laugh over the funny faces and the frantic decisions of what to do when the camera flashes. After our pictures print, we walk over to the cookie place in the mall and we eat our cookies and laugh at our pictures and squeeze all the joy we can out of the last few days of summertime.
One tip: be sure you label the pictures on the back! You think you’ll remember forever how old they were, but as the pictures pile up, it’ll get harder to tell.
Today we took our pictures and got our cookies, and later Sawyer asked me if life was better before I had kids. I looked into his little freckled face, one day shy of third grade. I didn’t know how to explain that life is obviously, infinitely, shockingly more worrisome, more joyful, more terrifying, more hilarious, more wonderful with these babies in my life. Tomorrow morning they head out to conquer the world once again. And, before I know it, we’ll be at the threshold of another glorious summer. In the meantime, there are plenty of school year memories to be made and treasured.
Do you have any neat end-of-summer or back-to-school traditions? Do tell!
I have a pretty piece of furniture in my living room. I remember when Chad and I bought it. We had been married for a year, and our wedding china was still in boxes. We were completely broke, but I decided I wanted a china cabinet to show off all of my beautiful dishes. Chad determined that he would find one for $50. I laughed in his face.
But, later that afternoon, we ran across one at a garage sale. It was marked $75, but as soon as they saw us looking at it, the owners ran over and asked if we would take it for $50. Sold.
We brought it home, and for fourteen years now it has housed all kind of pretty finds, family crystal, and some of my favorite little things to look at.
Recently, I painted it green, and I love it even more. In a home with three kids, this piece of furniture with all its breakable goodies is one thing in this place that is all me, all things kids can’t touch, all prettiness and girliness and greatness.
The other day I was walking past it when I noticed something was a little out of place. I saw colors that weren’t right. I saw sharp plastic edges in the middle of a world of delicate glass and lace. I looked a little closer.
One of my sweet little candy dishes had somehow become a storage space for Legos. I laughed to see them in there, grey and red man-world toys tucked carefully inside a crystal bowl. I laughed and I thought about how I was going to have to dig those little pieces out of there, since they just don’t belong in this beautiful space that I had created.
And every day since, I have walked past those Legos, and every day I leave them there.
I remember what life was like back then, back when Chad and I were searching for our $50 china cabinet. We were happy. Our world was clean and neat. We went where we wanted. We stayed out late. We spent our money on movies and dinners and clothes and fun. Our house was company ready. Our hair was good. We made plans, and the plans came to fruition. We were care-free back in those days.
Our life was pretty, kind like a little green china cabinet. It was filled with neat things that we enjoyed. It was orderly and attractive and probably fairly enviable.
Then one day, we found out that we were going to have a baby.
She burst into our world like a tiny tidal wave. Everything that filled our lives before was rearranged and pushed around by the tide of parenthood.
Twice more the waves came over us. Two more babies. Sometimes we paddled enough to keep our heads above water. Other times we were tossed around like seaweed in the surf.
But, as each wave hit, we could see more clearly that what we thought was perfect before was actually missing a little more chaos, a little more laughter, a little more dependence on God. With each child born, we got a little more of all of it.
Our pretty and ordered life stopped looking perfect. And, it was more beautiful than ever.
Maybe that’s why I can’t bring myself to dump the ugly little Legos out of my pretty dish. Because despite the fact that they are grey and boyish and sharp and out of place, they remind me what a privilege, what a grace and a mercy that it is that I am a mama. That I have a messy house and a pile of laundry that would shock you and a million reasons to smile every single day. They remind me that perfection isn’t equal to beauty. But, maybe a handful of Legos in a fancy dish is.
Tomorrow I’ll send my first two babies back to school. The goodbye is always a heartache. They will bounce out of here with excited grins and new backpacks, and they’ll come home bubbling with stories of an amazing day. I will establish a new routine. I will be just fine.
Life with kids is filled with hellos and goodbyes. It is imperfect. It is beautiful. And, it goes on.
Sometimes too slowly. Sometimes, like tonight, way too fast.
And, when I send them out the door tomorrow, maybe I will walk over to my china cabinet and lift the delicate little lid on that certain crystal bowl. And then, through the tears, I will smile. Because somehow those ugly little Legos are a beautiful reminder of just how amazing this life is.
These three little children’s lives are washing right over us. And, we will swim. Tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that.
And, someday, when I’m eighty and my feet are firmly planted on dry ground once again, I’ll bet you wouldn’t be surprised to see an old green china cabinet in a corner someplace, still holding the little crystal dish filled with Legos. And, even then, I’ll bet it will make me smile.