Today my three kiddos started back to school for another year. The first day of school is always a weird jumble of emotions for me. I vacillate between being ecstatic that they have some place to be other than home, happy for a normal routine again after a long summer without much structure, and pushing down that giant lump in my throat that forms knowing they are one more day closer to walking out the front door for good, and this year will go by just as fast as all of the others have.
I think I’m probably not alone in this and most parents have a little bit of worry inside about what lies ahead for their children at the start of a new school year – will they like their teacher? Will their teacher like them? Will they choose kind friends? Will they get picked on because of their lisp/birthmark/crooked teeth/loud laugh/weight? Will they be pressured into doing something they don’t want to do? Will they come home crying because their best friend said they can’t be friends anymore? The list goes on.
At different times over the 12 years of sending my little ones off to school (counting the pre-school years), my heart has been burdened with all of these things. And, unfortunately, each of those worries has become a reality at some point over the years. So it’s not without some witness that I carry these fears with me as I wave goodbye and send them off for another year. But then I get to work and I see the reminders all over my desk about Who has authority over their year; about Who has them in His hands.
My kids attend a small Christian school, and each year the school has a different theme. This year’s theme is “know your path” and the verse of the year is “You make known to me the path of life” (Psalm 16:11). I am in love with this theme. As a mother who strives to set her children on the right path, and as a Christ-follower continually seeking the path God has prepared for me, it is a soul-comforting, welcome reminder that God faithfully makes known His path for us.
The path that leads to Him.
The path of Life.
There are well-over 100 Bible verses that reference a path in life, many of which have provided me with comfort and guidance over the years. (If you have been reading this blog for a while, you know my personal experience with and affection for Psalm 18:36, “You broaden the path beneath me so that my ankles do not turn.”) And as I started to think about this theme and all of the prayers, dreams, and worries I hold on to for my children each year, I wanted each of them to know what it took me over 30 years to learn, what I’m still learning:
God cares so deeply about their walk that He has lovingly and intricately carved a unique path for each of them. Because the remarkably divine paradox of following God is that while there is only One Way to Him (John 14:6), He’s gifted each of us an exclusive route for getting there.
So, I did what a mom who has to write things does, and I wrote each of them a letter. For each child I chose a verse about their path that represented to me what I pray for and long for them to know, and then I shared with them a piece of my mother’s heart. I put each letter in a card, sealed the envelope, and tucked it into a lunchbox, hoping my kids aren’t too embarrassed by these personal intrusions of their day, or even worse that they overlook them entirely and the envelopes get tossed in the garbage can along with their string cheese wrappers.
I won’t share with you the full notes, as there are some things that should just remain between a mother and her child, but I would like to share with you a glimpse of my prayer for each of my kids. Because maybe you pray the same thing for your babies. Or maybe you would like to add me and mine to your prayer list. Or maybe just because putting it out there makes it feel heard.
Hannah (13, 8th grade)
Your path led through the sea, your way through the mighty waters, though your footprints were not seen. – Psalm 77:19
“I believe God is preparing you for a very specific path, one in which you will have great impact on the lives of others. He has given you many special gifts and talents, but perhaps the one that I believe is most special is the gift to love and embrace others for who they are. This gift is all the more inspiring when you are able to just be you – bold, beautiful, funny, unafraid YOU. I’ve seen you struggle with this at times because the outside world sometimes sends us messages that just being ourselves is not good enough. Or that we have to conform to a certain image or personality to be accepted. I know this is hard. I struggled with it for many years, and sometimes still do. But when I see you being YOU, I see people around you being touched and inspired, and I see you lighting up the world.
I believe this is what God has intended for you…When you feel challenged, hurt, confused, angry, sad, or pressured by the world around you, remember He is there and you can count on His guidance to get you through.
Daniel (10, 5th grade)
Trust in the LORD with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight. – Proverbs 3:5-6
“I know sometimes school is hard for you, and even sometimes home is hard for you. And I know sometimes you wonder what God’s plan is for you, or how you will find success and peace. Just like Mrs. Dhom taught you in kindergarten, God has a plan for all of us. Sometimes we just don’t understand it or see it clearly. It may be hard to understand why God created you with ADHD and some of the struggles you face. But I know He has a reason. I believe part of that reason is because one day it will give you a greater understanding of others who struggle…I think having some of the struggles you do makes you rely on Him more, and this has brought you into a closer relationship with God.”
Olivia (10, 5th grade)
Let your eyes look straight ahead; fix your gaze directly before you. Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways. – Proverbs 4:25-26
“God has blessed you with a HUGE heart. You love fiercely and deeply. You show your love for your friends and family and even people you haven’t met every day. You always want people to be happy and you worry if they are hurting or sad…You may not realize it, but I believe God blessed you with these gifts so that He can use you to touch other’s lives.
As you start to get older, you will be confronted by people and things that make you feel like you are not enough. They will judge you against worldly standards instead of God’s standards and you may feel like you need to act, look, or be different. My prayer for you is that you will always keep your eyes fixed ahead on God and His path.”
Praying God’s protection and guidance over all of you and your kiddos as they start a new school year.