Tag Archives: school

A Back-to-School Prayer

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 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.

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 throughout the last 13 years of sending my little ones off to school, my heart has been burdened with all of these things. And unfortunately, many of these worries have become a reality at some point. If I’m not careful, I will carry these fears with me as I wave goodbye and send them off for another year, feeling helpless to do anything to protect them once they are out of my site.

But then I remember, there is something I can do: I can pray for them.

Here is a back-to-school prayer I wrote for my children, perhaps you will want to use this to pray over yours:

Dear Heavenly Father,

Please protect my child(ren) as they begin a new school year. I know that my daughter is uniquely and wonderfully made in your image, and I pray that she will remember who she is and be unafraid to be her true authentic self. You have blessed her with many special gifts and talents, but perhaps the most important is her ability to love others and be kind. Help her remember this and seek out the unlikely friend, the lonely classmate, the shy teammate.

When he feels scared, hurt, confused, angry, sad, or pressured by the world around him, please help him to remember You are there and so am I. When school is hard and my son feels inferior, unable, or incapable of what is being asked, help calm his mind and lead him to a teacher, aid, coach, or administrator that will show compassion and gently guide him in the right direction. And Lord, let him trust me enough to help, and help me to listen — truly and earnestly listen — to what he is trying to tell me instead of always trying to fix everything. At the end of the day, I pray that his struggles will make him rely on You more, and have more empathy and compassion for others.

Finally, I pray you will guide her friendships. Lead her to others that will love her for who she is, and not care about the clothes she wears, the backpack she carries, or how she fixes his hair. Help him find friends that lift him up instead of making him feel like he is not enough. And when there is conflict or hurt feelings, as there surely will be, help her to be humble enough to apologize first, and gracious enough to forgive without reservation.

May they always keep their eyes fixed ahead on You and your path.

Amen.

 

Originally posted on the Today Parents Parenting Team Community.

 

photo credit: woodleywonderworks first day school bus ritual via photopin (license)

Lord, guide my children’s paths

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.”

20160824_073937_resized
My kiddos all ready for the first day of school. Lord, please guide their path.

Praying God’s protection and guidance over all of you and your kiddos as they start a new school year.

photo credit: Play Time via photopin  (license)

I failed my child

Two nights ago I lay awake for hours, unable to find sleep no matter how much I willed it to come. One painful, desperate thought kept going through my mind: I had failed my son.

It’s been a really hard year for my boy. It’s been a really hard year to parent him, as well.

We’re not strangers to difficult years, though. The early years were especially challenging. When he was four my son’s pre-school teacher basically gave-up and asked he be moved to a different class.

By the middle of his kindergarten year, after consulting with a specialist and having him tested for a variety of learning disabilities, we were told he had severe ADHD and delays in fine-motor skill development. His disorder had also led to delays in his social development. But we were also told he was incredibly smart, and the child psychologist believed that with the right treatment and classroom modifications he could be very successful in school. And she was right.

For the next 3 years we saw a big difference in our boy. He responded well to the medicine and excelled in school, receiving straight-A’s two years in a row. Despite the initial delays in his social development he managed to make friends and was generally a very happy kid.

Then last year the small private school he’d been attending since he was 2 closed and he and his sisters started at a new school in September. It’s a good school with small class sizes, a special education resource, and Biblical foundation. But it’s different.

I completely underestimated how hard the change would be on my boy — a child who likes routine, who sees the whole world in black and white/right or wrong. He declined academically and acted out in the classroom. We met with the teachers, principal and special education resource multiple times. We put into place new plans for behavior management and test-taking. Still he struggled. My straight-A child strained to get B’s and C’s. And then came his first D’s and even an F.

At home my husband and I struggled, too. My son rebelled in various ways, trying to assert some control. His natural-born curiosity, fearlessness, and lack of impulse-control led to some really scary situations. We took him out of hockey, the only sport he’s ever loved, so he would be able to focus more on school. We took away his prized Lego’s when he refused to clean his room and when we found dangerous items he’d found and hidden. We tried incentives and rewards, we tried punishment and consequences. Many nights we sat by his side to help him focus on homework until we finally sent him to bed, drained from fighting with him. Other nights we were just plain tired and didn’t have it in us.

The school year ends next week and I can’t say I feel like there’s been much progress. And so, I am left with that sleep-stealing, heart-breaking thought that I failed my son.

I could have done more. I could have monitored his grades more, met with teachers sooner, and caught-on to patterns quicker. I could have spent more time double checking his homework. I should have showed more patience and less exasperation. I should have told him how wonderful he is more often and told him I was disappointed less.

Every note home from a teacher, every missing homework assignment, every stern look from a stranger, and every comment made by another parent strengthening the self-recrimination.

Then there’s all of the well-meaning (usually unsolicited) advise from others. I could write a book.

And because of all of this I have kept the truth tightly guarded, careful about saying too much to too many. Even with our closest friends, and in our small group Bible study where we have been reading The Power of a Praying Parent for the last 16 weeks, I have been careful about how much I reveal.

But then during our study this week a friend revealed her deepest worry and fear: that she’s failed her children. While our circumstances are different and the struggles our children are facing are not the same, I know how she feels. And as my sweet friend shared her fear, I felt God urge me to tell her that this is a season in her parenting journey and it will not last forever. I also tell her that I believe prayer is powerful, and when things are hard and we feel like it’s all out of our control, we must lean on God and prayer even more.

Later that night as sleep eluded me and the thought that I had failed my son echoed in my head, I wondered why I couldn’t find comfort in the same advice I’d offered my friend a few hours before. I didn’t think for one second that she had failed her children and I completely believed the words God had placed in my heart. But I couldn’t apply them to myself. I had prayed all year for help, for change, for direction, and I still felt at a loss.

So I did the only thing I knew to do: I turned to the Word to try and find some comfort and wisdom. Sometimes words of comfort come quickly, other times, not so much. I read through several Psalms, 1 and 2 Timothy, and parts of Isaiah. I was encouraged by the Word, but felt nothing I read was speaking directly to my failures as a mom. Then I settled on Ephesians.

“So overflowing is His kindness toward us that He took away all our sins through the blood of His Son, by whom we are saved; and He has showered down upon us the richness of His grace—for how well He understands us and knows what is best for us at all times…Moreover, because of what Christ has done, we have become gifts to God that He delights in, for as part of God’s sovereign plan we were chosen from the beginning to be His, and all things happen just as He decided long ago. God’s purpose in this was that we should praise God and give glory to Him for doing these mighty things for us, who were the first to trust in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:7-8, 11-12 TLB)

It was in these words that I finally found comfort. They reminded me that God alone knows what’s best for me and my family at all times; that we are His chosen and that He has a plan for each of us. They reminded me that I am to praise Him for all things…even difficult parenting seasons.

And this is what I was missing.

I have been so focused on the hard, the less-than, the short-comings, that I have not taken time to praise God for this year. I confess, I have not looked for the good. I have forgotten that this is only one chapter in a book that’s already been written, by an author who delights in me and my son, an author that understands how I feel before I do, and who knows what is best at all times.

And finally I realized, it was time to change my prayer. Instead of asking for God to get us through this season, to change my son’s behavior, or to show me how to “handle things” I need to say “thank you”.

Thank you God for this season. Because although it’s not been easy, I know it is still part of your plan for my boy, and for me. Thank you for understanding my son, even when I don’t, and for choosing us to be Yours. You know what is best for us and You see and understand things I do not. So I entrust my son to you. I let go of my failures and hand them over to You. For even though I fall short, Your love never fails.

To the other moms and dads who feel like they have failed in some way: remember you have a Father who knows what is best at all times, even when you don’t. Take comfort in that and sleep well tonight.

one chapter in a book that's already been written