Grace For Every Hurdle

It’s been a few weeks since your ninth birthday. Did I really think if I didn’t write my annual post to you I could bypass the reality that we most likely only have nine more years together? And I feel like your dad and I are still hunched over you in the back seat, trying to figure out how to get your blasted car seat out of our car, so we can carry you into the house for the first time!

You firstborn children have a hard way to go in some respects. Your firsts are our firsts, so sometimes we hobble along together taking first bites, steps, swims, and drives. We learn early that he catches us when we’re falling, steadies us when we aren’t as ready for that next step as we thought, calms us when we’re the ones up crying in the middle of the night, and encourages us when we thought we should be done cleaning up messes by now, but instead the messes are bigger and worse than a pile of crumbs on the floor after dinner. And through it all, we feel the unrelenting clock and calendar keep pushing us forward to the next phase.

So, it has pushed us to the start of your fourth grade year. Around here, I feel like we’re training for the Olympics as we get ready for the next grade of school. We’ve had our talks – and yes one of them was “the” talk. We’ve studied the Word. I’ve warned you of the hard path of the sinner, and I’ve reminded you that the year ahead is as bright as the promises of God. You know that fearing the Lord is living in the awareness of him – he’s always with you, loving you, caring for you, and providing just what you need – and from that awareness flows true wisdom and knowledge.

But still my heart trembles when I think of letting you go again into another year without me. And this public school mama with a homeschool heart has to remind herself of victories past as we face the first day at a new school all over again.

The first morning of school last year, I got a message from a likeminded friend who walked a similar path, encouraging me that the Spirit would be faithful to give us grace for every hurdle. Oh how I needed those words! Just pulling into the parking lot on that first day was a hurdle, let alone walking those crowded halls full of strangers, and then letting you go under someone else’s care for 7 1/2 hours a day. It took weeks before I wouldn’t cry as I ran errands and drove by the exit for your school, knowing you guys were close but not with me.

The year definitely presented it’s hurdles, but just as my friend reminded me, the Spirit gave grace for each one.

About a week into school, Daddy was walking out after dropping you off and introduced himself to the assistant headmaster, Al Carter. Your dad gave him his church business card, telling Al he was a pastor in the area and that he was praying for him. He had no idea that new-to-the-area headmaster was a Liberty grad and would visit our church the following Sunday with his Wheaton grad wife and their two kids. He had no idea that first quick exchange in the hall would result in their meeting weekly for early morning coffee and spiritual encouragement. But God did. Grace!

Thankful for our friendship with Al and Liz!
The year started off with a ‘big bang’ (literally) when your teacher presented a differing view of origins than you believe. You raised your hand and questioned and challenged. You had to learn to do it respectfully and to kindly interact with others who don’t hold your beliefs. It was an early lesson in showing love and honor while disagreeing. Grace!

At Thanksgiving, you got to do a presentation poster featuring people, places, and things you were thankful for. You had the idea to include Jesus in the “person” category, our church as one of the “places,” and the Bible in the “thing” column. You described why you were thankful for each one. “Because he’s perfect, because they are loving friends, and because it teaches us.” Grace!

Around Christmas, I volunteered to work in the Secret Santa shop and Al’s wife happened to be working the same shift. In between helping the classes, we’d discuss the quick version of our spiritual journeys, relishing in providence right there in the public school gym. Grace!

That morning, I helped a little boy shop who wanted to pick out a gift for his dad. I pointed out a few options and asked if his dad might use either of those things. He looked up at me and said, “My dad died two weeks ago.” And I remembered one of the reasons we were at the school. I have biblical obligations to you, one of which is to lead you in learning how to help your sick or sorrowing peers who might need Jesus. Grace!

I loved volunteering for field trips and reading groups and getting to know and have fun with your classmates. We have great memories of those “special voices” I’d let you guys read in and then “freeze!” Making new friends together was yet another evidence of grace!

I couldn’t have been as involved as I was without the help of sweet friends from church providing childcare. I needed their support and help, and they were there for us. Grace!

And this dear woman, who I struggled leaving you with that first day of school, became a precious addition to our “most loved people” list. Mrs. Wall cried as you parted ways on your last day of school and is planning to visit us next summer. The perfect teacher for you – and me! Grace!

As I walked into your school that last day, I had a lump in my throat and fought back tears once again. But this time, they were tears of gratefulness to God. They were tears over faith that grew from seeing those halls as a fearful place to a grace filled place, where God didn’t leave us or forsake us. I felt him near and dear there. I wouldn’t trade this past year of school for anything, not even having you with me all day every day (although I can never get enough of our special time together). I wouldn’t trade it though, because it’s a better place to be desperately needing God to work and then finding him working in unexpected places and through unexpected means. Like the joy of finding streams in the desert. Only God can do things like that!

Maybe last year was an unusual year. But maybe it wasn’t. So I will remember these triumphs of grace as we jump the hurdle of pulling in the parking lot tomorrow, your first day of school. I’ll remember that you’re there to get an education which isn’t just about learning math and reading. Because I can tell you he’s Lord of the nations, but wouldn’t it be great if you could see that he’s Lord of Orange Park first? Wouldn’t it be instructive for you to grow up seeing God isn’t like us and his image isn’t monochromatic? As Aunt Charisse pointed out, wouldn’t it be good for you to watch us appreciating and embracing home as a haven where we retreat after the hard work of being on mission is done? Wouldn’t it be better for you to see my and your dad’s example (clumsy as it is) of actually being in the world but not of it? And wouldn’t it be faith-building for you to have the confidence of witnessing that as my and your dad’s light shines in darkness, the darkness can never extinguish it?

There are so many more firsts for us to experience together, my Stella Grace. Another big one is tomorrow. There is even more for you to learn – for us to learn – in the school year ahead. Like we always have been, we’re by your side, looking to him for grace as we jump through the hurdles…for at least nine more cherished years!


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