Bonnie Gray is the soulful author of Whispers of Rest and Finding Spiritual Whitespace. An inspirational speaker and retreat leader, she has touched thousands of lives through storytelling, visual arts, nature, prayer and meditation. Bonnie’s writing is featured on Relevant Magazine, DaySpring (in)courage, and Christianity Today. She lives in California with her husband and their two sons. Visit Bonnie at www.thebonniegray.com and connect with her @thebonniegray on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and YouTube.
My friend Babette is from Holland.
She didn't understand why her American mommy friends were getting their knickers in a twist last week.
I had brought over some strawberry pastries for us to enjoy in stealth while our boys played paper airplanes in their bedroom.
Babette was making shots of coffee for us with her Nespresso machine when she asked me. "So, what's the big deal about back to school clothes shopping? Why are parents all stressed out about buying new clothes and shoes to wear when school starts?"
"Didn't you wear new clothes on the first day of school when you were a little girl?" I asked, reminding her I only take decaf.
"School supplies, sure. But, not clothes. We don't have that practice in the Netherlands." She replied, passing a cup of warm decaf and sugar for me. "So why did you buy new clothes for TJ and CJ?"
This year, I wanted to save some money. So, I just got a few new outfits for the boys to wear the first week. Nothing major since the kids haven't outgrown their sizes. Nobody's ever asked me this before.
The funny thing is, I wasn't exactly sure why either. "I guess it's just what you do. You don't want your kid to feel left out."
"Yeah, but these are second grade boys. I don't think they care." It didn't make sense to Babette.
I started thinking. "It's about letting kids know school is important. It's a special occasion."
"Yeah, but it's seems more than that. Everybody's all stressed out about it." Babette wasn't convinced.
I thought some more. "Well, I guess I want to make a good impression for the teachers. I want them to them to know that TJ and CJ are loved and well taken care of."
"Maybe that's it," Babette says, as she joins me with her coffee at the table.
A Different Set of Clothes
Our conversation got me thinking. I've got the the school supply lists checked off and their outfits laid out for the new school year. I've got the externals of getting ready lined up. Have I spent as much energy and thought focused on what's on their hearts and minds as well?
How can I clothe the heart and mind of my boys for the new school year?
How can I clothe my own mommy heart as I meet new children, moms, dads and teachers?
I reassure my kids everything will take time. All will be well. I'll pick them up and we'll have a yummy snack at home together.
But, inside, I can't help but worry. Will there be friends they can play with at recess or will they feel a little lost about what to do? Will they like their teachers? Will their teachers like them? And how about me?
I'm just recovering from post-traumatic-stress. I am not able to be very social. Meeting new people makes me feel anxious. I can't volunteer much right now either. Will other parents like me too?
As these concerns weighed on my mind, God brought to mind a different set of clothes -- from this verse in Colossians 3:12, 14b --
I was reminded to pray my Mommy Missional Prayer.
It's my heart's prayer for my sons, since I first began sending my children to attend public school.
I've always had a heart for missions, having once served vocationally in the mission field. Having returned to civilian life, I've always felt impassioned that who we are makes the mission, not where we go.
People are God's mission field. Wherever they are.
So since becoming a mom, I've felt so honored and amazed at the opportunity to disciple two beautiful new hearts for Jesus -- in hopes they will touch and bless others they meet at school.
A Mommy Missional Prayer
As I thought about how I can clothe their hearts and minds, I prayed my Mommy Missional Prayer.
"Lord, you sent the disciples out two by two into the world. I want to ask please bring one friend who can be your welcome for CJ and TJ at school this year."
I prayed also for my own heart.
"Give me your grace to listen when they come home. You know how I stress when they tell me their worries. I need your Holy Spirit to make my heart a place of safety and encouragement for my boys. Help me to love them like you, Jesus."
I am, after all, sending my children out into the world -- not to be of it, but to be in it. Here in California, in the heart of Silicon Valley, there are people from every nation. The mission field is here at the doorsteps of our school.
"You are in CJ and TJ's hearts, Lord Jesus.
They are your little missionaries to love different friends they will meet.
I pray your light in them would shine bright.
Give them eyes to notice someone who they can be a friend to.
Give me wisdom to listen and support them.
May teachers and parents who come to know CJ and TJ see You --
through their kind and sweet spirits."
Then, I thought about myself. I can't do anything big. I'll be happy to pack lunches and get to them to school on time. So I prayed, "Lord Jesus, you know I am weak and frail. But, if there is a new mom I can connect with -- even just once -- guide my heart to engage. Use me small. Use me gentle. Use me kind."
For an answer Jesus called over a child, whom he stood in the middle of the room,
"I'm telling you, unless you return to square one and start over like children,
you're not even going to get a look at the kingdom, let alone get in.
The truth is, we are all little girls and boys deep inside.
That's how Jesus calls us to live as parents. As His kids too.
We Are His Children
As we send our little ones to school this week, let's not forget we are His little children ourselves.
We don't have to have it all figured out. We don't have to war game it all out -- trying to protect our children from all the hurt and possible disappointments in life.
But, we can all run into the arms of Someone who knows all will be well. We can tell Him our troubles. Even if it gets complicated (because it does), Jesus wraps His embrace around us. He can connect the dots, when we can't. He stands us with us in the middle of the school yard.
As we shake and tremble in line with our boys and girls on the first day of school, straightening on our shirts and wondering if our hair looks okay. Jesus reminds us --
I am with you. Even on the far side of the playground. Even in the back row of desks. Or the corner of the rug. I am always with you.
I will help you.
Even though we can't see our little ones at school -- we can't be there to sit next to them at lunch -- Jesus has his angels assigned to each of his children. That includes you and me.
"And Jesus said, ....'Whoever welcomes a little child like this in my name welcomes me...
You realize, don't you,
that their personal angels are constantly in touch with my Father in heaven?'"
What is your prayer for your son or daughter for this school year?
What is your prayer for yourself as school begins? You are precious God's daughter too.
I know many of you are wonderful "aunties" and "big sisters" of friends' children --- grandparents and teacher too. Please share your prayers too.
Are you a student yourself? We want to remember you as well.
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If you’re on the journey of faith to walk out into the world, I’d love your company. Join me on my blog, on facebook or Twitter. Let's keep encouraging each other in our faith stories -- as it's being made and lived. As is.
Bonnie Gray is an inspiring Christian writer and blogger, serving up shots of faith in everyday life. Bonnie is founder of FaithBarista.com and featured writer for DaySpring (in)courage. Bonnie's debut book will be published by Revell in 2014. Bonnie is a native Californian living in the heart of Silicon Valley with her best friend Hubby, wrangling their two heaven-sent boys on the homestead.
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Photo by Kathy via flickr.