Monday, August 11, 2014

Prayers for the First Day of School

Author's Note:  Four years into blogging "Treasure the Ordinary," and these posts are still the ones that are accessed the most by readers.  So, here they are together in one place, making it easy to print out and post them in a place you'll see often and be reminded of the power of blessing...

First Day of School Blessings for Children
All the backpacks are lined up by the front door.  The first day of school clothes are waiting on their hangers.  The crayons are pointed and unbroken.

My birds are asleep in the nest, ready to fly away tomorrow.  And it's this hour that a Mama kneels and prays.  She prays that the small wings will be strong as they carry her precious ones into a world not always hospitable to young things.  She prays that His breath will blow, lifting them higher, above the reach of that which would entangle. 

And she prays that they will fly safely home again.

Mama bird blessings:
  • I Bless You with courage. (Joshua 1:3-9)
  • I Bless You with the Father's protection. (Ps. 91)
  • I Bless You with a Godly child’s heart that respects and honors his parents and authority.
  • I Bless You with the Holy Spirit’s marking your life so that you stand out in a crowd.
  • I Bless You with the favor of God on your life so that others want to go out of their way to do you good.
  • I Bless You that people speak to you with kindness and honor.
  • I Bless You with confidence in your looks and abilities: you will like who God made you to be.
  • I Bless You with strategies of the Lord for your future.
  • I Bless You with purity in thought, speech, and action.
  • I Bless You with confidence and a complete lack of fear of man.
  • I Bless You with the ability to be a good friend.
  • I Bless You with the ability to be grieved by sin and the desire to make all things right with the Father.
  • I Bless You with truthful lips.
  • I Bless You with the ability to honor those around you, even when it costs you.
  • I Bless You with the knowledge that you are a joy to your parents and that they are proud of you.
  • I Bless You with the knowledge of the Father’s unconditional love for you and your parents’ unconditional love for you.
  • I Bless You with the desire to pray at all times, with all kinds of prayers.
  • I Bless You with the spirit of a warrior, a Godly warrior.
  • I Bless You to be a blessing to everyone you meet.

First Day of School Blessings for Teachers
This morning, my husband and I stood on the front porch and watched our sixteen year old drive himself to school.  You would think as many years as we've been sending kids off on their first day of school, we wouldn't have "first day jitters" anymore.  But, they're still there. 

New year.  New grade levels.  New friends.  New habits.  New teachers.

We are sending our most valuable treasures out into the world to be taught and shaped and mentored by teachers who didn't bring them into the world, wash their clothes this weekend, or put the breakfast on the table this morning.  Teachers who care about them, but aren't their parents.  Teachers who want to see them succeed, but don't have a lifetime of equity built with them.  Teachers who can't focus on four children like we do at our house, but have an entire classroom to take care of.

And that's why I take a few minutes today to bless my children on the first day of school, but also the teachers who are entering my children's lives today:

I bless you to see the value in each of your students, the God-given gifts in each one.

I bless you with patience in your heart today, and that it will be expressed in your face and in your voice.

I bless you with joy today, the kind of joy that can laugh at the moments that didn't go your way and exalt in the moments of success.

I bless you with peace in your classroom today, the kind that can be felt when students walk in the door.

I bless you with the ability to make learning a contagious source of wonder.

I bless you with the skills to communicate well with your students, their parents,  and your peers.

I bless you with renewed vigor and energy, enough to go home and still have an enjoyable evening with your family.

I bless you with wisdom and creativity to solve the problems that come your way.

I bless you with conversations around school that encourage you and lift up your spirit.

And I bless you with a new-found passion for your job, the job that is shaping the next generation.


Monday, July 28, 2014

The Story I Love to Read

I recently loaded up my kids and went to visit my grandmother.  She gets tired pretty easily, so we don't ever stay a long time, but it was a sweet visit.  All the children took turns sharing their latest accomplishments with her, we ate together, and we heard a few more stories from the treasure box of her memories.

And somewhere in there, I slipped away to my Papaw's study to do what I always do when I visit.  I plucked one of his notebooks off the shelf and read through it for a moment.

My grandfather was a preacher.  My earliest memories of him involve pulpits and Vacation Bible Schools, where he would let the children who brought guests snip a piece off his necktie.  I loved visiting him at the church, getting candy from his secretary and even more candy from the janitor.  I loved that he was always willing to travel good distances to witness the important events in my life, always being the one who gave the biggest hug and told me how proud he was of me.

I was the oldest grandchild in the family and the first to marry.  It was Papaw who conducted our ceremony, and it was Papaw who sat us down for pre-marital counseling.  I remember blushing furiously when my aging grandfather talked about the honeymoon with me and my future groom, but I have always been grateful for the wonderful foundation he helped us build in so many facets of our communication with each other.

I had only been married two short months when Papaw had a stroke.  He would eventually recover completely physically, but would never fully recover in his ability to speak.  For the next ten years, it would be a struggle to communicate with him.  He was always able to convey love, but gone were the eloquent sermons, the heart to heart conversations, and the huge words he loved to use. 

And then he was gone.  Suddenly, and without a chance for many of us to say goodbye.

And that's why I love to slip away into his study and pick up a notebook.  There are quite a few to choose from because he was a preacher in the days before computers.  His sermon files aren't on a hard drive.  They're all in notebooks, on the top shelf of the study. 

A lifetime of sermons.  A treasure of words.

When I read his writings, mostly typed, but with many handwritten notes in the margins, I can listen to his voice again.  I can hear a heart that loved his God.  I can recall his wisdom, the kind that's earned the hard way.  I can remember his love for me.

And this last time, as I held a notebook entitled "Philippians" in my hand, I wondered what my legacy would be.  What treasure do my notebooks hold?  What am I leaving for those who come after me to remember and ponder? 

My life is telling a story.  I pray it's as beautiful as the one on the top shelf.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Still In It

Today is the last day our house will have a child in the single digits.  Tomorrow, the youngest turns 10. 

She is thrilled. 

Her mama is trying to be thrilled.

I love this season we are in, with children getting older, able to do things we've never done before, having conversations we've never had before, laughing together at things they've never understood before.  The most enjoyment I've ever had as a parent has been this last year or so, seeing each of them beginning to embrace the individuality of who God has created them to be.

And yet, a pause is necessary to reflect on what will happen tomorrow.

A page will be turned.

A new chapter will begin.

There are no little ones in our house any longer.  They are big people, dreaming big dreams, doing big things.

But, I know it's not over.  We are in this parenting thing for awhile. 

Because they are also still making big piles of laundry.

So, tonight, as I tuck in a nine year old for the very last time, I will hold her close and do my best not to cry until I close the door. 

And then I'll go start another load of laundry.

Monday, June 9, 2014

A Surprising Chapter

Two summers ago, our ten year old broke his arm after only a few short hours of arriving at summer camp.  It was a quick trip to the emergency room and then home for him.  While his friends continued on with a weekend of excitement and adventure, he spent the next couple of days with his arm in a sling, waiting for the swelling to go down enough for the bone doctor to put it in a cast.

He was a trooper.  Didn't complain much.  But, you could see the disappointment in his eyes for days. 

And now, two summers later, out of the blue, came a gift.

His dad was asked to be the camp pastor this year, which meant mom and dad would both be attending kids' camp.  But, the older brothers would be away on a hiking expedition. 

Which left one lone boy who needed a place to be.  He would get to come to kids' camp again, even though he is now in middle school and shouldn't have been able to attend.  When he heard he could stay in the cabin with his parents and still take part in all the exciting activities, his eyes shone.

"Mom," he said while we were packing.  "I think this is God's way of making that summer up to me.  An extra year at camp."

And of course it is.

For God is a God of second chances.  Of gifts and surprises.  Of redemption.

Watching my boy roam the campground last weekend was pure delight.  He sure knows how to enjoy a present. 

And now he also knows an important truth.  His story might have some disappointing chapters, but it's never over when the book is in his God's hands.  There is always a new page to turn.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

New Life

Author's Note:  The last post, "A Mother's Prayer," chronicled the beginnings of a gift left on our front porch.  You can read it by clicking here.

When my daughter heard the good news that the four baby porch birds had hatched, she was immediately sad. 

"Oh no, that means they will grow up and fly away."  And this from a girl who doesn't read her mama's blog.

But, she gets it.  The wrenching of the heart that comes with letting go.

What she can't yet see is that the same growing up that takes a baby away from its nest is the same stretching that made her so confident she would navigate kids' camp just fine this year without a parent sponsor or her older brother going with her.  (She was very sad to learn her dad would be the camp speaker this year, as that meant the whole family is going after all!)

It's that same stretching that caused her to want to try a new dance class next semester, to expand her experiences. 

And it's that same stretching that means mom gets to be on the quiet side now when she picks out her own clothes for school, developing her own sense of style.

She can't see it now.  But, she will.

How do I know?  Because I have lived through enough "wrenching" seasons in life to know that on the other side, I have been transformed.  And passing through the cocoon never feels comfortable. 

It's tight.

It's dark. 

It's sometimes lonely.

But, on the other side, I can fly where before I could only walk.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

A Mother's Prayer

My son was in an accident a couple of weeks ago.  It was in a school vehicle with several other students, and it could have been very, very bad.  But, it wasn't.  Everyone is safe.
It took my heart several days to sort through the emotions that rose up during that first phone call.  It's taken many more not to allow fear to dominate when I see him pull out of the driveway in his own truck.
We are fragile creatures, us mothers, our hearts battered daily by this call to raise human beings.  A call that demands we let those same human beings, once tiny in our arms, loose to fly on their own.  It's that process of wrenching the heart in a million different ways, a different one every day, that envoke the apron string jokes and the pillows in boutiques with large letters emblazoned, "Call Your Mother."  Because it's a life-long wrenching.  It never stops.
And that kind of constant wrenching hurts.
And is exquisitely beautiful at the same time.
Because without the wrenching, the babies don't fly. 
Without the wrenching, no nests are ever built, one generation turning into the next.
Without the wrenching, a mother's job is not fulfilled.
So, it was not lost on me the gift my God gave me this week.
A nest.  Built in the lantern on my front porch.  A nest built by a mama who sits and waits patiently every day for her babies.  A mama who flies away every time the front door opens, protecting her young by drawing attention away from her brood.
But now, in a few short weeks, I'll be reminded all over again, that a mama's tucking of the feathers around her babies lasts only for a season.  And then it's time for them to fly.
God's voice spoke gently, but it was clear.  "You get them for a while.  To tuck and to nurture.  But, you can't hold them back.  They weren't born for the nest."
The wrenching hurts.  But, it's good. 
Today, I held up the camera to snap a photo, wanting to see how many eggs the mama ended up with in her nest.
When the camera came back down and I saw the number, my tears flowed.
"Thank you, God, for the gift of my babies.  I treasure them.  And I will let them fly."
Author's Note:  Happy Mother's Day to all the mamas who read Treasure the Ordinary.  Blessings to you as you celebrate the beautiful call that has been yours because a child was born to your nest.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014


"Be still and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth."  - Psalm 46:10

I don’t have much to show for my two years of German in High School.  I know how to count to ten and how to sing, “I’m a foreigner and I don’t speak German very well” to the tune of “She’ll Be Coming Around the Mountain,” neither of which are all that helpful. 

However, I do have a random German phrase stuck in my head.  I can say, “Sprechen in die pausen nachs,” which means, “Speak in the pauses.”  I can do this because our teacher used to play a cassette tape (yes, I'm that old) with a woman speaking German sentences.  After each sentence, the woman on the tape would instruct us to “sprechen in die pausen nachs,” and we were then supposed to repeat her sentence.  I apparently didn’t learn any of the other sentences, but I can tell someone really well to “speak in the pauses.”

And maybe that’s a good sentence to know. 
In the middle of the sheer chaos of life, to choose to use my one sentence.
"God, I am stopping.  I am stopping everything.
Come speak in the pause."
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