The first day of school haunts me…it has for a few years now, as I openly admit that my greatest weakness involves my inability to submit to authority. I will confess that even in my older years I find time restraints on Summer and that notorious “back to school” letter to be the worst of all. The idea of schedules and must-do lists seems to eliminate the concept of creativity and spontaneity. Each passing year leaves me thinking that I should homeschool just to keep them close to me, but that would only benefit me and our days would look well beyond structure and any type of academic learning. I desire their closeness more this year than last, as I think about a 2nd, 1st, and kindergartener facing the potential questions that inevitably arise…or The picture in which they are required to draw…”My Family”…some of my children experience great anxiety because they fear if they draw Tyler then so many questions will be asked, but if they don’t, they fear they are being disloyal to Tyler or dishonest about their family?
I understand this feeling. So often when school begins and we meet new people “the” question that is asked more often than not, “how many kids do y’all have?” I find myself stuck in that same spot as my kids, where all i want to do is cry out to God, “open the heavens and let them see my boy!” I’m comfortable now saying 4 kids and when the next inevitable question is asked, “how old?” I quickly go down the line…8, almost 7, 5, and we lost our youngest last year. Some responses are filled with compassion, like the one I received on Monday, from, whether she knows it our not, my soon to be new best friend (LD). Others, don’t know how to respond and that is completely ok. I hold no grudges against anyone who may come across as insensitive, and that’s because it’s not a question that anyone is in good practice of answering.
My daughter sat at a lunch table last year and proudly expressed within conversation that she has 3 younger brothers. What she and I did not anticipate were the raw questions and comments that come from a table filled with 1st grade girls. In fact, one little girl tried to tell Austyn that it’s impossible for a baby to die with a cord around it’s neck. Imagine?! Take yourself back to being a 7 year old little girl, not many are ready for such enormous conversations, much less the concept of their own brother’s death being questioned by their peers! She handled it better than I did! In fact, when she told me that she simply looked at her friend and declared, “Tyler DID die because the cord was wrapped around his neck, but he IS alive now and lives with Jesus!” What?! Is this real life? Did my offspring really arise to the occasion and declare God’s victory over death? She did! And I couldn’t have been more proud. And yet, I hated that she understood this concept on such an intimate level. I hate it, yet I’ve come to realize what a tremendous amount of wisdom each of them have gained because of it! Not only that, but a tremendous amount of security in knowing that this is not the end and they need not fear death. So big for minds that we often discount as so small in their capacity to understand the most complex of circumstances. My children prove me wrong time and time again and I gain glimpses of how big God is through their understanding and faith.
“People who have not been in Narnia sometimes think that a thing cannot be good and terrible at the same time.” C.S. Lewis-The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
If I’m going to be more open and candid about Summer ending, my true confession is that I hate the silence that will greet me when I enter my home. It’s the first year where I won’t have a child next to my side, needing me. Tyler would be almost 16 months old. That slightly annoying stage where they are into everything and not curious enough to allow anything to hold their attention for a minute. That stage where all they still really want is me and food. I dreamed of these days where I would know him so well, become so acquainted with his every move because he would have my undivided attention…my other children never received that…they always shared my attention with one another. It was supposed to be different for this child. Not better, nor worse. Just different. And now that difference involves our mere memory of him and a silent home I will enter at 8:30am, Monday through Friday until Christmas break comes along. The silence bites. But then again, I trust that just like The Spirit did last year on this dreaded first day of school, that He will draw me into His Word. That the nap I desired with Tyler on my chest will instead be the Word of God keeping me firmly rooted as the tears may come and go. That He will secure me with songs of praise as I countdown until that school bell rings.
“I waited patiently for the Lord and He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of mud and mire; he set my feet on a rock and gave a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God.”
And when those kids come running down the hall and hug me, and without me knowing exactly what they encountered for the day, I know for that split moment in time, we are reunited and the troubles of the world seem distant and the chaos of life that I’ve come to find so refreshing is restored….and until I drop them off the next day, I will praise my savior for the breath within them and the hearts that still beat, and I will still wish for the school days to pass quickly in hopes to cherish another long summer with their sometimes grumpy faces or ungrateful hearts, but they are mine and I’ll take them anyway He gives them, whether in heaven or on earth.
And at some point, that silence that bites and leaves us feeling like the above picture, will linger into a new season of life. I pray that as so many of us struggle with the silence from a recent loss, or unique circumstances or even what may seem ordinary, that we can learn to soak in silence and find ourselves talking or listening to God. After all, Jesus sought solitude throughout His time on earth; if we long to look like Him, we should practice living as He did…
“But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.”
“Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God.”
“After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.”
Despite the noise that constantly surrounded Jesus, He always devoted time to go before the Father. We live in a noisy society; and we are often the culprits of creating the noise. I wonder if we sat in the silence and spoke to our Father how quickly the noise would dissipate and our hearts might rest a little lighter.
“Show me your ways, Lord. Teach me your paths. Guide me in truth and teach me, for you are God, my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.”