Prayers for a New School Year

This week marked the start of a new school year for my children. I wondered about what prayers and verses I should pray for them. Last year I had a verse for the year for them from Psalm 86:

11 Teach me your way, O Lord,
    that I may walk in your truth;
    unite my heart to fear your name.
12 I give thanks to you, O Lord my God, with my whole heart, and I will glorify your name forever.

The first day of this year, I was drawn to Psalm 121 and the Lord keeping them, protecting them, with them looking to Him.

As the week went on, I continued to consider prayers for my children. Then yesterday while I was in Walmart looking for school supplies, I ran across this box for index cards and decided to start a prayer box for the year for the kids.

prayer cards
Not exactly Pinterest-worthy, but it’s practical & works!

Each day on the front of the card, I can put the date and a verse. On the back, I can tell what is happening that day (i.e., first day of school or first football game, etc.). Also on the back I can include a short prayer based on the verse(s) for the day. In this way I can hope to have focused, intentional, deliberate, biblical prayer for my children. I also made a list of my children’s friends so I can remember to pray for them, too.

Last night I went to see the movie The War Room with my mom and another couple. It was excellent and surely a motivation to pray.

What are you praying for your family?

Praise to the Lord, the Almighty

I’ve been putting this post off because I don’t know if I’ll be able to find the right words. But as I consider letting this milestone go without a reflection, I am reminded of the ten lepers who were cleansed in Luke 17:11-19. Only one of them returned to give thanks. What would I have done? What will I do? Do I remember to stop and give thanks, or run forward to do the next exciting thing God has planned?

My son hit a big milestone this week, ending his time in the little school we were involved with starting back in 2006. As I watched his class of eleven students be “promoted,” I was struck that this core group of students was an answer to those many, many prayers back in the spring of 2006, for a class that would have friends for him, when he was the first and only child registered for his grade and the oldest in the school. The Lord answered abundantly!

I was also reminded as we sat through his promotion of God’s goodness to us. We sang the first “hymn of the month” from August/September 2006, “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.”  “Hast thou not seen, how thy desires e’re have been, granted in what He ordaineth?”

In 2006, when we were looking for a location for the school, we had sought and researched many options. The best option in our minds would be our own church, but we had been told that wouldn’t work for many good reasons. We understood the “no.” We kept looking. We kept praying for God’s will.

As I was reading and praying one morning, I was struck by the verse from Jeremiah 32:17: “Ah, Lord God! Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You.” (This was actually the first verse I had ever memorized in Kindergarten years before!) As I was reflecting on this verse and praying about a location, I was hit with the realization that if I could really understood God’s power, I would not cease to ask Him for this location (the church we attended). In that moment, I became convinced He could do it, He could provide it, He had the power to do it, and we needed to ask and believe it.

I understood they had told us no twice. I understood there wasn’t space due to other ministries. I understood, but I also knew now God was powerful to overcome these seeming obstacles. I remember boldly telling my friend who was starting the school that we should keep praying for this, and I know he thought I was a little crazy (“I just don’t want you to be disappointed,” he said. I replied, “Oh, I won’t. I’m believing God.”)

Then there’s the time between when you really believe it’s going to happen and the time it takes to happen where there was room for all kinds of doubt and questioning. I remember feeling embarrassed about having been so bold in my pronouncement about it, and going to the church and praying there. I was walking around praying and heard some people, so I went in a bathroom and knelt down close to the floor (not quite on the floor, you see, for it was a bathroom), and I prayed. I looked around the bathroom and studied its walls and everything there, and I asked God to please give us that location. I was so certain that He would that I even prepared what I would say when He did it! (“Praise the Lord! He has done this!”)

Fast forward to late May. School was to start in August. I was in Memphis with the kids visiting family. I was sitting at my mom’s piano looking at her hymnal. I was struck by a hymn I had not remembered, one that was not as familiar to me. It was called, “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.” I loved it as I read it. This is how He should be praised.

A little while later in that evening, the phone rang at my mom’s in Memphis, and it was our friends who we were starting the school with. They were both on the line. “You are never going to believe this! Well, of course, you are going to believe this! We got [the location, our church]!” Wow! It was so incredibly amazing! I immediately said the words I had rehearsed.

As I was talking to my friend, I said, “You know, I was just looking at my mom’s hymnal and noticed this hymn, and it seems so appropriate for this. It’s “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.” And she said with enthusiasm and confusion, “How did you know that?! How did you know that’s the first hymn of the month I’d chosen for the school?!” And I said, “I didn’t know that!” And in that moment again, we felt God’s blessing and personal involvement.

The next morning at my mom’s house, I woke up and was going out to her kitchen to eat breakfast. And I thought, how can you get up and go start the day without taking time to praise God for this! He has done something so amazing, and I need to read my Bible and pray and thank Him. And as I did, I was in Deuteronomy 8:11-18. And I was blown away with what it said, and I include it all here, even though it’s long, and I’ll bold the parts that stood out the most:

Beware that you do not forget the Lord your God by not keeping His commandments, His judgments, and His statutes which I command you today, lest—when you have eaten and are full, and have built beautiful houses and dwell in them; and when your herds and your flocks multiply, and your silver and your gold are multiplied, and all that you have is multiplied; when your heart is lifted up, and you forget the Lord your God who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage; who led you through that great and terrible wilderness, in which were fiery serpents and scorpions and thirsty land where there was no water; who brought water for you out of the flinty rock; who fed you in the wilderness with manna, which your fathers did not know, that He might humble you and that He might test you, to do you good in the end—then you say in your heart, ‘My power and the might of my hand have gained me this wealth.’

And you shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.

Do you hear the echoes of Jeremiah 32:17, the verse the Lord had given me when I initially began praying more for this, about His “power” and His “outstretched arm”?  The admonition to remember that it is the Lord your God who has done this with His power and outstretched hand, lest we would say in our hearts it was our power and our outstretched hand that had done this. Do you see this connection?! It was oh so clear to me that morning! Praise the Lord. He has done this! He alone has done this by His power and His outstretched hand, and never forget, always remember, even when you come to the place of abundance and it’s all wonderful, remember, don’t forget, His power, His outstretched hand!

This was also significant to me with the references to the events in Exodus, because during these months of planning and preparation for the school, I was reading Exodus with a commentary, and it was something I referred to over and over again during what felt like “pioneering” days!

And so it’s this I remember this week, for all that He has done, more than I could have imagined, more than I can write, more than words can tell, He has done and blessed and given, and I praise Him!

As a side note, two years ago, when God moved me from my role at the school into something new and unexpected working at our church, it was all at once wonderful and sad! I loved what I would be leaving, but I knew I was going where God was leading. On one particularly hard day, I ran into the bathroom at work crying. It was all quite emotional for me, and I just about plopped down on the floor (not quite on the floor, you see, for it was a bathroom). And I realized in that very moment that I was in the exact space I had been in about 5 years prior. And I felt as though I was to look up, to see that that moment brought me to this moment.

When I studied Esther with Beth Moore last year, she wrote about a literary device in Esther called “peripety.” “Peripety is a sudden turn of events that reverses the expected or intended outcome.” It’s a hinge on which the reversal of destiny turns, a sudden change. We may not even know it when it happens, but you look back and see one of the most important events of your life. I sort of see that moment as a “hinge” moment where life swung a new direction that had been planned for well in advance.

So in all these things, tonight I give praise to the Lord, the Almighty, and I know that all of this has been from Him and for His glory, from His hand, from His power, not from mine. I praise Him for how He has shown me His power and might, how nothing is too hard for Him. I am thankful He allows us to find Him when we draw near to Him through His Word and prayer, that He gives us access to His throne of grace through Jesus, how we can draw near with confidence! So many gifts, too wonderful for words! Praise you, Lord! Thank you, Lord! To you alone be glory!

Praise to the Lord,
O let all that is in me adore Him,
All that hath life and breath come now with praises before Him.
Let the Amen sound from his people again,
Gladly for aye we adore Him.

The Last Week and the New Academic Year

It’s been a big week for us. A humbling week. A week of seeing God’s faithful provision.

My mom’s house sold, and my husband drove to Memphis this weekend to pack her things and move them here. We unloaded everything Sunday afternoon with the help of four friends — what a wonderful gift! The move could not have gone more smoothly. Every detail went just as planned and organized. I was so thankful for that answered prayer!

Monday night we went to the faculty dinner where my husband teaches.

Then Tuesday we all started back: my husband to in-service, my children to a half day of school, and me back in my work schedule.

First Day of School
Tonight we finished the James Bible Study. It was truly a wonderful study. I think we all learned so much. It’s been beautiful to see the things the Lord has done in our lives over the course of the eight weeks of this study as we’ve prayed for one another and studied together.
Last Night of Bible Study (I took the picture!)

I am very tired tonight after this last week of moving and starting the new school year. We even painted my daughter’s room since my mom was bringing her a new bedroom set of furniture. We still have things all over the place to organize, but soon. I just need to get to the weekend! But I want to praise the Lord for His goodness to us in all of these things and for providing for every need. I am grateful!

I’ll end the post with another Matt Redman song from his CD that I am loving. I got it at Lifeway a week or two ago for $5! Couldn’t pass it up, and these songs are wonderful. This is “Never Once.”

Field Trip and Friends

Riding one of the trikes!

The middle school at my children’s school recently had a service project collecting used bikes and bike parts for a ministry that fixes these bikes and then provides them to people all over the world who need transportation. Yesterday, my son’s class took a field trip to see the work they do. It was a neat ministry, and they also shared some wonderful things with the children about ministry in general and then bike care and safety.

The lady who started the ministry told us the most important part of any ministry — prayer. We spent time praying together. And the children also learned how they bend steel, put the bikes together, and were encouraged to wear their helmets, take care of their bikes, grease the chains, keep the tires pumped up, etc. They also reported the results of the middle school bike drive and how it would help.

I had a great time being with the students, listening to their conversations, seeing their friendships. I love these children whom I have watched grow for so many years. I remembered the summer before our school started, my son was the only 2nd grader registered, and some wondered if he would have friends and if the school would grow.

By the start of school, there were five 2nd graders, good friends. They combined with the 1st graders and had a nice class of nine children, five boys and four girls. The next year, they had 14 children, 10 boys and four girls. Then they were able to separate out the classes. Though the class has changed year to year, this remains a special group of children, families, and friends, and I was thankful to witness it again yesterday and praise the Lord for bringing together this school and its community.

Working Mom

Some flowers I was sent for speaking at Bible Study

My friend Shelly recently published a post entitled “To Work or Not to Work.” I thought what she shared was insightful.

I am not a big planner. I just tend to go through life as it comes, not having lots of dreams about what I want or how it should happen. Growing up, I never thought too much about the kind of man I wanted to marry; I never planned out the kind of wedding I would want; I didn’t give too much thought to my major in college or the kind of career I might want; I didn’t think about the number of children I should have or the kind of decorating I would want in a house. I would just arrive at each next step, and things just seemed to fall into place.

Through the years, I’ve found that God’s plans were so much better than mine could have been anyway.

I stayed at home with my children when they were little, and I honestly had no thought that I would ever work again. I enjoyed being a stay at home mom and was grateful I could do it.

Once my children got to school age, though, I remember sitting on the side of my bed, aware that I would not likely have any more children, and wondering what in the world I was going to do with myself now that they would be in school. I realized they had been my almost singular purpose for the 7 or so years prior, and I didn’t know what my identity was apart from mothering.

When a classical school was starting in our area, we were interested, and as we tried to figure out how we might afford it, it became obvious that I could work at the school to earn the tuition. The Lord had worked out a new stage, another plan for my life. I discovered that not only was work something I was doing to meet a need (earning tuition), but it was actually something I enjoyed. I enjoyed sharing about the school to prospective parents and guiding them through the admissions process. I enjoyed coordinating testing for incoming students and administering the math (taking advantage of my degree in elementary education with a specialization in math). I liked the numerous administrative tasks like collecting tuition, enrolling students, helping with events, submitting reports to the state, helping oversee standardized testing, etc. I was glad to be working, and even though it had started as a means to an end, it became a place of ministry for me, as well. I loved the families I interacted with each day. I saw firsthand and through prayer God working and moving in that little school.

I thought I would be there forever. It seemed the perfect use of my elementary education degree and my administrative work background as a legal assistant.

And yet, God again had other plans. Last year, I began a new job at our church. I have seen His hand of preparation through past work experiences. And I’ve seen how my work isn’t just to earn the tuition money. These jobs have come with specific callings, using the gifts God has given me. I have come to see that if we took our children out of private schools, I would still work because the work is no longer about the tuition; it’s a calling of its own — unless He were to call me to something else unexpected!

So I resonate with Shelly. We do what God calls us to do and know that our stories are all unique, and there’s not one size fits all. My family is, of course, an obvious calling; I am a wife and mother! But because I don’t do much more than spend time with my family and work part-time, it all seems to balance out well.

While some of my friends work, many of them don’t, but are just as involved outside the home as I am through volunteer work at church or their children’s schools or in the community. They face the same challenges of balance that I do and have to make the same decisions about what they will spend their time doing. Thankfully, we can seek the Lord and trust that He will lead us to what is best.