I’m about to share a shocking revelation with you. Being a mom is NOT for the faint of heart. It is stinkin’ hard work, with no days off. Ever. And that is one of the very reasons I love August. Back to School, baby! Families everywhere prepare to send their children back to school. Some with glee and others with tears. For me, it’s full on glee. Don’t get me wrong, my family loves our time together during the summer months, but we love the much needed return of routine and seeing friends daily.
Our school is both hard and good. It is filled with wonderful, God-loving teachers and staff along with amazing families, all dedicated to one thing – the kids. Despite everyone’s best efforts to make our school the best it can be, public school brings its own set of challenges. Many of our students are at or below poverty level, many children live in single-parent homes, and many of our students are refugees from war-torn countries. None of the aforementioned factors are a problem. In fact, they are a large part of what makes our school so great! It’s the challenges associated with these facts that brings about difficulty.
Since 1st grade, my oldest son, Jude, who is now in 6th grade, has lost a best friend due to the transient nature of many families at our school. Other best friends often end up in different classes, due to the sheer number of students in our school. (It’s pretty dang big!) And while this has been the case for our oldest, our youngest, Liam, has been blessed to have a best friend in his class for both Kinder and 1st. Which, praise God, because he is a people person. He does NOT like being alone! His love bank is filled by quality time with friends and family.
Last year, 2nd grade, was our first year without a bestie by his side. While tears were shed upon finding out that all of his buddies were in other classes, he managed to change his attitude and was determined to have a “happy heart” and make new friends. We had good days and bad days. The bad days were really bad. I’m a stay at home mama, so I volunteer up at the school a lot. There were days I would run into him crying and begging me to take him home. He would often go to the nurse’s office complaining of a tummy ache in hopes of going home. Bedtime cuddles were filled with tears and prayers. Mornings became a battle just to get him out of bed. Hearing “please don’t make me go mommy” and “I don’t feel safe there” became more and more frequent. It was heartbreaking. I felt like I was failing him as a mama and protector.
My husband and I prayed a TON that year. We prayed with Liam, for Liam, and for our school. I met with his teachers, counselor, and finally the Principal. His homeroom teacher and I would often text each other to alert of bad days or ask for prayer. The Principal and I came up with a plan for the following year that would ensure he’d be in class with at least one of his best friends. I gave her a list of 5 friends and she promised to put at least one of them in class with Liam the following year. We survived the remainder of that year with full dependence on God and believing that 3rd grade promised to be better.
Our Principal ended up retiring at the end of that school year, and as teacher assignments were mailed out, we discovered that our friend request had somehow gotten lost in the shuffle of the many changes. Our entire family was saddened; however, we had managed to get the teacher we prayed for. We also found out that a new and dear friend we hadn’t requested was in Liam’s class! Hooray! God is good. And then, on day three of the new school year, our friend was transferred to a different class due to necessary schedule changes. “Here we go again,” we thought.
I marched myself up to the school to put an end to this madness! I prayed the entire walk there, “Lord, please calm my heart. Let my words honor You.” I said this over and over while taking deep breaths and fighting back tears. We couldn’t do another year like last year, and I was determined that we wouldn’t! I marched down to his teacher’s room, but she had already left for the day. I marched myself back to the office and asked to speak to the new Principal. He was gracious and kind. He listened to all of my concerns and we came up with a new plan of attack. Option 1: switch classes – which meant losing the amazing teacher that we had prayed for. Option 2: find a few friends in Liam’s class that he wanted to get to know better and have weekly fun activities planned with them and the school counselor. Neither option rang of excitement for Liam.
Not ones to “hand pick” teachers for our boys, choosing another class for Liam and leaving the teacher God had chosen for him was less than appealing to me and my husband. And yet, as a mama, my heart ached at the idea of another year like the previous one. I was so mad at the school and felt so let down by God! How could this happen? Couldn’t He have prevented this? Where was He? My son was hurting and so was I! My husband on the other hand had great peace and insight. Because let’s face it, most husbands do, and it can be real annoying at times. “Let’s go to God’s Word and listen for Him to speak and guide us down the right path.”
Liam took his Jesus Storybook Bible to his room and prayed for guidance. A few minutes later he came back to the living room and exclaimed, “this book didn’t tell me anything!” Haha. Nice. We asked him to go grab his Bible and bring it to us so that we could discuss what he had read together. He opened his bible to 1 Kings where Solomon built the Temple, partnering with Lebanon for cedar and others for labor. Liam pointed at the picture of men working together to cut the cedar and said, “I think these guys are friends and they’re able to do all the work because they’re a team.” Whoa. Wise words, crafted by our sweet 9 year old boy. Then my husband challenged him, “What if they aren’t friends and they’re getting to know one another by working together as a team?” Because I’m awesomely loving and supportive, I rolled my eyes and was filled with frustration. I thought to myself, “I dodn’t want my son in pain again; going through another year of feeling left out and alone! So just shut up husband, with all your wisdom and peace!”
As we put Liam to bed that night, we asked him to pray for the next 24 hours and listen for direction from God. And I promised Liam that I too would search God’s Word and pray for wisdom. I climbed into bed a little later and couldn’t believe it…I opened my Bible to Ezra. Guess what? Chapter 3 talks of restoring the Temple! One would think this seemingly obvious sign would bring me peace, right? But as I read and prayed, I kept getting visions of Abraham and Isaac and a sense of sacrifice. It felt as though God was asking me to trust Him and to sacrifice my plans and hopes for Liam. To make matters worse, my husband shared that he thought God was telling us that our son was God’s temple and He was doing a mighty work in Liam to prepare him for something that was bigger than 3rd grade.
I felt as though I was on an emotional roller coaster and all of my emotions and hormones were just beneath the surface waiting to explode! I dropped to my knees and wailed. Crying out to God, “Please don’t make me do this! Please don’t make me force my son to stay in this class with no friends again this year! Please, please don’t do this!” My feelings prevented me from seeing the goodness of the Lord and the truth of His Word. He promises that He works all things for the good of those who love Him. (Romans 8:28) That He will never leave us. (Joshua 1:9) That He will guide us. (Proverbs 3:5-6) That He is a loving Father who gives good gifts. (Matthew 7:11) But I couldn’t see any of it. I was relying on my feelings instead of God’s Word. (I’m pretty sure feelings alone are not to be trusted no matter how real they feel, or how valid.) That night, I ugly cried myself to sleep, asking God for another way.
The next morning, we prayed as a family. We told our son to pray throughout the day as well, asking God for wisdom and guidance. And that we would support whatever decision he felt was best. Now, some may feel that is a little too much to put on the shoulders of a small boy. But, we truly believe that the Holy Spirit is every bit as much in our boys as He is in us. And that the Spirit can guide them, just as much as He guides us. I mean, how old was David when he conquered Goliath? Or Samuel when he first heard the Lord call him?
At 3:05 that afternoon, I heard boys running in the front door. Jude walked in and said, “Liam’s staying with friends on the playground. Oh, and he made his decision. He’s staying in his class.” Wait! What? All the sudden this was no big deal, and Liam wasn’t even coming home to share the big news with me? Did I hear this right? I asked Jude, “Serious?!?” He was excited to tell me how he walked over to Liam’s pick up line, ready to walk home, and asked him right away, “Do you know what you’re going to do?” He said Liam replied quickly and with a smile, “Yeah, I’m gonna stay in Ms. William’s class” and then ran off to play.
My heart was so full. It was a proud mama moment to be sure, but what had all the sudden given my child so much peace that he didn’t even come home to share the news with me? When Liam came home a little later, we chatted about his decision. He shared that as soon as he walked into his classroom that morning, his teacher gave him a big hug and asked how he was doing. (She knew he was having a hard time and knew all about the previous year.) And that was all he needed. A hug. That simple. Knowing he was loved and that his feelings mattered meant the world to him. He said he knew she was the right teacher for him. Annnnnd, my heart exploded all over the place. Tears filled my eyes. “God is so good isn’t He?” I asked, “He knew just what you needed all along.”
This 24 hour journey immediately went into our family’s Ebenezer Journal. I never want to forget the time my little boy taught me the value of a hug. Or the time that God asked both of us to do something BIG – trust and obey. It’s rarely easy. The sacrifice is often great. God doesn’t always answer our prayers quickly. But, I’ve walked with God long enough to know that He is still working. The story isn’t over yet. God will continue to do mighty works in and through His temple, my son, Liam. I am beyond honored to have a front row seat and an active role in the adventure!