by Kirsten Patterson
September 4, 2019
It’s that time of year again . . . summer vacations are behind us, school is starting and the free(er) reins of summer are tightening around the bell schedule, work assignments, soccer practice, evening homework and earlier bedtimes. I ordered all my kids’ school supplies online this year and they’ve been arriving piecemeal—a pair of scissors and scotch tape yesterday, a composition book today, the 48 pre-sharpened No. 2 pencils due to arrive tomorrow (there has to be a more efficient way to fill this order, right?). When school let out it felt disorienting to be free, I felt like I needed a plan to channel everyone’s energy, to redeem the time and keep everyone advancing spiritually, socially, academically. But then I got used to less traffic, sleeping in a little later, staying outside a little longer, venturing a little farther . . . to the neighborhood pool, down to the beach, across the Golden Gate bridge and up the Oregon Coast on our family vacation.
As we transition from summer to fall, I’ve realized that it’s not the new schedule that feels so daunting to me, it’s all the change in general. New teachers, new classrooms, new sports teams, new Bible study, even new church service times! And all of the unknowns: will our family be on the early bird or the late bird kindergarten schedule? Will my kids do well in school and choose good friends? Can I squeeze in sufficient time to work between all the drop offs and pickups? Two years ago, when my daughter started kindergarten, my fall transition was pretty rocky. Anxiety rolled in like fog and kept me off balance for a month. Over that Labor Day weekend I got so sick that it felt like my insides were turning completely out and I ended up in the ER. I was terrified by how fiercely my anxiety had taken over my body, until I got a call from the Health Department letting me know that test results identified Shiga toxin-producing E. coli in my system. I wouldn’t ordinarily be thrilled by a case of food poisoning, but I was so relieved that it wasn’t my own ‘crazy’ that had sent me to the ER!
With all that swirling in my heart and mind this year, I’ve been trying to prepare myself for the changes on my horizon. And while I’m working on all the practical things like ordering school supplies, readying my filing system and putting dates on my calendar, I think it’s my heart that needs the most preparation. A new schedule means new people in my path, new faces on the walk to school, on the soccer field sidelines, in the parking lot at work . . . Am I ready to greet them and enter into life with them, rather than looking over their shoulders for old (safe) friends? Is my heart ready to learn new names, and listen to new life stories, and wait for new people to reveal themselves, conversation by conversation, before lumping them into a category of “not my kind of people” and moving on? Am I ready to listen to the Holy Spirit and be guided in the activities I commit my time and energy to (rather than declaring unilaterally that the PTA is not for me!)? I’ve been praying that God will protect and guide these new relationships, that misunderstandings or misplaced expectations will not undermine them, that there will be unexpected joy around new corners.
Lord, bless us and hold us, as we venture into this next season, send us out as your image bearers into the schools and sports fields and shopping centers, into the office towers and public buildings and church plazas. May YOU be glorified in us, as we go about our daily tasks with ears and hearts bent toward YOUR activity and redemptive purposes. Amen, and amen.
Kirsten is mom to Ava and Ellis, wife to Chris, and novice team parent to the girls U9 Orange Raptors soccer team.