Remember to Not Forget: Ending a School Year

12:56 PMHeather

A euphoria has swept my house hold.  On this, the last day of school.  My kids have been counting down for quite some time.  In fact, one child even created a daily count down with post-it notes, where each day can be ripped off.  

Yes, indeed.  It's a good day.  I personally am breathing a huge sigh of relief.  We made it!  Now, I can be freed from signing binders, obsessively asking my teenagers about their school work, and the daily grind of school pick-ups at three locations at three different times.  

In the words of the character played by Mel Gibson in the movie Braveheart...


Yet, as I find my mind immediately moving to the next things on the calendar--summer activities and camps and trips and such, I was reminded of something important this morning.

We must remember to not forget.  

We must remember to not forget the milestones of the last year.  The things that God has brought us through.  The struggles we survived.  The potential dangers that we (and our children) dodged.  The times we fell.  The times we got back up.  All the places we've been.  Whether you're completing a school year or a chapter of life, such as high school.

This is an important ritual for all of us.  The Bible is full of examples where God's people stopped, at the brink of the new thing, to pause in praise and worship as they remembered to not forget.  

Noah and his family, saved from the flood, walking on dry land, to build an altar of remembrance.  Abraham, narrowly avoiding the sacrifice of Isaac, pausing to name that place The Lord Will Provide. Jacob, building an altar at Bethel, to commemorate how God revealed Himself during his time of running from his brother Esau. The altar of remembrance by the twelve tribes after walking through the dry ground of the Jordan River, remembering how the Lord was bringing them to the Promised Land after wandering in the desert.

So let us intentionally stop and consider what God has done for us.  To look back and have our faith built by not forgetting the ground gained within the last school year.  I say let's do this with our children, to instill in them the important practice of pausing to remember to not forget.  Perhaps you can use this blog post as dinner conversation starter. 

1.  What were the things we feared or were anxious about for this last school year, before it began?  Did those things happen?  Were they better or worse than anticipated?  Maybe your child started middle school or high school, like one of mine did.  I remember the mini-panic attack as I walked the halls of that huge high school on registration day.  How was my son ever going to find his classes?  Would he adjust well?  For this mama bear, I was downright anxious about my little cub going off into that big unknown territory. 

Listen, my rather confident teenager told me in no uncertain terms as school began that he was going to be just fine.  In that little tone that reminded me that my anxiety was more about my own experience at a tiny high school and the intimidation I felt than it was about his perspective.  For him, it is perfectly normal to go to a large high school.  It's all he's anticipated.  He had very kind friends from church who showed him the ropes and reminded him they had his back.  Despite a rocky start with five (yes, 5!) algebra teachers within the first semester (hiring glitches! On my son's hardest subject), he has done well.  

There were other anxieties and concerns for all three of my children.  And because I am rather gifted at picturing worse case scenarios, all in all -- my fears were not the least bit realized.  Not even close.  Indeed, much to be celebrated!  May it remind me to stand firm on God's faithful track record rather than my own pessimism.

2.  What were some struggles and failures and trials that were survived?  During the last few months, I have frequently stopped by the Facebook page called Prayers for Blake.  When I consider the story of this fourteen-year-old boy who suffered a serious brain injury after a freak accident at gymnastics, I think, well...I got nothing.  I have found great encouragement in how this Facebook page has offered the details of a hard journey, with great transparency.  Specific daily needs were prayed for and then reported on.  And a dire situation, where Blake's very life hung in the balance, unfolded to the very thing his parents were specifically praying for from moment one.  

In the last few weeks, he walked out of the hospital. On his feet.  Just as his mom and dad had prayed for since the first day when his recovery was quite uncertain.

I cried like a baby reading those words.  

After that, he went back to his school to visit his friends.  And from reading the account of it, I'm pretty sure I would have been a weepy mess had I actually been there for THAT occasion.  

What astounded me throughout these last few months of keeping up with this friend of a friend is this testimony.  This family stood firmly on God's promises.  Continually asking for specific things in prayer.  Careful to note and celebrate and praise God for each tiny milestone.  They are the epitome of simply being thankful for what was survived.  For how they were held by a loving God through very dark days.  Embracing the light of the new thing, the new work, the new promises for the days ahead.  

Maybe your trials this last school year or season aren't quite dramatic.  Maybe, like our family, there were just the typical angst of being a pre-teen or teenager.  No worries.  Let us still note the very things that we survived.  That we are still here.  Still fighting.  Still taking steps.  And let's find hope in these things that did not undo us, learning lessons for the next journey.

3.  What were some surprises--good and bad--throughout the last school year?  Where are we now in these situations?  What ground has been gained?  What unrealized hopes still lie ahead?  Every season of life comes with surprises.  Good and bad.  For instance, we weren't familiar with my daughter's assigned teachers in the fall.  But, we found them to be fabulous and kind and encouraging and beyond anything we could have asked.  There were new students in her school, after a little rezoning in our district.  She has found some wonderful new friendships.  On the other hand, cliques and groups are forming, as these kids move toward middle school.  She has noted that she no longer spends time after school with certain friends.  Yet, she is rolling with the punches and learning a lot about friendship.  

For all of our kids, this last school year has included saying good-bye to the only pastor they remember and going through a season of transition.  We couldn't imagine anything different as our family prayed for the search for a new pastor.  Yet, God has brought our church family to a wonderful new season under a pastor whose sermons are drawing my kids to Him in new ways.

This last school year included a surprise surgery for me, during a surprise ice storm, that left my kids with the surprise of extra days at their "fake cousins" house, with their aunt and uncle by choice. We saw God's hand in every detail, as I was freed from two years of chronic pain.  And my family supported and loved me through my recovery and rejoiced to have the problem handled.

Other surprised this school year include long spoken prayers remaining unanswered, friends enduring new challenges, family being spared from a killer tornado, teachers who were challenging to work with, and my children enduring unexpected disappointments. 

Surprises, I'm learning, are a wonderful way for this planner mom to learn to surrender to the works of a constant God.  Such beautiful life lessons for my children.

4.  Looking back, what accomplishments are you most proud of or what blessings find you most thankful?  I love how the elementary school where my children have attended approaches success ceremonies.  Each child is encouraged to set goals and work toward them.  Each child is then announced across the stage with the thing they are most proud of from the school year.  I love hearing the individual "I did it!" moments that each child chooses.  Some are funny.  Some are mind boggling (REALLY?  PERFECT scores on that STAAR test?!).  Some are just interesting insight into the mind of that child.  

This year, my child said she was most proud of maintaining a good attitude when she became sick and had to leave the famous fourth grade Adventure Camp.  Indeed.  This memory stands out to me, too.  We cried the whole way home, unsure why she would miss out on this three day adventure that she had looked forward to since kindergarten.  Yet, my girl rebounded and pressed forward.  Hardly uttering a word for the weeks since when everyone dives into their "remember at camp?" stories.  She has achieved much and worked hard through an arduous fourth grade year.  But, I am with her on how she appreciates the prayers that were answered as she gathered her sad self together and determined to press on.

It's always interesting to hear your child's perspective on this question.  Because I'm guessing their answer won't match yours.  But every inch of ground gained should indeed be celebrated, with our eyes ever focused on the God who moves us forward.  

5.  What lessons learned have you gained through this last school year?  When I look back at my August, first-day-of-school self, I've learned a lot about my kids and my mothering over these last ten months.  Once I stop to consider it.  

I've learned my oldest has an inner strength that I need not doubt.  I've learned he has a quiet confidence and faith that will see him through even major disappointments.  And I can back up and let him fly.  (Or that looms around the corner).  He has a quick sense of humor, offering levity when least expected from this man of few words.  He is choosing friendships wisely and carefully, thinking through his future and not taking himself too seriously.  And he still lets me give him hugs.

My middle child never ceases to amaze me.  Once he sets his mind to something, he will get it done.  He tackled a whole new endeavor with playing football this year.  My heart nearly burst watching him rally his teammates on the field and run his routes with great agility.  He missed more school days than are even allowed, yet pulled out a grade point average higher than he ever has.  We are enjoying new ground in our relationship, as we discuss and navigate new paths of independence.  And I love how he shares funny videos or jokes or news bits with me, letting me into his world.

My youngest child is not a baby.  If you know her, this is not a news flash.  Since she is nearly as tall as me and her shoe size is already two sizes bigger than mine, despite the fact she is nine years old.  But this year, she has turned some corners of maturity and pushed herself harder academically and socially.  She has made big decisions, like leaving her volleyball team with all of her friends in order to learn piano and guitar.  Every time I see her with that guitar on her lap, strumming away, I marvel at her confidence to chart her own way.  It's evidence of answered prayers from a mom whose childhood was marked by insecurity.  

All in all, I believe God has been teaching me this year as a mom to be bold and confident and claim the big things He wants to do through all of my children.  It's all a reminder to release my doubts to God.  Because He's got me...and He has these kids.  Through whatever comes.  I must surrender them to His care, as they tackle high school or new sports or changing friendships.  I've cried about things that hardly phased them.  Oh, yes.  Perhaps I can learn from them to let things go.  

I've worked harder this year at being and staying connected to my children and leading them through grace more than demanding specific behavior.  Lessons my Father is teaching me about His love for me.  I've been challenged to choose my battles and bite my tongue and lead by example in how I speak to them or approach them.  Admit my mistakes.  Ask forgiveness.  Have grace on myself too, and trust Him to be big enough to fill in the gaps when I fail.  And I know that He has lessons He is trying to teach each of them, too.  As they navigate their own walk with their God.

I've got a long, long way to go.  But, I can look back and see that the tree of lessons learned is bending over with the weight of fruit for me to pick.  To ponder and consume and be transformed for the next steps.  

Lessons learned.  From an entire school year.  Or maybe an entire season of schooling.  More than just math or reading or geography.  Heart lessons.  Character lessons.  Faith lessons.  I often tell my children that no experience--good or really bad--is wasted if we can consider a lesson learned and move forward with that.

That we might all stop and pause there.  To look backward with thankfulness.  With an openness to being refined and molded.  With a heart of praise and worship.  With eyes to see all the many things that God walked us through.

Oh, yes.  We survived!  We survived fourth grade, seventh grade, and ninth grade.  But more than surviving...I can see how because of His grace, we have actually thrived.  

All thanks to Him for his steadfast love and faithfulness.  And afternoons NOT spent running car pools.

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