Here we are, mamas, at the beginning of another school year. Backpacks and new shoes have been crossed off our lists. Headphones and what-in-the-world-are-My-First-Pencils — check. Haircuts and awkward photos on the front step the kids will cringe at in 10 years – double check.

Sisters, we all have our lists, right? We’ve discovered that motherhood takes the majority of our short-term memory along with our smooth stomach skin and flies off to Never Never Land. We also know that there are the lists we get from school, and then there’s the REAL list – the survival list, the one that’s been gleaned from life in the trenches. This one’s a little more unique to each family and is filled with the things needed to get you and your quirky peeps through the year with sanity intact.

Here’s a peek at mine:

  1. Buy peanut butter in bulk. I have one child who eats approximately four things in the universe. Meat? Good luck. Vegetables? You’re hilarious. Peanut butter is the very glue that holds this child’s body together. I keep waiting for an email informing me that life is officially over because peanuts have been outlawed at school. Lord, let it not be in my lifetime.
  1. Have the nurse put my number on speed dial. Yes, running face first into poles and playground equipment is one of my children’s favorite pastimes. Dear sweet nurse, stop introducing yourself when you call. Three years in, we are nearly family. Let’s go with this script:

Me: Hello?

Nurse: It happened again. Iced. Back to class.

Me: Right on. Talk to you tomorrow.

Click.

  1. Create folder labeled “Love Notes.” Remember back in elementary school, that one boy all the girls giggled and dreamed about? It appears I’m raising that one. Only the girls nowadays are more vocal. They know what they want, and they all want him to “put a ring on it” and “call me maybe.” May all the chaste saints in heaven help us in 10 years.
  1. Amass large quantities of grace. Yes, we are definitely going to need some grace to get through all the crazy this year is going to bring. I am going to need a Big Gulp-sized cup of grace for those mornings in December when I go in to wake my darlings and they are completely flabbergasted that they have to get up so early. Like they haven’t just done it for the past 93 weekdays in a row. Confession: Sometimes grace looks like getting up early, sneaking one of my kids’ frozen waffles and slathering it with a half inch of Nutella. Do what you gotta do.

Our kids are going to need grace too. Because school can be tough. There’s a whole lot of learning, navigating, and growing to do. This year will be full of hard things. There will be misadventures, less-than-ideal behavior, and yes, poles. Our little people are learning how to do life, and it’s quite a task. So grace.

Which leads me to another list. A sub-list, if you will. Yes, my brain needs these too.

To help my children (and myself) walk into this school year with purpose, we have been talking through a few Bible verses, and in so doing, I pray that more than anything else they learn this year, they learn these things:

  1. God is with them. Joshua 1:9 – Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified. For the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.

How will our kids know that God will catch them if they never jump? I want them to be brave, make new friends, try new things, have adventures, and maybe, just maybe, eat something besides peanut butter. (That dreaded email is coming, I’m sure.) This verse was my mantra during my school years, and I want my children to rely on this incredible promise as well.

  1. Their life has purpose, right now. Isaiah 42:7-8 – I have set you among my people to bind them to me, and provided you as a lighthouse to the nations. To make a start at bringing people into the open, into light: Opening blind eyes, releasing prisoners from dungeons, emptying the dark prisons.

God has a plan for our children this year. He has things to teach them, situations to grow them, choices to define them. The plans God has for our kids aren’t some fuzzy, far-away entity. God wants to use them. Not someday. Today! Their calling will take on different forms as they grow, but it will always be the same: To love God and love people. Grades, extra-curricular activities, and career aspirations certainly have their place, but they are not my children’s calling and thus are always secondary.

  1. Every day is Sunday. Romans 12: 1-2 – So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life – your sleeping, eating, going-to-[school], and walking-around life – and place it before God as an offering.

I want my kids to see me seeking God, messing up and trying again, loving my neighbors, welcoming and serving those who are different from me, and get what “being the church” means.

I want them to know that church isn’t about knowing a list of rules to live by or creating a safe bubble to live in, and it doesn’t just happen on Sunday mornings. It happens on Monday mornings during math and Thursday afternoons at soccer practice. Speaking kind words to a discouraged classmate? Church. Respecting and obeying their teachers? Church. Including the odd kid out at recess? Amen and Hallelujah. It’s all church.

So there it is, my REAL list. It’s not perfect or precious or Pinterest-worthy. It’s just love notes and ice packs and grace, all stuck together with peanut butter. And it’s really all we need.

What’s on your REAL list? Are you feeling ready for fall and the new beginnings it brings?

Jen Spiegel

Author Jen Spiegel

Jen is a wife and mother of three and work as a medical editor. A cancer survivor, special needs mom, and sociologist by degree, Jen is passionate about natural health, the power of storytelling, and choosing hope and gratefulness even on the tough days. In spare moments, she enjoys reading voraciously, making music with friends, and indulging her travel and adventure bug.

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