KATIE CLIFTON: A mother's prayer for the first day of school

Dear First Day of School,

I cannot believe you are back so soon. I mean, didn't we just end our last school year?! I can't really decide if I am happy to see you or if I want you to stay away a bit longer. But since you are rapidly approaching, in spite of my preparations (or lack thereof, whatever) there are some things we need to talk about. I think it is time for you and I to have a heart to heart.

First, you need to know I am praying for you. I am praying for the district administration, the principal, the teachers, the janitors, the cafeteria staff, the bus drivers, the tech support, the campus police officers, the students, the parents and their families. I don't know if you have done the math, but I have - And the way I see it, you get the honor of having more quality time with my kids than I do. I am so jealous of that. You better treat them well. That isn't a threat, it's a whole hearted plea from the heart of a parent. You need to protect them. Those 2 growing kids I will be dropping off every morning and kissing good bye, they are world changers. This world needs them and this momma needs them. I know your intentions are to protect them at all cost, but sometimes we fail, this fractured world collides with our hopes...I get that. So I am dousing you in prayers of protection. I am drenching you in the prayers of a momma who is asking Jesus to watch over you closely. I went to your address and stood at your doorway alone. I prayed and asked the Lord to protect my babies - all of our babies. I heard Him remind me that they aren't actually mine, so I cried for a bit. Please, please protect them and be good to them.

Second, I am sending my kids to you knowing there will never be another year like this year. This year I feel like my babies are becoming big kids and I need you to know that I am not resting easy in the changes that are approaching. I want my kids to be servants and you may encourage first place over last place. We are trying to raise our kids with this awesome thought process (we totally stole it from Jesus) where the first is actually last and we come to serve rather than be served. I am perfectly ok with our children not fitting into a mold of "normal". I am praying they are gentle with their words to others. I am praying they offer help and encouragement when another lamb is falling behind or feeling down. I am praying that the brutality of friendships, cliques and bullies is shielded from my kids, all of our kids. I pray they don't laugh at the expense of others or kick someone while they are down. Instead, I hope these little people possess enough integrity to walk across the lines this world creates and that they lift up the hurting and lonely and outcast.

I remember you all too well, Mr. First Day of School. Everyone wore their new shoes and clothes and came with fresh pencils and haircuts. Your hallways and classrooms are polished, painted and cleaned each year and they are perfectly tidy and organized when we see you. As great as you appear, some of your characteristics are simply just for image and first impressions. Some of your beauty is masking the imperfections. You dress up - just like the students who line your halls and hurry to your classes. Behind the new clothes and clean shoes and smiling faces are kids with hurts and baggage, pain and fears. I am prayerfully preparing for your arrival. I am begging you to be gentle with these kids whose home lives we can't imagine; the ones who will begin to come to you hungry or dirty. The sweet students who will talk about the chaos of their lives. I want you to bless them and love them. Be their refuge and source of safety and comfort.

And then, we have the staff who embraces you each year. What treasures they are. They are unsung heroes who pour themselves into you and their students. Please be a happy place for them. Let your doors be the path that leads them to their purpose. Let their classrooms be a platform for their passions and callings. Please allow them to be courageous. Please allow them for be full of mercy and patience.

Dear First Day of School, this will not be our last encounter. I have many more years to love you and hate you. I have many more tears to shed, and hopes to hope and prayers to pray for you. I will have a fortune more spent on you before our final farewell. But for now, I am buying pencils and paper, locker shelves and calculators, backpacks and tissues. I will wake up early before we see you. I will pray with my kids and plaster a smile across my face as I blink back tears and recall headlines and news stories of aching parents who won't be confronting you this year. We will pull up to greet you, amidst the long line of cars and parents doing the same song and dance as I. I will kiss my kids goodbye and watch them embrace you with bright eyes and expectations. Do not crush them or any of those dear children. Be a place of comfort and safety for them all. Please. I will see you again at 3:00 and breathe a sigh of relief and say prayers of thanks for you.

And we will meet again.
Same time.
Possibly a different place.
But we will meet.
And I will have fears.
And I will pray for you fiercely.


The heart of a momma