Back to School

August 2, 2022 | Melissa Riggs

When I was a child, I loved going back to school. Fresh notebooks and unmarked planners were full of promise and possibility. Every August, my mom, sister, and I would do an all-day shopping trip to purchase all the clothes we would need for fall and winter, and then we would go home and have a fashion show for each other. For me, all things new felt like a world of opportunity. 

Today, as a parent preparing to send my three kids back for another year of public school, I don’t get the same feelings I had as a child or even feel the relief I felt in re-establishing a school routine when my kids were little. (I see you, young mamas!) Today I just get overwhelmed. The information avalanche, countless meetings, and adjustments to new schedules and routines make me weary and feel like I am gasping for air. 

There’s no doubt going back to school brings change. Sometimes change is thrilling and needed, and sometimes it is overwhelming. Regardless, I don’t always respond to it as well as I would like. I can react to the new demands or uncertainty with anxiety and fear, and I can handle the pace poorly, like a distance runner who goes out too fast. This year, I want to do back to school differently with God’s help. As I have reflected on this and prayed about it, these are three things I can sense Him reminding me: 

First, prioritize time with the Father. When new routines threaten to steal time or bring exhaustion, it is easy to give up something that feels optional. I may get up early to have my quiet time and find myself making lists or getting sucked into Facebook because those things feel more productive or require less of me. But when Jesus’s ministry was busiest and most demanding, He consistently retreated to spend time with His Father. I need to follow His example and spend time every day basking in His presence, especially when things are challenging. I know God is reminding me: "Don’t pencil it in and don’t get distracted. Make spending time with me a non-negotiable priority. "

Second, create margin. Leviticus 19:9 says, When you reap the harvest of your land, do not reap to the very edges of your field or gather the gleanings of your harvest.” The idea of reaping to the very edges looks so different today in our non-agrarian culture, but the idea in Biblical times was to leave something along the edges of the field for the hungry traveler. The concept may be foreign to us, but I think the principle still applies today. How can I have anything left over to offer my family and friends if I leave no room “along the edges?” For me, this looks like choosing not to sign our youngest child up for another activity we were considering. We could have made it work financially and schedule-wise, but it would be one more thing that pushed us to the edges. I have to fight for margin, and it isn’t always easy. 

Finally, rest in grace. This one might be the hardest for me. I don’t handle it well if I miss a deadline or drop a ball. I don’t like to let anyone down or do things less than perfectly. And yet those things are going to happen because no matter how hard I try, I am not perfect and I cannot do it all. I sense God challenging me to laugh at the dropped balls and pray about which ones to even pick back up. I know He wants me to stop sweating the small stuff and see clearly just how much of it is small stuff. 

As the pace accelerates these next few weeks and we fight to find a new normal, I want to embrace the change in a way that reflects the truth that the Lord is my portion and my peace. And if I find myself getting distracted and making another list at 5:30 in the morning, I will hold my hands open and offer back to God all that I am, asking Him to continually draw me close and help me to live in a steady, restful state because unlike this world, He never changes. 

My soul finds rest in God alone; my salvation comes from him. He alone is my rock and my salvation; he is my fortress. I will never be shaken. - Psalm 62:1-2 (CSB)