The girls' bedrooms are dark now, and it's hard saying whether they've actually fallen asleep. They are jittery with excitement.
Tomorrow's the first day of school here.
Just now, their overstuffed backpacks are leaning against the back door, and I marvel at the fact that a 70-pound child can pack-mule a bag like that down a long country driveway.
Earlier today, we packed those bags FULL, with approximately zero room to spare. We also had searched high and low for matching gym socks. We labeled folders and glue sticks with their names. We couldn't find last year's paint shirts. And we all admired the way that a sturdy folder looks on Day One -- before said folder mysteriously decomposes, corner by blessed corner, inside a school desk within mere weeks of the start of a new semester.
There's such a hopefulness in all of this ritual. In the box of crayons, in the clean slate of a new notebook, in the fresh haircuts and the new outfits spread out carefully on bedroom floors.
First days. New beginnings. Swollen with hope and promise. God knows we need the hope of fresh starts -- in this crazy, banged-up world.
It's the little things I'm hanging onto out here on this farm in northwest Iowa. Little things like fresh sharpened pencils, and the cherry-cheeked pictures snapped before summer tans fade.
And how their swimsuits are still damp, in this sorrowful clump by the washing machine.
I always love all that the new school year stands for.
But this year, perhaps more than any other year in my years of mothering, I cling to the hope that the new school year holds.
Call it, The Ministry of the Newly Sharpened Pencil. (And call me crazy, but The Ministry of The Newly Sharpened Pencil kept me sane today.)
This world is one sore, wounded place. A suburb in Missouri begs for peace. People are trapped on a mountaintop on the other side of the world. A journalist's family mourns his horrific death. There are the quiet wounded in our own communities, the lonely, and the depressed -- wearily dropping their heads into their hands, and pretty certain that no one sees.
And I've got a whole set of unspoken prayer requests of my own tonight. God knows ...
It's a maddening place, this world.
But it's also a beautiful world -- where you can look at the familiar and see something fantastic. And sometimes you've got to make yourself see the fantastic, because if you don't, you might miss the familiar thing that will save you.
So we try to find some fantastic kind of clarity in the familiarity of backpacks and new pencils. It might sound ridiculous.
But maybe it's the only way we can make any sense out of days like these. Maybe it's how we know that there is still good in the world--by actively seeking for it.
And while we would be horribly wrong to turn our back on the bad, we'd be deepening the wound if we ignored the good.
Maybe my own soul is telling me what Paul was telling the Philippians. "Rejoice in the Lord always. And I will say it again: Rejoice!"
Paul said it not once, but twice. Rejoice.
Maybe it's why we keep gratitude lists, and blessings journals, scribbling out reminders of all the good times, because we subconsciously know those reminders will keep us sane during the bad times.
Because, when the world looks plum crazy, we can forget that God is still here. And when we forget, we flat-out lose our joy.
How can the world get her joy back? Lord, tell us how to recover our joy?
Certainly, it's not by ignoring the rancor of the world. But maybe it's seeking hard for Him, even in the midst of it?
Ann Voskamp wrote it like this, in her book, One Thousand Gifts --
“...the secret to joy is to keep seeking God where we doubt He is.”
It's one thing I can do right now, to count joy in the little things, believing that He is always doing new things. I've got to keep seeking God where I doubt He is, and not forgetting to look where I've seen Him before.
And if I am actively attending to the blessings of Christ, maybe I can better live out the love of Christ. For when we find joy in the ridiculously minuscule -- the sharpened end of a pencil by which my children will make some new discovery -- yes, when we find joy in the small, we open up some kind of sacred space for God to grow bigger in us, right now.
We've got to believe it's true.
We've got to believe it when we see this world suffer.
Perhaps we would only worsen the pain of this world, if we neglected to thank Him for the good of this world. If we neglected the blessing of painting little-girl fingernails the night before school. If we neglected to marvel and laugh over how much stuff one can shove into a child-sized backpack. If we forgot to see all the promise in the looseleaf paper -- and all the promise it holds.
So, what's your Story?
A #TellHisStory is any story that connects your story into the story of God.
You're invited to tell that story right here, in community with us.
Share your narratives, your poems, your Instagrams tagged with #TellHisStory, ... your beautiful hearts. You are the chroniclers, the people who help others make sense of the world with your words and your art.
Story is how we know that, no matter what happens, we can get back up again.
Visit someone (or two) in the link-up to encourage with a comment. Then, Tweet about your posts, and the posts you visit, with the #TellHisStory hashtag. Come back on Friday to visit our Featured #TellHisStory, in the sidebar.
A final note: This is a safe place to tell your stories. You don’t have to be a professional writer to join us. Story is built into every single one of us. Your story matters, because it’s part of God’s story down through history, not because you punctuated everything correctly. Deal?
For more details on the #TellHisStory linkup, click here. Share the love of story by visiting someone else in the community!
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