It’s the first day of school ’round these parts. We have spent the past week getting new haircuts and new inside shoes, new jeans and new permission slips. The tinies-who-are-no-longer-that-tiny humoured their mother and stood dutifully for pictures. Anne is off to middle school – a whole new world, Joe is headed to grade four, Evie is ready for grade one, and Maggie has just one more year at home before preschool next fall (not that I’m counting down…).

We loaded into the minivan for the drive to school, everyone buckled. I’ve learned the hard way to do a call-out checklist before I pull out of the driveway: lunches? inside shoes? water? home folders? library books? to a chorus of “yes, Mum” and at least one “whoops – hold on, Mum” every morning.

Summer was full here – we’re sending them back to their teachers a few inches taller, tan lines criss-crossing their backs, memories brimming with starry nights and campfires and cousins, ready for the routine to re-establish.

Our last camping trip of the summer was just a week ago. We had a clear mountain lake practically to ourselves. Me and the big three swam out to the middle of the lake and floated there. It was 55m to the bottom and the sky was endless above us and we were suspended in water together.

We sank beneath the surface to peer up at the sky through the water. We splashed and laughed and hollered, diving deep like mermaids, capsizing each other’s floaties, letting the time pass from the infinite embrace of weightlessness.

We are a lake family – oh, we like the ocean’s power and salt, we appreciate a pool’s purpose, but we’re who we were meant to be in the cool water from the mountains, surrounded by rocky shores. They talked easily of God while treading water, weaving worship with laughter and dunkings and quiet floating on their backs.

I don’t believe in ghettoizing God in my children’s lives: like we only talk about God at an official family devotion or we only pray at bedtimes or only read the Bible at church. There isn’t a dividing line between God-time and Regular-Time. I believe God is just as present in the mountains lakes and the minivans of our lives.

When we pulled out on the streets to head for the drop-off lines – middle school and elementary school now! – we began to pray for their year ahead. We prayed for their teachers, for their friends. We prayed for their brains and their hearts. We prayed for every worry and insecurity, every victory and hope we could imagine. My children rest in my prayers in the way that I rest in the prayers of the ones who discipled me in the ways of Jesus. I am forever teaching them that it’s worthwhile to pray in minivans and in the middle of the lake.

Eyes open, shoulder-checking, in-the-midst-of-life prayers are just as meaningful and powerful, I think, as any in a church altar call or a monastery. The ways we pray for our children are as deep as a mountain lake – sometimes we use words, sometimes it’s a prayer we’re carrying in our hearts. But minivan prayers are mighty prayers, I believe. I believe in declaring truth, in building the words of prayer in their hearts, from the middle of our life, not just the elite edges.

I walked each of them to their classrooms, met their teachers, got them settled. Just Mags and me in a quiet minivan for the first time in a while. We celebrated with a pumpkin spice latte (for me) and an ice water (for her).

I remember before they went to school, those three big kids sitting at desks at this blessed moment: those three kids came to us in four and a half years. It felt like those days of chaos and joy, nursing and diapers, tears (sometimes mine) and velcro shoes were endless. I remember going for walks in places like that provincial park with them: holding hands with two toddlers, one baby strapped to my chest in the Ergo carrier. Me, feeling like the axis upon which they spun through the world, unsure and unsteady and brave enough to try.

I remember looking longingly at the lonely middle of the lake as we stayed at the noisy and crowded shore together. But just a few turns around the sun and here we were swimming in silent deep water together and praying like a van-full of Pentecostals at the stop sign: praying we would be strong and kind, smart and wise, the head and not the tail, tender-hearted and brave. We declared ourselves peace-makers and everyone remembered their lunch. At least for today.



What I'm Into :: Summer 2017
Rumours of the Real
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  • I’ve missed you writing about motherhood. This is the goods. All of it. So much amen from me

  • Carrie Williams

    Thanks for your blog, Sarah. I hope to get to meet your daughter in school this year!

  • Yes! There is no separate God time, it is all interlinked and one. God is in everything. I wish there were more lakes in my life, but I have lots of woods and the swimming pool and prayer forms an important part there as much as in church and during my formal prayer times.

  • Brittaney B

    Oh man, Sarah. This made me miss you guys so bad!

  • Rachel Richardson

    Such a beautiful ‘normal’ family. The way God intended our lives to be. Wish everyone could know this kind of love.

  • Brenda P

    Lovely words. I love back to school time, even though it’s not back to school time for me. What are inside shoes? I’m not familiar with that term.

  • Those trips ’round the sun go awfully fast, don’t they? Then, boom! You no longer need a minivan. Ask me how I know.

    But as you’re smack in the middle of the minivan stage, I’m glad yours is a place of prayer. Good for you. “No ghettoizing” is a good way to approach God, I think. Bless you.

  • Nicole Mayberry

    I loved loved loved “praying we would be strong and kind, smart and wise, the head and not the tail, tender-hearted and brave.” As a teacher, I always find myself praying over the desks in my room in the days leading up to the kids arriving and asking for prayer from my friends that my students would feel safe, and loved, and cared about.

    Also, what are inside shoes?!

  • Yes, this is us, too. I find I pray more in the car than I do anywhere else. I love the “head and not the tail” reference, by the way. Pentecostals forever!!

  • Katie Noah Gibson

    Love love love. “Brave enough to try.” Happy school year, Sarah. xo

  • Theresa

    Yours words give me hope that my stage (stay at home mom with a 4 and a 2) wont last forever. I’m longing to go to the middle of the lake. And praying lots of car prayers with them.

  • Jenn

    You capture ordinary moments with such beauty. Lovely and timely as always.

  • Jessica

    “I don’t believe in ghettoizing God in my children’s lives..” I love this use of these words and the call to something different they offer. I love this post and I love that your heart for yours is also the heart you have for those you have been entrusted to speak to and over.