mama mondays: classroom full of…nothing

Mama Mondays: Classroom Full of…Nothing

The other day, I hinted at an emotional moment I’d experienced upon looking at a photo of my son’s first-grade class. In the photo, the little ones are dolled up in their saints’ costumes as part of our school’s All Hallows Eve/All Saints’ Day celebration. There were so many emotions running through my brain and heart as I looked at that photo, but I knew it would require a whole new blog post to explain why the photo had brought me to near tears. So, here it is.

The first reason was very personal. My son felt awkward the morning of the saints’ celebration. I think he thought he’d be the only one dressed up. “This is the worst day ever,” complained my typically good-natured son as he tromped out the door dressed as St. John the Baptist. He was in such a funk that when we reached the school grounds, he tripped out of the van and fell onto the curb, landing in a puddle of wet leaves and fresh, cold rain. “See, I told you it was the worst day ever!” he said, tears streaming down his face. I turned off the ignition and ran around to the other side of the van to help him up. After giving him a big hug and brushing off a few leaves, I told him it was up to him; that if he wanted it to be the worst day ever, it surely would be. But I reminded him it really was a good day for several reasons. One, it was a “non-uniform day,” which is always a special day at our school. After the little saints’ party, he’d be free to wear jeans and his favorite shirt – no school uniform. AND, there would be a Halloween parade and party and lots of yummy treats. “It could be a great day,” I said, “if you let it be.” With that, I blessed his forehead and sent him on his way. As I drove off, I sneaked in a prayer that his seemingly spoiled day would be turned around by God’s gentle grace.

Here’s the photo again, in cased you missed it on Saturday:

You can see my son in the left-hand bottom corner of the photo; he certainly doesn’t seem miserable. And when I picked him up from school that day, he said with a bright smile, “You were right, Mom. It wasn’t the worst day after all!” I can only hope he’ll remember that the next time he thinks the day is doomed even before it’s begun.

So at very first glance, the photo was a reminder to me of how often we tend to doom ourselves only to discover, if we are even slightly awake and aware, that God’s grace can turn right even the most rotten-looking day. Though I may have helped set my son’s head in the right direction, I wasn’t fully responsible for his “turned out right after all” day. Though I’d not been able to attend his party as I’d initially hoped, God heard my prayer and took care of things in my absence. Being mindful of the possibilities of what might happen if we but trust, and knowing my son had had a great day despite the rough beginning, brought joy to my heart.

I also couldn’t help but delight in the sheer sweetness of the image – those adorable little saints and how innocent and beautiful they all were. It just struck me in a deep way that, despite our imperfections, God sees us all like that! He sees our potential, our goodness, even if we are not saints every moment of every day. God sees when we are trying to be holy, and like a pleased parent, He, too, smiles with delighted contentment in those moments.

But there was something else about the photo that had a different effect. That part tugged at me in a sad way, in a way that actually sent me into a silent grieving of sorts. I’ve often heard the statistic that each month in our city, a classroom full of children is eliminated through abortion. And as I looked at that photo of those precious children and thought of that dire fact, it was as if all of those sweet angels vanished – none of them existed anymore. Pondering a classroom of potential little saints lost each week in our city alone ripped at me. The photo suddenly became symbolic to me in a heart-wrenching way. I felt such incredible sadness for everything that is happening in our world leading to this tragic result.

These thoughts took me back to an earlier day in the week; the day some students in my oldest son’s eighth-grade class stood in front of North Dakota’s only abortion “clinic” to pray, as part of the 40 Days for Life observance. My son isn’t much for divulging great amounts of detail, but he did tell me that during their time there, a car had driven by and flashed a derogatory gesture toward him and the other students. I still wonder how he truly felt at that moment. I shared with him that a similar thing had happened the last time I was there – someone in a vehicle passing by rolled down a window and shouted, “Scum!” We had just been singing and praying, and it felt like mud had been thrown at us. All I could think was, They have no idea who I am, what I’m about. And yet they hate me.

So, though I certainly didn’t set out to write about my pro-life convictions this week, the subject has presented itself to me in these two examples in my life as a mother. Both seem significantly symbolic, as well as terribly relevant. My older son got a brief taste of what it feels like to be “crucified” simply for standing in front of a building and praying. My younger son was part of an experience that reminded me of God’s sweet mercy, as well as the tragedy of our culture of death.

Once again, my children have served as my teachers. Even without knowing it, they have pointed me toward something significant, reminding me of the important things that are most worthy of my attention, and what I am truly here to do and be; that is, I believe, a small flicker of light in the dark, vast world.

What lessons have your children or loved ones taught you in the past week?