The End of School

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I am done. Like stick a fork in me I’m overcooked kinda done. Truth be told I was done about a month ago.

The next five days Gingernut and Lil’ Paul go to school can’t come and go fast enough.

Gingernut is going to school with…hmmmm….maybe half of her school supplies every day. And that’s on a good day. She might have a pen, perhaps two, but one is probably one she found on the floor or that a friend let her borrow. She has a handful of colored pencils that look like the worse end of something a beaver has been gnawing on. I’m pretty sure I only saw about three markers floating around during homework time today. And a pencil sharpener…that thing was probably lost weeks ago, people. And don’t get me started on glue. I could have put this kid through a year of college with all the money I spent on pens and glue alone.

Snack? What snack? Are teachers still expecting us to send a snack? Honestly, I throw a pack of crackers in that snack box and call it done. And I even pat myself on the back for having something to put in there so they don’t starve between drop off and lunch.

And homework? Why are we still doing homework with a week left of school? I just can’t even.

So as the year is wrapping up, I am reflecting on the year. Not only was it the first full year of school but it was the first year in a foreign school. And as I reflect, I realize I have many different emotions and feelings and sentiments.

Accomplishment.  We did it. And I while I know it was the kids actually going to school, Paul and I might as well have been in that classroom with Gingernut. I have learned new ways to write in cursive and add and subtract. I mean, who knew there was more than one way to write a cursive “a”?? We all learned so much, and we are all alive to tell the tale, which is an accomplishment in itself. We have successfully accomplished completing the first year of Italian school. Gold star for all of us.

Relief. Relief that this first, and I hope, most difficult year is almost past us. I’m almost ready to breath that heavy sigh of relief. I can see the finish line of this marathon approaching. It is so close. One down, only about 13 more to go.

Pride. I was so nervous last September. I was sending my kids into an environment in which they could barely ask to go to the bathroom. But it was necessary. Necessary for them to learn the language and the culture, to begin making friends and hopefully to feel like they “fit in”. And our kids did it.  You guys, they DID IT. It’s crazy to think how much language they have learned this year. And while there were some battles, they did remarkably well. They did something that was hard – especially Gingernut – and persevered. I don’t even know that “pride” is a strong enough word to convey what I feel when I think about this.

Thankful. I am so thankful to my God who heard every cry, of all our hearts, on those hard days. Who stayed close not only to the kids but to Paul and I as well when all we wanted to do was keep them home instead of leaving them crying at school. On those days, I clung to dear Jesus with everything in me. I had to. Only He was going to get us all four through it. And I am so thankful he did.

Happy. I am happy to have Gingernut and Lil’ Paul home for 100 or so days. I am eagerly awaiting the first day we aren’t rushing to get out the door. I am excited to play and read and picnic and nap together. Especially the nap together. I realize that these are all fuzzy, warm dreams that may or may not realize themselves and by August I’ll be counting the days down to the start of school, but right now, I am just going to happily look forward to picture perfect lazy days of summer…and hopefully make it through the last days of school.

Understanding. Gingernut had a so many ups and downs this year. And while I am sad she had to go through so many hard things I am glad that I had the opportunity to speak the Gospel into those hard things and that I now understand more about the way she is wired, which in turn helps me to parent her better. I also understand better how to advocate for her because of all the trials that she faced this year.

Encouraged. We made it through the first year with everybody still somewhat mentally intact, which has given me encouragement that we can succeed at school and language learning. All of us. But beyond the school aspect, I am encouraged as I talk to Gingernut and Lil’ Paul about things of Jesus. They have grown in their understanding of him and are learning how to depend on him as their source of help and hope, especially Gingernut.  I am encouraged that they will one day see him as the Savior to save them, the Shepherd to guide them, the Protector to take away their fears, the Father who loves them unconditionally.

These end-of-school days mark a significant accomplishment for our family. It is one that I think I will always remember. How through tears, tantrums, and endless hugs and kisses goodbye at classroom doors we all persevered and made it through the first year with love and grace and  more understanding of Italian and one another.

 

Making disciples at home

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“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28: 19

I think this might be the mantra of every mission-sending organization on our planet. It’s a good mantra to have. I’ve spent the last 9 years trying to understand how to live out the Great Commission, but lately I have been reflecting on who I am ministering to and who am I living out the Gospel in front of the most?

The answer is my kids.

I forget all too often that during this period, Paul and I are their disciplers. Recently, while sharing a meal with our teammates, I was reminded of it. My job as their mother is to point them to Jesus.

The most important thing I will do is send Gingernut and Lil’ Paul out into the world as adults who follow Jesus with their whole hearts, who understand what it means to pick up their cross and follow him. This is a great responsibility, one that I don’t take lightly, but one that I sometimes forget to make the focus of my mothering. I too often allow the stresses of life, the tantrums and fits, the disobedience, the lack of energy and sometimes want I feel to overshadow it. God forgive me.

When my children leave “the nest” I want them to go into the world seeing it through the lens of the Gospel. I don’t want them to have an American worldview or an Italian worldview but a Gospel worldview.

This is my great task…to prepare, teach, show and encourage them in the ways of Christ. If they are the only two people I disciple over the next 14-plus years, then I will count the time well-spent. I could reach all of Salerno, but if I fail to show and teach my children what it means to be a follower of Jesus, what have I really accomplished?

God gave two children – two of His children – to raise not in a religious household, but in a household that lifts up and makes much of His name. This responsibility, this great task, has driven me to my knees in prayer – prayers that He works and moves despite my weaknesses and sin, prayers for discernment and wisdom as I teach my children, prayers for learning how to rest in Him when the days are long and my patience in short, prayers for the ability to do everything in love even when I don’t want to.

So, next summer, when we are back in the U.S. and you ask me how I spent my time, I’ll certainly tell you about the Italians I know and what I do at the church, but mostly I tell you about my children.