Brother Lawrence's Guide to the First Day of School

Last night, after the kids were in bed, their first-day-of-school outfits spread on the floor, complete with necklaces and socks, I started to feel stressed. Summers are often hard for working parents because of childcare issues, but the fall brings a whole 'nother level of stress: for us this year, it's three kids, two schools, piano lessons, Girl Scouts, a new activity for the girls (community choir), and a renewed commitment to fitness on the part of the parents (Robert is now on the Couch to 5K bandwagon too).

Oh, and let's not forget the little matter of paid work for the grownups.

And writing a book.

And a commitment to Sabbath time each week.

The hectic-ness of the school year came back to me as I set the table for breakfast, put the morning lists next to each place, along with hairbrushes and toothbrushes, and put the vitamins in a little cup next to my plate. This is really anal retentive, and not an evening task I love, but I'm always grateful the next morning to have everything laid out---it means less time spent setting the table while ravenous kids run by in various stages of undress, less yelling on my part to put your shoes on!!!!! The morning starts peacefully with this preparation, even if it doesn't always end that way.

But ugh, what a pain, to always be on top of things.

After setting the table I dug the lunchboxes out of the cabinet. They're new, and differently shaped than before, and the containers I use for sandwiches and chips aren't going to fit quite as well now. Then I began to think about making two lunches instead of one, and pictured myself doing that Every Single Day. I thought about the convenience and prevalence (and non-eco-friendliness) of juice boxes and Doritos in individual serving bags, and wondered whether a trip to CostCo is in my future.

So I was grateful for the spirit of Brother Lawrence in my inbox this morning, before the kids were even up:

Gerald May described this process of awakening to God’s presence through five steps: pausing, noticing, opening, yielding and stretching, and responding. In the spirit of Brother Lawrence, who saw every encounter as an opportunity to experience God’s blessings and praise our Creator, this process of awakening can be utilized both as a momentary call to awareness or as a regular practice of self-examination.

Ah, yes. I love those five steps, woven together. This morning we all woke up a little early so we could pause over breakfast and relish this milestone of a new school year. I noticed how Margaret got on the bus without even a sideways glance toward us, and I didn't worry too much about the camera. When the power went off at home ten minutes later, I remained open to my own irritation about it, was curious about it, acknowledged it and moved on, rather than "shoulding" on myself about not letting little things bother me.

This allowed me to yield to the day looking a little different than I'd planned: because we were without power, our neighbor who provides childcare was also without power, so after taking James to meet his preschool teacher, I took him to lunch so our neighbor would have one less kid to wrangle and feed in the dark. At the Panera, I watched James squeeze the yogurt into his mouth with nary a drop on his shirt---that's a new skill. And I beheld the way he bit right into the middle of the PB&J triangle for maximum cheek stickiness. And the delighted way he reacted when he saw his teacher there: "She's following us!" he declared. And the sound of his guffaws as we dodged raindrops to the car. And I responded to all of this the only faithful way one can: with wonder.

So thank you, Brother Lawrence, for turning your little omelette in the pan for the love of God.

I will do the same.

I will spread peanut butter and slice apples and roll turkey into tortillas and dole out chips and write notes for the love of God.