Focal verse

“Therefore encourage one another and build up each other, as indeed you are doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Reflection

As I write this note, my daughter will begin second grade in a few days. Her backpack is stuffed with school supplies, she’s received a welcome note from the principal, her dress for the first day is picked out, and she can’t stop smiling about her teacher. The start of this new season brings her so much joy.

Ahead there will be learning, fun and play with her friends. The experience of walking to school, packing her lunch and meeting new students exhilarates her. I know, however, that many parents feel differently about the start of school. With new routines and with after-school activities ramping up, many parents are wondering how everything will get done. Joy remains, but all the lunch bags and backpacks still need to be packed.

As a second-grader, my daughter will continue learning the basics of reading, writing and math. So why not also use this time of the year to return to the basics of our faith? How about reflecting on the building blocks of love, community and hope to help us all enter this new season with grace and joy for the ways God is at work in our schools, communities and lives? When you feel overwhelmed, here are a few basics of our faith for support.

Love: Remember that God’s love is for you. No matter what you do or how much is left undone, you are God’s beloved child. There’s no need to earn God’s love, only to bask in God’s grace.

Community: Remember that God invites us to know and love others as a way of sharing God’s love and being loved. Take time to get to know your neighbors and the parents of your kids’ classmates. Invite another parent for coffee. Reach out to teachers and let them know you’re there to support them. Give thanks for the gifts of community.

Hope: Remember, this is only a season. If the days are hard, trust that God meets you in the places of loneliness and doubt. You are not alone. Take a moment to close your eyes and breathe deeply, feeling Jesus’ presence.

Grace: Remember, tomorrow is a new day. God’s mercies are new each morning.

Wherever you find yourself this month, and however you’re feeling, I pray that you’ll return to these basics of faith and, in so doing, know God’s peace.

Practices

Little Mole Goes to School (Beaming Books, 2022) is a great book to share with kids starting school for the first time. Children will relate to Little Mole’s feelings of self-doubt, cheer him on when he discovers his unique gifts and talents, and be inspired to confront their own insecurities and celebrate what they have to offer, too.

Write notes to your children reminding them of God’s love and share them in their lunchboxes and backpacks.

Service opportunity

Reach out to your local school and find out any needs or Amazon Wish Lists that still have items to be purchased. Invite a group of friends to collect money and support a teacher. Have your kids write notes of encouragement.

Prayers

We pray for families who are moving and for children who are starting new schools.

We pray for those who teach.

We pray for hope when seasons are hard.

We give thanks for friends who share God’s love.

We give thanks for rain and sunshine.

We give thanks for opportunities to share our faith with others.

Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayer. Amen.

Kimberly Knowle-Zeller
Kimberly Knowle-Zeller is an ordained ELCA pastor, mother of two and spouse of an ELCA pastor. She lives with her family in Cole Camp, Mo. Her website is kimberlyknowlezeller.com.

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