first day of school...

which could be entitled LAST first day of school with three children under my roof. but who's counting? yup, i am counting. counting and trying to remain calm about all the changes that i know are coming at me . 

i remember when i used to always document FIRSTS... first steps, first solid food, first day of preschool.

now i document LASTS... last school year. last birthday at home. last time we will be the marshall family all living in one place.

i am not a big fan of LASTS.

but my girl made it a bit easier on me. by wearing a sweater that she KNEW i would love. i also liked maxx's thematic shirt for the first day of school.

i may have done a LOT of things wrong whilst raising them. but teaching them how to be ironically thematic goes in my gold star category...


and would you like to see 12 years fly by in an instant? pass the kleenex...


and then 2 hours later, rosie went to school.... 



two things that we can surmise from these photos...

1) the marshall girls are SMART

2)  the marshall mom has learned to sharpen up the focus on her camera in the past 5 years...

millie rocking her principal's award in 2007

millie rocking her principal's award in 2007

rosalea rocking her principal's award in 2012

rosalea rocking her principal's award in 2012

first day of school...

my breakfast table looked cute and back to schooly at 6:00 this morning. 

my insides didn’t look quite so cute and excited about “back to school”. it was a bit more turmoil-ish, anxious, stressed, and some other words that don’t conjure up happy warm feelings...

but reading jen hatmaker’s blog the other day (and rereading it this morning) helped me. especially the last couple of paragraphs... she is telling about her son’s adoption (which according to twitter HE IS HOME as of yesterday!) and she in encouraging those of us who are in the middle of a story not to lose hope. not to lose focus. not to lose faith...

from I’m not done yet...

When God said he wasn't done yet, he just wasn't done yet. He wasn't speaking in code. It wasn't a trick. The story was still in the middle, but I wanted to flip ahead to the end, past the conflict and struggle and straight to the happy ending. As Keeper of the Story, God knew the whole plot.... 

God doesn't promise us a clean middle part of the story. He never said we wouldn't encounter antagonists and drama and surprise twists and heartbreak. We weren't assured a G-rated plot where good feelings are peddled and no one dies or leaves or fails or waits.  God promised things like healing and restoration and redemption. Which implies there will be injuries and broken relationships and losses. When he speaks of beauty from ashes, he seems to know there will be actual ashes to resurrect beauty from.

If you are confused right now, if your story isn't going the way you thought, or if you're tangled up in the messy middle where hope is deferred, dear reader, it could just be that God isn't done yet. Your story is not finished. Every hero and heroine must wade through the conflict to get to the end, and you can trust God because he is good. If you have nothing else to cling to, remember this: God is good. He loves goodness and justice. He heals and redeems. He is on the side of love and beauty. He is for you. He is never against you. You may be against you, other people may be against you, but God is not against you. 

It is okay to be confused; I'm afraid that is our lot as finite creatures dealing with an infinite God. Some of God's best heroes were confused in their subplots.  But I can see a light that is coming for the heart that holds on. Because God is good and he is for goodness.

And he just isn't done yet.

{jen hatmaker}

so i could face this new beginning knowing that even though summer was over, God isn’t done yet. He doesn’t just work when school is out. He works all of the time. we are still in the middle of our story. there are still ashes left to be turned into beauty. and there might still be more things that burn up into ashes before the beauty part comes to fruition. but He isn’t done yet...

here are their first day of school photos. millie and maxx were out the door at 7 a.m. i drove them because millie was a bit worried about finding parking this first day. but later this week she will start driving them both to school. rosalea doesn’t leave until 9:00 and i will go with her because there is a parent meeting at 9:30. she doesn’t have a cute first day of school outfit because she will be running with the cross country team right after school and she can’t take a backpack. so no way to change clothes before running. she is doing her morning devotion in this photo. she was up and ready a full hour before we needed to leave. but she won’t be home until almost 6 due to the cross country running. sigh.

eternity set

go on... ask my college roommates about my inability to deal with heavy emotion. they will tell you that our motto in college was, “lea picks out birthday cards. we handle heavy emotion.” because i was better at birthday cards than heavy emotion. need proof? when adam broke up with me THEY cried. i didn’t. in case of tragic events... call them. if you want a funny birthday card... call me. i will lighten up any situation. it is my gift. to see the funny side. make ‘em laugh. crying is just not my comfort zone. or my pretty zone.

however in the last week i cannot even count the times that i have cried the UGLY CRY. you know the one. i don’t do the ugly cry. i haven’t cried the ugly cry in YEARS and even then it was singular events. not event upon event upon event. here are just a few for your edification... (feel free to cry along with me. misery loves company.)

  • *rosie’s last petite players show. one of the things i was MOST excited about when we moved to tallahasse was millie being involved in my cousin leyann’s petite players after school drama activity. millie was involved for 6 years as a student and since then has been a helper. but this was her last year helping (her choice) and rosie’s last year as a student. i cried all the way home and even stayed in the car for some extra teary time after the last show.
        • taking myself off the elementary school listserv. no more emails from the elementary school. we have been a part of that school for 11 years. the longest time we will ever be involved in one school. i contemplated staying on the listserv but in the end thought that seemed like something a crazy person would do.
        • rosie’s commencement ceremony and the VERY long slideshow with photos of these kids from the last 6 years. a lot of the photos were ones i had taken over the last 6 years. good thing i was standing in the WAY back of the auditorium because i had to be late since i had to take maxx to school. and better thing that i was wearing sunglasses. even though it was dark in the auditorium. i am sure that no one noticed. except the guy who looked like an 80’s rocker who was standing behind me watching my shoulders shake. 
  • * yesterday when our neighbor, harrison, came home with maxx. he and maxx have been in school together since kindergarten. he has played at our house for 8 years. he and maxx go to summer camp together. last week they moved out of the house and are staying with their grandmother until they officially move to orlando. which is today. he wasn’t supposed to come over yesterday but he rode the bus home and his mom wasn’t there to pick him up so he came to our house to wait for her. like he had done a thousand times before. except this would be the last time he dropped by. and the last time i would see him when he was our neighbor. i always had visions of he and maxx graduating high school together. of having a graduation party with his mom (she is an incredible party planner and makes the BEST CAKES. how am i going to throw maxx a graduation party without a cake from her?) and then i realized that i should have taken a photo of he and maxx and i forgot to do that and it made me cry harder. 
    • and then today when i had to drop something off at the elementary school and i was walking away along the sidewalk for the LAST TIME after saying good bye to so many wonderful teachers who have been a HUGE part of our life for the last 11 years. and i was CURSING the passing of time. i was thinking of these very verses from ecclesiastes 3:10-11...

I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race. 

He has made everything beautiful in its time. 

He has also set eternity in the human heart; 

yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

i was feeling the heavy heavy heavy BURDEN of time that God has laid upon the human race. but i was having a hard time imagining the beauty in this walking away from the elementary school.

you see, all of my life i wanted to be a teacher. an elementary school teacher. and i wanted to be a mother. and when i saw myself as a mother it was as a mother of elementary school students. i felt like those would be my STRONG years. the years i was a GREAT mother. i understand elementary school kids. i knew elementary school. i was a whiz at planning parties. fantastic thematic parties. helping them with homework that i understood. field trips. dress up days (which you know that i have since come to loathe). and i truly felt like when i was walking away today that i was walking away from my strongest days as a mother. walking into weakness. 

i felt the setting of eternity in my heart. the YEARNING for eternity. the tremendous appeal of eternity. desirous for the time beyond time. no more goodbyes. no more endings. no more later or earlier. eternity. set in my heart. but not a reality in my walking away from elementary school. i only felt the burden of time. regrets for things not done. regret for not remembering it all. regret for not realizing it would all go so fast. regret that i had not appreciated it more. i had not been the FANTASTIC mom that i thought i would be. that i had not been as STRONG as i thought i would be. regrets for my imperfection. my hurrying to be on to the next thing. rushing from event to event without a breath. without a pause to take it all in.

i cannot fathom what God is doing from beginning to end. i can’t fathom what He is doing right now in the muddled middle. all i saw was the ugliness of the walk i was taking right then. a walk away from a place that felt safe and comfortable to me. a place i understood.


then i saw strewn along the sidewalk some dropped flowers. i saw about a dozen of blossoms dropped on the sidewalk. a bit bruised. a wee wilted. but beautiful on the concrete. lining my walk away from my safe comfortable elementary school. away from a place where even though a wasn’t perfect parent that i felt STRONG. a place where i felt like i was where i always planned to be... the mother of elementary school students. a time that felt RIGHT in my life. a time that was now over. i was walking away from strength into weakness. from certainty to instability. from a place i knew to a place of unknowing.

but Somebody just happened to drop some flowers to make my walk away more beautiful. to tell me that though i feel bruised and wilted that this is a beautiful journey. that He will make it beautiful in its time. the king jimmy version of the verse says “He has made every thing beautiful in HIS time...”

and the hebrew for the word time in that verse means season, time (of an event), and comes from a root word that means for ever, perpetuity, eternity.

He has made everything beautiful in its own season AND for eternity. beauty within the constraint of time and outside of the walls of time as well. 

He will make the rest of my journey through parenthood filled with random beautiful moments. not from a place of my STRENGTH but from my weakness and reliance on God’s strength. He will make this season beautiful not only in this season, for this event, but for eternity. He will make these days count for eternity. 

not sure He can make the ugly cry beautiful for eternity. but i know that He has taken note of each tear. not just taken note but made a record. a scrapbook. my tears are so important to Him that He writes each one down..

psalm 56: 8 
Record my misery;
   list my tears on your scroll—
   are they not in your record? 
(the message) You've kept track of my every toss and turn 
      through the sleepless nights, 
   Each tear entered in your ledger, 
      each ache written in your book. 

and not only has He recorded each one... He will redeem each one. He will change each tear into a victory song...

psalm 126:5-6 
Those who sow with tears
   will reap with songs of joy.
Those who go out weeping,
   carrying seed to sow,
will return with songs of joy,
   carrying sheaves with them.

no tear is in vain. not even the ugly ones. i will return with songs of joy carrying SHEAVES with me. and sheaves is in hebrew a word meaning the things that made me dumb, the things that silenced me, the very things that bound me, things that made me an exile. i will carry those things with me. not wear them. not experience them anymore. triumphantly carrying them over my head to show what the LORD has done. how He has changed my weeping into singing. my ugly crying into beautiful singing (which will REALLY be a miracle).  He will change every moment of my silence, my dumbness, my time of being bound, of being in exile into joyous shouts.

i have spent a few weeks sowing with tears. i yearn for the time of reaping with songs of joy. i know it will happen. because i know a God who places bruised and wilted flowers along a concrete path just for me. that is Who He is. that is how much He loves me. 

and He loves you that way too... even if you aren’t in a season of the ugly cry. and if you are... wear sunglasses. and get ready to return with songs of joy. we can sing together. carrying the very things that bound us silent above our heads. showing the world that God rules and reigns, redeems and restores.