This weekend we move into that “last long weekend of summer,” you can already begin to feel the change in the air and see the touch of gold on the leaves. Next week school and university begin as do programmes here at the church and in the community. I often marvel at all the beginnings we experience in the year. Of course, we celebrate the beginning of the year in January, the beginning of the school year in September and for those of us who use the liturgical calendar, the beginning of the church year with the first Sunday of Advent. And this isn’t to mention all the other beginnings we can think of
- the beginning of a new job
- the beginning of a new relationship
- the beginning of a new life
- the beginning in a new home, in a new country
- the beginning of being a family
- the beginning of retirement
- the beginnings of different cycles of our lives
- and so many more . . .
The end of August feels like a liminal space at times. Liminal comes from the Latin word limen, meaning threshold – any point or place of entering or beginning. A liminal space is the time between the ‘what was’ and the ‘next.’ Richard Rohr, author, and theologian speaks about liminal space as:
“where we are betwixt and between the familiar and the completely unknown. There alone is our old world left behind, while we are not yet sure of the new existence. That’s a good space where genuine newness can begin. Get there often and stay as long as you can by whatever means possible…This is the sacred space where the old world is able to fall apart, and a bigger world is revealed. If we don’t encounter liminal space in our lives, we start idealizing normalcy. The threshold is God’s waiting room. Here we are taught openness and patience as we come to expect an appointment with the divine.”
It is a place of transition, waiting, and not knowing. Liminal space is where all transformation takes place if we learn to wait and let it form us. These thresholds of waiting and not knowing our ‘next’ are everywhere in life and they are inevitable. Each ushers in a new chapter of life and holds varying degrees of disruption.
In these late days of August, I am ever mindful of children, youth, students, and teachers as they prepare to begin a new program year after some summer sabbath time. There are varying degrees of excitement for new beginnings like school and there are often even more degrees of anxiety. Who will be my teacher? Who will I know? Will I get all the courses I hope to? Who is going to eat lunch with me? Will I be able to find my classes? What am I going to have to do? Will I belong?
As parents and as caring adults, our role is to support children and youth as they navigate these new beginnings, to wrap them in love and prepare them and give them the tools to move into these new rhythms and be a sounding board, a safe place. We are there to nurture them and help them grow into healthy and caring beings.
I came across this important poster from BC Children’s Kelty Mental Health Resource Centre with some wonderful pointers as well:
I am a milestone moment marker, I like to mark important moments, new beginnings, in the lives of my family and friends. On Sunday, September 9 in worship, we will as a family of faith mark the beginning of the new school year with the Blessing of the Backpacks, inviting students to bring in their backpacks as we mark the new school year with a prayer and blessing. In “Faithful Families, Creating Sacred Moments at Home” by Traci Smith, I came across the following Blessing Ritual that Parents could do with their children and teens (she suggests it as a yearly ritual).
“Heading off to school of the first day can be daunting for parent and child alike, as there are so many questions in one’s mind.
- You will need Construction paper, washable tempera paint, wide paintbrush, shallow pan of soapy water, washcloths and towels.
On the night before the first day of school, paint the bottom of your child’s feet and ask them to step on the piece of construction paper. As they do say, ‘Your feet remind us of the journey you will take this year at school. We know that you will learn and experience so many new things. We hope that you will go with courage and strength and know that God goes with you too.’
Before they step off the paper, offer this prayer God, we know you are with (child’s name) today and tomorrow as they begin the new school year. May their year be full of great experiences that offer wonderful learning, and may they walk in your light, living your love now and always. Amen.
(Variations – do handprints, show them their baby footprints, trace around their feet instead of painting them.)”
Below is a list of children books that you might like to check out, good reads as you prepare your child to embrace the beginnings of a new school year. They address worries, the sense of belonging, looking at problems as opportunities and addressing bullying. Each of these books can be borrowed from my office.
Wemberley Worried by Kevin Henkes
The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn, illustrated by Ruth E Harper and Nancy M Leak
I am Enough by Grace Byers, Illustrated by Keturah A. Bobo
I am Peace, a book of Mindfulness by Susan Verde, art by Peter H. Reynolds
What do you do with a Problem by Kobi Yamada, Illustrations by Mae Benson
Each Kindness by Jacqueline Woodson, illustrated by E.B. Lewis
I leave you with a blessing from Irish poet and teacher John O’Donohue
Though your destination is not yet clear
You can trust the promise of this opening;
Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning
That is at one with your life’s desire.
Awaken your spirit to adventure;
Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;
Soon you will be home in a new rhythm,
For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
Blessings to you,