Is where you are going predestined? Is it written in the stars? Can we wish for it on moonbeams? Or do we make our fate by creating our dreams?
Having taught children for the greater part of two decades I believe we forge a journey by developing our gifts and fostering our desires by using all that we are to the best of our abilities. I am blest to have assisted and mentored many along their journey to young adulthood. In some cases even beyond. I have had too many children to count, two of them "my own" and have honestly loved them all. As an art teacher, I get to watch my students grow from pre-schoolers to middle schoolers and build relationship with them along the way each year. It's a beautiful process that I will forever treasure. I recently watched my 18th group of 8th graders graduate. At graduation some are happy to leave and others fight back tears. An emotional situation that follows most of us through all the great changes in our lives. Change is bittersweet. Those forks in the road where we pause to ponder before moving forward leave us cherishing the past while excited and scared for the future. As we age the sweet successes get mixed up with memories of where we may of zigged when we should of zagged. Never regrets. But, perhaps a wonderment of what might have been. If your are lucky, never wishing what is to be different. Mistakes, risks and dreams help to shape this adventure we call living. All of it it though, good, bad, indifferent and rock bottom - always a part of who you are today. To everything there is a season and seasons change. Each step part of your journey to the next destination.
When we are "all grown up" it's sometimes easier to be scared and safe then face the adventure fearlessly. Somewhere along your travels you relinquish the ability to just let go and throw your hands in the air and have faith that the wild ride will end with you still safely buckled in longing for the next thrill. Is it wisdom? Responsibility? Stupidity? A combination thereof and so much more.
Graduations are official - you know it's time for change. It's an ending of a beginning. Those signs of change aren't always so obviously marked later in life. Yet many an inspiring word from a graduation could be applied when you face a path that is divided and aren't sure which road to take. Those speeches encourage and empower you. Words that we should allow to echo in out minds and hearts whenever we are faced with change, challenges and choices.
Change has been a pretty constant "theme" in my recent posts. It's what is swirling around me in recent weeks and I cannot escape it. Nor, am I ready to specifically define it. I will watch more graduations at the school I love, yet it might not ever be in the same capacity as years gone past. It is yet to be decided. I have yet to decide. As I plan and ponder what is to be written on the next page - I am lucky that when reflecting on my own writings I find inspiration and faith. That which makes me know and believe that the best is yet to come.
Last year I received the ultimate compliment of being chosen by the graduating class to speak to them at graduation. Below I share that reflection with you. I dedicate it to all of my graduates, past and present... and to the graduate in all of us - who needs a little reminder that no matter where we are in the journey, or the bumps in the road --- that we will grow and change and once again --- "come into our own"!
"Decide that you want it more then you are afraid of it."
- Bill Cosby
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Graduates, I am both humbled and honored to be asked to speak to you tonight. I have been blest to know you since your first days at HNJ, no matter what year you joined our family of friends. I have been privileged to know you when you were little enough to discover that scissors really do cut hair and small enough to climb in my lap and tell me “My kind heart ‘got’ broken”. I’ve watched you grow through paintings and drawings as well as giggles and tears. We have shared moments of, “Hands on your head, Hands on your shoulders”, to “Come on, it’s time to settle down", to, “How are you?” Tell me how things are going”. I’ve seen you transition from white shirts to blue shirts, and from seat sacks to lockers. I can recall bundles of nerves that first week of middle school and helping with combination locks, assuring you things would get easier, that you’d come into your own.
Before me now, I no longer see small children. You are an amazing, vibrant group of young ladies and gentlemen who have come into their own at HNJ. Who have become leaders, athletes, artists and scholars. Who have used their talents and gifts to reach this marvelous milestone called graduation.
Accomplishment such as this can be bittersweet. Amidst this joy and excitement there comes change and the unknown. No one is safe from the effects of change. It is part of life and life changes. We learn to embrace change and accept that love remains. You have been loved here at HNJ. That love fills our hearts, overflows our soul with happiness, and engraves the mind with memories. It will be with you wherever your life takes you.
Life is an amazing wondrous gift from our Lord above. It has been given to us and we are free to create ourselves to our limitless potential all while reflecting His image and likeness. Your life and your talents are God’s gift to you, what you do with those talents is your gift to the Father. I challenge you to aspire to use the gift of your limitless potential. Dream. Wish. Wonder. Hope. Believe. Pray. The canvas before you is white washed new and you have the ability to create the masterpiece you desire. God created each one of you and you are enough. You matter. You make a difference. You can be everything you desire. The power is within you to direct your journey and create your own dreams. No matter what your stage, make your performance based in kindness and have your interactions reflect love. Allow Jesus to shine through your accomplishments. Breathe Him in and always breathe out His love.
As you leave these hallways behind, and embark on your newest adventure, I wish I could promise you it will be easy. That you’ll not have hard or dark times. Just know, that it is only because the darkness can we appreciate the beauty of the stars. I assure you - You will come into your own!” Hold fast to memories and the love they go with you always. In the words of Dr. Seuss, Do not cry because it’s over, Smile because it happened.
I love you all. You inspire me!