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Posts Tagged ‘Graduation’

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Now what?

This graduation season is the first in a number of years that I do not have a child graduating from a high school or university.

Though there are no caps and gowns to be worn under my roof, I do get to annually experience high school graduation through the students I get to work alongside.

As the ceremonies approach there are often two types of graduates:

  1. those who can’t wait to graduate
  2. those who say graduation is coming too soon

The thing is that neither of those responses to graduation is any indicator of how successful they will be after they cross the stage to receive their diploma.

There is one thing for certain, graduation will indeed occur, and this season of life will now be in their past.

As a mom who has watched three of her kids go through the high school graduation process, each with their own approach to, each with their own unique next step, I can say one thing is certain …

change is inevitable, unpredictable
and
in God’s hands.

One can never guess what a year from commencement might bring in the life of a graduate.

After a dozen or so years, a young adult experiences change in every area of their lives, often all at once.

Like the grad cap that gets thrown up into the air as the graduation ceremony comes to an end, the routines, schedules and relationships of much of one’s life disappear. For those who will leave home for school, work or travel in a new community, the amount of change mounts even more.

For many a hard reality awaits as:

  • finances include not just purchasing the newest technology, but rent, a car payment and the awful reality called taxes.
  • education means actually having to be responsible for doing the work, and a due date is actually the date the assignment is due … no exceptions.
  • one’s bestie in high school might find a new bestie
  • those amazingly natural basketball skills one exhibited in high school are mediocre at the university level, and one will need to work harder than ever before to get off the bench.

For others a great and unexpected freedom reveals itself:

  • education is exciting now that one can choose courses that provide interest and stimulation
  • new friendships develop with people who accept each other as they are
  • the list of extracurricular activities grows, providing more opportunities to participate in an area of strength
  • entering the workforce means leaving homework in the past

Whatever route a graduate goes, whether it is work, school or a bit of both, it can seem daunting and exciting … all at once.

Last weekend, actress and comedian Mindy Kaling gave the commencement address at Dartmouth College. She said,

“Can I do this by myself?
The reality is, I’m not doing it by myself,”
“I’m surrounded by family and friends
who love and support me.””

As the transitions associated with graduation occur, our graduates need to be reminded that they are not all alone in their changes. That they have supporters all around them, cheering them on, at the ready for when they need advise, a few bucks, a meal, a hug.

They also need the reminder that their futures are in the hands of a God who has “created them in their mother’s womb” (Psalm 139:13), “has loved them with an everlasting love” (Jeremiah 31:3), “who will never leave them or forsake them” (Deuteronomy 31:6).

 

 

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Come-Alive-–-The-Moving-Forward-Series-–-Part-4-Pocket-Fuel-on-Jeremiah-1-5-longWith each day, each assignment and event our youngest son (and our family) is moving closer to the end of his high school years.

This weekend was such for him, as he worked to complete what is known as a Transition Plan (T Plan). It is a presentation which he does for a a group of family and friends, as well as a school staffer.

Though I, as a mom, and a school staffer, love to hear and view these presentations and to learn about the past, present and future of the lives of the students, I have not loved the pressure that this puts on the students (my own as well as the others).

Perhaps it is because it occurs in the final year of high school, when there is already so much pressure on the students to have their futures figured out.

Of our own three kids, this T Plan assignment has been much work, with little joy.

Our oldest, a perfectionist (kinda goes with being oldest) worked for weeks ensuring it fulfilled all the intended goals, and was amazing in every way. The evening of her presentation she ended up with technical difficulties, resulting in great stress and little joy as the presentation had to be viewed from her computer screen.

Our youngest daughter simply did what needed to be done. It was just another assignment to her … she did it and crossed that hoop off her list.

Our youngest son … he, well … this assignment was a constant reminder that he doesn’t know what his future plans are yet, and so it has just been a reminder and pressure to get it all figured out.

Finally, yesterday, I sat him down, and communicated more clearly to him that it is okay to not know what the future holds, for the heart of man plans his way, but the LORD establishes his steps (Proverbs 16:9) anyway. I assured him that many of the plans of his peers will change, even in the next year.

Then I encouraged him to tell the truth about his future plans …

that he does not know what they will be,

that he simply cannot imagine next year without the community he has spent the last thirteen years with.

Then I reminded him that God has plans for his life, for next September, for his future. There is a plan, there is a hope, and when he is ready, it will be revealed.

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I recently read a line that said,

“Congratulations, high school graduate … on completing the easiest phase of life.”

I laughed heartily in agreement.

Sometimes, as full fledged adults we forget that the level of ‘difficult’ in life has little to do with what we are going through, and more to do with how we feel, how we cope, whether we succeed or fail.

High school graduation is something worth celebrating.

And it is the season for celebrating just that.

I’ve been thinking about some of those who are graduating this season, and thinking about what I want to share with each of them … but, there are so many of them! So, I have decided to narrow my thoughts to what I would would want to wish for all of them.

Last year, while working in a grade 12 Bible class, the teacher shared something that I believe to be both simple and profound.

“I am saved

I am being saved

I will be saved”

To the high school graduate, moving from the more dependent phase of life, into the more independent phase, I believe you need to have the haunting knowledge that you are loved by the creator of your DNA … (the basis of life). I believe you need to know that that creator has not only created you, not only loves you, but that same creator was, and is, and will never stop redeeming you from all that would keep you from your creator.

Romans 8:38-39 gives us assurance of the power of our creator, God:

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” 

It is that assurance that allows parents the ability (albeit not always eagerly) to let you go off into your life’s adventures (but don’t forget to come back and share your experiences with ol’ mom and dad). It is that assurance that allows new graduates to know that they do not go off into their futures alone.

So, congratulations, high school graduate!

Know that I will be praying for your future to be haunted … by the knowledge of the pursuit of your creator.

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What a week our household ended April with! What a wonder-filled week!

The week began with our youngest daughter starting her final practicum, in her quest to complete her Special Education Teaching Assistant (SETA) course. 

This time she is placed in a high school, even working with a couple of students who were actually born before her. Challenge is the key God uses, most often, to unlock our most hidden gifts. I pray she opens her door wide and shares her strength, building her character, and using it as a tool to open the locks on her the students she encounters.

Though she intends to continue her education, she will soon be unleashed from this program, certified to work with those students in the margins. Using what she has learned, and who God created her to be, to do her job. She will do her job so very well, for she has been gifted to see strengths in the weak.

I know she is eyeing freedom, desiring to share an apartment with friends, living her life independent from mom and dad.

Last Monday night I sat in a dark gymnasium, heart in my throat, as I anticipated the start of the high school play in which my son was acting. 

The story, by George Orwell, called 1984, has been a time of stretching for my boy-man. My ‘baby boy’ traded in his sweet and affectionate nature for the pure evil of O’Brian. Each performance he had to get in touch with his carnal dark side … yelling, torturing, destroying. 

A couple of weeks ago it was getting to him, greatly. The character of O’Brian was invading him, extinguishing the light with it’s smothering darkness. I prayed. I asked others to pray. Then, last week, the dark was being pushed out by the light. 

The most heart-warming moment of the week was when, as I was chatting with a mom of another character, who I had not seen or spoken to in months. She asked how my son was, because, just days before, her daughter came home saying that they really needed to pray for him, because his character was getting to him. Is there any greater gift, for a parent, than to be told someone is praying for your child?

His efforts and the cost to him payed off in full, as he interpreted well Owell’s character. His (5) performances were believable and authentic. The entire cast depicted the evils of this story so well, and the entire cast, crew and director were as authentic in their support and care for each other.

He is now, once again, fully himself. O’Brien is gone, may his character be gone forever, may his lessons forever be remembered.

That week ended in an event centre, watching our eldest cross the stage, have her tassel moved from one side to another, receive a diploma, and pose for a picture.

That short walk was the culmination of six years of hard work … her hard work. I found myself hearing the song If it Hadn’t Been for You, from the musical, Anne of Green Gables, as her name was read to cross the stage.

It was she, who earned the double major (Sociology and Psychology) degree, by studying hard, writing mountains of papers, and working numerous jobs along the way, to pay for half of her schooling costs (the government of Canada helped with the rest … but this too falls in her lap).

As Miss Stacey said, “why she did it herself, with imagination and determination”

I hold on to a fair measure of parent guilt, for encouraging her to pursue education at such an expensive university, and having little to contribute to it’s costs. Though I do know she received a wonderful education, by the relationships she has made, and will continue to have with her profs, who educated, encouraged, challenged and cared for my girl.

The world is now an open book to her. She is well on her way, making plans for the future, her future. Her plans, though not solidified, are to move away. This makes my heart ache, and soar all at the same time. For “hope is the thing with feathers” (Dickinson).

These are the memories of that wonder-filled week. That week that was the culmination of much patience, for each of my children. The practise of patience will continue, throughout our lives. May my three have the patience to pursue what they hope for, all the days of their lives.

 

Romans-8.25

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 This past Friday I was honored to speak to the graduates of the school that my kids have attended, and I where I work. The following is (with the exception of memories of specific teachers, replaced with what was omitted) what I said, as I spoke to the grads, on behalf of the staff. I will miss this group SO!

Psalm 40:5 tells us, “Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you have planned for us”

And in the words of author Jane Austen, “This is an evening of wonders, indeed.”

I speak to you on behalf of the entire staff of this school; the custodians, administrators, coaches, international co-ordinators, educational assistants, office staff, secretaries, librarians and technicians, and councilors, and each staff member is cheering you on.

With the exception of a certain redhead, whose momma will make her remember, most of you will never remember who spoke at your graduation ceremony, or what they said. Still I am honored to speak to you this evening.

I have always felt a certain fondness for this class. I was there, as a mom, when many started kindergarten. In grades 7-12, I was there as and Educational Assistant, experiencing the learning and boredom of classrooms, hearing your secrets (oh yes I did, and I will be offering those secrets to your parents later … for the right price). Many of you have been at my home, eaten at my table, peed in my pool. I have scolded you, listened to you, hugged you … I have felt more like my job title with you was class mom, than EA.

Just three weeks ago, I sat in chapel, beside my co-worker, and two of my favorite grads, one who turned to me and did the Loser sign on his forehead … because sometimes love comes in the form of a capital L on the forehead. 

I started feeling reflective.

As a grad class, you are athletes (in and out of school), writers, artists, techies, scientists, activists, poets, foodies, mathematicians, musicians, theologians, gamers, historians, dancers, those involved in textiles, theatre, automotive, debating, woodworking, and social causes.

You are all uniquely created, with specific needs and strengths.

For most, if not all of you, the choice to attend LCS was not your own, but that of someone in your life who wanted you … their kids, grandkids, nieces and nephews, to appreciate that God is present and interwoven in everything from literature, to sciences, to automotive, to art, to history, as all of creation reflects the Creator.

It is our hope that you leave here with a better understanding of how the sacred absorbs the secular. How making a loaf of bread, acting on stage, fixing an engine, doing work experience, writing a poem, calculating math problems, can be an expression of God within you.

Although you may have been reminded directly and indirectly of the presence of God in our world, the context of school, even a Christian school, is such that you might be ready to walk away from our school feeling that you have received more judgment, than acceptance. If that is the case, this is what I, what we, want you to know.

God loves you.

CS Lewis has said,

“The great thing to remember is that, though our feelings come and go, His love for us does not. It is not wearied by our sins, or our indifference; and, therefore, it is quite relentless in its determination that we shall be cured of those sins, at whatever cost to us, at whatever cost to Him.” CS Lewis 

Like the Hound of Heaven (a poem I encourage you to read), God will pursue all of your life, for He who began a good work in you, will continue His work until it is finished.

May you leave here tonight knowing that He loves you, and may you leave here tonight not running from Him, but running the race with Him.

And now, if the grads would please stand, as I offer a blessing to you.

This is the blessing that God gave to Moses, to bless His chosen people:

“The Lord bless you,

and keep you;

the Lord make His face shine upon you,

and be gracious to you;

the Lord turn His face toward you

and give you peace.”

Amen

 

  

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Just a few years ago she donned pink rubber boots, an Ariel the Mermaid bathing suit, and a Montreal Canadians toque on the hottest day of summer.

Today she dons the cap and gown of high school graduation.

My baby girl graduates tonight, completing a year of ‘last times’ with her peers.

As other moms and dads, I am feeling immense pride.

I have worked in her grade off and on since she and they were in grade 7. I heard the same rumours she did, I laughed at the same practical jokes as she, I understood the weight of mourning, as peers experienced divorce, moving away and death. When I attended concerts, plays, field trips, etc., I did so as a mom and as a staff.

I awoke the other day and wondered if she ever felt forgotten, as I have played two parts, worn two hats through her later school years. I’ve been a mom and a school staff member, working alongside of a couple of her peers.

She never seemed to mind, and even agreed to my attending her grad trip this year, as a staff. She has learned, over the years, the art of sharing me … a great accomplishment of kindergarten!

Even tonight I will be a staff, sitting with the staff, adjusting caps and gowns, taking pictures for friends, reminding them all to stand tall, telling them how proud I am of them all.

How does one turn one passion off, and another on?

The thing is, though, my passion for my daughter, has never been turned off, and she has never appeared to be bothered by my split attentions.

And that says more about her than of me, than how I raised her.

She is, and always has been, a fiercely independent one. Just this year, as she seemed to face roadblock after roadblock in her application to the one school, for the one program that she desired to attend, and she met each one with steel-willed determination, sending emails, making calls, jumping through hoops (sometimes the same one over and over again), and asking questions. Then it seemed forever to finally get notice that she got accepted. I am so proud of her!

In the fall she will begin her number one program, in her number one school, along with about thirty-three other students (out of ? applicants). I am so proud of her!

She drove, the other night to visit a close friend, and ask if he would like to attend her graduation. He and she have been friends throughout almost all of her school years. It never seemed to matter to her that there is over sixty years between them. I am so proud of how there is no barrier (age, religion, culture, gender, etc.) to friendship for her!

When she resigned, recently, from her first job, she did so with tears, as she felt so bad to leave them down one staff as their busy season had begun. I am so proud of how strongly she approaches her work responsibilities!

I am proud of her, so very proud of her.

Though my momma guilt is real, I don’t think I damaged her completely, as she is about to study to do the same work I do. So, someday in the future (in the very distant future), she too might be working in the same school as her kids, with split attentions.

When she first got serious about studying towards her SETA (special education learning assistant) certification, I worked hard to dissuade her, for I know what the financial remuneration is for this work. I know that, it is nearly impossible to support oneself on what is paid, and I was scared for her.

But here’s the thing, she is so gifted to work with people with special needs, and I have never met another who is so obviously called to do this job. She will be so much better at this job than I ever imagined to be.

I could not discourage a passion that was conceived in the mind of God, with a purpose far greater than I could ever dream.

And so I will cheer her on tonight, with all the mom pride within me.

 

 

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Working in a high school, I have come to see the various stages of realization that high school is coming to an end, with the celebrations surrounding graduation.

In the past month, I have noted the indicators that fear is setting in with many of the grade twelve students.

Common, graduation-related stressors could be:

  • I don’t know what to do, after high school.
  • Did I apply to the right school? program?
  • All of my friends are going ‘away’ next year.
  • How will I pay for my education?
  • Where will I live next year?
  • What does life look like, after graduation?
  • What if I don’t get into the school/program that I’m hoping to attend?
  • What am I going to do with my life?

With each stressor, comes a response. Sometimes the response is action, but, often for teens (and many others), the reaction is inaction … frozen in one place, immovability … kind of like when one is trying to wake them, on a school day.

These young adults are awakening to the realization that what they have known for twelve years is coming to an end. That life, as they know it, is about to change.

They are anxious, fearful.

The Bible says much about fear and anxiety … mostly in the form of

“do not …”

God is constantly offering himself as the antibiotic for fear and anxiety. He wants us to lean on Him, because when we lean on ourselves, our foundation will not build us up, but let us fall.

What an opportunity, then during the graduation season, to help lead them to the best source of strength?

A few years ago, I had a great realization, while reading Proverbs 3:5:

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart,
do not depend on your own understanding.”

Really it was another scripture telling me do not fear, do not be anxious, but it was even more than that. For me, this verse was reminding me that I am not able to understand, to see the happenings in my life, in that vast way that God is able. It reminded me that I need to submit to the fact that “all that I know is partial and incomplete” (1 Corinthians 13:12).

The things in life that can leave us fearful and feel anxious, could better be viewed not through the the magnifying glass of us, but the view from space that God has.

When it comes to graduation from high school, college or university, the major decisions that need to be made need to be viewed as small as they really are … they are not decisions for their whole lives, but for the next year. The changes that come may indeed rock their world, but, if they can be reminded to hold on to the One who knows how it will all fit together, they might be able to wait with anticipation and excitement, to see what God will do with the changes in their lives.

 

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