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You graduated!

Goodbye university; hello rest of your life. I wish would could be there to help you celebrate it all this weekend.

Since I can’t, here’s the thing. Actually, here are a few things…

You don’t remember this, but I’m sure you’ve been told. You were not an easy baby. You arrived loud and fussy and with a mind of your own about what you liked and didn’t like. You changed the rules, right from the start, about what it meant to raise a child, and how parenting is not something you can simply plan and execute, but it’s something you grow into and learn into and lean into. And how sometimes it’s a fearful thing, growing a child up. You taught me that before I had kids of my own.

It was a good lesson to learn early.

I think of you, all chubby toddler, and you had sass, even then. You and I would sit and tell stories at your kitchen table, eating your mom’s macaroni casserole with peas. We’d make’em up, wild stories about such things as my crazy dog Flint and how we we’d take him for walks and he’d be naughty and we’d finally get so tired of looking after him that we would decide to cook him for supper. Ew. Ew. But you loved it and you’d laugh and laugh.

You taught me the importance of having fun.

You were my buddy back then when life kept us closer than it does now. We’d take exotic trips to the mall or the university or the park, and you were so funny. Goodness, you were fun to be with. I picture you in your hot pink leggings and your hair wild. A crazy, laughing prairie flower. I missed you so much when you moved.

You have prairie roots, and don’t you forget it.

Gosh, you are a beauty. You’ve grown into such a beauty. You are all kinds of fresh loveliness, the lovely of good genetics and good health and good dental care. But you wear your beauty casually. You are a messy bun kind of girl, and it’s no secret that if there is a pin on a clean floor you will find it and trip over it. But that’s your charm. That gracious juxtaposition of angelic beauty and Mr. Magoo-ness. Messy beauty, that’s you, and that’s the real thing, I think.

You are the real deal.

I’ve missed you these past years. You’ve grown up in another place doing other things and I’ve watched from the outer edges as you’ve tackled challenges and I think you’ve learned some important things about life through it all. You’ve had to face some hard things, and you’ve had to give up some wonderful things, and you’ve had to learn that life has as many goodbyes as it has hellos. You’ve learned that finishing is a lot harder than starting.

You finished this college thing. Yay you!

And now you are off on an adventure. The first of many, I hope. I’m so excited for you. I’m excited for the things you will see and touch and taste and experience. I know it will be amazing. I know it will be challenging. I know there will be messy bits along the way but I know you are up for it all.

And this guy I’ve heard about. Rick? Mick?

You know I think he’s not good enough for you, right? I mean, I’ve never met him and he’s probably perfectly nice and all, but you are my precious angel, daughter of my heart, first child to call me auntie, and I love you more than words can begin to express. So this guy whose name ends with ick, well, he’d better watch himself.

And this adventure you are heading out on? I know your mom would like me to tell you to “be careful” and “be safe,” and yes, I hope you will be. But it’s a trip around the world, for heaven’s sake. So I’ll just say, “don’t be stupid” and leave it at that.

When you get back, sometime when you need less adventure and more quiet, come visit me. We’ll sit in my yellow chairs on my porch, under GG’s old pink quilt, and drink tea and talk about travel and life and love and Jesus.

I love you, Brea. You know I’m wiping tears as I write this, because you are my girl. You are my precious, precious girl and I love you with all the love an old auntie could possibly have.

Congratulations on your graduation, and take lots of pictures on your trip!

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I’m going through the exercises for the “Once Upon a Time” conference that I teach with two of my very best friends in the whole wide world. I’m working through the Core Values exercises, where questions like what excites you?, and what gives you energy? are asked. And I’d like to say that people excite me, and that being with people energizes me. But I realize, with a bit of a shock, that this is not true. And I immediately feel like a bad person. And especially, a bad Christian.

I love people. I am, actually, passionate about people. About relationships and communication and all the things that are a part of being in a community. But I’ve come to the realization that as much as I am passionate in these ways, these passions are not part of my inherent nature. These passions, actually, exhaust me.

I am an introvert.

I’m an introvert with skills, mind you. But an introvert, none the less.

My family and I attended the graduation ceremony for my nephew and niece on the weekend. These beautiful young people gathered with their classmates, in caps and gowns, to mark the culmination of twelve years of education. It was a joy to be in the audience and to hear the speeches and to watch the students clap for their classmates as the awards were handed out. I was struck, though, as the afternoon went on, by the common personality characteristics of the winners of most of the awards. These students, the winners, were not introverts.

The winners of most of the awards were the natural leaders, the easy to talk to, the funny, the athletic, and the outgoing. And something in me ached a little for the rest. For the message that loud is better than quiet. That external is better than internal. That the shy person is less valuable than the outgoing person.

I don’t know. Am I wrong? These are the thoughts flitting around in my brain today.

Congratulations, Kyron and Kirstin!

This year is the thirtieth anniversary of my graduation from high school. Crazy. I graduated in 1981 from Western Christian College. We had a great class. Next month I’ll attend the reunion of that class. Makes you think.

Truthfully, though, I couldn’t wait to graduate. I was just so ready to get on with it. I had big plans, beginning with Bible College and a mission trip. I had my life ahead of me. I truly loved the Lord, and I wanted to do great things with Him. I wanted my life to be, well, different. Different from what, I’m not sure I knew. But I know I felt a stirring within me to get out in the world and really live.

The thing is, thirty years later it’s still the same. Well, some things, ahem, have changed. But that stirring, that feeling of wanting to make a difference, of wanting to really live … it’s still there. It is maybe even stronger, or at least more urgent. At almost fifty years old, my life doesn’t stretch endlessly ahead of me like it did when I was seventeen. I’ve been to a lot of funerals since I graduated.

I’ve been looking at graduation gifts for my niece. Did you know that Jeremiah 29:11 can be found on almost anything now, from bookmarks to shirts to pendants to Bible covers? This verse is marketed to graduates, but I want to reclaim if for the class of  ’81.

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

Because the thing is, this promise was given to a people who were well into their journey. These were not fresh-faced babes just starting out, with all kinds of opportunities ahead of them. God promised this to a people who were in the midst of hard times. We’re talking seventy years of hard times. Captivity. Slavery.

So, while I love the sense of anticipation of Jeremiah 29:11, it’s the following verses that really speak to me. Because life has sometimes been difficult. I haven’t done all the things I wanted to do. I’ve made some mistakes, some poor choices. So these verses, to me, hold a mid-journey encouragement:

“Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. I will be found by you,” declares the Lord.

He’s still there. And His plan is still His plan. And, even thirty years in, I still have a hope and a future. He is my hope and my future.