Friday, June 17, 2011

God's Grace & Graduation

Just a couple of weeks ago we gathered with friends and family both near and far to celebrate our oldest son's life at his graduation. God's grace has just been poured out over the years on him. Below is the message that I shared at his graduation. I find myself trusting God for His continued grace as we each make the transition that lies ahead. I know that He will be faithful.

Colton, God brought you into my life when my whole world was crashing apart. I thought all my dreams were shattered …. And then, in His great mercy and love, God gave me the gift of life. Your life.

I remember like it was yesterday, the nurse coming in to see me, sitting down at my right side. As she told me as I was expecting you, I felt like the Lord opened the floodgates of heaven and was pouring out blessing and hope on me.

It’s a bit surreal being back at this place for your graduation. It was here that I heard about the grace and love of the Lord Jesus. I heard that I had a heavenly Father that loved me and cared about me, no matter what had happened in my life. I learned that He was Hope and completely able to be everything I needed.

Shortly into my pregnancy, while on my way to work, I thought maybe it was all gonna come to an end. I had just turned on to the blacktop, heading to Farm King in Macomb where I had landed a job working in advertising. I couldn’t have reached more than 30 mi an hour, crossed a small bridge and the next thing I knew my car just started spinning round and round. It seemed like everything was going in slow motion. I knew there were huge drops offs on both sides of that road. I didn’t know what to do. Next thing I knew my car got to the edge of the road and I was able to hit the brakes and in an instant, we were stopped. I was so scared to move. The car was resting on that steep bank. I knew I had to get out before it rolled. But I was so scared to move and maybe cause it to roll. I opened the door slowly and quickly moved past the car, out of danger. Soon someone stopped and took me to work. I’ll never forget the weight of responsibility I felt for your life. It was no longer just me, but I was a mom and had a huge responsibility.

Finally, after 42 long weeks of pregnancy, you entered this world. While there were still many difficulties in my life, you were my absolute JOY. Here I was a “girlie-girl” … now momma to a SON! I loved being your mom. I was determined to do anything I had to do for us to have a life together. I didn’t care how many toilets I had to clean, or how many floors I had to scrub, or how many piano lessons I needed to give. You didn’t necessarily like being drug around as a baby to all the houses I cleaned, but we made it through.

For many reasons, I had a deep passion to raise you up as a man of honor. I wanted you to be the kind of man who was devoted … true to your loved ones … not afraid of hard work … gentle, yet strong.

God was so faithful to bring people into our lives during that early season … people that would love us so unconditionally. I have never forgotten what each of them did for us.

Some time after your arrival, I had started back to college to take a couple of classes. At that time I figured I should work on my elementary education degree so that by the time you were starting Kindergarten, I could work in the school. I remember riding in the back of Gma and Pa Pa’s car on the way to church one Sunday and she handed me a card with a check to help pay for some of my fees. God was always showing up to take care of us. There were other times that I would find diapers on my doorstep or in a bag with my name on them in the church foyer.

Before your first birthday, I began writing to Dad, after a dear friend encouraged me to do so. He was stationed in Germany at the time in the Air Force. This was back in the day before I even had a computer. So every letter was hand written and driven to the post office. It wasn’t long and there were many letters coming from Germany. As soon as you’d wake up in the morning, I’d get you out of your crib and off to the post office we’d go … you still in your pajamas. We’d get back and I would sit and read my letter and you’d get into all sorts of mischief while I was deep in distraction. The day after your first birthday he came to visit. And to ask me to marry him. And to ask to be your father. Our lives were radically changing. Just months earlier I thought it might always be you and me. Now I was getting a glimpse of a far bigger picture that God was painting.

He left for 3 months to go back to Germany. He would send cassette tapes to us. He wanted you to know his voice. You’d crawl over to the tape player and just listen and listen.

When you were 15 months old our lives were all joined together. The day before our wedding, Dad adopted you. You got his name before I did. The next day we stood in this same church for the wedding. Then back again the next morning for a wonderful service for your dedication. So many special people had stood with us during that time in our lives.

Two days later, we left everything we knew for a new life in Louisiana. It wasn’t an easy move for me, but one that I’m so thankful for. God blessed us with incredible friends there and a great church family. Soon after you became a big brother for the first time. You were really proud of that role at age 2!, until Nathaniel started crawling and that pretty much turned your little world upside down. J You were such an intense little boy. You like everything to stay the same and let’s just say that any kind of change didn’t sit real well with you. J

Being a momma of boys, I was determined that I did not have to embrace 2 main cultural truths. 1) That boys were gross. 2) That all the joy would end when they turned into teens. I refused both of those. I knew early on that neither of those were God’s design. So I just began asking Him to show me what WAS His design in raising sons. In turn, He poured out so many wonderful insights over the years and blessed me more than I could ever share with you today.

I remember when you were 4 years old. We had just moved to Chicago so that Dad could start Bible college. You were 4, Nathaniel was 2 and I was horrendously sick… pregnant with Josiah. I would lie on the couch, trying to be still to keep the nausea under control. You wanted so much to learn. At a very young age you had a drive in you to figure things out. If there was something you wanted to know or wanted to learn, you were very motivated. So this one particular day you wanted to learn to write the alphabet. And that would have been all fine and wonderful, had I not felt like I had the flu 24 hours a day. J So one day we started in with the letter A. Me lying on the couch and you sitting at a little table I had set up in our living room with an alphabet poster above it. You couldn’t get enough. Finally we got to the letter K and I told you I was done for the day. Learning letters A-K was ENOUGH for one morning! You continued throughout the day until you made through Z.

By this time we were now in the inner-city of Chicago and you were ready to start school. I never could imagine sending you off away from the family all day long. Along the way, we’d met a few families who had homeschooled during different times in their life and it just seemed like it would be a good fit for us. After all, it’s not like I was gonna send you off to an inner-city school. Well, here we are today 13 years later. I guess it kinda stuck with us. It wasn’t a perfect education. No particular one is. But I’m really thankful for this time we’ve had with you. It provided so many opportunities for not just covering the academics, but for mentoring and disciple-ing.

I remember when we realized you needed glasses. It was a traumatic experience as we didn’t realize how desperately you needed them. We put them on and you could hardly walk .. and they were only at half strength. My heart just BROKE that day, realizing that there would be things in your life I couldn’t make go away. I hated to watch you struggle.

I remember the day you walked into the water at Dead Colt Creek in ND and were baptized. You’ve had a hunger for the Lord since you were a very young little boy. You always believed God could do anything. You challenged me at times to remember that.

As I look back, over the years, I see that you haven’t just been a son. You’ve been so much more.

You’ve been a FRIEND. You’ve been a friend to others, but you’ve also been a friend to me.

You’ve been an ENCOURAGER. Sometimes with a few well-chosen words ….. sometimes it was with no words at all, but just a hug.

You’ve been a SERVANT. We spent almost 8 years serving the people of ND. In ways too many to count you where there … doing whatever needed done. Setting up chairs for services and then putting it all back away. Helping clean the house and rearrange furniture for ministry teams coming in to serve. Helping prepare meals for holidays when we’d try to welcome in folks that didn’t have someone to share them with. Working odd jobs to raise money for your sister’s adoption, so that she would have a family.

You’ve been GRACIOUS. That is a great quality for a first-born. There were things we did right ….. there were things we did terribly wrong. You have been a gracious son.

My heart is so full when I think about your life.

It’s filled with thankfulness … for your hands that aren’t afraid of hard work, not only for achieving your own goals but also for the needs of others. You’ve been a team player in our family … helping it to grow by two members.

My heart is filled with admiration. For your vision of looking beyond what is seen, to what is unseen. Caring more about eternal things, than physical things. Not being afraid to sacrifice.

It’s filled with gratefulness … for the relationship I’ve gotten to have with you and for your eagerness to share your dreams with me. For all the late night talks and things pondered. For you trusting me enough to share your heart and the things God is stirring within you. Moms of little boys? …. This is the prize of working all those years to cultivate relationship.

My heart is filled with JOY .. in seeing a little boy who overcame so much, grow into a young man so settled in who you are and ready for what’s ahead. You know about both victories and set backs …. Yet you persevere.

It’s filled with Pride … in seeing your strong work ethic and not be afraid of doing whatever it takes to get the job done. It was a special blessing getting to see for a short time, you working alongside your Grandpa Gene. I know you miss him greatly, Colton. He was so very proud of you.

My heart is filled with Praise! As I watched you grow up to be a lover of music … not just interest in sound and style, but also in content. Your heart for worship is contagious. You know who it is that you want to please first and foremost, that of which is not man.

Colton, as much as I don’t want to let you go, I also don’t want to hold you back. You were never only mine anyway! You are the Lord’s. I made a commitment 18 years ago in that little low-income housing apartment to do all I could to nurture you and raise you. Now that season has come to a close.

Oh, I’ll still be your mom. I’ll still be here. But we’re embarking on a new season.

College – and while I am incredibly excited for you to be accepted by Moody Bible Institute and to have the opportunity to study there …. I care even more that you always remember where true wisdom comes from. While academics are important, they must NEVER replace relationship with and hunger for Christ.

There’s a passage in Proverbs about wisdom that I want to share with you today.

Provers 2:1-10

1My son, if you will receive my words
And treasure my commandments within you,

2Make your ear attentive to wisdom,
Incline your heart to understanding;

3For if you cry for discernment,
Lift your voice for understanding;

4If you seek her as silver
And search for her as for hidden treasures;

5Then you will discern the fear of the LORD
And discover the knowledge of God.

6For the LORD gives wisdom;
From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

7He stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
He is a shield to those who walk in integrity,

8Guarding the paths of justice,
And He preserves the way of His godly ones.

9Then you will discern righteousness and justice
And equity and every good course.

10For wisdom will enter your heart
And knowledge will be pleasant to your soul;

Four years of your early childhood were spent as a child of a student on the same campus you’ll be going back to in just a couple of months. Now and then you’d get to tag along with dad to class. You were SO proud. It’s really hard to believe that now you’ll return to that campus as a grown young man. And now WE are so proud.

There are many things that I will miss … here are just a few.

Your quiet arrival at meal times.

Your loud pick-up truck turning in the drive with a load of who knows what all to take to the scrap yard so that you could add to the college fund.

Your technological assistance when I’m frantic and I can’t get my stupid computer to work right.

The way you always make time to connect with your little sisters. Seriously Colton, how are they gonna deal with the fact that there is no one headed out to the post office each day to mail packages across the country?! J

I will miss your hugs. I’ll still have 5 other people in the house that I’ll be hugging, but that won’t replace yours.

Your eyes. I will miss being able to look into your eyes and have a feel for how you’re doing. Email, FB and Texting might be great, but your eyes speak volumes to this Momma’s heart.

I look forward to seeing all that God has planned for this next season of your life. There are times that you are gonna fall and fail …. But I am confident that when those times happen you will get back up again, make things right with those around you, and keep persevering. If at any time you need a break from it all, you’ll be welcomed home with open arms. We believe in you. I am so humbled by the young man you’ve grown up to be. And I love you.

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