noun  the ceremony of conferring degrees or diplomas

This weekend I attended the college graduation of a sweet, sweet friend – one I’ve had the privilege of watching grow up since sixth grade.  Ten years of shared lives, shared crisis, shared joys and laughter.  I have to say I am so very proud of her.  She is an amazing young woman that will make an unbelievable teacher.  Over the last four years, she made some very tough decisions which required trust and a strong dependence on God for some BIG, grown-up issues, and now she stands ready to graduate from college and step into a new season of life.  This season will require even greater trust and dependence on God, and she will be faced with even more stressful, and sometimes painful, decisions (an unfortunate adult reality).  But both she and I also know that if she relies on God, He will successfully walk her through every moment.

I find it somewhat ironic that I am experiencing a type of graduation as well.  If you haven’t heard –Keith and I have accepted an appointment as Assemblies of God missionaries to Ecuador and come January 1st our family will officially begin that journey. We must bid our goodbyes to the Oak City season of our lives and “graduate” on June 6th – our last Sunday as Youth Pastors.  I feel very much the same as a high school or college graduate. I’m extremely excited and nervous for the future yet painfully sad and nostaligic for our time  at Oak City.  Twelve years of building strong friendships, raising our young children, pouring into the lives of teenagers, and serving with and among the most amazing church family ever.

Tears of joy and sadness will wash my cheeks over the next few months beginning with this weekend’s graduation.  It will be through God’s strength and care that both she and I walk out the next phase of our lives, but I know that she knows the same thing I know (because I helped her learn it):  there is no greater joy and contentment when you walk in God’s perfect will, even if the moving on is painful.  As we both “walk the stage” to say our goodbyes, God will cheer as we accept our diploma and take a step toward our future in Him.

A note to Ash:  In the words of Galinda, the good witch, “Who can say I’ve been changed for the better; because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”  Thanks for letting me share in your life. I am so proud of the incredible Godly woman you’ve become.  My heart is thankful that the friendship we share will transcend distance and time.


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