To My Graduates

Written by: Ms. O

Linda_youth

As I look at this collage of pictures, I am in awe of how many youth I have known over the years. The crazy thing is this is not all of them…over the years I have lost some…ugh…but this is a good representation of those kids that are not my blood children…but are mine just the same.

The middle of this collage is dedicated to my new youth graduating…surrounded by those who have gone on before you…a great cloud of witnesses if I say so myself.

I figure with all the hours of prayer…concern…mission trips…weekend retreats…Sunday school….snack suppers prepared…late night phone calls…texts…etc, etc., (you get the picture)…I am due the opportunity to give some advice.

My last ditch effort in hopes that you don’t just “hear me” …but more so listen to the love and emotion behind my words…so here goes:

Don’t let a single event define you: News flash…you are not perfect…you will make mistakes…it is all a part of life. Some of our best things have come from our biggest mistakes….when we choose to not let it destroy us. Use your “mess ups” as a stepping stone to do it better next time…or not at all.

There is a world out there…explore it: Most of us are very comfortable with our “small town” upbringing. We know everyone…we have our comfort zone…and it is truly hard to step out of it. Now is your time to see what is out beyond Fort Bend county…maybe even (gasp) outside this great state of Texas. There are people to meet…new opportunities to try…but you will only be able to do that when you are willing to extend yourself.

You may be grown up…but that does not mean you have to take it all on: I can hear you now, “…this will be great…no more worries…I will be out on my own…I’ve got this covered,”…which is great to say…the first few days/weeks/perhaps month. There will come a time that you come across something that you may not know how to handle. That is when you have to realize that no one is really all grown up. Each day we grow a little more…sometimes on our own…most times with the help of others. It is when you think you have to do it all alone…you turn into an island…and that gets pretty lonely.

Along that same vein…….

Remember the way home: As fast as you may want to get away from home,  the people that you are leaving behind…willmissyou. Put it this way…they started missing you the day you started kindergarten…and it has only grown over the years. Each step you have taken towards your independence has been one more step away from them.  That saying….does not mean stay home the rest of your life…it means call in from time to time other than when you need money…..let them know what is going on in your life…it is crazy how the smallest conversation from you can brighten your parents’ day.

One of the best gifts you can ever give back to your parents is to come visit…spend time…just because….

Find a church: Yes, I had to do it…but not just because I am a youth director. It has been a life lesson I can’t hide. I have lived in many places in my life…met plenty of people…but the deepest roots I have ever put down is where I have become part of a church. It is in church that I found connection to God…and to others who seek the same thing. Within these walls I found my strength…my “Center”…and the courage to walk outside the doors to do ministry. Try a church…see how it “fits”…try another if it is not right…until you find that “one” that will feed you….stretch you….and make you feel at home…away from home.

As I look at these pictures, it truly brings to mind the words of Paul:

“I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for ALL of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. It is right for me to feel this way about all of you, since I have you in my heart:” Philippians 1:3-7a

From the moment I met you, you climbed into my heart…..and it’s a one way entry point. Notice the faces that surround you…they have never left me…nor will they ever. I am ever thankful to God for the chance to spend time with you…in whatever way I have…knowing that my life is richer because of you.

Live bigbe boldand know that you have a cheering section back home and for once in my life…..I am a cheerleader!….(go figure!)

With God’s love….Ms. O