Today you are graduating from high school.
...just in case that blue gown you wore to school this morning hasn't tipped you off yet.
My first memories are of you. I was so little when you were brand-new, but fleeting pictures still cross my mind. You in the bassinet, me wondering where you came from.
I remember running around our tiny California home screaming our lungs out. You because you couldn't hear, it was how you communicated. And me? Well, that was how I played with you.
I remember the days of your deafness, the surgeries, the tubes they put in your ears, the pain you had to endure. And the screaming. Not bad screaming. Your noises were often joy-filled, evidence of your desire to communicate. And especially with our dear momma. Our momma who lost a child as you were born, a momma who loved you so dearly and held you close when you were in pain. A momma who fought for you and rejoiced as you began to hear. We all rejoiced as we saw the beauty of grace in your life as the surgeries worked and you could hear. You learned to talk. The screaming lessened and the words increased. And by the grace of God, you could hear.
Do you remember, dear brother, our humid Georgia days? We rode our bikes and scooted on roller skates and played with "imminent doom" as we ran near the trees momma told us to "never go near because there were cottonmouths in the river." Do you remember your bond with my best friend's older sister? She called you every time she found a frog so you could see it too. Do you remember caterpillars and sprinklers and those Otter Pops we slurped on when we thought to go inside? Do you remember our Gilead days, the long drives to school and that time I threw up in the car and we all got a day off?
Do you remember leaving Georgia? How hard it was to say good-bye? Our lives were so full there. We had joy and we had pain. And through it all, we had grace. That is what your story spills over with. Grace upon grace upon grace.
Washington brought its challenges. Do you remember when we started homeschooling? How much we loved it (at first)? Do you remember our 4-H days filled with chickens and goats and those posters we all hated doing but loved winning ribbons for? Those long days we spent at the fair, breathing dust and who-knows-what, running around with our friends, spending pocket change on penny candy and those amazing elephant ears. Remember my senior year of high school? We joined riflery and went to awesome competitions and even got to compete in Texas. And we breathed more dust and even more gunpowder and we explored San Antonio and had the experience of a lifetime.
Do you remember the games we would play as children? We'd pull out your Legos or your Star Wars figures or log onto our computers and have at each other in yet another round of Battlefront. We had contests to see who could beat Jedi Knight Outcast first and spent many hours in your room making up stories about your Star Wars figures.
But as we grew older, I grew differently. You would run to me so we could play and my nose would be hidden in a book so deeply I would barely hear you. My "yes" became "no" more and more often, and soon our worlds were different. But I still loved you all the more. And I was still so very proud of you. I'm sorry I never told you.
Do you remember our fights growing up? How awful they'd get? The yelling and the anger and the cries of "I hate you!" But I never really meant them. And I know you didn't either. Growing up was hard. Becoming different was even harder.
Every day, dear brother, I have loved you and my heart has swollen with pride for you. Your strength and resilience from the very beginning has been so beautiful.
When I left for college, I wept the hardest for you. My very first best friend, the one who stuck by my side and so very often stood up for me. When our family didn't even have a church to go to, you were so strong. Even as all of our hearts crumbled, yours included. Our little family has seen so much grace these many years. God has carried us through every valley, no matter how deep, no matter how dark.
As things got harder and I was so far away, God was still good. He remained on His throne and His hand was holding you. And He knew. He knew the path you walked and where you would end up.
And today, you will be on a stage. You will walk across and we will cry tears of joy as you shake that hand and accept that diploma. As you turn your tassel to the other side of your cap, your family rejoices with you. And your big sister is so proud of you.
She knows the valleys you have walked through. She knows the steps that brought you to today. The grace and mercy that God showered on you. She remembers the day you claimed Jesus as your Savior.
She remembers the times you wanted to give up. The days that the towel was already thrown in and you were going with it. She remembers that summer, the one when hope seem vanquished. The one where we thought we'd never see this day. But little did we realize just how much hope we had.
Many would say that this day came a year late. I say it did not. God's perfect plan for you was never once messed up. The valleys you walked through and the mountains you climbed were not for nothing. His grace has been sufficient through it all and this victory we celebrate today is all Him.
Dear brother, you made it. You have done something no one thought you'd be able to do. You pushed through, you didn't quit, and you didn't give up - even when doing so looked so so sweet. But this victory is even sweeter. This victory sings of the grace upon grace upon grace that has been poured out upon you. Of the amazing sovereign God we serve who carried you through. He rescued you from your sin and the pain you endured and set your feet on a rock. He loves you with an everlasting love.
Dear brother, you're graduating from high school today. And it is only the beginning.