This is it!
This Sunday is it, June 1, 2014. It is the day I’ve been anticipating for several years. It is the day where I would see the chains fall off and write “the end” in one book and open the front cover to begin writing a new book. It is the day I saw so many others embrace before me, some with sadness but many with gladness. Expectantly for many years, this Sunday had freedom written all over it. That is until a little event some eight years ago changed everything. In reality, it wasn’t a little event at all. It could only be put into the classification of being an earth shattering, life altering event. It was an event that would repeat itself two more times over the years and not only change the present, but dramatically alter the future. It was an experience that disrupted my “American dream,” a dream I saw so many others living at that time and still live today. This Sunday is the day I looked forward to for many years, letting go of those “child rearing” years and getting on with the rest of my life. But, God would have none of that. He would have none of that self-focused, self-centered life I so longed for. Instead, He laid before us as a family a plan I wish I could say I embraced willingly and enthusiastically. No, not back then, but today, yes! This Sunday, Jody and I will not be writing the final chapter, putting down the pen and closing the back cover, only to pick it up again one day and reminisce. This Sunday, June 1, we will simply be writing another chapter in the book, a wonderful chapter at that, in a book we’ve been writing together for the last 24 years.
This Sunday is Jillian’s day, a big day as she will graduate from Okemos High School. She WILL BE writing the final chapter in her book. As her mom and dad, we couldn’t be more proud of her. Sunday at 1:00 p.m., alongside of her lifelong friend Renee, they will lead the 300 plus graduates from Okemos High School in their procession for graduation. A few minutes later, Jillian will be the first of three commencement speakers who will challenge her classmates. The challenge she will give is not a carte blanche address talking about “going big or going home.” The challenge she will give has the Gospel written all over it. Her name will be read a few minutes later and her tassel turned. And, for her, the book will be closed.
For us, truly, it’s not a bitter-sweet day. For us, it’s just a sweet day. A day, we looked forward to many years ago: raising, investing, training, nurturing and releasing her to do something…many great and amazing things for God. As we’ve seen Jillian grow and mature, God has graced her with some unique qualities. She never desired to fall into the mold of the world where popularity is what young girls so often seek out and strive for. She is just the opposite. With her soft spoken nature, she always fought for the underdog, embraced the outsider, rebuked the critic, opposed the judgmental and stood strong for the Truth. Whether embracing her three younger siblings, giving up so much along the way, or embracing another life, it has become evident of her love for others, which is a true reflection of the character of Christ.
I vividly remember the day last fall when I received a call form OHS. It was her counselor who wanted to tell me a story about Jillian. While at a home football game just days prior, a young man who has some challenges, was standing by himself. The game had already started and the O-Zone was fired up. Jillian was on the front row of the student section with several of her friends. Seeing this young man standing alone, she told her friends she would be right back. She left her spot and went to where he was, and invited him to join her and her friends in the student section. She didn’t know him well but simply knew of him. He followed her up where a couple of hundred high schoolers were standing. This young man, never having this experience, didn’t know what to do: the jumping, the chanting, and the cheering. Jillian told him and showed him everything he needed to do and he did it with her and the many others. It made such an impact on his life that someone would do such a thing for him, he told his parents, his teachers and his counselor who in turn called us and told us the story. Jillian never said a word to us about what had happened and we were even at the game. This story simply defines the heart of Jillian. She just does it. She doesn’t do it to be seen. She doesn’t do it to be recognized. She just does it and she does it to encourage others. This is a trait, along with so many others, we love immensely about Jillian. Sunday, she will write the final chapter in her book. She is ending her senior year on such a high note. What a way to end! It goes without saying, we are overly excited for her. She has indeed finished strong and is ready to move on, as we are ready to let her go..I think!? Now it will be her privilege to step out afresh, seek where she can be used, put her gifts and talents to work, and do something…many great things for God.