The day has finally come. My sweet Young Life girls are high school graduates, strewn across the country, ready to pursue the next four years of their lives with a spirt of grace and adventure.
Girls, my words could never fully encompass what the last four years have been, but it would be a shame to not try. This one is for you.
It feels like just yesterday we were sitting outside in the McCallum courtyard, me trying to be cool, you trying to not talk to me.
Well, really, it all started before that. Here is how I really ended up with you girls.
Natalie sent an email, and I called dibs. August 7, 2012.
We went to Mozart’s. Natalie got a strawberry steamer, which I pretended was cool, but was really just warm milk and pretty weird. We talked about her moving to Austin and starting high school and we realized that even with five years difference between us, we had a million things in common.
It all started from there. I went to McCallum lunch, back in the day when leaders were still allowed in the courtyard, and I sat with some girls who didn’t want to talk to me until Natalie came and introduced me to her friends Hannah and Haley. The group grew quickly. At one point Meagan just jumped into my car and put her number in my phone. Melissa showed up at sleepovers and polar bear, even though she “didn’t even go here.”
Our friendships built quickly, and I am thankful for every moment of them.
I remember those precious mornings your freshmen year, when we would sit around a table at Thunderbird and share our lives. We talked about what it meant to be a woman, what it meant to seek Jesus. Those times were transformative. And then there was the time you didn’t quite make it to school on time, and Mark walked in…oops. It was in those moments gathered around that table, sharing the Word of Jesus, that I knew these relationships were special and intimate and would last a lifetime.
I remember freshman year sleepovers, too many girls to count. There was the time Meagan and I showered together, and somehow the curtain was pulled down. It was one of the many, “don’t tell Mark” moments. I don’t think there has ever been a time when whipped cream has been in the room and not ended up on my face. I would let you girls cover my face with whipped cream a million times over if it meant that you would somehow know Jesus a little better because of it.
I remember sitting at Starbucks with you, Haley, and hearing you speak about Jesus for the first time in a way that was full of grace and gospel. For the first time, you knew Him. You had experienced grace, and it wasn’t about how well you had performed. It was about the cross. I came home and I cried that day.
So much can happen in four years. So much change, so much growth, so much redemption. Each year, our relationships have looked different, and each year, they have grown and transformed. Sitting at your graduation parties, looking back on slideshows full of pictures from freshman year, it is evident that none of us are the same as we were when we first met. Over the past four years, we have laughed, we have cried, we have celebrated and we have been silent. You have faced conflict, you have been hurt, you have mourned the loss of leaders and friendships, boyfriends and relationships, and each time, we have seen redemption. Jesus has shown up, revealing his mercy and lavishing his grace upon you. In the end, you are not the same people because of it. You have grown, you have been changed by the grace of an ever knowing, unconditionally loving God.
This year I have felt the sweet freedom of knowing that you are not just my Young Life girls, but you are my friends. I have found rest in knowing that your relationships with Christ are not based on me or on my performance, but that they are based purely in the grace of Jesus. Any part I have been able to play in that has been a gift, and the ability to step back and know that your hearts are, and forever will be, securely placed in His hands is the greatest gift that I could ever ask for.
So, Natalie, as you move across the country today, and Meagan, as you step out of being a camper into leadership at Pine Cove, and Haley, as you travel across France and eventually land back in the US at one of the country’s most prestigious universities, and Hannah, as you snapchat me from your couch until it’s time for you to head to college, and as all of you move forward into this next stage of life, know that I am right here beside you. But more importantly, than that, Jesus is always and forever beside you, before you, and behind you. I am forever yours, and Jesus is forever yours. We have an eternity to share together. The party is just getting started.