On May 19, 2017, Terry and I proudly watched our oldest child, Lauren Kassidy, walk the aisle to “Pomp & Circumstance” and receive her high school diploma. This was not only a huge first for her but for us as well. It was thrilling to see our first child not only graduate high school but graduate from our homeschool. She was able to participate in our local homeschool co-op’s graduation exercises, which was wonderful. We had the opportunity to give short speeches and present her her diploma. She was able to have the gown, mortarboard, and ceremony that I had always dreamed of giving her.
Terry’s family came from Kansas, Illinois, and Ohio, and my mother came from Arkansas. It was the first time I’d had the chance to host a BIG celebration with friends and family. It was such a blessing to have them with us. Here are some photos of the big event and the speeches Terry and I gave.
Here are some then & now photos:
By far the hardest thing about planning the graduation was going through photo albums, searching for the photos that showcase Lauren’s life, accomplishments, and personality. I looked back and had some sadness, and then some happiness, then a bit more sadness…it was a roller coaster. I thought about things I wish I’d done, things I wish I hadn’t done, and so forth. I enjoyed being with her and raising her, but I know I didn’t do all the right things. I did the best I could. So, after sniffing and crying and wiping my eyes, I put the photos on a display board. I’d never done this before, but Lauren seemed quite pleased with it. We set out a few things she loves: the trumpet, Dr. Who, Star Wars, Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, and a guest book for our friends to sign.
I took a few photos of the board and tried to get every angle, in case anyone wants to see a few of Lauren’s baby photos. 🙂
Here is my speech: (I practiced saying it many times to desensitize myself so I wouldn’t cry. It worked…I did get choked up at the end.)
On August 9, 2004, only ten days after my dad died suddenly, we began homeschooling. We lived in a ghetto, our only car was on the blink, we were on a very tight budget and I was emotionally at my lowest. Not exactly the ideal conditions that I had envisioned earlier that summer when I first thought about teaching Kindergarten. My one consolation was that I believed things could only get better from there. Lauren, seeing your smile each day, watching your tiny hands color and write, seeing what “we” would learn that day, all of that is what got me through some of the toughest days of my life. I know I struggled at teaching, and I felt like a failure most of the time, yet it was a journey I was fully committed to even during those dark days. Lauren, you know better than any of your siblings the trials that we have faced, and likewise, you can better appreciate what we have now. Just look at what God has done for us!
As I worked at being a better mother and teacher, I realized that I wanted to give you two things: roots, and wings.
Roots, a place to call home. But how could I do that when we seemed to move in ministry every few years? Where was your home? Where would you say you were from? I didn’t know.
As the years rolled by, I learned that “roots” doesn’t always mean a permanent address. It means a family – yes, brothers and sisters. It means laughter and tears, heartache, challenges, and it means joy and triumph and love. It means overcoming together. Those were the roots your dad and I could give you. By God’s grace, I hope we have succeeded.
The next step was the wings: equipping you for whatever God wanted you to do. This would be harder than the roots! After all, I don’t know the future. Again, I learned that the Lord doeth all things well. He showed me that giving you wings didn’t necessarily mean preparing you for the next step, but simply being willing to let you take it and trusting Him with your care.
The wings are hard to give, I’m not eager to “let go”. Today, I see, however, that I can do it. Because no matter how far you roam, no matter how high you soar, those roots will keep you tethered close to my heart.
I am so thankful for you Lauren, and I love you with all my heart. Thank you for going on this adventure with me.
Here is Terry’s speech: (His speech was amazing!)
Half a score and seven years ago, your parents brought forth on this continent, a new child, conceived in love and dedicated to God, that she would glorify him.
Now we are engaged in a great event called Commencement, and here begins the test of not your parents’ skill or intelligence, that has already been done! This next phase of life will be your test.
Adulthood and College will call upon you to rise higher than you have before! Not only in your scholastic efforts but in your personal character and devotion to our Lord Jesus.
As your Father, I couldn’t be prouder of you or more thankful that you are my child. I held you in my arms when you were born in that strange land called West Virginia and said: “When are you gonna crawl!” I was looking forward to life with you and it’s been a very good life.
In my Scofield Bible I have a little badge that you made me that has a shield and two red ribbons and on its front, it says “Bravery”. I stapled it in my Bible. I don’t know why you gave it to me but it was something that I really needed at that moment. I was in a tough spot and wanted to quit but God used you to tell me to be brave. In fact, you awarded me a medal not after the battle but during it. I’ll always treasure that little badge.
As you well know I love to read Louis L’amour’s books. In his books, there is a term, a phrase that I came to love. It was how he described a person who was faithful and true, a man or woman who could be trusted in a fight or who would do what needed to be done no matter how unpleasant it was. The phrase is “They are someone to ride the river with.” The River was a metaphor for life because a River like life can change very quickly, one moment calm and serene. The next moment is whitewater and waterfalls! In those moments you need someone solid and dependable!
Now there is a story Louis wrote called “Ride the River” and it’s the story of a girl with courage and iron determination. She is shrewd and a little saucy when provoked… She defends her family and ultimately is the heroine of the story and her name was Echo Sackett, born in the Appalachian mountains, like you.
When I think over that tale, I remember reading as a teenage boy and not wanting to like her, how could I like a girl hero? But she was really something!
She was a girl to ride the river with. She was brave, faithful and basically just awesome. I didn’t know I’d have a daughter who had the real life stuff of a fictional hero but I did and do.
Lauren, I love you and I’m glad to be able to have ridden part of the River of my life with you.
I’ve been slow going through photos and preparing this blog post. With Lauren’s graduation, I am moving into a new chapter of my own life. Lord willing, the graduations will keep coming, and my life will evolve along with each one. I pray God will give me the strength to move through each phase and adjust my sails to catch the wind of His grace that is always blowing my way.
Thank you for tagging along on this journey with me.