Why is it that in the weeks leading up to university graduation, I become so much more attached to the seniors in our group? I start to see them differently and my heart bursts with excitement over who they have become and the possibilities that their futures hold. This year we have more graduates at one time than we have ever had in the past and I'm finding it harder and harder to keep my emotions in check as this weekend's ceremonies approach. Seriously, world, you have no idea how many fine young people are about to launch. Perhaps I'll introduce you to a few of them:
CHARLOTTE: Charlotte is a Secondary English Education and Special Education major. She is an over-comer. She is sensitive. She loves teaching and takes absolute joy in the triumphs and achievements of her students. She is loyal and kind and smart. I once drug her all over the streets of Brooklyn, in the dark, and we both lived to tell the tale (and laugh about it). She is learning to use her imagination and embrace the "what could be." Congratulations, Charlotte. I adore you and always will. Your future is so bright.
BRIANNA: Brianna is a pre-PA student, so graduation will be merely a time to take a deep breath before diving into her didactic year of the Physician's Assistant program. Brianna is a natural leader. She is witty and goofy. She is a picky eater, and somehow made it into her 20's before ever tasting a bean! I tease her that when she gives her friends make-overs they all end up looking just like her. If she stays on the path she is on, pursuing Christ wholeheartedly, who wouldn't want to look like her? Congratulations, Brianna. I'm excited about your next "mission field."
JIHYUN: Jihyun is from South Korea. He came to Lock Haven to get his Master's Degree in International Studies. When we met him, Jason and I agreed that if you looked up "Salt of the Earth" in the dictionary, you would see a picture of Jihyun. He has taught children's Sunday school classes at his church and led the International Bible study on campus, and I don't think he has ever met anyone that he didn't make laugh. How many international students do you know who would get up in front of everyone at an American church potluck and tell an embarrassing (and hysterical) story about themselves? It is this amazing blend of bravery and humility that make him so special. Congratulations, Jihyun. We are so blessed to know you.
AARON: Aaron is graduating with a degree in Community Health and has been accepted into the Master of Divinity program at seminary. He is the quietest leader I have ever met (I mean that in a great way). He has an infectious laugh and the most even temper of anyone I've met. He is unflappable. After miraculously surviving being burned over a large percentage of his body as a young man, it is apparent that God preserved his life because He has GREAT plans for him. Congratulations, Aaron. We stand with breathless anticipation to see all that God will accomplish through you in the years to come. We are your biggest fans!
RYAN & JENNA: Ryan is receiving a degree in Health and Physical Education and Jenna is graduating with a degree in Education. We had the privilege of providing premarital counseling to Ryan and Jenna and we have high hopes for them for their future together. They will both make outstanding teachers and will be a great team in ministry as well. Ryan is easy-going and has a true servant's heart (and he can traverse a high-ropes course BLINDFOLDED!). Jenna is bubbly and outgoing and has never met a stranger - only friends she hasn't gotten to know yet. We look forward to your wedding in June! Congratulations Ryan and Jenna. We have full confidence in each of you!
KASEY: Kasey, I cannot remember what degree you are getting! How lame is that? Maybe it is because she is so good at so many things. Kasey was a student athlete at LHU and we loved seeing her swim long distances at both home and away swim-meets and watch her enthusiastically cheer her teammates on poolside. She is artsy and whimsical and fun and lovely. She is tenderhearted and sincere. The world is a better place because it has a Kasey in it. Congratulations, Kasey. We wish you and Joel all the best and hope you will walk with the Lord all of your days.
JILLIAN: Jillian is graduating with a degree in Early Childhood Education. This is her second bachelor's degree! Jillian is a true friend, faithful wife, dedicated teacher, and loyal daughter and sister. She has tremendous inner strength and maintains a grateful attitude. She is not afraid of hard-work. She sees what makes people special and unique, even when they don't see it themselves. Jillian, you are an inspiration. Keep fighting to be all that God has created you to be. We love you.
Welcome these graduates with open hearts and arms, dear world! They are going to WOW you! :)
Joshua 1:9 (NIV) - "... be strong and courageous, do not be terrified; do not be discouraged for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go"
Today is graduation day at Lock Haven University. I have butterflies of excitement in my stomach for all of the graduates who are waking up and preparing for this special celebration. We have three students from New Life who are graduating today and each of them have been such hard working, dedicated students who have so much to offer the world. A social worker, a teacher, and a business management major. What a beautiful example of how God gives each of us different interests, talents, and abilities and then sets us loose in a world that doesn't recognize Him so that we can go into schools, businesses, nonprofit agencies, and homes and make Him famous through our actions, values, words and attitudes.
I remember my own graduation day with great clarity. Parts of it were so precious and memorable and parts were somehow, anticlimactic, and yet the result was the same - finality & new beginnings. Closing the chapter on one phase of life and opening the next. From now on, life will be a little less "cut and dry" for these young adults. Choices will be weightier than "should I go to class today or not", or "should I stay up and study for that test or go to bed and get up early to study?" They will weigh career options, most likely move to new cities, find new churches, make new friends, and launch out on a new path.
One thing won't change today though. The God who brought them through the past several years of college studies, will continue to walk with them, guiding and directing them into the next phase of life, not letting a single success, setback, love story, heart break, detour, or challenge be wasted. As unknown as the future may be to our graduates, it is fully known to the One who made them and planned out their days. He is not up in heaven wringing His hands and hoping they will make wise choices. He has a plan to preserve them and keep them and grow their character and use them in beautiful ways.
I will be praying for you, class of 2011. May you rest in His assurance and go in His favor and share with the world your story of the God who upholds it all.
Today was joy-filled, grace-filled, delightful. Today, my husband graduated from The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary with a Master of Arts degree in Christian Education. This was his second Master's degree. Quite an accomplishment, I would say. It was such an accomplishment that many people have been referring to him as Dr. Ritz today. We chuckle at that... It seems to some that two Master's should equal one Doctorate (although I am certain that those who have completed the rigorous doctoral program at the Seminary would disagree). Still others have wanted to begin calling Jason, "Pastor" or "Reverend" today. This makes us smile as well. Jason is who he is. He is no less or more himself today than he was yesterday before he walked down the aisle of the Alumni Chapel to the organ's anthem and shook the hand of the Seminary President and accepted his diploma. The celebration of his accomplishment today, while noteworthy on earth, hasn't caused a single angel in heaven to rejoice. The knowledge that he has gained while studying under so many learned professors only has heavenly value when it is put into practice, lived out, and shared with a hurting world. I have had the privilege of seeing my husband live this out for the past two years as a campus minister, and I look forward to seeing him keep right on living it out for as many years as the Lord gives us. I hope that I am able to match him step for step along the way. So what can you call him now, you ask? How about "At Your Service." You can call me the same.
Carla Ritz. Proof positive that God uses cracked pots!