Last night our middle daughter graduated from high school. Our school allowed the parents to share one minute after presenting our children with their diplomas. Her Dad and I split that one minute. I had to write all this to pull out the one minute, but had I had more than thirty seconds… here is what I would have shared.
You entered this world with a voice that demanded that you be heard. You have continued to become a woman with a voice that still demands to be heard. You have always been a girl who was not afraid to speak truth. You have never been hesitant to challenge an injustice no matter who it was that you might have to call out in order to do so and we have always had your back. We always will.
In our home you have been taught to use your head. You have been raised to be a person of action, a self-starter, and a finisher. You have been taught to never half-way do anything. We have taught you to do all things with a spirit of excellence. We have watched you choose to challenge yourself time and time again and have seen you trust the Lord to help you meet those challenges. We have watched you work hard and refuse to cut corners even if it meant you would not finish first because maintaining your integrity was more important than the momentary win. I will never forget watching your ten year old self waddle like a duck in karate and getting the prize, even though you were last, simply because you did it right the entire time even though others were not and were way ahead of you.
We chose to be parents that treated our children like the adults we hoped they would become. You have done your own laundry since you could reach the knobs on the washing machine. You have been responsible for keeping up with your own appointments and keeping us informed of all that was required of you and of us to see that you had everything you needed. You have even made all your own phone calls and emails in setting up everything you needed for college. We have raised the bar high your entire life, thus far you have risen to reach it, and we don’t expect you to lower it now.
You have been taught in our home that you are free to make any choice you like as long as you are willing to accept the consequences of that choice. As you step into adulthood those consequences become greater, further reaching, and more permanent. You must remember that first and foremost you are Christian and you are a Christian living in the United States of America. Therefore, you never have an excuse to not walk free and live brave. Never allow the fear of man’s consequences to keep you from obedience to God. Never forget that God is your provider, not a job. Never forget that if all others forsake you because you won’t go their way, God’s way is always the only way, and Jesus IS enough.
As you step into adulthood and into the world remember that God has given you life and He has given you a voice. Use it. “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of the unfortunate. Open your mouth, judge righteously, and defend the rights of the afflicted and needy.” (Proverbs 31:8-9). However, don’t just open your mouth, but move your feet. “To do righteousness and justice is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice.” (Proverbs 31:3). Never forget that this life is not about you, but you have been bought at a price. It is no longer you that lives, but Christ in you. You leave a mark for His name where ever you go and in whatever you do.Therefore, “act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).
As a mother it has been absolute joy to parent you. Though I know there have been many times that we did not see eye to eye, you have chosen to always be respectful. Even when hormones and crazy schedules and lack of sleep could have been a seedbed for mother daughter battles, there have been no wars. Many parents couldn’t imagine spending 24-7 with their kids, but I can say I did it and I loved it. Every lesson plan I put together, every book I had to order, every errand I had to run, every morning wake-up song, and every bedtime devo has been special for me. I know that the “bedtime” devos have been fewer and farther between this past year, but they remain special. It hurts my heart to think of the fact that in less than three months you will be sleeping under another roof in another state. My prayer is that you will continue in what you have been taught and spend time with the Lord in His Word every morning and every night.
Now as for college, you have chosen a field of study that will have you asking the whys for all the worst of human behavior. In doing so never forget that the answer to all the whys won’t be found in any textbook by man, but in between the pages of Genesis and Revelation. In all of your study and in all of your research, if you will keep the Word of God as your plumb line you will be well ahead and will be able to stay focused on truth and maintain hope. No one knows the heart and mind of man as the One who created him. The Spirit of God that dwells within you is there to help you in forensic psychology, just as He is in systematic theology. He will be there to remind you that the battle is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of darkness. The mind of man is the depths of that battlefield so you will always need to be diligent in being suited up in the full armor of God.
Never forget that you do have an enemy and it’s not other people. It’s that serpent of old who simply knows how to use other people to attack you. One of your biggest temptations in life will be to withdraw from people or begin to even hate them, which will cause you to lose your fire to reach them for the gospel of Christ. This can happen in the church as quickly as it can in college. It can even happen within your family. When you are tempted to withdraw, choose to engage. When you are tempted to hate, choose to love. It’s okay to keep an arm’s length distance, but it’s never okay to ignore and treat others as if they do not exist and have no value. Jesus died for the world, not just for the people that are nice to you. You might not understand in the moment why God has allowed certain people to enter your life and others to leave, but know that He is sovereign and they crossed your path for a purpose.
Keep challenging the status quo yet always be willing to be challenged yourself. The day you stop being challenged is the day you stop growing. Keep speaking truth yet always be willing to hear truth being spoken to you. Most of the time we do not know the whole story and taking the time to gather more information always changes our perspective. Keep demanding to be heard yet always be ready to be quiet and listen, and it’s best to choose to listen first. Treat all people with respect, even if they completely disagree with everything you know to be absolute truth. You never know when someone has simply been looking to finally meet someone who believes in their convictions enough that they do not have to be validated in them by winning an argument. When in doubt, always choose grace. When in doubt, always choose love. When in doubt, always choose peace. Mercy always triumphs over judgment.
Shelby, I am so proud to be your mother. I love you more than words can say, and I have a lot of words! I am so very grateful that I find myself on this side of parenting that has me now transferring from authoritative disciplinary to trusted advisory and friend. I hope that you will always be able to look at me and not just see a mother, but see your biggest fan and best friend. I will always be in your corner cheering you on and coaching you up and sending you back out to fight another round, because I believe with all my heart that you will have the victory. Life can be hard, and sometimes the hits keep coming, but you are never down for the count. You are a Halbrooks and a Vaughn and even more so, you are a Holy Spirit filled daughter of the One True King. You follow the One who overcame the world and through Christ you are more than a conqueror. Always live like it.
PS: Shelby, this is just the starter post. I’ll be writing on this to give to you when you leave for college. I love you so very much.