This little blog of mine has been quiet since my now two-and-a-half-year-old turned one. But if there's any reason for a little revival, it's the fact that nine of my favorite humans are officially 2017 high school graduates. Nine girls who I've had the privilege of walking through life with, most since they were freshman. Which was yesterday, by the way. Nine girls who committed to spending their Sunday nights piled around my table and on my couch, learning and praying and carrying one another's burdens.

May has been filled with a senior blessing, the senior Sunday service, our final official iNgroup supper (though not the final unofficial, of course), and their graduations. I can't not think about them as freshman, the funny things they said in all their freshman-ness. And how now they're friends, friends who I will miss terribly. On Senior Sunday, I turned the corner into our youth room where they were all lined up to hear many of them say "Meagaaan!" as walked in. I was immediately struck how much I will miss that enthusiastic greeting, voices of familiarity that I've grown so accustom to for four years. Simply, the more you know and love people, the more you miss them when they're not around. And I am so thankful to know and love them so dearly. And of course, I can't stop thinking about missing them while sitting through one bazillion emotionally-charged graduation blessings and speeches in my overly-emotional pregnant state. I'm a super cute crier.

I was able to say a few things at their senior blessing night, so instead of go on and on about how fabulous I think they are (which is super amazing fabulously awesome), I thought I'd include it below. As a tribute to our four years together. Life will surely look different next year, but I'll be thankful for cell phones and social media and will be watching eagerly as they dive head first into another wonderful four years.

When Dustin and I joined LBC a little over four years ago, I asked Ian if there was a space for us to plug into youth ministry as I always found myself drawn to high schoolers, wondering what was going on in their lives and their heads. Little did I know what perfect timing it was – that we get paired with this stellar incoming freshman class and have the privilege of moving up with them every year until we made it to this place where we never really imagined we’d make it – graduation. Not because they’re not incredibly capable and smart and ambitious, but because it never seemed like four years could possibly go by this fast.

I’ll never forget signing up to help host a progressive dinner for the girls the summer before their freshman year. A lot of people would assume freshman timid, maybe a little awkward. Not these girls – they came bounding into my house and in turn my life that summer evening and neither have been the same since. Over the next four years, we’ve added more faces, and I have spent this past year with them curled up around my table and on my couch every Sunday night – quickly my favorite night of the week. I believe we each have a place that we are called to serve within our church family, a race specifically set before each of us. And yes sacrifice comes with any service, but never did I imagine the blessings that would come from being these students’ small group leader.

Hopefully they learned a little from us over the years, but I could go on about the things I’ve learned from them: the importance of sharing life with others, the fun of unplanned visits and spontaneity, how to celebrate one another – from awards and successes to birthdays and baby showers (for me, not for any of them), and how to make the people around them feel seen and remembered. And one thing I could say especially about this group here tonight is that they are an incredible example of loyalty. They stuck around, remaining loyal to the end to their commitment to this group. Even between school and sports and family and AP tests. I don’t know if that was always an easy choice to make, but I can tell you that our group would not be the same without one less of these souls a part of it so I, for one, am so thankful for their loyalty.

I have had the privilege of watching their identities grow over the last four years, and I have seen the Lord slowly but very surely ground them not as students of certain schools or teams or friend groups, but of children of God. They’ve allowed themselves to wonder about the mysteries of God, and they’ve asked the hard questions (which I often told them I’d ask someone smarter than me and get back to them). They have dug and developed a faith that is so importantly their own. And next year, y’all, it’s even more up to you. Continue to show up, to be loyal even when no one is making you. Allow the hard questions to be frustrating but not defeating and dig and pray until you find the answers. I feel like you probably know where I’m going with this. The lesson I’ve kind of sort of crammed down your throats the last four years – abide with Jesus. My favorite chapter – John 15 – says as the branch cannot bear fruit unless it abides in the vine, neither can we unless we abide with Jesus.

Abide with Him so you can love your roommates and family and future spouses and perfect strangers with the love of Jesus. Abide to have joy and peace no matter the circumstance, finding true contentment that is so rare in our world. Abide so you exemplify patience – again with roommates and family and future spouses but also with waiting for the Lord’s direction and voice. Abide with Jesus because your kindness, your goodness, and your faithfulness are in short supply but His never are. Abide so you can be gentle with others and also with yourselves. Abide so you can show true self-control in your consumption and words and time.

It has been my privilege to walk through these last four years with y’all. Parents, thank you for allowing them to share these brief and precious years with me. And y’all don’t be thinking that just because you’re moving away that you’re getting rid of me. Expect nagging texts from me as I expect unplanned visits from you when you’re back in town. I am eagerly sitting on the front row to see what is next – where the Lord takes you, failures and successes, lessons learned even over and over again. Eventually another set of graduations or moves, life changes or weddings or more school. I promise to be there continuing to attempt to answer the hard questions and cheering you on every step of the way. I love y’all.

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