Sunday, May 6, 2018

Where You Are Going

Good Sunday evening.

As has become our tradition, I begin with health-related news. First, Reagan is having an extra baby tooth pulled tomorrow after school. I would greatly appreciate it if you could say a prayer for her. I know this is a routine thing for a dentist, but it's not routine for Reagan & anxiety can sometimes equal crazy blood sugars . . . & crazy blood sugars don't do much for my anxiety. Say a specific prayer that we won't be swept up in the dreaded Circle of Anxiety.

Trey, Reagan, & I ventured to the endocrinologist in Jackson last Monday (Henry spent a considerably more low-key day with his Nana). These day trips to Jackson always make for long days, but this one was particularly tiring because we had a variety of appointments to keep. Once we were released from the doctor's office, we met with a nurse who works for Medtronic (that's the company that manufactures Reagan's new pump for any new readers . . . or readers who forget the details with which I weekly bombard you).

The purpose of the visit with Lisa (the nurse) was for her to explain to me & Trey (& also Miss Bossy-Pants, Reagan, who is increasingly taking an interest in her own care) how to successfully run the new pump in auto mode. For a couple of reasons, I'm not going to say much more about auto mode today. First, it hasn't even been a week since we began using auto mode, so I am certain in time I will have a better understanding of its capabilities (& limitations). I don't hate it so far. It shows promise. Auto mode essentially hands some control of insulin dosing over to Reagan's pump, which is both incredibly exciting & a little scary at the same time. The pump is learning her right now. I will likely have more to share regarding this promising new feature in a month or so once the pump has had sufficient time to learn Reagan's habits, patterns, etc. The pump is also likely becoming aware that it is contending with Reagan's overbearing mom; stay tuned for more on this fascinating showdown for control featuring yours truly, Auto Mode, & one feisty little seven-year-old diabetic.

The second reason I'm not delving further into auto mode details today is that I am tired & it's just not what I want to discuss today. Trey was away from home Thursday & Friday. He attended the NRA Convention in Dallas. This means I am tired because, among other reasons, the kids were both in the bed with me Thursday & Friday nights. 

--- >

I didn't sleep much at all Thursday night. I was worried I'd oversleep Friday morning & be unable to fulfill my role as a dutiful mother & get us all to school on time Friday morning. Basically I nodded off here & there, intermittently worrying about oversleeping & listening for noises. I don't know why I listen for noises when Trey isn't at home. The Lord could return with all His angels & I'd have to wake Trey, so in theory I should listen for noises every night. Additionally, we have an overly sensitive house alarm & a lot of guns. Friday night, exhausted & knowing we could sleep in Saturday, I fell asleep about ten thirty like the thirty-seven-year-old tired mom I am; I figured I'd leave the defense of our home to the house alarm because I had to sleep. 

Anyway, in addition to attending a succession of pro-gun pep rallies, while in Dallas Trey was able to attend a seminar or two that will count toward his yearly required CLE hours (that's continuing legal education) . . . & he stopped at Log Cabin in Ruston on his way home Saturday night & brought me nachos, so all in all it was a successful trip for our family. 

Lastly, auto mode is taking a backseat this evening because I want to say a few things to my seniors. I don't know how the final weeks of senior year unfold at other schools, but I know this time is heavy with emotion for me & the seniors I've taught the past two years. Put simply, there are a lot of feelings. Perhaps my favorite part is that there are at least a few seniors who are taken completely by surprise by their feelings. They didn't expect to feel anything but elation, freedom, etc. That they are nagged by sadness, plagued by nostalgia, & often find the tears flowing is a surprise to them. It is a thing to behold.  

Before I continue with my intended topic (which is journal writing!), I'd like to share some pictures from last week's Senior Chapel, as well as some other photos I've taken over the last two years with those who'll soon graduate. I know the photos are more interesting to some of you than others. Keep in mind I've taught some of these students for two years now; I want these photos on the record because I will undoubtedly reread from time to time when I feel like a good solid cry. Also, it's my blog & you can easily scroll past all this, so I'm just going to post all the pictures I want to post. Here we go.

And now Senior Chapel:

See I take pictures of you like your mamas do:

About two weeks ago I assigned the seniors their final journal. It was a free write. I told them they could write whatever they wanted, including (but not limited to) a goodbye note to me &/or a list of any regrets they may have. Inevitably what most of them did was write their final journal & then flip to the front to reread some of their initial journal entries from the fall of 2014 when they began their first year of high school. 

They moan about journal writing when a prompt is posted, but I *think* perhaps when they leave with a written record of their high school years some of them see the value in it. I'll resist the urge to segue into a sermon on the importance of longhand writing, be it journaling, letter writing, or even note taking. 

Here are a few snippets of their final entries. I think they oversell me, but still the effort warms my heart:

I want to say a few things about the first & last journal entries of this year's valedictorian, Miss Katherine Hall (this, below, is me with Katie . . . after crying & sweating (literally sweating) through Senior Chapel, we still look this good):

Katie wrote her last journal entry & then flitted back to my desk insisting I read her first journal entry. Dated August 25, 2014, the first line reads, I want to be valedictorian.


We both smiled & sniffled a little. She then headed to calculus, leaving me to read her final journal entry. I am not going to share it in its entirety. It includes these line:

I started high school with my mom, dad, and brother by my side. Everyone was just a room away. Now I finish high school with a father in Heaven, a brother off at college, and the most encouraging mother. I could never have imagined as a freshman that this would be my last journal — that this is who I would be. 
I left a note for Katie in her journal, the sentiment of which I'll share here. The first time I heard her name, I was standing in the hallway at church. I think I was there for a VBS meeting or to help decorate a room for VBS or something. It was unbearably hot outside. Someone stopped me & told me Katie Hall, a junior who'd be in my English class in the fall, had just lost her father.

At that moment, something in me softened toward & began to hurt for a young lady I'd never met. Other students would worm their way into my heart over the next two years. The thing about teaching is that quickly the names on the roster become weighted with history, with stories so personal you'd have to be a robot to ever again simply see a name on a roster. You can't fix it all for them. You can't plug all the holes or undo all the damage. You can show up every day & be human & accessible & let them talk when it is obvious they need to talk.

The lesson to learn from Katie is not that you need to set a goal of being valedictorian. The lesson to learn from Katie is that it is essential to set goals. As Lewis Carroll says via his beloved cheshire cat, "If you don't know where you are going, any road will get you there." 

So, set goals. Set goals that are important to you. Don't set goals that all your friends are setting or even goals that your parents emphasize. This, ladies & gentlemen, is when you become, well, you. I wish you all had two loving, Christian parents as examples. That is to your tremendous advantage. If this is your reality, count yourself blessed; keep your parents in your life. Visit them. Let their voices influence you.

You may not have two loving, Christian parents. Many people, even people who graduate from Ouachita Christian School, do not. Understand that your future marriage & your future household can take whatever shape you'd like. Decide what you want. Stand firm. Surround yourself with people who understand & support your goals. Don't negotiate what you've decided is non-negotiable. 

As I told last year's graduating class,

Protect your future. I’m not going to give you a sex and drugs and alcohol lecture, but rather a warning that college — regardless of where you go to college — might possibly overwhelm you initially. Be smart. If you see yourself practicing medicine in ten or fifteen years, or happily married with kids, or all of the above, keep that picture in the forefront of your mind. You do not wake up one day and simply step into the life you’ve always imagined for yourself; you build it slowly, over time, by making good choices. 

Protect your mind, your body, and your emotional well-being. Be a fierce advocate for yourself and do not worry about pleasing a crowd. Be leery of people and activities that interfere with your academic pursuits or any other goals you have. It is better to be alone and focused than surrounded by a crowd that is heading toward a cliff. If you need affirmation, call me and I will lay it on thick. If you know you need a good lecture, come see me and I will yell and shake my finger.

Last August, as you, the Class of 2018, were poised to begin your senior year, I was seated at my desk one day during the week of teacher inservice. In the preceding days I'd said a few tearful goodbyes to members of the Class of 2017 as they headed off to college. I remember exchanging messages with someone who shall remain anonymous because tears were involved all around. I got a message that read, "I'm crying." I believe I responded with, "Me too. Now go be a ___________." 

Cry your tears. Wipe your tears. Hug your mama. It is time to go. Go be a _______________." You fill in that blank. Fill it in with the same gumption & certitude with which Katie stated, in writing, "I want to be valedictorian." Decide for yourself how you want to fill in that blank, & get down to business. Don't assume there will be no bumps in the road, no unpleasant surprises. Pray for the perseverance to push through setbacks that absolutely will come. 

Know where you are going, & don't be easily deterred. That does not mean you must now know what your major is or what your life's occupation will be, but it does mean you need to mentally paint a picture of your life ten & fifteen & twenty years from now. Concentrate on the details of that picture. Are you attending church? Are you happily married? Are you raising kids who respect you & the Lord? Are you involved in a bitter custody battle? Are you dependent on alcohol or some other substance? Are you addicted to drugs? Do you have a reputation as a kind, dependable person? Do you have a healthy relationship with your parents?

End results begin somewhere. The little choices often do matter, especially when you step away from mom & dad & have more freedom to make choices about how you will live your life.

I love y'all. Your presence is no longer required on campus, but mine is, so feel free to drop in & say hi over the next few weeks . . . except maybe not this Tuesday because I plan to stay home & nurse Reagan if there are any lingering issues from Monday's tooth extraction.

I leave you with another gem from Lewis Carroll:

Who in the world am I? Ah, that's the great puzzle. 

You get to decide, which is exhilarating. Keep in mind that every little piece matters. Every little piece, every little decision, contributes to the whole. Make sure when the pieces all fall together what is reflected to the world is the purposeful masterpiece you've set out to depict. 

And this is really goodbye. Come see me. I can't wait to see you in your green robes. I love you.


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