Another graduation announcement arrived at our home.

Ellie is graduating from North Valley High School.  She has used her time in high school well: graduates in the top 5% of her class…president of the Honor Society…participated in choir, drama, Brain Bowl and Speech & Debate…first place in 2016 Academic Masters regional competition in Social Studies (1st in 2015, 2nd in 2014).  She is an artist, musician and scholar, and will major in Anthropology and minor in Peace & Social Justice at Pacific University this fall.  Besides her “accomplishments”, Ellie has one of the most beautiful hearts you can imagine.  She is kind, encourages others, takes time for people. (The fact that she was one of my preschool students does not make me prejudiced at all!)

I looked at the news on my cell phone this morning:  AP, CNN and BBC.  After reading all the anger, sadness, abuse of power, conflict and fear, I picked up and read Ellie’s graduation announcement…again.  At once my heart was lifted.  It is young adults like Ellie who will be leading our country, searching for peace and justice.

What I am bugged about this morning, is that we seem to love to focus on the negative, rather than on amazing young people like Ellie.  This is a woman who make a difference in our world…already has, I should say.  Ellie has been a positive influence on her campus, in her family, and on those of us on the periphery of her life.  She has influenced me by her kindness, her laughter, her perseverance, her ready smile, and so much more.  We will probably not read about her in the paper or on AP, CNN or BBC.

Ellie was raised in an Orthodox home (Russian Orthodox, I believe).  She will need God’s help (protection, perspective, strength) to not become disillusioned in college.  I have already begun praying for that.

Thank you, Lord, for Ellie.  Thank you for the privilege of intersecting with her life just a little bit.  Thank you for what she has done and for who she is.  Thank you that you have made her your own, sealed with the Holy Spirit and marked as Christ’s own forever.  Remind me to pray for Ellie and for the many hidden sparks of goodness.  And, please, Lord:  protect Ellie and provide good companions for her at Pacific University.


I met Emily when she was three years old (I think).

Jim asked me to accompany him as he went to talk with her parents about baptism.  When we arrived and sat down, I was immediately smitten.  Emily, however, kept her distance, eyeing us.   Soon she warmed to me and we sat on the floor together, looking at her Minnie Mouse doll.  I was asked to be her godmother.  That was the beginning of something special for me.

Last Friday, I went to Emily’s thesis show which fulfilled her final requirement for graduation from Oregon College of Art and Craft in Portland.  We drove to the gallery, spotting it by the sign the graduating students designed as the symbol of their show.  Amazing variety of works filled the gallery.  There on one entire wall was Emily work, except for three pieces she had already sold.  (Totally unbiased decision:  Emily’s was the best by far!)

And there stood Emily, now a poised young woman, standing next to her husband (he’s wonderful, by the way), sharing her photography with the world.

I couldn’t help it…my thoughts went to the past.  I thought of Emily at her baptism; Emily playing basketball at her tiny hoop in her front yard; Emily eagerly awaiting the Tooth Fairy’s arrival; Emily’s total delight in the birth of her little sister, Sarah; Emily singing the Great Litany beside me, quickly picking up the sung responses, then frowning when the response changed; Emily asking if she could roll up her “pant sleeves” so she could wade into the water to see the “wollypogs”; Emily’s decision to be a clown when she grew up, all the while carrying around a particular law book, with a particular page marked; the phone call I got the first time her little sister broke one of Emily’s toys; watching Emily sleep while I got to babysit; Emily reading books to Sarah; sleepovers and roasting marshmallows in the fireplace; and thousands of other memories.

When she was younger, Emily’s eyes sparkled with delight at the world.  As she got older, her eyes were sometimes sparkling with tears, as she experienced the hurts of life.  On Friday, Emily’s eyes sparkled with joy and pride at her accomplishment and at the delight of having her husband and her family by her side.  It was a mature, calm sparkle.

My life has been infinitely blessed by this human being.  Her parents’ generosity in sharing Emily with me is a gift they will never fully understand.  Emily’s willingness to let me in to her precious life for the past 20 years has changed me and made me a better person.

Thank you, Lord, for the gift and the blessing that is Emily.  Bless her and Chris as they continue to build their life together.