I’ve had the chance to stand in front of you right before my freshman year, then again in the middle of my high school career, and so I only found it appropriate to finish. I want to thank Reverend Demerast for sharing the pulpit for a day.
I realized in that first year that I had a choice… The choice to be whatever I wanted to be in life… But still a choice. I could’ve been the smart one, the pretty one, the athletic one, or maybe even the musical one. Insanely enough, I didn’t choose any of those. I opted to be compassionate. I wanted to love, no matter the circumstance. That led to a description at the end of my career as not only an “old soul” but the girl with a fire in her chest. As I reflected back on this, I wondered exactly how I became this person. Because I certainly did not raise myself. I ended up with five concepts, and I’d like to share them with you.
The first, and probably the foundation of my upbringing, came from an incredible woman. I have no description for her strength, and that’s how I know her faith in God is true. People always questioned how she did it alone with four kids at many points in our lives. It’s because she didn’t, and she knows it. So naturally, when I came to her panicked about anything, she would tell me “God has a plan.” It took time to understand this lesson. I am still learning to have that kind of faith. But it was inspiring to know that my choices had meant to something bigger than myself. It made my anxiety seem minuscule. It made bad days seem at the very least understandable, and it brought my closer to not only God but her.
The second goes hand in hand with the first lesson. I picked up this when my mother and I were anxious travelling without the rest of the circus. A circus isn’t a circus without all the acts, right? When we expressed our concerns, a man who is the only quote horder I know in my life said, “if God brings you to, then God will bring you through.” It has stuck with me since then. It opened up my eyes to all the challenges I was able to accomplish. My faith in my ability to move mountains came from the One who could actually move them. There hasn’t been a time in my life that I haven’t made it past, over, or even through what was thrown at me and that circles back to God’s plan bringing me to.. And then through it. I have thick skin because I know that I only bear a little of what my God bears for me.
So now we are talking about these challenges, right? Bringing me to my third lesson, coming from the person in my life who I believe has grown the most… the most gentle personality. Before performing these challenges, he would remind me that it is all for the glory of God alone. Whether that be taking on the mound, performing on the piano, or just living my everyday life. He never let me forget that I was doing it for God’s purposes alone. I believe that has allowed me to never take my talents for granted.
The last comes from daily visits with a woman in my life. As we chatted through troubles, and weather, and the future, she would always say: “I don’t know how some don’t have faith.” She’s right. When you look back at your life how could you not believe in something, more or less in God? I have witnessed so many things in the church and in my life alone to know that miracles exist. There are gaps in my life that can only be explained by faith.
The last is a line from the Bible that I found looking through the one you signed at my graduation party. A verse, the one I chose for you today, sums it all up. “The Lord will fight for you; you need only be still.” I realize that the battles I face are not in vain and not alone. But I only learned this because of four incredible role models in my life. I would’ve never made it this far without their faith and love.
You made a promise eighteen years ago to raise me with faith and independence in my relationship with God. I look around this room, and I can think of a personal instance in which I was motivated to nurture my beliefs. But that isn’t what makes Rock Hill unique. It’s the fact that I continue to make mistakes every single day and that I’m still am trying to fit pieces together and still, I have your support. I still have your love. And on days where I feel like I would even walk away from the person I can be, you haven’t. I am not convinced that we always see the same person. I like to think that’s why we have such a diverse group of individuals. I know that’s why as you’re finally letting me go off on my own that I am confident in what I am about to do. I am sure that you have raised me to be the girl with a fire in her chest.
So, to those four people, seriously thank you. I have learned all that I have because I had the incredible opportunity to be your daughter and your granddaughter. You have given me examples of how to love and work hard, and chase after my dreams. For that, I thank God for the blessings that fill the 3rd pew on the left. You’ve created all of that. I hope that I can take your examples and live up to their significance in my life. To the rest of you, thank you for keeping that promise. Thank you for never giving up. As my Sunday’s here have to come farther between than I would like, I am so excited to see the growth that continues to happen here when I come to visit. I can only hope to know another girl with a fire in her chest.