|Me with my wife, children, and parents|
Dear Family and Friends:
I want to thank you all for coming this evening to my graduation party. I could scarcely be more excited if I were celebrating my eleventy-first birthday. Special thanks to my parents are in order for all of preparations for tonight and for hosting the party here at their home. It is fitting that we should celebrate my academic accomplishments here, because it reminds me that whatever academic or vocational success I could hope to have, I am still the boy who played in this very yard, cut its grass on hot summer days, rode my bike up and down this dirt road, and had countless adventures through these very woods. What I mean is that there are greater things that go into shaping a person than getting a degree.
This graduation has been a long time coming, my course work spanning a total of 14 years. I began attending Columbus State University after high school in 1997 and went through the summer of 1998. Katie and I were married in the spring of 1998, and I began working full-time at CB&T. I returned to CSU in 2000 when I was hired by TSYS through the ICAPP program at CSU. I worked at TSYS for five years as a programmer. Meanwhile, in 2001, a month after Noah was born, we made another life-changing decision. I took a part-time position as the youth pastor at Crawford Road Baptist Church. I fell in love with the students and the work, and in 2006 I left TSYS to do youth ministry full-time. In addition to doing what I loved, the church allowed me a flexible schedule so that I could re-enroll at CSU. My first class as a Communication major was in the fall of 2006.
Much has taken place in the five years since that semester. I have been a high school teacher, a church-planting pastor, and a full-time student. Katie has been a church secretary, a full-time student, and a registered nurse. We have offered our home to two teenage girls, and have only recently become a family of four once again. Our children have aged from 5 and 7 to 10 and 12. Now Gracie has graduated from sixth grade and will soon head into her teenage years. This has been a wonderful journey, and I have much to be thankful for.
And with a thankful heart, I now come to the real matter of this speech. This is where I thank all of you for your part in this journey. To my friends, old and new, you have enriched my life in so many ways. I have never been a social butterfly, the life of the party, with too many friends to count. No, I would rather have a few friends who I know are true, who are there in good times and in bad, and who stand the test of time. You are those friends, and your support of my family over these last years has been such an invaluable source of strength for us. Thank you.
To my family: Griffiths, Elliotts, Gilmers, and Gordons, please know that Katie and I feel so blessed to be part of such an amazing family. As parents, you have provided such a great example, not only of a strong work-ethic, but also of commitment to the relationships that matter most. This example helps us to do our best at work and school without losing focus on our marriage and children. Thank you for your faithful love to one another and to us. To our brothers and sisters, you have been an amazing source of encouragement to us. We are so thankful for the closeness that we share. Thank you for your love and support.
To my children, Gracie and Noah, thank you for your patience as I went to school these last five years. There were times when I had to finish an assignment or study rather than play with you. I hope those times didn’t happen that often, but thank you for understanding when they did. I have seen both of you act selflessly over the last few years, sharing your space and your things without ever complaining. I am so proud of both of you, more than I could ever be proud of a degree.
To my wife, Katie, you absolutely share in any success that I have accomplished. I wouldn’t be half of who I am now if you had never married me. Thank you also for being patient with me as I tried to juggle work, school, church, and family. But, you know, we did it. Over five years ago, we made a plan. It wasn’t easy, it took a lot of hard work, but here we are. We did it. Thank you for taking the journey with me. Where do you wanna go next?
Finally, I thank God. I realize that I have been blessed infinitely beyond what I need or deserve. In the words of a great hymn, He has given “pardon for sin and peace that endureth, Thine own dear presence to cheer and to guide, strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow, blessings all mine with ten thousand beside. Great in Thy Faithfulness, O God my Father!” All things belong to Christ. And in Christ, all things are given. The accolades of man will soon be forgotten, but the cross of Christ will never be forgotten. Before the cross of Christ, I will boast nothing. The accolades of man will soon be forgotten, only may Christ say to me, “Well done.” For you, my friends and family, for you, my wife and children, for every achievement, for every accomplishment, for every success, here and after, I say, “Soli Deo gloria!” To God be the glory!
Amen and Thank You.
Amen and Thank You.