Rites of Passage

Memorial Weekend, the traditional start-of-summer ~ even if the calendar chooses to hold off for a few more weeks ~ is usually a time for me to segue into the warm months, strolling through the flower markets and designing our flower pots in my mind. It’s a time to sleep in, enjoy coffee on the deck and barbecue and putz. Not this year, though. This year, we celebrated!

Mike, John, Becky and I headed to San Francisco to celebrate Jill’s graduation from the Academy of Art University. Before her decision to transfer there from the Illinois Institute of Art in Chicago, I had never heard of  AAU. When she was being recruited to play volleyball there in their newly formed athletic program, becoming the only art school in the NCAA, I heard a bit more of its reputation of excellence in the arts. Having attended their graduation this past weekend, I’m a loyal fan. I’m easy to impress when it comes to art, but the level of talent on display was other-worldly.

Friday morning Jill’s husband Oshiomogho (we call him OJ) headed over to the auditorium to get us great seats, while the four of us hustled around the city to get snacks four the four-hour long ceremony and find flowers to present her with. San Francisco doesn’t disappoint in the availability of food options nor beautiful flowers. Once we were seated and settled, the procession of graduates marched in. I was filled with such pride for Jill; for her hard work, dedication and devotion to finishing her education. And for OJ’s patience for her unusual schedule, at one point in the year travelling from the east coast to the west coast every week. He helped with projects and papers, delayed or cancelled vacations, and Friday morning was the reward for beginning their marriage with a scholastic weight hovering uncomfortably nearby for the first two years.

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Congratulations, Jill! You’ve successfully accomplished the fulfillment of your goal to finish school. Well done!

Saturday was Mike’s and my 29th wedding anniversary. I don’t often go back to the recesses of my mind and think about the adversity we faced early in our relationship, but it seems that celebrating an anniversary just takes me there. There were many, many naysayers about our relationship while we were dating. But I’m so proud to have worked at staying in love and staying together through it all, for the rewards are great! There may have been dogged determination not to quit at the beginning, but even then I never would have dreamed of a bond this strong 29 years later. So Saturday morning we shared breakfast with Jill and OJ, and then went exploring — ok, shopping — on our own.

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Later that day we headed down to San Jose, which is our old stomping grounds. I will admit I was a tiny bit curious as to how I’d feel going back to the old neighborhoods. We never really spent much time in the city of San Francisco, so there weren’t any memory pangs associated with that. I wasn’t sure that being back in San Jose wouldn’t sting a little. But, thankfully, it didn’t. When God does a work, He does it thoroughly! I was able to enjoy every minute of the weekend, with special excitement about getting our old Bible Study group together. Everywhere we live, we try and gather friends together to form a small group of people to be vulnerable with. The time is devoted to studying truth and helping each other to walk in it. It’s a place to be real, a safe haven where the pressures and performances of the week can be dumped in the middle of a family room floor while you’re loved and encouraged and challenged. And we had such a group in San Jose:

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What a thrill it was to get together again, years later, and be able to pick up where we left off. Where the laughter flows freely and the tears are sweet.

For me, a sign of my own growth and maturity was the ability to go back and re-live all the good that happened there. To appreciate the beauty of the flowers I so loved. To smell the fragrant trees and adore the gorgeous blue sky. But, by far, the best was to get together again with the special friends that bookmarked our years in the Bay Area.

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