It was a sunny Thursday morning. I felt aglow in my new sun dress, adorned with a sea-glass necklace given to me by a friend just days before. The ride down state was smooth-sailing- music playing, traffic moving, heart beating, eyes twinkling in the sun. Then it all suddenly changed. The first light popped up on the dash, then a second. Then a third? I can’t remember. I had the glove compartment accidentally locked so we couldn’t check the little booklet for “how to handle the van when all goes wrong” since the keys were in the ignition, wheels going 60 mph. No exit in sight. I prayed aloud, “Jesus help us to just get to a safe place to pull off. Have your angels protect us.” 3 miles to go for the nearest exit. Just keep going, just keep going.

Oh the relief when we pulled off and into the gas station, but then the sheer panic when smoke poured out through the hood. I yelled, “Get out of the van! It could catch on fire and explode!” Well…it didn’t explode, thankfully… Whew. Sigh of relief. But we kept a safe distance as the steam continued to roll through the edges of the hood, creating a thick fog and strange smell. I was walking around the parking lot in bare feet with my heels in the car. Made a quick call to roadside service which turned into a long call. The gas station was connected to a convenient store, which had nothing clean or convenient about it, and was actually a liquor store with just a big sign “DISCOUNT LIQUORS”.  The man inside came out and went back in and came out and went back in. He didn’t speak much English and he liked to spit, shooting it far in the parking lot as a pastime. Two men rolled up in one of those big white vans that screams creepy. They walked around the building to do some business, which caused us to chuckle since there was a place for that kind of business inside. I guess some men prefer the great outdoors.  Hardly another soul was in site. It seemed desolate and barren- I pictured myself in a movie in that moment, broken down in the last place one would wish on the face of the earth.

I made a call to let the venue organizers know we were stranded…still with hopes of a miracle in making it in time for the event so I could sing.  Well…all worked out in the end, thanks to God’s provision. A hero saved the day and gave us a ride to the church. The tow truck came and towed the Party Van away (yes, this is the term of endearment my friends and I have named the vehicle over which God has so graciously given me stewardship). We arrived not much more than five minutes before the graduation ceremony began. The sound check was quick and smooth. Bob was one of the friendliest sound guys I’d ever met- more relaxed than most. About fifteen girls walked down the aisle to “Pomp and Circumstance” with glee written all over their faces. Stories were spoken and awards were given…and tears began to envelope my eyes. Ah, this is why I had come…and I settled into my seat.

These were no ordinary seventeen and eighteen year old girls. These were young women who had been through it all. Pregnant teens and adolescent moms who had in bravery chosen life for their babies…and had gone against statistics and the world’s expectations, choosing the narrow path of finishing out high school with great accomplishment and success. I looked at them with awe, seeing God’s hand-print of grace and power all over their stories. I felt a twinge of discomfort in my own body…thinking of the many times I complain or find an excuse or focus on a hardship in my life. In comparison, my road has been a breeze. These young women have had to grow up so quickly, mature and take care of themselves and their precious little ones. Despite all odds, they have risen above, as stars shining in this generation. They radiate the essence of Philippians 2:14-16, “Do everything without grumbling or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, ‘children of God without fault in a warped and crooked generation.’ Then you will shine among them like stars in the sky as you hold firmly to the word of life. And then I will be able to boast on the day of Christ that I did not run or labor in vain.” They have marvelously conquered.  They have dreams, goals, vision, hopes, and a future…with a seed planted in their minds and spirits by their Creator that has carried them to this day and will continue to carry them.

The key-note speaker, Ms. Naliah Gilliam, was quite possibly the most inspiring graduation speaker I have ever heard. I won’t forget her. I don’t even remember the name of the woman who spoke at my college graduation, but this high school graduation day I will evermore remember.  She shared, “If you walk hand in hand with your creator, everything and anything is possible.”  She told the story of her own teen pregnancy as well as her mom’s teen pregnancy with her. Her analogy was exquisite, “My mom was a star-ship. I was her precious cargo. I salute her for not aborting her mission!” Wow!  And here, even now as I reflect and write, I salute each one of those graduates for not aborting their precious cargo and their God-ordained mission!

So I sang, “Like A Star,” but like the failing van just hours before, the sound system faltered. The microphone battery flinched. What a morning! Something gave way, and it was terrible with distortion, feed-back, cutting in and out. I pressed through with a smile because that’s what “professionals” are supposed to do. I wanted to laugh- it was a crazy moment…but I sang the song with passion as I always have, and I just gazed into the front row with those graduates and tried to communicate encouragement and God’s empowerment into their young, fragile, beautiful eyes. It was all I could do when the loud speakers were carrying a noise I couldn’t wait to be over! One of the staff at DAPI came over afterward and said, “I’m so sorry about the sound! But the essence of the message was carried out, and that is all that matters.”  Amen to that! The message is all that matters.

On the way home, in the hero’s truck (since my poor Party Van was towed miles away to the shop), I reflected on the beauty of the day. Maybe I wasn’t there for them to hear my voice after all. Sometimes I think it’s my song that will “make” an event so special. Well that certainly wasn’t the case this bright Thursday morning! I think maybe, just maybe, I went through all that breakdown off the highway and sound fiasco just to hear them. Hear their stories. Their victories. Their dreams. Their overcoming and hope. It was a sunny Thursday morning I won’t forget. And I will carry them in my heart when I feel like I want to give up, because I’ve been reminded, “If you walk hand in hand with your creator, everything and anything is possible.”