School season is upon us again, but let me take the time to highlight the importance of celebrating milestones since we celebrated and are celebrating several milestones in our family this year. The Bible celebrates family milestones: birth, stages of life, weddings, and even family events like weaning a child (Genesis 21:8) and the return of a prodigal son (Luke 15:23-24, 32). Celebrations were encouraged and commanded to remind the people of God’s work in their lives.
One milestone worth celebrating is graduation! Be it graduation from pre-school, grade school, high school, college, or post graduate studies, graduation is worth celebrating! It means years of discipline, focus, and hard work put in learning, acquiring knowledge and skills, overcoming odds, and completing a course one has started. Graduation also means a new beginning – perhaps on to higher learning, or to the bigger world of work and one’s career path, or on to face bigger and greater challenges ahead. As our children or we ourselves move up the education ladder, it is good to know that nothing we invest in education is ever wasted. It is also God’s means of moving us up along the paths He may have set for us.
This month, I finally graduated from six years of rigorous study in PhD in Holistic Child Development. I was already 59 years old ready to “retire,” when I embarked on this journey, wondering whether I still had the brain capacity and stamina to handle the rigors of such a study. But seeing my track record, this is nothing new. I took my M.A. in Counseling later in life too when my children were in college and graduated the same time my eldest finished college. As an adult, especially when you have done the major responsibility of raising children, taking further studies are no longer for the grades but more for the love of learning and personal growth that results in more effective work and ministry. On my graduation day, I posted something in my social media account regarding this journey, as follows:
Today, I honor my human father (and mother) and my Heavenly Father. My father’s dream to have a doctor in the family was nipped in the bud when I responded to my Heavenly Father’s call to be in full time ministry after my pre-medicine graduation at UP Diliman in 1974. In the years hence, I came to know my Heavenly Father’s purpose for my life – to know and love Him intimately (Jer. 9:23-24) and to make Him known – deeply through the relationships He gives me, widely through my writing and speaking (1 Cor. 1:4-6), purposefully through both my personal ministry and through FamilyLife Philippines, so that others may experience life change towards Christlikeness. That purpose stayed with me as a single person working among students in MetroManila and in Korea where I worked for two years, and as a married person while raising my children (and now influencing grandchildren) while pioneering and growing FamilyLife Philippines. My studies were simply equipping me for the work God has called me to do. But more than that, today’s graduation marks the day God fulfilled my father’s dream in the field He designed and best suited for me.
Another milestone my husband and I celebrated this month with family, friends, and colleagues was our 45th year of working in the same organization that has become our family. We and one other friend are the longest staying on staff, and we were honored together with those who reached their 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35, 40 years. It really is a good practice in our organization to honor every 5th year as a milestone to remember. And for this longevity and loyalty, we credit that to God’s faithfulness in sustaining, providing, growing us through the years in this ministry we are a part of.
Next month, our family will have another celebration as we welcome the birth of another child in the family. Our son and daughter-in-love are finally having their first baby (our 4th grandchild) after waiting, and praying for one for seven years. We are so looking forward to joining them and hold the girl in our arms!
The month after, our children are treating us for our 36th anniversary with an airplane ticket and a hotel accommodation in a very dreamy place seen in several movies! It was a very unexpected, very thoughtful gift we never imagined possible, so it is all the more cherished and will be thoroughly enjoyed!
In the succeeding months, we will also be present in the birthdays of our three grandchildren abroad. In the uncertainties of life and the future, we make every effort to use every occasion as a time of celebration in our families.
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