Lincoln's Commencement

Lincoln graduated from high school last month. I'm telling you, the kid's in a class by himself.

He did, however, have a joint commencement ceremony with his friend Hunter Quinn, and it was a wonderful occasion. Here's a video that we played:

Then Lincoln's heroic teacher got up to say a few words:
Our homeschooling journey began a long time ago. Even before we had children or were even married, your dad and I both knew we wanted to homeschool. So we never had any long discussions about whether we should or shouldn’t homeschool. We just knew when the time came that it was something we were going to do. And yet, even though we knew this, we still didn’t exactly know how to homeschool. We didn’t really know anyone else who homeschooled or what it would look like through the years -- it was all new for us.
Since you are our oldest child, you have, in a way, been our homeschool guinea pig. You have had to endure lots of things that your brother and sisters never did. For instance, on your first day of school we dressed you in your "school uniform" -- navy pleated shorts and a little white polo shirt. Your dad wanted you to wear this every day. Needless to say, that didn’t last long -- and you have been our only child who has had to wear a school uniform. Jack Henry started his first day of school in gym shorts and a tee-shirt, and some of us have been known to stay in our pajamas. But even with all of our ups and downs and mistakes along the way, I am thankful that you don’t seem to be too much worse for the wear. And I also can't remember you ever questioning or complaining about your workload or what we required of you.

There is a lot that I want to say to you at the end of our homeschooling journey. I want you to know how proud I am of you and how much I love you -- not because of any particular gifts that God has given you, but just because you are our son. I realize that we are here today because of God’s grace and mercy to us, and that it is because of God’s work in your life and not because of any great teaching or parenting skills on my part that you are the man of God that you are. God has been gracious to us and we are thankful.

I guess if I had to pick what I want to leave you with at your graduation it would be these two things.
First, of all the things you have learned these past 12 years and all the knowledge you have gained and will gain, I hope that what you have learned most is to trust God’s sovereign plan. And I believe you have and are continuing to learn this. You have had some years that have been harder than others and through it all I have seen that God has softened your heart rather than hardening it. I pray that He will continue to soften your heart and that you will always trust and know that "all things come not by chance but by his Fatherly hand."
Second, I want you to know that homeschooling you has been one of the greatest joys in my life. I am afraid that many times I have taken it for granted and haven't remembered to be grateful that God allowed me to homeschool. And I hope that in God's mercy and grace you don't remember the times I have complained about long days and lesson plans. These are not the things that stand out in my mind. What stands out in my mind is that I was able to spend time with you. I am grateful that I got to be the one sitting next to you on the couch, listening as you slowly sounded out letters, words, and sentences. It was I who got to be the one to hear you read for the very first time. I got to be the one who gave you your assignments, graded your papers, and did your lessons with you. I got to be the one to take you on school field trips and fix your lunch and watch you sitting with your sisters and brother at the kitchen table. We come to the end our homeschooling journey and it feels like it went way too fast. I have heard people say that with children the days can be long, but the years are fast. We have had some long days and yet the years have gone by so fast. I send you off to college on the one hand sad that we are at the end of homeschooling you, and yet so, so grateful for the time we had with you. Homeschooling allowed us to have this time with you.
I'm closing with a quote I have used before, but I'm using it again because it is so appropriate and sums up how I feel. Clarence Thomas, in his memoir, says his son "has always been a better son than I deserved. I have loved him since I first set eyes on him, and will do so until my last breath."
Next, 16-year-old Lillie stepped to the podium to talk about her brother:
A couple of days ago my dad was telling some stories about Lincoln and me when we were younger. When I was three and Lincoln was five, mom was driving us through McDonald's. Lincoln decided to get a cheeseburger instead of getting chicken nuggets, which was unusual because we both always got chicken nuggets. And so I said, "Yeekun, please get nuggets, come on Yeekun please." And my mom said, "Lillie you can get nuggets and Lincoln can get a cheeseburger." I said, "No. Yeekun pleeeeease get nuggets." Lincoln said, "No Lillie, I want a cheeseburger." And so I sighed and said, "OK Yeekun. Mommy, I want a cheeseburger."
When I was younger I wanted to be exactly like Lincoln. And even though I don't remember them all, there are a lot of stories like the McDonald's one to prove it. Looking back I can see why I looked up to him so much. Even mini-Lincoln was very smart, and he was always teaching me things from the Bible and things about God. One time when I was only a year old he grabbed me and said, "Lillie. Lillie. Look at me, listen to me! Lillie, look at me, this is very important: God loves you." I loved to play with Lincoln and I thought he had the coolest ideas of things to play. One of our favorite games was one where we'd get our swimsuits on and drag the bar stools from the kitchen into the middle of the living room and play lifeguards. We don't play that game anymore, but I still like to hang out with Lincoln and hopefully he doesn't mind too much hanging out with me. He takes me to the mall and different places and we like to watch House together every week. And I am always hoping that he'll be the one to pick me up from ballet because we roll down the windows and turn up the radio and I’ll beg him to take me to Sonic and he'll say, "No, we're not going to Sonic." And I'll keep asking and he'll keep saying no and then at the last second he'll turn in.

As many of you know, Lincoln is still very, very smart and I don't brag on him a lot but I've always been proud of how hard he has worked to achieve his goals, whether they're for school, football, guitar, or anything that he sets his mind to. I remember a couple of years ago he wanted to learn to play the guitar, so he went and got videos on how to play the guitar and the next week he was playing. And I'm definitely going to miss him strumming on his guitar at night. I know that he'll continue to work hard and someday become a great doctor or become whatever God leads him to be.

Lincoln also still teaches me, even though he doesn't grab my arm and say, "Lillie, Lillie, God loves you." He teaches me through his actions. One thing that I've noticed about Lincoln is that he's always joyful. Even if he's not happy with his circumstances he still seeks to trust in God and be joyful through it. When I see Lincoln helping Jack Henry with basketball or telling Mary Margaret he likes her outfit, he's teaching me what it looks like to be a good sibling. And when I see him mowing the lawn he's showing me what it looks like to be a good son. And when I look at Lincoln I see a guy who is striving to follow the Lord.
I can't remember saying I want to be like Lincoln when I was three. But I can remember thinking it these past months and days as I spend time with him, as I see how talented and hardworking he is, and as I learn from him.
Then it was dad's turn:
Lincoln was a strong-willed child. He was a sweet kid, really a sweet kid. But he could be a handful. When he was four years old, one day Susie asked him what he wanted for breakfast. His answer: "[Corn] flakes with honey but don’t pour my milk until I sit down. And I want two napkins -- one wet and one dry. And don’t put my spoon in yet. And orange juice with no strings."

Lincoln received many spankings during his childhood. Again, one day when he was four years old I had to administer three swats. Through tears he declared: "None of them hurt. They didn't hurt at all, except the last one hurt a little bit."

I'm thinking, well, I can't let the child openly defy me. So I asked him, "Do you want me to do it again, and make it hurt this time?"

Much to my surprise, he said yes -- not defiantly, but quite earnestly. A bit confused, I asked: "You mean you really want me to spank you again so it will hurt?"  

"But why?"

"Because the three didn't hurt. And they're supposed to hurt, to drive the foolishness out."

That, of course, is nothing but the pure, undiluted mercy of God, to act on and in a child’s heart like that. And that, more than anything else, is what Susie and I hope and pray for as Lincoln goes forth. We're proud of you and proud of your accomplishments. But to say "we're proud of you" doesn't exactly capture it. What we are is grateful that God has been at work in your life. It's because of God’s mercy -- and, frankly, because of your mom -- that you've turned out better than I deserve.

And so this is what we hope and pray for as you go forth in the world. Sure, we want you to study hard and do great things and conquer the world -- all that stuff that people normally say at commencement. But more importantly, well, again I think back to when you were four (four was a good year for you). You came up to your mom and me one day and announced: "I want God to work on me with his tools. I don't want Satan to work on me with his tools." And that's precisely what your mom and I want for you now. We want you always to remember that God resists the proud but gives grace to the humble. That your life must consist of repentance and faith, every day. Repentance and faith, every hour -- maybe several times an hour -- repentance and believing God’s promises, believing that he will work on you with His tools.
Susie and I then presented Lincoln with his diploma.

On the back of the commencement program, the graduate shared a few words:
Being homeschooled has been a huge blessing in my life, and I am extremely thankful for the Christian education I have received from an early age. Throughout the course of my childhood and high school years, I have grown close to my family and to God, thanks to the amazing environment homeschooling has given me. I want thank my parents for the tireless work they have put in through the years, and for the rock-solid foundation that they have given me as I look to the future. It is with great gratitude that I see the way God has used them to shape me into the person I am. I am excited to see how He will continue to mold me and work in my life. Finally, I would like to thank all my friends and family for their wonderful presence in my life, and for being here today to celebrate my graduation and journey into the next phase of my life.

Lincoln Tyler Dutcher

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