That brings us to the most recent and now favorite addition to my list of mountaintop experiences: my 3oth birthday weekend. The best part of the whole weekend was that my birthday was, by far, the least significant part of a weekend full of celebration. As someone who had put a lot of thought into how this insignificant landmark affected me, it was wonderful to be reminded that there are people and events in my life much more important than me.
My daughter Sophie was dedicated at church on Saturday night. Nancy and I had dedicated Sophie in our own hearts and home countless times before this public dedication, but there is something important and meaningful about gathering together as a church body and dedicating the children of your church to God. In truth, it is less about offering the child to God as it is the parents and other adults of the church dedicating themselves to take responsibility for the spiritual welfare of the child.
A large group of family, friends and church leaders gathered near the front of the sanctuary to pray over and dedicate Sophie. She was tired and started to get squirmy, so I sat down with her on the floor hoping that freedom would calm her down. Almost immediately, she locked eyes with our Pastor Kevin Clark, who was praying over her. She neither moved a muscle nor took her eyes off of him for the remainder of that time. Maybe she just thought he was funny looking, but I like to think that she picked up that there was something special going on. This was a truly special, special moment for both Nancy and myself, and we are so grateful that our families made the trip down to share it with us, that friends took time out of their schedules on a Saturday night, and that we have a church body that places value on these types of events.
On Sunday, my birthday, we made the trek up to Cincinnati to watch my beautiful bride graduate. This was a drive that Nancy made as many as five days a week for 3 years, which is almost as impressive as the actual school work she completed. Most Ph.D. programs simply award their students the status of A.B.D. (All But Dissertation) when they have completed their coursework and passed their comprehensive exams. HUC is among a growing number of schools who now choose to celebrate this accomplishment by awarding their students an actual degree at that point, in her case an M.Phil. So, this graduation ceremony was for Nancy a joyful moment and one to be proud of, but also a reminder that she still has work to do! HUC’s ceremony was simple, elegant, and (as is required for any graduation ceremony) long. The highlight of the ceremony, at least for both of us, was watching the 3 Ph.D. recipients awarded their degrees. That room was filled with fellow doctoral students, faculty members and family members who have unique insight into the kind of sacrifice and hard work that culminated in that moment, which was obvious given the long and warm reception these scholars received. I choose to think that they include the dissertation stage students in this ceremony as a motivational tool, which, from what I’ve been able to tell, is an effective tool at that. I thoroughly enjoyed the ceremony. I loved pointing Mommy out to Sophie; I loved watching my wife walk on stage and get a hood (again); I loved having our family there to see these moments; and I love that I will get to attend that ceremony one more time and watch Nancy become Dr. Nancy. (Incidentally, I have long contended that Nancy does not NEED a second Master’s degree and that she should gift that one to me. She remains unconvinced.)
So, my birthday was the third most important event of the weekend, which is exactly as it should be.
As has been mentioned already, the Mountaintop Experience of the weekend for both of us was that our families chose to make the trip down to share these moments with us. It was a short weekend with a long drive on both ends, so we are grateful and honored that they could come. Nancy and I love living in Lexington- it is a beautiful city in a beautiful part of the country and we have developed a rich life with meaningful relationships here. Still, we miss our families greatly. Especially with a baby, it has become increasingly difficult to be away from our families. So, it meant a lot to us that we were able to have a special weekend and be able to have both of our families in town. Thanks guys! We love you!