Kristie Sharp Williams
None of Self and All of Thee
“'I AM' done!" Hg said when she wrapped up her eight-year Lads to Leaders career this weekend. She was, admittedly, enjoying a bit of creative freedom with this year’s theme “I AM” from Exodus 3:14, but I could tell it was bitter-sweet for her. She kept saying over and over “I can’t believe this is my last (insert the thing she was doing).”
Her first year, at age 11, she only participated in Oral Bible Reading, Song-leading, and Puppet ministry. We knew nothing about the program or the event except that parents of kids involved raved about it.
But, when we decided to try it, I didn’t know if she would even stand up when her name was called, much less if she would read or sing in front of people.
Thankfully, she just did what I asked her to do. “Just read these verses, but instead of sitting down and reading it, you are going to stand up and read it with about six ladies sitting in front of you listening.” “Ok, just sing this song, but instead of sitting down and singing it, just stand up in front of these six ladies and help them sing with you.” And, she did.
After eight years of studying, practicing, fussing, writing, singing, and also of trophies, plaques, certificates and ribbons, she finished her career with a first place win in Girls team debate with her partner, and a second place win for individual high score in debate. And, is a recipient of a Harding scholarship for Lads to Leaders.
I know the opinions against Lads, but that’s just it, all opinion. And most of those with the strongest opinions against it are the ones that know nothing about it, have never been or been involved in any way. My opinion is different, and that is all it is, too, opinion. I’ve already written a lengthy defense for receiving an “award” in addition to the “reward,” so I won’t go into all of that again. Here is the link if you are interested: https://www.stansgotafrog.com/blog/reward-vs.-award
This year went so smoothly, I don’t even feel like we’ve been. Over the years, we have been lost for hours looking for our car, or our room, or our event location, or a meeting place. We have had our participation cut short more than once due to Eli’s cancer treatment pursuits. We have laughed and cried and yawned and fussed over a variety of issues and topics. We have improvised attire, we have improvised event material, we have improvised sleeping supplies, we have improvised meals. I have ironed more in those two days of convention than I do in a six-month span at home. We have parked so far away from a door into the facility that we had to stop and take a break. We have changed clothing and diapers in bathrooms to save a hike back to our room in case we got lost. We have dosed chemo and medicines in bathrooms. We have pushed a baby stroller and a wheelchair from event to event. We have sat in the carpeted floors against walls for long stretches of time, and lugged supplies and materials around. We have succeeded and failed at ever aspect of this event from the least to the greatest. But, this year, except for not being able to go on Thursday as we usually do, it went so smooth it was like it never happened.
But, we have proof it did because the kids brought home some bling! I am over the moon proud of them for working so hard. It wasn’t without some irritability from all of us over the last few months (and parents must be involved. This is not something you just tell your kid to go do), but I can tell those spiritual muscles are growing! I mentioned Hg above already. This was her third year for debate, and it is without a doubt the most academically grueling of all the events due to the preparation and the execution. All three kids were top scorers in the curriculum testing. Abbey and her teammate, each in her first year for debate, placed third in debate, and Abbey got third in speech. Her puppet team placed first, and she got a finalist designation for her artwork. Caleb placed second in speech and second in song-leading. At our congregation’s devotional, the boys lead a verse of their song. He told our coordinator that he needed to do the first and fourth verse of his song, not just the one. He was like, “well, we need to speed things up a bit so everyone has a chance.” Caleb said, “I have to do both verses, my song is ‘None of Self and All of Thee.’ It won’t make sense to do just the first verse, and no-one knows the last verse without the first verse first.” Ha! If you know that song, you know what he means.
How strange it will be next year not having anyone sleeping on the floor, and for me not having to literally run from one daughter’s event to another hoping to catch the second daughter’s event in time. But, I could not be prouder of Hg’s progress through the program, going from timidly reading aloud from her Bible, barley looking up to the audience to a (somewhat) confident speaker taking on complicated subject-matter. She has grown into a student of the Bible, spiritually-minded and driven.