Stand Firm, Stand Fast
Friday is always sad and always beautiful, and this year was no different. It begins with two talks, one by John Mark Reynolds, who brings together all the biggest ideas and gives students one final chance to ask him their toughest questions, and one by me, in which I call students to leave the conference well: loving their families, pursuing prayerfulness, leaving childhood, taking growth one step at a time.
I've never gotten through a Friday morning talk without crying a little; I fall in love with these students and the new community we've formed. It's hard to face the fact that tomorrow we'll say goodbye. It's worth crying about, a little.
Students asked hard, good questions: "How do I build a community like this at home?" "How do I keep having discussions like these?" "How do I bring more beauty into my life?" "Why is prayer so important?" Step by step, we walked through the questions, and I begged them to become people who pray.
After lunch, students had their second day of Artisan Workshops, where they took their arts even farther. It was especially fun to watch the painting students skipping across campus, with demonstrably better paintings in hand than they made two days ago.
During their last discussions, they worked hard to come to a point of satisfying progress on the philosophical questions that had stumped them, and their mentors led them in a time for making practical, short-term plans for applying what they learned at Wheatstone when they went home. Those last discussions are so sweet; they're one of the things I miss most about being a mentor. It's the last really private time that the small groups get. You never know what God will do.
Finally, with return plans made, new artworks in hand, and final discussions under their belts, students rushed back to the dorms to changed into concert clothes. Amanda and I took longer to change than most of them, so I got to walk up to a plaza already full of laughing young men and women. All week they'd worn t-shirts or tanks. Now they stood tall in beautiful dresses, suits, bowties, awesome sunglasses. They were proud of themselves and comfortable around each other. Some years there's a sort of prom-like stiffness. Not so this year: I saw ladies and gentlemen who were free.
We bussed to a chapel a few miles away, where a dessert reception waited for us. At 8, we filed inside, under arching ceiling beams, to where a piano waited on stage. I wish you could have heard the music, prepared by two parents for months, specifically for this conference in response to our theme. I wish you could have heard the students giving Britten, Schumann, Chopin, and many more pieces their loudest cheering and firmest ovations. When the concert ended, the three performers, Kate and Randall Gremillion and J David Simmons, led us in the song we sing each evening: the Doxology. The room echoed with our worship, and we moved out to head home.
The common room snapped with happiness. Here, a philosphical discussion. There, board games. Yonder, a game of limbo. Everywhere: music, photos being taken, laughter, freedom. We're squeezing out every drop of the juice of the joy of this community. No moment missed. I stayed up until 3:30 with them, and many students went to bed when I did, but some will stay up watch the sunrise. They say they want to sing the Doxology when they see it, welcoming a new day with new hope for God's good future. I bless them, but it's time for me to sleep. Tomorrow, parents come and we say goodbye. I want to give it my best.
See the Day
Hear the Day
The Closing Concert began with this beautiful aria from the end of Britten's opera Billy Budd, sung by Randall Gremillion. It's the song of a man who faces death with courage and contentment.
The Concert ended with this piece, adapted from Philippians, sung by Kate Gremillion. It's the prayer of Wheatstone staff for our new alumni.