Twelve years ago, my very new husband suggested that we volunteer to lead our church's high school youth group. Our pastor at the time was overburdened and he thought it would be a good way to lighten his load and serve in ministry.
"Um, sure," I agreed, with due trepidation considering I was neither much of a teacher nor all that well-versed in the Bible.
And so we began meeting, on Sunday nights, first at our church and later in our living room. Among that first fabulous group of high schoolers was a young man named Jimmy Lock. He's the son of Jim and Sally, farmers from the Avon area, and he is the oldest of four siblings - one of whom has been in our living room nearly every Sunday night for the past twelve years. This week, his youngest brother, Nolan, graduates from Avon High School, and he marks the end of an era. There are no more Lock kids in high school, and Sunday night was the last night one of them will sit in our living room for youth group. I'm a little verklempt about that.
Jimmy was the first, and by far, the most unpredictable. Jimmy is about 6' 8" or something like that, and he answered just about anything with, "Awwright." He nearly ended our stint as youth leaders nearly before it began when he leaped off the platform during a Youth Sunday and yelled, "Repent!" Fortunately, our congregation has a sense of humor. And because he nearly gave us heart attacks that day, we have lifetime re-telling rights to that story. Sorry, Jimmy. I mean, Jim. He's all grown up now, and Jim is a high school history teacher. I suspect he enjoys a little unpredictability among his own students these days. Or at least I hope he does.
Jessica came along next. The only girl in the family, she's the golden child and with good reason (though her brothers may dispute that). Jessica came into babysitting age at just about the same time our kids were born - so convenient! It's a vast understatement to say they love her. And we do, too. She's virtually unflappable, she's got a great heart and she was never boy crazy. That scored huge points in my husband's book, who would really like his own girls to be just like Jessica. Now she's a kindergarten teacher with her own blog, and let me just say those are some lucky little kindergarteners. I hope she still wears her Funk's G hat.
John was the next boy. (That's him on the left, with my little man in the middle. He's just like the big boys, you know.) A junior at the University of Illinois now, John can fire off just about any sports statistic you need. Or don't need. And he's an avid Illini fan, which just sort of indoctrinated him into our lives. He worked hard to win over our toddlers, finally getting them all to high-five him now and then, which totally won over their mother. John started out as an ag communications major before switching to journalism, but I've forgiven him. He's going to do great things. And he can play piano like nobody's business.
And then Nolan. He's the baby of the family, even though he's 6' 8" or whatever, too. He's got a good heart, and a sharp mind and he's not above grabbing a Nerf gun and declaring war with my five-year-old. Or staying after youth group to bowl on the Wii with Nathan. On his head.
Or taking the last seat with my kids for pizza and answering four million questions, when all his friends are together at the table. Nolan's a keeper. And we may just have to, which might crimp his plans for an engineering degree at U of I next year. But you do what you have to do.
Twelve years of Lock kids. Every one of them a good farm kid, who knows the Lord and knows why they believe what they believe. And they love each other, even though if they actually read this, they'll probably gag at that line. Their parents deserve a medal. We've questioned them repeatedly, knowing that it's no anomaly when parents can raise four caring, intelligent, successful, easy-going young adults, all four either with, or on their way to, a degree from the University of Illinois. These are fortunate kids.
We are going to miss them.
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