Class of 2020, We See You During COVID-19

There’s something incredibly affirming about being seen and recognized for hard work. For high school and college seniors, they’ve been waiting for that moment when, traditionally in May, they would walk a platform, and all their family, friends, and peers would watch them receive their diplomas.

This May, however, COVID-19 is stealing that moment from the senior class of 2020. It stole prom, senior week, and so many other once-in-a-lifetime moments that they’d watched prior graduating classes experience. Many feel cheated, upset, or let-down, and no one can fault them for feeling that way. They should absolutely acknowledge the disappointment but refuse to let it keep them down.

Today’s post is for you, the Class of 2020.

Anticipate your moment.

That moment may not involve you crossing a literal stage, perhaps the most electrifying part of the traditional graduation ceremony. However, I challenge you to still anticipate your moment.

But how, you ask? Recently, I shared a post on my experience celebrating my first anniversary at home. It wasn’t what we had expected or wanted, but my husband and I weren’t going to let the day pass without a celebration.

You can also celebrate non-traditionally. Maybe you can plan a social-distancing-safe outdoor party with family and close friends. Maybe you can organize a caravan parade of you and your classmates, with cars decorated, driving down your streets. Maybe you can invent a virtual party or even a delayed celebration once your state reopens.

I know this situation is not what you expected, but you can make the most of your moment. Decide what’s special and doable, and go for it!

Choose what you do with this time.

Have you read or watched Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien? One of my favorite quotes from this saga is a conversation between Frodo and Gandalf discussing the growing evil they must confront.

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.

So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

Timely, right? I don’t blame you seniors for wishing a worldwide pandemic hadn’t struck and ruined your senior-year celebrations. None of us wanted this to happen now or ever.

Although we can’t control what happens to us, we can decide what to do with it. @kjhogrefe

Deciding what to do is a personal choice each of us, high school senior or not, must make. Understand you’re not alone in dealing with wrecked plans. Couples have had to cancel wedding ceremonies. Carefully made travel plans have been thrown out the window. Even the Olympics has been postponed a full year. We all feel you!

But we can’t change anything by wishing it away. So what do we do? What can you, the Class of 2020, do with this time?

Scripture speaks to this very question. Let’s take a look at James 4:13-15:

Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a city, spend a year there, buy and sell, and make a profit”; whereas you do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wills, we shall live and do this or that.” (NKJV)

Let’s break down those ideas and apply them to our situation. Last January, we were all making plans. You were making plans to graduate, maybe deciding what college you would attend next fall. But the truth is, we didn’t know March was going to put a pandemic at our doorsteps.

How should we proceed? We shouldn’t sit around aimlessly. Instead, we should make plans but hold them loosely, not tightly. Whatever good opportunity God presents us to do today, we should do it, and trust Him for tomorrow.

My hope is that you graduates prayerfully ask God what the next right thing is for you to do.

Focus on making a difference.

I remember my own high school graduation. As far as ceremonies go, it wasn’t anything grand. My homeschool class was a total of three (my twin brother and one other student in our umbrella school).

My grades were the highest of all three, but our overseer decided that being valedictorian would benefit the other male student more than me. He probably figured I’d just be a housewife someday and didn’t need the title on my resume. (For the record, there is no such thing as “just” a housewife. Being a wife and mom is such an important role, whether or not a woman also has a career outside the home. But I digress.)

Obviously, I was disappointed at the time, as were my parents, but today, I’m not going to go all Captain Marvel about it. I couldn’t control that I wasn’t valedictorian, and honestly, being slighted at my graduation doesn’t bother me today. The fact is that I got to choose what I did with the intellect God gave me. By his grace, I graduated college Summa Cum Laude, have published six books, have had the opportunity to speak to crowds much larger than those present during my high school graduation, and have the privilege of teaching English to my online students. And yes, I’m also proud to be a wife to the amazing man God brought into my life.

I say all that to say this: You can’t change the reality that you may not have a traditional graduation or enjoy all the regular pomp and circumstance. But you can decide what you’re going to do next with the abilities and opportunities God gives you. Class of 2020, how will you make a difference?

~ Kristen

Class of 2020, we see you during COVID-19. The disappointment of missing out on your pomp and circumstance is real, but refuse to let it keep you down. By @kjhogrefe

I’m honored that this post first appeared on DailyPS.com.

How to Celebrate, Social-Distance Style

Yesterday marked James’ and my one-year anniversary. He had made a reservation at the restaurant connected with our honeymoon hotel in Tampa, but in light of COVID-19, those plans vaporized. I had given myself the pep-talk that all was well, and we’d celebrate at home, but the morning of, I found myself feeling low. Such a special day seemed to have lost its luster.

So many of you are experiencing similar situations and watching your vacations and special celebrations go down the drain. Friends have had to cancel weddings. (I can’t imagine how heartbreaking that decision must be!) Others have had to cut honeymoons short, miss prom, and the list goes on.

Though easier said than done, we can make lemonade out of our lemons. Today, I want to share some ways we made our home celebration memorable in the hopes that they’ll inspire yours too.

#1: Acknowledge Your Feelings

Yesterday, as I struggled through thoughts of COVID-19 cheating us of our special day, I realized that I simply needed to admit how I felt before I could move on. It was okay to be disappointed.

But I couldn’t stay there. I vented to a friend, and that external processing helped. Then, I was ready to brainstorm.

If you’re feeling the way I did, don’t bottle up your feelings or pretend they don’t matter. They do. Share them with someone and then start thinking about how you can make the best of what you have.

#2. Treat Your Home Celebration as Special as You Would a Fancy Restaurant.

To get started, consider how you usually spend the evening and then ask what you can do differently. In other words, don’t eat at the dinner table the way you do every night.

We just moved into our new lake house and both enjoy eating outside on the porch overlooking the water. Usually, though, we sit in old fold-up chairs.

Though we’re still living out of boxes, I dug around until I found a white tablecloth and some of our wedding decorations. Then, I set up our folding table, covered it with the tablecloth, and started adding the finishing touches. Thanks to my wonderful husband, I had fresh sunflowers (my favorite!) to include.

Though I was tempted to stay in my comfy yoga pants, I realized that even if we could have kept our reservations, I wasn’t dressing up for a restaurant. I was dressing up for James. Ever the bargain shopper, I’d found a little black dress at Ross that I’d planned to wear. After staging our table, I freshened my makeup and slipped into the number.

The look on James’s face told me how much the effort meant to him. He slipped into a nice shirt too.

As for food, we’d made a backup plan a few weeks ago in case something like this happened. He grilled up some filets, shrimp, and Pita bread. (Yes, I’m a lucky girl that my husband is a grillmaster!) We’d also purchased some sparkling apple cider and our favorite Edwards pie.

Maybe you don’t have a porch, but you can decorate your table extra nice. If you don’t grill or like to cook, consider calling to see if a favorite restaurant offers takeout. There are plenty of options, so get creative! Just put in that extra effort, because it will make a difference.

#3. Remember Good Times and God’s Goodness

Instead of groaning about what we don’t have, let’s remember our blessings instead. Last year, we were blessed to go on a once-in-a-lifetime honeymoon trip. In 2019, maybe you had the best birthday celebration ever. Or maybe your last vacation was incredibly memorable, and you just sneaked it in before all the travel restrictions started.

Regardless, Scripture tells us to remember God’s goodness and faithfulness. My pastor has been walking through the book of Lamentations, a timely series for today! May these verses encourage you:

Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed,
Because His compassions fail not.
They are new every morning;
Great is Your faithfulness.
(Lamentations 3:22-23 NKJV)

God’s faithfulness doesn’t change due to our circumstances. He is always good to us. When so many things are changing and out of our control, remember that God remains constant.

#4: Plan a Sequel

Just because today’s expectations went unmet doesn’t mean they can’t be reinvented down the road. Yesterday, James and I started talking about possible options for travel this year. We’ve already had one trip canceled, and another one may or may not be a possibility any more. Instead of focusing on the negatives, we considered some other alternatives that would be wonderful too.

Although planning anything right now is almost impossible, add a date on the calendar to come back to the conversation. At that point, you might be able to plan another time when you could celebrate instead. Be sure to write it down! As someone said, a dream is only a wish if it isn’t written down.

As much as possible, we can be intentional in planning ahead and looking to the future, instead of dwelling on the past.

What other ideas would you add to this list of ways to make celebrations special, social-distance style? Please leave a comment below.

~ Kristen

How to Celebrate, Social-Distance Style by @kjhogrefe