Abigail Starcher is a 2011 graduate of Trinity Lutheran School, and she returned to Trinity to address our 2015 graduates, their families, and their guests.

A 2015 graduate of The First Academy, Abigail Starcher’s four years of high school amounted to a blur of activity: four years of varsity Soccer, two years as captain, regional finalist in Track & Field, she is as fast as those years that have flown by. Leaping from the field to the realm of academics, she is an Advance Placement Scholar, National Arts Society member, secretary of the National Honor Society, and the class Valedictorian. Just as we at Trinity are “growing together,” Abigail continued to grow in her faith at TFA as a Bible Study leader, member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and a member of the Chapel Band. Her faith shines in her service to the Wounded Warriors Club.

It was with delight that Dr. Brockberg welcomed Abigail to the Church Chancel to address our graduates, their families, and their guests. Her address follows…

Good evening graduates, family and friends. Congratulations on finishing middle school! It truly is an accomplishment. Middle school can be a challenging and exciting time full of transition and self-discovery. The foundation you have established here at TLS will help determine the trajectory of these next four years in your lives and beyond.

I am grateful for the opportunity to speak to you today because being a TLS alum and a recent high school graduate myself, I can reassure you that though you may be nervous for what this next year holds, you will find that Trinity really has prepared you for high school.

I love your verse for this year: 2 Peter 3:18 “Continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ”. That is exactly what you have done here in middle school and what you will be doing in high school. You will continue to grow, to discover who you are meant to be and to develop the gifts and talent’s God has given you.

Believe it or not graduates, your life looks very similar to a butterfly’s metamorphosis. Right now you are no longer a caterpillar, but you aren’t yet a butterfly. Middle and especially high school reflect a butterfly’s time in its cocoon. Butterflies can spend up to 40 percent of their lives in their cocoon. (I hope you don’t spend that long in high school). From the outside, this period of dormancy, may seem useless; they may even look dead, but on the inside, incredible growth is occurring.

Before a caterpillar enters into its chrysalis, it munches on as many leaves as it can and increases its body mass 2000 times in about 12 days. Throughout elementary school you have gobbled up information and the “nutrients” you need to undergo a beautiful transformation.

Academically, you have been taught well and have developed study habits that will help you take on new and more difficult classes. My eighth grade graduating class was small also, which gave me valuable attention from my teachers.

Spiritually, TLS has given you a firm foundation based on Biblical truth. I personally benefited from how Trinity stressed the importance of God’s word. It really is the Bread of Life. Having a deeper understanding and appreciation of the Bible equipped me, as it will you, to persevere through the challenges of high school

There are some important things you can do these next four years to help you grow in the grace of Christ Jesus. First and foremost, abide in the Vine. Stay connected to God and be in tune with His Spirit by reading the Bible everyday. When you set aside the time to just be with God and listen to what He has to say, you will be able to see Him work in awesome ways around you. High school has a lot of ups, but it also has some downs. It’s important to always cling to God and He will carry you through. Use the biblical foundation Trinity has given you to grow in Christ’s grace.

Secondly, surround yourself with a group of friends who see your potential and can encourage you to be the best you can be. Good friends will be able to see qualities in you that you may not have noticed yourself. They can pick you up when you are having a difficult time and can speak truth into your life.

The second part of 2 Peter 3:18 encourages you to grow in knowledge of Christ. Although some of you may be going to public high schools and probably won’t have “religion” classes anymore, you will find that you can still see God in almost anything. Since God created all things and all things were made through Him, you can learn about the Creator through studying His creation. For example, my friend loves math and he was describing to me how he sees God in the eternal nature of numbers and algebra’s absolute truth. While a lot of what he was saying went right over my head, it was cool to see how you don’t have to be reading the Bible to learn about God.

I also want to strongly encourage you to use this time while you are in your cocoon to explore your personal interests and talents.

High school is a great time to learn about yourself and the best way to do this is to try new things! I got involved in soccer, track, cross country, even football and I learned so many life lessons and so much about myself through them. I would also encourage you to check out some clubs that your school may offer like Wounded Warriors, Best Buddies, or FCA. These connect you to people who share similar interests and allow you to work with them to make a positive change in your community. Also, challenge yourself by taking classes that interest you. If you enjoy math, try AP Calculus; if you love to create and design, get into a portfolio or ceramics class; if you are fascinated by outer space, see if your school offers an astronomy course.

Self discovery doesn’t have to just be in the school setting either. I found Freshman year that I love to paint, and it quickly became one of my favorite hobbies. Junior year I fell in love with indoor rock climbing, which was a fun, active way to be with my school friends outside of the classroom. You never know how or what talents God may use

I’m willing to bet that when a butterfly enters its cocoon, it doesn’t know what it will look like exactly. It may not know how big it will be, how many spots it will have or what colors its wings will be. I’m also willing to bet that right now you probably don’t know exactly where you want to go to college in four years, or what you want to major in or what your future job will be. And that’s totally ok! There seems to be a lot of pressure to figure out what your future will look like, it may seem overwhelming. But middle school and high school are the years you have to grow and learn about what you like or dislike, see where your talents are and that will point you in the right direction.

Throughout middle school I realized how much I enjoyed math and science. As I looked ahead into my future, I could see myself doing something with these subjects, but I had no idea what! During seventh grade, many of my relatives and family friends were diagnosed with cancer. Throughout this year I saw the effects of disease and wrestled with the heartache of loss. It strengthened my faith as a result, as I discovered the truth of the verse Psalms 34:18, “God is close to the broken hearted, He saves those who are crushed in spirit”. I learned how Jesus truly is the Healer. He doesn’t want His people to suffer, and since we are made in His image we all have a part of us that wants to heal and help others too. I wanted so badly to figure out a way I could help cancer victims and end the terrible disease. During my eighth grade year, my english teacher, Mrs. Liebner, some of you might remember her, had her husband come as a guest speaker during science class. He gave us a brief intro into the field of biochemistry by showing us how to manipulate genes and Ecoli populations to research disease. This one lecture showed me how the desires God had given me to help others and the enjoyment I found in math and science could be combined and used as a profession. Throughout high school I took classes such as AP Biology, chemistry, and latin that matched my interests and that would help prepare me for a career in the medical research field. Through my college research, I found that UF had incredible facilities and resources for what I want to do. So I applied and left the decision up to God. I will be attending UF in the fall and can’t wait to see how God uses my passions for my good and His glory.

What I am about to read to you is an anecdote written by novelist Paulo Coelho explaining the importance of the time a caterpillar spends in its cocoon.

“A man spent hours watching a butterfly struggling to emerge from its cocoon. It managed to make a small hole, but its body was too large to get through it. After a long struggle, it appeared to be exhausted and remained absolutely still.

The man decided to help the butterfly and, with a pair of scissors, he cut open the cocoon, thus releasing the butterfly. However, the butterfly’s body was very small and wrinkled and its wings were all crumpled.

The man continued to watch, hoping that, at any moment, the butterfly would open its wings and fly away. Nothing happened; in fact, the butterfly spent the rest of its brief life dragging around its shrunken body and shrivelled wings, incapable of flight.

What the man – out of kindness and his eagerness to help – had failed to understand was that the tight cocoon and the efforts that the butterfly had to make in order to squeeze out of that tiny hole were Nature’s way of training the butterfly and of strengthening its wings.”

High school can be difficult at times, and every one will have their share of struggles. There will be parties you aren’t invited to, you’ll have to learn how to deal with stress as you juggle school work, sports and relationships, you will watch some of your friends make poor choices, and you may even feel pressured to join them. But know that these struggles will only help make you into the beautiful person God has designed you to be. Cling to God and you will grow in the grace and knowledge of Christ. Staying rooted in the Biblical foundation TLS has provided will allow you to thrive in the “cocoon” of high school.

All of your experiences, discoveries and struggles will help shape you into the person you are meant to become. So, whatever you do, work at it will all your heart as if doing it for the Lord, and enjoy it! High school is fun and is full of amazing opportunities to explore your talents so you can get a better idea of how to use them to glorify God throughout the rest of your life. God will never fail you, He said in Philippians that He who began a good work in you will carry it out to completion.

I’ll leave you with this one final thought from Psalm 57:2, it says “I cry out to the God most high who will fulfill His purpose for me”.

Many thanks, Abigail, for this beautiful speech written for our graduates.  We wish you God’s Blessings to you as you begin your college education to prepare for that career in medical research!  To God the Glory!