Soaring: Rachel’s Junior Year

Dear Rachel,

Congratulations today you start your junior year of high school!  I know you are so excited and your daddy and I are excited for you.  It is really hard to believe you are a high school junior. I clearly remember the many milestones you have hit along the way from preschool

Rachel Preschool 2002

and kindergarten

kindergarten beauty

through middle school

1 day of school sav_rach

and entering high school

9th 1 day rapping

to now having only two years left. You have always exceeded everyone’s expectations and not just by performing tasks on a check list but in ways that really matter like making friends, loving life, working hard and always doing your best.  You have grown and matured in ways I could never have imagined.  We are so proud of the young woman you have become!

You are so very much like every other teenage girl. You so much want to be like everyone else. Being popular, having a boyfriend, going to dances are high on your agenda. Our culture has an idea of what is important. I can tell you that being popular is highly overrated.  I know you have to learn that lesson on your own though.  I am just your “old, out-of-touch, nagging * mom.

People think you are special because you have Down syndrome, but that is not true. You are special because God created you to be exactly who you are.  You are His workmanship. That is the lesson I want you to always treasure in your heart.

I was thinking about your junior year, and it hit me that you have become the person I used to chase down at conferences.  I watched self-advocates and wanted to know what to do to help you be able to navigate this world. I think Karen, Fiona, Lori and Carrie approve of the young lady you are and are becoming. I know you were disappointed that your schedule was messed up and you won’t be in an acting class at South this year. I am impressed with how you have embraced the switch to the design class. Knowing that you’ll still get to be on the stage, this time in a Fashion Show helped! You are much more resilient, kind and forgiving than I am. I admire those qualities in you, and I commit to trying to do better.

You have always been good with little children and since you were old enough to say the word you have said you want to be a teacher. You have had many good teachers, and I suspect that has impacted your career thinking. You were accepted into the Early Childhood Careers Program in our school district. I can’t think of a better opportunity for you to work on those teaching skills. You are very happy about the class. You will be the first person with Down syndrome or any intellectual disability to participate in the program in our school district.  You have often been the first or the only.  That reminds me of how brave you are.  As we were preparing your PowerPoint for your team, I was thinking about how tiring it must be to so often be the only one or the first one. Yes, it is a great tribute to you, but it has to be tiring. Some days I wonder what your little brain is thinking. Then, I see that million dollar smile that lights up my life.

1st day jr year w flag 2016

Before you were born, dad and I claimed Philippians 4:13 for you. “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” As you have matured, you have claimed Joshua 1:9 as your life verse, “Do not be discouraged or afraid. For the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” This summer, God keeps whispering Isaiah 40:31 in my ear. I think it is appropriate for all our friends going to college or to school. This summer I’ve told the Lord that this journey has made me weary.  I think God is sending me that verse, too.

I also think He is reminding me that, Rachel Nicole Mast, soars. “But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

I love watching you soar, my little High School Junior!  Have a great year.




*I may be an “old, out-of-date, nagging mom”  but I impressed the girls at church camp with ability to know how to use #hashtags and other forms of social media!

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  1. I’m a mess reading your honest and beautiful words. Happy tears of course. I truly look up to you two and hope to see Nora blossom as lovely as Rachel has. I love you both and am so grateful to have met you ladies ❤️

  2. I know Lori is very proud of sweet Rachel! Being the first or the only fits perfectly with Lori’s quote “we are all unique individuals & our journey has just begun”….. young lady wise beyond her years.
    Love you Rachel….have a wonderful junior year!

    1. I think of Sunshine Lori a lot but especially during Buddy Walk season you know. Thankful for her continued voice and impact for individuals with Down syndrome.

  3. Miss Beth & Eddie the Eagle are very proud of you, Rachel. You have taught us so many beautiful things. Your joy and determination are inspiring. We love you, pray for you and hope your Junior year is absolutely awesome!! Finish high school well so we can spend more time with you in Nashville when you come to Vanderbilt!

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