Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Persevere and Finish Strong

I'm not even sure where to begin.  I've written this post several times in my head, but now that I'm actually in front of my laptop, my thoughts are like scrambled eggs :) 

But the fact that it took me nearly an hour just to get into my blog to be able to write (due to being logged in under the wrong email address) is all the confirmation I needed to persevere and get this post done.

It feels like I've been on an adventurous roller coaster ride this past week with intense & exuberant moments that have left me exhausted and in desperate need of processing it all.

So, I'll just start sharing, and we'll see where God leads.

For the first time all season, I was FINALLY able to go to one of Tanner's Cross Country meets bright and early on Saturday, October 18 at York Comprehensive High School.

Several people had told me about Tanner's end of the race sprinting skills, but I had not witnessed them for myself - until this day.  And I CRIED LIKE A BABY!  I was so stinkin' proud of him that I'm crying again now as the scene replays in my head!  I have never seen him run so fast!!!  Runners who seemed out of his reach mere seconds ago, he soon passed on his way to the finish line.  His determination and burst of energy were inspiring and led to his fastest time all season!

He persevered.

He finished strong

Way to go, son! 
Your Biggest Cheerleader

On Sunday October 19, I traveled to Laurens SC (along with a few hundred others) to celebrate the life of my friend Courtney Dover Robertson who definitely ran her race well.  You can read about her here:  a-celebration-of-life-for-one-that-inspired-many

Her race was a difficult one, but thankfully she had the Lord with her every single step of the way, along with her devoted family, friends, co-workers, students etc.  As I sat in her church surrounded by so many who loved her, I watched pictures of her life appear on the big screen.  It was undeniably apparent that Courtney had indeed lived her life well - even as she battled breast cancer for over 15 years (or maybe it was because she had battled cancer for so long - I don't know.)  Courtney loved well, and Courtney was loved well.

(As I stood talking to her family in the receiving line, music quietly played in the background.....it was Dave Crowder's "How He Loves".....ONLY GOD!)

She persevered.

She finished strong.

"Well done good and faithful servant....." Matthew 25:21

Monday 10/20 began our last week of volleyball that entailed practices and the 8th grade county conference tournament. It was an intense and fun week.  We finished 1st in our division for the regular season, and then on Thursday 10/23, we took the championship game down to the third set against an undefeated Dutchman Creek team.  The result - we came in 2nd in the conference.  My girls redefined what it means to "leave it all on the court."  They played so hard that they literally had nothing left to give.  Saying that I'm proud of them does not even begin to express my admiration for them.

The thought of me coaching volleyball still seems surreal :)  I often joke with Faith that when she tells my future grandchildren that I coached her team, they are all going to roll on the floor laughing hysterically, and I'm going to join them! (And then I'll need help getting up!!!)  It is nothing shy of miraculous.  ONLY GOD!  Seriously, I played volleyball a few times in junior high in my dad's backyard on Sunday afternoons - that's it.  Period.  If we played it in PE at school, I have absolutely no recollection of that.  I played softball, basketball and cheered.  No volleyball.

Therefore, God calling me to coach was one of the toughest assignments I've ever been given.  Last year it felt like I had been dropped in a foreign country where I did not know the language and did not have an interpreter.  This year, I knew some of the language but not to the level of comprehension that allowed me to speak it fluently.  Honestly, I did immerse myself in the sport between last year and this year.  However, my brain struggled to absorb it all and gave credence to the old saying "you can't teach an old dog new tricks!"   

Let's just say, I am so thankful for answered prayers!  God is so faithful! To Him be the glory!!!  He used YouTube to teach me a ton (especially since I'm a visual learner), and He graciously sent a parent who played volleyball in college to help me for some of the season. Tamara, I am forever grateful for you and the time you invested in our team  You are definitely an answer to prayer! 

Coaching this sport was beyond humbling.  My pride took a few blows on more than one occasion.  You see, I'm a realist and don't like pretending.  I never tried to cover up my lack of volleyball experience.  Instead, I spent countless hours teaching myself the game every single day so I could teach the girls.  I did not want to short change them in any way.  I often begged God to give me insight and understanding into how to help each girl improve.  And because He is faithful, He did indeed answer, time and time and time again.  It was all Him which leaves no room for me to take any of the credit.  Not one little bit. 

Volleyball was just a tool that the Lord used to allow me to invest in the girls' lives.  Volleyball was never the point.  It was merely the process.

Our season started with a splash....when we accepted the ALS ice bucket challenge from Coach Amanda Scott at Banks Trail Middle School.
From there, we faced our toughest opponent in our division for our very first game of the season.  I had prayed for the Lord to give me a creative way to build team unity and motivate the girls to do their best.  Inspired by our school mascot, I did a little research on mustangs and found we (as a team) had several things in common with our name sake.  From this, we adopted MUSTANG STRONG as our team motto and emphasized that we are stronger TOGETHER!
 Interestingly enough, we played our first game on 9/11...How fitting!

Of course with unity as our focus, it should come as no surprise that it was our unity that came under attack from every direction imaginable.  Honestly, halfway through our season, things became so challenging that I lost more sleep than I care to admit, and I literally thought I may have an ulcer.  Let me be clear, my physical symptoms had nothing to do with the game of volleyball but rather everything to do with these girls, their self-confidence, their relationships with each other, their need to learn how to deal with differences and conflict in healthy ways, and their ability to work together as a team by learning to appreciate each other's strengths rather than feeling threatened by them & being divided by them. 

Again, the Lord gave me creative ways (characteristics of mustangs, puzzles, gifts & gaps, Starbursts, Hersey's kisses) to demonstrate a few important life lessons.  The girls probably think I'm crazy, and that's okay as long as they remember at least one life lesson and take it to heart :)       

I am happy to report that through it all my girls stepped up and shined!!! 

They chose unity and to cheer each other on.
 They chose to BE a team - not just a group of individuals wearing the same jersey.

They chose to work hard and push through.

They chose to be ALL IN and play their hearts out - TOGETHER.

They persevered.

They finished strong.

Mustang Strong!

As the Lord would have it, Beth Moore's newest Bible study was offered at church during volleyball season.  It was perfect timing. It began at the start of our season and ended last Wednesday, the day before our last game.
God used this study to meet me exactly where I was at and to teach me new things about Himself and His Word - things that took on new meaning because of the current season I'm in.  So many times during the course of the study, I was awed by God and how He tied lessons from the study to lessons I wanted to teach my team during our few months together.  He taught me what I was trying to teach them.  Of course, the busyness of life tried to interfere with me digging into God's Word through this study.  But by God's grace and mercy,
I persevered.
I finished strong.
My life has been forever changed by the power of God's Word.
On Friday, I had the privilege of going to Ridgecrest (near Asheville NC) with my friend Tracy in preparation for our upcoming women's retreat. 

The retreat has been in the works for about 2 years now.  The Lord birthed the desire for it in the hearts of several different women, and He is bringing it to pass in His perfect timing - Nov. 14-16.

At the retreat, I'll be leading the Saturday morning session on prayer that will involve taking a prayer walk and spending some quality time alone with the Lord.  My soul cannot wait :)
When we first started planning this retreat, we knew that it was prompted by the Lord. But we did not know when it would happen.  Lots of details had to be sorted out and several obstacles overcome.  Thankfully.......
The retreat plans persevered.
We are praying for it's purpose(s) to finish strong.
We are praising God in advance for the lives that will be impacted.
Friday night was Senior Night for fall sports at the Nation Ford High School (NaFo) vs. Northwestern football game.  It was also "Pink Out" for breast cancer.

Check out God's beautiful rendition of His own Friday night lights....stunning!  Shawn was out of town with work so Faith and I were Tanner's escorts :)

It's so hard to believe that Tanner is a senior and will be graduating soon. 
Persevere, son.
Finish strong.
The Lord has amazing plans for you (Jeremiah 29:11-14a.)
Saturday morning, we slept in.  Unapologetically, we sure did.  That evening Tanner, Faith and I went bowling - courtesy of a free Groupon from my friend Tina. Thank you my friend!

At the bowling alley, I was reminded of how important it is to laugh and have fun together as a family.  Too often we get caught up in so many other things and neglect the most important thing - those closest to us.  Recently, while praying for "balance" in my life, I was convicted of something.  Sometimes I minister more to other people's children than to my own - OUCH!  What this means for me is that I have to be intentional about teaching my own children what I am so passionate about teaching other children (in my youth small group, volleyball, on mission trips, etc.)  And to make this happen, I will have to say no to some things so I can say yes to my own family - without feeling guilty.
I'm praying to persevere in my priorities.
I'm asking God to enable me to finish strong in parenting my teenagers.
Dear Lord, help me to be 100% present (mentally, emotionally, spiritually) when my family and I are together (physically.)  Help me to make the most of every opportunity, especially when it comes to Tanner and Faith.
Sunday night, our church hosted its annual Trunks and Treats for the community.  Our ABF class used "Despicable Me" as our theme.  Lots of yellow shirt minions running around :)

 Tanner and his senior class were Fishers of Men from Matthew 4:19

The 8th graders' theme was Toy Story, and Faith was Stretch the Octopus. 
This event is about more than games, candy and costumes.  It's full of opportunities to meet new people, connect with them and invite them to church.  As an added bonus, it's also a time of fellowship and fun as a church body.  May we...
Persevere for the sake of the Gospel.
Finish Strong for our Faith.
Never stop reaching out and loving others. 

Yesterday, Monday October 27, we had our volleyball team pictures taken, and then we celebrated the end of our season with a little party.  We had an amazing cake made by one of our talented parents (Thanks Debby!)

After spending nearly every weekday together since August, I already miss these girls!!!  It was such an honor to spend the last 2 volleyball seasons with them.  This is a very special group of young ladies with very bright futures!  Keep shining girls, and don't let anything steal your sparkle!!!
Wow, the past week has indeed been eventful and roller coaster-ish!  It's no wonder that I needed to do a little blogging to help process everything.  Thanks for joining me. 

Just remember, no matter what's happening in your life, whether things are wonderful, difficult, hectic or seemingly mundane...Choose JOY.  Choose GRATITUDE.  Choose SACRIFICE.  Choose UNITY.  Choose TRUTH.

Choose to PERSEVERE.

Choose to FINISH STRONG - in HIS STRENGTH, not your own.

"In a race everyone runs, but only one person gets first prize.  So run your race to winTo win the contest you must deny yourselves many things that would keep you from doing your best.   An athlete goes to all this trouble just to win a blue ribbon or a silver cup, but we do it for a heavenly reward that never disappears So I run straight to the goal with purpose in every step.  I fight to win.  I’m not just shadow-boxing or playing around.  Like an athlete I punish my body, treating it roughly, training it to do what it should, not what it wants to.  Otherwise I fear that after enlisting others for the race, I myself might be declared unfit and ordered to stand aside."  1 Corinthians 9:24-27

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