Thinking Good

I cringed as I watched the dad before me.

His son was up to bat, and his hands gripped the fence tightly in front of him. We had already observed his antics the previous time Micah* came to the plate, his yelling and the look of disgust over his face when his son propelled his entire body toward the ball, bat still, instead of just swinging.

You know the type. The dad who feels his son’s performance is a reflection of himself, even if we all are only watching a T-ball game full of five-year-olds.

So when this dad moved forward to watch Micah attempt to hit the ball, I cringed in anticipation of how he might react.

I wasn’t disappointed.

Micah surprisingly hit the ball off the tee, and we cheered in excitement. After all, the team rallied, and we were only a couple of runs behind. We could actually tie this game up.

But this little boy didn’t seem to understand the weight of his hit. No, instead of running to base, Micah decided to swing his arms around like he was a helicopter, bob his head from side to side, and kick up his legs slowly as he lolligagged over to base.

Everyone in the stands was laughing. Everyone, that is, except for Micah’s dad. The dad yelled through the fence, “RUN, MICAH! RUN!” And then he turned away in frustration when his son was thrown out by a mile (which rarely happens in T-ball).

I wished the dad could lighten up. I wished he could realize these kids are little; who cares if they don’t take the game seriously? Nobody thought he had failed as a father because his son stunk at T-ball. There would be plenty of time for truly competitive sports later.

I’m not sure if this father had any realizations that day, but I surprised myself with my own a few hours later in the car. I shared it that night as Matt and I met in the bathroom getting ready for bed.

“You know,” I said, “I really didn’t  like how Micah’s dad yelled at him during the game. I’m sure he made Micah nervous.”

“Oh, I didn’t notice.”

“Really? I thought he was pretty obnoxious. I’m surprised you didn’t hear him.”

Matt had served as the on-deck coach that game, so he was preoccupied. But now knowing that he hadn’t even noticed Micah’s dad made me doubt what I observed a little.

“Well, anyway, he really bothered me…but I have to admit…I kind of wanted to yell, too.”

Matt and I laughed, and at almost the same time, we both yelled out versions of “Just RUN, Micah!”

Because it’s true. My mind was thinking almost everything Micah’s dad’s mouth was saying. Perhaps knowing my own thoughts is the reason I had such disdain for him. And while I didn’t and still don’t agree with how this particular dad reacted, I felt like a hypocrite for having this disdain. After all, my thoughts weren’t any better; I just happened to keep them to myself.

During my drive in the car I thought about the different times in my life when I had acted the right way but not thought the right way. The times when I didn’t gossip but hid judgmental thoughts in my heart. The times when I didn’t complain at work but criticized my boss over and over in my head. And the times when I cringed at parents who couldn’t relax knowing that I, too, would’ve felt a little embarrassed if my kid rounded the bases like a helicopter.

I know the right way to act, and, most times, I choose the right behavior. I just don’t always choose the right way to think.

After my drive in the car, I was reminded of the fact that I have been reminded of before: I have a long way to go. I don’t want just pure behavior; I want pure thoughts. When I laugh at little kids on the ball field acting like helicopters, I don’t want thoughts of “Geez, Louise, kid! Just run!” interfering. I don’t want critical thoughts filling up space in my mind (I need those spaces for memory!). I want to be good and think good, too.

So, please, Micah. Help me out. I have a long way to go as a person, and you have a long way to go as a ball player. Can we meet in the middle? How about a nice jog to first base next time? I promise I’ll only think good thoughts about you.

*The name of this little ball player has been changed to protect the innocent.

Can anyone relate to my problem, or am I just evil?

 

Measuring Sticks

I measure my life by birthday parties.

I measure the stability of my marriage by the number of hours I spend in the kitchen versus the number of episodes my husband watches from the couch, the strength of our marriage by our ability to communicate telepathically about paper streamers (seriously, who doesn’t twist streamers before taping them to the ceiling?) and the placement of the purple napkins.

I measure my worth as a mother by the amount of pink ribbons made from natural food coloring on the cake and the ratio of homemade to store-bought food, my success in parenting by the quantity of products on my table lacking high-fructose corn syrup in exchange for something crafted from my own hands.

I measure my growth as an adult by the time on the clock when I finally crawl into bed and the number of minutes I finish preparing before (or after) the guests arrive, my progress as a homemaker by whether or not they see dust bunnies or carpet lines when they walk through the front door.

And I measure the healthiness of my mental state by the expression on my face and the direction of my brows as I fumble with goodie bags and twist-ties, the condition of my heart by the genuineness of my smile and whether or not I’m relaxed or pretending to relax and enjoy the party.

Because we all do it. We all have our different coffee spoons by which we measure our lives. And we drift through our days holding up those measuring sticks and scratching out our little pencil marks reminding ourselves how our performance stacked up against other days’, how far we still have to go, how imperfect we really are.

We allow ourselves to fret and worry about a score card that is graded solely by us, the red pen marks bolder and harsher than any we received in school. And we let our poor grades interfere with enjoying our greatest accomplishments.

Or maybe that’s just me.

I’ve thrown 11 kid birthday parties now, and while I learned my lesson and threw out the score card on party #9, I still find old cards hidden in the junk drawer. I’m tempted to reassess and get out my red pen. But I can’t because the score doesn’t matter.

The score will never be perfect.

But the memories, yes, the memories of bright eyes and wide smiles, hugs with family and laughter with friends–these are the sticks by which to measure life.

‘The memories of heartache and tears and gentle fingers ready to catch them as they rolled down my cheek–these are the sticks by which to measure life.

The memories of times when no words were spoken, but we sat together and waited together and endured together–these are the sticks by which to measure life.

The times spent with others; pouring into each other; living life, the good, the bad–all of it–these are the sticks by which I will measure life because these are what will endure long after I don’t; these are what matter.

Not the coffee spoons. Not the paper streamers. Not the lack of high-fructose corn syrup (No, I can’t write it. Eliminating high-fructose corn syrup totally matters). But those who used the coffee spoons and sat under the straight streamers and ate the natural food–they are who matter.

Hannah Grace, you will always matter to me. I made the mistake earlier on of not enjoying every moment because I was too stressed out trying to create it. And while I still have those moments when I fall back into my perfectionist mode, I’m doing better. You’re too special to not enjoy every moment with you and your brother and sister. I hope you enjoyed your 4th birthday party, every minute of it, because I enjoyed every minute that I watched that beautiful smile on  your face. I love you, Mommy.

By what do you measure your life? By what do you base your figurative score card?

Bending the Rules

Last night my daughter slept on my head. I knew I was uncomfortable all night, as I had scrunched into the smallest ball possible trying not to roll off the side of our king-sized bed, yet it wasn’t until I opened my eyes and looked up that I realized exactly where my daughter had landed.

Matt and I have had a rule for sleeping since our oldest was old enough to start testing our beliefs on sleep: each child is to start off in his or her bed, but if they end up in our bed in the middle of the night, so be it. This rule has worked fairly well, as our oldest sleeps in his bed most nights, except for those rare nights when a bad dream disturbs his sleep.

However, our middle child ends up in our bed every night. Again, it’s not ideal, but we’re okay with our rule.

Well, last night, we brought two little girls into our bed–at the beginning of the night. Three hours of screaming and crying persuaded me to wave the white flag of surrender. I just wanted to lie down and read my book. I was tired of fighting.

As I’ve gotten older, I’m not so sure I’ve gotten wiser. However, I’ve grown more realistic. Convictions are good–they are essential–but some convictions are meant to guide along the path of life. Hold to them too tightly, and one might break.

So as I walk this journey of parenting, marriage, friendships–life–I realize, I need to walk the path with a little more curves. Because sometimes, life is about surviving, surviving with with a smile on my face, and if that means breaking my bedtime rule for one night, so be it.

 

image courtesy of photobucket

Linking up with the Gypsy Mama for her 5 Minute Friday. This week’s topic is ‘Older’ in honor of Lisa-Jo’s birthday!

 

Heaven

Heaven should be one of those topics that brings peace and joy to one’s heart, but I think I’m a little strange. Heaven was the topic at church this past Sunday, and for at least half the sermon, I was squirming in my seat. I actually have given a lot of thought to heaven, probably too much, wondering how far past the clouds I’ll have to travel to get there, if the streets are really made of gold, and if I’ll get bored at some point during eternity (I know, I know–silly, right?). And the concept of eternity? Yeah, thinking about it can send me into a mild panic attack.

When I try to think about time that doesn’t end, something that lasts forever and ever and ever, I start to freak out. Everything’s supposed to end. How can something not end? And at this point in my thought process, my body gets tingly and jittery feeling, and I have to shake my head to get rid of the thoughts and take some deep breaths.

I am willing to admit I’m a little crazy.

I know I need to trust that I won’t want heaven to end, just the way that I don’t want my time here on earth with my family to end. I need to have faith that a God who is good and merciful and love has figured this heaven thing out so that when I’m up there with Him I won’t spend eternity trying to figure out how eternity actually works. And I need to trust that panic attacks don’t happen in heaven.

But apparently I’m not the only one who has issues with heaven. During his sermon, our pastor offered that most people want to go to heaven but not now. I could raise my hand in agreement. Yes, even though I know heaven is a perfect place with Jesus (shouldn’t He make it worth it for me?), I’m happy to stay down here enduring the hell of carpool lines at two different schools every day.

But why?

Our pastor suggested one reason is that we don’t live our everyday with eternity in mind. We forget that our stay on earth is really a passing through point. We were made for eternity, and we are to live with eternity in mind.

We looked at the Lord’s Prayer:

Our Father, who art in heaven…

(God’s in heaven right now and always has been)

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven…

(My life now should be consumed with doing God’s will here on earth)

For thine is the kingdom, the power, and the glory, now and forever…

(This life is temporary, but God will reign forever)

My life here on earth is sandwiched between eternity, but I have the tendency to live my life as if it’s the main event. Perhaps this point of view contributes to my fear of that wonderful home that’s prepared for me.

The fear of the unknown also contributes to my nervousness about heaven. Everyone has a different opinion on heaven. Some think we’ll spend eternity singing praises with the angels to Jesus. All the time. That sounds nice, but I have to admit, I’ve wondered if that would get boring (I know that’s horrible–I’m just admitting the very human thought that entered my mind).

One pastor told me that he doesn’t think we’ll have any recollection of our relationships from earth because, if we did, we’d notice who wasn’t there in heaven with us. Knowing we had family or friends in hell would make it impossible to live in joy for eternity. I guess that view makes sense, but it leaves me feeling sad and empty.

I want to remember my family and friends. I want to open my arms wide and help welcome my children one day, and I want to feel the sweet embrace of my husband again. Yes, of course I want to see Jesus, but one of the comforts that Christians find in death is knowing that death is not the end. We hope to see our loved ones again. I cling to that hope. When I think of friends who have lost a spouse or a child, I find comfort imagining their sweet reunion one day.

In the second part of the sermon when I wasn’t squirming as much, we watched an interview with Colton Burpo and his father, Todd. Colton was almost four when he got very sick and nearly died. The book Heaven is for Real is his account of entering heaven. Colton’s mother had had a miscarriage earlier but never told her son; however, he told his parents that he met his sister as well as his great-grandfather who had died 30 years before. He described them in astounding detail and counted spending time with them among some of his favorite parts of heaven.

Colton also describe sitting in Jesus’ lap as one of his favorite memories. What an image–sitting on the lap of Jesus. After hearing this little boy’s testimony of a powerful God and loving Jesus and beautiful animals and welcoming family, a wave of peace washed over me. Oh how I wanted this little boy’s account to be true!

And then I realized something. Whether or not every detail of this child’s account is exactly what heaven will look like for me doesn’t matter. What matters is that the God I worship wants me to realize that He has prepared a home with many rooms. He knew what He was doing before. He knows what He’s doing now. And He’ll know what He’s doing for all eternity.

My life wasn’t made for this earth; my life was made for communion with Him, and when I reach heaven someday, I’ll finally feel at home.

So maybe it’s best if I stop trying to figure out how long eternity actually is and how it works. Maybe I should stop trying to figure out what heaven will look like and instead focus on what I do know: God is good. God is love. God is merciful. And He will always be all of these things, even when I’m a nut. So I think I’ll take a deep breath, relax, and trust Him.

Would you raise your hand as one who wants to go to heaven but not now? Has thinking about heaven ever caused you fear? Linking up with Michelle and Jen today!



 

 

New

Sometimes I look at my minivan, the crumb-covered floor, crayon-marked leather, and I think to myself this van is beyond hope. We’d have better luck starting new.

When I clean my bathroom, I instantly notice the mildew stain along the caulking near the floor, that same stain that’s been a part of my showering experience since we first moved into this house. I walk into any room in the house and see closets busting forth with clothes and other junk that I had forgotten existed. And I think it would be so much easier to just move into a new house, start fresh, than to deal with all this junk.

And sometimes, I crave the touch of a newborn curled into my chest. I crave the innocence of a new baby not yet showing the marks of our depraved nature. I remember the days of kids who were too small to sneak cookies or utter words of defiance. I miss new.

But today I said a different prayer. I thought that, perhaps, I don’t need new things or to start over with new babies (God, help me). Instead, I need new eyes. Eyes to see that under van seats with hidden toys and scary surprises is the potential to look brand-new with a little elbow grease (okay, that’s hyperbole. it could look better, though). Eyes to see that some new caulking and lots of deep breaths over many days of cleaning out a little at a time is the potential of a home that is de-cluttered but full of character. And eyes to see into those little souls and know exactly how to touch those sweet spots that crave cookies.

Linking up with The Gypsy Mama for her 5 Minute Friday (or in my case, 8 Minute Friday…I’ve decided that I have a slight disability that doesn’t allow me to think quickly. The time to get ideas from my brain to the keyboard is long, so I’ve allowed myself to bend the rules…but I still didn’t edit).

 

A Fresh Start

We parked the car and immediately unbuckled seat belts in our haste to get inside the church building. Caleb bounded out of the van exclaiming, “I can’t wait to go to school tomorrow!” Matt and I laughed at his enthusiasm, a new kindergartener not yet disgruntled by the institution of school.

That night as I ironed new uniform shirts, I was surprised at the familiar smell of the hot iron meeting the shirt fabric. Seven years ago I stood ironing a navy Polo shirt to wear on the weekends of Officer Training School. After so many weeks, we could earn privileges to go off base, but not without donning that navy Polo with the letters O-T-S spelled below the shoulder.

Seven years ago.

It’s unbelievable how quickly time escapes us, unbelievable that I have a child starting school. It feels like yesterday that I was starting my own adventure, but, instead, Caleb was starting his.

Leading up to this day, I wondered how I would feel. Would I cry, feeling sad because my oldest would no longer spend his days home with me, or would I rejoice, feeling relief that summer was over and a few hours of freedom for me were in sight? Surprisingly, I felt neither. Instead, I felt excitement.

Five a.m. did not come easy for me that morning, or at all, for that matter,  mostly due to the fact that all three kids had managed to worm their way into our bed at some point during the night. I slept later than I should have, so I didn’t get to write my blog that morning as I planned or spend time with the kids over a leisurely breakfast. They had trouble waking up, too.

But the excitement kept me moving forward.

Caleb was starting school. My little boy with a fountain of constant questions pouring from his mouth, holding an innocent curiosity, would start his journey of learning within the walls of the cozy classroom, full of books and bulletin boards and crayons.

That Sunday morning when Caleb bounded out of the car expressing his excitement at starting school, I sat in the cushioned chair at church reading from 2 Chronicles 14. Our church’s word for the year is ‘gumption,’ the character to commit and complete, so we looked at the life of King Asa. King Asa was an Israelite king who started his reign doing what was good in the eyes of the Lord. He turned the nation back to God and away from idols and trusted God for military success when surrounded by enemies.

However, later in his reign he sent Israel’s gold and silver to the king of Aram, requesting a treaty with him, showing he no longer trusted in God to protect Israel. And from that point on, his reign took an unfortunate turn, as he forgot who was the source of his blessing and protection. King Asa lost his gumption–he didn’t complete the plans God had for him.

My pastor asked us to evaluate our own lives and search our hearts for those areas where we have lost our gumption. I thought of a few spiritual disciplines, but the focus of my mind was on my kids. I haven’t lost my gumption–I am committed–but I want to complete and complete well.

God recently reminded me of what I signed on to do when I left my career in the Air Force to take on the career of ‘mom,’ and because of that renewed purpose, I can look to Caleb’s first big step into independence with excitement. I’m not sending him to school to wash my hands of the job–this decision came with a lot of prayer as we weighed homeschool, private, and public school options–but instead to work alongside his teacher as he embarks on this journey.

I look forward to volunteering every week and pouring myself into his education. I can’t wait to take him to a museum when I hear that an exhibit correlates with a unit he is studying. And I’ll gladly wear his school colors when we cheer on the sports teams together.

Perhaps part of this excitement stems from the realization that I have a fresh start as we begin a new phase of life. For many reasons, Caleb’s preschool years were tough for me. When other kids his age may have had a sibling come along and join the mix, Caleb already had two by the time he was three. Because most days for me were about survival, I never really felt like I could sit and treasure that time the way older moms always advised that I should.

But I won’t waste time on regret. I’ll treasure this stage and the next and the next for the different joys that they bring.

That morning when Matt and the girls and I kissed Caleb goodbye, I didn’t leave with tears but a smile. Caleb eagerly entered his classroom and barely looked at us as we walked out the door. But that’s okay. He had looked forward to this moment since he turned five, five months ago.

I can’t believe how quickly five months has flown by…or five years…so I best not get caught looking behind me. We’ve got new sight words to learn.

Caleb, I love you so much, and I’m so excited for you! Because you’re my firstborn, every new experience for you is a new experience for me, too. I’m glad we get to take this journey together. And even though I sent you to school on that first day with a smile, I felt a pang of sadness when I read “Sarah, Plain and Tall” to your sister that afternoon without you. You’re my buddy, and you make me proud.

I started this post three days ago, but I’m still figuring out our new schedule and how to squeeze in time to write. Nevertheless, I’m linking up (albeit late) with Michelle for her “Hear It on Sunday, Use It on Monday.”  What emotions ran through you during your last transition from one stage of life to the next? Did you long for the past, or were you excited for the future?

Beauty

I’m constantly amazed at the work of God’s hands to take the ugly, jagged pieces of our broken lives and make a beautiful mosaic. Where we once saw pain and death, we see a new masterpiece where God has used all those experiences to shape us into something stronger, better.

Over the last few months I’ve witnessed some of these pieces. I saw God’s hands hold the sharp piece holding death, and He painted soft colors through the middle where friends brought comfort. I saw pieces containing disappointment over lost jobs and an end to one phase of life only for God to draw a new picture for the future in its place.

And I saw the small, insignificant pieces become part of the masterpiece, the pieces of messes on the kitchen floor when a little girl wants to feel like a woman. The pieces where banana pudding recipes contain thyme and honey and pepper and are joined to a new piece, one with the opportunity for a mother to help clean up the mess and make something beautiful. I saw the beauty of the new piece, a memory of creating something new and good out of the misguided intentions of an almost four-year-old.

Just the way God does with our messes when He comes alongside to gently clean away the spills and create a work of art in its place.

Joining up with the Gypsy Mama for her ‘5 Minute Friday’ on ‘Beauty.’ In an attempt at full disclosure, today was more like a 10 minute Friday for me due to a brain freeze in the middle of writing, but I did not edit my work per the rules. Where do you find beauty?

 

I Can’t Make This Stuff Up

I tend to put pressure on myself to create memory-worthy opportunities in my family. However, I’m realizing that the planned events might not be those that stick out in my children’s memories but the random that leave an impression. I know the following conversation found an immediate home in the recesses of my mind….

For whatever reason, Hannah Grace and I have our heart-to-heart moments amidst moving shoes and clothes off her floor to their correct homes. Such was the case yesterday when Hannah Grace startled me with her question:

“When you married Daddy, were you a maid?”

“What?”

“When you got married, were you a maid?” she asked, as if this question were any clearer to me the second time.

What are you talking about?” Her question was not making any sense to me, especially since my life after marriage not before more closely mirrors that occupation.

“When you got married…what were you called? The maid?

“Oh. No, Hannah Grace,” I replied, somewhat relieved that she wasn’t conveying how she viewed me. “I was the bride.”

“Oh. And did the bride ride the broom?”

“What?!”

Now I was completely horrified. My four-year-old had managed to imply that I was akin to the Wicked Witch of the West and use a sexual euphemism in the same sentence.

image courtesy of photobucket.com

“What was Daddy called?”

“The groom. Yes, I married the groom.”

She giggled a little and continued.

“Oh. Why do they call the princes that funny name?”

“I don’t know, Hannah Grace, I don’t know.”

But I did know, as I ushered her out of the room, that one day she would have her fairy tale wedding, complete with princes and wicked witches and maids. Either that, or her gaffes would pave the way for an interesting career in politics.


So Nothing Is Wasted

Wednesday night I pulled clean sheets out of the dryer only to put them back in the wash on Thursday morning, two out of my three kids having wet their beds sometime during the night. And as I sat on the floor in Chloe’s room, unrolling the t-shirts she had made into ‘hot dogs’ (I have no idea, but it’s one of Hannah Grace’s and her favorite pastimes) I acknowledged how much of each day is spent redoing tasks I had just completed. Many days I have complained to Matt that I feel like my efforts are for nothing, wasted since it is inevitable that the day I mop, one of the kids will immediately spill a glass of milk, smush a strawberry, or pee all over the kitchen floor (we have issues with pee in this family). And often, I have looked to the day when I can engage in more meaningful activities.

But as I sat on the floor turning hot dogs into t-shirts again on this particular morning, I did so without the normal level of frustration that I’m apt to feel. Instead, I recognized a thought not original to me: Cleaning up hotdogs and pee is my ministry.

I’m not sure anyone has ever written that thought precisely as I just wrote it, but I’ve encountered the sentiment many times. How I handle all the gross and mundane tasks, the chores that I do and then redo, is not wasted effort. Raising my children, complete with the tasks that accompany this role, is my meaningful activity.

I get frustrated when the activities director at the nursing home says I can volunteer, but my children are too young; I long for the day when I can travel with my church group to Mozambique to help build wells; and I sigh deeply when the baby who wouldn’t go to sleep last night wakes up early when I’m trying to write. But I have forgotten one important fact: Volunteering, building wells, and my blog are not my job.

But they are.

God gave me my passion to serve and to write, so I’m not dismissing my desires. When I can, I should pursue these passions, but I should not allow myself to fall into the trap of thinking that building wells is a more important job than washing wet sheets. I have to admit that even as I write those words they sit a bit funny. For too long I’ve allowed myself to gloss over the positive impact I can make on my children, that just as clean water brings life to a community my efforts at home bring life to my family.

When I make my children clean up the spilled milk on the newly mopped floor, they learn responsibility and the importance of caring for those possessions with which we have been blessed. When my children see me make a meal for a neighbor, they witness compassion and will hopefully embody a spirit who looks outside themselves to the needs of others. And when I fail them and don’t demonstrate love as I should, they understand that even family will disappoint, but there is One who will never fail.

The challenge for me is to recognize my every day as a chance to make a difference, not just those days that I have deemed more important. This challenge remains for everyone. Whether stuck in a crappy job or lamenting the one we recently lost, we each have a purpose. We can look to ‘better’ days when we fulfill all our dreams and desires, or we can embrace the life in front of us now.

I plan to do a better job of embracing my children and all the crap that I have to do over and over. Because, truly, my actions will speak louder than my words. One day my children will look back, and I hope they remember a mother who found honor and privilege in her ministry as their mother. And when they look back at their times of making hot dogs and peeing on the floor, I hope they remember how weird they truly were and what a saint I was for dealing with them.

The ‘What If’ Game

 

image via photobucket.com

 

I’ve decided God wants to keep me humble, as I’ve seen the limelight shine in other directions. Normally, I’m okay with others having their moments of glory instead of me because I wasn’t doing my task  for recognition in the first place, but one time was the exception. For ten years I had trained as a gymnast and sacrificed a ‘normal’ childhood. When other kids went out to play or spent their teenage years on the phone, I was spending my time at the gym. So I had a hard time fighting back tears when the announcer skipped over my name. When the six other girls from Region 8 competing at Nationals stepped forward after hearing their names and raised their arms in a salute, I stood back awkwardly, not sure what I should do.

Perhaps this moment set the tone for the competition. Even though I was overlooked, I was determined to have one outstanding meet. Our team started on floor, and I gave a solid performance. The rest of the team looked good, and we established early that Region 8 was here to win. We then moved to the vault. I had two chances to perform my handspring front, and I landed each successfully with a small step.

By this point in the competition, I was having fun. I cheered for girls on my team whom I normally competed against, and those few hours as teammates formed a bond and, in same cases, a friendship that would continue after the floor music and flashing scores had stopped.

As we moved to the bars, my excitement moved to a nervous energy. Bars had always been my worst event, but this particular season I showed consistency that had been lacking previously. I wanted to keep that consistency going, help my team with a high score and my own chances for a personal best all-around score.

And as I gripped those bars, muscle memory took over. I swung with grace and ease from one skill to the next. I felt my legs squeeze tightly together during my release move–I kept perfect form–and when I let go of the bar one final time to dismount, I landed without a movement. I was rewarded with a 9.625, the highest score on my team and enough to put me in the finals for the uneven bars.

But the meet was not over. Region 8 still needed to compete on the balance beam, and everyone in the auditorium knew it. As gymnasts from the other teams finished their final event, they found their way over to the balance beam area to send their wishes of wobbles and falls our way. I didn’t notice them, however. I was too busy staring at the judges, wondering why they still hadn’t signaled for me to begin my routine.

I was up first in my group, and I stood nervously awaiting to complete my last event. But the judges weren’t ready. Other teams were finishing their events, but the group of judges were conversing over a score inquiry from the last team on beam. I had waited so long to begin my routine that my coach finally came up to me and whispered in my ear to go ahead and sit down. And it was at that moment, as I had begun to go to my seat, that the judge raised her arm, letting me know it was time to begin my routine.

I don’t dwell on this event or hold regret, but I have often wondered what if I had taken a couple seconds to regain my composure and focus before returning my salute to the judge. If I had taken that time instead of immediately acknowledging the judge who had kept us all waiting, would I have stuck my routine?

From the first move of my beam series, I knew I was off. I threw my back-handspring to the right, and I couldn’t pull the rest of the series over to avoid the fall. And with that fall fell all the energy and excitement we had carried with us through the other three events. The girl after me fell. Others as well. And we and the crowd knew the moment in the limelight was no longer ours.

After my routine, my coach came over to let me know that before beam I was second in the nation all-around. I remember thinking if he had told me that before my routine, would it have made a difference? If I had known how close I was to standing atop that podium, would I have nailed beam as well? And if I hit my beam routine and kept going the positive momentum, would the other girls have followed suit?

Of course, there’s no way to know and no reason to dwell on the event. But every so often my mind’s eye replays that fall on the beam, and I cringe. And every so often, I recall the announcer skipping over my name at the beginning of the meet, and I realize it just wasn’t my time to shine in the limelight.

I actually started this post last week for Mama Kat’s Writer’s Workshop and decided I needed to finish it. I’m glad to be back today after a few days away to Dollywood and a couple days after that recouping! I look forward to catching up on all your blogs and comments. I’d love to read below if you have a sports/performance memory that occasionally replays in your mind? Do you ever get caught up in the ‘what if’ game?