If you missed my previous post, catch it HERE before you read this one!
It was her last event and by far her biggest challenge. How ironic that with all of the hurdles during this gymnastics season, it was about to come down to a vault. She would need to run, block, and land well…symbolically overcoming a mountain of struggles through a difficult year.
And then she ran. The same run that floods my eyes with tears. A run that constantly reminds me of God’s promises.
She flew over that horse with determination and power. And I erupted in cheers…not because I know if she did well (because I can’t tell a good vault from a poor one), but I cheered because she is fearless. Brave. A conqueror. A fighter. Everything I hope for her to be.
The wait for her score feels like an eternity, but I decide in that moment to watch her face instead of the scoreboard. At this point, the score is only a number, but her face, that face…
This year had started off so well. She had won the State Championship as a Level 3 and was ready to take on the world. But the next ten months would prove to be a journey with life changing lessons marking it’s path. She had joined a special group with a strategy change of focusing on strength instead of Level 4 routines. It seemed like a good call at the time, but we began to see that her personality type was not the right fit for her new circumstance. While some girls were thriving, we watched as day after day of strength training pushed and shaped her into uncomfortable molds for who she was created to be. She deeply missed the performance training and missed the repetition of her normal systems. She never gave up, but her verbage began to change drastically…”I can do this” became “This isn’t something I’m good at”. Her confidence began to falter.
Haven’t we all been there? So sure we are a round peg in a square hole, but change is often scarier than just showing up day after day. Maybe it will get better? Maybe I just need to make it work? What would life be like without these friends? Without this familiar ground? What is on the other side of the familiar?
As she wrestled with whether to change course or keep trying, she took another blow with an injury at her first meet in January. Both of her wrists were damaged, which equated to extreme pain. For the next eight weeks she agonizingly limped through competitions, all the while sliding even further backward in strength training. Her scores often reflected her struggle and finally the day came when she looked at me and said, “I don’t think I’m on the right team.”
It was in that moment of desperation that the balance changed. The fear of what was on the horizon became less than the fear of continuing on with the current course.
So, with tears in our eyes and trepidation in our hearts, Kennedy jumped in with another team in our gym and began the journey to salvage the end of the season.
Being placed in a team that was seemly crafted to her personality, she began to fight again. I watched her determined spirit arise from discouragement and with it came confidence. By the time Sectionals hit she had enough skills under her belt to feel better about her two nemesis’: bars and vault. Her scores were still low for her, but her presence had changed. She made it to State and used every moment of the next two weeks to sharpen and learn.
At State, I chuckled to myself to see that we were starting on bars. Of course. When I told Kennedy that, she quoted a video she had watched, “I may have lost some battles, but I will not lose the war.” No, no you won’t, sweet girl.
The best bar score she had managed to pull out was at Sectionals with an 8.6. When the score popped up at a 9.125, I fell off the bleachers.
She wasn’t going down easy.
Beam and floor were next and she got two more good scores. Vault would be her big finale and with a personal best during the year of an 8.45, I knew it was still a long shot to end with four strong events.
And now there I was. A long year behind us, looking at her face, not caring one bit what the scoreboard said. She stood there in her little pink leotard…fearless. Brave. A conqueror. A fighter. Everything I hope for her to be.
And then came the smile. Wide and contagious. I turned my head. 9.175.
Tears caught up in my throat and my hands cupped my face. She did it. She ended well. Full of determination, confidence, and security in her strengths.
I cried that day because the war was never gymnastics…the war was fear and insecurity. Fear of embracing the best path for herself. Fear of disappointing other people. Fear of failure.
And as always, our children teach us the most profound lessons: It is true that our confidence can be lost in the midst of life, but it can also be found.
Kennedy walked away that day with a 6th place medal, a 36.7 All Around score, but most importantly, she walked away saying, “I wish we had gym on Monday. I am ready to learn something new!”
Rest, sweet girl. God has new journeys for you just around the corner.
Today would you take a moment and vow to change what is shrinking you? Rise up! Dust off the “old you” and be everything God created you to be. Recapture your spirit, your determination, your passion! Shrug off your circumstance, your hindrances and the “what ifs”. You’ve got this! You’ve really, really got this.