Sunday at 7:30 am won’t find any of us in bed. Generally, I treasure Sunday mornings for their leisure. Bird will probably wake up 6 am this Sunday. We are off to a gymnastics meet. If you’ve followed for long, you know how much Bird has dreamed about this day.
I’ve struggled since the beginning of last summer with gymnastics. Clearly my oldest is smitten, bitten by the uninvited bug of gymnastic passion. The sport is pricey and dangerous. But what sport, done intensively, doesn’t have a long list of risks? If her ambition was modeling, I would worry and fret about that. I can’t stomach the fees or letting gymnastics destroy two or three family dinners a week, not yet. I can’t let a sport take my girl away at such a young age. Yet, anyone who studies any sport or art to the point of recognizable success gives many things up, how do you choose when? I still don’t know, but for now, God changed the course I thought we were on, at least temporarily.
I watched Bird all fall and ached. Her flipping, balancing, upside-down passion didn’t wane. There were many nights of tears. Bird wondered why God wouldn’t let her compete–she had Olympic dreams. She knew He could change her parents hearts and provide the money. She knew multiple girls whose parents let them compete. Every night, since this summer, Bird ended prayer time with a request that God would let her compete. I listened and winced –doubting there was any competition in her future. Sometimes in my daydreams I would get a job so she could compete, or money would come from somewhere and I could hand her, her dream. But even if the money came, I wasn’t convinced that so much time away from us (6-12 hours a week) was healthy.
And then there were stories I’d stumble upon in magazines, about girls who quit gymnastics only to worry about the lack of time working out and turn to eating disorders as an answer. I never found answers to my questions, but I found contentment, because regardless of the other issues, the money wasn’t there. By December, I think both Bird and I had peace. God was in control. Even if she never competed, this passion and skill had a purpose we couldn’t see.
In March, I stopped the coach to let him know Bird loved his class. He’s a good teacher and I wanted to encourage him. He’s thoughtful too, passing down his daughter’s used grips (for bar) so we wouldn’t need to buy new ones. Coach responded with, “Maybe Bird would like to do a fun meet?” Fun meets are what kids do in the early stages of competition. They perform routines, get judged but there isn’t a state-wide ranking and coaches can be right next to them, helping them stay calm and remember the moves. Generally only kids enrolled in the pre-team competitive programs participated.
Bird heard Coach and started springing up and down while her eyes welled up with happy tears. Hesitant and uncertain, I asked questions. He thought she could learn the routines during her regular training hours. Perhaps she could participate in one meet without much extra cost to us. Almost crying myself, I said thank you and that we would check with my husband.
To my surprise, husband gave a green light. Was it wise to let her compete in one meet? Would it just make her more upset in the long haul? The momentum was too strong now, Hadley believed God had answered her prayers. There was no turning back.
Weeks went by. Hadley learned no routines, but she was planning on this meet. Questions were flying through my mind. I finally stopped Coach, asking him about his plans and timidly expressed my hope that this meet wouldn’t be an emotional disaster. He explained the unanticipated difficulty of finding time to instruct Bird one on one with nine other girls in the class. But his plan far exceeded any of my imagined solutions. Bird has now received over five hours of free one-on-one or one on two private instruction time.
I feel indebted to the two coaches who have helped her. I don’t really understand why we are receiving so much generosity. Sometimes I go to dark places wondering about alterior motives, but then I remember a big God who heard a little girl and a big God who heard a mother plead with him to make her daughter’s faith real, and I know this is one step on the journey. And in truth, I am in no way obligated to this gym, though I do sing their praises regularly.
So think of us Sunday. Pray for us. I will be sitting in the audience, tensing my back and forgetting to breath when the hardest parts of a routine happen. This faith wave leaves me unable to plan or anticipate, grateful to know a God who can provide glorious riches beyond what we can imagine.