what I'll miss

Year one coaching reflection: HERE
Year four coaching reflection: HERE
Year five coaching reflection: HERE

Softball season has ended for me. It ended on a beautiful Saturday with a really tough loss in a District Championship game. With a third baby on the way, I knew this would be my last year coaching, and at a practice towards the end of the season I looked around and started to tear up. I told our other assistant coach, who I got to play softball with for a year in high school, "I just wish they could understand how much they will miss all of this."

To be a part of a small-town athletic team is to experience something that you'll never again be able to duplicate in your life. Playing college ball is different-- it's a different level and there is some intangible messiness and personability that is missing. Even putting together a team of friends later in life and playing in some good ole slow-pitch tournament doesn't revive it-- the essence of the team is missing. Only for that small window of time is something so special able to be created and experienced.

What is that something special? Last year I described it as "the magic." That delirious bliss that happens when your team wins; that you get to be a part of that is some sort of magic. That magic underlies an entire season-- always bubbling just beneath the surface, ready to burst out in one victorious at bat or double play. And as I said last year, there were times that we had to claw through a lot of dirt to find it, but there were times it still surprised us with its presence. And at those times, while I sat on my bucket in the dugout or stood on the first base line, I had to swallow a lump in my throat because that magic? It is strong.

But there is something beyond that magic. There is something beyond hard-work, and winning and losing. Because you will work hard at other things in your life. You will win and lose plenty of things, plenty of times. And then I thought of my last game. It was a cold, windy October day and we lost by one run. I remember numbly shaking the other teams' hands, wanting so badly to be in their shoes. But what I remember most? I remember heading to deep left field and falling into my teammates' embraces as we cried. I remember looking in their faces, streaked and red, and knowing they felt the same loss as deeply as I was feeling it. I knew they did, because I knew them. And they knew me. And we had traveled the same road, endured the same practices, shared the same highs, carried each other in the same lows. During games and in the dugout, I knew who needed a joke and when, and I knew who needed space and when. I knew their favorite songs and their struggles at home or with friends. I knew all of this not because I had a ton in common with all of them, but rather because they were my teammates. They were my teammates in a way that no one else in my life would ever be. That is what I remember about my last loss as a softball player: I didn't know it then, but I was mourning losing my team.

I'm the one in the visor making the duck face

There was a day at practice this season, after a particularly rough game, when I was running the usual core workout. The seven girls in the group were down on the ground, ready to do planks. "Up!" I said as I started the time. One girl wasn't quite ready, or was tying her shoe or something, and missed the cue. She started about 20 seconds later than everyone else. As time was nearing the end, I told her she needed to stay up for 20 more seconds to get her full plank in. "Time," I let everyone else know. Everyone dropped except the girl who had been late… everyone except her and one other teammate, a senior, who didn't flinch but kept right on planking with her. A few others caught on and before I knew it the entire circle of girls were back on their elbows to finish with their teammate. They didn't know, because I tried to play cool, but that small act made me get teary-eyed.

And why was I choking up on a normal day of practice while running my girls through their planks and mountain climbers? It's because last year I was a little bit wrong. Sure, the magic of winning with your teammates is strong, but the real magic? The real magic, the strong stuff that endures through decades, is the stuff that happened that day at practice. It is a teammate staying up in a plank after her coach has called "time" so that her teammate has someone to go along with her.

Most people don't have the opportunity to get to come back to something they loved so much as a high schooler. So as I was reflecting on the end of this season, and the end of coaching for me, I thought about what I would miss. I will miss the actual coaching and teaching parts-- getting to work with a girl on how to properly field a ball or lay down a sacrifice bunt and then see her do it correctly in a game. I will miss the rivalries with other schools. I will miss the bus rides [oh. wait. No, I won't miss those]. I will miss the feeling after a hard fought win. I'll miss having an excuse to chew that many sunflower seeds. I'll miss being outside, working on drills. I'll miss the thrill of getting to see a player of mine make a particularly spectacular catch or waving my arm to send them on to second after a big hit. I'll miss pre-game jitters and lining up for the Star Spangled Banner, anticipation lingering. I'll miss the crowds and the community support. I'll miss getting in free to games, let's be honest. I'll miss my daughters knowing the girls on the team so well. I'll miss the senior cookout and the team movie night. I'll miss thinking strategically about the game of softball.

But when next August rolls around and I don't get to step out on that diamond, I know, without a doubt, what I will miss the most: I will miss being a part of a team. I will miss being a part of something bigger than just me. I will miss inside jokes and sarcasm and high fives. I will miss sharing highs and lows. I will miss the camaraderie of my fellow coaches.  I will miss that real magic.

As the final out was made at our last game this season, and as I once again made it to the outfield to embrace my team with teary eyes, I took a moment to forget the game. I took a moment to forget the agony of defeat and the could have beens and should have beens and what ifs of every inning. I looked around into faces stained with tears. And I realized the beauty of being a part of that circle.

 Sure, I remember every end-of-season loss I've ever been a part of, but as the years roll by the result of the games fade, and in its place I see that jersey I got to wear. I see the team name on the front. I see the faces that wore that same jersey with me. And I think about the real magic of each girl with whom I got to share those seasons.

To the girls in the early 2000's who buttoned up those thick white jerseys with me: thank you for playing with me and for me and letting me play with you and for you.

To Coach Blythe, who made me run drills and then let me run drills with him: thank you for always being for and about the team, and for teaching me that picking someone up and encouraging them after a huge error is more important than what that error cost us in the game.

To the girls I've gotten to coach, who stole my fudge rounds and put holes in my shoes: thank you for letting me be a part of a team again.

The highest highs and the lowest lows of wins and losses will eventually get drowned out by the roaring memories of being a part of a team. It's something you don't get to duplicate again, but it's something you'll be forever grateful to have been a part of.

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August 3rd

*My mom, sister, and aunt always tell me that I need to put warnings on posts like this so they don't read them at work or in a public space. Since I sobbed while writing it, consider yourself warned. 

Monday, August 3rd, I thought a pregnancy test may reveal the results I was hoping for. Monday, August 3rd, I woke up preparing to bury Grandma Pat. Here is what I sat down and wrote to our third child at the end of that emotional and beautiful day:

August 3, 2015

Today we said goodbye to your dear Great Grandma Pat. Today we grieved her passing as we buried her, and rejoiced in the hope we have in a faithful God and the promise of heaven; we rejoiced in her unwavering faith in Christ. Today I found out that you would be joining our family in April of 2016. One life ends, another begins. The beauty of this is not lost on me. Our heavenly Father brought us joy in this day as those two pink lines appeared, and we could only marvel at His timing. I had only told one person in our family that we were trying again-- she was the best secret keeper-- and it seemed fitting that as I plucked a yellow rose from her casket I could whisper one last secret about your presence. 

When I let Grandma Pat know that your dad and I had decided to be open to the possibility of another child, she simply and with her whole heart said, “Oh, I think that will be good.” And I do too. My heart is sad you won’t know this woman, and you’ll be the first great grandchild that she will not know in return. But let this be your first lesson in life: The Lord gives and takes away; Blessed be the name of the Lord. I would love to see her hold you, read to you, teach you dominoes, and give you crackers and coffee. But more importantly I would love to see you learn to love the God that Nini Pat loved. 

In my first breath when I saw that line appear, I said, “Thank you, Jesus.” You are already prayed for, and it is God knitting you together in my womb. That miracle should astound you. And someday if you or your wife are lucky enough to experience this, I know that you will feel first hand the complete awe of this time. And the gratitude. Oh how deeply grateful we are. 

I wanted to document this day for you: this day of great sorrow and great joy. Because this is life with the Lord. And these two deep emotions can sit side by side when you find your all in all in Him. Your heart can break and heal at a moment’s notice. There is an old hymn that says, “When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, when sorrows like sea billows roll; whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, ‘It is well, it is well with my soul.’” And so today, as we hold death and life in our hands, we can say of both, “It is well with my soul.” 

I am so excited for our journey together. I love you already. 

Most of the family the day of Grandma's funeral…the day we found out number three would join us. Her legacy only continues in these wonderful people. 
[Side note: August 3rd was also the first day of softball practice and the first day of my new job at the church. It was A DAY, let me tell you]. 

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Here is the deal-- I haven't blogged in roughly 3 months. And I have missed it. I have missed writing. I have missed connecting in this way with those of you who read this.

And now softball is over [I hope to write a wrap up of that this week sometime].

I am still in the midst of my new job at the church [my title is "director of engagement and prayer" and I work ten-ish hours a week, which is a lot more than it sounds like when you're already a full time stay at home mom :)].

But I figure you all deserve some grand, exciting post for my first one in so long. So here it goes.

Deep breaths.

Well, actually, let me just put these pictures here first:

oh this one makes me laugh

Is that grand and exciting enough for you? Because it is for me!

…and if you didn't look closely enough here is a hint: read Becks' shirt…

And if that still isn't obvious enough for you…. 

That right there ^^^ is our THIRD baby that is due in April. And please tell me that he/she and this announcement gets me off the hook for not having time/energy/motivation to write on here for awhile!? Yes? Okay. Thank you.  :)

Here is the long story short:
Last Spring Brent and I were doing a lot of talking and praying and thinking and talking about our family. When I was pregnant with Becks, I said, "If this is a girl, I'm totally okay with stopping at two," because I just wanted Blythe to have a sister. Becks was a girl. Done. Family complete in my eyes.


There was always a little, tiny sense that, for us, that may not be true. Or best. Would two be easier for us? Probably. Would two be best for us? We started praying. Here is the deal: the idea of three children terrifies me a bit, to be honest. THREE?! That's like an entirely new level of insanity [trust me, I've visited my sister ;) just kidding. just kidding. But really]. Was I ready for that? Was I capable of that? And the answer I came up with was: NO. I'm not ready. I'm not capable. I'm not strong enough.

And that is exactly why we decided we should have three children. 

Because God is ready. He is capable. And He is so strong. And by having another child we would enter an entirely new level of dependency on Him. Our family will have to link securely with His strength and faithfulness and peace and forgiveness, and with His unending love as we welcome this new baby and figure out life as FIVE. And while there are still so many unknowns and it still is a little crazy to think about, I hear Him saying, "When you are weak, I am strong."

Remember when Jesus reached out to the storm and simply said, "Peace. Be still" ? He is saying that to my soul right now.

And on top of all of that goodness, we get to have another little person in our family! A new personality to learn and love. A new heart to pour into and discipline and tell about Jesus. And that is always something to celebrate.

When we first got pregnant with Blythe I was overwhelmed by the miracle of life. And now that we are pregnant with our third, I am even more overwhelmed with life. We do not take this miracle lightly, nor do we fully understand why we are in this place and others are continuing to wait month after month for a chance to start a family or grow their family. We just know that God is on the throne, and we will receive this child with such fullness of gratitude.

So here we go. We're so thankful to have such a wonderful support of friends and family, and we are so excited to share this little life with all of you.

Be sure to come back tomorrow to read the note I wrote this child the day we found out about his/her existence. 

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