Sunday, March 16, 2014

And now....for the rest of the story....

I posted on Facebook last week that Ann-Marie made States at her last qualifying meet of the season in a dramatic fashion.  However, I have not shared the details with many people.  I have been told others have been sharing Ann-Marie's story, but we needed to have a week to distance ourselves from the excitement and stress of last weekend.  Ann-Marie has agreed for me to share this story on our blog, not only to capture the experience, but also to encourage other gymnasts and their families and to glorify God in how He worked through this situation.  So, here is the rest of the story.....

Here are the facts to set up the story:
  • New level = New Skills
  • 7 gymnasts & 8 meets in the season
  • Qualifying All-Around Score to make State = 34
  • Broken down: Gymnast needs an average of 8.5 on each apparatus (floor, vault, bars, & beam) to qualify
  • Gymnast only needs to meet the qualifying score at ONE meet
Rewind to the second to last gymnastics meet of the season - only 3 of the 7 gymnasts had met the qualifying score for States.  Ann-Marie had not yet met the score, although she had come close at a couple of meets.  Her goal going into this meet was to score a 9.0, not necessarily meeting the qualifying score for State.  At this meet, however, ALL of the other gymnasts met the qualifying score EXCEPT Ann-Marie.

There was exactly one week between this meet and the final meet of the season.

Now that Ann-Marie was the only one that hadn't made the qualifying score, it was suddenly a BIG DEAL to her.  

  • 7 Days
  • 1 more chance
  • 6 Teammates whispering in her ear - you're going to make States, you're going to make States!
We could see at home that Ann-Marie was becoming quieter - which meant the stress was building.  We tried to be loving and encouraging, not talking about the upcoming weekend except for the hotel stay, the water park, and the fun.  It was not working.

The weekend arrived.  Off we went to Ohio a day early to enjoy time with Ann-Marie's Grandpa and Amma who drove in from Iowa to see the gymnastics meet and to enjoy time at the waterpark that we were staying at.  Saturday was a fun day and Ann-Marie enjoyed time with friends and family.

But then....Sunday arrived.  Competition Day.  That morning, Ann-Marie and I relaxed in the hotel room, listening to worship music and talking about her life verse:
    Proverbs 3:5-6
    Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
I prayed through the different scenarios - how was this going to play out?  How could I be an encouraging and loving parent to Ann-Marie if she didn't make States?  If she was the only one who wouldn't go this year?  How would we celebrate in a way that was pleasing to God if she did make it?  
The scenario that played out was NOT one that anyone had imagined.

Competition time.  Ann-Marie's team lined up to start their rotation on the floor.  The floor - oh, good - her strongest scoring apparatus this year.  We were encouraged.  Ann-Marie was third to compete.  

First girl competes, strong score......second girl competes, strong it's Ann-Marie's turn.  Ann-Marie stands up, grabs her stomach and turns to her coach.  The coach gets her water.....they talk.....seconds tick away.....the coach writes something on a piece of paper and hands it to the judges....Ann-Marie is moved to the end of the line....another girl competes, then another, and another until Ann-Marie is the last one left to compete on her team.  The other coach walks across the gym and waves me down from the stands....

Coach - "She says her stomach hurts and she is nauseous."
Me - "Please, she needs to TRY!  Tell her to TRY!"

The coach goes back to the floor, but by this time the other coach and Ann-Marie had decided she would scratch.  Ann-Marie turns to the judges and salutes.....and earns a 0 on floor.

ME:  She didn't even give herself a chance.

Whispers through the crowd....what happened with Ann-Marie?  Parents coming up to us asking.  Darrell and I trying to say very little, but dealing with very mixed emotions.  Disappointment - why didn't she even try?  Sadness - that she was under so much stress that it impacted her physically.  Confusion.

The meet must go on.  Ann-Marie's team heads to vault.  Will she compete on the rest of the apparatus?  We get our answer soon enough - yes, she competed on vault.....and earns one of her highest scores of the season.  Then to bars, she earns her personal best on bars.  Then to beam.....

Darrell and I are thinking in the stands that if she wouldn't have scratched floor.....she is well on her way to achieving the score she needed to qualify for States....with one of her stronger apparatus - beam.

By this time, in true kid fashion, Ann-Marie had shaken off her nerves and was having a good time competing.  As she was warming up on beam, we see her coach go up to her, hug her, and then Ann-Marie looks into the crowd and gives us two thumbs up.

What is going on?????

The coach comes to the stands and tells me that the meet director has approved Ann-Marie to have a 2nd chance on floor.  A 2nd chance!!!

Ann-Marie completes her beam routine - another personal best score for the season.  Darrell does a quick computation of her scores and informs me that Ann-Marie will need an 8.625 on floor to make the qualifying score for States.

That was information I DID NOT want to know at that point in my life!

And now, Ann-Marie must wait to compete LAST on the floor.  I don't know how much time she spent warming up or was like living in a very slow-moving movie.  I kept thinking, this is surely not happening.

Now, finally, it is Ann-Marie's turn on the floor.  All the other gymnasts were finished. All eyes in the gym were on Ann-Marie. Most of the crowd knew her story.  What would make this 2nd chance any less stressful than her first chance?  

Cue music.  Watching my little girl get her second chance will be one of my favorite memories of her.  She was beautiful.  She pulled out her best.  Routine finished - and she received a standing ovation from the audience.  Now with bated breath, the audience silently watched the digital board - waiting for Ann-Marie's score.....

9.0!  Cheers, tears, hugs all around - she did it!  Relief flooded my body.

It's a great story.  It is Ann-Marie's story.  However, it isn't much different than a story that is playing out every day in my life and in yours.  I have been thinking and praying about what happened just last weekend and how we received a real-life example of the love of Jesus Christ in our lives.  Easter is coming.  What does that mean to you?  It can mean a 2nd chance.  Jesus Christ lived, was crucified, and was resurrected from the dead to give you and me a 2nd chance.  I have blown a lot of 1st chances - poor choices litter my past.  But I don't want to be known for my 1st chance....I want to be known for how I used my 2nd chances.  Ann-Marie won't necessarily be remembered for her first chance - it is how she used her 2nd chance that people will remember.  So as we are in Lent and head toward Easter - you have been given your 2nd chance - how will you use it?

John 11:25-26

New International Version (NIV)
25 Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die;26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?”

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Ann-Marie's gymnastics season update

Today Ann-Marie had a meet in Greensburg, PA called March Madness.  She has one more meet in Sandusky, Ohio, and then this year's season will be over.  It has been a growing season - a big jump in skills for Ann-Marie.  She has had some moments to celebrate, but more moments to show her character and her attitude.....and in that aspect, she has been shining!  She has shown that she is not afraid to fall, get back up, and continue.  She is not afraid of facing a lower score or standing, and get back into the gym and work.  She continues to try to improve her skills, while keeping one eye into the future, thinking about the next skill she would like to work on.  Darrell and I are very, very proud of her, even though she has not been the gymnast bringing home the top medals.  So, today, even though she did not reach the desired score to get her to states once again, she absolutely showed spunk on the floor, achieving a 2nd place medal!  And she brought her vault score up significantly.

We couldn't be prouder!  Shine for the Lord, our strong Ann-Marie!

Evan's 13th birthday in pictures

Evan's 13th birthday, spread out over two weeks, included:  a cookie cake, basketball cupcakes, an ice cream cake, hanging out with his best friend, breakfast of pancakes (Shullenbarger style - brown sugar & maple syrup), lunch of sausage sandwiches, dinner of spaghetti with shrimp, and a sleepover with four of his closest friends a week later!