I sit here typing this post in a state of disbelief mixed with a lot of heartache. If you’ve ever felt like the rug of some sort has been pulled out from under you, you may be able to relate somewhat to what I’m feeling right at this moment. It’s funny, because just yesterday I thought, “If today goes well, I’ll celebrate, and if not, I’ll blog about it.” I literally chuckled after that went through my mind, I guess because I felt deep down in my spirit that there’s no way I’d be blogging today. And yet, here I am. Boy, oh boy.
This past week Ivey went through a grueling cheer clinic in preparation for high school cheerleading tryouts held yesterday. I don’t use the word “grueling” lightly, either. These tryouts and the athleticism necessary to go through them compare to those on a college level. Last week I googled UGA’s cheerleading tryout requirements, and they are virtually the same as Vestavia High’s. The tumbling, jumps, and stunting requirements are so advanced that it almost makes me wonder how any girl under the age of 18 could possibly do it. But sure enough, some can, and can do it well. The girls that try out for cheerleading in this town are prepared. Even when Ivey was in the 4th grade, I knew I’d have to get her started in a regular tumbling class soon if she wanted to be a high school cheerleader. I had her taking lessons beginning in the 6th grade, and by the summer, she was doing round-off back handsprings with little effort. It was obvious to me that she was a natural at tumbling, and her passion for it was (and is) evident. That same summer, she tried out for the very first time to be on a competition squad at ACE Cheer Company here in Birmingham, and was placed on a level 3 senior team that won or placed in cheerleading competitions all over the south. In her words, she “was born to cheer,” and to watch her, you might think so, too.
Ivey was preparing this past week to try out for the freshman squad at VHHS. I had heard through the parental grapevine that the competition was the toughest it had ever been for her grade level, and that nobody was a shoo-in. I had also heard from literally EVERYONE I talked to, that Ivey would likely make it since she was such a good tumbler, and at VHHS, cheerleading is all about the tumbling. I took comfort in that, as did she, but I also strongly encouraged her to nail her dance and cheers regardless. From what I understand, she did. Ivey went into her tryouts feeling nervous but confident. Her last words to me before getting out of the car were, “I think I’m gonna do pretty good, Mom.” She hit her stunt, nailed her tumbling beautifully, opted for the double-toe tuck (two toe touches into a back tuck), and worked that dance like it was her job. Everyone that saw her told me she had a perfect tryout and had nothing to worry about, and I believed them. She texted me as soon as she was finished saying that she thought she did great and was so relieved. It was just a matter of a couple of hours before we knew if her efforts were enough.
After reading the list of names and discovering that hers wasn’t one of them, Ivey immediately began saying, “This isn’t right. This can’t be right. This is a mistake…” It wasn’t long before those words turned into near full hysteria and tears. As we made the long drive home, I made my best attempt to comfort and reassure her, but to little avail. I held her hand, told her she would be okay, and that life would go on, and so many other things. Later that night, I went up to her room, laid in her bed with her, and held her as we both cried. She said, “Mom, you can’t cry.” I said, “Well, too late. This breaks my heart too, you know. I can be all sunshiny and tell you it’s going to be okay, and it will be. But I’m not going to pretend that I’m not upset. My heart is broken for you.” It still is. It may be for a while. My eyes are stinging with tears and my stomach is tied in knots even as I type this.
Ivey and I both have had endless texts, calls, and visits from friends today offering their support and encouragement, expressed with their own disbelief and shock. It’s been so helpful and appreciated. I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard, “This is crazy, Missi. I don’t understand what happened. This makes no sense.” And it doesn’t. It really doesn’t. It’s frustrating as a parent to hear the words, “Perfect Tryout” combined with the heartache of not making the squad. What can she do differently? What didn’t she do correctly? How can she improve? We don’t know. If someone could tell me just one thing she needed to work on, all of this would be so much easier to accept. Instead, it feels like someone snuck around the corner with a frying pan and clobbered me in the face…like something you’d see in a Tom & Jerry cartoon. Seriously.
I prayed with Ivey before she tried out and asked God only that His will would be done. If it meant she wouldn’t make the squad, I asked for peace and comfort, and faith that we would trust Him and His plan for her life. Even with a broken heart, I sit here knowing that He is in control of our lives and has a beautiful plan for all of us. I don’t understand what happened yesterday, and it’s possible I never will, but I do know that God loves Ivey more than I do and wants way more for her than I could dare to dream. I know there are countless lessons to be learned from this painful experience, and I sincerely hope to learn them. Whatever wisdom and growth she and I both can gain as a result of this past week is worth the pain and loss we’ve had (and will continue) to endure. Jesus tells us in John 16 that we will have trouble and sorrow in this world, and boy, do we ever! I know some of you reading this have experienced losses and pain way deeper than those related to cheerleading. I’m sure my future holds more trials and heartache more difficult that what I feel today. But whatever lies ahead of me, I pray that I cling to the truth of His word: He loves me. He loves Ivey. He loves you. He is FOR us. He has a wonderful plan for us. He is GOOD. He is the Calm of our life’s storms. He is the Prince of Peace. He is the Friend that sticks closer than a brother. And best of all-He will never, ever change. What a comfort to know that none of us have to try out to be good enough for Jesus! His love and saving grace are free gifts and nothing we have to earn. Thank you, precious Lord.
My mom has this saying, “Every mama crow thinks her babies are the blackest.” In other words, every mom thinks their child is the best. I don’t think any of my children are perfect. I don’t think any of my children are any better than anybody else’s. I’m not blind to their faults and shortcomings, and they know it. But my babies are my babies. When they hurt, I hurt. When they’re happy, I’m happy. When they fall, I feel their pain, and when they win, I feel their joy. No, this Mama Crow doesn’t think her babies are the blackest. This Mama has a nest full of beautiful blessings, each graced with God-given wings ready to soar above the highest heights.
Hold them close, Lord, but let them fly.