Sunday, November 11, 2012

amazing girls

if you happened to be in st. paul minnesota last wednesday night, you might have noticed  a couple hundred girls or so, walking around in beautiful dresses and high heels.  easily, you could have mistaken them for a bunch of runway models.  these girls... all dressed up:  hair curled and eyeliner carefully applied.  stunningly beautiful in their high school high youth.  "just some pretty girls in pretty dresses," you might have thought. nothing more.

but you would have been wrong.

there was more.

there is more.

if you happened to peek into the ballroom of the crown plaza hotel that same night, you would have seen a banquet taking place and you would have heard a whole lot about these young ladies and their accomplishments.  you might have heard about these 24 teams who were all sectional champs and about to begin play in the state tournament the next day.  single A teams,  double A teams and triple A teams.  you would have heard about the talented all-state tournament team and the ms. minnesota volleyball award.  you would have listened to the coach of the year presentation and you would have quickly realized this was a room filled with not just some cute girls teetering around in high heels, but this was a room full of athletes.  (not that walking in high heels isn't a highly athletic accomplishment, mind you)...

and by thursday these lovely girls would all trade out their dress up things for volleyball jerseys, knee pads and pony tails.  the heels put away and the real girls ready to go. wednesday night was exciting, but thursday the real deal began. the fancy stuff was fun, but this was really who these girls were -- athletes, ready and eager to compete.  ready to embrace this final step in a season of winning.  in a season which started back in the heat of july and was still going strong here in november.  every day practices...every day sacrifices.  these girls who have been juggling schedules and missing family dinners and going to bed late for the love of volleyball.   there have been weeks in this season where we hardly laid eyes on our emily.  she'd come in late and leave early, her volleyball bag swinging from her shoulder at each entrance and exit.  every load of laundry seemed to include a jersey or athletic socks or some spandex shorts.  three full months of volleyball with a little bit of life thrown in on the side.

and here these girls were, at the end of the rainbow. the state tournament.  the pot of gold.  and if you had sat in the xcel energy arena on thursday or friday or saturday you'd have seen these amazing girls play some amazing volleyball.   i don't have to tell you, but you would have been incredibly impressed by the athletic action out on center court.  you'd have been surprised at just how high these girls jump and how hard these girls hit. you would have found yourself cheering and completely caught up in the sweat and the tears and the triumph of these young ladies.  it was an incredible three days.  days these girls (and their parents) will not quickly forget.  how many high school athletes get to compete in a state tournament?  the best of the best.

and so those girls in pretty dresses were only part of the story.  you'd have been wrong stopping with a mere first impression, a hasty assumption, on wednesday night.  you would have had to come on in and listen and hear and watch and really see -- there was so much more.

but here's the deal:  this same thing is true in watching them out on the court.  it is easy to just see these girls as talented athletes and forget there's more to the story.  it would be easy to find yourself thinking, wow, they all got an extra dose of good fortune and a few extra inches.  how fun for them to have (super) fans cheering loudly and calling their names enthusiastically -- chanting encouragement and singing their praise.  aren't they lucky?  isn't life good?  how great for them in their jerseys and medals and in their high school fame.

but still.  the story doesn't end here either.

these girls are, indeed, athletes.  but, the truth is,  they each have a story.  a story which goes far beyond what happens on that court in the season or even at the tournament in the state capitol.  each day, these girls trade out their jerseys for real life.  and real life has hit my daughter's team especially hard this past year.   i have mentioned some of this in previous blog posts; the loss of a brother, the loss of a father, the loss of the head coach's sister -- the raw stories of pain behind this sweet story of victory.  one girl wears a black headband each game with the initials  JL on it --  the initials of her brother who died this spring.  and this season, the team shirts bear the phrase, "be amazing."  these were the constant words of one girl's dad.  the father who died of a sudden heart attack just a week before the season began this year. 

our local news picked up on what made this little christian school team from chaska, minnesota different.  they picked up on why this state tournament was big and yet, so bittersweet.  i am attaching a link below to tell more of the story.  because that is it.  what we see in our glancing is not always what it is in the game.  there's often something more.  something so much more.  wednesday night at that banquet, i sat between my two new friends,  the mother who lost her son and the woman who lost her husband this year.  we rejoiced in the sweet opportunity for our girls that night, but everyone at the table of this team was fully aware of just why this night was so wonderful and so hard all at once.

cbs news link:
HS Volleyball Team Overcomes Loss Of Superfan, Stays ‘Amazing’ « CBS Minnesota

these girls,  these athletes, whether in pretty dresses or sweaty jerseys, have stories.  and when we cheer them on, we are cheering them through so much more than just the points on the scoreboard.  and this was just our team.  without doubt, there were others.  other girls on other teams handling other hard stuff.  girls going through divorce or depression or some kind of personal devastation.  other girls who got out on the center court this week with so much more to their story than just their athleticism and their win-loss record.

"so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in 
a crooked and depraved generation,
 in which you shine like stars in the universe." (philippians 2:15)

this is the southwest school verse and we are the southwest christian stars.  these girls are definitely stars in my book.  they are stars in their abilities and in their accomplishments.  they are stars in their attitudes and actions. they are stars in persevering through the tough, hard, ugly places of life and continuing to shine for God's glory.  that's the real story behind this story --  God's glory. His praise. His fame.  and each of these girls is quick to give all of this good right back to Him --  God, the giver of all gifts.

our team didn't win the state title yesterday.  after a day of tough, point by point, battle, the girls ended in second place. sure there was disappointment.  sure there were some tears.  but these girls walked out of that downtown arena with heads held high and i don't have to tell you, but, in my book, they are first place girls all the way!

their team motto this season was "be amazing."

and they were.

and they are.

go stars!

2nd place medals -- 1st place girls.
the girls praying with the team who beat them in the championship match -- unbelievable!


Christen said...

Yay for our girls!

Simply LKJ said...

Jody, such a wonderful story. Thanks for sharing. Yes, so many times we are quick to "label" but there are so many layers. Congrats to Emily and her team. They truly are AMAZING young woman who are making a difference and shining a bright light for God!

Leslie R. said...

The entire McNatt family were a great addition to this year's team!

Aus said...

Brilliant story - and I couldn't be more proud of all y'all!

hugs - aus and co.

Anonymous said...