February 1, 2019

It’s All Good / Patti Lamb

Remain connected with our Creator during life’s highs and lows

Patti LambMy fifth-grade daughter recently took up a new sport she knows nothing about: volleyball.

She’s playing on a CYO team, along with many other girls who’ve never played the sport or even held a volleyball.

On a recent blustery winter afternoon, CYO leaders graciously organized an opportunity for less experienced teams to play each other. It provided a chance to learn how the sport works before the first game of the season.

Our team was beat four consecutive times that afternoon. I’ve conveniently forgotten the final scores.

The gym was silent with each whistle. The girls gave each other awkward stares as the serves came at them and landed in the space between them. Repeatedly. It wasn’t easy to watch.

Then there were failed serves, time-outs for shoe tying and other newbie hiccups.

Although the scoreboard indicated differently, we were not entirely defeated that day.

One of our girls finally made contact with the ball. Even though she shanked it, the crowd cheered.

“That’s it,” parents yelled.

“Atta, girl!” I heard myself saying, over and over.

Then, several of our girls got their underhanded serves over the net!

Seeing the joy on their faces was priceless. The girls slowly improved with each point won and lost. They high-fived each other for trying. The players gave all team members a nickname to encourage one another.

Next came a moment I won’t soon forget.

The momentum picked up and the opposing team hit the ball back to us, and it would have been out. But one of our determined fifth graders appeared to have touched the ball before it hit the ground. It was hard for the line judge to determine, so she asked her: “Did you touch the ball?”

The player took a deep breath and looked at the coach, “Yes, I did.” The other team took possession and soon won the game.

In that moment, however, I saw character forming on the court. How easy it would have been to say “no” and get a point to keep the momentum going.

The girls gave their required “good game” hand slap to the opposing team at the end. After talking with the coaches, they returned to their parents when one girl suddenly squealed, “Aleia’s auntie brought cookies!”

They were from a delicious bakery I’d never heard of, and they were wrapped festively with our team colors.

Sometimes the learning process can be painful to bear and painful to watch. Whether it’s learning a new sport or witnessing your child’s first serious disappointment, vulnerability and disappointment often come with unchartered territory.

I’m still learning that myself. I’m navigating how to communicate with a tricky teenager and how to compromise with my spouse during the stressful process of selling a house.

Growing and stretching can be uncomfortable and sometimes feel quite punitive, but I’ve got to believe that if we remain determined and if we stay connected with our Creator during the highs and lows of any new experience we’re facing, those moments will bear fruit and lead to something greater.

You won’t always see it. But if you’re lucky, you’ll get glimpses—perhaps in the form of 11-year-old girls helping each other take off their sweaty knee pads and trading cookies and hugging before leaving the gym. It was a gift to witness new friendships blossoming.

And you’ll realize that God meets us where we are, with only what we’ve got, and in his infinite grace, he makes that enough.

(Patti Lamb, a member of St. Susanna Parish in Plainfield, is a regular columnist for The Criterion.)

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