Friday, April 26, 2013

My Gymnastics Miracle

In 2009, the economy was taking a hard hit.  We had 4 children and a teenage foster child.  Abe had been working as a loan officer- that profession was hit really hard by the economy.  He had to take a ridiculously low paying job working at a call center.  We always had food on the table, but we were worried about all of the unpaid bills piling up.

A Walmart was opening up near our house, and I went in to apply to work the night shift. I hadn't worked outside the home for 13 years- except for coaching gymnastics and making balloon animals.  They offered me a starter position.  I went to the person hiring and explained to him that our family really needed more money.  I reminded him that I had a college degree and would be a great asset to Walmart... he opened up a position for me as a customer service manager.

I was excited!!  I worked from 10pm- 6am, slept 2 hours at home, and then woke up to home-school the kids all day.  As manager at Walmart, I was supposed to be the one solving problems up front, but I was learning how to use the computers on 2 hours of sleep a night.  I was embarrassed because others had to help me solve the problems on the registers, and I was their superior!

I worked so hard in every other area because I had to compensate for all of my lack of knowledge on the registers.  When anyone needed anything at all, I sprinted across the store to get it for them right away.  Every night I had to gather the carts outside.  I SPRINTED across the parking lot at 4am gathering the carts.  People looked at me a bit oddly, but I wanted to earn my keep.  (By the way, I wish more people would put their own cart away!!)

By law, we had to take a lunch break (in the middle of the night).  I would set my alarm on my cell phone and slouch over on the lunch table for a short nap.  (It was never long enough).  I woke up and ran back in to the customers with a big smile on my face.

At home I was more than exhausted, but I tried really hard not to show it.  I remember one day I was reading the scriptures to the children, and I physically could not pronounce the words.  I felt like I had been drugged by something.  The children just stared at me wide-eyed as I attempted several times to read a verse to them... but the words just came out jumbled.  I knew there was a serious problem going on from my MAJOR lack of sleep!!

...but I couldn't quit.  I had to keep working!

After a few weeks of this, a dear friend of mine called and asked me to teach her daughter gymnastic lessons in my home.  I had taught gymnastics for years in high school, college, and even for a few months after I had children, but I didn't have any equipment at all.  I said yes anyway!  Then, I went to 3 of our neighbors to ask them if their children wanted to take a gymnastics class with this one little girl.  They all said yes!!  ....but I still didn't have any equipment.

I went to the bank to ask them for a VERY small loan, so I could buy at least some pads.  Because we were going through such a hard time financially, they turned me down.

I prayed about it and began to search my house.  I found an old piece of foam in the basement that we had used for moving.  I sewed a bunch of baby blankets together and made them like a pillow case over the foam.  That was our gymnastic's pad.

I taught my first class to my little group of neighborhood gymnasts.  We used our trampoline out back and that one little pad.  I made home-made cookies for the children to eat after class, and sometimes I made them balloon animals.  The kids LOVED it!!  Before I knew it, more children down the street asked if they could take my classes too.  Within the first month, I had 3 classes of gymnasts!  I didn't even advertise except to those first 3 neighbors, and I certainly did not have state-of-the-art equipment.  I was blown away.

I realized that my home was quickly turning into a gym, so I needed a balance beam.  I found some scrap 2 x 4's in my garage and some left-over carpet from a neighbor's house.  I sawed the wood, hammered it together, and stapled carpet around it to make a balance beam!!  It looked horrible; but once again, the kids loved it!  Another family that I hardly knew donated a giant gymnastics crash pad!

At this point, I was still working at Walmart all night long, home-schooling during the day, and coaching gymnastics in the evenings!!  After a month of this crazy schedule, I knew my body could not handle much more.  My home gymnastics business was growing enough for me to quit my job at Walmart.  I felt so guilty quitting because they had opened a position just for me.  On the other hand, I figured they would be happy to see me go because I was so inept at the registers.  To my surprise, I was told they would hire me back if I ever wanted to return.  I LOVE WALMART!! :-)

Over the next few months, more and more children signed up for gymnastics classes!  I had boys and girls ranging in ages 3-17!!  I had all sorts of payment methods...

*Most of the parents paid me cash.

*One parent had a big cheese mat (used for back walk-overs, etc).  She gave me that as a trade for lessons for her girls until the value of it was compensated.

*Another parent paid in the form of home-made salsa!!  Oh that was yummy.

*A father built a gymnastics bar in my backyard as a trade for his children receiving gymnastics until the value of that was compensated.

*Another father gave me rubber puzzle flooring for my unfinished basement as a trade for his kids to take gymnastics as well.

*Some teenagers mowed my lawn and did deep cleaning for me as a trade for gymnastics lessons.

*Another teenager became my assistant with the youngest gymnasts as a trade as well.

*And another parent did scrapbooking for me in order to include her daughters in my gymnastics classes.

By the time the fall came, I had so many kids signed up just from word of mouth that Abe had to help me coach after he got home from work, and I even hired another gymnast mother from the neighborhood to coach a couple of classes.

When the weather got too cold to do our warm-up exercises outside, I led a train of children running high-kneed from the basement to the main floor, around the couch, and to the upstairs.  We stretched together and then sent classes to the basement and to the main floor of our house!!

That fall, I got pregnant with little Juliana.  As I got physically larger, I needed Abe's help more and more with spotting the male and female teenage gymnasts. I had kids as tall as me!

That winter, I began watching two neighbor children as a daycare/preschool situation.  At the same time period, we had a special little 1 year old in our home through foster care.  His mother had asked us to adopt him, and we were in the middle of filing the paperwork when she changed her mind and took him back.  The same day she took him back, I had swarms of children entering my home for gymnastics lessons.  I didn't even have time to mourn the loss.

My emotions were running high from pregnancy, losing our one year old baby, worrying about my brother at war, and facing other devastating, familial struggles.

I'm not sure... but as I consider it now.  I believe the gymnastics classes and the need to wake up for the two daycare children kept me a sane mother for my own children as well.  I couldn't lie down and give up.  I couldn't cry in a corner for weeks.  I had to press forward.

Nobody really knew my heart's deepest pains... Nobody knew how badly I wanted to stay in bed all day and do nothing.  I was placed in a position to be the strong one, so I had a smile and big hugs for ALL the children every day.

I finally called my mother one day to tell her about some of my sadnesses.  Then I said, "Mom, I think I'm going through depression..."That was a very, very hard sentence to speak because I had always seen depression as a sign of weakness.  In that very moment of admitting my weakness,  my depression vanished.  I sob right now thinking about how my heart miraculously lifted in that instant of acknowledging my problems.  I feel like Christ allowed my mother to be HIS vessel of listening.  I left that phone call with energy and forgiveness in my heart that I had not had for months.

By March... less than one year from starting my business with one little girl, I had 75 children in my home weekly taking gymnastics classes.  Parents told me that their children were learning in leaps and bounds faster than any other gymnastics class they had ever taken.  I believe it was because the children all knew each other and were encouraging each other... maybe the cookies had something to do with it too... I taught with a LOT of love and energy.  In fact, my voice first began to go raspy during that time because I was cheering so much for all the children.

We put on a gymnastics/dance recital for the parents in March.  The kids were amazing!!  They were doing back-hand springs and back tucks by themselves!!  They wore costumes that I scrounged up for $10 or less a piece.  I served all kinds of desserts and made dvd's of the children doing all of their amazing tricks.

After the recital in March, I had to close my business because my pregnant belly was just getting too big!!  I still let the children come for free to use my "equipment."

My gymnastics business was a miracle on many levels...

*Financially, we were doing better.

*The neighborhood children were uniting.

*I was able to see the miracle of the bartering system because we traded our talents when the economy hit so many of us financially.

*It kept me from drowning in my sorrows.

I shared a couple of days ago the miracle of my mother's doll business.  Her example has led all of us- her children- to press forward in the face of adversity.  Just as she had angels and miracles along the way, I too had angels and miracles.

I'm not sure if my dear angel friend who decided to bring her one little daughter over and pay me $25.00 a month knows the miracles she brought to my life.  She continues to show me the depth of Christ's love through her actions in our friendship.

I thank God for giving me opportunities to acknowledge my weaknesses and then strengthening me enough to overcome those weaknesses.  Jesus Christ loves us so perfectly.