Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Wrestling & Biking: Miracles Along the Way

My boys LOVE to wrestle.  They get it from Abe!  In high school, Abe placed 2nd in the state and 2nd place in the tournament covering all of the New England States. My own brother placed 4th in state for wrestling.

My boys hadn’t wrestled in a tournament since last August.  At that August tournament, Jackson got a concussion when a kid picked him up in the air and slammed him down.  At that same tournament, Tyson and Jordan were thrown down like rag dolls by kids 3 and 4 years older than them.  Tyson still earned a medal, but all three boys left that tournament a bit discouraged and disheartened.

The boys felt ready to start wrestling competitively again.  At a nearby high school, we found a coach who has a passion for the sport and a passion for helping the kids succeed.

The boys needed an AAU card to participate, but it wasn’t in our budget yet at that time.  Actually I felt guilty spending money on wrestling!  The very week I would need to sign them up was the very week that an old friend “happened” to send a check in the mail as a gift specifically intended for the family to do something fun together.  It was the EXACT amount needed to sign them up.  We have been so grateful to her for her random act of kindness!! 

At the first practice, the coach took all of us on a tour of the high school gym.  The thought came to me:  “I sure wish we could somehow get one of these mats for all my boys to practice on at home.” 

Abe was with us, so I hardly said a word while we toured the gym.  Out of the blue the coach said, “You know… I can see you guys are a wrestling family.  I think I can get you guys a practice mat for your home.”  I couldn’t believe what he was saying!!  I was just hoping for that very thing. 

Since Jackson is the only one officially of middle school age, he started practicing at the beginning of March.  The younger boys were invited to start coming at the beginning of April. 

Even though Jackson is the youngest one on their team, I quietly hoped my younger boys could start practicing sooner with Jackson and the other older kids.  After that 1st week of practice, the coach invited Tyson and Jordan to come to practice too!!  Abe is gone a lot and can’t coach them in their wrestling as much lately, but God is taking care of them while he is away. J

The older kids at the school treat my young boys GREAT!  They encourage them and help them… and my boys have been good listeners and have been working hard.

The coach along with several other wrestlers rode up in our giant van to their first wrestling tournament last weekend.  This coach was highly inspirational to my children.  He talked to us about what it takes to be a strong athlete.  He inspired us all to push our physical bodies a little more to get what we want. 
BEFORE they wrestled…feeling pretty tough

Returning to the Mat!

The tournament was a GREAT success!!

Tyson conquered his opponents making his wins look easy.  (He in formed me it was NOT easy. J) He won every match taking 1st place!! 

Tyson dominating the mat...

Jordan was mistakenly placed in the wrong age and weight group.  Because of his fear of the older kids, he lost his first match.  He shed a few tears… and then returned to the mat with a different look in his eye… he never lost again!!  I lost my voice from screaming at the intensity of his matches!! Another mother voted me as the most enthusiastic parent. J  Every bit of me wanted to jump in there and help him up when the kids were pushing him down… but he did it!  Jordan won 2nd place!! 

Jordan is looking up at his coach while he's holding on to the kid to know EXACTLY what he should do next…

Because he listened, that gave him the win. :-)

At one point, all my boys started and finished their matches within seconds of each other on separate mats all around me.  I just sat in the middle and cheered in every direction.  It’s painful to watch another kid almost pin yours!!

Jackson wrestled so hard that the other coach and the referee commented on the strength of his resolve to never quit.  In his final match, the kid threw Jackson around a bit, but he squirmed, twisted, and arched his back up so high that he stood up from the backbend position… just to avoid being pinned!!  Jackson lost all his matches.  The referee said he’s been involved in wrestling for 54 years, and Jackson’s kind of sportsmanship and never-quitting attitude is extremely rare…even better than winning the match.  The referee and I talked for quite some time about the goodness of life.

I get emotional looking at this picture knowing how hard Jackson was trying to stay off his back.

Coach Tommy with the boys- we're so grateful for his time.

The next day, our dear friend from Utah came to visit our family.  He’s like family.  The kids know him as “Uncle Josh.”  He is the husband of one of my dearest friends of my life.  She saw my husband at one of his performances in Utah and cried.  I saw her husband at my door and cried too!!  Since my dear friend and I couldn’t see each other, we cried at the sight of our spouses.  Uncle Josh has worked on the swat team.  He currently works in the division of ICE for the government and is a competitive body builder.   The kids listened intently to his many stories of police life and how to be strong and get ahead in life.  Their eyes were wide- listening and asking for more stories.  They were clearly inspired! 

Uncle Josh and Jackson

After spending the weekend listening to great advice, the kids and I were ready to step it up a notch with our physical bodies.

It is my boys’ dream to be professional athletes.  We’re grateful for the motivation!  We decided on Monday we would start doing something about it.

The Bike Ride

In Daytona Beach, it’s Bike Week.  It’s a bit crazy in Daytona Beach, but here in Ormond Beach it’s the tamed version of Bike Week.  The boys had wrestling practice yesterday.  It’s 12 ½ miles away.  I called Abe and told him I wanted to ride bikes all the way there and back in honor of Bike Week.  That's a total of 25 miles!  This would be a perfect start to get our bodies in shape. :-)

Since Mariah’s bike still has a flat tire, I needed help figuring out how to connect the tandem attachment.  He’s in Arizona, so I sent him pictures of my problem. 

We had the WORST communication trying to figure THAT one out.  He said, “Will the thing at the bottom of the thing attached to the bike come out?”  I was looking at the clock ticking knowing we needed a LOT of time to bike to practice.  In my panic, I couldn’t make sense of Abe’s words.  I exclaimed, “What THING are you talking about? Which bike has a thing on it?  There are lots of THINGS!!!”  Abe… ever so calmly… said, “I need you to see if the thing attached will fit around the metal bar when you take it off of what it's on now.” There were too many unknowns in that conversation.  I was utterly confused.  When I put the piece on the metal bar, the tandem bike kept sliding side to side.

I thanked Abe for his help anyway.  I just stuck Mariah in my cart and decided to pull her the entire way… along with the other two children… and the waters… and the bags… and the emergency gear.  (I must have thought I was in better shape than I am!!! That was one heavy pull!!J)

I told Abe my plan, and his only worry was that the boys would be too tired for wrestling practice.  We held a family prayer asking for safety along our way… thank goodness we did!!

We had lost a lot of time trying to figure the bikes out, so we rode as fast as we could.  

Bike Week… Here we come!!!  Gettin' their tough faces on… 

Before we left, I asked Jordan several times if he thought he would be able to keep up.  He kept exclaiming that he was faster than everyone. 

Bike Trouble

We started on our way, and Jackson stopped with a problem with his bike.  Since I was so slow pulling all the extra weight, I left him behind and told him to catch up.  I thought the chain just fell off, and he would be catching up in just a moment.  I noticed he wasn’t coming, so I sent Tyson back to help him.  I figured they would both be able to catch up quickly.   After I sent Tyson back, I realized that Jordan didn’t slow down with the rest of us.  Trying to prove his strength, Jordan took off faster than ever before, and I couldn’t catch him!!  I had a whistle that I blew for 3 miles trying to get him to stop. 

He had no intention of turning around to even look at me!  Meanwhile, Tyson and Jackson were falling farther and farther behind.  Tyson called me on his emergency phone and said there was a bicyclist who came up behind them and saw their predicament.  Tyson said he looked as if he was traveling across the country with bungee cords holding bags and water bottles off every side of his bike.

The kind stranger happily told the boys, “I’m good with bikes.  You’re lucky I came along.”  Tyson told me how hard he worked to fix it, and that they probably still would have been stranded if he hadn’t helped them.

I felt horrible.  The problem was worse than I had thought.  The chain didn’t just fall off.  It had tangled deep within the mechanisms!  I’ve never seen a chain TANGLE before!  I wanted to turn around and check on them-after all- they WERE with a stranger!! But JORDAN WAS STILL RACING FARTHER AND FARTHER AWAY, and I had to stop him!! 

I screamed his name.  Mariah screamed his name!  Jordan, oblivious to our panic, was just happily pedaling faster and faster tilting his head side to side.  It was a 7-mile stretch with hardly any roads in between.  On one side it bordered the ocean, and on the other side it bordered a land preserve.  

He was really in another world of bliss!! 

Realizing he wasn’t going to hear my screams or whistles, I FINALLY said a prayer asking God to help me stop him.  Moments later, he stopped!!!  A bunch of motorcyclists had blocked his path and were honking at each other.  That scared him enough to stop and turn around to look for me.  With burning thighs, I biked as hard as I could to catch up.  Once he had a visual on me, he started to go again- he had no clue we had been calling his name and that his brothers were stranded!!  Thank goodness he turned around one last time.  As big as I could, I held my hands up in a huge stopping motion. 

He stopped!!  Hallelujah!  He stopped.  As I approached him, I prayed to God for help dealing with my child with patience… I had just spent the last several miles with aching legs trying to stop that young man who should have never taken off that far ahead of us!!!!  I asked him what he was thinking.  He innocently replied, “You told me to go really fast.  I thought I was doing what I was supposed to.”

He was instructed to never go ahead of me again and to stay right behind me for the remainder of the trip.  Tyson called and said they were on their way biking as fast as they could. 

They had been stopped for a long time, so it took them a while to catch up to us.  At the first big intersection, we waited for them to catch up.  Together, we crossed the big bridge over the Inter-Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and raced to practice.

Half a mile before we reached wrestling practice, Jackson’s chain tangled again (only not as severely this time).  A nearby construction worker fixed it and then said it was broken and would need to be taken to the shop.  (Well that wasn’t going to happen… no funds for that… and we still had a 12 ½ mile trip back home!!)

I told another mother at practice that one of our bikes was having problems.  She asked me what I was going to do.  I told her I said a prayer and made some adjustments, so I felt good about it.  I took her card just in case I would need to call somebody, but I felt confident that God had helped me to see the problem with the bike. 

The boys wrestled hard at practice, so we decided we would take a bit of a more leisure ride back home.  Jackson's bike was working perfectly!

Stranger Parting the Way

When we came to one of the biggest intersections, there was construction on the other side of the sidewalk, so we couldn’t get to the sidewalk for safety on the other side of the road… it was roped off! Out of nowhere another bicyclist showed up beside us and shouted, “Go ahead!  I’ll slow the traffic down!” 

This sweet stranger sat up straight in his bike and road REALLY slow right smack in the middle of the lane making all the cars inch along with him while we hurried along the road until we could get to the sidewalk again. J  It was a funny, sweet, and miraculous sight to behold. 

We passed the city and entered the long stretch of preserved land.   Abe was worried about the boys’ energy????  I was the one who was beat!  They were doing great!  I had slowed my pace down to about 8 minute miles because my burning!  The boys, feeling no pain at all, started running their bikes beside me and doing tricks.  They had a blast!

I told the kids we were on our last mile.  My rump hurt and my thighs were burning worse than ever before!!  Jackson said he wanted to RUN THE LAST MILE for extra exercise!!!!!  What in the world??? I had been feeling grateful that at least I wasn’t running!! 

He had just biked 24 miles, wrestled for an hour and a half, and now he wanted to run an extra mile on top of it… while pushing his bike??!!??  As he ran… red-faced… he turned to me and said, “Mom, I want to run a marathon!” 

Usually, I have those ambitious desires when my body feels fresh- not when it’s already beat down!! I was so grateful that this experience gave him a renewed desire to reach higher.

The thought came to me:  “You don’t know the extent of what these experiences will do for your children.”

I stopped to talk to a neighbor just a few blocks from our house.  I let Jordan and Tyson race home the remaining 2 blocks.  Once home, they jumped off their bikes and were at the top of the palm tree before I even made it back!! 

Juliana is looking into the tree wondering if she could get up there too… not a chance little girl! :-)

Jackson returned with an increased desire to do even more ambitious things, and Jordan and Tyson returned with even more adventurous spirits.

I, on the other hand, collapsed because my legs were jello!  They wanted to bike to wrestling practice again today…. I’m going to need a few days of recovery time though.  Apparently little Baby Jayden is worried about me. :-)

There were a few reasons for sharing this story:

*I thank God for my dear friend’s random act of kindness.

*I thank God for the people HE sent this weekend to inspire my little athletes.

*I thank God for the wrestling mat!

*I thank God for inspiring this coach to offer the wrestling mat AND for allowing my younger boys to start practicing a month sooner.

*I thank God for sending the stranger who came up behind them and fixed their bikes.

*I thank God for sending a bunch of bikers to stop Jordan in his tracks.

*I thank God for the biker who showed up out of nowhere at the exact moment we felt fear at the intersection.

* I thank God that Jackson’s bike never broke down again!! 

*I thank God for putting ideas into my head and for answering our prayers to help us when we try to follow through with those ideas.

God knows these children and what it is that they need to reach their greatest potential in this life even better than I do.  I’m thankful for the opportunity to put my trust in HIM.  I'm thankful for the miracles HE provides along our journey of life.