the importance of cheerleaders

I’ve got enough negative words in my own head about myself. I don’t need more. You don’t need more. We’re stuck in an ugly, losing game sometimes. Heckled by our own hearts.

photo cred: College of San Mateo Library
photo cred: College of San Mateo Library

I was in Ceres, California last Monday when I heard Glenn Frey had passed away. And the mental collision was so real.

I did two years of high school in that town. And one of those years, I tried out for cheerleading.

We had to do a yell routine, of course, and I was astonishingly not good at that part. But I was even worse at the dance routine — which was “The Heat is On” sung by Glenn Frey. It’s been 30 years, but I can still dance the first sets of beats.

These moves have provided endless entertainment for my family and a few select friends over the years. I’m sure I remember them so well because it is the only dance routine I ever learned… Our cheerleaders at Ceres High School were awesome dancers. And I was an awesome, rhythmless, regular Baptist.

(Oh, BTW, my sincere apologies to the friends I would have loved to see in California, but it was a whirlwind one-day visit for my Grandma’s 90th birthday. Go Grandma!!! *insert pom pom shake here*)

I always wanted to be a cheerleader. I love, love, love synchronization. Whether it’s dance moves, or coordinating colors, or plot lines. It’s all so lovely to watch. Movement, staging, timing = favorite things.

When I think about why cheerleading was so hard for me (high school was not my first attempt to make the squad), I can acknowledge now that, in addition to being terribly uncoordinated, I’ve always been too self-conscious. There’s a certain amount of just going for it that a person needs in order to cheer well.

But, I’m getting pretty decent at cheering from the sidelines these days — as long as I keep it under a certain decibel. My yell is weird. And sort of screamy. The voice comes out not at all what I imagine it to be in my head. Something about watching my babies do stuff out there just makes me lose my self-consciousness and yell out their names. Which they just LOVE!

As much as they may hate it in the moment, they will remember mom (and dad) shouting praises from the sidelines for the rest of their lives.

Because praise, encouragement, cheer… everyone needs this. Everyone.

In fact, nothing simultaneously makes me angry and breaks my heart more than hearing parents yell from the sidelines in angry, disgusted tones at their kids.  I’ve been at games where I wanted to tell some parents to GO HOME. I cannot imagine listening to anything more discouraging than your voice. Your baby has run 18 miles today in the blazing sun. Give him a break!

All of us need cheerleaders. We do. Especially at critical points of life when discouragement clings to you, sucks you in, and threatens to drown you like quicksand.

I’ve been reading “For the Love” by Jen Hatmaker and in one chapter she puts on her old cheerleader voice to tell her readers some things. I needed to read this pep talk and maybe you do, too.

Here’s what she said that just lifted me right out of my pajamas, into the shower to ponder, and back into my bathrobe (keepin it real here) to write this post:

We will cheer each other on, refusing to speak doubt into our gifts. When you are scared, I will declare, ‘You can do this.’ When you whisper a dream, I’ll holler through a bullhorn that you are brave and wonderful and important! When I am beaten down, you will remind me that I am an approved worker with no shame….Let’s do this. Let’s fulfill the good work we’ve been commissioned to. Silence any voice that whispers ‘not enough’ and stand in truth as an approved worker. You are. Jesus made you so. If God surveyed the cross and declared it finished, then it wasn’t sufficient for everyone but you. If Jesus covered it all, then He covered it all….If you need to deal, then deal…Forgive, release, acknowledge, confront, feel the feelings, let something go, believe the truth, whatever you need to do. Then dust your hands off and get ready to go….This really is your one wild and precious life. You matter so much. You are writing a good story for your children. Your community and church need you, your neighbors and family need you, God adores you and Jesus is obsessed with you. Here we are, your community of women running this race together, proud of you, moved by you.

-Jen Hatmaker, For the Love

I need people in my life who cheer for me. My husband, my kids, relatives — they do an amazing job at this. And oh how I love my dear friends who speak even the smallest words of encouragement to me. Friends who believe I can. And should.

I’ve got enough negative words in my own head about myself. I don’t need more. You don’t need more. We’re stuck in an ugly, losing game sometimes. Heckled by our own hearts.

Maybe you feel beaten down and discouraged, too. Maybe you don’t have cheerleaders in your life, or your cheerleaders are fighting their own battles. Maybe you need to do what I’m going to do and Stuart Smalley that quote from Jen Hatmaker right onto your bathroom mirror and “silence any voice that whispers ‘not enough’ and stand in truth as an approved worker.”

And if you’re dealing with a husband, wife, child who is struggling with addiction (or anything else for that matter) take some time to think about your role in their life.

Are you the voice on the sidelines (maybe you need to get back to the sidelines) calling out every wrong move, every failed attempt when they’re fighting to get on their feet? Or do you cheer them on toward victory?

Cheering on someone you love through recovery takes selflessness and patience. We have to set aside our uncertainties, insecurities, fears and allow hope to fill us and give us grace and encouraging words. And pray for wisdom. Lots and lots of wisdom.

I suppose the same is true for any relationship, really.

Encouragement revives.

* * * * *

Who in your life needs your words of encouragement? A child, a spouse, a pastor, a friend?

Sometimes, you just need to go for it.

But maybe not with pom poms.

…encourage one another and build each other up…

1 Thessalonians 5:11





middle age, metabolism, and Monday

I figure I’m right in the middle of the August of life, which is still summer, if you know what I mean.

Someone used “middle age” to define my season the other day, and I have to say I was a little offended.

Although — to be fair — if I’m blessed to live for 90 years, and I’m 45, I guess technically you really can’t get any more middle than that.

It’s not so much denial as perhaps my failure to adjust to the change of seasons. I figure I’m right in the middle of the August of life, which is still summer, if you know what I mean.

Well, maybe I’m more like August 22nd in a perpetual last-week-before-school-starts frenzy of doing all the things, buying all the things, trying not to feel to awfully bad about all the things on your summer list you didn’t get to, and rushing to Office Max at the last minute hoping you get to the college-ruled composition books before all they have left is One Direction. And in front of me is September, when the Pacific Northwest weather’s suddenly rainy, then warmer, then cooler, then cold mornings and intensely hot 3 p.m.’s and you’re sitting on the sidelines of a soccer game in Seattle in October getting a sunburn . . . (don’t read too much into that).

So, half way through my 45th year, I suppose I should accept that I’m staring down autumn pretty hard.  And I think I’m finally okay with it. Except the lack of metabolism.

No. This is serious. I’m in a season where merely looking at sugar is the new actually consuming sugar.

I’ve got fat now where I used to be super smug that I didn’t. Watch out, young braggarts. Even after four babies I had a flat stomach. Had, being the operative word here.

And there really is only one solution to this problem. (Well, of course there are others, and I know them and need to do them, but do please hear me out here . . .)

Mom jeans.

That’s right. For the first time since the 90’s,  I bought a pair of pants that hits me at my natural waistline. Surprisingly, they’re far more comfortable than the hipsters I’ve worn forever, and they seem to have the side benefit of reducing the muffin top. Who knew?

Also, I could actually wear the size I still am in my head, which was quite pleasant because that never happens with low-rise jeans. And hey, if I don’t tuck my shirt in, no one will ever know . . .

Unless, hypothetically, in your rush to get out the door to work you accidentally leave one of the forty-six stickers of marketing brilliance on the jeans and walk through the office with a shiny Ultrastretch plastered across your bum.

It could happen . . .

And also . . . I just realized why I fit into the size I thought I should. Wow. Really — just now.

But seriously, last week was hard. I had to go buy clothes, and I would so much rather buy that cute little red-fluted crockery dish than try on thirty-six dresses that are decidedly NOT “all about that bass.”

It was so traumatic, I yearned to stop in Trader Joe’s and buy dark chocolate covered anything to make me feel better.

And then it hit me. Duh. That that’s part of the reason I’m feeling crappy about the shape I’m in. I can’t eat like I used to. And that is so sad. Partly because it’s just a bummer and partly because I have a houseful of men who can pretty much eat whatever they want and run it off.

I resisted Trader Joe’s. (cue applause)

I have to face the reality that at my age (yes, I said it) and with my metabolism it’s going to take long-term commitment and discipline. The for-the-rest-of-my-life kind.  Cuz if I told you how many calories a person my age and my height and tiny bone structure needs, you would cry for me. Or you would say, Oh Honey, learn to love running.  

I guess I say all this because the need for discipline is hidden around every corner of my life right now. And I see value in the daily and the mundane — as much as my flibbertigibbet spirit resists it.

So here’s my simple prayer for a new week:

God, help me to accept that my body is not what it once was, and please help me take good care of it now. Help me embrace a season of discipline without becoming obsessed. And please help me resist the free M & M’s  at work, you know how much of a temptation they are on Mondays. Amen.

Happy Monday!

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P.S. What’s your favorite thing about your current season of life and what’s the thing you could really just do without? Write it here in the comments. I would love to know!