I don’t know how in God’s name that I made the cheerleading squad in the 10th grade. The fact that I even was allowed to try out-as lanky and awkward as I was-is a sheer grace. The fact that Coach Nicholle allowed me on the squad-is divine province.
My goals for trying out consisted of three objectives:
- My best friend Kelsey was on the squad.
- I liked the outfit and one of the uniforms was too small to fit anyone else so might as well be me.
- I never cheered in middle school and always regretted it.
(Did I mention I just liked the outfit?)
Anyway, by some miraculous intervention, my name was indeed on the list following week long try-outs that spring day. I feel I should also note that I stayed awkward throughout my whole cheerleading journey but I did get the “Most Improved” award by senior year (which I am not sure helps me out or makes this story a super sad one). I made so many sweet friends and pushed myself harder than any other area of my life. Not to sound like “that girl” but I was pretty good at everything I set my mind to-except athletics of any sort. So cheerleading challenged me in ways I never was challenged otherwise. And the coach? Well, she changed my life.
Coach Nicholle (or just Ms. Nicholle as I refer to her now) was tough. She made you believe she had just enough of a mean streak to make your life hell, but simultaneously all you ever wanted out of your high-school life was to make her proud. She was not a classroom teacher but she was a part of the administrative staff and her watchful eye lingered over the hallways focusing mainly on “her girls” and their whereabouts. She was hilarious, kind, and also super sarcastic. I thought-and still think-she is wonderful. I had never had a “coach” before and she encompassed every bit of what I thought one should be. She still does.
Today, Ms. Nicholle, or I guess I could start just referring to her as Nicholle, is one of my dearest friends. I don’t see her much or talk to her often, but my whole world lights up when I do. She’s got a precious daughter that reminds me of myself in so many ways, and many times in my adult life, I’ve sat across from her and cried. Not about grades or a research paper-but about hard stuff. Life stuff. And her stern but kind demeanor is still the same as it was in the locker room almost 10 years ago.
Maybe something they don’t tell you, when you become an educator, or “care”giver of any kind, is that you never stop once you start. I am no longer a cheerleader. I am no longer wandering the high school halls in my purple warm ups and big white bow. I’m a mom of twins, have a baby on the way, and am currently weighing out different master’s programs…and yet, Nicholle, is in a way, still my coach. Still my teacher. Always more meaningful than a simple acquaintance or friend. Always loving me hard-even from afar.
On March 3rd, 2016, as many of you know, I miscarried my first baby. Nicholle knew I was pregnant and I texted her-afraid- on my way down to the hospital. She prayed. What followed was the worst 24 hours of my life and arguably some of the most painful both physically and emotionally. After hearing the words “No heartbeat”, I walked out of the hospital into the rain. Jon left me under the awning and went to get the car. I called Nicholle. She answered immediately and when she said “Hello” I collapsed in a sob to the ground. I don’t remember a word she said. But I remember feeling held. And I don’t know it to be a fact-but I would argue that God used her words and stern kind voice to hold me in a divine way that day as I knelt on the pavement. I think he may use a lot of teachers, coaches, nurses and others in that same way each and every day.
I think everyone has a story of some sort on how a teacher changed his or her life. Or how a nurse saved their life. Thankfully, I have many stories of both and not enough time or space to share them individually. When the pandemic hit earlier this year, and I began to see all of the extremely difficult circumstances that so many of my former teachers and nurses were enduring, it broke my heart. These people were the strong ones-the consistent ones-the ones that held us up-and all of the sudden, they were collapsing one by one under the weight. I knew I wanted to do something, so I put a post on Facebook and gathered the names and workplaces of as many teachers, nurses and other front-line workers that would comment. Jack, Wade and I went to Hobby Lobby, loaded up on craft supplies and set out to make each one a card with a picture (colored by two year old babies what on earth is more precious) and a handwritten, personal note of thanks. Then life threw several curve balls and we still haven’t made a dent in the 100+ cards. So this is my way of saying a broad, but hopefully heartfelt “thank you” to all of those teachers, nurses and front line workers that we hold so dear.
The work you do matters. The kindness you show-the sternness you have to exhibit at times-the patience-the planning-the long hours-it all matters. It may not always feel like it in the moment, but you are truly the hands and feet of Jesus. Not just during a pandemic either. But in every day moments of life.
Coach Nicholle didn’t change my life-or affect me even-by what she taught me as a cheerleader. I have never had to make donut holes with my hands, or do bottle drills, or run miles since my high school days. She changed my life as an adult-walking through the hardest of days-simply by being the one I knew I could count on to hold me through it.
So thank you-precious teachers-for being the ones willing to hold out to hold us all up.
Thank you-nurses and healthcare workers-for being willing to brave the unknown to wrap our wounds and our souls in your love.
Thank you-frontline workers-for being consistent to show up and do the work so that you are able to hold us well when we all feel like falling a part.
Each of you matters. And remember, despite the holding and caring and loving you are pouring out, Jesus pours much so more into you each and every day. You are loved more than you know.