Saturday, February 26, 2011

Butterfly Destruction

I've never liked butterflies. They've always kinda creeped me out but I've found that people think you're some kind of monster if you admit that you don't like them. It's like saying you don't like sunshine or rainbows. Sure, they're pretty and it's cool how they emerge from cocoons, but really they're just colorful moths masquerading themselves as if they weren't flying bugs. And I hate flying bugs. I cringe and do a little internal freak out when they flutter and fly too close to me, flashing their colorful wings way too near to my face. I sense your judgment but I'm being honest here: butterflies, moths, bees, wasps- they're all the same in my book. And even though I want to, society won't permit me to swat these obnoxiously beautiful butterflies away. Because everyone hates bees and wasps but I've found people have an exceptionally low tolerance for butterfly-haters. Truth be told, I feel the same way about lady bugs. The only thing I like about lady bugs is that 1992 soccer movie with Rodney Dangerfield. But I digress. Lady bugs, butterflies: I'm on to you. The world might admire your beauty and grace but I see you for what you really are: dirty, nasty, flying bugs with a little splash color. S0 please, stay away from me.

There's another reason I hate butterflies: I used to suffer from a gnarly case of performance anxiety. It was the worst when I ran track. When I think back to the year I did sprints, I mainly remember two things: 1) The first time I ran the 400, I stopped at the wrong finish line thinking I had won and 2) On the day of a meet, I felt like I was about to hurl from the moment I woke up until I was done running. Those insufferable, vomit-inducing butterflies are what made me quit track my senior year. I was a bit disappointed in myself because I felt like such a quitter because, well, I was one. But save your judgments for someone else; track was not my thing, and I really hate butterflies.

The butterflies also made their torturous appearance before basketball games, but the joy that came with playing and being on a team enabled me to conquer those pesky pesticides. I developed a bunch of routines, all designed to help me master my anxiety and kill those awful butterflies. Why all this butterfly talk?

On Wednesday we played one of the biggest games of the year and that fluttering feeling of anxiety returned to haunt me. After we won on Saturday night, I awoke Sunday morning with the butterflies- already anticipating Wednesday night's game. I realize that four days of feeling anxious about a basketball game is kinda silly but I really wanted to win. It was the CIF quarterfinal game against a team much taller and faster than we are and it was a home game which meant the gym would be packed. I awoke on Sunday already feeling that awful sensation of fluttering wings and I was forced to resort to my old methods of butterfly destruction:

1) Consider the "worst case scenario." This always used to work for me but when I tried it with my girls, I may have made them more nervous. Worst case scenario in this case: we play terribly in front of a packed gym and lose and lots of people think we're overrated and awful. In my head, that didn't sound so bad but in the heads of teenage girls, this thought terrified them. Great job, coach. It didn't terrify me as much because of method number 2:

2) Remember whose opinion matters. This is easy to say and very hard to believe and apply. I'd love to say that I don't care what others think of me as a coach, but it's not true. I do care. I want them to think that I'm a basketball genius (which I'm not) and I want them to think my team is incredible (which we are... in certain ways). I often remind my girls that God doesn't care if they miss a lay-up or turn the ball over; He cares about our effort and our attitudes and those are much easier to control than making tough shots. If we truly are only seeking His approval and are only concerned with His opinion, those butterflies don't stand a chance.

3) Remember that His opinion of me is not based on my performance. I wish I could say that my motives are always pure- that I teach and coach only for the glory of God. I try to. But it's a battle. A battle I must wage every day because every day I try to steal the glory for myself. It's a fine line because I should take pride in the areas God has gifted me. I should be thankful for those gifts and use them for His kingdom. But those gifts and abilities are sneaky. They often weasel their way in and try to convince me that they are the reason I am loved by the king; that they are the reason I am loved by anyone. I continually fall prey to their tricks and find myself trying to earn God's favor by my performance. Thus, I continually need to be reminded that His love is unconditional- that He can love me no more and He can love me no less than He already does. In my darkest moments, my heart refuses to accept this. In my brightest, this thought fills my heart with such joy and peace that there is no room for anxiety.

4) Remember whose I am and who I serve. I'm afraid I've often made God too small. I often forget the "big picture" of a big God and that is when my anxiety is at its worst. When I am reminded of God's character, butterflies flee. He knows my heart and knows all about my silly worries and about the silly butterflies that fluttered for four days. Looking back, I see how in those four days, He was constantly whispering to me, constantly reminding me of who He is, constantly killing butterflies.

In church three of my former students led worship and they were so incredible that I felt like I was in the throne room and was able to worship with total abandon. I've found it's impossible to worship and be anxious at the same time; it's like trying to frown and laugh simultaneously. As we sang Phil Wickham's "You're Beautiful," any butterflies that had accompanied me to church had fallen down dead.

I see Your face in every sunrise
The colors of the morning are inside Your eyes
The world awakens in the light of the day
I look up to the sky and say
You're beautiful

I see Your power in the moonlit night
Where planets are in motion and galaxies are bright
We are amazed in the light of the stars
It's all proclaiming who you are
You're beautiful

I see you there hanging on a tree
You bled and then you died and then you rose again for me
Now you are sitting on Your heavenly throne
Soon we will be coming home
You're beautiful

When we arrive at eternity's shore
Where death is just a memory and tears are no more
We'll enter in as the wedding bells ring
your bride will come together and we'll wing
You're beautiful

Then I was reminded again of God's kingdom and His beauty as I sat on my balcony and watched the moon climb above the shifting clouds, all hanging as the backdrop for the local church steeple:
Sunsets have a marvelous way of calming nerves and slaughtering butterflies.

Then God also whispered to me as I studied the book of Acts and I saw how fearlessly Paul lived his life. Paul admitted that he was able to live and serve without fear despite being flogged, stoned, imprisoned, and shipwrecked precisely because He knew whom he served. When he was on his way to stand trial before Nero, his ship faced a terrible storm and most thought they were all going to die. He stood before the crew and said, "Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.' So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me." (Acts 27: 23-25) Because Paul so clearly knew whom he belonged to and whom He served, he boldly and fearlessly faced situations that would have made me crap my pants.

So with visions of clouds and Paul and a beautiful, mighty God floating in my head, I went into our locker room for our possible last "pre-game" speech. It was a bit unconventional. I didn't quote Rudy like I've always been meaning to but I did quote someone else. Before I talked about our opponent and went over the game plan again, I read Isaiah 40 aloud. I used to read this before every game in college. Well, that or the end of Job. Both passages speak of the wonder of this great big God we serve and I explained to my girls that I had to be reminded of this before every game to calm my nerves and to be reminded of where I find my identity. I especially love the last 10 verses because they speak to the reality that man is nothing compared to God- that our God controls the stars and also understands the hidden depths of our hearts- that our God is the one who gives us strength and power.

Isaiah 40:21-31

21 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?
22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.
23 He brings princes to naught
and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.
24 No sooner are they planted,
no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

25 “To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.
26 Lift up your eyes and look to the heavens:
Who created all these?
He who brings out the starry host one by one
and calls forth each of them by name.
Because of his great power and mighty strength,
not one of them is missing.

27 Why do you complain, Jacob?
Why do you say, Israel,
“My way is hidden from the LORD;
my cause is disregarded by my God”?
28 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
The LORD is the everlasting God,
the Creator of the ends of the earth.
He will not grow tired or weary,
and his understanding no one can fathom.
29 He gives strength to the weary
and increases the power of the weak.
30 Even youths grow tired and weary,
and young men stumble and fall;
31 but those who hope in the LORD
will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles;
they will run and not grow weary,
they will walk and not be faint.

When I force myself to remember who God is, any nervousness just seems silly.

Then, while my team was warming up, God sent me one more reminder of the "grand scheme" or the "big picture" to calm me down. Some fans from the other team sat directly behind me and two older gentlemen struck up a conversation with me. This is kinda weird. Typically, few people try to talk to the coach moments before the game but they didn't realize I was the coach. (They later told me I don't look like a coach, "in a good way.") They were super friendly though, so instead of sitting in a pile of nerves waiting for the game to start, I found myself telling two strangers all about Mozambique. I created a bit of an awkward moment when I realized too late that the men were not Christians but I rattled on and on about how I miss being forced to rely on God on a daily basis and am trying to figure out how to do that in America. Pictures of Andre and Lorenzo and Martina floated through my mind as I talked and a huge smile stretched across my face because the memory of these precious children will always remind me of how big my God is.

Maybe I should have been more focused. Maybe I should have been thinking about basketball moments before a huge game. But maybe thinking about the village of Shiparango was just what I needed. By the time the whistle blew, I was butterfly free and had a clear sense of whose I am and whom I serve.

If you're curious, we won the game. It was back and forth the entire game until the last 3 minutes when our star went unconscious. If you're not familiar with basketball slang, that's a good thing. When she touched the ball she could not miss. It was sick. It was nasty. Okay, now I'm just mocking modern slang adjectives for "really, really good." She made five three pointers in the fourth quarter alone which were all behind NBA range while being guarded by two people. Yeah. I know. Crazy. My assistant coach told us later that her dad literally was drawn to tears when she hit one of the shots at the buzzer of the 30 second shot clock because, as he said, "someone can only do that because of God's power." Her shots didn't make me cry, which is quite surprising considering my proclivity for tears in odd situations, but they did make me laugh. It was pretty nuts.

Kids have a wonderful way of reminding us of the big picture. During a tense moment in the game, two year old Hudson climbed down to sit right next to me and show me his money and try to steal my water. Vander caught my eye and made me promise I would play with him after the game. The gym was overflowing, the game was close, and all my nephews cared about was playing with their auntie. I love that. Then, after Kari went unconscious and won the game for us, the whole gym was embracing her; the opposing fans were shaking her hand; and Vander, a loyal fan of the APU Cougars, told her, "Kari, my Cougars could beat you."

Kids truly have a wonderful way of killing butterflies and bringing us back to reality.


  1. Katie, this is such a great story. I love the way you tell about the game. I love your nephews. I love Kari! (Seriously, so fun that she had an amazing game.) When is your next big game?!?

  2. Thanks Les. It was last night. We lost by five. I'll write about it this week:) Even though we lost, we still qualified for the State playoffs so we'll play next Tuesday.