Late bloomers and cheering squads
I remember Junior High.
And I remember there being more "lows" than "highs," for sure.
Happy Thursday friends.
The teeniest shrub of a lilac bush decided to bloom beside my back porch long after its relatives had come and gone.
Perhaps it was the snow, the weird warm and cool spells tricking it into blooming, or maybe it was just a "late bloomer" this year.
Whatever the reason, if it had bloomed with the rest of the lilacs, I sure wouldn't enjoy it's blossoms like I do presently.
I wouldn't stop and get so low to the ground to smell the tiny purple flowers when others just in front of my face were available.
Come to think of it, this "late bloomer" isn't late at all. It bloomed just as life slowed a bit for me to be blessed and encouraged by it just being there.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds me- "To every thing there is a season; and a time to every purpose under the heaven:"
There's a time to EVERY purpose of God on this crazy earth of ours.
Eighth grade was such a turning point for me.
I felt like a "late bloomer."
I was awkward, trying to follow the Lord in my new zeal to please Him, and just didn't know how that all meshed with Public School.
I ran cross-country, stunk at it and desperately wanted to be a cheerleader.
I didn't come from a "Cheerleading" home by any stretch.
Us de Leon girls were more of..... the adventurous types.
My oldest sister was a softball catcher and my other sister was known for her right hook.
I remember being so proud of how tough they were.
I vividly recall the time a kid in my neighborhood refused to leave me alone. He taunted me at the top of our street every day where we waited for the bus, wouldn't let me run home with my brother once we were dropped off, and once even pulled a necklace off of my neck and broke it.
The funny thing is, I never remember my Mom or Dad finding out about this kid.
That is, until my oldest sister slugged him in the face in my defense.
This may be a good time to note that my oldest sister is just shy of five feet tall.
I remember how this kid's parents came over to yell at my parents for letting their daughter "beat their son up."
This scene was embarrassingly hilarious and lives on in infamy in the de Leon house.
Not to be outdone, my other older sister beat up the neighbor girl behind us and I believe also the girl across from us on the corner of the cul-de-sac.
But this is not what she is most known for.
She is most known for agreeing to a dare to ride a bike with no brakes down a very steep hill that also happened to be a very busy road just at the top of our street.
She rode down, hit a car, a tree, hit something or other, and walked all bloodied home to clean herself up.
I remember walking beside her and asking her if she had broken anything.
She may have, but she wouldn't have admitted it anyway.
Then in High School I too joined the ranks with my sisters as I sat in the Principal's office explaining why I punched a guy in a heated argument.
So, yeah, cheerleading wasn't exactly our cup-of-tea.
But I wanted to be one so badly.
I wanted blonde hair that swung from side to side, contacts to hide the fact that I needed glasses, the grade point average that went along with these smiling cheerleaders, and undoubtably the popularity that followed them to every honors class, lunch table and hallway they entered.
Instead I ended up with the "theatre group."
Those quirky individuals that had different colored hair, always laughed things off and could quote literature like the back of their hand.
I liked the group I was in, but always wished for something else.
Something that would make me feel important.
One night I was invited to a party with the "popular kids," cheerleaders and all. This was my one shot to finally make a name for myself.
I knew it wasn't a party that the Lord would be please with, but somehow I thought that even he would understand how badly I wanted to be noticed.
That party changed everything for me.
One by one, girls were singled-out to darkened places of this ginormous home where who know's what had happened to the parents, and I was singled-out too.
I remember standing in a dark corner room with a boy I hardly knew and remember the Holy Spirit telling me as if he was right beside me,
"If you stay in this room, your life will forever be changed. I will use you, but not how I would like to."
I literally like Joseph, ran out of that house, grabbed a phone, called my Dad and was the laughing stock of the whole Junior High.
It was just a bit later, standing at my locker when the Holy Spirit spoke to me again.
"Would you give your while life to me? Would YOU set yourself apart for ME?"
I about cried for the joy of His words.
I told Him that if He wanted someone like me, if He could use someone like me, I would give him my whole life.
And I did.
I'd sure love the opportunity to take each and every one of my kids to that locker to just thank the Lord for being interested in an awkward eighth grader.
Through the Lord's grace, I said "Goodbye" to Public school and entered a true-blue Christian school my tenth grade year.
I struggled in every subject except Bible.
When my poor Chemistry teacher kept me after class to tell me that he could no longer give me a passing grade in good conscience, I thanked him and dropped his class.
I ate up every ounce of Pilgrim's Progress, Scripture memory and even took extra classes on Problem Bible Texts and Bible Manners and Customs.
I won myself my first ever Bible with my name on it through Bible quizzing and ended my Junior year feeling like I had finally found where I belong.
Then something wonderful happened.
I joined the cheerleading squad my Senior year.
Oh yes I did.
And I am not even ashamed to tell you that I cut my hair to a cute little bob and straightened the daylights out of it so that it would "swing."
It wasn't blonde and I did have contacts and it was seriously glorious.
Right there in God's plan for me was a cheerleading sweater all my own.
There's a picture in my yearbook of me learning that we had won first place in a cheering competition.
I dare you to find a more delighted Senior in the history of ever than that very picture.
And I believe with all of my heart that it took me committing my whole life to the Lord to see that come to pass.
Did it have to come to pass for me to live a joy-filled life? Of course not.
God who loves us like no one could ever love us knew that a forty-four year old would still smile to think that God allowed a cheerleading year into her amazing life just because He loved her.
All along, standing at that party, standing at that locker, standing and watching those cheerleaders at that lunch table, the Lord was cheering for me. Little ol' awkward me.
He knew the wonderful plans He had for me.
I didn't know them, but I did know that if the God of the Universe, the God who created me with brown wavy hair and bad eyesight, if He could use me and all of my mess I was glad to follow him.
Jeremiah 29:11-13 says, "For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end. Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart."
I cannot even begin to know what was in that little eighth grade heart of mine.
I do know that before the foundation of the world, the Lord knew when I would completely give my whole life to him, lock, stock and barrel.
And I know in my heart, all these years later, I've never for one whisper of a moment wished I hadn't.
I have no idea what plans the Lord has for my own 8th grader, my Junior, my college Sophomore and the likes, but I know that their future is as bright as the promises of God.
And in God's amazing providence, I get to remain a cheerleader.
Gray hairs and all, I get to cheer these kids onward and upward as they seek the Lord with their whole hearts.
I mean, can you even?!