Game Face

Cheering on the Horned Frogs in the 2023 College Football Playoff National Championship

Life is full of ups and downs. Sometimes you walk through seasons where it feels like you will never make it out of the valley and sometimes you hit stretches where you just can’t lose. Sometimes life’s highs and lows play a game of ping pong and hit you back and forth all at once. This yo-yo effect can actually be more wearing than just staying in a valley with the devil you know.

There are so few things in life that we can be certain about and, unfortunately, we can count on the fact that we will always face hardships. I think there is a fine line between being practical by expecting hard times to fall upon you, while remaining anxious for nothing. By gearing up we can face hard times when they come head on knowing that God has promised to never forsake us. A few years ago, my late-husband and I sat in his office talking about the future and new endeavors we were implementing on the ranches. I remember Taylor mentioning that, for the moment, we had everything going for us; good health, happy children and all of our parents were alive and well. We knew such complacency couldn’t last forever, but we weren’t going to let fear of future unknown changes steal our joy in the present. Setbacks and disappointment can only erase accomplishments and victories if we let the enemy get a foothold on our worries.

My alma mater and hometown team had a big loss last week. They also played an incredible season and worked harder than every other team to achieve the opportunity to compete at the highest level. The heartache of one loss only overshadows the triumphs of an entire season if we allow it to. Like so many others who traveled to Los Angeles for the game, I woke up the next morning to a canceled flight and a change in travel plans that placed me on the red eye back to Texas. I quickly accepted the fact that I would be spending the night on the plane attempting to sleep in a middle seat before heading straight to work and decided to make the best of my extra time in LA. My ride from DFW brought me back to my house at 6 am, giving me an hour to get myself and the girls ready before heading to school. I attempted to hide my exhaustion with a smile as I greeted students in the morning and thought that a big part of teaching is putting on your game face for the children in front of you as you compartmentalize everything else going on.

“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not be in want.

He makes me lie down in green pastures, he leads me beside quiet waters, he restores my soul.

He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.

You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies. You anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.

Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.”

Psalm 23

I will never forget one day in my teaching career when I hung up the phone with Child Protective Services to discuss an incident a student had shared with me and walked straight from my principal’s office across the hall to a room full of kindergarteners eager for their art class. I wanted to burst into tears after the events that unfolded earlier but instead said a quick prayer outside my door, forced a smile and loved extra hard on those little ones that day. As a teacher, that was a rough day but it was also filled with lots of joy and ended with me tucking my own sweet children into bed that night which is a gift I will never take for granted.

Life will always give us upsets and we can’t allow them to keep us from showing up and enjoying the victories. I know after the holidays many of us are exhausted from wearing our game faces as we forced ourselves to celebrate while battling through grief, disappointment, uncertainty, etc… I think it is important to keep your game face on in your spiritual life so that the enemy doesn’t see the opportunity to kill, steal and destroy. Just because you are walking through a valley does not mean you can’t enjoy the view or look forward to what is around the corner. As christians, we know that we are walking through everything life throws at us alongside the Lord and for anyone who does not know Christ, He also walks alongside you eagerly awaiting you to call upon Him. Call upon the Lord in everything you do because faith equips us to meet all of life’s challenges shielded with the ultimate game face.

Love, Molly

Copyright © 2023, M. Marley, LLC.

Rushing the Field

Friday Night Lights

Have you ever witnessed a young child do something adorably naughty? It may have brought a smile to others observing or even a full on belly laugh, but I can assure you the parent of the misbehaving child will initially have a different reaction. My youngest, Charlotte (Lola), learned from a very young age that she can bring joy to others. Our family has been through more than our fair share of tragedy and, even as a baby, I think Charlotte knew that she possessed an ability to comfort others by sharing her joy, giving a hug or making someone laugh, even if it means toeing a line she knows not to cross.

I most recently experienced this adorable naughtiness at a varsity high school football game. Charlotte has appointed herself one of the cheerleaders and before kickoff likes to greet the crowd on the bleachers with a loud, “thank you so much for coming, everyone.” Her big sister, Margot, is doing junior cheer this year and Charlotte has quickly picked up all the routines. They are both blessed to to have a precious high school squad that loves on all the little ones and serve as Christ-centered role models.

During Friday night’s game, Charlotte had the privilege of going down on the track with the varsity cheerleaders. She couldn’t have been more excited. Never one to shy away from an audience, my four year old was all smiles when she was lifted up to wave her pom poms in front of the entire home crowd. Charlotte was basking in the attention and then, right at the beginning of the third quarter, she made a run for it. As the teams moved down to the east end zone, a tiny cheerleader ran to the west. The cheer coach went racing after her in wedged heels and I let a curse slip out of my mouth as I sprang from my seat in the bleachers and quickly made my way down. She was caught and scooped up just as she stepped foot onto the field around the 10 yard line as the game played on.

“Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith.”

Hebrews 12:1-2a

I heard from several people after the fact how funny this incident was. However, as the mother of the little runaway, I was mortified and had all the “what-if” scenarios running through my head the rest of the night as I thanked God that the game action was happening on the other end of the field. The next day as the girls and I watched the end of the TCU vs OSU game together, I talked to them about how much their daddy loved college football, especially his alma mater. As we celebrated a TCU win in our living room, I couldn’t help but laugh to myself as I saw the footage of everyone rushing the field of Amon Carter Stadium. I was brought back to post game celebrations on that same field with Taylor. The thought of breaking rules gives me stomach ulcers, but Taylor could always talk me into jumping a fence in the name of a horned frog victory. I had to laugh as I thought to myself, “I guess Lola comes by her field rushing honestly.

There are passages in the Bible that refer to life as a race. One of the biggest challenges in our earthly race is ensuring that we and our fellow runners can see the finish line clearly. We will certainly experience fatigue and hit the wall from time to time, but scripture has given us plenty of motivation to keep on going. In Hebrews we are reminded of our faithful predecessors like Enoch, Noah and Abraham, who stayed the course and finished strong. When Christ died for all of us, he freed us of our sins and lightened our loads immensely. This freedom allows us to run as carefree as a child or enthusiastic fan rushing the field at the end of a football game. Almost three years ago I lost my running partner. Taylor completed his race and is celebrating in the eternal winner’s circle. Knowing what awaits the Christian when we cross our earthly finish line should be all the motivation we need to keep up our endurance and cheer on our fellow runners until it is our time to be welcomed into the loving arms of the one who freed us.

Love, Molly

Copyright © 2022, M. Marley, LLC.

Faith Like a Child

My youngest is turning four this week. I look at her and will always see my baby. The hardest part about her turning four is that she is now older than her big sister, Margot, was when I had to tell her that her daddy died. Margot wasn’t even four yet when I sat her down to explain that she went to bed the night before while her daddy was still at work and he never made it home. And Charlotte really was just a baby. At the time I was thankful that she would wake up from her crib that morning none the wiser and, for the time being, I would only need to worry about the shattered heart of one child.

Charlotte’s first memories will always be of loss and grief. If it weren’t for pictures, I am not sure if at this point she would even have memories of life with two parents. She has grown up in an environment of unimaginable sorrow, yet my four year old is so full of innocence, joy and life. Because while Taylor never came back home to us, he did make it home and back to his eternal headquarters. Even as a toddler, Charlotte was able to accept that while we will experience pain and sadness in the broken world we live in, her daddy doesn’t know anything but love and happiness in heaven. Charlotte had to learn so very early on that it is possible for pain and joy to live in tandem.

My youngest has always been a child of faith and I pray she will always continue to grow in her relationship with Christ. She has a personality that brings a smile to everyone she encounters and is a born performer. I call her “my little filibuster” because when we say our nightly prayers, Charlotte will go on and on and on. I’m sure this is partly her way of buying time to stay up a little later and partly because she has a lot to talk to God about. She was also blessed with an incredible PreK teacher, Ms. Sarah, who taught the class to go to prayer about everything in their little worlds and Charlotte most definitely does.

“He called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.'”

Matthew 18:2-4

Recently I was listening to a podcast that mentioned a Rabbi who often liked to remind his congregation that, “life is not a puzzle to solve, but a mystery to embrace.” A quick google search attributes this sentiment to the existentialist Soren Kierkegaard who called life “a reality to be experienced.” I prefer the Rabbi’s wording. We were not put on earth to merely experience it, but to embrace it. If you have ever seen a young child’s face around bubbles, you have seen pure excitement and wonder. It is the same amsuement we should embrace all aspects of our lives with.

A child doesn’t need to worry about understanding how the bubbles are formed or where they come from, but just enjoys them while they are there. We should even embrace the inevitable times when the bubbles pop or float away because that is part of life. What matters most is that life on earth and our experiences are a gift given to all of us AND we are also offered the gift of eternal life. The only caveat of the latter is that we have to humble ourselves and accept it. When a child is offered a present, they don’t hesitate to receive it. A child doesn’t have to worry about the cost of the present or how it was paid for. The gift of eternal life is the same for us because the transaction was already made when Christ died for all of our sins. All we have to do is accept and embrace.

Love, Molly

Copyright © 2022, M. Marley, LLC.