The Tenth Soldier

I have nine key guys in my life. Nine guys that make up my own little army.

One dad, two brothers, two grandpas, and four uncles.

I’ve known these guys my whole life. It’s an understatement to say they’ve made me who I am today. Each of them make my world spin. Each of them have taught me different things.

My Dad has taught me how to lead and how to lead effectively. My Grandpas how to work hard. My uncles to have fun and enjoy life. My brothers to keep my head up, not letting what others say get to me.

But one man in particular taught me so many things without me realizing it.

He’s the Tenth guy missing from my army of nine.

Gary Wimmer was like another Grandpa to me. Both of my Grandpas are top-notch, and Gary was right up there with them.

Gary taught me many things, but the most prevalent was to encourage those around me. He showed me the importance of an old-fashioned slap on the back after a hard-fought game. When he said those four magic words, “I’m proud of you,”  you knew he wasn’t saying it lightly. His encouragement of what you did well, coupled by suggestions for the future were famous to his name.

This was mostly common for my brothers, dad, and uncles, but he never failed to do the same for me after a musical, game I had cheered at, or each time after I had sang the National Anthem. It didn’t matter if he knew my toe-touch was off-centered, the slap on the back was coming after the game. And I knew it.

Everyone did. Gary may have been a wrestler and football player at heart, but he was everyone’s cheerleader. He encouraged you, even when you didn’t believe you deserved it. And he loved every second of watching and cheering you on.

But one year ago, God decided Gary needed a better seat to cheer from. A seat where he could see everything at once – his grandkids in Denver and Austin, my brothers and cousins in Creston, and me, at Simpson College – one of his favorite places.

Simpson reminds me of Gary due to one conversation I had with him before I had even submitted my deposit during my senior year of high school. Just mentioning the possibility of going to Simpson College and cheering for the football team made him already start planning trips to the Saturday afternoon football games… and I hadn’t even committed to going to Simpson!

When I eventually did, I knew he would be excited and want to come to a game. Well, now he’s at every game.

I think I can speak for everyone when I say we miss him dearly on Earth. And while he sees that, he doesn’t want to be down here with us! He’s with His Savior – my Savior – waiting for us to come to him.

So my army of nine is really an army of ten, with the most important soldier looking out for me from a different angle.

And while we miss his signature walk as he would make his way over to pat you on the back while saying “I’m proud of you,” we know we will see him again. We are thankful for the hope we have in our God that one day, we’ll hear those famous four words again.

But for now, I know he’s watching over me at the Simpson football games… okay, he’s watching the football game. We all know it, but he always made time to watch me and I’m sure he still does!

Gary Wimmer, you were taken too soon from our standpoint, but we know God had bigger and better plans. We relish in the memories you have left us, the advice you have given, and the encouragement we have received.

Until we meet again.

To “That” Friend

We all have that friend.

That friend we tell everything about our relationships to.

That one friend you have to tell the minute after your first kiss with that boy or girl you’ve been talking to for weeks.

The friend you text immediately when they ask you to be their boyfriend/girlfriend.

I don’t care if you’re a guy or a girl, we all have that friend. And sometimes, we are that friend.

For those of you who are like me – who are that friend – you know exactly what I’m talking about when I say how much I really love to hear those stories. I love when my friends text or call me with updates in their relationship. I love to put myself in their shoes and get just as excited as they are – live vicariously through their relationship, as I often say.

And while I really, truly love being that friend, it’s hard to do when you can’t relate. When you don’t exactly know what they’re going through, because you’re not going through it yourself.

I have always been known to be independent. My own person. I have never needed someone else to “complete me” or provide my identity. I have dated before and been content in those relationships, but I have never needed someone to be happy. I am who I am and everyone knows it.

But let’s be real. Sometimes that gets old.

And that’s okay.

It’s okay to go to those friends who are in relationships and explain your frustration. It’s okay to be confused as to why they are allowed to be in a relationship, but you are stuck “finding yourself” or “spending time for yourself” – things only people who are in happy relationships tell those who are sad (it gets old, people).

But let me tell you one thing,

God doesn’t make mistakes.

There really is a reason for this singleness. There’s a reason someone hasn’t tapped into your full potential. I know you’ve probably heard this a thousand times, but God really is saving you for someone special.

God sees your potential. He sees all the love you know you can give someone. But not just anyone.

See, God knows the exact person who deserves your love. He knows the exact person who deserves my love. And maybe, just maybe, He has placed you and me in this place of singleness because we haven’t met that person yet.

So I encourage you, as I encourage myself, to wait. Wait for the one worthy of your love. Wait for the one God has set aside for you.

They tell me, so I’ll tell you, that this person is worth waiting for. As hard as it is to see all your friends happy in their relationships, yours is coming.

Your happiness is coming.

It may not be right around the corner, but it’s coming.

And then, those friends can take their turn understanding the happiness that comes along with being that friend.

Won’t that be sweet.

Defining (hard) Moments

So, spring break is next week. And after the week I’ve been having, I’m going to need it.

Although I promote motivation and keeping a positive attitude, I’ll be the first to admit I don’t always practice what I preach.

These last few days have hit me hard – emotionally, mentally and physically. I’ve been stressed, disappointed, upset and frustrated. It seemed like this week was DRAGGING on and that warm, Florida light at the end of the tunnel was lightyears away.

This mindset is not healthy. Often times, I’ll see my friends stressing out and tell them to stop, take a step back, and look at the bigger picture. In the moment, everything seems so big. Maybe even unrelenting. But by taking a step back to look at the entire situation, how small the actual problem is compared to the grand scheme of things, it calms me down.

By taking a step back, I can see how these stressful situations make me tougher.

“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger,” right?

Sometimes, I don’t take the high road. Sometimes, I let the situation consume me until I’m sitting in my friend’s car, sobbing with the music blaring so no one can hear me.

It’s okay to have breakdowns. But what matters is how you get back up.

And that’s the moment that will define you.

That’s the moment you’ll look back at and say, “right then. That’s when I got tough.”

The reality is, sometimes, it’s hard to grit your teeth and deal with it. It’s not healthy to keep those emotions hidden from the outside world. Scream. Cry. Talk about your frustrations.

But then, wipe your tears and get back on your horse.

I speak from experience on this one.

Getting back into the saddle (literally and figuratively), might be the hardest thing you do, but it will be the moment you remember. It will be your defining moment.

So, I tell you this as I remind myself, YOU CAN DO THIS. Even if your spring break doesn’t start this next week, there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Each day only lasts 24 hours. Each week only lasts 7 days.

Get back on your horse. Let the hard moments define you.

A Defining Trip

When I tell people I’m going to Florida for spring break, I know most of them assume I’m going to the same place every other college student goes over spring break – Daytona Beach.

But when I tell them I’m going to Jacksonville, Florida, on a mission trip with the Indianola Light Company, their eyes get big.

Why would a college student want to “waste” her spring break on a mission trip?

Personally, I don’t see this mission trip as a waste at all. I see it as an opportunity to connect with others – both from Simpson and from the Jacksonville community.

A year ago, I, along with 15 other college students, loaded up the vans and drove a total of 24 hours to Jacksonville.

Although we’re in Florida and we’re obviously excited to enjoy the warmer weather, that’s not all we intend to do. In the mornings, we get split into groups that go to area schools and help out wherever we’re needed.

After our mornings in the schools, we spend our afternoons in “community beautification.” This requires work gloves, trash bags, weed-eaters, rakes, and (most importantly) a positive attitude. We spread out and scour the community, looking for ways we can make their homes look the best they can be, all while keeping a servant’s attitude.

My favorite part of the day comes after we complete our beautification for the day. We walk back to the church we ate lunch at and play with the kids during the last hour that they’re with the mission for the after-school program. We might be tired, dirty, and in desperate need of showers, but playing with those kids has a way of energizing each of us. They’re the real highlight of our day.

After our work, it’s really dependent upon whatever the leaders have planned for us that night. Sometimes we go get popsicles, sometimes we have a Bible study, or sometimes we’re left to ourselves to rest or explore our area (with a friend, of course. Don’t be worried, Mom).

We keep this routine for the first four days we’re in Jacksonville. The last day, Friday, we load up the van and head to the beach for a day of relaxation before driving 24 hours back home. We venture into the ocean, lay on the beach, and we even got a sand volleyball tournament going last year (S/O to my team who were the CHAMPS).

All-in-all, this trip to Jacksonville is one that was jam-packed with defining moments. There were many situations where I could have had a negative attitude, which is infectious on trips like this. One bad apple can really spoil the bunch. But, after a few days, it’s easy to keep a positive mindset. The people on the trip become like family. You grow and learn so many things together, the only choice is to become a little “Fam.” 😉

So, that being said, on Friday, March 2nd at midnight, 12 of us college students will be heading down to Jacksonville once again. Having been on this trip before, I have an idea of what to expect, but I am excited to see what defining moments we’ll encounter. Stay tuned – I might just have a few interesting stories to tell once I get back.

 

A Defining Position

Pi Beta Phi. 

An organization with a mission to “promote friendship, develop women of intellect and integrity, cultivate leadership and potential, and enrich lives through community service.”

To do this, each chapter must elect their choice of executive leaders, starting with the president.

At Simpson College, Jess Tometich is the president of the Iowa Beta chapter of Pi Beta Phi.

2018 is her year to lead Iowa Beta to success.

This title of President is not one to be taken lightly, and Jess knows that.

“When I found out that I was slated for the position, I was full of excitement. But it was also scary at the same time. I knew I had some big shoes to fill. Those who have come before me did amazing jobs and left amazing legacies.”

Jess also recognized in this defining moment, that she was now the leader of a large executive team.

“I knew I had an amazing exec team to work with and we were all really excited to serve the chapter.”

One of the biggest missions of Pi Beta Phi is to promote servant leadership. Jess knew this was the position for her based on the reason she decided to run for president in the first place.

“I really just wanted to be able to serve the chapter in serving through another leadership position that gave me a little more responsibility.”

And with responsibility comes many lessons. Some hard, some easy, but all worthwhile.

“I’ve learned that being a leader can be hard. You never know when a situation is going to arise that you have to act on. You also learn how to deal with stressful situations, as well as manage your own stress, along with learning how to prioritize.”

Jess also mentioned the things she’s learned about herself.

“It’s taught me that I care a lot about everyone. I always want to make everyone happy and sometimes it’s hard, but it’s taught me that sometimes I put everyone else in front of myself. Sometimes I need to take a step back and take care of myself.”

The new executive positions were slated at the end of the 2017 Fall semester, allowing the new team a full year of leadership opportunities. Looking forward to the remainder of 2018, Jess is excited at what’s to come.

“We’re all still trying to get our feet underneath us in these new positions, but I see a lot of really good things coming. We have a lot of great ideas, but also a lot of improvements to make. I’m really excited to see what we do with the chapter and with the other houses on campus. I think it’ll be a really great year.”

Not only has Jess taken on the responsibilities that come with being Pi Phi President, she’s also managed to make the Dean’s List (again), she’s taking her Senior Capstone class as a junior, and working two jobs, all while making time for me, her Little.

Jess inspires me to be the best I can be for those around me.

To make time to listen to the people closest to me.

But she also inspires me to work hard for what I want. To never settle for second best.

I’m so excited to see what she does as the President of our Iowa Beta chapter. And, as a Little, I couldn’t be more proud of her.

 

Defining Cowboy Mounted Shooting

Cold, nasty days like today make me anxious for summer.

The warm sun, the late summer nights and the smell of gunpowder.

That’s right, gunpowder. During the summer, my family devotes a good chunk of our time to an uncommon sport.

Cowboy Mounted Shooting.

This is a sport in which riders shoot two six-cylinder pistols filled with .45-caliber black powder bullets at ten balloon targets while racing their horses as fast as they can go. The five white balloons first, then the five red. Participants are required to wear western shirts, jeans, boots, chinks, holsters and cowboy hats.

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During each competition, four out of 60+ patterns are chosen. Each rider has four chances to shoot at their best, knowing that missing one balloon (adding five seconds to their time) could be the difference between first and second place.

To make things even more interesting, sometimes riders pick up level-action rifles or double-barrel shot guns along with one of their pistols. First are the five white balloons shot with the pistol. Then, riders line their horses up with the five red balloons in the “run down,” drop the reins, and pick up the rifle or shotgun to shoot at their last five targets.

Six years ago, my Grandpa and brother started this sport what would eventually entice most of my family members. Now, more than 20 of our family and closest friends caravan all across the nation to mounted shooting competitions. 19 kids, 12 adults and more horses than we can count have been to Nebraska, Oklahoma, Texas and many arenas in Iowa.

It’s safe to say our family is addicted, but it’s not just the sport that we can’t get enough of.

It’s the atmosphere.

It’s the family aspect – not just with my large Travis family, but with the friends we make along the way. While obviously focused on his own success, each competitor also strives to make sure everyone does their best. It’s not uncommon for one contestant to come out of the arena after their run and suggest the most effective way to run the pattern to the competitor who’s up next.

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This is why we’re addicted.

Not just because of the inevitable adrenaline rush or the shiny first place buckles.

Six years ago, my family got into a sport that would soon impact our lives. Yes, summer weekends are always spent in arenas filled with gunpowder. Yes, it has taken up most of our summer nights (the wives in our family like to joke that it’s become our family vacations). But I, for one, love it.

I love the time spent with my cousins.

I love the bonding that happens with my uncles over a clean pattern.

I love the lessons learned by a frustrating misfire or a operator mistake (even though some of those lessons can be hard to learn).

I love learning from my Dad, brothers, or Grandpa what the most efficient pattern looks like.

I love the time spent with my family.

It’s so much more than a sport. It’s the family aspect. It’s the life lessons of responsibility, dedication and losing gracefully.

It’s our “thing.” And THAT is why I can’t wait til summer.

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Defining Tomorrow

There’s one word that my friend, Mary-Grace Wachal, and I don’t say.

It starts with a G, ends with an “raduation.”

Mary-Grace is a senior at Simpson College and will be graduating at the end of April. We met during my freshman year of college and quickly became good friends. The thought of her graduating is not one I enjoy thinking about.

But it’s not because I’m worried about her. No, Mary-Grace will be fine in the real world. She has an end-goal, but she also has a plan to achieve that end-goal.

“I plan to hopefully attend grad school one day for occupational therapy.”

Occupational Therapy is a form of rehabilitation that specializes in a specific area – from hands, to feet, to a certain age group.

“I would like to specialize in pediatrics, but I wouldn’t be opposed to broadening my horizons and seeing what else there is, because occupational therapy is a very broad field.”

The field of occupational therapy is extremely popular and growing immensely. This is good for the field as a whole, but it makes things difficult for aspiring OT’s.

Before grad school, applicants must complete a certain list of course work. Mary-Grace will graduate with her exercise science major, but will need a few more classes before considering grad school.

“I was originally looking at physical therapy, but I decided, after going through two rehab cycles of my own due to hip and knee surgeries, that’s not what I wanted to do. So, because I switched to focus on occupational therapy, there’s a few more classes I need to take before I can apply to grad school.”

In that gap year, Mary-Grace plans to work as an athletic trainer or coach at a local school.

If you were to talk to my friend about life after graduation, you would be surprised at her demeanor. She’s not stressed. She’s not worried.

“I think I’d be more stressed if I were looking for grad schools right now for this fall. But, everything will fall into place. It’s really dependent upon stuff that’s out of my control at this point.”

That takes guts. To trust that something completely out of control is going to work out in the end? See, this is why I’m not worried about my friend.

But she brings up a good point. It doesn’t make much sense to be worried about things that are out of our control. I recently had this conversation with another friend about a current situation I’m going through. I don’t like not being in control. I don’t enjoy the unknown. But there can be a certain peace in the unknown. It’s out of my control, so worrying about it is not going to help.

My goal is to be like my friend.

She knows God’s got this under control. She trusts in His plan. She knows He has her best interest in mind. I know this because she constantly is telling me to do the same.

Why worry about tomorrow? Live in the moment without worrying about what comes next.

“She is clothed in strength and dignity and laughs without fear of the future.” -Proverbs 31:25