The roar of the crowd had taken on a feverish pitch. She could see her mom’s lips moving, the veins in her throat enlarged and vibrating, but the sound was drowned out in the vocal mayhem.
Her heart hammered against her chest, with the exertion, yes, but more now with fear. They were going to lose this game. She could deal with loss. Goodness knows, at sixteen, she’d already lost so much. Her dad, her home, her heart…
She wiped the sweat-tear mixture from her face with the back of her hand. She would not allow thoughts of her father to throw off her focus; although anger had often improved her play in the past. But, as her therapist kept preaching, that loss was not her fault.
However, this loss, on the university gym floor, against their greatest rival, would be her fault. Her mistake late in the game had prized the other team with points her own side couldn’t afford to give away. The glares and foul language fired at her were nothing compared to the reception she’d get on Monday when they returned to school. High schoolers could be brutal.
A rapid bounce-pass suddenly knocked all thoughts from her mind. The seconds were ticking by mercilessly, and the ball was now in her hands.
Determination elbowed fear off the court. She dribbled a few paces, keeping her guard up, her eyes never losing sight of the target. She stopped short and caught her teammate’s eye. She thrust her arms out to pass, but at the last second before releasing the ball, she pivoted and threw the ball toward the basket instead. Her attacker, who had moved to block the pass, was blindsided by the sudden switch in direction and intention and dropped a bomb of curses onto the wooden floor which were quickly swallowed up by the roar of the crowd who were on their feet now; all eyes fixated on the ball as it sped toward its mark.
Her arm was still outstretched, her fingers pointing at the thing she desired most as the ball hit the backboard and swooped into the net. Before she’d allow herself to celebrate, she looked at the clock: three seconds left in the game.
A rush of relief and victorious pride flowed into her chest as her teammates rushed toward her. A glance at the stands revealed her mother jumping up and down, her fist pumping the air, quickly changing her gesture to two thumbs up as their eyes met.
Redemption and victory achieved in one quick pivot.
To pivot is to make a turn, to change directions and do things in a new way. We’ve all learned to pivot this year, haven’t we?
As a teacher, I left school mid-March last year, walking out of the building with a sigh of expectation for a week off, recognizing that this March Break would not involve flying off to a tropical destination to chase the sun’s warmer rays. What I didn’t know at that moment, as we got in our cars and drove away from the building, was that we wouldn’t be returning to teach our students for the rest of the year.
Pivot. How does one teach Kindergarten through a computer? A Master degree in Education and almost thirty years of teaching experience had not prepared me for this.
Summer arrived. New restrictions were imposed. Spending time at the pool became a competition, as we stayed up until midnight to book a spot for an hour. Pivot. Gathering with friends was limited to outdoors only…
Masks became compulsory inside buildings. Pivot. We rushed to buy face coverings and felt the need to voice the words “I’m smiling”, since no one could actually see the evidence.
The world ground to a halt, and businesses closed. People lost their jobs. Pivot. Families were imprisoned in their homes, whether they enjoyed each other’s company or not.
As we headed back to school in the Fall, we faced delayed starts, and a barrage of restrictions and personal protective equipment. Our Kindergarten room was stripped of its rugs, its toys, and its warmth. We stood in sterile, empty rooms and imagined welcoming four and five-year-olds into such a space. Pivot.
As we settled in to a unique school experience, we were constantly reminded not to get too comfortable. Our morning messages from the principal repeated the phrase “Be prepared to pivot” as the number of COVID cases began the upward turn again. We made it to Christmas. Pivot.
Our second State of Emergency lockdown, which began on Boxing Day, came with a Stay-at-Home order with threats of police intervention and fines for noncompliance. As Editor of our community newspaper, I suggested to our Board of Directors that complying, and protecting over 130 volunteer carriers, would mean doing an online-only edition for February. Pivot.
Teaching Kindergarten from my kitchen while my husband chaired virtual meetings on the other side of the wall; we entered a world where the internet is a mandatory commodity – the only thing that connects us with the rest of humanity. We are living in a Stephen King novel. Our own imaginations couldn’t have pictured us here.
A week before the State of Emergency was expected to be lifted, children and teachers headed back to school in-person again; with even more restrictions and preventative measures in place. Pivot.
COVID-19 stole Halloween, ruined Christmas, and now threatens Valentine’s Day as a Board-wide announcement is made to ban card-giving in schools. It has taken our freedom, stripped our lives of entertainment outside of our own houses, and now it aims to stop us from expressing our love as well. Pivot.
My dear reader, I know that my life does not represent the majority; watching the sunrises from my 21st floor and having my path plowed of snow for me to drive to work from one parking garage to another. This pandemic has affected many of you in heart-wrenching ways. The one thing that we’ve all had to do, though, is pivot.
For some, that meant a pivot into overeating or increased alcohol or drug use. For others, it meant a pivot into depression. Still others turned to God. And that’s a pivot worth the cost.
No matter how harshly this pandemic has treated you, God has not abandoned us. He wants you to know that He’s there, with His arms stretched open wide to hold you in a time when hugs with everyone else is off limits. He knows what you need. All He asks for in return is your allegiance to Him. He wants you to love Him back – to have a relationship with Him. He says:
“Come to Me, all who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest.”Matthew 11:28 (God’s Word Translation)
I can’t promise that God will change your circumstances in any big way, but what I can promise is that He will give you strength and comfort. He can erase your anxiety and fear of the future. You give it all to Him, and then step back and TRUST that He’s in control. Pivot. When you invite God in, you go from a life of facing things alone to being part of a team. And when you pick a team, whether it’s a sports team or a work team or a life team, having the Creator of the Universe on your side, makes your team undefeatable. Victory is guaranteed.
Daughters of God who navigate these challenging times, grip your Father’s hand more tightly than ever before. Strengthen that relationship through time spent with Him. The way we respond to those pivotal moments is how we shine our lights for Him. Unbelievers are watching to see how we react. Our lives are reflections of what it’s like to be on the winning team!
If you don’t have smiling eyes over that mask, let’s continue telling people “I’m smiling” because we need smiles; we need positive vibes and encouragement. As we walk with our Savior at our side, we have the power to impact others and to help them pivot toward their Maker.