I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting at a booth with Rio Grande with a few of my Saintsation sisters waiting for our headshots to pop up on a live stream reveal. Going into my third year as an NFL cheerleader, I just hoped my headshot looked good, and that I got some new amazing sisters. But face after face that scanned across the screen, my stomach began to spin upside down and my heart sank lower and lower. Water uncontrollably filed my eyes with just 3 to 4 faces left to view. I knew they weren’t mine, I knew I wasn’t a face that would be shown on that live stream. I looked over at a sister who kept shaking her head in disbelief, “no, this is wrong, there’s been a mistake,” and another sister, “there’s no way, that can’t be right!” Tears streamed down my face, even as they are now as I’m writing this… After two years of a crazy, busy, Saintsational life, my professional dancing career came to a rushing, halt… much like a swinging door that slams you in the face after you push it open too hard, this smack in the face came completely unwarned.
“Alright God, what do you want me to do.” I felt like I had been clotheslined by God. Straight knocked down at the throat and laying on the ground looking up to the sky. I was empty, confused, scared, and a little bitter… okay a lot bitter. I metaphorically laid down after the smack in the face for a good while. God did some work on me then, “get up my child, I have plans for you.” Me, like any stubborn child who’s angry they didn’t get their way with arms crossed, squinted eyebrows and a puffy chin and cheek combo… “no.” “Sarah, get up my child, I have great plans for you…” ……. “no.”…… “Sarah, my daughter, get up… trust me, I have amazing plans for you…”
What an amazing year I had after that season of change. God showed me so much and granted so many desires of my heart. My blog kicked off, I began my momma ministry in Hattiesburg, was able to travel a little bit, share my story, and so much more. But I still felt a burning desire in my heart that I didn’t even think twice about asking God to provide. I thought it was selfish, I thought I just couldn’t “let go.” I felt like it was a fleshly desire because it’s something that I wanted to do mostly for myself, because I enjoy it, it’s my passion.
In October 2017, I was working too much and not focusing on my body and health much at all. For someone who moves and dances often, at this season of life, I was working a desk job and desperately needed something for my body to move and grow stronger. I reached out to a sweet friend who is a personal trainer and began working with him in the mornings (with my sweet, amazing, motivating baby girl). As my body grew stronger, so did my desires. My personal trainer was not only wise with weights, but also with mental and emotional health. He is great at helping his victims- I mean clients 🙂
As a personal trainer he helps us reach goals, not just physical, muscular, or weight loss goals, but goals in life. One morning he asked us to write down three things we want in the future, three goals. I am a very goal oriented person, but for some reason I stared at this piece of paper for quite some time. I think as adults, and especially as parents, we begin to feel guilty if we want anything for ourselves. Sometimes as Christians we may even feel guilty to want things for ourselves. I felt as though my goals should have read “world peace.”
I struggled with my wants and goals for a few days. But I knew what it was. I knew what I wanted to write on that piece of paper. And so I did. I prayed about it, and I wrote it… “Another year as a Saintsation.”
That was it. Once I wrote the words I hit the ground running, or hit the weights lifting I guess. Everything I did in that gym was with auditions in mind. I woke up at 4am two days a week to get in the gym from 5am-6am, yes, daughter by my side. But once I left the gym… my mind would race with “Sarah, how in the WORLD are you going to do this? You have absolutely zero time.” But… nonetheless, giving it to God in prayer, I kept my eyes on my physical strength and His spiritual strength. Week and months passed by; I grew stronger physically, mentally, and spiritually.
In February 2018, I hit a rough spot. A spot my coworkers can vouch for. My anxiety hit an all time high with the thought of trying out for the team again. “Sarah, there is NO WAY you can do this,” I thought constantly. I had a full time job, a part time job, a side (few hours a week) job, a non-profit, a ministry, a child… and grad school. Yes, yes I am crazy, but even better, God is crazy. Pushing forward and trying to leave my thoughts behind I had severe anxiety attacks in the month of February. I truly thought I had walking pneumonia because my chest hurt so bad I couldn’t breathe. I found myself being physically ill, and my character had completely changed. There were days I sat under my desk in the fetal position stricken with anxiety. I finally went to the doctor and was prescribed some anxiety medication, but more than that prescribed rest.
I’m thankful for that month of my life because forcing myself to rest and be stricken with anxiety truly made my focus rely solely on Jesus. I rested, I prayed, I read, and I prepared myself for my dreams. I’m happy to report that only three months later, I got off my medicine and am blessed to say I don’t feel the anxiety of my life anymore. PRAISE!
Auditions were to be held in May 2018, and practice would begin soon after twice a week. I was definitely prepared for that. The weekend of auditions in May fell at the perfect weekend because there were only two weeks of school after that and I had no work obligations during that time. Perfect right? Yes, until auditions were changed to the middle of April and I was sure all hope was lost, on top of that, they were the same weekend as my daughter’s last dance competition. There was no way.
I prayed constantly during this time. I felt so strongly about auditioning, about being different this time around. My faith had grown tremendously, I had rededicated my life to Christ, and I wanted to use my passion as a pedestal for the gospel; it was all on my heart so strongly… “God, how can I do this?”
“YOU can’t but with me, we can… get yourself to New Orleans.”
The week before tryouts, I desperately tried to talk myself out of it. I tried to tell my friends to talk me out of it. But there was a select few sisters in Christ who maintained their faith in me and their faith of God’s story of my life and encouraged me to push through.
The weekend was insane. I drove to New Orleans on a Friday for the first round of auditions, ready and willing to just dance for Jesus. I drove home that night, and hit the road with my daughter to head to the coast for the first day of competition Saturday morning. Once all of Evey’s dances were through I drove back home, and prepared for the Sunday of auditions in New Orleans. I left Evelie with my mom on the coast because she had once last dance that morning that I had to miss. And as much as that hurt, and I felt an overwhelming amount of guilt, I continuously felt God say, “Get yourself to New Orleans, it won’t always be like this.”
After half a day of dance, interviews, and pictures in New Orleans, I drove back to the coast to see my daughter win her trophy. Then we drove back home to continue the week of auditions.
It was a long weekend, and a long week. But an even longer process of discovering who made the team. The irony of it all is that I was so worried about an April audition because of grad school and work. Practice would start as soon as the team was announced and I knew it would be a rough few weeks. But somehow, by the grace of God, it took almost a month for the team to be announced. Just in time for me to finish my spring semester of grad school and all my work obligations, I even was able to attend my daughter’s end of the year music performance, that I would have missed if the team had been announced sooner and practice began.
Are you sensing a pattern yet? It gets better.
Once the team was announced, practice began immediately. I was enrolled in my final semester of grad school over the summer and classes were Tuesday and Thursday nights online. Surprise, practices were Tuesday and Thursday nights as well. There was suppose to be a total of about 8 classes over the semester, most of them were canceled last minute, about the time I would have had a heart attack because I couldn’t get to New Orleans and be in class at the same time. The ones that weren’t cancelled, I arrived in New orleans right when then started, and they ended… right as practice began. I never missed a lesson… I never missed a practice.
Right before the season began we learned that our uniforms were going to be quite different than years past. No more stomach showing, no more cleavage showing, not too much leg… the visual of a NFL Cheerleader for the New Orleans Saints was going to be different… Irony? When I told my mom, (sweet, old fashioned, momma) that I was going to tryout again, she said “You don’t look at an NFL Cheerleader and think, ‘now that’s a woman of God.’ Your uniforms just don’t scream that, and you’re okay with it?” …….God.
As the beginning of the school year rounded the corner, with my new AWESOME dream job of being a dance teacher, many people asked how in the world am I going to juggle it all? But since day one of this adventure the answer was easy… I’m not going to juggle it. Jesus has got it under control.
Being a new teacher, I had last pick of after or before school duties. I knew practice was on Tuesday and Thursday so I’d have to leave right after school. The schedule for duty was slim-pickin’s, but you know what was left? Wednesday and Friday afternoon duty. Sold.
There has been a constant commitment of God and me being on this team, he has scheduled things in my favor in so many ways it takes my breath away. In October, there was suppose to be a big storm on Halloween night, a Wednesday night, so the county was going to change it to the Tuesday night before. I had a mild panic attack because I don’t want to miss these moments with my daughter. I gave it to God, the storm moved away, and Halloween was on the Wednesday night. Most recently, I have been dreading the idea of not seeing or spending time with my daughter on her birthday. I’m the mom that spoils her and checks her out of school and takes her on adventures and it’s just not an option with dedication to the team. I prayed so hard to find a way to spend time with her on that special day. And although it may not be perfect, the morning of her birthday she woke up with a fever and sore throat so we stayed home from school. I took her to the doctor, and the strep and flu tests came back negative… it was just a 24 hour thing… Which gave us enough hours on her birthday to make me feel like God is solely in control.
I haven’t missed a single “mom-thing” while being an NFL Cheerleader because God has been faithful to provide. Christ has been highlighted in my life by this adventure through a news article, online articles, newspaper article and so much more. I have been able to witness to Saintsation sisters and tell them how amazing our God is. I have made amazing sweet sisters in Christ on the team that I will cherish forever.
All my worries, anxiety, fear, and even my moms worries and fears… have been conquered by God and His plan for my life. He has ORCHESTRATED this entire year of my life perfectly, every single second has been planned to perfection. It still blows me away just thinking about it. This isn’t a collection of everything He has done this year, it’s just little bits and pieces. But I hope it inspires you to submit to Christ and ask Him to use your passions to bring Him glory… He’ll be happy to show you His majesty and power. I know He has for me….
and He’s not done yet 🙂
“Commit your works to the Lord, and your plans will be established.” Proverbs 16:3