I am having a very hard time finding the words to write about my missions trip to Honduras with Athletes in Action. The one thing I have been able to reflect on are the girls that I was able to share this experience with.
Just a few weeks ago I had no idea who these high school girls were. I met them for the first time at the Toronto airport before taking off for a ten day missions trip to Honduras. The opportunity to join the Athletes in Action Volleyball staff came out of nowhere. When asked if I would be interested, I heard a resounding YES. The initial excitement quickly turned to hesitation when I realized that I would be helping lead a group Christian student-athletes. I was not convinced that I was wise enough to do so. I certainly did not feel qualified for the position. I had a voice in my head telling me that I probably should not go.
But, fear is a BIG FAT LIAR.
Over the course of ten days with these girls, I connected with each one of them in a very different and meaningful way. We shared our struggles, our faith, and our love for life. We laughed, we cried, we played A LOT of volleyball, and we prayed even more. I saw a little piece of myself in each on them as I watched them battle with their insecurities and grow in their purpose.
These girls impacted my life in such a profound way. They listened intently to my testimony and endless stories. They encouraged me when I felt weak and and consoled me through A LOT of tears. Most importantly, they made me smile and laugh every single day. From the most outspoken one to the quietest -- I felt a deep connection to each one of them.
I think that connection comes from knowing WHOSE we are. Understanding that we are all loved the same.
At the end of the trip, we wrote encouragement notes to each other. When I read mine, I was overcome with a flood of tears. I can remember doing this exact same thing with my high school volleyball team. I can remember how much I LOVED being told how good I was at sports. I hoped my teammates would tell me how pretty and funny I was. I looked for affirmation in who I thought I was.
I remember clinging onto every word written, as if it were fact.
This time was different. These notes had no bearing on who I am. My identity was neither confirmed or denied through what was written. The one thing I was sure of when reading the notes was that God is clearly at work and He is GOOD.
It is funny to hear Christians say that they want a faith like yours. Like HELLO, I am new to this. But, that might also be the coolest part. Faith is not about how well you know the Bible, what scripture you have memorized, your church attendance or how many years you can call yourself a Christian. God is not concerned with that.
What matters is your heart and these girls have hearts of gold.
Thank you to these girls for helping my faith and fire for our God continue to grow. I love you all like Liz loves kiddos, y'all love puppies, and Kendra loves a WHAT ARE THE ODDS challenge.
Believe it or not, the video featured above is a one minute clip of a WEDDING.
This wedding will most likely not be featured on MARTHA STEWART WEDDINGS. The bride's dress will probably not make an appearance in BRIDES magazine. The decor, venue and catering might not be used as inspiration for people planning their future wedding on THE KNOT.
However, I believe this wedding should be an inspiration to all. Not only on their big day, but EVERY SINGLE DAY. This wedding is LOVE in the purest form.
Of course every wedding is about love, or at least should be. But, this was different.
This wedding did not care about the details. This wedding did not fuss about seating charts or arrangements. This wedding did not have plans. From the outside, this wedding did not resemble what we are made to believe the day should look like.
However, on the inside of this wedding was space.
A space where family and friends gathered in love to celebrate life. A space filled with calmness and peace. A space where worries did not exist. A space where the present moment was the most important one.
A Heaven-like space where you could hear the angels singing in approval.
This wedding was a perfect reflection of the way Matthew and Madison choose to live their lives as independent souls AND as a beautiful union.
On August 11, 2018, Matt and Madi hosted their 3rd annual pool party. Matt and his best friend, Ross (marriage officiant), were the ONLY two humans in attendance that knew what the day would entail.
A day to celebrate the beauty of life turned into so much more. Within the span of a few hours everyone in attendance experienced a surprise proposal, an impromptu wedding, unplanned speeches, last-minute dances and a celebration.
Madison was given 40 minutes from the time of her engagement until her wedding ceremony.
She was not given time to make a Pinterest board or follow Instagram accounts for wedding ideas. She was not given time to stress about the invites or worry about the colour palette.
Heck, she was not even given time to find a wedding dress.
She was given a moment. A moment to decide if she wanted to walk in the direction of love. A moment to move forward without fear of the future.
A moment was all she needed.
I cannot remember how long the entire ordeal was. At times, I felt behind. I felt like I was trying to catch up to the beauty of what was happening.
In some ways it flashed before my eyes, but in the same breath, I can recount so many memories.
I remember the backyard erupting in excitement when Matt got down on one knee. It felt like we ALL GOT PROPOSED TO. It felt like our team just scored the winning goal in a championship game.
I remember being called up as Madison's "babe of honour" and feeling completely overwhelmed with gratitude, but also wondering if my swimsuit and towel was acceptable attire for the ceremony.
I remember frantically writing a speech on my phone that would adequately articulate my love and appreciation for Madi and Matt.
I remember seeing the smiling faces, the happy tears and the endless amounts of hugs. It did not matter if you knew the person or not, you hugged in celebration.
I remember Brandon (Madison's brother) asking me to play Old Blue Chair by Kenny Chesney as he took Madison's hand and danced with her in honour of their father.
I remember being fully present.
I REMEMBER JOY.
The day was about love without expectations. The day was about giving without the hope of receiving. The day was about unconditional love.
Love that accepts one as they are, completely and utterly imperfect.
Love that is unafraid of what is to come.
To the outsiders the day looked very spur of the moment, and in many ways it was.
But, Matt put in A LOT of behind the scenes work. He planned and kept BIG secrets to pull this off.
He made sure to fly people in who were important to Madison. He hired caterers, photographers, videographers, and bartenders. He made everyone believe, including his wife, that the day was nothing more than a pool party.
And folks, he did it all while battling one of the most ferocious and uncontrollable diseases out there.
Talk about a fighter.
Matt did much more than just plan a wedding for his future wife. He planned something that could touch the lives of many outside of that space.
At the end of the night, he handed out little cards that asked guests to donate to CancerCare Manitoba in lieu of presentation.
He asked for generosity and kindness to those suffering with the unbearable.
He asked for wedding guests to give to a foundation that aims to provide people with more time.
Today, they have raised close to $20,000 for CancerCare Manitoba.
CAN I GET AN AMEN??
Matthew and Madison are two of the greatest LIVING examples of what is means to love without restraint, to give without expecting anything in return, and to live every day like it was your last.
So very blessed to know them and be part of their very special day.
If you are inspired or feel like giving this Holiday season, feel free to donate by clicking the link below. All proceeds stay in Manitoba and go directly to helping those have more tomorrows with their loved ones.
Taking the road less traveled often looks REALLY COOL on Instagram. But, let me be real with ya here for a second, sometimes it hurts my heart and is not what it seems.
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. They say that a photo conveys a message more accurately than a description. But, they forget to tell you that those words and that message are most likely, entirely false.
Do not get it twisted, people.
Instagram will show you that I am living in one of the most beautiful places in the world. It will show you that I am eating delicious Greek cuisine and have million dollar views from my bedroom.
That accurately describes approximately 3% of my life.
What Instagram will not show you is that I cried EVERY SINGLE DAY for the first three weeks I was here. It will not be able to share the dark place my mind goes after spending too much time alone in my hotel room.
The pictures and stories on social media will not describe the other 97% of my life because that certainly does not look like I am "LIVING MY BEST LIFE."
Now, do not get me wrong. I am in NO WAY suffering, The fact that I am breathing means more is right in my life than wrong. I am SERIOUSLY blessed and grateful for this experience.
But, yesterday was the first day since arriving to Greece that I felt peace in my soul.
Most days I felt ungrateful. Some days I felt insane. Mostly, I felt bad about feeling bad.
My homesickness convinced me I should be with my family immediately.
The discomfort of a new place told me I need to go home and be in familiar territory.
My apprehension made me want to take control and make drastic decisions.
The uncertainty of the next six months allowed fear to surface in all areas of my life.
And the WORST and most DESTRUCTIVE -- seeing y'all on Instagram going to the grocery store with your family, hanging with friends after work or taking your kids out for Halloween made me feel like the grass was greener on the other side.
Like I should be somewhere else, doing something else.
DO NOT BELIEVE ANY OF IT.
Maybe some of you were sitting there and wishing you could ditch your day job and/or kids and swim in the Aegean Sea off the coast of Santorini. Maybe not.
Some nights I wished for a regular job and to come home to family.
Comparison is the devil's work.
Do not believe your thoughts. Do not trust your emotions.
And certainly, CERTAINLY DO NOT BELIEVE THE LIES SOCIAL MEDIA WILL FEED US.
Especially with some of these apps. Filters are a thing of the past. Now we have people re-creating their entire image. Tweak this, slim that and eventually you are almost unrecognizable.
Talk about an issue of the soul.
I think our minds and hearts are beautiful creations. But, when you become a slave to them like I was it becomes chaotic. Combine that inner turmoil with a few hours per day spent scrolling on the gram...
RECIPE FOR DISASTER.
This post is just a friendly reminder to myself and whoever else needs to hear it. Exercise your use of social media with caution. Become an observer, but do not indulge the thoughts and feelings that come up. Question your assumptions and be a skeptic because things are not always as they seem.
Finally, if you are anything like me -- probably just limit your use and trust in God.
Thanks for reading.
Ranges from 4,000 USD to 1.8 million USD
Full payment of salary is not guaranteed
Time of payment is at discretion of management and subject to change
Pregnancy results in immediate termination of contract
Everywhere, except North America
Schedule released monthly, maybe weekly or possibly daily
Days off are not guaranteed
No personal days, no mental health days, no stress leave
Seeking a highly-skilled athlete who is capable of performing his or her sport every single day for the duration of the athletic season while maintaining top physical condition.
Athlete must sign contract prior to arrival. Athlete is subject to fines/sanctions if breach of contract. Athlete may be subject to all forms of abuse.
I wrote this piece to shed a little light on what it is really like for an athlete to be on the road.
It is not what most people think and maybe one day I will have the courage to share more.
Traveling to Europe to train and play volleyball for three weeks does not mean shopping at the Grand Bazaar in the heart of Istanbul. It does not mean taking a train around Italy admiring the architecture.
It does mean high-level training and strong competition. it does mean opportunity to grow personally and as a team. It is a business trip.
We may or may not get to experience a bit of the culture and what the country has to offer. But, expectations are usually pretty low. Our sights are set on working hard and accomplishing goals.
Some time during the last three weeks on the road together, my team and I still found the little moments to enjoy each other and this life we are blessed with.
The last twenty days on the road were eye-opening for myself and maybe others on my team can relate. It was very exciting, then it became routine. It was new, then it got old. It was inspiring, and then it was dreary.
It was full of highs and lows.
I often wish a camera crew would follow us around to document the day-to-day life. The pictures we share on Instagram/Facebook shed light on about 6% of our time on the road. The other 94% is spent playing, practicing, strength training, scouting, watching video, meetings, eating together as a team, sleeping and just keeping it together mentally, emotionally and physically.
It is a grind.
Somewhere around day 10-13 of our trip to Turkey and Italy, some of us lost it a bit. Whether it was feelings of homesickness (I swear this never goes away for me), missing significant others, anxiety, or dwelling on performance — many of us felt in need of a break. Just a minute of alone time. Just one day to not be on a schedule.
This lifestyle is unlike anything else I will experience in my life. I stepped away from the sport a couple times before and it is nearly impossible to replicate this environment.
Living in a hotel with your teammates and coaches for three weeks straight. Eating every meal on schedule with one another. Wearing the same matching attire every day. Sweating together in the gym. Sleeping five centimetres away from each other in the euro-style hotel beds. Being on call for the next impromptu meeting. Laughing together, until we cry. Crying together, until we are laughing at all the tears. The time together is A LOT.
It is easy to feel that it is too much, but one day I know I will miss these times.
One day I will miss the little moments we have with each other between practices. Whether it is a coffee run or nap — we do it TOGETHER. I will miss the adrenaline rush of a surprise free day and the chance to explore a foreign country. I will miss the late night gelato runs to soften our emotions, TOGETHER. I will miss the bus rides to and from the gym. I will miss accomplishing goals with a group of like-minded women. I will miss seeing fifteen different and very beautiful faces every morning, whether I want to or not.
One day I am not going to have this.
I have a teammate to turn to for a cry. I have a teammate who I can go to when I am in need of a laugh. I have a teammate who is guaranteed to bring the pump-up tunes. I have a teammate who inspires. I have a teammate who offers logical/practical advice. I have a teammate who is young and reminds me why I play. I have a teammate who is compassionate. I have a teammate who will tickle my arm or hold my hand. I have a teammate who is not scared to give a compliment. I have a teammate who is corky. I have a teammate who is selfless. I have a teammate who I look up to (literally and figuratively).
I have a teammate for each and every situation this life has to offer.
I never had a sister growing up, but I imagine that this was God’s plan for my life. To give me a team of sisters. To allow me to share my life with beautiful women who motivate, empower and challenge each other in ways I never knew possible. To give me a family that I do not HAVE TO love because of blood, but I GET TO love because we go to battle for and with each other every single day.
It is a really neat experience that sometimes gets lost in the hours of video/scouting, the seemingly endless running, the practices with no end in sight, or the monotonous routine.
When I went through my camera roll today I was reminded of the little glimpses of our life outside the gym. I was reminded of why I sweat A LOT and sometimes cry. I was reminded of what this experience is all about. I was reminded how much I love these women, the memories and of course, the pizza.
I love you all.
Author: Megan Cyr
Born and raised in Canada. College educated in America. Currently residing wherever volleyball takes me.