I was born on Aug. 28, 1985, the first week of football season, in the football-crazed West Texas town of Abilene, to a football coach. I was destined from that day forth to have every birthday party under the Friday night lights faithfully punctuated by a slumber party afterward.
When I was 2 years old, my family of five moved to Pflugerville, back then a sleepy suburb of Austin with grazing pastures, dusty roads, and one Wag-a-Bag convenient store I loved frequenting with my best friend because her mom let me buy candy cigarettes (WHY were those ever a thing?). Due to the long hours of coaching and my two older siblings and I back home, my dad made a career change in the late 1980s. He pulled his master’s in divinity from his back pocket and served as the campus minister at University Church of Christ on the UT campus, but not for long. He took a baseball/football coaching job at Pflugerville High School just a few years later.
Then, on a rare evening out at an actual restaurant, if you count Mr. Gatti’s as an actual restaurant, my parents announced we were moving back to Abilene, back to my dad’s hometown, back to the place he and my mom had met in fifth grade at Taylor Elementary, the same school I would end up attending. My dad had taken the head baseball and assistant football coaching position there. My brother, sister and I were wary of restaurants from that point on.
Nearly 25 years later, my mom still teaches in that same kindergarten classroom she moved into in 1994. My sister and her family live one block over on the other side of the creek from my parents, while my brother is now the head basketball coach at Abilene High. My dad, who still says he doesn’t know what he wants to be when he grows up, came out of retirement last year to be the head softball coach, taking them three-rounds deep in the playoffs for the first time in fourteen years. He’s called me a few times these past few months to talk about “coaching females.” I laugh a lot.
Meanwhile, I’m living the dream all over the state of Texas with my sweet and precious coaching husband and our three tiny compadres.
The coach that made me a coach’s wife
Which brings me back to Abilene. My fifth year at Abilene Christian University (because college is fun, why not extend the stay), I met a junior transfer named Clark Harrell. I was playing soccer and he was a football player who happened to be a friend of a family friend. Of course, I wasn’t interested. He was way too young after all. But he had a couple things going for him: his mom was adorable and he was a really good guy. We were engaged 10 months later and married nine months after that.
But I wasn’t a coach’s wife yet. Clark was a business major getting ready to sell supplemental insurance, a job he’d end up … not enjoying much.
I think we both knew coaching was inevitable. His dad and two brothers were all coaches, which I think was part of his resistance. He’s not one to do something just because it’s expected. But when he and his brothers started putting on a football camp every summer, I knew it was only a matter of time. Sure enough, he began his alternative certification program that next year.
And me? After deciding to step away from teaching and coaching myself to stay home with our kids, I started a blog.
The fear of being known
Writing had always been something I’d enjoyed, but my insecurities and fear of what others thought had tamped a lot of the dreams and ideas I’d had for myself. Starting a blog was not the leap of faith you might think it was. For months, years even, my blog was merely cute pictures of my kids and funny stories about chicken coops catching on fire, diaper blowouts and grocery store trips gone awry.
But I think something happens when you turn 30. Or at least for me there was a switch that suddenly flipped. I realized lots of things, like how short life is and how little things matter that we think matter. But also, I started believing things I’d been told my whole life. Like, the idea that God has gifted each of us specifically and for a purpose. All the doubts and insecurities I have are most likely from an enemy that is terrified anyone might actually use their gifts for the glory of God.
So I became resolved to fear less and trust more. All the thoughts that had been bouncing around in my head for years were suddenly out for the world to see. I wrote about struggling marriages, doubting faiths and the darkness of motherhood. I wrote about post-partum depression and yelling and crying and also threw in some funny thoughts every now and then because yikes with all the deep stuff.
It wasn’t so much that I was less scared, but more so that I believed God’s truth of who I was, my husband’s truth of who I was and my family’s truth of who I was, which made everyone else’s truth matter a lot less. The hardest part was staying grounded in that truth, and of course not believing I’m less, but also not believing I’m more.
It didn’t take long before the vulnerability and exposure caught up to me. I felt very naked in a very large and crowded room, and it wasn’t a cute naked after three children. I’d let a lot of my ugly hang out, which wasn’t met with negativity or judgment, but still made me feel uncomfortable and seen.
It was around this time of nagging discomfort that I noticed a need.
The vision of Friday Night Wives
Clark and I had struggled in our marriage, something I’d been pretty open about in my writing, and some of that was because of the stress and pressures of coaching. Football seasons were hard and long, especially with young kids. I spent our first couple seasons overwhelmed and isolated, having moved every year. We fought a lot about roles and duties and crying babies and the long hours that were leaving me to do it all on my own.
I had been writing for moms for a few years, a market saturated by writers exactly like me doing exactly the same thing.
But there wasn’t much of anything for coaches’ wives. And I realized that maybe God had been preparing me the past few years. I saw it in the way I had to step back from my site every few weeks and take a break because of burnout – what I had been doing was not my thing, but it was preparing me and equipping me for my thing. I mean, being a coaching family and building an online community were basically the only two things I knew much about. It was as if I were created to do it.
So in October of 2017, I launched Friday Night Wives, a blog, boutique and community for coaches’ wives. My goal was to create a space in which coaches’ wives could find encouragement, feel less alone, create relationships with others who dealt with the same struggles, and especially, speak God’s truth over their marriages. Immediately, I fell in love. I fell in love with the women, the niche, the ease, and quite honestly, the anonymity.
The site now reaches more than 40,000 readers a month, and we have a community of more than 15,000 women who have bought into the mission of Friday Night Wives through social media and subscriptions. We are able to sponsor a struggling coaching family each month and send 10% of our profits from t-shirt sales to help with medical costs or other pressing needs.
It’s crazy when I think about it, but my biggest prayer is for humility through it all. It’s so easy to get lost in numbers and stress about dollar signs and unknowingly allow motives to shift from healthy to unhealthy. But I’m praying for the Lord to take my hand and lead me, keep me focused on Him and not focused on anything else. Trust is hard for me, so what a learning curve I’m riding right now: trusting His plan and not my own, His vision and not my own and His version of success and not my own.