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Rising from Under a Blanket of Trials

At first it seemed it was going to start out like so many had before. That all changed when Anthony was disqualified from the first tournament of the season at Lake Okeechobee in Florida. By now, most everyone knows the story of how that happened and how absolutely devastated Anthony was.

On the day Anthony made the call to FLW to tell its tournament officials about his rule violation, he was angry, disillusioned and heartbroken. He had been waiting for this season for six years, ever since the last Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray in 2008. That one didnít end well, and he was hoping for his chance at redemption. Now, in his mind, he had no chance to make the championship cut, and the year was over.

In the days immediately after Okeechobee, nothing I said or did helped to boost his spirits. He even contemplated not fishing the remainder of the season. But, as we talked about it and I encouraged him to continue, he decided that it would be a mistake to quit. Time went on, and the second tournament at Lake Hartwell approached. I was excited because Hartwell is near Clemson, one of the places dearest to our hearts. Thankfully, after many prayers, he finished seventh, and I could tell his spirits were lifting.

With each tournament, I saw his outlook slowly improve and the competitive nature that Iíve always admired return to him. I know without a doubt that were it not for the power of prayer, he wouldnít have recovered the way he had. I prayed every day for him to gain confidence and to believe in himself. Suddenly, with those prayers things began to fall in our favor.

At Kentucky Lake in June, I remember the palpable feeling of relief that I had when, by just 1 ounce, Anthony earned his spot in this yearís Forrest Wood Cup. If he hadnít qualified and we had to watch from our dock, I have a feeling that I would have been in for a long, grumpy summer. Instead, I spent much of July going about normal daytime activities with the kids and friends while Anthony was out practicing on the lake. In the evenings, it was so nice to be able to have all of us at home eating dinner or going somewhere together without Anthony feeling as if he was pressed for time and had to spend every second on the lake. Honestly, he was very relaxed, and that made life feel normal. One major bonus to the Cup being on our home lake was that Anthony had full access to all his fishing gear and was able to sleep in his own bed. Also, I was able to be with him, unlike when the tournaments are farther away and I canít be there in person.

When the lake went off limits, we finally took our long-awaited beach vacation. When we returned home, official practice began, and Anthony spent longer days on the lake.

Iím a teacher, and we had to prepare for the next school term just as the tournament began. That complicated my role as an anglerís wife. Wednesday evening I had to rush to the registration banquet after school. On Thursday and Friday, I checked updates during the day whenever I could, and I rushed to the weigh-ins as soon as I left work each day. I was nervous, but also had an odd feeling of anticipation at the same time. When we found out that Anthony made the cut for Saturday, I was beyond excited.

Iím thankful for another home-lake advantage: amazing support from our family, my co-workers, my students and our friends. When so many of those people joined us at the weigh-in, it gave me an intense feeling of pride and appreciation.

The final day of the tournament was an emotional roller coaster. I was calm in the morning, but, as the day progressed, I began to get more and more nervous. As I watched the anglers weigh in, I remember thinking that Anthony would finish in about third place. Then Anthony brought his fish to the scale and moved into the lead. I began to get hopeful, but even more nervous. I turned around to one of Anthonyís best friends and asked where he thought Anthony would finish. He said he thought he could possibly win. That is when I really got nervous. I watched the stage for a few more seconds, then turned and asked him again. He gave me the same look. I know that I was driving him crazy, but I wanted to know how it was going to end because it felt like the anticipation was just too much. I think that I actually felt the hairs on my head turning gray!

As my heart pounded and tears filled my eyes, I found myself saying a silent prayer of thanks that Anthony had overcome the obstacles. When I saw him throw his hands into the air, all my pent-up emotions poured out, I ran up onto the stage and I just squeezed him!

It was such an intense weigh-in that the win didnít even seem real for the longest time. In some ways, a month later, it still doesnít. The day after the tournament I went to school and prepared my classroom for the kindergartners that would be arriving in a few days. Life has returned to normal. And until the next season begins, I can enjoy the luxury of having my husband at home.

We learned a lot this season. Anyone can make a mistake. Self-respect is the reward for admitting that mistake and dealing with the consequences as best you can. You should never give up. Striving to stay positive is the best way to recover from lifeís hard times. And foremost, always trust God, and be thankful for the blessings He bestows, especially the ones hidden beneath a blanket of trials.