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"Step-by-step..."


That's the picture and text I sent my mom just weeks after moving to Rockport. I was lonely and lost, and didn't really know where to start. I had just gotten married, moved 7 hours from my family, and started working under administration for the school district. I was overwhelmed, confused, and desperate. So, I decided to take that first step Into my local crossfit gym. I sat in the parking lot overthinking everything, as I am best at, and sent her this picture and message with the hopes it would motivate me to get in there and do my best.


And that's just what I did. I went in and gave it my all. That was my theme this last year. As I was starting a new job in a profession I wasn't set on, finding new community in a new town, and figuring out how to be a wife, I was determined to give it my all.



I would be lying if I told you this year was easy. I handled a hefty load in the classroom, broke my nose month two of school, burnt too many meals to count, and only saw our families around the holidays. I could go into more detail on what all this year held for the Bowdens, but that's a story for another time! Needless to say, this year was really freaking hard. More times than I care to admit, I came home in a puddle of tears, searching for what I was put in Rockport for.


As a coach's wife, I saw what Tommy was doing and his impact was evident. If you have met my husband, you know that he truly cares about what he does for a living. Coaching is much more than just the sport to him. Watching him pour into the boys on and off the field, month after month, filled me with an intense amount of joy for my husband. It was obvious Tommy was influencing the next generation and fulfilling the Lord's plan for him. My husband was put on earth to be Coach Bowden, and I cannot put into words what it means to get to have a front row seat to witness the testimony of the Lord's goodness and grace he is living and sharing daily.


On the other hand... I still had no clue what I wanted to be when I grew up. I had taken a job as the graphic design, photography, and yearbook teacher at the high school, but I was struggling finding my groove. I felt like the world had it out for me, and every day was a new challenge I felt no one else was having to face. I convinced myself I wasn't good enough (don't listen to the devils lies, friends). Still, I showed up every day and I gave it my all.



Back to that first picture. Rising Tide Fitness. The CrossFit gym that was the hardest first step for me. Exercise has always been my number one stress relief. I know just how bad my body relies on exercise to keep my mental health stable. Stepping foot into RTF was simply just to keep my mind healthy. If I am being honest, I initially went into the gym thinking, 'oh I will just be here a few months until we get a home gym set up, so there's no real need for me to connect with these people.' L. O. L. From the first day in the gym, Laci and Josh made me feel like family and ensured me there was a place for me at RTF and In Rockport. Rising Tide's motto is, "A Rising Tide Lifts All Boats," and boy do they do that motto justice.


Not long after joining the gym, we found a church home, grew close with fellow coaches and staff, I was blessed with an incredible mentor teacher, and I was named Rookie Teacher of the Year and was a Shining Stars Honored Educator. Off the bat, I would have never imagined any of this happening in Rockport. I was pretty positive it was the worst place in the world to be in our first year of marriage, and the first few months there were an absolute doozy. But one step at a time, and one day at a time, we dug roots and allowed them to grow. It proved to be the best place imaginable to start our lives together.


RTF showed me how to be a better friend, listener, and encourager. Rockport-Fulton High School taught me how to find joy in all circumstances, love with no boundaries, and give everyday everything that you have. Rockport in general brought me closer to the Lord, my husband, and myself. The blessings I drive away with will forever more be worth more weight than the burdens.



As Tommy and I settle in to a new town, I am back to the same feeling. It's that first step that's the scariest. It's the step away from a place that grew to be home that's emotional. It's the first step towards the unknown that brings uncertainty. But, as the Lord as proven time and time again, it's scary because it is the first step towards something destined to be impactful, adventurous, and life-giving. I am thankful for the memories Rockport holds, and am eager to see the blessings that lie ahead.


If you're stuck staring step one down, I encourage you in your walk today. The first step is always the hardest, but the steps that follow become easier. Before you know it you will have created a path for yourself wherever you are. Be where you are planted, but take as many first steps as you can- get involved. You never know the blessings the route holds if you're always too scared to lace up your shoes. I will take the scary first step over, and over, and over again to experience and witness the blessings that in the steps to follow- you should, too.


"Oh God, you are my God, and I will ever praise you. I will seek you in the morning, and I will learn to walk in your ways. And step-by-step you'll lead me, and I will follow you for all of my days."


Keep on keeping on,

Claire

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