Regional Rejoicing

“The secret of the mystery is, God is always greater. No matter how great we think Him to be, His love is always greater.”
– Brennan Manning

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Flashback: It’s the first week of January, 2013. I am in the Kansas Athletics indoor training facility, running sprints in preparation for our fitness test during preseason boot camp of my senior season. Kevin, my beloved fiancé at the time, is in with me training. As we perform the fitness test, the dirty dozen as the nightmare was coined, consisting of 6 consecutive 40-yard shuttles, 12 times. I get to the end of the test, collapsing to the ground in exhaustion. Kevin grabs my hand and pulls me up. “Let’s go. You’re not done. Get one more,” he says. My response, “absolutely not.” He persists. “Do it for regional’s.” He had learned that this phrase would push me beyond what I could physically or mentally conquer by my own power or free will. My sister Rosie and I often used that phrase in all of our preseason training. Everything we did, the countless hours, the blood, the sweat, the tears, the passion, we did it all to make Kansas a team that would exceeded all expectations and get over the edge: to make Kansas a postseason team. We had been rebuilding the program since my freshman season and got closer and closer each year. This phrase would pull my hands off my knees when I wanted to quit, keep me pushing, always fixing my eye on the goal.

Flashback: It’s Mother’s Day, May 2013. After sweeping Iowa State, we knew that the fate of our regional bid was in the hands of the selection committee. We finished 4th in the Big 12, including a recent upset against the no. 1 team in the nation, but feared our RPI was still too high. Sure enough, the committee decided to only take three teams in the Big 12 that year. We fell just short of a bid, and my college playing career was forever over. I shed not a single tear when I’m with my team because the reality has not set in yet, but as soon as I leave, I drive straight over to my future home and am in the quiet of my best friend and future husband’s arms. I completely broke down. Everything I put in toward regional’s for the last four years, it was not enough.

 

There are really no words to explain the emotion that I feel in this moment, as I type the words on my screen, as I relive those memories that are still so close to my heart. Today, they come racing back to my mind as if they were just yesterday. Last night around 10 p.m., the 2014 Jayhawk Softball team was selected for the Columbia Regional. They made it. We made it.

Now, many would imagine that perhaps I would feel some sort of bitterness or resentment to the situation, or perhaps that I would be questioning God. Why this year? Why wasn’t I the one to experience the feeling of seeing our name on the screen on Selection Sunday while wearing the uniform?

Yet by the power of God’s grace, it is none of that. He has given me a supernatural peace to understand that His plan is greater. Last night I found out and instantly called my sister Rosie. But it wasn’t until after our phone call that the reality set in. I burst into tears. Another breakdown. My husband came to comfort me, to try and read the emotion. To his surprise, the first words that came out of my mouth in the midst of sobs were, “I am so happy. We did it.”

 

KU Softball
A photo stitch of the text I sent to these three girls last night. Pictured from left: my sister Rosie (Hull) Mueller, Mariah Montgomery, Alex Jones, and myself. This was the first class to come all the way through from freshmen to seniors under current Kansas Head Softball Coach Megan Smith. These ladies and I truly bought in to playing for something bigger than ourselves, and the legacy came to life when the Jayhawks were selected for a regional last night. Photo taken during our last series of our careers’ together, Mother’s Day, May 2013.

Now if you are reading this and you don’t know what I’m talking about, or would be confused as to why I am crying tears of joy after finding out that a team I used to play on one year ago made the postseason, I realize that I probably sound crazy. But if you were able to walk any life with me, you know that I gave everything I had to the program I was invested in at Kansas. I didn’t just go through the motions. I laid everything out on the field, holding firmly to the scripture that inspired this entire blog:

Colossians 3:23 says, “Whatever you do, do it with all of your heart, as working for the Lord and not for men.”

I knew that by giving everything I had in the environment that the Lord had placed me, to work with my whole heart to better the Kansas Softball program, that my pursuit in itself would be competing for God’s glory.

Well, in the midst of that initial breakdown and the healing that came almost a year ago, God allowed me to realize that just because it wasn’t in His plan for me to physically go to a regional, He allowed me to pursue that goal and give everything I had towards it to leave a legacy that would exceed my time as a player. And all that labor was not in vain.

1 Corinthians 15:58 says, “Therefore, my dear brothers and sisters, stand firm. Let nothing move you. Always give yourselves fully to the work of the Lord, because you know that your labor in the Lord is not in vain.”

And now, He is truly blessing me by allowing me to see the team I poured so much into reach that goal. The program of Kansas made it to a regional, and that’s what I fought for. See, it was never about me, but about that way that God desired to use me for His glory. Praise God, that He helped me to see that back then, granted me peace and healing to move forward, and even now He has helped me to see from His perspective. I can genuinely rejoice with gladness for the team I am no longer a part of.

In Him, I have the freedom to “rejoice with those who rejoice,” and “weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15). It doesn’t have to be about me! I am rejoicing about regionals, even though I am not physically a part of this team. Hallelujah, life is not about me!!

My constant prayer, and my prayer for whoever might be reading this today, is that we would respond to the Lord as the prophet Isaiah did when he was called into ministry.

Isaiah 6:8 says, “And I heard the voice of the Lord saying, ‘Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?’ Then I said, ‘Here am I! Send me.’”

If life were about me, I would live in that failure. I would hold tightly to what should have or could have been. But my life is about something greater than myself. There is a greater purpose that we are called to live. When we choose to answer that call of the Lord, there will be times when we will never see the fruit of the way that God is using us. And there are other times, like last night, when He does show us.

Yet regardless of the outcome, we choose to walk in obedience. We come forward and say I don’t care about the outcome. I don’t care if I fail. I don’t care if I look stupid, or people question my choices, or it’s not the normal way to go about things. Here I am, Lord! Send me, Lord! Because I have searched and I have found, that NOTHING, no one thing that this world could offer, is greater than your love! You, Lord, are always greater!

His rewards, I promise, are greater than any goal that we could reach in this life. No matter how great we think Him to be, His love is always greater. We chase the eternal, and our labor will never be in vain.

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