Purpose Above Dreams

First of all, I apologize to everyone for not posting in such a long time. It has been a hectic spring for me with softball and school. However, with summer starting to kick in, I’m finding myself with a little more downtime than I expected and a lot of time to think of things to write about. With that being said, here’s what I’ve been thinking about for the past couple of weeks:

More often than not in the game of softball, we know what the outcome will be at the end of the game. It sounds bad in retrospect, but it is true. There is very rarely a cinderella team in this game, and very rarely are there tremendous upsets. Playing for a team like Alabama, I’ve come to expect to win every game that I play and usually that mindset works out. I am not saying this to sound cocky. I am saying that in confidence because of my amazing coaches and talented teammates. When it doesn’t work out the way we like, it’s just back to the drawing board and taking away positives from a game where we don’t like the result. That being said, that mindset doesn’t work when you lose the national championship game.

Positives thoughts are thrown away with the empty gatorade bottles, hope tossed away with the vast amount of athletic tape, and all that’s left is a sense of something not finished, something empty. I have a hard time putting into words the devastation that I felt after that final out was made. Imagine living your dream, being so close to everything you have worked for your entire life, so close you can taste it, see it, feel it… and then suddenly it vanishes. How do you draw positives from that? How do you pick yourself back up? There is no “next game” … Where do you go?

Sometimes I wonder, especially the last couple of weeks, if Jesus ever had a dream or a goal like the ones that we set ourselves here on Earth. The more I’ve thought about it the answer is no. Jesus didn’t have a dream, but what he did have was a purpose, a reason for existence just like we all have. Now, please do not get confused and think I’m telling you to not chase after your dreams, that is not what I’m saying at all. In fact, if you’ve ever received an autograph from me, you’d know that I put the verse Colossians 3:23 just under my signature. It reads: “Whatever you do, do with all your heart, as if working for the Lord and not for men.” I believe that we should chase our dreams because that is where we find the platform to share our faith. However, acheiving your dream is not quite as important as fulfilling your purpose. We are to chase God’s dreams that he has laid out for us, not ones that we create on our own. Everything is part of a greater and bigger plan that we cannot see.

You see, even if Jesus ever had any dreams, that isn’t what he was famous for. He was known because he fulfilled his purpose of coming to Earth to live amongst us perfectly and die for our sins. In turn, our purpose here on Earth is making his purpose known. This is what everyone should strive for: not to make your name known, but to make his name known. It is not the outcome or result of a season, it is not the winning and losing, and it’s not achieving your dream, it is achieving your purpose. It is making His name known in the process. Winning is just icing on the cake, and if you’re like me, you like cake without icing anyway.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21

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Your Acceptance Speech

Along with the rest of the country, I watched the Heisman trophy presentation Saturday night. I was clearly pulling for McCarron to win, but everyone knew that it was inevitably going to be Jameis Winston that took home the trophy in the midst of his controversy. I’m not saying that Winston was not the best player in the country because his stats quickly defeat that argument. He has an extreme amount of God-given talent and he is truly a blessed athlete, but did he realize it? Was he grateful for it? I think so, just not in an obvious way.

Winston started off his acceptance speech with “I want to thank God,” but then where did it go? To Jameis’s process.

In case you missed it, here is a link to the speech. Heisman Speech 2013 Jameis Winston

So what would you say in your acceptance speech? Would it start off with God, but then take you down a path of your own work? I’m not demeaning Jameis’s speech by any means, because it truly came from the heart and that was evident. It was a great speech considering he is my age. There’s no way I would have been able to give a speech like that. However, one must give credit where all credit is due.

As believers in Christ, we are to give ALL glory to our Lord and Savior. It cannot be a mere sentence, it has to be a sincere credit and honoring of God. I believe that if you are truly filled with the Holy Spirit, thanking God is something that will come involuntarily. This does not even have to be in a public forum, but can be done in silent prayer by simply acknowledging HIM. We are giving credit to God and realizing that we cannot do anything on our own.

We see this in John 15:5 when Jesus says,  “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”

I bet when you first read that you thought that was a bit extreme and over exaggerated. But… Did you catch that last part? “Apart from me you can do nothing.” I mean God doesn’t go out on the field and play for you. He doesn’t put in all those hours in the office like you do. He doesn’t go to school and do your assignments for you. But you know what he does do? He goes WITH you. Isn’t that amazing? He walks with us wherever we go. He carries us every minute of every hour. He wakes us up every morning. He gave us the ability and the talent to use as a platform for His name! We are all ambassadors of Christ Jesus. Shouldn’t that count for something? We thank our parents, our coaches, but we don’t truly acknowledge our greatest mentor in Jesus?

I’m brought back to Colossians 3:17, which says: “And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all for the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.” You see, everything we have comes from a greater power, for a greater purpose. It was never about our work in the first place, it was always about HIM.

We say that we work hard to find success and gain an edge, we say that talent gets us to the top, and it may if you are good enough, but where does all that come from? Are we not all a part of God’s greater plan? I think it is time that we as Christians, and especially as young athletes, start giving credit where credit is due. It is due SOLELY to our everlasting Father. Everything we have comes from Him. He gave us our talent, He gave us our coaches, He gave us our teammates. Let’s take a stand and thank Him.

Is that a part of your acceptance speech?

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The Point of Relationships

I’m not quite sure if I’ve ever met anyone who is perfect, who has it all together, or doesn’t have problems. We all have our faults. I think we understand this in terms of us having our own problems, but where I believe we fall short is understanding that about others as well. When something doesn’t go your way or someone treats you badly, did you ever stop to think that they have their own problems too? Maybe they just happened to pick you to take it out on.

Maybe where I’m getting at is that we can’t be too easily offended. We can’t automatically assume the worst case scenario in every situation, especially relationships. Has anyone else ever noticed that the most common reason for relationship problems is someone overreacting to a seemingly harmless situation? Now obviously I’m not saying all problems come from overreaction because there are some serious issues that can come up in friendships, which I’m sure everyone reading this has experienced. I’m talking about the small stuff, the little things, the unnecessary miscommunications.

So what causes it? Worry. Fear. Two things of which Jesus specifically said (multiple times) not to do. As a matter of fact, the phrase “FEAR NOT” appears in the Bible 365 times. That’s not a typo… 365! We are afraid of the unknown, of damaging great relationships we have, so naturally when one problem hits, we blow it out of proportion. Why NOT worry? Why NOT fear? Because we have HIM! (Isaiah 41:10; Matthew 6:25-34) At the end of the day that’s what it all comes back to, and that is the one thing that we have to accept. We have to trust in Jesus. It is the only way to stay calm in the storm, to get past sin, to GROW. The point of relationships with others isn’t perfection, but to grow with one another, help one another, in all aspects of life, while keeping Christ at the center of it all. 

There isn’t a day that goes by that you won’t run into a little bit of relationship drama, whether it be with a co-worker, classmate, parent, boyfriend/girlfriend, or your best friend. So next time a little storm brews in one of your relationships, stop for a second and remember that God is with you always, that He is at the center of everything that you do. No matter what you’ve done, how bad you feel, He loves you with everything that He has. Don’t overreact, don’t do too much. Take it one step at a time. You handle the possible and let God work with what you think is impossible. You can get through any problem if you just acknowledge his presence and receive his power. He’s an open door (Revelation 3:20). Let him take control, just trust him. He has a plan for everything that happens every single day, there are no coincidences, no accidents (Jeremiah 29:11).

“Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20

“Beloved, if God loved us in this way, we also ought to love one another.” 1 John 4:11

God Bless

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Pay Attention

I’m so sorry that I haven’t gotten the chance to do one of these in a while! Busy doesn’t even begin to describe it. For those of you that don’t know, I’m in Canada right now playing in the Junior World Championships with USA softball! I’ve been going non-stop since our season ended at Alabama, but it has been such an amazing experience so far.

With being on the road so much and being so busy, I realized how hard it is to spend time with God and focus on our relationship. Some of you (especially the athletes out there) can understand where I’m coming from here and I feel like we sometimes get caught up in our busy life that we can’t find time for God. This is a trap that Satan LOVES. He makes you focus on your busy schedule, he distracts you, and half the time you don’t even realize it, but you know something just isn’t right. You don’t feel like yourself and you may even feel guilty for not spending as much time with God as you should.

Well for starters, here is the GREAT news: God still loves you unconditionally and he always will. No matter what you do or how far away from him you think you’ve drifted, he is always going to pull you back and give you a big, huge hug when you get there [metaphorically speaking, for the most part 😉 ]. God also understands that we are busy! After all, he knows our entire schedule before we do, so he knows what’s coming and he understands! God is a jealous God and he wants our attention (Exodus 34:14) all we have to do is give him as much as we can!

So how can you give God attention when you’re super busy? Here is what I’ve found to work for me:

First, you have to think about God ON PURPOSE. This may sound easy, but if we learn to think about God on purpose we are going to be a lot better off. Think things such as “Thank you God for all you’ve done for me,” or “Lord you are truly amazing” instead of thinking “Oh my gosh I’m so busy,” or “How on earth am I going to have time for this?!” Control your thoughts and think godly things!

Second, say little prayers throughout the day! One thing that helped me do this was saying a short blessing in my head before every meal that I eat when I’m on the road. But also when you’re in the car going somewhere, listening to music, grocery shopping, whatever it is! Just talk to God. This will help you out a ton!

Third, always read scripture. Even if it’s just one verse and you repeat that verse in your head all day (which is what I try to do). A great tool for this is the bible app, or you can even carry around a little travel bible with you everywhere if you aren’t into having the Bible on you phone.

These are just some of the things I try to do when my life gets so ridiculously busy. Just remember that no matter what, God always loves you. Even if you’re busy, he understands! Just give him the attention he deserves. After all, he is the Creator of it all 🙂

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Preparing for Battle

With the college softball postseason coming up, I feel like everyone around me keeps getting more and more excited with each passing moment, myself included. It’s a time of such intense competition and preparation for all of the coaches and players each and every day. As an athlete, over and over I’ve heard the phrase “Preparation breeds confidence.” and confidence in turn breeds success. As hitters we have to know the pitcher’s tendencies and prepare for that, the same goes for pitchers and defenses. Each game is a battle, but in reality all of us have our own battle going on within us every day. It’s a spiritual battle, Satan is our opponent, our biggest rival, that team that we just can’t stand and we want (or least we should want) to beat him every moment of every day.

The main point is this, if you want to beat Satan, if you want to do good and be all that God called you to be, you have to PREPARE to be tempted and tested. When Satan sends bad things your way, you have to be prepared to know how to handle it and how to keep pressing forward. So how can you prepare yourself for spiritual battle?

It’s simple. Make the choice to choose God and choose peace. Colossians 3:12 says “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.” We have to choose to put on those things, our spiritual clothes, intentionally. Even if we’re in a bad mood, someone is annoying us, or we’re having a bad day, we need to clothe ourselves with God’s righteousness. Let people see that there is something different about God’s people compared to the people of this world.

Ephesians 6:10-19 is one of the most powerful passages in the Bible about our spiritual battle against Satan. It says that we defend ourselves with truth, righteousness, peace, faith, and salvation, but notice our only offensive weapon that God gives us in verse 17: “… and take the sword of the spirit, which is the word of God.” We have to roll over in our minds specific verses that help us keep our peace when things don’t go as planned. Saying things like “I can do everything through Christ.” “God loves me no matter what.” or “Nothing is impossible with God.” Keep in mind that you won’t have these verses unless you read them and meditate and memorize them, which leads back to being prepared. Reading your Bible is what is going to prepare you the most for your battle. The last thing and probably the most important thing is prayer. Even if it’s just simple one-sentence prayers like “God help me.” or “Lord, give me your peace and allow me to keep moving forward.” God will answer, he loves you so much and he wants to help you because you are his.

Hebrews 12:1-2 says, “Therefore since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us. Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith…” I challenge you to keep running. Keep running toward Jesus and do not let the obstacles that Satan throws at you stand in your way. Take hold of all of the spiritual weapons that God has given us and stand firm in who you are and what you believe. Know that God is right there with you, always, and he will help you and love you through anything and everything that happens.

God Bless.

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Count Your Blessings

With all of the horrible events that have happened this week, it is easy to understand why so many people are upset and distraught. This world is such a scary place, and this past week that has been more evident to me than ever before. You’re telling me that a 19 year old college student is being chased as a terrorist? I’m in absolute disbelief at all of this, and to me it proves that you can’t really trust in the good of humanity. There are always going to be bad things that happen, there are always going to be bad people in the world, but with that being said there are also always going to be GOOD things happening and there are always going to be GOOD people.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that you have to ignore the bad, and focus on the good. It is so hard when you’re heartbroken, when nothing is going your way to count your blessings. Think about it, we may have one bad thing happen to us in a day, and we let that one problem completely diminish all that we are blessed with. For example, I’m so competitive that sometimes if I lose or have a bad game, that is all I think about. I don’t think about the amazing family, friends, and teammates that I have or even the fact that God has blessed me enough to play a game that I love at such a high level.

The bottom line is that God never intended for us to be sad. As a matter of fact, we as Christians should be the most chipper, joyous, and happy people in the world! Why? Because NO MATTER WHAT we trust a God that loves us and blesses us with everything that we could ever need. Even when we’re hurting, when we’re down, we’re distraught, and we’re heartbroken, there are always blessings to count and reasons to be happy.

There is a hymn that we used to sing at church, the name of the song I forget, but the lyrics always stood out to me. It goes:

“Count your many blessings, name them one by one. Count your many blessings see what God has done.” And those lines are repeated over and over again. I absolutely love that, and it is so true! Saying your blessings over and over again to yourself will make those “problems” that you have seem so much smaller, and you’ll find yourself feeling happier.

“Finally brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy- think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

Nowhere in that did it say “meditate on your problems” or “let those bad things ruin your days.” Think about everything that is good, and in turn you will be happy. It is all about a mindset.

If you’re going through something difficult right now or you’re feeling down. I want you to stop for just a minute right now and thank God for at least 5 things that He has done for you. Just 5 things, I know there are plenty more, and if you want to thank Him for more please feel free to do so. Stop whatever you’re doing right now and thank God.

“I’m alive. I’m healthy. I have an amazing family. I get to play a game that I love. I’m getting a great education.” You get the idea.

Think about it like this: If you woke up tomorrow with only the things that you thanked God for today, how much would you have?

Count your blessings, not your troubles.

 

God Bless

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What Are You Thinking About?

Everyone has heard the saying, “Life is 10% of what happens to you, and 90% how you respond to it.” I have never really bought into that statement just because I never really believed it. Over the past week or so I’ve realized that my moods and my days are based off of what happens to me, whether good or bad, and not based on my overall mindset. This isn’t a good place to be because it has caused me to be very unstable in the way that I think and the way that I act. I’m very thankful that God revealed that to me, because now that I’m changing the way I think, all of my days are better and brighter no matter what happens. I’m “emotionally consistent” to put it best.

Let me explain a little more in detail. This week I realized that it is all about how you think. I could have the worst day ever where nothing is going my way, but what is the point of feeling sorry for myself and complaining? God never intended for us to have bad days and to be miserable. God wants us to have the happiest lives that we possibly can, regardless of what happens to us. A lot of people are like boats in the waves. They let whatever is happening steer their thoughts and their mindset. Why think negatively? God never once told us all to be pessimists! Quite frankly, I would rather be happy no matter what and not extremely emotionally unstable. So when I’m not having a good day, there’s a few things that I think about, and all of them completely turn my day around. I hope these things help you guys out as much as they’ve helped me. (These are derived from Joyce Meyer’s book Power Thoughts, which I would recommend to anyone for a fun read)

1.) God loves me no matter what. 

When I’m having a bad day, one of the first things I think is, “What is wrong with me?” I’m sure some of you are like that too, but that is not what God wants us to think AT ALL. Satan tries to get us to turn the focus on ourselves and not on God (where it should be). Knowing that God loves me so much is what makes me smile. When you’re not feeling great, keep things in perspective. Say, “God loves me no matter what” over and over again in your mind. I promise you’ll feel better.

“Because you are precious in My sight and honored, and because I love you, I will give men in return for you and peoples in exchange for your life.” Isaiah 43:4

2.) I can do anything with Him on my side.

I don’t know about you guys, but whenever I’m in a bad mood, a lot of it is because I’m tired and don’t really feel like doing anything. That’s very lazy of me, but it’s the truth! If I’m tired, I don’t want people to bother me. But when I think, “God has my back, I can do anything because he provides me with strength” it gives me a new outlook. All of the sudden I’m not as tired as I thought I was, and I can be a blessing instead of a burden to other people.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” Philippians 4:13

3.) I am content regardless of the situation because of my relationship with Christ.

If I have God, what else do I need? Honestly. Things that are on this earth are not going to last forever. The only thing that is truly eternal is a relationship with Christ. Once you accept the fact that God is in control and that He truly knows what is best for your life, you’ll find yourself content and happier than ever. You’re going to be a lot more emotionally stable to. Nothing is going to get to you!

“I have learned how to be content (satisfied no matter what) in whatever state I am.” Philippians 4:11

“Godliness accompanied with contentment is great and abundant gain.” 1 Timothy 6:6

Maybe you’re a negative person and you have a hard time figuring out how to be happy all the time. I know that’s who I was. But once we come to understand that God intended for us to be the happiest people on the planet, our mindset will change. So whenever you’re feeling down in the dumps and things just aren’t going your way, say those 3 things over and over again to yourself. Believe in those things, think on those things, and you’re day will be brighter. Remember, “The only disability in life is a bad attitude.”

“Thieves come to steal and destroy, but I have come so they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

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