“…For everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more…” Luke 12:48
With the control placed back in God’s hands, I entered college a semester early and began to adjust to a very new life. Eager to explore all that my new home had to offer, I was consumed by the excitement and intensity of change. I stumbled, as many young freshmen do, in finding my identity and learning the ins and outs of my new routine, but I eventually found my footing and focused on my passion–soccer.
That first spring was a time of adjustment and discipline. Isaiah 40:29 says that “He gives power to the weak. He increases the strength of he who has no might.” And that was most certainly what our King did. He invigorated my spirit and inspired my heart. By giving Him control, I was able to not only grow in my faith, but physically as well, in a healthy manner. I worked, relentlessly, taking no shortcuts in my development and, come fall, I was entirely prepared to step onto the field and help lead my team to greatness.
There were many astounding events that defined my first fall season as a Tiger–many overwhelming blessings God placed in my lap almost as to say, “Here. I am rewarding you for pursuing My truth. In turn, remember where to give the glory.” Little did I know, he was building me a very large platform from which to proclaim His name. A platform that was almost overwhelming. You see, in my second true game as a collegiate goalkeeper, I lined up to take a routine free-kick right outside of my box, and ending up scoring a goal! A 90 yard goal that took one bounce over the other goalkeepers head and made its way into the back of the net! (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L3E-dgyo_jw) A feat never achieved before. A feat I most certainly could not have accomplished with my own power and strength. A feat that most clearly was designed by our King. Next thing I knew, the goal was splashed across the television, magazines, and the internet. Appearing as a #3 play on SportsCenter Top10 plays (an extreme rarity for women’s college soccer), strewn across the pages of Sports Illustrated, and linked onto YouTube, Break.com and countless other sites, the energy of that play took on a life of its own. LSU Soccer was put on the map in a matter of moments, and the recognition and attention seemed to come to our team effortlessly. However, the thing I was most proud of was something that nobody else saw that day….
I remembered, as I lined up to take that kick, looking up into the stands and seeing my daddy sitting right beneath the press box. Now before I tell you of my most vivid memory from that evening, there are some things you should understand about my father. There are few other men as proud of their families as my daddy was of his. Few other men that have sacrificed more to see their children succeed, and few others that have supported their children’s endeavors more passionately. My dad was my biggest fan, my cheerleader, my coach, my jury, my confidant, my disciplinarian, and everything in between. He was a stoic man, a thoughtful man. A child at heart and an observer. A comedian with the most magnificent smile, but a private man often drowned in his inner-dialogue and thoughts. Though our relationship had experienced its share of strains and tensions (primarily due to the fact that were both as stubborn as a couple of mules), he loved passionately. And no matter where I traveled to play, my daddy was always in the stands.
But to digress, I saw my daddy beneath the press box as I lined up to take that kick. After watching the ball bounce into the net, the crowd erupted. The team came sprinting towards me, the fans shook the stadium with cheers and applause, and the announcer’s voice boomed over the loud-speaker. However, in the midst of that explosion, I could only hear one voice in the stands. A voice yelling with the echoes of a pride that is born so deep within our hearts, it cannot be imitated–only felt. A pride and excitement so organic, so true, that you feel it’s vibrations in the fibers of your being. My dad was yelling so loudly, I thought he was going to explode. Looking up, I saw a smile strung wider than any I have ever seen before (I swear his teeth were touching his ears). I saw a joy beaming so fantastically from him, he took on a glow. And as the game continued and the play progressed, that man was still screaming. Still cheering so loudly, I doubt the men in the press box could even hear themselves think. Ten minutes later…still cheering. Oozing with a passion that seemed to be waiting to overflow. A passion that a man, so disciplined in his demeanor, could not control. A passion, I would later learn, I was fortunate to witness. For that is the moment of which I was most proud.
Throughout the rest of that season, my daddy was always there. A relationship blossomed between he and I that was so beautiful and pure, I am humbled to have been a part of it. The season was record-breaking–quite literally. In my pursuit of the King, I broke every record ever set by a goalkeeper at LSU and began to contend for conference prestige. I helped lead my team to new heights and was able to experience, firsthand, the power that athletics play in so many people’s lives. There is no doubt in my mind that God constructed my platform for a much bigger purpose than I could even understand at that time. A purpose I am fulfilling now, 3 years later. There is no doubt in my mind that God fostered the improvement in my and my father’s relationship when he did for a very specific reason, as well.
At the end of my fall semester, I was on top of the world. Named All-American, Louisiana Freshman of the Year, Freshman All-SEC…I was invincible. In a passionate pursuit of Christ, I felt I had the world figured out.
That was until I returned to Georgia for Christmas break and, on January 2, 2009, my daddy didn’t come home…