Orchestrated

Therefore, I am going to persuade her, lead her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. –Hosea 2:14

Swimming was my first love. My name even means Guardian of the Sea, so it doesn’t surprise me that God chose swimming as the sport He’d use to woo me into His warm embrace. On my first birthday, I was splashing around in the creek that runs through my family’s property and at 17 I found myself swimming my last competitive race. This past weekend marks the fourth anniversary of that last swim. I still remember cooling down for an extended period to ensure that no one saw my brokenness, the disappointment that I hadn’t accomplished my goal for that final swim, and that I was choosing to leave my first love to pursue a collegiate volleyball career. In the small Texas town I call home, I was known as the swimmer, and choosing a sport where I had earned fewer accolades and relied on a team for success seemed bogus. Praise God it wasn’t bogus to Him. This past weekend, at 21 years old, God took me down memory lane and showed me a highlight reel of my life that has gotten me to this point. A point where I don’t fear the unknown because I wholeheartedly trust the Creator, I don’t fear death because I know where I’m spending eternity, where I don’t fear not fitting in because I know I wasn’t made to. The life I am now living is life in the fullest.

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If I haven’t bored you to tears, I’d love you to immerse yourself in my story and I pray that it blessed you to TRUST in all circumstances the One who made you for Him.

I was 13 when I walked into the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center proudly sporting my Texas A&M sweatshirt. Mom and Dad had taken me to Wendy’s for lunch where I saw my first traffic cone orange Mohawk. Austin was weird and I didn’t want anything to do with it. My dream was to swim for the Aggies. My parents are the type that taught me to dream big and always promised to catch me if I fell. I had set a goal to qualify for the state meet as a freshman, and they wanted me to see what I was aiming for so I knew how to prepare. We watched and I thirsted to dive into lane 4 where records had been broken and Olympians had trained.

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When I set goals, I plan to accomplish them. Goals aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’ve learned when they’re for selfish gain and self-glorification it can be devastating when they aren’t accomplished. My devastation came in the form of .60 seconds. In swimming that’s about a hand’s length difference. In my world, that was about 130 miles, the distance from El Campo, TX to Austin, TX for the state swim meet. Instead of making the journey to actually swim, we drove to watch my competitor take what I thought was my rightful place in the pool. My thirst hadn’t been quenched.

Sophomore year. The year of redemption. It was my time and I was ready to seize it. The 200 Freestyle was my first individual race at the regional meet and I was feeling good. In a little over two minutes I punched the wall, posting my personal best time. Something was wrong. Men in white were at my lane. Fear and disappointed kicked in as they told me my shoulder “twitched” before the buzzer. Disqualified. No medal, just tears. I was a mess, but Momma Bard caught me, held me, prayed with me, and helped me give my disappointment to God. I had to get focused. The 500 Freestyle was my best shot at qualifying for state and tears were definitely not helpful when swimming.

Take your mark. Beep. Off the block. Stroke. Kick. Stay within striking distance. The 500 is all strategy. My competitors were a body length ahead of me and I’d never felt calmer in the pool. It was time to attack.

Stroke. Kick. Inch by inch I overcame the difference until my goal was accomplished. A personal best. A berth into the state meet. Another trip to that weird place known as Austin, TX. Another goal accomplished.

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Volleyball. A sport that allows you to talk while you play, rather than blow bubbles while you swim. A beautiful game that I had began to fall in love with. Swimming was still in the picture, but volleyball had stolen some of my attention. It was time to switch gears and trade in the race of endurance for a burst of speed and precision so that I had time to train for volleyball. Goodbye 500 Freestyle, hello 50 Free.

It was time for the 2008 state qualifying meet. Despite my dramatic event change from the longest event to the shortest event, I was the favorite. Twenty-five seconds was all it took to make it down and back. It was a tight race, but I had won. State two years in a row. Submersion into a sea of burnt orange was on my horizon. This time, qualifying wasn’t enough, I wanted to make it to the championship final and finish in the top eight swimmers in the state. Disappointment struck again. I had place ninth. This time the different was .08 of a second. I had been less than a fingernail from reaching my goal, but during the consolation finals I was placed in lane 4. I was in the center of the pool where Olympians I idolized had swum, but the thirst I felt in eighth grade still wasn’t quenched.

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By the time swim season arrived my senior year, I wanted to qualify for state, but I had started to live and breathe volleyball. Swimming was placed on the back burner and looking back I have no doubt God was the only reason I ended up in Austin. I wasn’t ready to admit that I was going to choose volleyball over swimming because I knew I was going to disappoint everyone who had journeyed with me over the course of 13 years in the pool. Regionals came around and I placed fourth behind the state record holder and eventual gold medalist, the bronze medalist, and another very talented swimmer. My only hope was a call up and I knew that was a long shot. I cried, a lot, and came to terms with the fact that my swimming career was over. We celebrated at Texas Roadhouse with a few too many rolls lathered in honey butter. As we were walking out, a group of swimmers from another school in our region caught me off guard and congratulated me for qualifying for state. Wait…WHAT?! I was in?!

I had taken the eighth and final call up spot. It seemed that God had intervened on my behalf.

I wore my red and white El Campo swim cap for the last time in Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center and although I was disappointed in my last swim I now realize that it was all a part of the Potter’s plan. At that point I had been offered a scholarship to play volleyball at St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX. My future coach came to watch me swim, called me after my race, and told me that my speed off the block (I had the quickest reaction time) would serve me well in volleyball. Just a side note: if a coach who is genuinely supportive of everything you are involved in is recruiting you, tell them yes. They care about you and want you to not only be the best athlete, but the best person you can be. That’s a unique quality that you don’t want to pass up.

I knew it was time to make my decision. I told my parents and my swim coach that I wanted to play volleyball at St. Edward’s. I come from a pretty sentimental family, so we drove to campus and I called my coach to let him know I was committing. Before I could get the words out, he asked where I was and told me to head to the gym to say “Hi”. I ended up committing in person.

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Therefore, I am going to persuade her, lead her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. –Hosea 2:14

At 21, I now realize why that thirst I thought I could quench through swimming was never satisfied. My thirst wasn’t to qualify for the state swim meet, it was a thirst for God. I’ve since graduated from St. Edward’s and am pursuing a career in sports marketing. After four seasons on the Hilltop it is clearer to me than ever before that God placed me exactly where I needed to be. Austin seemed like the last place I wanted to be when I was 13, but it became the wilderness God wooed me into to capture my heart for eternity.

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Notice how throughout my swimming story it was always MY goals, MY dreams and MY desires. Although I prayed before and after swims, I wasn’t aiming to follow God. Disappointment devastated me because I was seeking self-glorification when I should have been working towards Christ’s glorification. But that’s the beauty of the Gospel. It finds us where we’re at and changes us forever. When I wasn’t chasing after Him, God chased after me. He has a perfectly orchestrated plan for my life, and YOURS that is falling into place at this very moment. I still occasionally swim for exercise and now I realize a cross marks the end of each link of the pool. A cross to keep everything in perspective. A cross to remind me that in this life I’m not racing to win, I’m racing to glorify the King of kings who died for me.

Meredith

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