Straight from the heart, here's a little insight into my heart and my journey to find Him again...
Please watch over every athlete that steps on this field today. Please keep us all healthy and safe. We all want to win, and you don’t choose that, but give us the strength and courage to use the talents you blessed us with to the best of our ability. Allow us to see and think clearly as we compete against one another, and be an example for the next generation. We play for the enjoyment of many, but really an audience of one. Please tell Grandma & Grandpa I love them, and let Jay know that I know he had a hand in Joey and I! In your name I pray and play! — Amen”
Some variation of this prayer was said before every single game on my final year of playing to the USSSA Pride. I always wanted everyone to be safe, to have good clean compeition, and to make sure my grandparents knew I was still working to make them proud. You see, my grandma was my biggest fan. I acquired a binder after she passed, in which she kept every email my dad sent while I was growing up detailing my athletic career. Grandpa (from the other side of the family) was watching one of my old games on the night he passed. They both had front row seats as my career came to an end.
Some may ask why that prayer was only said during my last season, and the answer to that is the reason for this post. Up until now, I have been very private with my spiritual life. I believe faith, religion, etc is a personal thing. If you want to share it, by all means we have plenty of avenues to do that. However, I also believe it’s ok to explore it on your own, live by it, and wait until you feel it’s right to share. I’m in the latter group. Although, part of the reason was also the fact I had been wavering in my faith. So the story begins…
I grew up in a Catholic Church. I have been baptized, received communion, made confession, and been confirmed in the Catholic Church. I learned the traditions, attended mass, but I am not sure I ever had a true meaning of everything I was hearing. Don’t get me wrong, I knew the 10 commandments and what was right and wrong, but there’s a bigger picture I see now, that I know I had no concept of when I was younger. Please don't be quick to judge, I was raised right. I just strayed as soon as I could.
As I left for college, I also left the Church. I would attend, sometimes, when I went home. I can remember attending church with teammates a handful of times max. Some teammates would convince me to come to FCA, but again, I was hearing, but not applying. I had questions, but didn’t ask them. I just stayed my course playing ball and going to school. When I was on the National Team, Leah O’Brien Amico would lead discussions about Jesus or parts of the bible. I remember listening, but again, left with questions I was too scared to ask. At this point, I also felt that because I had been gone for so long, that there was really no going back. Boy was I wrong!
In my junior year, I met a young man named Carmine, on his official visit to Texas. He ended up going elsewhere for school, but we’ve stayed in touch ever since. I don’t remember when he started asking or talking to me about religion and God, but he did at some point, without any judgement to the fact I was just "ehh" about it. He was living a life with Christ, and I was watching it from a distance. Slowly, I became inspired by his life, but again doubt crept in because I had been gone for so long. Carmine had a younger brother, Sal, who I had taken to pretty quick after meeting the family. To this day, Sal calls me big sis, so it’s been a strong relationship. I watched Sal transform from a pesky little brat into a strong, faith driven man of God. After watching Sal grow in faith, I was left inspired more than ever. I’d see Sal’s posts on social media, and talk with Carmine every so often. I'm not sure when, but one day I finally told Carmine what my heart was telling me: that I needed to go back. Carmine encouraged me over and over. He gave me books to read, told me what parts of the Bible to start with, and more so told me to go to church… alone. He would check week after week if I went to church. I’m pretty sure a number of times I responded “No, but I’m on chapter 5 of that book and…”
Now enters RBI Austin. I’m approached by my friend Amanda, to meet with Matt Price to hear about what RBI is about and their addition of softball. We have an incredible meeting, and I was so excited about everything Matt said, except faith was the core of RBI, and again, that’s where I lacked. I joined RBI, just focusing on the softball part, but after about a year (and months of Carmine’s encouragement) I decided I needed to dive in to my faith. Matt, Casey and some others had talked about how they want to Austin Stone on Sunday evenings. I went one Sunday morning by myself, to see what the church was all about. It was one of my first non-denominational services. My eyes were opened. The meaning behind what I was hearing was clear, and I am pretty sure I cried more than I ever have over softball or even injuries. We sang, tears came down my face. They were preaching, tears were still coming. I decided I needed to reconnect with God. I went to Church with the RBI group, and they kindly sent me notes from the services I missed due to travel schedules. I felt like a new person when I would leave the church.
It’s been about 4 years since I attended that service by myself, and in those 4 years, my eyes are wide open, and my heart is open even wider. I realized that my talents in the circle were supposed to be used to honor Him and to glorify Him. It may have taken me a while to see that, but I am glad I did before I retired. I truly believe, when you fully trust in his plan, you reap more than you could imagine.
I am pretty sure Joey, my now husband, was shocked when I mentioned church when we were dating. You see, we dated 10 years before, and to paint the picture easily… he went to Easter mass with his parents, while I slept at his apartment. I am pretty sure I saw a look of shock/confusion on his face the first time the word “church” came out of my mouth. However, by the time we started dating again, I had committed to my faith. I knew He has a plan. When my heart was convicted in those beliefs, the Lord laid out the best path I could imagine. He presented me with an amazing job opportunity, where I got to connect with and coach one of God’s most loyal servants in our second baseman, Kelli Baker. To this day, I still love going to work! He presented me with an amazing man, who I passed on before. And finally, he gave me a sense of peace as I decided it was time to hang up the cleats. I don’t think any of that is a coincidence. I think because I came back home, to the Lord, and laid my heart out for him, he allowed things work out.
Now, don't get me wrong. There is adversity God puts us through, and I am sure somewhere on this journey of life, my obstacles are coming. However, I truly believe that when you lay your whole heart in his hands, you gain more than you could ever imagine.
If you feel lost or that you’ve been gone too long, come home! He will welcome you and love you beyond measure. I’m thankful for all of the friends who helped me find my way back home. Carmine & Sal, probably had no idea the impact they had until I asked them if I could write about them. My RBI peers got to see me break down as I shared their part in my walk back during a meeting. I wouldn’t be where I am without any of you, and I know He is watching over all of us. Thank you all, for loving me when I was broken and lost, and thank you for still loving me as I continue to work to ‘walk by faith.’