Growth Through Injuries: Kendra Weitz

Many athletes have experienced it: the heartbreak that comes with injury. The inability  to train, bond with the team, or feel the hard-earned satisfaction that comes with competing often times leaves athletes feeling dejected and frustrated. Many times, injured athletes even feel a sense of loss in their lives.

This, however, is not the end of the story.

Today we are featuring junior track and cross country redshirt sophomore, Kendra Weitz. Kendra is a distance runner from Spokane, Washington. In high school, she was a prestigious Footlocker National Finalist and held many other accomplishments in the sport. Since coming to college, however, she has been plagued by a string of injuries that have kept her from training or competing consistently. Kendra is an active leader in FCA and is known for her relentlessly positive attitude and faith in the Lord.

This is her story…

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God has always been an important part of my life…So has running. I started running when I was in third grade but it wasn’t until my junior year of high school that I realized running had begun to consume me more than the God I claimed to serve.

From the beginning I knew I had talent as a runner. The more confidence I gained, the more driven I became to actualize my potential. My sophomore year of high school was a big year for me. In the fall my brother and I made it to a national cross country meet and during track my 3200 time was one of the top in the nation. But I knew there was still more in me. Nothing was going to stop me. Some days I would wake up at 5:30 to swim laps before school for extra training. Then I’d run the regular workouts with the team after school. I made assumptions about what the future would hold for me, like going to a Division 1 university with a national caliber team. I told myself I would break ten minutes in the 3200 by my senior year. What was stopping me? Nothing…nothing as far as I could tell.

My junior year of high school was another story altogether. From then until now, as a junior in college, my story has taken many twists and turns I could have never predicted (and never would have wanted to). If I told you all of the health issues and injuries I have had to overcome in the last four and a half years you may not believe me, or you may think I am a hopeless cause (I must admit I have thought that at times). And for the purpose of not writing a book, I will leave those things out for now. But the more important thing that has happened to me during this journey has nothing to do with my physical abilities or limitations but has everything to do with who I have become spiritually.

For some reason, as humans, adversity is the thing that helps us grow. In the face of hardship it is easy to shake our fists at God wondering what we ever did to deserve it. I did that for a little while. I knew he ‘had a plan’ for me and all (Jeremiah 29:11, and Isaiah 55:8-9), but why was all of this necessary? Hadn’t I learned enough the first round of hardship? Did I really need ten more obstacles to grow closer to him? Being grounded in the truth of scripture my whole life, it was easy for me to know the truth but it took me a while to completely grasp the truth about God and his goodness.

A couple years into my journey I finally began to understand God’s desire for me (and for everyone else) did not include suffering. He only wished for me to have the fullness of life he provides.

John 10:10 says that the thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy, but God has come so that we may have life and life to the full.

There is a thief among us. His name is Satan. Unfortunately, he does have power in this world. Satan’s goal is to get as many people as possible to stop believing in God. He attempts to do this by robbing us of the good things God has given us through destruction, pain, and death. And while the devil may be plotting against us and God’s plan, God remains purely good.

God is the one who set the world in motion. He made this earth and the universe just right so that we can live in it. That’s how important we are to him. He put the breath in our lungs. He gave us family, friends, and food. He made us with abilities and passions. He has an incredible plan for our lives completely separate from anything bad. But because there is evil, he has to adapt his plan. God is so powerful that when the enemy tries to thwart his plan for us, God can turn evil on its head and weave it back into his beautiful plan…Now that’s pretty remarkable.

We have the ability to choose what we believe from day to day. In my hardships I could have stopped believing in God’s goodness and his plan. I could have accepted the devil’s whisperings that I am a failure, that God is doing this to me, and that I will never reach the end. That would have led to hopelessness. And I have to admit, I have almost been there at times.

But instead, in the darkness I tried to hold onto that little light I knew; that if I persevered through that time God had something greater than I could imagine in store for me. That’s not to say that the darkness doesn’t suck, but it is easier when you know where to fix your eyes. Isaiah 55:8-9 has been my anthem verse,

“For your thoughts are not my thoughts, declares the Lord. Neither are your ways my ways. For as high as the heavens are above the earth so are my thoughts greater than your thoughts and my ways than your ways.”

God proved this verse to be true when he brought me to Lipscomb. For years I had envisioned going to public, Division 1 university with a national caliber women’s cross country team. Due to health issues my senior year of high school, my vision for the future was completely in the air. Not only was my college running career in question but even going to college, something that had always been definite in my mind, started to become a question mark. With the help of medicine, my health improved, I even turned around to the point that I was able to run again. At that time one of the only coaches talking to me was my now coach, Coach Taylor. After speaking with him and visiting Lipscomb I realized it was where I needed to be. Coach Taylor gave me the chance to run for a Division 1 university; something I once saw as a given, and now see as an incredible blessing. God’s plan to bring me to Lipscomb was not mine. But it has been better than the plan I had imagined.

I wish I could say that my physical battles ended after high school, but that unfortunately is not the case. I have continued to have my fair share of adversity in college. I can’t say I have contributed much athletically to my team by any means, but I am grateful my identity is not contingent upon who I am as a runner. Rather, my identity is found in the One who gave me the ability to run. Running is not my own, I never earned it. And now when I run I wish to gratefully offer it as my gift back to God. This is how it should be with anything God has blessed us with.

While I wish so much to be competitive again and it looks as if I am headed that direction, God has showed me that his place in my story is not on the sidelines cheering me on and helping me be who I want to be. He is a part of my story as the Author; the one who is actively involved in my life; the one who has planned out my story, creating me to be the person He wants. Pain is necessary in this story or growth does not happen. While God is not the pain, he is present in the pain. My story has been about seeking God’s goodness despite suffering. He is fully good and I know his plans are still to prosper.

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Written By: Kendra Weitz, Lipscomb WXCT

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Radical Community

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Lipscomb Women’s Soccer Team in El Salvador on their Spring Break Mission Trip

This post is written by Kelsey Fenix, a Lipscomb Athletics Associate Head Coach for Women’s Soccer. El Salvador 2016 recap – Radical Community:

I often think to myself “I have the best ‘job’ in the world.”

Our trip to El Salvador further confirmed my feelings about what I get to do here at Lipscomb, as a soccer coach.

Our staff has a passion to mentor our team, to challenge them, to encourage them, and create an environment for growth & thriving. As we seek to do this, I am finding that this team is actually doing that for me.

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Brooke, Anna, Niamh, Jacey, Coach Kelsey  (Left to Right)

Our final evening in El Salvador was a time of worship and sharing about “what only God can do / has done.” I shared about a story in Mark 2: 1-11. This is a story of four men with great faith that drag their friend (a paralytic), to the feet of Jesus because they know he is the only one who heals and saves to the depth that we are in need of healing and saving. They have to push their way through a huge crowd and climb a roof and then lower this man into the house where Jesus is preaching. After Jesus heals the man, the crowd says, “We never saw anything like this!”

The crowd was in awe of the power of Jesus, and as I read this passage the other night, I couldn’t help but wonder if the crowd was in awe of these four men, too; their tenacity; their perseverance; their LOVE… all for the sake of a brother.

What I saw in my team last week in El Salvador is the same thing I see in these four men: A community of people that are changing and impacting everyone they come into contact with.

 

This isn’t limited to our time in El Salvador. I see this type of community here in Nashville with this team, on and off the soccer field. This team is different, and last week I was honored to see an even closer look into what God is doing in and through these young women.

A few of them had the courage to share their stories with us. After each story, there were tears of pain, hurt, abandonment, and abuse. Yet there was something else in the tears. Something even more powerful. There was hope and light and redemption.

The pictures below show four of our players who decided to be baptized on our last day in El Salvador. Pictured left to right, Coach OB, Justis, Anna, Lindsay, Dom, and Coach Kelsey. An incredibly joyful moment!


These stories are a glimpse into the Bigger Story that God is writing. These stories – and there are more – changed me. These stories are changing this team. These stories are changing everyone they come into contact with. These stories are opening doors to more freedom. These stories are creating a team culture of love, authenticity, vulnerability, hope, and joy.  As I stand in the crowd watching (and, thankfully, I get a front row seat!) I see hearts being changed and I hear whispers of “we’ve never seen anything like this!”

 

Written By: Kelsey Fenix, Lipscomb Women’s Soccer Associate Head Coach

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This is the fourth year in a row that Lipscomb Women’s soccer has returned to El Salvador on a mission trip.  To read more about Lipscomb’s women’s soccer mission trip to El Salvador this year, visit this link and click on the daily recaps 1-6 to read about each day’s happenings written by different players: http://www.lipscombsports.com/wsoccer/news/

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Man Time.

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This evening of Man Time is scheduled usually around Valentine’s Day week, and playfully has adopted the nick-name “Male-entine’s” since the ladies event is called “Gal-entine’s.”  Man Time: a night full of all things manly.

Man Time is an evening set apart for the fellas to gather and enjoy Kan Jam, Nintendo 64, corn hole, pizza, friendship, and Jesus. It was a time to come and hear what it means to be a man of Jesus in our world today, regardless of the definition the world offers.

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Corey Toy, speaker at Man Time.

Corey Toy, a former Ohio State and professional hockey player shared his incredible story of redemption and forgiveness. Corey was the speaker for the evening, and he lives out what it looks like to be a Godly man. He spoke truth into the men gathered at FCA, talking about the men God calls us to be, rather than what the world tells defines as a “man.” He shared countless stories of men throughout the Bible who were fierce warriors, yet displayed true power by selflessly giving their lives away, fully surrendered to the plans of the Lord. Corey said,

“It’s great to see so many men at Lipscomb passionate about investing in their talents, both as athletes and men. Society has skewed the perception of what manliness looks like. I’m thankful to see men passionate about the Biblical example of manhood we have in Jesus.”

Corey challenged each young man in the room to think about the way they guard and protect the hearts of young ladies through dating, and leading women in their relational lives.  Corey shared the importance of boundaries, and clear communication. After hearing Corey boldly speak truth, each of our hearts and minds were challenged to think about our calling as men.

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Several athletes shared their reflections:

“I thought Man Time was beneficial. Corey was real with us and spoke truth about how to respect and honor girls, that all guys could relate to and need to hear. It was awesome to see how God used his story of brokenness and sin to transform him into a great man of God. Something he said is “its way easier to give in to sexual temptation than to resist” he then quoted some guy saying “sexual restraint rather than sexual prowess was once the measure of a man.”  Cam Botes, Junior, Soccer

 

“I really enjoyed hearing the true unfiltered heart of a man who was healed by God. Corey is an inspiration and it is amazing to see how God can help to pull you out of the deepest holes if you trust in Him and let Him lead you in life. God is always greater and his love is visible in Corey’s life. It was also a great night hanging out and playing games with a bunch of dudes.” Hunter Printz, Junior, Cross Country and Track

 

“Malentines was great. It was a night filled with N64, Buffalo Wild Wings, Kan Jam, and Jesus. I loved how transparent Corey was in sharing his story with everyone and how God has used seasons of his life to bring about growth and restoration. He also spoke about what our society tells us about manliness versus what scripture tells us about being a man of God. I think everyone left encouraged, challenged, and with a fresh perspective on biblical manhood.” -Dalton Keck, Senior, FCA President

 

I loved how transparent the speaker was with us. This was a guy who had a total 180 in what life was all about and meant to him. Being able to make that type of change takes guts and trust in God. I thought his message was a great reminder to be honest with myself and where I’m at knowing that is where God wants to meet me.  A real man does have and does show emotions and I have found that when I share on a deeper level with my friends, those are the relationships that flourish.” Sam Remington, Sophomore, Cross Country and Track

This was a night full of honesty, transparency, brotherhood, laughter, truth, and ultimately revealing the heart of Jesus for each of us as men. We were able to live out the words of Hebrews 13:1, when we are told to “Keep on loving one another as brothers.”

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Written By Lipscomb Spiritual Formation Team Member, Aaron Spragg.

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This is My Calling: Kayla Montgomery, Lipscomb XCTF

Click on the play button on the video image to watch and hear Kayla share her story.  Kayla Montgomery is a sophomore runner on the women’s cross country and track team.  She was diagnosed with MS while in high school, and has continued to persevere and run… even though being affected by numbness and lack of feeling in her legs as she finishes her races. Her story is one that is unique, but inspiring. Listen as she shares her testimony and journey of faith over the last few years while facing her diagnosis.

“I realized that I wasn’t as alone as I thought I was… so I let Him back in.  I still get scared about the “what if’s,” but I heard God say, Kayla, you are to live for today, not for tomorrow.” … It’s such a nice way to live.” (Kayla Montgomery)

Want to learn more about Kayla?  Watch this ESPN ‘E:60’ story: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kpA-FsKLA6A

Follow Lipscomb Cross Country and Track team: http://www.lipscombsports.com/wcc/

To learn more about Lipscomb Athletics Spiritual Formation click here: http://www.lipscombsports.com/spiritual-formation/

(Video Edit and Production by Austin Gwin, Lipscomb Athletics Videography & Production)

Making Beautiful Things: Galentine’s 2016

 

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Galentines Event on February 23 at the Doris Swang Chapel

The Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Lipscomb university for the last three years has divided men and women for one evening in February to dig deeper into the topics that men and women face in relationships.  They have playfully named the evenings, Galentines for the ladies, and Man Time for the men.  Today’s blog is going to share a bit more about Galentines and how it was designed to share a new perspective on beauty, and understanding the power of God’s redeeming love.

On February 23, the Lipscomb women headed to Doris Swang chapel to enjoy an evening offering hope, and encouragement.  Through several testimonies and a time of fellowship, students learned about finding their beauty in Christ.  The Director of Women’s Spiritual Formation in Athletics and event creator, Shannon O’Brien said,

“This year’s Galentine’s is exposing how words & actions have shaped our value both in compliments and criticism; and to come away from this evening ultimately knowing that we are beautiful in Jesus and that He can restore & redeem the darkest of situations.  For girls, Valentine’s Day obviously has such a stigma about love, kisses, hugs and boys…particularly them being ‘Prince Charming’ and being chosen by them.  I just think it’s really important for women to come together and know that they’re chosen & loved by Jesus.”

 

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Kate Hughes sharing candidly about God’s Redeeming Love & Restoration in her life.

The night’s speaker, Kate Hughes, shared very candidly her own story of brokenness and rejection as a teenager that eventually led to redemption as she met Christ in college. Kate shared about her personal journey of shutting off and going with the flow of life. She shared that as she shut up, she shut down.

“No one knew what was going on inside of me. It wasn’t like The Little Mermaid that I’d watched on repeat growing up. I was hiding behind a smile really.” (Kate Hughes)

During the evening, Kate provided an opportunity for the girls attending to answer a few guided questions and then share a bit of their story with a couple of people sitting near them.

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Shannon O’Brien said she hopes that beyond the cookies, chocolate-dipped fruit and chapel credit the evening offers, students would go away with a sense of encouragement and hope.

“If [they have] something that they’ve kept really quiet and felt like they’ve had to hide, I hope this gives them the courage to speak up and know that God can redeem them from any shame.” (Shannon O’Brien)

Junior Brooke Gordon said she felt that Kate Hughes’ story provided her with a genuine perspective that she had not heard before.

“I thought it was encouraging to see a face to vulnerability, because as Christians, we often hear that as a concept and to see how you can share about redemption through vulnerability was helpful.” (Brooke Gordon)

At the end of the evening, speaker Kate Hughes encouraged students to find a support system of friends, mentors, professors and counselors, like she did, as they navigate through college.

“I know there’s many stories in the room and I beckon you to let people in, I know that the love of God wants to get in.” (Kate Hughes)

Shannon O’Brien wrapped up the evening by reiterating Kate Hughes’ message and the importance of sharing our stories.  Shannon said,

“The very things in life that are “crap,” when “life hits the fan” are stinky and messy; we need someone who can help us navigate out of that.   Thankfully we have Savior named Jesus that can redeem and restore what is lost and broken.  God grows flowers out of manure.  Image what He can grow out of the manure in our life!  We need counselors, and mentors to help us till the soil, and allow the opportunity for God to grow beautiful things out of our lives most stinkiest of situations.” (Shannon O’Brien)

Kate Hughes is now a counselor herself at Sage Hill in Nashville. Her heart is to help people process what life throws at them, and in turn find freedom and courage to  press on in their lives victoriously.   To learn more about Sage Hill Counseling:  http://sagehillcounseling.com/  Or to learn more about Kate and her work, visit: Kate Hughes, Sage Hill Counseling Center

Additionally, Lipscomb University students can visit the University Counseling Center (UCC, located in the basement of Elam) for free appointments on weekdays from 8 a.m. until 5 p.m. To schedule, go to http://www.lipscomb.edu/counselingcenter/request-appointmentor call the front desk at 615-966-6294.

“The most difficult of situations in our life, can become the richest soil for God to grow incredible things from them.” (Ian Morgan Cron)

“You Make Beautiful Things” by Gungor, watch & listen:

 

(Stay tuned for the Men’s “Man Time” recap in our next blog post.)

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Original story written by Katie Bianchini, Junior Track & XC Runner; (story adapted and edited by Lipscomb Spiritual Formation) from Katie’s original post on Illumination Network.

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Kelsey Fenix, Shannon O’Brien, Kate Hughes at Galentines. Each of them have a heart to mentor girls. Kelsey and Kate were college roommates.  Kelsey Fenix is also an Associate Head Women’s Soccer Coach at Lipscomb. Shannon O’Brien is the Director of Women’s Spiritual Formation in Lipscomb Athletics.  To learn more about this ministry, visit: Lipscomb Athletics Spiritual Formation