Tuesday, November 5, 2013

the thankful project day 5: a talent (just keep swimming)

{Linking up with Kenzie at Chasing Happy}

November 5: A Talent.
I learned that I was a good swimmer at a pretty young age.  I joined a club swim team, worked my rear end off at practices, and it paid off in meets.  I set records, won state championships, and was ranked nationally starting from age 10.  I have a closet full of medals and ribbons, and All-American awards strewn across my (high school) bedroom wall.  I was a pretty darn good swimmer.  I am so thankful for all of my swimming accomplishments - there's nothing like standing on the medal stand after winning a championship race and having that gold medal placed around your neck.  It's like you're on top of the world.  
Swimming to me wasn't just about medals and ribbons, though.  It was also about the incredible swimming friends I made in each place that my family moved to.  Those friendships are some of the oldest ones I have.  In high school, I learned what it meant to be a team leader and grew so much personally from those hours spent in the pool.

My swimming accomplishments through high school earned me a scholarship to a Division 1 school.  I spent the next four years as a member of an elite swimming squad - we trained together, traveled together, ate together, roomed together - it was like one big (sometimes dramatic but always there for each other) family.  

My swimming career thrived in college.  I got to travel across the country to attend meets in which Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte also competed.  I made the biggest accomplishment of my swimming career - qualifying and competing in Senior Nationals - during my sophomore year of college.  To me, life couldn't get any better than attending that meet.
Sadly, all good things come to an end.  The following fall, my world was rocked when I suffered a back injury that eventually ended my swimming career.  I was put on a five-year recovery plan, which I have finally now completed.  I was declared a medical redshirt and tried to be involved from the sidelines with the team, but it just wasn't the same.  That period of not swimming was one of the most difficult times in my life.  And I struggled to find my identity - after all, I had defined myself as a swimmer - and a good one at that - for the majority of my life.  
But just as I am thankful for my swimming talent, I am also thankful for God's provision when that talent was taken away.  Over the years of recovery, I learned that my identity rests in Him alone, and that my ability to swim (or not swim) doesn't define me.  I learned that talents are blessings through which we can bring glory to Him.  And I learned that God had bigger plans for me than I even had for myself.  It was only through this painful loss of my swimming abilities that I figured out I wanted to go to law school.  And I did just that.
God has blessed me so much through my swimming.  He blessed me with great friends, opportunities for growth and maturity, moments of glory, a healthy body, a sense of community and something for me to be proud of.  He also blessed me in times of struggle and discouragement, when He taught me how to pick myself up and focus on what really matters in life.  And He taught me the importance of using each of our talents for His glory, and not for ourselves.
I have just recently begun swimming again.  And I have to tell you, it feels great.  My back is (relatively) pain-free, and I am so thankful for that.  I'm loving the smell of chlorine on my skin, and the way my heart rate jumps when I attempt to do anything remotely resembling butterfly.

But most of all, I am so thankful that I am able to swim again.  
To God be the glory, for through Him comes all healing.  

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