from a very early age, my parents taught us the discipline of practice. spending warm days on ball fields taking batting practice, learning the fundamentals of pitching, fielding a ball, and making good throws. saturdays in the batting cages, learning bat speed and placement of a ball.
i know when i was there, there were days that i hated softball and wished i wasnt a "ball player" but now, i look back on every memory with warmness and fondness, and a wish that i could play back a full day of ball in my mind.
some people have a natural born ability to play ball. it takes little to get the fundamentals down, they do all aspects of ball with ease and smoothness that is usually envied. my brother and i are both natural born players. we never knew the struggle of not being able to make contact with a ball. we never felt the frustration of not knowing how to catch.
but still, we practiced at every opportunity...improving our skills. learning respect for the field...and always knowing that if you took your eyes off that ball, there was a good chance of getting burned.
i'm older now. ball still comes very naturally to me. there's nothing i love more than getting the opportunity to play in the sun, but it's not my life anymore. there are other priorities, other demands. but ball left me with one very, very important life lesson that i have never forgotten.
last Sunday, pastor Brian's sermon was about worry. something that eats at me a lot, especially right now, at this phase in my life. preterm labor is a very scary thing, especially when certain odds are stacked against you. but hearing that sermon, as if it were meant to be, gave me great comfort...and put me on the right track for stomping out my worry. it took me right back to my childhood and my days of practicing softball.
you see, when we messed up on the field, whether it was practice or a game, there were consequences. did you get an injury? clean it, bandage it, take care of it, but do not quit, do not give up. you'll only regret it.
did you pitch a bad game? you better believe you're going to spend an evening pitching into a tire or a bucket until you improve. didnt hit well? it's batting practice for you until hitting improves. there are always ways to improve where you're struggling.
it was like a light bulb finally went off in my head. i had been misunderstanding something for a very long while. you dont just "stop worrying". you dont just stop everything and "put it in God's hands". (these comments have always baffled me. we're human and worry seems to be a natural reaction. how in the world do you just.."stop"??!) ..you can do something to improve your situation.
so just as my brother and i did in ball, i dug in, and i have started 'practicing'. i look at what i'm worrying about. i ask myself, have i done *everything* i can possibly do to keep myself from the worst case scenario? if i havent, then that is my first step that day. if i have done everything i can personally do, then i take my practice somewhere else. to God. to prayer. to memory verses.
"Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more important than food, and the body more important than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they? Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to his life?"
Matthew 6:25-27 New International Version
"God is our refuge and strength,
an ever-present help in trouble."
"I lift up my eyes to the hills—
where does my help come from?
My help comes from the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth."
"Trust in the Lord with all your heart;
do not depend on your own understanding.
Seek his will in all you do,
and he will show you which path to take."
and i turn to memory verses on HOPE
"He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,
miracles that cannot be counted."
"Being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus."
"So do not fear, for I am with you;
do not be dismayed, for I am your God.
I will strengthen you and help you;
I will uphold you with my righteous right hand."
"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."
You must understand that while i was given a natural born ability to play ball, i've never been great at being a 'good' follower of God. i worry a lot...which is sort of like a big slap in God's face. Faith is the heart beat of being following God. you have to learn to trust God through every piece of your life.
so knowing my struggles, i have used what my parents and coaches have taught me, and began to practice and ask for help....because how else will i improve? i know i cannot accomplish this on my own.
ball taught me so very much...and it easily transitions into becoming a better follower of God:
i must learn to *never* take my eyes off Him...for when i do, things fall apart, and i'm likely to get hurt....but even if get hurt, i shouldnt quit..i should never give up.(He didnt fail me, i did, i took my eyes off of Him) ..so when it happens, i need to turn back to the bible and prayer and practice.
and sometimes, no matter how hard you pray, no matter how well you've handled a situation, you can still fail...but that's okay. (you cant win them all..) you pick yourself up, and you learn from your loss. you become a better person because of your trials.
some may look at ball as something silly, even a waste of time...something that just passes the summer time as a child...but for me (and surely for my brother) we were given life lessons. something that has stayed with us, years after our glory days have passed.
i look back in wonder at my childhood. i had no idea what was being ingrained in me. it is amazing to see (in hindsight) God's plan rolling out your life and how He was forming you into the person He wanted you to become.
i am forever grateful for what i learned during my years in the dirt and with sun on my skin. it makes me excited to look at my children and know that these years, these summers in the sun, will not be just a time to pass...but life lessons building their hearts and minds into something much greater than we could ever hope for.
11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. 12 Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. 13 You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart. 14
For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I
praise You because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Your works are wonderful, I know that full well. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in the secret place. When I was woven together in the depths of the earth, Your eyes saw my unformed body. All the days ordained for me were written in Your book before one of them came to be.