A Tale of Two Dreams

The last several weeks I haven’t been to any waterfalls, and I’ve done only a small amount of writing. I’ve been spending my time at track meets and softball games. You see, my two teen girls have been immersed in their spring sports, and my focus has been on encouraging them and being at their events to support them. While I may not have had time to hike to waterfalls, watching my daughters pursue their passions has definitely taught me about the value of our dreams.

We had two sports going on in our household: track and softball.

Katie (a junior) did track, and Natalie (a freshman) was on both the track and softball teams. This was Katie’s first year of track in high school, and while she hoped to do well, her main focus when she started was on keeping in shape and gearing up for cross-country season.

Natalie did softball throughout middle school and loved every moment of it. But when she did track during her last year of middle school she found that she had a natural ability at the long jump. Now in high school, track and softball season are at the same time. Natalie didn’t want to give up either one, so she decided her main focus would be softball, and that she would primarily focus on the long jump on the days she went to track practice.

Everything changed with a new track coach. Katie, who considers her running ability to be, as she puts it, “the one thing I’m good at,” listened with an aching heart as the coach told her younger sister that not only were Natalie’s long jump skills impressive for her age, but that she had a natural runner’s build, amazing raw talent, and with the proper coaching she could count on being drafted by a Division I school by her senior year. That alone was what parenting books like to call a ‘teachable moment” in Katie’s life: how to be happy for someone when they receive by mere luck or genetics something you have longed and worked toward.

Natalie at first shrugged off the accolades of the running coach. Then halfway through the season she was placing for both the long jump and the 400 meter race. At the same time, her softball skills didn’t seem to be improving. She was torn. In her dreams up to that point, she longed to go to college on a softball scholarship, as unlikely as it seemed. Now she was being told she may make her way to college on the track field.

natalie batting

“What do you want to do?” I asked her. “Because in the end, what matters is that you enjoy what you are doing.” Natalie’s response: “I just want to be good at something.”

Don’t we all?

My chest ached as I watched her play her last softball game of the season. I could tell by her lack of focus on the field that her heart was no longer in it. I grieved the death one of her dreams. My prayer is that she will find as much joy in running as she does in sliding into home base.

Katie in the meantime suffered with what we believed were shin splints the entire season, but her run times persistently got better. Her coach told me that he had seldom seen someone who worked as hard as Katie. Did she have the potential that he saw in Natalie? Probably not. But she gave her whole heart to running. Katie started out the season running the 1500 and 3000 meter race, the natural choice for a long-distance runner. But she noticed that her split time (i.e., the halfway mark) for the 1500 was significantly less than the winning time of her teammate for the 800 meter race. At the next meet, she took a chance and ran the 800 instead of the 3000. She won.

katie running

Eventually the pain in her legs forced her to give up all races except the 800 meter, but focusing on that one race proved providential. She placed second in district and made it to the state championships – in an event she never even intended to race!  She dreamed of standing on the podium and accepting a medal, but it was not to be. A week before the state meet we found out her “shin splint” was actually a stress fracture. My driven daughter had been running on a broken tibia most of the season.

Natalie also did well at the district meet, and placed third in the long jump. She was just one placement away from going to state, an impressive accomplishment for a 5’1” Freshman who took track as her second choice sport.

natalie jumping

At the end-of-the-year of sports awards ceremony, the track coach boasted of Natalie’s raw, natural talent. He said, “if she would just believe in herself” her potential was stellar. When he spoke of Katie, the one word that came up again and again was courage. Courage to keep going, to push through the pain. Courage to not give up.

Our dreams. Some have to die so that others can live. One person can speak hope to us and change our direction. Sometimes if we want something bad enough hard work will get us there even if we don’t have “natural” talent. Our drive pushes us through the pain. If we can just believe in ourselves, we’ll reach our full potential.

And love and courage carries us to the finish line.

 

Saddling Up

See every waterfall in Oregon. That was a goal I set for myself nearly 15 years ago. I was going through an ugly divorce from an angry man and struggling to survive as a single mom with two young girls. I’m not sure where I came up with the goal, but I know that I was looking for something that was for me, separate from any dream my ex and I had together. Something separate even from the children that I loved more than anything. My quest for waterfalls became the thing that defined the new me, and a respite from the stress and loneliness that engulfed my life at that time.

It was a turbulent time in my life, marked by some of the most painful moments I had ever experienced. I was a sitting-on-the-fence Christian, but God used that time to draw me closer to Him. In my journey, I came to realize that my quest for waterfalls was ultimately a search for answers that could only be found in God.

Fast forward a few years and I was a woman in love with Jesus, and getting married to a man who loved Him too. My ex was completely out of my life, the fearful nights and custody battles were behind me. At the age of 38, I gave birth to another beautiful baby girl. Life was good. But I was also a woman who was slowly becoming inactive, due in large part to the rheumatoid arthritis that had been a part of my life nearly as long as my love for waterfalls. And so the dream was set aside – deemed unneeded or unfulfilled, depending on which day you asked me.

As time went on, the hunger for those falls started resurfacing. My family would appease me with a short day hike, and I found joy in our time together doing something that still spoke to my soul. Then I would tuck it away again, back to the “something I will do later” in my mental list of dreams-yet-to-fulfill. For a couple of years the arthritis in my foot was so severe I couldn’t even walk around the block, let alone hike. I felt frustrated and angry. I wrestled with God. I dove into my bible. “My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Psalm 73:26. God comforted me through His Word.

I was at peace with my limited abilities. Then a little over a year ago, I saw my doctor for hip pain (a new ailment.) Through a series of doctor referrals, I ended up in physical therapy and with two new doctors involved in my care. The amazing result was relief for my foot and hope for my physical future. Perhaps hiking wasn’t impossible. Was it too late to start again? I asked myself: Is this something God wants me to do?

I listened for God’s voice. I waited for signs. Certain songs caught my attention on Christian radio, bible verses of reassurance popped out at me from the page, and one quote I came across gave me goosebumps: “Courage is being scared to death but saddling up anyway” – John Wayne

Fear … that’s my weakness, the one God is always patiently chiseling out of me. I realized it takes courage to pursue a goal or dream, no matter what the circumstances.

So … I’ve decided to saddle up and start chasing waterfalls again. I’m also going to write about what I find, and the obstacles and inspiration I encounter on tbe way. I hope as you read about my journey, you, too, will be encouraged to pursue the dreams that God has set in your heart.

 

May he give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed. Psalm 20:4