Sunday, August 24, 2008

In Closing...

Tonight was Closing Ceremonies and it was incredible!!! For any of you who did not see it, please watch it when it is broadcasted in the USA. It was so well done!!! Fireworks, music... and my favorite part was the dance expression of the torch with the people on the large rack in climbing gear, dancing and dressed in silver and red costumes. Then the banners that were raised... it was a magnificent display! Khatuna was flag bearer and she did an EXCELLENT job, though we didn't see her at all while she had the flag. She was so honored to take that role!

It's hard to believe it's over. Four years of anticipation and training and preparation for what seems to have ended so quickly. But at the same time, I am SO ready to come home. I leave Tuesday for home and will be returning exactly one month after my arrival date. I am so excited to NOT be busy. To see friends. To take our long awaited road trip. To visit Israel in November. And to go to college in January. I feel like a new chapter is beginning in my life and I am so excited to see where the Lord will lead me. I will continue to shoot. But I am very ready for more than archery to fill my days. This was an amazing experience and I feel so privileged to have been one of the 2008 Olympic Athletes selected to represent my country, the United States of America! God has blessed me with this honor, has given me memories to last a lifetime and taught me valuable lessons for my future in archery as well as everyday life. Now, may I just put these lessons to use!

Thank you all for your comments, prayers, letters and encouragement. It may sound easy doing what I do, being here, competing and just being an athlete. I've had several people mention how it seems so easy for me to be a christian and live the way I do. But I would just like to tell you, it's NOT! And your prayers and encouragement has strengthened me, pushed me to keep going and helped me to refocus many times. I have THE SAME struggles every single person has and if it were not for the grace of my Lord Jesus, I wouldn't be here.

I am including a hew pictures here from my time in China that have been highlights to my trip. God bless and keep you!

Friday, August 22, 2008


I think there is a different kind of victory we live as Christians. Different from an athletic victory. It's not one you can hold proof of in your hands like a medal. It's not a victory you FEEL everyday or every moment. But it's a victory that will last an eternity. And it's affects are so much more far reaching than any athletic victory we could be honored to gain. It is a victory over sin, over self, over the world and it's passions, a victory over our very real and very present enemy. There was one such victory I experienced a few days ago when God gave me the privilege of introducing a friend to Jesus! I am so excited! Thank you for all the prayers that have been going out on my behalf. The Lord is working mightily, even when we can't see it!

It has been busy here even though I have only been working out, meeting friends and sightseeing (with some shopping too). I bought a beautiful, custom fit, chinese styled silk dress. We visited the Forbidden City and many of the hospitality centers set up by sponsors for the USA Olympic Athletes. Today we visited the Nike Center where my teammate and I each received an overwhelming free gift! 4 pairs of shoes, shirts, two bags, shorts, sunglasses, a watch, and socks. We then went shopping at the USA House for USA Olympic wear for gifts.

Just prior to that we learned that Khatuna, my teammate, was elected as the flagbearer for the Closing Ceremonies! This is a huge honor and I am so happy for her!!! She is shocked! She says this is better than winning the gold medal, to have her country support her like this! For those of you who don't know Khatuna, she is originally from the country of Georgia. Her parents and loved ones are still there and have had to flee to safety from the recent Russian invasion. She has been very strong and competed like a champion in spite of this great concern she was dealing with at the same time. She placed 5th in the Games. So now she will carry our star spangled banner for her country, the USA, that she loves so much.

Sunday, August 17, 2008


I am FINALLY here again to update you on all the action here in Beijing!!! It has been an incredible week!!!

After my last post I took the day off - went far away from archery - and enjoyed some time with friends. It was so nice to just de-stress, not have a busy schedule and be in the company of several godly friends who were here in Beijing. Some of whom were Karen and Judy from Athletes in Action. I met these ladies just prior and during my time in Athens 2004 where they were a great prayer support to me. I had dinner with them Sunday night, we talked and caught up and once again, they encouraged me in the Lord, lifted me up with Scripture and supported me in prayer.

The next day I trained lightly and shot so well!!! My confidence was growing and it was exactly what I needed. One of the only really good days I had shooting just before I competed. That evening my family arrived. I was so excited to see them!!! I only had about an hour to spare but it was of the highest priority that I saw them that night. Especially since I didn't compete till 5pm the next day. It was wonderful to be together with them again though they were all jet-lagged. I think it really contributed to my intention of making a point of enjoying this expereince and not focusing myself to crazy-ness.

On Tuesday, my teammate Khatuna competed in the morning. So I met the home crowd (Wunderles, Ellisons, Wukies, Nichols-Wyoming, and Nichols-Arizona) and was part of her cheering section. She shot so well and won both of her first two matches. I began to feel the heat of the coming match begin. I went back to the village to eat and rest and mentally prepare for the afternoon. It was a real fight to keep my mind positive and not give into the looming pressure. Khatuna could tell I was tense so she talked to me a lot and took me for ice cream before leaving for the field. All day I had been giving it over to the Lord and praying for His will to be done. Well... it started long before that day ;-) But THAT day, the frequency was turned up. One song that I remember coming to mind that day so strong is "I Exalt Thee." I committed my day and performance to the Lord, asked that He would be glorified no matter what happens, that THAT would continue to be my desire through it all, and that He would help me to relax and give me peace and confidence.

I went to the field to begin training. I listened to the song "All I Once Held Dear" over and over. This song is so powerful! I started realizing how incredibly honored I am to even be part of the Olympic Games! To have my moment to perform on stage (aka- archery field)! To have the skill God has given me! Then I started thinking about all the innumerable blessings God has put in my life! But above all - my relationship with Jesus and the sacrifice He made for me to be redeemed completely OUTSHINES EVERY other privilege, gift, opportunity or ambition in life!!! My heart became so grateful for all He has done in me and for me. All of my stress turned to excitement! And finally... I was exactly where I wanted to be mentally and emotionally! I started warming up. Everything was feeling great and I couldn't wait to get in there and shoot my match!

A few ends before I went in, one of my friends from Australia handed me a card from my sister she had just seen in the stands. A little background first - as most of you know, Mandy and I grew up dancing and it holds a very special place in our hearts. One of the MANY common interests we share. Though, dance is much more to us than an "interest" ;-) It's one of those things that makes us come alive!!! Earlier in the week, Mandy had written me an incredibly inspiring email concerning the movie Flashdance. Neither of us have seen the whole movie, but we have seen the end, where she performs at a dance audition. She pointed out the difference of when she started dancing her piece timidly and with mistakes, then stopped. The second time she danced it all the way through, beautifully, breath-takingly and with all her heart, nothing to hold her back. Mandy pointed out that the first time she was dancing for the people watching but the second time, she was dancing for herself, because she LOVED to dance. So when she stopped caring about and considering everyone and everything around her, she was free to offer her best... and ended up blowing the judges away. Then Mandy went on to write out ALL THE WORDS TO THE ENTIRE SONG "What A Feeling" and remind me I'm performing for my audience of One. So... back to the card she sent. On the front it has a dancer and it says "You have the will and you've got the skill.." You open to "Now all you need are the leg-warmers. Go!" And it plays the song "What a Feeling"! It was PERFECT!!! God used that whole process to give me the perspective I needed. I was excited. I was over flowing with joy. And I knew, I was going to enjoy this because I love what I do!

I went into the stadium, fully surrendered to the Lord and ready to shoot my best. Even though my mind was in the right place my body was still reacting to the exciting situation. I walked out confidently and with my head high onto the field where I could hear and see my family and dear dear friends cheering me on! We started shooting and I honestly had no idea what my score or my opponent's score was through it all! This is a big goal for me that I was so happy to achieve. I was very much shooting - One Arrow At A Time! It was a match of faith because feeling is not really there when you shoot in the stadium. I knew what I needed to do in my technique and I just kept on talking myself through and making sure I was focused on those important form goals. But when I would release, I didn't know where the arrow would go because the flood of adrenaline makes everything feel different ;-) My first shot was an X. After that I knew I shot a lot of tens and by the end of it I saw I shot a 114, tying the Olympic record! I won my match but that wasn't the cause for my indescribable joy. It was that I had CONQUERED my fears!!! I had won in that constant competition with myself to reach higher and shoot stronger! And I knew it was fully by the grace of my Lord and Saviour who was guiding my every arrow and giving me strength.

My next match started immediately, which suprised me, but I cut my celebration short to focus on my next 12 arrows again to be shot in the same stadium at the same target. Interestingly, I was more confident this time. I knew what I needed to do and I was more sure of this one. I mean, I had just shot fabulous 2 min. ago. I had a good game plan obviously and I began my match with the same focus and same mental attitude. Only this time, I could feel everything a lot better which was really nice. I was becoming comfortable in this setting. My shots felt GREAT. But they weren't hitting the center. I gave it to the Lord again, repeating that I wanted His will and I was trusting Him to guide me. I feel that I shot really really well. But My hitting wasn't good. I started grouping high right in the 8 ring. This was confusing in consideration of how good my shot was feeling. In hind sight, I should have just moved my sight. But after shooting a 114 not 5 min before, you tend to think your sight is set so it must be you. I ended up shooting a 103 and losing by 2 points.

I was a little shocked. Probably more by how quickly it's over than by anything else. I was sad that I was done, but I didn' give into the tears. Khatuna walked and talked to me as I left the stadium, telling me I shot really well and not letting me forget what's really important in life. It was helpful. Afterward, I met up with my family and the large U.S. representation we had in the stands. I was overwhelmed by the hugs, support and great condition-less love that showered me. My family affirmed that we had put it all in God's hands, His will HAD been done in those moments on the field.

I still don't understand the WHY in where I placed and how quickly I was eliminated. But I know that His plan for me is good. And with all the prayer that had gone out for me through you all, my family, my friends and just about everyone I know (and many many more that I don't know), and the fact that I truly wanted what He has for me... I know that this is what He wanted. No regrets. Terry Wunderle pulled me aside after it was all over and said, "You were good enough to win this, you know. It just wasn't meant to be this time." It hit me then and I replied, "I believe you're right. But this is one of the first times I can walk away from a major event, not having ended up where I wanted to, and still happy in knowing that I gave it my best. And though I was a little disappointed, I wasn't devastated or even upset. Because my identity is not connected any longer to my performance in archery or my results but is found in Christ, I have an amazing peace and security."

This is a big accomplishement, or better worded, fruit of the process the Lord has been working in my life for a couple years now. Anything you place your hope in or depend on to give you purpose or security is going to someday leave you empty and INsecure. God has been emphasizing this to me so much over the past few months. My identity must be in Him, in dying to self and living for Him. Every other purpose or identity is a false one. Because the fact of the matter is - We. Need. God. End of story. Our purpose is to bring Him glory. And that is not always through our own glory. He has His own ways that our higher than our ways and thoughts that are higher than our thoughts. I would like to also say - It Is NOT EASY to let go of all the little things we take pride in, put our identity into and allow to make us feel secure temporarily. It is NOT EASY, to let God have the control, trust Him fully (even out of your comfort zone. And trust me, my friend, you give God the control and HE WILL take you out of your comfort zone! You mark my words! But oh what a grand adventure!), and always put your identity in Jesus. It is a constant struggle against the flesh. And I, by no means, have it down. Understanding something mentally is a far cry from making it a way of life. But when I AM there, there being fully surrendered to Jesus, there is nothing like it and, my dear reader, it is SO worth it!!! No gold medal can replace knowing Christ and living for Him.

So if you've made it this far in my post, A. You're incredibly patient and perseverant ;-) but B. I would like to challenge you to think about where your identity lies. Have you placed it in something (or Someone) that will stand the test of eternity? Or do you know the emptiness and insecurity I have described? Seek God, dear one, place your full trust in the loving hands of Jesus and your identity in Him completely. He has an amazing plan for your life too... "Therefore the LORD longs to be gracious to you, And therefore He waits on high to have compassion on you." Is. 30:18. Until I post again, may you continue in His grace.

Thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone who commented to me! I love to read your messages and look forward to receiving them so much!!! Your words and prayer support are such blessings. Thank you again.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Have Thine Own Way, Lord

I just finished Bible study with Coach Lee this morning. We have been meeting each morning to pray, read from Psalms and Proverbs, and sing hymns. This has been an incredible encouragement to me and has really helped me to stay focused since I've been here. I have been learning new hymns from the back of Coach Lee's Bible, I will sing in english and he in korean half the time. I LOVE the beautiful hymns with their meaningful words!

Yesterday we shot the qualification round. I felt so good going into the competition! I was ready, confident, focused and trusting the Lord with my results. But my scores were not only less than I had expected, they were less than my average! I was disappointed. But I shot well. And upon looking back I wouldn't have done anything different. I gave it my best that day. And though it's hard to accept, I know the Lord placed me where He wanted me. I had more prayer going out for me and I had surrendered it to Him so much, nothing could have gotten in the way of how He meant me to finish in the qualifier. He is God and I am not. Proverbs 10:25 - When the temptest passes, the wicked is no more, but the righteous is established forever. - When this tempest passes, I will still be standing in Christ. And if He needs to strip me of every comfort till I am completely His - this is my desire. I don't understand His plan for me right now, but I know it is for my good. So I will continue to put my trust in Christ alone.

I compete again on Tuesday. I come in ranked 24th and will be shooting confidently once again. Today I am taking the day off and resting. Tomorrow I will train and my family arrives in the afternoon!!!! I can't wait to see them.

There is so much to write to you about!!! Opening Ceremonies was incredible!!! We met and took pictures with President George Bush, the First Lady, the First Daughter and George Bush Sr. It was a magnificent evening! Marching in to the largest stadium I have EVER seen!!! Tons of people!!! It was moving! We looked great, though our outfits were like mini saunas... :-) I will write more later. Have to get to lunch.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Beautiful Serenity

Thanks to all for the emails and the many many prayers going up for me!!! It is such a blessing to have this kind of back up! And I can see the effect as well! My shooting continues to improve as I continue to relax, trust the Lord and be confident. God is faithful! Today in my Bible study I read Psalm 94:17-19 "If the Lord had not been my help, my soul would soon have lived in the land of silence. When I thought, 'My foot slips,' Your steadfast love, O Lord, held me up. When the cares of my heart are many, Your consolations cheer my soul." God is a stronghold and a refuge for those who fear Him. And He has equipped me every good thing both physically, as an competitive athlete , and spiritually, to complete the purposes He has for me here. But through this whole experience already, I can tell I am growing in my faith AND becoming mentally stronger for the competition to come.

Training went very well today. That day off yesterday did wonders! I think just about all the archery teams are here now so the training field is packed for practice. It was VERY humid today... though it was also very overcast. The kind of humid where you could just stand in the "shade" and drip. I am so happy I was able to come here early to prepare for the weather.

My day off was great! Part of my team and I attended the Village church service. It was very good, small and traditional. But Archery was about 80% of the attendance between the U.S. and Mexican teams ;-) Later, Khatuna and I hung out by the pool for a couple hours to relax. In the evening we went to the University where the USOC set up like a "home base" for the USA athletes. There are training facilities for several sports (only USA athletes have access) and personal coaches are able to lodge there. But WE went there for the dinner. It was wonderful! Set up in a beautiful Asian style restaurant with tablecloths and candles on every table. The dinner was delicious, mashed potatoes, chicken, pasta, salad bar with fruit, cookies and baked apples for dessert! After dinner we explored the athlete lounge. I feel so indulged. Especially after the dinner... but then, in the lounge we have board games, a huge flat screen TV with tons of DVD's. Video games, which, from what I understand was quite impressive, but since I don't play I have no idea. It was so comfortable with sofas, pillows and blankets everywhere and we could order smoothies as well!

Upon returning to the village we heard music coming from the international zone. I went to the outdoor ampitheater to watch the show. I was blown away! I believe the performing group was called "My Dream", I think the group was from China and all the performers were disabled somehow. The dance group, consisting of about thirty dancers, were all hearing impaired and followed the beats given by to attendants on the corners of the stage. They were amazing! They would have been amazing without being deaf, but considering this, they were incredible! There were several visually impaired vocalists, one young lady, my favorite singing performance, sang "Don't Cry for Me Argentina." The voices of all the young people just touched me very deeply. Last, I saw a pointe piece by a young lady who must have been only about 14 years old, she was also hearing impaired. I think it was "The Dying Swan" piece (is that title correct Andrea and Lorraine?) from Swan Lake. She was exquisite! I thoroughly enjoyed the performances, it was the perfect ending to my day off.

But now, I have to run, I have a massage pretty soon and cannot be late. Thank you once again for following my progress, sending your notes and love and most especially your prayers. God bless!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Blue Sky

Today was gorgeous!!! We saw completely blue sky for the first time during our visit so far! It was hot though. Training went better. Not so much on the target. But MY SHOOTING was better as well as my attitude. I started to let go of some of the stress and really enjoyed my shooting today. I was able to speak with my coach, Alexander, before the morning session and he built me up so much. He reminded me of my goals, my abilities and my strengths, foremostly my greatest source of strength, relying on God when I'm not STRONG. He encouraged me to relax, be calm, enjoy my shooting and take it easy. He has a saying from Russia that he always says to me: "If we will have day, we will have food." AKA- Do not worry about tomorrow. What you will eat or what you will wear.... "But seek first the Kingdom of God and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is it's own trouble." Matt. 6:33-34 I am working on practicing this and not just reciting the words. But it's still challenging.

Tomorrow is our day off... Yay!!! I will be getting massage, going to the village church, and having Bible study early in the morning. Tomorrow night our team is planning on going to the University that is supposed to be the USA team's home away from home to have dinner. It will be a nice change. And HOPEFULLY, we can visit a tourist attraction. My goal tomorrow is to not think about archery at all and just have fun. I've been getting a bit too intense over the past few days.

If anyone would like to send a letter or card to me (no pressure.. your comments are just fine too) please address them to:

United States Olympic Committee
Attn: Archery - Jennifer Nichols
1 Dong Fang Road
North Dong Sanhuan Road
Chaoyang, Beijing 100027

Have a wonderful night and God bless!