Sunday, August 17, 2008

Finally!

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.

10 comments:

Kelly said...

I LOVE YOU!!! i woke up every night you guys were on and watched online, cheering to my self in my little dark room. you are amazing and wonderful. let me just say the letter thing from mandy made me cry, i did almost the same thing for brady. now you guys just need to come home and not make me worry anymore about whats going on. i love you!!!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing so openly. I was so blessed by your insights. I'm going through a difficult family time. Thank you for reminding me that God is soveriegn! He knows the plans He has for both of our lives. Be blessed!!

Anonymous said...

Jennifer, as a former bowhunter who nowadays just enjoys shooting my compound bow in the backyard, I was checking out the archery section on the Olympics website in early August and read your bio and then your blog and instantly became a fan. As a fellow Christian, it was so exciting to read about your faith and bold witness through the way you live your life for Christ. I sent an email to all of my friends and family to encourage them to join with me in praying for you as you competed on Tuesday. I got up early Tues. morning to pray for you and root for you. While the results weren't what we were hoping for, I was so glad to read that you were pleased with how you shot in the second round and that nerves didn't play a role in the outcome. What a great attitude and outlook you have. Well done, good and faithful servant!
When I first read your bio and blog, I immediately thought of the sprinter Eric Liddell and the 1924 Olympics made known to my generation through the movie "Chariots of Fire" and how his identity was so grounded in Christ (as is yours) that it was reflected completely in how he competed and how he lived his life. We need more Christian athletes like you to be role models for the next generation who are looking for guidance and meaning in life. Hope your story, God willing, receives more attention so many more lives will be impacted by what it means to live life in total surrender to Christ. Thanks so much for your blog. You are an inspiration to all of us. May God continue to bless you richly and all those whose lives you touch.

Steve in Pennsylvania

Anonymous said...

Jennifer, like so many others, we are oh so very proud of you. Not only for your archery accomplishments over the years, but also for your obedience and commitment to our Lord and Savior. Thank you for sharing your faith and journey with the world! May God continue to bless you and your family in all endeavors. Blessings, Cochran family

Caleb said...

Thanks for sharing in your blog. Don't remember how I found it, but I keep reading for your notes of how your faith works with your sporting skills. Praise The Lord for what you DID accomplish!

Just a note of hello from Central NJ and some of the faithful at Evangel Church (www.evangelchurch.com)

Cheers,
PittCaleb
www.Hail2Pitt.org

Ann Jones said...

I first have to say that I think you are one of the strongest people I know. You have so much confidence. I am so proud of you. No matter what happened you were at least there. How many people can say that?

What Mandy did sounded so cute.

Odd question, do you get to stay and hang out in Beijing now till the end of the games?

I look forward to seeing you in October. Please be safe and remember to have fun.

Ben Gasser said...

Jenny - That was an awesome post/testimony. I was blessed to read how greatly God has won and blessed you! I have been thinking of and praying for you often as you minister in your competition to those you have been gifted with the opportunity to be near. I have also been lamenting the fact that archery gets no press here in the US :-p I am looking forward to hearing from you when you get back stateside!

Pete said...

Prov. 16:9 In his heart a man plans his course, but the LORD determines his steps.

You're an inspiration to all of us Jenny! May the Lord bless all your steps no matter which way he may be leading.

In Jesus,
Pete in SLC

DrSmith said...

Hi Jennifer,
I don't believe in coincidences, so I was very pleased to find your note from Bejing. I have passed it along to family and friends in hope that they were inspired as I was by your committment to the Lord and for your faith and witness to the Chinese people. God bless you in your future endeavors.

Anonymous said...

Many good things were said to glorify the Lord.
I do want to point out, however, that the movie "Flashdance" is a wicked and evil movie. Anyone reading should be cautioned against watching it or considering it as a source of inspiration.