Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Unexpected Blessings

My original departure date for Iceland was March 10. It is now March 23 and I’m still in the states. This delay has unexpectedly turned out to become such a sweet blessing.

At the end of January I started feeling a dull pain in the top of my left foot. It was a pesky pain, but it wasn’t the kind of pain that prevented me from doing my workouts and running, so I continued to train despite the discomfort.

Two weeks of running on that dull pain turned into a couple days of slightly limping on a sharper pain. The day I drove home after running 3 miles, opened my car door, and stepped onto my foot with a stinging pain accompanied by a whimper, I knew it had become more serious. Despite my obvious denial, I knew I needed to get my foot checked out. I called the doctor, made an appointment, and found myself in very loud room early the next morning receiving my first MRI.

When the results came back I wept. The euphoria of signing my first professional soccer contract immediately transformed to a deep sadness and fear.

I was supposed to be preparing to play professional soccer in Iceland in four weeks. I was supposed to be working toward being in my peak physical condition. I was supposed to be training three times a week improving my ball skills and game fitness. I was supposed to be so many other things than stuck in a boot with a stress fracture in my foot.

My worst nightmare didn’t haunt me when my eyes were closed; it haunted me when they were open.

March 10 was the date I was scheduled to fly out to Reykjavik. March 10 was four weeks away. The doctor advised six weeks to completely heal; possibly five if I had a bone growth stimulator to speed up my bone’s healing process.

Time was not on my side, but God is.

Since the day I found out I had a stress fracture in my foot, I have been asking my friend group in Houston to pray for me. I asked them to pray for healing in my foot, for God to find a way to get me to Iceland if I am supposed to be there, or for God to open another door for me if He’s closing the one that leads to Iceland.

Problem #1:
My foot needs to heal.

Blessing #1:
The bone growth stimulator machine costs thousands of dollars. It was essential I have it because of the time crunch I was in. We were prepared to do whatever we could to heal my foot as quickly as possible, but God had his hand in the situation and provided for me unexpectedly. Because I’m independent from my parents and my yearly income is so little, I qualified to receive it for free. FOR FREE. And the company brought it to my house the very next day.

Problem #2:
My foot needs to be healed by the time I go to Iceland.

Blessing #2:
The process of playing professional soccer in Iceland has many parts. After I signed my contract and scanned it to the club, the stacks of paperwork began. I had to fill out documents for Iceland to apply for a temporary work visa and a temporary residency visa, I had to apply for the international football association, apply through the U.S. to transfer to play internationally, and fill out countless other documents.

The original copies of the documents specifically for Iceland had to be physically mailed to the club so my work and residency visas could be applied for. Mail takes quite a long time to travel halfway across the world, and then the actual visa process takes at least four weeks to complete.

I mailed my papers about five weeks out from March 10 so they had plenty of time.

Two weeks later I came home from work to find the papers in which I thought I had sent two weeks prior sitting on my table with a ‘Return to Sender’ stamp across it. My stomach dropped. My head felt lighter than air. This package was supposed to be in ICELAND right now, not in my house. I thought I was going to be sick.

Because of an error in the way I addressed the envelope the package could not be sent, so I emailed my coach to apologize for the mistake, fixed it, took it back to the post office and resent it with my fingers crossed. Needless to say, the delay in the papers arriving caused a delay in my departure date.

The club received my papers, started the process, and then informed me that my new departure date would probably be March 30, a whole three weeks later than my original departure date.

I prayed for my foot to heal by the time I got to Iceland thinking God would speed up the healing process, but God did one better and gave me three more weeks of time to heal.

Problem #3:
In my contract I could still be released because of injury through April.

Blessing #3:
My college soccer coach made sure I was aware that it wouldn’t be unreasonable for a professional club to release a player because of an injury. In the grand scheme of injuries a stress fracture isn’t the worst, but they expect me to arrive fit and ready to compete, and there was still a possibility my fitness and skill level would not be up to par right away.

I was terrified to tell my coach.

And when I say terrified, I mean scared for my career. Literally, my job was on the line. The next seven months of my life was on the line. My plans and expectations and the countless “congratulations” were on the line. I was terrified.

I asked my friends so many times to pray for me. I prayed every single day for God to make sure I ended up in Iceland if He wanted to use me there. Humbled, I also prayed that if I wasn’t supposed to be there that He would use me somewhere else. That took all the courage and faith in the world to pray that. I wanted so badly to be in Iceland.

I emailed my Iceland head coach telling him the status of my injury and the fact that I had one. My anxiety has never been greater waiting for his reply.

I was at work at my dad’s law firm that day. Sitting at my desk I refreshed my emails on my computer. My coach’s name popped up. I felt sick again. As I read his words tears started welling up in my eyes. I was sitting in the office I shared with two other men, and the last thing I wanted to do at work was cry, especially in front of them. When I realized I couldn’t keep the tears in, I quickly walked down the hall to my dad’s office. I interrupted him and finally let all the tears in my eyes fall down my face.

The confused look on my dad’s face prompted me to pull up the email and inform him the news I just received. Through sniffling and fragmented breaths I read him my coach’s words.

My coach said it was not a problem. He said we could go over my injury together with their physiotherapist when I got there. And to make things even better he also told me he found a family for me to live with; his sister, her husband and their two little girls.

So many happy tears.

My dad got out of his chair, came around his desk and gave me the biggest hug. I have never been more relieved and happier than I was that day. All of my fears were diminished in one single email. All of my prayers were being answered in ways I never even imagined. My heart was and is SO full.

God is so good, and even in the scariest situations in life He orchestrates His plan to perfection. I am learning to be patient, to trust in His plan, and have unwavering faith in every situation I find myself in. Thank you to everyone who sent up prayers on my behalf and thank you to everyone who has been supporting me the past few months.

I fly to Iceland in one week. I ran on my foot and practiced soccer for the first time in two months yesterday with ZERO pain in my foot. I’m not completely out of shape because of the workouts I’ve been doing despite my injury. I get to start my career healthy, and I get to because of God’s faithfulness.

James 1:2-4
Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

Romans 8:28
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Romans 5:3-5
Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

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