Julia plays soccer. She started playing four years ago. After she begged and begged and begged. And then begged some more. And started sleeping with her soccer ball. And then kept begging. Then I let her join a team.
You see, she's our girl who's tried it all. And been successful with it all. When she took tennis, the pro wanted her to take private lessons. When she danced, she had solos. When she played basketball, she controlled the ball and the court. When she played softball, she worked her way from the youngest, most inexperienced on the team to a starter who had the winning hit.
She's enjoyed most of these activities. She's always enjoyed herself.
As a matter of fact, she enjoys herself so much, it can be downright annoying. What Andrew and I see, what her coaches and teachers see is potential. It's obvious. She can be developed into a really great athlete. No question.
Until soccer, she was just interested in playing. On the field, on the court, on the stage. Playing. She can take a room full of her peers and have them in an organized game in just a few minutes. Recess is when she creates tether ball challenges and freeze tag tournaments. Indoor recess means a new club is created. A big one. A popular one. One that everyone wants to join. She's just a like that. A leader.
A solid leader. No doubt. She's had not one but two teachers in her short school career tell her they will be casting their vote for Julia Smith on election day. President, congress woman or senate seat, these two teachers both see Julia's name on the ballot one day.
She can take a stark, clean bedroom and with a few blankets, stuffed animals and her siblings, she has created a farm and she is feeding her animals. Or she can create a circus where she is training her animals. Or she can create an ocean where she is scuba diving and observing sea life. Or... You get the picture.
That's just Julia.
With soccer, she wants both. Fun and competition. Competition is fun. She's developing. She's not always the best one on the field. She's always improving. She's a joy to watch.
Sometimes I'm not sure she's taking all her training seriously enough. Other times I'm concerned she's not enjoying being a kid enough with all the pressure these days.
So when Julia was invited to be a part of a competitive soccer league I wasn't so sure about it all. I liked, no loved, the comfort of our city's recreational league. I was so used to the schedule. Two nights a week practice. One game on Saturday. Two tournaments a year. I loved our team's moms and we had great friends there.
Competitive means two practices plus extras. Two games a week. In Houston. On Sundays.
Competitive means commitment. Fancy uniforms. Embroidered bags. Monthly dues. Tryouts. New coaches, leagues, teams, parents.
Competitive means change.
Andrew and I were leaning hard towards no but we committed to pray before deciding.
Julia said she'd like to try it. She wanted more competition. More play time. More practices. She just wanted more soccer.
I was concerned about the time. The travel. The money. The commitment.
And then. I closed my eyes. I began to pray. Suddenly I saw my girl. Playing. Soccer with children. Lots of children. In other countries around the world. Sharing Jesus on the soccer field. Playing. With children. Soccer.
He showed me she needs training. Good training. The best training.
The Lord reminded me that her very name, Julia, means youthful. Youthful: of, pertaining to, or befitting youth. What is more characterizing of youth than playfulness? Playing.
He showed me how she has the mindset to answer his call. She doesn't care what the crowd is doing. She does what she wants. Without fear. Without reservation. She organizes. She makes things move.
The Lord showed me in an instant that he can take the very thing that makes a person unique. That very thing that I love but I hate. The thing that he put there and will refine. He will take that thing and use it to do something great. Use it to create a mighty life of worship in a little girl. Someday.
For today we play soccer.
Train up a child in the way he should go [and in keeping with his individual gift or bent], and when he is old he will not depart from it. Proverbs 22:6