Not Finished Yet
Last fall, I remember telling my friend that the season of depression I was in had to be worth something. I wasn’t going to come out of that season being the same Abby. I was going to be stronger, I was going to love harder, I was going to be a better version of me. Standing on the other side of a valley that seemed so deep and so long, I would say that I am not the same girl. I am stronger, I do love harder and I simply am a better me. But it didn’t come with one prayer or a snap of a finger. It came from battling depression and anxiety, insecurity and loneliness. It came from being in such a low place, isolated from the world, and sitting with just Jesus. Just Jesus, no distractions. It took months of prayer and days full of doubt. It took me walking away from a sport that brings me pure joy and then finding the courage to come back to play. December first is the day I made it back to my gym.
I walked back to volleyball when I had no expectations of ever playing again. I truly never saw myself finding strength to set a ball. But somehow I did.
I walked back to volleyball with no intentions of ever playing in college. I was going to go to Baylor. I was going to play one more season. Then be done. End of story.
What I believed to be the last chapter of my volleyball journey actually ended up being the beginning. The beginning of a new and brave story. Last fall, depression thought it had me. Anxiety thought it had me. Fear thought it had me. And to be completely honest, I thought it had me too.
But what depression, anxiety and fear didn’t know is that they were all giving me a greater story to tell. What the devil didn’t know is that the Lord was only rewriting a part of my story, not ending it. I now have an even greater testimony to just how faithful God is. I now have an even greater light that I have been given to shine. I now have the strength to put this story into writing and to share a very imperfect chapter of my life with the world.
My prayer is that you don't see Abby Arend in this blog post. My prayer is that you see Jesus. I pray you see His faithfulness, His power, His love. I pray most of all that you see the hope your life still holds.
So here is my newest chapter, my newest adventure. Here is a part of my story I never believed I would see. Here is why I believe with my whole entire being that God was not and is not finished with me yet.
I love control, hence why I am a setter (think quarterback). I am always the friend to drive places. I plan my week before it begins. I check the expiration date before I eat absolutely everything, not kidding. I like to know what’s going on. I’m the person that googles the ending of movies and TV shows because I can’t handle the suspense. When it came to college, I hated not knowing if I was going to be accepted or not. I had to make sure I had a back up plan if my original plan fell through. My plan for college was go to Baylor. It’s been that for pretty much my whole life. Backup Plan was attend Dallas Baptist. No where in my plan was “play college volleyball.” Maybe when I was sixteen, but after my seventeen’s season that dream fizzled away.
Halfway through December my plan was golden. I was accepted to Baylor, I found a roommate, and I applied for housing. I was going to play one more season of volleyball and finally zip up the backpack. To me, it was a done deal. I told my coaches and my club’s recruiting coordinator that something WHACK had to happen for me to give up going to Baylor. My word was whack. No one knew what it really meant except for me. It’s a word in the Abby dictionary. But I knew that I would know the whack situation if it ever presented itself.
By February, I had finally hopped off my wobbling fence of depression and was able to stand on solid truth again. I also was wholeheartedly in love with volleyball again. There was a possibility that I could walk on to play at Baylor. The likelihood of me playing all four years was slim, but there was still an opportunity for me to be a part of Baylor Volleyball one way or another. As my training continued, I was realizing how much more I had to learn and how much more I wanted to grow. My volleyball fire was lit again (haha lit) and I wrestled with what I really wanted.
Spring break rolls around and I began to get really discouraged. I hadn’t heard anything from Baylor in weeks and my desire to play was only growing. Wednesday of the break, I drove home from volleyball in tears. I wanted to play in college so bad. But I knew that if God didn’t want it for me, I wasn’t going to have it. That was hard for me. The thought that God didn’t want volleyball for me. I wrote down a very specific prayer that night. I asked the Lord to take the desire to play volleyball out of my heart if it wasn’t what He wanted for me. And if He did want volleyball for me, I was ready to be brave and take on the next chapter.
This is where things got crazy. This is where the Lord was like “alright let me show you what I can do”
The following day, I received a notification that Ohio University had viewed my profile and highlight video. Truly, I did not think anything of it. Ohio is a D1 what would they be looking at me for? Literally the exact words that went through my mind.
I was playing in a tournament in Colorado that weekend. Day two of the tournament, my teammate quietly informs me that an Ohio coach is standing at the corner of our court videoing. To be exact she said “Hey Abby I don’t mean to freak you out but uh *points over her shoulder* Ohio is here.” What did I do you ask? If you guessed freak out you are absolutely correct. The rest of the day I tried to not look one time out at the sea of college coaches swarming our court. I didn’t even look towards the parents. I knew if I did I would get in my head.
That night, my coach calls me. The Ohio assistant coach had talked with him that day about me and my future plans. She asked my coach to tell me to contact her.
That I did. I emailed her right away. Two days later, she responds. Two days after that I have a phone call with her. Four days after that, a phone call with the head coach. A week after that phone call, the head coach comes to Texas to visit me and see me play in person. Another week after that, I fly to Ohio to meet the team and visit the University.
The only thing that got me on that plane to head to Ohio was the fact that I knew God was in control & that He’s wasn’t going to fail me.
My mindset was this:
“Maybe He wants me in Ohio. Maybe there’s something He wants for me there. I don’t know. I just know that His plan always prevails, not mine“
I went into my visit with a heart that wanted what God wanted. I wasn’t going to let my anxiety make my decision for me. I wasn’t going to let the fear of being so far from home keep me from saying yes. I was going to be brave.
I committed April 13th, 2019.
I didn’t say yes because I could say I was playing D1 volleyball. I didn’t say yes because I would be going to Europe over the summer. I didn’t say yes for the attention. I said yes because I knew the Lord was going before me. I said yes for me. I said yes for the Abby last fall who could barely make it through a day of school. I said yes for every girl out there who has been told they are not good enough, athletic enough, or strong enough to play a sport in college. I said yes for the one person reading this who has given up on their dreams because their mental illness keeps them from truly living. I said yes because I was not going to let satan win this one. I wasn’t going to let anxiety, depression, or fear win this fight.
Now do not get me wrong, I am most definitely afraid. This is a huge step for me. I will be going far from home. I will spend most of my summer in Ohio training. And I head to Europe in June with the team to play. Something I am learning is that I don’t have to be fearless to be brave. I can be afraid. I can have fear. I think sometimes doing it afraid, taking the step while still having some fear, is just as brave. I think in the face of fear, one can crumble up and let it win, or one can keep moving. I chose to keep moving. And I will continue to keep moving through this journey.
I look back at last fall. I look back and am filled with so many different emotions. I remember the nights I couldn’t keep my tears in. I remember the school days I slept through. I remember the counseling and doctors appointments. I remember the days I began to lose hope. I remember what I felt when I laced up my shoes and pulled up my knee pads for the first time in months. I look back and am encouraged. Because now I can see God’s Hand in the pain. I can see how it all was preparing me for this. I can see how there was a reason behind walking away from volleyball and a reason God gave it back to me. I can see the purpose behind the pain.
So for the person out there who has completely lost hope. To the person who believes the lies the devil is whispering. To the person who feels defined by their struggles;
Not even the darkest valley can keep the Lord from finding you. There is no burden too heavy, story too far gone, pain too deep, for the Lord. There is no mountain too big for the Lord to move. There is no river too wide for the Lord to split. He will leave the ninety-nine to find you. He will kick down any wall, break any chain and defeat any struggle to get to you. Wherever you find yourself, in whatever darkness, He will rescue you. He will sit in the dirt with you. He meets you exactly where you are and does not leave you the same way He found you.
I don’t know everything. I honestly don’t know much. But this I do know; if you are still breathing, there is still more for you. If you have breath in your lungs then God is not, and I repeat, IS NOT finished with you. I know this. I believe this.
And I am living proof of this.