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When life hands you a volleyball…play it out.

Can we all be open and vulnerable here and just agree that life is a funny thing? Zoom out to a 30,000 foot view of your life and what do you see? Static, monotonous living with no coincidences, no new relationships, no successes or failures, no surprises? I sure hope not. I see a tapestry being woven together with past experiences, ideas, relationships impacting my present; I finally see why I went through certain hardships to teach me the lessons that would help me look at current struggles with a joy and peace only possible by God’s grace. I understand why I had to wait months for an answer to a question or a dream (i.e. to intern at Fox News) in order to learn patience and faith that God’s plan was better than my own. That’s the funny thing about life though; it’s ever-changing, ever-challenging, and ever-fantastic.

Allow me to extensively describe what’s been going on in my life this year, last year, and a bit of every year because it’s who I am as a person. One of the biggest blessings I received was the opportunity to play volleyball for the first time since high school. I often wonder how people view the switch I made; I came in as a freshman to go through Varsity basketball preseason and first month of practice only to be “demoted” to JV so as to get playing time and hopefully improve enough that I could be added to the roster “next year”. That turned out to be one of the best moves for me, as I actually had game time and made great friendships with both varsity and junior varsity girls.

In that time of long bus rides and frustrating defeats, God put it on my heart to invest my time in something else. I look at and admire those seniors who have battled and persevered for four years at the sport they’re passionate about, but I knew I wasn’t happy anymore playing basketball. I wanted an on-campus leadership position, I wanted to leave a lasting impact, and I wanted to find my identity in God rather than a sport I played.

I went into Resident Assistant interviews with the complete expectation of rejection and consolations to reapply next year when I was “more qualified”. It’s amazing really how we belittle ourselves, expect less than greatness, and call it Christ-like humility. Wasn’t He bold? Didn’t he own his title as the Son of God before opposition?

I’ve realized that a major lesson that’s been woven into my life (and maybe into yours as well) is that I disqualify myself before I let God do His work through me. I never feel qualified. In fact, I know on my own that I’m not at all qualified to do any of the things I’ve done. That’s the power and strength of my God graciously using me for something bigger than me.

What better place to go than history and real people who God clearly used despite their incapacities: we’ve got a leader of thousands who stutters, a king who grew up herding sheep, and the classic example of the woman who helped God’s people defeat her hometown happened to excel in what profession? Prostitution. God doesn’t select people because they “figured life out” and raise their hands to God claiming, “I’m qualified, God! Send me.” That reeks of self-righteousness and haughtiness and straight naivety. On the contrary, we are all completely unqualified to do God’s will without His spirit living and working in us.

As I look back on my three crazy, amazing, life-changing years of college, I realize that I, Kelli Klaus, am not and never will be qualified on my own. God qualifies me. He qualifies you for what He’s called you to, as well.

I digress; back to RA interviews, I know now that I disqualified myself before I even started the process, but God had something different in mind for me. He took my feelings of inadequacy and placed me in one of the most challenging positions I’ve ever been in to test my reliance on Him to be my strength and song through trials. In hindsight, I maybe averaged a C+ on the year. I spread myself too thin as I usually do, I constantly disqualified myself from stepping out and being bold, and I focused more on personal status than bringing greater renown to God’s name.

I wouldn’t be at the point I’m at right now with the relationships I have without that year though. It led to a breakfast date in the school caf with a beautiful friend named Mollie. She was a freshman, and we met through a mutual friend. As we were enjoying our omelets discussing the craziness of spring midterms, the conversation turned to CCU volleyball. She expressed how wonderful the culture of the team was, how she’d developed such deep friendships with the other girls, and how excited she was for the following season with the incoming freshman and transfers. I nonchalantly mentioned how much I loved volleyball, much more than basketball, and I’d always entertained the idea of just going out for JV for the fun of it. Her face lit up, and she enthusiastically urged me to talk to the coach. Well, no more than 6 hours later I was on the phone with the volleyball coach after Mollie had gone straight to his office for a meeting and couldn’t withhold the idea from him. After a fun, extremely tiring week of spring training, I was sold. I’d missed volleyball the last two years, and although I was extremely rusty, I was ecstatic to give it my all to play the sport I loved.

In creeps insecurity like a fog clouding the mind. After athlete’s retreat and a week of preseason, comparisons were in full swing in order to assess where we’d be on the court and how often. If you’ve ever been in athletics you know this tense feeling. Throughout the season I battled the disqualifying thoughts that questioned what place did I think I had as a senior on a mostly freshman team? Then I’d come to practice and see those smiling faces, badgering me for the hundredth time when the chocolate milk would be back in the caf (Cough. Liza. Cough.). I’d get group text messages that we were having 6 a.m. practice without coaches because it was the only time the gym was available. I learned more about determination, perseverance, and hard work in the last two months with eight 18-year old girls than I have in my 21 years of living.

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(Top left to right: The Most Amazing Coach in the Entire World Cassidy, Emy, Big Rick, tall girl, Daesha, Zoey, and Mollie.
Bottom left to right: Abby, Ashleigh, Liza, and Paetyn.)

I had to get outside of my self-centeredness to see that God put me on that team for more than exercise or a fun time. It was both of those, but it also taught me so much about myself (how I disqualify myself before I even begin), it brought me 9 more amazing, lifelong friendships, and it revealed even more of Christ’s faithfulness to me because I can finally not base my self-worth based on my performance. Well, that last one will always be an ongoing journey of letting go of control, but I saw incredible improvements in my mindset after a “terrible” game compared to my self-berating in the past.

In the grand scheme of things, time-wise these past two months were a blip in the entirety of my life; personal growth-wise, they were a turning point and a collective experience that I will always return to for encouragement and with great fondness throughout my life. And that’s how funny life is. Or really, how cool God is.

stay lovely,
the tall girl

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