Graduation in May brought many new experiences and transitions:

  1. I ended my five-year college career on the Duke Women’s Soccer team. I left my friends, teammates and coaches.
  2. I concluded my 17-year academic career, graduating with a master’s degree from the Fuqua School of Business.
  3. I departed from my Athletes in Action campus community.
  4. Many of my friends scattered around the world.
  5. I recently moved to Europe to play for Shelbourne FC.

These are just a few of the many changes that have been going on in my life. Two weeks ago, I started my European soccer career, which lead me to Ireland to play for Shelbourne FC. I now find myself engrossed in a new country, with a new culture. I find I have new experiences every waking minute.

Malinda Allen going up for a header in a crowd of players.

Through it all, this past week I heard two lessons that have encouraged me in my faith:

Circumstances change, but God stays the same. My hope is kept in heaven.

Finding a church was one of my first priorities when I landed in Ireland. This week at the church I visited, the pastor spoke on Psalm 31. This is a psalm that teaches us how to pray in suffering and in uncertain times.

Wherever I am and wherever you are, God is our refuge. We should cry out to Him to be our refuge just as the psalmist does in verse 2, “Be a rock of refuge for me, a strong fortress to save me.” The writer is begging and asking God to support him. Our Father in heaven wants us to ask Him the same thing.

Today, this is more relevant to me than ever. My family and closest friends, who know me best, are now more than 3,000 miles away. While I am transitioning to life in a foreign country, making new friends and building my community, I must rely on God. He is my refuge. He saves me. It is me and Him. I can give a friend or family member in America a phone call, but they can’t be in the same room as me. But, God is always there. I just have to call out to Him. It’s not easy, because I can’t physically see Him. He can’t give me a hug or look into my eyes. But, He gives us reminders like Psalm 31 that He is with us.

As the psalmist writes in verse 8 of Psalm 31, you have set my feet in a broad place.God is with us and strengthens us. He is with us when we move to a foreign country, when we fail, when we lose, when we are injured or doing extra reps. He hears us when no one else does. He is my audience of one.

If you have a dream, write it down.

Last week, I heard a talk by the professional snowboarder Kelly Clark. She is a five-time Olympian and three-time Olympic medalist. One of the most amazing things about her, though, is that God defines her, not her breathtaking accolades. Kelly spoke about her journey as a snowboarder and how grateful she is for the opportunities and experiences that God has given her. She knows she is on a journey for Him.

In her talk, Kelly spoke about goals and dreams. I am not sure there is a better person to learn from in this area. She challenged us to write our goals down. That applies to you and me. Dream big and don’t hold back, because God hasn’t called us to be average.

She referenced Proverbs 13:12, which I have read previously, and actually have part of it highlighted in my Bible, but this time I saw it in a new way. It says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a desire fulfilled is a tree of life.”

Kelly Clark also shared a quote, which said, “False humility is good for one thing, and it is keeping you average.

God doesn’t want average. He wants our best effort. If you want to win, you need to write your dreams down. Kelly admitted that God might not have her accomplish all of her dreams or goals, but through pursuing her dreams she would truly be living. When going after her dreams she is striving to reach her potential, which allows her to live fully. It’s worth noting that only things that are alive produce fruit.  So, we should dream big, work hard and let God do the rest. It is about the journey and who we are molded into.

Malinda Allen getting hugs from teammates.

This revelation freed me to dream bigger and let God’s plan unfold. At the end of the day it’s not about the number of championships that I win or the number of minutes that I play. It’s about my effort. The freer I play, the better I can worship God through my sport and actions. Big dreams push me to play my best. God wants to be my audience of one.

During my time at Duke, I was a part of Athletes in Action (a Christian ministry for student-athletes). In one of their booklets they say, “Jesus’ power and love can overflow through your life in all that you do… It is a love that roars deep inside you, waiting to be unleashed… It drives you intrinsically to live and compete with passion, power and purpose.”

God gives us great power and passion. It roars within us. We need to make space in our hearts to unleash the roar inside of us. This is difficult, but worth striving for.

Only two weeks into a new life chapter, I am trying to live in the power of Christ and dream big. He did not give us spirits of timidity, but of power, love and self-control (2 Timothy 1:7). He gives us our refuge (Psalm 31). Stay connected to other believers who can encourage and empower you, and then let God’s plan set your true north.

– Malinda Allen

Malinda Allen was a five-year player for the Duke University Women’s Soccer team. Having recently graduated, she moved to Ireland to play for Shelbourne FC.

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