To this day I am thankful how God changed my life and still continues to write my life story. Growing up as a Christian, I always saw myself being different than my friends because most of them were not Christians. Being a Christian was not the only thing that made me feel different than everyone else, it was the way I was born. As most people know, I was born with Cleft Lip and Palate. Cleft lip and palate is a gap or split in the upper lip or roof of the mouth of the baby's face that was not properly developed in the womb. I had one surgery every year growing up until the age of 21. The reason why I am explaining this is, that I felt ashamed around people until God used the sport of soccer to change my life.
When I first started playing soccer at the age 5, I realized that God gave me a talent that I felt comfortable around people and not ashamed about my cleft lip. Throughout my life, I still was made fun of by other kids for the way that I looked. What kept me strong in my life is trusting in God’s plan. As the bible verse says in Jeremiah 29:11 -
“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”
How My Soccer Journey Began…
My goal was to play college soccer and eventually go professional after. I got a full scholarship to play at a private school called Martin Methodist College in Tennessee. My senior year of college is where everything started to changed. I was named the Offensive player of the year and also called up for the Guatemala National Team. I was able to compete in the 2016 Olympic Qualifiers in Houston Texas. It was an experience I would never forget, playing against the top female players around the world.
After my college playing days were over, it took me a while to get offers to play somewhere due to having another year of school to finish my degree. I remember sitting in my room praying to God to give me one more year to find a team to play overseas. I knew that if it didn’t happen, it would be time to move on to something else away from soccer. But later that year I ended up accepting an offer to play professionally in Puerto Rico and have to blessing to continue following my dreams.
Being Different Didn’t Hold Me Back
To this day, I have people looking up to me and it feels good to help and encourage other athletes to believe and trust in God’s plan.
I like to compare myself to Moses in the Bible, because he was a guy who had courage to do something even if he felt different than others. He was asked to go out and speak to Egypt but was to ashamed of his speech problems. In Exodus 4:10-12 says,
“O Lord, I’m not very good with words.” I get tongue-tied and my words get tangled.” But the Lord said “Now go! I will be with you as you speak, and I will instruct you in what to say.”
I thought I wasn't going to go anywhere, because of all the surgeries I had to recover from growing up. However, being born with cleft lip and palate only made me a stronger person as I learned to ignore the negative people in my life. Soccer was a gift from God because despite my insecurities, I learned how strong and confident I really could be.
If God gave you a talent, he will help you succeed. I am now playing professional soccer but it does not mean I am settled and just living the dream. Every day God tries to show me that there is more than just playing soccer in my life. I know I won’t be able to play competitive soccer as I get older and older. For now, I am enjoying my journey and using my story to keep playing soccer until it is all over.
I want to encourage everyone that being different doesn't have to stop you from obtaining your goals! God works in marvelous ways through good things and hard things. Now go out there and glorify him in everything you do!
Hi my name is Jen! I grew up in Orange County California. Right now I’m just enjoying soccer and learning throughout my journey. I have also competed in professional Beach soccer events in Trinidad & Tobago and Portugal. I love playing the piano. Anywhere I go I like making videos of my journey. As I travel around I love going to café restaurants and trying their unique breakfast/brunch foods. Lastly, I would like to get involved in a foundation of children born with Cleft Lip and Palate like myself.