most likely to succeed.

nick adenhart. a name that screams ‘hometown hero’ to many who grew up and still live in hagerstown, md. in the eyes of a small town, nick had it all. he was good looking, intelligent, great family and friends, and he had made it. the big stage and bright lights–that was his playing field. at the young age of 22, nick was a starting pitcher for the anaheim angels. so to say he experienced life is an understatement. nick was the life of the party wherever he ventured and he surely knew how to have a great time.

as it goes around about this time of the year in high school’s all over the nation, superlatives are named. in 2004, our graduating year, it was no surprise that nick was given the superlative ‘most likely to succeed.’ after all, he had a full ride to UNC at the time to play Divsion I baseball with the option of entering the MLB draft and likely to be drafted early in the 1st round. but as we all know how life throws us curveballs–nick ended up needing Tommy John’s surgery after his last high school baseball game. many still ask where he would have ended up if he hadn’t heard that pop one spring day–but we can’t ask questions about the ‘what ifs’ in life, we can only ask, ‘what’s next?’

as expected, nick took his surgery in stride.  the angels signed him and nick had the opportunity to attend ASU while rehabilitating his arm. recovery went very well and happened quickly–he was placed in the minor leagues to get him back out on the field, and before i knew it, he was starting pitcher for the angels on april 8, 2009. i remember checking the angels website on april 8th and i was overly excited for nick and the fact that he was living out not only his dream, but the dreams of many who live in this small town. the morning of april 9th i got on espn.com to check out how nick did. he had pitched six scoreless innings…for a 22 year old–not too shabby! and then i got THE text.

‘nick is dead.’ i was thinking…there’s NO possible way! not because i was in denial, but because at the moment i was reading about him on the internet! i actually discounted the text because rumors are spread rapidly in small towns and i was believing what i was seeing on sportscenter. there was no way that nick just pitched six scoreless innings a few hours ago and was now dead. but as i started receiving more and more texts, i figured i would go straight to the source and call his best friend. and sure enough, just a few hours after living out his dream, nick’s life was taken from him.  he and two others were killed when a drunk driver inihilated the car they were in.

i preface with all of this to show the measure and value of one life.  nick was only on earth for 22 years, but the legacy he left will live on for many, many years.

back to the superlative ‘most likely to succeed.’ nick was the male receipient and i happened to be the female.  me, being the anti-person i am, thought, what do i care about this stupid superlative? clearly nick already has a path to success paved for him with a big fat check waiting for him the day we graduate. and at the age of 18, money and having fun was pretty much all i was thinking about. how great the college experience will be, how i’ll meet the person i’m going to marry in college, and when i graduate i’ll get married, start a family and live the ‘American dream.’

to this day, i cannot express how thankful i am that the Lord had a different plan for my life.  when i’m feeling doubtful about the plan God has for my life, it’s so easy to turn to the ‘what if’s’….what if i would have stayed with that guy?…what if i wouldn’t have left that job?…what if i would have said that differently?…all it takes is a seed of doubt and ALL the questions start creeping in.  but just as soon as those thoughts creep in and i start to get down on myself, i’m reminded not to ask God why, but ‘what’s next?’ i’ve continally been reminded of Proverbs 3:1-6

“My son, do not forget my teaching,
   but keep my commands in your heart,
2 for they will prolong your life many years
   and bring you peace and prosperity.

3 Let love and faithfulness never leave you;
   bind them around your neck,
   write them on the tablet of your heart.
4 Then you will win favor and a good name
   in the sight of God and man.

5 Trust in the LORD with all your heart
   and lean not on your own understanding;
6 in all your ways submit to him,
   and he will make your paths straight.[a]”

this weekend my dad took my to visit nick’s grave site. this was the first time i’ve visited since his death and i’d be lying if i said i was a little nervous as to the emotions that would overcome me seeing his grave.  i know it may sound a little odd, but when i was standing there at his grave, i felt nothing but joy and happiness.  at 12 years old, nick was my first boyfriend (i know–it ws SO serious in middle school). in high school, he and my best friend were in love (even though neither would ever admit it). nick and i shared a deep love/hate relationship, but when came down to it, i had his back and he had mine. i watched him from when he was just a little boy grow and mature into a young man succeeding at his dream.

so as i’m sitting here sharing nick’s story with you, i want you to know that his success has shaped mine.  he inspired me to go after my dreams, take risks, and to persevere through the darkest of circumstances.  but instead of the 18 year old brittany who’s measures of success were money, popularity and having fun, i’m now the 25 year old brittany who has been taught how to love, have self-control but still have LOTS of fun, be patient, and have an unshakeable faith. i want my success to be measured upon how faithful i’ve been to my family, friends, those who i’ve yet to meet, and most importantly my obedience to God.

when God asks us to do something, have we been willing to excerise our faith and step (sometimes JUMP) outside our comfort zone? is it time to take that leap???

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