“What do you do with this thing?” Miranda Edwords asked her coach. It was a fair question: She’d never held a lacrosse stick in her life. Two years later, Edwords was chosen for the 2015 USA Collegiate Select Team – the only lacrosse player from the West Coast and one of just 45 athletes nationwide to earn the honor. But the accomplishment was birthed in disappointment.

During her senior year of high school, Edwords had to get used to the word “no.” “No” to track. “No” to soccer. That’s what a torn ACL will do to your high school sports career.

“Having to go through surgery and not being able to finish out my seasons playing soccer and track and field was really hard,” she says. “It’s what I grew up doing, what I really wanted to pursue.”

Once she healed, Edwords could have pursued those sports in college. Three California schools offered her a track scholarship. But the San Diego native wanted to learn in a Christian environment, somewhere outside California. “I just kind of needed to get away and grow into who I am as a person and who I am as a follower of Christ,” she recalls.

While looking at Oregon schools, it was Edwords who initially said “no” to George Fox. Her mom talked her into a visit, though. “I came here and I absolutely fell in love,” she says. “I loved the campus. I loved going to the classes – I thought it was so cool. And the professors were all supportive of what I wanted [for my future].” The student she stayed with during that visit even became her roommate and best friend. It was a perfect fit.

Miranda Edwords

Once Edwords arrived on campus, a new opportunity presented itself. In the spring of 2014, when she had healed enough to return to contact sports, a new lacrosse program launched at George Fox. Edwords remembers thinking, “OK, God, I guess this is you telling me that if I want to be on a team I have to pick up this sport I’ve never tried, and I have to just trust you in this.”

There was just one problem: Edwords would have to learn to use her hands as well as her feet – and figure out what to do with that stick. “It’s so funny how it worked out,” she says. “I would never have seen myself here, playing lacrosse. I got to help start the program and lay the foundation, and now we just finished our last game and we’re Northwest Conference champions.”

Edwords competed on the USA Collegiate Select Team her sophomore year and won Northwest Conference championships her junior and senior years, all while leading the Bruins in goals scored and earning All-Northwest Conference honors her final season. Not a bad college career.

To Edwords, who graduated this April with a degree in social work, ending her lacrosse career felt like breaking up with a long-term boyfriend. “I spent more time playing lacrosse than I did with my boyfriend most weeks,” she says. One thing she won’t miss is balancing studies, sports and her internship.

Tuesdays and Thursdays were packed with classes. Mondays and Wednesdays began at 5:30 a.m. with weight lifting, followed by a drive to Salem for her internship with the Department of Human Services, a drive back to her job on campus at the College of Christian Studies, and finally a two-hour lacrosse practice. By 6:30 p.m. she had been going for more than 12 hours. “Then I would try to find food to eat and get homework done, and be in bed by a decent hour.”

But Edwords’ discipline paid off – her teammates voted her team captain her senior year, and off the field her name showed up on the dean’s list more often than not. “By the grace of God!” she says, laughing.

“It’s been a lot of time management, and that’s been hard to juggle,” she says. “Walking out of my house with my backpack, my internship bag, my lacrosse bag and my stick all in my hands, I just kind of waddled to my car.”

Edwords says the support of her coach and professors was critical to her success. “Having all these wonderful people wanting to support me in my education through all the different obligations has been really nice.”

Four years ago, Edwords transitioned from soccer and track to lacrosse. Now it’s time to do it again – from playing lacrosse to helping coach middle school girls, and from leading a team to working as a shelter manager in transitional housing for women. She hopes her degree in social work will one day lead to working internationally with refugees.

“Our coach is always saying lacrosse is a parallel to life,” Edwords says. “There are going to be times when there are some really hard things happening – you can only control the ‘controllables.’”

While she works with what she can control, Edwords is curious to see where her path leads. “God can be like, ‘Well you say ‘no’ but I say ‘yes’ and this is how it’s going to work out,’” she says. “He’s softened my heart and opened my eyes.”