"I came to ninja much the same way I came to art: God led me to it."
I never intended on becoming a ninja. I wouldn’t have even called myself an athlete.
I came to ninja much the same way I came to art: God led me to it. It all started with an invitation of my little brother to try out bouldering, a climbing gym that didn’t use ropes. The walls were shorter with big crash pads underneath and each route was called a “problem”. I loved the coming together of mind and body in the problem solving of climbing and became addicted overnight.
I had only been climbing for a few months when one day a thought came into my head, “You should apply to American Ninja Warrior.” I laughed it off. “No way,” I responded, “There’s no way.” But it was funny because this thought was persistent and it seemed to come every time I went climbing.
I’ve learned over time that persistent thoughts should be listened to.
It’s usually God trying to tell you something, especially if it’s something that you don’t want to do. I know it’s God because I don’t usually argue with myself. Finally one day, I offered a prayer and asked if this was something He wanted me to do. I felt that He did. So I threw my hands in the air and said,
“Okay, I’ll apply, but they’re not going to accept me. I have no ninja experience!”
I made the application video at a local trampoline park, and after I submitted it, I thought, “Maybe I should take classes or something, just in case?” The closest gym was 60 minutes away, but I signed up. I showed up and found myself the only mom in a group of teenage boys. This was ridiculous. That first practice it felt like all I did was fall. I got back into my car sore and bruised, I told God,
“Okay, if you really want me to do this, I’m going to need some more support next time!”
I went back each week, sweating in my car before I even arrived. It was so outside my comfort zone, so different from anything I had tried before, but I just tried to focus on learning one new obstacle each week. It would have been easy to get overwhelmed by the whole gym and the idea of completing a “course” so I just told myself, “Just one today Jenedy.” And it was amazing because one week at a time, I got a little bit better.
Then...the call from Hollywood came...
The shock of my life was receiving “the call” from a Hollywood producer, inviting me to compete on American Ninja Warrior Season 11 in Tacoma, Washington. That’s when everything got real! How was I supposed to compete when I had only been training for a few months? Walking up to the Tacoma Dome to film, I felt like David going up against Goliath. It all seemed so big, and so scary, and so impossible, but I just kept a prayer in my heart.
“Lord, you brought me here,” I said, “Help me to do whatever it is you need me to do.”
In my heart I thought, God asked me to do this so that I can share my story of loss on national television. He’s going to help me do well enough to make an episode, and then I’ll walk away from this random tangent God put in my life. In reality, I had no idea why God had place me here, but I went forward feeling my way in the dark. That first season, I surprised myself by making it to the fourth obstacle in qualifying, and I thought, “I did it, I did well enough to share my story, and now I’ll just go back to my art life.”
Unfortunately, they didn’t air my run. I had competed against too many “celebrity ninjas” and there wasn’t room for me on prime time.
I was so confused. It was going to be like it hadn’t even happened. Why did God have me do that? I prayed about it again, and felt like I had come this far in my training and maybe I should keep going. How well could I do if I had a year more of practice?
It’s now been nearly four years since that first application, and I’ve been invited to compete every year. They still haven’t aired my run. But I’m learning that it’s more than 30 seconds of fame on a tv show. God didn’t ask me to just compete on a show, He had in mind to turn me into a ninja. It has become a part of who I am. It’s increased my tenacity and persistence. It has taught me that I’m more capable than the version of myself I’ve seen in my head. It has helped me to realize that God sees more in us than we could ever see in ourselves.
This sport has also led me to connect with incredible people, individuals that have faced tremendous obstacles in life, and have found the inner strength to face physical obstacles in a grueling sport
I look back and stand in awe at God’s hand in my life. As a 34 year old mom of four, I was definitely one of the most unlikely to begin a career as a ninja athlete, it was laughable really, but I did it anyways, and now it’s shaped who I am. I know that as we let ourselves be clay in the hands of the potter, as we do the scary things, the hard things, the uncomfortable things that He asks of us, He will always lead us to the best version of ourselves.