Alumna Emily Reilly: Relying on the Lord to Overcome MS and Reach Her Goals

Emily Reilly with weights

"Life goes on after sports end, and I didn't want to be known as 'that soccer player.' I want to be known for the life I lived for Jesus."

Emily Reilly is a resilient and dedicated follower of Christ. She has seen evidence of the faithfulness of God within her own life and chooses daily to use her platform to share the gospel. Emily's life is a picture of Romans chapter 5 in action (see Romans 5:3-4); she has counted her trials as blessings and glorifies the Lord by telling her story- a story Emily is excited to share with each of you.

Born and raised in Flagstaff, Arizona, Emily—the middle child of three Evans girls—grew up in a Christian home that loved Jesus and loved staying active. Throughout her childhood, Emily enjoyed spending time outside and played almost every sport, her favorite being soccer. "My ultimate dream was to play soccer at the collegiate level," Emily says, "and that's where DBU comes into the picture."

Knowing she wanted to pursue higher education at a Christian university, Emily toured a number of colleges and felt that "there was something special about DBU," a feeling Emily attributes to the peace of the Holy Spirit. Emily was later offered a soccer scholarship from DBU, which she accepted and signed when she was 17.

One month after signing with DBU, Emily was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In the short time period following her diagnoses, Emily had a decision to make: "I could either go down the path of discouragement and let this diagnosis take over and give up all of my dreams and goals," Emily said "or I could go down the path of faith and perseverance, taking the disease head on, refusing to let it stop me." Relying on the Lord for strength, Emily chose the latter and began her journey as a collegiate athlete.

Emily's journey with MS caused her to redefine her idea of success. "After getting diagnosed with MS it was and continues to be a journey, of accepting my new normal." As a competitive individual, Emily desired to be the best among her peers. After being diagnosed, though, Emily's victory became based solely on her personal goals as she focused on what her body could accomplish without comparing herself to her teammates.

"This allowed me to be successful, despite my limitations," Emily explains.

Her limitations, though, did little to hold Emily back. During her freshman year, Emily was awarded the title of "All-American Goalkeeper," and she went on to represent DBU well throughout her career.

As a student athlete, Emily spoke life into her fellow teammates and was overwhelmed by the way the Lord allowed her words to provide hope and encouragement to her teammates who were also facing trials and struggles of their own.

"The Lord has used this diagnosis in so many ways to impact people all over. My prayer is that people get to experience His love and grace through me and my testimony."

Emily graduated from DBU in December of 2010 with a marketing degree and a minor in Spanish. Eight months after graduating, Emily married her husband who serves in the Air Force, and began her journey as a military spouse.

Over the next five years, Emily worked as a Starbucks barista, owned her own business serving as a personal assistant to the elderly and homebound, and worked at the front desk of a beach resort in Florida. Throughout her time in all of these positions, Emily learned that "it doesn't matter what job title I have, the Lord has a purpose in every role. Every workplace is a mission field."

It wasn't until 2015 that Emily found her true passion: fitness and wellness. She became a certified group fitness instructor and later became a certified personal trainer, where she now creates modified fitness classes to allow all people to feel empowered and know that it is possible to stay active. In addition to teaching these classes, Emily also works full time for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society as a healthcare provider engagement manager, which allows her to provide information and resources to healthcare providers that manage the care for those living with MS.

"My best advice for current student athletes is that your identity is not in what sport you play," Emily states. "Your identity is in Christ and Christ alone."

Throughout her life, Emily has had many titles and defining factors she could have placed her identity in. However, Emily has chosen to place her true identity in her Heavenly Father and points all success, all victory, and all of her life back to Him.

"MS does not have to stop you from pursuing your dreams and your goals. I have seen the Lord work and move in so many ways! He has been my strength and comfort during some of my darkest moments and He has been so gracious to bless me with incredible opportunities that bring so much life and joy!"

DBU is privileged to be a part of Emily's journey- what a joy it is to see brothers and sisters in Christ pursue excellence rooted in the Lord's strength alone! In closing, Emily urges fellow believers to be bold in sharing their own testimonies with others, just as she has.

"Know that the Lord will use your story for His glory and for your good!"

Written by Emmalie Ellis

Emmalie Ellis writes for the University Communications Department at Dallas Baptist University.