good enough.

All of my life I've been told that I'm not good enough. It began, really, when I was 14. My dad had just died, my grades slipped, and what was formerly parental concern became parental criticism in the harshest of ways. I wasn't given room for my "reactionary C's" -- I was, instead, yelled at, belittled, grounded, treated unfairly. What could have been normal discipline was taken to the extreme. It got out of hand.

From there, The Voice began to criticize everything I did. If I wanted to sing (which I did, all the time; it was my newfound talent and therefore my newest passion), I was criticized because singers never made any money. How would I support myself? If I wanted to be with friends or talk on the phone, I wasn't spending enough time with my family. If I wanted to go to church, I was judged and told that I was only going for social reasons. If I made a decision at church or went down to the altar to pray, I was criticized for "making some sort of decision and not living up to it" if I happened to get impatient with my brother on the way home in the car.

Nothing I ever did was right. I tried so hard. I didn't want to please The Voice -- I had learned that that was futile -- but I tried my very best to please God. The Voice had plenty to say about that, too.

So I learned to "go stealth" with my inner life. I learned to close off to my family, because I couldn't trust them. I learned that if I let them see what was going on between God and me, it would be belittled, criticized, mocked. Something would be wrong with what I was doing. I had to protect the very precious relationship that was growing between God and me. And so it became *just* God and me, and that was okay.

To this day, I have a very, very hard time living out my faith in front of my husband. I feel uncomfortable praying in front of other people. The Voice still haunts me. I hear it daily.

The Voice affected me in other ways, too; the most obvious "thorn in my flesh" that has resulted from the influence of The Voice is that I never feel that anything I do measures up. I don't even know who I am trying to please; all I know is that everything I put my hand to, be it writing, singing, acting, my faith, my marriage, my parenting skills, my relationship with God, my relationships with others, is constantly under the scrutiny of The Voice. I have always felt that I am sub-par, that I will never be good enough. Other people have more talent, more drive, more discipline, more support. I don't have those things, and never will, so I'll never amount to anything. I'm doomed to be known as the girl who was "almost good" at what she did, but never could quite attain the level of skill needed to succeed.

It is a bleak outlook, I know. It has handicapped me my entire life. Sometimes it is a convenient excuse; other times it is a curse. I compare myself, my work, my success, to others, and am filled with self-loathing and despair. I'll never be good enough. I'll never make it. The Voice was right.

I had a revelation this morning. It was lovely: When I see my inadequacies, when I see the line in each area of my life where my talent ends, the line that I feel I can never get past, I have always been blinded by that line. And I was struck by the fact that everyone has a line; no one has limitless talent. The people I am constantly using as a measuring rod to chalk up my failures also have a line where their talent ends. I just can't see their line. Only they can. And only I can see my line. I have always felt that my line is big and black, obvious to all. It's not, just like theirs is not obvious to me.

I have been forgetting (or choosing to ignore) Who stands on the other side of that line to pick up the slack. Where my talent ends, the limitless resources of God begin. I can't, and He never said I could. But He can, and has always said that He would. And when I learn to embrace my wretchedness, my unworthiness, my inability, that is when His worthiness and ability can take over.

Philippians 4:13 in the Amplified Bible puts it this way:

"I have strength for all things in Christ Who empowers me [I am ready for anything and equal to anything through Him Who infuses inner strength into me; I am self-sufficient in Christ's sufficiency]."

What a relief! God gave me my talents and abilities, but He never expected me to be perfect, or even "good enough." He knows I can't. I pray that I can learn to hear His Voice above the paralyzing Voice of the enemy.


Hillbilly Fit Club

I've become a workout junkie of late; it happens every couple of years, when, after living a lifestyle that consists mostly of eating out, I step on the scale and nearly pass out from the shock at how much I've gained.

This scale shock happened to me about a year ago, but due to my crazy schedule, I was unable to do much about it. That, and I was on the verge of committing harey-carey, and when one is in such a mental state, one does not want to exercise.

When I took the new job in August, one of the perks was a corporate membership at a health club. I had already begun running again, but I decided that I would use the health club to do my weight training as well as a backup if I wasn't able to run on a particular day.

After signing up, I was excited about having access to treadmills, spinning classes, free weights, etc., so I packed my gym bag and went for my first workout.

Now, I've been a member at other health clubs, so I know the drill. My last membership was at Gold's Gym, where all the women are tiny and wear makeup to their workout class, and all the guys are young, muscle-bound, and use the gym as a place to prove their manly strength. They are the guys who, when you meet them on the street, manage to work into the conversation, "Yeah, I work out." (Duh. I couldn't tell from your obnoxiously huge pecs...or by the simple fact that you are wearing bicycle shorts.)

The health club in Kerrville, however, is a bit different. Kerrville is predominantly a retirement community; therefore, the gym at noon is literally filled to the brim with elderly people. It's weird. I walked into the club expecting to be (as usual) intimidated by the little girls with no thighs who walk around in their sports bras. I was surprised to find it filled instead with old men wearing shorts, black socks, and loafers on the treadmills, old women in swimsuits (eek!), and working class guys upstairs in the weight room in jeans and, yes, believe it or not, cowboy boots. COWBOY BOOTS! I looked around and thought, "What have I stepped into?" Many of my body image issues immediately vanished. Relief ensued.

And then, it happened: I went into the locker room.

God help us all.

I am not sure if it happens with age, but at some point, there is a threshold that is obviously reached with old women at which they no longer care who sees them in whatever state of undress they may be. Apparently, when I entered the locker room, I did so at a time when a class had recently let out, and so it was wall to wall with old women walking around COMPLETELY UNCLOTHED. It was a nightmare.

I had to take a shower. I was growing increasingly uncomfortable. Obviously, the protocol here is blatant, unabashed nudity. I am not into this. I walk around fully covered in my own house when I am all alone. I have always been a modest, if not just plain prudish, person. My routine in the locker room is to take a shower, dry off, wrap up in a towel, get dressed under my towel behind the curtain... I do not want to make anyone suffer with having to see any more of me than I would want to see of myself, which is really not much more than an elbow. To me, it's common courtesy. Really, I'm doing everyone a public service. Good manners and all that.

These women... good gosh. You know the Seinfeld episode in which Jerry and George discuss "good naked" and "bad naked?" Yeah. Not only are these women parading themselves around, talking to their best friends while (gulp) bending over to dry off, but then they sit down on the benches buck naked and put on their clothes, because they are too old to get dressed standing up. I vowed then and there never to touch or set anything of my personal belongings on those benches.

I made it through my getting-ready routine, grabbed my bag, and ran for dear life to the nearest exit. My eyes still haven't recovered.

I was sharing my woes with my boss, who is a fitness junkie like me, and telling him how icky I felt after leaving the health club each time. He graciously invited me to join his club in Boerne, and hooked me up with a three month membership. I have been rescued. Fitness in Boerne is a stark contrast to the perils of the club in Kerrville. No naked old ladies. No bubbas in cowboy boots. It's yuppies galore, and, praise God, I'll trade skinny, makeup-clad rich women with more collagen than Joan Rivers any day for the trauma I endured in Kerrville.


Youth Specialties Part 1

I promised myself I would take the time to blog during the Youth Specialties conference this year. I promised myself the same last year and never got around to it. Since I have my own laptop this time, it's a little easier.

We got here yesterday, and are (thankfully) staying in the hotel adjacent to the convention center. We brought Punky with us, so the ability to come back to the room often is really nice.

We are learning that there are four types of youth pastors. It's pretty comical, actually -- it's like they went to a class to learn how to be that particular "flavor." What's funny is that I know one of every type, so every time we see someone that matches the "type," we look at each other and say, "Look, there's Andrew again," or, "Look, there goes Blake!" The Four Types are as follows:

First, there's Shaved Head Youth Pastor. This guy is actually not a youth pastor, but a "Minister To Students." His favorite clothier is Old Navy. Flip flops are a staple in his wardrobe. Backpacks and baseball caps are the favored accessories. Loves David Crowder and Chris Tomlin. Generally this guy is Baptist. David cringes every time he sees Shaved Head Guy, falling into a deep depression because he feels that he looks like every other Shaved Head Guy out there.

Next, there's Portly-But-Hip Youth Pastor. This fellow is, well, we'll say "cornfed," but without the cornfield. Generally this youth pastor enjoys cool, trendy shoes, cargo pants, Christian T-shirts that say edgy things, trucker hats, and watches with extremely wide bands. Facial hair in any form is acceptable and welcome. This guy is generally either Presbyterian or Lutheran. Third Day is a staple in the CD player in his Bronco.

Thirdly, there's X-TREME!!!!! youth pastor. He is non-denominational, and his church generally enjoys his X-TREME!!!!! personality. This guy is all fuel, says "stinkin'" a lot, and does wacky things. He is an outdoorsman, loves skydiving and bungee jumping, and never sleeps.

Lastly is Mr. Hardcore. He has many tattoos, has incredibly intense facial hair, and has giant holes in his ears that have been manipulated by extreme piercing and stretching. He may even have an eyebrow or a septum ring. This guy loves Tooth and Nail Records, takes his youth group to Cornerstone, and has a Hardcore pirate Christian radio station. He is mostly Charismatic or Willow Creek.

Every single guy here fits into one of these four categories. It's hilarious.

But it's been a good conference so far. Crowder rocks my socks. I won an iPod Nano. Tomorrow I am planning to go to the prayer labrynth at some point. I hope that I can shut up enough to let God speak to me in cool ways.

Mike Pilavachi spoke tonight. He's hilarious. Bible stories are always funnier when told in a British accent. But he said something profound: "It's messy in the nursery. It's neat and tidy in the graveyard. Let's choose to exist in the nursery."

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