I have a confession. It may not be too shocking to some readers but here it is: I didn't have the best self-esteem as a young teen. At school I felt awkward and unattractive, overly conscious of my every move to the point of near paralysis. I had my friends and sports and achievements and art to get lost in, but outside of those preoccupations I was a turtle in her shell. I wasn't free to try new things or use my voice - I was afraid and in need of some gentle "nudging."
Enter a crazy, caring, and persistent youth pastor. The type of person who learned your name and remembered it, who bear hugged you to the point of pain (but we loved it), who provided us with the many essential oppotunities to eat pizza (until we were sick) and chug coke (also until we were sick) and wrestle in giant sumo suits (we did not get sick in the sumo suits). Allan Waine -who we called P.A.-hit our youth group like a tropical storm of love and hope, effectively shaking most of us with God's message of hope and purpose.
Back to the awkward and unsure girl - remember me? Yeah, I'm still around at this time and totally craving attention from a caring adult but don't even realize it. Let me say for posterity sake that my family was extremely loving, but fears and doubts about who I was resulted mostly from the stinging words of fellow students and media messages: taunts in the classroom, bullying in the hall, being the butt end of the joke, comparing and falling short of all the girls on T.V. The kind of things that teens experience had done some serious damage and left their mark. Youth group became a safe haven for me, and P.A a mentor who would challenge and share truth with me.
Besides the great fun that this youth pastor provided me, he also told me of God's plan to give hope and a future. The first time I heard Jeremiah 29:11, I felt like I had been given a ticket to ride a train I hadn't even known existed. "For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future..." I had given up on hope and myself I think, and hearing that God hadn't given me up made a big difference in how I perceived myself. P.A and other caring leaders loved me, challenged me, and laughed with me all the way to this revelation: God loved me and wanted me to dream something BIG. He was big enough for that and big enough to help me love myself.
I would eventually travel to Antigua, China, Korea, Britain and Ukraine because of P.A. and with P.A. He invited me into a world where I had something to offer because God loved what he saw in me and designed me to have purpose. The truth of the matter is that others can have a great impact on you and I was impacted for the better. I am thankful to P.A and all the other caring adults in this world who speak truth and love to youth who are bombarded with so many negative messages about who they are. I am inspired to do the same and to keep following after God, dreaming new dreams. Never give up.
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield." -Tennyson