I spent my high school years in New Orleans, LA – a city steeped in the traditions of the Deep South and rich in many of its own. New Orleans loves family and football and festivals. The motto of the city is Laissez Les Bon Temps Rouler: Let the Good Times Roll. When I first moved to NOLA I was starting ninth grade and beginning high school there. As you may remember, my dad was a Marine Corps officer (once a Marine, always a Marine) and we moved to New Orleans from Ft. Knox, KY. Yes, it’s an Army base…that’s another story.
Anyway after 3 years in a small town in Kentucky (my favorite place that I, partly, grew up in), we moved to the Big Easy. To say I was a bit of an oddity might be an understatement. Kids I didn’t know in school would come up and ask me to talk. Y’all know a New Orleans accent isn’t really southern, right? That’s just for TV. I stuck out like a sore thumb! My Kentucky “Thank you” was more like “Thank ye”; and, no, I wasn’t channeling Shakespeare or the King James Version of the Bible. Needless to say, life was at a faster pace than I was accustomed to – but I tried to keep up…that’s another story too. I knew girls there who invited more people to their Sweet Sixteen parties than I ended up inviting to my wedding.* The school dances were more like college frat parties – it felt a lot like my favorite John Hughes movie Pretty in Pink. Then there were Mardi Gras Balls (not that I have ever been to one) – such extravagance. I was overwhelmed socially, though I faked it really well.
My background was more humble, and it kept me humble. When I went to the Homecoming dance in the fall of my Senior year, I wore the dress I had worn as my sister’s bridesmaid – the summer before, y’all! It was pastel blue and I had the satin shoes dyed to match. It was 1988, thank ye very much! Even then, I was a walking fashion faux pas; which was only exceeded in the faux pas department by something I did when I was crowned Homecoming Queen.
Yes, I said, “I was crowned Homecoming Queen.” I never have talked much about it before. But it might have been the worst thing that happened to me when I was in high school. You see, it put me right out front, where I did not want to be. I’m more the Wing Woman kind of gal. So I’m standing there, on the football field, and I feel like I have really arrived, socially. We are with our dads in a sort of a “V” formation. All the dads had suits, except mine. I’m not sure he owned a suit at the time. He practically lived in uniforms. But he was wearing his Marine Corps dress blues, and he looked sharp. I was on top of the world.
Until I heard my name. Then everything just spiraled out of control. I can still remember the shock, the turn, the apology…all in slow-mo. I had upset the pecking order, big time. See, I changed schools mid-way through my four years… you guessed it, that’s another story. I was a relative newbie there. I was just beginning my second year at this school. I was totally the dark horse. The favorite for the crown was a stunner – she still is. She was polished and sophisticated. She was a cheerleader for goodness sake! And she was genuinely one of the nicest people I went to high school with. And oh, she wore the most divine black cocktail dress to the dance…but I digress, mostly because this is the painful part.
When I heard my name, my mouth dropped open and I froze for a second. They were beckoning me to the center. They were holding a crown! The Friday night lights were so bright. As I took a step, I paused, eyes wide, and turned, and mouthed to the blonde beauty next to me, “I am so sorry!” And that pretty much sums it up. I felt like a fraud. I liked belonging to the group, but I never wanted to be at the center, never felt I belonged there. And no kidding – this was the cause of a lot of teen girl angst for me. Of course, if it hadn’t have been this, it would have been something else – you know teen girls!
So lately, I am seeing that I haven’t grown in this department much since then. When I started this blog I wanted to reach out to women who were longing to be in a Bible study or Ladies Fellowship group, but could not. I pictured women with newborns and little ones, those who take care of elderly relatives, or some who work. I also hoped to keep in touch with friends that I was separated from, and help friends and families, who were separated geographically to stay connected to each other through the Word. I had a real heart for this as a ministry because, when I worked, and later when my kids were little, I was too overwhelmed to attend Bible study. I craved fellowship with other Christian women and the chance to study God’s Word together.
As soon as I had the opportunity to participate in Bible study, I started one! Monday Morning Moms was a spiritual and social outreach for moms with young kids (still is, though I am no longer in the area). For a long time, I said it was a “young mom’s” Bible study…then I realized that some of us were not actually considered “young” moms anymore…anyway, we had our ups and downs, but all in all, it was a wonderful experience. When we were slotted to move, I started thinking about other ways I could minister and this blog/website came to me right away: to host a virtual Bible study and incorporate the social aspect too, like we had done with MMMs.
That was my intention…and I have been blogging for almost a year now and quietly writing my heart. Sometimes it has been for my Audience of One. The experience has been nothing like I expected and yet it was everything I needed. I grieved that it wasn’t growing. I grieved that it was irrelevant. But every time I wondered if anyone out there was reading, I would get an email or a phone call. It was enough to keep me going.
And I kept remembering that my chief purpose is “to glorify God and enjoy Him forever”. God reminded me that He was enough. But I kept wondering if I was doing enough on my end. Sometimes growth is very painful and we avoid it – I worked on my writing because that was easiest and I put off the social media…Twitter, FaceBook, StumbleUpon, Pinterest and more…I have accounts, I post or tweet, but I do not understand even half of what I should by now. Some of it is sheer confusion! Another part of me finds excuses rooted in the Homecoming Queen fiasco. I am not a self-promoter. Southern women or GRITS, Girls Raised in the South, are given the message that it is impolite to brag, that it is unbecoming to court favor for yourself. Yet I know many women who can do this in a grace-filled way that is not unbecoming or pushy. How do they do it????
I still don’t know the answer! But I can say this: It took an upcoming writing conference, She Speaks by Proverbs31 Ministries, for me to overcome my aversion to “networking” enough to actually do it. As I have said, I’ve had my blog for over a year and asked friends to “like” me before (which was painful…felt like jr. high)…but SS gave me a real reason to put it out there again. I was encouraged by seeing other ladies do it, in such a gracious manner, on the FaceBook page for the group. My husband asked his friends and some of my friends asked theirs. And almost overnight, my “likes” doubled. And here’s what I have realized: networking is just part of being a good steward of this opportunity God has given me.
“Then the man who had received one bag of gold came. ‘˜Master,’ he said, ‘˜I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your gold in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you.’
“His master replied, ‘˜You wicked, lazy servant! So you knew that I harvest where I have not sown and gather where I have not scattered seed? Well then, you should have put my money on deposit with the bankers, so that when I returned I would have received it back with interest.
“‘˜So take the bag of gold from him and give it to the one who has ten bags.'” (Matt 25:24-28).
If we don’t appreciate the opportunities the Lord has given us, and use them well, He can just use someone else to accomplish His work. Let me not be that wicked and lazy servant, instead let me grow in wisdom and obedience.
I guess this is my Sweet Sixteen, my coming out party…and I am learning to enjoy it, just a few decades late. So thanks for “liking me”! Please consider subscribing to my website! Please, please comment!!! It can be a lifeline to a blogger 🙂 My question is this: In what area is the Lord asking you to grow in wisdom and obedience? How’s it going?
JustAgirl…Just Like You!
* In the old days, the Sweet Sixteen was called a “debut” or your “coming out”, since girls were officially coming out into society. The party was the debut and the girls were debutantes. I think of Jane Austen books or the movie Gone with the Wind. It was an important coming of age. Ok, but that was not during my time, please do not think I am that old!