Always Enough

It was a little less than two years ago in a hotel room in Fort Smith, Arkansas after a volleyball game as I sat in bed across the room from one of my teammates, Elissa, when I knew I had met a lifelong friend. We had won the match against our conference rival, keeping an undefeated conference record in reach, but that wasn’t the center of our conversation. It was the first time we had roomed together and instead of getting caught up in the details of our recent victory, we started talking about playing for God’s glory. And that’s when it happened. A friendship blossomed. Fast-forward to today and we’re doing life together. We’ve reached the point where we can ask each other the tough questions that tug at the issues of our hearts. We pray through the hard times and praise at the smallest victories. This past Spring Break, Elissa went to South Padre Island for Beach Reach. After hearing about her experiences and seeing the twinkle in her eyes that clearly conveyed her awe of God’s goodness, I also had the pleasure of reading a paper she wrote for class about her trip. After shedding a few tears, I knew this was a story that needed to be shared.


Grab a cup of coffee, get cozy, and bask in the glory of God and how He is moving in some of the most unlikely circumstances. He is so good!

A Personal Essay:

Being at a party sober is like being that one confused puppy at the dog park that tries to keep up when out of nowhere the community tennis ball smacks him in the face and he’s nearly run over by the herd racing after it.

I guess that’s kind of how I felt standing in the middle of Coca-Cola Beach on the last day of Spring Break at South Padre Island. Surrounded by blaring music, erotic dancing, unusual partying mechanisms, and   hundreds of wasted college students, the party had nearly doubled in size since the day before.

“Hi, what’s your name? Where are you from? Oh, that’s cool” had been the introduction to my attempt at being friendly most of the week. As a natural introvert, talking to strangers is usually completely out of the question for me. You have your life, I have mine. Maybe I’ll smile at a familiar face while walking to class, but to actually have a conversation with someone of whom I know nothing about and appear to have nothing in common with. That’s a definite no.

As is turns out, people visiting South Padre during Spring Break are some of the friendliest you’ll ever meet. Especially if they’ve had a bit to drink.

At one point during my South Padre adventures, a couple of friends and I decided to start a classic game of “volleyball” with our new stranger-friends. In reality, it was more like stand around in a circle-like shape and attempt to keep the ball from hitting the ground by awkwardly punching at it while wearing a bikini and laughing uncontrollably.

As a collegiate volleyball player, I can assure you that’s not how you play volleyball. But regardless, this volleyball experience was one of the most fun and unique I’ve ever had. People would see us playing and jump right in, acting like they were going to compete in the Olympics or something. Then they swing and miss. Well at least you’re trying, right? Just when I was ready to give up, our circle managed to keep the rally going for more than 2 contacts. This remarkable achievement prompted an impressive cheer before one of the stranger-friend guys in the group decided to make the game a little more interesting. And the volleyball drinking game begins.

As if talking to a stranger wasn’t uncomfortable enough. Now I have to play with the fear that if I make a mistake I will be forced to take a lovely, or rather not-so-lovely, drink of vodka and backwash from the bottle in the middle of the circle.

Don’t mess up, Don’t mess up, Don’t mess up.


The ball goes racing over my head as I reach up a second too late. Next thing I know the vodka bottle is being shoved in my face by the guy that came up with this genius idea. Everyone’s chanting drink, drink, drink. I stand there holding the bottle and mumble some lame excuse, but no one is listening. So with the cap still on, I tip the bottle up, set it back down, and fake a nice big swallow faster than you can say South Padre Island. I never tasted a drop.

I don’t like vodka. Strangers scare me. It smells like pot. What in the world am I doing here?

It all made sense before I left.

This spring break, I’m going to go to South Padre Island with a group of students from my church and we are going to make a difference. That was my plan.

Every spring break, groups of college students from universities all over Texas chose to spend their spring break helping others on South Padre Island rather than participating in the partying. We gave out free food and safe rides across the island. We hung out and played volleyball with people. We had conversations with people. We prayed for people.

But standing there in a sea of drunken chaos, I doubted my ability to make a difference. I doubted God’s ability to make a difference. Even after I got there, I was a little unsure of why I’d decided to go and throughout the week I struggled to see the good is such an ugly situation.

And then I met a girl named Stephanie.

It was the last night of the week and my group was scheduled to give van rides from 10 p.m. till 3 a.m. At this point in the week, most people recognized our vans and would call in if they needed a ride. But everything had become so crazy that most of the time we just picked up groups from the main club on the island.

After dropping off one particularly crazy group, I sat there in the brief moment of silence, thinking. Five minutes earlier our van had been packed beyond capacity with sweaty intoxicated strangers. One girl was practically sitting on my lap while another guy breathed heavily over my shoulder.  I smiled through the disrespectful comments. I laughed as they talked about partying on the beach. But after they got off my heart hurt.

Every direction I looked, I saw wild, out-of-control madness. The street was a parking lot of drunk drivers. Dancing, screaming, laughing people gathered in masses outside. People banged on our windows when we stopped and flipped us off when we couldn’t pick them up.

In that moment everything around me turned into a blur of slow-motion and I was left trying to figure out how in the world I had gotten myself into such an awful, dangerous situation. Everything in me wanted to give up, to pack and go home, to accept that I couldn’t make a difference. But, no, that wasn’t an option. We still had two hours left in our shift. So I pulled myself together and prayed for strength.

A few minutes later our van pulled up to a hotel and a group of about five students climbed into our van.

Louis’, that’s where they were going. It’s a five minute drive on a normal day, but at least 30 minutes in the traffic.

“Hi, what’s your name?” I asked the petite girl that sat beside me.

“Stephanie,” she answered.

That was the start to the most real conversation I’ve ever had with a complete stranger. We started talking about school, life, spring break, the usual small talk. But something in me told me to ask her about her faith. When I did, I got to hear her story.

She told me about growing up Catholic. About how she stopped going to church in college and had recently started going again. She told me about her family and about her struggles. She told me about how far away God seemed to be sometimes.

Her story wasn’t abnormal or spectacular, but it was real. She asked tough questions and I didn’t have all the answers. All I could tell her was how Jesus had changed my life. I didn’t preach a rehearsed version of my theological viewpoints. I simply had a conversation and allowed my faith shine through.

When we arrived at their destination I asked her if I could pray for her before she got off the van. She said yes and asked that I pray for her family and her safety. I prayed a short prayer, said Amen, and prepared to say goodbye.

But then something beautiful happened.

“Wait,” she said. “Sometimes I doubt that God is real and that he hears my prayers. But right now I know that he is real.”

So with all of her friends already standing outside, she asked me to pray again that we wouldn’t doubt. So I prayed. Not just for her doubt, but for mine. All week, I had doubted the power and goodness of God and in that moment I realized how wrong I had been. She had been able to see the goodness of God exactly where I had thought it impossible.

After she got off, I cried. I cried for the brokenness for the world. I cried overcome by the goodness of God. It felt so good to just cry.

I went there to serve people and help my peers, because I thought they were the ones that needed help.  But I realized that in reality, I need help just as much as the next guy. Sometimes, what people need most is simply someone to listen to their story and accept them for their mistakes.

I went there hoping to make a difference, but it wasn’t me who made a difference on that island. Alone, nothing I said would have made a difference. But with the power of Christ, my words had the ability to change a life. Not because they were coming from a moral person. Not because I had done anything good. But because I, a broken person, received grace.

Stephanie is a real person. Callie, Thomas, Cambria, Lauren, Brent, Morgan, Kendra. They’re real people. They have real problems. They feel real pain. But the good news is that there is a real God who knows that pain and died for that pain.

That truth will always be enough to make a difference.



Therefore, I am going to persuade her, lead her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. –Hosea 2:14

Swimming was my first love. My name even means Guardian of the Sea, so it doesn’t surprise me that God chose swimming as the sport He’d use to woo me into His warm embrace. On my first birthday, I was splashing around in the creek that runs through my family’s property and at 17 I found myself swimming my last competitive race. This past weekend marks the fourth anniversary of that last swim. I still remember cooling down for an extended period to ensure that no one saw my brokenness, the disappointment that I hadn’t accomplished my goal for that final swim, and that I was choosing to leave my first love to pursue a collegiate volleyball career. In the small Texas town I call home, I was known as the swimmer, and choosing a sport where I had earned fewer accolades and relied on a team for success seemed bogus. Praise God it wasn’t bogus to Him. This past weekend, at 21 years old, God took me down memory lane and showed me a highlight reel of my life that has gotten me to this point. A point where I don’t fear the unknown because I wholeheartedly trust the Creator, I don’t fear death because I know where I’m spending eternity, where I don’t fear not fitting in because I know I wasn’t made to. The life I am now living is life in the fullest.


If I haven’t bored you to tears, I’d love you to immerse yourself in my story and I pray that it blessed you to TRUST in all circumstances the One who made you for Him.

I was 13 when I walked into the Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center proudly sporting my Texas A&M sweatshirt. Mom and Dad had taken me to Wendy’s for lunch where I saw my first traffic cone orange Mohawk. Austin was weird and I didn’t want anything to do with it. My dream was to swim for the Aggies. My parents are the type that taught me to dream big and always promised to catch me if I fell. I had set a goal to qualify for the state meet as a freshman, and they wanted me to see what I was aiming for so I knew how to prepare. We watched and I thirsted to dive into lane 4 where records had been broken and Olympians had trained.


When I set goals, I plan to accomplish them. Goals aren’t necessarily a bad thing, but I’ve learned when they’re for selfish gain and self-glorification it can be devastating when they aren’t accomplished. My devastation came in the form of .60 seconds. In swimming that’s about a hand’s length difference. In my world, that was about 130 miles, the distance from El Campo, TX to Austin, TX for the state swim meet. Instead of making the journey to actually swim, we drove to watch my competitor take what I thought was my rightful place in the pool. My thirst hadn’t been quenched.

Sophomore year. The year of redemption. It was my time and I was ready to seize it. The 200 Freestyle was my first individual race at the regional meet and I was feeling good. In a little over two minutes I punched the wall, posting my personal best time. Something was wrong. Men in white were at my lane. Fear and disappointed kicked in as they told me my shoulder “twitched” before the buzzer. Disqualified. No medal, just tears. I was a mess, but Momma Bard caught me, held me, prayed with me, and helped me give my disappointment to God. I had to get focused. The 500 Freestyle was my best shot at qualifying for state and tears were definitely not helpful when swimming.

Take your mark. Beep. Off the block. Stroke. Kick. Stay within striking distance. The 500 is all strategy. My competitors were a body length ahead of me and I’d never felt calmer in the pool. It was time to attack.

Stroke. Kick. Inch by inch I overcame the difference until my goal was accomplished. A personal best. A berth into the state meet. Another trip to that weird place known as Austin, TX. Another goal accomplished.


Volleyball. A sport that allows you to talk while you play, rather than blow bubbles while you swim. A beautiful game that I had began to fall in love with. Swimming was still in the picture, but volleyball had stolen some of my attention. It was time to switch gears and trade in the race of endurance for a burst of speed and precision so that I had time to train for volleyball. Goodbye 500 Freestyle, hello 50 Free.

It was time for the 2008 state qualifying meet. Despite my dramatic event change from the longest event to the shortest event, I was the favorite. Twenty-five seconds was all it took to make it down and back. It was a tight race, but I had won. State two years in a row. Submersion into a sea of burnt orange was on my horizon. This time, qualifying wasn’t enough, I wanted to make it to the championship final and finish in the top eight swimmers in the state. Disappointment struck again. I had place ninth. This time the different was .08 of a second. I had been less than a fingernail from reaching my goal, but during the consolation finals I was placed in lane 4. I was in the center of the pool where Olympians I idolized had swum, but the thirst I felt in eighth grade still wasn’t quenched.


By the time swim season arrived my senior year, I wanted to qualify for state, but I had started to live and breathe volleyball. Swimming was placed on the back burner and looking back I have no doubt God was the only reason I ended up in Austin. I wasn’t ready to admit that I was going to choose volleyball over swimming because I knew I was going to disappoint everyone who had journeyed with me over the course of 13 years in the pool. Regionals came around and I placed fourth behind the state record holder and eventual gold medalist, the bronze medalist, and another very talented swimmer. My only hope was a call up and I knew that was a long shot. I cried, a lot, and came to terms with the fact that my swimming career was over. We celebrated at Texas Roadhouse with a few too many rolls lathered in honey butter. As we were walking out, a group of swimmers from another school in our region caught me off guard and congratulated me for qualifying for state. Wait…WHAT?! I was in?!

I had taken the eighth and final call up spot. It seemed that God had intervened on my behalf.

I wore my red and white El Campo swim cap for the last time in Lee and Joe Jamail Texas Swim Center and although I was disappointed in my last swim I now realize that it was all a part of the Potter’s plan. At that point I had been offered a scholarship to play volleyball at St. Edward’s University in Austin, TX. My future coach came to watch me swim, called me after my race, and told me that my speed off the block (I had the quickest reaction time) would serve me well in volleyball. Just a side note: if a coach who is genuinely supportive of everything you are involved in is recruiting you, tell them yes. They care about you and want you to not only be the best athlete, but the best person you can be. That’s a unique quality that you don’t want to pass up.

I knew it was time to make my decision. I told my parents and my swim coach that I wanted to play volleyball at St. Edward’s. I come from a pretty sentimental family, so we drove to campus and I called my coach to let him know I was committing. Before I could get the words out, he asked where I was and told me to head to the gym to say “Hi”. I ended up committing in person.


Therefore, I am going to persuade her, lead her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. –Hosea 2:14

At 21, I now realize why that thirst I thought I could quench through swimming was never satisfied. My thirst wasn’t to qualify for the state swim meet, it was a thirst for God. I’ve since graduated from St. Edward’s and am pursuing a career in sports marketing. After four seasons on the Hilltop it is clearer to me than ever before that God placed me exactly where I needed to be. Austin seemed like the last place I wanted to be when I was 13, but it became the wilderness God wooed me into to capture my heart for eternity.


Notice how throughout my swimming story it was always MY goals, MY dreams and MY desires. Although I prayed before and after swims, I wasn’t aiming to follow God. Disappointment devastated me because I was seeking self-glorification when I should have been working towards Christ’s glorification. But that’s the beauty of the Gospel. It finds us where we’re at and changes us forever. When I wasn’t chasing after Him, God chased after me. He has a perfectly orchestrated plan for my life, and YOURS that is falling into place at this very moment. I still occasionally swim for exercise and now I realize a cross marks the end of each link of the pool. A cross to keep everything in perspective. A cross to remind me that in this life I’m not racing to win, I’m racing to glorify the King of kings who died for me.