The Last One Picked

April 19, 2010 | 38 comments

I would weave fingers through the playground’s chain-link fence and clench tightly, hoping against hope that this time would be different. But it always turned out the same.

This was the most humiliating moment of every recess — waiting as team captains picked the superstars first, then the agile girls, and the brute boys, down the line until they reached the scrawny kid leaning into the fence.

I was everyone’s last choice. But I played anyhow.

In high school basketball, I was last on the bench. But I tried anyhow.

In Little League softball, I was exiled to right field, where I’d have the fewest opportunities to mess up the game. But I suited up all the same.

My dresser drawer in my childhood home is still filled with the colors of Not-Good-Enough: yellow and pink and green ribbons for crossing the finish line dead last.

But I still played. I still ran.

“Don’t worry about who’s beating you,” my Dad would tell me before high-school track meets. “Just work on improving your personal best.”


I’ve never been a superstar anything. There’s always been a better athlete, a better writer, a better farmer’s wife who could actually help her husband when the field-work piles up.

And at night, when I’ve fallen short of good intentions in mothering, I hang my head and mutter: “If only I were a better mother.”

Not-Good-Enough can shackle. It can keep a perfectionist sidelined and finger-locked to a chain-link fence. If I can’t do it perfectly, then I won’t try at all.

But in the midst of my own “I-can’t,” I am learning the art of “Oh, yes He can.”



Thirty years ago, I was the last kid picked for recess kickball.
Twenty years ago, I was a high school track failure.
Ten years ago, I stopped trying.
Eighteen months ago, I was hobbling on crutches.
Six months ago, I couldn’t have run to the end of my country lane if I tried.
Four weeks ago, I was nursing a muscle injury.
But Saturday? I ran 10 miles.

And in two weeks, I’m running a half-marathon with no hope of finishing first, or even finishing pretty, but finishing all the same — right in the middle of my mediocrity.

I am daily finding an extraordinary God at work in ordinary me.

I can do this. Because He is the God of can-do, who cancels every I-can’t.

“I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.”
— Philippians 4:13


On Saturday, after my exhausting and exhilarating 10-mile run, I found a giant cookie on the passenger seat of my van, left there by my friend Pat. The cookie was in a plastic bag with the words: “Jennifer, With you all the way. God’s Blessings.”

When I got home, Anna and I posed for a picture while Lydia snapped this shot.

“Let’s count the M&Ms,” Anna said.

So we went inside, opened the bag, and behold: Pat had decorated the cookie with a Y. For she knows that Yahweh is my strength.

Dear friend,

I am running again after recovering from an injury that had sidelined me for a month.

I’ve been sidelined in life, too — by perfectionism and self-doubting and the curse of Not-Good-Enough. How about you? Have you been sidelined, too? How is Yahweh strengthening you today, reminding you that you CAN?

Chain-link photo from stock.xchng.

by | April 19, 2010 | 38 comments


  1. Deb

    God speaks through a friends blog. I just love your post today. Relating to the dis-ease of "not-good-enough, can't do it and random other negative self-defeating talk.You have inspired me today Jeniffer. I can do all things THROUGH CHRIST WHO STRENGTHENS ME. We are to encourage one another and you have done that for me today.

  2. RCUBEs

    I'm glad that we serve a God Who is not a passive kind of God…Knowing there is nothing impossible with Him, yes we can!!! And whatever imperfections we have, He doesn't see them. Instead, He uses them to make His glory known! May the Lord continue to heal and empower you sister Jennifer. Your heart speaking always blesses me every time. God bless.

  3. Missie

    Wow! God seriously does amazing work and I really needed this entry today. I have been struggling with a friend being upset because "I wasn't being a good enough friend" and that is hard because I didn't realize that i was doing anything wrong. I am trying to get over that failure feeling but it is hard.
    Thanks you so much for sharing, know that God uses you in AMAZING ways!
    Also, congrats! I am super proud of you and you make me want to try harder!

  4. Darlene

    congratulations on continuing to offer God your stones! HE keeps knocking out Goliath with our littlest efforts, no?
    Great post, and congrats on a great run!

  5. Andrea

    I remember those days..I use to be close to last or last getting picked, but I played anyway. I cling to this verse, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." I have gotten through many a situation holding firmly to those words in my heart.
    hugs, andrea

  6. Julie

    So glad to hear you are up and running again!

    Can't wait to hear all about how it all turns out in a few weeks!


  7. Warren Baldwin

    Inspiring sorry, since I have only recently begun running again. And I like the point your story seems to lead to: with God we are all winners.

  8. Glynn

    Your story resonates.

    The last one picked in every neighborhood sports activity – touch football, sandlot baseball, and totally forget basketball. And then came the terrors of middle school and high schools sports. I hated PE class.

    Junior year of high school, PE class, I was picked dead last for the flag football game. The starting kickoff landed in my arms.

    And the other team laughed.

    My own team laughed.

    I did the only thing I knew to do. I ran forward. All the way for a touchdown. Two teams were stunned.

    So was I. We all learned something that day (and so did the coaches). I could outrun just about anyone.

  9. jasonS

    Very encouraging, and now I want a giant cookie. 🙂

  10. A Simple Country Girl


    Yahoo for you (and of course for your reason for running)! Great job. And great post.

    Just because there is always Someone better we are blessed with eternity…

    Hey, I wrote of running too. It was not intended for a post, but perhaps that is where I will stick it now.


  11. Kay @ Off the Beaten Path

    Wonderful post Jennifer. I too have been crippled many times by the goal of perfection, the ever elusive desire to be the best. I once thought if I couldn't be the best then I shouldn't even suit up for…whatever. I still think that some days. But I'm trying instead to just be obedient. That is big enough of a challenge for me most days.

    So thrilled that you are running a 1/2 marathon. Way to go girl. You're my hero!


  12. Kristen Love

    Aww…fantastic post! I love it. God will always redeem our stories 🙂 And congrats on the run-I am impressed.

  13. Beth.. One Blessed Nana

    I am so glad that we serve a God that Can and that we get the strength we need through Him and Him alone!

  14. Beth E.

    Oh, Jennifer, I'm so happy for you! And, if I'm truthful, quite proud, too. 🙂 Running 10 miles is a BIG deal. A VERY BIG DEAL!

    I've been sidelined in life by the very same curse as yours. I still struggle with the "not good enough". I believe many women struggle with that.

    I'll be praying for you as you prepare for your half-marathon. You go, girl!

  15. Kathleen

    Exuberance from this post blasted my bangs back and stretched a smile out. Curtsy. Applause. Standing Ovation. A loud YEAH after your Ta Da! We're all in the grandstands cheering, can you see? 🙂

  16. Karen

    But in the midst of my own "I-can't," I am learning the art of "Oh, yes He can.""
    …oh, yes…amen!

    Initially, it is sometimes easier to say "I can't"…and walk away…but when we remember the One that gives us strength…"I will, Lord, with your help"…then mountains can be moved….

    Very encouraging post, Jennifer…congratulations on your 10 miles!

  17. patty

    As always, I appreciate your honesty.
    And may I say you're looking awefully snappy at the END of your 10 mile run!
    Love your heart…

  18. LeeAnn@Encouragement Is Contagious

    You are such a beautiful writer and I can tell God has given you a beautiful soul too.

    Last October I injured my knee and tore the cartilage inside of it and found out I already also had severe arthritis in it. I've always loved my walking for exercise and for my nature walks and talking to the Lord but this injury really sidelined me also for almost 5 months. I am impressed that you have made such wonderful progress and ran a marathon! Wow! God is awesome.

    Lee Ann

  19. Tony C

    Jennifer, I have to respectfully disagree…there may not be a better writer than you.

    Good luck on the 13 miles. It will be a great opportunity to spend time with our Father in thought and prayer.

  20. Lyla Lindquist

    Jason's right. They don't get much better.

  21. Lyla Lindquist

    Make that Tony.

  22. Jennifer

    Maybe mediocre, in the middle of the running pack, but my friend, you're tops when it comes to inspiring others to live for Christ. So proud of you for putting feet to pavement and keeping it up after that injury.

  23. Stacie, A Firefighter's Wife

    My heart jumped a beat and I felt that pain once again at being the last few to be picked during PE. It was so hurtful and I am still mad that the teachers didn't have a clue as to how unfair and hurtful it was.

    I love your Y cookie! What a sweet gift from a dear friend.

    Congrats on your running!

  24. Kristine

    Oh my goodness I needed to hear that today (and every day) because I've struggled with being last picked, being mediocre, second best or not quite good enough most of my life. You've given me a great reminder that in God we find our strength.

    Congratulations on your run!

  25. mom2six

    Jennifer you leave me undone today. The "not-good-enough" days have overwhelmed me in the past. But praise God He is freeing this soul. Mainly because the focus has shifted to Jesus who is good enough and extended that goodness to me. Thank you so much.

  26. Jules

    You may have been the last picked but you were the one chosen by God to grow in your faith through perseverance and trusting that He will carry you through. I'll be a part of your team ANYDAY. Christ carried you for 10 miles and He'll carry you for 13.1 in less than two weeks. I'm so proud of you.

  27. ~*Michelle*~

    Oh, how I love coming to your place….such a breath of fresh air!

    You are so inspiring, Jennifer…and such a blessing to me.

    So proud of you with your running…that Phil. verse is very special to me because my son, Gunner chose to have that tattooed down his forearm to remind him of God's encouragement in everything he sets out to do in life. *maybe a tattoo is not everyone's idea of a spiritual thing, but for teens to want Bible scripture displayed for all the world to see….gives me hope for the youth. He specifically only has Philippians 4:13 in bold lettering so that when kids ask him what it means, he tells them to pick up a Bible and check it out.

    anyway….sorry for the tangent…it just made me think about how Gunner is going to need that same belief in himself and push in his life that got you running those 10 miles!

  28. Graceful

    Jennifer I just love, love this story! And I am so proud of you for rocking through that 10 miles! You've got it made, and I can't wait to cheer you on in person!

    I love the race metaphor for faith — it's an image that resonates with me on so many levels. And you wrote about it so very, very well!

  29. KJ

    OK..this is the best post EVER! So many women {and I bet men too}can relate to never feeling "good enough" or "left out/behind" or "why am I last?"

    Thank you for reminding me of this wonderful Bible verse in Philippians. I am putting it in my memory to remind me I CAN do it too.

  30. alicia

    Way to go!! 10 miles is awesome! You have most definitely found your source of strength in HIM!what an inspriration!

  31. S. Etole

    so glad you haven't bowed to the tyranny of perfectionism … way to go!

  32. Rose

    Woohoo…way to go! I can do ALL things through Christ!

  33. Duane Scott

    I love this!!! I am training for a marathon myself. I have always had asthma, and I'm now at 6 miles… 🙂 You give me inspiration.

    I am going to share this on twitter. Do you have a twitter account I can link it to?

  34. Cassandra Frear

    Love this post.

    I just took on a challenge for 1000 Day Hikes and I'm recovering from plantar fasciitis. We're in a very difficult situation, but taking on this challenge has brought so much joy!

  35. Tracy

    What a wonderful post! Makes me think about the fact that maybe it's a good thing that I was always picked last for sports teams during recess (OK, I actually wasn't even picked; I was one of those that when they got down to 3 people the team captains would just say "you 2 go with him and you go with the other team"). I can relate to not being a super star in any way….but that means God's excellence can shine through even better! 'Cuz if anything outstanding comes out of me & my life, it's definitely a God thing.

  36. Missy

    I am continually struggling with "not being good enough." It is something that has been ingrained in me since I was a child.
    I love how God is using you to show the rest of us that it is not about "being good enough" but about doing His work.

  37. Carey

    Beautiful. Remarkable. Wonderful! Thank you for inspiring the others, like myself, last to be picked. God is good!!

  38. Carey

    Beautiful. Remarkable. Wonderful! Thank you for inspiring the others, like myself, last to be picked. God is good!!


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