Revelations: No longer a punk

June 3, 2011 at 1:03 a.m.

Jennifer Preyss

Jennifer Preyss

BY JENNIFER PREYSSOnce upon a time, I was a punk teenager. I drove Mom and Dad to insanity with my strong will, and opinionated and law-testing teenagerisms. Yelling in our house wasn't a weekly, or even a daily event; it was hourly. I can still hear my mother screaming up the stairs for me, "Jennnnniferrrrrr Lee!" Since Mom normally calls me Jenny (or Jeeeny in her sweet Georgia accent), I knew I was in trouble when she used my full name. And when I'd hear her screeching at me from below my bedroom, I did what any normal teenager would do; sneak down the back stairs quietly, get in my car and go meet up with friends.

"She'll be cooled off by the time I get home," I thought.

Like I said, I was a punk.

I admit to my former punk-ness openly, and laugh about it often with family and friends these days. My mother and father would certainly attest to the handful I used to be, and my younger sister Alex loves to tell the story about how frequently she contemplated my demise when she was in middle school. Evidence of my sister's childhood plans to ruin me surfaced a few years ago, while she was cleaning out her old closet at my parent's house.

On a to-do list note pad of antiquity, my sister wrote:

1. Buy milk

2. Buy cheese

3. Buy gun

4. Kill Jenny

We laughed so hard when she told me about that note, scribbled in a handwriting fit for a sixth-grader.

"Wow, I hated you growing up," she said, gasping for air through the laughter.

When Alex married two summers ago, I used the famous to-do list story as a fun anecdote in my maid-of-honor speech. Everyone roared at the story, each of them knowing how close we are.

When I examine that part of my life now, my life as punk teenager, I realize I needed more positive attention and probably a bit more discipline. I needed boundaries, which in my home didn't exist, until I smashed into them without warning.

And perhaps I had a little too much fun back then playing bumper cars with my parent's wavering and, at times, unidentifiable boundaries.

I've been thinking a lot about former punk Jenny lately. As a reformed punk and witness of God's ability to divinely transform, I volunteered to be a team leader this weekend at One Retreat. The two-night, Christian-principled, church retreat is centered around leading, loving, inspiring and committing to young women (and men) who come from harder family backgrounds. They might be struggling with drugs, or family issues, or addictions, or abuse, or a punk strong will (just like I used to have). But the point of the retreat is to serve them, and show them how much God can and does love them.

While sitting in a One Retreat meeting last weekend, I felt nervous for the first time that perhaps I was in over my head. Before last week, when I thought about the retreat, all I wanted to achieve that weekend was to gain the girls' trust, and let them know they're loved by God. But what if ... they're punks? What if they hate me? What if they're rude to me and sneak away when I call their names? What if they play bumper cars with the boundaries I set for them?

I took a deep breath, and prayed on it a few days and told the devil to quit taunting me. I realized there's no way I'm not going to have the most amazing time at the retreat this weekend with a group of amazing young women.

And if the teens' evoke their inner punk, I'll at least have some experience to draw from.

Wish me luck on my team leading venture, pray for the girls to have a wonderful time in a safe and loving environment.

Of course, somewhere in Georgia, my mother is smiling, secretly hoping I get a dose of my own punky medicine.

Jennifer Preyss is the faith reporter for the Victoria Advocate. She may be reached at 361-580-6535 or



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