Dear America,

Dear America,

What can I say about the tragic event that happened in Orlando? I am just as horrified and sickened as the next person. How many more tragedies are going to happen in our country and in our world? How many more hashtags, temporary Facebook profile changes and status updates are we going to post until we have had enough?

Please know this open letter is also directed to myself. I am not putting anyone down because I am just as guilty as the selfie, hashtag, all about me society as the next person. It’s just who we have all become.

The reason I am writing is this is to start a fire within my soul and maybe yours too. I am only me. A middle class, hard working white woman. What can I possibly do? I pray nightly for those close to me and those I don’t even know of. I consider myself a religious person but let me tell you, I am elementary in my knowledge and faith journey. This is not some religious rant, I think you have read enough of those. However, it is within the very fiber of my being and yes I will pray for those involved and for my fellow countrymen and women.

America, when are you going to wake up? When did you lose your status of being THE greatest country in the world? You do realize that we certainly will not win the superlative of “most popular” in this years yearbook right?

America what happened to #BostonStrong, what happened to “We will never forget”?

It’s all too fleeting. It’s yesterdays news. It’s onto the next viral video, Kim Kardashian naked selfie, it’s Donald Trumps hair and Hilary Clinton’s coat. It’s whip and nae nae it’s just like that it’s all gone.

America where did you go? We need you. I need you. 

America it’s time to stop pointing fingers, stop blaming guns, stop blaming Washington, stop blaming immigrants, stop blaming sexual orientation and who is peeing in the stall next to you.

STOP PLEASE. For our future just stop. I am begging and pleading with you.

It’s time we turn that dirty finger of our own and point it to ourselves. We lost ourselves. We lost America.

It’s time to put on our armor, dragons in tow, and fight the war of selfishness. It’s time to care more and do more. It’s time to know each of our neighbors names. It’s time we SIT DOWN with the panhandler and ask them their name, buy them a meal and ask what YOU can do for them. It’s time we treat those with mental illness or those addicted with dignity and respect and ask HOW CAN I HELP YOU. It’s time we actually look up from our cellphones and acknowledge the human being standing next to us. Sometimes that is all someone needs, is to just been seen, recognized, as a living human being.

It’s not a hashtag, it’s not a facebook profile change, it just called being a caring human being. It’s called living in your reality instead of wishing you had the cars, clothes, fame, women or men in the fake reality you watch on TV.

It’s called simple acts of kindness not for one day, not for a week, EVERY SINGLE day you wake up and put on that armor of love and ask how can I help you today?

Until we start changing our ways, these horrid events will keep happening and THEY will keep winning. They are changing the way we live. They are inciting the hatred that they want to put on us. Turn on your television, open your social media. Just look at the hate filled comments, gay, bi-sexual, trans, black, white, immigrant, Democrat, Republican, Liberal, Conservative, Christian, Muslim, Jew, Atheist. Do I need to go on?

Do we really need all these labels to “define” who we are? What ever happened to just being people? What ever happened to being Americans? The country who donates to more charitable organizations than most other countries do. The country who in a crisis at home or overseas is the first to respond.

I am proud to say I am American. I am not proud to say I am just as guilty as the next person to do so little and not care very much. You don’t need a kindness day or holiday season to be a giving and caring person. What you do need is a mirror, take a good look at yourself and stop blaming everyone and everything else.

Put on your armor and be the America that we all need, that we all love and that I know we all are.

Be better together.

The Secret of Getting Ahead is Getting started – Mark Twain

Well the new year is here and resolutions have been made and some have already been broken. Luckily I chose Monday January 4th as my start date. As I look back on 2015 it’s been a challenging year for me.

With the fibro diagnosis it really knocked me out of focus and put me in a bad place. I chased a cure that would never be because there is no cure for fibro. I spent A LOT of money going to natural doctors to help me but realized that we could not really afford this method. I spent a good amount of time mourning what I won’t have but happy to know I am not going completely crazy. Due to having a bit more time to learn about my body I learned that stress is a major factor in my flare ups. I have to minimize my stress as much as possible and some times that includes declining invitations, not engaging in drama and removing factors and people that cause me stress. It has been a challenge but a necessary one for my health.

I have learned that I have to prioritize my goals in life. This means at times making tough decisions and choices. One that was really hard this year was not health coaching. I need finish my own journey. Focus on getting my health together before I help others. I see a pattern where I focus exclusively on others so I don’t have to deal with my own stuff. It isn’t healthy and I really need to do this for me. I do enjoy health coaching and will get back to it in the future but right now I have to focus on me.

A positive was realizing I CAN maintain IF and only if I follow the habits of health. I was so scared about maintenance and I actually was able to do it. Now it is time to continue my weight loss and live a life of health and maintenance and stop worrying about whether or not I can actually maintain, I know I can!

Another positive was starting grad school to obtain my MBA. It has been a goal I have promised my grandparents and myself. I hate school with a passion but I actually do enjoy learning about business and I know it will help me grow and I can do it.

Looking back in 2015 I did something I never thought I would do which was joining the Kairos Prison Ministry. It was a life changing experience and something I want to pick back up once school is done.

Overall, there were so many changes in 2015 and most if not all were really hard. I had to pull up my big girl panties and move on from feeling defeated. Move on from feeling guilty. Move on from letting stress ruin me. I am looking forward to 2016 with a lot of hope and excitement. I want the momentum to continue and keep accountable!

Happy New Year!

 

 

Capital Campaign

Something hit me right in the head today. More than an AH-HA moment. My church is going through a massive capital campaign. We are looking to raise, I believe 10 million. As a business person I think how in the world would you draw plans, go through all this marketing and publicity for this massive project and not have the funds to do so. As in Luke 14:28 “For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it…?”

I have grappled with this thought. I read the marketing materials, I have seen the video vignettes, spoke with other church members and leaders and still didn’t like the idea of it. Here we go, give me more money. MORE MORE MORE!

I don’t have kids, why do I care about their spaces? Everything is always for the kids! What about me? Where can I grow? What about the fact that I am in a trailer and if I have to use the bathroom that is about 10-15 minutes gone of my Sunday class! What about ME?????

How very Christian of me to think these thoughts!

Then this past Sunday as Pastor Millie spoke, she got to me. Millie always gets to me! I adore her and her sermons are always very real. She understands what the church is asking of us. It’s going to take a lot of money and faith to build almost a brand new campus. I think I just needed to hear that we understand what we are asking of you. Then I thought, I don’t want our youth in a beat up old former funeral home as their space. I want our entire campus to be handicap accessible. I want a gathering space to have some coffee and enjoy fellowship. I want our little ones in a secure place, so that parents can feel comfortable dropping off their children for Sunday school and then they too can enjoy an adult Sunday school.

When I thought about it more it wasn’t just all about what I wanted. I don’t have kids or teenagers or someone who is handicapped but I still care very much about those people. But this isn’t about me, money, or really any member of our church. Sure, we will benefit from this massive overhaul if we stick around. But this capital campaign is for people who were like me when I walked through those doors at Alpharetta First United Methodist Church. I was so lost, confused and didn’t have a lot of hope of finding a place to call my home. We had tried so many different churches since moving down to Altanta and like Goldie Locks each one was just not right. We didn’t fit in and didn’t feel like anyone wanted us.

I was so scared that first day. And yet the minute I walked in I knew it was home. A warm welcome and yes coffee and doughnuts helped! The music was so different, like being at a rock concert. People extending their hands (we don’t do this in Catholic Land), saying amen out loud when they heard something that spoke to them (we also never do this in Catholic Land). This was all so new, scary and yet so refreshing. I felt alive again! I still do!

I am not drinking the kool-aid as they say. But I finally get that this new endeavor isn’t for me, but yet it was for the old me! I want people to come into AFUMC and feel the way I felt, whether they go to vinebranch, traditional, Sunday school class or even just an event on our campus. I know this will only make our place of worship better and I am so very excited for the future.

30 Is The New 20…Right?

So I haven’t written in a long time. And I certainly do not know what direction I want this blog to go in anymore. So here is my heart, here is me.

My life journey has been quite interesting despite only being on this earth for 30 years. Since celebrating this new decade this month it’s been interesting none the less. Here is a roundup of life lately.

  • I am officially an MBA student concentrating in Human Resources Management
  • I am 30 and with that comes a lot of “time is ticking” yes biological clock talks from friends, strangers, doctors and the like. The answer hasn’t changed it’s a no go on kiddos!
  • My pain has been my consistent loyal friend
  • I started Financial Peace University with Dave Ramsey and love it!
  • We are totally strapped when it comes to our finances due to all my medical issues. But God will prevail
  • I see more doctor’s and specialist’s than I care to admit, hoping they will give me some type of relief.
  • I have been in deep denial about my pain/energy levels and food allergies, because I still want to find someone to tell me oh no you are fine this is all hogwash! Do this and you will be cured!
  • Despite all this I am truly happy and very lucky for such a supportive husband/friends/family.
  • I still have good and bad days mostly bad for now BUT I have faith that will change
  • I vow to do everything I can to “get better” because I have no other choice, it’s too painful otherwise.
  • My faith has been stronger than ever despite having to be a Disciple II dropout (due to school)

I am praying for patience. I am praying for acceptance. I am praying for grace.

kneel

The Life of a Kairos Volunteer

If you have ever been to a retreat the format for Kairos is very similar. You have a meet and greet, lots of talks and then discussions throughout the whole weekend. Not to down play it, these are all very powerful and precious moments but not giving away details of the weekend! My particular job was a table servant, therefore I was not part of the discussions with the participants. I was a bit bummed because I wanted to really get to know these women on a more personal level and see them react to the talks. But each role on Kairos is very important.

Luckily I worked with previous participants of another Kairos weekend. At first I will admit I was a little uncomfortable. I kept thinking, they must hate me. Here I am some privileged Christian lady from a swanky town who is trying to save souls. I truly thought this is how we were being perceived.  I am sure some thought this, if not many. It was like the first day at a new job. We sat down asked where they were from, married, kids etc…They asked us all the same questions. It was surprisingly normal. And we laughed. Oh my goodness did we laugh. So much so we were told a few times to keep it down. There was no us versus them. There was no elevated status. The only difference between us versus them was the clothes we were wearing. Which by the way it khaki is the new black not orange! I looked forward to seeing “my girls” each morning and get the day started. I may not have been at a table but I got to serve with the best of the best.

These women were some of the most hard working people I have ever seen. It was beautiful to see them want this weekend to be the best one ever for these ladies. For instance, we had a makeshift wall that separated us from the participants in the gym. We needed this so we wouldn’t disrupt the talks/discussions while we were prepping food etc…Each day we came in a new configuration was created to make the wall a little more stable and pleasing to the eye. We got a boombox another day and GIANT fans the next. They took great pride in their work and helping us feel comfortable.

Here is my take away. These women were just like you and me. They are mothers, wives, sisters, aunts, teachers, supervisors, grandmothers and daughters…daughters of God. Some told you what they are in for some did not. Regardless, I had their names, I looked up each one and found out what they were in for. Guess what? It still didn’t change how I felt about them. This was a big fear for me. Will I still love these women even if I knew they may have done something terrible? The answer God provided a resounding YES!

I saw so many beautiful souls who needed love. Some who may have NEVER felt loved until the Kairos weekend. Even some who grew up in loving homes and took the wrong turn.

People say I am a saint for doing this ministry. I don’t do it for sainthood. I am a sinner just like everyone else. I do it because I have love to give. God shows me the path and I am finally starting to listen to him. He gave me ears to listen, a mouth to share His word and a heart to share love. Prisoners are someones loved ones and if not here on earth they are God’s. I am their sister in Christ and they are my sisters in Christ.

I do this because in the bible it states “For I was hungry, and you gave Me something to eat; I was thirsty, and you gave Me something to drink; I was a stranger, and you invited Me in; naked, and you clothed Me; I was sick, and you visited Me; I was in prison, and you came to Me.” Matthew 25: 35-36

I am anticipating going to grad school which will prevent me from serving on a team for a bit. I cannot wait to go back to prison and see God’s work first hand.

The Day I Walked Into Prison

After a month I am ready to write about my experience in prison. Why did it take me so long? Well it was a lot to process and was life changing, not to be over dramatic. This will be in a series of posts as no one wants to read really long blog posts.

To set the scene let’s start from the beginning. The retreat weekend is called Kairos, it is similar to A Walk to Emmaus. Kairos is a Greek term meaning “God’s special time” as I get asked often what does Kairos mean. We enter the prison on Thursday evening and do not leave until Sunday afternoon. We do not stay at the prison overnight but retreat to the “outside” to our comfy hotel beds or in my case a fellow team members house (which was even more comfy of a bed, she has the sweetest husband, oh and two dogs).

The week leading up to the weekend was horrendous. I was having the worst fibro flair up of my life. I never experienced anything like it. The pain was excruciating, the exhaustion unimaginable and I really lost hope. I even thought about having to back out of the weekend. How could I walk into a prison, being the hands and feet of Jesus when I just wanted to give up on my own life (not in a suicidal sense but a screw it sense). I couldn’t bring my personal crap into this weekend, it wasn’t about me it was about these women. But I was broken, anxiety stricken (I have horrible social anxiety) and just done.

Not knowing how the weekend was supposed to go, or what my job was, or where we were even going or anything else for that matter caused a lot of anxiety and did not help the flair up. My mantra was just roll with it, I must have said that a million times but my inner control freak would not back down. Regardless, I couldn’t back out it would be selfish and too be honest I spent a lot of time prepping for this weekend.

I picked up a fellow team member and two hours later we arrived at the hotel. We gathered together, said a prayer and off we went. Small town Georgia, farms (particularly chicken farms) old run down buildings and a lot of green space with no traffic. A shock to the city girl in me. I had this trance like feel over me. As if I never saw a cow before, I don’t know it just all was very sensational to me. As we are driving through these country roads we turn to the road for the prison.

I was expecting some monster of a concrete building, with tall towers, armed guards and barbed wire…lot’s of barbed wire. Well I did get one image right, there was a lot of barbed wire but no guards with machine guns, no tall towers and a dinky little concrete building. It reminded me of where my husband used to drill out of in Rehoboth, MA. This small, weird looking eggshell color of a building (thanks Hollywood for ruining my image of scary prison)

When we gathered in the parking lot everyone was really loud and acting as if they were walking into your local Starbucks. I didn’t know what to do, I felt like I needed to be quite and almost solemn. We were walking into a prison after all. We had to attend DOC (Department of Corrections) training before we interacted with the inmates. It was pretty standard and while we shuffled from room to room the inmates were exceptionally nice to us. I didn’t know whether to smile or say hello, but luckily they showed me what I needed to do, be a polite human being. What a novel idea!

I Am Going To Prison

Yeah you read that right. I Just Melinda is going to prison. What did I do you ask…well that is rule number one you don’t ask someone who has a loved one in jail or someone who is in jail why or what they did.

Honestly, I didn’t do anything I am voluntarily going to prison for a ministry called Kairos. It’s a 3 1/2 day weekend retreat (kind of like Walk to Emmaus) for Whitworth State Prison. Whitworth is a women’s medium security state prison. Almost every Saturday for the past three months I have been driving to Jefferson Georgia for training. But why?

How in the world did I get involved in this?

Why would you do this?

Who would do this?

Aren’t you afraid?

Don’t you have better things to do with your time than hang out with prisoners?

They did the crime they need to do the time, your wasting your efforts.

I don’t want you to become disillusioned, or have the wool pulled over your eyes. (This comment makes me laugh considering I can smell BS a mile away)

These are several very human reactions when I tell people what I am doing

I guess it all started when I started to watch Orange Is The New Black. I also read the book and became aware of some of the conditions of our penal system. However, did not feel like there was much I could do about it. I am not some fancy lawyer. What could I really do.

At some point my heart changed toward criminals. So there was a bible study being conducted by my Reverend and decided to go. It also said something about a prison ministry. My initial intention was for the bible study but I became increasingly interested in this Karios prison ministry.

This is a God thing. He said go and I actually listened. The angels in heaven were all singing “HALLELUJAH”. I didn’t even ask why, protest or come up with an excuse, I just went. Then I just signed up for more information and the rest is history.

I have not a clue what I am going to truly experience spending roughly 34 hours with these women inmates. I am not sure what exactly I am going to be giving these women either. My plan is our motto in Kairos which is Listen, Listen, Love Love.

Our Kairos team for Whitworth #1 is a group of some amazing godly women. Ones I hope to learn from. Ones who I have become friends with. Like one of them has told me “We are really just one bad decision made that is separating “us” from “them”.

Check out this video (yes it’s long but worth it) of another prison program which involves puppies…Yes prison and puppies think of “Little Boo” in OITNB. http://cell.littlethings.com/leader-dogs-blind-prison/?utm_source=VRC&utm_medium=Facebook&utm_campaign=animals