Wednesday, November 19, 2014

When It's Not a Fairy Tale Ending...

"You left and you never came back."

Those were the words whispered to me as I laid on a hard bed in a dimly lit house filled with random people and stroked the hair of a former student who was coming down off a trip on an unknown drug.

About four months ago my heart pounded as I heard, "Ms. Morgan...it's me," on the other end of the phone line. It was the voice of a former student in Atlanta who had run away and been missing for several months. I had done everything I could to try and find her via internet research on facebook, twitter and instagram. I sent messages to people on her contact list asking them to please have her call me. She had blocked me because I think she knew I would not stop trying to find her. I did everything short of going to Atlanta and driving the streets myself. Eventually she decided to come home and she called to let me know. Her plan was to start Job Corp. She sounded good. She sounded happy. She sounded like the girl I once knew. The one who had a dream.

We talked a few more times but I had not heard from her in about a month or two. I was in Atlanta this past weekend and decided to visit some of the students we had worked with before moving back to Savannah. I called this particular students house and the grandmother who takes care of all of her grandchildren proceeded to tell me that several of her grandkids were "going crazy" and she didn't know what to do with them. She told me that her granddaughter previous mentioned had not started Job Corp, had run away again and just come back recently. She had come in that afternoon speaking nonsense and acting crazy because she was "on something" and was currently sleeping it off. When I asked about her grandson she told me he was in jail awaiting trial for a robbery, but the adult he was with when committing the crime had received 15-20 years. Her grandson is only 13. My heart ached. Why? Why were these kids running hard and fast toward crime, danger, wrecklessness? The laughter and memories we had shared ran through my head. I told the grandmother I was on my way.

I pulled up in front of a house I had been to many times. Several of the siblings greeted me with hugs and smiles. As I walked in the door the only light in the house was that of the TV screen. I could barely make out the faces of those I knew and there was a girl passed out on the couch. I squinted to see if it was my girl. One of the other kids directed me to the back bedroom and said "she" was asleep on the bed. There was an old man sitting in a chair next to the bed watching a football game. I've always seen him but he never speaks. I excused myself as I squeezed past him and gently settled on the bed next to the student whom I have prayed, ached and cried for many times over the past 3 years. I started stroking her hair gently to let her know I was there.

"Ms. Morgan?"

 - "Yes honey...it's me."

(sigh)

 - "What are you doing sweetheart?"

"I don't even know. I don't know what I took. Is there a girl on the couch?"

 - "Yes. She is asleep."

"Oh man. I thought she would be gone."

 - "Sweet girl. I've been so worried about you."

"You left and you never came back."

 - "Oh but I did, but when I came back you were gone...you had run away. I told you even though we moved I would always be here. I'm here now"

(She looked up and started stroking my hair)
"I guess people go their seperate ways, We thought we were never gonna hear from you. But you were the only one that called.. Yeah....I know you were looking for me too. My friends told me."

-"Do you know why I do what I do today?"

"Why?"

-"Because of you. You were the first dreamer. Everytime I see a student now, I think of you. What happened to your dreams?"

(she sat upright on the bed)
"I don't know. I'm about to get really mad."

-"Why? At who?"

"At myself. Why did I let myself get to this point? I don't even know why I'm doing what I'm doing."

-"It's never too late sweet girl. I believe in you. You are talented. Beautiful. You have SO much ahead of you, but you have to choose it. It's not easy, but it's worth it. Let's go get some fresh air."

We stepped outside and stood by my car and talked awhile longer. I looked up to see a teenager standing in the window of the abandoned house across the street throwing up gang signs and then causing the sounds of a taser shock. My girl said, "oooo I should have beat him yesterday, he's always standing over there with a gun in his pants acting all cool."

I took a deep breathe and gave her a hug and told her I would be back in a few weeks to check on her.
She asked me if she could come back to Savannah with me. I told her she had to start making some wise choices and get off the drugs before she came home with me but we could revisit the conversation later.

I drove home with another girl who we have walked through the fire with and thankfully come out the other side. Through a cracked voice and tear brimmed eyes I said, "I'm proud of you." She said, "Why, Mama Morgan?"  I replied with..."I just am. Papa Glenn and I are so proud of you."

I dreamed of being able to say that to the student whom I'd just left coming off of her high, praying that there was a next time to be able to say it.

It reiterated to me how important it is for these kids to have a consistent and  positive someone in their life.  It reminded me of the power of prayer and how I need to be on my face before God on their behalf daily. It reminded me that I am not a savior to anyone and that only the true Savior can create a life change that they need.

Not every story is a fairy tale ending, but showing up, reminding them of what they can not see and keeping hope alive is sometimes all you can do and leave it in God's hands.




Wednesday, November 5, 2014

When the Adrenaline Runs Out and You're Left With, "No, I'm Not Okay."

Remember that time recently when I smiled and said, "I'm fine, everything is great" .....?

I was probably lying. Forgive me.

I feel like I live in this tension of making life and what we do "happy, happy, joy, joy" for supporters and the community (because who wants to support a complainer)  and on other days, the desire to scream "THIS IS SO FREAKING HARD AND LONELY AND MAY I PLEASE QUIT?!"(And when I attempt to, I usually go back and delete my comment or status).

Last night  I found myself spilling out my gut wrenching feelings to a few ladies and I was met with the unexpected..."What can I do? How can I help? I'm glad I know how to pray. Thank you for sharing the hard stuff because it makes you and what you do more human."

And oh how human I am. So I'm practicing real on my blog today.

I sent my husband a text message yesterday that said, "Can we please move to St. Augustine? I'll give red train tours and you can give boat tours." I was only half joking. 

Running....far away. It's what I want to do sometimes. The above came after a few very stressful weeks of ministry, failed attempts at self-care, no defined boundaries in a ministry of crisis care to kids and watching myself slide over the edge.

In so many ways we parent kids on a daily basis: we provide food, clothes, tutoring, emotional support, and sometimes....I forget that they are not my kids. I love them fiercely and worry about them, pray for them, laugh and cry with them. When they get sassy or disrespectful...it hurts. It hurts because I can't really discipline and I'm not talking about spanking or anything physical (I would never...), but I can't follow through on the needed ways to show them that there are consequences. So what did I do last week when a girl I have mentored for over a year and invested everything into reponded in a completely disrespectful and sassy way? I had a mom moment. I took my finger tips and turned her chin towards me and said, "look at me when I'm talking to you." Eye contact.....they refuse to make it but I needed her to not only hear me but see me. She took the opportunity that I've always feared and so carefully avoided  in dealing with kids. She laughed in my face and then started saying, "Did you see her try to choke me?" REALLY? ARE YOU KIDDING ME!?!?!?!  It was also met by my realization that only her siblings and cousins were around to back up her story. So,  I spent the next 48 hours in complete fear, envisioning my life in prison (probably an overreaction and convinced myself there was no way I would survive it), wondering when were the cops were going to come haul me in for something I did not even do. The fear was real. I have never in my life felt that kind of intense anxiety. I finally went over to their house to face the fear head on and was met with smiles like nothing ever happened. (again...REALLY?!?) 

This came on the same week that we had four other kids coming to shower and do laungry at our house because they had no running water and their electricity was set to be shut off at any moment (This has since been taken care of), but every day for a week and a half the mom called me in desperation about her situation and scared DFCS was going to come and take her kids away and what could I do? This also met by trying to help the kids shower and do laundry on the down low because kids can be cruel, even if they may be facing the same thing.

Incarnational Ministry. I'm still trying to figure it out. How do we live in the midst of our community and be a light and safe place and still have boundaires. I think we are often seen as a local ministry or non profit, but we have always considered ourself full time missionaries more than anything, because we are IN IT 24/7, It was manageable with 12 kids, but now there are more like 45-50 and their families. Estabilishing boundaries and expectations with parents we are helping is tough. When the expectations are ignored, we have to follow through on the tough conversations and the consequences that go with them except they don't just effect the parents, it effects the whole family.

Supporting kids without enabling parents....it will always be the biggest struggle.

So....for those who say, "I don't know how you do it..." Neither do I. Only by the grace of God becaues in my humanness..I am simply that. Human. I feel all of the emotions. All of the frustation. All the worry. All the exhaustion. Some days....all the desire to run.  But I know we are in this place and situation for a reason. God is daily refining me to become more like Christ and in this context is where He is doing the sifting and refining. 

This was my scary post. The one where I say..."I do not have it all together, I am not superhuman."  And while I can let my mind run wild with all of the thoughts people may have, this is my truth.
 My real. No one elses. 

When I'm going through these moments, my first reaction is to reach out because its what I know I need. My second reaction follows very quickly in that I withdraw because even though its what I need, I don't want to put out the energy that comes with engaging. Been there?

So people who ask, "how can I help? What can I do?" I'm REALLY good at asking for others, here's my attempt at personal requests: (I'm going to bet this goes for any missionary friends!) So here is my: How to love on a full-time missionary list:

1. Pray. Not a cop out answer. Jesus is the only one who can sustain us and He is the provider of all things both materially and spiritually so in all seriousness, PLEASE add us to your prayer list. We need prayer warriors daily.

2. Love on us.  I cringe as I even write those words because I am a giver to a fault. Accepting, even though I have to, is hard. God has made it so that we literally survive each day on the generosity of others so I'm having to learn to speak what I need. Invite us to have dinner with your family.  Ask us to coffee. Treat us to a movie or concert. Send us a quick text, email or card in the mail that simply says, "Thinking of You." You have no idea how the little things sometimes get us through the hard days. The only way we truly get to breathe is to leave the neighborhood. Shutting the door to the House of Dreams does not work. If they know we are there, the knocking will not ever stop. So if you have a vacation home that is sitting empty somewhere and wouldn't mind allowing us to get away for a few days....it is so amazing to change the atmophere and reconnect. Pastors get sabbaticals and we are going to start scheduling some regular time out of the neighborhood in order to be sustained for the long haul.


3. Spread the Word. The best way for others to know about the ministry in our community is for you to tell them. Share our website. Invite us to speak at your church or business event. We WILL travel. The more people who know, the more people can be involved, the more lives we can impact, and the better resourced we will be to carry out the call. We sometimes think we are one of Savannah's best kept community secrets, but we want to change that. An ad about The Dream Campaign is on pg 158 of the Oct/Nov issues of Savannah Magazine. If you find yourself in doctors office, open it up to that page and leave it there ;)

4. Give as you can or feel led.  It's just a fact that we can only do what we do because God's people are generous. We have gone from 10-12 students weekly in the beginning of the year to closer to 45-50 now. If they all showed up at one time we'd probably have 75-80 kids in our yard for youth group. We are at a point where we could run after school programs and summer programs, but we need space and staff. That stuff costs money. We have our eye on a piece of property by the House of Dreams where we dream of building a center that could house youth group on the cold and rainy days and provide a space big enough to contain our entire group of kids for community programs. We are also trusting God that we can start receiving a directors salary this next year. Up to this point we have received no salary for running the Dream Campaign because it is what we felt the Lord leading us to do to get it up and running. We would love to be able to rent a little house in our neighborhood that is the Paddock Home where we can shut the door at night while still being a part of the community and keep the House of Dreams for strictly ministry space. One time gifts and monthly sponsorships are so greatly appreciated. Pray about being a part of our ministry financially. If God directs you in that manner, you can find the "Donate" button on our website: www.helpmedream.org  
All donations are tax deductible.



Thank you for reading and hearing my heart. Please hear me when I say I LOVE where we are and what we do. Just keepin it real ;)

Blessings, 
Morgan

Friday, October 17, 2014

In All Things

Sometimes we need the reminder that "In all Things...God works"..... Sometimes it is obvious and sometimes it feels like He is behind the scenes but He. Is. There.

Wednesday morning started off as most mornings....I was planning to work from the coffee shop while Glenn homeschooled at The House of Dreams.  Just as I was about to leave, I received a phone call from one of the student's moms asking if I could bring her a piece of paperwork to the Department of Family and Child Services. Her food stamps had been cut off because she was working more hours and no longer needed unemployment but there had been some sort of snafu between DFCS and Dept of Labor and her benefits were terminated. What started off as dropping off a piece of paper resulted in a 6 hour adventure with this mom taking us back and forth between the two places no less than 4 times. For the most part, I just chauffered and stayed in the car, but when we were sent back to the Department of Labor for the third time with the SAME exact instructions..I decided to go in to keep the frazzeled mom calm. What I witnessed frustrated me to my core. I was treated completely differently and met with a desire to help me get to the bottom of the issue. The fact that the mom saw this made it even worse. I know that she was frustrated and may not have been as kind after being told the same thing over and over again, but I can't blame her. She depends on bus transportation and would have had to go back and forth on a bus to two different parts of the city and would never have gotten the answer she needed. Just before they closed they decided to finally accept the paperwork that they declined in the beginning of the day and reinstatment of benefits was promised in 48 hours. We had the opportunity to talk about how Satan likes to try and discourage us and make us feel defeated...especially when we are doing the right things and receiving the blessings of doing that. She was  in a panic because her daughters birthday was the following day and she needed the food stamps to help with food for her party. I immediately put out the call for supporters to help throw her little 2 year old the best Minnie Mouse birthday party she could have to take that stress off of her shoulders. I assured her that God knew long before that moment that she would be in that position and He had already put others in the position to help. Within hours we had a cake, a grocery gift card, presents, decorations. And this was the most precious result!




The same week we spent time with another sweet girl who we treated to pizza one afternoon. While at the restaurant we asked her what her dreams were. She quickly went into a very animated discussion about wanting to go to Africa to feed the hungry children and how many she could bring them clothes.

On the way home we heard this sweet small voice in a whisper....as we listened we realized she was praying, "Dear God..please let me go to Africa to be a missionary." Bless!

There is one particular family that I have probably spent more time laboring over in prayer than others. The kids are involved in our ministry but I've had very little interaction with the parent. It seemed as though every time I would reach out to her and try to meet, she would either cancel or never come outside. Partnering with parents is the absolute best case scenario so that we can work together to set their child up for success. Recently this mom reached out to me and asked me for a workbook about Jesus. I purchased one for her and offered to meet with her and her older daughter weekly to discuss it. She agreed. I got up this morning, fully expecting her to cancel yet again but instead..for the first time ever she and her adult daughter got in my car and was very excited to meet.
We went to the local IHOP where I bought them breakfast and for an hour we talked about stress and worry and what God's Word says. I helped them come up with a Bible reading plan for this week. We prayed together and she expressed how thankful she was for what we were doing with her kids and to PLEASE keep doing it.


Y'all.....GOD IS GOOD. He is never late. He hears our prayers. He sees needs. He wants to show up and meet them in unexpected ways. He loves to see his church mobilized to carry each others burdens in whatever way that looks like at the time. And personally.....we are so thankful. Thank you for praying with us, showing up and meeting the needs we express. This is such a fun story to be a part of.

Blessings.



Monday, October 13, 2014

Flipping the Switch

The past 24 hours of ministry have felt much like an episode of the Twilight Zone.

I returned home at 8 pm Monday night from an amazing weekend retreat, where I led worship. Satan had been on my heels leading all the way up to the retreat....health issues, pulled back, etc. I think he knew God was winning that battle and sat on my doorstep waiting for me to return.

Before I could even get the car into park, I noticed a few neighborhood kids wrestling around in the empty lot across the street. I rolled down my window, yelled out the name of a kid I recognized. I got out of the car as he rounded the corner walking away from me. I called out his name again and asked him to come and speak to me to which he yelled out an emphatic "NO!" This caught me completely off guard as this is a young boy who is always SO polite and filled with kindness towards me. I finally got him to meet me in the middle of the street and he was all out of sorts. He started telling me I needed to give him a backpack buddy, or a plate a food. He started demanding chips or cookies. Then he started growling and grunting at me. I was in a complete state of shock......completely lost as to what was happening. He was all but foaming at the mouth, waving his arm around and walking in circles. I asked him if there was someone expecting him at home since it was 8 pm on a school night. He grunted and said, "no." Then he took off down the street. I could not stop him. I did not know exactly where he lived and I worried the rest of the night. I called the school counselor and left a message with my concern and asked her to please check on him today.

This afternoon the same little boy was playing basketball in my backyard. I called him over again and this time he approached me as he normally does. Kind and smiling. I looked him in the eye and said, "Were you on something last night?" He looked away. "What were you on? I know the difference between normal and crazy and you were crazy last night." He finally said, "yes Ma'am. Someone gave me a pill to take and it made me crazy. I don't know what it was." Thankful that he was at least honest with me but terrified at the reality, I explained how dangerous it was and how things like that could LITERALLY kill him. I made him look me in the eye and promise me he would NEVER take things like that again. I can't know that he meant it when he uttered the commitment not to, but it started the conversation. THIS is what we have always had an awareness of in theory and feared for the kids we work with, but have never actually experienced it until today. Glenn was able to get him to tell him the area in which he received this drug but we know he will never tell us who.....but we know from the corner that it is a high gang/drug traffic area.  It's probably good that I personally do not exactly know because there is a high chance that I would have already marched myself over there, put my finger in someone's chest with a clear message and ended up dead or in jail. (Although my husband may be a Gang intervention/prevention specialist.....I did not receive that training and it was all mama bear coming out in me).

Last week Glenn and I had to pull two girls off of each other who were fighting in the middle of the street after school and who left remains of their hair in the intersection......simply because one of them said, "I wanna fight you." 

It's the simple flick of a switch. It's that moment when you are faced with yes or no, accept or reject, hit or walk away. There is no dimmer on this light....the anger doesn't build, it explodes. There is always regret, always remorse, always understanding after the fact. Most of the time there are tears that lead to more tears that uncover the deep seeded anger and hurt that is at the root of these episodes.  We are working hard to build relationships with parents. There are a handful that I have come to call friends and neighbors. We are working together to help their children succeed, but with 75-100 different kids in our yard over the course of this year......there are so many that I only know for hanging out here, but have never met a parent or even know where they live. (We are working on rectifying this slowly but surely).

It's easy to get caught up in the Twilight Zone moments like last night and think, "what the heck is happening? What can we possibly do? This is incredibly overwhelming!" I was there for a  couple of hours last night. Then today happened. I received a text message from two of our girls that said, "can we please hang out with you tonight?" I couldn't say no. I MISSED being with our kids these past few days. When I pulled up to their front door, the younger sister jumped in the car and immediately wrapped her arms around my neck telling me how much she missed me. The older sister got in and did the same thing and said I can never leave again. lol But then they wanted to know if I had a good time on my retreat....in fact.....all of the kids have asked about where I was and what I was doing and I get to share about it. I treated the girls to dinner and then headed to the Christian bookstore to get them the next book in their series....one sister is starting her 8th BOOK in 2.5 weeks. The younger sister is starting her 3rd and struggles with reading but she is trying so hard. We picked up a journal for young girls with questions about God that we are going to work on together. I picked up another book to read through with another little girl who is asking a lot of questions about becoming a Christian and getting baptized.

But...the main reason we were at that store tonight was because their mom sent me a text message last week and asked me if I would get her a workbook about Jesus. I knew she was going through a lot and so I picked out a women of faith workbook about worry and stress. I wrote a little note in it and sent it home with the girls. See...this is a mom who I have been praying for about a year and a half. I've only had two very short interactions with her. I've tried to meet with her on several occasions but she always canceled or refused to meet with me. I received a text for her tonight thanking me for the book and I decided to bite the bullet and take my chances by sending this reply: "You are so welcome. If you'd like, I'd love to get the same workbook and maybe we could meet once a week and talk about it." She AGREED to start meeting with me every Friday and even said we could meet in her home if I wanted to. I'm telling you, Glenn was outside at the fire pit doing his weekly Men's Bible study and he got an ALL CAPS LOCK text from me! I  was all but on the floor with shock and excitement.

God is working. God is good. HE is working, moving and stirring the hearts of our students, their parents and our community. I DO believe that we will see change. I DO believe that these students will rise to the occasion and become LEADERS of GOOD in our community. I DO believe that parents will become more invested and we will see an awakening of God and revival.

PRAYER WORKS. MENTORNG WORKS.

PLEASE continue to pray for the ministry and the work God is doing. Pray for protection of these innocent children and that God would keep the enemy away from their precious hearts and hands. Pray for provision of resources and volunteers. For those of you who have been sowing into us in resources and prayers, I wanted you to know that the enemy is alive and well but the battle belongs to the Lord and HE is victorious.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Interrupted

It was a monumental moment when a local government funded agency approached us about providing The Dream Campaign in one of its local neighborhoods. We never expected that we would get the opportunity. We short changed God that HE could get us into anywhere he wanted. We worked on that project for almost a year. Meetings and paperwork. Waiting and Dreaming.
When we submitted our proposal we were very clear about the fact that we were a faith based organization. We submitted a sample of our lessons which is based on biblical leadership principles.
Everyone was accepting and excited. We moved our stuff into the community center, had sign ups and waited. And waited. And waited...

We were waiting on an MOU for the building use agreement. I was quite dismayed when I opened the attachment to read that we could not pray, have devotionals, talk about God, etc. It essentially said, "come offer your program, but don't do your program." The only thing that had been mentioned to that point was that we couldn't put bible verses on the walls since the building may be used for other things. I emailed them back and said, "I can't sign this...I can't be something I'm not and I've been upfront from day 1."

They scheduled a conference call and with great regret and heartfelt apologies owned the fact that there was an oversight in the process. They assumed since parents were signing off their childs participation in a faith based organization it would be acceptable. The legal team that handles all of their paperwork informed them otherwise..."Separation of Church and State" stands.

There was sadness that this project we had invested so much time in had abruptly ended with absolutely no warning, but without knowing, it was actually an interruption that ushered a greater opportunity for us. 

What we did not know was that the ministry in our own backyard was going to double in size during the course of our "Wait." We did not know that the following week we would have 60% growth in students and a 150% growth in volunteers. Had the expansion of our ministry to an additional location happened when we were expectating, we would not have been prepared for the growth right where we are on a daily basis. We would have been stretched too thin and struggling to train and duplicate at a rate that would prove beneficial.

I say all of that to say that sometimes the interruptions in our life serve a much greater purpose than we can even fathom. I am a dreamer. A visionary. A creative. I am always looking forward and planning for the NEXT thing. Sometimes what God is doing is right where I am with what He has given me in that moment. Maybe there is a greater quality to what I can be doing now before expanding. Maybe the kids in our neighborhood need to be able to knock on our door on Tuesday and Thursday and know someone will answer...not be somewhere else. More is not always best. We are almost in a position where we can offer an after school program where we are. That was never on our radar, but our increase in activitiy and the need to personally reach each student personally almost makes it necessary. Sometimes growth means going deep before going wide.

Is there an area of your life that needs to go deep before going wide?

Do you seek for the opportunity in interruptions?

Learning to love the here and now,
Morgan

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Breaking the Silence on Ferguson: It Starts With Me.

For the past ten days, I have been watching the stories coming out of Ferguson, MO. I have watched the news stories, the live news feeds, read the blogs, followed #Ferguson on Twitter, paid attention to status updates on Facebook regarding the heinous things that are happening. I have done so silently. I typed a blog during the first few days from a place of anger but never hit publish. That anger turned to sadness, sadness to confusion, confusion to introspection, introspection to realization and the realization to finding my voice. I do not think I am alone in this. I have watched so many of my friends so wonderfully articulate their feelings in a call to justice while I sat numb, feeling like my voice had no place. This morning, my friend posted a rally cry with a collage of twitter updates asking the Caucasian community to speak up. They were all inviting and asking for our voice in the conversation. I'm breaking my silence.

I'm ashamed. 

I'm ashamed that after all these years racism is still alive. It is not only alive but it is rearing its ugly head in some of the most heartbreaking and infuriating ways. The side by side pictures that are surfacing of years past vs this past week look identical. This is the type of history that should not repeat itself. I'm ashamed that as a human race we are still having to learn lessons on respect, love and just down right dignity.

I'm angry.

I'm angry that the color of ones skin can directly affect and dictate the type of treatment they receive. I have wrestled all week with the phrase, "white privilege." I hate it. As much as an African American person hates being judged for their darker skin, I absolutely HATE the assumptions that come with my lighter skin. However....just because I hate it does not make it false. It angers me so much because there IS truth in it. It is a reality that devastates me, but one that I must leverage for good.

I'm sad.

I have looked at numerous pictures online and there is one of a lady looking at a camera and she is wearing the exhaustion and heartbreak on her face. It is an image I have not been able to shake. I am sad that a small number of people are choosing to respond with violence and looting. It is heartbreaking to see police using tear gas, tanks, batons, shields and guns. THIS IS AMERICA! There is no FREEDOM in those images. I'm sad that there are children holding signs that say, "Don't Shoot." Children. They are growing up with this as their reality and it is formative in these young minds.



I'm aware. 

I have started paying more attention to what people say or do not say regarding race. I have immersed myself in a community and a culture that is 95% African American. I can go an entire day without seeing another Caucasian person in my neighborhood. I have worked so hard to be accepted by my neighbors and for the most part, I think that I am. I am also aware that no matter how hard I listen, learn or try to understand. I will never be able to understand 100% the thoughts, feelings and issues they face due to their race and it's a gap that I feel every day. I have listened to peoples concerns for mine and my husbands safety because of where we live. Deep down I know those concerns would not be the same if we lived in a neighborhood filled with people of our same race.  I know that some people reading this will say, "Oh that's not true," and if that's you....sit on that for awhile. Think about it. Examine it. I had to as well.

I'm hopeful.

I was sixteen miles from Ferguson last week visiting a friend in St. Louis and I attended a community prayer gathering. It was one of the greatest pictures of Heaven I have ever seen. There were people from all walks of life and different races who came together in unity to pray for our communities. One of the pastors talked about how in the midst of such chaos we need to remember "the God who sees and will set everything right." That brought such comfort to me. Not only does God see what is happening as a whole, He sees each person individually where they are. He knows the depth of our sadness, anger, confusion. He sees the unanswered questions and the aches and groans that feel too deep for words.   I'm hopeful because I see peoples of various races coming together united in the midst of division. I see an invitation extended and people accepting. I see the church coming to the city and people standing on the front lines in a cry for change and justice. I'm hopeful because I see this starting to happen in our city as well. Families crossing neighborhood lines and watching children of different races playing together. This gives me hope. 

I'm learning.

Listening is something we all need to be doing right now. There are voices that need to be heard. There are books, blogs, stories that we all need to read. I want to know what is actually happening and how people really feel. I want to be able to take part in the conversation without appearing or actually being ignorant. I want to know the issues that my neighbors face. I want to go deeper in knowledge and in self reflection. I need to have an opinion. I need to educated in things that I do not understand. 

It is my problem.

This is not just something happening on the news somewhere else. This is not someone else's issue. This is my neighborhood. My community. My town. Any of the boys I work with could have been Mike Brown and I have a responsibility in making sure that does not become a reality. I can not change the thoughts and opinions of people in our entire country. My place is not at a peaceful protest in Ferguson, MO. My place is in a small neighborhood in Savannah, GA and a member of a large predominately caucasian church. I live in a city where I see segregation every day. I have a voice and I have an audience. You have a voice and you have an audience. What are you saying...or not saying?


I came across this quote  that sums it all up for me:

"Everybody thinks about changing humanity, 
nobody thinks about changing himself."

Leo Tolstoy

It starts with me.

Monday, August 11, 2014

When Home Isn't Home

I am thankful that I grew up in a family in which I always knew I had a home. It did not matter what I went through in my life, good or bad, I knew I could (and did) go home when needed. I was reminded today that is not the case for everyone.

We came to Chicago for Glenn to be nationally certified in gang intervention and prevention and gangs in K-12 schools. It has already been a phenomenal training and networking event but due to the cost, I could not attend with him. I thought that during the day I would work on some things for The Dream Campaign or sight see around Chicago. I have never really been anywhere like it. There are giant skyscrapers and people EVERYWHERE. Yesterday, I was walking back to the hotel from meeting up with Glenn and just scoping out the area for things to do and places to see. Our hotel sits in the middle of an area known as the Gold Coast which upon further research I discovered is one of the richest neighborhoods in the nation.  As I rounded the corner, I happened upon a young girl holding a sign, visibly homeless...tattered and dirty clothing. She held her sign in front of her with white knuckles so focused on the feet that walked by in front of her, not daring to make eye contact with those who probably had opinions of who she was and why she was sitting there.  I don't make it a habit of giving anyone money, but I did not have anything else on me and I felt a peace about giving her a few dollars. I knelt down beside her and said "Hi, I'm Morgan. What's your name?"  She replied very cautiously, "I'm Allie." She thanked me after I gave her a few dollars and I went on my way. The image of her sitting with thousands of people passing by her as if she were not even there stayed with me.

I decided to try and find the Walgreens this morning for a few needed items and took a different route than where I met Allie. On my way to the store, I passed by two homeless men. There is literally a homeless person on every corner in the area. I felt the uncomfortable feeling as I approached the cross walk and the ability to excuse myself to keep walking was quickly met by the hand telling me to stop. There I was right next to the man calling out for change. I felt myself becoming just like everyone else...."Don't make eye contact." I started to come up with reasons that I should not feel bad about acknowledging him. He seemed totally out of it. Maybe he was drunk or high. I did not feel good about giving him money like the day before. I felt his eyes bearing down on me and my eyes stayed fixed on the blinking hand. My feet promptly moved across the street at the first sign of "go." I did not get more than 2 feet into the street when I heard, "Morgan, what if that was Jesus?" Remorse and guilt enveloped me as I realized I had just done what I speak against to everyone else. How easily I blended in to my surroundings. That same voice said, "give a cup of cold water."

I put my needed items up on the counter to check out and added a few extra bottles of water. I went back to the man on the corner and said, "Hello sir, this is for you." He looked at the bottle of water and slowly reached out to retrieve it from my hand. He looked shocked and glanced up at me as he said, "Thank You."
I walked to meet Glenn during his lunch break and passed another man with a sign that said he had been homeless for two months.  Another well dressed man held a cardboard sign expressing that he needed work as a handyman. I felt like I was moving in slow motion suddenly noticing the need surrounding me. I approached the intersection where I had met Allie the day before and there she sat, head down, any ounce of dignity drained from her face. I called out, "Hey Allie!" She looked up scanning the crowd until her eyes met mine. I wondered how long it had been since she had heard her name called out loud. She smiled. I told her I was going to meet up with my husband but I would be back shortly. I assured Glenn over lunch that I was not going to bring her back to our hotel or follow her anywhere. He made me convince him. He knows me well.

I had not read her sign the first time I met her but this time as I walked up I read the words scribbled out on the cardboard, "Homeless. Stuck in Chicago. Vegetarian." along with some other things. Next to her was a little pocket book with the words, "Trust in Jesus" written across the top. I decided to start off our conversation by asking her how long she had been a vegetarian and why she took that stance. She told me all about how she loved animals and hated how they were treated so it was more out of a conviction for their well being. She told me she was 20 years old and I asked her about being stuck in Chicago.  I asked her where home was and she replied, "Cincinnati, OH..but things at home are not good...it's not really home." I told her about how Glenn and I met working at a homeless shelter and she seemed to relax a little more. I asked her if she was here with anyone else and she told me about her boyfriend and how they sleep outside next to the church around the corner. I asked her what she really needed. She said, "What do you mean?" I explained that I realize people may give her change here and there but if she could walk in a store right now and get something, what would it be? She immediately said, "shampoo and conditioner" as she started stroking her hair...."Especially conditioner." I asked her if she needed socks and she said, "OH YES!" and whispered, "and underwear." She explained that a bus pass would be really nice but the card itself was $5 she had not gotten one. I told her I would be back in a few minutes.

I passed by the bus tour kiosks on the way to the store and watched the double decker buses drive by filled with tourists taking in the sights. That had been the one thing I wanted to do while I was here but I knew that money would be better spent helping a young 20 year old girl feel seen that day. I walked through the aisles trying to pick out things she would need and a few things she would want. I grabbed a few fresh fruit and veggies as a treat for a vegetarian. I passed by my new homeless friends on the way and said hello and I could see Allie smile as I started my way across the street. I knew that it was more than just a bag with some needed items. It was a someone doing what they said they were going to do. Seeing her. Hearing her. Her boyfriend had joined her and I introduced myself and shook his hand. He was very kind and appreciative. She looked through the bags and kept saying "Thank you." I handed her the bus card loaded with enough money for them to have 10 trips. You would have thought it was Christmas morning. I felt myself choke up a bit and she and her boyfriend exchanged smiles and conversations about what that could mean for them. I told her I'd be in town a few more days and would come back tomorrow to hang out and chat for a bit., I plan to ask her what her dreams are.

Some may read this and think that I'm talking about "what I did" for someone today. It's quite the opposite. It is more of a confession of the fact that even in the midst of what we do for a living, I can find myself putting on blinders to the hurt around me. It's easy to walk by and ignore. It's easier to come up with excuses or reasons why someone does not need or deserve your help. I just want to ask the questions, "What if home wasn't home? What if you hit a hard time and the very people you thought you could turn to weren't there? How many of us could be Allie?"

I'm thankful that God gave me the reminder today that my selfishness still needs work and that He Loves.
I pray that God continues to prune me and break my heart for what breaks his.
God, help me to see and to always be willing to give a cup of cold water.
Help me always stop long enough to look someone in the eye and call them by name.

Would you remember Allie and Frank in your prayers tonight?


Monday, July 28, 2014

The Aftermath

There are very few things that get my heart racing more than to get a news alert of a shooting on a street where our students live a couple of miles away. My fingers rapidly fly to discover more information and to make sure that everyone is safe. Last night was one of the worst.

I had been in a missions meeting and did not get cell phone service until I reached my car. My phone dinged with news of a triple shooting. Crime has been up in our city. This made 14 shootings in the beautiful city of Savannah. There has been much talk of heat playing a role and although the heat makes me feel crazy, I don't believe it is capable of pulling a trigger. Sadly, statistically it is true. 

Once I confirmed that our students were all inside and ok I began researching what happened and exactly where. The news stations all had different information. The only thing I really had to go on was that the live news report was given in front of a memorial (from a previous shooting victim) right across the street from our students house.

Today we took the students out to lunch to process and talk through things. As we pulled onto their street we noticed that an often active and present community had taken on the form of a ghost town. No one outside and it was eerily quiet. As we approached the front of their home all that remained of last nights events was a small crumpled up piece of caution tape left behind in a yard. 

The second the students got in the car they started talking a mile a minute. My head was trying to keep up with all of the information they were throwing out. There was an altercation between men right in front of their house. The next thing you know there were gun shots.  A stray bullet hit the metal frame of the living room window only missing the window pain for kids were on the other side watching television on a hot summer afternoon. Chaos filled the living room as everyone ran for cover. One teenager was down the street when he heard the shots and watched as people who were shot tried to run from the shooter. One of the victims fell nearby as the shooters sped away. As we left the neighborhood they were trying  to point out where there was still blood on the street and sidewalk.  My mind was foggy as I tried to process the information. 

As we were walking into the restaurant the 10 year old nudged her way under my left arm and I pulled her close in a hug. When we sat down at the table, she wrapped her arms around my arm and put her head on my shoulder. She simply wanted to be held. She told me about how she was scared to go to sleep after the shooting. Cops and news crews filled her front yard for hours. Collectively, they expressed their fear to live there.  A family member said, "if we have ONE more shooting, we're outta here." I could not help but pray that it would not take one more. This is the second shooting that has taken place in front of their home in the past year. They have become prisoners of their own home for fear of what happens outside their door. I'm sure they will reconsider sitting in front of a window in their own living room for awhile. A time of simply relaxing and watching cartoons is now met with the lingering thoughts of bullets possibly invading their space. There are no counselors coming to help the neighborhood kids and families process these things. It is fear that plants a seed in them. Fear makes you angry. Fear makes you nervous. Fear keeps you from sleeping. It is the exact opposite of what children should be experiencing. 

Last night as I was reading comments under the news report on the local stations Facebook page, I became so frustrated at people's reactions to chock it up as "another one bites the dust" and "let them just kill each other off." There were more than enough "if we had better police patrol" comments.... Pointing the finger at any possible object of blame. 

I can't help but feel like the problem is actually ours. This is not a certain neighborhoods problem. This isn't a race problem. This is JUST a police problem. It is a "love thy neighbor" problem. 

The places where crime is high are the places where we need to be standing in the gap and I don't just mean in prayer. We need men to challenge men and women to encourage women. We need adults to mentor these youth who are watching this and following in the footsteps of a life of crime. Yet, these are places we avoid and cast off as someone else's problem. Crime is selfish. These people causing the problems.... are selfish. There are a lot of kids just like the ones we spent time with today that are living in the aftermath of violence with confusion, fear and the need to seek protection (which often comes in the form of gangs).... because this is real life. Who has their back when the bullets fly? It sometimes keeps me awake at night to think we may lose them to the streets where they become a part of the problem. But what if they were surrounded by a community of people who rallied around them, challenged and supported them to choose a different path? What if the kids in these homes became the ones to break the cycle and become people of peace? We have to think beyond the current status of our overflowing prison systems and look to the future.

When you see the news or hear stories like this I would encourage to think beyond the headline and consider the aftermath. Don't stop there. I would challenge you to answer the question," Lord, how could you use me?" Or simply "how does (or should) this impact me and how can I play a role in the solution?" If nothing else, please do not become part of the problem of casting blame but rather advocate for or step up as a voice of truth. 

Is it a scary question? Absolutely, which is all the more reason to ask it.



Friday, July 11, 2014

It's So Hard To Say Goodbye to Yesterday

We have lived in our neighborhood for just over a year. It has been a season of "learning" the community. Who are our people of peace? Where is most of the drug activity? What is the rhythm of the week? Where are the kids?  There are definitely days when something just feels off. It will look like a ghost town when it comes to kids. Eerily quiet. You'll see more guys out on street corners with their cell phones. Those are the days when your our radar is peaked. We are not scared, we are just more "aware."

There is another "awareness" that comes with learning our neighborhood and that is knowing when families are about to move. We suddenly start seeing less and less of them. There is almost a detachment that comes. In some cases, we kind of know what to expect but in others.....they are here today and gone tomorrow.

Last week we noticed one of our neighbors packing up a pick up truck several different times. One of our volunteers asked him if his family was moving. She said he kind of gave her the crazy eye and said, "No." Words and actions never match up in this regard. His kids showed up on our doorstep a few days later. I answered the door excited to see that they were still here. The little boy greeted me with, "Bye Miss Morgan, " while the older girl acted like she had no idea what he was talking about. She said they "would" be moving in the future because they were building a house somewhere. She also said that she did not know where they would be living in the meantime but that it was not any time soon. I wrote down my telephone number and email address and asked the girl to please hold on to it.

Two days later, Glenn and I watched as their landlord,  with a police escort,  knocked on the door. (Most likely to serve eviction papers). We were not surprised to find out that the house was completely empty with only a few scattered remains of unwanted items that never found their way to the garbage can.  No goodbye. (This was the young lady who had knocked on my door to ask for prayer before her test and had started reading a devotional and asking questions about God.) No more conversations.
I was expressing my sadness about their move last night to Glenn by saying,  "We'll probably never see them again."

Today I decided to go to the grocery store I loathe, just to grab a few quick items. I swung into an empty parking spot, turned off the engine and looked to my right to grab my purse. That is when my eyes locked with hers. The former neighbor girl and her little brother were in the backseat of the car next to me. There was a grin from ear to ear on both of their faces followed by an excited, "HEY MISS MORGAN!" Their mother, who never really seemed fond of us, kind of blew me off.  I managed to get in a quick, "I miss y'all," before they drove away. The smiles faded as they drove out of sight, hands waving goodbye from the back window of the car. I wondered what all had transpired since that conversation in my living room just a few short days before that moment. I had a feeling there was no house being built and maybe the reality of their transition had been a little more intense than they were expecting.

The neighbors next to us had almost ten kids in their house for awhile while another family member lived there. Their kids would be in our yard almost every single day. One of the little girls used to say, "HEY MISS LADY!" every time she would see me. We worked with them every day on manners and being polite and respectful to adults. When I got back from my Poland trip, one of the little boys came tearing across the basketball court and wrapped his arms around my legs in a super hug. Glenn said he asked about me the whole time I was gone. I went on a trip to Texas shortly after that and was very much looking forward to that same welcome home, except...there was no hug or welcome home. They moved the day after I got home and I have not seen them since. I often wonder if that little girl is still saying "Please" and I'm still longing for one more of those incredible "welcome home" hugs from her brother.

I think the hardest part of what we do is not knowing what happens to the kids who come and go. A friend was reminding us tonight that God calls some of us to plant seeds. Sometimes we get the gift of watering them and even seeing the growth that only God can provide. So often we only get to plant the seed and  that comes after a long period of tilling the soil. I often find myself asking the question, "Am I ok with being a seed planter? Will I give the same amount and go out of my way knowing that I may never see the results?" I know the answer to this question is not only yes, but exactly what God called me to be.  He has comforted me in the difficult times of "no goodbye's" by reminding me that planting the seed is actually one of the most awesome responsibilities. Every beautiful plant  starts with someone knowing what a little seed can become.

Let's plant a beautiful garden.



Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Jumping the Tracks

Have you ever felt like the track your on ends and you have to make your own way? Have you ever felt like the whispers of your heart suddenly were being screamed through a megaphone? Did you listen and as a result experience a life changing moment?




Today my blogging prompt is about a choice that changed my life. My problem is not thinking of "one" but of "which one" had the most impact?

 (Forgive me if I have shared pieces of this in previous blogs).

When I was a sophomore in college I chose to spend my summer as a summer missionary in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. I thought I was going to give outdoor concerts around the city as part of a praise band. Two weeks before I left I received a phone call in which I was informed that my location would be the same, but my assignment had changed. I was told that instead of singing my heart out for tourists around the city, I would be teaching English as a second language and working with a street ministry to drug addicts and prostitutes. I chose to keep my word and say yes to an adventure.

One evening as we were walking the streets of Downtown Vancouver around Hastings Street, I heard that whisper loud and clear. The area we were working in was known to be have the highest rate of drug use in North America. It was 10:30 pm and my team mate and I had been passing out hot chocolate and doughnuts to people on the street. Many of our interaction included carrying on a conversation with a person shooting heroin as they talked to us. Sometimes it meant talking to a prostitute until the invitation from a business man driving a jaguar (probably with a wife and kids at home) had a far greater value than a cup of coffee. On this particular night we had one cup of coffee and one doughnut left and I was looking for the person who needed it most.

I just knew there was someone who was in tattered clothes who was cold in the vicinity. As I passed by a nicely dressed man on a park bench that internal whisper became loud and clearn,  "TURN AROUND and offer that man what you have left." I wanted to keep walking because he did not fit the description of who needed it most in my mind. I was frozen. I could not take another step. It was as if God put a wall in front of me that forced me to turn around. Confused, I approached the man and offered him a cup of coffee. What transpired over the next 45 minutes has never left my mind. We discovered that this man was contemplating suicide. He was in the process of heading back to his apartment to end his life when a friend passed by and told him to sit on the bench. She would be right back. We sat with this man and honestly just encouraged him and spoke hope over his life. He ended up not following through with his plans and a friendship with him formed and continued for months past my time in Vancouver.

Choosing to stop. Choosing to jump the tracks and go off course. Choosing to trust my gut instead of what "made sense" changed my life (and his).

It was that same gut choice to go off the track and not finish college but instead take a job I had always wanted. It was silencing the voices of expectation for a person my age to follow the status quo. It is not a bad plan. It just wasn't the right plan and time for me.

The same screaming whispers encouraged me to choose to quit that dream job years later and work for The American Red Cross after Hurricane Katrina and teach people about disaster preparedness. I went as an Americorp,  leaving the best salary and benefits I've ever had to pretty much volunteer. My dad could NOT wrap his head around that one. It was only the beginning of highly nonsensical choices in my life.

I have spent my entire adult life choosing to take an adventure and follow a unique path that many do not understand. Thankfully, God introduced me to a man with a similar desire for unexplainable adventure.

Together we chose to start our marriage by moving to Atlanta for no salary and almost 3 years later, we are still walking that road. The choice to walk by faith and not by sight and say "yes" to the things that do not make an ounce of sense to many has been the greatest, life changing choices we have made.

Listening to the whispers until they turn into screams.

Taking risks.

Saying yes.

Adventure.

Feeling alive.

Knowing me.

Jumping the tracks.









Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Pardon the Interruption, But....

I just crossed off the #1 thing on my dream list!!!!!!


I'm sorry for blowing up your social media news feed, but I do not think I can even put into words the amount of relief that I experienced today.

My blogging prompt today is "what I need."

I need people to know that this is not just a little piece of paper and some small thing. The simple piece of paper that I received today stating that we are an official 501c3 tax exempt non-profit is the thing that has kept me awake at all hours of the night with worry. It was the source of many a tear stained pillow . If tree huggers knew just how much wasted paper I spent crumbling one draft after another and tossing it into the garbage can, they would be picketing on my door step.

This was my Goliath. It was the thing that I feared. It was wondering if I could really do it. It was the closure on an "idea" and the "hope" of future dreams come true for others. In some ways it was my measuring stick. I think I put it on the top of my list because when I made this list over two years ago....that's all it was.....a dream.

I read books, researched, met with people, received life coaching on the subject and at some point said..."I've done all I can do." When we put the final application in the mail with the big check that went with it, Glenn and I laid hands on it and asked God to put it on the desk of someone who believed in what we were doing and would approve it without further inspection or delay.

I felt a sense of relief that day, but then came the waiting. Everyone now and then I would check the IRS website to see what month they were one. The three month window of "you're approved" without further work passed. I slowly started preparing myself for the worst as I had just read an article last week about the delay in determination letters and how now it can take up to 1.5 years.

Today, when I checked the mail I saw "Internal Revenue Service" on the edge of the envelope as I opened the P.O. box. I swallowed hard and my hand trembled as I tore open the envelope. Just a single sheet and a pamphlet. I felt my heart sink as I was certain such a monumental effort would be returned with a similar size packet for acceptance. After all, this was my Goliath. It was BIG.

As I unfolded the paper, my eyes danced across the words, "you have been approved." My breathing was shallow and tears threatened to fill my eyes. I kid you not when I say I bolted out of the post office and I RAN to my car where I had left my phone. My hands were shaking something fierce as I attempted to dial Glenn's number to share the news. When he answered, I could do nothing but sob. Lord knows what he thought was wrong. I finally was able to squeak out..."It came. We got approved. We're tax exempt." Cue more ridiculous sobs. I called my mother and as soon as I told her, she started crying too. These are people who have been THROUGH this process with me.

I've looked at that sheet of paper a hundred times since I opened it. It represents so much more than a technicality. Hopefully this will open the door for us to get more funding.

When we get more funding....

  • More kids get opportunities to discover their dreams through programs and outreach.
  • We can eventually get a paycheck (which we have not had in almost three years). 
  • We can hire other people to expand the program in other areas. 
  • We can get on insurance which will allow Glenn to get the knee surgery he so desperately needs.
  • We can look at expanding our space and the impact we can have in our community. 


What do I need? I need everyone to celebrate what this means on so many levels.

I feel a little ridiculous making such a big deal, but if you have ever been there or have been a witness to this in our life, you know I'm not exaggerating.

Tonight Glenn said, "Of course it went through. It has been God's from the start and thousands of people have been praying over this." It is true. So many different people have played a part in this coming to fruition through prayers and finances. THANK YOU for standing in the gap and supporting the dream God gave us. I am so excited about what is ahead.

On a challenging note, what is your Goliath?

Don't give up. The next stone may be the one to bring him down. You can do it. With God's help and a whole lot of determination, perseverance and strength....you can slay the giant.




Friday, July 4, 2014

The Dancing Light

There are very few things that have moved with me from place to place since high school. One of the items that is most precious to me is a little framed quote that my assistant principal gave me when I graduated high school. It reads:

“When one door of happiness closes, another opens; but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one which has been opened for us.” - Helen Keller

There is something about that quote that has resonated within me since I was 18 years old. In addition to that, my mom has always instilled in me the importance of  praying for closed doors and open windows.

I can honestly say that this idea has helped me through many difficult circumstances. It has helped me reframe some really confusing situations.

Stuck. Ever been there?

I can remember so many times over the past few years where I shook my hands at God and said, "I thought I was following your direction. I thought that Glenn and I did what you wanted. I thought we were in this together! Why the hell has everything fallen apart around us? Did I miss something?"

Although never clinically diagnosed, I really believe I struggled with depression during a period that we were in Atlanta. The ministry we had worked for shut its doors. We had just founded the Dream Campaign. We were living in a $100/month house in the middle of inner city Atlanta. There were many nights we ate some concoction of rice and beans because it was literally all we could afford. I could not SEE beyond the struggle. I was fixated on the lack.

When we arrived back in Savannah to make a fresh start and lay the foundation of the new ministry God had put in our laps, we had no idea where to begin. A good friend of ours allowed us to live at their beach condo for a few months while we figured things out. There were many days when I sat on the balcony at that condo and thought about those tough nights in Atlanta. If I had only known....

The honey moon period did not last long and there we were in that place again of "Um...hello God. Remember me? The one who thought she was following you. WHERE ARE YOU?"

We had put all of our eggs into a basket of moving into an apartment complex where we would host The Dream Campaign. We had EVERY reason to believe THAT was where we were supposed to go. We had a few successful outreach events. A member of the corporate office had driven down to see what we do and was very excited about the plans. There was only one problem. The one person who had to make the final call backed out at the last minute and here we were once again with a dream and no place to make its home.

"Ya know God, I'm starting to feel like a fool here. Every time we take a step of faith it feels like we have gone completely backwards. Maybe this isn't right after all. Maybe I am the fool. Maybe this was a mistake."

There were no words of comfort or encouragement that could penetrate the disappointment in my heart. I was choosing to be mad, bitter and miserable. Apathy set in. I was ready to quit. The life of complete faith and trust was exhausting and watching the bank account sometimes get down to $1 with no promise of a future deposit was weighing heavily on me.

Thankfully, this was not the end.

Fast forward.

We are now in a perfect location with a thriving ministry that God has truly blessed. We are doing exactly what we were created to do and could not imagine life any differently. Relationships are being made. Children's lives are being impacted. What would have happened if I would have dug in my heels and remained fixated on that closed door? The thought makes my stomach churn.

Hindsight is an unbelievable gift.  I can now see how each disappoint, every wandering detour and seemingly dead end was perfectly woven into the tapestry of our current life. Would I trade it for a different ending? Absolutely not.

Hurt is real. Depression is sometimes paralyzing. Life hurts. Setbacks suck.

The closed door does not have to be the end of the story.

Are you standing in front of a permanently closed door?

Take a step back and look for the light peaking beneath,  dancing across the floor. Do not be afraid to accept it's invitation. May it be a doorway to a greater adventure than you could ever imagine.



** This blog is part of a collective hosted by The Story Sessions.




Wednesday, July 2, 2014

To See and Be Seen

My writing prompt today is on "Connections."

I kid you not that the only thing running through my mind at this moment is this song. It was stuck in my head all day earlier this week.  I frequently change the words from "girl" to "boy" and sing it to my husband. Welcome to my brain. Welcome to his life.


Now that I have offloaded THAT thought..

One of my favorite games to play when I was little was hide and seek. Do you remember those times when you found THE perfect hiding spot? The sound of footsteps nearing your secret place caused you to hold your breath as to not give yourself away. The adrenaline pumped through you when your instincts proved correct about your stellar choice in hideaways. Just as you thought the coast was clear you carefully emerged into the wide open space and all of the sudden you felt a hand touch your shoulder followed by an excited, "YOU'RE IT!" You had been seen.



To see and be seen carries a plethora of feelings with it.

"What if I WANTED to hide?" or "Oh, thank God you are here!"
"I never asked you to come." or "I did not think anyone would ever notice."

All of those scenarios result in a connection between the seeker and the identified. There is something at the heart of all of us that desperately wants to know that we are seen. Cared for. Thought of. Worth seeing.

It is all too easy to put the responsibility on the person doing the seeking. I have been there. Have you ever kept tabs on which friends called you on your birthday? Which ones forgot? Don't lie. Ha! Have you ever felt looked over and come up with all sorts of ridiculous reasons why someone else was seen over you?

The writing group that I'm a part of often poses the question, "What do you need?" We started off our recent retreat this way. My response was, "I need to sit in this big comfortable chair with my soft blanket. I need to put my feet up and rest for a few days." I knew that I needed that because it was self-care and it is not something I do enough of at home. A year ago I would have been terrified to speak that need, but I was given permission to be seen for where I was in that moment. Do you know that I got exactly what I asked for that weekend because every single person there knew exactly how to affirm and see me? It was a refreshing experience in that way.

I do not think we do that enough. What would our friendships, homes, marriages, etc, look like if we simply asked the question, "What do you need?" and then answered it honestly ourselves.

Connection can be scary. It means opening ourselves up to the possibility of hurt or scrutiny. It sometimes means having light shed on an area of our life we would much rather keep in the darkness. Connection can also be the most beautiful, life-giving experience when handled with the care it so deserves. It can unlock places in us that have been hidden for too long. It can bring healing to the deepest of wounds. It is the hand that extends itself in a terrifying moment and offers support. It is peace of knowing that you are not alone.

We were made for connection.

I know that I am at my best when I am seen. It gives me the confidence to own whatever place I am in life. I also find that when I am looking to see others in specific ways, my life is more positive.

Do not be afraid to speak what you need. There are people that would help if they just knew how. Have grace on the fact that no one in this world is a mind reader.

How do you need to be seen today?


Tuesday, July 1, 2014

What I Love: The Spark

Today's blogging assignment is "What I Love."

I had to think about this one for awhile because there are SO many things that I love. There is a thread that runs through them all and that is the spark.

You know the spark.

It is the twinkle in a person's eye when they look across the room and have a silent shared moment with the one they love.



It is the even brief moment when a dream is realized. When a person does what they were created to do and in that moment they are fully alive.


It is the life giving laughter and illuminating smile that a child clothes themselves with when they are embracing their innocence and expressing pure joy.





It is the moment when a person tries something for the first time and realizes not only was it good but it brings them life in a way they have never experienced

.

It is the child who makes a 100 on a report and stands proudly on your door step believing for the first time that maybe he really does have what it takes.

It is taking a leap of faith and landing with two feet.


It is the way your heart leaps when it experiences something too beautiful for words.

It is a person rising above seemingly insurmountable obstacles and coming out stronger on the other side.

It is opening yourself up to listen and get to know someone very different than you and realizing that maybe you have more in common than you thought.

It's the rush of energy you experience when your words start to flow and brush strokes start to form at a rapid pace. It is standing back and realizing that you can create.


It is looking through a lens and capturing a beautiful moment and then sharing the moment that the person realizes that THEY are beautiful.

It is the times when as adults you get together with family and realize you are also friends cut from the same cloth.

It is writing the final words to your book.

It is staring into your babies eyes for the first time.

It is a sunset or a shooting star that feels like it was just for you.


It is seizing the day in the best possible way.

It is discovering a child doing the right thing because it is in his nature, not because anyone was watching. 


It is knowing that there is brokenness in this world but choosing to see the good instead.

It is connection.

It is individual.

It is loud.

It is soft.

It is found in crowds and in silent corners of a coffee shop.

It is what makes you get back up and try again.

It is the light inside that only you can carry.

I love it because it is what makes people so diverse, art so unique, words so powerful and life so beautiful.


The Spark.




Monday, June 30, 2014

The Big Ten

I am part of an online writing community called The Story Sessions and I signed up for a class on Blogging. There will be some changes around here: new look and name in the near future. The class is "40 Days of Blogging" where we will be getting a daily writing prompt. So...what that means is that I am going to try my very best to blog almost every day for the next 40 days. Some of my topics and posts may be a little different than normal but bear with me as I grow in this area.

Today's prompt was "Ten Things About You."

So...I'm going to try and think of 10 Random things you may not know about me. Feel free to share some unique things about yourself as well.

Here we go:

10 RANDOM THINGS ABOUT ME:



1) In my early 20's, I used to make a special guest appearance on an online radio show called, "Clowning Time" based in Montgomery, AL. The host was a rodeo clown and I would be his co-host at least one night a week.

2) My high school mascot was a Skipper. That's right, a skipper. (That in and of itself could be a fun fact, but there is more). Remember the dress up days for homecoming week? Well, our library staff tried to piggy back off of that idea and they hosted an "El Nino" day. Being the incredibly spirited person I was, I sported a yellow poncho around the school halls ALL DAY. I was recognized for this effort in front of my peers and presented with ..............(drum roll)...................an umbrella. (face palm).

3) When I was 12 years old, my dad took me to pick out a new car for my mom. Once the car had been selected, my Dad gave me the honor of picking out the color. I was 12. Sparkly things were pretty. I chose a very shimmery aqua. Little did I know that I would be driving that as my first car in high school. It was deemed, "The Aqua Bomb."



4)"Oh Oh Oh Oh Oh...Hangin' Tough"...."Step by step, ooo baby, gonna get to you girl".....Yep. I was a die hard New Kids On The Block fan in elementary school and my 9th birthday party was none other than a New Kids on the Block themed party. We did trivia games, dances and my cake was topped with one of those really big pin on buttons that used to be "the thing." My favorite gifts included my very own Joey McIntyre sleeping bag and NKTOB towel set. "I got the right stuff....baby."

5) My signature dance move is what I refer to as "The Donkey Butt." It's kind of a hybrid of a gallop mixed with an occasional rodeo rope swing action. This has been my dance move since the mid-90's and I still like to rock it in large groups. I don't photo bomb. I donkey butt bomb.



6) Every thing makes me think of a song. You can ask my husband. There was a period during our first year of marriage where I would pull up youtube karaoke songs on my kindle and sing one or maybe 8 to him every night before bed. (And THIS is exactly why I said I wanted to attach a camera to my head for a day. I really think I could be the next YouTube star).

7) For my 30th birthday, my husband gave me a pack of markers and let me color in the tattoo on the back of his leg. I laughed like a kid the entire time and he usually presents me with this opportunity at least once a year. I am 33. I see no problem with this. Is that a problem? Should it be? :)


8) I have this weird thing with my toes that if one of my toes is popped, ALL of my toes have to be popped. If they do not willingly pop, I enter into this weird panic of "the world is going to end because it drives me crazy not to have the same thing happen to BOTH of my feet." That is the ONLY thing I am remotely OCD about...except towels. Don't fold my towels. There IS a right way.

9) Once upon a time I mentioned to my husband that my nose was cold. Well, maybe I was like a broken record and then he decided to fix the situation with this gift and I occasionally break it out on cold nights....in my bed. lol



10) I am fascinated with weather. I am glued to the Weather Channel when there is a hurricane. A few of my friends refer to me as meteorologist Morgan during these times. I actually tracked down a weather channel anchor who was doing coverage of the "Snow" we were supposed to get in Savannah this past winter. Tracked down is kind of a light way to put it. I basically stalked the weather channel on Twitter and camped out at the park until they made their return. Then I tried to act normal for a picture. It was on my bucket list for crying out loud. A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.



What are some fun facts about you?


Thursday, June 26, 2014

Taking Back Your Key

I've been traveling for the past 3 weeks. I learned a little something about truth.

In Europe, I spent time with Holocaust Survivors. I will write more about this incredible experience later, but for now, I want to focus on one idea.  The first night someone stood up in front of them and said, "We are not the Christians who wore the black crosses." This would be a reference to the Nazi's who did horrible things to them and their families in the name of Jesus. These precious people spent a time of their life being told that the truth was that they were worthless and had no place on this earth. That was the "truth" to the Nazi's and it was being "PUT ON" the Jewish people. The Nazi's took "their" truth key and locked the Jewish people in a cage of torment.  Then, seventy something years later the same Jewish people were sitting at a retreat with Christians who had a very different opinion of that awful "truth". We spent the week loving on them, serving them, walking with them, laughing with them, doing all sorts of charades due to the language barrier and ultimately hoping to give them back a key to unlock the truth of what Christians really believe.  I'll never forget the Jewish women touching their heart and extending their hand to my heart to express that we are connected in truth and love. That is the type of truth that brings freedom. 



There is a different kind of truth. A truth where people feel like "their" truth is more important than "your" truth. This is the truth that comes without regret of the damage that can be done when it is unleashed. This is the truth that is unapologetic and cares more about being heard than the heart of the person receiving it. There is no clean up crew for the damage left behind. Maybe you've had that kind of "truth" spoken over you. Maybe you have been the one who feels compelled to carry the message. This kind of truth only results in one thing: being caged. I would venture to say that this kind of truth, really is not truth at all. 

There is a quote by Dr. Seuss that I absolutely love.


Friends, I know that sometimes we have good intentions in what we say, but the only thing we need to "put on" is love. Are the words coming out of your mouth meant for good? What will the result be? Is the person you are saying them to in a place to receive them? If you can not answer those questions then for the love, PLEASE choose silence. Don't slam the door shut on someone's cage and take their key.

If you have been hurt, know this....no matter how well someone else knows you, they do not know you better than you know yourself. Take back your key. Know yourself well enough to know the truth about who you are. Surround yourself with people who remind you of that, so that when the naysayers come, you can rest in the fact that it is more about them than you. 

It is  too easy to lose our key and feel caged by other people's opinions. It is too easy to slip into that place of competition rather than complement. Opinion rather than truth. Selfishness rather than selflessness. 

So go on and pick up your key. Unlock your cage. Maybe you have a friend whose key is laying in the dirt while they succumb to the cage around them. Pick it up, dust it off and hand it back to them. They may need help unlocking their cage. That's what friends and sisters do. 

You will know the truth and the truth will set you free?

Notice that FREEDOM is a result of truth.

Let's not cage the captives, but set them free.



I'm thankful for the people who drop keys back into my cage and help me unlock it from time to time. 

Which one will you be? A thief of keys or a lock smith?