Wednesday, October 14, 2015

When Guilt Creeps In

I almost didn't blog tonight, but I am already behind. I am exhausted. I spent all day at a school function, attended a football game, helped a family with groceries and took a friend to work. It was just another day in our life. Glenn and I opted for a late night fast food dinner which we don't like to do, but we are flat worn out.  This is where bad eating options usually happen.  Glenn mentioned how he couldn't believe he was so exhausted and I have a similar sentiment.  I have a list a mile long to complete but I have hit a wall. I have started and restarted this blog twenty times because my mind just can't settle on anything and I decided..."oh well, I'm just going to be completely honest about where I sit tonight because this is real life."

It looks like a garage sale exploded in our house. I'm not sure that there is a single room in this house that is actually clean and organized right now. By the time I get around to it, I'm too tired to tackle it. There's laundry, donated items, things that need to be stored, dishes, bathrooms to be scrubbed, etc. There is also a tremendous amount of canvas, paint and various related items all over the dining room table because I'm trying to crank out orders before we leave on our vacation so we can actually have some spending money. It's the craziest thing because in order to get a break, I have to work extra long hours painting and doing paint parties to fund the break. So, I am imagining by the time I step foot onto the cruise ship, I may just sleep for a week. And then there's the guilt of actually going on a  cruise.

We are working with families right now that do not have food, are having their electricity being cut off or facing eviction and I'm counting down the days to our tropical vacation. I feel like no matter how much we may struggle right along with some of our families on a daily basis we will always been seen as the ones who have plenty. People around us think we are rich. We have saved our extra income from paintings and crafts for almost a year to experience a week of breathing room. Even now, I stress about it not being enough and worry about pinching pennies, but the thought of that even feels shameful.

I worry about people thinking their donations are funding our tropical getaway, which is totally not the case and in most conversations people actually say they are GLAD we are going, but it doesn't stop the voices in my head of guilt and fear of what others may think. It's stupid and it's ridiculous, but I'm just being honest.

There are days when I just want to keep the door closed and hide. There are moments when I covet a night without gunshots or sirens, a big comfy sofa to just binge on movies and dinner with my husband without a knock on the door.  Sometimes those thoughts can lead down a big path of "woe is me."

But then I look up and see this sign. I keep it in the dining room because this is where I spend most of my time working, painting, tutoring or eating and it is always in my view. These are the dreams of hundreds of kids in our community. When I think I can't handle one more knock on the door, I remember that we asked God to make this a place where kids could trust us. When I am just about over the constant sound of basketballs, yelling and requests to pump up balls, I remember that we made a court so there was a safe place for kids to hang out. When I feel the threat of guilt creeping in, I remember that breathing is necessary to a life where we are constantly pouring out. Sleep is good. Time away will keep us sustained for the long haul and ultimately remind us that we really aren't the ones in charge.

And just because God loves to give me winks everyone now and then, one of our students just video called me to say hello and tell me he got an A on his project we worked on together.

Thankfully...those moments outweigh any of the others.

*If you would like to learn more about our ministry, The Dream Campaign or to give a tax deductible financial gift to support our work in the community, please visit

** If you would like to start from the beginning of this blog series, click here.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

31 Days: Day 13 - Got socks? Give Thanks.

Glenn and I have been doing urban ministry together for almost 5 years in some way, shape or form. We met while working at a homeless shelter in Savannah, we moved to Atlanta for a little over a year to work with a homeless ministry there before coming back to Savannah to run “The Dream Campaign”. There are some stories from our first days in urban youth ministry that will stick with me forever. I frequently revisit these stories to remember and stay grounded in reality. I want to re-tell you the story of a little boy in Atlanta who will forever have an imprint on my heart.

I was sitting in a worship service when I looked to my right and on the very end of the row was a child sitting by himself. He had a jacket on, and it was zipped all the way up covering half of his face with his head down, avoiding looking at anyone. His clothes were almost filthy. His jeans had dirt all down the front. His shoes were worn and covered in dirt. I wondered when the last time he had a bath might have been. I scooted to the end of the row and said,

"Hi, I'm Morgan. What's your name?" (and stuck out my hand).
"Sam." (and he shook it).
"Well, it's nice to meet you Sam. Would you like to come sit in the middle so you can see better?"
(He shook his head and walked over and sat right next to me even though there were several chairs to choose from.)
"How old are you, Sam?"
"I'm 8."
"Did you come with anyone this morning?"
"No, I came by myself. My older brother usually comes but he isn't here today."
"Oh, So the Kids bus picked you up?"
(He shook his head, yes).

We talked some more and I found out that he likes football and sports and is in the 2nd grade. He eventually removed the hood of his jacket to reveal cute little braids, beautiful eyelashes and an adorable smile. He then carefully unzipped his jacket revealing yet another dirt stained shirt. He was the most adorable, precious little boy. My heart was gripped.

As praise and worship started, he clapped and sang along. I could not focus. I had to do something. I scooted out the door and ran down to the clothing closet. I grabbed him a long sleeve thermal shirt. When I came back into the sanctuary I said, "Would you like a long sleeve shirt for when it’s cold?"  He looked up with big eyes and shook his head rapidly and I handed it to him. Another minute passed by and I whispered in his ear, "Do you know what size pants and shoes you wear?" He told me his sizes and I ran back to the clothing closet, but we were out of most things his size. I grabbed what I could find along with a pair of shoes I was sure were too big. I put them in a bag and ran back to the Sanctuary. I handed them to "Sam" and whispered in his ear again. "I think these shoes are gonna be too big, but keep them because you'll be able to wear them soon.  Next time you are here I will have a pair of shoes for you that fit."  

I sat there with my arm around him and attempted to sing through tears..."This is my desire, to honor You, Lord with all my heart, I worship You.” I looked over and Sam was singing with his hands out, palms upward." He looked towards a lady next to us who was "Praise Signing" and he started to mimic all of her movements. It was devastating beauty.

The first thing Glenn said when we talked after the service is..."Who let's an 8 year old go anywhere alone?" There are many answers to that question, but what I kept thinking was..."What 8 year old, gets on a bus by himself to go to church across town?"

 The next Sunday, as soon as the Children's Bus arrived, I went outside to look for him. I found him playing tag in the back of the building with some other children. He ran over to me and I said, "Do you remember that I told you if you came back this week, I'd have something for you?" He smiled and I said, "Come with me." We had bought the following for him: a new shirt, pair of jeans, bag of socks, 2 pairs of gloves, a pack of underwear, a pair of tennis shoes, and a pair of waterproof boots. As I unpacked each item he almost looked in a state of shock. When I pulled out the socks he exclaimed, "WOW SOCKS! I didn't have socks to put on today! I had some yesterday, but I didn't have any today!" (There are many of our students today who are always asking us for socks and underwear).

With that, I looked down at his dirt covered shoes and said, "Sam would you like to wear one of your new pairs of shoes?" He nodded and I asked him which pair he would like to put on.  In the sweetest little voice he said, "'s kinda wet outside so I think I should wear the boots."  After he put on his new socks, I knelt down and tied his shoes tight. He then wanted to put on his gloves and hat right away. We snapped this picture before he went into the Sanctuary. I never wanted to forgot that moment and what Sam taught me. This truly is one of my favorite pictures of all time.

When I went into the Sanctuary, Sam introduced me to his brother and his cousins. I found out today they all came from similar circumstances.  I went and sat on the front row and left Sam sitting with the kids a few rows back.  A few minutes later, Sam walked up to me and said, "I want to sit up here next to you."

Sam found JOY and thanksgiving in new socks.

When is the last time any of us were truly thankful for socks?

**If you would like to learn more about our ministry or give a tax deductible financial gift to the work we do in our community, please visit

To start this blog series from the beginning click here.

Monday, October 12, 2015

31 Days: Day 12 - No School?

One of the things that I have thought about more since becoming an urban missionary is the simple fact that I have taken so much for granted in my life. I'm not sure why I was born into a family who had the resources to provide pretty much anything I ever wanted or needed. I am thankful, but completely recognize that was PRIVILEGE and I need to always be aware of that. Today, being Columbus Day, the kids were out of school. When I was a kid, I looked forward to ANY and EVERY chance to get a day out of school and also counted down the days till the summer when I could hang out with my friends and do more fun things. There is a completely different vibe here in the inner city. Most kids HATE being out of school for a day and especially the entire summer.

As a child, I knew that when I was out of school there would be food to eat and things to do. Never once, did I open up our pantry to discover there was nothing to eat and I certainly never missed a meal. Summer time meant trips out of town or movies and sleepovers.
I was shocked the first time a student complained about being out of school.  I assumed everyone loved a holiday break. I quickly learned the complaint was usually because of two things:

1. Boredom. Utter and complete boredom of being stuck at home. This was especially true of the students whose parents did not have transportation to take them anywhere.

2. Hunger. Most of our students are eligible for free lunch which means that they can get breakfast and lunch for free every school day. When school is canceled there are some kids who go without those meals. (Let me interject here that I will always say some and not all. I know it is not 100%). This was never on my radar.

How many of us can say that? And if you can't, then it is a great time to be thankful and aware.

I can't stand it if a kid is hungry and many times they will just go about their day expecting not to eat on those days. I never want a student to have to ask for food, so on days like today, we tote out the PB and J and all eat lunch together. I probably made 20+ sandwiches today. Now, I know that not every student who ate one did so because they didn't have anything to eat at home, but I don't want to single any student we all participate. We had sandwiches, chips, capri sun and a cutie orange. The thing that kids wanted more of was the fruit. Fresh fruits and veggies are a luxury, even for me and Glenn at times because they are not cheap.

The most consumed foods in the inner city are chips and juice because it is cheap. I have met babies who are conditioned to eat that over baby foods. Next time you make a side salad for dinner, or grab a piece of fresh fruit as a snack,  thank God for the blessing of being able to do so. Truly. Access to fresh foods is a luxury in our world.

** If you would like to start from the beginning of this blog series start here.

31 Days: Day 5-11

So..I went to a conference and forgot my computer...therefore..I will have to come back to these! My apologies.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

31 Days: Day 4 - When the Cops Come

It's no secret that many of the kids and even adults in our community have a negative opinion of cops.
There are many slang names thrown around and I have even had tiny children tell me that cops are bad. (Guess where they are getting that from?)

Savannah has been plagued with crime lately. We are an incredibly beautiful city with a toxic disease that is rampantly moving through our streets. There have been so many shootings and lives lost this year and many of them are teenagers and young adults. Officer involved shooting stories have seemed to hold a top spot in the news this past year. I'm not excusing behavior when it is wrong, but I also believe that not all cops are bad cops. I also don't think that it is helpful for little children to be taught to fear them.  I believe that Savannah is around 150 cops short for our city. That is a lot. There are Facebook groups and opinions flying everywhere about what to do with the "problem kids" causing all the problems.

Might I suggest a step in the right direction?

We were inside tonight helping students with projects when we heard a ton of cheering coming from outside. We opened the door to see some local officers shooting hoops with some of our kids. It was not the game alone that made my heart was all of the high fives happening with all of the neighborhood boys afterwards.....some who have told me that all cops are bad.

Check out the video here.

I'm not posting this to glorify the police or say that it makes any pain or wrong doing done by law enforcement acceptable, but what if we stopped using  the words ALL or NONE with these men in uniform? What if some of our at-risk kids learned to engage with them on a basketball court rather than in the street?

I personally know one of these guys and he is good people. This is not the first time he has done this and he does not do it for ANY recognition, but because he cares about each of these kids in our community.

In a time when there is so much crime and negative news, I thought I'd share a little positive.

This is part of a #write31days Blog series entitled "31 days in the Life of an Urban Missionary." 
To start from the beginning of this blog series click here.
To learn more about the ministry of The Dream Campaign visit our website.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

31 Days: Day 3 - All Education is NOT Equal

Ten. The number of hours  spent helping a student work on a 3-5 page research paper/visual aide for a fifth grade project.

Five. The number of hours I probably have left helping this student finish her research paper.

Three. The number of adults who helped this student tonight, AT ONE TIME.

FIFTEEN HOURS, people. That is close to half the amount of hours a person with a FULL TIME job works. This all took place after school and on the weekend.

I am sure the teacher did not intend on it taking this amount of time, but unfortunately this is not out of the norm in our world. I am left to wonder what exactly would have happened had there not been a support system created for this child.

This project required 3 references one of which had to be internet, the other two books.
A visual aide which required supplies.
A TYPED report, which requires a computer.
Note cards of notes taken from references which have to be turned in with project.
The knowledge of how to write a research paper in the fifth grade.

For a child in a comfortable environment, who successfully passed all previous grades, has a computer, the internet, the transportation and the resources to get all of the supplies, not to mention an attentive parent to's not a super far stretch. Timely, but doable. The average student we work with does not have access to all of those things. There are many adults who never finished school or know how to write a research paper themselves. So, what would have happened to this sweet student ? She probably would have not even tried. She would have accepted the zero, thus potentially failing the class.

Does this mean we give these kids a free pass on hard work and education? ABSOLUTELY NOT! does mean there there NEEDS to be some sort of wake up call about education/resources/opportunities in at risk/title 1 areas. It is not reasonable to think that they can do all of that IN class.

We see more failing students passed on to the next grade because 1) They are too old to really stay held back and  2) The teachers are just tired of dealing with them so they send them on to the next grade. We have students who can't add and subtract, more less multiply and divide in MIDDLE school! Then, they get promoted and told if they will just participate in an after school program they can be promoted again to their "correct grade." What the heck?! Guess what? This is frustrating for many teachers as well who have personally told me that THEY get in trouble for not promoting certain kids.

When a child gets promoted without learning the foundations of the former grade they are being set up to fail. They get into the next grade. They don't understand it. They feel stupid and guess what? They will eventually quit when they are old enough.

This is the only reason I can even in good conscience spend 15+ hours on a research paper with an 11 year old. There are moments when I just want to slide the computer over and do it for them because it is painstakingly slow, BUT I know the time invested in TEACHING them to do it on their own will reap long term benefits. I KNOW this girl will be so proud of herself when all is said and done and that will be worth every minute.

But in the meantime here is what I can tell you.
Abe Lincoln was born in a one room cabin and when you have to collect sticks to build a replica of that cabin in the middle of a monsoon....putting them on a cookie sheet in the oven to dry them out does in fact work.

Friday, October 2, 2015

31 Days: Day 2 - The Scarcity of Weekends

31 Days: Day 2

As I type this, I'm listening to children playing in the street on a cool, by southern standards, afternoon. One young lady has already popped in to give a hug and say hello. It's a Friday night and in our neighborhood that usually means one thing: getting ready for a crazy night and honestly,  I often pray for rain.

When I was a kid, the weekend meant sleepovers, movie theater, football games and generally a good time to be had by all. I'll never forget the first time I realized weekends and summer time for many of our students means boredom and hunger.  Lately, in our community it means children playing in the street all hours of night. I spend many a night peeking out the upstairs bathroom window to the intersection below just to keep an eye out on the kiddos running around with no parental supervision. It means increased car and foot traffic with increased drug deals. The sounds of people coming and going from the clubs. The drunken couple yelling at each other at 2 AM. The ridiculous amount of cars flying down our neighborhood streets throwing speed limit caution to the wind. It is a night when sirens are common and I usually fall asleep with my headphones in, listening to the police scanner on my phone. My prayer life is often increased on the weekends when I know there is ample time for students to get in trouble.

The map on my phone has become a go to app as I listen to intersections over the radio and map the distance from our house. If I hear anything about a juvenile involved shooting, my fingers hit Facebook messenger to get a check in from all of our young men. The scary fact is that most of the time, it is not them, but they know the person involved (more on that in another blog post).

Weekends also mean no free breakfast or free lunch at school, which for some, is the only hot meals they will get in a day. For a good number of kids, their nutrition over the weekend will consist of some sort of sugar filled soda or punch accompanied with a bag of chips or handful of candy. Basically, it is whatever they can get with some change from the corner store. Every Sunday afternoon, we host a youth group for community kids. One of the major parts of it is providing a home cooked meal to the kids that attend. I promise you, to watch the amount of food some of these little kids put away is indicative of just how hungry they are when they arrive. We are not set up to provide hot meals the entire weekend but it is a need. There was an afternoon a few months back when a teenage boy knocked on our back door and said, "Miss Morgan, can I please get something to eat?" It was almost as if he had trouble mouthing the words. Pride. Hunger. Weakness. I invited him in and threw together a quick meal. He was so appreciative and it reminded me just how much we take for granted.

What fun is a weekend more less a summer, when you don't have the provisions to enjoy it?

** If you live in the Savannah area and would like to consider providing a meal for our Sunday afternoon program, please click here to sign up. More spring dates will be added shortly.

*** If you would like to make a donation to our non profit to provide meals or support the programs of our ministry, please visit our website.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

31 DAYS in the Life of an Urban Missionary

Welcome to 31 Days in the Life of an Urban Missionary. Scroll down to read the first post. I will link daily posts to this page as well.

Days 5-11: - I was at a conference out of town and forgot my computer! OOPS!

Once upon a time there was a white girl from suburbia with a background in youth ministry in predominantly affluent churches. Her world was completely rocked over the course of several years. This girl now lives in the inner city with her husband as a full time urban missionary loving kids, loving her neighbor, a student of culture and co-director of a non-profit. Every day is a reconciling of where she came from and where she is today. She is seeing, hearing, saying, doing and experiencing things she never imagined. She often feels misunderstood and is passionate about living out and BEING the church right where she lives.

That girl is me and for the next 31 days I'll be sharing stories from my journey.  It is often a Devastating Beauty of sorts. I'll share the joys, the laughter and some of the heart ache. I am not the same woman I was when I moved into this place. It is not a different that is good or bad, but one that reflects the burden that I carry for so many, as well as the freedom of knowing I am not the Savior in the story.

I never planned to live here. I grew up in neighborhoods that were either gated or deemed safe. I never thought I would get used to the sound of gunshots or hearing parents cuss our their kids on a daily basis. I never expected to befriend an older alcoholic man with whom I would sometimes sing old hymns or a hit by Mary Mary. Considering how I grew up, I never imagined eating rice and beans because that is all we had to eat. I never imagined that I would open my back door at any given time and see young men playing basketball because it was a safe place. I never imagined seeing fake semi automatic hand guns carried by boys no older than twelve. I never believed I would download a police scanner app and listen to it on my phone at night instead of reading a book. I never thought I would identify with my neighbors by living below the poverty line myself.

I also never pictured sitting on my front steps, having little girls  four and five years old, crawl all over me while asking me if I loved my husband and if he loved me. I never anticipated the conversations that would surface in our living room from teenagers who just wanted to have someone to talk to and then listen. I never considered there would be a businessman who would observe what we do and offer us a house to create a neighborhood center for the families in our community right across the street. I never dreamed we would baptize nine students in our yard while people gathered to witness their decisions.

I never knew I could have so little and yet feel so rich. 

I never expected to see the face of Jesus in so many different people and in so many different ways.

These are the types of stories I hope to express to you on this journey.

I hope you will join me here.

For more info on our non profit visit:

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

What Kind of Fence Are You?

When I was younger, I would dream about having a cute little house in a perfectly manicured neighborhood with a white picket fence. I had the dreams of marrying a pastor and having 2-3 children. I would host women's events and people from the church in our home. The friends of my youth and I would all stay close and live near each other, raising our children to also be the best of friends. I would volunteer in the community, keep a neat home and raise perfectly well behaved children. It was a classic Norman Rockwell painting type of life.

It was a nice thought, but what happens when your white picket fence ideals turn out to look like a different kind of fence? If you were to build a fence to represent your life, what would it look like? Would your fence be the super tall one where no one can see or get in like a fortress around you? Would it be a chain link which speaks of boundaries but not completely closed off to those outside? Would it be ornate iron,  wanting people to get so caught up in the beauty of the design that they don't really look beyond the other side of the fence? Or, would yours be barely standing, repaired with whatever you could find to keep it held together? Would your fence have barbed wire? A gate? Or is there a fence at all? Do you live in the wide open spaces? (I apologize to anyone now singing the Dixie Chick song of our youth).

There is something to be said about fences. Are they created to keep others out or keep in? Are they a boundary or a barrier? Are they strong or weak? Created for beauty or to cause pain to anyone who would try to cross it? In the world today, I'm watching fences being built and torn down. Individuals and churches alike. Regardless of where a person stands on the issues, I know one thing for sure.  I am called to love my neighbor. I think of my neighbor who used to cuss me out every time he would drink. Every single time he would do it, I would smile and say, "I love you, Mr. L." For a long time, his response to my words would be more expletives but over time the hostility in his response changed. Today Mr. L tells us hello and that he loves us all the time. Do I agree with his getting drunk? No. Do I purchase him alcohol? No. Have I tried to change him by telling what I think? No. Does he still drink? Yes. Do I love him? Yes. Has our relationship changed for the better through loving him even when I don't agree with him? Yes. We have been intentional about the fence we create with him. We open the gate to his fence regularly to say hello.

So I ask you, who or what issue is your Mr. L? What does your fence with that person or issue look like and what is your life saying as a result?  I know that in the past, I have built fortresses around certain issues and people. As a result I completely ruined the opportunity to live out my faith in a way that I believe Jesus calls us to live. We are living in a world where it is no longer accepted to agree to disagree or love and be loved in spite of our differences. I see a world building iron fences with no gates. Despite the thought that many people think we are moving forward, we are only categorizing ourselves behind labels and groups and beliefs while losing the humanness we all posses as individual people with feelings and souls.

So to whoever may read this.
You are loved. No matter your race, political stance, the neighborhood you live in or your sexual preference. Wether you have a white picket fence or one topped with barbed wire, I hope that you will encounter those who love you as Christ.  I pray we all take an assessment of our fences and make sure they are what God would have them to be. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love because Love Never Fails.

And by the way....I'm glad my life didn't turn out like a Norman Rockwell painting. I absolutely LOVE my life, my husband, my neighborhood and know this is exactly the portrait HE has painted for me.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Look At Me

This afternoon, just after most of the house had laid down for a nap while I sorted through clothing donations, I heard a series of knocks on the back door. I have to be honest, I sighed a little inside because I had just started enjoying a rare few moments of silence. I knew I could not ignore the persistent knocks and  needed to answer it. I expected it to be one of our regulars wanting a basketball for a typical afternoon marathon of basketball. As I opened the door, I was bombarded by about eight kids whom I have not seen in about a year. "Can we have a basketball? Can we color?" Those were the requests as they all passed out hugs while trying to be the first to get the ball. The last time I saw the youngest child, I was holding her as a baby, but today she pushed past me in the kitchen and started demanding a ball. I grabbed a ball and a coloring book with all the needed accessories and headed for a picnic table.

I gave a short reminder of the rules, which seemed to have easily been forgotten over the course of the past year, but were quickly recalled. My fingers flew across my phone as I tried to shoot Glenn a quick, "Help!" text message. I like to think I'm superwoman, but I knew this was not a task for one person. There were about three girls and two boys coloring pages from the princess coloring book. The boys were of course making sure to color the prince and horses. The little girl sitting texting me yelled, "LOOK AT ME!" I said, "Hi Sweetheart, I am looking." She exclaimed, "NO, LOOK ONLY AT ME!" No matter how much I tried to explain that while I was watching her, I also had to look around at the other kids to make sure everyone was ok. Every single time I took a glance in any direction other than hers, she would take her colored pencil and turn my cheek back in her direction. She was coloring and creating something and she wanted my undivided attention as I watched her perform every step to be sure not to miss a single thing.

It made me wonder if this is how God feels about us.

Is he asking us to look to Him?

Are we busy looking all around and somehow missing what He is doing and creating?

Is gazing at Him enough?

Friday, June 12, 2015

A Day In The Life...

So often we get questions like.."so what is a typical day like with The Dream Campaign?"... We never really know exactly how to answer that questions because literally no two days are the same. Today was one of our "typical/crazy" days so I thought I'd give you a glimpse into A Day in Our Wonderful, Crazy Life.

7:00 - One of our newest additions to the family knocks on our bedroom door to make sure I'm awake to take him to school even though my alarm is set for 7:30 and he just doesn't have any idea what time it is.

7:30 - I think about getting up to make a good breakfast but shortly call down the stairs.."Make a bowl of cereal, I'll be down in a few." Yep. I don't even feel guilty today.

7:49 - One of the other kids I take to summer school knocks on the front door even though I usually pick him up at 8:15. (at least no one wants to be late) grab cereal too.

8:15 - Load everyone up and head to summer school after explaining why the street drain is not a garbage can. We listen to Just Like You and then blast Gameface to get in the zone. Watch these two videos to have a better glimpse into a typical day in our car.

8:30 - Waiting in front of the beauty shop to get hair for our newest addition to have her hair braided. Huge learning curve for me. I'm taking pictures and texting people asking, "Is this right?"

8:55 - Driving to drop off newest addition to get her hair braided and getting educated on the different types of braids, how to care for them, etc."

9:00 - Realize I have an hour before my next appointment and quickly text husband to see if he wants to grab breakfast and coffee ALONE and we quickly take advantage of a short morning date.

10:00 - Pick up my first girl for mentoring, run all the errands, (post office/bank AKA check for donations/deposit donations/mail rent check) and drop of Glenn to cover the house because people are dropping off things today.

11:00 - Take mentoring student with me to pick up summer school kids and drop off paperwork to release two kids FROM summer school for one week to go to camp...making note of the work we have to do each day while AT camp for this privilege.  Wait in car pick up line going over mentoring book with student in the front seat while we wait. Kids pile in..a few extra who need a ride home.

11:30 - The boys ask if they can give music requests so we listen to Gameface and Just Like You....again.

11:40 - All the boys are dropped off so mentee and I head to Michaels to pick up items for this afternoons Try It Thursday Activity at the house of Dreams. Para cord bracelets and drawing using simple shapes.

12:30 - Well Michaels took longer than expected....Thinking fast at how we can combine mentoring and lunch into one. We settle on Your Pie and grab a booth and do our discipleship book while our pizza cooks. My phone rings and its another student talking to me about his packing list for camp and what he still needs. I'm trying to make a mental note with no paper near by.

12:45 - I receive a text from my hubby that some incredible friends from Chevis Oaks Baptist Church loaded us down with snacks for the neighborhood and sent this picture of our kitchen.

1:30 - Stop by and pick up my mentee's older sister who I also mentor and make it home just in time for our afternoon activity to start which should be outside but..hey...our arrival home also brought a down pour, so I shuffle everyone inside and set up a card table in the living room for overflow.

2:00-4:00 - Glenn teaches the girls how to make paracord bracelets. There are many sighs, huffs, puffs, pouts, but in the end, everyone ended up with a great bracelet they made themselves. Lots of encouraging not to give up and keep trying, atta girls and knowing it's really not about the bracelet but real life. Boys are in the living room drawing, crumbling up every piece of plain copy paper in our house when they make one wrong mark WITH  A PENCIL and I'm trying to tell them to erase and keep going while keeping one of the girls from having a meltdown about her bracelet. In the meantime kids are knocking on the door asking for water,  phone is ringing with donors wanting to come and visit, people are ringing the front door bell with donations to drop off and I smile and simply say.."Welcome."

4:00 - Mr. Jim arrives to mentor one of our boys but decides to stay and play board games with all of them. He turns apples to apples into a vocabulary game because none of the boys know how its really played and its a way to capitalize on a teachable situation. I'm impressed. I dash out the door to take Glenn to a woodworking event because.."breaks and breathing" are so needed and I know how much a few hours at the shop would mean.  He tells me he will just stay home, I refuse to let him do that, So I tell our volunteers I'll be right back and run him down the street.

4:10 - I run back inside to switch gears to girls small group. We talk about future plans and fun girl ideas for the rest of the summer, do a devotional and then they educate me further on different types of braids, weave, clip ons, edges, crowns, hair care and we calculate the hours our newest family addition has been getting her hair braided and I'm told, its not unreasonable that its now been 7 hours and I still have not gotten a call to pick her up. Girls are doing nails, we talk about not believing the lies of the world and how the truth will set us free. We spend a lot of time talking about how our heart effects how we speak, see, hear and act. I'm encouraged that new friendships are being made around the table.

5:40 - I start to talk to our amazing summer intern through the church about VBS planning for July at the Baptist Center. We realize half way through that I need to take kids home so she hops in the car with me and we listen to.....GAME FACE and JUST LIKE YOU as I explain about the different neighborhoods and some of our recent crime and issues.

6:00 - get a text on the way home that newest additions hair is finished so we pick her up and oo and ahh over it. Intern offers to hang out with our two new additions on saturday so Glenn and I can throw my sister and her fiancé' a wedding shower. I'm SO incredibly grateful.

6:10 - get home to a yard full of kids. No problems. Good. Flying solo this evening.

6:15 - get a text from a girl that one of the boys is bothering her and making inappropriate comments.

6:16 - find said boy and have a talk about how girls are not objects and he can't touch them or speak in a degrading way and that I better never see or hear it again. He grumbles a "yes ma'am." This used to be one of the most respectful kids on the court, but I think he has gotten mixed up into some things and its sad.

6:20 - I stand on the front porch with 5 other kids and talk about camp, life, neighborhood happenings, wave at people coming home from work and hear the basketball court get crazy. I'm also fielding text messages from my mother about my sisters wedding shower and all the things I have not even been able to think about Just yet. Yes..the shower is in 2 days. No, I don't know all the answers, but it will happen by saturday :)

6:22 - Head out the back door and boy from previous conversation is cussing up a storm. I address it. He gets sassy. I tell him to Try again tomorrow but he needs to leave the court today. Too many issues effecting too many other kids. He cusses at me and then proceeds to throw rocks into the yard at those who remain. I have to tighten up and get a little more stern. But..there is a win....the boys who were in that same position even a month ago are now the ones on the court telling him to calm down and be respectful and not act crazy. They then turn to me and apologize for his behavior and tell us that they really love us and are thankful. My thought - "What did you do? You are super guilty. Who are you and what have you done with the kids who used to come?" But hey...could it be that after 2 years of consistency in what we say and do...they are taking ownership of the court and following/enforcing the guidelines? I'll take it. Thank you Jesus.

6:25 - I decide I should probably cook something for the kids, all while running between the front and back door to keep an eye on things. I move the donations off the stove and add another stack to the floor. So thankful for the food and snacks and currently building a new house in my head with ALL THE STORAGE. :) It was great to have snacks for everyone today, though. Temporary issue with huge blessings.

7:25 - Hear commotion in the street, by the time I get outside the group is splitting up. I think a few punches were thrown and someone got it on video. I'm tired. I'm over the whole "lets video tape fights thing" and throw out "Hey..lets have a little integrity..." as I check the chicken nuggets.  I send everyone home for the day and one little boy stands at the back door and says, "Can I come in?" His buddy is living with us right now and I say, "No, not tonight buddy. We have to eat dinner and pick up Mr. Glenn."

7:27 - The look on his face is killing me so I text him and tell him to come back for dinner but THEN he has to go home.

7:35 - Everyone is eating..but me. I'm too hot. Too tired. And they ask for more chicken nuggets mine. I shove a few bites of mashed potatoes in my mouth and get a text that Glenn is ready.

7:45 - Load up everyone...even the extra little boy because..dang it, I can't send him home and guess what..they want to listen to Gameface and I Just wanna be like you. Every time I listen to them sing that song it makes my heart  a little sad. The lyrics are powerful and message is clear. Yet they keep requesting it.

8:00 - Pull up to pick up Glenn wide eyed and we ride to a surprise.....It's the snowball stand. Selfishly ....because I just want something cold, but one kid exclaims "Ms. Morgan you are so fun!" and it pushes me a little further.

8:30 - Everyone in the snowball stand line probably hates me because I'm the woman who brings all the kids to get snowballs right before it closes. But it is oh so good.

8:45 - Hey why not....Game Face and Just like

9:00 - Actually drop off our extra dinner guest and eye is on the prize....home.

9:10 - Sit with Glenn at the table while he eats his chicken nuggets and mashed potatoes and look at each other with tired yet fulfilled eyes. These moments of being alone are rare and precious.

9:30 - Kids join us at the table and we do family devotions...well TWO because I was accosted this morning because we forgot to do devotionals last night because everyone wanted to go to bed early.

10:00 - I'm told they want a super good breakfast in the morning and I inform them its cool, but they better not knock on my door at 7 am summer school on Fridays. I'm asked what we are going to do tomorrow and my list of things is not exactly acceptable to children's ears..but hey..I gotta get it all done before camp on Monday. We say our goodnights and Glenn and I give them a bed time.

10:05 - climbing the stairs feeling every ache and exhausted and remember I have to scan and email a students paperwork to camp..OH...and I promised our boy that I would actually PRINT the words to JUST LIKE YOU so he could MASTER ALL OF THEM.

10:45 - crawl into bed and tell Glenn..I'm typing out our day.......45 minutes later.........sigh.

I wouldn't change a thing.
It is joy, heartbreak and I probably only captured a glimpse, but it is our life.

Realizing midnight is not the best blog post is what I've got these days.


Monday, June 8, 2015

We Need More Gold Diggers

Did you think you read the title of this blog wrong?

You didn't.

My heart has been heavy this week, as I'm sure like many of yours. The amount of injustice, pain and violence happening in our world is nothing short of heartbreaking. In our own community it is as if a war has broken out on our streets. Teenagers are dying. Children are making adult decisions and being tried as adults.  Families are being torn apart. I have a habit of listening to the police scanner app on my phone. The past week it has been non stop with call ins of shootings, many of them involving juveniles.  We have caught a group of boys hiding a semi automatic BB gun behind our fence. People are finding empty packaging for those types of guns in yards on the east side of Savannah. We have become guardians to some children who need a place to stay and we are on a huge learning curve with parenting hurting and angry kids 24/7. All of it is just overwhelming if you stop and think about it for too long. The brokenness and pain on every side of each situation is absolutely gut wrenching. The bigness of the problem often feels insurmountable.

Our media outlets are filled with these types of stories. I cringe every time I click on a news story and read the comments section beneath. Comments and pictures filled with hate and judgement. I have always hated labels and boxes. I have lived my life trying to break free of any labels put on me. Labels are stifling. Labels are limiting. So when I read comments like, "I hope those Young THUGS get life in prison," speaking about teenagers in our community or "Why don't those good for nothin thugs all just kill each other off," a piece of my heart breaks. 

Dirt. People are really good at throwing it on other people.  Every single time I hear a story of crime I wonder how many people threw dirt on them. How many people took a look at them, labeled them and walked away? How can we call it justice for a child to spend the rest of his life in prison? Where was the justice when that little boy was looking around him for cues on how to be a man? Where was justice when someone redefined and distorted the meaning of family, acceptance and love for him? I believe in consequences for actions...but that is not the same as justice. Justice is not death. Justice is not a retaliation. Justice is not rallying around an issue or a person with handfuls of dirt.

What would happen if we released our fistfuls of dirt and picked up a shovel? What if we started to let that dirt sift through the grates until we start to find the specks of gold? What if we all just found a way to offer a word of hope instead a devastating label? What if the people who are picking up those guns had more Gold Diggers in their life?  It is much easier to be the accuser and release a handful of dirt than it is to take the time to sift through it all to discover something beautiful. So before you pick up the dirt, ask yourself if you want to be a part of that persons story line. 

I am convinced that the only way to justice is to pick up shovels and sift our way to the truth and beauty of who a person is at their core.   It can be messy.  Messy but worth it.

Bang Bo Nang Ching, Sa Kaeo, THAILAND - September 16, 2011: A gold prospector sifts the soil tirelessly in the hope of finding a speck of gold, near Bang Bo Ching Nang, east Thailand.

We need to celebrate the good. We need to look a child in the eye and speak hope and give them a shovel at an early age.

We need to become Gold Diggers.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

For the Women Who May Feel Lost and Unseen This Mother's Day

(Disclaimer: If you feel like this post is insensitive to the celebration of Mother's Day...that's ok. It just means this post wasn't for you) ;)

Wednesday night I was at church and I knew the dreaded Mother's Day recognition was coming. It really has not bothered me too terribly much until this year where it feels like cement on my lungs. I was sitting next to two of our Dream Campaign girls who have started coming to church with us and the entire service had been about women in honor of Mother's Day. "All of the Mother's here please stand, " exclaimed the pastor and I felt myself inhale a deep breath. The little girl next to me pinched my arm as if to say, "go have permission." I couldn't do it. My eyes filled with tears. I didn't want anyone to notice me or try to comfort me. I wanted to become invisible for a few moments. The pastor then went on to ask us to gather around one of the women standing and put our hand on them because we were going to pray over them. I turned to the lady next to me and put my hand on her shoulder while holding a kleenex in my other hand to wipe my tears.

That's when I felt a hand on MY shoulder and voice that whispered in my ear, "You. Are. A. Mom. You have two daughters (my Dream Campaign girls) with you here tonight and you have just as much of a right to stand with these other women." It was another pastor who knew my story. He had seen me. I felt my shoulders begin to shake. He had hit that nerve that was so sensitive and spoken the words that at times are a soothing balm and others times feel like a pat answer of comfort. Thankfully in that moment, for me, it was the balm. I needed to be seen and recognized as a title my heart longed for deeply.

I spent a lot of time doing things this week for a former student who is like a daughter to me. She lives in Atlanta and I spent countless hours making sure she could attend her Junior Prom and had everything to make it special. To be honest, all of the kids we work with are like kids to me. In many ways and at many times I feed them, clothe them, counsel them, hug them, wipe their tears, cheer at their games, talk with their teachers, speak truth when they need it.....etc. The hardest part at the end of the day is knowing that no matter "what" I do and no matter how much I love them.....I'm not their mom. I'm not getting phone calls or cards today. I think there should be a "Like a Mom" Day for those of us who do a lot of the work but don't feel like we have a place among the Mothers.

Maybe you are the woman who so deeply longs to have a child of your own. You've wrestled with God on the subject and you wonder why it is that He has crafted you in such a way to have a Mother's heart and desire only to be met with disappoint month after month with the single stripe on the pregnancy test. You have daydreamed about the ways you could announce the news to your husband or family and secretly wish you could be buying up all the baby clothes but won't let yourself do it. (Or maybe you already have.) I see you.

Maybe you are the woman who has gone through miscarriages and you feel like something is wrong with you. You feel like this day is a sick joke when your heart has felt love and loss as a mom without even having the opportunity to hold your child. You look around today and feel like you can't breathe because that's supposed to be you standing among those women. You may continue to try or you may have given up. There is nothing wrong with you. I see you.

Maybe you are the step-mom to  children but have not birthed any on your own. Today feels bitter sweet. You are thankful to have children in your life and as much as you do and as much as you love there may be that deep part inside of you that wishes you could have experienced that same thing with your husband. You feel like you've missed out on an important experience but you'll never say it out loud. I see you.

Motherhood is a beautiful thing. I think we can all appreciate that today, after all...we all had them.

I just think that when you celebrate something like Motherhood, there has to be the realization that there are those women out there who long for and yet struggle with not being able to own that title. As much of a mother figure as I am to some kids who may not have that, I don't feel like I have a place among them. Maybe I'll feel differently next year but for this year when someone tells me that I AM a Mom....I'm trying to graciously accept that and be thankful that they see that in me.

So to anyone who is feeling lost and unseen. I see you. I feel with you and in case no one else has told you yet, it's ok to feel this day in whatever way you need to. I pray we can all celebrate our mom's or celebrate the other mother's in our lives because they are to be celebrated and I do not want to minimize that AT ALL. However, if your find our eyes brimming with tears today or feel that sinking feeling in the pit of your stomach that lingers in desire or loss....that can be a holy moment just as much as anything else. Cry your tears. Ask to be held. Pour out your heart to a God that I believe sees and hears and weeps with us. You are allowed to feel however you may feel.

And when you are done for today, you do the thing that you know would make you the best Mom in the world. You get up and you keep going. The world needs you. The world needs me. The world needs us to love with our momma hearts in our momma ways because it's WHO WE ARE and no title or day can change that or minimize it.

It is Devastating Beauty. It is to be a woman. It is to love and feel in a way that only we know we can.

It is good.

YOU are good.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Try Again Tomorrow

"Try Again Tomorrow".....It's a phrase that can often be heard in our back yard. There is one little boy in particular who has started saying it before we can get the words out.

We have learned through the years that setting the standards (I'm not fond of the word rules) firmly and the consequences that go along with them are very important to the stability of our program at The Dream Campaign.

The standards are very simple. Treat each other with respect, clean up after yourself, respect authority, watch your language and be kind. If a student can not follow this repeatedly on any given day, we'll send them on their way with the words, "try again tomorrow." Some make think it's harsh and others may say, "They're just kids", but you know what? They always come back. Most of the kids start to catch themselves and try to rectify the behavior before the words need to be spoken. They want to succeed in this standard set for them. They will try to push us to see what they can get away with, but when we demand respect and treat them with respect, it becomes a learning experience in which everyone benefits. I often think that the hard case kids are written off as troublemakers and tagged as the problem children sent off to behavioral schools and a life time of failing grades and detention because no one tells them to try again tomorrow.  The grace ends with the the assignment of a label that they will often live up to if hope of no other option seems available.

As surely as the sun sets, it will rise with a new day and the opportunity to start fresh in the morning.
Don't we all need that same fresh grace to try again tomorrow? The words we choose to use, the self condemnation we may speak in our head, the lack of forgiveness or the absence of hope for a better tomorrow can leave us stuck in a pit of despair. What does the dawn of a new day mean for you? There is joy in the morning and it's yours for the taking.  So if you've had a bad at can always try again tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Home Cooked Friendships in a Fast Food World

I've been thinking about community and friendships lately. What does it mean to me? What do I want from it? What can I give to it? I have watched it be done well and I have watched it go terribly wrong.

I think that everyone has this desire deep down wether it's verbalized or not to be seen, heard, encouraged and held accountable,  but I wonder just how much we really truly give people the space to do that. Too often I watch people say they want it, but then once the cards are on the table they slowly revert back into the comfort of a "fast food relationship."  Sometimes that person is me. Fast food is easy right? If I don't have much time, not worried about the quality or nourishment, I can swing through the drive thru. It is fairly cheap and quick. It meets a need,  but can leave me feeling ill and wishing I would have taken the time to actually do the work of grocery shopping and preparing a home cooked meal. Being healthy takes work. I have to think and plan ahead, especially if I want something tasty AND healthy. I have to consider what ingredients I need, purchase and prepare them. Sometimes it leaves a mess in the kitchen and I've got to take the time to clean it all up. I used to settle for fast food many nights because I didn't have to think about. Recently though, I discovered that  I will go through the trouble if the result is something of value to me. 

I wonder if friendships and relationships are not often treated in the same manner. We can live a life of fast food relationships and rarely be seen. We can be the life of the party and go home feeling empty. We can sit in bible study groups with a smile on our face and be broken on the inside. We can appear to be the most confident while secretly feeling incredibly insecure. We let people get just close enough to like us, but when it's time to start doing the work, we speed on through that drive thru.
There are going to be those people in our life, but if you look around and everyone is whizzing by....I would pose this question....Why? Are they merely just an acquaintance? If it is a person with whom you desire a relationship have you made no space for them to chop vegetables, stir the pot and stay for dinner?

I want to be a person who gives people space to help me prepare the meal and stay for dinner. I have to be careful who I engage in this process with because there is not room at this type of table for every single person in my life, but there should be room for at least one, if not a few.

What do home cooked friendships look like?

I think these are the type of friendships where you celebrate in the successes, gently hold the fragile places, pick up the broom when things get broken, tread water when things get tough and then there's the bull eyes. Sometimes it means throwing the dart into the bull's eye when it's needed. Seeing the truth and speaking it. Receiving truth because you know it is in love. Chopping the vegetables, washing the dishes and staying for dinner.

There's nothing like that first bite of a delicious meal that you have labored over. It is usually worth the effort and knowing there are people to share it with makes it even better.

A home cooked meal is a labor of love.

Linking up for the first time over at Cara Strickland's Little Did She Know blog about friendship! Check out some other great thoughts on the subject!