Saturday, August 13, 2011

"Closing Time...Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end"

My YAV year has officially ended, and I am back home in Birmingham!  Oh, how it does not seem real. As I unpack my things and settle into a routine in a familiar yet unfamiliar place I struggle to process the year.

After welcoming so many loving people into my life that have become my family it is difficult walking away from them. I was blessed to be a part of two fantastic congregations that I cannot say enough wonderful things about.  During my last week of work I had many goodbye festivities and prayers prayed over me. I felt incredibly blessed but couldn't help feeling deeply sad. A year is really just enough to get your feet wet. It’s funny because I feel like I was just starting to get comfortable, just starting to find my footing, to finally form meaningful relationships, and now I have to leave and make sense of it all. I am happy to take what I have learned back home and start a new chapter in my life. But it is difficult to leave the city knowing that even when I come back to visit it will feel so very different. I know I have planted seeds and may not necessarily see the harvest.

My YAV family :)

I hope to never forget the spirit and light of the people in New Orleans. People there know what it means to be alive, to suffer, and to celebrate. Everyone is family. It is a place where I started to crawl out of my comfort zone and hear and see people for who they truly were. Homelessness became a real issue close to my heart as my eyes were opened to people too often judged and ignored. I realized what living in a community with five other people does for your patience/sanity but also for your heart and soul. I know what it means to laugh until you can't breath, to cry with someone else until your own heart aches, to see the Beloved shining through another human being.  I learned to take my faith in God more seriously, to reach out and love people, and to be a person that can be loved.  I learned to be a part of something much bigger than myself, humbled by my own humanity. I hope to carry this spirit with me.

Thank you to everyone who took this journey with me and who supported, encouraged, and appreciated me along the way. I could not have done it alone. The journey isn't over, just moving locations for awhile. I will keep you updated on where God takes me next. So stay tuned!! God Bless each of you.


"But what I would like to say is that the spiritual life is a life in which you gradually learn to listen to a voice that says something else, that says, "You are the beloved and on you my favour rests."... I want you to hear that voice. It is not a very loud voice because it is an intimate voice. It comes from a very deep place. It is soft and gentle. I want you to gradually hear that voice. We both have to hear that voice and to claim for ourselves that that voice speaks the truth, our truth. It tells us who we are. That is where the spiritual life starts - by claiming the voice that calls us the beloved."
Henri J. M. Nouwen  

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Countdown to the end...the beginning...or perhaps a beautiful mixture of both

So. Here we are. I have only about a month and a half left in New Orleans. I can barely, barely believe it. It hit me today like a bullet to the temple. I was just typing up the bulletin at Faith Pres when all of a sudden, I realized how soon I was going to be gone and how much I am going to miss New Orleans. I have met so many beautiful people. This city has captured me with its spirit of resilience and its outpouring of love. 

I have been focused on going home, having my own bedroom/bathroom, seeing old friends, seeing my parents, and figuring out the next step. I have been dealing with a lot of conflicts lately and have lost my grip on the bigger picture.  Today, I can feel the sharp pain of goodbye shooting up my limbs, spreading across my heart as the weeks burn away quickly like wax dripping down a candle. I've had to say goodbye many times in my life. When I left high school, I said goodbye to friends, family, and my comfortable child life. At the end of the summer when I worked at Ghost Ranch, I had to say goodbye to the breathtaking, open desert landscape and the awesome group of people I had met there. When I graduated college, I had to say goodbye to four years of amazing times with amazing friends.  But saying goodbye to this city, this experience, these shakes me harder than I thought it ever would.

I have started to reflect on this year and what it means. The next month will be full of goodbye parties, closing events, last days. I don't want to get caught in the whirlwind of last times/goodbyes/endings but rather hold on to everything that I have become while here. I must look at these people for who they are and what they've given me. I've been pulled out of my comfort zone. I've been challenged. I've made plenty of mistakes. I've had plenty of bad days, plenty of situations I could have handled better. I've been a bad roommate at times. I haven't been super YAV.  I've gotten frustrated. I've lost my way. BUT,  I've also had some incredible adventures, laughed until I cried, ate some amazing food, given back in various forms of service to the city, learned so much about myself and that crazy thing we call life, and formed irreplaceable relationships with people who know the definition of what it means to be radiant and alive. I've seen the way the people of this city celebrate brokenness, wear it like a beautiful crown instead of a scar. I am inspired.

I will be honest. I don't have the next step figured out. It doesn't mean I am lost. I am still afraid, and my humanity shines through every crack. But I am a better, stronger person after being here. I feel like my heart has been rewired, my eyes washed clean, my mind made afresh. Saying goodbye will be difficult, but all I can do now is truly enjoy my last few weeks here and let these people know that they have changed me, left a permanent mark on my heart. There is no time for getting tangled in petty arguments or worrying about the small stuff. There is only time for love, for thankfulness, for looking around me not with my human eyes, but through God's lens and seeing the Belovedness that is in everyone.

"Time is lost when we have not lived a full human life, time unenriched by experience, creative endeavor, enjoyment, and suffering."
-Dietrich Bonhoeffer 

"Surrender all your battles. It's only love that makes us matter."

Bless you all.

P.S- Thursday is my Birthday. Feel free to mail cupcakes or a puppy.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

God is Doin a Nu Thang...You know he's doin it yall

Hope everyone is having a fun, relaxing start to Summer and  the opportunity to be around water. New Orleans is unfolding its thick blanket of humidity over us all as I head into the last leg of my YAV year. (Can’t believe it!!!!) Crawfish boils and swimming pools- I am so there.

After finally reading and thoroughly enjoying Donald Miller’s Blue Like Jazz, I decided to read more of his stuff. He has a very unique writing style, which can be distracting but overall, I appreciate how he writes exactly what he’s thinking and feeling. He has some honest questions about human beings and why they are the way they are.  I am currently reading his Searching for God Knows What, which is basically his perspective on the bible.  He talks about the story of Adam and Eve and the Fall:
“If man was wired so that something outside himself told him who he was, and if God’s presence was giving him a feeling of fulfillment, then when that relationship was broken, man would be pining for other people to tell him that he was good, right, okay with the world and eternally secure.”
            To me, this concept paints an accurate portrait of the way we live our lives today. We find it difficult to love ourselves and others because we are busy comparing things to every individual out there, and thus our souls our exhausted with the constant competition. Just a simple example when you think about it, Miller points out that thousands of people show up to a basketball game simply to see which team plays better than other. Thousands of us watch reality shows like American Idol and Celebrity Apprentice, shows where one person gets the glory of a trophy and a title.  Human beings are fascinated and consumed with this concept of winning approval from others. All of our choices and emotions seem to boil down to how another human being see us as worthy, as if we are balanced by this invisible scale that measures one’s true value. And if we feel others don’t see us as worthy we begin to unravel and become depressed, insecure, hopeless. Our lives cluttered and clouded with illusion.  Like we are trying to reverse the Fall. 

Are we truly no longer capable of  being who we were created to be, equal in the eyes of the one who made us? Can you imagine the moment you were created, to simply know that you are the Beloved without needing any outside affirmation? Then to look beside you as Adam did when he first saw Eve and see that same Belovedness in another human being? I can hardly imagine such a raw, true feeling. I am innately wired to always be searching for that perfect relationship with God that can mend what is broken inside me, fill in this space that seems forever incomplete. The temptation will always be there, this obsessive need to turn to other beings for some sort of approval that I am okay, that I am secure, that I am fitting the bill. The temptation roars through societies and cultures across the earth. So many people born into the world without that sense of Belovedness, forced to leave the fate of their precious lives in the hands of equally fragile human beings.

Miller also talks about War, something that weighs heavier on my heart each day. He brings up painful images of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, of the children screaming in the streets, of the aftermath. So many innocent lives destroyed, a story that is all too familiar. He states:

“War is complicated. It isn’t black and white. This is what the Bible teaches. And I thought about that for a long time and realized it meant all our civilizations, our personalities, our families, our souls, are walking through the wreckage of a war, running from Tokyo, running from Hiroshima, our mouths gaping, the fire burning behind us…This is Sarajevo all over again, only this time it’s the walls of our hearts that are littered with bullet holes, it’s our souls that are feeling the aftershock.”

I’ve been sitting with these words, and the powerful emotions they bring up out of me, this ache for all human beings and their suffering, flesh on flesh wars filling our history books. Many walk around with physical distortions as a result of war, physiological trauma, and even deeper the war within that Miller is getting at: the bullet holes lodged deep in our hearts shaking our souls. All stemming from that first attack of a perfect and innocent kingdom: The Garden of Eden.

 I am a small human being, a single spoke in the wheel that turns the world, but I can’t help but wonder if this is what was really meant for us. These burdens we carry around, these wars we can't stop fighting. I can barely wrap my mind around God and the Fall and the fate of the human race because of the pain that bubbles up. It may not be up to me to solve it before brunch tomorrow, and the funny thing is as a human being, I seem to be programmed to be curious about things I can’t possibly ever fully comprehend. However, I feel like the more I think about where human tendencies really stem from, the richer my life can become as I aim to reconcile revelations with tangible experiences. 

On a lighter note, please visit this link: for the YouTube video that inspired the title of this post. Make sure you are somewhere where you can laugh loudly and obnoxiously.

“If we could muster a portion of the patriotism that we feel toward our earthly nations into a bravery in concert with the kingdom of God, the enemy would claim fewer casualties for sure”
-Donald Miller

“We all die. The goal isn't to live forever. It’s to create something that will.”- Chuck Palahniuk 

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

And when the broken hearted people living in the world agree, there will be an answer, Let it Be.


Wow. What a week it has been. Tornadoes ravage my home state, a major enemy of the United States is killed, and of course, William and Kate get hitched! (Still waiting on my invite; thanks, Elton, for taking it.) Social networks, newspapers, and various other media sites are exploding with articles, debates, opinions, and reactions (and more than a few humorous parodies of these events). Everyone's got something to say, including me (read on!), and all this information is enough to make my head spin in a creepy Twilight Zone fashion. In addition, apart from all this madness, my own quarter-life crisis roars on within the confines of my heart. The future, my purpose, my issues in my present work place and community . . . all typical things considered by Yoda.

As I live and serve in a city that it still rebuilding from a natural disaster that happened over 5 years ago, my heart reaches out to all those grieving and struggling back home in Alabama. The outpouring of love and support is beginning in great multitudes, and I hope to be an ongoing part of it. During my trip home, I was reminded of how lucky and blessed I am to still have my house standing, to still have my loved ones alive. So many people lost everything in the storms. Hundreds of people are still missing. I cannot imagine the pain and anxiety over not knowing where a loved one is, of standing in this wreckage of the life you had made for yourself wondering what to do next?  It is very humbling to me, to realize how temporary material things in this world can be, and we must invest not with money but in the wealth of relationships, and be thankful for all moments spent with the people we love. With all the distractions in this world, it is easy to forget what life is truly about at its core. For right now as I head into the final months of my term in New Orleans, I will keep praying for all those affected and hope that like New Orleans, the many cities damaged will be able to rebuild, recover, and rejoice.

In other news, there is the death of Osama Bin Laden. (Not “Obama.” Fox News Headline, I'm looking at you.) In reading all the articles and debates and coverage of this historic moment, I find myself struggling with my own personal reaction to this event and how to reconcile it with my own Faith, moral compass, and citizenship that ties me to this country. I would be lying if I said seeing all the Americans dancing in the streets and their passionate cries of USA! USA! USA! did not slightly disturb me. I am painfully aware that my fellow Americans serving in other countries are having to constantly deal with the consequences of the negative image our nation produces. I realize everyone's reason for celebration is more about beginning the road to peace and not necessarily the actual death of another human being. But, can one human being's death, no matter how blinded that person was by hate in their lifetime, really be a stepping stone to peace? Are we not just continuing to turn the wheel of violence, an eye for an eye, a ping pong game of attacks that require counter attacks? What will break this vicious cycle of human beings turning against each other? How can we dissolve this strange assumption in our fragile minds that one person has more of a right to be on this earth than another person, that one life holds more value than another life? Jesus told us to pray for our enemies, as tempting as it is to fight them off and walk away victorious with pride carefully intact. It is in the most difficult times that test our patience and weigh heavy on our hearts that we are called to move our perspective to outside ourselves. "Faced with the death of a man,” the Roman Catholic Church states, “a Christian never rejoices, but reflects on the serious responsibility of everyone before God and man, and hopes and pledges that every event is not an opportunity for a further growth of hatred, but of peace."

So this leaves us where? The questions begin to pile up in massive mounds in the valleys of my mind. Is there a formula for a peaceful world, and if so are we following all the right steps? Or maybe there is no formula, no drawn map, no beaming torches to guide the way. Perhaps somewhere along the journey we are meant to be brave enough to Love even in the face of frustration and anger, even when the desire for revenge runs deep in our bones.

Please keep in your prayers the people affected by the storms and everyone in this world burdened with pain and despair. I see it so often, especially in the eyes of the homeless men and women that come through First Pres each week. It is very easy to give up trying, to force oneself to stop caring, to want to no longer deal with the constant rejection, red tape, and hoops that life can require.  But, we also find ourselves in unexpected moments where joy burrows deep through the passageways of our hearts. A child coloring a funny face on a piece of paper and handing it you saying, “It’s yours!” Someone genuinely thanking you for a simple act, like typing a resume or handing them a sack lunch for the day. I've never heard "God Bless You" more times than during the homeless program each week. It is in these moments we see the hope shining through the cracks of the caves we feel trapped inside. It is THESE little things, rather than large violent acts burning with justice and power, that are the true stepping stones to peace.

And after all, William and Kate proved that Disney fairy tales are real! Kidding. Even Kate Middleton probably looks less than ravishing without makeup (I can only hope).

Excited because tonight my fellow YAVs and I are off to see the musical adaptation of Nine Lives by Dan Baum, a book everyone should read that weaves the fascinating story of unique characters living in Nawlins. Will let you know how that goes! WOO Arts


*The thoughts shared in all my blog entries do not represent the views or beliefs of the Young Adult Volunteer Program, rather, they are just my own personal opinions.

Monday, April 11, 2011

In The Hard Places

I have been stressing out a great deal lately about pretty much the whole balance of the universe: My future, anxieties about whether I am doing enough, my friends' struggles, where this country is going, all the unheard voices of the world, whether or not I am living it right, you name it. Many nights I don't find sleep because all the pain in this world is a weight pressing against me, flattening me out. The most human part of me wants to solve, to analyze, to fix, to appease, and I can't seem to stop myself from throwing questions at God, demanding concrete solutions and answers.  I keep telling myself to relax, to have Faith, to pray without ceasing, but many times my frustrations overwhelm me, and I just go into mini panic attacks. I am lucky and blessed beyond belief to have a loving family and supportive friends to help me during these times. I am thankful, so thankful.

The most recent chapter in our Discernment book that my fellow YAVs and I are reading is titled "In The Hard Places." This title is quite relevant to where a lot of us are right now. Whether we are struggling with current issues in our lives or figuring out where we fit come August, each of us has many questions and fears. The unknown is meant to be exciting yes, but for many it just seems absolutely terrifying. I am blessed to have many options and opportunities, but I want God to send me a lightning bolt down to earth saying "Yes pick that choice. I like that one." As if I'm asking a friend which tablecloth looks better. What a crazy human being I am to be begging clear, easy outs from a God that simply asks that we have some Faith in him. I am reminded of the passage of 1 Samuel where he is called in the middle of the night by the Lord to get up and go. I can only imagine that fear that must have shivered through him that night. Now, I ask myself: Am I willing to get up and go?

We recently had our Spring Retreat in the thriving metropolis of Poplarville, Mississippi. We were able to do a bit of discerning and worship against a gorgeous backdrop of lakes, blooming pink flowers, and endless woods. It was wonderful just to seep into that organic feel of nature amidst squirrels scurrying around and lizards doing push-ups on logs. I talked to God honestly and openly, like he was sitting right beside me in the leaves.

"At times we drift in our lives. Amid the uncertainty and suspense of not knowing, or the sheer tedium of things remaining the same, we can learn to keep our eyes wide open, scanning the horizon of our experience. Like Noah we may have to do this for a long time until at last some green sprig signals,"'There's land ahead.'" 
-Quote from The Way of Discernment

I just finished reading Donald Miller's Blue Like Jazz. I've been meaning to read it for years, and am so glad I finally did. There are so many beautiful lessons about what it means to love ourselves, other people, and God even in those tough places. He throws in a little offbeat humor too, because where we would be without laughter (Believing in God is not unlike the radars inside of Penguins on when to hatch their eggs. Oh Penguins, you explain everything).  Perhaps I will explore my thoughts on the book further in a future blog post. I am about to start other works by him. Great food for thought during this Faith journey of mine.
For now, as I ride the waves of uncertainty and doubt, I find myself just whispering steadily "Here I Am, Lord."

For now, I am thankful for these people!

Motivation: You're a pterodactyl.


"The human mind may devise many plans, but it is the purpose of the Lord that will be established."
Proverbs 19:21

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Lent-Spring Cleaning of the Soul. Aka I can wear matching socks again!

Serious Blog Hiatus. I partly blame Mardi Gras, and I partly blame life for just picking me up and sweeping me away into its winds. As Spring brings its icky pollen to ignite my allergies as well as delightful warm weather and sunshine, I feel a new dawn rising up inside of me.

My roommates and I have done been doing some serious Spring Cleaning in our apartment: vacuuming/mopping with 7 different types of Swiffer products, cleaning out drawers overflowing with unworn clothes and crumpled receipts and Ew was that a french fry at one point? I am having a lot of "A ha!" moments. My other earring that I thought was gone forever! 17 Teeth Whitening Strips I don't remember buying! The Swiffer Vacuum charger that my desk apparently ate! We can finally clean with it! And then there are all those poor lonely socks desperately missing their companions under the darkness and dustiness of my bed. It's a tiring, ongoing process, but it feels amazing. As the last debris of Mardi Gras is swept off the streets, and the reflective Season of Lent is upon us I feel it is time for official spring cleaning of my soul. Putting on my mask, dawning my rubber gloves, and going in...

It is the practice of Lent to give up something. I have thought long and hard about what I should do. I could give up staring at Facebook for hours, eating chocolate, fast food, meat, etc. All of these are generally unhealthy practices when done in excess, and I could definitely benefit from taking a break from them. BUT, simply giving up one of these does not seem to wire my heart and mind to truly understand Lent. Kathy, our wonderful site coordinator, asked us as a group of YAVs to take up a Lenten discipline in which every time we have negative thoughts about someone else to write it on a piece of paper and put it away. I like this idea of adopting a practice/discipline in order to delve into God's will for us.

Through journaling and reflecting these past few weeks, I have been finding quite a few lost socks under the bed, so to speak. As the painful feelings I have towards myself, others, and my community arise within me, I write them down, I look at them, and then I let them go. It's difficult to put these thoughts away because I want so badly to cling to my pride, to put up my shield and protect myself. It is so easy and fun to gossip, to stand on our pedestals and laugh at others when they are vulnerable, to proclaim that we are right and everyone else must meet us where we are. It may be a two way street, but if we look around we see that many of us are standing on our separate corners refusing to budge.  God asks us to put down our weapons, to put down our shields, and to put down our pride.  "Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this word, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing, and perfect will." Romans 12:2.

It is is becoming evident to me that if we don't clean out our hearts and minds in the same way we clean out our closets and bedrooms, a lot of mess begins to pile up inside of us. The clutter puts a film over our eyes and keeps us from seeing ourselves and others the way God sees us. We get caught up in the tangles of life, and one day we wake up and realize something is missing. We need both socks to make a complete pair, both earrings, both shoes. In taking this journey with Jesus through the Lenten season, we are cleaning out all the negative clutter under our hearts to find the missing components of ourselves that keep us from fully living out God's will.

"But what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard - things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely. "
Galatians 5:22-23

Continue to keep the people of Japan in your prayers. You can donate money to the relief fund Here. And also, for all the people of the world suffering from physical wars and the wars within their own hearts, my prayers and love go out to you.

Comment and tell me how the Season of Lent is affecting you. I would love to continue this conversation. After all, as Presbyterians, we are all about our conversations. :)

God Bless,

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Straight from my Heart

This week has been incredibly stressful and difficult for me, but at the same time, extremely important in figuring out my purpose and future. The need for young children to receive quality education and specialized attention and guidance is becoming more and more apparent to me than ever before. I have had several conversations in the past few weeks about how so many children are born into unfortunate circumstances and are not getting the proper education they deserve. We cannot keep turning our back on this. I see it here especially in New Orleans through the tutoring program I am involved with each week and the conversations I have had with other people involved in educating children in poor areas. 

After Katrina, many kids had to take months off of school and as a result, were extremely behind in their reading level and other learning areas upon returning. Teachers are overwhelmed with large numbers of students especially those that are deemed as distracting and unruly. With no positive motivation and confined in the chains of poverty, each child's self-esteem plummets, and they lose their motivation at an early age. Many kids are alone in their houses until late hours of the night. Others are one of many siblings and often feel abandoned, neglected.  Furthermore, some parents even encourage their children to act out in school, so they will receive money for their kids being in Special Education. The truths are startling and have been taking a heavy toll on me these past few days. School teachers across the country are tirelessly working and making real differences during the school day, but it can be overwhelming. And that is where I come in, as a mentor/tutor to give those children the individualized attention and time they deserve and need.

Even more troubling to me are recent news articles about the government's plan to cut volunteer, and education programs such as AmeriCorps across the country. ( I am applying to be an AmeriCorp next year through a program where I can be a mentor to kids and lead after school programs. But if all volunteer/service programs are cut it will be even more difficult for me to pursue this passion and more importantly, communities will lose valuable assets and gateways to positive change. I don't want to use this blog as a platform to go on a political rant, but I will say this country needs to rethink where its priorities are. We spend billions of dollars on war and defense while our own country struggles to deliver proper education to its own people. I know it is not a black or white situation, and I understand the government has many factors to consider and debate. The truth is real people and real lives are at stake. I can't just sit back and watch their struggles fall to the waste side. So many volunteer programs provide hope for the hopeless and are drastically changing poverty and education deficits everywhere. Thousands of young people are willing to live in poor areas for no pay and in exchange receive help in furthering their own education. Think about all the good things that can come out of this for this country, its people, and the world!!

I struggle with where our money and time is going and have been praying that people will soon realize it's not even about politics or parties or taking sides. It is so much more than that. At the end of the day, after we all have gotten on our soap box (myself included) this is about the importance of individual lives and the radical idea that we can ignite hope where this is despair if we stop for reevaluation. 

I've seen it first hand. I see it, walk around with the devastation, the scars, the suffering these people are met with every day. I only wish my experience was one that everyone could go through. Seeing all the hoops people have to jump through just to obtain decent, affordable housing. Being put on hold for hours on the phone with that very real feeling of no one being there but a dial tone. Children falling through the cracks. All the myths and misconceptions that surround homelessness, poverty, and education are brought to my attention every single day. I attended a Stopping Crime panel with the members of the NOPD and District Attorney's office present. Disgruntled community members expressed their anger over the disconnect between the government and the citizens of the community. The panel said they recognize this and they are working towards fixing it. I have seen lives touch lives in New Orleans. These people have their hearts on their sleeves. I know change is possible in this city.

Despite all this brokenness I see around me, and the raw desperateness of the situations I have encountered, I truly believe my generation has the power to propel us into a new dawn. Through social networking sites like Facebook or Twitter (although they do eat my time like pacman) I see young people expressing themselves about movements they are involved in and raising their voices about issues they feel strongly about. Being a part of the YAV program, I am blessed enough to be connected to 80 something other passionate, service-minded volunteers who are currently around the world attempting to make their mark, to let people know that we are here, we are not giving up, and most importantly WE CARE. 

Don't for a second,  underestimate the power of love. Love is often difficult, love is the higher road, and love is the only way we can move forward in this world. I am not saying that tomorrow we will all hold hands across communities and nations and sing Kumbayah together, but I do think to strive for anything less than that is a disservice to humanity. If we keep taking a backseat and accepting things as inevitable and awful, we cease to live, we become faithless, and our lives are drained of all meaning. It IS possible for us to remove ourselves from our tiny sheltered boxes and look out around us with open hearts and eyes. Despite all the bad we see, there is so much good in this world, and we must hold on to that and spread it like wildfire. This world is not an ugly, bad place. It is simply a canvas of potential that cannot, will not be reached by pessimism and resistance but a constant outpouring of radical, all-encompassing, unconditional love.

I know what I am saying may sound over the top/crazy optimistic/wildly liberal,insert adj here. In addition, I recognize I have much to learn and improve upon within myself. However, I am speaking from my heart. Living here in New Orleans has opened me up to what is happening while millions of us cloak ourselves in the comforting fabric of denial. While I will never know the true horror of what some of these families have been through, felt what they have felt, I can see it written on their faces, and I will never be the same because of it. This city with all its crime, injustice, poverty, and ever present love is changing me, changing me every second. I will continue to pray and listen for God in the noise and the silence to guide me forward even if I shake with fear in every step.

It's been an emotional past few days, but I know more than ever I want to help children see that they do have potential. Helping these troubled kids living in difficult situations takes a great deal of patience and is not easy and is often a long, uphill road. However, I am one more person committed to this cause. If I can make one child believe they have a future, that their lives do matter, that they can rise above the confinements of their situations, then my purpose on this earth is fulfilled. I hope each of you continue to search your hearts and when your answers lead to more questions, know that we will get there. God is there. God is always there.


Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable... Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.

Martin Luther King, Jr.