Sunday, March 6, 2011

What's Your Favorite Color?

  As I write today it is grey and dismal outside. It is colorless and cold. The absence of color strips away my energy and my mood drives downward. I've never really thought about how color infuses all life. Imagine living in a prison cell day after day--colorless walls and faceless people. Yes, the women of the Lovelady Center have made mistakes and yes they should honor the consequences. But when they have fulfilled their punishment they still step out into grey.  How does one find a job as a convicted felon? Without a job, how does one find a place to live or transportation? Prison on the inside. Prison on the outside. The world withholds its color from them and they are destined to fail. Without some kind of post-release program, more than 70% of women will become repeat offenders and return to jail--a life that they know.
 Meeting Jesus is like seeing the color of the world for the very first time. He opens our eyes and reveals Himself to us. He repairs and restores and steadies our feet as we step into the painted world. These women's lives don't begin when they are set free from their literal prison. Their lives begin when they meet Jesus and He sets them free from their total bondage. The LLC brings Jesus to them as they help meet their physical and emotional needs. They want to help them put the color back in their soul....and so did we.
 Many shopping trips and many details later, our team hit the Lovelady Center with paint brushes in hand to paint some color on those walls of change. We had two rooms and two visions: a yellow and navy room and a blue and green room. Day one we painted two coats in each room and began some minor work. It was really day two that the hard work began. We changed light fixtures, and scrubbed showers. We hung towel racks and washed windows. We  dressed beds and moved furniture. We attempted to make a home for these ladies. And here's how it turned out.

Boy did I
have fun at Target!

Although, we worked together, all credit for this room really goes to the lovely Tally Dettling. The girl can put a room together! I think we bought every single thing at Target and spent about $600 per room. Tally made the bulletin boards--don't you just love them? Kids came by while we working and just begged for their room to be done. Broke our hearts! I love those green lamps too--just $19.99. One might appear in my house soon. :)
Room two looked like this and was put together by Meg Decoudres and Amy Henry--equally talented and gorgeous women.  The walls are "Convivial yellow" by Sherwin Williams---a gorgeous, creamy, neutral yellow. The navy blue gives such a fresh pop of color to the room that you can't help but be happy in there!
The furniture was donated to me and with a little elbow grease, oil, and some new knobs--I think it came out wonderfully!
Amazing transformation, right? It just goes to show what a little paint and a little money can really do. We transformed their rooms as they seek to transform their lives. Next, I'll be writing about the women's reactions and what I learned throughout the weekend.  I want to thank all the amazing people who helped during this weekend. We had such fun serving alongside of one another. A special thanks to the Home Depot for donating all the paint and supplies. It was a very generous gift.
Until next time.....

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Lovely Ladies

This room belongs to my new friends.
One of the ladies is expecting twins in April!
       Phillipians 2:3-7 says:
 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made him-self nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

 What an amazing weekend. AMAZING! Friday, February 26th kicked off the beginning of our annual Outreach Conference. This year's topic was: adopted (in Christ) the orphan, the gospel, and the church. When I first heard the title, I have to confess that I wasn't all that stirred. I mean, afterall, we're not considering adoption, so it will have little relevance to me. Right? However, I was assured that the contents of the conference would apply to everyone and that I shouldn't miss a single session of it. It was guaranteed to be gooooooood. Fair enough. I never like to miss a party, so I committed to being there. I was, however, instantly excited about a new component to our outreach conference: an outreach project. In a moment of passion, (and insanity) I volunteered to coordinate this project which would consist of doing two room makeovers at the Lovelady Center in the Eastlake area of Birmingham.
  The LLC is a gospel-centered safe house for over 400 women and 90 children who are either convicted felons or have been court ordered to the center because they are in serious legal trouble. Unlike most prison ministries, the LLC allows mothers to have their children with them as they go through the program. The center wants to unite the mothers and children to Christ, and equip them for a successful life together outside of the LLC. It's truly unique.
   I first started going down to the LLC around Christmas time. The book Radical was fresh off the press, and fresh in my heart so I wanted to jump in there and change the lives of these women. Only, when I first toured the facility I was so incredibly discouraged. The number of women and children was overwhelming. Their obvious need was overwhelming. I could go every single day for a year and no one would even notice me! What's the point?

Before shot of sink area.
Still, I went back to serve Christmas dinner and that sea of women was shrunken down to just eight women sitting at a table waiting for my friends and I to serve them. I could do eight. We spent the evening talking with them and getting to know their stories. We spent the evening serving them dinner and making them feel special. That night, they sat tall at the table. It was a great night and a thought-provoking night. My mind was flooded with relevations: most of these women were white; most of these women looked like you and me; most of these women made a few wrong decisions which left them stranded in the wilderness. These women needed Jesus like I need Jesus. I knew I would be going back. I had to go back.
 So, when the outreach project was set to be centered around the LLC (not to mention shopping and spending), I was all over it. I headed down there with a few friends to see the two rooms we would be improving and hopefully meet the ladies who lived there. We were assigned rooms next door to each other with two women in each room. And God being God put one of the women who was at my Christmas table in one of our rooms. She remembered me and her spunky, wild spirit had been indelible on my mind and it was great to reconnect. I couldn't impact 400 women...but maybe, I could impact four. And God being God, ever aware of my pride, used those four women to impact me.
 See below for more "before" pictures and check back to read what God accomplished that weekend.