Obviously, I am not a person who moves around a lot. I lived in the same house from the ages of 4-21 with the exception of college. I lived in my little house in Winder from the ages of 21-31 when I briefly lived in Emily's basement "I live in my sister's basement . . ." and then married John and moved to Dahlonega where I remain. Jobs would be the same with me, since I worked in high school at Chic-fil-a "all the good Christian kids worked there," and later I was an intern @ FBC Vidalia where I did everything from change diapers to plan activities for the high school kids. Then I landed this sweet gig at my home church at 21 years old (not quite 21 if you want to get technical) and I have been there ever since.
So if you want to get right down to it, I've never done anything besides take care of children, make sweet tea and chicken sandwiches, or take care of more children.
Well, I've also done quite a bit of writing/ lesson planning, some basic first-aid (okay, that one surgery at camp one summer), cleaned up quite a bit of vomit, conducted some interventions, a few counseling sessions, testified in court, supervised teachers, trained teachers, put up quite a few bulletin boards (that were outstanding, in my opinion), and I've read and studied quite a bit, trained, attended and conducted countless workshops, and copied some coloring sheets. Working for a Baptist church all these years, I've also logged quite a few hours hugging people, shaking hands, sharing potluck dinners, serving at potluck dinners, organizing "fellowships" (get-togethers if you're not Baptist), teaching with flannel-graph, assembling "power bands," jamming to some Veggie Tales or The Sparks Theme Song, cleaning dry-erase boards, picking up puzzle pieces (wow, we have a puzzle for everything here!) and even some very odd things that you would never know happen in the course of a day at a Baptist church.
Once, the women's ministry director and I spent an entire day with a homeless lady who lived under the trucks that park behind Kohl's in Lawrenceville. We took her shopping for clothes and toiletries, and helped her fill out paperwork for government housing. Looking back, it now seems odd that we took her to eat at Longhorn. I can still remember when we pulled up to her "home" behind Kohl's and there was this trash bag of clothing and a bottle of scope - under a trailer in this space of about three feet where she lived. I was probably 23 years old, owned my own little house and had a nice job. I'm sure I was wearing "nude" control top pantyhose, hanging around back there with the trucks behind Kohl's feeling very naive.
Another time I held this little boy on my lap in the housing projects while some of the pastors were putting on a puppet show. Suddenly I realized he had wet his pants and mine too. So I spent the whole day out there with a huge pee stain on the front of my skort (yes, skort, it's a combination shorts/skirt and very handy in the summertime.)
There was also my stalker-friend, 59 year old Mohammed, who stuck around after Revival one night and scared the stuffing out of me, then followed me to Target in the women's lingerie department and scared me again before my mom called and told our then-Associate Pastor that I was NEVER to be left alone at an event again.
Ryan reminded me today about the Dean-O and the Dynamos concert - the WORST event we ever carried out, when there were about two thousand kids crammed into the DHS gym and the air conditioning went out . . . in late May . . . in Georgia. And then after the SECOND song, the two thousand kids lost interest in the music and the super-saved aerobic-dancing girl in her denim overalls and started ripping to shreds their Hawaiian leis . . . getting up to walk around the gym, chasing each other, mobbing the stage area, and making me a nervous wreck. Fortunately the show only lasted about two hours.
And I cannot forget Fort Bluff, the scene of the all-time most regrettable camp I've ever been a part of. There were the narrow triple bunks reminiscent of a Nazi concentration camp, the food that I stopped eating on day one when Vanessa Lopez met me in line for breakfast and said: "Ms. Melissa . . . there was a cocka-roach in my sausage biscuit!" and the crazy rules about coed swimming and the need for 8 year old girls to wear t-shirts over their bathing suits. My exact words to the camp staff "but all the kids look exactly the same at this age! Who cares?" It was, in fact, a camp with a nice brochure that was NOTHING like reality.
And while on the subject of camp, I will always laugh when I think of "Miss Karen" and the giant bag of poop "at least ten pounds in this bag," the little boy who pooped in the sink backstage during the talent show, (the year with all the Tavious kids at camp . . .) and the farting gymnast who got into an argument over who dealt it - with her gymnast partner- during the talent show. There was the year when fourteen different girls all tried out with the song "Jesus take the wheel," including a rap version and a ridiculous interpretive dance. I will smile when I think of little Josh Trainer, grinning as he won the first place trophy for "Fly Away," and the next day when he became a virtual celebrity in the cafeteria.
Truly this job has been my mainstay for the past 14 years. The people of this church have carried me through a horrendous first marriage that never should have happened. The people of this church have stood by me through my codependency and divorce. This church was a place where I could go to feel successful, sane, and busy. Sometimes this church was a place for me to hide, to get lost, or to blend in with the crowd. Sometimes this church was all that was left of me. Through my time back in schools, two ectopic pregnancies, the loss of two very precious souls, through a new marriage, the transition to step-parenting, and through every triumph and ordeal of my adult life- I've had this sweet gig. I once told someone, "I get paid to tell kids about the Bible. How sweet is that?"
Through this job I discovered that my life's work is to help abused and neglected children. And to parent them. Through this job I learned about forgiveness, repentance, healing, honesty, hard work, recognition, charity, compassion, pain, ambition, passion, creativity, trust, and loyalty. I've learned to work with people who are very different from me. I've learned to be part of a team. I've learned to balance time. I've learned to work for a common goal. And now it's time for this season of my life to end.
I will take so many wonderful memories, so many lessons, and so many important truths with me as I go. I am going to work full-time with abused and neglected children. I am going to further my education, but most of all, I am going to be more available to my family, and be more of a wife to my wonderful husband. I am going to where God has called me, and believing good things will come. So, here I go to Dahlonega! And just as I once stood on the outside of this season, not knowing when I accepted this position at 21 years old that I would still be here all these years later, with a heart full of memories - I don't know what the future holds. But I know who holds the future.