Happy St. Paddy’s , I am always touched by the self-awareness that the ladies of Proverbs 31 ministry express in their posts and how they use the gifts that God has revealed to them. I have always been fascinated by other people’s gifts and how they learned they had them. I can’t sing, carry a tune or play a musical instrument even though I am sure my family had great expectations for some sort of gift to be revealed when they named me Melody.
As a child, I would always listen to what the grownups where saying and whispering about, after all they were the adults so they naturally knew the answers to the secrets of life. Late at night tucked into bed, I would recall what had been said that day and more often than not someone called me ‘yackie’ so it was clear to me that talking MUST be my gift.
As I grew older, about 7 or 8 a new theme emerged, I was hearing what a great helper I was and how we needed to be good to ‘help mother stay healthy’. Our mom was in and out of hospital multiply times each year and we were often left with relatives or it was ordered for ‘homemakers’ to come live with my brother and I – it was so obvious, helping was my real gift. Through the years I worked real hard at nurturing my gift of helping others, I learned to sacrifice and put my needs behind those who needed me and my special skill.
It was not until I was in University studying to be a nurse (a professional helper) that life came full circle and I learned the art of listening, the yin to the yang of talking – this elevated my special ‘helping’ skill to new levels. University was the first time I had to speak in front of a group of more than two people and it was a disaster, I FAILED miserably at it. Then and there, I decided at all cost I must avoid all and everything that involves being vulnerable in front of a group.
Fast forward twenty years, I am living in a foreign country (I’m from Canada, eh) and working at a maximum security prison as the Angola Hospice Program and Inmate Volunteer Coordinator. For those unfamiliar with Angola, not so long ago it was known as the bloodiest prison in the nation but it is currently a prison that has been reformed by faith. After my first few days, I was told that a tour of 50 visitors was waiting for me in the hospice chapel. All I heard where the words ‘tour, fifty and waiting for me’, my thoughts started racing. The solution was simple, all I had to do was escape, yep ESCAPE from a 5,000 bed manmade maximum security prison. Proof that fear is truly irrational. All that stood between me and ‘freedom’ was a locked steel security door, two locked compound gates (wrapped in barbwire) and an armed offiicier at the secured front gate, what to do? I took a moment to collect my thoughts took a deep breath and went to plan B and asked “God please help me?” I am sure that this was not the first time he had heard that plea from inside those gates and he directed my vision to the men outside my office.
I asked the inmate hospice volunteers for help; after all who knew the program better than the men who worked it every day and who have helped to nurture it into the amazing program it is today. That day I learned a new facet of trust and I was sure that I felt the calling in my heart and my true gift revealed to me – compassion. That day, I stopped seeing the men as criminals my eyes were opened to see them as men. Men whom had made horrible, tragic mistakes that had changed the lives of many with one-act. I had to face an interesting truth, if I do not want to only be defined by my actions then why should I only define them by their bad act? My revelation fostered many conversations and discovery of many other ‘truths’ during my employment but I was living my passion, putting my gift into action and bringing compassion to end-of-life care in corrections.
One raining day before Thanksgiving in 2007, I was in a motor vehicle accident and two short years later my ‘calling’ was taken from me due to health issues related to the accident. As you can imagine it was not easy leaving my calling. It was not only a source of income, I was one of the lucky ones-I had the job I never dreamed possible, it challenged and feed my spirit and soul each day.
My desire to attend the She Speaks conference stems from the doors that opened while at Angola, to my utter shock I became a public speaker and it came way more naturally than I ever could have dreamed it could be. It had to be God who put the passion in my heart for the work that the program was doing. Faith not only reformed Angola, but it reformed my heart and I hope to attend the conference to investigate how to use my gift in a new way. So I am putting my faith in God, if I am one of the Proverbs 31 Ministry recipients of the Cecil Murphey Scholarships than I am meant to attend the conference.
Losing my job revealed to me that gifts are like recipes for a big pot of Louisiana Gumbo, they are never exactly the same but with the holy trinity, some love and time to simmer – they always come out better than expected.