“I am not dead, yet,” I use my best Monty Python voice at its loudest. But I am filled to the brim with a life that fills me, which means it’s been a little quiet on this webspace lately. Part of what I have been up to? (more announcements later but let’s start with this) – starting a new missions project at my church.
I have been struggling with the world lately. Random shootings, not-so-random killings, mean-spirited hearts, a ridiculously ugly political season, poverty I can’t undo and pain we seem to ignore. It has felt a bit much over the past couple of months. Perhaps part of the reason why I have gone underground when it comes to writing. I needed time to heal, to reassess, to figure out how to be part of the solution, not the problem.
Back in March, back when this blog went dark for safety reasons, God and I did some wrestling. He won, of course. He always does. In the end, he used my personality to show me a way to make a difference, which brings a deep peace with new yet smaller concerns.
One dark night, in the middle of the night I was contemplating life and my to-do list, as I usually do. I was praying about my priorities and coming up with ideas to live the good life, always striving. Suddenly, I remembered an event I helped with in our old town: Cinderella’s Closet. It was fun and it seemed easy enough to plan, yet it seemed like an opportunity to reach people here in my own community. Right here. Not seas away, but five miles.
I got so excited I knew there was no going back to sleep. In typical fashion, I grew impatient, enthusiasm making my heart rate accelerate. I didn’t think a single thing through and sat at the computer. I emailed the pastor at my very new church (we weren’t even members yet) about how I thought we should bring Cinderella’s Closet to this area. Middle of the night. Send.
No research. No data collection. Just pure compulsion.
Isn’t that the way some of the best ideas are created and hearts won?
My pastor threw his support behind the idea while clarifying he would do so if I was going to lead the charge to bring the idea into reality.
And that, my friends, is how I came to start the Cinderella’s Closet in Wilmington, NC.
Cinderella’s Closet helps ladies who can’t afford to attend prom. We take in donated formal dresses, shoes, accessories and purses (after all, how many bridesmaids dresses do you still have in the back of your closet?). Then, working with local area high school guidance counselors. we have a day of “shopping.” Deserving high school girls come in, are given a personal attendant, can try on anything they want, alterations are done on site, and they leave completely outfitted for their prom, no charges. We even plan to provide good food while they shop (because shopping is exhausting, as we ladies know).
It seems teeny. It seems fairly ridiculous to some. Prom? Many of these girls need better opportunities in life total, not just one night.
But this is where God is amazing. Because by doing one tiny little thing – after all, we can’t help all these girls get all the opportunities they need but we can come together to give them one night of dreams – we can make a big impact.
We start small. We make big impacts by doing what we can do well and with a gracious heart. We can give one dress collecting dust to help a girl have a night she will always remember.
Prom meant a lot to you, to all of us, admit it. Prom was pivotal. It may have stunk, we may have horror stories, it may have disappointed, but we ALL remember it. We remember where we were and what happened, who we went with, what our dress looked like, how much AquaNet we used in our hair… Like it or not, it is nearly a rite of passage.
By helping girls attend, by giving them the chance if they want to take it, we are giving them a chance to stand up proud and deserving. This isn’t just about a dress. It is showing them that they are worth it, they are beautiful, and, more importantly, there are other women who live next door who see them and believe they deserve it.
While we share this message with them through our actions at Cinderella’s Closet, we also have the opportunity to talk to them. We are far too often segregated in our own communities, not even seeing the faces of those across the street. Here, for one “shopping day,” we all meet with one goal: to help them get another leg up when it comes to opportunities and self-confidence.
When I volunteered with this event for the first time, what I remembered after was not the sequins and glitter. It was the conversations with two quiet girls who seemed overwhelmed but startled me with their determined visions for their lives. They were motivated and they were like all college seniors. They believed the world was their oyster and they were out to take it. They had plans and they, while aware of the obstacles in front of them, were moving forward.
I still get chills thinking about them.
I don’t know what I did for them, if I influenced them at all, but I know that God influenced me through them.
God reminded me that helping our community can start with something small. He reminded me that we can’t change the world all at once (that’s his job) but instead of hanging our heads in defeat, we get out and do what we can.
Starting a new missions organization hasn’t been easy. I am scared (what if it fails?), confused (who at this new church of mine do I need to talk to for what?), overwhelmed (how do I find time to collect donations?), and uneducated (what happens if we don’t have enough dresses for all the girls who need them?).
Sometimes, I get competitive. I wonder why that organization there got news coverage and we haven’t. But then I remember that I haven’t asked for news coverage and we’re not ready for it yet since we are still putting systems in place. I put my impatience aside.
This has taken me far beyond my comfort zone. While I have planned events before through my time as Managing Director of the NC Blogger Network, I haven’t done anything based entirely on donations from the ground up.
At the end of every worried thought and bead of sweat, though, God comes out of nowhere and reminds me that those concerns are from my ego. And this isn’t about me. This is about him using me and my inability to sleep some nights to make a difference.
If you are local and want to help, get in touch! I encourage you to like the Facebook page and help spread the word.
If you want to start an organization of your own in your community, I will happily share what I have experienced.
About Beyond the Comfort Zone –
This challenge was designed in September 2015 by me, to push myself outside of my comfort zone. I wanted to force myself to try new things, to learn to embrace my life, to take a situation where I was feeling sad and lonely and force a new perspective. I was feeling stagnant but I realized it was my own fault. There is way too much fun, adventure, laughter and good people in the world for me to feel sad. I didn’t have true goals when I started: just to get out of self-pity and to get in the middle of the road and rush straight forward.
I encourage you to join me! Share your Facebook photo album link or your blog link below, and I can’t wait to get inspired by you. I’ll be doing this every month, and I look forward to sharing it with you, friends.