March 2023 – Rev. Michele Van Son Neill
Feeding Hope for Grassroots Visionaries
Yesterday my son and I spent several hours packing food in boxes at Second Harvest Food Bank. If you’ve never been, I strongly recommend it: 1. clear mission, 2. well oiled machine, 3. high volume impact. Their slogan is Feeding Hope which is a clever reference to how their mercy work (feeding the hungry) is required before Maslow’s higher hierarchy of needs (hope) is possible.
When considering where to give our time, talents, resources, witness, and presence we have an opportunity to consider both mercy work and justice work. Mercy work is putting food in boxes and delivering it to hungry people to consume for one meal. Justice work eliminates the reasons people are hungry (lack of a living wage, unaffordable housing, poor education, unsafe neighborhoods, etc.). Justice work is expensive and complex, but it is the only way to make deep, lasting change.
Crave does justice work for grassroots visionaries in Central Florida by removing barriers and providing access to resources (relational, educational, financial, etc.). This was super evident at our Class VI Welcome Dinner earlier this month. Crave visionaries lead mercy efforts with impact that can ultimately change the course of generational poverty.
Please take a peek at our Class VI leader bios and dreams here. Crave coaches have been oriented; professional development sessions (strategic planning, consumer profiles, fundraising, etc.) are being finalized; and Class VI Soul-Tending sessions have begun in the way they always do: the Holy Spirit shows up tenderly, specifically, and powerfully bonds a group of former strangers who believe the world can be better…and are committing their lives to doing just that!
Keep an eye out for future Crave updates about Class VI. Class V had a miraculous nucleus around mental health. Class VI is focused on children: in foster care, educationally under-resourced, housing insecure, living in unsafe neighborhoods, and those with developmental disabilities.
Crave does justice work by breaking through cultural/systemic barriers and increasing access to resources and opportunities by connecting different people with similar missions. If any of the Crave VI mercy work for families and children is speaking to you, or you have experience to share, or a desire to learn more, please let us know here!
Thank you for being a critical part of Central Florida’s grassroots visionary impact!
Michele Van Son Neill Founder and Executive Director Crave of Florida, Inc.
February 2023 – Olivia Blase
Who do I want to be?
Every new season of life gives us the opportunity to decide the answer to a very simple yet important question: who do I want to be?
What do I value most? What impact do I want to leave on the world? How do I want to interact with other people? How do I want to feel? What legacy do I want to leave? Whether you are a new parent, have started a new job, moved, are going through loss and heartbreak, etc., new life situations are opportunities for us to check in with ourselves and be intentional about the people we want to be.
In college I had to decide what kind of student I wanted to be. In my young adult life, I mostly questioned what kind of friend I was. Starting my first career and beyond (this journey definitely isn’t over), I was evaluating the type of employee I wanted to be. When I was a Leader in Crave III, I wrestled with my identity as a white woman, as well as my role in our world as a person who wants to use her gifts for good and justice.
My newest adventure, living in Spain and teaching English, has forced me to address my identity as an American. This has been an especially interesting experience while living in Europe where everyone has an opinion about the USA. Some people thank me for how the States intervened in World War II. Others complain to me about how we get involved in everything globally. Some gush to me how much they love the USA, and others plainly tell me that they hate our country.
At first, all of this mixed feedback caused me to close up and try to hide my “Americanness”. I was confused about what it meant to be me in a place where everyone has an opinion about me. So instead of dealing with the question of “who do I want to be?” I clammed up and let others decide [for me] who I was to them. Let me tell you something – that didn’t work so well. I have spent so much time and energy wrestling with my identity on others’ opinions, yet I was wasting the opportunity to decide who I am going to be and what I am going to represent.
And of course, my identity both encompasses and extends beyond being American – or being a friend, a woman, caucasian, a student, an employee. Much of who I decide to be is exemplified by being a part of the Crave family, a community that loves, embraces, empowers, and emboldens people who are curious, passionate, generous, humble, and not afraid to bust boundaries for the good of others.
That is the kind of person I want to be. What about you?
January 2023 – Jennifer McKinney
How to Gain Clarity
There are many things we were not taught. Many things we are learning and passing on to the next generation. Things like letting go of perfectionism; how to work with our emotions; how important things like our thoughts and words actually are, and how to find clarity on what we truly want. These have been learned through self-exploration, but never through traditional streams of education, and often not even from our parents and guardians who were not taught these skills.
We are at the beginning of a calendar year, which often elicits goals of taking advantage of a fresh start. We set intentions for what we want to invite in throughout the new year, but as we also now know, for greatest results, setting the intention takes some strategy. If we align ourselves more with the seasonal calendar, winter is the first step in creating intentions for the upcoming cycle.
In winter we slow down and go inwards. We meditate on what the previous year brought us; we explore our role in the outcomes we received; we peel back what may have been getting in the way, and we get CLEAR on what seeds we want to plant for the new year. This work requires bravery. It requires a season of pause before “springing” into the next goal. Slowing down is a big part of the phase of winter, giving more time for reflecting and processing the previous cycles. Slowing down allows you to notice what is and isn’t working. For this, finding frequent moments of peace, digital detoxes, meditation and prayer allow you to cut through the constant stimulation that is our current experience as humans. You have to knowingly wade into the noise, sit in it and allow the noise to settle around you to find the gems of truth that are always there below the chaos.
Questions to ponder in the peaceful moments: Reminder: You have all winter to explore these questions.
● How satisfied am I? (Apply to specific topic or keep it general)
● How do I want to feel this year?
● When I look through the lens of God/My Highest Self/Love, what do I see for myself this year? What is their vision for me?
● What is keeping me from moving forward? Where is there lots of struggle?
● What drains my energy most?
● What currently makes me feel alive?
The next layer to finding clarity for your new year is to express what you found in the quiet. Write it down, speak it out loud, create art with it as your muse, move your body to reflect the truths. Let it flow through and out of you, and then, pause again. Repeat the process a few times, exploring different things. After the introspection, after the expression, you digest. You tend to what needs healing, you rest and you revisit the expressive creations frequently, adding layers if you feel it’s needed, possibly getting additional support for moments that feel too deep for self exploration. There tends to be a lot of letting go and accepting what is, hopefully from a place of love and understanding for the human experience. Then, as if suddenly, you begin to see, you begin to feel what’s needed next. Slowly and simply you start to make a game plan for the next season, spring. You start to gather new tools and teachers; you invest in creating change; you build momentum in the form of foundational habits and small tweaks throughout the winter months. When spring rolls around, you are ready to spring into further action.
Clarity thru Crave
Big goals and projects may take many cycles before the momentum is there and this is very normal. Building a business, changing your habits, learning new skills all take years. This is why allowing plenty of time to reflect and get clear is so important … otherwise it is very easy to get lost in the weeds. It’s as if the moments of inner work are equivalent to pulling the weeds of your metaphoric garden, clearing all the stuff that became overgrown or neglected throughout the year. When I think about my time with Crave one of the biggest benefits was the space to dig deep and get clear on what I wanted to create. I had the idea of an online wellness program, but the project seemed too daunting. I lacked clarity. The workshops, the time to brainstorm with a trusted group, the professionals I got to meet and learn from through Crave were a very crucial part of the final product that will actually launch this SPRING!!! Five years in the making and it all started with the mindful mapping of Crave activities that unveiled my vision.
Jennifer McKinney, Crave I Leader
Foundational Fitness Online Wellness
December 2022 – Rev. Shelly Denmark
Reflections on Crave Class V
We broke some records this year…they didn’t receive the kind of attention that Noah Lyles did (deservedly so), but they were important for the future of Crave. This year we had not only 1, but 2 family teams as Crave Leaders. It was inspiring to watch The Bishops and Team Lewis leverage their unique gifts as family units to better serve each of their organizations. And they set a precedent…we have a mother-daughter team who applied for the next Cohort. We appreciate both of these families letting us learn together as we tried something new.
We also started out with the largest Cohort Crave has ever had! And while a couple of our wonderful leaders had to step away for personal and work reasons, the Cohort still kept in touch with them, found ways to care for them, and collaborate on projects together. That is the mark of an intentional community.
Class V set the bar for the most money contributed towards Crave…and I know they will continue in that spirit of generosity as they engage and participate in our Alumni community. They are the spark that helped us get better organized to ensure we are meeting our Alumni’s ongoing needs.
Now for some individual gratitudes…
Seven was a sponge this year in Crave, soaking up all that he could learn and apply towards making Las Semillas the most impactful it can be. He is a deeply compassionate human who shares all of his resources to make sure that vulnerable members in his community have what they need. The world desperately needs more leaders like him, and I am grateful to have journeyed with him and witness his pure goodness lighten up the world!
Caleb is one of the best conversation partners I have ever had! He is what they call an “old soul,” wise beyond his years. I witnessed a consistent selflessness in him and a deep desire to offer encouragement and inspiration to those who need it most. It’s like a sixth sense in him! I am grateful for his generosity, and I look forward to many more life-changing discussions to come!
I witnessed a complete 180-turn in Shala this year! From shedding tears together over her story when we first met, to watching her confidently navigate ribbon-cuttings, fundraisers, and grant-writing…she is a powerhouse! I believe this journey has encouraged and empowered her to step fully into who she is uniquely gifted to be as a leader and a model for the girls and young women she is serving. I can’t wait to see her continue to shine!
Lo-Ammi demonstrated such courage this year! Moving from the familiar to the unknown, a bustling metropolitan city to a more rural area, from one job to the next and to the next — he never let fear keep him from taking the next best step forward. And now, he is in the perfect place…giving back to his alma mater, influencing young minds and hearts, and finding supportive community in the midst of it. I am grateful that he radiated light and positivity with us, and he chose the right name for his foundation because he IS greater!
Pastor Lewis is the epitome of focused leadership. He knows exactly what God has called him to do, and he doesn’t let distractions, obstacles, or frustrations steer him away from that path. I am grateful for the spiritual maturity he bestowed upon us and for sharing his story so authentically and freely.
Antoniah, brilliance and humility – what a perfect pairing, and that is exactly who she is! She takes time to consider and then contribute, and we are all left better for having communed with her. I am grateful for her vulnerability and how she is always willing to share what is on her heart.
I don’t think anyone participated in more Crave opportunities than Edrewnae! She took on this journey with joy, gentle curiosity, and a clear love of learning and sharing with others. I am grateful for her consistent encouragement and for being the rock I know she is for her family. I want to be like her when I grow up!
I look at Keisha’s travel schedule, events, workshops, and dedication to her grown children and think “how on earth does she do it?” She is a shining example of perseverance and strength, which motivates those around her to keep on keeping on. I am grateful for how she reached out to me when I needed a wise and empathetic listener, and I look forward to growing our friendship!
Mark entered spaces and made everyone feel welcome, seen, and included. He was always ready to learn from others, and like Edrewnae, he was consistently one of the first to show up and one of the last to leave our sessions. I am grateful for his servant leadership that he taught each of us, and I look forward to witnessing how the Lyles’ Brothers Sports Foundation grows with him at the helm!
November 2022 – Rev. Matthew Kern
Death, it seems, is fertile ground for new life.
This observation doesn’t come from abstract thought but is something I happen to witness on a near-daily basis in my line of work. As a hospice chaplain I am welcomed into a sacred yet admittedly particular space in the lives of others – namely, at the end of life. I join patients and their loved ones in the final stretch of life, journeying with them from the familiarity of this life to the mystery and promise that lie beyond it. However, what seems like a definitive end seems to sometimes also serve as the genesis of something new in the making. This looks like…
- a patient with a terminal diagnosis engaging in a meaningful life review and, in the process, engage themselves in a way never done before;
- family members finding new ways to organize and rally themselves for a new reality moving forward without their departing loved one;
- the blossoming of a peace, serenity, and/or contentment in the one passing away that, even if for the last season of life, is life-giving in itself.
While I will confess my surprise to see so many beginnings showing up in the midst of loss, I must also admit I really shouldn’t be that surprised at all. This rhythm of gaining in losing, receiving in letting go, yes even life coming forth from death is what Jesus called to our attention – not as new ‘rules’ to live by but an invitation to enter into the flow of the Universe that is always giving new life.
Crave works in the midst of the many forms of death that exist in our society. For those whose hope seems to have died, whose windows of opportunity seem to have passed away, whose trust in the prospect of a better future has long been buried six feet down, I see Crave and its leaders serving as agents of that new life that springs forth in the midst of so much loss. It is you, Crave, that are harbingers of that something new coming forth from the loss of the old. I can say this so confidently because I lived it through Crave itself.
At a time of very real loss and personal deaths of sorts, Crave invited me to experience something new in the midst of what was falling away from my own life. Joining the first Sanford cohort, I was given the opportunity to find new meaning out of old broken dreams, community out of places of solitude, and in a proverbial yet very real way, life out of death.
Death is an end, no doubt…but do not ever forget it also serves as rich soil for new things to spring forth. Continue to be that new thing in this world, Crave.
Crave Sanford I