Sunday, July 31, 2011

Comin' to America...

As I begin this post, I am reminded of the movie “Coming to America”.  When George and I first “met” via FB chat just after Christie returned from her very first trip to Uganda , I felt that there was something very special about him.  Not only because he made my big sister happy but just because…

I spent my lunch hour chatting with George almost every day.  He was always there waiting for me.  It didn’t matter if I went to lunch at 12:00 or 1:00 or 2:00, he always stayed awake to chat with me before retiring to bed (remember, Uganda is 8 hours ahead of the US).  And if I didn’t get to take a lunch, boy was he blowin’ up my FB wall asking where his “lunch date” is. 
I remember George telling me that he was going to run for President of Uganda.  So I assumed he was some kind of big deal (Bahahaha!) I told him he was probably like Eddie Murphy on the moving “coming to America”.  I told him he was some kind of royalty but didn’t want us to know.  It’s still a running joke with us. 

Prince Akeem = George

George had THE hardest time just being able to visit us.  He has been trying since October and kept getting turned down by the Embassy.  I understand the US’s stance on trying to prevent terrorism but geez! Let me just assure you, if being skeptical and rude is in their job description, they did their job well.  George finally scored his Visa the last week of June! Cha-ching! I was soooooo excited that I was FINALLY going to get to meet him in person!

Christie & George were scheduled to arrive on July 4, 2011! I had asked her to schedule their flights on a day that I was off so that I could spend some time with him, since I had to work during the week.  Mom, Alex, Marlie & I went to the airport in Birmingham to pick them up.  We stood at the bottom of the escalator and waited.  We didn’t have time to get our nerves in check because we literally got there five minutes before I saw Christie’s long, bright skirt at the top of the escalator.  In this picture, you will see George squatting down so that he could see us sooner.  And I was doing the same :)

Christie & George arriving at the airport.  Look at THAT smile!

There were no introductions needed! We already knew him.  And we knew him well.  He had been a part of our family all along!  Normally Alex is shy around new people (well, at first) but he took right to George.  Marlie, not so much! 

As we started out of the airport headed to the parking deck, Christie asked George to rent one of those carts that you can wheel your luggage with.  Poor George.  He had only been in America a few hours and was already broke! The carts cost $4 to rent and he only had $2.  LOL.  He had to borrow a couple dollars from Alex…

As we drove home, I just let it all soak in.  I loved hearing George’s accent and hearing him talk.  We went back to my house where Derrick was preparing George’s first real American home-cooked meal: ribs, baked beans and jalapeno poppers.  When we got home, we headed up the steps into the kitchen and George was greeted by our little dog Copper.  Boy was he freaked out!  He started backing down the stairs and squealing (if you’ve ever met George, you know how high his voice can get).  It was hilarious!  He never warmed up to her either!

Alex wanted to show George how good he was at playing darts and George was pretty good too!

We had a lovely meal, I bored George with my many scrapbooks, he played Bowling on the Wii with Chritie and Alex, and I made him take off that ugly Auburn hat that somebody had given him and I introduced him to the Alabama hat.  We enjoyed our evening together and then it was time for them to go home (to my mom’s in Alexander City). What a great day that was!


Saturday, July 30, 2011

Trip to Uganda....POSTPONED

Thanks to everyone who purchased a "Who Cares About the Joneses" t-shirt.  While the money donated through your purchase was not used to fund our trip in July, it is safely put aside in PayPal for when we finally get to visit Uganda.

Mom & I were scheduled to visit George, Christie & their village the first two weeks of July but they God had other plans.  And His plans are PERFECT! 

Christie announced that she & George were married and they were going to be parents (for the humpteenth time).  This time, Christie would be carrying their baby (for the time being, he/she is being called Little Creamy, or LC for short).  Christie needed to come to the States to get medical care and figure out their plans for the delivery.  Long story short, she will be giving birth here in Alabama so we decided to postpone our trip until next year.  That way we get to spend time with Christie, George & LC here in the States and can go visit next year.  I know once they are finally HOME and settled, they probably won't be back for a while.  I wanted to put the trip to the best use possible.

Aren't they gorgeous? 

LC's first photo

Monday, February 21, 2011

Fundraiser T-shirts Now Available :)

So I have finally been able to slow down enough to get my fundraiser t-shirts designed, my PayPal account set up and make them available for purchase. My mom and I are going to visit my sister Christie in Uganda during the first two weeks in July. Funds raised from the sale of these shirts will be used to help fund our trip.

There were sooooo many possibilities with the design and I wanted to do several BUT I knew I could only do one at a time. After stewing over the designs, I chose the "Who Cares About The Joneses?" design because it expresses the feelings that I have about the extravagant lifestyles that people feel are necessary to lead in their quest to "keep up with the Joneses". Please see my first couple of blog posts for the whole story behind my blog title.

Since I began attending The Church at Brook Hills, read Radical by David Platt and followed my sister Christie Cotney's ( journey to help the poverty stricken Bugabo Village in Uganda, East Africa, the lavish lifestyles that many people lead have really weighed heavily on my heart. Some people would argue that God blesses people with prosperity and would want them to use those resources in order to have a "good" life. I do very much agree with the first part of that statement; God does bless people with prosperity. However, I don't believe it's because he wants us to live a "good" life. One of my favorite quotes by David Platt sums it up: "God is generous so that His people can be generous!" I believe that those who are prosperous have an obligation to those who are not.

I have but one prayer for everyone who purchases one of these shirts and for those who see them wearing it -- I pray that their hearts will be moved to help those who are in dire physical and spiritual need.

The reference that will be displayed in the middle of the African continent is 1John3:17 which reads:

"If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?"

If you are having trouble seeing the images, please visit the website that I used to design the shirts:

By viewing the design via the link above, you will be able to zoom in and out and rotate your view between the front and the back of the shirt.

I will not be ordering from this website so please do not pay attention to any of the information that you see there....just the design.

The shirts will be 100% preshrunk cotton and blue in color.

READY to order?
$20 each which INCLUDES shipping.
PayPal - OR you may mail a check to:
Melinda Allen
PO Box 401
Alabaster, AL 35007

Please be sure to include your size and mailing address with your order.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Something I said I'd NEVER do...

My momma always told me to never say what I wasn't gonna do. Well, I have alot of those "I'm never gonna do that" examples. Don't we all? And I always end up doing them. Don't we all?

For example, I was NEVER going to fly! NEVER! And then 9/11 happened and I was NEVER EVER EVER going to get on a plane! So, I got on a plane for the first time just after the 1 year anniversary of 9/11. And where did I go? Yep, NYC. The exact same city where 9/11 happened. What was I thinking?!?!

So got me on that one! I flew on a plane. I must admit, it was a nice flight and I was totally cool with flying. HOWEVER, I would NEVER EVER EVER EVER fly overseas. As in, get on a plane and fly across the ocean. Oh, no ma'am! That's where I drew the line!

So, in keeping with the tradition, I'm going to Africa! And this is where I will BEG for your prayers! I really want to go see my sister. I really want to meet George (and put him in his place, nonetheless. I mean, he thinks Christie's the boss? Riiiiiiight. I want to live up to my promise of showing him "Am Boss") I really want to meet these precious children that I see in her pictures. I really want to witness the culture there. I really want to see first hand the work that God is doing in the village. I really want to be a part of something bigger than myself. I really want to! But I have so many doubts that plague my mind right now.

First, I know that the tickets are expensive. But I'm ok with that. That will be the best $1500 I've ever spent! For sure! I know that I will want to make the most of the time that I will take off of work and the time that I will be without my children. I will need to be gone for atleast 10 days to make the most out of the trip. I struggle with the thought of leaving my children. Yes, they have a GREAT daddy who loves them very much and takes very good care of them. I have NO issues with that. I am very thankful that I would not have to worry that their needs will be met. I know that Alex will understand why I am away and he is totally OK with that. Although he REALLY wants to go with me. Marlie will not understand because she will only be 2 years old and won't know what's going on anyway. I am not worried about how others will feel about my trip. I am worried about the way that I will feel about it. Not sure how to put it into words but my biggest struggle is the fact that I will be so far away from them and that makes me very uneasy. I know that mothers do it all the time. I have always admired the depth of their faith. I know that this journey will require a magnitude of faith.

I also worry that my heart will be completely broken and unrepairable once I witness the poverty and despair. Don't get me wrong. I have seen tons and tons of pictures, videos and heard my sister's stories. But I have heard once you witness it first-hand, you are never the same. What happens WHEN I get there and am completely changed forever? What happens WHEN I come home and feel empty? What happens WHEN I come home and have that fire in me to start selling my possessions and live a more simple life so that I can help those in desperate need? What will my husband think? What will my children think? What will my in-laws think? What will my co-workers think?

Please keep me in your thoughts and prayers as I work through these issues. I have been hearing this bible verse over and over and over again over the past couple of weeks. I kept wondering what it had to do with me and now I realize how fitting it is:

"Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." ~ Matthew 6:34

Please share with me scriptures to help me prepare for this battle. It is definitely one worth fighting!

In closing, I will say that I will NEVER go down to the kitchen and eat some of that chocolate cake that I baked on Sunday. NEVER EVER EVER EVER ;)

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


So one of my New Year’s Resolutions (and the most important) is to get closer to my God. I felt the most important way to do that was to start going to church regularly. This entails two parts:

  • 1) Attend Worship EVERY Sunday morning or evening – no matter where I am. If I’m in Alex City, I will go to church in Alex City. If I’m out of town on vacation, I will attend services there.
  • 2) Join a Small Group at church

I used to be one of those that said “I don’t need to go to church to believe in God.” Well, neither did the devil. When I attended Secret Church in November, David Platt spoke about the Church and its purpose. If you haven’t already, please listen to the recording of Secret Church: The Body of Christ During this time at Secret Church, it became very apparent to me that I NEED the church. The definition of the church is simply this: a gathering of believers.

So, this Sunday, I got myself and both of these WILD kids ready for church and we headed out and got there around 9:00 (a tad bit late but nonetheless….) Derrick had to work so it was a slow go but we made it. I dropped Marlie off at her classroom and Alex & I headed to Worship. BTW, Marlie did NOT cry! And they said she even took a nap! One thing I like about CBH is that they believe that children in 1st grade and up should be involved in Worship with their parents. I had the best time with Alex. It’s rare that we get to spend time – just the two of us. And what better way to spend it than praising God. He was a real trooper and I had to explain to him a lot of what David was saying but he was all ears. I so pray that I can raise my children up to be Godly children.

After Worship service was over, I took Alex to his classroom and headed to try to find the first small group that I was going to visit in my quest to find the right one. We studied the Book of Ruth. What is it with the Book of Ruth? What is God trying to tell me through this book? Something keeps drawing me to this book. It’s no coincidence that the VERY first I’d heard of CBH was through Christie MAKING me listen to “The Story of Love” one morning while we were on the way to visit another church in the area. The Sunday before last I felt the urge to purchase David’s series about the Book of Ruth. This is an AMAZING story! AMAZING! Makes me wonder what he’s trying to tell me through Ruth and Naomi….

My plans are to reflect on each service as I learn about the Bible. I really have little knowledge of the Bible. I know that sounds bad. As children, we went to church for a few years – when I was in Kindergarten and maybe a couple of years after that but I do not remember what I learned. All I remember was the negative things that I heard (long, long, long story – another place, another time). Throughout the years (especially in HS when I had free will to go to church) I was always embarrassed to go to church because I really knew NOTHING. I didn’t know the story about Jonah and the Whale. Sure I’d heard of them but what was the story? I knew that Jesus was born in a manger and his Mother was Mary and his Father was Joseph…or was he? And who was David? What if they asked me these questions? What in the world would I say? Derrick always invited me to church and it literally made me sick at the thought of it. I was so nervous! What a shame!

Ok so I’ve lost my train of thought…. Oh, my goal is to reflect on what I learn during each service.

Stay tuned…..

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Why I Believe In People & Why You Should Too!

We have our annual Kick Off Meeting this year in Charlotte, NC. Our EVP is holding a contest in which the Branch Managers were to submit a thread to our company's blog. Our Area Directors will narrow the entries down to the Top 5 and those will be put before the entire Division for voting next week. The grand prize is a brand new iPad. Now, I don't have a need for an iPad but it would be really awesome to win it. I am sure that Christie could have a use for it in her school in Uganda. Right? Of course!

Long, Long, Long story short....I didn't get it submitted on time because I thought the deadline was 12 midnight but it was 5pm (yesterday). If my entry is not counted, I will be OK with that. My whole purpose was to bring awareness to the poverty situation around the world. Mission accomplished.

Here's the post:

Over the past few months, I have had the honor of helping my sister (Christie Cotney: with her fundraising efforts here in the States while she is living in Uganda, East Africa. I have been so amazed at the people that our Creator has put in her path over the past year.

A little background about the village that she is living in:

Bugabo Village:

  • A remote village which practices witchcraft and is located in the country of Uganda, East Africa.
  • Population: approximately 2000.
  • Most families in this village live off of ONLY $2/day.

Here are some examples of what I have seen and why I believe in people. These people that I refer to are just like you and me; they live in our communities; our children go to school with their children; our children play sports with their children; our families work with their families; they face the same struggles we face on a daily basis. Some of these people may even be present, former or future customer of ours. These are AMAZING people who do things that are greater than themselves. I have seen these people donate over $30K in the last 6 months to a person that they have never even met. They take care of the widows, the orphans, the outcast, the lost, the hurting and the dying.

  • · I have seen countless amounts of people that my sister has never even met donate money to help the families living in this village.
  • · I have seen people come together and donate to the “Buy A Brick, Build up Bugabo” project which completely funded the building of a new school so that more children could get an education.
  • · I have seen an old high school friend who we have not seen nor spoken to in well over 15 years donate time and time again for the various projects going on to build up this Village.
  • · I have seen pictures of a man dying from cancer and AIDS and people coming together to donate money to purchase him a bed and mattress – the first he’s ever had – so that he could die comfortably.
  • · I have seen pictures of this dying man with the biggest smile on his face.
  • · I have seen people collect and donate hundreds of dollars worth of formula to be sent to this village to save the lives of babies who are severely malnourished.
  • · I have seen people pull together and donate money so that this Village could have their first annual Christmas party and come to know the love of our Creator.
  • · I have seen my sister set a VERY lofty goal of $22K to find 220 sponsors so that these 220 children could take their first steps in ending their poverty – earning an education.
  • · I have seen this goal be MET by people (most of whom we have never met) within just a couple of months!
  • · I have seen families (who were themselves raising funds to adopt and save a child from the dumps of Ethiopia) donate money that they did not have to another cause.
  • · I have seen a very sweet family donate time and time again. They too are in the process of adoption and have funds sitting in their adoption fund. Since they do not yet have a referral for their adoptive child, they see the need to use those funds to help others in need while they wait to bring their child home.
  • · I have seen people come together and donate $1K to build a new, suitable home for a mother suffering from Epilepsy (that has gone untreated for many years due to lack of medical treatment) and her 2 year old child that only weighed 15 pounds.
  • · I have seen a family that we have never met step up and sponsor this same mother and her daughter to keep them alive by providing the funds to handle their food, shelter and water needs.
  • · I have seen these same people donate this money to an individual who has not yet set up her non-profit organization. These people were not looking for a tax write-off, as they could not get one here.
  • · I have seen the smiling faces of the 220 children who were being profiled for the upcoming school year. Those smiles show the hope that they have received from these people who have chosen to sponsor them and literally change their lives.
  • · I have seen the contaminated water that these villagers have to drink. I have seen the funds raised to supply the 12 water collection tanks that now supply their need.
  • · I have seen families rethink Christmas and give the gift of education, food and medical care so that a child in the village could thrive and do well.
  • · I have seen people pull together and donate money to buy medicine to de-worm all of the children in this Village. Have you ever wondered why children that are deemed severely malnourished have big tummies? They literally have worms.
  • · I have seen people donate money to purchase each person in the village a pair of shoes to protect their feet from lethal jiggers (small insects that cause body parts to rot).
  • · I have seen these people donate money in hopes that one day seeing children dig through trashcans will be the exception, not the norm.
  • · I have seen the precious Village people stay true to their culture and not take things for granted. When the children were presented with brand new soccer balls, they continued to play with the old ones too.
  • · Just today I witnessed the sponsorship of two deaf children. One of which, at the age of 12 has never learned to speak. These children will now be able to attend a boarding school and get the specialized care that they need to thrive.
  • · I have seen these INCREDIBLE people cash in their 401Ks, downsize their homes, sell their Mercedes, wear less expensive clothes, etc. all for the sake of changing the lives of the less fortunate.

I encourage you all to help others anytime that you can :)

Monday, January 3, 2011

Love Feeds ~ Reusable Tote Bags now available!

It's that time again - time for New Year's Resolutions. No matter what your resolutions are this year, helping others in desperate need should be #1 on that list. This is one resolution that you do NOT want to fail at. No matter how many resolutions you end up not keeping, I want to encourage you to keep this one!

Here is a simple way that you can help in the cause to fight world hunger:
1) Print out the attached order form
2) Hit up everybody you know - ask them to order a bag or twenty!
3) Mail your order forms and payments to Audrea:
Love Feeds *
P.O. Box 110651
Nashville,TN 37222

* Checks should be made payable to Audrea Smith

Please visit for more information about this organization! They have other projects as well!

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Beginning of A New Journey

Last spring, my sister Christie Cotney and I began visiting The Church at Brook Hills in our search for a church home that would make us feel welcome. I remember her telling me that we were going to a church over “on 280” and my heart dropped, as I didn’t want to go to one of “those” types of churches. You know the ones – thousands of members, snooty church-goers, a preacher/pastor that breathes fire, state of the art programs, etc. But, being the loving sister that I am (right Christie?), I gave in and visited this church with her. We pull up to the church and here we are at this HUGE building and I thought “Oh, Great! This looks like fun!”

When we walked in, I was surprised that I didn’t feel any type of negativity in the building. Yes, there were lots and lots of people but I did not feel uncomfortable. As I looked around the place, I noticed there was a wide variety of different races, ethnic backgrounds, cultures and mixed families. I am sure the look on my face was priceless: “You mean, THIS church welcomes mixed families?” I mean, isn’t that the view of the average American? Although I wasn’t raised that way, I believe most Americans have this view built into the back of their minds. And that is SAD.

As we tried to find out way to the sanctuary (which I was sure had pristine, white columns, expensive stained glass windows, velvet-covered pews and let’s not forget the choir members sporting their shiny robes with gold “CBH” initials) I remember looking around the place. What I saw made my heart sink as I felt a little bad for thinking negatively. I saw hand-made cardboards that had statistics about world religion and poverty and real life pictures of some of the world’s poorest countries and its people. As I looked at these pictures, I thought “Wow! Just wow!”

As we walked into the worship room, I was both not surprised and surprised. I was not surprised by the massiveness of the room. I mean, after all, what would you expect out of a “megachurch”? But I WAS surprised to see none of those things I mentioned before. My eyes fixed upon the stage in front of me. This is what I saw:

And….the thing I struggled with the most was CBH’s pastor, David Platt. I mean, he was 32 years old and dubbed the “youngest megachurch pastor in history”. Mega.Church. Yep, just what I needed. But, Boy, oh boy! After the first sermon I heard David Platt preach, I was SOLD! Christie was pretty smitten too :)

You will see me refer to David many many many many times on this blog. He is such an inspiration for me and so many other people. He speaks with such passion and conviction and answers all of those hard questions that we are all scared to ask.

The real side of the Joneses...

I have worked in the Finance business since 1999. Not just finance but Consumer Finance. I make loans to individuals just like you and me. And let me tell you, I have seen it all! I have seen the poor old lady living on a fixed income who is responsible with her debt; I have seen the Executive borrow money and never pay one payment; I have seen the single mother who is struggling to make ends meet; I have seen the college student who is trying his best to meet his obligations....

On a daily basis, I review peoples' credit bureaus and am completely AMAZED at what I see. For example, take the Executive who makes $150K per year. I often wonder when I am reviewing their eligibility for a loan "Hmmmm. Why does THIS person need to borrow $2,000?" Any idea of how much credit card debt he has? Yeah, about the same amount as he makes per year. Want to take another guess at what his total credit lines on those credit cards are? Yep, the same $150K. He is what we call "maxed out". I sit in awe of what in the world he could have done with $150K. When I take a look at his assets, he lives in a $400K house (which is 60 days pastdue), drives not only one but TWO luxury cars (both of which are 30 days pastdue) and a $50K motorhome (90 days pastdue), just to name a few.

My point here is that on the outside, this person "has it all" but in reality, he owns nothing. How many people do you think are envious of what he "has"? How many people do you think try to be just like him? How many people are putting themselves in this same situation as this man - all for the sake of keeping up with the Joneses? How is your life better when keeping up with the Joneses?

I will leave you with these pictures....

So, the next time you think you'd like to have this or that because Bobby or John or Sally or Sue has it, remember these pictures. Be responsible with your money and use it to help others advance.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

What's In A Name?

Yes, I know that I already have a blog and if any of you have noticed, I haven’t blogged since May 2010. What a slacker!

I have so many New Year’s Resolutions for 2011 and I am sooo glad that 2011 is here. This is going to be MY year :) One of those resolutions is to begin blogging again. I love blogging but have not been committed to it. I want to document each detail as I make my way through this year and some radical changes that I plan to make. So, in keeping with my resolution, here goes….

Now, you may be thinking “Where in the world did she come up with the title “Who Cares About the Joneses?” Well, that brings me to another New Year’s Resolution of mine. Let’s all be honest. We’ve all tried to keep up with the Joneses. And if we’re really honest, we’ve ALWAYS tried to keep up with the Joneses. And if we’re really, really honest, we are at this very moment trying to keep up with the Joneses. This year, I challenge myself and the rest of you to forget about the Joneses. Who cares what the Joneses have? Count your blessings and be glad with what the Lord has provided you with. I can assure you that you're far more blessed than alot of other people in this world! And if there are any Joneses reading this, I challenge you to use those blessings to help other people.

Keeping Up With the Joneses

I'm sure you've all heard the phrase "Keeping up with the Joneses", right? What does that really mean? I have often wondered this too and so I decided to do some research and here’s what I found:

• "Keeping up with the Joneses" is a popular catchphrase in many parts of the English-speaking world. It refers to the desire to be seen as being as good as one's neighbors or contemporaries using the comparative benchmarks of social caste or the accumulation of material goods.
• The origin of this phrase is rooted in the popular comic strip of the same name created by cartoonist Arthur R. "Pop" Momand. The strip debuted in 1916 in the New York World, but strips appear in collections dated as early as April 1, 1913. The strip ran in American newspapers for 28 years, and was eventually adapted into books, films, and musical comedies. The "Joneses" of the title were neighbors of the strip's main characters, and were spoken of but never actually seen in person.

Here are some photos I found that are funny but oh so true!

My Playlist :)

Get a playlist! Standalone player Get Ringtones