Miss Brenda & The Loveladies: The Review.

Miss Brenda & The Loveladies: Written by: Brenda Spahn & Irene Zutell

Brenda Lovelady-Spahn tells how she came to start what is now the biggest faith based program of it's kind. 


 
Lovelady Center is currently housed in Birmingham, Alabama. It houses at any one time up to 450 women and children. It is the largest facility of it's kind. There is no program like it. It's kind of unheard of to have a rehabilitation center that also houses children. Through the program, women are able to get the tools needed to once again become independent women. As a former graduate of Lovelady center, and one who has been to a few rehab centers, I can say it's focusing on God and the positives rather than drug use that is the key to it's success. Most programs you sit around in classes all day talking about nothing but drugs. Those programs don't fix you from the inside out. 

Most women who are in addiction or the drug lifestyle, have been severely abused and wounded. It was escaping those pains that lead them where they are. If you don't focus on the root of the problems, then they rear their ugly head time and again. Lovelady offers counseling, programs to help get your license back (most have had numerous traffic violations, causing them to lose their driving privileges).  They also have a legal department that aides in helping women get their legal issues taken care of.  As well as assistance in getting out of a universe relationships. They have a support group: Mother Without Custody, which is the only support group of it's kind, focused on helping mothers find solace with the support of others, to help navigate the hole created when you no longer have custody. The center is so respected in the community. I was amazed at the miracles I watched in the women's lives who were submitting themselves fully to the program. Many women have been there for years. It's a family. It's not just a program, once a Lovelady always a Lovelady. 

I received my copy as a giveaway on Goodreads months ago.  Despite having graduated the program and being a success story, I think I was scared to feel the emotions once again.  It's so not an easy thing to take a look at how you've hurt people. I knew that reading this book was sure to open some old wounds, and it kinda did.  That's ok though, sometimes we need to remember how far we've come. 

Having gone through the program, I was familiar with a lot of the stories told in the book. During my time there, there were always whispers about how Brenda and Melinda (the founder and her daughter) were convicts themselves.  You would hear the ladies bash them and say how those women were no better than they are. True, they aren't perfect. However, did you ever play that gossip game when you were growing up?  You know, the one where you form a circle and someone whispers something in someone's ear and each person continues the secret until you get to the end.  The last person says out loud what has just been told to them, 9/10 times the ending secret is no way close to what was said originally. That's what it was like at Lovelady with Miss Brenda, there were a whole bunch of stories, but they had been twisted so much, that the truth was so far from what was being told. 

I admit, after reading he first chapter, I was disappointed.  I felt that a huge chunk of the aLovelady story was being overlooked. However,meh disappointment was short lived as Inread the very next chapter. It was a brush with the law, that lead to the events that would lead to what is now Lovelady Center. 

This was a heartwarming story of hope and grace. It's not a pretty picture though. There are some dark, dark things within the pages of this book. But, to leave those painful parts out, you would miss out on the essence of Loveladies. When you see a prostitute or a girl who is clearly a drug addict, you most times don't see the real person behind the facade. You see what life has made her into. You don't see the one-time innocent little girl that began at a very early age being abused by the people who were supposed to be her protectors. 

Most addicts you meet, if you were to sit down and listen to their stories, you would find such similarities.  The details and the events may differ, but the subject matter is usually a common thread. Sexual abuse. Most times, indescribable abuse. The kind of abuse that causes women to separate themselves and sometimes even from multiple personality disorder. We are all built with inside defense mechanisms. And like all of our body chemistry, each persons mechanisms are different. Some people can look around at the life laid before them and rise above, making themselves better despite what life has thrown them. However, a good majority wind up turnin to ways to numb the pain.

In this story, we get to hear from a few of the beginning Loveladies. One is Miss Shay. Anyone whom has ever crossed the threshold of Lovelady Center, knows Miss Shay. She is now in charge of Intake. She is the face of aLovelady Center in so many ways. She was an original Lovelady. She is one of the original six who got off of that first van and into Miss Brenda's personal home. She was the toughest case. The image of her scared Miss Brenda silly, and made her wonder what in the world she had signed up for. 

We all have our own Miss Shay stories. I'm not different. It was Miss Shay on October 15, 2011, that tried getting me a bed. She was going to bypass the huge group room you first go into and actually give me a room with just two other ladies. However, she looked at me. She asked me what drugs I was on. I broke down and sobbed. I admitted that the night before I had taken a suboxone. I had been in jail (I was court ordered to Lovelady) for two months and upon leaving I was a ball of nerves. Even going to McDonalds was a stress. I couldn't imagine these women who some of them had been locked up for ten plus years,having stepped into a whole new world. Just two months caused me to be a nervous wreck. 

Miss Shay told me I had already broken my promise to the court and she didn't know if they would let me stay or not. She made me sleep on he couch that night amid a 24 hour prayer furnace going on and loud music being played at the highest of decibals. It was a scary time. I spent the first four days scared to death that I was going to go to prison because I had messed up. This was probably the major factor in the rest of my journey at Lovelady and kept me from relapsing, I had relapsed already upon entering and it was enough to put the fear of God and AL D.O.C. In me (Alabama department of corrections- prison). 

In the book, Miss Shay lays her darkest moments on the line. She tells of her own painful upbringing and the pain behind the bad choices she would make. These stories made me cry. I could feel Miss Shays pain as an innocent young girl, being exposed to things no child should ever have to experience. I have a deep love for Miss Shay. We all do. She definitely can look through your bull shit  and see the truth. She knew while I was working under her in housekeeping, despite being busy in front of her,that Inwas nothing but a slacker. It was true. I worked hard at not working. I hated cleaning. Still do. Please don't ever drop by unannounced. I need a good week to prepare, before company enters. 

This was such an awesome book. It literally kept me up. I went to bed after reading the first 88 pages, only to keep waking up to read more. Finally, I submitted to God waking me up and at 5 after only a few hours of sleep, opened the book until I had devoured every word. While this was a heartwarming story. It isn't a story for the weak. If you can't look at the pain of others, at the darker side of reality, then you might not want to read this.  The stories within the pages captivated me. It was like an invisible pull,metaphor kept me glued to one spot. 

This is a story that tells how one crazy white woman was able to break through the boundaries and create a place of refuge, a place where loves are rebuilt and hope is restored.  What began as seven women in Miss Brenda's own personal home, quickly grew to a center that houses now, 450 women. Brenda Lovelady-Spahn has been approached by several individuals and organizations to help to replicate the magic being done in this facility. There should be a Lovelady Center in every big metropolis area. If you have addicts,wounded people you need a place of refuge, a place where lives can be restored. 

This is a story that needs to be told. It is my hope that I can get some of my fellow bloggers to buy this book and give it a spotlight. I know my blog doesn't reach near enough people. 
I do also know, that I have made friends with some bloggers who do have a wide audience. This isn't our normal light,fun chick lit. This is a book that made me get out of my comfort zone and feel true human pain. 

I am so thankful that Miss Brenda submitted to God's will for her life. I wouldn't be sitting in my own home,with my Chikdren in the other room had it not been for her submission. I will always be a Lovelady. I am proud, not of the mistakes I have made, but of that I am an overcomer. 

I have lasting consequences for some of my mistakes. I have accepted that. I have also made positive changes. I no longer associate with family who don't have our best interests at heart. I choose to only surround myself with people who believe in me and want to see me succeed.  I've had to cut out really close family members and it was hard. But long overdue. tips it weren't for aLovelady center, and the confidence they helped me find, I doubt I would have found the strength to make the hard choices needed to succeed. 

To kinda summarize:  This is a story of how one woman managed to buck the system and build a place where lives are restored on a daily basis. It's the story if how it all began. The struggles that they faced, the opposition they managed to overcome to become the largest center of it's kind. It tells the story of seven original Loveladies that came straight from Tutwiler prison (the roughest women's prison in all of the US) to a mansion in Birmingham, Al. The women who showed up, were the toughest cases. They were the rejects. The hopeless cases, that the system had given up on. It tells their stories, of how they became the women that ended up in a women's prison.  It tells how they were sure, this was all a trick. It shows us where these women are today and how the Lovelady program helped turn them from hopeless cases, to integral parts of the Lovelady program. It's a story of hope and restoration. It isn't just about the shiny surface, it digs into the depths of darkness that these ladies were faced with. The heartache that caused me to be the rough, tough women that landed on Miss Brenda's doorstep, how through Gods grace they were able to transform from ugly ducklings into beautiful swans. 

Ms. Zutell beautifully captured the essence that is a Lovelady. She was also able to really capture the spirit of Miss Brenda. She was able to transform this story into a beautiful work of art.  The way in which she spoke, kept me wanting to devour every single word. She definitely did the Loveladies proud. She took this story of how one woman took on the government and brought hope to thousands of women and children and made it an easy, interesting read. Biographies are so not the normal reading for me.  I have a hard time keeping interest with a lot of books, but this kept me glued to one spot until every last word was read. 

Thank you Ms. Zutell for telling this incredible story and hopefully bringing to light the work behind one by the people at Lovelady Center. I truly hope that people will be able to walk away reading this and discovering the wounds that are deeply ingrained into those social misfits, that most people wouldn't give a second chance and seeing the people that they can be, instead of the things they have done. 

I'm telling you, you won't be disappointed if you buy this book. You will become lost in the lives of these women.  You will cry, you will be shocked and maybe even disgusted by some of the home truths shared by here women.  They laid it all on the line, in the hope of helping others find hope. 

Thank you Miss Brenda and Lovelady Center for helping a messed up chick like me find hope. Through Gods grace and mercy and through the Lovelady program and my Aunt, I was able to have my life restored. My children were out of my care for eight years. It is unheard of to get custody after such a long separation, yet here I sit today with custody. I am a Lovelady miracle. Thank you!!!  God has been so good to us. 

Thank you for loving a heart like mine!

To find out how you can help Lovelady Center, please visit: http://www.loveladycenter.org


To purchase Miss Brenda and the Loveladies:  
Miss Brenda and the Loveladies: A Heartwarming True Story of Grace, God, and Gumption
 (Kindle: $7.99). 

Find Irene Zutell: on Twitter @irenezutell

Another way you can help Lovelady center is to go to smile.amazon.com and every purchase you make on Amazon will go towards the non-profit of your choice (I chose Lovelady Center)

I beg you to consider helping either by purchasing their book or making a tiny donation. His is a program that truly is helping real women and Children. It costs a lot to run this center, $50,000 average just to keep the lights on every month!  

Thank you for taking time to read my review. I know this was a bit scattered. I have no computer to work on and as such, I can spend an hour working on a post only for all my work to disappear while using the app. This was the third attempt. My first was much better. It's taken me two and half hours to finish. 

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