This is the eighth installment in a series of interviews with myself and various writers and members of the Mockingbird community. These posts will explore some aspects of each individual’s personal story and some aspects of Mockingbird’s larger story and ministry as we celebrate its 10th Anniversary. Additional interviews in this series can be found here.

Charlotte Donlon: How did you find out about Mockingbird?

Melina Smith: I know about Mockingbird because our church, Calvary St. George’s in New York City, has been connected to Mockingbird from the beginning. When Dave Zahl moved to New York several years ago, he and my husband, Jake, talked a lot about starting a ministry for burnt-out Christians and younger people and others who need refreshment from the message of grace.

We test-ran a few different ministries when Mockingbird started. In 2007 Dave decided to start the blog. So after trying various things, the blog and the New York City conference hosted at our church were a couple ideas that we felt worked best.

CD: How have you been impacted by the Mockingbird message and community?

MS: When we were students of Paul Zahl in seminary, we realized we needed to hear the gospel all the time. So that was revolutionary for me to learn. I think Mockingbird does a great job of connecting that truth with Christians who are new and old and it continues to refresh me through the conferences, with my work on the Mockingbird Board of Directors, and when I check in with the blog. As a board member, I also hear from people who have been touched by Mockingbird, and those notes and testimonies from others always remind me how important this message is. It is still rare for some people to hear the gospel—even in their churches.

CD: What does a typical day look like for you?

MS. A typical day usually looks crazy. I wear many hats. I’m a pastor’s wife. I’m very involved in our church and have had a ministry with children and families here. I write curriculum for our children’s ministry and have been working on writing curriculum that we can share with other churches and ministries. I’m also a floral designer and one of three creators with what’s called Little Joy New York City. We’re three Christians who have come together and created a sort of experiment of connecting our creative selves with helping others be nourished through creativity, play, and rest. I see Little Joy operating as a ministry even though we aren’t overtly Christian as an organization because we help connect people back to more of who they are meant to be. I’m also a mom, so I spend a lot of time caring for my kids. That’s it.

CD: That’s a lot! What are some of your favorite Mockingbird moments?

MS: My favorite Mockingbird moments are the conferences because we get to be in touch with everyone from all over the place and have real human contact with each other. Helping out behind the scenes for the conferences is nurturing for me because I see other people nurtured when they are here. It’s like an unexpected gift for them because of the surprises we provide and making sure the details are handled with care and with a desire to care well for all who participate in the conferences.

I also love being on the board and watching Dave stay faithful to Mockingbird’s vision and purpose. Seeing him continue in this work encourages me.

CD: What are some of your hopes for Mockingbird?

MS: I hope they will continue to reach out to the different groups they have reached out to from the beginning but also begin to move towards creating content for families and kids. It would be amazing for Mockingbird to have an imprint on the content that’s going out for kids. I look at content all the time, and so much of it is close to the message of the gospel, but still really far from the message of the gospel.

CD: And teenagers! I’ve looked through so many books about faith for teens, and there is a huge vacuum of decent content out there. Thank you for this hope. Please make it happen!

CD: So who is one of your dream speakers for an upcoming Mockingbird conference?

MS: Alain De Botton is an amazing philosopher. He wrote The Architecture of Happiness. It accurately describes the human condition and describes how we have judgments and presuppositions and how these things impact our comfort and desires and expectations. I love what he has to say about all of that, and it’s a great reminder that there’s always a homesickness within us that won’t be satisfied with the right curtains or the perfect anything.

CD: How does your work and approach with the children’s ministry at your church translate into parenting?

MS: I think focusing on play is really important. Having concentrated times with our kids that are more playful is key because our lives are so busy and there are so many demands on us and on our time that we’re often caught up with getting where we need to get to and making sure everything is where it all needs to be and lunches and homework and everything just sucks us into a lifeless rhythm. So breaking into that rhythm with spontaneous play and surprises opens up more connections between parents and kids that results in greater trust and communication between parents and their children. Playing with our kids helps them feel safe with us and helps them know we are available to receive them and listen to them.

CD: What is God teaching you right now?

MS: I’ve sort of had a mixed bag of things happening. I’m transitioning into sharing our children’s curriculum, so I have stepped away from the day-to-day responsibilities of our children’s ministry here at the church. So I’m really focusing on how to distill this information. I’ve also got a handful of creative projects going on with my floral design and other things, but God keeps bringing me back to this children’s ministry content piece. He pulls me back in and shows me I could do many things in the world, but I’m being called to share gospel-based content with families and kids and to help create resources for adults so they can better engage children and the gospel. I’m definitely in a discerning period with all of this right now and trying to step into what He’s calling me to.

CD: What do you want more of in the next month?

MS: I just hope we can make it through Christmas. It’s a packed season for us. I also hope to engage our parishioners and my family during this full season in a way that’s unhurried with an intentional presence instead of being overly busy and distracted. I don’t want to feel like I’m looking past people or through them. That would be amazing.