Who’s the girl with the big glasses with the kid who always plays with his plastic animals on the front porch of Sneaky Beans? If’ you’ve ever asked that question, we have the answer. She is 28 year old Lauren Miltner and her little animal loving toddler is Kayden. The Grand Rapids, Michigan native is a fixture at one of Fondren’s favorite coffee shops and says it gives her a chance to love people.
Born on Christmas Day in 1983, Miltner says she grew up in a family economically challenged – and grateful for anything. Playing sports in high school made her swear off sports in college, though she played soccer for one semester in Colorado in 2002. Moving back home for family reasons in 2003, she heard about a drama and music ministry opportunity in Alexandria, Louisiana, packed up and headed south. There she discovered her true passion.
Miltner moved to Jackson in 2004 to help plant a church that started in a school gymnasium. From there, she says, life has been a whirlwind. She moved here as a single woman, married, had a child, divorced and is now a single mom. “I feel like I have lived three lifetimes in a 20 mile radius,” she says. Her son’s father, who she calls “a good man and father,” is actively involved in the Ridgeland community and so, she felt lead to move to Jackson. Part of The Journey church in 2010, she plugged in to the newly planted Fondren Church in their music ministry at the beginning of this year. She says the church’s people have been there for her through hard times.
“I think often with our hearts and desires, we pursue things, get distracted and make decisions that take us off our path,” Miltner tell us. “I’ve gone down wrong paths but, for me, God’s love is consistent.” “I’ve made poor choices but I’ve experienced grace. What I do with that is tell my story.” She is quick to tell you she doesn’t have it all together. “At the end of the day, I want to consistently love people no matter where they are or what they believe.”
One choice she has no regrets about is her son. “He is a reminder of being joyful and uninhibited. And, he reminds me of how we should live life,” she says. Often, Kayden (or KK, as he is known by many) can be seen jamming along with adults at a Sneaky Beans show. “I’m not a mom that wants to stay at home and have my child on a strict schedule and in front of tv. I want my son to enjoy people, no matter what.” She says this interaction is helping him to understand who she is, too. “I take him on service days with our church. I want him to see what it’s like. Meeting the homeless or meeting people who play music, I want him to have a full life.”
Miltner spends mornings coaching for an organization called Soccer Shots, traveling to day cares teaching basic one on one skills to 3-5 year olds. In the afternoons, she works for Drama Kids International, going between places like First Presbyterian Day School and Stewpot, teaching creative thinking, articulation and how to have conversations. “Those are classes some adults could benefit from,” she says. And with 45 minutes here and there between gigs, she plants herself at Sneaky Beans. “Sometimes I have time to kill and B (owner Byron Knight) has been good to me and to KK.” And if that wasn’t enough, she finds time to design for weddings, create jewelry, visually merchandise and style through personal wardrobe consultations. “I’m jack of all trades, master of none.”
Melding all of those passions into one central place, Fondren becomes Miltner’s hub. “It’s what I love about this place. You get a mix of all kinds here.” Whether those people be creative and artistic or simply a business man in a suit, Miltner feels it’s a real sense of community – one she can encourage and love. “I determined a long time ago, I want to be what I didn’t have. I want to be encouraging and shed light on those who make a difference. Honestly, I love people and love Jesus. Everyone’s called to serve.”