Why Invest in the Human Trafficking Fight?

Friday, January 31, 2014

Today is the day that Purdue University {right in our own back yard} is hosting the "Sex Slavery & Human Trafficking" symposium. While I am thankful for the recognition that it will bring to subject of human trafficking and slavery, I have spent a good portion of my day with a heavy heart praying that it brings reality rather than sensationalism to the surface. That it will educate rather than simply incite. Because in the midst of the hype that events like the Superbowl bring toward awareness about trafficking, I feel the very everyday ordinariness of it all-- and that is what breaks my heart and causes me to invest my voice to somehow bring about change.

Selling humans isn't something we look at once a year in the context of a big event, it's something that happens every moment of everyday in every town. Only if you don't look, you won't see it. It's painful to see.

I had someone ask me recently about how I got involved in the fight against trafficking. It's a long story that I will share one day, but for now suffice it to say that it's personal to me. No, it didn't happen to me, but it has happened to people that I love dearly. I've walked hard roads with them. Shared deep conversations. Learned about what helps-- and what hurts-- survivors in their journey toward healing. Love helps. So I'm continually learning to love more and to love better. I don't have answers, I have ears to listen and a heart to encourage.

But the moment that I knew that I would always be invested? It was the moment that I walked into Shared Hope's conference this past fall. The only way to explain it was that it felt like I was home.

I understood myself in that context. I saw Jesus more clearly than I've ever seen him in that setting. I felt more alive. My heart broke and healed simultaneously as I felt revulsion for abuse and beauty in redemption.

I was home. 

So this is why I keep sharing and and talking and going on and on about this issue. The chance is pretty high that you have a friend who has been there too-- and you have no idea. How could you?

When we take a moment to understand the things that we maybe cannot comprehend your compassion, grace, kindness and love have the opportunity to grow. If not us, then who?

You don't have to speak or write. You just have to do what you CAN do.

Do you have a son? Teach him how to love his wife and one day when the time comes in his life for these discussions,  don't let sex be a shameful mystery that he has to discover in the pages of a hidden magazine or a dark site on the Internet. Talk. Allow him to ask hard questions in a safe space.

Do you have a daughter? Love her and cherish her. Guard her and keep her safe to the best of your ability. Give her the gift of confidence and bravery.

Are you a teacher? Youth pastor? Social worker? Nurse? Understand that the "punk-kid" who manipulates every situation in front of him or her probably learned the skill of manipulation for a reason. Manipulation = survival skill. Listen to them. Believe in them. Choose to actually BELIEVE them too. They may lie and overstep boundaries and make horrible choices-- but you may be the one person who is there to love them unconditionally when they do. It makes a difference.

There is so much more to say, but I have a full couple of days ahead and I need to stop typing and stay on task.

I posted this on Facebook, but if you are in the area I strongly encourage you to come and hear Melissa speak tonight. If you can't make it, you can click here to listen to it live.

Compassion begins when we become educated about something that we couldn't possibly otherwise comprehend. Let compassion be the first step that moves you to action.  
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Melissa Woodward is a child sex-trafficking survivor, fighter, overcomer and all-around BEAUTIFUL person. This weekend she is speaking at the "Human Dignity, Slavery and Sex-Trafficking" Symposium at Purdue University and her talk is titled "I Once Was a Sex Slave BUT Now I am FREE".

In addition to that talk, she will be sharing her heart and her story at Elston Family Church THIS Sunday morning at 8:15 and 10 am. I'm so grateful that our paths crossed and that she is able to share with us.

I would LOVE for you to come and listen with your heart. I am so deeply invested in this fight because I see the beauty of redemption in the lives of every brave and strong person who has walked down this road. The very least I can do is to offer up my time, influence and voice to this cause as well.

{Please feel free to repost and let your friends know~*~ I will also be reposting a few times between now and Sunday ~*~ Note: We will have a secure place for all children so that they are not in the room for this conversation. Feel free to send a private message me with any questions.}



Guest Post: Why Depression Doesn't Own Me

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

My precious friend wrote this on her blog this morning and she graciously extended me permission to share her words with you. I think that many of us can identify with her sentiments-- I know that even though I've been feeling some excitement and anticipation this month, it's been counterbalanced with tears that creep up out of nowhere and spill down my cheeks. I've been praying through them and asking the Lord to collect my tears as prayers for so many of my friends who are struggling during this season. Without anymore drivel from me, here are Leanna's beautiful words:

Why Depression Doesn't Own Me

I decided to add this onto my Master’s Commission blog… although, this has nothing to do with what we’ve done or what we’re doing; being here has helped me see the reality of the walls in my mind. I won’t share all those walls but let me be a little real with you, please.

Depression. For weeks now I’ve fallen into depression… and it led me to complacency. Being content with being depressed and stuck with not moving forward. I believe it’s okay to stay there sometimes… as long as you have community to always be there to listen to you blab and run your mouth for at least an hour a day and ask those hard questions. Side note: I am thankful for those people… you know who you are. It seems as if depression will always be something I struggle with. And that’s okay. When I said, it’s okay to stay in that place sometimes… it’s because I believe God is doing something in that area we don’t fully know about. This is why community is important, because after days of prayer and reading and digging deeper into God’s word and His love, I found He has created something new within me. A friend of mine told me: “this is a whole different puzzle you are building, and be thankful for this season of questions that cause your depression, because it is a new puzzle piece you’re just trying to fit together. So rejoice!” It reminds me of when someone told me I have a gift of restoration (not a gift in the bible, but a gift that’s been given through heart break and loss) because I am being restored. God has taken this broken, darkened thing and given me life again. A new puzzle to put together, and not like the one where the pieces just couldn’t fit.

Depression. It’s when I can’t get out of my own head. It’s where I get stuck. Where everything I think about has deeper and meaningful thoughts and questions out of nowhere begin to rise. Questions that tell me I have some rooted problems and I don’t know how to fix them. It’s a headache. And I thought these questions about “forgiveness” was about my past and someone I know, but it was more than that… I have been studying forgiveness for weeks. It’s one of those things that seem to rip you into little shredded pieces and chisel your soul… so hard. And you can’t do anything about it… so painful. Yet, so needed.
I thought I was somehow readying myself to be healed (more) through this forgiveness process. I so desperately want to fully heal from some rough stuff in my life, but it doesn’t work that way (I try though). I thought that healing may have been going to that person and having this meaningful (somewhat) conversation that I know in my head won’t turn out well… It’s great I thought that, but going through this season wasn’t about my forgiveness with so and so. It was about that person who sent a letter to me asking for my forgiveness…

“Brace yourself for a shock! Look long and hard. Something is about to take place. And you’re going to find it hard to believe.” ~Habakkuk 1:5 (MSG)
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{please continue reading by clicking here-- and be sure that you do…you don't want to miss the wisdom that she shares}  

Some Days Are A Crapshoot

Monday, January 20, 2014



Well, well, well…
We meet again, Mr. Monday. 
Do tell me? Did you know that today was going to be a crapshoot? 
I certainly didn't suspect it. 

After spending all day in bed with nausea after a botched blood draw yesterday, 
I envisioned happier times today. Apparently I was wrong. 
So very very wrong. 

Why did Parker wake up with a cold? 
Should homework really cause so much frustration and anxiety? 
And let's not forget the smashed Lego set under the stairs prompted me to fall to the floor and sob too. Hours of hard work, bulldozed. 



So yes, today is a crapshoot.

Thank goodness for do-overs and grace and coffee and hugs. 


Here's to more joy{full} musings tomorrow. 
For now, I'm off to fold laundry. 
Let the good times roll.


Matilda Jane Trunk Show

Friday, January 17, 2014

I can't ALWAYS post about serious stuff…because, well, quite frankly it wouldn't fill me back up. Sometimes I need to step away from the deep and step into a world of color and joy. {As if you didn't already know this about me!}


If you haven't received an official Facebook invitation, I'm putting it out here to let you know that my friend, Stephanie O'Connor, is elated to have been selected as a new Trunk Keeper for the exquisite Matilda Jane Clothing! Congratulations to her and YAY for all of us! I swoon over MJC.

Matilda Jane is an incredible women and girls' clothing company that boasts eclectic blends of buttons, ruffles, stripes and patterns in a perfectly muted array of colors. My favorite thing about MJC is that the clothing is made out of buttery knit fabric that is a glorious balance of stretch and softness. This gives you beautiful pieces that not only look spunky and sweet, but make washing and wearing time and again a breeze. {That's a MUST for this momma!}

So mark your calendars to…

SAVE THE DATE: February 11th

Leave a comment here {or on Facebook or Instagram} and I will be sure send you an invite to the party! You don't even have to wiggle out of your pi's. I will be available that day to answer questions. You can also click HERE to add yourself to the event page. {if it gives you any hassles, please let me know!}

ALSO~ If you spend $100 or more, I will throw in a Lovespun Scrappy Mini Bunting {pictured below}! Perfect to accessorize a MJC photo shoot, a bedroom or an adorable birthday party.


What are you waiting for? I hope that you can come! The new line kicks off on February 1st, so I will be posting some of my favorites and you can start building your wish list to have ready when the party opens on February 11th. Hip Hip Hooray!

Here's to a happy Friday!



Uncovering YOU

Thursday, January 16, 2014

One day about a year or so ago one of dearest friends who,  during our adult lives, has probably often known me better than I knew myself commented on a tweet, Instagram or Facebook post {WHICH I CANNOT FIND AND IT IS DRIVING ME BONKERS!!!} something along the lines of 

"You are becoming so beautifully YOU!" 

It resonated deep down inside my spirit. I got it. I knew EXACTLY what she was talking and the fact that she noticed and affirmed this without prompting has been one of the most heart-lifting sentiments that I've received. Because over the past few years I have become so much more "me." And it's liberating and beautiful and true.

Just look at these two pictures.

This was me five years ago. 
This is me last spring. 

Ignoring the fact that I'm a few pounds lighter {not as much as it appears though}, I look 10 years older and like I'm carrying the weight of the world on my shoulders in the older picture. Who knows, perhaps I was. What I do know is that these two pictures are entirely representative of my growth in life. 

I spent years striving to be better than I was, yet always coming up short. Searching, waiting, disappointed, and at times, depressed, because I didn't see my passion and dreams unfolding the way I had imagined. Truth be told, a significant part of my frustration was that I simply didn't even know what my dreams *were* anymore-- let alone how to make them happen. Dreaming was tiresome and only contributed to my enormous guilt-load when I failed time and again. 

But as the years wore on, I started seeing Jesus differently. I began to hear him whisper to me that I was enough. "I love you in THIS moment- when you are nothing more and nothing less than YOU." During that season I stopped dreaming and I stopped trying so hard and I gave myself the freedom to live in contentment and to love my Daddy with no strings attached and to let him love me back in the very same way. 

The unexpected part was that in loving Him and allowing myself the grace to let him love me; 
I learned to love myself

Today I sit here unearthing my strengths along with my weaknesses. Only instead of feeling defeated by what I can't do, I feel encouraged and inspired by what I CAN do.  I feel the urge and the desire to keep dreaming and to start doing. It's a journey-- not a race-- toward my passions. I'm working out how to incorporate my love and my talents to create and design and brainstorm and study and encourage and write and speak into a package that tailor-made to maximize these strengths while I quit trying to operate in areas that aren't. Let me tell you, in doing this, THERE IS FREEDOM!


Let me encourage you today that if you aren't sure who you, what you want in life, what your gifts, talents and strengths look like and how you're going to ever become the person that you want to be-- take a deep breath and offer yourself both time and grace. If you feel anxiety over not measuring up to a certain standard, let go of the expectations that you are placing upon yourself. There is good chance that those aren't the Lord's expectations of you anyway so stop striving. It is freedom, lovely ones.

Just read these words from the song "In Christ Alone":

In Christ alone my hope is found
He is my light, my strength, my song
This Cornerstone, this solid ground
Firm through the fiercest drought and storm
What heights of love, what depths of peace
When fears are stilled, when strivings cease
My Comforter, my All in All
Here in the love of Christ I stand

Allow your fears to be stilled and your striving to cease today. Stand simple and completely in the love of Christ. It will transform you. 

Christmas 2013

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

It's OK to take a writing break now and then just to share some sweet Christmas photos, right? Yeah, well, even if it's not, I'm doing it anyway this morning. I don't want the season to pass by without recording it somewhere {{because goodness knows that I can't print out a picture to save my life!}}

Christmas 2013 was introduced by way of coughs and sneezes and Shingles-- which could have altogether served to steal my joy. But truly, it didn't because instead I chose to enjoy slowing down. I've been working toward a goal of speeding up while simultaneously slowing down. I know that it sounds both impossible and oxymoronic; however, what it really boils down to is INTENTIONALITY. Quitting "busy" and choosing "full." But this is turning into an entirely different post that I surmised. 

In sum, our Christmas season was, indeed "full" rather than "busy." I was slowing down my bustle yet speeding up my intention. Through the process, I really enjoyed every moment of time with my family near and far. What a lovely Christmas. 














Fireworks

Monday, January 13, 2014

I have this notion as millions of neurons pop like firecrackers in my brain that words ought to erupt in a beautiful display of literary nuance sprawling across the page. And yet, despite the firing-squad in my mind, I just sit and stare at a sterile screen. Perhaps I'm staring through the screen as I wait for one volcanic explosion of brilliance to jolt my sleeping fingers awake. Usually, stillness ensues.

This morning as I read my Love Letter, He spoke, "I am the Vine, you are the branches. When you're joined with me and I with you, the relations intimate and organic, the harvest is sure to be abundant. Separated, you can't produce a thing." {John 15:5 MSG}

{via}
Do I too often sit under a starry sky and look up with anticipation only to find the night still void? Fireworks lined up and waiting don't ignite themselves. It takes a spark. Only the spark can't spontaneously flicker into action. Someone has to light the match and walk over to commence the breathtaking show. Without action, both the fireworks and the spectator wait; The brilliance and beauty of what could be are only a listless hope. 

And so it is with the Lord and me. When we connect-- our relations intimate and organic-- our union produces a million twinkling lights like tiny yet spectacular fireflies filling up the sky, my mind and the words on these pages. As He breathes goodness into me and as I look up to receive his kiss, we work in tandem to produce a harvest. Apart I sit and anticipate, but I wait…and wait… and wait for the show. 





Why Impunity for Pimps & Johns?

Friday, January 10, 2014

I'm going here. Why? Because when people stop me in a hallway, meet me for coffee, send me a Facebook message they all ask me the same question, and really, it's a question that I still ask myself every morning too, "What can I do to make a difference in the fight against sex trafficking?"

While I could give you a 100 item long list, here's where we are going to start, ok? Here is my two word answer:

STOP IMPUNITY

I believe in justice, yet something in our society is grotesquely askew when a young man receives a 13 year prison sentence for holding up a convenience store without immediate harm {don't argue psychological damage here-- as I said, I am all for law-abiding & obedience and am not trying to minimize other crimes}, yet a person arrested for human trafficking has a 6 year maximum sentence with a $10,000 maximum fine with no asset forfeiture here in Indiana. {see}

Alarms should be sounding in your brain right now! I shudder.

Our states do not have to be so apathetic. Former U.S. Attorney and Human Trafficking Coordinator for the Western District of Missouri, Cynthia L. Cordes has fought HARD to affect change in Missouri-- and it is working. Traffickers are fleeing because the risk of punitive consequences are too great. We have MUCH work to do!

About two hours ago, I spent 45 minutes on a Google Hangout presented by some awe-inspiring abolitionists serving on the front lines against human trafficking. The panel included, Rachel Lloyd, Survivor and CEO & Founder of GEMS, Nicholas Kristoff, co-founder of Half the Sky Movement & NY Times reporter, Gary Haugen, CEO & President of International Justice Mission, David Batstone of Not for Sale and a representative from Unicef. The conversation was titled "What Does 2014 Hold for the Fight Against Modern-Day Slavery?"

The resounding theme was that of fighting impunity. With no accountability, we fail when left to our own vices, right? Sadly this applies to even the darkest evil. We have to prosecute because as Nicholas Kristof said, "Even if attitudes haven't changed, behavior will." Martin Luther King Jr. reiterated a similar notion when he proclaimed, "The law can't make you love me, but it can stop you from lynching me."

Here are a few facts:

  • There is a 1/2 of 1% chance of being prosecuted for sex crimes against children
  • For every 800 victims of trafficking here in the United States, we only have 1 conviction
  • Less than 1% of slaves today are in places where there IS an impunity index
The simple truth is that people buy and sell sex {pimps, johns and traffickers} because it is a low-risk, high-payoff industry. F

So if you want to make a difference, please do this: 

Visit www.ijm.org/traffickingact  and follow up by contacting your government representatives. 

Stand up. Speak out. Be brave. For the love of the world, PLEASE be brave. 



Choosing BRAVE in 2014

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

I remember sitting at a desk, much like the one that I am typing from at this very moment, and staring down at a life-assessment of sorts. My heart was wide-awake with hopes and dreams stretched out in front of me as far as my imagination could take them. I knew that I KNEW with all of my 20-year-old conviction that I wanted to dedicate my career to speaking, writing and ministering to women. More specifically,  to the sexual healing and wholeness of womenSAY WHAT?! 

Truth be told, I was newly healed from a broken and wounded place. I had lived just on the edge of being a "good Christian girl" for the majority of my teens. My heart was crazy in love with Jesus, but I spent a few short years looking for something tangible beyond my blind faith in Him and to a comfortable acceptance with "him." The freedom that I found in walking away from the habit of "looking for love" ignited boldness to run out and change the world. 

Then life happened. 

College. Marriage. Career. Children. Youth ministry.

But something strange occurred throughout the last 13 years. Instead of mourning the loss of that twenty-something dream, my heart was filled with a new one. It was called "Contentment," and it was gloriously beautiful. 

Please don't pause here and jealously mistake "gloriously beautiful" for anything resembling "easy or peaceful." Far be it. As a family we walked through seasons when I was afraid that the sun might never shine again. Tomorrow felt like a lifetime away. I clung hard to promises that the Lord had a plan and a future {Jer. 29:11} around the bend. But those seasons stripped away dangerous ideologies that I had worshipped like a stone god and readied my spirit for a fresh breath of faith in Jesus alone. As I said, gloriously beautiful

At just the moment when life settled back into a calm sort of normal again, I came face-to-face with sexual abuse. No, not my own. While I tiptoed over the lines, I was never once abused. It was a former student-- more than that, a precious friend-- who opened up her life and heart and all of her wounds to share with me the abuse that she suffered at the hands of family who had sold her for sex for years. She was a victim of human sex trafficking. She never even knew that the circumstances of her life had a name. 

The moment that she bared her soul, it forever changed mine too. Closing my eyes isn't an option-- because I see countless broken children in my dreams. It was then that I felt the gentle but firm whisper in my soul once again to "pick up my dream" and let it rise from the ashes and grow into something powerful that can truly change the world by changing one life at a time.


So here I sit again, at a simple desk so much like the other, with a mandate imprinted on my heart to SPEAK UP, SPEAK OUT and to CHOOSE BRAVE in 2014. I won't always talk or write about human trafficking, but I often will. I had no idea that maybe God was speaking truth to me back in January 2001 when I was compelled to speak about sexual wholeness and restoration. This looks nothing like I thought it would look, but I wouldn't choose anything else. 

Being honest, vulnerable and willing to act is hard. HARD, I tell ya!  If I'm honest, I'm terrified because it means being as unusually real. It means squirming a bit with discomfort as I sometimes choose words that might offend in their honesty. It means that once I put it out there, if I fail, you will all see it happen. But it also means encouragement from those of you who have given me huge high-fives along the way. It has even renewed friendships! I think that bravery is a character trait that I want my children to believe about me to their very core. I certainly hope that I can believe it for myself. 

If you are still with me, here are a few ways in which I am bravely stepping out in 2014: 
  • I will go to schools, churches, community groups, businesses, organizations or anywhere else that will have me and give presentations {or classes depending on the group} on sex trafficking to raise awareness in our community and surrounding areas
  • Jeremy and I are working toward filing paperwork to start a non-profit called "Love Stops Traffick." At this time my desire is not to run an NPO, but rather, to be in a position to collect the necessary funds in order to help girls and boys who are a) at risk for trafficking or b) have been trafficked. If we don't have a 501c3 we simply can't pool our resources as easily to help by providing for things like trauma-informed counseling or aftercare, clothing, transportation, food, or educational expenses-- it's the little things that we take for granted that they simply don't have available in their life.
  • I have been accepted into a year-long mentorship program studying and learning under the wisdom of Shannon Ethridge {whom I love dearly and could not possibly be more excited to sit under foot}
  • I am going to put myself out there to accept copywriting, PR and social media clients this year-- if you are a blogger, a business, and organization {or know of any} who needs someone to handle all of your writing and/or public relations, I would be thrilled to talk with you about how I can help. 
  • Blogging~ this is where I get a bit jittery. Weird, right? I know. I still feel that strong pull of self-censorship. It's wired deep down into my DNA. If I can't please them all, sometimes I would rather please nobody-- including myself. That's ridiculous, right? I know. Really, I KNOW. So blogging regularly may oddly be my biggest, bravest step of 2014. {If I go MIA, feel free to call me out on it this time around. I'm probably scared. Or tired. Or I have both of my children home with me. That kills my writing mojo every time.}
So that's it friends. Those bullets expose my fear and set a precedent for choosing "BRAVE." Does anyone else feel like they are supposed to be brave about something? If so, I would LOVE for you to leave a comment and share it. I really don't want to type to an "empty" room. Leaving a little love will certainly help calm my feisty nerves. 

Love you. I do.  

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