Human trafficking awareness fair kicks off Fall agenda

img_1722Fall has always been my favorite season, especially in the Northwestern United States. The season signifies to me a time of renewal, discovery, anticipation and change. It also beckons a revived sense to bunker down, focus and get things done.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll be representing Shared Hope International at a human trafficking awareness event at a local school. The goal is simple: to spread awareness of this tragedy occurring at the local level and to share how those in the community can get involved and help support this cause.

Last year while attending this event, I met a young woman in restroom who was struggling with several family issues. She told me her sister was prostituting herself to support her drug habit. Earlier that day, I talked to a 15 year-old who had run away from home and was approached on a local highway three times in 24 hours by men who wanted to buy her for sex.

Clearly, more awareness and resources are needed to combat and counteract efforts to lure young girls into illegal and life-threatening life styles.

The need is great, but I know that God is greater.

May His light shine through the darkness (John 1:5) and shout out to all: STOP BUYING OUR GIRLS.

 

Undone: A journey I didn’t ask for

In many respects, I don’t want to be on this journey — shared or otherwise. Even praying about it is disconcerting, like I’m inviting its evil nIMG_1108 (1)ature inside my thoughts. Its contents are often unbearable to hear and even worse to visualize.

 

The stories of sex trafficking around the world are horrendous. It tears you up inside. Makes you want to cry oceans of tears in hopelessness, frustration and defeat.

 

I feel sick when I think of how souls are violently ripped out of victims and how their captors want to condemn them to a life of unbelievable slavery. Where hopes and dreams seem destroyed or non-existent. A place where lives become undone.

 

But just knowing that there are organizations out there dedicated to this cause — like Shared Hope International and many others — brings light into a very dark place.

 

Awareness and healing are changing the score, even if it’s only one rescue, one life at a time. My participation in this cause also brings focus where it’s needed most. Because I know of these stories, there’s no turning back in my support.

 

This journey I’m taking to help eradicate sex trafficking started on my own, way down deep inside my spirit.

 

I’m so glad there are others on this path with me — because I could never bear it alone.

 

This post was written in response to the weekly Discover Challenge: Shared Journeys

Mementos of the heart – One mom’s wish to pass down a Christ-centered life to her daughters

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I’ll admit it, I’m sentimental.

 

I recently went through my bedroom chest in an attempt to clean it out. There, I found a scrapbook from high school. In it were old birthday cards, pictures from dances, programs from band concerts, dear notes from friends, newspaper clippings, racing numbers from my cross-country running team… I could go on, but I’m sure you get the idea.

Even as I thought, “Why am I keeping this?” deep down I knew the answer. I would keep most of it because I’m sentimental.

 

When I thought about this week’s writing challenge and what I’d choose to pass down to my daughters one day, the image in my mind didn’t comprise wood, fabric or gems. In fact, it wouldn’t be a physical object at all. But it would be one you could grasp, take hold of, and soar with to the top of the world — my faith.

 

Beth Moore is well-respected Bible teacher from the American South. Through her connections at Lifeway, she has brought forward several studies focusing on myriad Christian precepts. She also tours the country giving seminars, many of which I’ve been fortunate enough to attend in person.

 

During one of her events in the spring of 2014, she talked about how as Christians today we are the visible ministry of Christ — basically, like it or not, we’re it.

 

In other words, we are the ones designated in this era of time to share the glory of God with others and to show ourselves to the world as true disciples of Christ. (John 15:8) Moore referred to this as the “royal mandate.” It is our responsibility to help bring forward His kingdom come on earth in preparation for his return. (Revelation 11:15) No one else can do this; we’ve been called to pass the baton.

 

So, this is what I hope to leave to my daughters: Not so much faded photographs and the withered pages of time — but the hope and the calling they were born to know, believe and live each precious day.

 

I know I won’t relay all of this perfectly, and that ultimately they will need to take the reins themselves. I will surely stumble along the way. I already have. Nevertheless, this is how I see the end of the story.

 

For if this truly takes hold in their hearts, they will shine like the dawn and live fully restored. (Isaiah 58:8) Like a spring whose waters never fail. (Isaiah 58:11)

 

This post was written in response to this week’s writing challenge: For Posterity

Doors shut forever for international sex salvery ring

In Western societies, people often think of the word “door” or “doorway” as intriguing times of change, new opportunities awaiting discovery, the thrill of crossing unknown thresholds, part of life’s deep and meaFullSizeRender (6)ningful transitions. These are the “doors” in life that we move through symbolically, entering new phases in life or closing a chapter of a previous time. My grandma often talked about this in fascinating, mystical terms that intrigued me.

 

However, I challenge you to think of the other side of the coin, or in this case, the reverse side of the door. In this light, doors can also close you in, quite literally, taking away any joy in life and hiding away any thrill or freedom.

 

The heartbreaking case described in the below article is one such situation where a door to freedom instead led to a deep, dark pit. In an elaborate scheme, innocent women and children mostly from Central America and Mexico were promised a better life in the United States via illegal entry.  It turned out to be a horrific scam in which they found themselves victims of a highly profitable sex trafficking operation in Houston, Texas.

 

Notorious brothel madam gets life in sex-trafficking casehttp://www.chron.com/news/houston-texas/houston/article/Notorious-brothel-madame-gets-life-in-6773060.php#item-38488

 

Unfortunately, loosely enforced immigration laws and minimal deterrents for illegal activities crossing the U.S.-Mexico border feeds into these crimes and places the most vulnerable of populations at increased risk for abduction and abuse.

 

Clearly, in no way was this path a “door” to freedom. The setup was intricate to avoid local authorities and national security agents. Three run-down buildings were connected by a series of doorways, secret passageways and hidden rooms for the purpose of quickly escaping any kind of police raid. For the victims held against their will, these doors were locked from the inside, providing little chance for escape.

 

According to the Houston Chronicle (Feb. 1, 2016):

 

“What occurred here was absolutely modern-day slavery,” said Special Agent Shauna Dunlap, spokeswoman for the FBI’s Houston Division. “These women and young girls were forced to commit unspeakable acts in deplorable conditions inside this cantina, and others.”

 

Join me in praising the brave men and women who worked to uncover this atrocity and in praying for the recovery and restoration of these sex trafficking victims — and, that the next door they open is a prayer-filled gateway to healing.

 

This post is made in response to the WordPress Discover Challenge: The Story Behind a Door

Nothing like being there

They say a picture is worth a 1,000 words. Really? FullSizeRender (4)

A picture may “speak” to someone, but does it really communicate? Do you REALLY feel like you were there, while time unfolded?

No matter how sophisticated our technology has evolved in the year 2016, for me, no photo, video, snap, tweet or gram (or postcard, for that matter) has the capacity to truly capture the moment for someone else. 

For instance, take this photo of a bookstore in Paris, France, from my visit there in 1998. Obviously, it was raining that day as the umbrella indicates. There were SO many books — mostly used, written in several languages, piled up to the ceiling inside. The establishment was smallish, like an intimate closet. My huge backpack hurdled against other customers as I meandered through the narrow aisles breathing in ink from thousands of pages in time.

I was weary from walking around the city, however, bookstores always provide me with added energy.  Especially this one. In fact, I knew I’d never forget this place. I also knew that I’d keep this photo forever.

I could easily describe this photo in even more detail (there’s much more to tell!). For this was my dream trip; something that had been in my prayers for years.

But unfortunately there’s absolutely nothing like actually seeing, actually doing something yourself. There’s simply no substitute for that — no matter how advanced the technology. 

So maybe this picture does say a few words…about as many as this blog post.

This post was written in response to WordPress Discover: Analog

Life lessons from a guitar string

FullSizeRender (1)Sometimes you need a fresh perspective. And what better way to get one than to start learning something new.

 

When I first picked up my daughter’s guitar, I could already feel the thrill of a new challenge, of something undiscovered. I had played clarinet, tenor saxophone and a little piano as I was growing up, so I knew how to read music and had a fundamental understanding of what it means to play an instrument.

 

I soon found out that the guitar, however, is an entirely different musical piece. Holding it closely and carefully working its strings (trying not to “pluck!”), I instantaneously appreciated its level of complexity. Learning even the basics of this instrument was clearly not going to be as easy as I had thought. But it’s been FUN — and, the entertaining part is that my daughter is teaching me. (Needless to say, she has a lot of patience…)

 

Learning something new during this time of my life has been like a breath of fresh air. It’s been a great outlet during a time of change, healing, and the painstaking yet rewarding process of regrouping my thoughts to tackle the next chapter in life. Giving myself a break and focusing for a while on something dynamic amidst day-to-day mundane tasks has been a playful break from reality.

 

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A few years back I started to learn about the horrors of sex trafficking — something that has also opened my eyes to a new world and a new challenge. Although this topic doesn’t fall into the “fun” category, my passion and support for this issue has only grown, hopefully contributing toward tangible help for victims and real-world solutions to curb demand.

 

Learning something new is always in my repertoire, even in times of change or during despairing situations. Learning allows room for personal growth and unbridled thoughts. It may lead you somewhere you never thought possible before. How exciting is that?

 

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My next step in learning how to play the guitar is applying chords. Lord, help me, this is getting tough! (If anyone knows of any helpful YouTube sites for this, please let me know!)

It may not be in the stars for me to become the next guitar sensation, but I sure am enjoying playing beginner versions of Au Claire de La Lune and Aura Lee.

 

Don’t worry; there won’t be any evidence of this out there in YouTube.

 

WordPress challenge of the week: Learning