Empowered, not a victim.

January is Nation Human Trafficking Awareness Month in the U.S., and you only have to take a peek at my social media to know that this is something that is extremely important to me. I am passionate about helping people, but I’m also a part of what feels like a small population of people who think that empowerment is key. Often when trafficking is discussed or fought against, we as a society focus on the “victim” in a way that imposes helplessness on a person who has been exploited and abused. And while I 150% agree that there are many people out there that need rescuing, and help to heal from the abuse and trauma that they have lived through, we CANNOT end the conversation there.

Here’s the thing: there are people in this world that have endured and are enduring horrific trauma. These people often are isolated from the rest of society, and forced into actions that they do not want to perform. These people’s voices are taken away so that they cannot protest their lot in life. And in these scenarios and more, it is extremely important for emergency  rescue, relief and care be provided to these people. We are social beings, designed to be in community with each other, and when pain and hurt occurs, we need to gather around each other in support. But I find in many organizations and ministries, we stop at this point. Very rarely do I see an emphasis to reteach these people that while they have been victimized, but they are not victims. They have been exploited, but they are not helpless. Once immediate care has been provided, it must be a part of the healing process to remind them and reteach them to stand on their own two feet and fight back.

While horrific in nature, the crimes done to these people are now a part of their story. The critical point that I’m seeking to make here is that this trauma is NOT THEIR WHOLE STORY. We need to be in the business of teaching people that the pain and injustice done against them does not define them. They cannot let that dictate and become their identity. This should not be the only thing that these people are know for. If, for example, Sara, who is an extremely talented ice-dancer, is trafficked and later rescued, which part of her story is going to be most associated with her from that point on, her ice-dancing, or the crimes done against her? Sara will never forget this part of her story, but she should be given the opportunity to have an identity that isn’t clouded completely by this time in her life.

In our hearts to help and fight for those who are hurting, we have to be careful not to take away someone’s right to fight for themselves. Lets be in the business of giving someone’s voice back, empower them to fight for justice in this, and provide the necessary support to them in this. Let’s fight for them when they don’t have a voice to speak, but the instant they are rescued, let’s fight WITH them, surrounding them on all sides with support. It’s not that they should be able to fight independently, but rather that they know how to fight and are supported and empowered to do so.img_0205

*Last month, I was a part of a campaign to raise money to support the fight against human trafficking. The campaign is called Dressember, and involved me wearing a dress every day for the month of December. And I love knowing that the two organizations that we partner with (International Justice Mission & A21) are both passionate about rehabilitation so that survivors are empowered to be independent, and capable. Survivors are given the opportunity to fight against their traffickers by testifying against them in court, and assisting in their arrests. The Dressember campaign is still live, until the end of this month. If you are passionate about this issue, or would like more information, please consider donating and getting more information at: https://support.dressemberfoundation.org/fundraiser/809887

If you’d like more information about IJM or A21, here are some links to their websites:

A21: http://www.a21.org/content/our-solution/gkr9dk

IJM: https://www.ijm.ca/our-solution

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[choosing to fight]

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” – Elie Wiesel

img_0121I have never been accused of being a fighter. Ask anyone in my life, and you’ll get pretty much the same story. I grew up with fear being a close companion. I had no reason, my family was solid, and I knew security. Nevertheless, I lived day to day with fear sitting close to the surface, and because of that, I was very easily terrified at seemingly nothing. As I grew up, that fear manifested itself into different parts of my life, from fear of failure, to fear of the unknown. Because of this reality in my life, I very rarely took risks.

I also grew up being extremely frustrated with myself and my seemingly inability to just suck it up and deal with this sometimes debilitating fear. I have since come to understand that some of what I deal with are anxiety attacks. But at the time, I felt like I should have been able to just BE strong, get rid of the fear, and trust in my God. I felt inadequate, silly, childish, weak…etc. So I understand how it feels to not know what it means to fight, and fight hard for something. When you are so focused on the safe and secure, you’re often not willing to stick your neck out for anything. This has been a journey for me, and I’ve already written about this a bit here.

The problem is, you and me, we have a voice. We have platforms to speak. We have friends and family. There are people all around us that dream of the freedom to speak. There are people all around us who are living a nightmare where trafficking and exploitation are the norm. In their case, it’s not a matter of the choice to speak. They can’t use their voices to protest. That means its not only important, but it’s our responsibility to cry out all the louder against this injustice. Last year, during Dressember, I wrote this: “Don’t be afraid to fight for what you’re passionate about, to fight for these people who need advocates. Please.”

I stand by that statement, but I want to add to it. If you ARE afraid, fight anyway. Make the choice to get up every time fear rears it’s debilitating, ugly head. Make the choice to, however much you tremble and shake, stand. That is true courage. Making the choice to fight, even when you’re afraid. Choosing to stubbornly trust in God’s ability to hold you up, even when your knees are shaking.

I am choosing to fight. Join hands with me, let’s strengthen each other in this.

Prayer/Challenge: Please, please, please pray for those exploited in this world. Please, if you don’t know much about human trafficking, please look into it. Check the links below as a start for some information. And PLEASE, if you are able, donate to this Dressember campaign. Every little bit helps.

Everyday during the month of December, I am wearing a dress to raise money and support for the fight against exploitation and trafficking. Please consider donating here. More information is in the links below.

http://www.dressember.org/mission/ 

https://www.ijm.org/

http://www.a21.org/index.php 

[enough]

If you are at all like me, then there have been at least a few times throughout your life that you have felt ‘less than’. Where you look at the circumstances around you, at the task in front of you, or at the dream for the future, and you feel as though inadequacy is the only thing you are bringing to the table.

I have spent and continue to spend a lot of time feeling completely at a loss. Like I take a step, but will never  be able to completely finish the journey. That I will never learn enough to speak intelligently about a subject, never be confident enough to speak out when my conscience demands it, never be able to formulate the words clearly enough to convey what I truly mean… Never be enough.

I have been told by many that I’m a leader, and yet, I don’t feel qualified. I have been told by many that I am good with words, yet I never seem to be able to concisely tell the story. I have been told that I am sensitive and empathetic to others, yet there are times when I can’t seem to quite understand enough to really be the encouragement that I want to be.

enough.

Man, that word is a mountain that I can’t seem to climb, can’t seem to walk around, can’t seem to see past. It can block my vision so that all I see are the mistakes, the failures, the insecurities. It makes me feel small. But where do I get this ideal from? What is it that I think will fill in the gap that I can’t seem to fill on my own?

I have been challenged recently to remember that ‘enough’ was never supposed to be the goal. Especially if I’m looking to be ‘enough’ to or for other people.

I worry that I’m not doing enough, and because of that, I don’t deserve the gift. I worry that I am not enough. But when I accepted Jesus, I didn’t just receive a thing, I received a person… God is called El Shaddai, the Hebrew word meaning ‘God Almighty, the God who is more than enough.’… When you received Jesus that first time at salvation, you actually received the gift of enough.” Emily P. Freeman, Graceful: Letting Go of Your Try-Hard Life, p. 36

I am not enough, on my own. But I was never expected to be enough. And when I place that expectation on myself, I cheat myself out of the grace that has been given to me. I can’t expect perfection from myself, because I am not perfect. I mess up. But that’s one of the reasons why Jesus’s gift of salvation is so valuable. Because where I fall short, he picks up the slack. To fill in the gap I can’t fill, to speak the words I can’t seem to say, to be ‘enough’. I can’t be the one to fix your problem, I can’t be the one to change your life. And I was never supposed to do those things, the Savior is.

So, I’m learning another definition of grace right now. Allowing for God’s grace to fill what I in my own human-ness can’t ever fulfill. Allowing Him to be the Savior and Lord that I profess, and remember that it’s His role to be ‘enough’. To be more than enough. It’s my role to receive Him and grow. Just to be clear, I’m not letting myself off the hook from doing the hard things, fighting for what’s right, and following the path that God has for me. But I am learning, slowly, that ‘enough’ should not be the end goal. Trust in His ability to be enough. Sit in that truth. Let that be the place that you start from.

Challenge/Prayer: Where do you need to allow grace in your life? Where do you need to surrender? I’m praying for and with you, friend. Let’s take this step together.

[she walks in grace and beauty]

she-walks-in-grace-and-beautyI have debated for months about sharing this. Mostly because what I’m about to talk about is really special to me and I always have the hardest time explaining myself. But God has been making it clear that I need to share this, and I want to encourage my sisters in Christ with this so here goes…

Over my life, I have often had certain words or phrases pop into my head that are relevant to what God is teaching me/challenging me on during that particular time. This past spring, right around the time that I finished my semester of school, I started having the phrase above play over and over in my head. She walks in grace and beauty. I think that it may have started after meeting with one of my mentors who embodies this concept. Anyway, I have searched high and low for these words in the Bible, or as a quote somewhere else, and I can’t find it anywhere. I know that it’s fairly similar to the passage in Proverbs 31 that says “She is clothed in strength and dignity,” and it is definitely not contradictory to Scripture. I have searched and tested this, because I know it can be really easy to just latch onto something without testing it with a basis on truth.

She walks in grace and beauty. For the past 4-5 months, I have been praying through what these words mean. It has been and continues to be a journey as I try to understand what this concept means/looks like in everyday life. One of the things that I have grown to understand through lots of prayer is that this is an action, not a passive description. This is something that I can DO, that can be physically seen. In this itself lies the difficulty in explaining myself. When I say grace and beauty, I’m not talking about physical beauty, but rather an inner strength and grace and beauty that only comes of genuinely seeking after Christ. I’m also not talking of a physically graceful person. If that were the case I would be hopeless, because I can definitely be a klutz… during most of my waking moments. So, while this is an inner beauty and grace, it can be physically seen. I have some dear friends that I would describe as absolutely gorgeous because they embody this truth. I think that when a woman lives this out, people notice, maybe because it seems to be a bit radically different than what society tells us as women to be. And while I speak specifically to my sisters in Christ here, I think that there are definitely ways that both women and men can embody this concept.

Sometimes it’s easier to explain what something does not mean. Embodying this phrase does not mean weakness, but instead strength of character and faith. This does not mean subservience, but rather humility and truth. This does not mean being a pushover, but rather being an embodiment of Christ’s beautiful grace. 

For me, these past couple of months have been a time of growth. When unexpected challenges have come up, God has used these words to question my response. I have grown accustomed to responding with “Ok, Lord. What does this look like here? How can I walk in grace and beauty right now?” I had a friend ask me if it was difficult and painful to be challenged in this way, and to be honest I was completely surprised. It had never occurred to me to look at this process as anything less than loving refinement. I have been feeling incredibly cherished and loved in this process of growth.

Challenge/Prayer: I challenge my fellow sisters to consider this concept. For some of you, this is not a new idea, but for others, this may be new. I would love to hear your thoughts as well. What does this look like in your everyday life? How can we pursue God’s definition of womanhood, and does this concept play a role? Also, what is God teaching you right now? How are you seeing Him taking a personal interest in your life? Is there an area that you are feeling convicted to pray about, and focus on and learn about?

Day 13: Christmas Wish

I’ve been pretty introspective  over the past couple of weeks. I don’t know about you guys, but the introvert in me needs time sometimes to process in order to grow and change. I find that some of the best ‘eureka’ moments about myself or about those around me have happened by myself, at the most with one other person, just spending time quietly in prayer, talking through things, and just generally reflecting.

It’s funny, even though I’ve been blogging about Christmas for almost two weeks now, I’ve been having a hard time remembering that Christmas is so close. Normally, I start listening to Christmas carols in mid-late November and have watched at least one Christmas movie by the first week of December. I remember loving gathering as a family, sitting around the advent wreath, reading the Christmas story, praying for others as a family. I’ve been so incredibly blessed by a family that took Christmas seriously, the true meaning of Christmas. I’ve missed this the past couple of years as I’ve been at University in the months leading up to Christmas, and I’m realizing that I need to make Christmas my own, and make time for what’s important, instead of being so incredibly busy and distracted.

So that’s my wish this Christmas, that we would focus on what’s important and make Christmas about Christ, slowing down and making time for others. I’ve started the process with hundreds of other men and women around the world doing Dressember this month, and I’m on the hunt for more ways to bless others and also take the time relearning the amazing true story of Christ’s birth and life.

Prayer: I challenge you to spend some time with me in prayer this Christmas, instead of being so distracted by the business of the season, either by work, or by school, family…etc. Focus on the truth, and allow yourself to be awestruck by Christ’s miraculous birth. Because at the end of the day, I think that’s what’s pretty important.

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Everyday during the month of December, I am wearing a dress to raise money and support for the fight against exploitation and trafficking. Please consider donating here. More information is in the links below.

http://www.dressember.org/mission/  | https://www.ijm.org/ | http://www.a21.org/index.php