Friday, September 27, 2013

The Tale: Igor's Story of His Home

As many of you know, I have a love for Moldova that most cannot understand...unless you break away from your  life and go there. Today, I have special post from my sweet friend Igor, a young man I met while in Chisinau. So sit back and relax while you open your mind to others....



-          Umm..? Moldova? Is it somewhere around Africa?

-          Oh, it’s a state in India!

-          Does this country even exist?

From dialogues.

 

 
Situated in the east part of Europe, looking like a wine grape shape on a map, as a symbol of great wine and great and sincerely people this beautiful little paradise is being called Republic of Moldova. A beautiful country bordered by famous rivers Dniester and Prut.

 Before I begin my tale, let me represent myself in a few words.

My name is Igor, I’m 19 year old freshman in Economical Academy of Republic of Moldova. Passionate by all kind of sports, like kickboxing, skiing, swimming, the true fan of Pink Floyd, AC/DC, The Rolling  and other great rock bands and finally, I’m an Entrepreneur truly believing in economic potential of his country.

And this tale is about my view on country, that I live in.

If you ask me to pick out things that describe Moldova from the best side, I guess I would say the following words: people, nature, traditions.

Chisinau isn’t that big city, so we can often meet our friends or other people we know on the streets without scheduling the meeting. Actually, that makes us work and live cohesively and help each other. This thing makes living in Chisinau cozy. You may know that Moldova is a merge of paints of different cultures, Russian, Romanian, Ukrainian and others. This makes rich cultural gamut with a large variety of customs and traditions.

If you have an inquiring mind like I do – you may find very interesting talking to random person from the street or any other place you can actually find this person. Know why? People form the country. That’s it.

If you know people, understand their state of minds, feel the feelings they do feel, know their intentions, no, if you really do all of these, only then, you may say, that you understood the pure spirit of this country.

So, don’t hesitate to talk to a random person you find on the streets in Chisinau, cause there are a lot of people that speak English fluently. This is a great possibility to create some friends to spend time with in the city.

Chisinau is considered as the greenest city in Europe. Want some clue? This is the view from my home, for example.


 

 
 
I love nature, I really do. When I get tired or exhausted – I go to forest, hug the trees, look like a fool, but feel better. Much better. Meditating in the middle of the nature calms me and gives me a lot of energy. I also do enjoy very much running through the forest near my house. You disengage yourself from all the cares and thoughts. Hour or two feels fine for me.

That’s the Wisdom, calmness and power of Moldavian nature.

 



 

 

Modern culture is deeply rooted in folk art, drew inspiration from this inexhaustible treasure, creating a large amount of material and spiritual values, and becoming significant part of world culture.

Moldavian wedding proves it. It’s probably one of the most colorful and full of activities wedding tradition, also famous by our national dance – hora, the dance that reflects the softness and the strength of our nation at the same time.
 

 

Chisinau is “relaxed city”. Any megalopolis citizen that visited Moldova would confirm it.

Our constitution is considered as most friendly for citizens in Europe, but it’s not always followed as it should be.

People who stay beyond government mostly try to get the benefits from this constitution for themselves instead of following it and improving it.

Well, the control of the country is money laundering. Somewhere more, somewhere less, you know. No comment.

Cause of political instability we have bad relationships with other countries. Also cause of that, the future is hardly predictable. It may change in any given moment.

Many people from Moldova go abroad for working. Mostly for Italy, Russia, Spain. Not the best jobs they do work there, mostly working as housemaids or other not so respectable jobs. I do not believe this is a good idea, the idea to escape.

I won’t. Call me crazy, but I truly believe in economic, cultural and overall potential of Moldova.

Yes, Moldova isn’t that developed and modern country so the market is empty, so that’s why I believe that it’s better to remain living here and creating working space and places to contribute in developing the country.

And I understand that the future of my country is in the youth hands.

If everyone goes abroad – no chances to stand up, if we rock here – there are.

It’s all about personal responsibility.

Personal responsibility is the thing that makes a person an identity, a real man, the thing, that transforms people in a society, the thing that transforms the society in a nation, a country.

The more people understand this simple fact – the more chances we do have to stand up and show off.

The provided education in Moldova is at the normal level, but many students don’t even try to reach this level. It’s much easier to pay to pass the exams to get diploma, sadly.

But if you study – you are able to reach this level. And if you develop yourself as a specialist, mainly reading professional literature, completing special trainings you can reach the “good” level. Then you have to find a job and continue to self-developing and work hard to achieve the excellent level.

While exterior universities provide education at excellent level in comparison with Moldavian and give you all the possibilities and help you to achieve the professional level.

After like 5 years of practicing you can achieve the level of highly qualified professional, and… unfortunately to not be that valued.

So education in Moldova isn’t a good base to jump of in professional environment. That’s why students that strike to heights prefer to study abroad.

That’s why highly qualified professionals from Moldova are strong men. It’s twice harder to achieve this level here.

And finally I’ll tell you why it isn’t that bad in Moldova.

Firstly, all the things that are possible in Europe and in the U.S., are also allowed in Moldova.

Secondly, Europe, U.S. does not have the half of freedom that we do have. There is no pressure of public opinion, there is no dictatorship of social norms, there’s no prejudgment about your skin color or religion. After all, here you will never get a period of 10,000 years. And yet here you are not forced to be who you want to be.

Here you are truly free to be yourself. You believe in macaroni god? Cool, why not? You don’t? Well, whatever. You can go to the army and return superman, but you can avoid it and be proud of it. You can have three higher education diplomas and to work as a janitor and you can hardly finalize 8 forms of primary school and own a successful business.

Moldova - a country of true liberty, freedom, even freedom of logic. You can be a liberal with fascist views, you can go to rallies against the government and vote for the president, you can be a communist and believe in God, you can even be a national socialist yelling about the racial theory, and thus be a mixture of Mongol-Turkic-German- Armenian blood. And no one will tell you a word.

The only thing that Moldova does not forgive - is weakness. Weaklings do not survive here and run away, so Moldova is a country of strong men. Strong man is free here, and all the roads are opened to him. A wimp and a rag here, as elsewhere, will take place at the very bottom of the food chain.

That’s it.

 

Peace.

 

 Igor Corovai

fb.com/I.Corovai

 
 
 
 
Want to be part of the change? Check out how you can get involved HERE. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Is Different So Bad?


     What is the big deal about fitting in? My daughter was criticised and verbally abused during her 4th grade school year because she didn't quite "fit in" with the rest. She's a bit of a tom boy and has more energy than most people are used to conjuring during the day. No, it's not any kind of defect...she doesn't sit around eating junk food all day. Her lunches were different, her hair different...and she was told how odd she was on a daily basis. It begs the question: what exactly is "in" and why do people even want to go there?

     Over this past year, I have come to grips with the fact that I am quite odd and certainly not the "norm". I'm nowhere near in, and I'm OK with that. Where I am is right where I should be and where God can use me best. You see, when we focus on where we think we should be, we are not open to where we could be. There's a lot about my life that doesn't quite scream normal I suppose, so I thought I should list it out and see what's going on:

  • I don't save money for vacations, I save money for missions.
  • Instead of waiting in line for the ride , my kids and I wait on people across the globe.
  • I don't cry when my kids go back to school. OK, so my daughter home schools for now, but still no tears. Why? My kids are with me for a very short time and I am in stewardship of them. It's not my job to hold tight, it's my job to train and teach and begin letting go. So when I see them make strides towards adulthood I'm actually looking forward to it.
  • I wake up at 4 a.m. M-Saturday to have quiet time with the Bible and then continue it in the gym. When I am physically broken is the best time for me to spiritually grow.
  • I prefer to focus on the stories of others as opposed to my own story.
  • I'm not a baby person, but I really dig the youth of this world. I love those who have seemingly been tossed out and forgotten. The kids who can actually change the world, that's where my investment goes.
  • I take my kids to Africa and Eastern Europe instead of Disney World and Six Flags.
  • My kids wouldn't have it any other way because I don't shelter them from the problems that surround us.






     So, does it make me better to do these things? No way, I'm as flawed as they come. What it does is make me more dedicated to doing that which is out of my grasp, that which is slightly uncomfortable, that which is weird and not normal....and it brings blessings 10 fold of what would happen if I just tried to "fit in".

Why fit in, when you were born to stand out? -Dr. Suess

Wise indeed. Dedicate yourself to making a difference TODAY.

Michelle

Friday, July 19, 2013

Trust in the Process

I am told that the process takes time, patience and practice. I explain this to my own clients as well. It is, after all, a practice. As in life, nothing is permanent. Good feelings, great relationships, they all fade and change as time weaves throughout life. Yet here I am, struggling with the practice...

This morning, days after I came home from Ethiopia, I struggled. Arms bent, knees nestled into my upper arms and hanging on for dear life, abs tight, back rounded, the foundation of my hands gripping the bare floor below, gaze slightly ahead of my hands...welcome to crow pose. When my life is going easily, I enjoy incorporating tons of yoga into my fitness, but when life is discombobulated, yoga is a struggle. I hold my breath and have violent body convulsions, not to mention the fact that I get angry... very angry. The teacher always utters those dreadful words: "Trust the Process". And that is where I fail.

Life off the mat is the same thing, a process. We will never be perfect, nor will our circumstances. We have times when we seem to be hitting all the marks and times when we're just marking it (dance term for faking it). All in all, it is a process. Life is a process of finding our marks, followed by the process of aiming and hopefully hitting our marks. We seek out education, careers, a mate, partnership for life, things that will set us apart and yet allow us to still blend in...life becomes far more complicated than ever intended.

My week in Ethiopia was far less complicated than the life process itself. First, I had no Internet. It was as though my vein had ruptured, but eventually I healed and got over it. There was no rigid agenda there either. Each stop wasn't about making money, but rather, making connections. There was no makeup and no hiding, simply being. It was refreshing, to say the least.


It is the return that is always hard. How does life continue? What do you do with those ideas, callings, thoughts, etc.? Just like my crow...you trust the process. There isn't an ounce of emotion happening that wasn't thought out and intended long ago. As we process, things arise and must surface for us to deal with them. What about those things we have held to for so long? What about the career that God says you have excelled in, but it's time to move on? What about the plans you thought you had laid flawlessly? What happens when the process doesn't go your way? Can you still trust in it?

It's easy to unroll our life mat and step on with confidence when things seem to be going our way. The real growth comes when we unroll the mat even when we know what is to come will be unfamiliar and possibly painful. Sometimes, the process is painful. There is pain we must face in life to grow us to our particular calling. If we spend our lives running from pain, we may never know what we are truly here for at all! I, for one, am not willing to risk that. Pain is a necessary part of the overall plan. We endure the pain of shots so we can be vaccinated from what we perceive as certain evils in health. Pain causes growth...running from it will keep us in the confused state we reside.

What pain do you face today that holds you back? What are you afraid to step into? Maybe you feel like this is your go-and-see moment, but you're scared. Welcome to the club! This is what I do and I still get nervous before flights. I did find that gummy bears can calm my nerves this time though :). Maybe your fear is that if you follow what God is calling you to do then you will lose everything. Well, in the reality of things, nothing is ours to hold onto. PLUS, He does promise that His ultimate will for us is for our good (Jeremiah 29:11). Don't confuse good with riches here people, you'll be disappointed.

So, what holds you back from dealing with these fears? Remember, God has a great plan for your life. YOU could be the one to set change in motion, even for one person. That person you affect may go on to change others. There is no limit to what God can do in and through you! Well, perhaps the limit really is right in front of us. Don't try to limit God through your own fear. Face it, admit it and move through it. Make a change that will last more than your lifetime.

Michelle

Saturday, July 6, 2013

All the Pretty Girls

Today, I embark on a mission to Ethiopia. The first mission trip for my son, the second in 6 months for me. I'm feeling quite fortunate that my 14 year old not only has a heart for fulfilling the Great Commission, but also that he is pumped about his mom going with him :)

This week has been one of some quiet reflection as well...a must before any trip in my opinion. I was able to think about my own family, the families of those I love and the families of those I have met along the way. My heart cries out for the girls in our world. These are the ones I blanket in prayer each morning and spread hope over every night. What kind of legacy am I leaving for these girls? Will the world change for my daughter?

These thoughts are what drive me out of bed every day. They are the questions that beg to be answered as my fingers fervently peck at the keyboard. Am I doing enough?

Take a quick inventory of your own self and then allow it to ripple out, as though a small pebble was dropped into the pond of your soul. Women need help. This is certainly not to say men don't. I am a woman and that is where God has placed my calling :). We live in a world where women struggle in and out, ever day. This is a world of "never enough". I can't be thin enough, curvy enough, disciplined enough, smart enough, pretty enough, rich enough, humble enough, courageous enough, daring enough, busy enough, involved enough, friendly enough, stylish enough, educated enough, or loved enough.....and to that I say, Enough is Enough.

I believe that the younger generation of girls can change the world for the better, but only if the opportunity arises. Women, in general, have become a sex of great challenge. We would do more...but only after our children are older. We would strive for change, but only when we feel we are ready. We would stand up to injustice, but only after we lose the last ten pounds. We succumb to the fear inside that has been breeding for generations.

So, how do we break this cycle? It's a difficult task, no doubt. Women seem to be born self conscious. My daughter home schools due to the behaviour of other young ladies, poured out in vehement hatred during elementary school. Unfortunately, the elders of our sex still compare, judge and form beliefs based on nothing. We are taught to seek out our worth rather than accepting it. If you are a child of God, you have great worth...enough to die for, in your Father's eyes.

I think it's time women took a stand! Those of us who have battled the monsters of anxiety, depression, poor self worth and low self esteem, need to face our demons and put in the work for future generations. They are worth the work! If we choose to simply exist as everyone else does, we are telling the younger generation that they aren't worth us changing a single thing....so this sews the seeds of unworthiness and opens the doors to chaos and decay. Be willing to do the work.

Everything that has come about in life helps to grow us. We are placed here to grow into fully functioning, awesome-life-living, breathing, passionate women of God's army, yet too many sit in the barracks waiting....and  they don't even know what for. Our bounties are rich in His kingdom, yet we live like slaves to fear and confusion. I issue a call to my fellow sisters to break the bonds, turn to look your perceived weaknesses straight in the eye and push through to the life YOU HAVE BEEN PROMISED. Only then can our future generations truly see the power of the cross. Either you live like you believe it, or you admit you aren't living at all....

Michelle

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Fit Missionary: Happy 4th! Liberty, Justice and the Pursuit of Hap...

The Fit Missionary: Happy 4th! Liberty, Justice and the Pursuit of Hap...: I saw a post yesterday that said, "The 4th of July: a time to thank our ancestors for killing enough British that we can enjoy an extra...

Happy 4th! Liberty, Justice and the Pursuit of Happiness for ALL

I saw a post yesterday that said, "The 4th of July: a time to thank our ancestors for killing enough British that we can enjoy an extra day off work and cheap hot dogs."

Not to belittle celebrations of our freedom, but it seems as though we celebrate more than we initiate here. I look around and see lives full of monotony, mundane and excuses. Lavish celebration gives the illusion of freedom. Is that an extraordinary life though?

I believe there are many of us here who think our freedoms are a gift. While it would be correct that we were placed in this great country by a giving God, our inherent freedoms have been bought with a price. And while we claim to acknowledge that, we also seem blind to the fact that we are allowing those freedoms to slowly slip, under our foggy vision. If freedom is what we all seek, we do we not fight for it? Why consistently rely on those who face battle and not use our own tongues?

Standing up can be an increasingly hard thing to do, especially when you are always told to sit and wait. Be patient. Don't ask questions. Questions are needed right now. For instance: if everything is handed to you, is that freedom? If you are born into poverty, are you buried there as well? Does your hope lie in a single person, or the Creator of all persons?

Our freedom to live mundane lives has brought our creative thoughts to a halt. Now, I totally get that life is busy. I mean, the pursuit of happiness requires busyness right? Only if your happiness is tied up in something that will never breed happiness. The busyness is palpable. We would love to help, but maybe when life "slows down". Let me shed some light on that thought: when life "slows down" you'll be dead and completely useless to helping anybody. Start now. While some will admit to wanting to make a difference, most are scared of what will be required of them. If I am called to help the poor, what will I have to give up? The big questions that we try to silence with celebration will always linger until they are allowed an answer.

So, my biggest question to you is this: what will you do with your freedom this year? Will you give more of yourself to those less fortunate? We have opportunity here that exists nowhere else, but I encourage you not to take it for granted! You don't have to have a college degree to make millions. You can run a business AND be a woman....many women I talk to take the simple fact that women have rights for granted DAILY. If you have the creativity, the passion and the drive, YOU can accomplish anything in this nation. Is it easy? Of course not! That's where we have failed for years. We started thinking everything should be handed to us just because we grace the face of this nation. If that is your thought process, you couldn't be more wrong...and you could possibly be causing the downfall of this nation.

Stand up. Take charge of what is is swirling around your heart and head. You know, it's that sweet spot of your passion, your intellect and your talents colliding that make up your calling. If we settle for ordinary and mundane, living paycheck to paycheck just to fit the bill....we are missing the greatness we have been called to. Extraordinary lives aren't set aside for a select group of people. Living an extraordinary life doesn't require a large bank account or a college degree even...it's a simple willingness to stop being so complacent in our freedom.

Michelle

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

This is My Moldova



     Here I sit, a few days out from Ethiopia, sick as a dog....This gives me time to rest and think though. Resting is not something I excel at by any means. So as I sit here, my mind is able to drift in and out of the woven patterns and dusty cobwebs of the last 6 months. Just mere months ago I was taking off for my first overseas trip, and now I am on the brink of another.

     In all the hustle and bustle of traveling, it would seem easy to forget the things placed on your heart. Moldova, and it's people, have been branded into my heart so I may never forget. My desire is that you too, would come to know them as I have. In order to manifest this desire, I asked some of my friends to write about what Moldova is to them. There is a darkness there, yes, but I believe there can be more hope if we all take the time to simply listen and acknowledge their existence. This is Peter's story:


Hello y'all

I was born in Russia but I live in Moldova within 38 years. My name is Peter. I'm married and have 2 daughters.

I work a lot with US teams translating to them in different country sides, visiting different villages, seeing lots of people, listening lots of stories. I started to translate in 2001.

Our country has awesome nature and people are very hospitable to strangers over here. The main religion here is orthodoxy. There are people, who consider themselves to be believers, following traditions only. People hear about God but don't know Him personally. There is difference to hear and to know.

We have many Evangelical organizations over here but there is a huge field of non believers as well. Our goal isn't only bringing Gospel to non believers but also making disciples. Unfortunately, there are some obstacles for reaching people.

Most of our nonbelievers, as everywhere, have only one goal and that's materialism. But there is a huge difference from other countries. Our people can't reach that because of lack of work places all over the country. Good diploma will not give you a good job and that's why people are leaving the country, I'm speaking about our young and young adult's generation. Some, who can't leave it trying to reach their goals by criminal tendencies. Our country is well known because of sex traffic and black market (internal organs). There lots of children, who are left by parents trying to survive in different orphanages. I just mentioned about some obstacles we have over here.

Believers need to make up something new for get attention of such people. I also wanna tell you God is doing miracles over here working in hearts of people giving them salvation. I can't describe that by words because there aren't such words, which are able to describe them.

God is good and He never leaves us or forsakes us. I'm glad I live here because living here I should rely on Him everyday having no assurance at the future, without regular job. I can testify that God is always with my family and me, even if I think a situation is terrible, He brings me through it giving a joy and a peace. Peace, which can't be described by words. He has His time and He is always on time, He is never late.

Remember, we can ALL help to bring hope and healing to Moldova. It is accomplished one small step at a time.

With love,
Michelle

Monday, July 1, 2013

See a Need....and then what?


       There is no denying that we see a problem here. The good news is that people like the Nike Foundation, Unicef, and even the little people like yours truly are standing up. There is a misconception that when you see a big name behind a project you assume funding is no issue. It is. We have projects spread throughout the globe that are in need of funding as well as increased awareness. Make the call to dig your head out of the sand that modern day media places us in, and be a part of world change. You can start HERE.

Friday, June 28, 2013

The Girl Effect


I have recently partnered with The Nike Foundation and The Girl Effect to spur a movement. This movement has the potential to change lives, therefore affecting change across our entire globe.

The Girl Effect believes that our future lies in the young women across the globe. These are the same young women from our neighborhoods to our neighboring countries and beyond. These are women whose rights are bled, who suffer daily and who need hope.

I am a Safe Spaces Ambassador for the Nike Foundation and am on a mission to provide Safe Spaces for girls to grow, learn and find their passion and power. My first project is set to launch in Chisinau, Moldova...but we need YOUR help. Funding for these projects is a necessity. You can be a driving force of change and have a hand in abolishing modern-day slavery....if you are willing.

Learn more about how YOU can get involved in Safe Spaces HERE. Your donation can mean a brand new life for a young girl who just may be the next world changer.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Silence is Deadly

      As I sit here enjoying my second cup of mind fuel, I am pouring over the events of this first half of this year. Did that scare you a little? July is coming quick and 1/2 of the year is already lived. Well, it's either lived or simply existed...

    My heart longs for my friends in Chisinau and is excited for those I have yet to meet. At the beginning of July I will embark on an adventure with my 14 year old son to Addis Ababa and Awasa, Ethiopia. And the trips show no sign of stopping there as plans for Uganda, South Africa, Burundi, and Italy are all taking shape. My how life can change in the blink of an eye.

    Just 2 short years ago I was living a contented life. I worked in a field where praise was the daily norm and money was abundant no matter the economy. I had time to simply sit and read or head out for a run. My boat was floating undisturbed along the boring waters of a life lacking challenge. Then, the dark and disturbing truths began to sink in.

     I remember very clearly the first time I heard about sex trafficking. It was also the first time I promptly changed the dial on the stereo. The subject of sex trafficking itself just made me want to vomit. My life was easy and happy...hearing about this ongoing, daily tragedy was throwing me off my groove. There was something there though. Something that words cannot aptly describe. I began to long for justice. Moreso than that, I began to think that even I could possibly do something.

    
     I have lived my life in deadly silence. I have been content to simply turn away and carry on. That's what life is ultimately about right? The comfort of my family? I have hidden behind my family and my station for far too long. I have used my husband, children and even my career as bunkers for respite from the burning passion in my heart that shouts "DO SOMETHING!". Instead, I have sat in silence. Silence became a way of life. I never stood against wrongs in school and I certainly did not feel like a justice-seeker in life. Over the course of the past few years, life has changed.

     As I sat with the whirling thoughts in my mind (get to know me and you'll realize I always have whirling thoughts), I couldn't stop thinking of the injustice that was allowed every day. I looked at my children who were reading library books and living a contented life when the thought that seized my heart and filled my throat came: "Why not my kids? What stayed God's hands and placed us where we are with all we have?" The answer to that is simple: I have been given much, and much is required of me.

     The world does not lack evil. It is in every nook and cranny. Some of us take it on as pets, reading literature that is ripe with sex, lust and violence. It comes through our computers, televisions and even phone conversation. Evil is palpable. You can touch it, taste it, breathe it in with every seemingly free breath, but we try to "avoid" it as best we can. Christians will spend energy picking fights with other Christians instead of fighting for what we are called to, but that's another post altogether. We are both drawn to evil and silenced by it. We like the evil that serves our selfish desires, but fear the evil that seems to close in on us day by day. This is the problem we face.

     I have learned in the brief time I have been fighting trafficking that this evil lacks in appeal. Sex trafficking and human slavery are not pretty topics. They do not pull at the soft strings of the heart like orphans and natural disasters do. Instead, the thought of trafficking and enslavement is like nails on a chalk board or the very fingers of Satan pulling a rusty bow over an ill tuned violin...there is nothing in this talk that makes us "feel good". We can feel dirty just hearing about it, and we should. Trafficking has evolved because it has been allowed to evolve. Traffickers are highly educated philanthropists, thriving on our silence. There is nothing pretty involved in slavery. There is no quick fix, nor is there an easy button. We do not see the change we desperately want to be tied to, and the truth is we may never see it in our lifetime. And so we choose...we choose other areas to offer help. We choose to give to other callings. We choose to turn the radio off so our children won't hear it. We knowingly choose our own silence while victims bang on the door of our hearts knowing that for them, all hope is lost.

     It's hard to swallow I know. The first few times I tried to study trafficking, the first time I tried to speak with somebody involved, I choked. I couldn't read the statistics or allow myself to be fully present because it hurt on a level I had never experienced. I knew sickness, I knew death, I even knew the loss of a child.....but this, slavery, was a beast that I had no dealings with nor did I desire them.

     There are now more human souls enslaved than there were in the time of Abraham Lincoln. There are young men forced to work heavy labor, dying from malnutrition and sleep deprived accidents. There are young girls forced to be sexually objectified more than 20 times per day. There is no love here, and most are taught to believe they do not deserve any better. These things are happening all around us, yet we stay blinded like a horse drawing a buggy of contentment and comfort. Chisinau, Moldova is one of the largest exporters of human slaves, though it is also one of the smallest countries in Europe. In Ethiopia, girls as young as 8 are sold for sex for as little as 20 cents, American money. DAILY, this disaster is allowed to go on. Those of us who hold our silence have become comfortable with the pain of biting our own tongues.

     There is something I have been given that trafficking victims have had thoughtlessly stripped from them: my voice. I have the choice to not remain silent, no matter how big the enemy may seem. My continued silence does more to keep young women enslaved than their captors. My silence fortifies the thought that they really aren't worth anything. My silence has had its time. My voice must now take a stand. It's not a pretty calling, or a glamorous calling. I certainly don't get free swag or book deals and endorsements...but what I do receive is far greater. Existing in silence is not living. If we choose silence, we choose the same captivity as those who suffer slavery. The choice is ultimately yours. Will you stand? Or will you allow the world around you to simply happen? The choices we make now have no other option but to affect the waters around us. We can empower or we can impede...the choice is yours.

Michelle

To find out more about Chisinau and the Safe Place we are funding, click HERE.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

New Partnership, New Opportunities to Serve

I recently had a phone conference with the lovely Elle from the Nike Foundation. The Foundation itself exists to bring awareness and therefore empowerment to young girls everywhere. You can find out more about them HERE.

The Nike Foundation and I partner to spread the word of The Girl Effect. The Girl Effect is a movement to help empower the youth of our world, specifically the girls. Here, a post by Michele Moloney-Kitts, director of Together For Girls that will further explain the efforts we are involved in and the things you can be a part of as well.

How to tackle the root causes of violence against girls

 

A bit of background
Michele Moloney-Kitts is managing director of Together for Girls, a public-private partnership dedicated to eliminating sexual violence against children. Before joining Together for Girls she was assistant global Aids co-coordinator for the US President's Emergency Plan for Aids Relief (PEPFAR) and foreign service officer with USAid in Cambodia, Morocco and South Africa.
Who's involved
Resources

Michele Moloney-Kitts, director of Together For Girls, on why we need better data about violence
In Safety
Girls have the potential to change the world. If we unlock this potential, the cycle of poverty in the developing world can be broken. But this will only be achieved if girls are freed from the threat of violence so many of them currently live under.
The scale of violence against children - especially girls - is enormous. Recent surveys from some countries in Africa show that about one in three girls has an unwanted sexual experience before the age of 18 and about one in four girls' first sexual experience is forced. Young women continue to have the largest percentage of new HIV infections in South Africa and one study estimates that 12 per cent of these infections could be prevented by addressing violence, especially sexual violence, against girls.
The long-term impact can be huge. Girls who experience violence are much more likely to drop out of school, have an unwanted pregnancy and - because pregnancy before the age of 18 is particularly high risk - they are more likely to die during childbirth.

Changing social norms

There are two ways to address violence: prevention and response. Recently, development programmes have tended to focus on response because they've been built on top of health services to provide access to anti-retrovirals, for example to prevent HIV. Making sure victims have access to the services and treatment they need is essential, but we need to do more to prevent violence too.
Prevention is much tougher because it involves changing deeply engrained social norms - in particular the idea that violence is normal and acceptable, or that girls and women deserve violence because they have done something wrong. A husband beating his wife because she burns the dinner, a girl blaming herself for being raped - these things should not be considered normal, but too often they are.
These attitudes permeate whole communities and hold everyone back, creating an unspoken culture of fear that impacts a girl's participation in society at large. Many girls drop out of school, often for safety reasons, leaving themselves isolated and unable to play a role in the social and economic development of their community.

Tackling the root causes

Addressing these social norms and the gender power structures that reinforce them is difficult - but not impossible.
At Together For Girls - a partnership between five UN agencies (including UNICEF and UNAids), the US government and the private sector - we work with governments and local organisations in the developing world to collect qualitative and quantitative data about violence against girls so that governments and communities can tackle these difficult issues in an informed and evidence-based manner.
This data is used by governments to launch national action plans that tackle the root causes of violence, as well as to strengthen systems to better protect both girls and boys. For example, in Tanzania - one of the five countries, including Swaziland, Kenya, Zimbabwe and Haiti, that we have completed surveys in - they are now establishing district-level child protection teams that bring together social services, health, education, police and the courts to protect children identified as vulnerable.

Robust action

There are more surveys in the pipeline in Cambodia, Indonesia, Malawi, Nigeria and the Philippines. It's important to stress that these countries came to us to create a partnership, not the other way round: they recognise there's a problem and they tell us they want support in tackling it.
That's why the governments of the five countries we've already worked with have really seized on the data to mobilise robust action against violence. One of the most stunning examples is in Swaziland, where they drafted two bills in response to the survey results: the Child Welfare Bill, which was signed into law in September 2012, and the Sexual Offences and Domestic Violence Bill, which has just passed through both legislative Houses.
These laws will ensure there are child protection teams to assist schools, health services and the police to get to the root causes of violence - as well as respond to it.
Crucially, these laws are designed to enable the government to work with the police and justice systems to make sure that the perpetrators of violence can no longer act with impunity. In many countries the justice system is not in a position to properly enforce the laws against violence - a situation that reinforces social norms and the culture of fear.
By using data from our surveys to form a better understanding of the causes, context and consequences of violence, Swaziland is starting to overcome that problem.

Scaling success

But it doesn't stop there. The development community must do much more to ensure that girls are not held back by the fear of violence within their communities.
Girls themselves have power and are a vital part of the solution. Interventions such as economic empowerment programmes and safe-space programmes empower girls with the connections, role models and assets they need in order to have greater control over their lives, which in turn reinforces the idea that violence against girls is not acceptable.
For example, in Tanzania we are working to help empower more girls by accessing media training and safe spaces with our new Catapult and Chime for Change project with UNICEF.
We know that all these solutions work. Now we need to scale them so that developing countries are making strides at both a national and community level to prevent violence against girls.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Fear or Focus?

      As I sit at my desk on this quiet Summer morning, I am downing my third cup of coffee and thinking about the events of the past year. Life looks abstract compared to last year, my "plans" have been turned on their head and I an enjoying more of life now than I ever have before. That's not just the caffeine talking either...

     Last Spring I cancelled a trip with my husband to Vegas on a whim, a feeling rather, that I should point myself in a different direction. We were to attend a fitness conference that I had been looking forward to forever (OK, not forever, but long enough). One day I called and told him the trip had to be changed due to a tugging at my heart. This is where it ALL began.

     Instead of high rise hotels and cocktails all night, we found ourselves driving through several states with our children in tow. We were able to visit family and take in some scenic hiking. A seemingly small part of me began to open up a bit more with each part of the journey. At our journey's end, we were in the Great Wolf Lodge (HIGHLY recommended!) in Concord, North Carolina. My husband and kids would play while I attended the annual She Speaks Conference. I went with one goal: a book deal. I left with much more.

      The conference was not truly the highlight of my trip, as I gave in to fear and actually spent the majority of the time with my family at the fun hotel :). There was one session I was determined to attend though: Writing Out of Your Passion, lead by Tom Davis. I figured if I were to give this writing thing a chance, that class looked like a good place to start. I still have the handout and I did email friends and family to ask what my gifts and talents were....very eye opening indeed, but that is for another time.

      As I sat in the back of the room, a video began to play about Children's Hope Chest Ministries. My chest grew heavy, as if weighted by an invisible anchor. Although the class itself was wonderful (that class alone was worth the cost of the conference), I left only thinking of this ministry. We made a mad dash home in a straight 17 hour drive. I'm pretty sure nearly 15 hours of it were me bringing Children's Hope Chest up to my husband until he finally said, "Why don't you look into it when we get home?" Well, we came home to a crazy flea infestation, but once that was clear I did look into it.

      Thus began a new life. As you may know, I signed on for my first mission to Chisinau, Moldova and left the soil of the United States with a group of ladies I barely knew. I am now glad to call all of these women dear friends and sisters in Christ. This mission has been followed and my next large trip is to Ethiopia. So, what does ANY of this have to do with fear and focus?

     As I tell my story to friends and family, I feel alive. I am more alive now than I have ever allowed myself to be. As far back as I can remember, I've always wanted to travel. I had stuffed this far down due to one tiny little thing: I was scared to death to fly. Well, that and I just don't travel well. I tend to get very sick and have trouble eating....all the fun stuff. So I thought that yearning was silly. The funny thing that happened was with each plane I boarded (I flew on more planes in 24 hours than I had my whole life!), that fear began to dissipate as I became focused on what I was called to accomplish.

      Focus drives out fear. When focus is present, we have no time for the fearful thoughts to bark up things that simply aren't true. Focus, as it is intended to be, keeps our minds fixed on the priority. My mind stays fixed on the reason behind the flight and the rest of my body can simply relax. Now, I see my life unfolding as I envisioned as a young girl. I travel with more ease, and quite a bit more than expected honestly. I've been able to see things and experience things that my fear had always kept me from. There is great power in learning to focus.

      So, what fears do you hold on to that are allowed to hold you back from your calling? Is it scary to give in to a calling? Yes it is! My whole life is going topsy-turvy, but I love it. I'm having to let go of something I have been comfortable with for a decade and learn new skills. This is far more exciting than simply existing day to day. Immersing yourself in something challenging is the best opportunity to stoke change in a stale life. That whisper of a dream you have held back for so long, perhaps it has roots you cannot see yet. Maybe it's more than simply a dream....maybe it is where your focus should be. Challenge yourself to shut out the fear and focus on the call of your heart to fulfill your unique calling...even if it seems a little scary.

Michelle

 
 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

That's not my job.....

My children have had chores for as long as they've been able to "do" things. My husband and I have always viewed chores as a great way to teach children responsibility. We work on a commission system as opposed to just allowance. That means if you don't do your work, you don't get the green...just like real life :)

Recently, due to the fact that I had grown weary of the constant need for reminding, I tried taking assigned chores away. I simply put up chores, attached a dollar amount per chore, and let them battle it out. It must be said that my children are 14 and 11 years old, so we're out of the toddler years. Anyways, this worked like a dream.....for about a week. Past that point I was up to my ears in undone chores and children whose social calenders were far too full for jobs. The majority of my day was spent picking up the slack.

I try to be a level headed mom whenever I can, so I sat my kids down and asked what the problem was.

"why is nobody sorting the laundry?"
"That's HIS job."

"Why is the dishwasher not empty?"

"That's HER job."

And so on and so forth the conversation went until my level head wanted to fall clean off my body. What about making more money? What about the freedom to get your chores done and then go about life without having to worry about the wrath of mom? What about responsibility? None of this hit home and we reverted back to assigned chores from then on....

The entire situation made me think more about how we react in life as well. Even in our adult years, we tend to just think that so much is somebody else's job.

"I would give to that cause, but somebody with more money is better suited to give."

"I would volunteer to help, but I simply can't find the time and somebody with grown kids would do a better job."

"I would take food to my neighbor, but my cooking isn't as good as hers."

"I would follow the call to lead a Bible study, but I don't know as much about the Bible as so and so."

"I would go on that mission trip.....BUT I don't have the time, money, support, time, money, money, money, or money..."

Are you getting the picture here?

In Mark 12, Jesus talks about the widows offering stating that "this widow has put more into the treasury than anyone else..".

We are all called to GIVE. We are all called to live outside of where we feel comfortable. We are all called to teach others, help others, give to others, and develop relationships with others. Jesus did not hang a chore chart and say YOU were called to help, but others may stay. We all have the work to do, the question is, are we willing to do the job?

Through my walk I have come to the realization of one thing: IF you are living comfortably  (not by means really, but without anything pressing on you) then you may want to re-evaluate your own walk with God. Why would I say such an audacious statement? Because we are promised pain and suffering here on Earth (please, I'm not telling you to cause your own pain and suffering and then go wail about it....we're not the Kardashians people), but we are also promised the hope of our Father. We reach this hope by first believing in Who Jesus IS and then by sharing this with others, far and wide.

Perhaps you really cannot go on a mission trip (I can assume you are bed ridden or in solitary confinement), but you CAN have a part in missions. You can, of course, give to missions. Honestly, all missions need money and I am no exception. I adore those who can give financial gifts either big or small, but I also think we forget other ways we can be even more involved in spreading the gospel and hope. Consider sponsorship of an orphan in a foreign country (or your own!). Maybe you can volunteer at a local mission. Yes, there is such a thing. A great place to start is your local homeless shelter or soup kitchen. A couple hours of your time may just change your life. Speak to your church about missions if they are not already involved. Many churches band together to provide for orphanages and safe houses world wide. Also, never forget the importance of PRAYER. Pray for missionaries. Pray for those who work in the lonely spaces, away from family and friends because they followed their belief in the Holy Word and became the hands and feet of Christ. Pray for short-term missionaries who sacrifice time and money to tell the story of those in need. Pray for those not yet reached. Finally, pray for all to heed the call to the work that belongs to all of us in some form.

The world will never be perfect, but the state of the world can be changed one heart at a time.

In Peace,
Michelle


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Taking a Stand Together

“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” 
-Helen Keller
 
 
 
I remember reading about Helen Keller in the 2nd grade. Though I did not suffer from what "limitations" she may have endured, I felt a connection with her. It would be years before I would find my own inner Helen though.
 
 
As I read through her story, I was struck by her persistence. The hand that life seemingly dealt her did not, in fact, determine her worth or even skill. She persisted...with help :)
 
 
It is at this time that I find myself in need of both persistence and help.
 
 

As I am sure you've figured out by now, I have a calling. It is unique (by the way, SO is yours!). It is something that must be grown and cultivated daily. It's also something that I question almost daily...

For years I prayed that God would reveal my purpose. I wandered around my corner of the earth lamenting about not being "needed". Once I got up from my pity party, God began to reveal the true purpose for my still being here. Side note: if you're still here you too have a purpose. Although I know my specific purpose will be difficult, I am dealing with one part at a time :)

Right now, I need help.

Let me explain what is being accomplished here. In Chisinau, Moldova trafficking for either sexual services or hard labor is a seemingly a part of life. There are more stricken by poverty and targeted for trafficking each and every day. Hopelessness endures and leads to various mental illnesses, drug and alcohol abuse and even suicide. The young ladies I met and work with are survivors of trafficking. The Beginning of Life ministry exists to rehabilitate and reintegrate survivors back into members of society.

Let's stop there and have an inner field trip. Imagine this: you are a young 14 year old girl, simply living. Mom and Dad drink a lot and food is scarce. Don't tune me out here, this will do us all some good.....

In order for Mom to get her weekly fix of beer and cigs, she tells the neighbor that he can "have" you for whatever purposes he needs. At the tender age of 14, you are forced into a sexual and abusive relationship with the man next door. You have no choice because you are of little more value than any other property. To your mom, it's like selling furniture to pay for food...

Stripped of all self worth and wishing you could simply die, you become numb to life. Visions of a first kiss with the cute boy at school are replaced by nightmares of encounters with the neighbor. Human kindness has given way to being slapped across the face and called a dog daily. You're told you were never beautiful. You're reminded every day that you are trash. You begin to believe that you would be better off dead.

Then one day you are rescued...taken to a facility with other girls who have a similar story. You are withdrawn and untrusting of everybody. If your own parents would sell you, why wouldn't these people do the same. Over time, you begin to hear of redemption and restoration. You come to know One who you see in your heart, One who loves you no matter what. You begin to hear of the One who can change your past and make your future bright. Emotional restoration has begun, but you still feel awkward and ashamed. You disassociate with your own body. You have days when life seems OK, and days when you fall back into self-depleting thoughts that you will never actually make it out alive.

This scenario is all too real and common in Moldova. The worst part is that most of the world doesn't know it's happening. A lot of girls don't get rescued. They are brought to the United States or elsewhere, forced to have sex multiple times a day to pay for their right to live. Does that seem fair to you? Just because we haven't fully acknowledged it doesn't mean it's not happening. And yes, I am well aware (probably more than most) about the trafficking in the states. Let me put it this way: if trafficking in Moldova was not allowed to go on for so long, trafficking in the states wouldn't have become such a beast of a problem. Chisinau is in the heart of trafficking, and we're fighting to stop it....literally.

I have teamed up with Beginning of Life and Children's Hope Chest to create a safe place, a training center for those affected by human trafficking, slavery and exploitation. Go back to the little girl you were a few paragraphs before and imagine someone coming to you and saying "You are worth life." This is a new concept for them.

How will the training center help?

  • There will be ongoing self defense training to equip women against further threats of violence.
  • Preventative programs will be in place to help educate the surrounding community.
  • Training programs will be offered to help those who are rehabilitated enter back into the community as a functional member of society.
  • Jobs will be created at the center itself.
  • A stand will be made against trafficking of any kind.
This is only the beginning. We intend to go further with this space, making it a completely holistic training center for the entire community. But we need HELP.

Our goal is $18,000 by August 1st. This amount of money will simply pay the rent for 1 full year on the small space set aside for this center. As I said, this is only the beginning. We will still need some equipment as well. As of this writing, we aren't even 1/18th of the way there, but that can change!

How can I help?

  • First and foremost, pray. Pray for God to change the corrupt hearts of the Moldovan government. Pray for His provision for this center and pray for His protection over the girls and staff involved.
  • Share. Share this need with your friends, coworkers, family members and church body. Share it with the cashier at your local grocer! Our biggest hurdle is that nobody really knows Moldova. My biggest dream is that you will one day get to see them.
  • Give. Your gift, no matter how big or little, makes a difference! Don't be fooled by the thought that you don't have enough or you can't do anything. If you are reading this then you are MEANT to do something. You can find an easy to navigate donation page HERE. All donations are 100% tax deductible.
  • GO. You read that right. Pray about what gifts and talents you may be able to bring. Pray about being the hands and feet of God to those who are in need. Pray about your next step, whether it's to the donation page or on a plane.
Think about the little girls shoes you just walked in. That was a true story, though I must admit I did leave some of the gory details out. I wish I could show you their faces, so you can see the hope just beginning to blossom behind the brokenness...but doing so would risk further exploitation. So, I invite you to close your eyes and think about that girl. Place yourself at the center of a broken soul and cry for help....will you answer?

Fighting for justice and hope,
Michelle





Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Beauty School

If you spend much time around my home and personal space, you will likely realize that I am a self professed beauty buff. In fact, there aren't many problems I can't find solace in with the right tube of red lipstick. I also believe EVERYBODY can wear red lipstick. If you think you can't, you simply haven't found the right formula and undertone yet :) OH, but I digress...

In light of my fascination with the beauty and fashion industries, I have recently begun to ponder on what truly makes us beautiful. Is it shiny hair and thin thighs that please 100% of eyes? Is it a curvy figure or perfectly straight teeth? Could it be impeccable posture and well groomed brows? Is there such a things as perfect beauty? Beauty that pleases everyone?

In my line of work I have been able to train and coach some very beautiful women. I have trained figure competitors with little to no body fat....and they think that they are a failure if they give in to a late night craving for 99% fat free frozen yogurt. I have worked with full time mothers who would give any model a run for her money...but they think they will only be happy once they lose the last 10 pounds. Beauty is a funny thing isn't it?

When we are concerned for our own appearance it can feel as though our world is closing in on us. It's likely that our world is getting smaller since we can only look at ourselves. I'm not talking about basic regard for hygiene and personal appearance here. I'm talking about dissecting ourselves to nothing and holding ourselves to a standard that is unreasonable.

I have been in the fitness industry for over a decade now. I started off simply wanted to lose weight, but it snowballed from there. I found myself obsessing about every perceived flaw. The more weight I lost, the more insecure I became. Chains that bound me to a boring life of self involvement were wrenched tighter with each and every milestone in fitness and business. I was miserable until I found something far better to look at...those around me.

Beauty: one who brings light and hope to the world around her. A true beauty is one who cares how her appearance may affect others and always seeks to shed a positive light about her. Beauty speaks when needed and listens more often than not. Beauty holds to her convictions and isn't afraid of being uncomfortable for the greater good. Beauty beholds others instead of others always being asked to behold her. Beauty has soft lips from smiling, a slender jawline from uttered prayers for friends, strong shoulders to help bear anther's burdens, and lean legs from walking the road that others fear to travel.

I believe this can become the new definition of beauty in our lives. A life deemed beautiful by living the call of One far more amazing than I. A life willing to take it all and give even more every day.

Make yourself beautiful today :)
Michelle

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Standing by a Cause

I have heard many times that if you don't fit in then you're probably doing it right. On days like today, I question this logic....

Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?
And I said, “Here am I. Send me!”
 
The above is my banner verse. This verse has spoken louder to me in the past year than any other verse in the Bible. I have it underlined and starred in my Bible, typed up and displayed by my desk and yes, engraved in my heart. There are days when it can feel more branded though, painfully burned into the fabric of who I thought I once was.
 
I have question God more than once during this year. I have question Him about my calling and questioned Him about the path that life is taking.  I'm full of questions :). Just as He calls us to be cheerful givers, He expects us to follow where He leads...wherever that may be. Now some may naively think I am referring to traveling across the globe in the dead of winter or traveling to Africa in the hottest part of Summer. Oh no, those trips do not bother me at all! And this comes from a once shaky and quivering too-scared-to-fly girl. The area God has placed me that seems like the most overwhelming and daunting is missions and fund raising.
 
You see, I went into this with my faith placed in the entirely wrong figure: MAN. I thought that since I had always been quick to give, even if it wasn't a cause I believed in, that others would simply follow suit. I mean, we're called to GIVE right? How hard is this? I'm wired in a "see a need, fill a need" kind of way. I give money to church and radio stations that spread the word. I support those who are trying to raise funds for research and I always take time out of my day to click VOTE when some body's toddler is trying to win a prize. I give to first world issues and problems and I expected that what was given would quickly be returned. Boy, was I wrong. In fact, I don't think I was ever so wrong in my life...
 
If I could actually pinpoint the problem, then I could fix it right? Well, that doesn't seem to be in God's plan because I don't know the problem. Some may claim it's simply finances, but it's these same ones who have weekly pedicures and standing appointments for nail filler. That's a priority issue, not a finance issue. It could be that what I fight for, or against, is not a sexy subject to talk about. Maybe it seems too big to tackle or like one cannot make a difference. 
 
While I was pondering the "whys" to this monumental task, the Lord reminded me that if I put my faith in man I would always be disappointed. And for me, the more disappointed I get the more I want to pull away. I had expectations that have been met with all but spit in the face, meaning my cause is not widely cheered on. This morning, as I was reading my way through 2 Corinthians, God gave me another passage to ponder: 
 
Therefore we do not become discouraged (utterly spiritless, exhausted, and wearied through our fear). Though our outer man is [progressively] decaying and wasting away, yet our inner self is being [progressively] renewed day after day.
2 Corinthians 4:16
 
I have no need to be discouraged if my hope, trust and faith are taken off man and placed in the hands of God! This is the very same God that heals the sick, raises the dead, makes the lame walk, the blind see, and defeated dearth once and for all. He can surely find the funding for missions! The Bible tells us that if we do not declare His righteousness, even the rocks and mountains will cry out. It's not about IF He can do it or not, it's about the fact that we need to be willing to have it done THROUGH us. And if we refuse, He will find a grubby old rock that can do a better job of bringing Him glory than we can. Food for thought....
 
My cause is clear and I will press on. I will write until I have calluses and I will continue to bring awareness to the atrocities that so many like to pretend aren't there. If I see an ostrich with it's head buried, I will gladly relocate his head above ground so he can see what needs must be filled. I will not shy away from conflict (in all seriousness David and Joshua are my Biblical heroes and I'm thinking of taking up sword fighting...:)...but really) and I will proceed with a bold and determined spirit allowing myself to be lead by the One who has already mastered and provided my needs.
 
The world is watching and I intend to stay standing. What does the world see when it watches you?
 
Make this the year you GET INVOLVED in something bigger.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Don't Let Others Dampen Your Fire

Do you know what you are here for?

I'm quite serious with that question AND I have a followup question for you.

If you don't know what you are here for, are you trying to figure it out?

There are many things that can deter us from living the life we have been called to live. Some of these things are the very people that make up our little circles. Similar to the Google circle, we have circles of friends, family and acquaintances that can have a strong influence on our lives. The question you need to ask yourself is whether they have a positive or negative influence.

Within these circles we will find 2 different types of people: Flame Fanners and Fire Extinguishers.

Flame Fanners: these are those you need to keep closest to you. These are the people you can count on in times of need, those who support your cause and passions and especially those who pray for you. Flame fanners do not simply agree with everything you say, they sport opinions of their own and offer up creativity to problem solving. This inner circle should be well kept. Make the time for these people in your life. Plan breakfast or coffee dates, nurture that relationship and be willing to be a listening ear for them as well. These are your base of support and will be there when it feels like the road is too long. They will give you an unexpected phone call or email "just because". Most importantly, they believe in your mission here (or they support your passion to find your mission) and stand behind you wherever your mission takes you.

Fire Extinguishers: These are the louder of the two people, unfortunately. They question everything you feel called to do and offer up no support towards your calling. It seems as though every chance they get, they point out your flaws. It can almost seem as though they spend their spare time making a list of flaws for the ones around them! These are the ones you dread seeing and quite frankly, the ones you need to see less of. I know, they may be in your family (HOPEFULLY not your immediate family!), but the truth is that they do not serve to help you. They may help grow you and mature you, but subjecting yourself to constant scrutinization is not the best way to grow in your calling. Begin by first realizing the value of those who fan the fires of your passion. Then, allocate time for those relationships. If your Fire Extinguishers are in your family, spend time with them, but don't allow their fiery words to dictate any of your feelings.

By knowing the difference between the types of people in your circle, you'll be better prepared to deal with both as they come around. Remember that some are simply here for a season. Sadly, those can often be our biggest supporters, while the extinguishers tend to hang around for a lifetime! Remember to be grateful for those who cheer you onward and pray for those who try to pull you down. They often do so simply to fill a space in their own life. They feel as though if they point out others shortcomings, people will be too busy to see theirs. They can be turned into a fan, just trust in God's timing and keep on moving forward.

Live life to the fullest today!
Michelle

Monday, April 22, 2013

When the words won't come....

It's hot in here.

Seriously. I realize that some of you may still be experiencing snow storms (is Spring slightly confused this year?), but where I sit it is quite hot. I'm in front of my work station in my office. I'm seated on a tall bar stool in the furthest room South of the stairs. There's is something about these rooms...they are exposed to the sun and get really hot during the day. It makes me sweat as I try to write out some wisdom, but my son's snake seems to like the warmer temps creeping in this time of year.

It would be far more comfortable to go downstairs and plop the laptop in my lap while I slouch in the couch. That is, however, not conducive to proper posture OR a fruitful work environment for yours truly. I really just bought the laptop to be able to take it on mission trips and still communicate somewhat....I'm technologically challenged. :)

Today, I must endure the warmth to bring about a post that has been bothering the very fabric of my soul for quite sometime. While on my trip to Chisinau, Moldova I was blessed to meet many wonderful people. The culture there is different, but the youth are quite the same. They love to laugh and play games during church nights. They worry about the future while still trying to hold on to the growing pains of the past. They are headstrong, but impressionable. They are passionate and some are quite bold. They are the next leaders of a struggling nation.

Several of those whom I was able to spend time with have had vast experiences of neglect, severe trauma and even slavery. As I spent time with these beautiful young ladies, I was reminded of my own young lady. My daughter, Debbie, is right at 11 years old. Well, 11 and 1/2 if you ask her! She's the mirror image of her dad, but has inherited my outlook on life. She has the attention span of a young puppy (hello!!! totally me) and can get caught up in far too many things at once. I still have to remind her to look both ways when she crosses the street....

My husband and I strive to provide a safe environment for our children. I'm not just talking about the alarm in the house and working seat belts here, I'm referring to security in life. My husband and I made a pact to not yell (in front of or at the children...though nobody gets it right 100%) and we make sure to eat right and exercise so they know we are taking care of our earthly bodies so we stick around for a while. We are frugal with spending so that they learn about respecting money and not being ruled by it. And I share my experiences with them openly. I don't crack open the Bible and read aloud everyday, but I will share with them what I learned in quiet time or what God has been showing me in life. Safety and security are really all children want and need....

Unfortunately, there are those poor souls who do not have safety and security in life. There are some who are sold as sex slaves so mom can continue her pack-a-day habit. Others are forced into labor at a young age because dad is either too drunk to work or out of the picture entirely. Some of these girls have been lured into the sex trade by those who prey on low self-esteem and lack of self respect. Slavery is no longer a game for the brute and forceful. Modern day slavery hits where it hurts....our very sense of self.

A couple of the girls in the restoration home in Chisinau have babies of their own. The babies are girls too and it is overwhelming to watch the familial reactions between all of the girls. Every single girl there is a mother of sorts to these sweet souls. These 2 little toddlers are being brought up in a place of love and hope, but I have to wonder what will be there for them as they grow? Will the chains be broken? Will a culture be changed? Will Emma and Bianca have a brighter future in a dimly lit world? Will they be afforded the same safety and security that my daughter has?

My hope for Chisinau is that security will begin to become the norm. I pray that as the staff of BOL work to end slavery, doors will open for these girls and those at risk. It is my dream and calling to press forward with a Self Defense Training Center that will enable these girls, who have been victimized beyond our understanding, to stand and protect themselves and their loved ones. It is my full intent to equip them with everything they need to help prevent future trafficking attempts. These are real people. Real lives. Real bodies that have been beaten and violated, yet they cling to hope. They hope that there will be those who will come along beside them and lend a helping hand.

All it takes to start a fire is a small blaze. One seemingly small Self Defense center can begin to change the fabric of a nation. One girl who believes in her worth can begin to change the mindset of thousands. Change can happen, but the spark has to be started.

The question then lies, are you willing to light a small spark? Are you willing to stand for injustice? I stand because I hope for Emma and Bianca to have a life as good as my daughter. Are you willing to stand with me?

Michelle

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Looking for the Right Answer

Isaiah 30:18 Therefore the LORD waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the LORD is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.
When the news of the Boston Marathon bombings hit, I wish I could say that I had the naive thought that it have been some sort of horrible accident....my jaded heart was wise to what had just happened.
 
We all have different reactions in times of crisis. Some immediately drop to their knees and pray for those afflicted, some simply go numb and wait for the shock to wear off. I become filled with anger. The Bible tells us there are 2 types of anger. One is a selfish anger, where we expect to be treated in certain ways and become angry from selfish reasons. The other is righteous anger, where our soul rips to shreds at the thought, site or sound on injustice. There are times when the shreds of my soul feel as though they may never find their way back...
 
I am a very passionate person. It makes me think I could be Italian, but that's not the point :) I am either going 120 MPH or at a stand still (more than most likely a stand off). I have had to learn to bite my tongue on many occasions and often fail to do so. When something needs to be done, I tend tomp into the "doing" before having thought out how I could even offer more time, money or skills. My schedule reflects my tendencies for sure: I always find myself over booked and overwhelmed. Perhaps this keeps my running hot too.
 
Injustice ignites an even brighter fire in my already blazing furnace. My skin will get red when I hear of parents selling their children for cigarettes and booze. I start tosweat when I see images of total devastation in a time that should be joyful. Yes, I root for the good guy in movies, but I root for him to utterly kill and destroy the bad guy. I often joke that if they made an assassination ministry I would be the first to sign up. My soul doesn't weep bitterly over injustice, it burns in all consuming flames. The problem is that if I do not watch my reactions, I can burn myself and those around me in pursuit of what is not rightfully mine.
 
God is a God of justice. He is not unaware of the epic sins and utter indignities that plague the Earth in these days. Heaven was not consumed with fear when the bombs went off and angels did not flee in terror of a terrorist. God stood. He saw. And for those who say He did nothing, watch the people who flooded the scene to help. He sent His best comforters to help those who had lost everything. He sent warriors to fight off the anxiety and worry that a foolish person thought could so easily be inflicted. Where do we turn when all goes dark? Turn your heads to the Light that can break through any darkness. Friends, the world is a wicked place. It always has been. The biggest part of the problem is that we turn to the Light ONLY when darkness has already taken full root upon our land...
 
Justice. We all deserve it right? There is none over another here and we all suffer from deeply ingrained thoughts, sins and actions that should lead us strait to an eternity separated from God. But we have been offered a gift: the blood of a Son, a sacrifice for our own wicked deeds. We accept this gift and more are opened to us. We have hope, a future, mercy, love, grace, forgiveness...and I believe we are also allotted understanding. I cannot explain the entirety of the foul thoughts that play in a persons mind when they seek to kill others...but I do know that it is not my job to fix it. I am not the justice giver. I must realize that as much as I long to make the appointment for others to have their judgement, I must wait in faith with the understanding that God is not simply doing nothing. Justice will fall. It will fall swiftly in His time, not mine.
 
I invite you to offer a prayer today. Father, I pray Your comfort over those who have lost so much. I pray that You will turn this nation to You. Lord, lead others to hope. May we all rest in the knowing that You are the same God who moves mountains, parts waters, wakes the dead and causes the blind to see! You are not a God of inaction and You are not pleased with the state of this world. Draw Your children closer to You today. Grant us boldness that we would rise up against the powers that try to hold us down. Awaken Your warriors Lord. May we set aside our concerns of comfort and move forward into the face of those who defy Your name. Our God is alive, He is angered, and He will judge righteously. In Jesus Name, Amen