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,

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 :)

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.