Modern Day Slavery

theme-patterns-74358.jpegHuman trafficking and sex trafficking doesn’t only happen in poor third world countries, it also happens right here in the United States of America. Infants sold by their parents to traffickers who have nothing but sinister plans for these innocents. Young boys and girls who trust the adults in their lives, only to be abused and forsaken. Young women promised decent jobs, only to find out they are trapped in the sex industry and are often beaten and threatened if they dare to attempt leaving.

These disturbing lines are ripped straight from newspapers and televisions across the country:

“Hollywood is in the midst of a massive sexual abuse scandal, which can be compared to that of Jimmy Savile in Britain”, child star turned adult actor Elijah Wood has claimed. 

“The Number one problem in Hollywood was and always will be pedophilia.” -Corey Feldman, During interview with ABC News

Two Lima <Ohio> men were convicted of human trafficking charges for their roles in forcing two teenage girls into sexual acts for hire, Lima Police Chief Kevin Martin and federal officials said Thursday. –-Toledo, OH. May 2017

“She worked at the local mall selling sunglasses when she was lured into prostitution after being told she would be modeling.” –Phoenix, AZ

“A middle-class fifteen-year-old girl abducted from her driveway, gang-raped, threatened with death, and sold into prostitution”.–Phoenix, AZ   (Teen Girls’ Stories of Sex Trafficking in the U.S. ABC News. February 2006)

“I was four when my dad started trafficking me”–Dee Dee, Texas

“I thought he loved me”--Brittany, DFW area, Texas  (Shreveport Times, Part of the USA Today Network. May 2016)

“The Keepers”--Netflix (a true documentary about pedophilia and its coverup in a Catholic school in Baltimore, Maryland)

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President Donald J. Trump Proclaimed January 2018 as National Slavery and Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Law & Justice. Issued on: December 29, 2017. https://www.whitehouse.gov/presidential-actions/president-donald-j-trump-proclaims-january-2018-national-slavery-human-trafficking-prevention-month/

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The statistics are heartwrenching. Lives forever changed. People broken. Innocence lost. Let these statistics sink in. I know it is overwhelming, but we cannot look away.

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Global Trafficking:

Over 20 million victims worldwide (Polaris Project)

Total market value of over 32 billion US dollars (UN)

Over 1.2 million children trafficked each year (UNICEF)

Affects at least 161 countries worldwide (Polaris Project)

Domestic Trafficking: 

Between 100,000 and 300,000 underage girls are sold for sex in the U.S. every year (US State Department)

Girls are sold for $400 an hour (Shared Hope, Int’l)

Reported trafficking cases in all 50 States (US State Department)

1 out of 5 pornographic images is of a child (US Department of Justice)

Statistics found at Women At Risk International (WAR) https://warinternational.org/understand-the-risks/

 

An unknown number of U.S. citizens and legal residents are trafficked within the country for sexual servitude and forced labor. Contrary to a common assumption, human trafficking is not just a problem in other countries. Cases of human trafficking have been reported in all 50 states, Washington D.C., and the U.S. territories. Victims of human trafficking can be children or adults, U.S. citizens or foreign nationals, male or female.

How Do I Identify a Victim of Human Trafficking? How Do I Report a Suspected Incidence of Human Trafficking? Click on the link below for signs and what to look for.

(Office of Safe and Healthy Students. U.S. Department of Education. https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/oese/oshs/factsheet.html

Be aware of what is going on. Don’t look away. These hurting people are everywhere. They might even be in your own hometown.

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Excess Doesn’t Equal Success

 

pexels-photo-584764.jpegI’ve been listening to TED talks. I enjoy listening to other people talk about their passions. I don’t have to agree with everything I hear (and I don’t always), but it usually interesting. Lately, I’ve been listening to men and women talk about simplicity in their lives. As you know, simplicity, slowing down, being intentional in my life is a thing for me now. One lady and her husband sold everything they owned with the exception of a few small boxes and moved abroad to live their dreams. Another man lives in a very small apartment (the size of some people’s closets) and said it forces him to be out in the community more. Another young woman cleaned out her entire closet keeping only a few loved pieces of clothing, throwing out or donating the rest.

 

As I type this post, I am looking around my house with new eyes. Now, I am not a minimalist by any stretch of the imagination, but I do want to have less. I feel like things are holding me down. Stuff to clean, stuff to store, stuff I never use anymore, stuff I have that I don’t even know I have because it is piled in a box somewhere with more stuff. It is overwhelming. Stifling. Ugh.

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One person suggested getting rid of one thing a day for thirty days. After that time, usually, a person is so into the habit of this, he/she continues on the journey to less. I think I am going to attempt this. I don’t believe it is going to be easy, but I need to. I know that years ago after my first husband passed away, I gave a large number of his clothes to a friend from church. This friend and his wife and three young children had a house fire. They lost everything. EVERYTHING. This young man was the same size as my late husband. Jeans, t-shirts, socks, dress shirts, suit coats, sweaters, jackets they all went. There was peace in that exchange. I knew those clothes were helping someone. It made it easier. Not long after that, I cleaned out my side of the closet. I literally filled gigantic trashbags full of clothes to donate. It was one of the most liberating experiences. For real. I felt like a huge weight had been lifted off my shoulders. Physically, and emotionally.

I can do this.

One thing a day.

A small drop that will ripple out into the rest of my life.

Starting 2018 with less, because often times having less allows us to see more.

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Focus on Jesus

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Life often times doesn’t turn out the way I have it planned. It becomes messy, sometimes unglued, with uneven edges…..not the perfect picture in the dream. There are broken dreams, harsh words, and crushed hearts mixed into the mundane of each day.

I see smudges on the windows, crumbs on the counter, dishes in the sink. The to-do list only gets longer, while the days seem shorter. Never enough time. This race I’m in, where the finish line always seems to be out of reach.  Is this what I want? What I long for? My thoughts are muddled.

There are days when I feel like I am almost done, almost to the finish line. That is when I will relax. Then everything will work out. Then it will all be okay. Sometimes it is, and sometimes it isn’t. That is just how life is. Sigh.

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This whole simplifying I am trying isn’t easy. I am constantly having to rethink about what is important. What is real. What matters. Being intentional is difficult. Anyone that has ever tried to change can understand that.

So, as I am thinking through what leading a more simple life will look like for me, I read Psalm chapter 46, verse 10. “Be still and know that I am God…” Be still. Don’t run around always doing. Relax. Know ME. This particular verse then caused me to think of the story of Jesus visiting Mary and Martha.

 As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home.  Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught.  But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

 But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details!  There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.”  Luke 10:38-42 NLT

Be still. Do not worry about details. Focus on Jesus. 

 

 

 

 

 

The Cry Of A Mama’s Heart

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From the moment that little baby is placed in your arms, you are in love. Isn’t that right, Mama? The months of nursing, lack of sleep, and snuggles. Walking, potty training, and refusal to eat “healthy” foods.  Skinned knees, hugs, laughter, and being tucked in at night. The days turn into weeks and the weeks to years. Suddenly (it seems that way) the little boy or girl is now a teen. Independence begins to blossom as they step from their teens into young adulthood. In my case, as a young widow who eventually remarried (to a young widower), I have been given the opportunity to be both a biological mother to my son, as well as a second mom to children who lost their own mother at a young age. When I said, “I do” to their Daddy, I also said, “I do” to them.

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This is where I find myself. I am a mama of young adults. There are days when I am thrilled by this. Having young adult children is a sense of freedom for me! My husband and I are actually looking forward to the “empty nest”, hopefully in the not too far future. I am ready. What I was not ready for is the realization of how quickly time passes. Oh, I know it doesn’t always seem that way when in the midst of stinky soccer cleats, sibling fights, or worrying about teen drivers. But, time indeed does fly….and this mama’s heart beats just a little bit faster because of it.

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My son, the one I carried for nine months in my body and forever after in my heart, will be graduating from college in May. Over Christmas break, he excitedly talked about the possibilities for life after school. He is a talented and determined cinematographer. He has already had the opportunity to travel, film, and see both the beauty and grittiness of life on this planet. As much as I love him, and he loves me, he is a man. He will find his own way, have his own unique life apart from me. For the last several years I have loosened my grip on him, praying for him, trusting that he will continue to seek Christ and grow into the person he was created to be.  Proverbs 3:5-6 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;  in all your ways submit to him,
and he will make your paths straight”. 

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My older son that I have loved in my heart since I married his father, the one who lost his first mother at a young age, and was just beginning his teen years when we became family. This young man has always been the one who would try anything (often to his father’s and my dismay), could make me laugh, and became a Daddy a year ago to little Sweet Pea who is his biggest joy and blessing.  He is facing decisions in his life that, as his mom, I know are difficult. My heart aches for him. As a parent, we want our children to live the lives we always hoped for them. It seems like life never quite works out the way we have it planned for our kiddos. Our prayer is that his current and future decisions would be ones that would glorify his Heavenly Father and that he would trust in Jeremiah 29:11. “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. NIV 

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My daughter is small but mighty. She is beautiful and intelligent. She has a big heart, and her loving kindness toward me touches me. We don’t always agree on everything (she is extremely opinionated), but I know if push came to shove she’d have my back. She is a procrastinator to the nth degree, and I wish she would face life’s possibilities with a little more gusto, but she is working on it. I know God has much planned for this firecracker. This mama’s prayer is that she would not allow the ways of this world to shake her from what she knows is true. “Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long”. Psalm 25:5

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The oldest of my stepchildren lives in Texas with her children. Her children, my grandchildren, bring me much joy. I love spending time with them, and wish we lived closer. I am proud of my daughter. She is a hard worker and put herself through school and a master’s program. She is an officer in her hometown in Texas, during a time when law enforcement is under attack…and yet, she stands for what is right and good, even in the face of the unknown. As her (second) mom, I pray for her safety and for continued wisdom in decisions she makes, not only for herself but for her children. James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you”.

 

These Words Are Nothing New To God

 

pexels-photo-207700.jpegI really need to stop reading so much online debate, and just stick with admiring pictures of home decor, cute fluffy animals, and nature in all its glory. It angers me, irritates me, and hurts me to hear the meanness that pours out of people’s hearts through their keyboards. Words mean things and they are important. Words have an impact, whether they are spoken or typed. They can both heal and can slice a person wide open, leaving gaping wounds that cause scars for years to come. Don’t get me wrong, we each have a voice, and we should use it. I believe we are all entitled to our opinions, but we are not entitled to hack away at people, wounding them, if they do not agree. It is not our place.

I’ve always loved words. I am a lover of books, and blogs, and quiet libraries. I enjoyed my speech and debate class as an undergrad in college. I always get a sense of satisfaction when I post a blog, finish a research paper, or while listening to favorite podcasts. I’ve been thinking about words a lot lately, and the third chapter of the book of James hit me hard, especially in today’s tense climate. The way people are acting is nothing new to God. The tongue (and might I add the present day keyboard) has been a problem since the beginning. God help us.

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3When we put bits into the mouths of horses to make them obey us, we can turn the whole animal. 4Or take ships as an example. Although they are so large and are driven by strong winds, they are steered by a very small rudder wherever the pilot wants to go. 5Likewise, the tongue is a small part of the body, but it makes great boasts. Consider what a great forest is set on fire by a small spark. 6The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.

7All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, 8but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.

9With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.

13Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom. 14But if you harbor bitter envy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast about it or deny the truth. 15Such “wisdom” does not come down from heaven but is earthly, unspiritual, demonic. 16For where you have envy and selfish ambition, there you find disorder and every evil practice.

17But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness.            James 3  NIV

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I’m Back…..

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I know, I know, it has been a while. A long while. To all my faithful readers, thank you for your patience during this busiest season of my life. Here I am, approaching my fiftieth birthday in a few short months, completing my master’s degree in education with certification in autism spectrum disorders, working part-time with my dear students, and always a full-time wife, mom, and nana. Life is crazy busy. I know you might have different goals, different challenges, but life is busy for you too. Most of us are used to taking a spin on life’s merry-go-round, making ourselves half sick from the dizziness of it all.

With all that said, I am still attempting to move forward on my trek to a more simple, balanced, more purposeful life. That is a mouthful. It is also a way for me to continue to “fail forward”. I really want to accomplish a more simple life, but I mess up a lot. For everything I attempt to simplify, something else pops up and I have to deal with it. The other day I found myself standing in my kitchen, doing five things at once, and I just stopped. I closed my eyes, grounded myself, and did some mindful breathing. Research shows that deep breathing truly does lower blood pressure, and reduce stress. It also allows me to concentrate on the rhythm of my breathing. To focus on the moment, when I feel myself becoming overwhelmed.

I am working on simplifying. I am throwing things out, giving things away, repurposing and paring down. At this point in my life, I know myself pretty well. I will never be a minimalist, surviving on only the absolutely necessary. I am far too sentimental…and I am okay with that, but I can do better.  I am making a plan for this spring and am cleaning out my closet. I am tired of looking at clothes I never wear. I am also tired of tripping over shoes, bags, and oh, okay…junk.

I am much more aware of my schedule. I am not afraid to say “no” if I don’t want to do something. On the other hand, I want to say “yes” to the people, places, and events that matter to me. I am considering my time more often. Time, such a valuable commodity.

I am finally finishing Chasing Slow, by Erin Loechner (that I started back in the summer). I am trying to slow down, choosing to live my life more intentionally. I want to be in control of my time spent, instead of time controlling me.

Rest, relax, rejuvenate.

Will It Satisfy?

If I clean out my closet and leave nothing in there but my essentials…
If I say “no” to things that don’t really matter but just cause more busyness…
If I live my life intentionally, stopping to be in the moments…
If I simplify and modify will it satisfy?
Attempting to get the balance right isn’t easy.
I am trying.

“WITHOUT GRACE, MINIMALISM IS ANOTHER METRIC FOR PERFECTION.”
― Erin LoechnerChasing Slow: Courage to Journey Off the Beaten Path

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