And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God. Micah 6:8

Thursday, January 1, 2015

What would you do?

Dressember is over and you better believe I have had jeans on alllllllll day today! What a month. It is so crazy to me that something as simple as changing your wardrobe can have such an effect on the things you think about. Wearing a dress everyday was a little bit like a fast for me. Living without something (pants, in this case) in order to focus more on God, particularly through prayer. This month has been full of prayer-everything from breath prayers to long sessions of journal intercessing. And I feel like I barely scratched the surface. Human trafficking is a huge issue, one not easily solved (as I discussed in my last post). I don't know how God is going to use me in the battle against trafficking, but I know that this month has been a step in the right direction. It has been an honor to stand alongside other women, across the globe, in solidarity against this intense issue. Even if this issue isn't as close to your heart as it is to mine, I pray that you have learned more about it through my journey this past month. As I conclude my blogging for Dressember, I want to share song lyrics from a song that has been on my heart lately. The original song was released in 2001 by a band named City High but the version you are probably more familiar with is Bastille's recent cover. If you watch the video below, you'll see the lyrics as well.



One of the most insidious aspects of sex trafficking is that it comes in so many forms. It is like cancer. You say cancer and everyone has some concept of what that means-a horrible disease. But when you really look into what cancer is, you realize it is actually a group of diseases. Each is treated uniquely and some types are more dangerous than others. So you're probably wondering what in the heck that has to do with the song? The song is heartbreaking, but more than that it portrays a very important type of sex trafficking; the type that is most often found right here in America. Human trafficking isn't a foreign problem. In fact, it exists and is thriving in my city and your city too. The reason it is harder to see here is that it is disguised as a profession that women go into by choice, the sex industry (porn, strip clubs, exotic dancing, etc). While there are some women who truly do choose the profession, more often women are forced into the industry because of desperation. The woman in the song depicts the problem perfectly. What would you do if your son was at home, crying  all alone on the bedroom floor because he is hungry? The only way to feed him was to sleep with a man for a little bit of money. It isn't really a choice at all. Even more scary is the fact that the average age that women get into the business of prostitution in America is 13. That is mind-blowing! And there is no one in the world who could convince me that 13 year olds are in a place to choose that career. So I'll conclude with a challenge: everytime you here this song, stop and say a short prayer for all of the women and girls, here in America and around the world, trapped in the sex industry.


Thank you to everyone who has supported me on this journey, particularly those who have supported the cause financially! You can still give until the end of January by going to my support page:
https://support.dressemberfoundation.org/fundraise?fcid=381534

Peace and love.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Do not read.

Warning: The content of this blogpost is intense and is not appropriate for younger readers.

This post for Dressember feels like the most important post I've written. Ever. I want to talk about causes. See, I believe that trafficking is a symptom. A symptom that has to be treated (and thankfully is treated through the amazing work of organizations like IJM). The problem is you can treat symptoms forever, but if you don't attack the cause then nothing will ever change. I believe one of the biggest causes of trafficking is pornography. I'm not talking about whether or not people should look at pornography, that's a different issue. I am talking about the normalization of extreme sexual behavior such as rape, abuse, and exploitation of children through pornography.

And the biggest problem? No one wants to talk about it.

There is rarely discussion of the more extreme types of pornography when people argue about whether or not it is right. I refuse to believe that a person wakes up one day and decides to become a pedophile. Perhaps they are born with an innate attraction to children, but to become a pedophile is a slow process. In my experience, the process always starts with porn. It starts with soft core porn and spirals from there. Most people can agree there is certain deviant sexual behavior that is not ok, but pornography insidiously exposes people to these behaviors before they realize what they're watching. Sadly pornography, even in its most extreme form, is eventually not enough and people act on these deviant sexual desires.

Even for the people who don't actually look at this dark side of pornography, there is an equally dangerous issue called ignorance. "If I don't know, then I'm not responsible." People do not want to acknowledge the existence of child pornography. People do not want to learn the fact that 70,000 people used a credit card to purchase a $29.95 monthly subscription to a website called baby rape. People do not want to know there is a dark part of the internet that cannot be found through google. People do not want to believe there is a child pornographer who posted threads titled, "Producing kiddie porn for dummies", "Toddler childporn star", "Crying rape", and "Need ideas for blackmailed girl." People do not want to accept the existence of PedoEmpires. People do not want to be aware of the genre of pornography called HurtCore, which depicts real life rapes, including the sexual assaults of children.

But all of that is true.

I desperately wish it weren't.

But everything I just wrote is true.

And my heart shatters.

My heart breaks for each one of those children who are casualties. My heart breaks for each one of those viewers who deceive everyone around them, including themselves. Chances are my heart breaks for you. You who have been abused, whose bodies have been treated as objects of pleasure rather than holy temples. You who have looked at child pornography. You who are addicted to any kind of porn. You who feel unbearable shame. You who have bought sex. You who have turned a blind eye to the reality of child pornography's prevalence. Can I speak some truth? Because I get it. Pornography is a taboo topic; however, the absolute worst thing you can do is hide. You can't allow shame to overtake you. Whether you're a victim or a viewer or a bystander. Seek help. Learn how to control your addiction instead of allowing your addiction to control you. Learn how to face the demons of your past and heal. Learn how to be an educated advocate.

Most importantly, learn how to believe in the inherent beauty and worth of every human being.

#Dressember day 20
Dressember fundraising page:
https://support.dressemberfoundation.org/fundraise?fcid=381534

Sources:
http://www.dailydot.com/crime/chris-grief-hurt2thecore-arrest-tor/
http://www.citizenlink.com/2010/06/14/pornography’s-threat-to-children/

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hiking Pack Wardrobe.

Three years ago I lived out of a hiking pack for 9 months. Those were some of the sweetest months of my entire life. Not without challenges, that is for sure, but so so sweet nonetheless. I feel like this month, Dressember, has been a life-giving reminder of those 9 months in more than one way. Traveling the world, learning about justice, being faced with the reality of human trafficking on a daily basis. Each time I put on a dress, I am reminded of different experiences, different stories, different faces, most of which, I encountered in that time overseas.

One of my favorite parts about that experience was learning about the beauty in simplicity. Creativity is so naturally exposed when you live in a place of simplicity. As you can imagine, with one bag of clothes you are forced to be creative. Mix and match became my best friend (as well as the tiny sewing kit I purchased along the way). If a shirt or pants got a whole in them, I had to learn how to creatively use the resources I had to patch them up. When it was freezing cold in Israel/Palestine (yea--you read that right. Freezing. Cold. in Israel/Palestine), I got really creative in layering as many clothes as humanly possible. When I was sick of wearing a certain shirt, I traded with a teammate or figured out a way to wear it in a new way. I really loved the artfulness of the challenge!

As you can imagine, limiting my clothing options to only dresses this month has been reminiscent of that time living out of a hiking pack. I've been surprised by how many people have asked, "Do you have enough dresses for the whole month?" For some reason, people have assumed that because I am wearing a dress every day this month, that I must be wearing a different one everyday. It's such an American thing to say. That's not to shame anyone who has asked me-the question comes from a place of innocent curiosity and I know that no one has any ill will, but can we just think about that for a moment? Who needs 31 dresses? I know this will be shocking to all of you, but I am repeating dresses (gasp) and I actually really enjoy it! I love trying to think of creative ways to wear the same dress, making it as difficult as possible for people to realize I am wearing the same dress I wore last week. I love mixing patterns and colors and textures! (You can see some of my favorite combinations below.) The founder of Dressember takes the challenge to a whole new level and wears the exact same dress every day! It's actually really impressive how she is able to change the look each day.

The mix of black and white patterns I wore today.

Bright color and bold pattern!

I feel like God has reignited a fire of creativity in me. Not just in the clothes I am wearing, but in the way I look at the world, the way I look at human trafficking. Part of the goal of Dressember is to help people realize that big problems can only be solved through creative solutions. I love the way that God has designed me to always be searching for a new perspective! My prayer is that I will look at the issue of trafficking creatively, slowly mixing and matching solutions until it begins to make a dent in the problem.

So tonight-I am trying something new. I am asking for money. This will be one of my only shameless plugs in asking for money this month (you can thank me later), but I really do think it is important. If you have more than a week's worth of dresses in your wardrobe (or neckties for the gentlemen out there), then I would challenge you to give a donation. Maybe it is a dollar for every dress you own! It doesn't have to be to IJM through my Dressember fundraising page (although I obviously think it is a worthy cause). It can be to any non-profit that you believe in. Be creative! Find a ministry you really resonate with. For me, that organization is IJM and I have had the blessing of giving more than I thought I would be able to.

So go do it.

Right now!

Peace, love, and creativity.  

Saturday, December 6, 2014

The greatest things.

© Blaine Hogan


Dressember Day 6.

I find myself at a loss for words today. Yet, I feel incredibly contemplative. Not good contemplative. Not bad contemplative. Just deep, inward, wrestling.

Survivor's guilt, perhaps? Why her? And her? And 27 million other slaves in the world today? Why not me?

Mourning, perhaps? Soul-gripping sadness at the pain and sorrow inflicted on so many?

Anger, perhaps? Table-turning, holy rage?

I can't quite place my finger on it.

And in this wrestling, I cling to the hope of this quote.

"The greatest things are born in the dark." Louie Giglio (GLS 2014)




If you are interested in donating to IJM, head over to my Dressember fundraising page here.

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Little Girls in Dresses

© Colby Moore Photography

Today's Dressember post is for little girls. I write this post is in honor of two particular little girls who are incredibly dear to my heart. Their names are Emma and Ava and they are my beautiful, precious, and adorable cousins. Emma, at 5, and Ava, at (almost) 4 years old, are the epitome of what innocent little girls should be. They twirl in sundresses and sing goofy songs at school. They love pink and purple, mermaids and princesses, jewelry and flowers and giggling a lot! They have two loving parents who have protected them from danger and showered them with affection. Every time I look at them, my heart just explodes with love and joy!

But sometimes when I look at them, my heart grows heavy as I am reminded of little girls who are also incredibly dear to my heart. Like Emma and Ava, they twirl in sundresses and sing goofy songs at school. They love pink and purple, mermaids and princesses, jewelry and flowers and giggling a lot!

They are the little girls who live in Svay Pak, Cambodia. At first glance, you probably won't be aware of the immense injustice that is rampant in this city because when you first walk the streets everything looks relatively normal. Kids are in school. People in the market are working. Street vendors sell noodles and fried food. Mothers cook and clean their homes. All the while grandparents sit in the shade observing the everyday adventures of the town.

What you won't know by glancing into this community is that 80-90% of parents are selling their daughters into the sex trade. In this community the mark of how much parents love their daughters is not indicated by whether or not the parents will sell the little girl, rather it is indicated by whether they sell their daughter to a pimp who will take her to another region versus keeping her local and selling her to men and tourists in their own community. This thinking is so outside the realm of normalcy for most of us in the United States, I feel like I need to say that again. A parent in Svay Pak is thought to love his or her daughter if the parent only sells the girl's body in his or her own community. Because I am sensitive to the horror of this reality, I won't go into more detail here. For those of you who want to know more, this article depicts the situation in Svay Pak in much more detail.

The reality, however, is this. Little girls should wear princess dresses, never be forced to flirt and perform sexual favors for 40 year sex tourists.

So today, I pray for all the little girls in dresses. Emma and Ava. Phy and Kang. And every little girl in the world. I pray that even if they don't have the ability to dance in dresses today, that Jesus will dance with each little girl in her dreams. I pray that if today a little girl is forced to wear a dress to please men older than her dad, that tomorrow she will be freed from this hell. I pray that innocence and dignity will be restored into every little girl's soul today.

Dear little girls,
You are worthy and beautiful and so so loved.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Dressember. I must be crazy.


Today I made a crazy decision-I am going to wear a dress every day in December. Now before you judge me (because I would totally judge me...I do live in Chicago), I am wearing a dress for 31 days in a row for a reason. And here is the reason:

I am a feminist.

Now before you get your panties all knotted up, understand this. I am not a feminist in the bra-burning, eradication of men, women are better than men at everything kind of way. I'm a feminist in the pure sense of the word-I believe in the equality of men and women. If you believe in that, then you're a feminist too (ps-you should watch the video in the link). I'm participating in Dressember, a fundraiser/awareness campaign for IJM, because I believe in the rights of women everywhere. Ignorance is not bliss; it enables evil. I know my voice is only one, but I believe that it matters.
Honestly, I'm not super focused on the donation part of Dressember. I've never had a knack for fundraising and I severely dislike asking people for money. If you are interested in donating, you can do so here. But really, there’s no obligation.
For me, the focus of this month is on awareness and prayer. A few years ago, I embarked on a journey to learn more about Justice with YWAM. I wanted to both see and work to end injustice in the world. It was a lofty goal, but one worthy of more attention than the nine months I dedicated to it. One of the lessons that was the most difficult to learn, was just how prevalent the problem of injustice is. Sex trafficking, child brides, rape, prostitution, unequal access to education…the list, devastatingly, could go on and on. I truly believe that the end of these injustices requires a lot of work on our end. Work to change our perspectives. Work to discover root causes. Work to help women and girls heal. Work to open our eyes. I also completely believe the work is worth it. Admittedly, I haven’t worked very hard these past few years to end injustice. There are a variety of reasons why, but the reasons are irrelevant now because I can’t change the past. I can, however, change what I do today. I can change what I do tomorrow.
If you see me over the course of the next month, you will see me in a dress. For those of you who know me from my days as an athlete, you will know how shocking that really is. My hope is that you will ask me more about it. My goal is that every time I put on a dress, I will pray for justice. My heart is that every woman in the world will know that she is worthy.

Peace and dresses!

PS-I couldn't even find a recent picture of me in a dress. Otherwise, I would have posted a teaser.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Back to El Salvador!


God has been working in some incredible ways these past few years. Although it has definitely been challenging, God has been faithful to me and to the call he has placed on my life. I have been working for Willow Creek for over a year now and recently became a part of a new department. As I have built relationships and gotten connected at church, it has opened up several opportunities to be involved in our global ministries, a huge passion area of mine. I am so excited to announce that I have been blessed with a new opportunity, to go on a serving trip back to El Salvador! Earlier this year, I was able to co-lead a team of high schoolers on a construction project just outside El Salvador's capitol city. The experience was amazing-full of laughter, sweat, and encounters with God. This trip will be a little bit different because I will simply get to be a participant along with several other experienced mission trip leaders. In addition, I will be able to reconnect with a few of the El Salvadorian men and women whom I met earlier this year- investing in the relationships on a deeper level.

I will need some of you to partner with me financially. I am definitely investing in this trip on my own, but will need your help to raise all of the funds. If you desire to help me financially, you can contact me directly so that I can get you all the information about your gift being tax deductible. 

I also need each of you to partner with me in prayer. Pray for safety in travels. Pray for our leaders, Matt and Trinity. Pray for our team. Pray for the partnering organization, Enlace, and the church we will be working with. Finally, pray for God to move in ways far beyond our imagination!

 Here are some pictures from my trip to El Salvador earlier this year.



Peace and love!