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Cyber Monday: How you can buy gifts AND save and change lives

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Cyber Monday, or the smart alternative to Black Friday (see horror above), serves that purpose or may help aid in the recovery of those who have attempted Black Friday and, as a result, never again wish to leave their homes.  Just a few days after the stampedes at the big box retailers, and after people have had so much turkey leftovers that they no longer have the motivation to move, online retailers take over.

Interestingly, my husband Robert works for a rather large retailer, and he informed me that many of their online deals are better than the sales were in the stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday, so you really may be better off shopping from home.

Robert and I simplified our Christmas gift giving a few years back, but if we were still up for the commercialism, I have found some great resources we would use because they also support good causes, mainly fighting human trafficking.  I only have a small list compiled, but I am sure more wonderful resources are out there.  Though we live in a time of horrible injustices, we also live in a time where more movements seem to be rising almost daily in order to stand against and combat these injustices.  So, if you know of any more, please feel free to add them to the comments so others can also be informed.

  • First of all, Amazon has a great program of non-profits being able to get a small percentage of purchases (Amazon Smile), but you need to sign up for the organization so that as you buy gifts, or even a few treats for yourself, you are actually contributing to a cause.  You have options, but I found out about this through Love 146, one of my favorite organizations that combats trafficking, spreads awareness, and offers aftercare.  Follow this link to sign up.
  • I also know of a few great places set up with the purpose of empowering people who may not otherwise be able to make fair wages, and they are truly beautiful items.  Imagine Goods is one I discovered through Love 146, as they have a line of clothing, but there are also other artisans on their website.  Another, Trades of Hope, was actually started locally where I live and they have artisans worldwide (and some right here in the US).  Through today, TOH is offering selected items at 50% off.
  • You can also donate to organizations in someone’s name as a gift.  Again, I discovered this through Love 146, but there are other organizations out there if something else suits you better. These are called Giving eCards.
  • Not For Sale, another great organization fighting human trafficking has an online shop as well. I’ve had the Rebbl tea, and it is delicious.

There truly are a number of other places where your shopping can do good for the world.  Please consider this as you check off your shopping list this holiday season. If Black Friday has left you feeling ill towards your fellow man, you can remember people with third world problems instead of first world problems, and touch their lives. Happy shopping.  Happy holidays.

*Since this post is all about helping your fellow man, and I plugged places mostly with a heart towards freedom and empowerment and human rights, this will be my human trafficking post for the week.

Brandishing, No, Wielding My Sword

Yeah, I like the connotation of wield better than that of brandish.  One is just waving a weapon in a menacing fashion, like a threat.  But the other implies the action of actually using a weapon.

I don’t want to just threaten like a child playing a game.  I want to actually kick some butt!  In this case, human trafficking.  I will draw my sword, advance, and fight, wielding said sword, and draw blood.

Warrior Woman Silhouette

I’m not a girlie girl.  I’ve said that before.  Don’t get me wrong; I’ll watch a chick flick, but I’m not going to spend the extra money to see one in a theater.  Only the most epic tales of courage and awesome special effects warrant taking out the small loan needed to pay for a trip to a movie theater these days. These have always been my favorite stories, where a lone hero, or a small band of friends or warriors takes on something much bigger than themselves, even when it seems impossible.

I’ve said before that we should never stop fighting just because human trafficking is such a daunting and formidable foe, yet that’s what I have done.  Not on purpose.  I didn’t realize I had given up the fight, but looking over my actions over the last few months, I see I have done very little to advance the cause, and

I am ashamed.

I intended to use some of my new found time in researching, promoting, and finding ways I can help. Instead, I read a book, started following some organizations on Twitter, and nothing else.

I am declaring it now.  I am recommitting to the cause, to the helpless victims who are suffering, to the vulnerable who need awareness and prevention.  I am recommitting to JUSTICE.

I’m a quiet person, locked inside myself most often, until I see injustice.  It stirs and moves me, igniting a passionate flame in my heart that burns so deeply I know I cannot contain it.

This is what I’m meant to do.  This is what my warrior’s heart is meant to battle, and it doesn’t matter that I’m smaller than human trafficking, because I plan to spread this fire in my back yard and worldwide.  This is a foe worth fighting.

Proverbs 31:8-9

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.

Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice.

Stand in the Gap and Fight Injustice

It seems I’ve abandoned my blog for long enough.  My writing time (the little of it I have) has been going into the sequel for my Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl book, but with my passion being freedom for all (ending human trafficking), it seems appropriate to honor Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. today.

Technically, slavery had been abolished in the US and black people were living “free” lives when MLK stood up for their Civil Rights.  But he wouldn’t have had to do that if they were truly living in equality.  Through his nonviolent protests, massive marches, bus boycotts, and eloquent words, King sought to make people see that injustice still existed even if they were no longer the property of others. And he gained attention and respect for his efforts (obviously not by all since he was slain).  He could have stood by silently and watched and hoped for change.  Certainly people were aware of the injustice taking place.  But people easily become complacent, and often we think “surely someone else will stand in the gap for change.”  If we all think that way, no one will ever become the catalyst that makes the difference.

Fortunately, King was not content to stand idly by, and eventually others began to stand in the gap with him, and though there was opposition, change did occur.

There comes a time when we must take a look at the world around us, at the injustices and the cruelty, and decide if we are willing to become a catalyst for change, or to allow suffering to continue while we pretend we do not see it.

“He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who helps to perpetrate it. He who accepts evil without protesting against it is really cooperating with it.”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Maybe you were not aware of the slavery still taking place around our world, and in our own country.  After all, people have been ignoring it for some time now.  But it’s a growing industry, and lags behind only the drug trade for illegal profit, yet it continues to grow and gain.  After all, the services these modern day slaves are forced to give can be purchased again and again, while drugs are a one time deal.  Services over consumable products.

With somewhere around 27 million human beings enslaved worldwide, it is time more people begin to stand in the gap as catalysts for change.  Now that you know (and you cannot unknow the truth), spread the word in order to create awareness.  The more people really know and understand the injustice that is happening, the the more people will become eager to fight to stop it.

Many wonderful organizations exist.  Find one you want to support, one you can join with in the fight.

“No, no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until ‘justice rolls down like waters, and the righteousness like a mighty stream.'”

-Martin Luther King, Jr.

Some of the wonderful organizations out there fighting against and creating awareness of human trafficking:

Love 146, Not for Sale, Shared Hope International,A21 Campaign, International Justice Mission, Somaly Mam Foundation

There are so many more.  Please find one close to you and plug in.  Nobody should be property.

My Toolbox has been Empty

In a twist of irony, I recently rediscovered a book I began reading but misplaced somewhere years ago (and with only about an eighth of it left to read). I started my career of teaching about then and I didn’t have time for reading anything like that anymore, so it got shoved in a drawer of my nightstand.  Here comes the part that makes that ironic. On the back cover of the book, Stephen King’s writing memoir On Writing, it reads, “If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.”

See the irony now?

My true dream since ninth grade was to be a writer.  My English teacher discovered I had this talent which had previously just been something I did because it was fun, with no realization that I was any good at it.  After all, I suffered from the common ailment of adolescence, low self-esteem.  Once I had my teacher’s push and support for writing, I became passionate about it.  And my parents encouraged me.  Everyone around me encouraged me, so I kept it up… until college, when I no longer had time because I was working the low end of full-time hours and taking a full-time load of classes, all while maintaining steady A’s and B’s.  My deep down dream was to be a famous and rich writer, but the realist inside of me knew money for writers was hard to come by and I would need a day job.

My “day job” then invaded every moment of my life, leaving me in exhaustion in the tiny bits of “free time” I could muster.  About all I ever seem to have energy for after a day of teaching, planning, communicating with parents, grading work, and on and on, is crashing on the couch to mindlessly watch television.  So, even reading is something I find I have little time for, unless it’s something I’m reading to teach in class or all too often horrendously written student papers (also, I tend to just fall asleep when I try to read-pathetic). According to the above quote, I have no tools for writing, which I guess is all right since I don’t have the time for it anyway.

Grrr!

That’s right, I just wrote a stand alone “Grrr!” and I’m not ashamed.  I am, however, ashamed that I let my dream die.  But perhaps it isn’t completely dead.  I’m trying to shock it back to life. That’s the purpose of doing this blog.  It forces me to write something, anything really (this is more obvious if you’ve read the random and often unrelated posts I’ve been writing).

It took me two summers to write my book.  And it has taken me two more summers to get the nerve to do anything with it.  I will be self-publishing it soon (mostly waiting on my cover art), and I will see if the interest deems the book worthy of a sequel and go from there.

I recently shared that my desire, and what I feel is my calling, is to work with survivors of human trafficking, and now I’m writing that my dream is writing.  I must seem scattered.  Truthfully, I want to work as an abolitionist and help restore those who have suffered at the cruel hand of slavery, but I also feel my ability and passion in writing can work the other end of the problem, which is awareness.  Somehow I can fuse these dreams together.  But I must make time to read, to write, and to research my next moves all while I work my day job, which will begin again in about a month. This school year will be challenging, but my hope is that I will be able to actually set off on my true life’s mission in about a year from now as I use this time to prepare.

For now, I’ll continue my blogging, and I’ll read as much as I can, including finishing On Writing.

Change of Plans- My First Mission Trip Lesson

If you have followed many of my posts, you know that a huge passion of mine is to help put an end to human trafficking.  You may also know that I am about to embark on a mission trip to Costa Rica (this Sat actually- woo-hoo!).  My husband and I have realized we feel a call to do something with our lives that will help those recovered from human trafficking, and it just happens that after I signed up for one of our church’s mission  trips, we found out we were going to work with the Rahab Foundation, an organization which does just that.  What an incredible learning experience for me, right?

Through the process of wanting to help the team understand human trafficking more, I began to further my research on the topic.  The doubts I had that my husband and I were headed on the right path vanished. We do not know exactly what our next steps are, so we felt this trip might be a jumping off point for us.

Then a few days ago, an email was sent out by the mission team leader, and the subject line read: “IMPORTANT- Big change for Costa Rica- our first big test.”

I avoided opening that message and checked everything else first, played around on Facebook for a while, and even did some dishes.  When I finished all of that, the message was still there, and it looked important since, as you can see, it was written in all caps.  I knew without opening it that our plans to work with the Rahab Foundation had changed.  Sure enough.  There had been some sort of scheduling conflict at the last minute and we would now be unable to work with them. I was immediately angry and sad.  My doubts that Robert and I maybe aren’t meant to join the forces of putting an end to modern day slavery resurfaced.  I cried.

Soon I remembered that everyone I’ve ever talked to about going on mission trips has said to expect the unexpected, but to trust God in it because it will be an amazing experience, even if it isn’t the experience you expected or wanted it to be.  Instead of working with these women, the team will be working with low-income, high-risk children, teaching them about and showing them God’s love. Obviously this is an incredible opportunity to experience God.  Also, now the men on the team, and the two young boys will be able to interact and do more than paint a building.  Through these changes, we ALL have a chance to experience and show God to those who desperately need Him. That truly excites me.

But was this a sign that God was not leading Robert and I to be abolitionists?  I don’t think that was His intention at all.  He knew the whole time that this mission team would be working with these kids, but He also knew I needed a bit of a jump-start, which I was given because of this trip as I dove into searching out information and organizations that dedicate themselves to the worthy cause of freedom of all human beings.  That process has already pushed us forward on our journey.  Robert and I are talking about it more, researching more, and planning our next moves as well as praying that we make the right ones.  We’ve included asking our small group and my parents to pray with us for direction, and I believe our lives are going to seriously begin to change this year as God helps us put down a foundation on which we will grow our own outreach/ministry.

I’m still not sure what will happen next for Robert and I or my mission team, but this scripture (Proverbs 3:5-6) helps me trust God: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.”  I just have to trust Him, and he’ll help me though the rest of it.

In order to keep this in mind, I ask God, “Show me the path where I should go, O Lord; point out the right road for me to walk.” (Psalm 25:4)

Hope Lies in Creating Ripples

Several months ago I finished reading one of the most eye-opening books with which I’ve ever come into contact.  The Hole in our Gospel, written by Richard Stearns, the CEO of World Vision reveals statistics of poverty and struggle and displays them in a new light.  He shares research, but also personal encounters he has had in his position and through his world travels.  Much of the book is heart-breaking, not because these problems are so big that they cannot be fixed, but because they actually could be fixed…if everyone was willing to help even just a little.  This is the overall premise of the book:  the Bible teaches that we should love and help others in need, but we often just don’t, usually because we feel our little contribution is too small to make any difference (more on that in a future post).  It is in the gospel, but as a whole, we don’t follow it.  If we did as God has instructed, the world would be a changed place.

Going right along with my passion of protecting and restoring the lives of those held captive in various aspects from human trafficking, is that the major reasons women get trapped into this world are because of poverty and the greed of others.  One side of this is that the pimps and “johns” need to be more severely punished, but women also need to have a way to care for themselves and their families. Stearns addresses this in his book. “..women own less that 1 percent of the world’s property. They also work two-thirds of all the world’s labor hours, but earn just 10 percent of the world’s wages.”  This is because in many countries, especially the developing countries, women are denied an education (I wish girls here in the US really knew how fortunate they are for having free education), and two-thirds of the world’s illiterate are women.  Education truly is power.

Stearns also says that in his opinion, “the single most significant thing that can be done to cure extreme poverty is this: protect, educate, and nurture girls and women and provide them with equal rights and opportunities- educationally, economically, and socially.”  I can agree with that.  He also adds a popular saying from many parts of Africa: “‘If you educate a man, you simply educate an individual, but if you educate a woman, you educate a nation.'”   The idea is that a woman will use what she learns to provide for her family and to ensure an education for her daughters.  If this begins to take place more and more, eventually many of the horrors associated with poverty would begin to dissipate.

This is a beautiful yet simple idea.

I recently heard of a small business dedicated to doing something along these lines.  A company called Trades of Hope sells the goods women are creating in countries around the world, using what is available to them, and sells them here in the U.S. through the model of the “home party,” which is so common with make-up, candles and the like.  These women are earning an income for their families by handcrafting amazing products to sell.  They are empowered and have a skill to offer.  I’m so intrigued by this company that I am even considering joining their team and selling these goods, even though my Mary Kay sales days were not so lucrative, and appropriately short-lived.  I could get behind this because the products are unique and the cause is amazing, giving these women true hope.

If we could all commit to taking small steps, we could begin to change the world.

“I alone cannot change the world.  But I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples.”  -Mother Teresa

Between the Rock and a rock

My last post had more than double the views on any post I’ve written before, which was awesome, but also intimidating.  How do I follow that up?  It’s a lot easier for an introvert to pour out her heart when she doesn’t think anyone is going to read it anyway, and hopes that the ones who do are strangers so it won’t matter if they find out my intimate secrets and feelings.  Of course, there’s also the part of me that kept checking my stats and smiling.  When I was on the programming team at my church, our pastor always told us, “They don’t have to all be home-runs.”  All right.  I’m ok with that.  Maybe we’ll just get to first base today.  Maybe I’ll just bunt the ball.  Maybe I’ll foul out.  That’s about all I know for baseball metaphors, so I’m just going to move on now.  I apologize to any of you who actually know about baseball.  I’m sure I screwed something up there.

As I mentioned in my last post (if you are reading this and did not read that one, go back and read it- it’s better), I cannot imagine doing anything else with my life than working to fight against human trafficking and helping the survivors to rebuild their lives.  That being said, I come to the part I don’t want many people to read, because I’m either really brave for putting this out there, or stupid.  Probably stupid.  There may be people reading this that I shouldn’t be revealing this to yet.

How am I going to commit my life’s work to being a full-time abolitionist and keep my day job?

My day job consumes every ounce of energy I have, and fills almost every second of my day except when I’m sleeping, though I dream about it often as well.  I get two months out of the year to remember who I am and to have other interests. I’m a teacher.  And a perfectionist.  This means I put everything into what I do.  Colossians 3:23 basically says we are to do everything we do with all our hearts as if we’re working for God and not people, so I do.  This makes me good at what I do, though I still always feel like so much more is expected, especially with all the stupid recent developments in education in Florida.

One of the reasons we never adopted a child (still a possibility) is because I cannot imagine raising a human being and being a teacher.  I know people do it all the time, but I don’t know how I would ever make that work.  I would be good at one and fail at the other.  So I feel like my career holds me back from a lot.  I know I touch lives, and I love my students (most of them).  I would never say being a teacher was a waste or a bad decision, but I told my husband when I started it that if I ever felt like I was heading towards burn out and feared becoming one of those ineffective and jaded teachers, it would be time to move on.  At that point I didn’t have anything else in mind.  The calling towards abolition has been recent.  I thought once I had more teaching experience I would have more time for other interests, but last year was the most overwhelming so far, and next year looms scarily similar on the horizon.

Sure, I can use my job to spread the word.  I had the opportunity to explain to my students why I was missing school for three days last year to run from Miami to Key West, and I’ve had a few interesting discussions with students interested in making a difference.  Most of the kids I teach, being for the most part the more advanced and globally aware students, are perfect to motivate for my cause, but that isn’t enough for me.  I want to do that full time.

But we have a mortgage, which means we own a house requiring maintenance, cars to upkeep and fuel, utilities to pay, food to purchase (yep, gotta eat), etc.  My husband was unemployed for almost two years, so we know a bit about going without, but I can’t just quit my job.

So here is the time in my life where I have to consider my options.  My husband Robert and I do not yet have a clear picture of what we will be doing to help end human trafficking and helping to rebuild lives, so we need to settle that first, and then figure out how to do it.  I will continue to work my current job to the best of my ability (because that’s what God wants and because my students need me to), just as Robert will continue on with his.  Once our vision becomes more clear, more planning will be needed, and I’ll have to take a step back and away from the comfort and security of a job I know, and I’ll have to operate on faith.  But one thing I’ve learned from reading Quitter by Jon Acuff is that we’ll need a bit more developed towards our goal before I can “quit my day job.”

The only way this is truly going to work is to put God first in all of this and trust that He will provide the correct vision, and set us on the path heading the right direction.