to know their stories

We’ve talked here about story before, about how everyone has one and most stories are more painful than we might initially assume. But people won’t tell you that in line at the grocery store or at the PTA meeting. Or at church. But there is an entire population of people today who may not get the opportunity to share their stories even if they wanted to.

There are 27 million people worldwide whose stories are being held hostage because they are living as victims of the slave trade. Eighty percent of those stories belong to women and children. Today, some sources believe that the 2011 Super Bowl will be the largest human trafficking event in US history. While we eat our bean dip, thousands of men, women and children will be trafficked into Dallas for the purpose of sex and labor trafficking.Writing that sentence breaks my heart, and I know it breaks yours, too.

There are more statistics (and also here) and I know they’re hard to read. It’s only been two years since I learned about how serious this issue is. There is a ministry at my church called Aboltion! that exists to raise awareness, to provide resources for partners already established in this ministry nationwide and around the world, and to pray for freedom for the captives. The only hands and feet God has on earth are ours. And today, I beg you to use yours to pray for freedom for the victims of human trafficking.

You won’t be praying alone. Today is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, and that is the most important thing about this day – to raise awareness. We have to know about it. It’s the opposite of what I want to know. I want to put my fingers in my ears and sing. But that won’t save those victims. My friends in Abolition tell me that as their network continues to grow, awareness of the issue grows. And awareness and education are two key components to more rescued victims and more prosecuted perpetrators.

As dark and overwhelmingly oppressive as this topic is, there is hope in this world for these victims. I want to leave you with a glimpse of this hope written by Gary Haugen, President and CEO of International Justice Mission. He tells the story of Glenna, a young woman living in the Philippines who was lured away from a group of friends, and physically forced into the waiting taxi of a pimp. She was terrified, and knew that she was about to be sold. But when the taxi arrived at a nearby hotel, the “customer” was actually an undercover police officer partnering with IJM. The pimp had been under surveillance for months, and Glenna was freed before she could be abused.

“Today, Glenna is a happy young wife and mother. She has graduated from IJM Cebu’s job-readiness training program and is grateful for and proud of her new career, working at a local bakery. She is cared for deeply by IJM Cebu’s team — men and women who seek each day to reflect the kind of relentless love their Maker has shown them.”

Would you join with us today and pray for those on the front lines of the rescue missions all over the world? May the Lord multiply their efforts and protect their hearts from darkness. And may he wrap up each victim in his love, and bring them into freedom and safety. Re-write their story, Lord. Bind up their broken hearts, and set the captives free.

If you would like more information on the issue of human trafficking and how you can become an abolitionist, please visit the following sites:

Abolition! – a step-by-step guide outlining how you can become involved

Tiny Hands International , and on twitter @tinyhandsintl

North Carolina: Not For Sale Campaign -North Carolina, and on twitter @Not_For_Sale

United States: Shared Hope, and on twitter @SharedHope

Around the World: International Justice Mission, and on facebook

Love 146

If you are interested in starting an organization like Abolition in your own church, send an email to abolitionministry(at)yahoo(dot)com

Come, Lord Jesus.

belief on a January Monday

“Much, much stress results from your wanting to make things happen before their times have come . . . Instead of dashing headlong toward your goal, let Me set the pace. Slow down, and enjoy the journey in My Presence.”  Sarah Young, Jesus Calling

I don’t know what slowing down and enjoying the journey looks like for you on a Monday in January. But I do know what it isn’t. It isn’t worrying about what tomorrow might bring. It isn’t shaming yourself into better or more productive behavior. It isn’t holding on to fear that perhaps you’ve messed up your kids beyond all repair.
I wrote a post at (in)courage today, about The God of Mondays. You can read it, if you want. I’ve thought more about that post since I’ve written it. I’ve done a lot of planning for the coming year, a lot of thinking about what is to come. And I’ve caught myself more than once trying to fire myself into the future like a cannonball. It helps to remember about the pace of God, how he could have made all of Creation with a blink of his eye, but instead he took a whole week, step by step.

So for me, slowing down and allowing God to set the pace is all about believing. And that can be harder than it sounds, because sometimes it feels like nothings happening right now, and shouldn’t I be busy doing something to make it otherwise? Believing God can be gritty and messy, a lot more so than some people talk about. It isn’t a bowed-head acceptance all the time. Maybe ever. On this second Monday of January, I wonder what belief looks like for you?

raise your hopeful voice

When the creative mind gets stuck, it helps me to watch people making their art. And if you’re brave and a little bit ridiculous in an endearing sort of way, you can try to copy them just to see if you can. And if you kind of can, it may encourage you to try something different in your own art with a little more whimsy than you may have before. I may or may not be brave and ridiculous. And I may or may not have been singing this song and banging my cups for the last week. Enjoy this video from 2009 and watch some girls make some art. It’s an oldie, but a very goodie. And then go pick up a cup and make some art.

let your home be your canvas

As we continue to consider the new year we now stand in, The Nester has turned the conversation about goals around to the home. I have a strange and fickle relationship with my home. It brings me a great sense of comfort – family, love, holidays, normal days, the kids toys, my pillow. I write from home, so I can walk into nearly any room and remember – there in the dining room was where I sat and labored over chapter 6, and then wrote it all at once in a flurry of inspiration. There in that chair at our Kmart kitchen table is where I cried in the middle of chapter 11, because I realized again that God is real and he want us to know it. For me, the rooms matter. The colors and the lighting matter. And putting energy and time into making home is a great joy for me.

But. Home can also be my greatest source of shame. When I have ideas to pretty her or to clean her, sometimes it seems I stop just short of making a real difference. Even though we just had a huge yard sale in October, it seems I all of a sudden have piles of things I no longer want or need. Why does this always happen?! And immediately the critical voice pipes in – Hey you there with all your January intentions – I know you want to be more organized, but it’s impossible. So give up already.

Shame doesn’t have to speak too loud. A whisper when I open the junk drawer is enough – failure. And I grab the gum I’m looking for and chew it hard and angry, wishing I could get a handle on that drawer but believing the voice of shame instead – impossible.

And so my goal for my home this year? I want to change the voice I listen to. And I want to change my mind about “organized.” I don’t want to just get rid of stuff in order to be organized, I want to get rid to make room for something else. Namely, the art.

I believe this year will be one of creativity, of daring to let go of the burden of my own insecurities and allow God to uncover the imprint of his image on me. It is easy to compartmentalize goals and to think that this pull I have toward making art this year is unrelated to the desires I have for my home. But I think that would be a mistake.

Thinking of it this way changes the conversation for me. When my stuff is cleared out, my head is cleared out, too. If I think of it as a clearing out for clearing outs sake, I will lose steam, and fast. But if I think of my home as a canvas for the art I want to create, well that’s another thing altogether. I want to make time and space for the art, and that means getting rid of some scissors.

As we think about the coming year, it is good to remember that January is no different from November. That worry and fatigue and the ever dreaded funk will show up in even in the middle of the best intentions. It helps me to remember Natalie Goldberg, who made it a goal to write everyday. But also said, if she doesn’t meet that ideal, she is “careful not to pass judgement or create anxiety” because no one lives up to their ideals. We don’t have to live up to them perfectly. But it helps to have them. Thanks to my sister for giving me the opportunity to think this one through.

for edie on her birthday, because words are all we’ve got

When my sister and I were younger, during the days when kid shows only came on right after school and on Saturday mornings, we would sit and watch grown up shows with Mom at night. And so every Tuesday night, we’d tune in to Who’s The Boss, Growing Pains, and Moonlighting. I know. It was awesome. But the best part was each week, we would claim one of the actresses to be during the shows.  I can still hear her call out I’m Allysa, I’m Carol, I’m Maddie! She always remembered to call it first, and then I was stuck with being Mona or Miss DiPesto.

When I first met Edie a few years ago, I liked her with every single fiber of my being. She’s one of those women who you don’t just want to be your friend, you kind of want to actually be, just like Allysa Milano when I was a kid. When she painted her kitchen cabinets blue last year, I just knew she was my kind of girl. She is beauty, grace, style, and fun. And she is an artist in every sense of the word that I can think of.

Edie with her daughter, Caiti – a photo I have shamelessly swiped from her.

But it was this post Edie wrote when her daughter turned 18 that I’ve gone back to read a few more times than normal. Because for all the ways I admire her beauty, her spunk, her sense of style, I think it is her deep, beautiful, thoughtful writing that speaks to me the most. She writes of mothering in a way that breaks me apart. I’ll let her show you:

“They tell a story all their own. How we labor so diligently for days and weeks and years, and wonder if it matters at all? Will it ever be more than a heap of yarn?  Will food and laundry nourish a life?  Can bread be His body broken?

And finally, mercy gives way. Heartache becomes forgiveness. Stubborn melts to grace. Tangles of yarn slowly take form of a sweater. Years of meals nourish a body like years of love nourish a heart. Redemption rushes in and finishes the work.

And it did matter. Every little stitch. All the countless hours. . . Hoping, begging, praying that she knows just how very much she matters. And that she will feel in the blue—the warmth of  a mother who loves from the broken place and the peace of a  Father who forgives.”

Edie, Life in Grace

Thank you Edie, for piling words on top of feeling, for putting paragraphs around the flailing and grasping that sometimes is motherhood, and for doing it with such lovely abandon. You are an inspiration to me, the kind of mama I hope to be when my girls turn 18. I wish you a most sincere Happy Birthday.

And so, I know there are many of you reading who also read Edie. I want to encourage you to write a post about how she has been an encouragement to you and link up over at her blog today! If you read her but don’t have a blog, there are instructions posted at her place today on how you can send a letter instead. She could use a little encouragement, as well as some sweet reminders of the ways she has brought grace and beauty into our lives. So go be a part of her online birthday card!

Oh, and Nester? I’m Edie.

we will make art

“Henry Fonda was still throwing up before each stage performance, even when he was seventy-five. In other words, fear doesn’t go away. The warrior and the artist live by the same code of necessity, which dictates that the battle must be fought anew every day.”

-Steven Pressfield, The War of Art

As the glitz and glitter of a tired December settles right behind us, it feels big and brave to write down a list of goals under a heading of 2011. And January comes with a gumption-filled heart, and I look at her both with narrow eyes and the tiniest glimmer of hope. We tend to dream big but live small. January is for dreaming, and it feels brave and right, because we glimpse our potential and we dare to believe in a God who can do big things through us.

But then the living barges in ruining all our good intentions. And so we settle. It’s because there is fear in art. But if we live to avoid the fear, we miss the art, too. Despite what I always believed, the closer you get to finding your art, the more fear will hound you.

Annie sent me an email on New Years Eve. It was an email of support and of love. And at the end, after she said some stuff and some things, she said this: “2011. We will make art.” Fear showed up when I read her words, but not the dark kind with the big teeth. Instead, I was backstage with a puking Henry Fonda, ready to head out on Broadway. The fear was big, but the art was bigger. He wouldn’t have rather been anywhere else. And of course, neither would I. What about you?