Thanksgiving?

I think I’ve mentioned this before but I live a charmed life. Seriously. But I don’t participate in “30 Days of Thanksgiving” or anything like that because history shows, if I commit to do something like that, I am less likely to do anything even slightly resembling my commitment. I will take pictures daily and be aware of beautiful, wonderful moments in my life…but the moment I sign up for “100 Happy Days” or whatever the flip it’s called…pft. Pictures? I have a camera?

I have been slowly becoming more aware of moments of thankfulness and more conscious of actually including God in those moments with quick prayer of thanks instead of fleeting thoughts of contentment. But recently I’ve found this dangerous irritating little voice whispering in the back of my head.

Me: “Gorgeous sunrise. Thank you for a beautiful start to this clear day. I love driving in clear weather.”

Dangerous whisper: “Yeah…but would you still have a thankful heart if there was a foot of snow on the ground and nothing but gray clouds overhead?”

Me: “I love my home so much. Thank you for providing this beautiful shelter and the opportunity to indulge in Thanksgiving cooking!”

Dangerous whisper: “What if you were spending Thanksgiving in a hospital? Or a homeless shelter? What would your attitude be like, your prayers sound like?”

This voice is dangerous because it’s prompting me to start adding a layer to my conversations with God. It’s causing me to start asking, not for more moments of contentment, but a heart and spirit that is prepared to be thankful and content in situations that aren’t beautiful, warm & cozy.

20151124_193906I am still incredibly grateful for the plethora of warm fuzzy moments that I’m experiencing. I mean seriously – this was my view while baking pies this week. A cat napping near a fireplace…it doesn’t get more warm & fuzzy than that. At the same time, I am aware that my comfort isn’t what is important…and it’s definitely not guaranteed. Would I still maintain a grateful heart and deep rooted joy even in the midst of hard times?

18 years ago

This was my life a little less than eighteen years ago.

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I was 20. He was…weeks old.

This was my life four days ago.

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Photo credit to my mother.

And yesterday, was his eighteenth birthday.

He was my “baby bear”* until about kindergarten when he informed me he was no longer a baby. I reluctantly graduated him to “Bear” until about third grade when he explained with a huff that his name was NOT “bear”. And then, ironically, he hit high school and all his friends started calling him “Papa Bear” with absolutely no input from me.

He has spent the past ten years, give or take a few, adopting and looking out for every younger child around him. And he has been attempting to take care of me since he could toddle to the front door and fling himself against it yelling “NO MAMA” because I walked into the living room in just shorts and a sports bra to retrieve my purse but he was concerned I might try to leave the house in an indecent state of dress.  The concern was cute until I tried to get my ears pierced with a second hole when he was about seven and a friend had to remove him the premises because he freaked out so badly.

I have received phone calls from teachers stating that he needs to be reprimanded but “He’s just so sweet I can’t do it…” Then there’s the time he told a teacher that if his eyes wandered during a test it was because he hit his head in P.E. and his eyes wouldn’t stay still…it certainly wouldn’t be because he was cheating. (She moved him into the hallway for the test if I remember correctly) And THEN there’s the time that he irritated a girl so much that she finally tackled him…into a cinder block wall. (And yet she still counted him among some of her best friends)

The character of Dominic Toretto (Fast and Furious franchise) repeats his mantra of “I don’t have friends, I have a family” so often in the movie series that it becomes a bit cheesy – but this kiddo has been living that for years. He is ferociously loyal and once you’re in his inner circle, he will adopt you and everyone you love. It can be a little overwhelming but somehow he always manages to win over….everyone. He has a multitude of “mom”s, all of which have contributed to his growth , and an impressive collection of “little sisters” that he fights with – and for. He has chosen to surround himself with guys that will hike the foothills with him, then spend hours playing video games…but they always hug their mamas before taking off.

He loves to make people smile and laugh and if someone leaves his presence without feeling loved, it’s not because he didn’t try. Young children adore him and he is always willing to give them his time and energy. He loves babies…and he loves the attention he gets from girls when he’s cuddling babies. He shaves his own head now (and let’s people rub it)…but “forgets” to shave his face. Sometimes he doesn’t see that line between funny and annoying until he’s well past it. Sometimes his family is as likely to swat him as they are to hug him. But he makes really good coffee.

There are plenty of stories I could tell many of which I need to write down for future generations but I won’t try to recount here and now. The point is, he’s eighteen. Four years ago, I sobbed as he entered high school because there were only four years left and he was nowhere ready for the world…and the world definitely wasn’t ready for him. Today I can say confidently that I think he’ll be okay. He’ll have some rough patches and he’ll learn some lessons the hard way. Most everyone does. But he’ll be fine in the end.

I’m still not sure the world is ready for him though.

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* I let him preview/approve the pictures used in this post. He scanned part of the text as well and on the way to bed, kissed me on top of my head and said “I’m still your baby bear.” Dawww….

 

Blessing or curse

I’ve read (skimmed if we’re being honest) a couple of different articles lately touching on this idea that we American Christians are “blessed” with our material abundance and/or how easily that phrase rolls off our tongue.

“Oh I’m doing well. God has really blessed us lately with our new car/house/promotion/health/insert latest toy”.

The articles both made me nod emphatically in agreement and squirm uncomfortably in my chair. Because I’ve done that. And I didn’t just do that before I went to the Philippines where, upon arrival, my eyes were opened & all deceptively pretty but false theology was burned away in  a flash of enlightenment. (Where is my sarcasm font?)

It’s easy for me to denounce false theology when it’s being preached by some big shot. Not to pick on the “prosperity gospel” (but to pick on the “prosperity gospel”), I cringe when I hear the idea that financial/material abundance is the will of God, that there is some sort of quid pro quo  between us and God. We have faith & He spoils us with the latest gadgets or more square footage or excellent health insurance.  I denounce it vehemently. God doesn’t promise earthly comfort. He promises a relationship with and transformation through Him. Amen and hallelujah.

And then. Then I sit in my big fluffy ridiculously comfortable chair sipping on my freshly brewed coffee with just the right amount of creamer, wrapped in my warm blanket in the middle of the summer because the central air in my crazy big, clean and sturdy house has made me chilly. I sit there with my cat purring on my lap and I look around and think about my refrigerator full of food and my reliable, emissions tested vehicle full of gas. And I thank God for all the blessings He has bestowed upon me and my family. We serve in our church. We tithe. We pray and attend our Lifegroup. We have checked the boxes of  “good Christians”. And this insidious idea that God is rewarding us for our good deeds slithers in and takes root.

In the Philippines I met a woman who lived under a tarp next to a bridge with her sore covered, naked children. And the next day I watched this woman show up at church, like she does weekly, with her kids in their ill fitting Sunday best….clothes we wouldn’t even donate to Goodwill. She was excited because we were the same age and we were both mothers. We come from polar opposite lives but we could connect. We talked about kids and parenting…and our faith in God. Her relationship is deep and sustaining and vibrant. She is impoverished materially and abundantly rich spiritually. Her very life should be all the proof I need to eliminate that sneaky idea that living comfortably is proof of God’s favor. Why me and not her (or any of the hundreds of thousands around the world like her)? And yet. Just last week I found myself snuggled in my chair thanking God for all His blessings. And perhaps I was a bit smug because OBVIOUSLY we’re doing something right. When suddenly Joseph (yes, of the  techni multicolored coat) came to mind. Specifically him telling his brothers “What you meant evil, God has used for good…”

Okay. So this is a leap but take it with me. I haven’t had anyone plot to murder me lately. (At least I don’t think so.) I haven’t been sold into slavery. Nothing  bad or evil has happened to me in a long time (or arguably…ever). But sitting there I began to wonder…what if all this abundance and comfort isn’t a gift from God. What if it is a distraction from Satan? What if I’m not blessed…but cursed? The idea shook me. What do I DO with that? Because  (again with the honesty) I’m not going to sell my family into poverty. I’m not going to look my children in the eyes and say “I’m sorry but you have to go hungry now. And sleep on the street. Oh…and forget about being clean or having medical care. But you’ll have God!!!” My husband and I DO have the opportunity to provide for our family and I don’t think that’s intrinsically bad. There’s a responsibility that comes with the opportunity though. (With great power comes…oh never mind). And that’s where Joseph comes in. So…maybe Satan IS trying to distract me. Maybe this comfort WAS meant to curse me by weakening my relationship with God. But God can use all….this.  But here’s what I didn’t get from the other articles (see above – skimming said articles) – it doesn’t end with the realization that our American wealth does NOT equate blessing. It doesn’t even end with the idea that the goodies might actually be meant for evil. It all BEGINS with the realization that God can use everything we have for His purposes. “What you meant for evil, God used for good.” But recognition without action is nothing. After all, everyone in the parable of the Good Samaritan RECOGNIZED there was a man lying in the road dying. But they didn’t take action to help. (Well look at me with all my Biblical illustrations tonight. I can check that “good Christian blogger” box now).

I don’t want you to feel guilty for being materially wealthy. I went down that path so you don’t have to.  God doesn’t deal in guilt trips. Guilt immobilizes, it doesn’t result in transformative action. Conviction is more God’s bag.  If guilt immobilizes, conviction motivates. But I wasn’t convicted about my possessions. I was convicted about how I SEE my possessions.

Soooo GREAT. We’re all convicted. Now what.

Well  my action step is daily communication with God. It’s checking in. It’s recognizing, every day, that I am abundantly spoiled. And asking Him what He wants me to do with that. How does He want to use this big house? How does He want to use my physical health, energy and the abilities that provides? Some days – most days – I don’t get a clear answer. Or an answer at all. That doesn’t mean I can’t enjoy it. I just want to live in the awareness that everything I enjoy belongs to God. I don’t want to keep falling into the trap of complacency and believing that I’m “good enough” because I have (more than) enough. And I never EVER want to insult my beautiful brothers and sisters worldwide by uttering the words “I’m blessed because I have….<insert material wealth>” I’m blessed for the same reason they are. I’m blessed because I can have a relationship with Jesus.

No Title Can Convey – Please Read

I received the below letter in my inbox just now. This is from the guy who started “Wipe Every Tear” (the organization I am traveling with to the Philippines this summer).

There are so many worthwhile causes and organizations. I know people get tired of all the cries for help. And there have been enough “sketchy” organizations that I understand how people can become jaded and suspicious. I get it. I know. I’ve been there. But I can’t NOT share this. I’ve sat and talked to the writer of this letter. I know he and his wife sacrifice for this work. I have friends who have been personally and deeply touched by this issue and the people mentioned below. Wipe Every Tear and the little family of girls they are nurturing…they’re close to my heart.

I’ve mentioned this before – thanks to my husband I did not have to fund raise for my trip. I was very convicted about that from the beginning. I would have scraped and saved to go but I was not going to ask my friends and family to pay for it. But this is something I’m willing to go out on a limb for. This is something I’m willing to beg and plead for. These girls need support. Not for the rest of their lives. But until they can finish their education and support themselves. And in some cases…until they can grow up. (Fun side note: Most (all?) the original girls to the Hope House are completing their education with the goal to turn around and use that to help more girls and Wipe Every Tear.)

So please. Read. Don’t just skim. Actually read this. And consider this plea.

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Today was a joyous day.  A kind of day that you hope, pray and dream about, where a beautiful little girl comes into your care.  She was wearing “Hello Kitty” flip-flops had a cute little smile and looked to be a little older than the girls in the photo below.  She made a cute little necklace out of clear beads a couple days before with our good friends, William and Mercy from Navotas, an area of Metro Manila along the bay who took her in temporarily.

She is 1 of 16 siblings. Her mom earns $50-$75 per month as a part time street sweeper, and her father is a “diver” who earns about the same income.  He wades and swims through underground  sewers to remove and clear debris to keep the sewers flowing.  Since the family has no running water, he is unable to take a shower or bath after a day of diving.  The family must buy drinking water from the local store.  They do not have enough money to eat every day.

William and Mercy said to me tonight ‘Coach, she is always hungry”.  At her home, when she does eat, she eats rice and occasionally some fried pork rinds (like the kind you buy in the store in America).

Abalina is a very cute little girl, who has had no choice but to prostitute herself since the age of 12 to buy food for her siblings and parents. Her pimp “takes care of her”.  She earns around $13 per night for 3-4 nights of work between midnight and 4:00 in the morning, and she is the main provider in her family.  She had to quit 6th grade because it was her duty to bring home the bacon. 

Little Abalina is a little older than these girls.
William and Mercy who partner with us said to me: “Coach, our hearts are broken.  We couldn’t believe our eyes… William and Mercy have their own Kingdom journey story: as pastors of a little church in the slums, one day they told me, “Coach we used to see these girls as dirty and sexual… but now Jesus has given us a heart for the poor and broken and the untouchables of our neighborhood… Coach, now we dearly love these girls and see them how God sees them…”.  ”Coach, the men wait in line all night long for their “turn” to be with little Abalina…”
 
After they rescued her and received written documentation from her parents to care for her, Abalina was safe in their home and she was found playing with other girls.  ”Coach, she would color with crayons for hours, and this was her favorite thing to do…” 
 
It’s NOT OK that men wait in line for their “turn”.  TEAM, I AM ASKING YOU TO PRAY FOR ABALINA.  I’m asking you to pray for her and ask God to raise up sponsors for her.  At this time, we don’t have near the number of sponsors for our girls.  Last night, our director Becky said to me “Coach, we don’t have the funds, but how can we say ‘no” to caring for her… do we even have a choice?” 
 

I’m asking you to pray for our girls.  They need so much healing.  And will you do this?:  Would you please pass this on to your friends, family, and maybe your complete contact list?  Would you post this to your Facebook?  We are in great need of finding sponsors for our precious girls and young women.  With confidence, you can tell them that 100% of their $35 monthly sponsorship donation goes directly to the care of our precious girls.  You can direct them here to do so: http://www.wipeeverytear.org/#!donate/covk

Last night, William, Mercy, Becky, and I sat around a table here at the guest house, and we cried out to God with tears in our own eyes for this little one.  We are wrecked and broken, and that’s all I have left in me to write.
Please pray and ask your friends to consider sponsoring one of our girls.
With my love, I thank you.
Kenny
Kenny Sacht
Our short story in video: Wipe Every Tear
To sponsor one of our girls for only $35 per month, click here: Sponsor a Trafficked Girl, then check the box and write “Girl Sponsorship”

I’d like to thank….

This week I decided it would be fun to sign up for Run 4 Luv a local 5k that some of the other ladies from the Krav gym were doing.  Fun. An outside race. In February. In Boise Idaho. Where February is usually our most “winter-y” month. Oh…and did I mention? I’ve never actually run a full 5k. I’ve walked a few. And I’ve run/walked that distance a couple of times. But I’ve never run over 2 miles without walking. Maybe not even 1.5.

And it WAS fun. Even in the slushy snow & rain.

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You can’t really tell it here, or maybe you can, but there is ice on that there trail. It was a little slick but not as bad as I expected honestly.

It was fun. And?  I RAN THE WHOLE FREAKIN THING. I didn’t run it fast. But I maintained good run form through the whole thing. I truly didn’t plan to. I was stoked. But I don’t think I would have without the people there. I ran with a woman named Ann who set our pace and kept me from starting out too fast and blowing up in the first mile. Her daughters are speedy quick but came back out to run in with us and cheer. Bianca was hilarious and encouraging (she’s why I signed up). She is faster but so laid back. Her hubby was out there for support.  Tracie, our coach, was there to high five us and encourage us as always. (And she ran the 10k…and none of us wanted her to “lap” us). Ashley came out to cheer. But the best part? My husband was there. He didn’t run. He drove me there so I didn’t have to stress about figuring out where I was going and where I would park. He carried a backpack so I (and everyone else in our group) had a place to leave extra gloves/hats/hoodies/whatever. I didn’t have to think about anything except putting one foot in front of the other. I really appreciate that he came out to stand in the rain and the cold just to support me/us.

Maybe I would have run the full thing if he hadn’t been there. But I don’t think I would have enjoyed it nearly as much. That sounds cheesy but knowing he would be at the end to cheer…and drive me home…made me relax. A lot. Having him there gave me an incredible sense of security. And that made the run even sweeter.

A plan for us all

Stacey over at Glitter and Churchy Church published a post today that spurred me to edit/publish one I’ve been sitting on since last weekend when I attended the same conference she talks about. Go read…now or after you finish here. Whatever. But go read. She took a short term mission trip and used it to fuel her passion AND actions.  (By the way, she pulls off that signature look she mentions in a FANTASTIC way.)

So there was a Human Trafficking 101 conference here in Boise last weekend. Because, believe it or not, human trafficking & child exploitation happens right here, in our safe/clean/beautiful/boring town. I went in looking for resources and action steps more than information. I’ve read and watched and seen the statistics. I have the information. But what I didn’t have was first hand accounts from people who work with this issue on a daily basis. What I didn’t have were the personal stories from my backyard.What I didn’t have were real, local numbers from the offices of warriors in my community. I went in prepared to take notes. I didn’t, convinced that there was no way I’d forget what I’d heard. But driving home I realized I was so overwhelmed, so over-saturated that I could only remember bits and pieces and the emotions. I was exhausted and I couldn’t process or feel anything.  They showed a documentary after the speakers and I just went straight home. I couldn’t handle anything further. And I was frustrated. I wanted action steps. I wanted to sign up to DO something. I work well in a support role…give me papers to files, contact lists to alphabetize & color code, a blog or twitter account to update, a fund raiser to organize. WHERE WAS THE DOTTED LINE TO SIGN UP TO DO SOMETHING?!!?

A week later, I can think more clearly. I can process. I’ve gotten past the sense of overwhelming helplessness and frustration. One thing that we heard multiple times was that the majority (80? 90%?) of girls that are trafficked come from abusive homes/situations. And it’s very easy to take that fact and think “Oh. My daughter/niece/cousin/neighbor doesn’t fall into that category. She’s safe.” But. But. That’s looking at only a portion of what happens. Your loved one may never be physically touched. And for that, I am grateful. Believe me. You may know for 100% certain that she’s in a safe, loving, positive, protected home. There are a LOT of amazing families out there. But there was another aspect the detectives mentioned that never occurred to me. Exploitation. One of them said “Once upon a time you worried about the creepy guy down the street. Now we’re putting computers in every 13 year old’s pocket and we have to worry about every creepy guy IN THE WORLD.” These guys who exploit are are masterminds at manipulation.  And by nature of their development and hormones, even your well adjusted, confident, protected daughter is not 100% safe. She may never be touched by these guys. And that’s GOOD. Please don’t get me wrong. But what happens if they convince her to simply send them a video of her changing. Or a “tastefully sexy” picture. Once that door has been opened, it’s rarely going to stop with “tastefully sexy”. What happens when she realizes what her image has been used for? When she realizes just how many hundreds of thousands of people have seen it? When she realizes as she’s walking down the street that some of these people could recognize her for…that? How is she going to view men now? What kind of damage is being done to her psychologically, emotionally, relationally?

I hear it said all the time that this is a “women’s problem” or a “female problem”. It’s not. I understand where that phrase comes from but our men are hurt by this too. If they are watching porn, their expectations of women and relationships are damaged. If they’re not, it’s often implied they’re “not men”. After all, it’s just natural, right? And what about how the damage to the women affects them. These are future wives and partners. And yet, these children will be running the world we live in. These children will be making decisions that influence us. These children will be raising the next generation. These children are exposed to sex and are more sexualized  than any generation before. On average they are exposed to porn at the age of 11. ELEVEN. When I was in 5th/6th grade, boys and girls were just starting to rediscover each other….by tripping each other and pulling hair and playing chase. The ones who snuck a kiss behind the tree on the playground were publicly tried and found guilty of having cooties. We may have learned what sex was in a very clinical manner at that age…and we were horrified by the idea. Now? Now it’s entertainment and something to experiment with. AT ELEVEN.

Last weekend I was a bit frustrated and a lot overwhelmed & discouraged. I didn’t have an action step. I didn’t have a plan. Over the past week though I’ve realized – we ALL have an action step. Because all of us can influence a child. Rescuing the currently exploited girls (and boys) is important. Please don’t misunderstand. That is INCREDIBLY important. But if we just rescue after the fact, we will never make progress against the problem. There is still demand and there will ALWAYS be someone to utilize. But if we influence our children, if we raise them with knowledge of healthy relationships and to be violently opposed to the very idea of using another human being, then the demand AND the source starts to shrink.

This is a problem for all of us. And we don’t have to be social workers or detectives or on a task force to make a difference.  If you’re a parent, be THAT parent. Be the unreasonable, over protective parent who insists on knowing every password and pass code. Be the nosy parent who reads texts and checks phones and computers. Be the paranoid parent that has tracking/monitoring software on devices. Be the embarrassing parent who insists on having THOSE mortifying conversations.  Be the parent who knows your child and who is influencing them. We don’t have to lock these precious kids in a cellar to protect them. They need to understand the world.  They need to see and experience all the good while still recognizing the negatives….and being equipped to deal with those. But we also can’t give them unlimited and unsupervised exposure. Be involved. (Admission – I don’t do all these things all the time. I’m not a great mother. I know all the areas I could improve. But I can’t give up. You’re not a perfect parent either. It’s okay. Just don’t give up.)

If you’re not a parent, be a mentor and a friend. Be a safe place, a safe person for someone. Be a positive influence, show our children what life CAN be like. They need more than mom and dad….and some don’t even have that positive example to see. My hat is off to the people who face this darkness head on in daily battle. We need them. But we “common people” have a job to do that is just important. We have an action step. We have a place to start.

The small joys of motherhood

Our youngest is a, well, finicky, eater. Finicky and fickle. I ask on a regular basis if he stills likes <insert recently loved food>. Best result? Yes. But the most frequent answers are tied between “meh” and “YUCK I HATE THAT”. This summer we were standing in the produce section of Albertson’s. I remember it vividly. I can picture where we were standing exactly, where the strawberries were located, the lights, the hum of the air conditioning, the look of total bewilderment when I asked “Do you still like strawberries?” And I quite CLEARLY remember him answering that yes, he loved strawberries, they were the best, his favorite, forever and ever amen. He answered loudly and dramatically and, dare I say, flamboyantly. I also clearly remember telling him that someday? I would be reminding him of this conversation and he would never again be allowed to tell me that he doesn’t change his mind. Amen.

Yesterday I found strawberries on sale at Freddie’s that looked and smelled amazing. Yesterday I picked up a container thinking I would treat the boys for their lunches. This morning I noticed the youngest had put two apples and NO STRAWBERRIES in his lunch. Tonight? I asked him….

“Do you still like strawberries?”

And he wrinkled his nose. And said “No. They’re gross.”

Oh yes. Yes I did. I most certainly DID remind him of the conversation from this morning. I reminded him loudly. And dramatically. And flamboyantly.  He was not impressed. I do not care.

Several mini posts in one

I had a menu planning post all drafted and ready to go. But I forgot to hit “publish”. Friday I put all the ingredients in the bread machine and forgot to hit “start”. This morning I put dinner in the crock pot….and forgot to hit “start”. I am on a ROLL. Thankfully the theme for my menu this week was “easy”. With very little prep necessary (because the weekend was PACKED), it’s also very forgiving so rearranging after this morning’s snafu was no sweat. Tonight we had pizza. Homemade even! I had to miss Krav to make it happen but my family is my priority. This time my actions actually matched what I say. Tomorrow we’ll have pulled pork sandwiches & tots. Wednesday we’ll have some sort of cheesy chicken rice casserole that I’m making up on the fly. Thursday is taco soup. Friday is my hubby’s birthday so I don’t know what we’re doing because I’m lame and don’t plan those kinds of things well. Also? How the hell did we get to the middle of January already?

Pretend there’s some sort of fun, witty segue here. I’m tired and my brain seems to be in some sort of a creative rebellion.

Sunday morning I was not functioning well at all. I didn’t sleep well, I was light headed and groggy and foggy and didn’t have coffee until we got to church and I could stumble into the cafe next door. TheKid started talking almost as soon as we got out of the van. Nonstop. And we park across the street and up a hill from the church/coffee shop. By the time we ordered, his voice was just a buzzing beside my head and I finally had to look at him and say “Please. Stop. Talking.” So. Tonight. He’s playing a video game and I hear from the living room “WHY AM I GETTING SHOT?!!?” I answered sweetly “Probably because someone is pointing a weapon in your direction and pulling the trigger.” He huffed and responded (yes, he actually responded…isn’t it GREAT) “Yes. But WHY is he shooting me?” My reply….”I don’t know. Has he ever met you first thing in the morning before he’s had coffee?” (And I love that he actually responded AGAIN…tersely and through obviously gritted teeth  “No. Mother.”)

(Insert segue #2)

The break was really nice but classes start again next week. I’m only taking two again this semester: Biological Basis for Behavior and Intro to Counseling Skills. I’ve been told that BBfB is basically Anatomy & Physiology lite. And since I pulled off a a decent grade in A&P, I’m actually kinda looking forward to this one that will focus more on what I want to study and less on the structure of the eyeball or ear. The syllabus and schedule look a little daunting but the above referenced source said it’s much easier than it looks. And Intro to Counseling Skills…HELLO. I’m super excited for that one!

(Insert clever wrap up that ties everything together nicely….see you next time!)

Menu Planning 01/06 – 01/10/2014

2014. How weird is it to type THAT?!!? I remember twenty years ago thinking how FAR AWAY our “big” class reunions were. Come to find out – NOT THAT FAR. Anyway. 2014. I thought I’d kick the year off with a bang and share some menu planning!

Monday, 01/06/2013 – We have Krav from 5:30 – 6:30 pm. And I have somewhere to be at 7:00pm. So I’ll have a lasagna prepped for the family to pop in the oven.

Tuesday, 01/07/2013 – I’ll be off work at noon but will be at the Krav gym from 5:00 – 7:00pm. So that morning I’ll toss some chicken breasts in the crockpot and cover with raspberry vinegrette dressing & garlic powder. Sounds odd but my boys LOVE it. We’ll round that out with some rolls and a veggie of some sort. Probably green beans. Because easy.

Wednesday, 01/08/2013 – Classes haven’t started yet so I’ll be home but the older two have youth group at 6:30pm. So I’ll have a ham in the crock pot and potatoes ready to boil for mashed potatoes. And broccoli. Must have broccoli.

Thursday, 01/09/2013 – We have Life Group at 6:30pm. Dinner will be fajitas. My mother posted a recipe for oven cooked fajita stuff so I’ll prep that the night before to pop into the oven as soon as I’m home from work. Yummers. I hope.

Friday, 01/10/2013 – I don’t have anything on the calendar. Well. I DO. But I’m not going. Because I’ll be gone all day Saturday. Planned dinner? Ham & bean soup & homemade bread (yay for bread makers!). Warm. Comforting. Easy.

Friday plans often get changed. And I rarely “plan” the weekends. Because….um…I just don’t. We eat a lot of sandwiches & left overs unless I get REALLY productive and put something together. But otherwise, that’s it. That’s the plan. I use very few recipes and I don’t take the time to document when I cook. I couldn’t be a “food blogger”. But there’s a glimpse into my week and our menu. Feel free to ask if you have any questions.

It’s really happening.

I’ve alluded to this on social media and my husband has commented about it. But until today I haven’t really publicly said anything because it wasn’t certain. But I received notice that my application has been accepted. I have my passport. I’ve emailed the travel agent for tickets and my doctor for vaccines.

I’m going on a two week mission trip to the Philippines with Wipe Every Tear at the end of May.

It’s so REAL to type that.

I don’t know what to expect. Even after reading about the experiences of and talking to several others that have gone, even after stalking their facebooks and twitters and blogs…I don’t really know what to expect. In fact, I’m really trying not to go into it with expectations. I want to open to whatever God wants to show me and teach me, accepting of any experiences He wants to drop me into. But if we’re being perfectly honest, there ARE expectations. I expect to have my world rocked. I expect to love it while hating it at the same time. I expect it to be emotional and challenging and  fun and wonderful and horrible. I expect it to be an EXPERIENCE

I’ve wrestled with a few issues while deciding to go ahead with the application and  waiting for the acceptance (Or denial. My husband never doubted that I would get to go but it seemed so arrogant – on my part – to assume that approval was a given and I honestly couldn’t make that assumption. I love that he never doubted my “worthiness” though).

One – I can’t spell out WHY I’m going specifically. I can’t give you a list of goals or what I hope to accomplish. When it boils down to it, I’m really going for me. The people who do the real work are the ones that live there, the team that functions in the middle of the battle field, the ones who handle the day to day grind and build the relationships. I want to meet them and hug them and pray with them and support them and love them. I want to meet and love on the girls who are still enslaved. I want to show them they MATTER, that people world wide care for them. But I also love to travel and I can’t say that didn’t play more than a small part in the decision. (Although arguably God created me to love travel and can use that. Right?) This trip is simultaneously for me and not at all about me and I don’t know how to deal with that dichotomy yet (and may never).

Two – There’s always the argument of how the money is best spent. This is not an inexpensive trip (obviously). And the money could directly support the organization and the girls it serves. Then there’s the point that these trips change the perspective and lives of the people who go. Both are valid and important points. I never completely resolved this one either. Because on top of the above “this money could be used directly by the organization” issue, my entire family is sacrificing for me to do this. My husband set aside the funds, yes. But those are still funds that could have been used for the entire family, not just me. So this is a complicated issue that I can’t fully articulate. I just know that this was an idea I couldn’t seem to shake. The whole slavery issue (especially sex slavery) has become a obsession of mine. And – most importantly – my husband not only fully supports this, he encouraged it. Which brings me to issue #3….

Three – I can’t say I feel “called by God”. I know many people can say that. And it puts to bed pretty much any argument. God called, they responded. Done. But I can’t say with confidence that God is directing me specifically to take this trip. I CAN say with confidence that He broke my heart for the abomination of slavery. I get emotional easily, yes but I’m also easily distracted. However, this doesn’t directly benefit me. And it’s been an obsession for longer than a few weeks. That’s just not how I usually operate. History shows I should have found some shiny new issue to champion by now. I can also say that everything to this point has fallen into place with remarkable ease. School and work and schedules that I thought might be stumbling blocks? Not even a hiccup. And my family and friends support me – namely my husband. I can’t emphasize enough how important that is. But I can NOT say God told me to pack my bags and go the Philippines. On the flip side – I can’t say He’s saying “no”.  And the couple of times I have CLEARLY “heard” Him speak? He was telling me no. In fact, I will confidently say I was not supposed to go on a trip any earlier than this summer. I know because I wanted to go.  And He very clearly told me to sit my butt in a chair and stop. Stop planning, stop making lists, stop learning the language. Just stop. And pray. So I did (although I’ll admit some of those prayers could not be classified as “nice” or “polite”). He’s not saying “no” anymore. But I haven’t “heard” the equivalently clear YES. And so it seems disingenuous to use the reasoning of “God has called me to this”. Because all I know for sure is He’s not calling me away from it.

I have been very hesitant to say anything about this publicly. I don’t have to fund raise – thanks once again to the generosity of my husband. And so, posting it on social media feels like…bragging? I recognize the irony of a long blog post about it but these thoughts don’t fit into a Facebook status. I don’t know.  I know I don’t want it to be JUST about me. I want to shine a light on the issues both in the Philippines and right under our noses. I don’t want the trip to JUST be a meaningful and challenging vacation. I want it to give me perspective and insight. I want to come home educated and aware and more sensitive. I want it to be part of what shapes me into being able to effectively fight – not to show what *I* can do but show what God can do and to give girls the opportunity to see what THEY can do. I really feel like the most valuable players in this thing are those who have been freed. They have the insight and experience that a privileged woman in Boise Idaho can never replicate. But they need to be freed. And then they need to be supported and loved and encouraged. There’s not an easy solution. My two weeks overseas is not going to abolish slavery. But I have to start somewhere. Might as well be with a bang, right?