Tuesday, January 31, 2017

What if...?

Leading up to the presidential election I could barely turn on the news, look at Facebook, Twitter or any of the news outlets on the internet, because it felt like a barrage of hate, finger pointing, he said – she said, I’m right your wrong messages. When I went to the polls on Election Day I didn’t know who to vote for. As I looked down at my ballot with my pen in hand I was dizzy with confusion, sadness and uncertainty. It was the first time since I was able to vote that I didn’t know who to vote for. My mind, my senses, my gut and my heart were all telling me different things. I finally listened to my gut and so I filled in the empty circle next to the candidate who I felt wasn’t necessarily the best, but would be better than the others. I woke up the next morning relieved that the election was over because I knew that at least for now the hate, finger pointing, he said – she said, I’m right your wrong messages would finally be over and I could once again peruse Facebook, Twitter and watch the news without any sense of dread.

And all was pretty good, until Inauguration Day when all hell broke loose. Once again I was faced with hate filled words, finger pointing, they said – we said, their wrong we’re right messages flying across the screens of my T.V., computer, iPhone and iPad. I wanted to hide, fly faraway to a deserted island or to a mountain cabin where there was no reception for a T.V. or social media. And it wasn’t just coming from news anchors, talk show hosts or politicians; it was neighbor against neighbor, brother against brother, sister against sister. On Facebook friends were unfriending friends, family members unfollowing family members, arguments and voices raised in streets and communities across our nation. Was this the same country who just a few short years ago found us in the depths of grief as towers fell, planes crashed and lives were lost? Each day across our television screens we heard the names, saw their pictures and heard their stories of life, work and courage. In our grief we didn’t lash out or turn away, we came together and offered comfort, hope and love. We offered financial assistance, quilts and prayer shawls. People stood in lines to give blood and it didn’t matter who it went to we knew we needed to do it. We were a nation working together for the same cause, unity.

Today the word unity feels so foreign. We are not a unified nation but a nation turned against itself. And I understand the differences of opinions. I understand the differences in peoples wants and needs. I understand people feeling fear, because it is in the unknown where fear enters. The unknown causes our senses to be on high alert. Every new story, every misconstrued word or action, every new policy, every new declaration causes fear to grow stronger and we no longer have the ability to decipher what is real or not. We get two or more opinions from each news program or talk show we watch. No one can come to an agreement because we want to be right. We are a society that loves to point out everyone’s indiscretions, faults and failures. We love to say, “See, I told you so.” When our pride and need of wanting to be right outweighs compassion and understanding, unity is nothing more than a word found in the dictionary. The meaning of unity is useless until we take action.

As I watched the marches and protests erupt the day of and after the inauguration and over the last few days, I heard the voices and read the signs. At times I was in agreement and understanding and at other times I was upset and mortified. I’m not against marches and protests because I know that when they are done responsibly and with the utmost care things can be changed. People’s lives can be made better, safer and their futures brighter. But as I watched those protesting and marching in Washington DC and other cities across our country I asked myself these questions, “What if each person who was marching right now, was back in their own community using their time and money they spent to go march and instead were using it to help those who are oppressed, lonely, hungry, homeless, abused or set aside? What would our county look like if each citizen, neighborhood and community, reached out to help those who were in need by giving of their time, resources, talents and money, instead of spending their time and money to march or protest?”

Instead of carrying a sign what if we carried a meal to the house down the street where the lonely widow or widower lives or to the frazzled new parents who haven’t been able to sleep because of a colicky baby or to the family whose mother is battling cancer? Or maybe instead of carrying a sign we carried a hammer or screwdriver and helped build a home? Or maybe we picked up a pen and wrote our local, state and national leaders? Instead of standing outdoors listening to celebrities what if we sat down and listened to the grief stricken neighbor, veteran, single parent or the person who is of a different race, religion or country? Or maybe we went to the local nursing home and offered companionship to a resident? Instead of marching down the street what if we marched over to the school and helped a child learn how to read or to be a mentor to a troubled teen? Instead of wearing funny hats what if we gave our extra hats, coats and gloves to the homeless to help keep them warm? 

Instead of purchasing a meal after the march, what if we worked at the local soup kitchen, church community meal or gave food to the food pantry? Instead of staying at a hotel, what if we volunteered to work at a homeless shelter or group home? Instead of using our money for gas to travel to the protest, what if we gave that money to a local or international mission project?

What if we loved our neighbor as much as we love ourselves? What if we listened more and talked less? What if we gave more and received less? What if we reached out expecting nothing in return?

What would our world look like, if we put our differences aside, decided to take action, worked together and reached out and took care of our neighbors? I believe it would be a world with hearts filled with compassion, freedom, love and unity.



Thursday, December 1, 2016

Why I'm Wearing a Dress Everyday in December

In the fall of 2011 I traveled with a few friends to Springfield Missouri for a women's conference. During that time my friends and I laughed, cried, shopped, praised God and heard amazing stories and testimonies. But it was one story that has stayed with me and shook my soul. 

On the 2nd day of the conference a young woman in her early 30's shared her story of being enslaved into sex trafficking. I have to admit that up until that moment I had never heard that term before. As she shared her story tears formed in my eyes and my stomach began to ache. Her ordeal was horrific. She was 22, had a good job, parents who loved her and many friends. She had just started dating a man who she met while at a nightclub with her friends. He was polite, respectful and had a job. They had been dating for a month when he picked her up at her apartment, went to dinner and then back to his apartment to watch a movie and have a glass of wine. The next thing she remembers is waking up in a warehouse, chained to a pole and stripped of all of her clothing. Her horrific 3 year journey into the sex trafficking trade had begun. She was branded, beaten, drugged, given very little food, transported to various places and given to multiple men through out any given day. Her journey ended when she was able to escape her captors when a door of a warehouse wasn't shut tight and she was able to remove her arms from the chains that bound her. 

Over the last 5 years I have often thought of that young woman. I can still remember her face and how her voice quivered as she told her story. Over this last year I have attended two events where I heard from public officials here in Siouxland who help rescue those who are enslaved into sex trafficking and also help them find rehabilitation. I also have a friend who travels each year to the city that hosts the Super Bowl and prays with a group the week before the game as another group tries to locate and find those who have been brought in to provide services in the sex trafficking trade. The Super Bowl has the highest amount of individuals who are brought in for prostitution. 

This year I am teaming up with my friend Jen and a few other women for Dressember. Dressember is a grass roots event that helps to highlight and bring awareness of those who have been and are enslaved into sex trafficking. The mission of the Dressember Foundation is:

For the next 31 days of December I will be wearing a dress each day while raising money to help those who have been rescued from slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. If you would like to donate please go to my pagehttps://support.dressemberfoundation.org/fundraiser/857479

Or for more information go towww.dressember.org

You can also read Amy Breitmann's blog on why she is participating in Dressember this year.

If you are unable to give financially I ask that you take time each day to pray for those who are enslaved that they too will be rescued.


Saturday, October 1, 2016

Finding Beauty in the Chaos

If your joining me through the 31 Days, welcome! I'm so happy you are joining me on the journey of Finding Beauty in the Chaos. 
This past year has left me weary and broken. My husband was diagnosed with heart failure on November 1, 2015, my beloved fur baby Libby (our black lab of 15 years) passed away in January 2016,  my call as a pastor at a small church and my position as Minister of Adult Ministry at a larger church left me overwhelmed and exhausted, and my mother-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in August 2016.
As you can see there has been more chaos then peace and because of that I have been dealing with emotional, mental and physical challenges. 
Through prayer and meditation I realized I needed to find beauty in the everyday to help handle the chaos that darkness the corners of my life. For the next 31 days I will be posting pictures and posts regarding the beauty that God creates and blesses each one of us with when we are willing to seek it. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

31 Years

31 years ago two starry eyed kids walked down the aisle to join hands, hearts and families. The church was full, fans were blowing, windows open and the pink rose covered bulletins were used by guests to fan themselves as there was no air conditioning in the sanctuary. Sweat dropped from the grooms forehead as the brides stomache fluttered with butterflies. One of the soloists sang off key, the flower girl cried, and the unity candle flame crackled as the two exchanged rings, said their vows and sealed it all with a kiss. They had no idea what was ahead of them as they walked back down the aisle as the organist played the wedding march and guests clapped and smiled. What they did know was that they loved each other and with very little money in their pockets, love would have to see them through. As each year passed their love grew as they were blessed with three children, furry friends, a home, new jobs, memorable trips to family cabins, holidays and lots of laughter. And some years their love was tested and strengthened as they faced job changes, financial struggles, deaths, calls from teachers, broken curfews, dinner time arguments, bedtime battles, slammed doors and hurtful words. And throughout it all love remained the consistent piece in their lives. Love made sure that compliments were said, apologies given, forgiveness accepted, compromise and compassion exchanged, support and encouragement lifted, kisses and hugs shared, and time spent being silly, laughing, working and unconditional love. And as the years continue to pass and the children have grown into adults, grandchildren have blessed their lives, gray hairs and wrinkles have appeared and health issues have surfaced, their hope in the future, their faith in each other and in God and their love continues to grow each day as they walk hand in hand in this journey of life together. 

Happy anniversary Dave! I love you!

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Hello Summer!

This past year has brought me to my knees more days then not. It's been a tough one. Not only because my husband was diagnosed with heart failure in November, but I literally found myself by May, burned out and wanting to quit ministry altogether. The demands and obligations from both churches I work at took its toll on this girl. This past month I've been doing a lot of soul searching and what I realized so far is that a part of me feels empty, depleted. I've had this nagging feeling that there is something more for me but it is just beyond my reach. It's there but I can't make it out clearly to see it. It's as if I'm surrounded by a fog. I guess feeling overwhelmed and tired can do that to a person. But it's more than that. This month while I have cried and begged God to show me what it is I need to do, he has held me and whispered to my heart, "Slow down. Breathe. Be still. Listen. Pick up that pen and write. Be creative. And you will discover joy, passion and peace once again." Wise words for my broken spirit.
And because God is the great physician, I'm going to follow his orders. This summer I'm going off of Facebook, turning off the T.V, spending time on my deck and front porch, working in my garden, exploring my neighborhood, going for walks and bike rides, playing with my grandson, enjoying family, reading books and writing.
My hope is that during these next three months I will begin to discover a little more of who I am and where God is calling me.
I hope you'll join me as I seek God, joy, peace and summertime moments.
You're invited to join me on Instagram as I capture my summer through pictures.