I’ve taken it slow on this blog of mine since that conference back in March, where I spoke of “pivoting’ in my talk to a room of beautiful fighters, survivors and caregivers…a talk of which I will share here on the blog soon.
I looked out in the crowd as I took in a breath before speaking and thought, “These are my people.”
I am honored to have Katie Polley, writing for Love Justice International, as a guest here today. Please read about the very important work they do and share it if you feel led to help spread the word about this amazing nonprofit. The world needs to know about it!
In 2016, I started helping a nonprofit with their social media and website content for a couple hours a week. I worked with many clients at the time and had little reason to suspect that getting to know this nonprofit would drastically impact the way I desire to live my life.
Love Justice International is compelled by God’s love to fight the world’s greatest injustices—one of which is human trafficking—an issue I had heard a lot about but hadn’t really ever engaged deeply with. It felt far away from my little world. The numbers were so big (in 2016, the Global Slavery Index estimated that 40.3 million people live in slavery), and felt impersonal. And ultimately, I was ignorant.
This all changed as I began to learn more about the people and work behind Love Justice. As I started receiving story after story from the field, I quickly realized they didn’t just see and talk about the issueof human trafficking, but quite literally they entered into the very trenches of it to stop it. God woke me up.
You see, Love Justice is unique from most anti-trafficking agencies in that rather than working on the preventative or the reactive side of human trafficking, they actually intervene at the exact moment when trafficking is occurring, and they intercept the potential victim before she is trafficked.
So I began reading account after account of young women, from various countries, who were being taken across borders, bus stations, or airports, but instead were intersected by Love Justice’s trained monitors. Young women like Sanjula who was most likely headed into a life of some form of slavery, marked by unimaginable darkness and despair. But instead, because there were justice-fighters stationed, waiting, and seeking out girls just like her, she was literally intercepted and turned around.
Instead of traveling further with her trafficker, Sanjula was educated on the dangers of trafficking and safe foreign employment. She was cared for, counseled and comforted, and then sent to safety.
These stories of real people like Sanjula¸were oftentimes girls my age. They were children of God—with names, families, beautiful facial features, unique hopes, and dreams. Their stories deeply affected how I thought about human trafficking, justice, and my role in it as a fellow child of God. I was no longer ignorant, and apathy was no longer an option. I couldn’t deny how these stories of faithful people pursuing the vulnerable girl who was being deceived into a life of slavery and darkness, perfectly reflected God’s pursuit of me.
It’s the gospel—the story I’ve been graced to hear throughout my whole life. The God of the universe passionately wanted to save me from the slavery of the sin I was born with. He wanted freedom and a relationship with me so much that He didn’t stay in the heavenly places and leave me to my helpless estate, but instead, He literally moved heaven and earth to come up with a plan, a strategy, the only way to save me in His son, Jesus Christ.
He pursued me! He entered into the mess, the danger, the pain, and came down to earth, taking the punishment I deserved and made a new way for me. He turned my path around and offered freedom, light, and hope.
This is the reflection I saw in every Love Justice interception story I read from across the globe. In the same way, God pursued justice for me and came to save me, Love Justice was literally placing people right where the injustice of trafficking was happening, so they could intercept victims’ paths towards slavery and instead offer them freedom. What an amazing, beautiful picture of how God pursues us!
And even more than that, He has made each of us in His own image. So the same heart of His that craves justice is in us. He built in our hearts a desire for justice, a hunger for wrongs to be righted, a quest for things to be dealt with. When we truly know God and His love, and we truly know the reality of injustices like human trafficking, our hearts cannot help but be compelled to be a part of stopping it.
The joy and meaning I’ve found in being able to work alongside and play a small role in what Love Justice is doing have been immeasurable. Simply put, God is using this ministry to bring more of His Kingdom here on earth—to destroy injustice and usher in freedom for the oppressed. To date, they’ve interceptedover 16,000 lives to prevent them from being trafficked. And each one of those interceptions results in powerful intelligence that allows them to assist local police with criminal investigations and arrests of the perpetrators.
When you see God moving like this, the same God who saved you from spiritual darkness, it’s hard to not jump at the chance to be a part of it. So today, at the very end of Human Trafficking Prevention Month, I want to invite you to be a part of Love Justice with me! Allow your life to be impacted by the beauty of leaning into God’s heart for justice with action. Go to LoveJustice.ngo to learn more about how you can get involved with your time, treasure, and talents.
Thank you Allstate for sponsoring this post. I chose to write this post because doing good in local communities is at Allstate’s core.
We recently had a simple and meaningful family night thanks to Allstate. They released a video that showed an example of how the core of who they are is dedicated to the communities where they live and work.
It is the perfect example of how Allstate believes that young people are not waiting for change to happen in their communities but they’re creating it! I couldn’t wait to share it with my family.
My hope was that it would spark some great conversation as we gathered our 3 teen girls (and a sweet boyfriend that belongs to one of them) to spend some family time around the table and discuss something that truly matters.
Creating Space for Conversation with Change Maker Teens
It only takes a little thought and preparation to create space for meaningful conversation. It is ok to keep family night super simple, and it doesn’t have to last for hours.
With teens and their schedules, sometimes you take what you can get, and it can look imperfect. That is ok! Just be purposeful in creating the space, and flexible with how it turns out.
Like most teens, my girls love snacks, so I drew them to the table with food! Snacks are a sure way to go to get teens’ attention, especially when presented in a tasteful way!
I lit a candle to create cozy hygge for our little family gathering. I texted (because what better way to communicate with teens) my family earlier in the day, and let them know I wanted to come around the table that evening for a bit and had a video that I wanted to share.
I made sure to mention the video was only a little over 3 minutes long and that I wanted to get their thoughts on it. Teens like to know what to expect.
They saw me setting up the snacks and my oldest, Teagan, threw a pizza in the oven. I’m still healing from surgery and had a few setbacks in healing, so I appreciated the ease of pizza for dinner.
My girls have been working on a puzzle, and I just kept it out at the table and set the snacks around it.
Food and a puzzle are both great items to encourage lingering and good conversation, but the video is what sparked the conversation. Thank you, Allstate.
Young People Creating Change
Allstate believes in youth empowerment and is inspiring people all around the country to do good in their local communities.
My husband Todd and I could not agree more. We have always believed that young people have the capacity to change the world in a positive way and make a difference.
We have encouraged our girls from a young age to influence the world around them by using their gifts, strengths, talents, interests, and abilities.
Allstate looks to inspire the next generation by using community projects that empower young people to become change-makers and a generation of leaders, and it is beautifully portrayed in the video.
I was eager to see my family’s reaction to the video and hear their thoughts. I knew my Todd would relate so much to the beauty in the video, as his life work is serving young people in our community.
We ate our pizza on paper plates and dimmed the lights as I played the video for them on my Kindle Fire.
Watch this video to learn more about what Allstate is doing in local communities!
After the video, I asked them what they thought of the word “Change-Maker.” I asked them if they were on the bus that was in the video, driving through their community, and looking out the window…what kind of change would they be inspired to make?
I also asked them if time and school did not get in the way, how would they want to make a difference in our community?
I loved their answers. I loved seeing their wheels turning as they thought about it, and it delighted me how their answers were so fitting to their interests, talents, personalities and life stories.
Our oldest is always drawn to kids and has volunteered faithfully every Sunday teaching little ones in our community.
She is pursuing a career in the medical field and said she would want to serve sick kids, and make a difference in their world by “creating fun DIY or craft projects according to their unique abilities” Her heart is to bring them joy while they heal.
Her boyfriend communicated that he is already enjoying the work he is doing in the community…he is a volunteer reading tutor and also is a mentor for a younger boy.
His tutoring takes him into schools and he expressed a heart for kids who not only have reading struggles, but also behavior issues. He started brainstorming ways to change this.
He expressed that he wishes each kid would really know the ‘why’ behind everything they do in education and believes that it would be a game changer for many students.
My middle girl has always had a heart for special needs children. Even at a young age, she was aware of the kids whose needs were different.
She expressed a desire to help students in our community who not only were special needs but also students who have been bullied.
My youngest is a soccer player and has talked of wanting to be a volunteer soccer trainer for younger kids, so that was her answer. She has been a young change-maker at our church by watching toddlers so parents can be a part of the service, and her face lights up when she talks about young kids.
Our girls wanted to know our answers, too.
My heart is being pulled more and more toward those that have had cancer and serve them in some capacity.
I am very familiar with the cancer world as I have experienced it myself, as have 3 of my closest friends and many of my acquaintances. I want to make a difference and am excited to see what more I can do locally, with some plans already on the horizon!
Todd said he is already doing his dream community work. His dream is for every young person to be a thriving reader in our city, and he runs an in-school reading program that teaches kids to read.
Tutors rotate inside of the schools, meeting one-on-one with the students, which gives the teachers much-needed support. It is a beautiful thing and I am a proud wife!
My husband loved the video and said that Allstate uses an approach called “appreciative inquiry” which he likes very much.
He said “instead of focusing on what is broken in a community and trying to fix it, they focused instead on dreaming about what it would look like to build a thriving community. They asked the kids in the video ’what does a thriving community look like‘ and then allowed them to dream up an answer.”
“Good Hearts, Good Hands℠” with Allstate
When I think of Allstate, I love what they are about, and how they believe the future is bright. I wholeheartedly agree and have such confidence in our young people.
Allstate believes youth making change builds social and emotional learning skills and life skills — like teamwork, problem-solving & empathy. These skills help ensure their future success. We as parents have seen this first hand.
Our girls have good hearts, and it is a joy to watch them follow those good hearts and work with their hands, to tangibly serve and care about those around them in our community.
Here is the beautiful thing:
The character and skills our oldest learned from serving not only helped others but came right back around to her.
She has a full ride to college due to scholarships earned by her character, as her leadership and community service was recognized and rewarded by some amazing local businesses who get what it means to invest in young people.
We are so thankful and proud that we can call all three of our girls change-makers in this world!
Not only can we say that about our own girls, but the underprivileged youth my husband serves at his workplace are some of the biggest and most amazing dreamers and change-makers we know!
Yes, the future is bright!
Tips For a Successful Family Night with Change-Maker Teens
1. Keep it simple, simple, simple. Utilize convenience items like paper plates.
2. Be purposeful. Have a time together that has meaning. The Allstate video I showed our girls did this for us in such a simple way, and can do it for you too! I want to challenge you to use it to gather your people together and show them the video. It is such a great tool to spark conversation and inspire the whole family.
3. Use food! Entice those teens, but keep that simple too. Order pizza. Throw some store-bought cookie dough into the oven. Set out some clementines and bananas so they can help themselves to fruit…gotta keep those change-makers nourished! Chips and salsa, popcorn and nuts are all easy things to grab and set out for munching.
4. Communicate. Teens want to know what to expect. I texted my girls and asked them what their schedules were, and let them know I’d like to have a family night gathered around the table with some food. I also let them know I wanted their thoughts on a 3-minute video that I would be sharing.
5. Respect what is going on in their world and keep it short if needed. Even 30 minutes of quality time as a family is better than none! Teens are so busy these days with school, jobs, sports, activities…and serving their communities! My girls have finals week this week so I reassured them our family time did not have to last all night, and that I would respect their time.
6. Create an atmosphere. I lit a candle, put snacks out on display, and made sure the area was picked up and felt comfortable. I always have blankets sitting around for added comfort. The puzzle was out to keep hands busy and bodies lingering. You could even have one of your teen’s playlists as background music. Cater to what they might like.
7. Let go of perfection. Even the most amazing change-maker teens can be moody. If there is grumbling about coming together, don’t let it throw you and don’t react to it. Keep things light and positive. If they don’t feel like sharing, then share your own heart and thoughts with them. They ingest more than you think.
8. Ask them questions. Right after I showed the video, I turned the light back on and immediately asked them some simple questions and the conversation was off and running.
9. Encourage your teens. Young people are amazing. They have good hearts and capable hands. Take a minute to tell them the good you see in them, how happy you are to spend time with them as a family. Make sure they know you see how capable they are in making a difference in their communities with their #GoodHeartsGoodHands
This post was written as part of the Allstate Influencer Program and sponsored by Allstate. All opinions are mine. As the nation’s largest publicly held personal lines insurer, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most–but to guiding people to live the Good Life, every day.
As a 2-time cancer survivor, I’ve learned (most days) to look at life with the tangible knowledge that it could end at any given moment. None of us know how long we have here on this earth.
This legacy series is written for my 3 girls, my Lovelies, as my way of attempting to leave a legacy for them. To speak of the important things, the things I most want them to know.
A Legacy For My 3 Lovelies
I called them my Lovelies much more often when they were young. Now that they are teens, I do not say it often, as it gets weird looks and an occasional eye roll. Ha! But never-the-less, they are SO lovely in my eyes, even when their eyes roll at me!
having a beautythatappeals to theheart or mind as well as to theeye;gracefullybeautiful.
Teagan, Colsie & Avery, this is how I see you. I’m overwhelmed by your beauty inside and out. I know the One who created you will continue to do a work of beauty in you. I’m so proud of the 3 of you, and I’m so honored to be your Mom.
An Excerpt From My Journal
Inspired by Psalm 91
To My 3 Lovelies,
Sit in his presence.
Do you feel it, tucked in His shadow? Fully Know. Fully loved.
Make this your go-to place, trust the safety of His complete love for you.
He will show you where to go, what to do.
He will rescue you and shield you from enemy plans of harm.
Look up. Do you see it?
His great outstretched arms protecting you.
You are enveloped.
Do you feel Him?
Even when numb, He holds you.
Do not fear, you are always held.
Not when life is dark and loud thoughts come.
Remember where you are…completely covered in His safe shadow.
Underneath His mighty arms, in His gentle hands.
All is fought for you.
Nothing will faze or graze you.
You will be removed from the path of harm, protected
You will experience hardship in this world, but stay tucked
Watch from a distance, a margin brought on by trust.
He is your safety net
A hammock for your heart.
Your very own personalized perfect home, there in His arms.
Yes, you are safe in His arms!
Evil can’t touch you.
Surrounded, sealed tight
Warrior angels watch over you.
Guarded, you are.
If you trip up they will help you step up.
It is their job to keep your head up.
You will tread through hardship–even the scariest
Hold fast. Sit tight.
When hardship comes, reach out for His hand, hold tight.
Grip & grit.
Stay with Him.
He sees you and will get you out of trouble.
You will receive His best care.
a restful knowing
a leaning in
a pursuit of the One who holds you.
Get to know Him!
The more you know Him,
the more you will choose Him,
the more you will trust Him.
Are you troubled?
Are you in trouble?
Say His name.
Call it out or maybe just whisper it?
He will always hear.
He will answer and be at your side
A neverending presence.
You are in the best of care!
I am a Mom, heart gripped with love for you
Even then, I know I can relax and release you.
You are His and I know that He:
Dances over you!
He will give you eternal life.
Just think, a neverending Presence!
Nest in, sweet Lovelies.
Settle down and settle in.
Grip firm with grit
Stay tucked and enveloped.
Yes! Experience His neverending, overwhelming love.
When I tell people what my job is, the first question they ask is “how do you make money blogging?” I thought it would be fun to write a post explaining some of the ways this blog provides income for our family, and talk about how blogging has changed over the years.
Blogging Then and Now
The world of blogging has changed so much in the past 10 years. When I first started blogging in 2009, there were very few people actually making a living by writing blogs, and many people instead used it as an online journal of sorts.
When I first started, social media was just beginning to go mainstream–now I can’t imagine NOT having social media, as it is one of the key ways to market a blog.
I started blogging as a fun, easy, creative way to share recipes with friends and family and also show the crafty things I was doing with my 3 girls. It is so funny to look back and read my writing, see my typos and dark, unedited images.
I never dreamed when I started that I would end up connecting with so many people and help support our family financially in the process!
What do I mean by “from my heart?” These are posts that go deeper than a recipe post or a DIY post.
These posts are my favorite to write, and also some of the most well received by all of you, which makes this heart of mine so touched and happy. It is clear I often write from my heart when hardship hits, as there are posts on suffering, anxiety, grief & tragedy. But, I also capture meaningful life moments in posts on amazing family memories, this wonderful life I get to live, and my Todd.
Oh my. I must write more posts like this–the ones where I just sit across from you all with a warm cuppa and just chat about life. It is therapeutic, and you are all so dear to just allow me to share. It also captures the fleeting seasons of life, as this post was written just last summer, but life rhythms have already changed so drastically. Time for another Saturday Morning Musing!
Posts like these are so fun to look back on. I’ve talked about how this blog is my recipe binder, my memory keeper, my cancer journal & a place to connect with such a great and caring community. It has certainly become something very special to me and my family over the years. It is especially comforting as a 2-time cancer survivor that my words and our memories are in a place where my 3 girls could easily access them and know the things I think about and am passionate about. This post captures the personality of my teens in this season of life. I don’t write as often about my girls now that they are teens. It is a delicate thing, letting their stories be THEIR stories & not over-sharing. But once in a while…
This is the post where I write raw all my feelings of shame and failure as a Mom and wife, and then LYSA TERKUERST, one of my all-time fav writers and amazing woman of God, comments on it. She told me that the post was powerfully and beautifully written, with a few more sentences of wisdom that made my year. Yeah, that was a pretty amazing. Take a peek at her comment in the post!
This post is about my beautiful friend and amazing artist, Alison Rush. I want you all to know her. I will be going to her home in just about an hour and wish you all could come with me to meet her. She is pure joy.
As I reread these posts on anxiety, I feel like they just might be some of the most important ones I have written. As much as I wish anxiety was not part of my story, reading comments and remembering the emails I get in response make it worth it. Sharing a bit of my very personal journal and journey has brought so many of you to share yours with me, too, and that makes it all worth it. I received an email from a teenage reader on Christmas night that shared her own anxiety story and thanked me for this post. Yes, it is worth it.
“… I also found myself in a pool of sadness, swimming in grief. Anxiety and depression can often go hand in hand. I am acquainted with anxiety, but never of that severity & had not experienced it accompanied with depression. Deep sadness was a new experience for me. Together anxiety and depression are a brutal duet that brought my life music & happiness to a halt. It was survival time. I was a survivor learning what survival really meant…”
I wrote this in response to the Orlando shooting and tell of the time my own sister was caught in a deadly mall shooting.
“I want to feel others pain. I want to have ears to hear and eyes to see and a heart that cares enough to stop for a moment and just listen and absorb, to mourn with and feel with. I want to enter into pain with others because this is what love does…Evil creates pain. Love enters into the pain. Love wins.”
I write about a hero of mine. I just saw this precious man yesterday and life has not gotten any easier for him or his family since writing this post early last year. They take it day by day not knowing what each day will bring. Yes, he is my hero, and so is his sweet family.
I started blogging back in 2009, with very little knowledge of what I would be getting myself into. My first post was titled “My Love Affair With Mason Jars” & it used a low resolution, pixelated image from my point-and-shoot camera, & was super short with no paragraphs. Let’s just say there was much room for improvement!
I was constantly sharing recipes and craft ideas with friends over email, so I decided I would just start blogging these ideas as a creative outlet and a way to easily share things with others.
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