Resume

Taking a break; a leave of absence. On sabbatical, hiatus.

No matter how it’s worded, the concept of stepping away for a time speaks universally.  We all require respite, rehabilitation from the day-to-day events.  And when the big, life-changing stuff happens?  There’s rarely a better reason to step back for a time, perhaps an entire season, to reevaluate, recharge, reconsider.  And that’s just what I did.

Late last year (the day after Christmas, to be exact), I discovered that I was with child: for the third time in not even as many years.  My husband & I were joyously and surprisingly, though intentionally, expecting another baby!  Without consciously choosing to pause from writing for a time, that’s precisely what happened.  Life got busy—even busier than it typically does—and the priorities and needs of my family shifted dynamically.  As my belly grew, so did my responsibilities; as my mental acuity decreased, so did my free time.  And then, just over a month ago, my third pregnancy ended: with a precious, lovely little lady, my second daughter.  Things as we knew them were about to, once more, change dramatically.  But, as much as things have transitioned these past eight months, plenty has stayed the same.

Carrying your own child in your own body is a blessing with which literally nothing else compares.  It is truly an honor and a privilege: perhaps the greatest a woman can experience.  But the time to be pregnant is terminal, and each of us birth mamas gets to a point after the delivery of her baby when she is no longer the same as she was a few months earlier.  There are physical changes, no doubt, and plenty, plenty of emotional ones, too.  The moment to which I’m referring, however, is when you are finally ready for the union of “who you were” and “who you’ve become”.  You get to that point where you welcome that which once was all of you and that which now is all of you to fuse. Naturally, this looks a bit different for everyone.  For me, this time around, I was overcome with a rapidly growing desire to kick-start my body after 38-weeks of pregnancy and hours of labor & delivery and also with a deepening need to challenge my mind after the sleepless nights of caring for a newborn plus the monotony of diaper changes (x3 people), loads of laundry (x5 people), daily meal preparation & clean-up, etc., etc.

Enter two of my greatest passions: running and writing.  Running and I have come a looooong way in our short relationship.  We’ve had a fiery & passionate affair (see that blog here) that has only been kindled more ferociously as I’ve been unable to pursue it in recent weeks.  And writing: an old standard of mine… it’s quite remarkable that I ever took to it in the first place (thank you Leslie Ringen), but this pastime has impacted my life greatly more than has any other hobby.  So, why am I detailing any of this in the first place, you might ask?  Well, it’s because I have some thrilling news that links both of these fronts.

After taking off several medically mandated weeks from exercise following the birth of my child and even more months to maintain and nourish my family, I am officially getting back to what I love: writing and running.  How better to jumpstart my resumption than to announce that, through an otherwise happenstance incident, I have committed to run a MARATHON next year.  The writing aspect of this is that, as part of my marathon training, I will be completing a series of endurance events which I will be chronicling here.  Moreover—and this is the exciting part!—I’m going to be running for a cause, a purpose greater than myself and my paltry running goals.  As someone whose life is not my own, someone who identifies that I have been bought with the highest price anyone’s ever paid for anything – Jesus’ life, death & resurrection, I am compelled to advocate for those who cannot speak for themselves (again, see my prior posts).  And now, in addition to raising awareness, I will begin raising funds, too!  With the gun shot that starts each race I will participate in over these next fifteen months, I plan to run for a charity that seeks to eliminate human trafficking.  The exact details of this part are still in the works, but as I toil and work my body in preparation for physical struggles like it’s never known, I will be challenging our Western-world notions in ways that will hopefully make us uncomfortable enough to evoke real & lasting change like we’ve never known.  So, once more, I ask the question: will you join me?  Will you commit to entertain my ramblings as I aim to promote human rights?  I hope that you will, and I hope that you will be changed in the process, too.

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Just Small Change

Mahatma Gandhi is generally recognized as the author of the statement, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  Whether or not he actually coined the phrase is apparently disputed, but for the purposes of this post I’m going to go ahead and give him credit.  Though Gandhi and I don’t exactly see eye to eye on many matters, he had an undeniable way of influencing people while alive: and even now, more than half a century after his death, his words and actions continue to persuade.  Whatever your feelings on this man, I find it inspiring that he used the power of his influence to correct injustice as he saw it.  In an obviously very different way, here I find myself striving to do the same….

I’m no expert on running (heck, I’m no expert on anything), but in my limited experience in the sport I have learned that it’s the smallest of changes that can make the largest of differences.  If you want to increase your distance from one to ten-miles, you don’t just get up one day and run nine miles more than you did the day before.  If you try to do too much too fast, you will end up burnt-out, overwhelmed, disenchanted, and/or injured nearly every time.  So when—in running and in other aspects of life—you come up with a grandiose dream or a seems-impossible goal, what should you do?  I submit that most of the time you should start with nothing more than a small change.

Somewhere in a relatively inaccessed portion of my psyche I used to imagine what it would be like to run a half-marathon.  I have some friends who have run such distances (and even a few who routinely do so for the fun of it), but until lately the idea of attempting to run 13.1 miles [no less all at one time] sounded more to me like misery than amusement.  But, as I’ve chronicled in previous posts, my heart, my mind, and my body have each been revised in recent months: and it’s all because of an admittedly strange association between running and human trafficking.  It was largely a result of these changes that I decided to do something rather outlandish.  A few months back I challenged myself once again to do what I had neither done before nor even had proof that I could, and I signed up for a half-marathon: the world-renowned Disneyworld Princess half-marathon, in fact.  Not only did I want to run this race for personal fulfillment, but more importantly I wanted to do so for a much bigger objective than the super cool, glitter-laden medal I would receive when I crossed the finish line.  I wanted to run this unimaginably far distance to raise awareness and funds to put an end to human trafficking.

My primary aim up until this point has been to promote and draw attention to the fact that human trafficking is a grave, despicable concern and that it is as much your & my problem as it is anyone else’s.  But as for the latter part—the whole raising money goal—I was at a pretty debilitating stand-still until a few weeks ago. After all, what good is a mommy running with a stroller in Cumberland County, North Carolina against a multi-billion dollar, global enterprise that kidnaps & smuggles human beings?  Who am I to openly oppose a criminal monster defined as much by its violence & corruption as its pervasiveness & villainy?  Well, if you ask God, apparently I’m worth a lot in this fight.  No, I cannot resign my day-to-day activities and take flight to the front lines where the trained and informed are fighting first-hand against those doing the abducting and coercing.  But I can financially support them.  No, I am not able to guide the recently recovered victim to her new home and aid her in reestablishing her personhood & rehabilitating her life.  But I can give to the organization that provides for such rescue.  Instead of jumping in the deep when I cannot swim or biting off more than I can chew (to borrow a few clichés), I can make simple, practically unnoticed resignations of my own comfort and abundance in the name of, for the sake of those enslaved.  I can make just small changes in my own habits that will amount to revolutionary profit for those who will feel & experience them in positively life-altering ways for years to come.  And I am asking for you, as well, to rise to the occasion and join me in this pursuit.

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I Couldn’t Have Cared Less

Something pretty monumental in my life began in the summer of last year.  On the 29th day of July, 2013 (the day on which my firstborn turned seven months old, by the way), I began a couch to 5K running program.  Even then I recognized that running three-point-one-miles was nothing hugely accomplished; but to me, it was one of the grandest feats I could attempt.  You see, prior to that time, not only did I have next to no running ability whatsoever (I could then jog for maybe five minutes straight… on a good day… in the right shoes… if someone worth “impressing” was watching).  But, much more significantly, I had zero interest in ever—I mean ever—running any distance for any reason at any time.  Sincerely, before my self-provoked couch to 5K challenge, I couldn’t have cared less about running.

And that’s where part one of this pretty monumental, authentically life-changing thing herein referenced commenced: I started running.  And it was slow, and physically- but even more mentally- painful; and I was as novice as novice could be.  But the further I got into this endeavor, the more compelling and worthwhile I found it: the more I was willing not only to work for it but to change for it—to literally become a different person for the sake and through the process of running.  But this is in no way the more remarkable development I have experienced as a result of setting a goal to run five kilometers.  In fact, part two is vastly more spectacular….

So for anyone who hasn’t experienced it, running without some sort of soundtrack can be rather boring and, at times, downright draining.  Thus, in a concerted effort to distract my attention from burning lungs and aching joints, a few weeks into my training I began listening to sermons from Manna Church (www.mannachurch.org or check out the fancy new Manna Church app) during my tri-weekly interval sessions.  I won’t go on and on and on about how wonderful and intensely convicting those messages are (though I gladly could), but to say the least as I was running and listening to these messages, my heart was changing even more quickly than my body was.  One sermons series in particular literally stopped me in my tracks.  As in, I had to cease movement mid-stride and catch my breath: not because I was running too quickly, but because the facts I’d just heard were to me so perverse and unthinkable that I could not move my body forward without first stopping to recover.  These evident obscenities, irrefutable truths therein brought to light were not about US foreign policy, the ‘liberal media’, or any other issue that I frequently witness gaining attention in my own channels of influence.  Rather, what made me physically ill and emotionally overcome was the truth about human trafficking.

Human trafficking was a subject which, prior to listening to that audio file, I couldn’t have cared less about.  I mark this admission with great shame because, like many of you, I had previously heard of modern day slavery—of people, namely women and children, being bought & sold, raped & defiled, coerced & exploited.  I knew that it was an issue: it’s just that I was, happily enough, ignorant of the facts.  Please don’t misunderstand me here: I don’t mean to wag a finger at anyone.  I didn’t previously know better, and perhaps none of you do either.  After all, you don’t know anything until you’re told, right?  But I had been so inconsiderately caught up in my own “happy little world” and its problems—some of which were very real and big deal, mind you—that I hadn’t bothered to be educated about the second leading criminal enterprise on the planet.  I didn’t know that globally the modern-day slave trade is estimated to gross $32-billion (that’s twelve zeros, folks) this year alone1; I didn’t care that there are more slaves in the world today than ever in human history 2 or that the average age of a person being trafficked in America is eleven years old3.  Until I was confronted with the reality of what human trafficking really is (and, boy: am I just getting started on the staggering, pervasive statistics) and who is affected by it, I simply didn’t care enough to know more.  But then God grabbed hold of my head & my heart simultaneously, and He gave me an ardent passion, a seething drive to do what I can to be part of the solution.

Today I stand a different person than I did last summer.  I possess notably more muscle mass & strength in my lower body; my time is devoted much more extensively to fitness; I care significantly for an activity that I once openly ridiculed… I am different because I am a runner.  But so much deeper, so much more passionately, I am different because I am a no longer ignorant about human trafficking.  Slavery is very real and it is everywhere: not just in Southeast Asia but literally in the city where I live.  It affects hundreds of millions of people first-hand, generates billions of dollars in revenue annually, and destroys more lives than can be counted.  Armed with this knowledge, I have been begging God, pleading with Him for a chance to do whatever I can, little as it may be, to end human trafficking.  And He has been speaking.  I hope that you will continue to follow my journey as I stand to rescue the oppressed: to be a voice for those who have been silenced as I raise awareness & means to put an end to these deplorable crimes.

 

 

 

1It’s the Second Largest Criminal Enterprise in the World. Do You Know How to Identify Potential Human Trafficking Victims?” In Public Safety presented by American Military University. April 12, 2012.  Accessed: November 25, 2014.
2Skinner, E. Benjamin. 2008. A Crime So Monstrous: Face-to-Face with Modern-Day Slavery. New York, NY: Free Press.
3Teen Girls Stories of Sex Trafficking in the U.S.” ABC News/Primetime. February 9, 2006. Accessed: November 25, 2014.

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I’m no Donald Miller

I’m no author.  Well, I guess technically I am (I wrote an essay in college that was published).  But what I mean is that I am no great author.  I’m no Dickens, no Twain: I’m not even a J.K. Rowlings.  And I am certainly no Donald Miller.

Wait—“Who is Donald Miller?” you might ask?  In fact, he is my own favorite author.  He writes books: meaningful, poignant, important, and severely—sometimes painfully, sometimes humorously—honest books.  His are the kind of literature that you should commit yourself to read and reread at least annually—the kind that stir your soul.  When reading Donald Miller’s books you feel provoked to consider yourself, your life, and then to do, to be, something bigger and better than you are.

The other day I nearly literally stumbled upon his most recent best seller, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years, and in spite of feeling oppressively behind in my day’s wife & mommy duties, I felt downright compelled to actually open said volume and take my own advice to read the book (which I had been meaning to do since I received it as a Christmas gift in 2012).  As it were, I only got as far as the Author’s Note on page xiii before I again put the book down.  It reads:

 If you watched a movie about a guy who wanted a Volvo and worked for years to get it, you wouldn’t cry at the end when he drove off the lot, testing the windshield wipers.  You wouldn’t tell your friends you saw a beautiful movie or go home and put a record on to think about the story you’d seen.  The truth is, you wouldn’t remember that movie a week later, except you’d feel robbed and want your money back.  Nobody cries at the end of a movie about a guy who wants a Volvo.

But we spend years actually living those stories, and expect our lives to feel meaningful.  The truth is, if what we choose to do with our lives won’t make a story meaningful, it won’t make a life meaningful either….

Its little wonder why I didn’t make it beyond the unnumbered pages.  It is strikingly powerful to be confronted by a book before even beginning its content.  In viewing what Miller said in these all too short paragraphs, I was struck, challenged to consider that I—like everyone else—have a lot riding on my story.  In a very physical way, I am responsible for the content of my life’s book.  I certainly do not deny or suggest that the Lord’s Will isn’t always superior to my own, because that simply is not true.  Rather, I here propose that my life has as much opportunity, as much responsibility, to impact and change the world at home and at large as anyone’s does.  I, too, have a story to tell; I, too, have contributions worth contributing and ideas & passions worth imparting: perhaps not to everyone on planet Earth, but surely enough to intrigue or inspire someone.

So I am going to pursue doing just that.  Through running my mouth [electronically] and my body [literally], I intend to make a meaningful difference: not primarily in my own life—though that is certainly bound to occur as a result—but more so in the lives of people I will almost surely never meet.  My story is henceforth going to be about speaking up for those who can’t and empowering those of us who can do something to do something.  Here begins my climb atop that proverbial soapbox as I share what I have learned, what I am learning, with anyone willing to listen; here begins my dare to you, my audience, to do the same.  Won’t you follow me as I run to the Rescue?

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