Thursday, October 25, 2012

Thoughts Running Wild

There is so much going on in life. Lots of it is great. Some of it is difficult. I find that if I am not careful, my mind will become consumed with these thoughts. The "what will we do" and "how will we do it" types of questions that I honestly do not have answers for right now. So then the worrying or concern creeps in and begins to not only steal my focus on the here and now but also my joy. Today I couldn't stop mulling over this one issue that I have. Yes, it is a big one and worthy of thought, but not worthy enough to consume me. The only thing that should consume my mind is my Lord. The only thing I want as natural as breathing is spiritual things of my God. So, what to do? Today I found something that genuinely helped!! You see, I have had the first chapter of the book of James hanging on my bathroom mirror in hopes that maybe through putting on my makeup that I would have it memorized. Beth Moore put a challenge out in her book on James to memorize the whole book. I was excited about doing that because I love the scripture but I forgot that post-baby brain cells do not like to remember even the most basic things like where I put my keys or what I am making for dinner so how in the world did I think I would be able to memorize a whole book of the Bible?! Well, today in the midst of looking in the mirror and asking myself yet again what I would do about this certain issue I decided to grab the printout of James and get started. I just kept reading the first verse out loud over and over. Then I would put the paper away and say it. I moved on the the second verse and just kept going and going. I realized that in this process my mood changed. My outlook improved and it even spoke to my specific situation (the Word of God is so alive! Don't you think?!). So my encouragement to you is when you are in that place of not being able to stop thinking about something that has no right to consume you pick a favorite chapter in the Bible and start memorizing. Read it out loud. Over and over and over. Don't stop until you have become different sitting under the grace and wisdom of God. The Bible says that God will give wisdom to those that ask and that He gives it liberally and without reproach. Do you know how I know that? It is in James 1:5 and I just memorized it. What a blessing to know that God will meet us where we are and give wisdom to us if we ask in faith, believing that it will happen. I am going to go back to my memorizing now but I wanted to share this with you because it was an immediate help in my time of need. I hope you are having a lovely Thursday.

With a Thankful Heart,
Amy

Monday, October 15, 2012

Just One Person...

Since my family has moved I knew I was supposed to do something but haven't.  Don't you hate that feeling?  If you follow my blog at all you know that I am passionate about women who have been sold or abused in sex trafficking.  It is a terrible, disgusting crime that is happening constantly in the world and in our backyards in the US.  When we moved I noticed that 1 of the exits off of the freeway to get to our house has a big truck stop at it.  The kind where there are lots of trucks parked in the back where drivers can sleep and rest before starting their next long journey.  These are also the kinds of places where pimps will take young women and sell them.  They call them "lot lizards" but the more accurate name for them is SLAVES.

Did you know the average age of a girl trafficked in the US is 12.  This girl is probably someone like your sister, your daughter, your friend's daughter.  These aren't hardened criminals choosing this lifestyle.  These are young women who are attacked, taken advantage of, abused and raped up to 14 times a night.

Ever since moving to our new home my heart has gone out to that truck stop.  I wondered if girls were trafficked there at night.  I wondered if anyone has been fighting to help girls in the area stay safe.  I stopped by once and walked around.  I saw that they had a truckers lounge inside but I didn't go inside.  I didn't actually go outside to where the trucks were parked, I was too afraid.

Finally, when my heart couldn't take it anymore I decided I needed to try to do something more than just walk around helplessly.  I kept hearing the evil one say "you are only one person, what can you do?"  I felt powerless and under qualified to help these girls but I knew God wouldn't have burned this into my heart if He didn't have a plan.  Then I remembered that there is a group, Truckers Against Trafficking (TAT) that help these girls.  They have resources, they have hotline numbers, they know how to help.  I friended them on Facebook so I would get updated details (click HERE to do that too) and then went to their website (http://truckersagainsttrafficking.org/).  I found printable posters and cards you can hand out (click HERE to go there).  Then I printed out posters and cards and this morning I went back to the truck stop.  I asked to speak to the manager and talked with the lady working the front cash register while I waited.  She told me they went through training to spot prostitution there.  That's great!  In the end, the manager was in a meeting and not available.  She did go interrupt and speak to him for a moment and he said they would hand out the documentation that I had printed if I would leave it with them.  I pray that the right people will see the information and battle the trafficking that is happening throughout our land.  Who knows where the men and women truck drivers that stop at this truck stop will stop next and what they will see.

Don't feel like you are just one person and can have no impact.  It may be the move that you make towards boldness for these women, these sisters, that saves a life.  Also, while you are out and about in your own life be aware of your surroundings and report anything that looks suspicious to 1-888-3737-888.

Details about what can be suspicious from TAT website:

Asking the right question will help you determine if the person in front of you is a victim of trafficking who needs your help, such as:
  • What type of work do you do?
  • Are you being paid?
  • Can you leave your job if you want to?
  • Can you come and go as you please?
  • Have you or your family been threatened?
  • What are your working and living conditions like?
  • Where do you eat and sleep?
  • Do you have to ask permission to eat/sleep/go to the bathroom?
  • Are there locks on your doors/windows so you can’t get out?
  • Has your identification or documentation been taken from you?
Trafficking
  • Is a process (not usually an event) that evolves into slavery or debt bondage.
  • Has a strong economic motive … take away the probability and you take away the motive.
  • Sex trafficking is mostly about profit, not sex.
  • Labor bondage is completely about economics … make corporations responsible how they do business and how they police their sub-contractors, and it will help a lot.
  • Trafficking is not smuggling. Smuggling involves the element of transportation, wiliness or consent and no implied coercion.  A traffic victim may have started out being smuggled, but it turns into bondage.
  • Trafficking does not imply transportation being involved – trafficking is commercial selling or commercial profiting.
Three major contributors to making people vulnerable to being trafficked
  • Escaping from a very difficult situation (like domestic violence or poverty)
  • Seeking the Big City, bright lights, hopes and dreams for better life.
  • Migrating due to poverty or war or seeking better life.
Traffickers often “coach” victims to answer questions with a cover story. They may have a well-rehearsed story but will be unable to provide details to simple questions that are easy for free people to answer like:
  • Where do you buy food?
  • Where do you buy clothes?
  • Where do you go to school?
If you come across a situation where you believe human trafficking is taking place, do not approach the trafficker, as this can be very dangerous. Call the National Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-3737-888. Be part of ending the nightmare of human trafficking.

I have included below the documents that I remade from what TAT had online.  (I conserve ink and their posters looked great but had a lot of black background.)  Consider where you could print and distribute these items.



Thursday, October 04, 2012

Did you know I am Adopted?


I am not sure you know this about me but I am adopted.  I have thought that I should write the story from my perspective (throughout the years) before but never sat down to do it.  I know that we all struggle with something in life and maybe my story could help someone else... so here we go.  I also want to note that my story is just that, it’s mine.  There are lots of people that have been touched by adoption and have a wide range of experiences from it.  I will tell you now that my story is one of the great ones... a blessing from start to finish but also honest about the hurts and struggles I went through because of my adoption.  Oh, and this will be longggg, like 6 full printed pages long, so maybe get a cup of tea or a glass of water and settle in=).

The story starts before I was born.  It starts with a teenage girl and her boyfriend.  She got pregnant and was faced with making a decision to abort the baby that was in the way of her life.  Through counseling with a pastor at their church she made the decision to not have an abortion but instead to give the baby up for adoption.  During this time there was another couple that had tried to have a baby but they could not conceive.  Having a child was their dream so they began the long and expensive process of adoption.  Enter me.  My birthmother (we will call her Sue) gave birth to me on March 23, 1980 and named me Samantha.  I was born with pneumonia and my precious birthmother and her family did not want me to be alone in the hospital while I was recovering so they stayed with me for a week.  Could you imagine trying to hold your baby enough to make up for a lifetime in 7 days?  Once I was well enough to be released my birthmother signed the adoption papers and walked out of my life.  

What a fabulous gift she gave me and my adopted family.  She made a courageous decision and gave me life.  I will forever be grateful.  I am especially grateful that she chose my adoptive family.  My parents are amazing people.  They knew from the moment that they saw me that I was meant to be theirs.  God knit our family together supernaturally and chose them for me and me for them before the foundation of the world.  I was theirs and they loved me as wholeheartedly as if I had been born from them physically.  I couldn't imagine life without a love as strong as theirs.  I would have never made it.  They made sure I knew and understood that I was adopted but they also always always always told me that I was loved.  So, although my story is the best I have to say that I bear scars from my adoption.  Probably a lot like any other child that has been through it.  (Readers Note: I will refer to my adoptive parents as mom and dad throughout this story because that is what they are... just so you know who I am talking about=)

Growing up I always knew I was different.  I was adopted into a family with a strong Hispanic heritage.  Although my Aunts and Uncles loved me, I never felt like I fit.  I felt like I stood out in the crowd.  If you haven't been adopted then it is hard to imagine what it feels like to not look like anyone.  Even now, as I look at my beautiful Bug she has very distinct face and body characteristics that easily place her with my husband and me.  She will be able to look at me and my hubs and say "that is where I got my nose, lips, ears, etc".  Not being able to do that can make you feel lost in a sea of people at times.  It was funny because I was tall and my dad was tall.  There are times that people would make a comment about me being “tall like my dad” and sometimes I would feel pride that I was being associated with him and my family and other days it would sting and remind me that I didn't belong.  I also had some cousins that decided that because I was adopted that I wasn't truly a part of the family.  That hurt more than I can explain.  It felt like I walked around with open sores on my body and at the strangest of times and with the most innocent of comments people would walk up and rub salt in them.  I remember having a fight with a friend in the 2nd or 3rd grade.  In an effort to hurt me she wrote a note about how she could see why my birthmother gave me up and that I was thrown away and that I was ugly.  It was amazing the hurt that stuck with me even after I received her parent required apology.  I believe that the wounds of adoption are so deep it feels like you are being cut deep inside your heart with every painful situation.  

If you are wondering what adoption wounds I could be dealing with since my adopted parents weren't hurtful or abusive in any way but instead gave me more love than some natural children receive from their parents, I understand.  Somehow being adopted (in my case) gave me a foundation that said "you were not wanted and someone gave you away".  The fact that my foundation was rejection (not just of 1 part of me but of me as a whole) created a terrible place to build anything else.  Just like any house if the foundation of the house is rotten and termite infested than no matter how excellent the builder’s craftsmanship of the home, the beautiful decorations, and color choices, if there is a faulty foundation and it will fall in.  

Oh, it may be helpful to also know that during Elementary School and Middle School I had a few other issues too.  My allergies would get to be so bad in the spring that I couldn't do outdoor activities with the other kids.  So I could watch them play from the windows of the library and then I would settle in with a pile of books (ps. as terrible as it felt at the time, my insatiable love of books now is something I wouldn't trade for all of the outside play time in the world!)  Also I had teeth that had a giant gap in them and they stuck straight out.  I had 2 rounds of braces and even headgear the first time.  I had glasses and allergies/asthma.  I couldn't run a mile to save my life.  (It really is a miracle I made it through elementary and middle school with any confidence at all.)  I became really good at keeping people laughing so I didn't feel like they were laughing at me.  I tried to be a funny, over the top, person to deflect pain, and I was good at it.  I could put on a show and hide all of the hurt I felt.  In a way it felt like I became two people.  The inside me (wounded) the outside me (large and in charge).  Let me tell you, it is exhausting to constantly try to prove to everyone in your life you are worth liking/loving and then living with constant fear that they are going to leave anyway.  

So, when did my foundation start to fall in?  During the middle school to high school time period of my life.  I could go into lots of ugly details here but the point of the story is not to show you how ugly things got so I will give you the reader’s digest version.  In short, I became a cutter, I hurt and abused my body because that self inflicted pain was more bearable/controllable than pain I felt from the stranger that "gave me up".  I turned to boys and began serial dating.  Not that I dated a lot of people but I always had a boyfriend and their opinion meant the world to me.  Somehow I was trying to find my worth in it.  I even began dabbling in alcohol (side note: don't be the "cool mom" that lets kids drink at your house... it is just plain wrong).  At this point I became an expert at being two-faced.  I could smile and go to church and spout all the right words, but my heart was dying and I literally hated myself.  My precious parents did everything they could think of to help me through (at least what they knew about - sorry if you guys are reading this!)  They took me to counseling which helped some.  It gave me someone to talk to about my thoughts but I never opened up fully because I felt bad for my parents.  Then in a last ditch effort they gave me letters that my birthfamily had written me and given to me the day they signed the papers.  They were supposed to give them to me when I was 16 and 18 but they knew I was desperate for them so they gave them to me early.  It is amazing how much that meant.  Because I had NO details until that point my mind would make up all kinds of different personas for my birthmother.  One day she would be superwoman.  Her job was to save the world and regrettably having me would keep her from doing that so she gave me up but was always close by watching me.  The next day she was a crack addict and had a baby every 9-10 months that she sold for drug money.  The next day she was an exiled queen and she gave me away to keep me safe so that one day I would be brought back and  placed as princess of the kingdom (thanks a lot disney).  And lots of times she died giving birth to me, making me feel guilty all over again.  In all my imaginings I never considered that she could just be a scared, unsure teenage girl that was a baby herself.  I read letters from my birthmother saying she loved me and thought she was doing the best thing by giving me up.  I read letters from her mother saying how much she loved me.  I even read letters from her grandparents telling stories about how they would come to the hospital early and hold me and that I was their first great grandchild.  Getting these letters was like someone filling the cracks and holes in my foundation with foam.  It took up the spaces and did help secure it a little.  However the cracks and issues were too deep for this to be a permanent fix.   

Once I received the letters my curiosity about my birthmother could not be satisfied.  After gaining permission from my parents I made contact with my adoption agency and asked to find out what was in my file.  There was just 1 item in it.  A picture of my birthmother the year she gave me up for adoption.  It was crazy to look at the woman that gave birth to me and what really struck me was that she was my age.  After that I decided that I wanted to know her.  I had always told my parents that I wanted to know her one day and they always said they would help me and they stuck by their word.  I wrote a letter to her and sent it to my adoption agency.  After sending the letter I waited to hear if they received a response from the 1 contact left in my file.  All of my insecurities came FLOODING back to me.  Would she like me, would she even want to know me, will she be embarrassed of me in her current life?  Finally the day arrived, I received a letter back. She wanted to know me!  I cannot tell you how long I sat and cried just holding the response.  That began a letter writing campaign.  I learned that I had 1/2 siblings; 2 brothers and a sister.  I had ALWAYS wanted siblings and now I have them.  I was blown away.  After letters we began emailing, after emails, we talked on the phone and then just a year after I had received my first letter my parents and I flew out to Az and setup a meeting with my birthfamily.  On that day I brought a scrapbook I had made of my life and a precious moments figurine (at the time that was the most thoughtful thing I could think to do, ha!)  My birthmother and her mother and stepmother came to the meeting.  They met my parents first and hugged and spoke for a few minutes.  I was a nervous wreck sitting in a room by myself, 17 years old, second guessing what I was wearing, what I would say, etc.  Then there was a knock on the door.  I opened it and my dad (adopted) stood there and as I began to argue with him about how he was supposed to be in the room he said "Amy, I want to introduce you to your birthmother" and stepped to the side.  Here was this beautiful woman who I had wanted to know all of my life.  She stepped forward and hugged me.  I will never forget that hug because she cradled my head like a baby and it made me think that she was hugging me like she did the last time she saw me.  We talked and cried and talked and cried.  We tried to go to lunch.  I say tried because the poor waiter finally gave up trying to take our order and just waited until we called him over.  The whole lunch took about 4 hours.  Then I realized I was going to get to meet my siblings.  They didn't come to the meeting because they were very young.  In fact, only Older brother (about 6 years younger than me) knew who I was.  Younger brother and sister were 5 and 4 years old and Sue was worried that telling them about me could cause fears for them (like that she would leave them too).  I was so excited to meet them all that I didn't care that 2 of the 3 didn't know me because I would still get to know them.  In fact, it gave Older Brother and me a special bond for those first few years.  I still remember him coming around the car with his arms open and shyly giving me a hug.  It was the best feeling in the entire world.  What was even crazier is that I looked like them!  ALL OF THEM.  Then the strangest of things started to happen, I would do something that mimicked my birthmother and we would all be shocked because I didn't grow up learning from her.  I tell you that the Nature vs Nurture argument became much more interesting to me after meeting my DNA/birth family.  There is SO MUCH programmed into a person.  More than I ever thought was possible.  Yes, I have a lot of characteristics and gestures of my mom (adopted) but I also have a lot of my birthfamily.  It is remarkable.  

From that point our relationship grew.  My loving and giving parents would fly me out to see them 2 times a year.  Giving of their time and money to help me feel and grow the bond that I had with my birthfamily.  My birthfamily came to my highschool graduation and we all went on a cruise to celebrate.  It was an amazing time in my life.  

However, even though I knew I was loved and wanted and not thrown away I didn't realize how badly my foundation still needed to be addressed. 

College came and with it more difficulty.  I stuck to my serial dating and ended up in a few very serious relationships.  I also started drinking more and making bigger and bigger mistakes.  I remember when I was a junior I decided that I would just marry the guy I was dating because at that point in my life I felt so worthless and I knew no one else would want me.  I remember visiting Sue and she got into my face about it.  She told me that she didn't see God anywhere in my life and that I needed go find Him.  See, even though I grew up in church and had heard all about God and Jesus, I had decided that God wasn't doing anything for me and that since I had prayed a prayer when I was 7 asking "God into my heart" I thought I was going to heaven so what did it matter anyway.  I could not have been more wrong and if I had died at that point in my life I would have gone straight to hell.  After telling Sue that I didn't need her advice and being angry with her for the first I went to the airport to get on a plane back to GA.  I walked to my seat and sat down next to an eccentric beautiful black woman named Althea.  She looked right at me and said "before you even think about marrying that man you better get right with God".  I am not kidding.  Those. Were. Her. First. Words. To. Me.  All of a sudden it was as if all of those places deep inside, the cracks, the open wounds broke apart.  Everything that I had built myself upon was damaged and here God loved me so much that, since I wasn’t listening to a family member who was trying to reach me, He put a complete stranger in my path.  I look back now and can see little places along the way that God tried to reach out to me but I was so busy being wounded and the life of the party that I didn't listen.  I spent the rest of that flight literally praying, crying, and praising God.  On that day, when I truly found out who Jesus was and I decided with every fiber of my being that I wanted to belong to Him, did my life and my eternal destination changed. 

Then, with the quiet strength of my Lord, my painful places began to heal.  Some wounds were deeper than others and took years of God cauterizing the spot to stop the bleeding and then applying a healing salve.  It was painful.  I would love to tell you that I stepped off of that plane in 2001 and never struggled with my adoption or feelings of rejection again.  But I cannot.  It isn't true.  What I had received on that plane was the knowledge that I was loved so much that God and not only did He send His Son to die for me, but He also put people in my path to bring me to Him.  The more I learned about His love for me, that He didn't leave me but gave all for me, I began to realize my real worth in Jesus.  

I am here to tell you that without Christ I would still be living life struggling daily with feelings of hurt and rejection.   I would be viewing my whole life, things that people said and did to me, through the lens of a wounded, dying soul.  If you know or have someone in your life that is adopted or if you are adopted it is very important for them to know how much you love and value them but the most important and impactful thing you can do for them is introduce them to their Maker who loves them more than you do and who can rebuild them in a way that lasts.  

Yes, there are still days where I will start to struggle with who I am but I am quick to call those thoughts lies and instead remember what God says about me.

 I am not unwanted/unloved/deserted because "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life." John 3:16

I was not a mistake because "you formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother's womb." Psalm 139:13

I am not alone... He is with me (there are so many verses... but a favorite is) "He leads me beside still waters.    He restores my soul.  He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name's sake." Psalm 23:2-3

I am adopted into God’s family… my adoption gives me an ability to understand this that many may not have.  I am my parents’ child, period.  For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:26

If you made it to the end of this I believe that means that it connected with you somewhere deep inside.  If you need/want to know more about my Jesus and how His love is fully available to you and that He wants to heal your hurting places please message me.  You can comment and say “keep this private” at the beginning and I will not post it.  Leave me your name, number, email, anything and I will be in touch with you. 

Please know JESUS LOVES YOU.  HE DIED FOR YOU.  If He can reach someone like me, He can reach you.  HE. LOVES. YOU.

With a Thankful Heart,
Amy

Monday, October 01, 2012

The Hypocrite in the Mirror

Recently I was listening to a track by one of my favorite Christian artists. It's a song my daughter and I dance to around the kitchen on a regular basis. Then I had the great idea to see if this singer was going to be in concert anytime soon because I would love to hear him in person. Unfortunately when I googled his name instead of seeing upcoming concert venues I was accosted by link after link exposing his affair and the end of his marriage and ministry. I clicked on the first one because I refused to believe this was the same musician. The singer I knew wrote amazing ballads of his love for God and how evil is vanquished. After realizing with just a few clicks that this was definitely the same artist I kept reading to see if he was just caught in a compromising situation but not really guilty of an affair.

I wish I hadn't kept reading.

Instead of seeing that it was a misunderstanding or a one time thing I saw that this was an affair that involved a band members spouse AND it had lasted for 4 years. That means that he was deep in it during the time he wrote and performed the very song I love. Do you know what my first response was? I'm embarrassed to say I was angry. How could he?! He is standing up before hundreds of people proclaiming God and yet he was living a lie! How dare he?! I felt betrayed and like something I believed in was stolen from me.

I am such a hypocrite.

As always, right on the heels of me pointing out a sin in someone else's life God quickly turns the question around onto me.  The scripture about a speck and a log comes to mind (Matt 7:5).  Do I ever lead a double life? How many different ways do I deceive or put on a front that isn't true? I proclaim that Jesus is my Savior, my Redeemer, but do I live in a way that shows that?  Do my thoughts reflect Godly things?  Jesus talks in Matthew 5 about anger having the same judgement as murder and lusting after someone being the same as an affair.  God challenged me to look deep within and ask myself, just like this artist, do my actions really back up the words of my mouth?

I had to spend time talking to God about my own failures to live according to the life He has called me to live.

Then God confronted me on the feelings of having something I believed in stolen away.  What was I believing in anyway?  Was I putting more stock in the writer of a song than the God that he was singing about?  All of the things that the song says are true.  Truth is Truth and all truth belongs to God.  It doesn't matter who said it.  Even the devil quoted scripture to Jesus and what he said was true.  The person saying it doesn't matter because Truth is God's alone.

I believe that God began to give me compassion for this person.  Think about the level of attack that must have been waged against him.  He was at the front of the battle lines leading the charge against the enemy and was wounded greatly.  Nothing excuses his giving into the temptation but I am sure that if he wasn't looking to God for refuge from every single temptation that was thrown in front of him he would be exhausted just from the volume of attacks he received.  How easy it is for us to try to deal with attacks on our own strength and deceive ourselves into believing we can handle it.  Then we are taken by surprise when we fall flat on our face into the trap laid out for us.  I think about Billy Graham and how diligently he would work to make sure that he never stepped into a situation that would be a stumbling block for his ministry.  What Godly wisdom and foresight.  I have read stories about how he would have someone from his ministry team enter his hotel room before him so that if a woman or tabloid bait was there waiting for him he wouldn't step into the trap.  He vowed to Ruth, his wife, that he would never be alone with another woman or ride in the car with one.  Some people may think that is overkill but I respect and appreciate it.

In the end, I will keep listening and dancing to this song that I have come to love so much.  However, instead of the carefree feeling I felt before when listening, now this song will serve to continually remind me that the devil is like a roaring lion seeking whom he can devour (1 Peter 5:8) and that I am called to live a life that matches the words that I speak.  It is just like God to take the knowledge of the scandal that surrounds this song now and use it to create a deeper meaning and value in my life.  I must always remember that if I talk about loving the Lord but I do not act with love, patience, gentleness, kindness, and self control when dealing with my daughter or husband than I am just as guilty of living a lie as anyone else.

Oh Lord, please give me such a love for You that it overflows into every single area of my life and invades every word I speak and every relationship and interaction I have.  I want the words of my mouth and the meditations of my heart to be pleasing to You.    

With a Thankful Heart,

Amy