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The Writing Challenge

Last month I made a commitment to write 500 words a day for 31 days straight. And for the most part I stuck to it. However, I stepped away from writing during a weeklong trip to Germany to see my brother. In all reality, I could have easily made my daily word count while on vacation. I had the time. I had the ability. I could have taken a lot more pictures, too.

But I didn’t.

I opted for a full vacation instead. I used my own two eyes to take in the sights. I allowed my fingers to brush against the leaves in the Botanical Gardens, my feet to feel the unevenness of the cobble stoned streets. I allowed my ears to take in a language that is made to sound harsh by Hollywood, but in actuality is actually quite soft and beautiful.

When we weren’t exploring, I allowed myself to read for enjoyment’s sake. I picked up a book I hadn’t read since my teenage years and reconnected with characters I’ve loved since early childhood.

Sibling Games

I jumped in on games with my brother’s barrack-mates and learned a new line dance.

Storming the Castle

I climbed a mountain and then explored a castle while wearing Hagrid-sized house shoes.

Lindsay Sib Vacation

I ate. I drank (responsibly). And (a few unexpected bumps aside) was merry.

Writing is an important part of my life, but I also recognized during that week that it isn’t the only important thing in my life.

I have a quote by Henry David Thoreau above my desk that says:

“How vain it is to sit down to write when you have not stood up to live.”

I don’t keep it there as an excuse to procrastinate, but as a reminder that I tend to lean more to the obsessive at times. Growing up, I would open a book and refuse to close it until it was finished…no matter how thick the book. When I first began my journey as a writer, it’s all I did. I ignored friends, I ignored family, and I ignored life.

When the rejections started coming in, I was devastated. I felt as if I’d wasted my time, my efforts, and I began to believe I would never be a real writer.

The day I discovered the quote by Thoreau it was like a locked door in my brain finally opened to reveal not a room, but a blinding summer light and the world beyond.

As writer’s we’re told to write what we know. If all I know is the rules of writing and what other writers have penned before, what good does it do me (or anyone who stumbles over my writing)?

But, if I take the time to engage in the world, to learn and experience new things, that in turn will translate into my craft.

So I didn’t make my 31-day goal. I’ve still got 31 days ahead of me to try again. I’ve also got some incredible goofy memories with three of my siblings that will somehow nurture the characters of my future work.

And look. It’s April 1st and I’ve already passed my goal for the month so far!

 

 
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Posted by on April 1, 2016 in Creativity, Life, Writing

 

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Five ways you can help end human trafficking in your community

Stop_Trafficking_Badge-Yellow-3Perhaps you’ve heard the word “trafficking” in passing but never gave it much thought. Perhaps photos of a red “X” on the back of your friends’ hands have filled your social networking feed this week and you’re wondering what it means. Perhaps a news story caused you to do a little research and now you feel overwhelmed by the ugly reality that slavery still exists in our country.

You want to do something. But perhaps you think the problem is too big. You hate knowing what’s happening in the world, but you just don’t know what sort of difference you can make. Or even where to start.

Trust me; you’re far from alone in this feeling.

Standing up against human trafficking doesn’t have to mean grand gestures. It’s in the little things we do together that add up to make the biggest difference and make the greatest change.

Mother Teresa once said, “We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.”

In other words, you don’t need a lot of money. You don’t need to dedicate all of your free time. And you don’t have to tackle the entire issue of human trafficking on your own. Instead, you can make a world of difference by doing something small in your own community.

First, learn what trafficking is and what it isn’t. Whether it’s forced manual labor or sex trafficking, there are incredible non-profits and governmental agencies around the globe that have joined forces to educate the public about human trafficking.

I have the privilege of working for one such organization. Shared Hope International exists to intervene on behalf of victims of sex trafficking. One of the ways in which we do so is through public education and policy reform. You can learn more at www.sharedhope.org

Second, become a volunteer or mentor at your local homeless shelter, soup kitchen, or pregnancy resource center. It might only be for an hour a week, but that hour could change the life of a victim of trafficking without you even knowing it. Regardless of who you meet there, you’ll likely discover that your life is one that’s changed for the better.

Third, donate to local shelters, ministries, and organizations that serve victims of human trafficking. There’s always a “big” financial need for medical care, shelter, and operational expenses, sure. But there’s also the “smaller” need of new clothing, shoes, and toiletries. Don’t underestimate what owning a warm coat or a new pair of shoes in the middle of winter can mean to someone living without them. Especially if they come with no strings attached. Reach out to groups in your hometown to find out what their most urgent needs are, then plan your giving accordingly.

Fourth, be vigilant. If you see activity that you suspect may be connected to human trafficking of any form, contact your local authorities, or an agency such as the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, or the National Human Trafficking Resource Center. You can also alert your pastor, teachers, or school administrators.

Fifth, be smart and stay safe. Unless you have been properly trained, don’t engage in any activities that may endanger you or the victim. Your good intentions could make a bad situation worse. I repeat what I said above: always report suspicious activity to the proper authorities. Let them take it from there.

When it comes to ending human trafficking, there is no such thing as “Go big or go home.”

This is a fight that can only be won one battle at a time with the help of many active hands and compassionate hearts. Armchair awareness is well and good, but it’s just the start.

What will you do now that you know?

 
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Posted by on January 12, 2016 in Community, Encouragement, Life

 

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Putting the anxious heart to rest

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Photo Credit: FreeImages.com/BillyAlexander

This is how we know we belong to the truth, and how we set our hearts at rest in His presence: If our hearts condemn us, we know that God is greater than our hearts, and he knows everything. 1 John 3:19 NIV

“The heart” is my conscience. It’s the part of me that remembers all of my shortcomings. Like Satan, it likes to accuse me of not living up to God’s standards and it can drive me deep into the pit.

But, neither my conscience nor the devil has the final say. God does. He knows all, unlike Satan. He sees all, unlike my heart. And He forgives all for those who are in Him.

I do not need to feel shame when I can’t make large monetary donations to noble causes. I do not need to feel I’m a lesser Christian if I’m not working in a foreign field.

Am I showing God’s love to the people around me? Do I consider the well being of others when I choose my words and actions? If the answer is yes, then my heart can be put to rest. If it’s no, then that’s something I can change.

The truth is, God does not expect his children to be all things to all people at all times.

God doesn’t condemn me for not being able to perfectly align myself with His holy standard. He isn’t disappointed in me when I stumble, even if the stumble is great.

God loves me. There are not strings. There are no conditions. God loves me!

My circumstances are just that. Circumstances. The heart will try to tell me unbearable hardships occur because God is angry with me. The truth is, they’re just another opportunity for Him to show His great love.

 
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Posted by on January 6, 2016 in Encouragement, Life, Spirituality

 

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Keep the innocent, innocent

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It’s the middle of the night, but I cannot sleep.

In the past two weeks God has moved me very quickly from a very long, very difficult season of waiting into a field where there is so much work to be done.

I was recently offered a position as the assistant to the President/Founder of Shared Hope International, a Christian nonprofit dedicated to ending human trafficking. My first day Monday, October 5th. Apart from learning the administrative portion of my job I’ve been given a rather long reading list that includes briefs and reports that have filled my head with dizzying numbers. Then there are the testimonies.

The stories of the girls who have been brutalized beyond anything imaginable.

The stories of the ones who’ve been rescued.

The stories of those who haven’t.

And each of them are right here in my home country. In my community.

A chief focus at Shared Hope International is the 100,000 children here in our nation who are being stolen, coerced, or forced into prostitution every year.

One Hundred Thousand American Children. Right here. In our communities.

And we barely even notice.

I sit here, safe in my own bed, but my lungs feel trapped in epoxy. My heart is weighed down by the tears that can’t seem to work their way to my eyes. A small part of me says the job is impossible. They rest of me says I can’t turn away now.

What’s been seen can never be unseen. The exploitation, the torture, and the cruelty that the commercialized sex market has foisted on the innocent cannot be allowed to continue.

This isn’t about race, color, or religion. This is about the dignity that is forcibly stripped from the children we should be going out of our way to protect.

It has to end. We have to end it.

And that’s exactly what Shared Hope International aims to do.

Through programs such as “Ambassadors of Hope” and “The Defenders,” along with additional online and on-site educational trainings, as well as sharing ways to report suspected trafficking, Shared Hope International is leading a worldwide effort to eradicate sexual slavery.

By training and empowering communities to recognize the signs of domestic sex trafficking of minors here in our own communities, Shared Hope is combating slavery head-on and helping bring the perpetrators of these crimes to justice.

Will you join the fight?

 
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Posted by on October 11, 2015 in Community, Life

 

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Who needs CGI when you have a vivid imagination?

trialrunThere have been several movies out this summer that were on my “must see” list, and I have to confess, I haven’t made it to the theater once this season. That’s quite all right because when I haven’t been working, I’ve been kayaking at a nearby lake, taking hikes, and visiting open markets. When it’s too hot for that (and it has been HOT this year), I’ve buried my nose in a pile of books.

One of the books I’ve had the pleasure of reading doesn’t actually release until next week, but if you’re a fan of Techno-Thrillers, you’ll want to take note of Trial Run by Thomas Locke.

The premise: What would you do if you could break the bonds of time and space?

In Trial Run, two rival groups working from the same notes are attempting to do just that. One group is an ultra secret team led by Reese Clawson trafficking in secrets. The other is a group of European scientists seeking to discover where perception ends and reality begins.

Both groups have the same problem: members of their teams are in jeopardy and time is about to run out for everyone involved.

Trent Major is a UCSB graduate student in theoretical physics who has spent his entire life trying to be invisible. Now a series of impossible dreams have led to revolutionary breakthroughs in quantum theories, landing him in a spotlight he is completely unprepared for. Should his work fall into the wrong hands, the cost will be catastrophic.

Trial Run is a fast-paced, mind-twisting adventure that will easily keep fans of techo-thrillers turning pages and clamoring for more. Locke masterfully weaves the complexities of human relationships with our insatiable quest for ever-expanding knowledge, while offering a solid reminder that time isn’t as simple as we’d like to believe.

The story itself is filled with a rich cast of diverse characters from nearly every walk of life and offers mind-bending concepts that had me re-reading the same page on a few occasions. That said, Trial Run is written in such a way that even the most complex elements of the story still seem feasible.

I found it easy to get lost in the pages of this novel. It took me about a 12 hours spaced out over a week to read, during which time I nearly returned late to work from lunch and stayed up long past bedtime. The most difficult part of reading Trial Run was the realization that my copy was an advanced reader, which means I have to wait that much longer for the sequel.

I believe Trial Run will appeal to fans of Asimov and Philip K. Dick, and I have already recommended it to friends who enjoy the works of both. For more information about the Fault Lines series, author Thomas Locke, and for a free digital download of Double Edge — the prequel for Trial Run, visit www.tlocke.com.

Trial Run releases August 4, 2015 in both digital and traditional print versions.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from Revell in exchange for my honest review.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on August 1, 2015 in Creativity, Recommended Reading

 

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The Impossible Sacrifice

Just yesterday a coworker and I were discussing our childhood during a brief lull at the eye clinic where we work. We both came from families with financial struggles, and yet we both have some incredible memories.

“I look back at my childhood,” my coworker said, “and I think about all the things my mom paid for me to do, and I’m amazed. I have no idea how she did it.”

I can relate. My family grew up in a worn-out mobile home and with classmates who called us the stinky Lindsays because our clothes smelled musty no matter how many times my mom cleaned them for us. To this day I am still amazed how two young people in their 20s managed to raise five children on a salary I couldn’t live off of as a single woman without a roommate.

“We just made it work,” my mom told me once when I asked her about it. “When you love your kids you’re willing to make impossible sacrifices for them.”

As we approach Passover and the end of Holy Week, I find myself reflecting on what that means for me as a Christian. I can’t help but draw parallels between my mom’s words and Christ’s passion. The Apostle Paul, in writing to the Philippians, stated that Christ:

Who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped but made himself nothing, taking on the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness, and being found in appearance as a man, humbled himself and became obedient to death — even death on a cross!

If that isn’t love making an impossible sacrifice, nothing is.

As a father, God was willing to give up everything for his children despite the fact that they cursed him, defied him, and completely rebelled against him. And we’re still doing it to this day.

But it didn’t matter to him. He came anyway. He endured the torture. He faced the grave. And he overcame. All so I wouldn’t have to.

It was the impossible sacrifice. The one I could never make. And he did it all because of love.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2015 in Life, Spirituality

 

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Spring Forward (And a Look Back)

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Enjoying an early spring day exploring my new home.

If anyone told 13-year-old Jen that she would grow up, go to college, and ten years after graduating with a BA instead of a BS she would take a job in a mall, little Jen would have punched them square in the nose. Thirteen-year-old Jen had BIG dreams. She was going to college, she was becoming a doctor, and she was going overseas to serve in African villages. She and God had it all worked out and nothing was going to change that plan.

If anyone told 23-year-old Jen that she would not be using her English and Writing degree in the publishing field ten years from graduating; but that in less than seven years she’d be careerless, virtually homeless, bouncing from one temporary position to another, but that she would get to visit Africa for a two-week mission trip as a speaker before subbing in elementary schools as an aid and finally taking a job in a medical office, she would have used her drawerful of red pens to turn the messenger into a human pin cushion.

It’s funny how life is rarely what one hopes or expects.

It’s amazing how the moments sprinkled throughout it add up to be so much more.

After three years of waiting, of wrestling with God, and crying into my teacup, this year has been one of drastic change. I’ve moved to a new city. I’ve taken a job working the front desk in an optometrist office inside of a LensCrafters. I spend practically all of the sunlit hours in a windowless world. And I’m lucky if I get a half-hour to write a couple of times a week.

Yet I am at peace and I can say, life is good.

This is not the life I planned or expected. I’m not changing lives through healing or inspiring through the written word, but somehow I know I am exactly where I am supposed to be. And that is more than enough.

(I do wonder, however, what surprises 43-year-old Jen will look back and see for 33-year-old me. Spoilers, I suppose.)

 
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Posted by on March 20, 2015 in Community, Life

 

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