I haven’t been writing lately and I’ve told myself it’s because I haven’t had time, which is partly true.  The bigger truth though, is that I haven’t really wanted to give voice to most of the thoughts I’ve been having.  I’ve been overwhelmed and overstressed, with negativity and exhaustion ruling my days, complaining and cursing the problems I’ve been facing.

IMG_3650As of right now, I’ve been acting as executive director of Redeemed for almost 3 months and to be honest, it’s been more difficult than I ever could have imagined.  I’m emotionally raw from the challenges that come from working with trauma survivors.  Mentally, I’m spent as my wheels continually turn over the responsibilities of leading an organization.  My physical self is so tired from days spent in meetings, in the car, constantly on call, and networking with donors and service providers.  My spirit feels empty, despite working for a faith based organization; this is probably the hardest to deal with as a missionary.

I’m praying, I’m reading the Bible, I’m going to church and participating in small groups, but it all seems hollow right now. I’m just a big fake and it sucks.

 “Even though the fig trees have no blossoms, and there are no grapes on the vines; even though the olive crop fails, and the fields lie empty and barren; even though the flocks die in the fields, and the cattle barns are empty, yet I will rejoice in the Lord! I will be joyful in the God of my salvation!” Habakkuk 3:17-18

I’m trying really hard to get to that second part, rejoicing despite the barrenness of my soul.  I want to have the strength of faith that allows me to praise him in all circumstances, to have the constitution of Paul, but I’m just not there yet.

I have too much anger, too much grief.

I’m sitting right now in our assessment center, or emergency shelter if you will, with our last client waiting for placement.  Lack of funding has forced us to close our doors and I’m pissed off about it.  Because of money, we’ve had to lay off a staff that gave their all in a place of constant crisis.  We’ve had to push out women who are still experiencing trauma, and put them into circumstances where they won’t be getting the kind of care they need.

I don’t know how to rejoice in this circumstance. As a believer I know that God has a plan and that beauty will come from these ashes, but right now I only feel the pain of the pruning that is taking place.  Even this post has been written over the course of several days, as I bounce through my emotions, and my writing reflects my disjointedness.

All of this rambling to say it’s hard right now.  Mission work is hard.  Ministry is hard.  Staying positive and being a good leader during times like this is really hard.  I’d appreciate your prayers.

I’m a Missionary. Don’t laugh.

I feel like I’ve wanted to be a missionary for ages now, but if you knew me even 10 years ago this would sound like a colossal joke.  But here I am, a domestic missionary, working in the field of anti-trafficking.

Over the last few years I’ve been on multiple foreign mission trips, I’ve started seminary (almost halfway through… YAY!!), and worked with Redeemed Ministries, all while going about my life as a wife and homeschooling mom of 2 crazy girls.  Last year I accepted the position of Houston Director of Operations with Redeemed, which was a bit daunting but has been great.IMG_7453

Well, I’m still the Director of Operations but have recently been taken on as missionary staff, which means not only am I an official missionary (!!!), I get to start raising support so that I can be funded like an official missionary!

That may not sound like a fun thing, or a perk of the job, but I’m actually pretty excited about it.  I’ve raised support for my mission trips in the past and used to dread “begging” for money and risking rejection when I asked for support.  But I realized as I’d go on these trips, people weren’t giving me money, they were offering their prayers and financial blessings for the work that God was going to be doing on these missions.

I love my job. I get to work with law enforcement, with other non-profits and agencies, meet fascinating people and be in ministry with people I love and respect.  No two days are ever the same and things can change in a moment.

I have the privilege of working with survivors of some of the most horrific traumas imaginable.  They bring me to tears, and they provide me with some of the most hysterical laughter.  I end every day knowing that I am exactly where God wants me to be.

I’m so grateful for the place I am in my life. I’m ecstatic that God has realized my dream of becoming a missionary. And I’m going to embrace every part of it, which includes raising support for the awesome work that God has called me to do with survivors of human trafficking 🙂

Spending time

Being the operations director I don’t spend as much hands-on time with the ladies in our program as I’d like.  The healing and care that goes into transforming a victim into a survivor is in the hands of our wonderful safe house and assessment center staff, our dedicated counselors and therapists, and countless others who invest in the restoration of our women.  I get to see the ladies socially, or when I have business that takes me to one of the houses, and meet individually with a few for case management.

Today I had the opportunity to spend a good part of the day at our assessment center while the staff and director were in a training.  It was amazing.

The assessment center is where the women come straight from the street; they’re fresh out of “the game” and are exhausted, hungry, raw, unstable, and totally out of their comfort zone.

The house was quiet today, with only 3 women; two who have been there about a week and one who just arrived on Friday.  Just my coming in, a new face after even a short time in the house, shook things up for them.  They kept their distance, one her in her room and the other two on the couch, starting a movie.

The employees left for their training and I sat down to watch the movie, Goosebumps, with the two ladies.  We started laughing and as we got comfortable, one of them began sharing how as a child she’d read all of R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps books and loved them. She went on to talk about more childhood favorites, many of my own, and how her parents used to buy her books all the time and make her read before she could go out to play.  As the movie went on, she fell asleep on the couch, looking very much like a child who’d been playing all day.

After the movie, all three of the ladies had on their schedule to do some independent study and while two of the ladies worked fine on their own, one of them, a very young looking, pregnant woman, asked for my help.  She was struggling to read and then to understand what she was reading, and the other ladies spoke up to say that she often did her study orally.  So the other women finished as she and I were getting started, and I read her the instructions, explaining what the words meant.  We took our time on a lesson that was all about believing positive messages about ourselves…. the one she struggled to believe was that she was smart.  We talked for quite some time about her gifts, and at the end of the lesson she hugged and thanked me, saying I was like her mom who always helped her in school.

As we prepared for dinner, we decided that with so few women there we could go out and get something to eat, which the ladies were thrilled with.  Two of them went to shower and “get ready” and the oldest of the group stayed behind and talked.  She’s in her mid-30s and done with the life, she just wants to change things.  She is full of humor and wit, wild stories and sass, sharing that she made it only through the sixth grade before dropping out and that she never got her driver’s license.  She is still struggling to get on schedule after coming off the street, and has been sleeping most of her time at the house so far, which we keep telling her is ok… but she’s ready to get regulated.  She says she feels at peace in the house and is amazed, that despite coming from hell and carrying so many demons, they didn’t follow her in.  She’s praying that she’ll be able to go to the safe house for long term help.

Spending time with these ladies today reminds me of how important this work is.  I don’t always see these things in my role, so when I do I like to make sure that I take it in and save it for all of the times when I’m at networking events or partner luncheons or coalition meetings.  These ladies are what matter.



More of Mexico City to Love

So it’s taken longer than I’d hoped but here are the rest of the pictures from my trip to Mexico City…

There are a couple from the tianguis (traveling street market), some of our team working at a drop in center for homeless youth, one more from the pyramid, and the rest are from the Basilica of the Virgin de Guadalupe.
IMG_4655 IMG_4670 IMG_4676 IMG_4687 IMG_4690 IMG_4699 IMG_4733 IMG_4743 IMG_4751 IMG_4790 IMG_4806 IMG_4808 IMG_4812 IMG_4826


You’ve Been on My Mind

Over the last couple of weeks I had a situation come up where I felt God calling me to share some things about my life that I haven’t thought about in a long time. I spent quite a bit of time thinking, remembering, and writing out what I would talk about… and it was hard.

As I was sifting through memories of bad decisions and experiences, I thought about people I spent time with and wondered how they might have turned out over the subsequent years. I considered how much my life has changed over the last 10, 15, 20 years and imagined… and hoped… that theirs had too.

Nick, at my surprise 21st birthday party

I thought mostly about my friend Nick.

I met Nick my freshman year of high school when he was dating a friend of mine. They broke up but he and I stayed friends, going out on weekends and drinking and partying with friends. He was a couple of years ahead of me but we stayed friends when he went off to college out of state, going out and partying when he’d come into town on breaks. We stayed friends through getting married, having kids, getting jobs…. growing up! He was a troublemaker who always had a smile on his face and plan for a good time.

Some of my favorite memories involve Nick and some kind of ridiculous hijinks instigated by him over the course of our 20+ year friendship. I could tell him anything and know that I’d get the truth, without judgment (but possibly some teasing).

A few years ago, Nick got divorced and his life changed quite a bit. His wife and I never got along very well I’m afraid, but the divorce cut his free spirit free of any and all tethers to a stable life and Nick lost his footing. His drinking and partying, which had abated during the family years, stepped back up and he hooked back up with some old friends from past days. I was concerned, but I didn’t push the issue… he was Nick, and he was invincible. While I had moved on from that lifestyle, I wasn’t going to judge him for it. Then he moved in with a girl and saw his sons less and less, and I grew even more worried. The time between our visits grew longer, but he was still there for me.

And then he wasn’t. Almost 2 years ago he suddenly had a massive stroke one day at work and died instantly at 39 years old.

IMG_6114 2
Nick and I, Oct. 3, 2015

Now I wonder, did he regret the choices he was making? Did his choices lead to what happened? Was he happy?

The obvious message here is to treasure the people in our lives because they can be gone at any time. And that’s true. But something we were talking about in our class at church this morning was that we could be gone at any moment and that we should live as though that were the case.

“You don’t really know about tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears only for a short while before it vanishes.” James 4:14

I miss my friend. A lot. But he reminds me that I could be gone in an instant, and that I need to take care that I live my life intentionally and leave a legacy of love.