Hi friends! I'm still around, it's just been a hiatus from this blog. I'll introduce my new project for real a little later, but go ahead and check it out if you'd like.
I'm blogging in another space so I can keep a deadline for a hopeful book and because it's more fun to document stories in real time, but I do miss connecting with you here. I wanted to join in on what I've been learning and what I've been thinking about this month. This can fill more than one blog post, but for now, here's a few January randoms for Emily's What We Learned.
I need music more than music needs me. Obviously, music doesn't need me at all, I just liked that. Because it's true. On the list of things I need to function, music is high.
Somehow I'm involved in about three different local human trafficking groups.
I know they are all CONNECTED and working together, it's just random. But good.
Last year, I made my friends stop at halftime of the Super Bowl and talk about Human Trafficking. I'm pretty sure they looked at me in bewilderment because the halftime show is the best part. But, human trafficking is a problem, guys. I'll just take a minute of your time now so I don't disturb the big game.
We all have hundreds of numbers in our phone, right? I found some numbers in my phone from over 10, maybe 15 years ago the other day. I might need to clean that out. In the meantime, it can't hurt to put this hotline in there, because it could save a life.
Are you a parent? Do you feel helpless when it comes to an issue like this, OR do you think it could never happen to them?
Here's an article on 6 things you can do as a parent to help prevent your child from being a victim of trafficking. I know it's not a pleasant conversation but the reality is that an estimated 300, 000 children are at risk of being trafficked in the US alone. We need to do what we can to be aware and be involved in the lives of young people for good.
Are you a teen?Join other teens who are tackling hard things and impacting the world. You guys inspire me.
Within 48 hours of running away or being on the streets, a teen has a 1/3 chance of being picked up for trafficking.
Surprisingly, it's hard for me to write about matters of trafficking. It sounds so impersonal. It's not about statistics for me though. I love young people, especially teens, and I hate that this happens. I don't want to be afraid of talking about it and I want teens to know they matter, that their bodies and their lives are valuable. If we do one thing, let's let them know that. But let's also have honest conversation with teens because we can't comprehend everything in their lives, and they need to know what to do to stay safe when life feels out of control or chaotic.
I know this is a complex problem. I've spent years working on prevention strategies for the youth I work with. I don't 'do' human trafficking for my day job but in counseling and crisis management, it gets discouraging at times. I can imagine human trafficking is that way, too. All day long, a call to change something that is so big and powerfully negative, so many forces working against them.
I have learned, or rather am still learning, that God is in big things that seem too big to change. In the world and in our lives. He's in those weighty things.
I'm encouraged that this weekend so many people are sharing about trafficking awareness. I'm thankful people came to my party last year. I'm thankful for the groups I'm involved in that keep emailing me to come and be part of local happenings. I'm beyond grateful for those who don't tire of doing good, even in the face of evil.
I'm learning to be content with the forward, backward, forward again steps that lead to change, around me and inside me.
What does that look like for you?
Happy new year! May you and I be happy with small steps that lead you to change, even if you're looking for a leap.
In January, my friend came by with a jar and an idea to store all the good things during the year. You know how it's easy to store all the bad stuff? To recall all that went wrong and brush over what went right?
Maybe there's something symbolic of the ball dropping on Near Year's to show all the ways we don't get it right year after year.
I kept a jar this year, because I had to remember graces. Maybe God knew I'd have a year where that was going to help me see truth and beauty again.
Don't worry if you didn't keep a jar.
Maybe you work differently. Maybe you want to keep a jar next year. Maybe you will laugh at the fact that I crammed tons of paper and now have to make sense of my scribbles and if anyone's good at interpreting jibberish, I have a job for you.
It's going take me awhile to figure out what all I've learned this year. This year I know I have learned a lot but I've been slow at processing that. The good news is I'm getting better at seeing His love. And I'm not always good at that.
Let's start at the beginning. The beginning is usually with the small stuff. Which in the end becomes the big stuff.
God is good and another year has gone by. I hope there has been much grace in your life, too, even through the trials. Here are 8 random findings when I grabbed at some notecards a day early (the goal of the project -- there's always a goal -- is to wait until New Year's and then read them, but if you can't wait that long you are an utter failure. Just kidding).
1. Starting back at consistent women's Bible study. Faithful friends.
new friend this year. no, we aren't having a fist fight.
2. God who heals..redeems..comforts..loves us always.
3. A lottery ticket.
I won it in a gift exchange and it landed in the jar. Good place for it. I wonder if I won. I know we're all at the edge of our seat.
Good job if you can read this description of hummingbirds below. A friend sent me a card about them, and you win (not lottery win, just win) if you agree hummingbirds are the best.
5. Dad got to come visit NC -- fun times -- basketball
6. A Group of 4 People. Neighbors / friends / nc family who adopts me in and lets me stay in their home for days on end in snow storms.
7. Cleaning my closet.
"This is a praise because I need to get it done" (literally this is what the card said...)
8. Two friends who had losses earlier in the year getting pregnant at the same time. Thanks God!
Grace helps me remember who I am. If only I could live in this mentality all the time. It's easy to forget. It's easy to feel like we're not enough. Instead of thankfulness. For things like cleaning closets (I don't even know...).
At the conference I went to this year (which all of my actual bookish learnings could come from that), Glennon Melton said that "we are like caterpillars who constantly quit right before we become butterflies."
This is probably true.
Not just when the calendar turns this year, but everyday, I want to live out of my butterfly life. The one I know I already have.
I live a caterpillar a lot of days. But I know I am a butterfly. Randomly, my fun coworker even nicknamed me Butterfly this year when I started my new job. So that's further proof.
If you need me to, I can come give you a butterfly tattoo. We may have days and weeks where we inch along back like the caterpillar, or where our butterfly lives are not all they are cracked up to be. We forget we have the potential to see the world before us and bring beauty to it. But we do! Come on, butterfly, come see the world with me and let's shed off the old skin.
I often think of families I've worked with, past and present, around the holidays, because I know as much as it's a time of joy and celebration, it's also a time of longing and struggle and heartache for many. Preparing, hoping, yearning. Sometimes I hear that and all I hear is "I'm just hanging on."
I believe this hope that we have is real. Christmas and Christ come is such good news. And yet, all that the season entails does not equal merry moments for everyone.
Which brings me to Advent.
People seem to like Advent. You know, preparation, hoping, yearning.
I'm not always so good at these things. My friend asked us at Bible Study if we were taking part in Advent this year. I told her I was 'engaging with Advent,' which kind of sounded like Advent and I were acquaintances but not really friends. I don't like the word acquaintances, so much so that I just had to look up the spelling of the word acquaintances.
I like friends. I've made friends with Christmas. My family makes me laugh and I love to see them. I remember God's goodness a little more around this time of year, even though it's evident all year round. Not because of gifts of course. I told someone today you could get me no gifts whatsoever and I'd be fine. I am the girl who wants to go ice skating or make Christmas cookies. I made the dough for buckeyes tonight with my neighbor, who is also from Ohio, so I'm a step closer to my goal of eating Christmas cookies.
And, call me Elf but I like seasons in life dedicated to merriment and celebrating because I like celebrating, celebrating's my favorite. And of course this celebration is for the birth of our Savior, so that's even better. People who aren't normally kind or generous or warm seem to break out of their shells a bit more at Christmas, which is also nice.
Except when it's hard for people at Christmas.
Which is often.
And I get that. I like Christmas. I understand Advent.
Everyday, behind the scenes of the joy which take center stage, there exists the not so popular longing, the ever unwelcome grief and the not talked about conflict. I see it everyday as a counselor.
Most of us would rather skip over this. Some of you stopped reading this already.
Good news, I'm not saying we have to choose one or the other.
I'm just guessing that if you're part of humanity, you've experienced this, even if you pretend to jingle all the way, all the way.
I can't pretend to pretend, mostly because my job isn't about that and mostly because it makes me want to be sick. There are times I am like an elf-creature and there are times I'm not. I know longing, too. I identify with both.
I've said it before on here, but every Christmas I think of a family I worked with long ago, and the fact that they had barely anything that winter. They were in between housing situations and would likely be going into a shelter soon.
It was a cold day at the park. They brought their baby.
Don't worry, that baby was loved and cared for. There was a Christmas happy you could see, but it was evident the parents were longing, with a longing that made sense and only hoped things would change.
I know grace stretches beyond things we can't see in the moment, but it feels like a lot sometimes.
Who hasn't held tight to December prayers in the dark, looking for the light?
But the magic of Christmas isn't found in the most showy moments or the lights that twinkle the most bright. Sometimes, it's found in that one candle in the window, catching you by surprise, in the midst of an otherwise dark night.
linking with five minute Friday for the prompt prepare
I apologize that I didn't interact with you very much there. It's no excuse that I spend most of my days with your age group. It's also no excuse that I got LOCKED OUT of the lock-in at one point and had to bang on every door and window until someone finally saw me and let me back in.
OH and one more thing. I'm also sorry I didn't stay to find out how it played out when you guys had breakout sessions about all things sexual health and testing for STD's. At an overnight. I try not to ask too many questions.
(Check back for more on these stories later) One thing is for sure. Where you people are is always eventful.
Dear teenager who knows more than me about social media (= all of you),
Please help --
I still (now affectionately but previously for real) call Snapchat Snapfish. I downloaded this app this week. In an effort to better understand your life, of course. I subsequently deleted it. There are a few things that are better left a mystery.
Dear teenager neighbor friend who just got your driving permit, I think you (along with every other teen) are helping me prepare for my future life as a teen mom. Correction, not a TEEN mom (thankfully, that can't happen, and let's not go there for you either..) but a mom of teens. You make me nervous that my kids are going to pop out as 15 year olds. I think that might happen.
Even though you are some of my most favorites, I still need you not to grow up too fast.
Dear teenager who has to live among drama in school and life I can't imagine, Remember number two? I wish we could get rid of social media some days. Everyone wants to know why things are so hard for you all. Lots of reasons I'm sure. But yours is the first generation where nothing is secret anymore. Everything is documented before it barely leaves your mouth. Videos. Pictures. Texting. Tweets. It all sounds fun, but I know what's said can also hurt.
I would love to be a bug on a wall and see what goes on in high schools now. To most of us adults, especially those who prefer Snapfish over Snapchat, I'm sure we wouldn't last a day.
I know it's hard. Keep going. I'm proud of you that you don't give up. linking with five minute Friday on the prompt DEAR to get me back to writing again!
I laughed until I cried tonight with my friend whose birthday is today. We laughed when we shared stories about silly things we do. Which is a lot.
I told her I'm a bit of a library delinquent at the moment and I've had some books out for far, far too long. I love to write, maybe even more than talk (and I like to talk), but stories do better in real time.
I'm not sure if it's funny to you that I lost one of my books in my car. But we laughed for five minutes about it. "Your car is smaller than your apartment!" Truth. So here's the thing. I took a stream of nonsense internet quizzes the other day and one of them was 'what is your special gift' or something and it completely proved how false those tests are (as if we didn't know) because it said I was good at retrieving lost items. It said my gift is never, ever losing anything. What?!
I told my friend that I keep going to the internet to answer questions and that is the current foolish game I am playing with myself. Foolish for all the reasons not to mention the internet is the worst. I know I'm an oxymoron because eventually this will be out there, too.
But really, I have been thinking the internet can somehow help me and if I can just find a search for that exact thing that keeps plaguing me, I can learn by reading. Because that's what I do. I read, I learn, I try not to keep making the same mistakes.
But for the love, there's nothing to find in those buzz word quizzes. I told my friend I need to just stop right there and go talk to God and ask Him the questions I keep having.
Yep. That's it. That's the one. The churchy, let's just answer Jesus for every answer but in this case it's actually true because I have searched the buzz word quizzes and the internet and there's nothing there, people. Nothing.
Because I value words and thoughts and meaning, even more so do I have to be careful about where I go for that meaning.
And when I find that I'm feeling less secure and trusting in Christ and His promises, the more I have to go back to every answer is yes in Jesus and let him fill up all my false places that I go to again and again.
Sounds easy enough...
I wander and He brings me back. I wander still and He brings me back again.
Again, sounds easy. But that process takes time. And it hurts because it's a process where I have to re-learn what I think I should know. But that's His mercy that we get to learn it again, and then my question changes because I see that and I just want to ask why are you so good to me still?
And that's how He changes me. He pours out love even when I fall, he presses in when I press out. When I hurt, He stays. I am reminded how I run and that He gently calls me back. He knows how the story goes, that all those other things won't satisfy and his love is where I want to be after all. linking with five minute friday
"Umm..but my name isn't Jacquay," I told the flight attendant when I was leaving for my trip back to Raleigh from Chicago after attending the Storyline Conference. Apparently, after a weekend of learnings I had switched personas. No more Julie, now Jacquay? That's what the ticket said. They printed the wrong one and I didn't notice it until I got inside the plane.
"You're fine," they told me. "Just use that ticket. Sit where you think you're supposed to sit."
What? Where is Jacquay then? Apparently, they're not too concerned about true identities on airplanes.
I almost wanted to keep the whole Jacquay thing going for the rest of the trip but I didn't have a talkative person next to me and she didn't seem very false-identify/true-identity interested. I haven't thought much about it until...
I reopened my Storyline material today, I know lots of people have been writing about it all for some weeks now but I am a slacker. Out falls the airplane ticket and it makes it all worth it because I had forgotten about Jacquay. I think she ought to make a comeback.
What do you think?
I know false identities might not be in right now (or are they? I'm not actually hip). But, I think generally speaking, we'd all agree, being you is typically a good choice.
Still, it's a little more fun sometimes, right?
Pardon me for getting all deep (not sure if this is Julie or Jacquay talking here), but isn't that like us, as people, to consider it more fun to be someone we're not?
I mean, it doesn't always start out that way. Overtime we bend a little bit and a little bit more and before we know it we're 60 degrees in another direction and calling ourselves by another name.
Just in the process of writing this post I looked up the origin of the name Jacquay and had to look in three different locations and have to share with you my concern.
So. It looks to be a boy's name.
Maybe you already knew that but I didn't. I once knew a girl named Raquel and that seemed close.
See what happens when we veer off in a much different direction. It gets a little strange.
There's a lesson to be learned here, friends.
It's okay if you're not like everyone else. It's okay to be just you.
You don't have to be someone you're not.
That's not just a line.
There will always be an airline who will try and tell you you're someone you're not.
Take that United Airlines. You can give me a different name but I'll turn it back around. And now I'm curious if Jacquay had the same issue and was contemplating being Julie...