Eight Ways To Share With Others

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My sisters and I love to share when we are together! Here is a Kentucky hanky that Mary Ann gave to Laura (’cause Laura Lea is the only sis born in KY!) and a picture of Kathy’s newest granddaughter, Noelle Victoria Findlan, born in September 2014.

In the sweetness of friendship let there be laughter, and sharing of pleasures. For in the dew of little things the heart finds its morning and is refreshed.”
Khalil Gibran

Sharing just makes a person feel good. Robert Fulghum even included SHARE EVERYTHING as his number one thing to learn in life in his famous writing: All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten.

My Mama taught me early, as the fifth child of a total of six, that sharing was a way to practice unselfishness. Mama showed us that when we share, we in turn, get an extra bonus and blessing in our days. I have found this to be so true as I have journeyed through my life.

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Mary Ann and Laura Lea decide on some items that are ready to pass on.
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Kathy and Mary Ann share some things they no longer wear.

(1) This past week, my three sisters and I met at our usual place, Cracker Barrel for our Sister Session. We try to make this happen every 2-3 months. When I am with my sisters, more than any other time, I feel like Mama is right beside us. It’s an opportunity to remember, to share our hearts and photos, update our family calendars, and laugh ’til we cry. We always share things with each other that we can no longer use…shoes, jewelry, clothing items, books and more. It is such a nice way to pass on things we love that we have no need for anymore, knowing that one of our sisters is going to get some use out of them. What’s in your closet that you still love, but just don’t use or wear anymore? Share them with a sister, daughter, niece, or a friend.

(2) Keep a “GIVE AWAY” box in your garage or basement and fill it throughout the week.

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Once it is full, deliver it to Must Ministries, Goodwill, or some other charitable organization and then start filling it again.

(3) Be on the lookout for ways to give back. Currently a lot of my girlfriends are joining me in the battle against human sex trafficking by preparing Freedom Bags for girls who will be rescued in 2015 in the Atlanta area.

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A Freedom Bag pulled together by our life-long friend, Karen.

To learn more, go to my earlier post entitled “What Is A Freedom Bag?”. Our friends, The Arntzens were recently touched by orphans in Cambodia and founded a ministry to aid them. Go to Saving Susan to learn more. There are so many needs in our world today. What mission is your heart being called to share a part of yourself with?

(4) Use your creativity to share with others. Our gifted sister-in-law, Jeanie, does this very well and this picture demonstrates just one example of how she shares in this way. IMG_1908 IMG_1911Before our Sister Session, Jeanie mailed a homemade bag for each one of us, complete with the African continent sewn on. Since our parents were missionaries in Belgian Congo in the 1950’s , this gift was extra special.

(5) Recently, we had a party and we asked our friends to bring non-perishable foods for our local homeless shelter’s pantry. Here is how much we were able to gather in just one night!

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(6) Share your story with trustworthy friends and family. This past weekend, we were with our two children and their new spouses. My husband and I took some time to share life experiences from our young adult years, our early days of marriage, and our parenting season, including mistakes that we had made along the way. Our Pastor Ike calls this a ‘courageous conversation’. Transparency and authenticity allows individuals in any relationship the chance to be true to themselves without the fear of judgment or criticism.

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Owning our story and loving ourselves through that process is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” 

Brene Brown, Author/Founder of The Daring Way

(7) Share Birthdays! They are Parties in our Souls! A birthday is a perfect chance to honor a person in our lives, not for what they do, but for who they are and for what they mean to us. An opportunity to say to them:

“Thank you for being born and being among us!”

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Rita presents our dear friend, Jack with a cake for his special day.
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Our son, Walker blows out his candles and makes a wish on his day!

(8) With each new day, share a smile with at least one fellow human you meet who shows up in your path. Sure, you may not receive a smile in return, but you will know you have made your attempt to bring joy to someone else’s day.

In what ways will you and I

share in the days ahead?

What Is A Freedom Bag?

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Let us not be satisfied with just giving money. Money is not enough, money can be got, but they need your hearts to love them. So, spread your love everywhere you go.

Mother Teresa

As a mother, I cannot quit thinking about the issue of human sex trafficking and I know, I just know, that there is something we can do to have a direct impact on this horrific issue. That is just how I roll these days. Each one, reach one, one day at a time. Learn, then listen for ways one can make a difference.Tea by the lake

After attending the Justice Conference in Atlanta on January 31, 2015, I decided one way we could positively encourage and help some victims of this crime is to put together Freedom Bags that are being collected by Operation Liberate. This is a huge undertaking, but my Mama taught me to dream big, so I am asking for as many of you as possible to come on board to join me in this huge project. more about Operation Liberate: “Doing What Is Required”, click here.

Since it may cost an estimated $150.00 to buy the bag and all O.L. is expecting to have included in each bag, this could be a great joint project between 2-4 girlfriends, mothers & daughters, a small group Bible Study, a Book Club, a Tennis Team, the ideas of ways to achieve this goal are limitless!!!!

Operation Liberate helps rescue women and girls with nothing but the clothes on their backs. They want to be able to bless each of these precious ones with a unique bag created with love and prayers to encourage these victims on their first step to recovery. Because of an upcoming large-scale rescue, Operation Liberate is trying to collect as many Freedom Bags as possible by March 15th.

If you are “IN,” please let me know, so that I can count you as a “YES.” Do not hesitate to contact me with your questions.

We are on a tight schedule as these bags need to be pulled together between now and my goal date of Thursday, March 5th.

The deadline for Operation Liberate is March 15th.

PLEASE SEE BELOW THE INFORMATION THAT WAS SENT OUT BY OPERATION LIBERATE:

“Thank you for your interest in helping Operation Liberate serve the many women and girls that the Lord is going to free in 2015!”  To give each girl a special, one-of-a-kind Freedom Bag, please only fill your bag with NEW, unused items. If you are unable to pack an entire back yourself, consider partnering with your small group or church.

As you assemble your bag, please pray over the girl who will receive it – she’ll be so encouraged to know that she was prayed for. If you have questions or would like to get others involved, email Rachel at operationliberate7@gmail.com. Thank you for sharing Jesus’ love with these precious ones!

Instructions for Packing a Freedom Bag – PLEASE READ CAREFULLY

Please select a NEW feminine tote, duffel bag, or backpack that is sturdy and roomy enough to serve as an overnight/weekend bag. Heavier items should go in the bottom. Clothing and blankets should be neatly folded. For smaller bags, clothing and blankets may fit better rolled. Toiletries that might leak should be packed in Ziploc bags. Utilize any pockets for smaller items, like lip balm or travel-size deodorant. Pack anything breakable, like sunglasses, last.

Print the following information on an index card and pin to the outside of the bag:

Woman (17+), teen (13-17), or child (under 13) & clothing size (XS, S, M, L, not numeric sizes)

If you’d like, sign the card “Hand-packed with love by [your first name]” or “With love from [church or ministry]”

Once your bag is assembled, please contact Rachel at operationliberate7@gmail.com to arrange a time for it to be dropped at Midtown Church BY MARCH 15th.

Fill your bag with the following NEW items

Toiletries:

Remember this is a gift intended to show the love of Christ, so treat it like you would a care package for your own child or best friend in their first semester away at college. PLEASE ONLY PACK FULL-SIZE TOILETRIES to guarantee that each survivor receives similar items.

  • Toothbrush, toothpaste, & floss
  • Shampoo & conditioner
  • Gentle face wash
  • Body wash
  • Deodorant
  • Chapstick
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Hair brush or comb
  • Feminine pads & tampons
  • Travel pack of Kleenex
  • Hard candy or gum

Clothing:

Please ensure that all items in your bag are the same size (small, size 2/4, etc. While we need mostly xs, s and medium, there is also a need for Large.)

  • Sweatpants
  • Sweatshirt or thermal tee
  • 1-2 pairs of socks
  • 1 pack of panties

Special touches:

PLEASE PLACE YOUR NOTE IN AN OUTSIDE POCKET OF THE BAG, as each note must be reviewed before being given to a survivor.

Every bag will include the Life Recovery Bible, which we believe is the most important element of the Freedom Bag. If you would like to cover the cost of the Bible for your bag, PLEASE INCLUDE A CHECK FOR $10 MADE OUT TO MIDTOWN CHURCH. YOUR CHECK SHOULD BE PLACED IN THE SAME POCKET AS YOUR NOTE.

  • Handwritten letter or prayer
  • Journal
  • Pens

Fun items:

Please include three or more of the following so each girl feels special and loved:

  • Nail polish
  • Lip gloss
  • Cross necklace
  • Small stuffed animal
  • Lightweight scarf
  • Sunglasses
  • Hair ties, clips, etc.
  • Colored pencils & sketchbook
  • Coloring book & crayons (can be great therapy even for adult women)
  • Slippers
  • Small, soft blanket or throw
  • Travel-size pillow
Click this link for a printable list for Freedom Bag Instructions.
If you have made it to the end of this long list of needs, I hope that means you have decided to make a difference in just one young hurting woman’s life.
Contact me today, and remember, this can be accomplished with a group if just one person will step up agreeing to be in charge of each bag, delegating needs to the rest of the group.
I can meet you anywhere in Metro Atlanta to pick up your Freedom Bag.

 Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.

Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”Starfish on the beach

The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said,

“It made a difference to that one!”

adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

What Can One Do? Start By Learning More

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END IT is a coalition of the leading organizations in the world in the fight for FREEDOM. END IT with a symbol of a red X, is shining a light on human sex trafficking. When people see this red X on my hand and ask me about it, I can tell them what I have learned about this issue, building awareness, one beating heart at a time.

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What does love look like? It has the hands to help others. It has the feet to hasten to the poor and needy. It has eyes to see misery and want. It has the ears to hear the sighs and sorrows of men. That is what love looks like.”
Saint Augustine

Just one month ago, as we started this new year, I put up a post entitled From Broken to Beautiful, about a very tough subject: Human Sex Trafficking. You can read my post by clicking here.

Since attending the 2015 Atlanta Justice Conference this past Saturday at Perimeter Church, in Johns Creek, with my friend, Debby, I feel compelled to write a follow-up post about this horrific subject. Let me start out by saying there is hope in ending this violent crime towards minor women and men because I believe that awareness is a great first step to solving the problems in our world. Awareness and then asking ourselves: “What can I do?” As you become more aware of this issue, I trust you and I will take a step of action towards changing this.

Mr. Vernon Keenan, Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation shared a few facts with us :

  • In the past year, 200 officers were added and trained to make up a Task Force that deals specifically with this issue in Georgia.
  • In 2013, human sex trafficking was found to profit more than $290 million, 3 times more than the 2013 Atlanta Falcons budget.
  • The GBI’s experience is that these cases involve GA kids, not out-of-state kids, and not international kids.
  • 1/3 of those involved were first homeless because of abuse in the home, and within 2-3 days of being homeless, the child was approached by someone who would then pull them into human sex trafficking.
  • The average age for children who are led into this is 11-14, middle school age.
  • 70-90% of domestic minor sex trafficking (DMST) victims report theywere abused at home (or near their home) where they should feel safe and protected.
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    Current GBI Director, Mr. Keenan enlightens the audience about the crime of human sex trafficking in our communities.

In a recent study specifically in Atlanta, Georgia, 42% of the cases were found in North Atlanta, north of The Perimeter, and a high correlation was found between young girls being sexually exploited by those with a disposable income.

What can one do?

First and foremost, we can pray for the victims of human sex trafficking and learn more about this issue. This costs us nothing and can have an enormous impact on the despair in the hearts of these young women. Second, get involved either financially, by volunteering, or simply sharing what you learn and starting a dialogue in our communities. There are many organizations we can connect with that are standing firm against this crime, such as Wellspring Living, Operation Liberate, End It Now, Street Grace, City of Refuge, Out of Darkness,  and Haven ATL. Third, you can go to the Georgia State Capitol on Thursday, February 12, 2015 and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with others who want to take a positive stand against this crime. For more information about the DMST Lobby Day 2015, go to Street Grace.

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Operation Liberate rescues minor girls and then needs supplies to help take care of the girls. Thus, they came up with the idea of Packing a Freedom Bag. In the near future, I plan to have a party and pull together a bunch of Freedom Bags. If you live near me and want to be a part of this project, let me know.
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Donny and I used this series to teach our two children about sex before (hopefully, before!) they learned about it from sources outside our homes. We must “immunize” our kids about sex before they see it online or hear about it from their peers. (another one of those challenging parts of parenting!)

Many of you, like me, may be wondering how we can protect our future generations, our children, our grandchildren? Sadly, we know that along with many positive benefits, the cyber world has also brought some hazards into our homes. For example, if someone in a home has been looking at something pornographic privately in their own homes, and then a child in that same home goes to the p.c. to work on homework, that child is one click away from being exposed to graphic porn at a young age.

The answer is to “immunize” our kids about sex through teaching and conversation BEFORE they ever have the chance to see it or be exposed to it on the web.

IMG_1734I will close with something for the precious men in our lives. I am learning that the availability of internet pornography is the starting point for many men who then find their way into the evils of human sex trafficking. We cannot stop that availability of internet porn, but men can make the choice to stop looking at it and participating in it. This is a supply and demand issue. Street Grace has begun a digital campaign to aid men in making this intentional choice. It is called F.A.C.E. and stands for Fathers Against Child Exploitation.  By simply going to Street Grace men are asked to consider coming on board and making a difference in their sphere of influence by agreeing to 3 statements in a pledge:

  • WALK IN INTEGRITY by not purchasing sex.
  • EXHIBIT COURAGE by raising awareness, speaking out against DMST and reversing today’s distorted perception of sex.
  • LEAVE A LEGACY by mentoring the next generation to walk in integrity and exhibit the courage to eradicate DMST entirely.

What will we do now that we know?

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From Broken To Beautiful

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Directives for 2015 and beyond…shared on “Uncommon: Media/News/Publishing” Facebook Page

It is New Year’s Day and I hope this day finds you with folks who are special to you, great television reception for some back-to-back football bowl contests, with delicious snacks and yummy homemade soup in front of a blazing fire. Following a mountain hike with dear friends, that is where I plan to spend most of my day today!

Make New Year’s goals. Dig within, and discover what you would like to have happen in your life this year. This helps you do your part. It is an affirmation that you’re interested in fully living life in the year to come.

                      –Melody Beattie

I’m sharing some thoughts and facts with you today regarding a difficult but important topic: sex trafficking in America. A friend recommended that I read Susan Norris’ short novel, Rescuing Hope, to prepare myself before diving into this discussion. While the book did break my heart, it’s also helping me to see that this is an issue that must be examined by all who have a beating heart. While I wish I could’ve chosen a bit of a lighter read over the recent holiday season, I’m glad I read this book and became more enlightened about the truth regarding sex trafficking in America as well as other parts of our world in 2014-2015.

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I am learning that not only do I want to “show up” for things in life, but I want to show up with an open heart and an open mind to receive all that might be wherever I am.

Be the CHANGE YOU want to see in the world.”

Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)

A few weeks ago, I had the chance to celebrate our friends Malorie and Gavin’s upcoming baby boy due in January 2015. Just like you would imagine, we shared wonderful food and lots of oohs and ahhs as the tiny baby toys and clothes were viewed. While we were there, a short, but inspiring story was shared by Malorie’s aunt, Joanne, about the necklace she was wearing…And this story really got me thinking about a serious, often overlooked demon in many U. S. communities and beyond:  the sex trafficking of young girls. Years ago, after her parents returned from a mission trip to India, Joanne’s granddaughter, Maya, at the young age of nine years old, was moved to make a plan to raise funds to go toward putting a stop to sex trafficking in India where her parents had served. Since 2008, Maya, with the help of her family, has managed to raise over $5,000.00 to go toward stopping this horrendous violence. Broken pieces of glass found on the beaches of Lake Erie are lovingly transformed into pendants, earrings, jewelry, and art.

A work of art from the heart of Maya, From Broken to Beautiful.
A work of art from the heart of Maya, From Broken to Beautiful.

GLASS that was once discarded has now been recovered and made beautiful just as the rescued girls, some younger than Maya, have been emancipated and redeemed through love. In addition, Maya designs and sells notecards to aid these girls.

One hundred percent of the funds raised goes toward stopping this crime in its tracks. Maya’s website is Freedom-Glass and the theme of Maya’s creation is From Broken to Beautiful, and for a small amount of $10.00, you can support her amazing efforts. WE can learn a lot and teach our children so much from this small story about a young girl who resides in the state of OHIO. Well done, Maya!

While I realize that this subject is not a happy one, I also believe that we cannot continue to ignore the truth that it is a reality in many, many young ladies’ life journey, even in our beloved city of Atlanta, Georgia. Out of Darkness in Atlanta is the anti-trafficking ministry of Atlanta Dream Center. Their mission is to reach, rescue, and restore all victims of commercial sexual exploitation so that these girls are made safe and the glory of God may be known.

The FBI reports that the average age that a girl is first recruited into prostitution or sex trafficking is 11-14. Her life expectancy from that point becomes seven years due to the risk of overdose, STDs, suicide, and homicide.

In case you find this hard to believe, read here a story (in Canada) and another story (in Southern California) of recent arrests for human sex trafficking. In addition, here is more information from the FBI dated 6/23/14.

There will be an opportunity for all of us who live in the greater Atlanta area to learn more current and accurate facts about this issue that is thriving in our communities. The Atlanta Justice Conference: DO Something*DO Justice will be held on January 31, 2015. Many will gather at Perimeter Church in Johns Creek, Georgia from 8:30-2:30 p.m. to confront the exploitation of the vulnerable in our midst. Keynote Speaker, Vernon Keenan, Director of the GBI, will open many minds to the realities of this issue in Atlanta and the goal is to help community members find a place in the battle against human sex trafficking. For more information, contact Perimeter Church.

He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of stars and calls them each by name. Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has NO limit. The Lord sustains the humble but casts the wicked to the ground.” Psalms 147:3-6

As we organize our calendars for 2015 and begin this new year, let’s consider what charity we might want to give some service or attention to. Whether it is volunteering to change the problem of human trafficking, giving cash to the Make-A-Wish Foundation, reading to children at a nearby grade school, keeping/filling a GIVE AWAY box (stored in your garage and donating regularly to Must Ministries or Goodwill) or delivering Meals on Wheels, we can make a difference wherever we are. Although I have never been one for New Year’s Resolutions, I do like the list of directives at the top of this post. Check out # 2 here on this list regarding finding the best volunteer opportunity that fits your passions.

READY or NOT, 2015 has arrived.

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