Tuesday, April 20, 2010

the unsexy days

I'm coming to terms with this.

This transition from working full-time to part-time to not-really-any-time at all. This transition from the exhilarating, production-filled days to

the unsexy days.

You see, I was the girl who aspired to be the next Condoleeza Rice. Who waltzed through Banana Republic, dressing herself in the sharp grey and tan power suits, readying herself for the days when her clothes would communicate power and importance.

(I am that vain...)

I was the girl whose husband was shocked to find, upon completion of my timeline, The Next 20 Years of Our Lives, I had totally forgotten to factor in kids.

Grad school for me? Check.

Grad school for hubby? Check.

House? Check.

Children before 40? 


So, here I am on the other side of college-girl fantasies. I'm home, full-time, with my lovely two-year-old.

I sort of roll through my days, through my weeks, trying to be as intentional as possible with this time God's granted me. And it's beautiful and fulfilling and sometimes slow, but altogether good. 

It's days like yesterday when I'm forced to come to terms with just


It's when Carter's washing his hands for lunch and I glance in the bathroom and I literally flinch at seeing my un-make-uped reflection. It's when I realize, 15 minutes before my student comes over, that I haven't yet showered that day. It's when I look forward to dinner out because I'll have my first reason that day to get out of a sports-bra.

We've come a long way from the April-with-the-JD-after-her-name.

I'm stumbling upon a different kind of beauty right now--one of quietness and contentedness. One that's slowly becoming okay with not measuring the day's worth by an Outlook task list. A beauty that's desperately trying to inhale the energy of each moment, fully knowing that this season will soon pass.

I'm thankful for these days.

Whether or not mascara makes the cut.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

dear sister, i hope this address is right

I was a young, bright-eyed college freshman when I snuck away from my roomies and found some alone space at the top of Dorman Hall’s stairwell. I brought my guitar, the one Dad had played in his Jesus-loving hippie revivals in Venice Beach.

My fingers strummed away, interchanging chords, hoping to find some melody to become the venue for my soul to express its pain. And I happened upon some chord pattern, just enough to write a song to my sister.

My sister whose actions told me that, although we started this journey together—

this bold adventure of following Christ at the nation’s 2nd foremost party school,

it wasn’t looking like we’d continue the journey together…

at least for now.

I sang out my hurt, I sang out my bewilderment, I sang out my sense of loss of friendship.

The chorus of my song, I fear, I’ll have the opportunity to sing time and time again:

Here we are, waiting
Waiting for you to come
And we’re all praying,
Praying that you know we still love you
And should your feet turn home--
Know we’ll meet you on that road.

Because that’s the nature of The Road.

The road that Jesus has beckoned me, and you, to, is one less traveled. Jesus himself called it “narrow,” and spoke of how so few take it.

Along the way so many different and diverse Jesus-lovers have intersected paths with mine, and I’ve learned to love and fight fair, to forgive and honor and to (I suck at this) try to put others’ wants over mine. I’ve disagreed with many—over theology and practices, stupid things and essential things—but I’ve cherished these travelers and have fought to bring myself back to a place of love.

Over the years, I’ve made indescribable and invaluable ties with the ones whose journeys have coincided with mine. Whether it’s partnering in ministry, or learning something together, or discovering that

you, too, are not alone in your struggle, 

these ties are what make The Road less lonely and less difficult. They lessen the time it takes to get back up when you stumble,

or when you stalemate. 

These ties are essential to The Road—Jesus couldn’t conceive a journey without them.

So it only makes sense that I’ll feel the pain I felt that freshman year


and again,

and again.

The beauty of my God is that he gives us choice and some of my dearest friends I’ve walked alongside






The raw emotion still resonates within, memories of others’ leaving flash before my soul’s eye, and I remember praying to discern what my role should be. Eventually, I would release them to their decision and pray God they’ll return someday.

I don’t ever want to lose this sense of loss.

I don’t want a hardened heart, one jaded by years of traveling. 

I don’t want to not feel this pain when a friend makes a detour and tells me not to follow. 

As I freely embrace the joys of following Christ—the victories and celebrations and freedom-stories—may I freely embrace its sorrows.

Because that’s the nature of The Road.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

the sex cafe

this post if from Anne Jackson's blog, www.flowerdust.net You can follow her journey in Maldova, where she's working to expose sex trafficking. 

Thursday morning, our first meeting was with a young woman about my age who, for safety reasons, I’ll identify as L. 

We met her outside in the middle of the city, where she hopped in our van. I immediately liked her. She was intelligent and witty, and when we asked her where we should go for our meeting, she directed us toward a cafe in a nice part of town and said she had a surprise for us.

We took seats at a table under the patio as the sun was beginning to warm the new spring air.

We ordered a round of espresso (tea for me) and began to make introductions. Tom went first. Then Brad. Then me. Then Simon, as he set up his camera so we could film L’s story and hear about what her organization does.
coffee tea The Sex Cafe
Our waitress, a young, pretty girl who surprisingly spoke enough English that I could actually communicate I wanted green tea instead of black, brought us our drinks. L. took a sip of her cappuccino and asked us if we were ready for our surprise.

After a day like we had Wednesday, we were ready for anything.

“The reason I brought you to this cafe is because there is a story here. When I first moved back to Moldova, I came here with a friend. It seems like a totally normal restaurant.”

I looked around. 

It had nice tables and chairs and the shops across the street were for designer clothes. I didn’t feel like I was in a developing country. I could have been on a street in Paris for all I knew.

“As I spent time here, I learned that this cafe is the main hub for girls that are trafficked out of Moldova.”

Our team sat back stunned. Even S., who is our driver and has worked in the social sector of Moldova for years was shocked.

L. continued to tell us a similar story to what we have heard regarding young girls and the need for jobs. 

90% of Moldova immigrates out of the country for work because the unemployment rate here is so high. Girls out of the ninth grade (the required level of completion) when coming from abusive, alcoholic, or unattended homes, as well as orphans, will look for jobs. Foreigners actually own this cafe (amongst others) and will hire the girls as waitresses or cooks or to clean. They learn just enough of several languages over the course of a few months to a year and are promised promotions or transfers in restaurants in other European countries.
And they get trafficked.
I immediately wanted to take our waitress and throw her into our van, knowing what almost certain fate awaited her.
It’s not like this industry is completely a secret, either. Men, especially foreign men, visit these cafes for a reason. If L. and I wouldn’t have been there with the men from our team, more than likely they would have been offered a girl.
I lifted the mug of tea to my lips and wondered how many girls had filled that mug before. How many had served tea in it. How many had bussed it off the table and washed it.
I wondered where they were now.
L. proceeded to go through a newspaper and read to us ads that are ads that are intended to lure girls in. 

Ads for renting rooms or apartments often get young Moldovan girls and foreign university students kidnapped when they go to see if the apartment is what they’re looking for. Jobs for nannies who can travel. Jobs for waitresses.

 She even told us her own story – how, when she moved to Chisinau, she was looking for an apartment. 

Out of the hundreds of listings on the pages, only a handful or so were legit. She almost went to look at one but had a strange feeling about it after speaking with the owner, so she had a male friend call to check on it.
It was one used for trafficking.
She could have been a victim herself.

As we sat around finishing our drinks, we took note of an ever-increasing stream of foreign men beginning to sit at surrounding tables. They came from inside the cafe and sat and stared at us.
guys watching The Sex Cafe
We acted like we didn’t notice, boldly keeping our very large camera out, and kept filming L. and her story.

Before we left, I saw two young, very pretty girls walking outside the cafe. 

They were almost too young to be that pretty. One was maybe fourteen – the other one sixteen or seventeen. I was surprised when they walked into the cafe, and later took a seat behind us in the corner of the patio.
girls at cafe The Sex Cafe

They didn’t receive a menu, but a husky middle aged man with salt-and-pepper hair sat down with them. 

He discreetly handed the older girl a large sum of money. She looked up to him laughing with flirtatious but noticeably empty eyes.
man with girl The Sex Cafe

We paid our check and left, as the presence of the traffickers got to be a little too intense. 

L. and I stood on the sidewalk while Brad went in for a moment and we witnessed another young, pretty woman approaching the cafe. The husky man got up suddenly and began yelling at her. She managed to keep her distance on the other side of the patio railing but they were screaming loudly at each other in Romanian. I asked L. what they were fighting about.

“Something didn’t happen right…something didn’t happen right at all,” is what she said. She nodded over my shoulder.“Those men behind you. They’re not Moldovan. They’re here for something.” 

I slowly turned around and pretended to look at the cafe door. Two very well dressed middle-eastern men were behind me and seemed to be negotiating with one of the cafe traffickers.

It was surreal.  

We were standing in the middle of trafficking deals going down all around us and at the same time, families sat at the patio eating brunch. Maybe some of them knew, maybe not.

But the darkness that was now exposed to us was almost blinding.

Here we were.

In broad daylight.

In a nice part of the city.
…buying coffee at the same time girls and sex were being sold.
We walked to our van talking about how we couldn’t believe what just happened.  

The five of us said goodbye to L. and she went to wherever it was she was going. What an incredibly brave woman to know exactly what would happen where we would be and to show us exactly what we needed to see.

We waited a few moments and drove around the block, passing the cafe again.  

The eight or ten men that had been keeping an eye on us were all gone in the five minutes it took us to circle back. The patio, except for a few maternal-esque women and the family, was empty.

I always assumed that sex trafficking went on in the brothels and the strip clubs. 

 In Moldova, there are none. When we’d ask around where this trafficking took place, it seemed like nobody knew.

But when we did find it, it would be like watching a girl get sold outside at a Panera in your nicest suburb.

As I continued thinking throughout the day, I realized that it doesn’t matter what my perception is on how or where or what sex trafficking looks like.

I can pretend to be shocked (and honestly still am) that it happened in such an open location.
But the bottom line is this:

We all know it happens.

It happens.



It may have been dangerous for us to be there. It probably would be if we went back. But this is a subject we must continue to stare in the face and say – dangerous or not – this can not happen.

This cannot happen on our watch.

Because if we know about it, if it’s happening on our watch, we’re responsible to do something about it.

Today we’ll be learning about what we can do to help stop it. 

We’ll meet a girl who was trafficked from this exact cafe two years ago and is now in the care of L. and her organization.

I can’t help but wonder if, when she worked in this cafe, she served somebody tea from the same cup I drank from yesterday.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

are you here?

Yesterday afternoon, in the last few moments of decent weather this state has to offer us,Carter and I played at our neighborhood park. 

We crawled through tunnels, ran across bridges, walked through the woods and used our newly discovered sticks to rearrange mulch. 

And then he let me sit down for a minute. 

As he ran from swing to swing, preoccupying himself with the physics of push and pull and twist and smack-your-face, I had a moment to take in what the other kids were doing. 

There was a crew of 4th and 5th grade boys, decked out in their not-imitation Under Armor shirts, most with hair that crept into their eyes until they casually flicked their heads back just so. They were playing some kind of game that involved diving into the woods to find something, chucking that something, and running around. 

It was great. 

They had flushed cheeks, they were consumed with competition…they were just being all-boy. 

For the first minute. 

And then one whipped out his cell phone to text. And I noticed Mr. Green-Under-Armor was texting too. I searched the scene for the other boys. Mr. Hair-Below-My-Shoulders was grasping his cell phone as well. And another boy, one I hadn’t noticed before, seemed to be talking to one of the guys who was playing with them on his cell phone. 

I don’t get it. 

I mean, they could be phones parents had given them “for safety,” but really—
texting when you should be running around? 

It bothers me. 

It hits too close to home—this gross distraction from what should be important. 

I struggle with being present. 

With not watching the clock when I sit down to read to my son. With not existing for that next moment when I should be fully alive in my current one. With not being consumed with thoughts of What I Need to Get Done every waking moment. 

If I, an old-almost-28-year-old who got her first cell phone in college, struggles this much with being present and undistracted, then how much more will a generation who can’t seem to play a simple game of tag without texting? 

I may be old-fashioned and these boys may have truly been having fun with each other, I just wonder how much attention you can give the ones you’re with if you’re in the middle of 3 other silent conversations. 

I fear, with the ability to be so connected to others through our phones, whether it’s texting, email or twitter, we lose sight of the beauty of being fully present with each other. 

On April afternoons, when the sun is just right, I want my hour at the park to count for a mother playing with her child. She's not catching up on email, sending out a quick text or two, or grabbing a few minutes on the phone with her bestie in California. 

Just a mom with her son.

God help me be fully present.