encouragement

Give Hope: Exodus Road

exodus road investigator

All week we have been encouraged with stories of hope.

 

Exodus Road has an opportunity for us to offer hope.

Freeing young girls from sexually slavery takes an immense amount of courage.

Exodus Road investigators work in dark places and seeing such suffering takes an emotional toll on a person. Their work places them in the proximity of renewal, but also danger. They are not able to rescue everyone.

They are making a profound difference. They need our encouragement to keep up the fight.

 

How can you give hope? Write a letter thanking the investigators.

Here is an example by: Laura Parker. 

Each letter will be copied and hand delivered to all the investigators in the field. This is a small gesture that will provide much needed encouragement to these hero’s.  I plan to take time out this holiday season to write a note of encouragement.

 

Send the letter to:

The Exodus Road
PO Box 7591 Woodland Park, Colorado 80863

or submit the letter online.

 

Read the story of Laura and Sophia here. 

Often young girls are lead into a life of prostitution unknowingly, as shown in their story.

Imagine:

You are from a poor family. Someone offers you a job in another country, a good job. This job might be explained as cleaning houses or as a nanny. You are told you will make enough money to send home to provide for your family.

When you arrive to this new country you are met by a sex trafficker, your passport is striped away and you are told you owe a debt to this person for your plane ticket and housing, a debt that must be paid off in prostitution.

You are young. You are in a foreign country and do not know the language. You are far from your family and everything that is familiar.

 

Where does hope reside in that?

It resides in the people willing to fight back against sex trafficking. It resides in the courage of girls that long for rescue.

Saved by the Son

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A Guest Post By: Leslie Manlapig 

This past September, as students marched back to school, I didn’t.  This was the first time in 27 years, that I wasn’t a full-time student.

Hi.  My name is Leslie and I’m a dropout.

(Gosh, that word stands out so starkly on the screen.)

 

I dedicated a decade of my life pursuing a PhD in Educational Psychology.  I began the journey because I wanted to improve the educational opportunities for children from low-income backgrounds.  I believed in education’s power to change their lives.  I also believed that this degree would equip me to do my part in God’s great plan to redeem the world.

In the beginning of my studies I progressed along nicely.  But after a couple of years feelings of sadness and discontent stirred inside.  Something felt off.   My program didn’t seem like a good fit anymore.  Piece by piece my world began crumbling.  I cried out to God but couldn’t hear His voice anymore.  I felt like a disappointment to everyone around me.  I was incredibly sad and lost.

Then, in the midst of all my questioning and sadness I found out that I was pregnant.  While I had so few dreams for myself, I had so many dreams for my son.  I wanted him to experience God’s love.  I wanted him to be hard working, humble, brave, and kind.  I looked forward to seeing the ways that he could be God’s hands and heart in the world.

Though I was excited to be a mother, I was also terrified.  I already felt like a failure in life.  I worried about failing in motherhood too.  How could I help him to be all of those wonderful things if I was so trapped and scared?

 

When our son was a couple of months old, he began having some health problems.  Worn out and exhausted from caring for him, I was stretched too thin.  Maybe there was something about being so tired that pushed me to finally see the truth.  I was tired of living my life in fear and darkness.  I finally broke: I had to quit my program.

It’s now been four months since I quit my program. Life is still confusing and mixed up.  I’m still searching for the ways that God can use me to be His hands and heart in this world.  But things are slowly looking a lot better.  Once more I’m beginning to hear God’s voice in my heart.  Once again, I’m beginning to dream dreams.

Last weekend our family put up the Christmas tree and sparkly lights.  This weekend we sang carols and heard the story of Jesus’s birth.  It’s funny, even though I’ve been Christian for about fifteen years now, I feel like I’m meeting Jesus for the first time.

It’s amazing to remember God’s story for salvation.  He loved us so much that He left heaven and came to earth.  To bring us out of darkness and hopelessness he took on the form of a little, helpless baby.  When I look at my son, this redemption story becomes so much more meaningful to me.  For you see, fifteen months ago the birth of my son, my baby, rescued me from a dark and hopeless place.

 

Leslie is a wife, mommy, PhD dropout, crafter, wannabe children’s book author, and lover of Jesus.  You can read more about her life, thoughts, and crafting adventures on her blog:   Pink Stripey Socks . You can follow Leslie and her creativity on Pinterest too! 

(Leslie is my dear friend and writing buddy. Our lives only brushed past one another for a short time, but it was enough to know we would be lifelong friends. I can’t recommend her work, her humor, or her big heart enough!)

Outtakes

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Outtake: Part of a movie that is filmed, but not used in the final version.

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(This is 2 1/2 year old Josiah, not helping his Iowa cousins with a gingerbread house.) Sometimes, outtakes are my favorite parts of a film. They make me laugh.

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(This cookie was decorated by my nephew Eli, he likes sprinkles.)

DVC01861Outtakes are not perfect. That is why they get taken out of the polished versions of movies and tacked on to the end as bonus features.

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I love outtakes, they are real life. Sometimes, we try to plan everything so carefully, we leave no spaces for less than perfection.

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Leave space for outtakes in your life. Less than perfect is OK. It’s beautiful and funny. I kind of think God is impartial to outtakes too.

(P.S. a lot of funny words rhyme with outtake: beefcake, cheesecake, green snake, clam bake, pump fake, and muck rake.)

Fear Not!

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Luke 2:10

Fear not! I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

 

This is how an angel announced the birth of Jesus.

I’ve lived near to Lake Michigan my whole life and it is my favorite.

 

When winter comes, we often bundle up and walk across the crunchy sand to look at the ice and snow piles that stretch into the distance.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine there is still water moving under the layers of cold, built up over months of snow and wind.

Sometimes cold, gray, and empty piles up in my own heart.

I can’t summon up anything to melt the layers of worry, fear, and discouragement.

 

Water is life.

That living water of God is still flowing, moving, touching the shore underneath all the gray.

 

Life is happening underneath the gray.

 

Fear not, that Good News is for ALL people.

Even the people who have layers of sad, layers of mad, layers of lost.

Fear Not!

nofear

Luke 2:10

Fear not! I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

 

This is how an angel announced the birth of Jesus.

I’ve lived near to Lake Michigan my whole life and it is my favorite.

 

When winter comes, we often bundle up and walk across the crunchy sand to look at the ice and snow piles that stretch into the distance.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine there is still water moving under the layers of cold, built up over months of snow and wind.

Sometimes cold, gray, and empty piles up in my own heart.

I can’t summon up anything to melt the layers of worry, fear, and discouragement.

 

Water is life.

That living water of God is still flowing, moving, touching the shore underneath all the gray.

 

Life is happening underneath the gray.

 

Fear not, that Good News is for ALL people.

Even the people who have layers of sad, layers of mad, layers of lost.

Scandalous. Messy. Love.

When my daughter Ellie was 3 1/2, we were decorating for Christmas time. Somehow our Playmobil nativity scene got mixed up with our Little People house.  Ellie was very busy for a long time. Later that night, I went to put the Playmobil set back by our Christmas tree.

I found quite a scene in the Little People house. Mary was lying in bed with a wise man and one of the shepherds was lying with his head in the toilet.

 

I sat their staring for a moment, shocked.

Scandalous. Messy.

 

God knew went he sent Jesus in the form of a baby.

He knew how broken we would be.

He still sent his only son to redeem our lives.

 

That is a love like no other.

That is a grace like no other.

 

Give thanks to the one who loves.

Extend that kind of grace and love to the broken.

The Triple Dog Dare

“The Triple Dog Dare- the coup de grace of all dared, the sinister triple dog dare.”

The Christmas Story was a family tradition growing up. My own kids watched for the first time last year and they were hooked. This movie never gets old to me. My brother and I watched it on the 24 hr. TBS loop when we were kids.

The, as Ellie calls it ‘leg of lamp’, ovaltine, the Red Rider BB gun, the pink bunny nightmare, and Scut Farkus with the yellow eyes…

 

Flick completed the sinister triple dog dare. “Stuck, stuck, stuck!!”

I hate roller coasters, they are too out-of-control for this sometimes-uptight girl. When I was in junior high on a youth group outing, I succumbed to peer pressure and went on the Sea Dragon. I don’t know what I was thinking because that ride meant I felt the sensation of falling over and over and over again. I shed real live tears and I felt like I might not make it off alive. It might have been how Flick felt… what in the world did I do?

 

I’ve spent a lot of my life living small.

I don’t like the sensation of falling, or failing, or not being in control.

The trouble of all those fears accumulated means you probably are stuck in one place.

 

Ephesians 3:20

Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us,

 

There you have it. If God asks you to complete a triple dog dare, you already possess all the power you need to complete it.

It’s God’s presence in us; that all-consuming, powerful, bring-you-to-your knees power. He gives that to us.

He is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine.

 

There is no reason to live small.

(Disclaimer: When you claim this promise; you may experience the sensation of falling, failing, and not being in control. That is called LIVING and it is everything.)

 

For you Christmas Story fans, check out this website: The Christmas Story House and Museum!

Avoiding the Uncomfortable

During high school summers I worked at the resort area of Silver Lake Michigan. I worked at the cash register and redemption center of Craig’s Cruisers: loud video games, go-carts, and mini-golf. Once a week I got to work in the mini-golf house by a pretend waterfall. There you could smell the campfires of the Yogi Bear Campground across the little lake. I liked that little house.

The other five days of the week I helped kids count tickets and then pick out chinese finger traps, rings and sort through piles of tattoos for exactly the right one. Patience was very important, but hard when the words smokin’ tokens sounded from one arcade game every five minutes.

One night after an evening shift, around 11:30 pm, in darkness, the blue blazer I drove ran out of gas. I pulled over to the side of the road.

 

Dark. Night. Alone. Country road.

 

At first, I was calm and walked to a house down the road with lights on and knocked on the door. (You see there were no cell phones back then.) Those nice people let me call my parents. Where was I? I don’t know, on the road. What was wrong? I don’t know the car just stopped. Then, I thanked the people and went back to my car.

Back in my car I realized that someone I work with might come by and see me stranded. I decided I would be much to shy for that to happen. I might possibly die of embarrassment. Walking back I also realized, I had not turned the emergency flashers on. I couldn’t figure out how to turn them on though.

So, I did what any rational sixteen-year-old would do. I laid down on the front seat floor of the car, so the car looked abandoned and manually turned the lights on and off for faux flashers.

 

What a rational person wouldn’t do this? Oddly enough I knew this as I lay on the floor.

 

Eventually my parents rescued me with an extra tank of gas in tow. I saw their lights and was able to get off the floor before they saw me. I felt it important they did not know the full extent of my neurotic nature.

 

I have always remembered laying on the floor of the car turning the lights on and off.

That was the absurd lengths I would go to avoid something that would make me uncomfortable.

Hiding felt better. Honestly, hiding still feels better.

 

I think we are kind of good at hiding from things we don’t want to do.

Messages we don’t care to take to heart.

Nudgings from God that are uncomfortable.

 

It’s so much easier to lay on the floor and turn the lights on and off manually.

I’m here God, but a little immobile at the moment… try back later.

 

Every time I want to hide. I remember that moment.

I say, “I’m here God. Perfectly- not-perfect. But I’m here. I’m ready. I’m rising up off this floor.”