A Year and A Half Later, Now What?

Tonight I was sitting at home, budgeting and trying to decide what to paint next in my house, and I got a text from my fella asking me about The One Dress Project because he was talking about it with someone.  Instead of typing out the big long description, I sent him a link to this page, and figured that would be enough.  I couldn’t help but be surprised when he texted me back that he didn’t know I had a blog about it.  But now, as I sit here thinking about the grey dress that was such a big part of my senior year of college, and the women and children that were the reason behind it all, I got so upset with myself.  I tried to tell myself “it’s okay, you still pray for them often.”  But then I couldn’t help but ask, do I pray because I’m genuinely still caring for these children of God, or out of habit?  I don’t talk about it nearly as much as I used to.  & don’t they say that what you talk about the most is what has truly captured your heart?

And now, I’m even more sad.  Because when I tried to figure out what I have been talking about lately, I basically seem reallllly superficial.  Recently, my life has been consumed with making the most perfect home and making money to provide for that home.  If I haven’t been talking about paint, or furniture, I’ve been talking about meal planning or my move in date.  But some day, I’m going to move away from that home.  I’m going to move on to a different one.  Or (not to be morbid, but) I’m going to die and leave it behind.  My money will also go away someday. And all of this brought me back to the sermon that my pastor gave a couple weeks ago.  It was a powerful sermon that kind of landed on this scripture:

“…What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes?”  [James 4:14]

There is so much about me and my life that is temporary.  Things such as my health, my finances, my home – those are all things that I absolutely want to put time and thought into. Those are good things to think about and be responsible with.  But they are temporary.  But eternal things?  People’s souls.  God’s Kingdom.  You know, the things that I’ve been putting just about no focus on?

It’s time for a prayerful refocus.  Time to get my head back in the eternal game.  Time to get the focus off of myself, and onto the Lord and his people. Time to be better.  Lawwwwwwwd, help me.  

Day 129 [A Letter To The Daughters]

Daughters,

I had a dream about you last night.  It was one of the most vivid and real dreams I have ever had.  I was in a city.  I don’t know what city, what country, I know nothing of the location.  But I was there.  I was one of you.  There were twenty, maybe even thirty of us.  We were sitting in a room, and a man, I’m guessing he was the brothel owner, kept coming in and getting us and taking us away.  He never took me.  But I watched you daughters go and I watched you come back.  I saw the pain and despair in your eyes.  I saw the shame permanently pressed on your souls.  In the room, you could feel the hopelessness; it made me feel sick to my stomach.

Then, the room got smaller, and I could see that outside of the room there were twenty or thirty sets of parents, looking at us like you would look in a snow globe.  Except they weren’t filled with the delight that you have when looking at a snow globe, they were horrified.  Weeping.  Crying out to us.  They wanted us back, their daughters.  They wanted us to be those innocent little girls we once were when we were with them and safe.  They never, in a million years, planned for this to happen to us.  They saw the despair in our eyes.  They saw the hurt on our bodies and on our hearts and they hurt just as much. When they saw our tears, they cried just as hard.  They kept yelling out to us, “I love you” and “I am right here.”  They told us they were still looking for us and that they haven’t given up on us.

Then, things morphed again, like dreams often do, and suddenly there was a majestic man looking down on all of us, the daughters and the parents.  When I saw him, I knew he was powerful.  I knew he was wise.  I realized He was God.  And he watched the whole scene, us and our parents, and when we cried, and our parents cried, he cried just as much.  I think he cried harder, even.  And He too spoke to us, in a gentle and loving voice, “I love you.  I am right here.  I haven’t given up on you.  I haven’t left you.” He was desperate for us to hear him.

After that, the scene changed rapidly; I would see us, and our parents, and our Creator.  & then eventually I woke up.  & when I woke up I realized I was sobbing.  & I continued to sob.

& even as I write this almost 20 hours later, I cry.  I have never been able to remember a dream so vividly.  I can still see your faces.  I can still see the faces of your parents.  And that feeling of hopelessness, the one that made my stomach sick, I still feel that too.

I have this feeling in the pit of my stomach that what I am doing means nothing.  That even if one of you were freed as an indirect result of my efforts, there would still be millions of you left.  There are 27 million of you.  Sons and Daughters that deserve freedom but instead have been enslaved.  Children that have been kidnapped, tricked, or sold.  Adults that have been told that they aren’t worthy of a different life.

Unfortunately, this is not the first time that I have felt that no matter what I do, I cannot help you.  It breaks my heart.  I want to help you. I want, so badly, to find every single one of you and help you escape.  Take you someplace safe where you can know your Father’s love for you and not have to question it at all.  Where you can be a child of the King, restored of your innocence and faith.  A place where you don’t have to face things that would even make you question your purpose or existence, let alone the horrors of what you’re experiencing now.

Most of the past 129 days have been about you.  I willingly admit, a few were about me.  But most have been about you.  I love you.  I have grown to love you so much. I have cried for you.  I have told others about you.  I have prayed for you.  Prayed that you know that this life is not what God created you for, but the consequences of someone else’s evils.  That you would know that He has not abandoned you, but He is near to you as your hearts break.  That you would not feel alone in your despair, but know that Jesus weeps for you too.  & now, I will continue.  I will continue to speak, because you are silenced.  I will continue to pray, because you might not be ready or able to.  I will continue to fight, because you are worn down.  & I will continue to hope.  Because even though I have an overwhelming hurt about you and your condition, I know that our God is bigger than the evils of this world.  He is a God of freedom, redemption, love, and comfort.  He is a God that fights for His children, and never abandons.  He is a God that gives hope.  & in that, even though the feelings of anger, sadness, and despair are real and strong, there is a hint of joy.

I Love You,

Your Sister

Day 63 [Speak]

Last week I went to Albion College to speak at an event that my dear friends, Nora, Emily, & Chris put on to raise awareness of Sex Trafficking on their campus.  I was fortunate enough to be given a large amount of time to talk, & I thought that it would be cool to post my talk on here.  It was long, but maybe if you read it in chunks you will think it’s worth it.  I guess I just want to give everyone a better idea of the journey I’ve been on so far.

            A little less than a year ago I was at a conference when I heard a woman speak.  Her message was about the true sense of beauty but I walked away from the talk hearing much more than that.  This woman, her name was Amy Seiffert, was talking about how she was learning more about the source of real beauty while she was wearing he same dress for 6 months.  & Everything she spoke about, I soaked up.  I’m always down to learn about where my beauty comes from, besides my appearance.

It was why she was wearing the same dress for 6 months, however, that intrigued me the most.  You see, she told us that she was doing it to raise awareness for human trafficking.  & Simultaneously raise funds for an organization called The Daughter Project that was working to house children that were able to escape from the industry in one way or another.  I was shocked to find that the organization was based out of Ohio.  Ohio?  Really?  I don’t know about you guys, I didn’t even know there were really people in Ohio.    How could a place like Ohio have a need for an organization like this?  Well, here’s the reality…Human trafficking has been reported in all 50 U.S. States, Washington, D.C., and in some U.S. Territories.  It happens in Ohio.  It happens in Michigan.  It happens in Rhode Island & in Arizona.  3 of the biggest trafficking states are California, Florida, and New York.  This doesn’t just happen in movies.  This doesn’t even just happen in other countries.  This is in our own backyards.  Here are some more stats for you:

There are more human slaves in the world today than ever before in history. 

Some women are bought for as much as $10,000 dollars.  Some, for as little as $30. 

Since human trafficking is such a hidden crime, researchers think that statistics don’t fully reflect the reality of this industry. 

 More than 30% of all trafficking cases in 2007 & 2008 involved children being sold into the sex industry. 

Human trafficking is estimated to surpass the drug trade in less than 5 years. 

Some human traffickers recruit handicapped young girls such as those affected by Down Syndrome, into the sex industry.

Due to globalization, every continent of the world has been involved in human trafficking, including countries as small as Iceland. 

According to the U.S. State Department, Human trafficking is one of the greatest human rights challenges of this century, both in the United   States & around the world. 

Does this all break your heart like it does mine?  Does it give you a knot in your stomach?  An anger?  If you don’t have it now, let it soak for a while…it took me some time to realize just how impacted I would be about all of this.

After learning all of this, I thought for a few months on how I could possibly make a difference.  I would never be brave enough to wear the same dress for months.  I would never be rich enough to make a huge donation to organizations like The Daughter Project to help them.  & I certainly wouldn’t have the resources to go see any of this first hand and try to make a difference.

Well, I was right & I was wrong.  Alone, I couldn’t do any of this.  Even partnered with friends, I wouldn’t be able to do this effectively or perfectly.  But, there is God.  My Abba, my Father.  He was able.  Able to do ANYTHING.  & around September, he started showing me just how able he was.  He started giving me the courage to consider wearing the same dress for 6 months.  & Eventually, he gave me the courage I needed to start this journey with or without my family & friend’s approval.  He also opened my eyes to the fact that even if I can only give a dollar to an organization or cause, if it is in His name, & they are doing His work, He is pleased with me.  & Through out the process of wearing the same dress for 6 months, he has revealed to me that if I want to go into another country, or a city that needs to see His Light, he will provide everything that I will need to do it.

Now, let’s clear something up right here & right now.  There are a few questions that I get asked all the time when people find out that I’m wearing the same dress for 6 months so let’s air it alllll out.  I’m sure I can speak on behalf of the other women taking part in The One dress Project too.  First of all, we wash the dress.  We are passionate, not disgusting.  Also, no, we don’t wear it to sleep.  We wear pajamas to sleep.  We also don’t wear it to work out.  Again, we aren’t gross.

The last question is often worded differently, but it goes along the lines of….Why the same dress?  Why 6 months?  Why The One Dress Project?  Well, the first reason is that these women and children probably only have 1 dress.  1 dress to wear to “work.”  One dress to sleep in.  It is probably worn down & stained & they don’t consider themselves beautiful in it.  Also, if you wore the same dress for 1 week, you would soon learn how enslaved you feel by it.  Enslaved by a piece of cloth.  Want to wear sweats today?  Too bad, you have to wear this dress.  Want to stay in your pajamas all day?  Too bad, you need to wear the dress.   Want to look cute for that big event your going to?  Well, you have a couple options, you could wear your dress or, oh wait, you only have one option.  You have to wear the dress.  Now, if we are going to be honest, I have no right to complain about this.    Being enslaved by a piece of cloth, well, a cloth doesn’t beat me.  It doesn’t rape me.  It doesn’t starve me.  A pimp. He does this to these women and children.  A brothel owner, He will do all of these things to show these victims who they belong to.  Even talking about this right now, my stomach feels sick.

Through out the journey of The One Dress Project, I have learned a lot about myself & my role in this whole injustice.  You see, I have always felt that I don’t have much of a purpose.  I’ve felt like I’m not a super feminine woman.  My most used app on my phone is ESPN. I never have warm, comforting words to say; instead, I’m forward and blunt & probably will just make someone cry harder.  I’m not graceful, as a matter of fact, I clunk around campus falling at least once a day.  I’m not soft spoken; I’m the loudest person in a room.  I’m not delicate; I’m insensitive & kind of rough around the edges.  I was also under the impression that I wasn’t compassionate.  I thought this because I had a hard time finding the right words to say to people.  But here’s the thing.  I’m forward & blunt?  Good!  Because there is a need for people that will be blunt and challenge others.  It also keeps me challenging myself, constantly.  I’m the opposite of graceful?  Well, I don’t have a really good purpose for it, but the Father made me this way, so I’m sure it’s going to come into use later on.  I’m loud.  Perfect.  Someone will hear me if I yell at them to stop.  You’re hearing what I’m saying right now. I can use my loud voice to speak for those that can’t speak for themselves.  I’m not delicate, That’s useful.  I can withstand someone persecuting me.  I can probably even take a punch or two if I never needed to.  & then we get to the compassionate part.  I think I’m not compassionate?  Well, I’ve learned that I’m wrong.  just because I don’t have fluffy warm words doesn’t mean anything.  It takes compassion to pray for other people.  It takes compassion to act against injustice.  It takes compassion to care enough to get up from my oversized, comfy chair of complacency & make myself uncomfortable to fight for the comfort of someone else.

I challenge you to do the same.  Take in everything that your hearing tonight.  The stories.  The statistics.  Let it affect you.  Let it break you heart.  I can tell you that it breaks the Lord’s heart.  So it’s supposed to break ours.  But most importantly, don’t just stop there.  Take that broken heart & do something.  Use your voice to speak for those that can’t use theirs.  Use the strength and power that you have been given and fight for the people that don’t have the ability to fight for themselves.

It’s not always going to be easy.  People that love me, they thought I was a weirdo when I told them I was going to do this.  I had to decide that I wanted to please my Father instead of pleasing man.  They thought I was being too radical.  I found that encouraging, because Jesus was a pretty radical fella.  They didn’t understand why I would want to wear the same dress for my entire senior year.  To me, this was the perfect season for this project.  I don’t have a job that requires me to look professional every day, I have spare time on my hands, & this is my last year to make an impact on my campus. I have been told that I just seem to want to repel men away from wanting to date me.  They are kind of right.  If a man wants to be with me, he’s going to need to be the kind of man that can keep up with all the outrageous things I plan on doing for the rest of my life. He better be ready for the adventure that God has planned.  But the hearts of opposition have been softened towards this project.  & they have a better understanding of why I am doing what I am doing.  I have also fought internally.  I fought so many doubts that I wouldn’t be able to raise money for The Daughter Project, but within the first 15 days, I raised over $250.

I’m not going to be bold & say that you all will immediately grow a passion for justice.  But I will say this, we were meant to hate injustice.  & in that, we were meant to fight for justice.  Don’t take it from me.  Listen to what God has commanded.

Isaiah 1:17 says: “Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause. 

Jeremiah 22:3 says: “Thus says the Lord: Do justice and righteousness, & deliver from the hand of the oppressor him who has been robbed.  & do no wrong or violence to the resident alien, the fatherless, and the widow, nor shed innocent blood in this place.” 

Micah 6:8 says” He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” 

Pslam 82:3; “Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.’ 

There are so many other verses that reveal God’s heart for us to fight injustice.  He wants us to do it.  He wants to use us to do it.  It is a command.  But don’t feel overwhelmed.  He is good.  & our Abba, our daddy, would never ask us to do anything without providing the strength, guidance, and love that we would need to do it.

So that finally leads me to the last thing I would like to talk about.  When you do things, your schoolwork, your job, when you help others and volunteer your time, even when you fight injustice, who’s strength are you using to do it?  Where are you getting your resources?  Your family?  Your friends?  Yourself? Are you truly being provided for?

There is a provider.  You see, God provided us with life.  He created us.  He provided us with the food that we need, the relationships with others, and the air we needed to breathe.  We as humans, we chose to go against God’s will.  We are all “sinful.”  Which means that we just can’t get it right.  We can’t balance out all of our sin with good things.  We can’t wash away the stains of our own sin & disobedience.  We are in slavery too.  We are enslaved by our sins.  This bondage is not visible, but it is very real.  We can’t really enjoy life, because we are constantly constraining ourselves from experience the abundant life by getting in the way & thinking we know what’s best.  & we can’t experience an enjoyable, real relationship with God because our sin distances us from Him.  But once again, God provided.  He sent his son, Jesus, down to earth to live a perfect life and die a horrible death that we deserved, not him.  & Jesus’s blood, it was the provision we needed to wash away our sins.  Jesus provided the sharp edge that cut away all of the bondage we were enslaved in.  When Christ died, My name was on his heart.  He died for me & my selfishness.  My impurity.  My dishonesty and disobedience.  He died for you.  & any sin that you are faced with in life.  All we have to do?  Accept it.  Agree with God that we are sinful.  Agree with God that he is a provider, & in Christ he provided the source of eternal, and abundant life.  He provided a way for us to have a personal relationship with him, instead of the distant one we created for ourselves.  Pray for Him to be the center of your life.  Your purpose.  Your provision.

I am not my own.  I have a master.  He is my heavenly Father, my Abba, my Daddy, and he is a good master.  He gives me the abundant life.  More than I could provide for myself.  In Him I have found joy & grace.  I have found satisfaction that I never found anywhere else.  & I have found empowerment to fulfill His calls, including this one.  This call to be radical, bold, and forward about what is true.  To seek justice for his Children.  To love others unconditionally, no matter how different they are from me, or how far away they live.

I’m not sure if you agree with everything I have said tonight.  I would bet there are some people in this room that followed what I was saying all the way through & agreed with me. I find joy in that.   Some of you might have been with me when I was talking about injustice and Human Trafficking.  Saying “yeah!  Let’s fight.  Let’s use our voices.  Let’s do this.”   & then when I got to the Jesus part…your thoughts might have changed to.  “where did they find this nut?  This just got awkward…”.  I find joy in that.  Some of you might not have even known what you come to tonight.  Your friend just dragged you along.  I find humor in that.  & I also find joy.

If you agreed with me, if you don’t.  If you have questions, if you have comments.  I would love to chat with you.  If you want to know more about this Jesus thing, there are plenty of people that would love to tell you more.  If you want to know more about The One Dress Project or how you can get involved, again, plenty of people would love to tell you allllll about it.  If you have a spare buck, or some spare change, & you feel moved to donate it to The Daughter Project, we would be absolutely delighted to get it to them from you.

I thank you for giving me your time. & For letting me speak in front of you freely and share my story.

Day 17!!!

 

So many people I have talked to wanted to know my mindset going into The One Dress Project.  When I first started thinking about doing the project, I immediately started praying about it.  Eventually, I felt like I was being given more and more of a desire to take action.  My next step was talking to those around me.  That came with mixed reactions.  Some of my loved ones were really excited about the idea of this.  & others had some concerns.  Some still have concerns.  Please take comfort in the fact that I wrestled with all of those same concerns:

People are going to think I am a weirdo.  When faced with this concern, it just came down to asking myself  “Am I really going to let what people might think of me hold me back from doing things I am passionate about for the rest of my life?  What would be the right way to raise my self-esteem?  By making lots of so-called friends that wouldn’t accept my quirky personality and support my crazy adventures?  Or doing something to fight a terrible injustice?”

 This is my senior year!  Is this really the way I want to be remembered by my classmates?  This is my senior year!  This is the perfect season in my life to do this!  I don’t have a job that I need to look “professional” for everyday.  As a matter of fact, I have a job that encourages stepping out and doing something to make some sort of difference.  I have my youth on my side.  If someone thinks I’m a weirdo, chances are I won’t see them after graduation anyway!  & what a way to finish off a college career that looks nothing like I thought it would when I started it 4 years ago.  By doing something that I never would have imagined doing. 

What man will want to date a girl who is wearing the same dress all the time?  I debated including this in my entry, but this was honestly one of the most common & most urgent concerns of quite a few people.  I am a quirky, weird person.  If a man wants to date me, he is going to have to get used to it.  & if a man cannot respect me for doing something that I think is truly fighting for justice for a people group that needs advocates to fight for them, then  I don’t think he’s the man for me anyway!  I want my man to have a heart for justice & a spine to act on it!

Won’t I get smelly? Let’s clear something up right now, my friends.  The dress gets washed.  The dress gets washed often.  Also, I DO NOT SLEEP OR WORK OUT IN THE DRESS!   I sleep in pajamas & I work out in work out clothes.  

Won’t the dress get beat up? Yes.  It will.  Lucky for me, I live with the Spartan Seamstress.  & when talking about this concern with one of my beautiful sisters in Christ [who took part in The One Dress Project last year,] she reminded me that some of these women and children in the trafficking industry probably only have 1 dress.  Their dress is probably tattered and torn too & mine will not even compare to the pain that their dress has been through.

What will I get out of this?   This is a very real question.  I definitely have a lot of personal goals & ways I hope to grow throughout the journey of The One Dress Project.  Of course, I have my personal financial goal that I would like to reach in donations the The Daughter Project. But in addition to that, I’m hoping that the Lord teaches me follow through and self discipline in the next 6 months.  Let’s face it, I’ve made a very public commitment, & there is no backing out now.  I also hope that the Lord reveals to me any places I may be dangerously be placing my worth.  Maybe I find my worth in what people think of me.  Maybe I find it in the world’s image of “beauty.”  Maybe I’m not even sure of my worth.  Do I know the true source of beauty? Who knows?  I sure don’t…..yet, but I’m sure I will get to a point of exposure at some point in this journey.

Let’s me real, people.  I am just about at awful as taking pictures of my outfits as I am at blogging on a regular basis.  These are a few of the outfits I’ve had along this journey so far! Also, today was the day that I took the step of faith & made a bulletin board for my floor formally informing my residents of The One Dress Project.  I’m not going to lie, I have anxiety over it.  But I know that Abba will comfort me in this time, & protect me from any harm.  He’s REAL good at that!

Day 2Day 3Day 4 [The Barn Bash]Day 10

An Acceptable Day 1 Entry

On account of my 8:30am class being cancelled, I now have time to blog a respectable entry about the start of this journey that I am beginning.

Tuesday, September 20 was Day 1 of my One Dress journey.  I will be wearing the same darling gray dress everyday until Easter Sunday.  Why would one do such a thing?  It’s funny that you ask because I asked the same question last December when I met a woman that was doing exactly this.  Amy Seiffert started a 6 month journey of wearing the same dress to both raise awareness of the problem of human trafficking and funds for an organization called The Daughter Project who labors to help girls who have been freed from this industry recover.  After hearing about her cause, I was intrigued to say the least.  I knew that trafficking was an issue but I don’t think it was ever real to me.  As I thought about her cause, I remembered the speaker at a retreat I attended in Fall 2010 & how he talked about the work he did freeing women and children from brothels in India.  & it wasn’t long after hearing Amy speaking that I heard about my home church’s partnership with Cambodia & what a problem human trafficking is there.  But I would say that the thing that made it the most real to me was living in the city this summer.  Every once in a while, I would observe something that would remind me that just because we live in America, does not mean that this crisis isn’t relevant to us.  When I came across this fact, it hit me pretty hard:

The FBI estimates that over 100,000 children and young women are trafficked in America today. They range in age from nine to 19, with the average being age 11. Many victims are not just runaways or abandoned, but are from “good” families who are coerced by clever traffickers.

[Fact taken from: 55 Little Known Facts about Human Trafficking]

I have started backing this cause long ago.  I have been praying for God’s children that are bound by this industry for a while now, but it wasn’t until recently that I felt asked to do more.  That is where the One Dress comes in.  Amy’s efforts raised so much awareness of this problem & I know that The Daughter Project saw funds come in from that, but I also know that from Amy’s efforts also resulted in so much passion and prayer.  If my journey can make 50 people aware of the human trafficking industry & it’s harm, I will find my journey worth while.  If 10 hearts could be broken enough to get on their knees and pray, it will be worth while.  If a spark of passion could be sparked in 1 person to take action, it will be worth while.  & if those quota’s are not met, I’m confident that this is absolutely still worth while.

I invite you to check out The Daughter Project‘s website.  I also invite you to pray and consider getting involved in this battle by donating to their cause.  If you would like to give me cash or check, I will collect it & be making donations to The Daughter Project along the way.  Or You can donate on TDP’s website!   I also ask that if you do donate to TDP, that you would let me know how much you donated so I can keep track & see how close I get to my own personal goal that I have set.

I’ll close by letting you see Day 1’s outfit.  I kept it pretty simple.