Shine A Light On Slavery

Today – February 25 – is Shine a Light on Slavery Day.

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The red X is confirmation of my desire to do my part to End It.

You can learn about the End It Movement here.

Bringing attention to modern day slavery won’t necessarily put an end to human trafficking, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. As more people become aware of the warning signs of sexual exploitation and begin to demand products made without forced or bonded labor, more of those held captive will be set free.

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Psalm 10:16-18.

For more information about some of the growing number of organizations currently fighting human trafficking, check out these sites:

The Polaris Project – www.polarisproject.org

International Justice Mission – www.ijm.org

R3 The Movement – www.r3themovement.org

51 South Foundation – www.51south.org

Called2rescue – www.called2rescue.org

Express Missions International – www.expressmissions.com

Advocates for Freedom – www.advocatesforfreedom.org

 

To learn more about human trafficking, start with these sites:

2015 Trafficking in Persons Report (US State Department)

Recognize the Signs of Trafficking (Polaris Project)

Training for Medical and Dental Professionals (CMDA)

Tennessee Human Trafficking Report (Tennessee Bureau of Investigation)

End It

I’m in it to END IT.

Will you join me?

The Christmas Story

In honor of the Reason for the Christmas Season, tonight’s blog post will tell the age-old story, which is better by far than any story I could tell. The crime story will continue on Saturday.

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In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.

(This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)

And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David.

He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child.

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While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born,

and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them at the inn.

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And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night.

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An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified.

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But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people.

Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.

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This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

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“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.”

When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger.

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When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child,

and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.

But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart.

The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

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Luke 2:1-20 New International Version (©1984)

In Memory

Tonight I was going to post chapter two of the story, but it seems more appropriate to pay tribute to my friend who went to meet Jesus face to face today. Brenda Hughes was a gracious lady who had a great sense of humor and a ready smile. She made us laugh. She will be missed. I haven’t always known her well, and I think I missed out on a gem of a friend by not knowing her better.

My favorite story involving Brenda was from 2009. I went on a girls’ get-away cruise with Brenda and five other friends.

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As we were going through security to get on board the ship, about half of us went on through without any problems. We realized there was a problem behind us, but we were forced on through the line and had to wait at the end to find out what happened.

It turned out that somehow a steak knife from the set in Brenda’s kitchen had ended up in her knitting bag.

She had no idea how it got there.

But security took it.

It was supposedly a dangerous weapon that was not allowed on the ship.

The delay was caused by them searching her bag, incredulous that there could possibly be something as random as a steak knife in a bag full of yarn and knitting needles. She had told them she had no weapons, which made it worse. They finally seemed to concede that she really was clueless about the knife’s presence.

So…we finally all get on board the ship, sans Brenda’s knife, and decide to get some dinner.

Brenda ordered steak.

They brought her a steak knife.

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For some reason, our server couldn’t figure out why we found that to be so funny.

We laughed until we cried.

Brenda had that effect on us.

So, tonight my heart is sad. My prayers are lifting for her family and dearest of friends. I know they can hardly imagine life without her. God sees them and He will comfort them. I’m very thankful that Brenda knew Jesus and had accepted Him as Savior. Her family can look forward to a joyful reunion in heaven one day.

For now, I’ll just look forward to seeing Brenda again one day in God’s kingdom. I can imagine her there skipping down the streets of gold, laughing and making others laugh, too.

Heaven became a little bit brighter today.

“Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints.” Psalm 116:15 (NIV84)

Rest in peace, Brenda.

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My Brother

I have one brother. No sisters. David might strangle me, but this post is all about him.

Why? It’s his birthday.birthday

For the record, and I know you’re wondering . . .                                                             David is almost exactly 4 years older than me.

So yeah. If you haven’t done the math already, I just turned 47.

Since it’s getting late in the Eastern time zone and his birthday is already over where he lives, I’ll go ahead and just leave you with some pictures. Where I come from in the Central time zone, he still has roughly a half hour, but whatever.

Here he is as a little thing.

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And here’s a few family pictures. (Sorry, Mom and Dad.)

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I know, we were rockin’ some of those hairstyles!

But the main thing about my brother?

He has an amazing talent for art. He did these for me a few years ago, all by computer.

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Breathtaking, aren’t they? Can you imagine drawing this sort of thing with a computer mouse? I can’t. This was when he first started doing computer animations, too. He’s gotten even better at it over the years, but these are still my favorites.

Happy birthday, bro! I hope it’s been a great one. It was good to see you on your birthday for once. Let’s try that again next year.

Love ya!

Prom Season Again??

This doesn’t have anything to do with law enforcement, but I need a break. I have other things on my mind. I’ll get back to the halls of justice next week. Maybe. But for now…

It’s prom season. A quick peek at Facebook shows girls pampering for the big event, doing their hair and makeup before dressing up in fancy gowns. It was a simpler time when I went to prom. We just posed for a few pictures at the event. Now, they seem to have an entire photo shoot before they go to dinner!

I’ll do my kids a favor and not show THEIR prom pictures. But mine? Well, these two guys will have to get over it. They probably aren’t reading anyway.

This is Junior year prom.

Junior Prom

And here’s Senior year prom.

Senior Prom

Guess I liked pink back then. The second dress, ironically enough, was bought on my one and only trip to Memphis on a college visit to Memphis State. The same trip where I told my mom that if I never saw Memphis again, it would be too soon.

God sure has a sense of humor, doesn’t He?

But all that thinking about prom made me think about the lie that Satan tells us about having to be pretty. (Or “handsome” for those guys who may be reading and don’t want to feel left out.) The world plays along, buying into and promoting the myth. And our kids are especially under attack. Daily they are under pressure to look the way society tells them to look. And they shouldn’t have to be.

I’m reminded of an incident that happened in high school.

I was sixteen years old. My boyfriend and I had been dating for almost a year. (That guy in the Junior year picture above.) We were going on a date, and as I settled into the car I asked what every guy dreads:

“Do you think I look good in this outfit?”

He drove for a moment, then stopped at a traffic light, looked me in the eye and answered:

“It doesn’t matter how pretty you are,

there will always be someone prettier.

So quit worrying about it.”

I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to think. I just looked at him in disbelief. But once my brain started working again, the questions came fast and furious, chasing each other. Does he not think I’m pretty? Does he like someone else? Is he trying to tell me some hidden message? Does this outfit really make me look hideous? How dare he tell me that there will always be someone prettier than me? He’s my boyfriend! I camped on that last thought for the rest of the evening. I’m sure I wasn’t very good company.

We dated for two more years after that, but I never really forgave him for his comment until many years later. I never asked him what he meant by it, either. I just tucked it away in a safe place in my memory where I could easily dust it off and fume over it when I was looking for a reason to feel sorry for myself.

Like many teenage girls, I was caught up in my appearance and what other people thought of me. Looks were important to me. I wanted to feel pretty. I wanted to be pretty. I longed to be the most beautiful person in someone’s eyes. I felt like my boyfriend had let me down. In my twisted way of thinking, it was his responsibility to put me on a pedestal and tell me I was the most beautiful girl he knew. I bought into the lie of thinking beauty was the most important thing.

Am I pretty? Will anyone ever think me to be beautiful? For years after we broke up, on into college, I would regularly stare in the mirror and wonder if I were pretty enough, good enough, to find my place in the world. I lost weight to look even better, briefly cutting down from a size 8 to a drastic size 2.

Let me just say, I should never be THAT skinny. It wasn’t a good look for me. But at the time, I was desperate to be beautiful.

I even entered a beauty pageant: the Miss Tennessee USA 1989.

Here’s proof of my insanity, taken at the pageant. I was proud of the giant “flower.” Go ahead and laugh. Sarah did when my mom made her try it on once. Definitely dated.

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Y’all, let’s face it. I’m not beauty pageant material!

And don’t try to tell me otherwise. I’m okay with it.

(And – for the record – the winner of that pageant was a gal I knew from my Communications class at UTC: Kim Payne. We both skipped class to go to the pageant. After she competed in the Miss USA pageant, she went on to sing backup for the Beach Boys, after which she met and married Lee Greenwood. Wow.)

But now I know the truth.

That boyfriend was right. There will always be someone prettier than me.

And you know what? I really am okay with that now.

I was looking for acceptance based solely on my appearance. God, however, looks not at the outward appearance. He looks at the heart.

And all those gals who dressed up this year for prom? Some of them will go to bed after prom thinking that they fell short of beautiful. That they weren’t pretty enough. I pray that they escape the lie sooner than I did. That they realize just how beautiful they are to God.

If you know one of those girls, do me a favor. Give them a hug for me.

UPDATE: I should probably mention that the former boyfriend and I have since “talked.” His comment way back then was simply meant to encourage me to focus on lasting inner beauty over outer beauty. To his credit, he told me more than once I was pretty. In my teenage angst I just chose to focus on the one time that he didn’t.

New Beginnings

So here we are in 2015.

I suppose this is where I say Happy New Year.

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How did this happen? I was just getting used to 2014.

You too?

But, alas! Time keeps on marching along. This morning I didn’t simply turn the page on the good ol’ calendar. I cracked open a whole new calendar!

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Oh, what a feeling!

All those blank squares, waiting to be filled. Appointments, dinner dates, tests, work schedules…all sorts of things…the good and the bad. This year, there will be two graduations and a wedding taking up spaces. There’s already a funeral listed.

The ebb and flow of life.

What will you do with your new year? Did you make any resolutions?

I did.

Or as a friend and I decided to call them, GOALS.

Want to see my goals? I don’t mind sharing.

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I even made myself a sticker chart so that I can track my progress. Stickers are fun, and should keep me going strong.

I hope.

I’ve already met a few of my goals for this week, including the fun project. I actually painted a picture today, and if you know me well, you know I’m not much of an artist. Still, I decided to take that whole “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” thing seriously.

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This one above – painted today – goes with the one below that I did last year.

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I’m quite pleased with the results.

One of my goals – as you can see on the above list – involves blogging on a regular basis. Thanks to those of you who keep nagging me to post. You know who you are. You’re why I’m here. Now. Kicked back on the couch after midnight on the first day of the year, typing on my laptop keyboard while the cat is sitting on my feet.

Today marks the start of a new year. (Okay; maybe technically it should be marked – but I am still awake so it still counts as the 1st, right?) Either way, it’s a new beginning.

I plan to make the most of it.

Do you?

Feel free to ask me every now and then how I’m doing; and I’ll ask you, too.

 

Random Things I Have Learned (or Re-Learned) Since My Last Birthday

 

Today is my birthday. Or at least it was. It’s after midnight and I’ve been typing frantically for quite a while. Oh, well. This always takes longer than I think it will.

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I am officially 46 years old. I don’t mind telling you my age; it actually feels kinda young, relatively speaking. Or at least I thought it was young, until I counted out 46 candles. That many candles makes quite an impressive pile. (Please tell me I’m not the only one with a random, left-over assortment of old birthday candles tucked away in a cabinet.)

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What?

You thought the candles would be on a cake?

Hahaha! Right.

Honey, Mamas don’t tend to get cakes unless they bake them for themselves. And today, the kitchen was closed. This is about all the attention these candles will see today.

Ahem. Back on task. Things I’ve learned this year.

The past year has been quite a journey. God has brought me to places I never would have dreamed possible. Along the way I’ve learned – or re-learned – a thing or two. God was a willing teacher when I was willing to listen.

What did He teach me?

Among other things… (in no particular order)

 

God is good.

We may not always understand, but He is always, always good.

Enough said.

 

You’re never too old to learn (or do) something new.

I’m proof of that. I was comfortable as a 40-something-fluffy-couch-potato-soccer mom. But comfortable is never as exciting as trying new things and experiencing new learning opportunities. I’m officially doing things I would have never dreamed I would be doing just a few short years ago.

I’ve learned to do so many new things this past year within that world alone, my head could spin. Turns out that age is just a number.

 

I can do anything…and I mean ANYTHING…through Christ who strengthens me.

40 pushups in under a minute? Yep.

Function after getting sprayed with pepper spray? Check.

Drive a squad car fast, lights on and sirens blaring, while calmly drinking my diet soda? Uh-huh.

But it’s not me. God’s got this. When I try to do something in my own strength, I fall short. But with God, anything is possible.

 

I haven’t arrived.

This has been a biggie. Somehow I thought I would have it all together by now, that I would have all the answers and life would be easy. I would have all of my fears and shortcomings conquered and be well on my way to being a completely, 100% committed, sold-out Jesus Freak.

Not happening.

Instead, there are many times that I feel like life is coming unraveled at the seams. I still get scared. I have times when I feel like I’m moving backward instead of forward. Two steps forward, three steps back.

You too?

I’ve learned that I will never arrive while my heart’s still beating, because this world is not my home. And it’s okay to not have all the answers. It’s okay to still struggle with doubts and insecurities. That’s part of being human. If I had it all together, I wouldn’t need God. And He is all that I need.

 

I don’t like giving tickets.

If I pull you over for speeding, running or stop sign, or a headlight out, I probably won’t give you a ticket if you’re nice. You can talk me into a ticket. I’d rather you not. Compassion is never something I’ve been known to have, but I’ve learned that I have it in boatloads when I’m dealing with drivers just trying to make their way. Especially when I pull over a young woman for a headlight being out TWICE in one night, several hours and a number of miles apart…and all she was doing was trying to find a place to sleep that night. (I couldn’t believe it when I walked up to her car and saw her. I just knew that license plate number sounded familiar!)

That said, carry your current registration and insurance info in your car. If I have to have it, you do too. And traffic court isn’t fun for either of us.

For the record, I DO like arresting drunk drivers. It’s a great sense of accomplishment to get someone off the road when they’ve had too much to drink. But it’s a sense of accomplishment I’d much rather not have the opportunity to get. People, if you have been drinking, DO NOT DRIVE. It’s just not worth the risk.

 

Failing doesn’t make you a failure.

We all make bad choices from time to time. We all fall short of our goals. Sometimes we literally fall down. It might hurt. It might be hard to get up. The temptation may be to take it personally. To give up. But we must get back up and try again. And again…and again…and again.

Speaking of bad choices. For some reason, today I was reminded of one of my earliest memoires of a bad choice.

This is a picture of me when I was maybe 5 years old.

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Notice the ringlets. My mom worked hard to get those ringlets in my hair, and I often slept in rollers to make it happen. One day, I decided that I wanted to HOLD one of those ringlets. As I recall, it was the one in the very front on my right side.

Let’s just say that:

Bad decision + scissors = VERY short haircut for first grade.

Talk about an unhappy Mama. My kids have no idea their sweet Meemaw could yell like that. (Sorry, Mom!)

Anyway, the point is, God can redeem bad decisions. He can exchange failure for a future. Hair grows back. Wounds heal. We may suffer some consequences (like having everyone in first grade think you’re a boy) but we can’t quit. Let’s keep trying. As many times at it takes.

 

I have way too much stuff.

For my birthday, I marked off something that has been on my to-do list for years. Literally. I’ve always thought it would be a good idea to go through our house and make a video inventory of each room. I’ve never done it in the past because I thought the house was never in good enough shape to do so.

But this time I got over that. My house wasn’t perfect by any stretch. I cleaned as much as I could muster, took a deep breath, and started the video recorder on my phone.

It didn’t take nearly as long as I thought it might to record everything. I quickly discovered that there wasn’t a whole lot of stuff that I would replace if something happened to it. It was just a whole lot of stuff. Period.

Time to start purging. Maybe that’ll be a goal to reach by my 47th birthday. Who knows?

 

Let’s speed things up a bit.

I’m sure you’re all getting tired of reading, my birthday is gone, and Rich has given up and gone into the den with a sigh. Brief snippets for the rest. If you want more than the Readers’ Digest version of some of these, just ask. I’ll be happy to fill you in.

 

Sleep is essential.

Naps are your friend.

 

There are many, many hurting and lonely people out there.

We need to find them. Perhaps you are one who is lonely. Reach out to someone. Don’t suffer in silence. Be a friend…find a friend.

 

It is very easy to be selfish.

It’s also easy to be proud, arrogant, greedy, lazy…you name it. The good qualities are much harder to achieve.

 

A little bit of encouragement goes a long way.

Everyone enjoys a pat on the back every now and then. It can really turn someone’s day around.

 

It is way easier to put on pounds than to take them off.

I’ve lost over 30 pounds in the last year. Every one of them is clamoring to come back home. Keeping them off is a daily struggle.

 

Sometimes life doesn’t lead where we think it will.

God probably doesn’t let us know in advance where we’re going because it would scare the daylights out of us. Either that or we’d try to take a short cut. Regardless, the path we are on may or may not end up at the destination we predict.

 

My tastes change.

I chose PF Changs for my birthday dinner. I used to hate Chinese food. Now I love it.

 

“Old” is a higher age than I thought.

The older I get, the older “old” is. I might never get there.

 

Aches and pains are a part of growing older.

I haven’t talked to anyone over the age of about 40 who doesn’t hurt somewhere. Sigh.

 

Stretching makes you more flexible.

Literally and figuratively. You grow that way.

 

Anything that has value takes work.

Sometimes a lot of it. But that’s exactly why it has value.

 

Blogging is hard.

And time consuming. (Does that mean it has value? Hmmm… Not sure.)

Sometimes with blogging, you have to simply give up and wrap up. The writing is never going to be perfect. There’s always tweaking that can be done, and I doubt I will ever run out of words.

 

So… with that in mind…

That’s all, folks!