Points to Ponder

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.

Great Adventure

The Next Step

It’s official.

I’m going back to school.

It’s been 24 years since I got out of college, 28 years since I graduated high school.IMG_1890

And now, after much prayer and consideration of my options, I’m going to grad school to get my Master of Science in Criminal Justice. I don’t know yet how God plans to use this in my future, but I’m very curious to see how it will all play out.

You’d think I’d be used to stepping out blindly into my future by now. I’m not. It’s scary.

And I didn’t see this one coming any more than I saw becoming a Reserve Sheriff Deputy. Or developing a passion to fight human trafficking. I think God knows that if I knew all that He had in mind for my future, I’d take off running in the opposite direction!

Bethel

I chose Bethel University for several reasons.

  • They have a College of Public Service that has my desired degree.
  • They are a Christian university.
  • They sent info to the Sheriff Office Training Academy while I was there.
  • They have a completely online program.
  • I can finish by Christmas.
  • They sent me this cool Chromebook.

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Okay, so maybe the Chromebook wasn’t a real reason to pick Bethel. I’m sure I’ll find a use for it, anyway. Such a tiny little thing.

Sooo…I don’t know where it’s going from here, but here I go.

I signed all the paperwork, and turned in all the forms.

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I paid for my first two online classes.

It’s time for the next step in my Great Adventure. Here I go on wobbly feet and shaky knees, very thankful for my ROCK of a foundation.

Classes begin April 13.

Great Adventure

Fear

DSC_0043What do you do with irrational fear?

I know, I know. Not every fear is irrational.

But some of them are.

Ask anyone who has sung in the church choir for a number of years, and they will tell you. I used to have an irrational fear of heights. If I ended up on anything but the bottom row of the choir, I totally felt like I was going to topple right out of the choir loft and into the orchestra pit! I had women who would scramble to find a place for me on that front row, giving up their own seat for me if it came to that.

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Once, on a Sunday morning, I wound up just one row shy of being at the very top. I had a panic attack and couldn’t sing. I couldn’t move to run away. I mostly froze. I think I ended up moving my mouth somewhat so that it wasn’t evident except to those near me what was happening. I sure was thankful when we finally got to sit down!

And that was my life.

I didn’t like ladders, hated balconies, avoided looking down on stairwells.

Then one day, I told God that it was an irrational fear, and asked Him to take it away.

He did.

Completely.

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I had proof of that over Spring Break last week when my family went to Gatlinburg. For the first time ever, I actually completed a zip line course AND a tree-top ropes course. There was no way I was going to let my family have fun without me!DSC_0132

So here’s my question. Do you have any irrational fears?

I dare you to ask God to take them away.

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Freedom and Justice, Great Adventure

Slave No Longer

Here’s a sneak preview of my latest novel about slavery. It follows the stories of three modern-day slaves: Malaya, Javin and Santino.

I’ll have an announcement about the book tomorrow. Let me know if you’d like to read more.

Slave

Chapter 1

Malaya

Rural Countryside, The Philippines

 

“No! Mama, no! Don’t let the man take me!”

Malaya’s shrieks of panic pierced the quiet morning air and reverberated off the tin roofs of the surrounding shanties. “I don’t want to go with him! I want to stay with you! I want to stay with you and my brothers!” Her wails intensified as the man gripped her arm more tightly, pulling her upwards so that only the tips of her toes brushed the dirt path.

“Malaya, you must go with him.” Mama held her head high as quiet tears streamed down her gaunt cheeks. “It is best.”

“No, Mama, it can’t be best. Being with you is best.” Malaya choked on her tears. “I will work harder, I promise! I will spend all day in the cane fields, and I won’t complain. Please let me stay, Mama!”

“The man says that he will find work for you in Manila. You can work to make money. He says there is much money to be made for hard working little girls in Manila.” Mama reached for Malaya, grasping at her hand as the man turned to open the door to the dusty compact sedan that blocked the narrow street. “He promises that he will send us the money you make. Then we can buy food. Your brothers would no longer be hungry. Don’t you want that, Malaya? Don’t you want to do whatever you can so that they don’t go hungry?”

“Yes, Mama.” Malaya hung her head and sniffed loudly. “I want to make money for food. I will go with the man.” She raised her head to search her mother’s eyes imploringly. “Will you come see me in Manila? Will I get to visit you?”

“The man said he would send me your address as soon as you started work. We will do our best to visit you when your father returns home.” Mama released her hand and took a step back. “You go now. You work hard. Be a good girl.”

“It’s time to go.” The man, who had remained silent during the exchange, spoke abruptly as he shoved Malaya into the back seat of the car where two other girls already waited. Without another word, he closed the door on Malaya, climbed into the front seat, and drove away. Malaya twisted on the rough fabric seat to get one last look at her mother, who had already turned and was heading back into their tiny home, counting the dollars given to her in exchange for her small daughter. Malaya wondered if she would ever see her mother again. She began to sob.

“Don’t cry.” The girl beside her whispered close to her ear. “It won’t do any good. It will only make the man angry at you. You do not want the man angry at you.”

“It is true.” The other girl’s whisper held a sense of urgency that checked Malaya’s cries. “You do not want to make him angry. This will be the result if you do.” She leaned forward, revealing a swollen lip and bruised cheek.

Malaya swallowed her tears and clamped her hand over her mouth as she studied the older girl’s misshapen features, her eyes wide in sudden fear.

“He did that to her when she tried to run this morning.” The first girl supplied the information in a hushed voice, her lips again close to Malaya’s ear. “We went with the man yesterday when he came to our village. Over the night, he…did things. To both of us. Things that made us want to run. I was scared and did not resist, but Diwata tried to run. He caught her, and then he hit her. He did more things to her. Then we left and came to your village.”

“What kind of things?” Malaya whispered into the other girl’s ear. “What did the man do?”

“Bad things. You will find out tonight, I am sure.” Diwata looked out the window at the passing countryside, avoiding Malaya’s stare. “For now, we must be still and try to sleep. Nights do not mean much sleep. Perhaps the man will be nice to you, because you are young. But I do not think that he will. You will see.”

“But what will I see?” Malaya persisted, louder than she intended. The man turned to glare at her over the seat. She lowered her voice. “What does the man do? I thought he was to find us work to feed our families. Good work in Manila.”

Diwata laughed bitterly, a harsh sound muffled by her hand over her swollen mouth. “There is nothing good about this man. He will not find good work for us. Now be quiet.”

“What is your name?” Malaya tried another tactic, leaning close to the ear of the girl beside her.

“Lailani.” The girl eyed the man in the front seat warily. “Diwata is right. We should rest now. Be quiet. We can talk later.”

Malaya put her head back against the seat and tried to close her eyes, but the fear gripping her throat threatened to rob her of any air she could grasp in the stuffy car. Sweat broke out in tiny beads on her forehead, yet a chill rolled down her spine in spite of the heat. She popped her thumb in her mouth, a move that had comforted her since she was a baby.  Just as she was beginning to think she could no longer stand the silence, the fear, the unknown, she felt Lailani’s hand slip into her own. The gesture reassured her that no matter what was to come, at least she would not have to face it alone. She sighed deeply, and settled back to endure the bumpy ride.

Points to Ponder

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!

2

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.

 

Points to Ponder

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.

me

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!

Great Adventure

Passion 2013

Passion 2013 was a conference aimed at college students. It filled the Georgia dome with over 60,000 students and leaders. Led by leaders such as Louie Giglio and Chris Tomlin, the conference highlighted the atrocity of modern-day slavery and inspired the “Jesus Generation” to unite in a concerted effort to END IT. Passion I thought I knew what to expect from the conference. Daniel had attended Passion 2012 that had a similar focus. He had told me about it, and I was curious. I decided to go with our church’s group as a “chaperone,” like college students really needed those. Sarah tagged along because the conference organizers opened it up to high school seniors. Daniel also attended. His fiancé, Iva, was there with their church from Oxford. I was ready for a fun four days.

I had no idea that this event would touch me in such a powerful way. First, Here’s a few things totally random, yet entertaining, things I learned at the conference.

  • My rain jacket was only water resistant. It also had a design flaw that streamed water down the back of my neck. Notice I refer to it in past tense.
  • Starving college students are resourceful enough to try making Easy Mac in the hotel room coffee maker.
  • Hotel gift shops occasionally sell fabulous things like Ramen Noodles that totally hit the spot when you are as hungry as a college student.
  • It’s nearly impossible for 60,000+ people to manage to eat dinner near the Georgia Dome and still get to the sessions on time.
  • It is possible to feed lunch to those same 60,000+ people inside the Georgia Dome – all in roughly 20 minutes. It involves pallets and pallets of boxed sandwich lunches, numerous volunteers, cooperation from the masses, and precise organization. Oh, and a stopwatch to time it all. Yeah. They timed it.

So there you go. The random. The fact that most of them are related to food is purely coincidental. Now for the serious things that I learned.

  • Slavery still exists. Estimates are that there are roughly 27 million men, women, boys and girls entrapped in slavery today. 27 million. That’s larger than the population of the entire state of Texas.
  • Many of the items we take for granted – things like chocolate, clothes, jewelry, and smart phones – could very easily have been handled by slaves.
  • In particular, sex slavery is rampant. Even in the United States. It’s in more than just our major cities, too. It’s hit small town America.
  • College students are capable of raising phenomenal amounts of money. Over $3 million was raised at the conference that year, all to shine a light on modern day slavery. The money went to organizations who are committed to END IT.

END IT? Yes, END IT. The “End It Movement” was born as a follow-up to the Passion Conferences. It’s how they coordinate raising the funds and distributing them to the partner organizations. End It Supporters were asked on a certain day to put a red “x” on their hand to raise awareness. Here’s my attempt. hand But it was a video that they showed that got to me. That’s what rocked my world. I thought the video interesting from the moment it started, but I have to admit, I was a little tired and was only half watching. But then it had my full attention.

I found the video on YouTube and watched it again tonight. You can watch the video for yourself here.

It was at the 1:39 mark that I froze, standing inside the Georgia Dome, suddenly alone with God in a stadium packed with energetic students. That’s when I realized that the video I was watching was the vision that had been in my head the night I pouted over Speckles. The pictures were the same. The only difference was that there had been no words that night lying in my bed.

Sounds crazy, I know. But it happened. I stood there, unable to move, long after the video ended and the screen went dark. Those around me continued on with the worship service filled with stirring music. I simply stood. Once again speechless before a mighty and powerful God. The words rang in my head, pealing repeatedly:

“What are you going to do about it?”

What was I going to do about it?

I now knew where God was ultimately leading me, but I still had no idea how to get there. It would still take a few months for me to figure out even where I was supposed to begin.

We were given a visual reminder to take with us, cutouts of individuals representing modern-day slaves. I still have mine and stare into her eyes on occasion. She now stands as an additional motivation to continue to seek God’s will in my journey to fight slavery. Her name is Anya. DSCN6876 DSCN6877 That’s enough for now. More to come later.