I Am The 1%

Many have asked me to share my trafficking experience on my blog.  I regularly weave it through trainings to illuminate and illustrate the reality and truths of this horrific crime, but for some reason have never placed it here.  So, below is a piece I wrote at the request of a friend a couple years ago to give a radio program producer.

9/7/2014

A friend asked me to share with you a bit of me and my personal experience with trafficking, in 1500 words or less.  While that may not seem like a difficult task, for me it seemed daunting, at least at first.  However, after a bit of prayer and basically just getting out of my own way, I find myself here, typing away.

If you happened to be reading this, there’s a fair chance you have never even heard of me!!  Just as I haven’t, you.  I will begin with just a touch of info to help you get a visual of who is talking.

I am a tall, 48 year old German looking woman with long blonde hair bright blue/teal eyes, a tiny nose, cutesy bubble cheeks (my hubby says) and about 100 pounds too much weight.  I look quite younger than I am, perhaps that is because I feel younger than I am.  Most days I feel rather like a 20 year old girl who just happens to have wisdom way beyond her years.  I have been married for 30 years to Keith, my love.  Together, we have three children, Lauren, Andrea, and Mathew.  They have all grown and married, gifting us with new sons and a daughter (I don’t like calling them “in-laws”) and eight beautiful, smart, unique blessings we affectionately call the ‘punkin seeds’.  Being a grandparent is a joy.  They are tiny little bundles of imagination, glee and are just as precocious as their parents were.

I am absolutely in love and like, with my God!  They, (God, Jesus and Holy Spirit), are hands down the most amazing and important thing that ever has happened to me.  If you were able to get to know me, you would quickly see that I am just a kind, sweet, person who is a tad too sarcastic and can be a handful.  BUT, I have gotten a couple things right in this life.  One….building a relationship with my God, Two….choosing my hubs, who is fairly amazing, Three…..loving my kids into independence from us, and Four…learning to follow God wherever He leads me, even if I’m terrified and don’t agree! 

Believe me there have been many times I didn’t agree!  I have even argued with Him!  Yes, I really have.  Asking Him silly questions like, “What? God, have you thought this through?”  Thankfully, He knows me inside out and knows my heart trusts Him implicitly, even if my mouth and mind don’t seem to. 

So, where He leads, I follow the best I can.  He knows the way and is a supreme guide and travel companion.  In fact, it was late Spring of 2011 that we had a conversation much like the one I described above.  During a time of prayer and study I felt Him asking me to share something.  This something was a very dark secret that I had tucked away at the very bottom of my soul.  It was hidden deep, in an old metal chest held tightly closed with big chains, a heavy lock and it was covered in dirty, moth-eaten blankets.  The horrors locked inside frequently wrestled to get out.  But, layers and layers of blankets encased that chest, making every effort to dampen the clanging noise from reverberating through my soul.  It had been hidden away some 28 years at this point. 

Why, Lord?  Why would I want to release it now, or even ever?  Wasn’t I doing ok?  Aren’t I serving you and your people?  Is there something I have missed?  What good will it do?  How is it hurting anyone locked away inside me?  Isn’t this the easiest way? 

Questions like these, empty attempts at trying to wrap my head around His request, poured from my lips to His ears.  See, I may not be the best daughter He has ever had, but I do tell Him how I’m feeling.  And, even when it may not be good things falling from my lips, I know He likes it.  How?  Well, because I know Him.  He loves me!   I mean, like a lot!!  And He really loves when I trust Him enough to share myself with Him.  So, I do.  And I really like when He shares with me.  I really do have the best end of this deal!  ;)

Anyway, back to ‘sharing’ with you, sigh…..   I would love to say I jumped on that request right away.  But, I didn’t!  I ‘discussed’ it with Him for almost two months.  Back and forth.  Thankfully for me, He is patient.  I could have wound up a pillar of salt or something, but trust me, I’m still mostly muscle and too much sea salt caramel gelato! 

See, my friend, He wanted something FOR me, not from me!  Yes, I was about to embark on a very scary, dreaded journey of sharing a truth.  It was a secret I had been forced to keep in order to protect someone I loved even more than life itself.  But, what I found was so much more than anything I could have guessed. 

I didn’t expect, at all, that this journey would have anything for me.  But, it turns out, fruitful as it has been, it was very much for me, probably even more so than for anyone else it has, or will affect.  

What was it, you ask? Well, long ago, when I was teenager I found myself in a relationship with what turned out to be a very bad man.  He pretended to be my boyfriend.  I thought he was.  He took me on dates.  We went dancing, had dinner, and went for drives.  He listened to me.  Like he paid attention and seemed to really care about what was important to me.  Sounds like a boyfriend, doesn’t it?

I wanted to be a doctor.  Since I was only two years old, that had been my goal.  I loved learning anything and everything about the human body and had a natural aptitude for it.  I was truly a passion of mine and my number one love.  He fed that dream.  He told me he would help me find a good college and quite possibly one that would give me great scholarships. 

I was really innocent and naïve in the things of relationships.  I was wise about many things and very intelligent and mature for my age, but he reeled me right in. 

How?  He spent time learning what was important to me and then pretended to not only be interested, but to also help me accomplish what I was working towards.  What girl wouldn’t want that?

Now, honesty is the best policy, right?  So, if I am being honest, and I am, I need to say that I did make a mistake that I ignored.  This man was just that….a man.  I was a girl.  I knew full well he was much too old for me, but every time that bothered me, I pushed it away.  I reasoned it away, I ignored it, I pretended it just didn’t matter one little bit.  I thought that if it were really love, and it felt that way, that love would conquer all.  Geez, sounds like a romantic, teenage notion, huh?

Several weeks, possibly two months or so after we had begun dating, he was taking me out one night.  I believe we were planning on going dancing.  Right after he picked me up he said he had forgotten something at his house, so we headed there.  Once inside, we walked into the living room.  I remember standing in front of the fireplace and he started kissing me.  As we were kissing, another man came into the room from off the stairwell.  He was really, really tall and really, really naked!  The very next thing I knew they both had me on the ground and for the next few hours, they raped and sodomized me.  When the ordeal was over, they stood up and walked into the kitchen.  I don’t remember them saying anything at all, they just walked away.  I stumbled to the hall bathroom, locking myself in.  I was going to escape through the small window in there, but once inside, I discovered I had remembered wrong….there was no window.  I was trapped.  I was terrified, shaking terribly, covered in blood and completely disoriented.  I’m sure I was in shock as I stood there trying desperately to figure out what to do next.  I found a cloth and wiped and washed and scrubbed, just trying to get clean.  Really, I was trying, to no avail, to rid my body of their touch.  I could still feel their fingers on me, their skin touching mine.  Waves of nausea kept me reeling.  I just wanted to figure out how to get home.  Finally, wrapping a towel around me, I decided to try and ease the door open, hoping it wouldn’t creak.  I started slowly down the hall planning to make a run for the front door. But…..

“He” stepped into the end of the hallway, literally filling the space with his body. I froze.  I wish I had pushed him, or fought or tried to run.  I just froze there…..staring at him with what I imagine to be a wild, shocked look of disbelief.  I had trusted him!  I didn’t understand!  What had changed?  What had I done?  My head was spinning, my stomach was fighting fear for residence in my throat, and I was terrified I would lose my death grip on that towel because I was trembling so violently.  It represented my very last shred of dignity and courage, and it was fading fast.  Then, through the fog I realized he was speaking.  I tried to focus, to hear what he was saying, but it was like trying to tune in a radio station with no antenna.  I don’t know anything he said.  Nothing broke through, until…..    “I know you don’t want Kasandra……”  WHAT!!!  NO!!  My heart was breaking, fear had very literally just rocketed off the known charts into some foreign land I had never known existed. 

Suddenly, I could hear him loud and clear.  My blood had stopped flowing, any and all resistance I might have mustered died quickly and quietly, like a perfectly snuffed candle.  What he was telling me was this.  From that day forward, I would be where he told me to be, when he told me to be there.  If I chose to ignore him, disobey, or speak of this to anyone, he would do this to my little sister, Kasandra.  She was only 5 or 6 at the time!!!  I have yet to come upon a word that accurately describes the fear that exploded inside me.  His threat of her was far, far worse than what he, they, had just put me through. 

This was the beginning of a strange, twisted, sadistic odyssey that would have me trapped for nearly two years.  He had essentially made me his sex slave.  At the time, I had no idea what I was trapped in, what to call it or how to get out.  Today, it is known as Sex Trafficking.  It may have a new name, but it has been around as long as there has been sin and evil in the world.  It is a heinous, soul-shattering crime that plays out differently for each person, but at the core it is the same. 

Human trafficking, sex trafficking is essentially modern day slavery.  It is defined as recruiting, harboring, transporting, providing or obtaining another person by force, fraud or coercion, for the purposes of slavery, debt bondage, commercial sex acts or involuntary servitude.

During that time, I essentially lived a double life or at least a very, very secret one.  And I did everything I could to make everyone think nothing had changed.  I could not afford any questions.  In fact, I quickly became able to display the needed emotion and actions for any given situation, regardless of how I was feeling.  I was a regular chameleon!  My days were the same.  I attended high school, continuing to get good grades, though they did start slipping after six months or so.  My part time job at F&M bank gave me a way to make money and was also something I could be proud of.  Nights, though, they had become his. 

Three to four times a week, he would give me a place and time, and I was expected to be there.  He would then pick me up and take me to a house.  There were many different houses, in several cities.  At those houses I was expected to do whatever I was asked.  Sometimes, there was one person, and other times there was a group.  For all intents and purposes, I was basically their human plaything.  They did whatever they wanted, for as long as they wanted.  He always sat in an armchair at the foot of the bed and watched.  That part was very creepy and the entire thing was completely horrific.  After a time, I became able to escape into my mind. 

You may be thinking, really?  One threat?  But, you see I had absolutely no reason to believe it was an idle threat.  He had proved to me just how violent he could be.  Why would I doubt him?  I was suddenly faced with someone I didn’t know.  There had been absolutely no inkling of anything but kindness and caring.  Nothing to indicate he was capable of this brutality.  Nor was it one threat.  The reminders continued.  He kept my family under close watch.  They never knew it, but I did.  He would say things to me like, “I saw Jamie got a new bike for his birthday.”  And, “I ran into your mom at Be-Lo.  Looks like you’re having spaghetti for dinner this week.” And when he wanted to tighten the screws a bit, it would be things like, “Boy, your mom must get awfully lonely at night with your dad at sea for six months at a time.”  He always knew what was going on and he made sure I knew that he knew.  It was subtle, yet powerful control.  Fear, intimidation, threats; basically, he wove an ongoing coercion that controlled my life.

And I did exactly what he said, always!  Fighting him wasn’t an option.  Telling wasn’t an option.  I knew no one that I could fully trust with my sister’s life.  For me, that horrible day in his living room, the die had been cast.  I was trapped, just as surely as if I had been locked in a cage.

It may sound ludicrous, but unfortunately this new life became normal.  I didn’t know how or when things would ever change.  The fighter inside of me would love to say I fought back and escaped, that I battled for my life.  The sister inside of me believes I did what I believed I had to do.  Thankfully, no miraculously, I didn’t die in this situation the way so many do.

One night we were on the way to a house, when he pulled over into a small, mostly vacant strip mall.  He got out of the car and began walking across the parking lot.  I was following behind him wondering why we were here.  Suddenly, he stopped beneath a parking lot light.  He looked at me a bit oddly, and said, “I don’t want to ever see you again.  Don’t go anywhere I have ever taken you, don’t’ try to find me or anyone else.  You need to move away.  This is the only way I can save you.”  Then he grasped my shoulders, and pulled me towards him kissing my forehead.  I just stood there, dumbfounded as he got in his car and drove off, leaving me standing there awash in shock. 

I have no idea how I got home that night.  But, I do know that he didn’t love me.  I believe the Holy Spirit facilitated my release.  I don’t know why.  I am no more special than any other person.  But, I am eternally grateful for my freedom.  It is something I value most highly and do not take for granted.  

Please know, this is not the norm!!  Less than 1% of modern day slaves are ever rescued! Less than 1%!!  That is the statistic that still rocks me to my core to this very day.  I am that 1%.  The 99% are still out there, hopeless, lost, discarded, forgotten. 

This unbelievable crime breaks the heart of God, as do so many.  I long to free them, these slaves whose very lives have been stolen from them.  I long to tell them and others of my Jesus.  He alone can heal them, redeem them, and return their lives to them, making them more beautiful than anything they could ever imagine.  Slave or not, this life is absolutely nothing without Him. 

My Jesus didn’t leave me or forsake me throughout my ordeal or since.  I endured those years, surviving without ever becoming pregnant, contracting a disease, becoming an addict or being killed.  Pretty miraculous, in my opinion. 

Well, my friend, this is my story, at least a good overview.  I hope in sharing it I have accomplished two things.  One, pointing you to my gracious, magnificent Savior and two, to be a voice saying this: sex trafficking is real, it happens here, it is not rare, and it needs to stop. 

 

~kathy bryan

I Come From....

i come from eternity
from love and peace
beauty and mystery

placed into this world
full of joy
eager to learn, yearning to heal

given eyes that see
what others choose to miss,
a heart full of innocence

a buoyant spirit
the things of this world
thought they could deflate

this world would say
she's from a small town
tucked into rolling hills of countryside

born to a struggling young woman
of breeding and mixed pedigree
to an emotionally shuttered German father

raised among marvelously
flawed people full of life, lies,
love, hate and scandal

they'd say she's from broken dreams
and tattered lives,
from generations of denial, addiction

part of a colorful family,
deeply patriotic and full of pride
determination, and crazy love

they'd say her painful life's journey
was from whence she'd come
and had made her what she is today

but listen as i say,
No!  i'm heading back
home to where I'm from

this world you hold dear is not my home,
this journey i value
from it, i have grown

i've experienced soul-shattering pain,
deep love that will break you,
known the darkest evil

but it will never overtake,
the wondrous pleasures
of my eternal abode

oh yes, eternity is where i'm from
created lovingly by my Father's hand
it is to Him i will return

                                        ~kathy bryan

Trafficking Truths

One of the greatest hindrances to truly impacting the human trafficking issue is Misidentification. Victims in our country are being overlooked, mislabeled, and therefore, unreached, due to this issue.  Worse yet, more often then not, they don't even know what they are caught in.

Allow me to give an example of what I mean. Not once since beginning to speak on this issue in 2012, have I ever left a venue without someone having said, 

"You mean like the movie, Taken?" 

In our country, this is what people immediately think, when the words Human Trafficking are uttered.  This is an enormous problem.  Why?  Because, while a few victims do experience kidnapping, or extreme bondage, liked being caged, or chained to a bed, the vast majority thankfully, do not! 

Now, that is not to say they don't experience horrendous abuses daily.  They do.  But, if we are linking trafficking to kidnapping in our minds we will miss our victims almost entirely. 

You see, traffickers are opportunistic, master manipulators, and powerfully skilled in coercion, not just force.  Using coercion and manipulation is not only easier and a quite effective form of brainwashing, it misleads not only victims but society.  It is a silent, subtle power, that effectively chains the victims invisibly, while keeping the trafficker safe from recognition.

I can not count the times I have been told by a trafficking survivor they didn't know they were being trafficked while it was occurring.  They had no idea.  They knew they didn't like the situation, and wanted it to stop, but they didn't have a name for it.  Worse, most of them over time came to believe it was their fault or their choice. 

If you are unsure if you are being victimized, stop and ask yourself these questions:  "What would happen if I said no? Do I have that option? Would I still be safe if I said no?"  

If your answer is anything but a resounding yes, you are being manipulated, coerced, and/or controlled.  Please seek assistance.  You were not created to be enslaved to anyone else's will.  

Human trafficking, at it's core, is the same.  Each individual's story is different, but the 'core' is the same.  No different than if you and I both had a car accident.  We were both involved in a collision, but the details of those collisions are likely very different.

Until we become thoroughly aware of ALL of the methods used to trap and victimize our people, they will continue to go unnoticed.  Our children will continue to grow up in a world unknowingly potential victims, because they weren't taught the truth. 

I leave you with this graphic.  

Human Trafficking exists if you have at least one from each circle.

national HUMAN TRAFficking hotline  888.3737.888

Christmas Thoughts.....

  • love: to have a profoundly tender, passionate affection for (another person).
  • humility: the quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion of one's own importance, rank, etc. to lower in condition, importance, or dignity
  • sacrifice: to surrender or give up

Christmas Thoughts....

Most of us have various visions of Christmas. Some are good and some...not so much. When we think of family, friends, parties, laughter and gifts, we smile. Choosing gifts for each person, staying within a budget, dealing with long lines, extra heavy traffic, and the keeping up with the Joneses mentality, these all equal a huge upside down smile, for sure. Ask any Christian, and most Americans, what they think of as a Christmas symbol and they will answer, the Manger scene, the Christmas tree, Santa Claus, and stockings.

love sacrifice humility.jpg


Thinking of the messages I have heard over the years about Christmas, "the gift" resonates through out my memories. It seems that is what pastors tend to focus on. And it was a gift... but what type? Have you ever truly thought it through? I think of the LOVE that was poured out. The HUMILITY displayed. Most think of the cross when you say SACRIFICE. But think of the sacrifices made to create that first Christmas...the birth of our precious Savior. God poured out His LOVE for us by becoming a human. He is Creator and King of the Universe for goodness sake. Yet, He chose, in supreme HUMILITY, to become as one of His created. Yes, He was sinless, but that does not lessen what He did. He chose to live in a sinful world and walk daily, as we do, being tempted, being surrounded by wicked things. He left His throne to rescue His kingdom. He LOVES us too much to SACRIFICE us to our own sinful ways. He didn't give up on us. WOW! Think of it this way, though it is not nearly the same... How would you like to give up all that you have, your children, your home, all of you possessions, yes even your favorite cherished things, your rights to make decisions in this part of your life, all to become one of a lesser species..say one of the insect, animal or ocean kingdom. Could you choose to become one of those whom you are not?

What about Joseph and Mary? They were engaged to be married and still pure. Mary becomes pregnant with Jesus, our Savior. I can hear "what an honor" ringing in my memory. That is what most say when they think of this event. And it was a tremendous honor!!! But, what of the LOVE for their God and each other? What of the SACRIFICE? I am no historian by any means, and I don't claim to know what this would have meant in their culture and times. However, I do know that even today it would mean the stigma of being an unwed mother (I am sure that was worse in those times), gossip, wedding plans totally awry, tremendous relationship strain, the list could go on and on. What must have been going through Joseph's mind? What faith to continue to believe the Angel he had seen in his dreams was real? Did he suffer shame from his peers? How difficult was it? We don't know, but I am fairly sure there was SACRIFICE. Surely the delivery of Jesus was a cake walk, too! How many pregnant women in their ninth month don't want to take a 2-3 hour car ride? Mary was on a donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. This was an 80 mile, week long journey by donkey...OW! Just saying...

Our greatest gift ever, is Jesus, our savior. Our gift was made possible through tremendous LOVE, SACRIFICE and HUMILITY. Those of being born, living as a human among us and ultimately, His unfathomable sacrifice on the cross. This gift is unimaginable LOVE. The HUMILITY shown by putting us first...as more important than himself. The SACRIFICES made to accomplish the goal.

This Christmas is coming quickly. You may chose to celebrate with gifts as usual, out of tradition. But I challenge you to also celebrate with a grateful heart, a heart of LOVE, HUMILITY, one willing to sacrifice. It doesn't necessarily have to cost a lot of money or be something big. Maybe, to you, it means being outside of your comfort zone or giving up a favorite item to someone who needs it more. Maybe you are shy and to be a greeter every Sunday at church for a month would be an act of love, humility & sacrifice. I don't know what it means to you. Pray about it. Ask God how you can say thank you, how can you show LOVE, HUMILITY and SACRIFICE in honor of His most precious LOVE.

PS: (Remember....this is just a symbol of remembrance and honor. Your works can't get you to heaven, only a relationship with the one true Jesus, can do that. He just asks you to accept His gift of salvation...take it...your life will never be the same)

                                                                                                       ~kathy

                                                                                                 

Thankfulness and Trauma...They aren't Mutually Exclusive

Give thanks in all circumstances, for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus. 

~1 Thessalonians 5:18

In ALL things? Really?

My job just announced a layoff.  

My husband says he doesn’t love me anymore.  

Someone stole my credit card number and drained my bank account.

My daughter was just diagnosed with leukemia.

My sister was raped at college.

And on and on and on. Life’s craziness, darkness, and it’s never ending attempt to pull you down can feel beyond relentless. And here you are telling me to be thankful in all things? How? And Why? Why would I try or even want to do that?

Ohhh, I feel ya!  Let me just say, I feel ya! But note this scripture does not say be thankful for all things. We are not to be thankful that any of these things happened. We are to be thankful and give thanks to God while traveling through them - during the journey. Find joy in the journey. That is my motto and something I strive to do, especially when life seems like it is doing it's very best to derail or obliterate me. 

Why?  So. Many. Reasons... 

Thankfulness, being grateful, is like sunshine for the soul! It lifts your spirits. It changes your focus. In the midst of life’s worst traumas and storms there is still always a lot to be grateful for. We simply need to determine to notice, to cherish, and to give thanks for those good and wonderful things in our lives.

Thankfulness breeds joy. Joy is a deep abiding emotion that can carry you through many difficult circumstances. In a truly thankful heart, joy abides no matter what. Can you imagine having deep joy within even when mourning a terrible loss? It is possible!

Thankfulness negates bitterness! Thankfulness in the heart is like “Roundup” for a garden.  It takes those weeds out at the root. No one needs roots of bitterness creeping into the soil of their heart.

A thankful heart finds it easier to forgive and the act of forgiving keeps your heart unbound and free. Free to live fully, love deeply, and to spread joy and light wherever it goes.  

We humans have the ability to really focus in with laser sharp intensity when we want.  Yes, even those of us who have problems staying focused. We are still able to be super focused at times.  We need to be sure that our focus is on the right things. Too often our focus is so fixed on our problem or our loss or our pain that it becomes all we can see. This can cause some interesting, harmful things to occur.  When all you can see is the issue, you have no way to see any potential solutions. Soon it takes up all of your thoughts, time, energy, and emotions. 

The thing is, who wants to be consumed with something negative? Who wants to spend the majority of their life focused on issues? You don’t have to live very long before it becomes apparent that though there are terrific things that life has to offer, it truly is a series of obstacles - some more difficult than others - but obstacles nonetheless.

So as you are traversing your life’s journey, why not create a habit of focusing on the good? Focus on your blessings and the beauty in your life. I had a friend once who said if you are trying to become more grateful, and you think you have no reason, start small. We ALL have things to be grateful for.  For instance, you could give thanks for having more than one pair of shoes. After all, there are people who have no shoes.

Challenge yourself! Make a list of everything you can think of to be grateful for. They don’t all need to be material items, nor should they. Just grab a pen and get started! You may be surprised at all that you have been overlooking!

The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak…..

Today, many days, this is how I feel.  Are you ever so tired, so weak that your heart, so full of the sorrows of this world, literally feels heavy?  Or that it will simply burst with the very next beat?  

Love, you are not alone.  Our precious Jesus felt this way too.  He knows what it feels like to be sorrowful to the point of death.  He said so himself.  

Photo credit: https://benziher.wordpress.com/tag/my-soul-is-overwhelmed-with-sorrow-to-the-point-of-death/

Photo credit: https://benziher.wordpress.com/tag/my-soul-is-overwhelmed-with-sorrow-to-the-point-of-death/

Then he said to them, My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.
— Matt 26:38

I believe we have all felt this way to some degree.  Most days I am full of the joy of the Lord.  Even in the midst of stressful times, uncertainty, and pain, I feel His sweet joy in my soul.  It is like fuel for my life.  Even so, there are things that will overwhelm me, despite His joy.  

There are days when seeing one more victim…..oh, how that word makes me truly understand the phrase ‘gnashing of teeth!!’   Victim.    The very sound is like a snarl in my soul. 

When I work with one more survivor struggling to get her footing.  When I post one more alert that a small boy is missing.  When they have found one more girl, used up and tossed away like yesterday’s newspaper.  My heart, it is overwhelmed, torn a bit more, aching for the lost.

There are questions.  Questions I refuse to ask, because I honestly don’t believe I deserve to know.  I trust my God, even when I don’t understand why I am free, yet they are not.  Some would try to label it survivor’s guilt.  But, I think not.  I think it is a survivor’s love, longing to share what I have been given, what I have found.  I think it is a survivor holding out an overflowing cup, saying, “Come, find refreshing here, please fill your cup from mine as it runs over.”  A friend calling out, “Please come with me.  You don’t have to stay where you are.  You were created for so much more.  You are worthy and loved.  Come. Come. Come, meet my Savior.”

Photo credit: http://www.oneartsymama.com/2014/07/cup-overflows.html

Photo credit: http://www.oneartsymama.com/2014/07/cup-overflows.html

Walking with Him is not always roses and sunshine.  Many times it is rainforest overrun with dense underbrush, and you go forth each day whacking at it with your machete, believing with each step you will finally stumble into a green, lush clearing awash in the sun’s rays.  Even in that forest, He walks with me, holding back the branches, keeping them from swatting me in the face.  He points out thorns along the path, and warns of poisonous snakes relaxing in the trees.  TOGETHER, we are always together.  He never leaves me alone and He understands when I feel overwhelmed with sorrow, or that I can never do enough.  

Photo credit:  http://feelgrafix.com/876801-rainforest.html

Photo credit:  http://feelgrafix.com/876801-rainforest.html

In those times He gently reminds me who I am, and that He has got this.  I just need to keep putting that one foot in front of the other.  Thank you Lord that you ‘bind up the brokenhearted.’  Thank you that you lead me beside still waters, and you ALWAYS, always restore my soul.  Thank you for your amazing, gracious love, and for my precious freedom.

                 ~kathy

 

Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.
— Mark 14:38


 

 

An Impenetrable Strength

My friend, and sister survivor posted recently wrote this for her blog.  There is much insight and truth within.  Take a look.......

 

An Impenetrable Strength

Posted on April 7, 2015 by Elisabeth

http://beatingtrauma.com/2015/04/07/an-impenetrable-strength/

As a survivor in the anti-trafficking movement, I am often treated as though I am only necessary for my story. This is not news. Most of my survivor friends can tell you about being re-exploited by those in the movement who are trying to make things right. But of course, in their effort to do the right thing, they are not helping the survivor advocates.

When I began my efforts, I thought I might be different. I thought that wouldn’t happen to me. I have an advanced degree in social work. I have twenty years of experience in the corporate world. I am different. I will be respected.

But in reality, I was stereotyping survivors too! Why am I so different? How many survivors have advanced degrees? How many survivors have experience in corporate jobs? How many are running companies? What makes me so special?

I am not special in the survivor community. But I think I needed to deal with the stress of the uncertainty by creating a reason that I was special, that I wouldn’t fail. It made me feel safer.

That being said, survivors are all underestimated. But there is one area where we are most underestimated: our bravery. I am not referring to the bravery it takes to tell our horrific stories to help others and deal with the inevitable stereotypes that follow. I am not describing the bravery it takes to tell advocates that they need to change their approach. I am not discussing the bravery it takes to tell the media that they are guilty of re-exploitation. I am pointing to something much more intense, the one thing that instills fear in every single human being. We have defied death. And we continue to defy it every single day.

Every time we write or speak or give an interview, we are defying death. We have been told that we would die if we “caused problems” for our traffickers. We have been assured that we would be punished with our lives for speaking out against our traffickers or going to law enforcement. We have been promised that murder would be the only result of our brave efforts to free ourselves and others. And yet, we keep going.

But most people have no idea the depths of the fear we have overcome. Most people have no idea what it is like to wake up at night wondering if our trafficker is in the next room or outside the house, if they have finally come to fulfill their promise. It is a life that can be overwhelming at times. But it was a choice we made. We made the bravest choice.

And yet the fear sits below the surface of my consciousness. It sits there as I work through the other beliefs, change them, integrate them and move forward. While I am supportive of my inner child, there are moments when I have asked, “Really? How can anyone believe that stuff?” I can almost laugh knowing that I was convinced my abuse was entirely my fault or that my parents were magical in their abilities. But there has been one belief that I just can’t argue with. That one belief is that my life is in danger. And so, that fear sits.

I can tell myself that my abusers and traffickers are really just wimpy criminals who weakly preyed on children. I can tell myself that they are now old and feeble. I can tell myself that anything they did to me would likely land them in jail because they would have such an obvious motive. I have even considered that if they harmed me, they might finally go to jail. And all of that is true. But it doesn’t completely eliminate the possibility that one day, they could venture on a psychopathic murderous rampage. I know they are capable. I lived with the threats.

But there is a new understanding emerging in my system, something new, something that says, “Who cares.” I am beginning to move past the feeling that my trafficker’s ability or inability to hurt me is relevant. Death is inevitable. But there is also a lack of living, which to me seems worse than death. I think Dumbledore said it best when he told Harry Potter, “Don’t pity the dead. Pity the living, especially those who live without love.” Living with love means living wide open. Living with love means living without the fear that stops us short of our ultimate purpose. And so, I will live until I am dead. That death may be tomorrow or in 50 years. And that strength is impenetrable because there is nothing left to fear.

So don’t ever underestimate the power, courage and strength of a survivor who is out there telling the world of their horrific experiences, anonymously or otherwise. Get to know them. Ask their opinion. Never minimize them to their story. You have a lot to learn from them. They may just be the strongest person you know.

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Thoughts on Obadiah

This morning I read the book of Obadiah in the Old Testament.  It’s a short book, but it shares a powerful message.  In a mere 21 verses the story of Edom, its deplorable behavior against Judah, and its future, righteous justice is spelled out.

The people of Edom haughtily stood by as Jerusalem was plundered by its enemy.  Edom not only didn’t try to help its relatives, it enjoyed, and reveled in their destruction.  Perched in the mountains, believing themselves completely protected and safe from harm, they did absolutely nothing to help their relatives during their desperate time of need.

Obadiah prophesies their complete and utter destruction as punishment for their pride and the wicked, perverse pleasure they took by gloating over Judah’s pain, and destruction.  Their behavior made them the same as the destroyers, states the Lord.  Their inaction not only reflects the state of their heart, but also condemns them.

“There is none righteous, no not one” it says in Roman 3:10.  That is so obvious if you read Obadiah.  But, much can be learned about our own hearts from this account.  God makes it quite clear that it is evil to stand by, and not bring aid when it is needed.  To simply stand by, and allow evil, is to participate in it!  It’s pretty straightforward.  Obadiah 1:11 - On the day you stood aloof while strangers carried off his wealth, and foreigners entered his gates and cast lots for Jerusalem, you were like one of them.

It goes on to say we shouldn’t look down on them in the day of their misfortune nor take advantage of them, in any way.  Hmmmm….no gloating, no “spinning” the situation to our advantage.  Help and protect.  Be part of the solution or you are part of the problem.  This was a “family” situation.  Edom and Judah were relatives.

How many times are the people we hurt the most family; those closest to us? How many times have we secretly gloated when someone else lost or “got what they deserved”?  Too many, I’m sure.  In those moments, we were absolutely no better than the enemy.  Wow...no there's a thought...let that one into your heart.

God is unfailingly perfect, righteous and just.  God is love.  Evil is the absence of all of that.  Evil is the absence of God.  Evil is the absence of love.  Is He absent in your life?  In parts of your life?  How much of your heart do you allow Him?  My suggestion would be all of it.  Hold nothing back.  He needs and deserves an "all-access" pass to your heart.

Lord, please forgive me for any and all pridefulness, gloating and inaction that I am guilty of.  I want my heart to be so clean.  Give me eyes to see people like you do…with abundant love.  And Lord, please forgive our nation for this too.  I repent of it as a member of this nation.  Help us Lord to humble ourselves before you once again, as a mighty Christian nation.

I love you, Father
     ~kathy

Steps to Knowing God Better

         Someone asked me the other day what I would say were good steps to Knowing God better.  So, these are some of my thoughts.  :D

      Time with Him........Yes, devotion time is needed and is good, but time listening is what we need.  Many times we talk, talk, talk, ask, ask, ask, and then pray, pray, pray, only to go about our day without hearing what God has to say.

      What if you did that with your spouse or best friend?  How long do you suppose they would consider you a good friend if you never heard what they had to say?

      Relationship implies there is more than one person....it takes two!!  Communication is essential; it's key.  So, yes, we are to communicate with Him, but we are to receive that from Him, as well.

How?  Well, He speaks to us.  The scriptures clearly state we will know His voice.  (John 10:2)  He speaks to us through those Holy Scriptures, which are so rich with answers and wisdom, if we'd but partake.  They are His written voice!

                                                                                            Romans 10:17 - So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.

                                                                                            Romans 10:17 - So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.

They help us know Him better and build our faith.  Romans 10:17 - So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.  Ex:  First, hear the word, get it inside your heart, then, faith will come (be built).  

Sometimes he will speak to you through someone or something, a song, a moment....even a quiet breeze on a fall day.  He is everywhere, including with and in you, if you have allowed Him entry.  He longs to live every moment with you.  He's waiting, give Him your all....all of you.

       Joy........"The joy of the Lord will be my strength.  He will uphold me all of my days.  For, I am surrounded by mercy and grace, and the joy of the Lord is my strength."  These are a few lines of one of my favorite songs.  They speak so much truth.

joy - Copy.jpg

    The joy of the Lord is a precious gift.  It is a supreme satisfaction that permeates your entire being when you truly, unequivocally embrace who you are in Christ!  When you know to the depths of your soul that the Lord Jesus is your King, Saviour, Redeemer, Deliverer, Creator.... when you know that His love for you is endless, that you are right now, in this very moment, eternally His....when you are captivated and in awe of His majesty, love, grace, brilliance, kindness, righteousness, gentleness and all-consuming love and power... Then, there is a joy that never leaves.  it makes you want to dance with Him and for Him, to kneel at His feet, to shout his name, to learn all His ways and to care for all His sheep.

    This joy is like a beautiful oasis in the midst of a barren desert.  Or a warm cozy fire on a cold, winter's night.  It's an enveloping protection that is very freeing in the security that it brings.  To me, it's another facet of His love.

     How do you connect with God the best?  It sounds like a funny question, but oftentimes people 'hang out' with Him in vary different ways.  In Genesis, it says they strolled the gardens together.

I know many people, myself included, who feel very near to God when they spend time in nature.  From a simple walk in the park, to a nature hike or sitting on a log inhaling the smells of the forest, these are great places to commune with Him.

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     In song....this is by far my favorite.  It is definitely my heart.  I love to worship and praise the Lord in song.  I could very literally 'sing of His love forever.'  I love to sing to Him.  The Word states He inhabits the praises of His people (Ps 22:13).  I so believe that.  For me, worship literally ushers me  into His presence.  While I am singing, I close my eyes and I am with Him, singing directly to Him.  It is very intimate and personal, like a deep heart to heart.  Oftentimes, I will be led to pray or will 'hear' or get clarity on something from Him.  It's totally an awesome way to spend time with God.

     Creating and working are another way to spend time with Him.  I know several people who feel closer to him when they are working and creating.  There are many others as well, prayer time, devotional, dance, etc.  The key is to find yours.  Like anything else, ask Him to help you.  He will, believe me, because He wants to spend time  with you.

     Prayer, wow, this is such a BIG six-letter word.  For most people, hearing 'prayer' or pray conjures up long-winded, flowery, boring speeches by know-it-all Christians who seem to talk in circles.

 Please don't let that be your definition of this most powerful tool and spiritual weapon.

Yes, we can recite a pre-written prayer from a prayer book pertaining to a certain subject if we need to; there's nothing wrong with that, if it's heartfelt.  In fact, "The Power of a Praying Wife," has some fantastic prayers that I have availed myself of.

But, prayer is so much more!

It's communicating with the Most High!  Sharing with your Saviour!  Confiding in the Holy Spirit!  It's Petitioning,  It's sharing your gratefulness.  His word tells us to give Him all our cares and worries, because He cares for us.  (1 Pet 5:7)  To come to Him without fear, but with boldness, and that we are welcome in His presence. (Eph 3:12 & Heb 4:16)  And remember....

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Often, my prayers are specific and a request for help or protection.   But, my favorite is the continual dialogue all through out the day.  it's so relational.  Just chatting about what I'm feeling or thinking or how the day is going so far.  Asking how I'm doing on a project, if He has anything He needs me to do, how should I handle a situation, etc.  Just staying in touch with Him....I love it!

      Ok, so that is probably more than you were looking for, but it is a few of my thoughts on truly getting to know your God, rather than just knowing 'about' Him.  They are two vastly different things and  the distinction is one that has the power to forever change your life.


                     ~kathy

 

  
 

 

 




 

Perfect Light

Light diffused is still light.  It may not be bright, but it isn't totally dark!  What is it that keeps it from shining crazy bright?  Why doesn't it stream from every pore?

Is your light more like the sun on a cloudy day, a lamp draped with a scarf, or a meteorite streaking through the night sky?

Is it powerful or weak?  Do you ever wonder?  Do you want it to be brighter?

I was thinking about the light of heaven, of our God and Savior.  It is described as the brightest light that is, or ever will be, yet it doesn't hurt your eyes.  It's brightness doesn't make you turn, cover your eyes, or hide your face.

It is warm, welcoming, and beckons you to run to it.

Do you wonder how?  The brightest light we have on earth will burn your eyes and make you blind.  You certainly don't want to gaze at it or run to it.  So, what's the difference?

My theory.......It's Pure.  

Like Jesus.

It's true.

I imagine, or believe the light of heaven is powered by the energy of love.  Perfect love.  Perfect light.  Perfect glory.

I have no facts to back this up.  All I can say is it's my blog, and my theory.  lol

So, we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.
— 1 John 4:16

I will say that scripture says God is love, and Jesus is the light of the world.  So, God is love, which is also the light of the world.  Which is perfect, warm, forgiving, inviting, and eternal.

Again Jesus spoke to them, saying, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
— John 8:12

Oh, how I can't wait to walk into that light.  What a glorious day that will be!!  Until then, I pray I allow His light to shine through me a little brighter every day.  And, I pray you will run to Him who is the light of the world!

    ~kathy

My 21 brothers

Twenty-one beheaded.  This is just one report I heard this week alone. 

We continue to hear of Christians around the world being martyred, wrongfully imprisoned, persecuted.  Last year, the number of Christians killed simply for being Christians doubled from the year before!  2,123!  That is a small town.  That number doesn’t include the numbers who are persecuted and jailed for their faith.

These are our family!  We can’t stand by and do nothing.  Most of us burn to do something, anything when we hear of these horrendous atrocities.  But, what?  What do we do?  What will make a difference? 

We feel as powerless to do anything, as the victims themselves were.  Do you know what happens when we feel powerless?  Nothing.  We do nothing. 

First, we lament the situation, or rage against the mind-boggling evil.  We ‘share’ the story on social media.  We shake our heads over morning coffee with our co-worker.  Then………..Nothing

 Our hearts slowly grow toughened to the news stories.  We shake our heads and change the channel.  We grow weary of hearing of subsequent attacks.  We become numb from powerlessness and doing…..nothing

My dear family, my sweet sisters and brothers, we cannot continue to do nothing!  Jesus did not save us to leave us standing in the corner wringing our hands, shaking our heads, and taking cover.  He did not imbue us with His mighty authority for no reason.  We are called to STAND. 

You with the 50 hour a week job, 3 children in school, an ailing mother and too many loads of laundry to catch up on, you can do something!!  We can all do something!  We are not powerless.  We are powerful.  Just as they were powerful.

What?  They were powerful?  Yes, very much so.  What better, stronger testimony can a person give for Jesus than to STAND, when everything in them wants to save their own lives?  They didn’t back down.  They didn’t forsake Him, their Savior, our King.  They died rather than deny Him.

So, what can we do?  We can do a couple things.  Everyone can do these without leaving their current position in God’s army.  Right where you are you can PRAY and PROCLAIM!

Stop!  Don’t roll your eyes!  Prayer is the number one best weapon you have, we have.  More often than not, it is a weapon we not only don’t keep locked and loaded, we don’t draw and fire when needed, either!  Nor do we put in much target practice!

Let’s change that!!  TODAY!  Let’s be an enormous Family of prayer.  We don’t have to spend hours on our knees each day, not that that is a bad thing.  We can start each day, the moment we open our eyes, before those feet hit the floor, praying protection and provision over our Christian Family around the globe.

Each time the news comes on, we can use that as a reminder to lift them in prayer.  How powerful our prayers are!  Why would we not use them?  Let us cover them completely and also, petition for the souls of those doing the persecuting.  Even our brother, Paul, was once a persecutor of Christians.  PRAY!

PROCLAIM!  Our family needn’t have died in vain.  We can share their stories.  We can remind people that the God we serve is worth dying for.  We can tell those stories, using them to point others to Jesus.  Think of the power in them.  They would rather their earthly lives be savagely taken than to denounce their God!  It doesn’t get much more powerful than that.  You don’t do that for someone who doesn’t love you, who doesn’t mean the world to you, no one just willing allows their own slaughter for no good reason. Don’t let them fade quietly into the dark.  Let their testimony speak. PROCLAIM! 

Lastly, I leave you with this reminder because though it may not seem relevant it bears repeating.  YOU, are fearfully, wonderfully, uniquely created.  YOU are loved.  YOU are the child of the most high God.  Walk like it!  Talk like it!  Remember WHO you are!  Remember WHO we are!  We are our brother’s keeper!!  Take that responsibility to heart and with pride proclaim Jesus to the world! 

50 Shades of Gray DON'T EXIST!

             Shades of Gray are what make us just a fair bit of nutty.  Shades of gray are what enables us to say, “Yes, but….” in virtually any situation.  The world is nothing but a melting pot of black and white, and it has swirled down into a large bubbling vat of......Gray!

               Here’s the thing.  There are many shades of colors in this intriguing world we temporarily call home.  In fact, I take much pleasure in the magnificent colors I have found in this life.  But, one thing is true, and that is there are not shades of gray. 

               There’s Black and there’s white.  There’s right and wrong.  There’s good and evil.  There’s love and there’s hate.  The space in between these polar opposites are not shades of gray.  They are simply other stations of the same poles. 

               Jesus called us to love.  He didn’t call us to the middle ground.  He didn’t call us to various stages of ‘like,’ found in between love and hate.  No, He called us to love. 

              He told us to “go, and sin no more.”  He didn’t say, “Hey, please feel free to explore the ‘gray’ areas between obedience and sin.”  We are either obedient or we are sinning.  The gray area doesn’t exist, except in our minds.  It is there when we are trying to rationalize our behaviors, and when we attempt to justify our wrongful desires. 

              Yep, when we humans want to do something we will grab our mental measuring sticks so fast it would make the devil’s head spin in total glee.  We whip that puppy out and start measuring.  “Well, if I do this, but not that.”  “Well, she did this, I’m not that bad; I could never do that!”  And on, and on, until we feel just fine about what we want to do.  Which is as it should be, right?  I mean, it’s our life.  Shouldn’t we be allowed to do whatever we want, please ourselves, follow our bliss? 

               The answer is yes.  We can do what we want.  It’s our choice.  Woohoo!!!  But, there’s just one tiny thing…..and it’s not gray….it’s white.

               TRUTH.  See, the truth is, you can do whatever you want, but you cannot avoid the consequences.  They aren’t gray, either.  They are very much black and white.  Every single solitary choice we make has a consequence.  A good one, or a bad one.

               So, you may be asking, what is my point.  My point is this.  While everyone is having moral meltdowns, facebook standoffs, and blogging duels over whether a movie should be viewed or not, it feels like everyone is literally backstroking through shaded seas of gray! 

                This is not the first, nor will it be the last book published that has crazy amounts of erotica and highly questionable content, nor will the movie be the last.  So, instead of fighting it so hard, and alienating, why are we not reaching out in love?  Why are we not introducing people to Jesus, to Holy Spirit?  Why are we flinging mud and staking the moral high ground?  And, I’m not saying moral high ground isn’t a great place to live, it is.  However, black and white dictates that we react this way to all of the other gross offenders we have in our midst, right?  Black / White.  No shades of gray.

                We are called to a standard of chaste behavior, lust-free living, and yet I challenge you to find one primetime tv show that doesn’t have racy scenes, sexual innuendos, scantily clad actors, etc.  Our society is literally permeated with SEX.  Good sex, bad sex, old sex, young sex, legal sex, illegal sex, sexual predators, and sexual deviants. SEX, Sex, sex………it sure seems to be what makes America go round.

               With all of that said, I suppose you are thinking I am saying we should just do nothing, like it just doesn’t matter.  Nope!  Not what I’m saying, at all!

               How about this.  Let’s look at ourselves in the mirror.  Let’s ask Jesus to show us the spots in our own hearts that need dusting, scrubbing, or a complete overhaul.  Let us ask forgiveness for the places we fall short in this non-chaste society we live in.  Let us walk out each day as humbly, and holy as we can.  We are all a mess!  Each and every one of us.  Thankfully, as long as we press in to God, and listen to Holy Spirit, allowing Him to guide us, we can grow.  And you know what will happen then?

               Our Light will grow brighter and more inviting!  And as it does, it will draw people to Him and they will want to be clean, and chaste, and humble, and holy, and LOVED.

               And then…..they will no longer want to live in the Shades of Gray!

True Gold from Brooke at the Grammy's

I love, love, love the entirety of Brooke Axtell's piece last night during the 2015 Grammy Awards.  A survivor of both human trafficking and domestic violence, she presented a passionate and powerful spoken word performance. However, today, it seems as everyone, media, friends, viewers are remembering the powerful truth of the end of her speech: "Authentic love does not devalue another human being...." It is powerful and poignant truth.

My point? Please DO NOT miss the first part. For it was one of the best summations I have heard of, shall I say the "hook," of this type of victimization. Here is what I mean, my points are in parentheses next to her quoted words.  They are generalizations, and should not be construed as her specific feelings. 
She said: "After a year of passionate romance with a handsome, charismatic man, I was stunned when he began to abuse me. (disbelief, sometimes denial, shock)
"I believed he was lashing out because he was in pain and needed help."   (it wasn't his fault, he couldn't help it)
"I believed my compassion could restore him and our relationship."   (i can love him through this, i can fix him)
"My empathy was used against me."   (a vulnerability to use as a weapon of control, often viewed as weakness by abuser)
"I was terrified of him and ashamed I was in this position."   (fear and shame tends to keep us from acting, leaving, frozen in place)
"What bound me to him was my desire to heal him."   (need to do whatever it takes to help him and bring back what once was) 
"My compassion was incomplete because it did not include me."   (totally focused on abuser receiving help, not self, shows lack of self-worth)

For me, one of the MOST powerful portions, is this, "My compassion was incomplete because it did not include me." There are volumes upon volumes of truth within this one ten word sentence.

IF you are a victim, or know a victim please give significant consideration to this statement. You deserve just as much compassion as you are also providing!!!!!!! Probably, more so!

          ~kathy