Thursday, December 1, 2016

Why I'm Wearing a Dress Everyday in December

In the fall of 2011 I traveled with a few friends to Springfield Missouri for a women's conference. During that time my friends and I laughed, cried, shopped, praised God and heard amazing stories and testimonies. But it was one story that has stayed with me and shook my soul. 

On the 2nd day of the conference a young woman in her early 30's shared her story of being enslaved into sex trafficking. I have to admit that up until that moment I had never heard that term before. As she shared her story tears formed in my eyes and my stomach began to ache. Her ordeal was horrific. She was 22, had a good job, parents who loved her and many friends. She had just started dating a man who she met while at a nightclub with her friends. He was polite, respectful and had a job. They had been dating for a month when he picked her up at her apartment, went to dinner and then back to his apartment to watch a movie and have a glass of wine. The next thing she remembers is waking up in a warehouse, chained to a pole and stripped of all of her clothing. Her horrific 3 year journey into the sex trafficking trade had begun. She was branded, beaten, drugged, given very little food, transported to various places and given to multiple men through out any given day. Her journey ended when she was able to escape her captors when a door of a warehouse wasn't shut tight and she was able to remove her arms from the chains that bound her. 

Over the last 5 years I have often thought of that young woman. I can still remember her face and how her voice quivered as she told her story. Over this last year I have attended two events where I heard from public officials here in Siouxland who help rescue those who are enslaved into sex trafficking and also help them find rehabilitation. I also have a friend who travels each year to the city that hosts the Super Bowl and prays with a group the week before the game as another group tries to locate and find those who have been brought in to provide services in the sex trafficking trade. The Super Bowl has the highest amount of individuals who are brought in for prostitution. 

This year I am teaming up with my friend Jen and a few other women for Dressember. Dressember is a grass roots event that helps to highlight and bring awareness of those who have been and are enslaved into sex trafficking. The mission of the Dressember Foundation is:
DRESSEMBER IS FREEDOM-- THAT EVERY WOMAN HAS THE RIGHT TO LIVE A VIBRANT AND AUTONOMOUS LIFE.

For the next 31 days of December I will be wearing a dress each day while raising money to help those who have been rescued from slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression. If you would like to donate please go to my pagehttps://support.dressemberfoundation.org/fundraiser/857479

Or for more information go towww.dressember.org

You can also read Amy Breitmann's blog on why she is participating in Dressember this year.

If you are unable to give financially I ask that you take time each day to pray for those who are enslaved that they too will be rescued.

Blessings,
Jill

Saturday, October 1, 2016

Finding Beauty in the Chaos

If your joining me through the 31 Days, welcome! I'm so happy you are joining me on the journey of Finding Beauty in the Chaos. 
This past year has left me weary and broken. My husband was diagnosed with heart failure on November 1, 2015, my beloved fur baby Libby (our black lab of 15 years) passed away in January 2016,  my call as a pastor at a small church and my position as Minister of Adult Ministry at a larger church left me overwhelmed and exhausted, and my mother-in-law was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer in August 2016.
As you can see there has been more chaos then peace and because of that I have been dealing with emotional, mental and physical challenges. 
Through prayer and meditation I realized I needed to find beauty in the everyday to help handle the chaos that darkness the corners of my life. For the next 31 days I will be posting pictures and posts regarding the beauty that God creates and blesses each one of us with when we are willing to seek it. 
Blessings,
Jill

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

31 Years

31 years ago two starry eyed kids walked down the aisle to join hands, hearts and families. The church was full, fans were blowing, windows open and the pink rose covered bulletins were used by guests to fan themselves as there was no air conditioning in the sanctuary. Sweat dropped from the grooms forehead as the brides stomache fluttered with butterflies. One of the soloists sang off key, the flower girl cried, and the unity candle flame crackled as the two exchanged rings, said their vows and sealed it all with a kiss. They had no idea what was ahead of them as they walked back down the aisle as the organist played the wedding march and guests clapped and smiled. What they did know was that they loved each other and with very little money in their pockets, love would have to see them through. As each year passed their love grew as they were blessed with three children, furry friends, a home, new jobs, memorable trips to family cabins, holidays and lots of laughter. And some years their love was tested and strengthened as they faced job changes, financial struggles, deaths, calls from teachers, broken curfews, dinner time arguments, bedtime battles, slammed doors and hurtful words. And throughout it all love remained the consistent piece in their lives. Love made sure that compliments were said, apologies given, forgiveness accepted, compromise and compassion exchanged, support and encouragement lifted, kisses and hugs shared, and time spent being silly, laughing, working and unconditional love. And as the years continue to pass and the children have grown into adults, grandchildren have blessed their lives, gray hairs and wrinkles have appeared and health issues have surfaced, their hope in the future, their faith in each other and in God and their love continues to grow each day as they walk hand in hand in this journey of life together. 

Happy anniversary Dave! I love you!

"And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13.

Blessings,
Jill



Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Hello Summer!

This past year has brought me to my knees more days then not. It's been a tough one. Not only because my husband was diagnosed with heart failure in November, but I literally found myself by May, burned out and wanting to quit ministry altogether. The demands and obligations from both churches I work at took its toll on this girl. This past month I've been doing a lot of soul searching and what I realized so far is that a part of me feels empty, depleted. I've had this nagging feeling that there is something more for me but it is just beyond my reach. It's there but I can't make it out clearly to see it. It's as if I'm surrounded by a fog. I guess feeling overwhelmed and tired can do that to a person. But it's more than that. This month while I have cried and begged God to show me what it is I need to do, he has held me and whispered to my heart, "Slow down. Breathe. Be still. Listen. Pick up that pen and write. Be creative. And you will discover joy, passion and peace once again." Wise words for my broken spirit.
And because God is the great physician, I'm going to follow his orders. This summer I'm going off of Facebook, turning off the T.V, spending time on my deck and front porch, working in my garden, exploring my neighborhood, going for walks and bike rides, playing with my grandson, enjoying family, reading books and writing.
My hope is that during these next three months I will begin to discover a little more of who I am and where God is calling me.
I hope you'll join me as I seek God, joy, peace and summertime moments.
You're invited to join me on Instagram as I capture my summer through pictures.
Blessings,
Jill

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Giving Up or Giving To?

Lent begins tomorrow with the observance of Ash Wednesday. The journey of Lent leads us to the joyful expectation of Jesus’ Resurrection on Easter morning. Lent began as a period of fasting and preparation for baptism by converts and then became a time for penance by all Christians. Today many around the world will give something up for Lent as a way of fasting. And I understand the principle of giving something up but if we are to follow in Jesus’ footsteps then shouldn't we also give something in return? When Jesus died on the cross he sacrificed his life so that we could have the forgiveness of sins and eternal life in heaven. Jesus gave his life to give us life. So if we just give up something, do we really understand the way to the cross?

As I've been praying about what I should do for Lent, God showed me something different. Instead of just giving something up, I’m going to give. My word for 2015 is “time” and I’m trying to incorporate it into every aspect of this year, including Lent. But what does that look like? To give time, use time?

Maybe it’s helping someone in need, volunteering at the food pantry, collecting items to give to one of our UM missions, meditating on God’s word, knitting a prayer shawl, taking a prayer walk each day and surrounding myself with God’s beautiful creation, writing a note of encouragement to a family member, friend or parishioner each day or reading the words of a Christian writer or theologian to broaden my faith?

As I look over this list it occurs to me that I will be giving up my time in one way or another to do something meaningful. To give up watching T.V. or social media is a way of fasting, but what will you be doing instead? What will you use that time for? When you give up a certain food, what will you do if you’re not eating it? Will you just eat something else? If I give up coffee will I just drink tea? If I give up T.V. will I just turn to my phone or computer?  If I give up Facebook will I just spend time on Twitter, Pinterest or Instagram?

I believe that when we give something up for Lent we should give something in return. When a person fasts they are to spend that time they would have been eating a meal and instead spend it in prayer.

I like what God is leading me to do. Jesus didn't just die on the cross; he gave his life to give us life. He died so that we could be saved. He died so that each time we sin, we have the choice to ask God for forgiveness and in return God washes us clean with the blood of Christ.

That is what Lent is about. It’s preparing ourselves for what Jesus did for us so that we can give of ourselves to others. We are called to walk this journey of Lent following in Jesus footsteps.


Will you be giving up or giving to?

Blessings,
Jill