“Love Is…”

Diane-Walk in Love

Shop walk in love and purchase the “Love Is” tee

I love receiving packages in the mail. I am 30 years old and I am like a child on Christmas morning every time the mail arrives. Excited and expectant, I opened a box last week to find a Kal Barteski designed t-shirt from a company called walk in love. Walk in Love is a lifestyle brand dedicated to selling well-designed products with a simple reminder: Imitate God by loving others every chance we get. Kal Barteski is a talented artist who designed the shirt based on the Bible passage 1 Corinthians 13. Last year, Kal designed some amazing tote bags for Girls’ Globe and I have loved her work ever since! The past several months, I have been meditating on one question:

What does it mean to love well?

In my life, I have known what love is and what it is not. Love can build up as fast as hate can tear down. I have experienced unconditional love through my family’s acceptance and support. I see love every day in the faces of my nieces and nephew who, no matter what, are for me and I will always be for them. These are children who know they are loved. This week, love has revealed itself in the birth of my newest niece. Love has revealed itself through close couple friends who work in equal partnerships. Love has revealed itself in the darkest brothels and on the highest mountain peaks. Love radically changes, renews and restores.

In the depths of pain and in the fullness of rejoicing love is present most.

When I talk about love I am not referring to just romantic love (though it most definitely applies) but love beginning with family, community, neighbors and those you may not even know. Love is messy, vulnerable, life changing and beautiful. Love is always a choice. A decision to keep pursuing based on what you know rather than what you may feel. This decision meets others at their point of need. Love is worth the effort. In exercising love you look past your needs, wants, and fears. Love looks out for the good of others.

Loving well is a grace filled process. I have not always loved well. When you see the difference that love makes in others lives you cannot help but be compelled to strive towards love.

In the pause, I hear Him say:

Diane, my Love Is…

Patient and kind towards you. It is present and pursues you. My love has kept no record of wrongs but only rejoices over you with truth. This deep love I have for you endures all and speaks hope, peace, protection and joy into the very core of who you are. It preserves your well-being.

My Love never fails.

This is how I know what Love Is. If I only do one thing in life I want to love people greatly and deeply.

 I choose to walk in love.

Pause Button

When I was a little girl I loved gadgets and gismos. While other children wanted to be doctors, nurses or teachers, I wanted to be an inventor. I loved to create and innovate. As a young child, I “invented” everything from windshield wipers for glasses to professional grade slides for my Polly Pockets.  As an inventor and a writer (I wish I had saved the endless notebooks of stories and poetry I wrote), I often spent hours in my “own world” learning, creating and dreaming.

I knew I could do anything.

I even believed I had the ability to put the world on pause simply by utilizing our television remote. My father loves telling the story of how I walked around the house for weeks trying to mute and freeze people with a click of a simple button. It seemed so natural and I was a very determined child.

Fast forward 25 years and it’s crazy how life continues to speed forward. Friends are purchasing homes, having babies, beginning new relationships, engagements, transitioning careers, purchasing minivans, celebrating promotions, having more babies. In fact, my sweet new niece was welcomed into the world just a few days ago.

Sometimes I wonder: When did life just happen?

The past couple of weeks have been a whirlwind. I am transitioning out of a job which in the last few years has taken me around the world. I am grateful for the time I have had to experience incredible change in the lives of women, girls and communities. Change is difficult for me. Yet this change brings freedom, peace and excitement for something new.

When talking with a friend about these transitions and the busyness of life we both expressed a desire to press the “pause button.” How many times have we all asked questions like: “Can I have more time to think about ____?” or “Can I just stop and revel in this moment a little longer?” Laughing to my friend I remember thinking: I only wish it was that simple. In the past several years, I have not stopped enough. The pause button seems so unfamiliar,  I haven’t used it in a long time.

I am pulling out the pause button.

LentYesterday was Ash Wednesday and the beginning of Lent. In the Anglican tradition, Lent is an intentional time in the church liturgical calendar to prepare before Easter. Historically, this period of time is marked by prayer, fasting and as my pastor says “giving up something that is good for something else that is good.” Last year, I gave up alcohol for six weeks and tried to focus more on community with others. This Lent season, I am embracing a pause. As a helpful guide, I am also going through the She Reads Truth “Jesus Keep Me Near to the Cross” devotional. She Reads Truth is an online community of women who study God’s word together daily. I am excited to journey with other women through this intentional growth process.

Each day, I will pause to:

Reflect. Think. Be grateful. Seek direction.

But mostly, I pause to simply be still and listen.

I am ready to revisit my childhood days where the pause button really did work. I look forward to writing more, reveling in joyful moments, creating and dreaming.

pimps, justice and grace

The bus weaves in and out of smog filled streets. It is 5 p.m. and only men are traveling in the bustling evening traffic. In many East Asian cities, from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. young women and girls are prepared for an evening in night clubs and brothels. Local make up artist shops are hectic as coats of foundation, mascara, lip stick and eye shadow are applied to their faces. At 9 p.m., young girls and women are sent on motorcycles to men who “call” for them.

My journey into the gang controlled Red Light Districts, took me past a well-known night club. Every evening, men place “bids” on women and for three minutes they can do anything to them. The young women are helpless and often are forced to sit in complete darkness. My stomach heaves and I am not sure if it is the traffic or the overwhelming weight of knowing what happens to thousands of girls and women every night.

The laughter of children interrupts my thoughts as I stop next to a white-washed building in what I am told is one of the most dangerous red light districts. The streets are empty. In this area, women and young girls are not out in the make up shops. In fact, they are not even let out of their small rooms. I walk up a long staircase and beautiful smiling faces met me at the door. I sit down and observe as children work on their homework after school. A man walks into the room with his child and sits down across from me. His eyes look fiercely into mine. I know this man is a pimp. I know and understand that he is responsible for the exploitation of thousands of women and girls. I walk around to the opposite side of the room and sat down. I see his eyes are following me.

I look away.

As he stands to leave, my thoughts turn to his life. I think about the dreams he may have for his own children. I wonder if he grew up in the red light district or if his father was a pimp. I see despair and pain in his eyes. I, also, see hope as he brings his children to learn.

How many times do I miss the whole picture?

There is pain, conflict and oppression on all sides of the coin. In dark brothels and in the homes of pimps. On street corners and within four walls of a home. Inside churches and outside. In a hospital room when you lose someone you love and in a lawyer’s office when the papers are signed.

Hope exists.

Jesus sat with those not “favored” by society. His mercy and grace knows no bounds. His grace is exactly the same for me as it is for the pimp standing across from me. His love is very real and present with millions of women and girls who everyday experience some of the most pervasive forms of abuse and exploitation imaginable. His grace is for all the people in my life that I so easily withhold grace from. He looks past status, pain, sin, un-forgiveness and simply just SEES people. I am grateful for the many times and even now when He chooses not to look away from me.

Justice must be present.

How many times do we look away from people or a situation simply because we think justice is not happening in our time frame? We riot, scream, kick our feet and say things that we do not actually mean. I can tell you countless stories when I thought this was my only option for justice.

When I talk to people about human trafficking a common response is: “Can’t we just storm troop every brothel and rescue all of those enslaved?” or “Why don’t we just hunt down pimps and brothel owners?” We want the pain and injustice to stop. Justice does mean holding people accountable for their actions. However, I am realizing this never happens in my “time frame.” I must learn to recognize the everyday justice.

DSCN0550Last year, I wrote about grace and justice first beginning in my home. I wish I could tell you that I exercise this everyday. This is still true now but extends further beyond into my friends, community and yes to the pimps that I meet on street corners. So let’s sit with those who are experiencing pain, loss and despair. Let’s truly commune with people sitting in church who may not want to be there. Let’s cry with our friends and family who are going through the pain of a divorce or losing a beloved family member. Resolve to “see” those from whom you would normally look away.

The children hug me as I turn to leave. A small piece of justice is happening right before my eyes. These children who were born into the families of pimp and brothel owners are given an opportunity to learn.

Grace and justice can not exist without love.

The day I sat with a pimp, I learned to truly see him.

JUST Hope

Everyday, miracles happen.

Crippled people walk. Tumors disappear. A mother and child survive birth. A young girl is rescued from a brothel. A child is given the opportunity to read.

Over the past fifteen years, I have witnessed amazing women, men and children creating change. In India, Nepal, China, Indonesia and other parts of the world women, girls and communities are being healed and transformed through the help of their own neighbors. Endless stories of hope and courage propel me to continue to empower indigenous groups and movements.

These stories strengthen my faith. I want these stories to increase the faith of my family and friends.

Callie and Liam GlobeOne of the greatest joys in my life is teaching my young niece and nephew about miracles and stories of justice. More importantly, I love instilling in them a broader world perspective. As Americans, we need to understand the amazing power of HOPE and FAITH from our brothers and sisters in other countries.

This Christmas Season, forgoing gifts to each other, our family decided to give gifts of justice. I sat down with my niece and nephew and shared with them videos of hope and change happening around the world. On Thanksgiving, each person submitted their organization and cause of choice. The organizations chosen stretch the gamete of causes from supporting policy change for anti-trafficking laws in the U.S., fighting slavery and injustice, promoting reading among children in the U.S. and empowering indigenous ministries in Honduras. Rather than scrambling to find presents we each made a $50.00 donation to the chosen organization.

What is my message for the Season of Advent?

It is never to early to communicate with both children and adults the amazing wonders and stories of peace and justice taking place through others around the world.

Want to know more about the organizations we are supporting?

Shared Hope International
She Is Safe
Reach out and Read
Promundo
Wounded Warriors
International Justice Mission
Beloved Atlanta
Amor Fe y Esperanza

Leaves, Rest and Hope

LeavesFall is my absolute favorite season. Leaves changing into golden hues can not be compared to any other beauty. Sweaters, scarfs and hats adorn coat racks. The warmth of summer lingers in the air while a crisp mysterious expectation of change occurs. As I write this, leaves form a pile around my feet. I sit in the silence (still without makeup!) allowing the brisk Fall air to permeate the spaces around me. Over the past year, I have incorporated more of these moments of stillness into my life.

Resting is not a natural gift that I possess. I rarely take time to revel in the joys or sit patiently with the challenges. I simply keep going. If I am being honest with myself, a sense of accomplishment, pride and affirmation drive me towards the next marker.
In the stillness, I have begun to ask myself: Where have I truly placed my Hope? The reality? I often place it in my own efforts and accomplishments. Rest does not come easy.

In his book Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis explains it best stating “Aim at Heaven and you will get earth ‘thrown in’: aim at earth and you will get neither.” There are so many things in life that are wonderful and good. Health, affirmation, goals, friendships, jobs, a husband, family, traveling and adventure. It is not bad to strive after these good things. The caution is when this becomes our sole and main objective. The basis for our very value and worth. Lewis’s point is that we must learn to long for something else even more.

What does it mean to truly long for Heaven?

We live in a culture where rest is not valued. We live in a world where what we strive for or desire can almost always be satisfied in an instant. Heaven can not be realized here on earth. Lewis goes on to say “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” This is a profound statement.  I am grateful for this world and the opportunity to serve and be a part of movements greater than myself. However, if I am to experience true rest and hope I can not trust only in myself and what I can accomplish on my own.

This season, I: Wait. Rest. Hope.

Change is coming.

As the leaves fall, the trees are left naked and exposed. Completely bare, they wait patiently for Spring to come. The piles of leaves grow higher and higher. Slowly new life will form with the strength and help of others. The dry, cracked leaves crunch underneath my feet and I am reminded this process though slow and arduous is longed for and beautiful.

30 Days No Makeup

Last week, my good friend Sarah sent me a quick text message. I love having friends that can come chill and do laundry at my house. This is part of community that I truly enjoy. As we sat talking and of course scrolling through our Instagram feeds Sarah asked, “Have you heard of this campaign called ‘30 Days No Make Up?’  I looked up at Sarah with a “You have got to be kidding me look.” Indeed she was not kidding and proceeded to show me her Instagram feed. 30 Days No Makeup is a movement of women who are taking a stand against traditional cultural norms and messages. It is a bigger invitation to talk about ourselves, value and worth as women.

My first response to Sarah was, “What? Girl, you know I am in a proactive season right now and I am dating. I can not do it.”

We both laughed.

Then I stopped laughing.

I considered the question: “What would my life look like uncovered?”

If I peel back the layers…

Rockin red lips during Halloween

Rockin red lips during Halloween

In actuality, I have never really worn a ton of makeup. I enjoy a great eyeshadow just as much as the next girl. In fact, I just bought some awesome MAC eyeshadow that a friend recommended and some amazing red lipstick. Power to women who can rock the red lips!

However, the thought of going on a date without makeup seems terrifying. I do not think I have ever been on a date without makeup! It is not even just about the makeup.

There is more to the story.

I started to think about and recall the all too often negative messages I believe about myself.  Let’s face it, more times than I care too admit I allow external things to influence my value and worth. My job, friends, relationships the list can go on and on. The next 30 days are a time for me to dig deep within the caverns of who I am as a woman. There will be big and small hurtles and yes, uncharted waters. Thinking beyond the surface, I have a genuine desire to learn more about what makes me the woman I am.

This journey is about uncovering old and new truths about myself. It is about celebrating those truths and really embracing them for myself. It is about understanding that I am a woman who is loved by many and more importantly loved by God.

So here I am into Day 6 and I am makeup less but I am already learning many valuable lessons.

Thank you for taking this journey with me.

Diane no make up

Girls Are Everyday Heroes

Girls' Globe

Originally published on The Huffington Post.

Diane and young girls

When I was a little girl I dreamed of being a super hero. In my imagination, I would fly to remote places and use my strength to help other people. One of my favorite “super powers” was being invisible, while the second was the ability to speak any language. On my “adventures” I would galavant to Southeast Asia across Africa and through the United States using these super powers to create change. In my youthful opinion, the world was waiting for me to help solve issues such as hunger, inequality and brokenness. I fought valiantly to encourage peace in conflict and promote equality among diverse people groups.

As a young woman, my imaginative adventures are now a reality. I have had the opportunity to travel to Cambodia, India, Uganda, Indonesia, Malawi, Ethiopia and other far away places around the world. Throughout my travels…

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