Am I a Writer?

4.17.2014


I've never referred to myself as a writer. Perhaps that is because I have a very specific idea of what a writer is which I don't feel I fit into. I find writing to be valuable and enjoyable, but I've attempted to stay realistic about my skill-level which I consider to be average. Can you really call yourself a writer if you didn't major in English or pursue a full-time writing career of some sort?

Truthfully, I didn't pursue an English major in college because I felt I wasn't good enough. My grammar and spelling skills were atrocious as a child and though they improved with practice, that weak foundation has always felt like an academic handicap to me. I also find that my mind gets ahead of my fingers interchanging words or sometimes leaving them out altogether (which is at least in part due to a mild learning disability). Thanks to writing intensive high school and college experiences, I know that I have developed into a decent writer. Still, I have this notion that great writers just have it in them naturally and don't have to work so hard at it. I continue to write not because I think I'm going to get a book deal, but because I enjoy it and find it to be personally enriching. It's a great way to sort out thoughts, feelings, and ideas.

Academically I still chose a writing intensive major: Humanities (one third Philosophy, History & English with my concentration in History). Outside of the English department writing was more focused on content than technique. As a result, the writing style I am best at is essay writing. I was always good at developing an argument, researching and synthesizing information, and editing.

So while I've never thought of myself as "a writer" I have spent the better part of the last decade writing and technically speaking I am a professional writer. Perhaps not in title, but certainly in practice. Research and writing is the bulk of what I do as a legal assistant at a law firm. I am required to research issues, write briefs in which I develop and articulate arguments, document (cite) those arguments, and edit the final product before final submission.

Basically my career requires a ton of writing and a great deal of my free time is spent writing (blogging, devotionals, press releases, content writing, etc) as well.

So you know what? I am a writer. I'm just not a creative writer, which is what I picture when I think "writer." I've never once written a complete piece of fiction. I've had ideas, I've dabbled in song writing, I've written fragments of stories down, but creative writing is outside my comfort zone.

I envy creative writers. Professional and academic writing requires a commitment to your position and documenting it. Sometimes I just want to write something beautiful or say something meaningful without having to defend it. I want to hide behind the metaphors. 

So, I am. I am stretching myself as a writer and it's absolutely terrifying (in an exciting way).
I am finding resources to help me practice writing more creatively and I am letting others into the process.

This is WAY outside my writing comfort zone. I know that if I want to be a better writer I have to take on challenges that put my weaknesses on display. Sometimes the path to good writing is paved with bad writing. Sometimes if you want to improve you have to let others critique and encourage you. For someone whose greatest fear is not snakes or heights, but humiliation---this is quite difficult for me. If I admit that maybe this is something I love and want to pursue then it will hurt all the more if I fail.

As my husband can attest to, I don't enjoy learning new things if I'm not at least a little bit good at them first. I have thrown a game controller across the room more than once and still refuse to play games that aren't made for Nintendo. So I obviously think I have the potential to grow in this area or I probably wouldn't take it on. Still, it's new to me. And scary or not, it's going to be fun!

Ay Bay Bay

3.18.2014


So many friends and family members are having and adopting babies this year! I'm tempted to say 2014 is the year of the baby but I actually think it'll be many years before my social media sites are no longer full of baby announcements. After all, I'm in a my twenties and my friends are just getting started (or haven't started yet). If the announcements get under your skin read this post. If you love them (or just want to keep reading) read on!

I have to admit---I'm in the "love them" camp. I just enjoy seeing families form and grow. I also am enjoying feeling normal again. For awhile there we were the only parents in our social circle which made me feel a little bit like an outsider (but only a little bit) and suddenly I feel like an insider again.

I'm weirdly giddy about my friends who are getting pregnant for the first time. And maybe even more excited about second and beyond pregnancies (because they beat me to it? because I want everyone to have 10 kids? who knows?). But all this shared happiness probably has more to do with the fact that we have walked with some close friends through some really painful stuff and we're finally seeing happy endings (beginnings) to those stories.

This week close friends of ours took their baby boy home after a very long adoption journey. They started the process before we were even pregnant with August and have walked a long, difficult road to get this baby. He's a miracle baby and my heart is so full to see this finally happen after waiting so long. Two other friends of mine that I cried with when they had miscarriages are pregnant---and one is due any day now! Another friend that has struggled with infertility for months and months and thought she couldn't have children just found out she's pregnant.

There are women blogging about the pain of infertility, or the pain of miscarriage. There are women announcing good news. There are women suffering in silence and women celebrating quietly.

I can't help but be aware that mixed in with all the joy of new babies there are women who are hurting. Women who are trying so hard to get pregnant. Women who have lost pregnancies and are reminded of the loss when they see the announcements. Women who are single and feel like they are so far behind their friends.

We have such a great opportunity to share in both the joy and grief at all stages of life. I am so glad I've been able to participate in these stories. My heart is really full today as I smile at pictures of new borns and baby bumps. I just can't keep it in. :)

Carrying the Burden

2.26.2014


Some days, I feel like 'The Giver' (from Lois Lowry's book of the same name). I feel overwhelmed and burdened by all the pain, death, destruction, and sadness in the world---as if it's my job to carry it with me. Yet, I also know that you cannot truly understand and experience the good things in life like beauty, grace, love, joy, or peace without both sides of human experience existing in tandem.

When I was 18, this excerpt from A Severe Mercy (Sheldon Vanauken) was one of my favorites:

“He had been wont to despise emotions: girls were weak, emotions–tears– were weakness. But this morning he was thinking that being a great brain in a tower, nothing but brain, wouldn’t be much fun. No excitement, no dog to love, no joy in the blue sky– no feelings at all. But feelings– feelings are emotions! He was suddenly overwhelmed by the revelation that what makes life worth living is, precisely, the emotions. But then– this was awful!– maybe girls with their tears and laughter were getting more out of life. Shattering! He checked himself, showing one’s emotions was not the thing: having them was. Still, he was dizzy with the revelation. What is beauty but something is responded to with emotion? Courage, at least, is partly emotional. All the splendor of life. But if the best of life is, in fact, emotional, then one wanted the highest, the purest emotions: and that meant joy. Joy was the highest. How did one find joy? In books it was found in love– a great love… So if he wanted the heights of joy, he must have it, if he could find it, in great love. But in the books again, great joy through love always seemed go hand in hand with frightful pain. Still, he thought, looking out across the meadow, still, the joy would be worth the pain– if indeed, they went together. If there were a choice– and he suspected there was– a choice between, on the one hand, the heights and the depths and, on the other hand, some sort of safe, cautious middle way, he, for one, here and now chose the heights and the depths."

Just out of high school I had my youth and optimism to hold me up as I experienced the pain and disillusionment that often comes with getting older. It's amazing how much you grow up in your 20s. Your world gets a whole lot bigger. This is especially true if you throw in major milestones like living on your own, a career, marriage, or parenthood (all guaranteed to mature you at an accelerated pace). This quote doesn't resonate with me quite the same way it did at 18, but that last line---a choice between, on the one hand, the heights and the depths and, on the other hand, some sort of safe, cautious middle way, he, for one, here and now chose the heights and the depths---I seem always resonate with this particular sentiment.

There are times when you absolutely DO want the safe, middle way. Usually in the midst of or right after something painful. There have been many moments in my life when I longed for numbness just to not have to feel the pain. That is, I imagine, when most of us put up walls that keep others out. We're protecting ourselves from additional pain.

Don't get me wrong. I don't think life is suppose to be like a movie. I don't buy the lie that life needs to be dramatic to be interesting. I feel that a life full of conflict, unbridled emotion, and restlessness (all pretty important to the rise and fall of a plot) probably leads to discontentment and shallow relationships. There are in fact aspects of life that are completely dull. There is value in discipline, responsibility, and commitment. If we chase the drama, we certainly will have the highs and lows, but I fear we'll miss out on the depths. The depths require investment in people and places, long-term nitty gritty sometimes completely boring investment. That's okay with me. There are suffering people all over the world that would give anything just to have some boring. I shouldn't take even the most mundane aspects of my life for granted.

...but what about this burden? The knowledge of good. The knowledge of evil. Pain. Joy. The best and worst of life on earth.

Somedays it's easy to remember that the sad things will come untrue.
Somedays I forget.
Somedays the weight of it all feels like it will crush me.
Somedays it's feels like there's nothing to carry at all.

I'm glad that unlike The Giver, I don't have to carry the burden alone, but---it must be carried.

On the bad days, I listen to Vice Verses and ask God hard questions.
On good days, I listen to Where I Belong and thank God for answering.

And every day I wake up wondering which sort of day it will be.

Happy Valentine's Day

2.14.2014



Well, Happy Valentine's Day everyone. I've written many a post and status about why I like Valentines day in the past. I always have. Yes, as with anything and any holiday, it's been abused, used, and distorted; but if we're going to celebrate something...why not love? Love of ALL kinds. Take the opportunity to tell someone how much they mean to you. Your dad, your sister, your best friend---whoever. Not because you're obligated to, but because it can never be expressed too much. Let's SHOUT IT LOUD so the whole world hears us---we are all infinitely valuable and loved.

If you're on Facebook, keep in mind that...

1.20.2014

You have valueI imagine that you may sometimes feel that the opposite is true, but it's not. Status does not determine your value. Not even your Facebook status.

Social media can at times make you jealous of or annoyed by others. As much as Facebook is meant to connect us, it also separates us into categories. This is perhaps why a single person can feel devalued because they're not married, a married couple can feel devalued because they're not parents, or a parent can feel devalued because they have no career or are unable to travel to interesting places.

We all feel frustrated and bombarded by our Facebook feeds at times, but here are some things to keep in mind.

If you're Single and on Facebook, keep in mind that...

- Only something like 21% of 18-30 years are married so it's NOT everyone you know

- You can ruin the moment

When I got engaged I wanted to celebrate the news with friends and family. It was a right of passage I'd been looking forward to my entire life so I was surprised that some friends responded instead with resentment and disdain. Although hurtful comments were in the minority and happened offline, it made me think twice about posting much about my engagement on Facebook. The "not another wedding/baby" comments could ruin an otherwise happy moment for someone.

- Some people use social media to cope or as a resource

If I write a status asking for parenting advice it's because I'm seeking a variety of opinions in a short period of time. It's efficient and effective. People do over share on social media when they probably shouldn't, including parents, but it's often a coping mechanism. It's worth keeping in mind that the parent posting about potty training may have no other outlet to seek advice or may be alone most of the day craving adult interaction.

- It's not always real

People have a tendency to put a happy face on parenting and marriage on social media for the most part. Don't let that fool you into thinking it's easy. Marriage and parenting are not easy and I want you to know that you have just as much value right where you are. Rushing into marriage just to "catch up" with everyone else can have tragic consequences.

- Social media is a relatively new phenomenon

It's not really that these milestones have somehow increased over the years (in fact people are getting married and having kids later and later) it's simply that we have a new forum to share our lives which means you are going to be bombarded by information you don't need to know and would have never had access to in the past. You suddenly know about the marriage and babies of every person you've ever met, not just your close friends. I actually lament this a bit because I think the celebrations would mean more if you only had a few and they were for people you were truly desired to celebrate with.

- No one is forcing you to read it

No one is forcing you to get on Facebook everyday and read your newsfeed. You can distance yourself from it by logging on less, you can even block things off your feed or skim right over it. There's a choice involved.

- You have milestones ahead

For us married/parent types, we can sometimes feel like all the exciting milestones are behind us. Don't underestimate the beauty of having things to look forward to. When you are married, you may look back on single life and miss the freedom, the anticipation of meeting the love of your life, of planning a wedding, or finding out your pregnant for the first time. They are exciting milestones that you will experience someday and it will be over all too quickly.

If you are Married or Parenting and you're on Facebook, keep in mind that...

- Some people use social media to cope

When people complain about all the marriages and babies, it's possible that they're coping because they want those things and for whatever reason cannot have them right now. Understand that those statuses might be a way to cope with something deeper. They may be hurting. Even if they aren't, they are coping with something (anger, annoyance, etc).

- You can ruin the moment

When someone is posting about their career, master's degree, travels, etc. they want someone to share and celebrate the moment with just as much as you did when you were announcing your engagement or pregnancy and what's more, they may not have anyone to share it with. No one should feel small or of less value because they are in a different phase of life. Celebrate with them!

- It's not always real

I recently had a chat with a friend who has been traveling all over Europe for the last year. I admit I have watched from a distance with a certain amount of jealousy. But it turns out, they're lonely and jealous of my life---having a family and partner to share it with. Just because someone's life looks glamourous doesn't mean that it is or that your life isn't equally valuable. It's all perspective and we often all want what we don't have.

- No one is forcing you to read it

No one is forcing you to get on Facebook everyday and read your newsfeed. You can distance yourself from it by logging on less, you can even block things off your feed or skim right over it. There's a choice involved.


- Social media can make you feel lonely

It wasn't that long ago that I was single. I remember the desperate need to make plans and to see other people everyday so that I didn't have to sit in my apartment all alone or feel isolated. Being alone or staying home when you're married is completely different from when you're single. When you have no prospects for a significant other and everyone seems to have already found somebody, social media can make you feel so much lonelier.

Conclusion

I'm not advocating censorship. I don't think there is anything wrong with sharing wedding, baby, or travel photos online. There are people following along to DO care about those things and would like you to continue. What I do want to see is grace for one another. Skip over that story or block it from your news feed if it annoys you. Remember that your value is not determined by "likes" and "follows." Resist the urge to try to impress/create a persona online. Celebrate milestones and achievements with one another indiscriminately.

And above all, when something annoys you, remember that Facebook is not mandatory. You can turn it off.

A year of sad things coming untrue...

12.23.2013


If I had to relive one year over and over I don't think that I would choose the year 2013. Honestly, it was a tough year. I don't think I've ever worked so hard---at my job, my marriage, at figuring out how to be a parent, at all aspects of life really. There were times I felt stretched so thin, times when I felt I wasn't really giving my best to anything or anyone.

I cried a lot this year. I questioned. I doubted. I hurt. At points I felt utterly worthless. I fought an overwhelming urge to retreat and pull away from everyone and everything I love. I tried to be strong and to hold onto truth but honestly I've never felt so weak or so helpless.

I remember the pain. I remember the sadness. I remember the self doubt. So how is it that when I look back on the past year I feel an overwhelming sense of thankfulness?

It's because He makes the sad things come untrue.

Can I share with you the things and people I am thankful I had in my life this past year?

- I am thankful for a faithful God who revealed Himself to me in a very personal way this year. This year, the gospel truly pierced my heart in a way I've never before experienced. Thank you for Your rescue plan---the bigger one for all of us, and the smaller one just for me.

- I am thankful for a courageous husband who chose humility, sacrifice, and diligence in multiple areas of his life this year. He refused to give up or give in. Thank you for always choosing Jesus and for loving me.

- I am thankful for a little boy who makes me feel strong and who loves with no stipulations. Even when I feel like a mess, he wants to be with me simply because of who I am---his mom. That was something that I needed this year---just pure, unaffected love. The kind only a child can give.

- I am thankful for a really great landlord. Seriously. Having a landlord who is kind, who likes us, who takes care of any issues right away, who doesn't take advantage of us and is allowing us to live in a beautiful home that we absolutely love...that is something to valued.

- I am thankful for my mom who spent several weeks in NY this year helping me manage my life and getting to know her grandson. I didn't get nearly as homesick for NC this year because I saw so much of you, Mom. (I am thankful for you and dad for many other reasons too, but I wanted to say thank-you specifically for just being with me so much this year).

- I am thankful for a mother-in-law and sister-in-law who have invested so much of their time into caring for August. I don't even know how to articulate how thankful I am for both of you.

- I am thankful for the pastors in our life who have invested a lot of time mentoring, advising, loving and otherwise pastoring John Paul and I this year.

- I am thankful for old friends who encouraged me out of the blue, reminded me that I wasn't forgotten, and stepped up in ways that they didn't have to.

- I am thankful for Meryl---you were one of those "old friends" and I'm not sure I could have held it together this year without you. Thank you for being patient and loving with me. Thank you for being there for me in a way no one else could.

- I am thankful for new friends---especially the new friendships that have formed at church this year. I am stunned to find that we suddenly have a second family we can count of for anything. It has been the biggest blessing.

- I am thankful for Lauren, Nicole and everyone else who ever babysat for little or no charge. I don't take that for granted. You were (and still are) a blessing to me. Thank you for giving me date nights with my husband, coming to my rescue when things came up suddenly, and just generally making me feel grateful.

I'm thankful for lots of other stuff too---a stable and enjoyable job, a church I feel proud to be apart of, my large family that is always full of laughter and love, a good mechanic, not having pets, getting the hang of this snow driving thing, awesome neighbors, etc. Because despite the difficult stuff---I've been given much. God has taken a year full of sad things and made me new.

Merry Christmas---and thank you.

"It's the whole world and without it you're amish."

12.20.2013


This has just been the week for discovering a lot of really poignant commentary on social media, the internet, and how both have impacted and changed relationships.

If you have an interest in the topic, I can recommend the following. All three of these are "neutral"---meaning that they are not coming from any specific religious or political point of view.

This 13 minute documentary: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/rtv/documentaries/no-internet-week

This 4 and half minute video: http://vimeo.com/70534716

This article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/wait-but-why/generation-y-unhappy_b_3930620.html

The last one has a few issues but overall serves as an example of what is perceived as generational differences, an increase in overall loneliness, happiness, and the increase of depression.

As for me,

I love technology. I'm extremely dependent on it and wouldn't want to be without it. I love the convenience, the access to information, and all the other benefits it gives me. I like that I can verify the time of a party or get ahold of someone very quickly. I like that I don't have to worry about getting lost or stranded. I love that I have a space to share thoughts and ideas with other people.

I also hate technology, especially social media. I hate that it can effect my mood. I hate that it can create insecurities in me. I hate when I'm having a conversation with someone and they're looking at their phone. I hate how tempting it is to use as a coping mechanism. I hate how it's used to share opinions that would never be said to your face. I hate how much time I waste staring at a screen.

I've given up social media for a specific period more than once. It feels good and it feels bad.

I feel better, generally speaking. I feel less stressed, less upset, less insecure, less intimidated, less angry. I feel like I have more time and that I fill it with more valuable tasks. My spiritual life, my confidence, my relationships, and the quality of my work all improve. I think my health might even improve because I seem to be more active and more aware. I'm just generally happier without social media.

But I also feel disconnected. I feel like I'm not staying on stop of current events/issues. I feel like I don't know what's going on in peoples lives or even what community events are happening. I feel like I'm falling behind, being left behind even. The documentary above has a quote about social media that describes how many feel when they try to walk away from social media: "It's the whole world and without it you're amish."

It's crazy to me how quickly the internet and social media has pervaded all of our lives. It wasn't that long ago that life moved along normally without cell phones, Facebook, or email.

I've concluded that going without social media (walking away) would be healthier for me, but unless everyone does it, it doesn't work. I just end up feeling like a reclusive back woods weirdo who has nothing in common with anyone.

Unless I can convince a group of friends to all move into the same neighborhood, sell their smart phones, and delete all their social media accounts then it seems it will just continue to be an endless cycle. I'm not sure I can ever escape. All I can really do is try to control and limit it.

It truly does feel like an addict's problem---having to find ways to moderately enjoy my habit so that it doesn't hurt me, but I also so that don't have to give it up completely.



Holiday Finds

11.19.2013

I'm going to be writing about some exciting things happening this holiday season in the coming weeks, but today I just wanted to talk about some really LOVELY, meaningful gift options that I've fallen in love with. If you love quality, handmade, unique, ethical products you will probably fall in love with some of these items as well.

The Find

Light Gives Heat (www.lightgivesheat.com) just launched their winter line. They've changed direction, and while I'm sad to see the Suubi line go, they have found some pretty great products to feature. These handmade items are seriously gorgeous and making a difference in the lives of impoverished communities all over the world. 

The Woolberry Press
http://www.etsy.com/shop/TheWoolberryPress


I went to college with Haleigh and I think she's really talented. Her Etsy shop is currently featuring vintage inspired holiday cards. They're SO great. 

Diamond Candles
www.diamondcandles.com


I'm also loving Diamond Candles (www.diamondcandles.com). I really do love a nice candle. These are not only natural, earth-friendly and ethically produced in the U.S., they also have a fun twist. Every candle contains a ring that values anywhere from $10 to $5000. If you have a mom or friend who asks for Yankee Candle every year, maybe this would be something to try out on her?


Thoughts on Transience

11.18.2013


My mother will attest to the fact that from the second I entered the world, I was a very independent person. I loved my family but I didn't know the definition of "homesick." I was enthusiastic about every possibility life had to offer. Every person I met was a potential friend, every career was an option, every city was a place I could see myself visiting or living. I was always a bit of a dreamer.

My friend Leah and I used to say that we knew without a doubt that someone could drop the two of us off in a random city anywhere and we'd be able to secure jobs, a place to live, and set up house by the weeks end. We were confident that we could handle ourselves---there was no fear that we weren't capable of most anything we set our minds to.

I have never been so impulsive as to be dangerous. I've always carried caution and adventure together in tandem. I had no fear of getting on an plane alone and flying to a strange city---but I made sure there was a friend on the other end to guide me, a place to stay, and enough money in my bank account to ensure I eventually returned home safely. I was practical in so many ways, but that didn't keep me from splurging, exploring, and experiencing all that I could. By the time I was 22 I'd visited several U.S. cities and foreign countries, and I'd lived on my own.

Basically all the way up to college graduation I felt I had no 'set' path in front of me. I've never had a whole lot of direction in life. It's not because I don't think I'm capable, it's the burden of loving everything and not wanting to miss out on anything. I didn't want my identity to be tied too tightly to one thing or another. I wanted the freedom to do new things and lots of different things without being labeled and only seen as valuable in one area. In many ways I have always regretted that attitude. Dabbling leads to having potential in many areas, but excelling at none. It leads you to a place where you wonder if you really add any value to the world.

There was one thing, though, that was always a constant desire. More than anything else, I wanted someone to share my adventures with. I wanted a family. I wanted to be a wife. I wanted to be a mother. There were points that I feared maybe that wasn't my future. There were many hours of questioning the whole business of marriage---which was not entered into lightly or with an unrealistic idealism. And even after I was sure that was the direction my life was heading, there were many questions that had to be answered about the proper timing of all that. But this was the one dream that I never questioned. It was my one constant hope.

Marriage and motherhood is my reality now. It's changed me and it has limited me in some ways. I'd be a liar if I tried to claim I had the same freedom now that I had back then. I see friends living in big cities and traveling the globe and I know that is not something that I could do right now. Some days I'm a bit jealous that they still get to live that transient lifestyle. When I see friends fulfilling lifelong dreams, when I see their adventures, talents, and achievements happening---there is a part of me that longs for those things. But I can say with sincerity that there is never any true regret.

I know I've been formed by a culture that is restless and values personal fulfillment and happiness above all over things. I question those sentiments even as I wrestle with feeling them. I've had enough tearful conversations with old friends to know that the realities don't always match up to the picture presented. I know what it feels like to be lonely and depressed, to question every decision you've ever made, to be hurt and let down by people you love. But I also know that contentment is not really about the circumstances. I know that true peace and happiness has very little to do with location or finances.

I have a lot more life to experience---some of which may be visiting new places, and others of which may be the simple moments of happiness you feel when you come home to a one year old who races to greet you.

Whatever dreams I have, I know that John Paul and August must always be apart of them. I know that I would sacrifice any notions I have about my life for their sake and I have no resentment about that. I'd do it again and again. I can't imagine my life without them. I hope that I'll never have to face a life without them. And you know what? I don't actually want to live my life for myself---I want to live it for God and for others. I want to appreciate all the moments of my short life, both good and difficult, with a sense of awe and thankfulness for the opportunity to live it. It's always changing, it's always beautiful.

Have you noticed that I always feel introspective on Mondays?

Hey it's October...lets talk about slavery.

10.28.2013


Sometime towards the end of college I realized that slavery was a very real, very modern problem. My journey towards social awareness is documented on this blog. I think my first blog post on the subject was mid-2011 when I was initially discovering the realities of the issue and trying to figure out what I could do about it. It didn't take long for that process to land me in a very frustrated state of mind but I trekked on.

Last year, I started trying to put my money where my month was. In November I complied a list of black friday deals for people doing Christmas shopping that was entirely fair trade, I did a Light Gives Heat giveaway, and I discovered The Advent Conspiracy. I was desperately trying to be consistent in matching my actions and my convictions.

It was an honorable place to be, but in the end I was a donating, blogging, guilt-ridden girl who felt inadequate.

That was almost a year ago. Today I remembered that October is Fair Trade Month. Here it is, the end of October, and this is the first time it's even crossed my mind. Have I stopped caring? Not at all.

If you delve into trade issues (like maybe taking this quiz) you'll quickly discover that you actually cannot live this out through your buying habits short of growing your own food, making your own clothes, and basically living off-grid. That doesn't mean that you shouldn't make changes where you can (like buying produce from local farmers or switching your coffee brand), and it doesn't mean that we should stop spreading the word and trying to make strides. (Check out the end of this post on Halloween candy that talks about the strides made just in the last year with companies like Hershey and Nestle). We are on the hook for slavery since it's our consumption habits that fuel the industry. But you know what I realized?

I can't solve modern slavery. I don't have the capability. You know who does? Jesus. He can use me and others like me---but ultimately He's the only one who can rescue the mistreated and the hopeless from the darkness of slavery.

Releasing yourself from the responsibility doesn't have to lead to a place of apathy. I feel like I've lived more in line with my convictions this past year than ever before. I have been apart of real tangible partnerships that help locally and globally and I've given away more than I previously thought had the resources to give. I've found myself praying more and caring just as much, but ultimately having a lot more peace.

In the end it's not really about what you buy or who you donate money to---it's about living your life in obedience to Jesus. When you're doing that, the rest falls into place.