Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Sharks to SE Asia!

It's on, friends. 

This spring you sent us to SE Asia in the name of bringing actual freedom for real-life child sex-slaves. 

In less than one week you blew our minds raising more than enough money to make the two weeks of work with The Exodus Road  happen. You charged headfirst alongside us into the darkness, torches blazing,  shouting "YOU ARE NOT ALONE" with every dollar given. 

You did that. 

And then this crazy thing happened: your dollars actually made a difference! Your dollars funded real investigations, gathered actionable evidence and built strong prosecutable cases against rutheless predators who make money exploiting children. Your dollars brought hope to girls and boys trapped in the horrors of trafficking and freedom for minors held captive in sexual slavery. Your dollars pushed back the heavy curtain of darkness and ushered bright light into the deepest of trenches.  

You did that. 

And now you have the opportunity to do it again. 

As a result of a killer vetting process and Eric's strong fieldwork this spring, we have been hired by The Exodus Road and are moving our family to SE Asia for two years to engage the work of covert investigations full-time. That's right! The spark that was lit in us for this injustice seven years ago just keeps growing like wildfire and we are ready for this next-level adventure.  

Like many NGO's, not every position within The Exodus Road is currently funded so we are doing our part by raising the job's two-year recommended salary. This go-round is not a short-term, GET US THERE, flash-fund sprint for airfare and expenses. This effort is a we-are-moving-our-life-there, go-the-distance, cross-country run-style opportunity for you to fuel undercover investigations, collect evidence and drive the prosecution of pimps, mamasans and brothel owners long-term making it more dangerous and less lucrative to sell children for sex. This level of work is a full-time job and so we are inviting you to help fund this necessary, full-time position within an organization who is proving that "justice is in the hands of the ordinary" and RESCUE IS COMING. 

We know not everyone can pick up and move across the globe to do this work (we also know not everyone wants to and we firmly believe not everyone should) but everyone CAN make this work happen.

We cannot wait! If you've known us for more than two seconds you know we've been waiting for this next step for quite some time. And now is the time.  So we will go. We will represent every one of you who believes children are not for sale. We will carry the torches you are lighting and we will set fires in the dark.

Through our two years overseas, you can make freedom a true story for those waiting for rescue. 

Link arms with us and light a match!

-Eric & Corinne

Feel free to share it, send it and repost it on our behalf! 

Saturday, May 16, 2015

pre-McDreamy Cindy Mancini and why our kids might drop an F-bomb

In our house the F-words are "fat" and "fag". The S-word is "stupid". And "throwing like a girl" is a compliment cuz mama throws a spiral just like daddy. We don't allow swearing, but we would rather our kids drop an F-bomb than tear apart another human being's physical appearance or demean their sexuality. We would rather hear "SHIT" than to hear them mock someone's intelligence. We would rather them "lose to a girl" than win "like a man".

Our kids are seeing and hearing lots of words these days and are absorbing culturally benign phrases that are anything but. So we are having conversation after conversation about language. Why are bad words bad? Who decides? I always think of one of my all- time favorite scenes from one of my all-time favorite movies, Can't Buy Me Love. The white convertible VW Rabbit, Cindy Mancini's white suede and blonde waves, McDreamy before he was dreamy, the lawnmower ride off into the sun... 

but my favorite part is when it all falls apart and Cindy won't take Ronald's calls. She is sitting on her couch at home talking to her mom:

Mrs. Mancini: 
First he's a geek. 
And then you start going out with him. 
Then he's a geek again. 
Honey, I don't know what a geek is.

Cindy Mancini: 
I guess, at the present time, a geek is Ronald Miller.

Mrs. Mancini: 
Who says?

Exactly! Who says? I always wondered that myself. Who says someone is cool or uncool? Who says someone is popular or unpopular? How did some of us have it easy and others had it so hard? It's all just words. But words matter. I think that's why I've always loved Can't Buy Me Love's theme of influence and wielding our words on behalf of each other instead of against each other.

When it comes to bad words, I have zero good explanations for why "shit" is bad but "shoot" is fine, but I can tell them exactly why "fat" and "fag" kill the soul. Instead of spending our time focusing on what not to say, we talk about what we will say, how we will use our words to defend, to build up, to be for people instead of against them, to build bridges instead of gates and to ultimately love instead of hate so that when anything less than love comes out of their mouth they recognize it immediately for the fraud that it is.

Sometimes love is requires strong language. Strong actions.

We are tearing through the kid-lit book Wonder right now as a family and our couch erupted in cheers at "the punch"! If you haven't read Wonder click here and order it this
very minute. Do we encourage physical violence as a way to solve our problems? Of course not. Do we high-five the brave and passionate defense of a severely bullied child? You betcha. Our kids know there are social and systematic consequences for their words and their behavior and they they will be accountable to those in school and in life, but they also know that if they are defending someone who cannot defend themselves there will not be consequences at home. There will most likely be ice cream.

We belong to one another. And our words matter.

In our home the kids who are a "bad influence" aren't the ones turning their cards in class everyday, they're the ones spewing judgmental condemnation in the name of Jesus. The kids we clench our teeth about aren't the ones cussing, they're the ones using "girl" as a pejorative in order to feel better about themselves through domination and gender superiority as if a girl being strong translates to a boy being weak. We don't lose sleep about premature immodesty with bikinis, it's the physical shame, distorted body image and misplaced responsibility for the sexualized thought-life of men accompanying the cover-up-culture that keeps us up at night.

Our is hope is our family culture could be one where every kid gets a chance at bat, whether he ever hits the ball or not, he tries. And tries hard. Because it's fun to try hard. Even if you fail. Where every kid can cannonball into the pool in whatever swimsuit she likes, six-pack or belly rolls, getting her hair wet and making a huge splash. Because who ever set out to make a little splash? Where a gay kid can still be an athlete and a black kid doesn't have to be. Where being smart isn't a threat and having weaknesses isn't a liability. Where a special need is a thing of beauty deserving of protection, not a disease deserving of eradication.

Our words matter. They are tide turners and kingdom builders. Instruments of grace and weapons of mass destruction, especially the holy ones. Our hope is for Jesus to spill out of their hearts and words of life to spill out of their mouths, love over fear, peace over war. But if the situation calls for Jesus turning over tables in a temple and they're gonna drop an F-bomb, it had better be F-U-C-K and they'd better make it count.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

the eyes

The eyes still haunt. The eyes of the girls. The eyes of the men. Of all that was seen and can't be unseen, it is the eyes that still haunt.

He came home talking about the eyes, how with some he had to look away to protect himself, but with others he would plead hard with his gaze look at me, just look at me in hopes they would see, even if just for a moment, the light in his eyes. Maybe they would feel safe and found. Maybe he could catch their stare and send a father's love across the room, across the street.

Sure, he had super intense stories of some pretty crazy situations: sex for sale at every glance, children paraded for abuse, humanity absolutely abandoned, insatiably voracious appetites for the consumption of other human beings, animals panting from beneath the skin of someone's dad, someone's grandpa. But for all the heart breaking and disturbing scenes endured, it is the eyes of the enslaved, vacant and hollow or terrified and innocent, still pleading with his heart for rescue.

Some surrendered to their lot and determined to make a sale stare him down, a mere shell of a girl. Calloused and detached they go through the motions with following phrases like "me love you long time?" which instantly tells us the dark meaning behind a crass 90's song we used to hear bleeped out on the radio as teenagers. Others so new and scared hide behind more experienced girls in hopes no one notices their awkwardness or the number pinned to their chest. Their downcast eyes and trembling frame terrified of being chosen employ the childlike thought if I can't see them maybe they can't see me.

It is the eyes of the predator, either vacant and hollow or jagged and violent, still motivating our will. Some long since given over to the darkest corners of their soul, a mere shell of a man. No longer phased. No longer nervous. Going through the grotesque motions of desperation and emptiness all the while shackled and chained just the same. A slave to depravity. Others aggressively devour their latest purchase with eyes like flames and a ravenous appetite for abuse.

All vacant.

In crowded streets there is no one home.

A young girl works hard to keep the attention of a middle-aged man. She plays flirty and funny, giggling and smiling in hopes he will keep her around. She hopes he will buy her a drink so she can sit for awhile and relax. He does. She does. The mamasan zeroes in on the possible transaction and approaches the table. She begins bartering with the man for the girl's services. As they negotiate her worth, the girls stops giggling, there is no more flirting, her face falls as the numbers fall. The charade is up. Her entire existence measured in currency, reduced, sold like cattle. She goes dark. Her eyes vacant once again.

There is no sense of sexy. There is nothing glamorous or sparkly or scintillating. We've gone beyond scandalous. The eyes reveal the base level of animalistic, hungry souls seething with desire for more and more and more and more. At any cost.

We think it's unbelievable. Men ravaging children night after night.

Is it though?

The disconnect between an overseas brothel customer paying for sex with a child whom he does not see as a human being but a product to be consumed is not too far down the slippery slope from the minivan driving dad sitting in an American strip club exchanging his salary for the chance to consume someone else's daughter who is dancing on stage while his daughter is at home asleep in her bed or the young man on his computer every night visually consuming human being after human being after human being, like potato chips with every click, all the while rewiring his porn-addicted brain to look like the fried brain of a drug addict.

If the eyes are the window to the soul, and the eyes are dark and concave, absent of light and hope, then the dark night of these souls are welling up and pouring out from their ocular cavities like dark waterfalls rushing down and filling up the clubs and alleyways with abysmal despair, drowning the willing in their comatose trance.

At least that's the painting in my mind.

The eyes made him run every night to push the anger from his pores. 
The eyes wake him up at night reminding him they are still waiting for rescue. 
The eyes flash in the faces of men here at home who's lives are in bondage to sexual addiction. 
The eyes blink in the faces of our own children singing to us of freedom and innocence, protection and security.

His stories have become my stories and so they haunt me as well.

***This is my first post as an Exodus Road Blogger! At least once a month I will be using my little corner of the internet by writing for freedom alongside so many other bloggers who have responded to the call to raise our collective voices on behalf of the trafficked. Our intention is to continue building the swell of awareness and raising the volume on the call to action. Holler if there is something you'd like me to post about! Thanks for following along! Much love, C. 

Friday, April 10, 2015

windswept :: a SE Asia trip update

I keep coming to this space. And I keep leaving it blank. Hashtag sorrynotsorry.

I am practicing the waiting. The not sharing. Protecting. Discerning. Storing up all sorts of sparkling things in my soul and just hangin' out with them for a little while, or for a long while, trying not to frame every little piece into a sound byte or editing moments as they are happening. I wait, sometimes for what seems like ever and ever, until each rowdy piece of reflected light is ready for release back into the wild. Once free, those crazy sprites can be difficult to catch all spinning dizzy and stirring up prisms.

How do you wrap words around a whirlwind?

I stand at the center, hair whipping wild in the long-awaited gust of a new heading, and every word I release is swallowed up and whisked off beyond my reach. Swirling and howling and blustering and whispering. The force strong enough to knock me over and yet also sweetly balanced and mightily steadying. I stretch my arms out and close my eyes that I might just feel it. The wind. The way it rushes fast over my skin. The way it pries open my clenched fists and surges between my fingers leaving me palms up releasing any control I once thought I wanted. The way it fills my lungs with its power and takes my breath away in the same flick of a moment. I cannot help but spin and twirl. My chin cannot help but lift. Bending and swaying, must be those well-watered roots and palm tree posture that make a crazy storm look a lot like dancing. An island sprig found thriving in desert spaces, I am swept up into the fury. 

"...some moment happens in your life 
that you say yes 
right up to the roots of your hair,
that makes it worth having been born 
just to have happen.
Laughing with somebody 
till the tears run down your cheeks,
waking up to the first snow,
being in bed with somebody you love...
Whether you thank God for such a moment
or thank your lucky stars,
it is a moment that is trying to 
open up your whole life.
If you turn your back on such a moment
and hurry along to business as usual,
it may lose you the ball game.
If you throw your arms around such a moment
and hug it like crazy,
it may save your soul."
-frederick buechner

I've been expecting this breezy old friend for such a long while - this rush of life bearing new longitudes and latitudes . We've sensed the momentum from such a long way off the way a waterman reads swells and currents and we've been preparing ourselves for the ride. So. Much. Waiting. Well, the ride has arrived. Our next step has shown itself. It's happening.

We are moving to SE Asia!

At this time last month Eric was in SE Asia as I sat in a hospital waiting room here while our daughter underwent surgery. Three days earlier, a simple missed landing on our backyard trampoline landed her on an x-ray table with a fractured ankle. Two days later our orthopedic surgeon determined her injury to be much more significant than we were originally told and he immediately scheduled surgery for the following morning. At the exact time I was scheduled to fly out to join Eric.

Sometimes the moment makes the decision for you.

He wanted to come home. I wanted him to stay put. I was in the zone here caring for our girl and the stories coming out of his work in SE Asia had me convinced he was in the zone over there caring about a whole bunch of other parents' girls. He needed to stay. I needed him to stay. I needed him to finish the work we set out to do, to take this next step, to ride the momentum building over those few weeks of insane fundraising as well as the past seven years since we'd first opened our eyes to the reality of child sex-slavery. Our sails were filled full and we were cruising too strong to pull off course now. The same rush of wind keeping him going night after night of gathering evidence of human trafficking, staring into eyes long since vacant of hope and still others completely void of humanity, would be the same force keeping me going in the triage unit that had become our family room with one child post-op and the other violently ill for the second time in one month. Our tribe alongside me, a new tribe alongside him. Our resolve anchored deep.

My sun would be setting as his sun was rising and so we see-sawed our way through the two week adventure just like that. Calls and texts and Facetime chats on opposite ends of our days kept me tuned in to the field work he was experiencing and kept him connected to the progress we were making here at home. It wasn't until we saw him coming down the escalator at the airport that the waves began to hit me. It's over. I really didn't go. I just missed the entire thing. My entire heart was engaged in the care of our kids as our plans got rerouted, but my entire heart had also been set on the plan to be side-by-side with my husband in this giant next step toward our work against trafficking. 

The weeks following the trip have been filled with Eric's stories becoming my stories, his people becoming my people. A steady stream of both dark tellings of the intensity of the trenches and hilarious antics from team members turned brothers and sisters wove through our every conversation. Even my birthday dinner night out had us tearing up over the vacant eyes of little girls dead inside from the horrors of their lives one minute and then belly laughing in the street drawing stares from balconies and smiles from cafe patios as we cackled about his teammates most embarrassing moments stories shared over their downtime cappuccinos and fieldwork debriefing. The stories have shaped me from a distance and invited me in. I keep forgetting I wasn't actually there. But really, I was. That's just how we roll. Eric and I take each other along wherever we go, whether in body or in spirit. See, the dangerous nature of taking Jesus seriously doesn't automatically take us to the darkest corners of humanity, but it does ALWAYS take us outside of ourselves and face to face with fear, daring us to release our death grip on control and comfort, inviting us further beyond ourselves than we ever dreamed possible.

For us, that invitation is to SE Asia. 

Friends. You know how long we've been waiting, praying and expecting this. This next adventure has been years in the making, ages in the dreaming, so I'm kinda bursting with fruit flavor over here. And yes, it's about the work and the wild ride, but really it's about this ---> God built us for this, grew us toward each other while growing us toward this, stirred our hearts for this and then made a way for us. We dug our heels in and waited for His way above our way and He did it. He actually did it. Immeasurably more than we could have asked for or imagined. He took the verse I admittedly roll my eyes at every single time I read it or hear it (Ephesians 3:20), the verse that makes me go, "really? immeasurably more than I could ask for or imagine? really? because i can imagine some pretty rad stuff", the verse I doubt but secretly hope is true because my heart was designed for a great wandering; He carved that verse on the palm of His hand, slammed it up against the window of my soul and said "How do you like them apples!" in His best Southie accent. I love it when God goes all Good Will Hunting on us. 

We finally have our next heading and are charting our course. Holding the logistics loosely, waiting to see how our timeframe takes shape, but breathing deep knowing we are quite ready for another adventure. 

Saturday, February 21, 2015

GoFund Us - SE Asia

"We weren't going to do this. GoFundMe wasn't part of our plan. But then I watched this video again and said, "screw it."

We've been invited to SE Asia to volunteer with our favorite anti-trafficking org The Exodus Road! Click here for the video and our time-sensitive fundraising campaign!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

the doing of true love

My little guy loves to decorate for holidays. Our usual ritual is buying one new decoration per year per holiday because, let's be honest, Target is a vixen and my weapons are useless against her. My family needs to eat and have things like electricity and running water so one decoration it is. But that's not the story for me this week leading up to Valentine's Day. The story is my little guy opening up the storage box with a big V on the lid and beginning his oooooh's and aaaaah's as he hangs heart-shaped things in all the "wrong" places which gives me ample opportunity to practice letting it go, letting it go. The story is the one decoration he needed help hanging. The one we made a couple years ago out of cardboard and printed out maps strung together with twine. The one with the four heart-shaped maps of Tempe and one of Congo.

Mom, tell me about that map.

My heart breaks because I'm not sure what to say. The sinking catches me off guard. Our adoption that once carried words like "your brother or sister" is now held loosely by open hands, palms up, looking for next steps and carrying words like "first families" and "staying together". Even though my heart aches for our dream not yet realized, the greater ache is for every mama who truly loves her babies and wants to raise them herself but feels like she has no other choice but to surrender them to an orphanage, or worse, to a trafficker. 

I believe I had to be given a mama's heart to fully understand another's. I had to stand in that space where my heart wanted nothing more than to expand enough to love another's babe as my own so that I could see her, every her, as a sister and want nothing more than for her to have a chance to love her own babe as her own. The commission is to care for the orphan AND the widow, the single mama. Because if the widow, the woman who lost her husband to HIV/AIDS, the woman whose husband left her because she had been raped and was now considered untouchable, the woman who was never allowed an education because of her gender, the woman who has great ideas but can't afford to feed her children much less start a business, if she has a chance then there is a chance her child won't become an orphan.

What if our "heart for the orphan" is just a little backward? What if our hearts were for the widow which could prevent the orphan? We are still such advocates for adoption. We still hope adoption is part of our story. We know there are so many babes, young and older, who desperately need a family. However, we will not build our own family at the expense of another's. There are so many children who legitimately need a loving family and there are so many loving families who legitimately need a chance to keep their children.

This is why we love the work being done by our friends at The Abide Family Center.  Partnering with local orphanages and government agencies on the ground in Jinja, Uganda, Abide is a resource for families on the verge of collapse. Families, usually single mamas, who show up of the doorstep of an orphanage ready to leave their child out of sheer desperation, but who, when asked if they would choose to keep their child if they were able, say yes, are referred to Abide's program. Emergency housing, food, medical assistance, case management, small business education, parenting classes, early childhood development, pastoral care and family sponsorship mark their alternative care model employing national staff driven toward the goal of keeping families together and keeping children out of orphanages. Abide inspires a broader spectrum of orphan care and an audacious belief that we can prevent the need for adoption one family at a time.

image via

So, this week as I print out Minecraft-themed Valentine's for my little guy's classmates and resist the urge to rearrange his oddly placed decorations, I am thinking about that heart-shaped map of Congo and how we dream of seeing the work of orphan prevention and family preservation being done in the country we have grown to love. I am dreaming of Congolese mamas keeping their babies because love + opportunity = hope. I am sending Valentine love to Joan and her babes, the family we are sponsoring toward resettlement with our monthly sponsorship donation to Abide.

Want Valentine's Day to be about more than just candy and stressful Pinterest DIYs? Want to bring your kiddos along in supporting another family in great LOVE while keeping kiddos with their parents and out of orphanages? Consider giving a piece of your heart to The Abide Family Center and the work of orphan prevention this week! Feeling crazy? Sponsor a family while they work toward resettling back into their community! Helping to keep a child with their family is just as life-changing as welcoming them into our own. 

Join us in
the doing of true love 
this Valentine's Day! 

Monday, February 09, 2015

28 Days of Play


"Playing with my kids still feels new. Like when you finally find yourself in a healthy relationship and you have the lightbulb epiphany, “Oh! So this is what it’s supposed to be like!” At nine and six I am just now joining their lives in a new way every time we throw the football around in the front yard, practice gymnastics on the trampoline, write names of foreign countries in sidewalk chalk for a serious game of Around the World, build Legos, play board games and toss the Frisbee in the parking lot during swim practice. I used to think it was because my girl and boy are finally out of the Fisher-Price stage and finally wanting to do things I actually find to be fun. While this is so very true, those damn Polly Pockets and annoying Tow Mater were almost the death of me, it’s not the real reason. The truth is, I’m the one finally ready to play."

Catch the rest of my piece Messy Truths About Play over at You Plus Two Parenting today!