Tuesday, June 30, 2015

difference maker

We're poolside again today. Working hard at this California housesitting gig, I tell ya. Swam all morning and we've been lounging in the breezy shade all afternoon. The biggest decisions I have to make today are when to reapply sunscreen and how much extra pico I want on my Wahoo's fish taco. We'll be wrapping up our time here in our old 'hood at our dear friend's shabby chic bungalow and heading back down to the beach to hold down the fort at another friend's beach house for the rest of the week. Much needed rest and so much fun with so many friends we may not get to see again before the big move. 

This breezy cabana-esque patio is the perfect place to tuck my feet up and pull out a keyboard to tell you about this morning's story. 

Eric goes on a Peet's coffee run this morning  (apparently our fellow coffee snob friends have ditched their espresso maker and are exclusively French press now). Anyway, he's rockin' the @shopshedoesjustice DIFFERENCE MAKER tee we gave him for Father's Day and the girl at the counter says sarcastically, "So, you're a difference maker, huh?" To which he replies, "I like to think so." Laced with condescension she tilts her head to the side in apathy and drones, "And just how is it that YOU make a difference?" To which he replies, "I help rescue girls from sex slavery." (holding eye contact...) The rude sneer drains from her face and her eyes light up, "Oh, you really are a difference maker! I feel like I should offer to buy your drinks or something!" 

Justice is in the hands of the ordinary. Our hands. Your hands. 

We are looking for 25 Difference Makers. Ordinary people - close friends, distant friends, old friends, new friends - who want to use 25 of their dollars every month to join us in pushing back the darkness of slavery. 

25 Difference Makers at $25/month for 2 years will cover Carsyn and Garrett's school fees and tuition for the first year we are overseas. 

We are so fortunate to have amazing schools here at home that are free. It is a true luxury to have so many good choices when it comes to our kids' education. 

While we are in SE Asia, however, our children will attend a specific private school in the neighborhood where we will live in order to maximize security. The nature of our work is such that we will be living in an area geographically separate from the investigations for safety's sake. We have to be smart and strategic from the very beginning and cannot afford to underestimate these details. Thankfully our leadership has done the hard work in going before us and so we already know our kids will attend the private Christian school in the gated neighborhood we will live in so that their safety is never in question. 

A huge answered prayer came in last week as the school we've been applying to informed us that they have made an exception for our family and have guaranteed both Carsyn and Garrett an early placement for January 2016!  This is super exciting because early placements are usually reserved for missionary families, which we are not. 

Tuition and school fees make up a surprising chunk of our two year budget. Fees have to be paid early so this is the piece we need to fund first. 

Will you be one of our 

A good friend contacted Eric out of the blue last week. He and his wife and kids are missionaries in a scary country and they are no strangers to long-term fundraising. He's one of those guys that really gets my guy. He shoots straight, speaks blunt, and loves fierce. He's a truth teller and one helluva prayer warrior. Never an ounce of bullshit. So when He calls to encourage Eric out of the blue it's obviously God's provision. How's the fundraising going, he asks. He calls to remind us that big donors are super helpful, but it's the ordinary donors, the $10/$15/$20 a month donors who are going to have our backs in prayer. It's those who are thinking of us every month, every time they skip that Starbucks drink so they can give, they are the ones who will be charging the doors of the brothels with us night after night in spirit. The ordinary donors are the ones who get you to your goal, he says. Put the rest back on God, he says. This is His work, let Him provide the money, he says. 

Justice is in the hands of the ordinary, we say. 

We need 25 Difference Makers to commit to $25/month for 2 years so that Carsyn and Garrett can start school in January. Will you be one of them? 

Each of the 25 Difference Makers will be automatically entered in our first giveaway
 ---> a DIFFERENCE MAKER t-shirt from She Does Justice! These t's are such amazing conversation starters and simple ways to remind others (and ourselves) that every day is another chance for ordinary people to change the world. 

Make your first donation through our GoFundMe.com/sharkstoseasia campaign and let us know you want to be one of the 25for25 Difference Makers helping Carsyn and Garrett go to school in SE Asia and we will automatically enter you in the DIFFERENCE MAKER giveaway! 

And now for another swim...

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

the change of

In mathematics there is the concept of "change" represented by a triangle, the Greek letter delta. The change in... describes the incremental variance between two points. Small changes in the slope of a curved line on a graph, for instance. I've always loved this concept of small changes along a line. It's the fancy version of "next steps".  Coordinates marking the travel from point A to point B. All of the in between spaces creating a path. A design.

Math has always been like a language to me with rhythm and cadence and order and process, perhaps because language comes much easier to me than math ever has. I am always in awe of how a language of numbers and values can describe the vastness of our universe. Sometimes I think math might even be poetry for all its pattern and repetition. I once heard a massively brilliant astrophysicist describe how he sees God through his mathematical study of the universe as "elegant". Like Italian, and the symphony, and couture. God's creation flows elegant.

What if change is elegant? The slight variances along the path between two points. The slope of a curve as opposed to a straight line. This is math, and math simply describes reality. My reality as of late.

We moved. A little move before the big move. An unexpected change in plans. Change. What we thought was going to be a straight line between this season and our move overseas has shaped up to be much more of a curved line with a combination of variables: circumstances, wisdom, relationships and preparation in between.

Up until this point, as perpetual renters we've loved the freedom to move whenever and wherever without the baggage of homeownership. Our gypsy hearts looking ahead. We have always invested in the houses we've lived in and left them in better condition than when we moved in as a way to bless the property owners, and yet we've been hoping for a relocation for quite some time and so have never fully put down roots. However, a change in ownership, a significant rent hike and the requirement of another year lease (none of which we were interested in) reminded us of the shadow side of not owning your home. 

At the same time we were making unexpected decisions about where we wanted to live in preparation for our move to SE Asia, Eric's mom had a heart attack. His dad's health has already been struggling. The future is uncertain. Isn't it always.

And so God made a little space in our hearts. 
And then He kindled a little light in that space. 
And then He blew a breeze turning our heads in that direction. 

We know those breezes well. Those invitations to consider, to enter in. No guilt. No force. Just the Holy Spirit expanding our ideas of the slope of our particular curved line and how we might travel between two points on our path. All of a sudden it seemed silly to rush out and dig up some six-month rental house in some random neighborhood where we would set up shop temporarily just to put most of our stuff in a storage unit for two years overseas. Sure we could do it. Or, we could do something different. We could enter in. The change in our curve could allow us to enter into the change in another's curve. 

Honor the space between no longer and not yet.  

And so, we have taken over the three empty rooms in Eric's parent's house on a quiet street lined with horse properties in NE Mesa, so that we can mow their acreage, cook meals, open the blinds and let light in, tell stories of old times and stories of today's minutiae, bring laughter, bring the energy of children. 

We've done this before. This entering-in. We lived with my parents for a year after my brother's death. We didn't have to. We were able to. He had lived with them during his cancer and the void was thick. Our kids were little and their smiles and laughter brought light and love. We brought conversation and company. Simple proximity of presence on a daily basis and cooking well for them allowed grief to be metabolized and gradually brought life back into their space. The relationships our kids enjoy with their grandparents is such a treasure because of that year. 

That year wasn't a have-to. It was a get-to. As is this. We've always known the gift of having good relationships with our own and each other's parents and so we get to take these months to invest. We get to invest relationally in his parents. We get to invest financially into our own fundraising efforts. We get to invest in ourselves during this micro-burst of rest. A slower and longer transition just might be for our best. 

We weren't planning on this space. This in between. We were planning on going straight from right now to a new right now. One day we would close the door and turn the key on this season and the next we would unlock a new adventure in a new time zone. 

But plans change. 

We have been given this space. Space I have a feeling we might need. Space our kids might need. Time spent we will never regret. Turns out, transitioning from a long season here in the desert to the wild ride of moving overseas could possibly require a little more than just a killer going away party and a ride to the airport. Just maybe. In the meantime, we are honoring the space between no longer and not yet by pressing in instead of pulling away, digging up the elegant in the unconventional.

Everywhere an adventure. 

Monday, June 22, 2015

the art of neighboring

So, we moved. A little move before our big move. Actually, I think this little move may have been the big move. I think leaving our neighborhood and moving across town has been more difficult than leaving the country will ever be. As renters who never liked to be too tied down we've never loved a home like we've loved this last one. And not because of the house, but because of the quality of life housed in the house. All because of the learned art of neighboring. 

It's the families who have been around long enough to know the history of the 'hood. It's the open doors with kids in and out all day long. It's how they all know which cupboard the cups are kept in and which snack bins they can help themselves to. It's the neighbor who plays his harmonica while happily walking 1 block to work each day and takes sweet, totally not weird pictures of his girlfriend in the other neighbor's wildflowers.  Or the other neighbor who rides his bike two blocks to work on campus in a suit each day regardless of the heat. It's impromptu pizza nights when the dads feed whichever neighborhood kids happen to be around. It's bonfires and beers on the front lawn with whoever happens to see the beacon lit and shows up. It's the college boys next door who knock on the door with an escape tortoise in hand at least once a week, who bring leftover bottles of wine as a peace offering after they've had a party and who never complain about your squawking chickens because you never complain about the "skunk" smell wafting over from their yard every so often. It's never having to plan play dates for your kids because they always have ready-made playmates. It's borrowing a cup of sugar, a lemon, or an entire bag of flour while cooking. It's your neighbor knowing they can always check your coop if they need to borrow an egg and your not home. It's seeing the free range neighborhood dog on the loose again and knowing exactly how to get him home. It's pool hopping in multiple backyards on the street because there is  standing permission even when the neighbors aren't home. It's New Years fireworks in the street, 4th of July fireworks just down the street and football game touchdown fireworks every Saturday night during fall. It's last minute sleepovers, last minute errand running, and last minute trips to the lake. Family game nights, neighborhood Olympics and a lawnmower that gets walked around the block being shared between multiple yards. It's the art of the drive-by, the pop-in, the send-them-on-down.  It's the pile of clean laundry and other miscellaneous items that gather by the front door to be returned to various houses the next day. It's the ten year old fake leather couch peeling apart leaving shreds on the floor each day from the herd of boys who wrestle, practice flying off the arms and crawl all over it while playing xBox everyday. It's the fact that I love the three years it has  been torn to shreds more than I ever loved the seven years it sat perfectly unblemished. It's the tree climbing and music video making, the bike riding, skateboarding in the rain. The new kid who grafts right in to the group. The new little girls who look up to the big girls. It's the constant sidewalk chalk pictures and notes between the girls taped to the front doors in lieu of the bucket/pulley system they have been designing to stretch between the houses. It's the "get well" artwork after multiple broken bones. It's driveway basketball games that draw kids out of their houses and makes dads pull their cars over to get in on the hustle. It's throwing the football back and forth as we talk about our day which always magnetically attracts the usual suspects and reminds the kids that throwing like a girl is a good thing. It's pogo sticks and nerf gun wars and super soaker fights and writing plays and being in plays and going to see Broadway plays. It's shared sarcasm among moms and boyish humor among dads. Shared adult beverages and shared inside jokes. Shared disappointments and shared prayers.

Butabove all else it's generosity. What is mine is yours. Open doors and open lives. As we go. Along the way. Through the years. Truly. We have been taught the art of neighboring well and we will never be the same. 

Thursday, June 11, 2015

confession: i don't like fundraising

I don't like fundraising. It's hard.

Hard things take a long time. Hard things require patience and extreme effort exerted over an extended period of time. Hard things require some failure.

I don't prefer any of these situations. I know, weird.

I prefer the "fun" in fundraising! Like raising over 8k in five days kind of fun. Like seeing people leverage their influence on behalf of freedom kind of fun. Like watching our goal get closer and closer and then BAM! Success! I prefer the rally-the-troops, blow-your-mind whirlwind kind of fun!

And yet the "fun" isn't where strength is born. Strength hails all the way from hard work. And I want to be strong. I need to be strong. For the crazy work ahead. For the crazy of today.

Raising a two year salary is a hard thing. Not because of the dollar amount, but because people don't always understand the purpose. They assume we don't feel like getting "a real job" and we just want other people to foot the bill for our travel plans. They ask questions like, "Why should I pay YOUR salary?" And we get it. If you didn't grow up in the evangelical church where mission trip support letters in your mailbox were common occurrences, the whole idea might feel kinda strange.

See, when you work for a company, your salary is paid out of profits from sales or services. When you work for the government, your salary comes from tax dollars. When you work for a non-profit, your salary comes from donations made to the organization. The jobs are just as legitimate with detailed position descriptions, full-time work weeks and donated funds going through the organization and distributed in incremental paychecks.

The hard part of fundraising isn't asking people to donate their hard earned money. The hard part is selling humanity in a market buying individual gratification. It's easy to exchange our money when we get something in return - a bracelet, a t-shirt, a night out at our favorite restaurant. We like a product we can consume. It's a whole other thing, however, to exchange our money toward someone else's return - their safety, their healing, their freedom. We want to end hunger but we don't want to pay for someone else's food. We want world peace but we don't want to put down our guns. We want a healthy planet but we don't want to adjust our oil usage. We want children to be safe instead of raped every night but we don't want to give up our internet porn or spend any of our vacation fund to rescue them.

I say "we" because these words are not accusatory. We are part of this culture too, born and bred into a long lineage steeped in consumerism and individuality, but we are pushing back against our own myopic tendencies of self-preservation and egocentrism because we belong to each other. You + me. Us + them. We're all in this together.

We think Jesus was serious when He said of most importance is, "Love the Lord your God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy AND love others as well as you love yourself." More important than not murdering. More important than not gettin' busy with your neighbor's husband or wife. More important than not stealing or lying or bowing down to cows made of gold. Love others as well as you love yourself.

We believe Jesus was serious. Like really believe it. And so I remind myself ---> WE CAN DO HARD THINGS. We can simply slow down along our way to buy dinner for Andrea who was sitting outside Chick-fil-a last night where we stopped to eat after Carsyn's surgery. We can sit on the curb with her and give her resources to access here in town and how she can take steps toward a fresh start beginning with a safe place to eat and sleep. She is our neighbor in our town and if she was my prodigal girl out on the street in need of a kind word and a chicken sandwich I would want someone to show her love and point her toward home. AND. We can go to great lengths to search for and rescue the young girl who is in a dark brothel across the globe in SE Asia forced into sexual slavery against her will, terrified by every dark eye she meets, because if she was my girl you can bet I would sell everything I own and would not sleep until I gathered every willing soul I know to help find her and bring her home no matter what border I had to cross.

What does "love others as well as you love yourself" look like for you? We each have the opportunity to answer this with our lives. Not just us. We answer it along the way as we happen upon each other and we answer it in the way we make decisions that build our world.

"is this the world you want
is the the world you want,
you're making it
everyday you're alive"

We believe in the mission and strategies of The Exodus Road so much we are willing to fundraise on behalf of the organization in order to see the position we are moving our family to fill be fully funded. We would not want our salary to take away from monies donated for undercover gear, high level training and collaborative work with local law enforcement and so we are joining in the larger fundraising effort by The Exodus Road to contribute an entire much needed position to the SE Asia staff which will free up ER founders Matt & Laura Parker to be even more effective in their leadership of both The Exodus Road and their role in the Liberty Alliance collaboration.

Our goal is to inspire an army of supporters who want to push back the weight of darkness alongside us and who might continue to keep the position funded and the rescue coming long after we move into another role within The Exodus Road. We are searching not just for people who love us and will support whatever we do personally, but those who believe in the slow work of search and rescue and who see freedom as a non-negotiable for all children.

And so I will love the Lord my God with all my passion and prayer and intelligence and energy by loving His kids as my own. Even if it's hard.

Monday, June 08, 2015

undercover operative: "Jill"

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.