Dressember 2018

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Somehow the pages of the calendar have all blown off and we’re here again, entering the twelfth month of 2018 and subsequently, my fourth year of Dressember.

(For those of you curious about what Dressember is, here’s a great summary from their website: Why A Dress?).

Those of you who have been around here for a few years likely know why I started participating in Dressember in 2015, but for those of you who are new, here is the origin story of my passion for victims of human trafficking:

I sat, eyes riveted on the screen, too horrified to look away. It was an incredibly graphic movie clip, and something I, as a highly sensitive person, would typically avoid. But I knew that for the sake of acknowledging the horrors of the Transatlantic Slave Trade, it was something I needed to see.

The African slaves on the ship were chosen one by one to be thrown over the side to their deaths. It didn’t matter whether or not they knew how to swim because they were chained to bags of rocks that would drag them to the bottom of the ocean. The pressure from their rapid descent would crush them long before their lungs filled with water, not only satisfying the slave trader’s wish to kill them, but also making their deaths excruciatingly painful.

When the clip from Amistad ended and my APLA teacher turned off the screen, a heavy silence ensued. I remember being hit full force with a wave of emotions. Not only was I sickened by the reality of the African slave trade, but I was also alarmed to realize that the vast majority of my classmates, while acknowledging the atrocities of slavery back then, were completely unaware of its prevalence in society today.

“Did you know that there are more slaves in the world today than there were during the entirety of the Transatlantic Slave Trade?” I desperately wanted to ask them. Although the world’s population is much larger now than it was a few hundred years ago, that statistic alone blows the argument that slavery no longer exists completely out of the water.

After class, my friends and I could not stop talking about what we had seen, so decided to form a group called the Modern Underground Railroad, or MUR for short. We extensively researched slavery in the world today, and planned presentations that we could give in our history and language arts classes. And then, life got in the way. The academic rigors of junior year took over, and our grand plans for presenting to our classes fell to the wayside, never to be fully realized. However, a seed had been planted for a passion that would burst into bloom three years later when I went to Nepal.

Before going to Nepal, I would have said I felt at least somewhat prepared to deal with human trafficking up close and personal. I had read books and articles, attended lectures and prayer meetings, and extensively researched anti-trafficking organizations. However, several experiences in Nepal quickly humbled me, and reminded me that there is no way to fully prepare for catching glimpses of a system that buys and sells girls. Two instances in particular stand out as moments when the reality of trafficking hit me full force. The first was when my team was accidentally taken into India (you can read that story here Whoops, I Went to India!), and the second was when we visited a village and met young girls who were the exact demographic of girls most likely to be trafficked (you can read about it here Three Little Girls).

Needless to say, my trip to Nepal greatly furthered my passion to end human trafficking, which is a form of modern-day slavery. Once I returned I began looking for ways to continue to be involved in the fight for the freedom of all. Then I discovered Dressember, and it has proved to be a wonderful opportunity for continued involvement! 

This year in particular has marked a deepening of my passion to see the enslaved set free and the free remain in that state as I spent three months in Nepal working with an anti-trafficking organization, and again glimpsed many traces of the reality of girls being bought and sold throughout the rural mountainous region in which I lived. The problem persists, but the fight being waged against it is real, powerful, and breathtakingly beautiful!

My participation in Dressember this year comes with two distinctions from previous years.

  1. This is finally the year where I’m taking the challenge of wearing a dress every day for a month to the next level and wearing one dress for the entire month! The four kurta tops and three pairs of pants I donned for the month of April when I lived in the aforementioned village provided the perfect practice opportunity for this month of wearing one dress. 🙂 But in all seriousness, I deeply appreciate the opportunity wearing one outfit each day for a month will give me to remember that I HAVE CHOICES. That is not a given for so many people around the world, and too often I take my choices for granted. I want to be more mindful, not only of the fact that I have choices, but of the impact my decisions have on others around me, and I’m hoping Dressember will help move me in that direction.
  2. In my advocacy this year, I’m going to focus on the light – or that which is good, true, and beautiful. For the past few years, I’ve focused pretty heavily on educating you, my lovely community, on the realities of human trafficking and sex slavery. Although those are pretty dark and heavy topics, they’re ones that are so important to be aware of, so I’m still fully willing discuss these topics. However, as I’ve recently embarked on a new journey to heal my limbic system (which is another story for another time) I’m beginning to recognize the importance of increasing the positive inputs into my life. As such, I’m going to focus on the light this month by looking for the helpers and telling the stories I find of healing, rescue, and release from darkness and chains! Throughout the month I’m hoping to post these stories on Twitter. (You can find my feed here: Kel_Michelle_).

I will be fundraising this year, and if you feel led to donate to the good work Dressember is doing to end human trafficking you can donate here: Kelly’s Dressember 2018 Page. The money donated to Dressember goes towards funding twelve amazing partner organizations engaged in all facets of anti-trafficking work, both locally and abroad. You can read about these partners here: Dressember Grant Partners.

By wearing the same dress every day of December, I am reminding myself of the freedoms I have that many victims of human trafficking around the world don’t possess. I’m also choosing to advocate for them by sharing their stories with my sphere of influence. And finally, I’m reclaiming the beauty and dignity of femininity in a world that often says otherwise.

31 days, 1 dress, let’s go!

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24

Today is my 24th birthday, and somehow that feels just right.

There’s a song by Jess Ray about this particular age that also feels just right (far more than Taylor Swift’s 22 ever did).

The lyrics are as follows:

“You are not alone, I promise you’re not alone.
I am closer than the breath you’re breathing in.

You’re 24, don’t deny it, You’re 24, don’t try and hide it. Maybe you’re 24, you say you don’t know who you are, but right now you know more than you have ever known before.

You are not alone, I promise you’re not alone.
I am closer than the breath you’re breathing in.

Your eyes have not seen, your ears have not heard, What I have in store for you my dear, what I have in store for you this year.

You’re 24, don’t despise it, You’re 24, don’t try and hide it. Maybe you’re 24, you say you don’t know who you are, but right now you know more than you have ever known before.

Today you are loved and that’s really all that matters.”

My favorite line is the one about not knowing what God has in store for me this year. And that right there is something I never thought I’d say. It’s something I’ve always known, but tried to find clever ways around, thinking, “Of course I don’t know what comes next, but maybe if I imagine enough scenarios, I can figure it out!”

When I was in Nepal this year our team engaged in a time of goal-setting, and one of mine, silly as it sounds, was to minimize the time I give to imaginary scenarios about my perceived future. The craziest part of it all is that I’ve actually seen growth in that area this year!

And out of that growth, I welcome 24 in all of its mystery. I welcome the yet-to-be seen sunrises and sunsets, the holidays to be celebrated, the healing journey I’ll continue to travel, the sometimes delightful and sometimes frustrating interactions I’ll have with my students, the spontaneous adventures to be taken, the books to read, the time I’ll spend with my three favorite small housemates, the continued rhythmic changing of the seasons, the long-distance friendship Skype calls to make, the delicious food to enjoy, and every other detail, both in moments of beauty and of difficulty, that make up a year of life.

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October Skies

I walk out the front door and up the steep incline to my car on the dawn of a fresh day, marveling that the world is pink.

I putter around my room, tying up the mundane loose ends of an ordinary Wednesday when I glance out my window to see a square of brilliant gold.

My Mom calls me mere minutes before I leave the house to tell me that my great uncle just passed away, and I cry a little, but the the beauty of the rising sun on my morning trek to work is a breathtaking reminder that Dave is being welcomed into eternity.

I’m driving with my sister from a marching band competition to the airport on an unexpected trip home, and even if you spun in a giant circle you would never lose sight of the stunning setting sun.

October skies, each one seemingly trying to outdo the one that came before. Have they always been this magnificent? Why have I never noticed?

Because I’ve been too busy lamenting what I lack.

You see, I grew up in a land of big skies where the vistas often stretched from horizon to horizon with little of significance to block the scene. On hard days, I would run to the edge of the wheat field that bordered our property and just stand there – hurling hard questions at God and soaking up the sky.

But then I moved to a land of trees and mountains, which are also dear loves of mine, but I have desperately missed my beloved big sky. Throughout college, instead of rejoicing when purple stole through the deepening hues of navy, I got upset – lamenting my less-than-ideal vantage point and the go-go-go schedule that prohibited me from chasing down a good view.

But I’m learning, ever so slowly, to let what is be enough.

Maybe I only get to see it for twenty seconds, maybe my view is blocked by the trees, but nearly every day of this month thus far I have seen the sun rise and set, and my heart has rejoiced!

Here’s an assortment of some of my favorite sunrises and sunsets: IMG_0295fullsizeoutput_3abeIMG_1588fullsizeoutput_35d9IMGP2495IMGP0072IMGP2285DSCN4425DSCN4389DSCN4382DSCN4334DSCN4286DSCN3478DSCN3291DSCN6444DSCF6324

Grace

Sometimes I turn writing blog posts into more of a production than it needs to be, so today I’m going to share something brief that I hope will be an encouragement to you.

All too often we talk about the elements of our faith in really abstract terms that are hard to comprehend or apply to our lives, so here’s a recent, tangible example from my life of what grace looks like on the ground.

Grace is the family you live with loaning you their truck to transport your sister’s bed out of state, you scraping the paint down the entire right side of the truck in a narrow alleyway in Seattle, and their immediate response being, “This is Satan trying to derail you, we forgive you, and we’ll work through this together.” And isn’t that the heart of the Father? Don’t let Satan get to you. You are forgiven. I am with you always.

And if it weren’t for the accident, I wouldn’t be having this revelation. All things, working together for good. Normally we don’t get to see it so plainly, but today I am grateful for eyes to see, and am praying for a heart to receive this grace.

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Life-Circumstance Induced Writer’s Block

Hello Friends,

I want to give you a little life update as I’ve been fairly silent in recent months, both on this blog and on social media, and I know I have dear members of my community flung far and wide who don’t often get in-person updates from me.

The reasons for my silence are varied, but they essentially boil down to this: I am in the midst of intense, life-circumstance induced writer’s block

First, let’s talk about the life circumstances.

In the mess of the last eight months I’ve experienced a lot of loss, this summer has been one of fierce disappointment, and in the last month in particular, it feels as though grief has turned me inside out.

“Grief,” you say, “What are you grieving?”

  • a very significant relationship in my life
  • wonderful potential employment opportunities that turn out to be firmly closed doors
  • my expectations
  • direction, clarity, and a sense of purpose
  • the hopes I had for this season
  • a sense of stability in my relationship with God
  • my confidence

Also, I’m currently unemployed, and whoa, the shame and anxiety that has come with that recent development has been stifling.

Next, let’s talk about the writer’s block.

I know that writer’s block is a regular part of the life of a writer, but this time around it seems to be stemming not from a lack of desire to write, or even from not knowing what to write about, but from a sense of being too broken to put thoughts and feelings into words, much less share them honestly here.

Ultimately, I’m struggling to write because I don’t have any answers to my looming questions, and although I know I don’t have to have it all figured out for there to be value in my sharing, there’s a fine line between honesty and venting, vulnerability and wow-I’m-not-sure-what-we’re-accomplishing-here-but-this-girl-is-angsty.

However, I have been recently inspired to pick up my pen again because of a rad tweet by Lin Manuel Miranda in which he offers these kind words to one with a broken heart, “I wish I could grant you a time machine. Absent that, I CAN tell you that time eases it, and your heart will be tougher and better for it, and even love again. Write it down, all of it. You will need to remember what it feels like some day. And you WILL get through it.”

Here’s my commitment to you: I am writing. But most of it won’t be shared publicly right now (or maybe ever) because my time in Nepal taught me that my thoughts are valid, even if they’re not shared; in our social media saturated culture, I think we sometimes need the reminder that privacy is allowed; and I’m slowly learning that some healing can only truly happen when I’m willing to sit with the questions in the darkness until the light begins to break through and illuminate things I wouldn’t have seen if I weren’t already sitting there.

So until I’m ready to share again, you’ll find me journaling, awkwardly crying in public, and falteringly but courageously learning how to hope and trust and dream again.

Much love to you all,
Kelly out.

Keep Your Eyes Open and Your Easter Napkins Close at Hand

Today I have the immense honor of having two poems I wrote guest posted over at scrapingraisins.com! Throughout 2018, Leslie of Scraping Raisins has put forth monthly themes for writers to craft guest posts around, and when she announced that the theme for July was “Hospitality Around the World” I knew I needed to set aside some time to write. Surprisingly, I ended up writing about Moldova, not Nepal. When the ideas flow, you don’t fight them!

You can read the series of poems here: Keep Your Eyes Open and Your Easter Napkins Close at Hand.

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Five Year Anniversary

Today marks the five year anniversary of this blog! I am so grateful for 18-year-old Kelly who went out on a limb and created this space! This blog has been, and continues to be a life-giving creative outlet for me! So, in honor of my five year anniversary, I’m going to give you a list of favorite posts I’ve written. These aren’t necessarily the posts that have gotten the most attention, but rather, they’re the posts that I remain most proud of.

2014
First I want to give you a snapshot from the early days of this blog. (only read the posts surrounding it with the knowledge that I was still a very young writer at this point in time)!

Heritage Sketches
This is a series I did for a writing class on each of my grandparents! I greatly enjoyed creating a pattern and then following it for each sketch. The intro to the sketches is at the bottom of the page.

A Holy Dark
This remains one of my all-time favorite pieces I’ve written, maybe because it captures such an ordinary moment in a beautiful way.

For Those Rough INFJ Days
For all the INFJs in the house, I have some encouragement for you!

Why I Pray
This poem was scribbled on scraps of napkin during a morning break from a summer custodial job. It is also one of my favorite pieces, maybe in part because the friend I was praying for means so much to me!

Discipline
This post is from the end of my first year of choosing one word to focus on as a theme for the year. Spending 2016 focusing on discipline was life-altering, and this post articulates why it had such a profound effect on me.

The Passage of Time
Finally, a post that includes a poem from the end of my college journey.

To all of you who have read my writing over the past five years – thank you! I’m excited to continue interacting with all of you through this blog!