“Get In Where You Fit In”

A friend and I were talking on Saturday and she said something so deeply impactful and true without even realizing its significance. We were talking about a volunteer event that she was attending that afternoon where she didn’t know anybody. She said, “I’m just going to get in where I fit in.” It was so profound that I stopped her and said, “Get in where you fit in. Do you know how deep that is?!”

I cannot tell you the number of times people have asked me how they can get involved. Whether it be in regards to anti-human trafficking work, assisting with the issue of homelessness, etc., it all starts with this simple principle. In an age where we are the self-entitled “I-have-rights” generation always looking for the next Instagram-worthy post (guilty as charged), we sometimes miss the forest through the trees. We grew up on “You-too-can-be-great” motivational speeches and workshops. As a result, many of us have set out on such a lofty endeavor to change the world but we have missed the fact that the most simple, ordinary, and usually, humbling acts are the most loving.

Furthermore, it is easy to despair over the state of the affairs globally. We all know that if we watch the news for any length of a time in a day that it can be somewhat depressing. The needs are overwhelming. It’s like trying to eat an elephant in one bite. However, the greatest people in history knew of this simple guiding principle of doing what you can where you are with what you’ve got. Take Mother Teresa, for example, who said,

“Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time and always start with the person nearest you.”

[Read “Get in where you fit in.”]

It’s just that simple.

It’s like God dropped this nugget of truth on my lap to sum up the season of life that I’m in right now. I’m in a state of transition. I can tell that a shift is coming, so I’ve joked with my friends that I wished that God would give me the cheat codes to this level in life so that I could move on to the next. Haha. It’s like I’ve been tripping over the simple trying to get to the greater!

The best that any of us can ever do is to not give up or grow weary in doing good. Often times, that looks differently than we imagined. Freedom fighting, as you know, is not for the faint at heart. It is long-suffering. It’s love that comes with boots and its game face on.

So, be encouraged, freedom fighters. Get in where you fit in. That may mean carrying around water bottles in your purse or backpack to give to a person who is without housing. Or that could mean signing up to volunteer at an event that you’ve been meaning to sign up to do. Or it could be going online to donate to an organization/church that you’ve been putting off doing. Whatever your thing is, just get in where you fit in.

Much love,

D

 

Best-Kept Secret to Generous Living

I’ve been feeling like I’ve needed to write this post for a while now as I feel like I’m going to be letting you in on one of the best-kept secrets of my life.  It’s kind of an atypical post, which is in part one of the reasons why I have delayed penning it. Another reason for putting it off has been that I just wanted to make sure that I had marinated in it long enough to make sure my intentions for writing were right.

Now, I’ve come to a place where I really do feel like I’d be doing you a disservice NOT to share about the importance of: tithing and offering.

{A tithe, by definition, is a tenth of your income. An offering is anything above and beyond that.}

First, let me start off with saying that one of my New Year’s Resolutions for 2014 was to increase my tithe and offering to 30%. It didn’t seem like a lot initially but that was until I did some calculations. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t have heart palpitations and there wasn’t a little bit of sweating.

So, I didn’t start there. I started giving 10% of my net salary (a.k.a. the money I had in my bank after taxes were taken out). I’d take it right off of the top. It was the first “bill” I’d pay– my “thank you” bill to God. Eventually, I moved up to 10% of my gross income, which was honestly a big step for me. It seems petty in retrospect, but it was a defining moment in my giving. As time went on, I incrementally moved up to comfortably giving 20%. I stayed there for quite awhile UNTIL I started feeling convicted last week about it.

As in everything in life, there are always two choices: faith or fear. Even as far as I have come this year in terms of giving, fear is something I still wrestle with. Recently, I felt God express to me, “You’ve done well to get to 20%, but do you trust me with that last 10%?” Oh, bazinga.

You see… I have plenty of reasons to fear: I have a wedding that I’m in coming up in less than a week; Christmas is around the corner; and God wanted me to give MORE?! I mean I know that it was a New Year’s Resolution of mine and all, but 30% is a lot! In my pride, I thought about how lucky God was to even get that much. Then, I stopped myself in my own tracks and remembered how it belongs to God in the first place. Furthermore, God has been absolutely faithful to me. I have many more reasons to have faith.

In the last 12 months alone, I’ve had the ability to be in 2 weddings, pay off 2 credit cards, have a steady amount in my savings, AND enough money to still do fun things like travel. I immediately had to apologize for thinking that anything that I have is merely because of my own doing. If I’m honest, there are times when I look at my bank account stunned at how much is in there after I’ve paid all of my bills and even set aside money in my savings.

And as if that weren’t enough… I’m telling you, you guys, child support checks from my biological father have been faithfully coming in FOR MONTHS. I cannot even begin to tell you what kind of a miracle that is; because that was money we never thought we’d see. Ever. I tease my grandparents every time another check comes in the mail that it’s “the last one.” The truth is, no matter what happens, the miracle of it is not lost on me. I’d be okay either way, really.

Since I’ve spent a lot of time concentrating on being generous with my tithe and offerings, I have walked away with a few takeaways that I’d like to pass along:

1. The importance of “first fruits”

Think of Cain and Abel (Genesis 4). Why was Abel’s offering acceptable to God and Cain’s was not? The answer is that it was a matter of priority. Abel gave God the first and the best of what he had, not the leftovers. God wasn’t an after thought. He was the first thought. There is something to putting things in right order that is biblical. When we lose sight of what is important, that’s when things can get a little screwy.

2. Being intentional

Come up with a plan. I’d strongly recommend giving with the intention of giving, not just giving randomly in a hodgepodge kind of a way. It’s important to set aside your offering and distinguish it from the rest of your budget. Decide what you’re going to give and stick to it. That doesn’t mean that you may not give above and beyond your tithe sometimes. It just means that you have a game plan. Life is a lot easier to navigate when you have some sort of a plan.

3. Listening to the Spirit’s leading

I think a lot of people need to be set free from thinking that your tithe can’t go to helping out a friend or sowing into a ministry or cause that you’re passionate about. The Church is more than just the four-walled building we worship in. Now, I think that making sure that your home church’s electricity bill is paid is important as well. However, I would encourage you to think outside of the box and allow yourself the freedom to give, as you feel led to. One of my favorite conversations with God is, “Okay, where do you want this money to go this week?”

I’d be remiss in telling you that I came to this place without the wisdom and counsel of those who have gone before me. Most notably, a friend’s recommendation of “The Blessed Life: Unlocking the Rewards of Generous Living” by Robert Morris was one of the best things to happen to me. It revolutionized the way that I looked at giving this year. Also, Bob Goff’s “Love Does” was helpful as well.

Above all, my hope and prayer is that you don’t live off of a second-hand experience of God’s faithfulness from my own story. Everyone’s journey is different. My story is not your story and your story is not my story. However, we can all do well to learn from one another and try new things based on the recommendation of a friend.

Dear friend, my encouragement to you is to try it out for yourself. Try out generous living and see what God does for you. Although the reward is not the reason for our giving, it’s nice to see it when it comes back around. With that, I leave you with this blessing:

“Bring all the tithes (the whole tenth of your income) into the storehouse, that there may be food in My house, and prove Me now by it, says the Lord of hosts, if I will not open the windows of heaven for you and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it” (Micah 3:10).

The following is from a friend whom I asked to review this post before I published it. A praise report before it was even published?! Praise God.

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{White} Privilege and Responsibilty

I have been putting off publishing a post like this.

Why?

  • Because it’s difficult to put into words how I feel about it. (Well, that’s half-true, because I know very well what my guttural reaction is.)
  • And because it’s not politically correct. It will offend some people and ironically, probably the people who look a lot like me.
  • I even talked myself out of it because I felt like other bloggers had done an okay job of addressing the issue.

Oh, but I can’t bite my tongue any longer. I, unlike my brown-skinned brothers and sisters, have had the luxury of putting this off– of choosing a time that’s more convenient for me to deal with it.

But let’s get real, racism is never convenient. And it’s not right.

White privilege.

I said it. Does it make you feel uncomfortable? I know those 2 words (and what they represent) make me cringe at the inner depths of my being. I detest the fact that I was born into this world and afforded certain advantages merely because of the color of my skin.

My Mexican-American mother literally rejoiced when she gave birth to a fair-skinned, gray-eyed blonde baby, because she knew that I would not struggle in the same way that she did. Seriously, stop to think about that.

My grandpa, who was told that he’d never be good for anything more than manual labor, used to remind my mom not to leave me alone with him for fear people might think that he stole a white baby. Let that sink in. As a first-generation Mexican American, he was afraid to be seen alone with his grandbaby in public, because his experience had taught him better. This was in the late 80′s, people. Although it was nearly 30 years ago, certain attitudes about race *still* persist today.

The conversation started around the systemic disadvantage of young black men in this country (as prompted by the shootings of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and so many others) is one that NEEDS TO CONTINUE. This is not a new issue and it’s not one that’s going away until we deal with it. We cannot continue to sweep it under the rug or hide our heads in the sand or put it off on other people like it’s their problem.

“With great power comes great responsibility.” Whether it is our explicit or complicit condoning of racist attitudes and/or behaviors (i.e. thinking it’s funny to dress up in Black Face as Ray Rice and his wife– complete with black eye– for Halloween), we are apart of the problem.

What affects one of us affects us all. To think that our humanity is not bound up in each others’ is just not right.

So, what do we do about it?

  • See something/hear something? Say something. Is somebody carrying on about how funny it is to still dress up in Black Face? Tell them that it’s offensive. Not only to other people, but to YOU.
  • Learn to stop excusing racist attitudes and behaviors of those whom you love and care about. It doesn’t matter who says it or does it. It still doesn’t make it right. Step one in any recovery is acknowledging the problem and not living in denial anymore.
  • Be a good friend/human being in general. Be sensitive to others. Treat others the way you want to be treated. You know, the basic stuff.
  • Be proactive. Start believing that we CAN create a better world for us all. Stop accepting the status quo. Just because something always has been, doesn’t mean that it always will be. Join the larger conversation about race in this country. You can go about this a number of different ways in the spirit of solidarity and keeping peace-making in mind, but to name a few: go to City Council or community meetings on this issue; sign petitions, which fight for fairness and equality for all; attend rallies, protests, and/or prayer vigil; etc. Especially for my prayer warriors, do not cease praying for healing and reconciliation.

I wish to leave you with one of my favorite quotes by one of my favorite abolitionists. My hope and prayer is that we will see a significant change in our life time, because remember…

“We are too young to realize that certain things are impossible… So we will do them anyway.” – William Wilberforce

 

A Single Lady’s Guide to Galaxy : How to Find Love in All the Right Places

Ebonee and Delia (we) are soul sisters. There is no other way to put it. It would seem like we even planned to name our blogs (EboneeSpeaks.com & DeliaSpeaks.com) and social media handles (@EboneeSpeaks & @DeliaSpeaks) similarly, but we did not. It’s completely a God thing. As Ebonee so aptly put it, “Our spirits are kindred. When one season in your life begins or ends, I know a similar season is right around my corner. I just brace myself and get ready.”

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(Ebonee and Delia, Summer 2013)

Our hope is that you can hear each of our voices and the harmony of two. Our stories are our own, but they come from one heart. We have a shared desire, and that is to point you to the One who is the eternal lover of our souls. We’ve both had countless conversations with girlfriends, and what we’ve found is that every young woman comes to a place along her journey where she has to make some tough decisions about who she is and what she wants (not in a relationship, but period). For the young Christian woman, we call this place “surrender.” There is not a formula to it. Each path is tailor-made, and leads to peace, joy and unspeakable, unconditional love. Here’s a snippet from our journeys toward allowing God to love us whole.

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E: One night, I found myself alone in my studio apartment in L.A. God had been relentlessly pursuing my heart, but I hadn’t quieted my thoughts long enough to know what that really meant. That night, however, it was just God and I. No distractions or excuses. Nothing “mystical” happened. My heart finally surrendered to whatever work He wanted to do in me. Reading blogs, social media posts and books from young, Christian women left me convicted and confused as I compared my walk to theirs. Trying to fix and fill whatever voids I had left me exhausted and ashamed that I could be SO lonely and desperate. I thought I had done most things right, but couldn’t figure out why life wasn’t working the way I knew it could. I cried out to God on my studio apartment floor (as I had half-heartedly done before) and asked Him to help me. To be honest, I don’t know if I knew exactly what I needed help with, but I knew my heart was all over the place searching for agape (unconditional love) with an eros (romantic love) mentality. How I got to that night, you ask? At some point, I just let my guard down.

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For me, wholeness was a five-year process. Am I perfect today? Heck no. Am I a MUCH better version of myself? Absolutely. Don’t let the amount of time discourage you and make you think your single life is doomed to be difficult and boring. Not true at all. We have the beautiful opportunity to spend the rest of our lives saying “yes” to God and becoming whole and new each day.

Some years ago, I took a note from Heather Lindsey’s book and began “dating” God. Before you think I’m weird, hear me out. I knew I was putting a tremendous amount of time and energy into finding my husband. I figured that if I put that same effort toward my relationship with God, I’d be in a much better place overall. How did I date God? I began staying home more, spending nights alone with Him. It wasn’t always in Bible study. Sometimes we watched a movie, ate dinner or just lay in bed doing nothing but talking and laughing. In addition, I busied myself in the things of God. I was in every church service and Bible study I could find, immersing myself in Him so there was no time for distractions. To say that God chivalrously courted me would be an understatement to the incredible heart surgery He performed…and continues to perform as I allow His perfect love to cleanse and heal me every, single day.

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D: Ebonee and I often talked about how she “dated” God. I sent her a text on Friday, which lead us down this particular rabbit trail:

“You know you said you were in a season where you ‘dated’ God (aka, I took that to mean that you learned to let God love you and let his love into your life). I feel like I’m at that place. It’s really nice.”

The past season in my life has been definitely marked by God loving me whole. In fact, I hardly recognize myself sometimes, because I did not know the depths of my holey-ness until God began to fill my soul with wholiness.

I have a confession to make: I really felt like I had to be perfect for somebody (anybody) to love me. I felt like my “daddy issues” were something that had marked me like there was a neon sign on my forehead that said, “Danger! Daddy Issues!” I thought I’d never be able to be healed of that “mark.” I didn’t realize that I couldn’t be more wrong.

Letting God love me—and letting that love seep into the depths of my soul—has been a process. Think of the rhythm of leaky faucet. Because the truth is, I want to be perfect. The lie that I fight to not believe is the one that I need to be perfect in order for anyone to love me. It is simply not true.

Like Ebonee, one of my favorite things to do is to spend time doing the things I love, but with an awareness of God’s presence. Whether that being taking myself out to my favorite pho or sushi restaurant or traveling, I am on mission to not only do great things, but to do great things with God.

If you’ve been looking for love in all the WRONG places: men, job, wealth, friends, fun, material things, food, drugs, whatever. Here’s our advice for how to find it in all the RIGHT places:

1.     Surrender to God and let him love you whole. If you don’t know what that means or how to do it, ask Him.

2.     Never settle for anything less than God’s best. This is not just in terms of relationships (dating or otherwise) but is true in life in general. If you allow God to love you right, you’ll know when the right man/thing/opportunity comes along. The pursuit will look so familiar!

3.     Be content in your singleness. Never allow someone else’s opinion of your dating life/relationship status impact your joy. “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” [Eleanor Roosevelt] Really, don’t give anyone that control in your life. You are named and the One whom matters the most knows you and sees you.keep calm.png

4.  Love yourself and like yourself. Here’s one of Ebonee’s blogs on relationships. It speaks to the very heart of this matter. Also, check out Ebonee’s Hangin’ Up The Cape campaign here where you can connect with other women who are on the same journey toward loving and liking themselves, flaws and all.

5. Busy yourself in the things of God by being obedient to His purpose and plan for your life. For the most part, your time/money/resources are your own. Use them for good! Not only should you know who you are, like who you are, but you should also know what you’re about in this life. You may not always know what the steps are to that purpose, but knowing you have one gives you grace that sustains.

Our Concluding Thoughts:

E: As I am newly in a relationship, I feel qualified to say that it does not solve your heart issues. If anything, it amplifies them. If you were lonely before he came along, his absence will dig into that loneliness void so deep you can hardly stand it. What makes a relationship healthy and God-honoring is not that it’s perfect and he’s perfect and you’re perfect together…psh! It works because it involves two whole people sharing the love they experience in Christ Jesus. Hear this: love is an action that requires work. Not ready to work? It’s okay, sis. Wear that singleness like a crown. Personally, I still don’t know much about finding love. All I know is that God sends reminders that He sees, cares about and loves us inconceivably (oftentimes through other people). If that love includes a ring and a stroller, sobeit. If it doesn’t, know that you are perfectly validated and complete in Him.

D: I think it’s important that you know that I’m not writing this as someone who is closing this chapter of “singleness” in my life. The journey continues. This isn’t an episode of the Brady Bunch where everything ends with a neat little bow. This is real life– MY real life. I hope that you see I’m just a 20-something woman doing the best I can… being me. It sounds simpler than it feels sometimes, but it really is a simple concept. I can honestly say that I am the best me that I have ever been. My hope is that I will continue to grow more and more into the best me that I can be.  Even if I were to never get married, I would really be okay, because my identity is rooted in something (and Someone) so much greater. Whether that be with a husband or not, I am steadfast in this desire. So, when I look for the ways to love, rather than to be loved, I seem to find love aplenty in all of the right places.

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In the Spirit of Wholeness,

Ebonee and Delia

Homelessness 101

Hi peeps!

People ask me all of the time what they can do to get involved in their community whether it be with advocating for immigration reform, anti-human trafficking efforts, or helping with the issue of homelessness.

Often times, I think they think that getting involved is more complicated than it is.

3 quick tips from me:

1. Decide to do it.

Don’t just talk about how great it would be to do something in your community. Pick something and commit to it. Hold yourself accountable.

2. Just show up!

There is so much power in presence and being present. Like the gym, half of the battle is just showing up.

3. Try new things!

You might discover new ways to serve that you really love and/or meet some really awesome people (the awesome people part is almost guaranteed).

With all of that being said, I’d like to challenge you to show up to:

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This is a good step towards becoming more knowledgeable about the issue of homelessness and plus, I’ll be there. So, awesome people are definitely guaranteed. ;)

Much love,

-D-

In Love With Singleness

For the first time in my life, I love being single. I’ve never been one to hate being single, but I’ve always had a mild apathy towards it. In worst case scenarios, I felt the anxiety from the pressure I felt from friends and family that dating was something I was “supposed” to be interested in. But now, more than ever, I can honestly say that I love being single.

A friend and I talked were talking about this strange phenomenon recently and my hesitancy to post something like this. What kept coming to mind was, “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”

So, I waited.

Then, I waited.

And then, I waited some more for good measure to confirm that I do, in fact, enjoy the single life.

I can confidently say, “I do.” ;)

I truly believe that there is a purpose to this season in my life and I intend to not miss out on this gift.

Another friend and I were talking this past week about how her desire is to work with clean water and peace-initiative efforts in war-torn countries and how that makes dating difficult. She usually gets weird looks from the guys she dates or she’s told how “unsafe” that is. In the end, it’s always a deal-breaker.  Yet another friend and I spoke about her desire to work with anti-human trafficking efforts, no matter where that led her, and how whatever guy she dates is going to have to understand and wholeheartedly support her.

Even though these were separate discussions, held at separate times, all of us were in agreement about one thing: a passion for our life’s work. Something that we believe we are being called towards. With that comes, a deep and abiding desire to not let anything (or anyone) stand in the way of it. We’re not just “career women.” We’re women on a mission to be apart of what God’s doing to change the world.

Before you get a little crazy on me, hear me say this: I know plenty of couples who are “one team, one dream.”

That being said, I’m looking forward to being apart of a team someday with my “partner in crime.” But until that time comes, I am not going to waste my time with men who are not even in the same book, let alone on the same page, as me.

Hear me say this: I do not hate men, marriage, or stay-at-home moms.

Let me say it again: I do not hate men, marriage, or stay-at-home moms.

But I am too busy loving this season in my life and writing my own story to be caught up in the fine print of somebody else’s.

Single ladies, listen to me for a second, everybody’s story is different. So, stop trying to make your story look like somebody else’s. Be okay with your story. Be more than okay– Love your own story!

If you’re anything like me, the past doesn’t really get you down too much as planning for the future does. Your head is usually caught up in the plans you have for tomorrow, this week, or the next five years. Stop. Just stop and look around your life.

If you’re like me, you’ve got a lot to be thankful for. You’ve been saved and redeemed from a lot. You can’t quite put words to it, but you know that you’re a lot stronger than you should be.

Back in January, I was challenged by a post by Makiah Green:

“There is a time for everything. If God is calling you to be single right now, figure out why and embrace it.

Think, pray, and join the discussion on Twitter with the hashtag: #ImSingleBecause”

This was my response on January 6th:

 

I didn’t know then how true those words would be. I’ve since gone to Seattle, Washington D.C., New York, and in the least, I have plans for Portland this summer.

I had (and still have) a lot of ground to cover in the world, but I also had a lot of ground to cover in my soul.

For the first time, “it is well with my soul” has taken on a whole new meaning, because I am whole. Ready for love? Eh, maybe. Maybe not, but in the meantime, I’m just going to bask in the love of God and the glory of the purpose for this season.

Thank you and amen.

I’d like to also challenge single people to seriously contemplate your own purpose for singleness. We’d love to hear your thoughts and to celebrate what’s going on in your life. Please tweet us your #IAmSingleBecause declarations @deliaspeaks & @makiahisms. As always, keep on keeping on, fellow freedom fighters.

Much love,

-D-

 

 

 

#NIMBY

I have several friends who have a heart for the issue of homelessness. Whether they are the Executive Director of permanent supportive housing or President of a Social Enterprise or an AmeriCorps employee working with a service provider for those without housing, they share the same heartbeat.

It’s one of love, compassion, and justice.

Many of these friends, share the same faith convictions. It’s what compels them to not be satisfied with the way things are, because they know that a better tomorrow is possible. But faith is not necessarily a requirement for those who have a heart for our friends without housing.

Quite simply, the belief– that a person who is without housing is first and foremost a human being– is enough to unify them all.

But as my friends can attest, it is not without struggle. From city council meetings from Laguna Beach to Fullerton to Costa Mesa, there has been a lot of strife lately. This struggle is not limited to just these three cities either.

It’s a struggle rooted in fear.

My aunt, who was in attendance of one of those city council meetings and is on the board of Directors for permanent supportive housing, told me some of the things she heard people say in protest to permanent supportive housing in her city.

“If they build it, they [the homeless] will come.”

AKA #NIMBY (“Not in MY backyard”). She was surprised at how many rational people agreed with that, especially after business owners had just been complaining about “they poo and pee in our bushes and sleep on our lawn.” My aunt reasoned, “Well, if they had housing, they would poo and pee in their own toilet and sleep in their own bed in their own unit.”

Yes. These are legitimate concerns, but these are legitimate concerns that will not be helped by blocking access to permanent housing solutions.

In a recent interview, Executive Director of Mercy House, Larry Haynes, echoed this same sentiment when asked:

“What about people who don’t want a shelter or transitional housing in their neighborhood?”

‘Well, in Santa Ana, when we wanted to open up our first home for single moms and their children, I got my first exposure to that… And suddenly I looked around and saw the neighborhood that I had grown up in, a very working class neighborhood with decent people. I could see fear in them, but not hate, and not prejudice… And it occurred to me as I was walking this Santa Ana neighborhood that those are very legitimate concerns. They have to be honored.’

Again, legitimate concerns do not negate the necessity for permanent housing solutions. In fact, they require it! We’re all on the same team desiring the same things, really.

Another excerpt from that same interview from Larry points to the benefit to all of society for ending homelessness:

‘If somebody is on the street there are certain costs to society that will become absolutely obscene after a while. When they’re sick, they end up in an emergency room, and even a short stay in a hospital can be somebody’s rent for a month or two. Folks living on the street drive other costs as well: increased demand on police departments, fire departments, paramedics, on and on. Then there’s the cost to local business. Who wants to enter a business when there’s someone sleeping in their doorway? There’s also the depreciation of property values when there’s a park that’s known as a homeless park across the street. So it is in our self-interest to end this because it will actually cost us less as taxpayers.’

Larry predicts that with the decrease of homelessness in Orange County in the last 25 years and the continued concerted efforts made to go with what works (strength-based approach), homelessness in Orange County can end in 4 years! You can read the interview in its entirety here.

While I can concede that statistical data for as to why we should support girl’s education or women’s development (studies have shown that investments in females yields a higher return on investment than with males) is worth something, it’s simply not enough for me. Same goes with homelessness. Or human trafficking. Or any social ill that plagues humanity.

People are not merely numbers or statistics. Or something that can be charted or graphed. They live. They breathe. They bleed. They cry. They laugh. And they are more than the sum of their parts.

Watch this and see if you don’t feel differently.

But if you’re more of a stats person, and that’s what makes sense to you about why ending homelessness is so important, that’s cool too. It doesn’t matter why you decide to join us at the table, it’s just important that you do.

And I promise you, if you pull up a chair and stay a while, you’ll be different from when you came.

As always, much love to you, freedom fighters. Thank you for all the ways in which you have welcomed me to the table.

Sincerely,

-D-

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Delia’s Top 3 Organizations to Support

If you have ever leafed through a magazine, you’ve more than likely seen a celebrity’s Top 3 playlist, exercise regimen, favorite foods, place to take a nap, etc. Think of this list as something like that. But before I get to my list, here’s why I felt the need to share a list in the first place:

In a world of so many options, it is easy to get overwhelmed– especially when it comes to social justice work. I’ve also found that when people get overwhelmed, they become immobilized.

It reminds me of the time when a former coworker decided she was going to cut her hair. Since her hair was so long, she wanted to donate her hair to Locks of Love or to an organization that uses human hair to clean up oil spills. I thought that both ideas were really cool! So the next time I saw her, the first thing I asked her was which direction she went with her donation. I will never forget her response as long as I live.

“Neither. I just couldn’t decide.”

I wish you could have seen my face. For those of you who know me best, you can probably imagine. But if not, it looked a little something like this:

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My fear is that this type of reaction was/is not uncommon. Maybe it goes something like this in your head:

“Well, I don’t know if I should support education or anti-human trafficking efforts.”

“Maybe I should donate to community development instead?”

“Or maybe clean water efforts?”

“Maybe I shouldn’t be investing in international efforts, because I really want to invest in my community locally.”

“Ugh. I just can’t decide.”

Then, donating/volunteering/whatever gets put off until another day. Perhaps, it is a day that never comes around.

If that’s you, that’s okay. There’s no shame. I’ve had similar conversations with myself. But today is also the day that I hope that I can push you into taking the first step. If you feel compelled to stop reading this blog post right here and right now to go do whatever it is that you have on your heart to do, THEN GO DO IT. Take the first step towards signing up to volunteer or donating to a cause. DO IT RIGHT NOW.

If you’re feeling like you want to help but you don’t know where to start, that’s okay too. Take a look at my “Top 3 Organizations to Support” list and seriously consider supporting one of them.

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1. Solidarity

I got involved with this organization when I was a sophomore in college, nearly 9 years ago. Back then, they had one after-school program site in Placentia, CA. I have continued to help kids with their homework at that ASP for at least once a week since then. Today, Solidarity is in several different neighborhoods in Southern California, but it has also gone far beyond after-school programs. Solidarity has branched out into: social enterprise (like screenprinting and coffee); plans to open a home for commercially sexually exploited children in Brazil; mentoring programs for fathers and juvenile detention centers; advocacy for comprehensive immigration reform and so on. They have grown and expanded over the years and I am truly excited to see where it goes from here.

What I love about Solidarity is that whether it be homework help, making T-shirts, advocating for the immigrant in our midst, or selling coffee, those “initiatives” are just a means to an end: loving and being loved by people. I could write books on my experiences with Solidarity, but I will sum it up as this: they are the real deal. The mission’s simple: To love God; love others; be loved by God; be loved by others.

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2. Lifewater International

A friend in grad school first introduced me to this organization through the 5k that she had organized. All of the sponsorship donations went on to benefit Lifewater.

Since I had been to a couple of developing countries in Africa, I knew how big of an issue clean water was. I remember drinking brown water in Tanzania one time. We filtered it. Boiled it. Then, filtered it again. No luck. It was just brown and cloudy and there was nothing we could do about it. I was fortunate enough to be able to come home to clean water, but the people we visited were left to live with the reality of unclean water. Talk about the sting of feeling like you left someone behind. It wasn’t until my friend had organized that 5k that I realized that there was something I could do about it.

My friend went on to intern with this organization. As a community development student with an eye for details, she thoroughly vetted this organization. A nod of approval from her was good enough for me!

As a bonus, I have received several handwritten postcards from Lifewater. As small as it may seem, it put my mind at ease that I was not just some cog in a corporate nonprofit machine. And as my friend can attest, these are real people helping to meet a real and pressing need.

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3. Povertees

This is a social enterprise made up of mainly t-shirts. It’s a simple product line with a simple mission: being a friend. Similar to Solidarity, it’s about loving and being loved by people. Their context just happens to be with their friends without housing in Downtown LA.

Compared to Solidarity and Lifewater, Povertees is the youngest of the organizations on my list. Although they have been building relationships with those on Skidrow since 2007, their 501 (c)3 status is fairly new. As such, I wanted to see up close and personal what they were about. So, I joined the Povertees team for a day when they went to hand out some lunches and toiletries. I didn’t quite know what to expect, but I’m really glad that I did it.

Povertees is also the real deal. The relationships are real and what I love most about them is that their approach is cyclical. Friends who have gotten off the streets are now helping friends to get off of the street. Their dream is to one day train and employ some of the very people who have benefited from the sales of Povertees. Thus, completing another circle. I’m confident that they’ll get there and I can’t wait to see it.

Awesomely, you can support Povertees through a Povertee purchase or you can forgo the shopping cart for the donate tab.

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In no way is the above list an exhaustive list of all of the organizations I like or have ever supported. I’m certainly no official spokesperson either. Rather, this is a list of organizations that I trust. Some of them I have trusted for almost 10 years! They are also the first 3 that come to my mind whenever my paycheck comes. I’d highly encourage you to support one or all of them.

In whatever you direction you choose to go, make today the day that you do something. Be sure to tweet me (@deliaspeaks) your thoughts and/or experiences too. As always, press on, freedom fighters.

Much love,

-D-

 

 

 

 

 

 

Freedom Fighting Isn’t for the Faint at Heart

It’s closing in on one year since I started working with the International Institute of Los Angeles (IILA) on collaborative anti-human trafficking efforts. As with any anniversary in my life, it’s been a period of conscious and subconscious reflection.

This journey started long before a year ago though. In many ways, this is a culmination of many events, but particularly of my experiences in seminary where I first learned about the issue of human trafficking. One of the pivotal moments in that experience was the ASHA Forum hosted at Fuller in 2009. It was an intense weekend where anti-human trafficking stakeholders came together and the event could not have been described as anything less than a “holy encounter with the things that break the heart of God.” William Wilberforce’s words lingered with me after that, “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.”

The years (2009-2013) following that experience were intermittent with the struggle of trying to claw myself towards feeling like I was making an significant contribution to anti-human trafficking efforts. It included, but was not limited to, quitting two different positions in order to inch myself closer to the social justice world. There were more than a few broke days, lots of tears, a whole lot of prayer, and even more wondering if I was completely out of my mind, crazy.

Once May 2013 rolled around, I was beginning to feel like I knew what my role was in the movement and how I could be of service to the community. The skies seems to clear and there was a bit of reprieve, but the climb continued. The task of advocating for the creation of my role at IILA to fundraising to figuring out partners for our collaborative efforts was more than I had thought to consider. So, all of those prayers where I cried out to God asking that He use me left me wondering, “What did I ask for?!” I know that if you’ve prayed that same prayer, you’ve asked the same thing. Haha!

It hasn’t been all bad though, just long-suffering. Social justice is a long-suffering kind of love, not a hit-it-and-quit-it kind of love. A labor of love.

I’ve also had the incredible opportunity to talk about human trafficking to practically everyone I know. Whether it be on an online radio show, a Google+ hangout, a webinar, or over coffee with a friend, I like to talk and people seem to like to listen. Blows my mind. It’s a privilege, really it is.

And yet, I couldn’t seem to shake the discouragement off of my boots the past couple of weeks. Things were accelerating at my other job taking my attention from the anti-human trafficking work that I am passionate about. At the same time, the doors seemed to be closing around our anti-human trafficking collaborative efforts. Have you ever ran full-steam into a wall? Well, let me tell you, it hurts. Do that a couple of times and it will leave you feeling a little disoriented, ha.

I went on vacation, started a gratitude journal, and veraciously read two books about Jesus. Church, I was feeling desperate.

One of the books I read recently, Jesus is Better than You Imagined, really struck a chord with me in this season of life. All of the striving of the past year and it didn’t seem (to me, anyway) that I had accomplished much. What accounting could I give God for the last year? Had I not tried hard enough? Pushed hard enough? Fought hard enough? Was I even in the right place? Was I really cut out for anti-human trafficking work?

Reading Jonathan Merritt’s words about a similar season in his life gave me the first exhale that I’d had in a long time:

“For three years after I felt God’s call on my life, it seemed like every newspaper, magazine, and book publisher in America rejected me. I questioned whether I’d really understood what God was trying to say to me. Or perhaps, I reasoned, it wasn’t God’s voice at all. Maybe it was all in my head. The most difficult step in meeting God in the impossible is believing He’ll show up there.” (69, 70).

I know the feeling…

“I grow weary in waiting because I think every wait is a waste. I’m wasting time, wasting energy, or wasting my day when I could be doing something more productive. Perhaps, God sees these periods differently than I do. Maybe these times in life when I think I’m waiting, God is working. He’s forming me, shaping me, preparing me for the destiny He’s marked out for me.” (104)

Oh, yes and amen! The places that God has called me to walk are not easy places. The places where God has called you to walk are not easy places either. When I really step back and take a minute to think about it, there’s a lot of responsibility that comes with the leadership involved with what I do. There’s a lot of character that’s involved too. And it’s only in a spirit of reflection that I can see that we (aka me with a lot of God’s help) have come a long way, but we’ve still got a long way to go on this lifelong journey towards justice and peace.

Woo. I’m preaching really good to the choir now! Hang in there, freedom fighters. God’s got us. The battle is the Lord’s and we’re just joining in the march towards freedom. It’s liberating when we look at it like this. As cliché as this sounds, sometimes we really need to “let go and let God.”

You know what the best part of it is? Jonathan was right. God works on our behalf and even when things seemed like a standstill with my (our) work, God managed to breathe new life into the project. I’ll have to share more details as things begin to unfold, but I can tell you this right now: I am really excited for the ways that God is on the move. I am very much looking forward to the day when we can join together in saying, “Free at last. Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” Because that day is coming. That glorious day is coming.

As always, much love, fellow freedom fighters. Much love.

-D-

 

Church: It’s Time for a Pulse Check

I need to be honest with you. I have been disappointed a lot this week. By and large, a majority of that disappointment has centered around the Church. More specifically, the American Evangelical Church. (I think it needs to be noted that the Pope is a rockstar and revolutionizing the Catholic Church simultaneously).

In case you’ve been living under a rock this week, I am primarily referring to the back and forth decision making of World Vision. It left a larger wake of wounded in its path than they thought to think about. Although there have been plenty of blog posts written in response to their decisions (and particularly their reversal), here are a couple I found particularly helpful or identified the most with: Rachel Held Evans & Red Letter Christians.

I debated about penning my own response since there were already so many other eloquently written blog posts. And yet, I couldn’t let it go. I honestly think it was making my soul sick. So, I’m writing, in part, to purge my soul of the infection that I’ve foolishly let fester over the week.

Last Monday, I read a passage in Isaiah that really struck a chord with me:

“No, this is the kind of fasting I want:
Free those who are wrongly imprisoned;
lighten the burden of those who work for you.
Let the oppressed go free,
and remove the chains that bind people.
Share your food with the hungry,
and give shelter to the homeless.
Give clothes to those who need them,
and do not hide from relatives who need your help.

“Then your salvation will come like the dawn,
and your wounds will quickly heal.
Your godliness will lead you forward,
and the glory of the Lord will protect you from behind.
Then when you call, the Lord will answer.
‘Yes, I am here,’ he will quickly reply.

“Remove the heavy yoke of oppression.
Stop pointing your finger and spreading vicious rumors!
10 Feed the hungry,
and help those in trouble.
Then your light will shine out from the darkness,
and the darkness around you will be as bright as noon.
11 The Lord will guide you continually,
giving you water when you are dry
and restoring your strength.
You will be like a well-watered garden,
like an ever-flowing spring.
12 Some of you will rebuild the deserted ruins of your cities.
Then you will be known as a rebuilder of walls
and a restorer of homes.”

–Isaiah 58:6-12

This passage came at a time where I was feeling particularly discouraged. I’m working two jobs. One that pays the bills (which is not bad!), but the other one fulfills a deeper need to be apart of making the world better. With more and more time being spent at the former rather than the latter, I’ve been feeling inadequate lately. There’s so much need and I’m not doing enough! Helloooooo, Messiah Complex.

Caught between two worlds, I’ve wondered a lot lately what is the point of the struggle. I’ve been feeling like I’ve been losing my soul in exchange for paying my bills. So, the promise of this passage was one that I took to the bank!

When War of the World [Vision] hit, my soul was in the midst of recovering. It was like kicking someone when they’re down when I learned that people were actually pulling their funding from World Vision. WHAT. It still blows my mind. Here I was trying to figure out if I was giving enough, doing enough, praying enough, thinking enough, etc. and people were giving up doing something that is good over a theological debate?!

To add insult to injury, I think it would be naive to assume that World Vision’s reversal of its decision was not largely financially motivated either. I really hate what money does to people. That being said, why should World Vision have to decide between the two in the first place?!

Feeling particularly righteous, I thought about Jesus’ words in Matthew about who would inherit the Kingdom:

‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. 35 For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. 36 I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me.’

– Matthew 25:35-36

But before I could feel particularly too high on my horse, I remembered:

3  “If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.”

– 1 Corinthians 13:3

Where there is no love, we are all wrong. It’s just as wrong for me to secretly detest the American Evangelical Church for its hatred and lack of love as they are to bully World Vision into picking the lesser of two evils.

It’s. all. wrong.

So, here I am, just as flawed as anyone else, trying my best to love my way out of this one. Does it mean that I’m not still feeling sore about it? No. Does it mean that I’m pleased with the way that the Church has acted this week? No. But I also have a healthy acknowledgement of the mirror and I recognize that change begins within me first. And as much as I want to sometimes, I cannot walk away from the Church. We need each other too much. And the world needs us too. Jesus came to teach us a different way– a radical way to love.

So, we gotta lay down the torches, take up our crosses, and walk the extra mile.

May God bless us all as we endeavor to love each other well.

Much love,

-D-