Don’t Keep Your Christmas To Yourself

Sometimes we make giving to those that are less fortunate so complicated and formal.

Let’s create a program, pass it by a committee, raise money from people we know or don’t know, then socialize, twitterize and publicize.

Then 6 months later we actually get something done, maybe someone somewhere is helped.

Guys, it’s not that complicated.

Just invite people into your life. Walk them into your family and life and traditions.

I challenge you this year… don’t keep Christmas to yourself.

This year a group of my friends who are young professionals through a group called Nav20s decided to do a project for our community. Since I was already involved with anti-trafficking and at-risk outreaches for women in Chicago, I went ahead and took the lead in organizing a Christmas party.

Why a party? Well, Christmas traditions aren’t something I have to come up with. I just used the Christmas traditions that my family does every year. This time though, we took it to the least of these, those who actually are the most courageous of them all.

So we went to the house of New Life for Women where women from broken situations go to for a year of restoration, followed by graduation and training for the workforce.

They were so kind and so receptive and everything was simply wonderful! It was one of the most magical parties I’ve ever been to!

First, we played a simple game that was a mash-up of Christmas songs. It’s incredible how something so simple can be so much fun with simply the right attitudes. One lady said to me as we were walking back to the kitchen, “Well that was so much fun! You know, Colleen said that when she decided to give up drinking that she had no idea what she could do anymore for fun. Well let me tell you, THAT was fun! I was laughing so much!” And I knew that laughing was not something she had had much in her recent history. It’s amazing watching those who have been in bondage now acting out their freedom. It’s beautiful.



Next was the tradition of Christmas cookie decorating. Again, I took my Mom’s homemade Christmas cut-out cookie recipe, made our famous frosting, and the decorating began. Simple, fun, and hilarious to see the personalities of everyone come out as we created.



Again, we didn’t know each other before that afternoon, but a little genuine love can open up anyone’s heart to yours. People who our culture says shouldn’t be friends were communing and enjoying each other’s company as new friends.



Breaking down barriers, one cookie at a time.


And of course a tradition our family always does is coming into the living room Christmas morning to Bing Crosby and Andy Williams singing and stockings propped up on the sofas. And so we shared this as well.



The joy, surprise and happiness of each women was more than enough to fill my soul for years. “I have never gotten a stocking with my name on it in my life. Wow! Thank you!”

“I haven’t celebrated Christmas in 40 years. This is the first time I have had fun on Christmas in a very long time.”



“This was the best gift. Thank you, God bless you, God bless you, God bless you!”

Then we sat around the room and sang favorite Christmas songs. Each on-tune and off-key note was beautiful. It was a very, very special moment.

groupAnd the highlight of it all was when we circled around the women and prayed over them, speaking hope, blessing and victory into their lives. Their sobs and echoes of “Amen! Yes, thank you Jesus,” left us all overwhelmed with emotion and overflowing with thankfulness.

We went in thinking we would bless them, but instead walked out more blessed and encouraged than they. How easy is it for us to deal with long lines of traffic, hours of baking, and schedules packed with parties and celebrations compared to those who have deal with homelessness, injustice, manipulation, poverty, and separation, yet still make the decision to move forward with their lives into freedom from broken situations. They may have nothing, but they have realized they do have one thing: a choice. And they choose to be courageous. So let’s celebrate that and also speak that into lives that haven’t taken that step yet.

We’re given things like Christmas and Thanksgiving and traditions and gifts and cookies and songs so that we can share it with those who don’t have it.

Don’t be selfish. Share your Christmas.

And please don’t make it complicated. Anyone can do something like this.

It just takes a little love with some action.

Do you make stockings for your kids? Cool. Make 5 extra and take them to the abused children shelter on Christmas. Do you sing in a community choir? Go to the hospital and sing for those spending the day there. Do you have a smile and candy canes? Go downtown where the homeless live and smile and share a conversation around candy canes.

It makes a difference. Every act does.

And it starts the ball rolling. Let’s make goodness fashionable.

How Good Is Today!

Today is good.

I am sitting here in a lovely, local coffee shop looking outside the window at gorgeous old houses listening to soothing classical and jazz music in the background, seeing the sights and sounds and people dropping in to get their morning coffee on their walk to work.

I have the freedom to sit here with warm clothes on, writing on a computer that was given to me, money in my bank account, work for me to depend on next week, good health, and an apartment to go home to with a roommate I like living with (who by the way just texted me that I need to go move my car before the street cleaners ticket it. What a gem, people). I’m in a city that reflects everything I enjoy about life and people and living. I am intrigued every day and my sense of adventure always has an outlet. Shoot, I even enjoy this cold and snow. It’s something different and reminds me of how I can adapt to different seasons with flare!Coffee shop

It’s a good day because I have heart dreams and desires that are shaping into reality, even if it isn’t exactly in my present. My heart for the broken ones and my community– I have clarity of going full-heartedly after that and what that looks like today (for instance, Thanksgiving party tonight at my place. Come if you want!). My work and business passion– I have a much clearer direction of what that looks like and I’m walking forward to it. I have work with businesses who believe in me and pay me because they believe in me. I have such a supportive loving family who laugh like I do and stick together. I have friends nearby who understand me and take a real interest in me. I have friends far away who still love me and remain faithful to me no matter where I’m at, where I go, or what I do.

But above all, I have someone vast and indescribable and powerful and wise who I get to call Father.

He is so great and awe-some, yet he is so aware of all the details in my life and cares about each tear, each laugh, each care, each hope. He has led me and stayed near me every step of my journey.

And he is the only one that has.

At times when everyone has left me or disappeared, when life itself rejected me and threw me to the ground, when I couldn’t even muster the will power to look up or even say his name, he never left me. Not for a moment. He is my only hope when all hope is gone, when darkness is all I can see, when I’m all alone with no one to pour my heart out to.

And this, my friends, is why I can sing and bless the Lord. Because my hope is totally outside of myself. It’s actually IN him. When I’m in that hope inside of him, then my whole being and actions in life actually have peace and not bitterness. I am purpose-driven, not tossed around by every emotion or unstable circumstance.

This is not a fake reality; this is who I really am, and that’s not about to change. Because when I’m with the One who never changes, I can be steady when changes and injustices and wounds and surprises and rejections and loss swirl around me. They tell me to move, to change, to react, to punish, to withhold.

But I can turn and look at those things in the face and say, “You have no control over me. Get out and stay out!” and then walk into my life, of which I’ve only been given one shot. And there’s no way I’m going to allow something else to control it and say what is or isn’t possible.

Because everything is possible. Which includes my attitude.  So that’s why I can say, “How good is today!”

Psalm 103: Bless the Lord my soul, and all that is within me bless his holy name! May I never forget the good things he does for me.

I Dressed Like A Prostitute for Halloween

I dressed like a prostitute for Halloween.

Because what better costume to don for that festive night.

I mean, you can get creative with any career and turn it into a slut look. It’s funny, it’s cute, and you can totally get away with it on this one night of the year.

Nurse-whore, barista-slut, receptionist-ho.

It’s sexy, super funny, show stopper, and the center of attention at the party.

I would have laughed too. Perhaps a little eye roll and smirk, “That’s ridiculous.”

But last night I went out late for a different reason. We drove the dark, freezing cold streets of the very windy West Chicago. I saw the women on the corners. And, like every other night of their lives, they declared, “I dressed like a prostitute for Halloween.”

Except they had no parties, just the ones they were soliciting men to, for a price ($30? $40?), hosted in a dirty hotel or car. Instead of being numb from the fun of a house party with too much drinking and dancing, they were numb from drug injections. Because thinking clearly is not something you can do before selling your body. Numb and unfeeling is the best way to go.

I didn’t know what to expect, but it was an eye-opening night. It was like a dose of cold water to my face, saying, “Wake up you evader. Look at this duplicity, what lies you allow yourself to believe and how harsh reality is.”

Let me explain a coupe of ironies I observed. Cold, harsh ironies.

The women were not in tight mini-skirts and fish-net tights. They were pretty covered up and, actually, normal-looking. This made sense for several reasons. It was freezing out. They work all night. As I came to realize, street prostitution is not necessarily about the clothing, but about the location and mannerism of the girl. Sexy, busty women in skin-tight clothing in stilettos seems to be a very Hollywood-ized stereotype dream in comparison to what I saw in street prostitution.

Prostitution is not a job or career. It’s a way to support a habit. It’s also a way to support and pay a man. Or, in another terminology, a pimp. Who, by the way, will get her hooked on drugs so that she needs to support her habit anyway. But hey, let’s keep singing about the glories of pimp-life.

You don’t go home with a prostitute. Does she even have a home? Who knows. The hotel is simplest. I mean, who’d want to live with a prostitute anyway?

These girls are making money from sex. Their bodies are commodities. Because of their vulnerability from poverty or abuse, they are now viewed to be used as simply transactions.

Oh the glamour of prostitution, of buying and selling sex! Because I can’t think of a better way to spend my evenings than approaching a man with the look of, “I have something I know you’d want to pay for” (the supply), because he is momentarily unsatisfied and thinks he’ll get that satisfaction from sex (the demand). So I sell my body for a dollar amount (the transaction).

Oh what a dream, living a life that believes the mantra that I am only as valuable as my body. Because in this occupation I also sell my mind and intellect and worth at a price of zero.

Think you’ve faced rejection before? Try spending your evenings pitching your body to buyers and then after they look you up and down, or even invite you in their car, they say, “Nah, go away whore.”

Or after you make a “sale” and walk to the nearby hotel (brothel), you walk steps ahead of this man and notice a couple across the street walking hand-in-hand. Laughable. That would never happen in your occupation. This work is not about affection.

Oh and don’t forget that after you make a “sale,” you are at the disposal of the man. Sure, get in his car. You know it’s a risk, that they are killing prostitutes in this area. Because who needs a woman after she’s served her purpose. But, you need the money…

Why the hell is the life of prostitutes and whores and “pimp-life” so worshipped? It’s hell. A living hell. I’m so angry. Angry at our culture, at myself, at my ignorance, at Hollywood, at commercials, at Halloween costumes. We talk and joke and laugh and sing about the laudable beauties that keep our blood running red. It’s so hilarious it’s killing me.

Why the hell are prostitutes and whores and sluts so despised? We separate and seclude ourselves from dirty ones who “I-can’t-believe-they-sell-their-bodies” and “I-would-never-do-that” and “Let’s-pray-about-their-terrible-problems-and-God-change-this-city” while we turn our backs and plug-in or upload or click or browse for fulfillment of our sex desires, using other virtual prostitutes and trafficked victims in the comfort of our homes because, you know, that’s not hurting anyone. Because an image or a video of a women I don’t know (or care about) who gives me the same high of sex is totally cool. I mean, it’s just a body, not a real person or story. It’s her choice; I just get to take advantage of the benefits of her bad choices.

There were so many questions that came up last night. I’ve been involved with women in drug addiction, strip clubs, and domestic violence, but this was my first experience in street prostitution.

Where does she go after the agreement?

Who are these men?

Where does she live?

What do they typically charge?

Do they also sell porn of themselves?

Do the women or men have families?

What are their stories?

Is she a minor?

In our van was a 14 year old girl that drove with us to learn and pray. One of the ladies turned around and said, “Last time I was out here there was a girl your age on the street we talked to. She was scared and shaking, but couldn’t go back home.”

People, this is real.

What’s even more real though? The truth about who they really are, which is the truth about who we all really are: worthy, valuable, accepted, loved, beautiful and wanted.

I went last night somewhat on a whim because yesterday Bob Goff shared a story at our conference how he went to Somalia to help abused children. While driving there his vehicle went under gun-fire. He challenged us about living on the edge of “YIKES!” So I figured I could go out and have some fun, but I knew that my “YIKES” moment looked much more like broken women where there were no Halloween parties. I think I made the right choice.

At the end of the day, I honestly couldn’t give a rip about what you wear for Halloween. You live your life, I’ll live mine, but I’m actually going to do something about this because it’s my world and my city. If you were ignorant about this before, well, you’re not now. So now you’re responsible to do something about it using what you’ve been given. It might start with how you view yourself and from there taking a message of meaning and purpose to your culture around you.

Let’s take some serious time to rethink this whole transaction of sex deal. Because you can’t hide from it forever. It affects every city and community, including mine and yours.

And yes, there’s a little bit of anger and irritation in this post. But sometimes it takes getting really upset about the realities of injustice to get real about really changing and really loving.

I have so much to learn, but I’m on this path now. The story to be continued.

Open to comments, thoughts, stories, experiences, discussions. But I please ask you to not make judgments or state “facts” based off your opinions. Let’s start conversations about issues that we have actually stepped into ourselves and made relationships instead of sincere perspectives based off articles and here-say. Let’s honor the broken ones, because we are all broken, so in reality, we’re simply serving everyone, including ourselves.

chicago street



5 Life Lessons: Having my iPhone Stolen and Living to Tell About It

Ah, city life. Loving every minute of Chicago. The discovering, the noise, the cultures, the sights, the sounds.


like hearing the train rolling into the train station.

hearing the mass of conversations in the thickest crowd in Millennium Park.

hearing the waves hitting the harbor off Belmont as I sit in the shade of a tree.

hearing the foreign, heated discussion in a Turkish restaurant as I pick up my take-out.

hearing my own long, slow groan upon realizing my phone had been freaking stolen!


Of all things, not the phone.

I mean, take your records, take your freedom, take your memories I don’t need them.

And leave the sweater. But don’t take my phone!

You don’t realize how much you rely on something until it’s gone, isn’t that the truth?

Well, I had several life lessons to learn during the week-and-a-half as I walked around naked (technologically, or course).

1. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

I don’t have a lot of possessions and tend to live off very little and somewhat on the edge of homeless hipster. Though the problem with that is I don’t have many back-up alternatives. So when someone steals your basket full of eggs… it’s all over. But seriously, when I lost my phone, I didn’t have many options to compensate.

My phone has been my alarm clock since college. I don’t own a regular clock.

My phone was my map to get around the city and for traveling. I don’t own a map.

My phone was my news. I don’t have TV.

My phone was my journal and notebook. I don’t use paper journals or notepads.

My phone was my calculator, weather man, and bank. I don’t access the “real” ones.

My phone was my Bible. I don’t use my hard copy.

My phone was my source of funny. I can’t make it to Jimmy Fallon’s Tonight Show, so YouTube baby!


I love how technology can simplify so much in our lives. I can say “No” to buying possessions and instead download a free app. It seems to make life more concise. And there are obvious benefits to this. When you’re really simplified (i.e., poor), it’s pretty helpful.

Yet… there’s something harsh about the realization that it was so easy to replace, well, everything with bits and megabytes. It’s like, hey, I don’t need this or you. I can get that from my phone. You are useless to me.

Suddenly I was very needy.

And in need of a back-up plan or emergency route. Prepare for life, cause this stuff just happens typically out of nowhere and by surprise.

2. Have friends.

Isolation is never EVER helpful or good. And not that I’ve been pursuing this. It’s just been one of the difficulties of transition to a new place, a new season in life. While I know a number of people in the suburbs, I really don’t have many friends or neighbors near me in the city that I can just be like, “Hey, yo, I need you!”

Well, and then I realized, “Yeah, maybe I do…” but I hadn’t put much effort into those friendships yet to the point that both of us knew that I needed their friendship and help when an issue came up. I guess it’s pride, you know, I’m sufficient enough. Eh, not good.

And also, just because you have friends on Facebook and you can keep up with people via text and Facetime, doesn’t mean that you have anything meaningful happening around you. It made me realize how much I need to pour into the friends around me instead of keeping them at arms length. I need people. I need friends. Life is never meant to be lived alone and independently.

Being needy isn’t a weakness necessarily. It’s simply the way we are made.

3. I was much more present with people.

When I was with people, having a conversation, or working, I can’t even tell you how much of a difference it was! Instead of the distracting buzz or pop-up notification from my phone that always took my immediate attention, it wasn’t even a thought in my head. I knew I wasn’t going to get any contact from anyone besides the person right in front of me. So all my energy and focus was on them and what was happening right now or maybe what we would be doing next. We”, not some virtual person in the palm of my hand.

I also couldn’t use the crutch of looking at Instagram to find neat pictures and experiences of other people, wishing I was there and now I probably have to one-up them with my better experience. Chicago-style pizza is way better than yours YOU NEW YORK EXTREMIST! (just kidding. I take pizza however I can get it. Buuuut, Chi is better)

Instead, that person in front of me was my current “people” experience. I couldn’t escape to anyone else. I was so much more aware and locked into the moment with that person. There’s something to be said about being completely present without distractions.

4. I was much more present in my life and experiences.

Since a lot of my time in the city is spent alone, I usually go to a variety of places and enjoy it while I do my own thing. Except now I didn’t have anything to distract me from the commute, the people around me, the area, or the view.

I wasn’t thinking of what angle to take the picture, the status I would post, the funny situation I just encountered, how I would verse the inspirational quote that came to mind, none of it.

I just took it all in and enjoyed it for myself.

And I was happy with myself, with what was in my life, no someone else’s. I was 100% into experiencing my life, instead of 50% experiencing/50% scheming about sharing it with others. Which leads me to the last life lesson…

5. I didn’t care who knew or who cared.

I just didn’t care. Because I couldn’t. There was no way I could text someone about this event, post where I was at, share a picture of this food, tell the joke I knew was funny but didn’t have anyone to tell so I post it on Facebook to get feedback.

No, none of it. I had to let go. To just simply not care who knew what I was doing. To not care about who cared.

I think it’s so easy to find our “fill” with likes and retweets and hearts and comments and bits and megabytes.

But nothing will ever replace that sense of confidence that I am totally OK with me right now. That if no one ever knew or enjoyed it with me, that’s ok. Because I enjoyed it. I saw it. I experienced it. And no one else holds the power to determine my being happy.

To sum it up, I do have a new phone now. But I catch myself quicker now, realizing I spent 10 minutes staring down at my phone posting a picture when I was sitting directly in front of the most amazing lake harbor view of downtown Chicago.

Enjoy stuff like your phone, but don’t be controlled by it. You just might miss out on life.

Chicago downtown