The Prostituted Asian Massage Parlors: Don’t look, don’t listen, don’t tell.

She’s just a girl.

Not too different from you and I.

Or your daughter, or your mother, or your sister, or your niece, or your granddaughter.

Well, there are slight differences, but nothing so significant that separates her humanness from that of our own women.

For starters, she’s from China. And some places in China, and many people in China, do not have the same access to opportunity that we have in America. The same money, jobs, loans, protection, freedom. It’s just not the same, and we have to start there because we often judge this girl as if she made her decisions having had our own lives and opportunities. She didn’t. She had a different life.

It’s not that one life is better than another. It’s simply different.

She has a family, perhaps a job, often education, dreams, talents, aspirations, and, above all, dignity.

There may come a point of crisis, or need, or dream, to provide more for her family, or for herself — to earn more income, to have more opportunities and achievements. Not every economy has a “career path.” She goes only to work in a clothing factory from sunrise to sunset and walks away every month with maybe $200. Not enough to live on. And definitely not enough to live up to her aspirations — perhaps as a doctor, or accountant, or fashion designer.

When you live on the edge of survival you can’t afford the luxury of dreaming.

But she hears about a job, and it looks like a pretty good job. Doing hospitality work for an upscale restaurant or 5 star hotel. And the pay would start at $2000. $2000 a month! That’s 10 times what she makes how! Imagine if she did that for just 2 years — she could save up so much to pursue a real education and career path in the land of opportunity. Which, of course, is America.

The land of the free, the home of the brave.

So she makes the incredibly difficult and courageous decision to leave what’s familiar in hopes for a better future. She finishes the job search online, as we all do these days, deciding between job postings, applying to some, having phone interviews, video interviews, job offers, and then even learning that the future employer may offer to cover travel costs and even costs of a visa to get to America.

She leaves.

She arrives.

And what she thought was a decision to move into the free pursuit of happiness turns into a living nightmare.

She has just walked into the sophisticated network of international human trafficking.

When she arrives, her papers are taken, she is moved to certain spots and areas, often not knowing where she is. Her entry level job, which may have been high end domestic work, a restaurant manager, or hotel housekeeper, is actually now one of hundreds of Asian spas in Chicago.

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And it’s no typical massage job. This one she finds she must perform sexual services as her job requirement.

What she ended up in was a front for prostitution.

But — but she’s only 19. She came here to grow and give and learn and excel.

This though — this is not what she came for. But now she’s lost and vulnerable — someone else is controlling her: her money, her security, her housing, her information, her everything. This may include physical beatings and rape as a way to “breaking her in” so that she knows who’s boss. Not enough customers coming in? Using her to create online porn is a solution. Gotta make money somehow off her. Resisting isn’t really an option, because her owner controls her money, food, and security.

Nobody would come looking for her if she went missing.

Of course she wants to escape — there’s no way America could really endorse this behavior. But there’s cameras everywhere in the spa, she can’t communicate herself or learn her rights because she is not given the chance to learn the language, she knows the police won’t help because illegal immigrants are not offered the same kind of protections and representation as citizens, and, quite frankly, no one knows and no one really cares about the immigrant prostitutes.

It’s the most overlooked square footage in our city. They’re poor, they’re foreign and they’re women.

She hopes that she can get out quickly, maybe just bide some time before getting enough money to move back to China. Her owner says she needs to work to, “pay of the debt you owe me from me bringing you here.”

But 1 day turns into a week, and 1 week into a month, and 1 month into a year.

And now it’s 14 years later. She’s 33.

“What do you want to do with your life? What’s your dreams?” I ask her this past Sunday while on outreach at her spa in my neighborhood.

She looked back at us with an empty stare.

“No dreams. There’s nothing I want anymore.”

We were all quiet as we let that admission settle into the air.

That was it. No hiding, no putting up a front to keep herself protected, protected from wanting something too much and not ever receiving it.

Her brokenness was real and we all felt the weight of it.

It all feels a little hopeless. An emotion a little too familiar, a little too acceptable.

I mean, she can’t speak English very well despite living here for 14 years, she hasn’t had a day off in a long while, and it looks like her desire is dried up.

But dried up flowers are pretty too.

They’re a little more fragile than full bloom flowers, but they’re not gone, and they’re definitely not useless.

I sit here wondering now if perhaps at some point Sonya* prayed to God, a God she doesn’t yet fully know, and asked for help. I wonder if one of her many desperate prayers was that he’d send some sort of relief and and freedom, giving her a chance to rekindle the fire of lost dreams.

I wonder if we just walked into an answered prayer.

I wonder if we just participated in a miracle, a 14 year-long dried, weary prayer.

I think 2 thoughts: first, that what an honor to be the carriers of light and hope, to be an answer by participating in others’ miracles.

And second, does not God also hear the prayers of his own children, of us, of me, and already has an action plan all set up for our help and deliverance and good? Do we not have our own miracles to walk into?


Though this story I piece-worked together isn’t solely Sonya’s, it’s a mix of a myriad of stories, articles and research told about immigrant trafficking and the Asian massage parlor facades. It’s such a complex, wholly difficult world to understand, mostly because there’s so much silence around it, from both those within and those of us without.

Though that conversation with her on Sunday may have been a difficult thing to hear, we were actually celebrating. Most conversations are superficial as it takes a long time to build trust and hear more of their story. Sonya in particular had been very distant and even at times hostile. But this time was different – she was open, kind, conversational, and allowed a deeper conversation than we’ve had with her previously.

We don’t always pray in person with the women, but this time we felt led and she welcomed us to pray with her in a circle, arms around each other. It was very simple, but so powerful. Her countenance was so different this time and she couldn’t stop thanking us and expressing gratitude. We were seriously ecstatic with praise for this breakthrough!

And her story is just one of thousands of those quiet and hidden Asian immigrants among us.

Be aware that these massage parlors exist not just in the Chicago city proper, or in any major city in America. Actually, of all the teams in Chicagoland, Napperville, a somewhat wealthy west suburb, has some of the most notorious parlors. Our teams are met by managers and bouncers at the doors who won’t even let them speak to the women. There are cameras outside the building as well as inside. Often the women work and live inside that building, never allowed to leave, and may not even know what state they’re in. To make sure they aren’t tracked, owners will move girls from parlor to parlor which are a part of a larger network of international trafficking and crime. They are very dark places.

However, that doesn’t deter New Name. We are a group of loved ones telling these women that they are loved, seen and heard. We don’t know their stories, how they got to that spa, and all the obstacles they have faced. But we know that if we are loved and forgiven, we have every right and place in the world to offer that to them.

New name home page

We have teams all over the Chicagoland, from Wheaton to North Shore to all the way in the city, and we go into the spas bearing gifts and offering friendship.

We also live and breathe prayer. If there isn’t prayer, nothing happens. There is no hope, protection, or relief without God’s intervention.

Yes, not all massage parlors and Asian spas are fronts of prostitution. But we target our spas based off of online research where Johns (those who purchase sex) will review their experience with the businesses and the women. The reviews are explicit and include checklists of their masseuse’s body and how they would rate their performance. Johns use these reviews to decide the best places to go with the kind of woman they want for the right price.

But we believe there is hope and freedom in this industry, for the survivors, the Johns, and the traffickers. All are offered a place to the table of Jesus.

Here’s what we don’t do: We are not rescuers. We believe that each person has an infinite amount of dignity, worth, and value. They are intelligent, capable, smart, and have had to learn how to survive in ways that many of us will never have to. It’s incredible. We have much to learn from them.

We have no agenda but to love.

New Name also reaches out to all women in the adult industry which includes women at strip clubs and prostitutes posting services online. We do call centers and follow-up in order to help each individual take the next step in life.

Often, when a women decides that she wants out, there is an immediate need for a safe place before moving her into a longterm aftercare facility. Often these are trafficked victims. Since safety is the first priority, we have created an initiative called the Safer Place.

Our Safer Place Initiative quickly transitions a woman out of the adult industry to a safe place until we are able to get her to a long-term care or healing facility. We started the Safer Place because we were meeting with women who were interested in getting out but were discouraged by their boyfriend, pimp or even family members from going into a restorative program. We’ve found that when we take a woman a significant distance away from where she’s been working, she is able to have the separation she needs from her environment and can take some deep breaths, relax and process her decisions.

So get this: It’s my birthday today and I unashamedly admit my exceeding jubilance for birthday food (hot fudge brownie sundae, anyone?), as well as celebrating with good friends with some serious swing dancing tonight. And I may have a Stitch Fix box waiting for me downstairs — gah, happy birthday to ME!

But what would be the most incredible gift is to see our new Safer Place be completely prepared for the welcome of our first woman. One of our team leaders has renovated her and her family’s home to offer our first Safer Place.

Check out the Amazon wish list where there’s a list of items that are still needed to furnish the home. Could you participate in another woman’s answer to prayer, participating in her miracle?

It’s beyond totally worth it.


*Sonya is her pseudonym 

10 ways you may not realize how your life is affecting sex trafficking

Exactly 5 years ago I began down a path of connecting with people who I thought were vastly different from me. This began with those who were in drug addiction, then those who were homeless, then those in prostitution, then those in domestic violence, and eventually those in human trafficking.

You know what happened as I met them?

It stopped being “them.”

And it became “us.”

First, I found that many of my own hurts and wounds were very emotionally similar to those in the “broken” culture. Hey guess what? I’m just as broken! And I think we’re all there– we just have various ways of coping or covering shame.

Second, the economics of my life choices became increasingly obvious. You see, I realized, as in Economics class, that making one choice is a choice for something and a choice against something else. All of our choices and actions and voices and thoughts affect those around us. We affect our culture by the choices we make and don’t make.

And I’ve come to find some very clear ways we contribute to sex trafficking around us, though normally unknowingly. However, ignorance is not bliss. So here are some ways you may not realize that you are contributing to sex trafficking around you.

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1. Calling prostitutes “sluts” and “whores.”

This unfortunate name-calling is perpetuated not just in our culture’s movies and music, but also in passing comments from average people and saintly church-goers. It’s a way of removing someone else’s lifestyle from our own connection so that we aren’t also soiled.

This practice also gives us permission to look at a woman who has on provocative clothing as someone we have permission to denigrate and look down on. “She dresses like a slut,” or “What a whore” are phrases that stiff-arm women far away from ourselves and “normal” people, and then categorizes them as simply sex objects who want to express their physical power.

Which, my friend, is far from the truth.

And it totally overlooks the reality that in the sex industry there is often very little choice involved, which brings us to the next point.

2. Believing that those in the sex industry are there by choice.

Prostitution is simply the exploitation of vulnerability. Statistics show that up to 95% of those in the sex industry have experienced sexual abuse in their past. Why do you think the correlation? Think about it— growing up, these children never understood the right they had to their own body. Then, when they grew up, all of a sudden someone offers money for what others have taken freely. It was a natural progression, but only because exploitation has been their normal expectation.

Another aspect of this lack of choice is the reality that most women chose this work because they didn’t have any other options for income and were in extreme circumstances. Funny how that works– they chose sex work because they didn’t have a choice.

This is a hard one to explain, because many of us do not understand what it means to be totally and wholly lost and without hope, to deal with not just having no way of taking care of yourself, but also dealing with emotional trauma and deep soul wounds. It must take a lot of courage to decide to perform sex acts with someone you don’t know in order to pay the bills and put food on the table.

I’ve talked to strippers, high-end escorts, street prostitutes, and massage parlor escorts, and every one of them said they were there for the money because they didn’t have another way to bring in a real income. And once they were in long enough, it was an endless cycle and nearly impossible to get out.

3. Having a limited, “slavery” view of human trafficking.

Yes, trafficking is a form of modern day slavery. But it’s slavery with a different face.

Slavery simple means forced against their own will. And many in prostitution are forced and exploited outside of their will.

But they are not in physically chains. Yet you can be certain to know that the emotional bondage is very real and controlling.

I had a friend who came to live with me for a while who was escaping her boyfriend who had literally beaten her with hangers, burned cigarette butts into her skin, stabbed her multiple times, and she still defended him and blamed it all on herself. You see, the chains we need to be aware of are the chains of mind control, brainwashing and manipulation.

And those kind of chains are the most frightening and most damaging.

4. Not being aware of children.

It’s hard to hear, but children are being used as sex objects. In America. In our cities. In our neighborhoods. On our watch.

It’s easy to overlook kids as just tiny humans and not take their non-verbal and verbal cues seriously.

But here’s the reality: the U.S.Department of Justice states that the average age of entry into prostitution is 12-14 years old.

And that’s trafficking. And it’s happening to at-risk children as well as not-at-risk children everywhere. Be sensitive to the children around you, especially ones that may be “acting out.” It may be for a reason.

5. Watching “free” porn.

It’s a sad fallacy that just because you don’t pay for porn, then of course you’re not actually supporting the industry.

The reality?

Somebody pays, and it’s typically the girl behind the camera.

You see, the fact that trafficking exists means that there is more demand than there is supply. The more clicks, the more proof to the leaders and marketers of the sex industry that the demand is still there. And they will do whatever it takes to supply that demand.

6. Thinking, “Well, she likes it.”

We may think that a prostitute or porn actress really loves her job.

Think logically about this for a moment: Why would she say she doesn’t like it (to you or anyone else)? If she doesn’t feel safe around you, if she doesn’t trust you, if she knows she’ll get beaten if she doesn’t perform or bring in enough customers, then of course she’s going to tell you whatever you want to hear. Of course she’s going to act like this is the best life ever. Because she knows to be honest would mean losing her income, or losing her health, or coming to grips with her hurt and trauma beneath the surface.

Which brings me to the next point…

7. Being brutally insensitive to trauma.

Here’s the thing about trauma— when you try to explain your feelings and hurt and then someone blames you for it or gives a pat, sympathetic answer, it’s a slap in the face and a trigger to run and not trust anyone ever again with those feelings.

Those that have experienced varying versions of trauma (whether verbal, physical, sexual, emotional, etc…) are in desperate need for help and sometimes that plea for help may come out in odd ways or with unexpected reactions.

But often what they need most is for someone to empathize and just be with them in the moment.

We continue to perpetrate survivors of trauma by not listening and by walking away in their deepest hour of need.

8. Expecting survivors of trafficking to be OK with simply attending a community group and reading their Bible every day.

Survivors need therapy. Though many won’t say that or admit to it (who wants to admit they have serious issues? Yeah, me too), they’ve been through mental warfare and need emotional intensive care. This is not church small group stuff. This means professionals and years of work and tender care.

9. Taking people at face value and assuming you know their story.

You may be surprised to realize how many prostitutes, strip club dancers, and abuse survivors there is living inside your inner circle. We all have hidden lives, do we not? And often by not being vulnerable ourselves, we place this plastic film over our lives that looks like strength but smells like shame. It keeps us protected, but also keeps others at bay.

If we’re not vulnerable about our pain, then why would anyone else share with you about their hurts? or their struggle with sex? or their shame of prostituting?

10. Trying to rescue those who are being trafficked.

This is the one I’m the most guilty of (though believe me, I have been guilty of all of the above at one point or another). It’s easy to see this huge problem and decide to go on saving campaigns and rescue the victims from destruction.

The reality? This is just another power play.

It’s yet another way that these women are experiencing control from yet another person or group.

It’s deciding, “Hey, what’s happening to you is bad, so here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to make a decision for you that is obviously the best choice for your life. I know this is best. We’re going to do this.”

That friend I mentioned earlier? I was incredibly overwhelmed with feeling the responsibility to save her from this terrible man and terrible mental state. And it was seriously stuff.

But all I did was push her farther away, because then she was the victim and not the friend.

I’ve had a change of mindset. As Bob Goff says, “I used to want to save people. Now I just want to be with them.”

I used to want to fix people

So how can you make a difference today?

First of all, think through your thoughts. How do you think about those in the sex industry?

Secondly, think about your choices. How are some of your seemingly small decisions contributing to human trafficking?

Lastly, support one of these anti-trafficking organizations today. It’s Giving Tuesday and after days of shopping, make a real effort to give directly to help survivors of human trafficking.

Here are some organizations that I have personally worked with and/or volunteered with in Chicago. They are all doing amazing work in our city.

CAASE

What I love about CAASE is their focus on Ending Demand. They have an educator who goes into local high schools and middle schools to talk with boys about the realities of the sex industry and the fallacies they are seeing and hearing around them.

They also take the lead with legal advocacy in Chicago and Illinois. At the end of the day, if the laws don’t change, then longterm change is not possible.

New Name

Through New Name I have been able to do outreach in massage parlors in my neighborhood and come to a better understanding of international sex and labor trafficking. Massage parlors are very difficult as there is a huge language and cultural barrier. But New Name has a fantastic approach and view of these women and we are there to love and support and help however needed.

If you want to donate to New Name, please mail a check to PO Box 632, Glen Ellyn, IL 60137.

The Dream Center 

Last year I spent a lot of time with the Dream Center and was able to get involved with a street prostitution outreach. This was my first time “on the streets” and I was very humbled by my lack of understanding and lack of sensitivity. I found so much of this life is about survival and control. The women and men who work in the Dream Center are truly some of the most courageous people I know.

They have housing and after-care for girls who have been trafficked and women who have been in the sex industry and/or drug addiction. This is a place absolutely over-flowing with love and care.

So if this article has been helpful in your understanding at all about human trafficking, please share. Also, please feel free to email me or comment with questions or additional insights. This isn’t about pushing my opinions; I want this to be all about starting conversations.

So let’s have conversations that love and help people.

 

I Can’t Seem To Find An Ideal Church

I’ve had this angst now for a while.

It’s just… this unsettled feeling when it came to church.

I knew I wanted something, or was looking for something, but I wasn’t really sure what it was.

To give you a little transparent background, I have to admit I had become pretty disenchanted with church, observing a lack of the intentional and humble pursuit of unity, diversity, and act-what-you-preach living.

The more I learned of God through the church, the more I learned his heart for all peoples and cultures and genders and races. And so I slowly began changing. While it was a very real and organic change, it was also intentional.

Yet that’s when I started observing something. The kind of life I was starting to live began to stand out.

As… exceptional.

But I thought this was normal? I thought this is what the church stood for, preached and worshipped about? Why would moving into a life that reflected that outside of the church walls be so abnormal?

Why did we gush about how amazing the sermon was about welcoming all people with open arms, no barriers, just as Christ has welcomed us, and then debate about withholding mission support from a Gospel-focused agency due to their different style of worship music? Or have a church gathering that was all the same color, intellect level, economic state and activities when the surrounding community and city did not reflect that ratio? Or preach and condemn sensual clothing and porn but then pass by the prostitute and doing nothing to care for her state of exploitation?

It had all been very confusing to me. I was learning one thing about the heart of God, and seeing another.

So I was trying to figure out this alignment of what I say and how I live

But even more than that, I was learning of God’s heart for his people to be unified, that we’d be known for love not fractions. 

So deep down I wanted that: a gathering of people that was unified and diverse; a place where the unity makes us attractive, but the diversity makes us beautiful.

But I just couldn’t find it. Why wasn’t there one group where all that was present?

Where was the unified, diverse, faith-in-action church?

And I thought the problem was that somewhere there was this ideal church where all these great, amazing beliefs collided together.

I thought it was hidden somewhere, out of sight, that perhaps every other church needed to find this one church and start acting like that one.

I wandered for a while, moving from church to church, staying long enough to partake, but not long enough to commit.

I kept searching for that one.

Praying, considering, waiting, Repeat.

Then tonight happened.

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The Pray Chicago gathering and movement. Where churches from all over Chicago came to pray for the peace and hope and Gospel-advance in the city.

It was some of the most normal, extra-ordinary moments I’ve ever had.

The guy next to me was an immigrant from Morocco. The couple in front of me was from South Side. We sang worships songs in several different languages. Leaders from the city read Scripture reading through John 17 in their native tongue: Romanian, Arabic, Spanish, Hindi, Mandarin, Tagalog, Hausa, to name a few.

Worship was extravagant and awe-some.

And I looked around me and literally saw the world.

Nations. Cultures. Races. Together and one. 

And we were not fragmenting. And we were real. Really caring and really acting and really believing.

And that’s when I realized it.

That I found it.

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 This is what I always wanted.

And this?

This is The Church.

This beautiful, mis-matched, imperfect, oh-so-glorious group.

Nothing matched, but we blended.

The unfamiliar languages were stark, but at the same time harmonious.

What typically are known as cultural barriers were points of celebration.

And it wasn’t just about the individuals. It was the collective parts of the city coming together as one to intercede to The One.

As the service ended, I sighed.

I just had a taste of heaven. 

And that’s what we’re here to do: pursue on earth as it is in heaven.

In Chicago as it is in heaven.

Yes. Yes I found it here.

But if it’s here in Chicago, then it’s in Greenville South Carolina. And it’s in Fort Wayne Indiana. And it’s in Madrid Spain. And it’s in Venice Italy.

So, I had some things to deal with personally.

You see, here’s what I realized that night:

There is no ideal local church.

There is only a Church.

It’s diverse. And it’s unified. And it’s full of good works.

And maybe when I commit to be a part of a really imperfect, un-ideal local church, that I’m committing to the worldwide Church of Jesus and participating in the Big Team’s wholeness.

I used to think that committing to one was saying no to others.

Now I know that saying yes to one is saying yes to all.

To make the macro-Church more unified and diverse, I must participate and struggle forward in the micro-church, no matter how un-unified and un-diverse it is.

And that’s winning.

Because if I don’t show up in this church relationship, then I’m creating a fraction and there’s a diverse spot missing. Just because I didn’t show up.

And when I say “show up,” I mean “give my heart into and commit.”

I don’t think I’m the first person in the world to ever seriously struggle through this. For those of you wanderers out there, I get it. You’ve seen some very real concerns and have probably faced some serious hurt from inside the church.

Yeah, me too.

So hear me out: I don’t think there’s an ideal church out there. Wherever you land, you’ll probably get hurt by someone, you won’t agree with the pastor at some point, you will be dumbfounded by some decisions, you’ll meet some hypocrites, you’ll get disheartened by your own hypocrisies, you’ll be lonely at some point, and you will begin to wonder if, geez, is this even worth it?

Yeah, sounds like work. Committing to anything is ridiculous hard work.

Let me just say that I’m learning it’s not about which building you commit to going to on Sunday morning and having the absolute ideal setting and people around you.

It’s how you interact with them every day. It’s how you serve. It’s how you lay down your life so that another may advance. It’s how you decide to show up. And keep showing up, rain or shine.

If we all did that, even in different, un-ideal settings, wouldn’t we be creating an ideal, unified, diverse Church individually together?

Here’s the thing: one day, our imperfect, struggling churches who flounder in unity and diversity and good works will come together at a really cool celebration in heaven that will look like a super-charged version of Pray Chicago.

And that’s when we will realize that what we always wanted we already had all along.

Broken, But Not Destroyed

I’ve been here one year, one whole year since moving to Chicago and totally starting over.

I came with a lot of hope, but inwardly carrying so much pain. So much pain from a betraying relationship in my personal life, and a verbally abusive power in my work life.

But even in my walk of hope into the future, in hopes away from the past, I had no idea the amount of resistance I was about to face.

You see, previously at one point in all my hope as I left to start a new season in my life, I thought I could do anything, accomplish whatever I set my heart on.

But instead of encouragement, I faced the betraying, abusive voices: “Who do you think you are?? What do you think you’re trying to do? You are nothing. You are completely unvaluable.”

The people of power and influence in my life had bullied my spirit almost into the ground.

I feel like I’ve lived with the humiliation of my hopes being dashed, and ashamed I was ashamed.

And yet– how can I say this– I knew.

I knew that I was supposed to step into a role of helping businesses be successful. I knew it was also time to partner with non-profits to build sustainable business models for them to help provide work opportunities for trafficked and abused women, to teach these beautiful women that they are more than their bodies, that they are full of potential and skills and opportunities within business.

This kind of work, this kind of “helping businesses” is otherwise known as consulting. And I thought this was it, this was my calling.

But the oppressive cloud hung over my head all year, and I couldn’t get the ridiculing, scoffing voices out.

“Who do you think you are? A consultant??”

At times this past year I have felt that all was lost.

I have had total meltdowns more than I care to recall.

I have felt like I’ve been on the verge of complete disaster continually.

I have faced very real injustice, betrayal, and brutal insensitivity.

I wanted to walk away. But I didn’t quit. I couldn’t quit— how can I explain it? I knew that I knew I was supposed to pursue this calling.

For so long I knew that God’s love was for me, and I was down with that. But I really didn’t think his justice applied to me.

Oh, but little did I realize that justice is love in action.

It’s really powerful love giving really powerful purpose. It’s hope wrapped in a gift.

It’s real. It’s received.

So.

Here it is. A kind way God has worked justice for me.

Today I started a job as a small business consultant for a reputable consulting firm in Chicago.

Who… me??

How was I to know that they would need a consultant that specializes in marketing and non-profits, which are both my favorites and my passions.

And folks, that’s when I knew that the only voice that matters is the one that created me.

Others can point and scoff and even in pious judgment say to God, “Who does she think she is??”

And he simply smiles and answers, “The best. The most awesome. The biggest world changer. You see, she’s with me.”

It brings to me to tears, that it all had a purpose, that following a very small seed of struggling faith was much bigger than any other opposition.

Sometimes it takes being broken to realize that you can’t be destroyed.

Broken

What I Learned From An Ex-Pimp’s Story And How It Relates To The Riots

There’s a soul behind the face.

There’s a heart behind the actions.

There’s a story behind the violence.

I had a major realization a few weeks ago while watching a documentary about sex trafficking in Chicago. The statistics were mind-blowing. I have learned a lot about trafficking, prostitution, and the sex trade in the past few years, but I had no idea how pervasive it was amongst the youth, specifically in Chicago.

childThat the average entry age for prostitution (i.e., trafficking) is 12.

That the average age for boys to start buying sex is 14.

That mothers sell their daughters to drug dealers to pay off debts.

It starts making you really angry at the money-handlers, the dealers.

The pimps.

Behind the face of every child and women trafficked is a pimp that is controlling and dictating every move and action.

The pimps are typically men that are extremely manipulative, controlling, narcissistic, abusive, and greedy. His women are his property, his means of support.

What’s equally mind-blowing is when a pimp leaves that life and is truly a changed person. It’s radical and can be sometimes hard to process. Such an evil person now changed? It’s only possible through life-changing redemption.

Very few pimps leave that life, but I came to hear the story of one.

In a documentary called “Dreamcatchers,” I heard the story of Brenda. She is from South side Chicago and lived in prostitution and trafficking for 25 years. After escaping from that world, she dedicated her life to helping youth and women ensnared in the same world she had been.

In the middle of the film entered a new character, Homer.

Homer, now an ex-pimp, had been the best friend of Brenda’s former pimp. Homer controlled, abused, and sold women just like the rest.

Years later, he changed. Radically. He left behind everything and became an advocate against the street life he used to live, now championing women and the cause of anti-trafficking.

But it wasn’t the incredible life change that grabbed my attention the most.

It was his story, his past.

Homer grew up with a terrible family life. He watched his mother be physically abused by his dad. He knew growing up that this probably wasn’t right, but because his mother never left, he began to believe that this was the way to love. So it was at home that his world-view of people and women evolved.

His dad was always a very angry, resentful man. His dad, now elderly, was actually in the documentary. He was talking with Homer in their home, and his dull, seething anger was incredibly obvious. You could see the dysfunctional home life in real time, though years later.

As Homer talked in an interview later, he described how his father’s anger and home life directly influenced his own life. Homer succumbed to anger and hatred as he himself was physically and sexually abused as a child by people in his life.

With this skewed world-view and mental disorientation, he ran headlong into drugs, alcohol, and sex. It moved naturally into violence, theft, and using prostitutes. As he observed the “benefits” of pimp life, he went full throttle. Women ceased to be people. They were now objects, his property.

Did he ever think that he would be a pimp? “No,” he said. But it was a path, a road that the culture around him gave as an opportunity to find his identity.

But the most telling point of all of this was when the interviewer asked him why he thought his father was so angry and abusive. “Well,” Homer replied, “My father’s father treated him the exact same way.

“I knew my grandfather briefly. He grew up in Alabama and later moved to Chicago. And he was seriously full of anger and wrath. He took it out on his family and was abusive.

“In fact, I believe that if my grandfather had the same opportunity as I did with violence, drugs and pimping, he would have done the same things. He would have been a pimp. He would have been violent in community. I know he would have.”

When I heard this, my mind just froze.

Something clicked. Something I didn’t even wanted to think about or consider.

Perhaps you can’t separate history from hurt.

Perhaps the sins of your fathers could be your sins.

Perhaps…

Perhaps there’s a historical root cause behind all the displays of anger, hatred, abuse, and violence.

Maybe the best way to help Chicago’s violence and trafficking issue dissolve is to help individual people be set free from their anger, which stemmed from pain, which stemmed from a deep wound…

…which may have been injustice.

I believe this ties in directly to all the talk and conversations around race and riots and protests that is getting media attention right now.

And I feel like something needs to be said.

White friends, here’s a word for us: we vastly misunderstand the struggle.

We think, though may not say, that the most violent parts of our cities are where the population is heavily black or minority, so they are the cause of it. It’s just their nature.

And if it’s just their nature, then the solution doesn’t involve our empathy. So we don’t have to feel sorrowful– simply offer pat solutions that gives us the sense we’re involved without actually struggling through the emotional issues with them.

And we act on it.

Sure, maybe not outrightly. That would be hypocritical to our loving, accepting, and religious culture.

But our lives speak louder than words.

Our friends aren’t black (Don’t agree? Scroll through your Facebook friend list right now)

Our churches aren’t diverse (Should not my church reflect the racial percentage of my city or community? Or at least talk about pursuing that?)

Our businesses don’t want to sell to blacks (What I learned from conversations at one of my jobs)

We (might) invite black friends to come into our world instead of us going into theirs.

We make light jokes about, “The war is over. Slavery has been illegal for a long time. That was resolved years ago. You should be over it by now.”

And by say that we’re basically saying, “I don’t care what you feel. You should not feel that. Since I think you should be over it by now, then I don’t have to care about your struggle with it.”

Wait a second, Angela,” you may interject. “You’re saying that the black culture is still hurting from the slavery that was ended after the Civil War way back in 1865?? C’mon…”

I’m saying that I realized that Homer’s great-great-grandfather could have been alive around the time of the Civil War. And the way he could have been unjustly mistreated may have been the seed of anger that grew into abuse. And abuse is proven to pass from generation to generation. Just like it has in Homer’s family.

Yes, I am drawing conclusions and making some assumptions and trying my hardest to understand people’s actions based off their past. And it seems logical, that part of the issue of trafficking I see in Chicago is stemmed from a dysfunctional family life.

Does that give excuses to those that come from dysfunctional families? NEVER! I would never look at the women that Homer prostituted and say, “Well, he was simply a result of his family’s anger which was incited by injustice several generations ago. He shouldn’t be held liable.”

Obviously not. I think you and I both get that.

But I think we need to think a little more before we post and blog and discuss. I think we need to work hard to be intentional about how we diversify our minds, and then our speech, and then our actions.

Guys, it’s really uncomfortable. But get over it. Living this way is meaningful and may not just change you; it could change your community and our entire national culture.

I don’t have any to-do lists for you or how I plan to solve these problems, both of the white misunderstandings or the black realities. I’ve probably offended someone on both sides by making some generalizations.

Yet I believe that dysfunctional can become functional and it can happen in a kind process. Wouldn’t it be great to have someone walk with you through your struggle and say, “I hear for you, I want the best for you, and I empathize with your pain, even if I don’t totally understand it.”

And don’t think I’m really good at this. Do I struggle with discrimination? Have I discriminated before? You bet.

But I’m becoming more aware. More aware of myself, more aware of the struggle, more aware of the past. And being aware makes me fight against my tendencies to only be around people who are just like me and make me feel really comfortable and good about myself.

I think we all need to hear this and ask ourselves the question,

“Am I the one that needs to change?”

 

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.

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!

Nooooooooooooooo.

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!

MY PHONE WAS MY LIFE!!!!!

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

 

Why would I move to Chicago?

I’m convinced there’s two ways that you can live your life.

You can either…

a. wait until you are forced to make a decision due to strain and stress, simply allowing the inevitable to happen to you, or

b. think about and anticipate the next step and then move forward towards it on your own initiative.

The second one is definitely a lot more difficult because sometimes it doesn’t make sense or have a path of perfect logic all wrapped up in a pretty package ready to present to everyone that asks.

So…I’m moving back to Chicago is normally how I announced this decision, just kind of dropped the bomb because being subtle is not exactly one of my natural attributes.

Typical response? What?! WHY!?! You can’t go!

We like you here.

You’re successful at your job.

You’ve made an impact on lives.

You’re having fun and you’re happy.

We need you.

We didn’t get to do everything we wanted to do with you yet.

This is a great city.

Greenville is one of the most awesome, inexpensive cities to live.

It’s COLD up there!

But seriously, it’s FREEZING up there! You can’t survive!!!

You have really good opportunities here you can pursue.

You love this city.

It won’t be the same without you.

Yes. Yes, I do agree with every single one of those. I honestly do.

But you know what I’ve had to learn over my whole life? Those descriptions shouldn’t be true in just one place or location or season of life. Maybe it should follow you everywhere you go.

Because every person, place and situation I’m in I have decided to pursue leaving it in a better place than when I started. And what I want to leave behind is not really my name, but virtues and values. Like love, happiness, joy, peace, kindness, hope, honesty, strength, trust, humility, generosity, and faith.

Because those things last forever.

My life isn’t just about the here and now. I live the realities of the kingdom of God, and he came up with those values in the first place. So I just want to nurture them wherever I go, knowing that those will generate success with or without me.

So if I remember that this life isn’t all about me and always being known as the best, the funniest, the best trainer/manager, or the greatest friend then I am free to come and go as I feel because I’m not defined by what others want for me or say about me. I know who I am, and that’s a chosen, valuable, worthy woman and daughter of God, so I’m free to make a decision about what I want to do right now.

Will I mess up? Oh yes. And I have before. But life is about learning, not getting to a place of comfort and being too afraid to move because I might get hurt at some point. If that’s your view then get ready because life will throw trials at you anyway. You pretty much can’t ever escape hurt, pain or mistakes. So it can catch you by surprise as you’re living a stoic life, or you can take it in stride as you’re constantly moving forward and ahead. I’m very imperfect and make a lot of mistakes, but I’ve learned to move forward instead of living in a reality of my past, making it my present which distorts and kills my future.

Does that mean you have to move out of state? No. That’s just what is going to work best for me right now. I have always had a love for cities. I also have a sick amount of school debt that I need to really focus on paying off, so I’m going to try to get a job where I can pay off debt like a boss, develop my love for marketing, steward my bachelor’s degree and MBA… and guess what? Chicago, one of the cities I really like, happens to be where my relatives and family live close to! So I kind of just put two and two together. See what I did there?

And by the way, I’m really going to miss Greenville and all my friends and experiences there. This wasn’t the easiest decision and it took about 9 months from beginning to end. But I knew it was time, and because I have so many amazing people in my life that made it that much harder. I’m blessed to have to many influences in my life and such good memories to look back on.

So why Chicago? …you may ask

The easy answer to that is my family lives there and I grew up in a suburb of Chicago. I am definitely glad to live closer to family and be more involved than I have since elementary.

But the whole story? I actually went all “researchy” and decided to make a list of all the things I was looking for in a city and what I thought I wanted to do in life and find a place that lined up.

So here was my line of thinking: First, I’ve had a heart for helping broken women, specifically through freeing those that have been involved in sex trafficking and human slavery. So I researched the top 10 cities in America where that’s prevalent as well as the cities with the highest crime, since those overlap. It may seem like an odd way to research where to live, but if you are a child of God then you have the power of the kingdom everywhere you go, so why not go somewhere that actually needs change instead of a place to just blend in? Maybe we can try to live life on purpose?

Second, I googled the top culturally diverse cities. I love being exposed to and surrounded by a wide variety of cultures. It keeps you thinking, changing, and humble and I personally enjoy diversity.

Third, I searched which cities have the best cost of living. I’m not at a financial advantage right now in my life, so that was a very practical consideration.

The top cities that came up after all that consideration were Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Tampa, Detroit, Phili, and Houston. After considering them, I crossed off ones that I legitimately couldn’t afford and ones that I did NOT want to live in (bad experiences in Detroit), and Chicago just made sense. I was familiar with it and had family there.

So thus the decision. Not sexy or glamorous or miraculous. Maybe God gave us a mind and resources so that we can use them to make decisions and maybe we get our panties way too much in a wad over the next steps in life because “I don’t know if it’s right or wrong.”

There’s no right or wrong. Just do something. Just start. That’s the hardest part because then you’re vulnerable. It’s much easier to stay put and be easily understood. Sometimes we care way too much about what other people think and want for our lives than what we want out of life and who we were made to be and do.

Leonardo da Vinci said something pretty insightful and I’ll leave with this:

It has long since come to my attention that people of accomplishment rarely sat back and let things happen to them. They went out and happened to things.

Leonardo