I’ve had a secret heart’s desire for a few months now.
I’ve wanted a little get-away, some solitude, a writer’s retreat.
I have an important writing project deadline at the beginning of next year, so now that fall is almost over, this desire has been felt a bit more acutely. The idea of a retreat was not a demand or need, just a little nudge of thought in the back of my mind, a desire of my heart that only God and a couple of my besties would know about.
Desire of My Heart
“Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” Psalm 37:4
“Be faithful in a little, and he will give you much” Luke 16:10
God has a way of weaving stories and heart’s desires and bringing them about in ways I couldn’t even begin to dream up on my own. I am in the middle of a beautiful moment in his tapestry of this life that I get to live.
It is a moment that I honestly can’t believe I get to be alive to see, much less to witness it with my own eyes. It is the moment my OLDEST DAUGHTER GETS ENGAGED!
I’ve taken it slow on this blog of mine since that conference back in March, where I spoke of “pivoting’ in my talk to a room of beautiful fighters, survivors and caregivers…a talk of which I will share here on the blog soon.
I looked out in the crowd as I took in a breath before speaking and thought, “These are my people.”
It is my husband Todd’s birthday today, so I thought it would be fitting to tell you how I have been focusing on the good I see in him, and how just tweaking a habit I had already formed gives me all-the-heart-eyes throughout the week for my man.
The simple technique I have been using to do this has opened my eyes to so many good things he is and does, and I’m eager to share some examples of these good things about the man that I love with you.
Maybe, just maybe it might give you a way to find extra ‘heart-eyes’ for your guy, too!
I am honored to have Katie Polley, writing for Love Justice International, as a guest here today. Please read about the very important work they do and share it if you feel led to help spread the word about this amazing nonprofit. The world needs to know about it!
In 2016, I started helping a nonprofit with their social media and website content for a couple hours a week. I worked with many clients at the time and had little reason to suspect that getting to know this nonprofit would drastically impact the way I desire to live my life.
Love Justice International is compelled by God’s love to fight the world’s greatest injustices—one of which is human trafficking—an issue I had heard a lot about but hadn’t really ever engaged deeply with. It felt far away from my little world. The numbers were so big (in 2016, the Global Slavery Index estimated that 40.3 million people live in slavery), and felt impersonal. And ultimately, I was ignorant.
This all changed as I began to learn more about the people and work behind Love Justice. As I started receiving story after story from the field, I quickly realized they didn’t just see and talk about the issueof human trafficking, but quite literally they entered into the very trenches of it to stop it. God woke me up.
You see, Love Justice is unique from most anti-trafficking agencies in that rather than working on the preventative or the reactive side of human trafficking, they actually intervene at the exact moment when trafficking is occurring, and they intercept the potential victim before she is trafficked.
So I began reading account after account of young women, from various countries, who were being taken across borders, bus stations, or airports, but instead were intersected by Love Justice’s trained monitors. Young women like Sanjula who was most likely headed into a life of some form of slavery, marked by unimaginable darkness and despair. But instead, because there were justice-fighters stationed, waiting, and seeking out girls just like her, she was literally intercepted and turned around.
Instead of traveling further with her trafficker, Sanjula was educated on the dangers of trafficking and safe foreign employment. She was cared for, counseled and comforted, and then sent to safety.
These stories of real people like Sanjula¸were oftentimes girls my age. They were children of God—with names, families, beautiful facial features, unique hopes, and dreams. Their stories deeply affected how I thought about human trafficking, justice, and my role in it as a fellow child of God. I was no longer ignorant, and apathy was no longer an option. I couldn’t deny how these stories of faithful people pursuing the vulnerable girl who was being deceived into a life of slavery and darkness, perfectly reflected God’s pursuit of me.
It’s the gospel—the story I’ve been graced to hear throughout my whole life. The God of the universe passionately wanted to save me from the slavery of the sin I was born with. He wanted freedom and a relationship with me so much that He didn’t stay in the heavenly places and leave me to my helpless estate, but instead, He literally moved heaven and earth to come up with a plan, a strategy, the only way to save me in His son, Jesus Christ.
He pursued me! He entered into the mess, the danger, the pain, and came down to earth, taking the punishment I deserved and made a new way for me. He turned my path around and offered freedom, light, and hope.
This is the reflection I saw in every Love Justice interception story I read from across the globe. In the same way, God pursued justice for me and came to save me, Love Justice was literally placing people right where the injustice of trafficking was happening, so they could intercept victims’ paths towards slavery and instead offer them freedom. What an amazing, beautiful picture of how God pursues us!
And even more than that, He has made each of us in His own image. So the same heart of His that craves justice is in us. He built in our hearts a desire for justice, a hunger for wrongs to be righted, a quest for things to be dealt with. When we truly know God and His love, and we truly know the reality of injustices like human trafficking, our hearts cannot help but be compelled to be a part of stopping it.
The joy and meaning I’ve found in being able to work alongside and play a small role in what Love Justice is doing have been immeasurable. Simply put, God is using this ministry to bring more of His Kingdom here on earth—to destroy injustice and usher in freedom for the oppressed. To date, they’ve interceptedover 16,000 lives to prevent them from being trafficked. And each one of those interceptions results in powerful intelligence that allows them to assist local police with criminal investigations and arrests of the perpetrators.
When you see God moving like this, the same God who saved you from spiritual darkness, it’s hard to not jump at the chance to be a part of it. So today, at the very end of Human Trafficking Prevention Month, I want to invite you to be a part of Love Justice with me! Allow your life to be impacted by the beauty of leaning into God’s heart for justice with action. Go to LoveJustice.ngo to learn more about how you can get involved with your time, treasure, and talents.
Thank you Allstate for sponsoring this post. I chose to write this post because doing good in local communities is at Allstate’s core.
We recently had a simple and meaningful family night thanks to Allstate. They released a video that showed an example of how the core of who they are is dedicated to the communities where they live and work.
It is the perfect example of how Allstate believes that young people are not waiting for change to happen in their communities but they’re creating it! I couldn’t wait to share it with my family.
My hope was that it would spark some great conversation as we gathered our 3 teen girls (and a sweet boyfriend that belongs to one of them) to spend some family time around the table and discuss something that truly matters.
Creating Space for Conversation with Change Maker Teens
It only takes a little thought and preparation to create space for meaningful conversation. It is ok to keep family night super simple, and it doesn’t have to last for hours.
With teens and their schedules, sometimes you take what you can get, and it can look imperfect. That is ok! Just be purposeful in creating the space, and flexible with how it turns out.
Like most teens, my girls love snacks, so I drew them to the table with food! Snacks are a sure way to go to get teens’ attention, especially when presented in a tasteful way!
I lit a candle to create cozy hygge for our little family gathering. I texted (because what better way to communicate with teens) my family earlier in the day, and let them know I wanted to come around the table that evening for a bit and had a video that I wanted to share.
I made sure to mention the video was only a little over 3 minutes long and that I wanted to get their thoughts on it. Teens like to know what to expect.
They saw me setting up the snacks and my oldest, Teagan, threw a pizza in the oven. I’m still healing from surgery and had a few setbacks in healing, so I appreciated the ease of pizza for dinner.
My girls have been working on a puzzle, and I just kept it out at the table and set the snacks around it.
Food and a puzzle are both great items to encourage lingering and good conversation, but the video is what sparked the conversation. Thank you, Allstate.
Young People Creating Change
Allstate believes in youth empowerment and is inspiring people all around the country to do good in their local communities.
My husband Todd and I could not agree more. We have always believed that young people have the capacity to change the world in a positive way and make a difference.
We have encouraged our girls from a young age to influence the world around them by using their gifts, strengths, talents, interests, and abilities.
Allstate looks to inspire the next generation by using community projects that empower young people to become change-makers and a generation of leaders, and it is beautifully portrayed in the video.
I was eager to see my family’s reaction to the video and hear their thoughts. I knew my Todd would relate so much to the beauty in the video, as his life work is serving young people in our community.
We ate our pizza on paper plates and dimmed the lights as I played the video for them on my Kindle Fire.
Watch this video to learn more about what Allstate is doing in local communities!
After the video, I asked them what they thought of the word “Change-Maker.” I asked them if they were on the bus that was in the video, driving through their community, and looking out the window…what kind of change would they be inspired to make?
I also asked them if time and school did not get in the way, how would they want to make a difference in our community?
I loved their answers. I loved seeing their wheels turning as they thought about it, and it delighted me how their answers were so fitting to their interests, talents, personalities and life stories.
Our oldest is always drawn to kids and has volunteered faithfully every Sunday teaching little ones in our community.
She is pursuing a career in the medical field and said she would want to serve sick kids, and make a difference in their world by “creating fun DIY or craft projects according to their unique abilities” Her heart is to bring them joy while they heal.
Her boyfriend communicated that he is already enjoying the work he is doing in the community…he is a volunteer reading tutor and also is a mentor for a younger boy.
His tutoring takes him into schools and he expressed a heart for kids who not only have reading struggles, but also behavior issues. He started brainstorming ways to change this.
He expressed that he wishes each kid would really know the ‘why’ behind everything they do in education and believes that it would be a game changer for many students.
My middle girl has always had a heart for special needs children. Even at a young age, she was aware of the kids whose needs were different.
She expressed a desire to help students in our community who not only were special needs but also students who have been bullied.
My youngest is a soccer player and has talked of wanting to be a volunteer soccer trainer for younger kids, so that was her answer. She has been a young change-maker at our church by watching toddlers so parents can be a part of the service, and her face lights up when she talks about young kids.
Our girls wanted to know our answers, too.
My heart is being pulled more and more toward those that have had cancer and serve them in some capacity.
I am very familiar with the cancer world as I have experienced it myself, as have 3 of my closest friends and many of my acquaintances. I want to make a difference and am excited to see what more I can do locally, with some plans already on the horizon!
Todd said he is already doing his dream community work. His dream is for every young person to be a thriving reader in our city, and he runs an in-school reading program that teaches kids to read.
Tutors rotate inside of the schools, meeting one-on-one with the students, which gives the teachers much-needed support. It is a beautiful thing and I am a proud wife!
My husband loved the video and said that Allstate uses an approach called “appreciative inquiry” which he likes very much.
He said “instead of focusing on what is broken in a community and trying to fix it, they focused instead on dreaming about what it would look like to build a thriving community. They asked the kids in the video ’what does a thriving community look like‘ and then allowed them to dream up an answer.”
“Good Hearts, Good Hands℠” with Allstate
When I think of Allstate, I love what they are about, and how they believe the future is bright. I wholeheartedly agree and have such confidence in our young people.
Allstate believes youth making change builds social and emotional learning skills and life skills — like teamwork, problem-solving & empathy. These skills help ensure their future success. We as parents have seen this first hand.
Our girls have good hearts, and it is a joy to watch them follow those good hearts and work with their hands, to tangibly serve and care about those around them in our community.
Here is the beautiful thing:
The character and skills our oldest learned from serving not only helped others but came right back around to her.
She has a full ride to college due to scholarships earned by her character, as her leadership and community service was recognized and rewarded by some amazing local businesses who get what it means to invest in young people.
We are so thankful and proud that we can call all three of our girls change-makers in this world!
Not only can we say that about our own girls, but the underprivileged youth my husband serves at his workplace are some of the biggest and most amazing dreamers and change-makers we know!
Yes, the future is bright!
Tips For a Successful Family Night with Change-Maker Teens
1. Keep it simple, simple, simple. Utilize convenience items like paper plates.
2. Be purposeful. Have a time together that has meaning. The Allstate video I showed our girls did this for us in such a simple way, and can do it for you too! I want to challenge you to use it to gather your people together and show them the video. It is such a great tool to spark conversation and inspire the whole family.
3. Use food! Entice those teens, but keep that simple too. Order pizza. Throw some store-bought cookie dough into the oven. Set out some clementines and bananas so they can help themselves to fruit…gotta keep those change-makers nourished! Chips and salsa, popcorn and nuts are all easy things to grab and set out for munching.
4. Communicate. Teens want to know what to expect. I texted my girls and asked them what their schedules were, and let them know I’d like to have a family night gathered around the table with some food. I also let them know I wanted their thoughts on a 3-minute video that I would be sharing.
5. Respect what is going on in their world and keep it short if needed. Even 30 minutes of quality time as a family is better than none! Teens are so busy these days with school, jobs, sports, activities…and serving their communities! My girls have finals week this week so I reassured them our family time did not have to last all night, and that I would respect their time.
6. Create an atmosphere. I lit a candle, put snacks out on display, and made sure the area was picked up and felt comfortable. I always have blankets sitting around for added comfort. The puzzle was out to keep hands busy and bodies lingering. You could even have one of your teen’s playlists as background music. Cater to what they might like.
7. Let go of perfection. Even the most amazing change-maker teens can be moody. If there is grumbling about coming together, don’t let it throw you and don’t react to it. Keep things light and positive. If they don’t feel like sharing, then share your own heart and thoughts with them. They ingest more than you think.
8. Ask them questions. Right after I showed the video, I turned the light back on and immediately asked them some simple questions and the conversation was off and running.
9. Encourage your teens. Young people are amazing. They have good hearts and capable hands. Take a minute to tell them the good you see in them, how happy you are to spend time with them as a family. Make sure they know you see how capable they are in making a difference in their communities with their #GoodHeartsGoodHands
This post was written as part of the Allstate Influencer Program and sponsored by Allstate. All opinions are mine. As the nation’s largest publicly held personal lines insurer, Allstate is dedicated not only to protecting what matters most–but to guiding people to live the Good Life, every day.