Thursday, May 26, 2011


As I sit in the pale midmorning light and sip my coffee swirled with sugar, I read and ponder. A Severe Mercy by Sheldon Vanauken is a tale of love, beauty and wholeness; a tale of lives well lived. As I take theses moments to breathe and consider those all important abstract nouns I compare them to the intangible concepts that drive my own life—success, progress, acceptance. I have worried and rushed through this year, failing to enjoy the fullness of my last year living at home. There's a certain freedom that accompanies being nearly an adult but still living in the care of others. I've taken that freedom for granted.

But that's not the only freedom I've taken for granted. I've continually forgotten or abused the wholesome freedom that I am blessed with. Becoming aware of the enslavement around me has drawn my own freedom into sharper contrast. I am free. I am free from physical enslavement. I am free from the captivity of mental illness. I have been set free in the fullest sense of the word by Jesus. Yet I continually enslave myself to these terrestrial ideals that are here one minute and gone the next. As the author of Ecclesiastes writes it is all a "chasing after the wind." With steel nets and open jars I run right past Life in pursuit of the winds of this world.

This morning I'm shifting my abstract noun focus. As gusts of passing storms arouse the trees and birds outside my window—I quietly—without procession or parade, celebrate my freedom. I wonder why we save the celebration of something as monumental as freedom for one hot day in July. Personally, I aim to constantly become more conscious and consequently more grateful, for the freedom I am blessed with

I am free.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Senior Project

I graduate in 10 days. I have been to at least eight graduations (I have three older sisters out of college and parents who like to go back to school) but I have never once put on a cap and gown myself. This time it's for me. This is the time of year that most high school seniors skip class more than they attend, and homework is almost laughable. I choose a different path for the conclusion of my high school career...and sometimes I question why.

I have chosen to participate in something known as 'Senior Project'. It's an out of the classroom learning experience where seniors either intern somewhere, or design a project they would like to do during the month of May. There is lots of paper work and outside sources to consult in the planning and executing of any senior project but I thought there was lots of potential so I gave it a whirl. Most kids just shadow a profession in the occupation they hope to enter, but I don't know what I want to do exactly so I took my project a different route. I do know that whatever job I end up in I want to be focused on social justice so I planned a project around that concept.

For my senior project I am planning a fundraiser at my school for The Daughter Project (a nonprofit organization in NE Ohio that is building a safe house for minors who are survivors of sex trafficking). I wanted to meet a very practical need of TDP-funds. I also organized several bands and musicians from my school to play and local food establishments donated food-it should be a bang up time! I wanted to create a fun opportunity for high school kids to be involved in something bigger than themselves. Most people's reactions when I tell them about my One Dress Campaign is "Wow, but you're in high school!?" or "That's so brave for a high schooler!" This assumption that high schoolers would not do something they were not required to do, or care about something more than themselves is largely untrue. I'm a big believer that people will live into the perceptions people have of them, even if those perceptions are untrue so I'm trying to break that misconception a little bit. High schoolers can make a difference in their schools and communities.

Planning this fundraiser has a lot of extremely time consuming aspects to it. I joined a group called Bound For Freedom in their fundraising efforts. They make journals out of old books. By removing the pages from the old book and folding, cutting and sewing new pages they make really sweet looking journals. My sister's boy friend Teddy heads up the Bound For Freedom effort at Bowling Green so he taught me the tricks of the trade. I'm attempting to make 100 of these journals for sale for 10 dollars each. I'm also hand sewing 30 headbands to sell. I've had several 'Journal Making Parties' at my house where other students come over and help me fold cut and sew! At these parties we've made 43 complete journals...and the fundraiser is this friday.. I have 5 days to make 57 journals and 25 head bands! Yikes!

I have learned through this whole process that maybe I'm not the best planner. I did not enjoy the emailing and phone calling involved. The excessive number of bureaucratic hoops to jump through made my head spin. But I loved the one-on-one conversations that my project brought about. I enjoyed teaching people how to do the crafts and I loved actually doing the crafts (which is good cause that's what I'll be doing this week day and night!) I also learned so much about myself emotionally, but that's for another time and another blog.

The fundraiser is this friday night, and though it is hosted at my school (Worthington Kilbourne) it is ope in the community, so if anyones in the Columbus area at 6:30 this friday come on by and help support an important abolitionist organization! And could everyone pray for me and the success of the event.

                                   The advertisement for the event! These are hanging all over my school

                                                     Journal making with a few friends

                                                    More journal making in the grey dress!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

They are just children

When I was twelve I was in the sixth grade. Elementary school was very good to me. I had wonderful teachers who let me read constantly and it was still socially acceptable to have dirt smeared somewhere on your person at all times. I just barely survived the right of passage know as Youth Boosters Soccer. Thank goodness, I eventually realized I was not going to be a soccer star and I cut my losses. I had a pet rat, Freckles, who was in all seriousness my best friend. I taught her to come when called and we would frequently stroll the sidewalks of my safe suburban neighborhood. (Yes, they make leashes for rats.) I was the founder and president of The Rat Club at my school where we would care for the baby rats the principal was raising to feed his pet snake. I didn't realize at the time just how morbid this is. Overalls were a staple of my wardrobe and my hair was nearly always in a fuzzy pony tail.
           Here's 12-year-old me and Freckles. She is wearing a sweater I made for her out of a sock..
                                                              Freckles on her leash!

There's nothing particularly unique about my childhood (okay, the rats are a little odd). In general, I was just a typical 12-year-old kid in sneakers. I was utterly dependent on my parents and teachers for guidance and protection. I was naive and innocent—as all 12-years-olds should be.

The average age of entry into prostitution in the United States is 12-14.

They are just children.

The media shows us images of prostitutes who are adult women who have chosen a certain "lifestyle" because that's the only way they can make money or because they are morally corrupt. As long as that is the association the word prostitute brings to mind, it is very easy to write them off saying: It's their choice or they are just bad people. When you see an image of someone soliciting them self on the street corner, is your immediate reaction disgust? Do you assume they are just trying to make a buck?
In all likelihood—they are children, or they were when they were first forced into the business.

As I think about the covert nature of this prevalent darkness, I have concluded that misconceptions play a huge role. Nothing in our culture makes child prostitution okay. It is just wrong. Yet it happens everywhere. The girls who are being raped by countless men—are girls. Not women. They don't even have the capacity to consent. They're not volunteers by any stretch of the imagination. They should be in loving homes, learning, playing, and freely experiencing life.

We can no longer associate the word 'prostitution' with a shady profession. I propose a new definition.

Pros.ti.tu.tion  [pros-ti-too-shuhn, -tyoo-] (n.)  

They are just children. 

Monday, May 9, 2011


After I had carefully applied my new 'Red Revolution' lipstick I nervously readjusted my dress...or should I say dresses. It was my senior prom. Some girls plan for months–others just weeks–for this big night. There are so many things to consider–hair, nails, shoes, a date (crucial), and of course the dress. Some girls agonize about what dress to wear, others pay a fortune for just the right one. I went a step further and wore not one, but two dresses. Yes, I said two, though this dual dress decision wasn't entirely what I had in mind for my senior prom. The 60th day of my 'One Dress Campaign' was thus far the hardest-but definitely a good one. I felt like an oxymoron when I slipped my red and black renaissance princess gown (my dream dress) over my simple worn out grey dress. I knew I had committed to wearing the grey dress everyday...a high school dance is no exception.

My friends' mom asked politely why I had a shirt under my dress. She thought I was trying to be more conservative. And although that wasn't the original intent (just a byproduct) I was able to share a little bit about my commitment and about the issue. I didn't want to be a drag at prom...talking about slavery and such...but I'm glad I got to share a little with her.

Even without saying anything, people around me were conscious of the dress. Comments like: "Doesn't he look like a pimp" would quickly be followed by "Oh man...sorry Emily." I wasn't personally offended, but their apology meant that they now had a new association with the word 'pimp'. Our cultural glorification of pimps and 'hoes' has only made the commercial sex industry more accessible and yes, even acceptable.

By the end of the night I was very glad to have the grey dress on. It sparked one conversation and reminded a few people to rethink culturally acceptable language. And honestly, it wouldn't have felt right to go without it on. I've grown fond of my unshapely grey dress. The end of my senior year has been turbulent, draining and wonderful, but my dress is the consistent variable through it all. I'm glad my memories of senior prom will include my little oxymoronic dress.

                                               Prom night with three of my best friends!
                        I just like this ma said it looks a bit Aubrey Hepburn like!
Now admire my mom's artistic talent. Yes she did my hair in a mohawk of curls. I loved it!

Monday, May 2, 2011

Now they know.

        "Bec, it's not working. I don't know how to make it work," I frantically whispered in Barnes and Nobel as I pounded buttons on my netbook. "I do not have time for this! My presentation is tomorrow!" Hot tears burned my eyes, threatening to spill over my eyelashes.
        "Don't worry Em, let me see it. Let me help," Becca, my older sister patiently replied. I passed her my small red computer and put my face in my hands, squeezing my eyes shut tight. Tomorrow I would be standing in front of my peers and sharing some of the most intimate and real parts of my life. It was the day before a big presentation where so much felt at stake, and I couldn't figure out how to make a power point. This was not the time to be hampered by my disconnect with technology. I was going to be telling people about human trafficking! This was serious. The topic of human freedom deserved at least a power point, right?!
        "I don't think you have the program on here, babe. I can show you how to do it in iworks if you want? It's really simple, I promise," Becca gently offered. She knows of my discomfort with screens and she read the intense stress on my face. One rebellious tear embarrassingly broke my shaking facade.
        "I want to go home," I choked out. Gathering up my things with my head down, more tears betrayed me.
        I handed Becca the keys–I was in no state to drive–and in the semiprivate safety of my car, I cried. I didn't want to be an advocate. I wasn't equipped to teach anyone about freedom, or slavery or what they should do about it. What am I even doing about it? I'm not liberating anyone, I'm not making important legal changes...I'm just wearing a dress. How undramatic is that. How can I stand in front of four consecutive classes of my peers and say anything of substance? Who am I?

        Needless to say, the night before I presented about human trafficking/my dress campaign was a rough night. After crying and talking with my sister in the car for twenty minutes, I went inside, put on sweatpants and Beethoven, grabbed a notepad and wrote out everything and anything I wanted to share. And that was my presentation. No professional power point. No dramatic stories or videos. I just shared what I knew and how I felt. And I'm so glad that's how I did it. Some fancy electronic show is not what the seniors at Worthington Kilbourne need–they have enough of that. I was blessed by they encouraging responses and I think they were blessed by my story. I could tell by the faces of the students–the numbers shocked them. Slavery was not even on their radar. I saw appreciation in a few students eyes as I admitted to feeling like a failure for not doing much of anything to help the abolitionist movement. I saw conflict in some, and disgust in others. Now they know. 

The longer the majority of the population remains ignorant or apathetic about this darkness, the more girls are going to slip under the radar and become slaves in our cities. At least now they know. 

                                                     Some various styles of the dress!
                             Trying on silly hats while visiting Amish Country with my parents!