Victims of Bullying

It takes courage to stand alone for your beliefs in the face of intolerance and judgment.

It takes bravery to use your voice when presented with lies and betrayal.

It takes boldness to speak out when everyone else’s silence is deafening.

It takes faith to keep believing in humanity when humans tear us down.

It takes strength to get up and face your demons, your critics, your enemies.

It takes heart to forgive when those who hurt us don’t even know they need our forgiveness.

It takes tenacity, sometimes, to simply breathe in and breathe out.

It takes resilience to take one more step, look in the mirror, face your fears and live to fight just one more day.

Those who keep on keeping on in the midst of unwarranted aggression, torment, fear and bullying are warriors. They are the ones who are strong enough to refuse ultimate defeat. They refuse to allow the smallness, ugliness and false accusation of bullies to define them or keep them pinned down. But, remember–not everyone can hold on.

It takes just one to stand, speak, be bold, have faith, take heart, be strong and resilient with us–so that we no longer have to be alone.

Stand up. Speak up. Together, we are stronger, and just a little bit braver.

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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Feelings: Friend or Foe?

One of the definitions of “feeling” is an emotional state or reaction, and in its plural form: a susceptibility to impression. The Merriam-Webster dictionary offers the following: feelings, emotion, affection, sentiment, passion mean a subjective response to a person, thing, or situation; and, “feeling” denotes any partly mental, partly physical response marked by pleasure, pain, attraction, or repulsion. This post is based on that little (yet powerful) word referring to our response to our “feelings”. The word is subjective.

Subjective — relating to the way a person experiences things in his or her own mind; based on feelings or opinions rather than facts.

How often have we heard others make comments like these, or we’ve thought or spoken them ourselves:

I hate how this feels. I love how this feels. I don’t know how I feel.

I feel unworthy. I feel helpless. I feel hopeless. I feel lost.

He makes me feel so unlovable. He makes me feel like a loser.

She made me feel stupid. She made me feel like I was a bother.

I felt like they never had time for me. I felt like I had no future.

It feels like no one cares. It feels like no one sees me. It feels like no one would ever listen to me.

I feel like I could take on the world. I feel so empowered. I feel like a million bucks.

I feel so old. I feel so young. I feel so ugly. I feel so pretty.

It makes me feel so vulnerable. It makes me feel so uncomfortable.

It makes me feel like a winner. It makes me feel like I’m nothing.

I feel like I have my whole life before me.

I feel like I can never overcome my past.

I feel like everyone else knows where they’re going, but not me.

Did you feel the rollercoaster of emotions, of feelings? We’re up, we’re down, we’re spinning around. I had a friend that used the expression, “like a box in the wind,” to describe uncertainty. And that’s just it. When we aren’t grounded within ourselves, we are likely to listen, consider, think and then eventually, believe what “they” tell us. And who are “they” anyways? Anyone outside ourselves, including the culture, the media, teachers or coaches, friends or strangers, parents or family members. Everyone busy telling everyone else how they “ought” to be or think or respond.

How unhealthy is that? It’s like giving away little pieces of the most valuable part of ourselves, our ability to think and make decisions for ourselves based on reality, not subjective or fleeting feelings based on circumstances or imaginations. People will have opinions, to which they are entitled, but we can’t allow other people to define us. Just because they try to doesn’t make it so. By the same token, our past does not define our future. Both of these have the potential to lock us into positions and places not based on reality, derailing what we were truly meant to accomplish, feel, and believe.

Certainly, feelings are an important part of being human. They are a gift. How magical it feels when love is present in our lives. How grateful we feel when we are blessed with unexpected kindness and goodness. Likewise, it is normal and important to be aware and feel concern when danger is looming or feel the heat of a hot stove warning us not to touch it. But to base our self-belief, dreams and futures on mere feelings, which can sometimes be fickle, and sometimes, be liars, is to allow ourselves to be robbed of our best, and the hope of what can be, the hope of who we can be.

If you’re one of the people who’ve been stuck in a place where someone else’s negative and untrue words or behaviors have invited you, it’s time for you to get “unstuck”. Get on up, and start dreaming again. Start believing for something more, something better. It’s not what “they” say. It’s what you say, and it’s what God says about you. Even if it’s hard, have faith that there is more for you waiting up ahead around the curve. You only have to be willing to take the first step, and then the second, and so on.

You were created for a purpose. What is that purpose? It’s your dream, it’s your life–choose to get on up and move forward. Your true life is waiting.

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

 

 

 

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Freedom Series: Fear To Courage

Unhealthy fear is a liar. If not stopped, it will always seek to bully us into believing lies about ourselves and about others, ultimately morphing our reality. It is a thief. It robs our peace and joy, and in many cases, the faith and courage to follow our dreams and live healthy fulfilled lives. But the worst part about unhealthy fear is that it can become a slave master. Its single focused goal is to destroy the truth and any potential goodness in our lives by disempowering us and holding us captive.

From Fear to Courage is a 96-page minibook that is part of the Freedom Series created by author and popular women’s speaker, Michelle Borquez. Women desperately want to get to the other side of fear, shame, low self-esteem, hopelessness, or any other issue that keeps them from finding their ultimate freedom in life, but often they don’t know how. The book’s authors use biblical truths to guide readers out of their unhealthy fears into a place of understanding, healing, and freedom.

Have you (or someone you know) kept a secret that has bound you in chains, choked off your voice, drowned your hopes, or silenced your dreams?

In Fear to Courage, Kim Vastine shares her personal story of shame, betrayal, loneliness, and anger brought on by childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by an uncle, someone she “should” have been able to trust. Instead, she was lied to, stolen from, and enslaved to her abuser.  Fear became an unwanted and demanding companion. She uses words like torment, pain, fear, and grief to describe how the abuse made her feel.

Adding fuel to the fire, yet another family member compounded her abuse profile. Speaking of her father’s volatile outbursts that would leave the family, “cowering, sobbing, or desperately striving to seem invisible,” she concluded, “as bad as it was physically, emotionally it was worse.” And just when you wonder how much more a child can endure, she tells of yet another abuse in a place she “should” have felt safe and secure.

The images and memories of abuse branded in her mind helped formulate how she saw the world, God, and herself. My voice was silent, but my heart cried out for justice.” Like flecks of emotional shrapnel searing through the skin, unless extracted, they remain embedded in our minds and spirits. In her case, she learned to mask her negative emotions in deceptive and unhealthy ways.

Paige Henderson writes, “When fear dictates, love is silenced.” This booklet invites women to take the critical journey “moving from life-crushing fear to life-changing courage.” None of us can survive without hope or apart from love. She helps readers put fear into perspective. To understand the awe-inspired “fear” of God and positive healthy choices, as opposed to unhealthy fear that distorts truth, steals our voice, and robs us of our intended destiny. Love is more powerful than fear, but as long as we give fear a place, we give it power.

Then she uses examples from the Bible to show the consistency (predictability) of human nature in our reaction to fear: hiding or running in the opposite direction, and then speaks to trust and identity issues and how they inform us on how we relate to ourselves and the world. The heavy burden of abuse and its fallout are real, but remember, we are not alone in the battle. When childhood abuse occurs, children are left to define their trauma through their own experience and feelings, never grasping what it all means and where they fit in the overall scheme of what has happened to them. (Underscore, to them.)

Abused children typically draw conclusions based on false thinking, and as they mature and advance into adult relationships, they act out what they believe. Although a woman’s body matures and changes, for those who have suffered from childhood trauma, their wounded little girl remains still very much a part of them. That little girl is desperate to be loved, feel worthy, and to be seen and heard. She needs healing.

Henderson talks about the significance of fortifying our lives (how we think, feel, and act) in the way we build our life foundations.  How important it is that we build wisely, and with truth, because eventually, we act on what we believe. We live out our lives, based on what we believe to be true. Using a simple Q&A format, she encourages readers to pause and reflect, and then record their thoughts and feelings. The process helps define the root causes of fear and the difference between healthy and unhealthy fears and their effect.

Armed with a healthy understanding about fear, love, and the importance (and power) of taking personal responsibility for our ultimate wholeness and freedom, Sharon Kay Ball rounds out the book with a section called, “Steps to Freedom.” She discusses the devastation of sexual and emotional abuse including disempowerment and trauma. Readers are then given steps to help in the process of healing those broken places.

Victims of abuse will learn how to un-pack and re-pack, so to speak, their belief systems (about truth, themselves, and others), so they can move from fear to courage, and from victim to survivor. That means taking the power away from the perpetrators, and reclaiming it for ourselves. She reminds us that, “secrets only carry power when they are kept secret.” And discusses how to get past self-blame, the importance of not stuffing bad memories, and how to process anger in a healthy way. She also underscores the value of journaling and working with a professional therapist if necessary.

“When fear enslaves us, it paralyzes us and keeps us from having the courage to live out our purpose in life.” –Michelle Borquez

This booklet begins with Kim’s story about sexual and other abuses. Maybe your fears have different origins. But the fact remains: fear is a liar and fear is a thief. Eventually, unhealthy fear becomes a slave master, and until we replace it with truth, it will keep us where we don’t want to be, in a perpetual internal prison.

It’s time to let go of fear and claim your freedom. Commit to the process because you are worth it. Give yourself permission to take the journey that will eventually lead you out of the cage and into your freedom.

Purchase the book: Fear to Courage

You may also be interested in:

Fear is a Liar

20 Quotes about Pushing Past Fear

Live Fearless, Live Free.

Join me on Twitter @DestinysWomen

Note: Rose Publishing provided me with an advanced reader copy of this booklet.

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™–”Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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DO SOMETHING NOW: New Beginnings for Exploitation Survivors

 

What do you do with a 10-year-old sex slave? 

I agree with Wellspring Living, a faith-based charity in Georgia: enough is enough. It’s past time to take back our streets, take back this generation, and fight for their God-given destinies.

Sex trafficking is the illegal trade of human beings for the purposes of forced sexual exploitation. While we often think of sex trafficking as an issue happening in distant places around the world, the sad truth is it is happening in our own cities. In recent years, Atlanta, Georgia has been identified as a major hub for trafficking. Every year, it is estimated that more than 5,000 girls are trafficked and raped for profit in Atlanta. The average age of children being sexually exploited in Atlanta is 14, and some are as young as 10. –268Generation

One Million Dollars for Freedom

More than 40,000 young people gathered at the Georgia Dome this month for the Passion 2012 event where the issue of modern-day slavery (aka human trafficking) was highlighted.  The goal? To raise $1 million for freedom. Under the Do Something Now call for action, six charities targeting specific human-trafficking initiatives were presented, including Wellspring Living.  

Wellspring Living: Providing New Beginnings for Exploitation Survivors

Mission: “Confronting the issue of childhood sexual abuse and exploitation through treatment, education and advocacy programs for girls and women.”

The trauma caused by sexual abuse makes it difficult for survivors to cope with life in healthy ways. Wellspring Living is passionate about walking the difficult road to recovery with the women and girls seeking help. By providing counseling, education, vocational training, and family reunification as well as spiritual care, the Wellspring Program helps women and girls heal and move forward.

Services include:

  • Wellspring for Women – A residential recovery home for adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse
  • Wellspring for Girls – A therapeutic and educational program for child victims of forced prostitution and sex trafficking
  • Lynn Sweet Counseling Center – Therapeutic outpatient services for the community
  • Wellspring Redeemed Assessment Center – A safe place for women escaping unsafe situations while considering longterm recovery

90% of runaways become a part of the sex trade industry and 1 in 4 girls is sexually abused before age 18.

Read the Article: Wellspring Living brings hope to abuse victims

Read the Article: DO SOMETHING NOW: Youth Unite to Abolish Human Trafficking

Read Related News Articles

Donate to Wellspring Living

Visit Wellspring Living website, blog, Follow on Twitter: @WellspringLivin, and/or Join them on Facebook.

View all of the Passion 2012 options showing ways you can help combat sexual exploitation and human trafficking online at Do Something Now.

What do you do with a 10-year-old sex slave? You rescue her. Care enough to Do Something Now!

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

(Photo by 268Generation)

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National Human Trafficking Awareness Day: Modern-Day Slaves Hidden in Plain Sight

 

January 11, 2012, is National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the United States.

What is Human Trafficking?  Over the past 15 years, “Trafficking in Persons” and “Human Trafficking” have been used as umbrella terms for activities involved when someone obtains or holds a person in compelled service categorized as: involuntary servitude, slavery, debt bondage, and forced labor.

According to the FBI: The majority of human trafficking victims are runaways or “thrown-away” youths who live on the streets and become victims of prostitution or, women/girls who suffer from other forms of sexual exploitation. The children generally come from homes where they have been abused or from families who have abandoned them. Often, they become involved in prostitution to support themselves financially or to get the things they feel they need or want, like drugs.

Today, the business of human sex trafficking is much more organized and violent. Women and young girls are sold to traffickers, locked up in rooms or brothels for weeks or months, drugged, terrorized, and raped repeatedly. Continual abuses make it easier for the traffickers to control their victims. The captives are so afraid and intimidated that they rarely speak out against their traffickers, even when faced with an opportunity to escape.

 QUICK FACTS

  • Sex Trafficking is a $32 billion dollar business.
  • The average entry age for prostitution in the U.S. is now 13. In some countries, girls as young as 5 may be forced into sexual slavery.
  • Sex slaves & forced laborers are hidden in plain sight often working in or around strip clubs, massage parlors, seedy motels, fields, restaurants, truck stops, casinos, downtown areas, and in the pornographic industry.
  • Human Trafficking is the fastest growing crime and now only second to drug trafficking.
  • Human Trafficking has no boundaries. It targets every color, class, gender and geography.

COMMON TARGETS

More often than not, traffickers target weak and vulnerable types, often runaways or girls who have been sexually, verbally or emotionally abused.  According to police reports, “A common theme with every victim is that they came from a dysfunctional home with no positive male role model.”  Traffickers have snatched or lured girls from middle or upper class familes as well.

COMMON LURES

Promise of Love – To lure them into a trusting relationship with their abuser, women and girls are often treated like a princess in the beginning only to find later, they’ve been deceived and entrapped. Consider it a red flag if this new “friend” is professing his undying love within a few days of meeting and when it seems too good to be true.  The first step to trapping potential victims is to get them emotionally involved.

Promise of a Job – This is the most common bait sex traffickers use. They make promises of jobs that will make big money, often as a waitress or in some type of service job. There is either no job when the victim agrees to go with him, or there is a menial job often with long hours, but the trafficker keeps the majority or all of the money, keeping the victim under his control.

Promise of a Better Life – Many trafficked victims are promised freedom, security or a better life someplace away from their home or family.  They are desperate to get away from life as they know it and are baited emotionally by the trafficker. But, like all the other lures, it is a lie to trick them into trusting the abuser. They become forced laborers or are coerced into prostitution, or some other job in the sex industry.

Promise of Money – Traffickers sometimes promise women/girls money to help pay for their lifestyles, education, drug habits or their family’s debt.  Once they’ve been trapped in the web of deception, traffickers use it against them by forcing them to “pay off their debt” through forced labor or prostitution in a never-win situation.

HUMAN TRAFFICKING INDICATORS (U.S. State Dept)

  • Living with employer
  • Poor living conditions
  • Multiple people in cramped space
  • Inability to speak to individual alone
  • Answers appear to be scripted and rehearsed
  • Employer is holding identity documents
  • Signs of physical or psychological abuse
  • Submissive or fearful
  • Unpaid or paid very little
  • Under 18 and in prostitution
Elizabeth Prann writes, “With increasing technology and the Internet, human trafficking has become more accessible and more anonymous. That being said, grassroots organizations, victims advocates as well as lawmakers and prosecutors are banding together to combat the problem. They all pledge to do so until it no longer plagues the lives of victims across the globe.” (Read the full article on FoxNews)

 

“He Who Allows Oppression Shares the Crime”-Desiderius Erasmus

 

Related Reading:

Human Sex Trafficking, Law Enforcement Bulletin

Trafficking in Persons Fact Sheet 2010 – What is Human Trafficking?

Trafficking in Persons Report 2010

20 Ways You Can Help Fight Human Trafficking (U.S. State Dept)

Selected Films that Help Educate about Human Trafficking

Selected Books that Help Raise Awareness about Human Trafficking

The National Anti-Trafficking Hotline is 1-888-3737-888 (24-hour, toll-free) operated and implemented by Polaris Project and funded by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). 

FBI.gov is an official site of the U.S. Federal Government, U.S. Department of Justice

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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The Freedom Climb: By Women and For Women

The Freedom Climb begins on National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, January 11, 2012

2011 was a stellar year for raising awareness about the oppression of women and girls around the globe.  Countless creative projects and tenacious grassroots movements helped raise critical funding while educating us about the ongoing need to bring freedom, reform and healing to women and girls enslaved by oppression; and, to the reality and burden of others who have been freed physically, but not yet emotionally.

While we celebrate the lives that have been rescued and the rallying of a stronger army of advocates, the job is far from over. 27 million people are trapped in modern-day slavery today. January 11, 2012 will mark National Human Trafficking Awareness Day in the U.S.

THE FREEDOM CLIMB: JUSTICE FOR WOMEN

In partnership with this year’s National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, 46 international climbers will climb Mt. Kilimanjaro, the highest mountain (19,341 ft) in Africa. 

Why?  Why would 46 women converge from around the globe, from diverse walks of life, interrupt their schedules, leave their familiar comfortable surroundings only to put themselves in vulnerable circumstances to climb the world’s largest free-standing mountain?  Because these courageous women share a common desire: to be a voice for the voiceless–to raise awareness and bring attention to the issues surrounding the global oppression of women.

The Freedom Climb: Breaking the Cycles of Poverty, Shame, Slavery and Despair for Women and Girls Around the World

The Goal?  To provide opportunities for freedom and hope to 10,000 women and children through projects that break the cycles of poverty, shame, slavery, and despair. The Freedom Climb will raise finances for a variety of projects that help women: micro-loans that empower women to start a business and care for their children, skills training, education for their children, providing rescue and safe haven from exploitation, and more.

Climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro is symbolic of the huge climb to freedom faced daily by millions of enslaved women and children worldwide. The climbers will raise awareness and funds to combat modern-day slavery and the exploitation of women and children globally. 

According to the website, “The uniqueness of a group of women from a variety of cultures climbing Kilimanjaro has already attracted interest from media to tell this story, and in doing so, will bring a spotlight to the cry for freedom for women and children.” You’re also invited to follow the blog documenting each day of the climb and escalating the voice of advocacy on behalf of women’s freedom issues. (One of my brothers is an outdoor enthusiast, mountain climber and guide, which makes following the daily progress even more exciting for all of us.)

“Millions of women throughout the world live in conditions of abject deprivation of, and attacks against, their fundamental human rights for no other reason than that they are women” – Human Rights Watch

Funds generated will go to justice projects supported by Operation Mobilization (OM). These projects combat slavery, oppression, and human trafficking by providing prevention, rescue, and development for people in high-risk areas.

Visit the The Freedom Climb website and check out The Freedom Climb Blog.  Although the 2012 climb is now full, you can learn about future climbs and get more information by emailing: info@thefreedomclimb.net. You can also join other abolitionists on The Freedom Climb’s Facebook page.

Learn more about Mt. Kilimanjaro in Tanzania.

United Nations, Global Issues & Women

If you’re a part of a unique project that champions freedom and justice for women, please share it with us!

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

(Photo by Climb4Life)

 

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Angel Tree: Gifts of Comfort & Joy for Children of Imprisoned Parents

One in three prisoners is a parent, and about 75 percent of women in prison are mothers. One in every 43 children has a parent in prison, which means more than 1.7 million children will spend Christmas separated from their incarcerated mom or dad.

Oftentimes, the child doesn’t know or understand why their parent is in prision, only that they feel abandoned, forgotten or left behind.  Families are meant to be together, and when one of us is missing, be it physically, like these prison inmates, or even emotionally, like countless other situations–it hurts and children remember.

Prison Fellowship’s Angel Tree®, is a unique program that works by connecting parents in prison with their children through the delivery of Christmas gifts.  Gifts are wrapped and delivered to the children, usually with a personal card from the child’s imprisoned parent.

Children of incarcerated parents can struggle with feelings of anger, abandonment, loneliness and despair. A simple Christmas gift from their absent parent can show a hurting child that even though they are absent physically, they are not absent in their hearts and minds. These simple gestures can help overcome the feelings these children carry of being rejected or unloved, bringing even greater gifts of comfort and joy. 

“Every time a parent goes to prison, their sentence is also a form of punishment for their children. These kids don’t necessarily understand why their parents are not with them for the holidays. They only want to be with their parents, and to feel their parents’ love, just as any other child would during this special time of year” –Jim Liske, CEO of Prison Fellowship

At 10, Robert watched his dad handcuffed and driven away to prison. To keep the family afloat, Robert’s mom packed up and moved them from their comfortable home in the country to a gang-ridden urban neighborhood. As she struggled to put bread on the table, she warned her children that Christmas might not look like much that first year without their dad.

On Christmas morning, Robert woke up to find a bare room and his mother crying on the couch. He went over to her and wrapped his arms around her. He told her that he did not mind that they didn’t have any gifts; that they were not all that important.

But her tears were tears of joy. She told Robert to go look out on their front porch. There he saw gifts piled high, some with labels with his dad’s name on them. They were Angel Tree gifts, given by volunteers from a local church. But Robert did not know that at the time. All he knew was that his dad loved him and remembered him.

 A Little Angel Tree History…

In 1982, Angel Tree® debuted in Birmingham, Ala., when Mary Kay Beard, an ex-prisoner, received permission to erect Christmas trees in shopping malls to recruit shoppers to purchase presents for prisoners’ children. Beard, who served part of a 22-year sentence for burglary, grand larceny, and robbery, said she spent six Christmases in state prison watching women gather soap, shampoo, and toothpaste they received from charity groups to wrap and give to their kids as gifts. “I realized that children don’t care as much about things as they do about being loved,” Beard said.

And on visiting day at the prison, instead of the kids turning up their noses at such simple gifts, “there was such joy on their faces,” Mary Kay remembers. “It didn’t really matter to them what they got–it was from Mama!”

Related Article: Mary Kay Beard, Angel on Earth: From Emptying Banks to Filling Hearts

As promised, I will be highlighting organizations throughout the remainder of the year that offer unique ways to give the gifts of love, joy and hope to women and girls in need. Share the true spirit of Christmas and, spread the love… Tell a friend! 

To learn more about how you can continue to spread the light of hope to the hopeless through Angel Tree®, call 1-800-55-ANGEL or visit the website 

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

(Photos by Prison Fellowship and Seeds of Hope Ministries)

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Operation Christmas Child: Love in a Shoebox

 

There are little girls all across the world who fall asleep hungry, sad, lonely and feeling unloved.  Poverty, hunger or neglect tend to do that. The joy that should accompany their young lives is missing, along with smiles on their faces and contentment in their hearts.  And when the sun comes up the next morning, life is the same as the day before.

Samaritan’s Purse has developed a very special program called Operation Christmas Child.  The mission is to demonstrate God’s love in a tangible way to needy children around the world. It allows people like you and me a chance to reach out to little girls like these, and show them that they are not forgotten, that someone somewhere really does care, and that there is hope for a brighter tomorrow!

And in a such a brilliantly simple way: a shoebox. Yes, a shoebox!

 HOW IT WORKS

love & joy!

All you need to do is choose the age of the girl (categories: 2-4, 5-9, or 10-14), print out the appropriate label from the website marking the correct age category on it, fill your girl’s shoebox with small fun and practical items, tape the label to the top of your box, include $7 for shipping costs and then wrap with a rubber band.  You can even tuck in a love note and photo of yourself if you want. (You can drop off at a location, otherwise shoeboxes are accepted at the headquarters location year-round).

Ideas to Get You Started…

  • Small Toys (dolls, musical items, stuffed animals, jump ropes, flashlights, balls)
  • School Supplies (pens, pencils, books, writing pads, sharpeners, solar calculators)
  • Art Supplies (crayons, colored pencils, stickers, stamps & ink pads, coloring books)
  • Personal Items & Candy (t-shirts, hair accessories, jewlery, socks, hats,  sunglasses, hard candy & gum)
  • Hygiene Items ( toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, washcloth, hairbrush or combs)

There are over 100,000 volunteers supporting Operation Christmas Child in the U.S. and more than 8 million shoeboxes were collected and distributed to needy children last year!

Wonder if a little shoebox could really make an impact on someone across the world? 

One woman who received a shoebox as an orphaned child says, “Living in an orphanage with 550 kids where there is never enough love and never enough of anything else can be lonely.  You don’t have many people that you really want to share yourself with.  I kept wondering why a little girl from far away who doesn’t even know me, would care enough to give such a beautiful gift to a girl like me.”

There are countless stories of how one little shoebox traveled around the world and touched a child’s life forever.  

It’s amazing how such a little love gift can make such a big (and lasting) love impact. And it’s even more fun to get creative with your friends, family or at a group event by packing shoeboxes together!  The result?  Smiling faces, content hearts and a glimmer of hope for brighter days ahead.

As promised, I will be highlighting organizations throughout the remainder of the year that offer unique ways to give the gifts of love, joy and hope to women and girls in need. Share the true spirit of Christmas and, spread the love… Tell a friend! 

Learn more about Operation Christmas Child online at www.samaritanspurse.org  or, call 800-353-5949 for more information.

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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Christmas Gifts of Love, Joy & Hope

 

Christmas, the time of year that symbolizes love, joy and hope, is here once again. 

Some of us know Christmas is near from the chill in the air. Crimson leaves have finally fallen. Trees stand still and stark against the bitter cold.  For those of us who enjoy the distinctness of the seasons however, it is a welcome chill that transports us to the warmth of our crackling fireplace sipping warm drinks, enveloped in music, family, festivities and cheer.  Our hearts swell with gratitude as we reflect on the love given and received throughout the year.  Our imaginations flow with dreams and visions for the New Year. Peace and joy abound.

But peace and joy escape many women, especially at this time of the year. Countless women and girls have received little or no love so there is no capacity for reflection, no warm memories to buoy their hearts. They experience another kind of chill. The coldness from a world, that, like the perpetual motion of a merry-go-round at a fair, just keeps going without a care.  

And there are ones who are locked away in the darkness of addiction, the bitter chill of un-forgiveness or some other form of dysfunction. They are not living their potential or destiny. Gripped with fear, self-loathing or pain, they feel powerless and incapacitated. Their hearts and imaginations are strangled by the icy fingers of hopelessness that wrap around them, causing their hearts to grow cold and sometimes, hard.

Life doesn’t stop for anyone. We live in a world that applauds wealth, status, beauty and accomplishment.  But, for many women and girls, the world’s definition of success is not even within their grasp. They are overlooked and in many cases, even viewed with distain. They feel forgotten, abandoned, neglected or unloved. They begin to believe the lie that the beauty, kindness and goodness in the world is not for them.

The orphaned feel abandoned. The abused feel neglected.  The unloved feel unworthy.  The marginalized feel trapped. The used feel shame.  And, those are the “lucky” ones, because many no longer feel anything at all.

But Christmas at its core symbolizes unconditional love, hope for the future, and God making a way (for the forgotten, addicted, dysfunctional, marginalized, abandoned and unloved) when there appeared to be no sign of deliverance or remedy. Gratefully, the ultimate gift of Christmas isn’t for a select or elite few, it is for all people, everywhere.

Don’t get swept up believing that people want to be left alone or that they have a “need” to be independent. Sometimes it’s good to gently press in and invite, welcome, encourage or simply reach out to those in our lives (or even strangers) that need to see the good in Christmas. They need to know someone feels, someone sees, someone cares. Their dreams are worthwhile and their life does matter.  And as long as they have breath, there is hope.  They need to feel the kiss of heaven.

It is with great joy that I will be highlighting several unique ways you can get involved to give the gifts of love, joy and hope to women and girls who desperately need to know that their life matters this Christmas season.  For if not for the grace of God, we could be her.

I challenge you to join me this month in helping in some small way, to ease the pain, soothe the sorrows and reignite the hope of a woman or girl in need.  Let’s put our feet to the street and prove that love does conquer and heal. Make a commitment to yourself (or maybe even take on a project with a group of friends) to love on a sister-friend unconditionally in some special “you” way this season.  I’d love for you to share how you decided to reach out, and how it also touched you in the process!

Who will you reach out to this holiday season by sharing the true meaning of Christmas?

(c) By April McCallum, Destiny’s Women™ – “Championing the Life, Freedom & Destiny of Women”

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The Power of Words: Women and the Negative Voices Within

You’ve heard the expression: You are what you think. All of us have positive and negative voices, but the negative ones can be crippling. They can advise, dictate, taunt, mock, measure and define us. They are constant reminders to us of who we are, and who we are not.

They may scream or they may whisper, be constant or intermittent, but as long as we listen to them, we feed them and give them permission to keep us in bondage. Like internal slave masters–they are oppressors who keep us locked in heavy chains–held captive within our internal prisons of self-doubt, self-deprecation and/or self-loathing.

But where do these voices come from?  From mothers, fathers, other family members, caretakers, teachers, coaches, friends and strangers. They also come from the media or the culture we are a part of. But sadly, and more often than not, they originate from the very people who were meant to love and nurture us the most– our families. Napoleon Hill said, “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.”

The Power of  Words — Messed Up Messages

You’re Not Good Enough.
No matter how hard you try, you can’t measure up. You will never be good enough, so don’t even bother trying. You’re not capable–you don’t have it in you–you’re not cut from the “right” cloth. You’re not smart enough, hard-working enough, talented enough, charming enough, thin enough, pretty enough. 
You’re a Bad Girl.
You’re not a good little girl like those other girls. You’re dirty and you’re a bad girl. Look at what you’ve done and look at what you’ve caused other people to do. You should be ashamed of yourself, you’re a nasty girl. 
You’re to Blame.
It’s your fault, you’re to blame. Whatever bad things happen to you, it’s because of you, you deserve whatever negative things come your way. If something bad happens, you probably provoked it, either by something you did or something you neglected to do—either way, it’s your fault.
You’ll Never Be Anybody.
You’re not going anywhere in your life. The stars don’t shine for you like other girls. You’re not meant to be anyone or anything. You just stay low, that’s your “place”, that’s where you belong. Don’t dream, wish or imagine, because that’s not for you. You’ll never be anybody and you’ll never go anywhere.
You’re Worthless. 
You’re not wanted. No one truly celebrates your life. You’re a nobody, you have no worth or value, and you are not cherished–because you are considered to be nothing.  Or, “You’re just like your… fill in the blank.

In some families and cultures, you are de-valued simply because you were born a girl — Talk about a no-win proposition!

The Power of the Mind — Influence & Choice

The human mind and emotions are powerful forces. They are fertile fields ripe for planting and we reap a harvest from whatever seeds are planted. The question is, what kind of harvest?

  From the mind and emotions our spirits can either shrivel or soar. We can hear beautiful melodies, or hear stabbing, painful or judgmental tones. We can envision greatness, manage complex processes and dream dreams, or see only darkness, locked doors and certain failure on our personal horizons. Because of them, we can believe in endless possibilities and a future with hope, or we can believe in nothing because the voices tell us not to bother–those things are for other women, not us.

Like pre-programmed computer chips, the voices embed themselves and create strongholds in our minds. They translate to our senses and emotions how we “should” feel, and define consciously or subconsciously, who we are. If we listen to a lie long enough, we begin to believe it to be truth. The destructive voices hold us back from being our true selves, stunted from all that we are meant to be.

Certainly, there are some places around the globe (or in some family structures) where women and girls are treated with high esteem and are given equal opportunity compared to their male counterparts. It is also true that in many cases, females have become much more self-confident, self-reliant, successful, truly happy and free. But for the ones who are not yet there, and are caught in an oppressive place (in the cultural or familial context) because of the voices who have not stewarded, taught, or nurtured them well — there is hope!

“The positive thinker sees the invisible, feels the intangible, and achieves the impossible.” –Author Unknown 

Saying Goodbye to the Voices

To recognize the negative messages being piped into our minds as lies, is key. We don’t have to live with the voices, but they will not go away on their own because they are deeply rooted. It may take some time, but it will be time well spent.  For women, the voices are so intricately tied to our self-image.

By purging the lies, we choose to invest in reprogramming our view of ourselves in order to bring a true sense of reality, peace and overall well-being. It’s time to say goodbye to the harsh masters who have held the keys for far too long. The plaguing thoughts that have held us captiveincapacitating and hindering us from living our lives in freedom and confidence.

“No power in society, no hardship in your condition can depress you, keep you down, in knowledge, power, virtue, influence, but by your own consent.”  –William Ellery Channing

Replacing the Voices — Choosing Life

So how do we begin to make a change for better?  We begin by washing our minds with truth, which is what will set us free. We make a conscious choice to say yes to right thoughts about ourselves and no to the negative ones. We keep company with positive and honest people who will act as mirrors in our lives, speaking truth to us about ourselves, our dreams, our futures—and we rid ourselves of regular contact with the toxic ones. “Blessed is the influence of one true, loving human soul on another.” –George Eliot

We lose the things in our atmosphere that bring death (belief systems we’ve subscribed to, harmful relationships, bad habits or addictions, places we frequent, or any inputs we listen to through media, music or literature that reinforce the negative or dark messages) and replace them with the things that bring life. Our thoughts can be like a tape stuck in an infinite loop that runs and re-runs in our mind. The good news is, we have control over what tapes—messages—we choose to play.  Choose life!  Choose the things that bring you peace, joy, encouragement, inspiration, challenge and fulfillment.

“Never underestimate the power of dreams and the influence of the human spirit. We are all the same in this notion: The potential for greatness lives within each of us.”  –Wilma Rudolph

And, we welcome the voice of God and let it tell us who we are. We are cherished, capable, valued and loved—we are here for a purpose. We have a future and a hope, and thankfully, we are not alone. Our true destiny awaits us.

© by April McCallum, Destiny’s Women
(Photos by Heal and Inspire, Jason Borneman, Alice Palace, AJ Bruestein)

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©Destiny's Women™ is a blog founded, written and published by April McCallum -- "Championing the Life, Freedom and Destiny of Women" Creative Commons License
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