The Body, Broken and Whole

I have a short story up on The Redbud Post. It’s titled “The Body, Broken and Whole.”  Here’s an excerpt. If you want to read the whole thing, just click on the link above.

Ming moved down the line of Eucharist ministers, her pastoral robes swaying gently each time she stopped. “The body of Christ, broken for you,” she said, pressing bread into the outstretched hands of the minister in front of her. Another pastor followed behind her, carrying the cup, the two of them serving communion to the ministers so the ministers could then serve the rest of the congregation. At the far end of the line, Leah dropped her head and stared at her hands. One laid over the other, they formed the shape of a cross, ready to receive the bread, but without realizing, she’d pulled them close against her stomach. She noticed her fingers were curled, ready to close tight, ready to refuse the offering.

“Leah?”

Her head jerked up. Ming’s face was next to her own, and Leah could read concern in Ming’s dark eyes, in the expression on her almond-brown face.

Leah’s hands clenched shut. “I can’t, Ming,” she whispered. “I can’t take Communion.”

Ming looked at her a moment longer. Then she slid her arm around Leah’s shoulders and led her away from the others. Inside the small prayer room off the sanctuary, Ming nudged Leah into a chair, and then sat in one herself, pulling it close enough their knees almost touched.

“What is wrong?” Even after years in the U.S., faint traces of accent from her childhood in Cambodia still colored Ming’s voice.

Leah couldn’t meet her eyes. “I got angry with Bree this morning.”

Ming waited. When Leah didn’t say more, she asked, “What happened?”

Leah swallowed. “It was all little things. She didn’t do her homework from two nights ago, took some gum from my purse without asking, left clothes all over her room, and then, when she was supposed to be getting ready for church this morning…” How could she tell Ming what she had said?

The rest is at the Redbud Post. And while you’re there, check out some of the pieces by other Redbud writers–there’s some fantastic stuff! 

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I’ve got a post up on the Redbud blog

flower closeupI’ve got a post up on the Redbud blog today. “The Myth of Mediocrity” appeared on this blog a while back, so it may sound familiar if you’re a longtime follower.

While you’re at the Redbud blog, you may want to check out some of the other posts, all written by my fellow Redbud writers. There’s some really amazing and encouraging stuff there–and if you’re a writer, helpful writing advice as well.

Thanks for reading–I’m praying today for all those who read this blog. This very day may you see the Lord more clearly, love Him more dearly, and follow Him more nearly.

Grace and peace,

~Jen

Dave, running for a reason on October 12

In four weeks, on October 12, my husband, Dave, will run the Chicago Marathon as a Run for a Reason participant.

His reason? To raise funds for a Refuge for Women safe house to be opened in the western suburbs.

What’s that? Refuge for Women, based in Kentucky, is an after-care home for women rescued from the sex trade industry, and it works with New Name, a ministry right here in the western suburbs that reaches out to women—right here in the western suburbs—who are trapped in the sex trade. New Name sends teams of women into strip clubs, massage parlors, and adult bars to form relationships with the women working or trapped in them; it also has a call center that contacts women—and even pimps—and offers to pray for them; and it bathes everything in prayer with both weekly meetings and teams that pray during the visitation and call center hours.

How did Dave find out about Refuge for Women? This is a long story that actually starts with me. I could skip it and cut to the chase, but I am always amazed at how God interweaves our stories and connects us with others, and then we can look back and see His hand in all of it.

So I’m telling the long version.

Two years ago Moody Radio kept running a promo bit on The White Umbrella, a book about the booming sex trade industry in Atlanta, Georgia, and an after-care home there named Wellspring Living. I read the book and thought, “I have to do something, but what?” Everything in the book was focused on the problem in Atlanta, but when I researched the issue in Chicago, I found it was alive and rampant here as well. I contacted the publisher (Moody) and said, “What do I do?” An editor at Moody invited me to a symposium Moody was hosting on this topic, and I listened to the leader of the Salvation Army’s Promise program (Partnership to Rescue Our Minors from Sexual Exploitation) as he shared how bad the issue is in Chicago and what Promise is doing about it.

I still felt helpless, but one of the messages I kept hearing at the symposium was that people needed to spread the word about this issue. I could blog on it, I thought.

So I did, enough that, a year later, when I joined the Redbud Writers Guild and met with Terri Kraus, one of its leaders, we talked about the topic of human trafficking as something I often wrote on.

“Well,” said Terri, “did you know that I’m one of the co-founders of the West Chicagoland Anti-Trafficking Coalition?”

I didn’t know such a thing even existed, but I began going to meetings and getting involved in a small way, and through the WCATC, I found out about New Name and got connected with Anne, its director.

When Dave wanted someone to speak to his Culture and Theology class last spring about sex trafficking in this area, I contacted Anne, and she agreed to come in.

She blew away any misconceptions the students may have had about women choosing to stay in the lifestyle of prostitution. “Almost all of these girls have horrific backgrounds,” she said, “with the kinds of sexual/physical/emotional abuse that makes you wonder how anyone even thought of it—really evil and horrific.”

One girl, Darcy*, was raped and then trafficked by her own mother. Another girl’s mother is a drug addict who began selling her daughter when she was young to pay for her drugs. Now the girl is trapped in the lifestyle. She doesn’t know any other.

New Name has connections with the Chicago FBI and calls the Bureau when a girl wants to leave the industry or simply is frightened. But the FBI doesn’t provide places for the girls following their rescue, so New Name partnered with Refuge for Women in Kentucky. Four girls rescued by New Name, including Darcy, have now gone to Refuge for Women and been involved in its 12-month, 24/7 program where sobriety, healing from trauma, rebuilding trust, and developing a relationship with Jesus are all essential elements.

Not long after Anne spoke in Dave’s class, I learned that Refuge for Women was raising funds for an after-care home here in the western suburbs, and then I learned it was part of the Run for a Reason program at the Chicago Marathon. When I told Dave, he signed up to be a Refuge runner.

So, my part was to do all the connecting.

Dave’s part is to run 26.2 miles (I like my part better).

Do you want to have a part?

Would you be willing to join us in this effort to bring healing to women?

First, please pray, for the ministries of New Name and Refuge for Women, for the fundraising for a local after-care home, and for Dave as he trains and runs the marathon on October 12.

Second, if you feel led to give to a Refuge for Women safe house in this area, you can do so in a couple of ways:

  1. You can donate online at refugeforwomen.org. Click on the “take action” button at the top of the home page and then choose “Donate-Chicago” at the bottom of the page that opens. When you review your donation, type “I am donating this in support of Team Refuge runner Dave Underwood” in the “add special instructions to the seller” box.
  1. You can write a check and send it to the address below. Please write “Dave Underwood” on the memo line of the check so they can keep track of his fundraising amount.

Refuge for Women

Attn: Run for a Reason

342 Waller Ave, Ste D

Lexington, KY 40504

Thanks so much for reading this. If you have any questions, please feel to leave a comment, and I’ll respond. I’ve also put lots of links in the post, so be sure to follow them to find out more about these ministries.

Jen

*I think Anne was already using a pseudonym, but I’m changing it again just to be completely safe.

 

A weekend away–with a purpose

He has been urging me to do this for, quite literally, years!

On Monday night I was evidently ready. So when my husband said, “Go away for the weekend. It will be good for you,” I did not sigh and say, “You’re right. I should, but now…?”

This time I nodded. “Ok.”

So Friday afternoon I checked into a hotel he’d booked for me (he feared I would back out when I was faced with the reality of spending money on myself) and carried my bags up to a room that had no human presence in it other than my own.

It was unnerving.

But good.

I had a specific job for the evening. About a week ago I was accepted into the Redbud Writers’ Guild (www.redbudwritersguild.com) and I received a request from a member of its Board of Directors for a whole list of things, one of which was a one/two-sentence description of my reason for writing.

My reason for writing.

Hmm.

I knew my usual answer—that I can’t seem to NOT write—wasn’t what I wanted to have next to my name. That’s not really a reason; it’s a negative statement.

I decided to look at some of the other writers’ descriptors. I read nearly all of them. Then I visited many of their Websites and blogs. I cried over the tough things some of them are going through and rejoiced at the amazing ways God is using them and their writing gifts.

While I enjoyed all their sites and writing, I identified with only some of their reasons for writing. Many have a particular “niche.” I don’t. Many have writing that flows out of a particular ministry. Mine doesn’t.

In between all this I looked up verses (in three different translations) that have the words “write” or “writing” in them.

I read and thought and prayed and jotted down notes.

And I was reminded of what I learned a long time ago.

I love story.

I love it because I have this deep-down-in-my-gut belief that every story, no matter how small, no matter how terrible, is somehow part of God’s big, grand, beautiful story. In this STORY, God, as Joseph puts it so well, turns all things meant for evil into good. Not a single part of anyone’s story is wasted. Each one plays a vital part in God’s sweeping epic.

Years ago, in an inservice at work, I took a Strengthsfinder test. Top on my list of strengths was “input,” which was described as “a craving to know more,” a desire “to collect and archive all kinds of information.”

What? I thought—but then I read the bigger description at the back of the book. In the long list of the kinds of things “Input” people like to collect is this: STORIES.

Teaching was my main career focus at that point. There wasn’t much time leftover for writing, but when I read that, something in my heart hummed.

It’s true. “Story” is the theme that links all the writing work I do.

By the end of my first night away, I had three possibilities, all related. I’ve since added a fourth. They’re below. If you have a minute to vote, I would appreciate your feedback.

If you have any suggestions and you don’t mind sending me a comment, I would appreciate that, too.

Thanks for reading,

Jen