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Far from what I once was, but not yet what I'm going to be

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Streetlight USA

So as some of  you may know, I work at Streetlight USA.  The mission of Streetlight USA is to provide safe housing, prevent further risk of exploitation and promote healing for victims of child sex slavery. Streetlight's vision is to eradicate child sex slavery through increased awareness by creating nationwide, community based collaborations and safehouses.

Streetlight USA was created to provide restorative services to 11-17 year old girls who have been recovered from sex trafficking, and to help bring an end to child sex slavery. We are now a national organization, receiving children from all over the country. As our focus has been refined and our mission made more robust, we have implemented changes to equip us for being a more potent force in the fight against forced prostitution of children. . .

We have hit the restart button with the new energy and the expertise of local advocates and champions who are partnering with us to fight this injustice of domestic minor sex trafficking. We have a strong network of law enforcement, social services and civic and religious organizations that are walking with us, and we are preparing to be fully staffed to take the maximum number of girls.

For more information about Streetlight USA or to see how you can get involved or what you can do to help, email me at cara.streetlight@gmail.com

XOXO

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Still Breathing

So there's this really awesome guy that used to go to my church named Justin. Justin, from a very young age, has been incredibly talented when it comes to music. I have always been a huge fan of his music and that is still true today.

I go through these phases where Justin's music is ALL I listen to. . . Well right now I'm in a Justin phase and wanted to share this song with all of you. It has such truth and meaning to it and I hope you love it as much as I do.

Justin Unger - Still Breathing

To know no testing takes me beyond what I can stand
I know whatever happens I am held within God’s hand
God says now don’t be anxious though trials may come your way
Just understand that they are here to show your need to pray
So I breathe I’m still breathing
So I’ll sing with all that I am
I’m still breathing
He counts the hairs on my head
Knows thoughts before I speak
He answers prayer before I ask when it’s His will I seek
He sees each sparrow when it falls
He made the land and sea
He knows each time I stray from Him
And yet, He still loves me
I’m still breathing
So I’ll sing with all that I am
So I breathe I’m still breathing
And I’ll sing with all that I am
I’m still breathing
The grace of God surrounds me
The storms have not all passed
But I’m too weak to make it known
My strength will never last
Our loving father knows my need
That’s why He walks with me
And in my weakness I am strong
He gives His strength to me
I’m still breathing
So I’ll sing with all that I am
So I breathe I’m still breathing
And I’ll sing with all that I am
I’m still breathing
XOXO

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

L-O-V-E

Lately, I've found myself having to explain love to quite a few people. Not saying I know everything there is to know about it - because I DON'T! But there are little things about it that I know and feel that others should know as well.

For example, I know that when I was trying to find love, I couldn't. It wasn't until I completely gave it over to God and said, "Lord, I'm trusting you completely with this." And when I stopped trying to find love for myself, He brought it right to me.
"A woman's heart must be so hidden in God that a man has to seek Him to find her."

Those are definitely some words to live by if you ask me!

I think a big problem today when it comes to love is that people have this idea in their mind that "THE ONE" is out there and that he or she will be PERFECT. But perfect doesn't exist. I found some very wise words that I whole-heartedly agree with on this particular subject . . .

"Love is not just about finding the right person, but creating a right relationship. It's not about how much love you have in the beginning, but how much love you build till the end."

So beautifully written. And oh so wise.

I think people also get so caught up in their "first love" that they refuse to see the flaws and problems in their relationship. But . . .

"Being someone's first love may be great, but to be their last is beyond perfect."

And I think that's what we all should strive for. Not to be someone's first love - but to be their last.

I am a firm believer in that you have to be happy and you have to feel whole and be content when you're single before you can get yourself into a relationship. If you can't be happy and feel whole by yourself, you're just going to bring a lot of baggage and lot of issues into a relationship. You're not ready to be with someone else, until you can be by yourself - and be okay with it!

So often girls feel like this . . .
Not pretty enough
Not talented enough
Not smart enough
Not good enough
NOT ENOUGH
But you can't be in a relationship
until you realize this . . .
And believe it with all that is in you

And to wrap it all up, a lovely quote from Winnie the Pooh,
"If you live to be 100, I hope I live to be 100 minus 1 day, so I never have to live without you."

XOXO

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Life is Wonderful

I have come to realize over the course of my life that there is no such thing as perfect (other than Jesus of course!) And I think movies tend to give people hope for a false reality. Movies tend to make believe believe there is such thing as perfection. A perfect life. A perfect love. But it just can't happen.

I don't mean to sound like a debby-downer or betsy-buzz-kill or anything. I just like to look at things realistically and not have ridiculous expectations for life. I think it's important to accept reality and make the best of it.

Life does not have to be perfect to be wonderful.

And I'm not Wonder-Woman, but God made me wonderful.

And that sure is enough for me!

After all, it's the bad times that make the good times so great.

It takes darkness to be able to see the light.

So embrace it! In the happy moments, praise God. In the difficult moments, seek God. In the quiet moments, trust God. In every moment, thank God.

XOXO

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Best is Yet to Come

Last week was an interesting and eye-opening week as I saw a few people I love so completely and utterly broken. It's not easy seeing a loved one like that.

There was a lot of comparing going on as well. Things like "She's perfect and I'm not" or "She's funnier, she's more godly, she's this and that" and it was so sad for me to sit there and listen to this.

And it got me to thinking about a mother's love for her daughter. I don't know why in the world that would have popped into my head in those moments... But it did. And I thought to myself "If I had a daughter, and this was her crying out to me, what would I say?"

And I just so happened to log onto pinterest (latest addiction) and came across these quotes. I truly believe it was the Lord showing them to me, because I don't believe in coincidences!

Someone will always be prettier.
Someone will always be smarter,
Someone will always be younger,
BUT THEY WILL NEVER BE YOU

Instead of wishing you were someone else, be proud of who you are. You never know who has been looking at you wishing they were you...

You're braver than you believe, and stronger than you seem, and smarter than you think.

Sometimes good things fall apart so better things can come together

The best is yet to come...

XOXO

Friday, December 9, 2011

Strength

Well my night has been eventful to say the least. And the theme of the night can be summed up in one word: STRENGTH

So for all those people out there feeling like they lack strength, here are some thoughts to chew on:

Perhaps strength doesn't reside in never having been broken... But in the courage it required to grow strong in the broken places.

You were given this life because you were strong enough to live it.

A strong woman is one who feels deeply and loves fiercely. Her years flow just as abundantly as her laughter...
A strong woman is both soft and powerful. She is both practical and spiritual...
A strong woman in her essence is a gift to the world.

The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else's highlight reel

I hope you can take something from these quotes as I have

XOXO

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Beautiful People

I've been thinking a lot lately about what makes a person beautiful. Outward beauty is so important in our society. It irritates me that people can be so beautiful on the outside and so ugly on the inside, and all people seem to care about is the outward appearance.

Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

I have been trying to evaluate myself. Asking myself if I am beautiful on the inside. I think there are definitely things I can work on, but overall, I'm proud of who I am.

I think what makes me beautiful on the inside is the Lord. Which reminds me of this song...


The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people don't just happen.

XOXO

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Where my Heart is

I came across a quote the other day that said "If you want to know where your heart is, look where your mind goes when it wanders." I think that's a great quote and it's really powerful when you think about it. It's so true that our heart is where our mind is.

So I have really thought about "Where is my heart?" I so long for it to be with Christ. I so long for my heart to be filled with the awe and wonder of my Lord and Savior.

Well since I came across that quote, I've been examining myself. Catching myself when my mind starts to wander. And where has my mind been? STREETLIGHT

I have a huge heart for StreetLight USA and am a proud partner of this incredible organization and ministry. Streetlight is dedicated to eradicating child sex slavery in our city, and our nation.

What most people don't know is that the number one country for human trafficking, is the United States. That blew me away. It's so typical for us to think "Well, yeah it happens in other countries like Cambodia, but not HERE, not in my country..." Another thing most people don't know is that girls are being kidnapped and forced into the human trafficking industry.

Wanna know another fact that's going to blow your mind? The average age of a girl being kidnapped and forced into prostitution is 13 years old. THIRTEEN. That doesn't mean that's the youngest girl out there, that's the AVERAGE. There are girls that are 8, 9, and 10 out there.

CHILD RAPE FOR PROFIT.

This is something that bothers me. It just doesn't sit well with me. And it shouldn't! This is an issue that should bother each and every one of us. But a lot of people just don't know! They don't know the facts. And one of StreetLight's goals is to educate people on what is going on in our backyards.


StreetLight is an organization that is solely devoted to these precious girls that are having this crime against humanity brought upon them. StreetLight is a safehouse for the girls that our vice squad rescues from the terrible life of prostitution. StreetLight houses these girls and gives them the counseling and emotional help they need.

I hope this lights a fire in you to get involved. To help support us at StreetLight! We are in the middle of launching a national campaign called Campaign 13.

Campaign 13 is all about raising awareness and raising support for StreetLight USA.

The thirteenth amendment to the Constitution abolished slavery, yet we still have slavery in our country. Sex slavery. Of CHILDREN. The average age, as I mentioned, is 13 years old for a girl to be captured and forced into this terrible life. We ask that people would be willing to fight the fight with us. To stand up and become modern day abolitionists to abolish this form of slavery in our societies.

Click here to find out what else you can do to get involved!

I will definitely be posting more about StreetLight in the future. I hope this breaks your heart like I know it breaks mine and I know it breaks the Lord's. Stand up and fight this heinous crime against humanity.

Become a Modern-day Abolitionist.

XOXO

Monday, December 5, 2011

Prayer

So yesterday morning in church, we learned about the power of prayer. I learned so much! It was such a great message about how EVERY prayer is answered. Always. Maybe not the answer you were hoping for, but it gets answered. Or maybe now is not the right time, but in His time, He makes all things beautiful and perfect. So sometimes the answer is "wait."

One point that Pastor Kent made that hit me hard was that in James, when he talks about prayer, he simply says "have faith." He doesn't say you need great faith, or super-human faith, or extreme faith... He simply says you must have faith.

FAITH. It doesn't make things easy, it makes them possible.

I loved this message.

And I got to thinking about what I had prayed about in the past week. And the one thing that stuck out in my mind was that I prayed "Lord, break my heart for what breaks Yours." Eight small, simple words. But such power behind those words.

And today, my heart was truly broken. And I KNOW His heart breaks for the same reason.

 Watch this...

This video is so difficult to watch. The pain. The anguish. The sorrow. The depression. The hate. THE BROKENNESS.

This clearly breaks His heart. And I know it breaks mine as well.

THINK before you speak!

Words can break someone into a million pieces, but they can also put them back together. I hope you use yours for good, because the only words you'll regret more than ones left unsaid are the ones you use to intentionally hurt someone.

XOXO

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Cloudy Days

Today, my attitude was a reflection of the weather. It was cold and dark and rainy today. And that's how I felt inside. Cold, dark, and rainy. Just one of those days where you want to curl up in some comfy sweats and have a good cry. Not the greatest of days. Not the happiest of days.

But my lovely "brother" Jeremy told me just what I needed to hear. He said, "Remember the sun is always shining even on the cloudiest days." That simple wise sentence gave me just the warmth and comfort I needed in that moment.

Dearest brother, I thank you for your warmth. And for always turning my frown upside down.

Everybody has these days. And unfortunately today was one of those days for me. But I have so much to thank God for and I can't lose sight of that.

So here's to a better tomorrow.

May God bless us all

XOXO

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Words of Wisdom

So I stumbled upon a beautiful quote today. It said "I can't brag about my love for God because I fail Him daily. But I can brag about His love for me because it never fails." I pretty much think this is the greatest thing ever.  Because it's SO TRUE!

And it got me to thinking about how even though there will never be a day on this earth that I am perfect, that doesn't mean I shouldn't strive to be like Christ. I want to be like Him. In every way possible. And these are some things I can work on to be more like Him.

  • Forgive them even when they are not sorry
  • Love them when they least deserve it, because that's when they really need it
  • Live simply. Expect little. Give much. Love extravagantly.
  • Have a heart that never hardens, a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts
  • Let my faith be bigger than my fear
  • Realize that when I am down to nothing, God is up to something
  • Let my past make me better not bitter

None of these things are easy. And they never will be. But I yearn to be a woman of God. Nothing worthwhile in life is easy. It's always going to be really hard. And I'm going to have to work at it every day. But it's the LEAST I can do. God sent His ONLY son to die for me. Little, insignificant me. I can't even begin to fathom that sacrifice. The pain.

Just think... You are loved more than you will ever know by someone who died to know you. That's some deep and powerful stuff right there.

Daily Reminder: Don't forget to pray today, because God didn't forget to wake you up.

XOXO

Monday, November 28, 2011

A Case of "The Mondays"

So we all know how Mondays are - BLAH. Nobody likes Mondays! Especially after a long weekend like we just had for Thanksgiving. So naturally, I wasn't feeling too happy about getting up for class this morning and taking a TEST in Biology. (Really Professor Hoffman? A test the day we come back from Thankgsiving break?!) So it wasn't such a great start to the day.

But it got better.

Chapel was right after my test and it was awesome. The worship was beautiful and the message so perfect. It was about how God can't sleep. He won't sleep. He doesn't sleep. Such a beautiful message about when God is silent, it doesn't mean He's gone or sleeping - in the stillness, He is there. In the silence, incredible growth can happen. Hearing that He is always near and always with us is such a clichĂ©, but when you allow yourself to take that in - to deeply think about that absolute truth - your life is forever changed.

Because now you KNOW you are never alone. Now you KNOW God hears all, sees all. Now you KNOW God controls everything.

Sometimes in the silence, God is the closest to us. Sometimes when we don't see Him, He is closer than ever before.

I remember hearing a beautiful story about a man who walked with the Lord. In his life, he saw two sets of footprints in the sand; his own, and God's. And when life got tough and he felt ever so weak and like he couldn't go on, he only saw once set of footprints. His immediate thoughts were that God had left. God had abandoned him when he needed Him most. And when he got to the end of that rough season of life and saw God's footprints once again beside his own, he asked the Lord "Why did you abandon me when I needed you most?" And the Lord God said "My child, I will never leave you nor forsake you. I have never left you nor forsaken you. In your time of trouble and weakness when you saw only one set of footprints, those were mine. I held you in my arms and kept you safe. I loved you and protected you just as I have promised. Even in the silence, even in the stillness, I am here. Forever."

Isn't that such an incredibly beautiful picture of what our lives are? My outlook on life is completely different.

We all go through phases of being on fire for Christ and feeling so close to Him, and then feeling so distant. But to know that even when He feels so far away, He is right there, it's the best the feeling in the world. Holding you in His comforting arms, His arms of love, forgiveness, healing, and joy. Even when we don't see Him, He IS there. Closer than you think.


XOXO


Sunday, November 27, 2011

"I Must-ache You to Thanksgiving"

Well I had a fantastic Thanksgiving with the family once again this year. And I pray you all did as well! My family is definitely a strange one.. And we proved that this year. The theme of our Thanksgiving was "I Must-Ache You to Thanksgiving." All the men were required to have a mustache for Thanksgiving. (Basically no shave Novemeber for the men until after Thanksgiving dinner). And the lovely ladies had to wear fake mustaches. Well it was a huge hit with the fam and definitely a holiday we will not soon forget.

This is my cousin, Amanda, and me with our awesome matching Ginger 'staches.

And here's the whole crew! We're a great looking bunch! Right? ;)

Another thing to celebrate this holiday season, is the engagement of my cousin Lindsay. She and her fiancé got engaged last Monday and I haven't met Connor yet, but he definitely seems like a keeper. CONGRATULATIONS LINDSAY DONALDSON AND CONNOR DRAKE!

Is this not the SWEETEST picture ever?! Way to go Connor!

So happy for you cuz!


And it was just a wonderful time of fellowship with everyone! Cousins, aunts, ucles, grandparents, friends, you get the picture. We laughed over Amanda catching her hair on fire, cried over the story of Connor's proposal to Lindsay, and just really felt the love.

Did I mention we went LINE DANCING?! So fun!

My lovely aunt and me posing for a picture on Thanksgiving

Cousin love!

I hope your Thanksgiving was as sweet as mine! And if it wasn't, Christmas is right around the corner! ;)

XOXO

Friday, November 18, 2011

It's About To Get Real Up In Here

So I was thinking about Bible times. And how something as simple as meals were so important! I mean, meals and eating are still important today, but it's not the same. Eating in Jesus' day was a time of fellowship. Meals lasted extended amounts of time and it was a time of love and laughter, friendship and fellowship. Today, we have "fast-food" everywhere. We live in a society where everything is so quick! No one has any patience, people want what they want RIGHT NOW. It's sad. It's disgusting.
I feel like friendship and fellowship in Jesus' day was so much cooler. So much more meaningful. So much was put into relationships back then. Both parties had to give. Both parties had to receive.
I feel like in our society now, people are so superficial. They ask "How are you?" But they don't really want to hear everything you're going through. They don't want you to spend 10 minutes telling them how you're REALLY doing. They just expect an "I'm good! How are you?" And they reply in the same way.
I want my relationships, my friendships, my LIFE to be meaningful. I want to share my thoughts, my feelings, my excitements, my sadness, my EVERYTHING with the people I love. I want meaning.
So over the past few months, I've really examined my "friends." I asked myself what seemed like such simple questions, "What is a friend?" and "Who are my friends?" My discoveries were shocking.
This is how I answered "What is a friend?"
  • A friend is someone who cares enough to ask me how I'm doing and not want that superficial "I'm good. How are you?" answer, but who wants the real answer. How I'm feeling. What I'm going through. My happiness. My sorrow. My struggles. My pain. My everything. And who answers my questions in the same way.
  • A friend is someone who is always there for me. No matter the day, the time, or where I am. They will always be there for me and always comfort me and have my back.
  • A friend is trustworthy, honest, loyal, kind, fun, and someone who I can share my secrets with. Someone who won't judge me for the mistakes I make, the actions I take, or words I say.
  • A friend loves.
This is how I answered "Who are my friends?"
  • Jesus
  • Nate
  • Andi
A pretty sad list right? It sure made me sad! It hurt too! All of a sudden, I had this realization that none of my friends were really friends at all. They were acquaintances. They were a good laugh and a good time. But when it came down to it, they weren't there for me when I needed them the most.

My senior year of high school was THE hardest year of my life. I suffered in my mind, body and spirit. Suffering that I couldn't expect. That I wasn't ready for. I was so taken by surprise. Hospital visit after hospital visit after hospital visit. Procedure after procedure. Betrayal, rejection, and doubt to a whole new level.

But in the pain, I found healing. In the darkness, I found light. And in the hatred, I found love. A love that never fails. A love of which I was so undeserving. I rediscovered the love of my Savior and grew more in that year than I had in my 18 years of life thus far. I found meaning in my life. I found meaning in my relationships. I found the love of my life. Jesus Christ. Who will never leave me. Never forsake me. Who will love me when I least deserve it, because He knows that's when I really need it. Who will forgive me no matter how big my mistakes. No matter how I mess up, He will ALWAYS ALWAYS ALWAYS pick me up when I fall, carry me when I can't go on, love me unconditionally, show me mercy, and forgive me.

So beautiful right?

So today, I am new. I'm not the person with the most friends in the world (as you can see from the list above) but I have come to realize that the amount of friends does not matter nearly as much as the deepness and closeness of the friends you do have.

I'm not here to tell you my life is sad. Or that I am depressed. Because it's not, and I'm not. I consider myself to be the most blessed person I know. I am so incredibly in love with my boyfriend beyond anything I ever could have imagined. I have the most amazing family in the world - they're crazy, but they're awesome. And I have developed more friendships. Real friendships. And they are blossoming and I am loving life. I can't begin to thank Jesus enough! Or Nate! Or Andi! I love you all with my whole heart and I would die for each of you anytime, any day.
XOXO