Standing with an Army… #OperationChristmasChild

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#Lyricoftheday I’m in pain, I’m a child, I’m afraid
But, yeah, you understand
When I’m with you,
I’m standing with an army

Ellie Goulding- Army

As the holiday season approaches, what better way to spread Christmas Cheer than being the “army” for a child in need and giving the gift of Christmas. Presents may just be objects to us. The Operation Christmas Child project may just seem like a bunch of shoeboxes with items from the dollar tree; but to a child it sends a message that in pain, fear, and loneliness- you are not alone. There is always someone who cares. These gifts demonstrate to the children that receive them that they are not alone. That they have an army, somewhere, half-way across the globe: someone cares. And aren’t we all like children? In pain. Young. afraid. Aren’t we grateful for the times when someone has taken our hand, given us a present, reminded us of their presence and said: “I’m with you, let’s face this together.” One simple shoebox can speak such a loud message to someone in need. And while you’re at it, tell someone right next to you who needs to hear that you are here for them.  That they don’t have to stand alone, they are not on the front lines of battle without armor, without an army fighting the fear together, hand in hand, heart in heart. That is the only way we can win this war: with Love.

A small shoebox can have a big impact. What goes into the box is fun, but what comes out of it is eternal. Be a part of changing children’s lives: For more information, visit: Operation Christmas Child

but girl-you’re not old yet

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#Lyricoftheday Step by @VampireWeekend
Everyone’s dying, but girl – you’re not old yet

#Photooftheday Park Bench in #SLO , CA

Some years, it feels like days fly by so fast, before you start to really understand what this year holds for you, it is already over. I looked at the calendar the other day and wondered how fast 2015 flew by. Sometimes it feels like your finger is super-glued to the fast forward button on the remote of life and you can’t let it go, no matter how hard you try. And isn’t that the truth about life? As much as we try to avoid it, the reality is that it has an expiration date.

I came across this park bench and was so moved by this woman’s tribute to her husband, who “showed me the beauty of life and love, and gave me a safe, sweet place for my heart and spirit. A man of dignity, gentle kindness and generosity. He suffered injustice bravely.”
What a legacy to leave behind. As the days speed by, and I am one year shy of ten years younger than Scott W. Bennett, I will strive to ask myself: how do I shine the light and show others the beauty of life and love today? How can I provide a safe and sweet place for the hearts of those who I encounter, even for just a moment? How can I embody dignity, gentle kindness and generosity through my words, my thoughts, my actions. How can I suffer injustice bravely?

There is not much we can control in this life, but we can impact the world around us, and as the great poet Emily Dickinson once wrote “if I can stop one heart from breaking, I shall not live in vain.”

Dressember Challenge in Review: They say, “Stay down” and we stand up. King pointed to the mountain top and we ran up

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Lyric of the Day:
They Say, “Stay Down” and we stand up.
King pointed to the mountain top and we ran up.

John Legend “Glory” from the movie Selma

Dressembers Day 22-31 🙂

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January 11, 2015. National Human Trafficking Day. The day to bring awareness on this issue of slavery that our forefathers fought 200 years ago. That we are still fighting today. Today I reflected on the challenge I embarked on one month ago, that changed my life in many ways. Changed my perspective on activism and raising awareness. Changed my perspective on my role in advocating. But most of all, changed my perspective on how this issue of human trafficking has more to do with the underlying problems of injustice that plague all the issues we face in our world today.
With this in mind today, I was especially touched by several moments at the Golden Globes which brought to light the importance of restoring the dignity of people and especially the cause against unequal treatment and oppression toward women. Issues of Restoring Dignity. Of Equal Rights and Respect for Women. Of giving a voice to the oppressed. Of justice and civil rights and being a brother of courage in the face of evil.
Once we address these underlying issues happening in our workplaces, our homes, our relationships and our hearts we will find that the larger issues and injustices facing us in a global and sociological sense will heal themselves. Let us run to the mountaintop that Martin Luther King Jr. pointed to, laying aside all hindrances and fear. Stand up against the injustice in your world, and the injustice in another’s will feel your light. Your courage is contagious, like the courage of these actors, who chose to use their moment in the spotlight to shed light on the injustice in another’s:
1. On women who have experienced the horrific injustice of rape: Actor Joanne Froggat, who plays one of my favorite characters of all time Anna from Downton Abbey, won the season in which her character was raped and she played a rape survivor dealing with the trauma of the aftermath of this injustice which so many women struggle with. She recognized the thousands of letters she received from survivors of rape who just wanted to be heard and gave their voices the spotlight of the world. “One woman summed up the thoughts of many by saying she wasn’t sure why she’d written but she just felt in some way she wanted to be heard. I’d like to say, I heard you and I hope saying this so publicly in some way means you feel the world hears you.”
2. On the strength of women:  Amy Adams recognizes her character’s “quiet voice and strong heart, and her ability to use her voice.” and thanked her own husband “who would never silence my voice”.
3. On the injustice of slavery: Common reminded us that “Selma is now” and “we stand in solitary for those fighting for justice right now.”
4. On the role of women in this industry: Maggie Gyllenhaal recognizes that the wealth of roles for actual (genuine) women in TV and in Film is revolutionary.
5. On the classiest human rights activist couple in the room: Amal Clooney being recognized for her incredible work in human’s rights while “her husband” gets a lifetime achievement award lol… and to take from his video montage:
“we have to continue to fight this fight and the best way to do it is shining a light on the atrocities. Making it harder for the bad guys to get away with it and harder for the good guys to ignore it.”
Let’s all be known as being the brother of courage and stand together against trafficking, genocide and all other injustice. No matter our position. I was humbled by this experience, thank you for your support and encourage you to never be silent about what matters and what is wrong in this world. Whether it takes wearing a dress, or using your voice: do something.
“I always thought, someone should do something about that, until I realized: I am someone”.
Thank you for all your support. You can still visit my fundraising page until the end of this month: https://support.dressemberfoundation.org/fundraise?fcid=372170
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter”- Martin Luther King Jr.
“If slavery is not wrong, nothing is wrong.”- Abraham Lincoln.

DressemberDay3_ With Candy Canes & Silver Lanes Aglow

Lyric of the day:

With Candy Canes & Silver Lanes Aglow… It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas

By Meredith Wilson

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Dressember Day #3

Dress by Papaya

Boots by Steve Madden

I love old references in Christmas songs. The ones that make you question “what actually is figgy pudding?” and “who are Currier and Ives?” and doing the research to see what Christmas looked like fifty years ago and the meaning behind these references.

In Meredith Wilson’s, “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas”, a black friday favorite to be sure that carries a subliminal message somewhere along the lines of “GET THOSE GIFTS BEFORE SOMEONE ELSE DOES BECAUSE IT’S NOVEMBER 1 AND YOU’RE ALREADY LATE”, the lyrics of the first verse go:

“Take a look at the Five and Ten. Glistening once again.

With Candy Canes and Silver Lanes Aglow” 

If you’re anything like me you may be wondering, what exactly is a “Five and Ten”. And if you’re anything like me and live in L.A. you’re probably thinking the glistening refers to the traffic when you are merging on the 5 freeway from the 10 #trafficjoke haha. So I did some research, and the 5 and 10 is in reference to the 1950s version of the Dollar Tree, also known as the “Nickel & Dime” store, these stores would sell items for, 5 and 10 cents. Such a steal right?! Those bargain shopping baby boomers…

This lyric shows quite a contrast between the current world we live in and the one they were living in back then. A world where there was joy in simplicity, the decorations at the corner “5 & 10” were enough . Candy Canes. Silver Lanes. The simple pleasures of the season are what brought joy, reminded them of the love of family and friends and ultimately were the icing on top of the cake of Christmas, it seems they had their priorities straight in contrast to our twisted modern day and age where if you’re not buying your toddler the new iPhone 6s(plus, minus, multiply…etc. etc.), you don’t love them enough. Or you may be missing the hype and not really experiencing the “reason for the season” like the rest of our consumer culture.

I paid exactly ten dollars for the dress I wore today for the Dressember Challenge Day #3 (could have bought it at the 5 & 10 back then 😉 And it was ironic today that the lyric that stood out to me was one that spoke to what exactly  makes this season special. What does it mean to “look” like Christmas? One of the reasons I embarked on this challenge because I wanted to add meaning to this month in a way I never had before. This is my favorite holiday and I have always enjoyed every part of it… but is that what Christmas is about? Enjoying family, friends, decorations, food? That’s all a part of what makes this season so special and I think we should most certainly embrace it. But if the true reason for the season is celebrating Christ’s love for us and that He humbled Himself to be born in a manger and grow up to die for every wrong thing you and I have ever done, this season has to be less about buying and more about being there for each other. This season can’t solely be about individual enjoyment. It has to be more about being the kind of people that we would want others to be for us. We must have a giving heart, make our focus on people not on things and allow the “things” to be seen only as an additional blessing we are fortunate enough to have help facilitate the sharing of the ultimate gift of Love we’ve received and are called to share, paying it forward this season and always.

They don’t call this the “season of giving” for no reason. Yesterday was “Giving Tuesday”, and if you feel so inclined to partner with me this Christmas in ending modern day slavery– find it in your heart to give. If you don’t feel called in this way, I support you to find a cause you’re passionate about and give this season. Donate your old clothes to the Salvation Army. Volunteer at a homeless shelter or a food bank.  Even if it’s not monetary. Even a 5 or 10 will make a world of difference… 5 minutes of your time for a friend who’s struggling, 10 minutes talking to an elderly loved one far away. If you look for ways to give, then it will truly begin to look a lot more like Christmas.

Love is Christmas

“Love is who we are, and no season could contain it. Love would never fall for that.
Let Love lead us, Love is Christmas.” – Sara Bareilles

My favorite quote from A Christmas Carol (one of my favorite Christmas movies) is: “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach. Oh, tell me I may sponge away the writing on this stone!”– The Genius Charles Dickens.

Christmas is my favorite holiday. And I know I’m not alone in this. I think we all love Christmas because it’s become more than just a day, a season or a reason to buy things. Christmas represents an emotion, a feeling, a belief. During a cold season, the idea of the warmth of things such as love, generosity, compassion on those in need stirs in us a passion to prioritize our lives. To make the things that matter, matter. To reach for a higher potential in the relational areas of our lives than perhaps we do all the year round.

Things like love, cheer, joy, peace all make their way to the forefront during this season. They are the stars of the Christmas pageant of our society. It all of a sudden becomes popular to be generous, give to charities, give to others, make amends with people we haven’t spoken to for a while, find the courage to express our feelings and our love for others. But then it seems that once the season ends, we wrap all of those things up like we do the ornaments on January 2nd and put them in boxes in our garage until next year. We start focusing on the things that don’t matter as much and worrying about our jobs, our appearance, our status in the world. And we wonder, what happened to Christmas?

This song by Sara B. is so beautiful to me in many ways. It speaks to the heart of Christmas, which is Love. And Love is a person who embodies the reason we celebrate. He was born in a manger and His name is Jesus and although this world has tried to remove Him from His own birthday (X-mas?) and tried to make us forget by saying that the things we feel during Christmas are “only Christmas feelings” and things we can only feel from December 1-December 25. Jesus has come so that we can have life “abundantly” All of life. Whether it be 365 days we are alive for 365,365 days. Every day can be Christmas because Jesus is the reason for the season but He cannot be contained in a season.

He is Love. And the reason we forget all of the things we love about Christmas once the new year rolls around is because we forget Him. And the reason He came. We can never know all of the beautiful things He brings without knowing Him for more than a little story we tell to kids in a Sunday School class. If you don’t know Jesus, you’re crashing His birthday by celebrating Christmas. You’re getting a little Christmas favor as you leave and some eggnog with cookies but never getting to live in the continual Christmas party of His Love. And you return home with a small and unsatisfying glimpse of a few hours with the advantages of knowing Him, but it does not last.

The only way to feel the Love of Christmas in your heart and keep it all the year round is to know the Reason for this season. And He is Love. Unending, unfailing Love. That cannot be contained by a season, a lifetime, a culture, a world. It is the free gift for everyone this year. Open it, share it with others and your life will be a celebration of Christmas that never ends.

The Garden of Beautiful People

“It can’t be possible, that the ran can fall
only when it’s over our heads”. – One Republic “All the Right Moves”

Have you ever felt like you’re the only person that can possible be going through what you’re going through or feeling what you’re feeling? There are so many people in the world, but so many ways to still feel alone. I’ve always thought it’s interesting that rain has become synonymous with “hard times” and sunshine with “happy times”. In some ways I agree, (I’m not the biggest fain of rain, like this morning when I was trying to get out of my car with my umbrella and my car door almost slammed the umbrella in my face… or when important papers fell out of my binder onto the wet concrete, yeah that was fun… I’m not bitter, promise. 😉 But rain is also essential. Especially essential to growth because without it… plants would never grow. It may not be our favorite thing, it may make a mess of things but we should not, “never” want rain. In the same way, we should never always want sunshine because with only sunshine… things die. Plants die, and parts of us die along with the earth.

I hope you see where I’m going with this analogy. Most of us never want to go through difficulties and would always prefer to be happy and feel the sun on our face and just get everything we ever want.. happily ever after, living the dream, etc. But the reality of it is, if we always experienced the good things, we would not have the character and growth to be beautiful in the experience of them The definition of getting everything you want is spoiled. And no one likes a spoiled kid because they aren’t learning anything. And the truth is you’re not going to get everything you want in life, which we all know. But the more important truth is that even if you did get everything you wanted it probably wouldn’t be everything you wanted anyway. You wouldn’t be who you thought you would be when you got the car, the dream job, the girl or boy, the house. Because the things we want are just representations of the reality of what we want, the material possessions just represent our human needs and desires. Getting a new job represents purpose and provision. Having a significant other represents love and freedom from loneliness. Getting that new sweater, purse, lipstick, face, body represents a deep desire we have to be loved, beautiful, noticed, worthy.

In the end all the material things we want never truly last or fulfill the deep longings of our heart. We must go to the the One who created us and knows what we want and exactly how to fulfill them. And we are never alone in our struggle. It feels like the rain is only falling on us, like we’re the only one with the broken heart, the failed dream, the unvalued beauty. But the truth is, you’re not alone. Look around you, see the garden of beautiful people. All growing, all living, all experiencing the rain and the change and the loss and the love.

The rain’s on us all but the sun will be too.

“I never said thank you for that, thought I might get one more chance… “

What would you think of me now,
so lucky, so strong so proud.
I never said thank you for that,
now I’ll never have the chance”– Jimmy Eat World “Hear You Me”

There are no words regretted like those left unsaid. This phrase and feeling has been repeated, rephrased and framed on the walls of the poetry/arts “hall of fame” since the formation of language. Usually, it’s in the context of not telling someone you love them, and then losing the chance. I read an article last week written by a nurse who had compiled the top 5 regrets of people on their death bed and number three was some variation of wishing they had the courage to express what they were feeling. I think I would include, wishing that they had seized the opportunity to express what they were feeling. I like to think of it as the most important time management of your life you will ever engage in. Isn’t the excuse for everything these days… “I’m too busy?” Too busy to write a kind note, leave a small voicemail, write a nice text, bake a tasty meal. We just don’t have the time.

For as many mean thoughts and words are created and expressed throughout the world, I think there are as many non-expressed kind thoughts and words that we are holding in or thinking “we don’t have time for”. If you disagree with me, think of your day today: How many times did you think “Wow, I love that girl’s smile” or “Thank you for letting my car go in front of yours in the bumper to bumper traffic” (A true rarity for us Los Angeleans). And yet, how many times do we actually say it to that person, or wave and express the gratitude to the car behind us? I would challenge you to think about all the kind thoughts you have, that you are hesitant to express. Or maybe too cynical to give a second thought to? We think, “Carl was really nice to me at work today” and before we can say the word kindness the automatic second thought is “I wonder what he wants”. Maybe we avoid saying thank you because we’re too busy judging motives.

Or maybe it’s because you don’t know the person and walking up to them and telling them they have beautiful eyes may (in some area codes) be sufficiently creepy and warrant a stalker arrest. But maybe you do have the opportunity, to say thank you to “Suzy” for ringing up your groceries (they do wear name tags for a reason by the way: use their names!) Yes it’s Suzy’s job, and yes you may have waited 15 extra minutes because she was chatting with Joe the bag-person the whole time but nevertheless: you and Suzy have interacted. You have connected in some way, and she has, as small of a role as it may be, affected change in your life. There is something to be thankful for to Suzy. There is something to be said.

After all, we are on this earth, living these lives together for a reason. No one is an island. We all can help and support each other and we all need help and support. And the more thankful we are for it, the more we will probably get. And the more we get the help, the more we give.

There is always something to be thankful for, so let’s vow to not live a life in which we can think back and say “I never said thank you for that, now I’ll never have the chance”. Because the truly scary thing is that if you don’t make it a habit to recognize and be thankful for the small things, you may be missing the big things. The big thank yous. The thank you for the parent who was on your side no matter what, even if you were wrong. The thank you for the friend whose shoulder you cried on and stained black with your mascara after the big break-up. The way your co-worker stood up for you instead of throwing you under the bus in front of your boss. To the ones who were there for you: in the heartache, pain, sweat, tears. That helped you grow into the “lucky, strong, and proud” person you are today.

Say thank you for that, you never know when you won’t have the chance.

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