About Me

I went on a journey throughout India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Cambodia and Thailand observing organizations that are working specifically with marginalized women and children who have been or are at-risk of being trafficked as sex workers or bonded laborers. While this blog is expository, its intent is to create awareness as well as provide real-life examples of solutions! Hence, the name of the blog. Beauty is lost in these dark places. Yet, there are people hard at work redeeming human lives. Many programs create vocational training to provide income-generation for the participants. These organizations are creating beautiful products that are emerging in the western marketplace. They are shop-worthy for their uniqueness, but also because they are creating second-chances for women who are lifting themselves out of poverty. We who "have" can make a big impact in the world simply by how we choose to spend our money. Also, we can donate to organizations that are on the field, down the alleys and in the trenches. This work is not easy but the pay-off is great. Lives are redeemed and beauty is found.


The Long Winter

Yesterday, a friend of mine said, "I've been following your blog, but you haven't posted in a while." And the truth is, this white world of winter paired with being sick, well, I haven't been all too inspired to share much of my personal suffering. I'm tired of it, for one. And also, it seems so trivial in comparison to the massive suffering I witnessed in the lives of so many women I met abroad. But suffering is suffering is suffering is suffering. And in it, we all ask the same two questions, "Why?" and "How long?"

But it's true while there are no grand adventures to report, or musings from foreign lands, there is a lot going on inside. Mostly in response to this question of why. These last few months have been a wild ride, not in the "hold on to your hats and glasses" sort of way, but in the "please don't let this last forever" way. In my last post I wrote that the 4 weeks I had been home seemed almost longer than the 4 months I was abroad. That statement remains true. It's been a long winter. But I have not been left out in the cold.

When I first set up my blog, the intention was to write about beauty lost and found-- in the lives of others. My trip was to be an observation, a time of collecting, an experience. And then, it was to be a means by which to propel me towards re-ACTION. While this intent remains valid, it is playing out much differently than I could ever have foreseen. However, if I have learned anything in this time of waiting and healing and processing, it is this: I am exactly where God wants me to be. It took me three months to accept that. And the acceptance is still very much a daily exercise.

I am not naturally a patient person. Perhaps a product of my generation's instant gratification mentality. Or maybe it's just human nature. We want life to be neat, obvious and pain-free. And it is not. It never will be and we spend a lot of energy pushing against that. It is written, "Man is born in to trouble as sure as sparks fly upward". Unavoidable. It took me three months to accept that too. And, it's taken me almost 40 years to put those 2 together:

My life is not neat, obvious or pain-free, and I am exactly where God wants me to be.

This goes against a basic understanding that many of us cling to. We want to believe that if there is a God, He only allows good in the world. If bad things happen in life, we can deduce the opposite, God is mean. It goes back to the age old question that has plagued humanity since the beginning, "How can a good God let bad things happen?"

My life is not neat, obvious or pain-free, and I am exactly where God wants me to be.

And things are pretty bad. All we have to do is watch the news. Read the paper. Governments are irresponsible, people are revolting, women are raped, children are sold, corporations steal, diseases thrive, hearts are broken. The planet is running amuck. Not looking so good. Naturally, many of us run around feeling certain that if there is a God, He has abandoned us. So we abandon God. If He appears not to care, why should we? But if that's it, if that's where we stop, well I'm doomed. But...

My life is not neat, obvious or pain-free, and I am exactly where God wants me to be.

I chose to go on this 4 month journey to southern Asia. Feeling a certain amount of leading, I proceeded while knowing there would be risks. And, I loved my journey. I learned so much, met amazing people. Trip of a lifetime. But... I came back with an strange illness that has a certain amount of uncertainty, pretty crummy symptoms and a very long healing time. This was not part of my plan. I have felt and still at times feel angry, sad, lonely, frustrated. Step. Repeat. But...

My life is not neat, obvious or pain-free, and I am exactly where God wants me to be.

Sick? Yes. Do I live in a world with parasites and bacteria that are harmful for us humans? Yes. Did God allow this to happen? Yes. Can he heal me? Yes. Is He? YesSlowly. In His time. In this I can rest. In spite of it being nebulous, uncomfortable and certainly not what I define as good. God is in this mess. Exactly. I see it. I see how every day of rest is a time not just for resting, but for healing, and for idea incubation. It is a time for new forged friendships, for being surprised. It is a time to know my family in a way I never have. A time to receive and be thankful. And, I have time to dream again.

My life is not neat, obvious or pain-free, and I am exactly where God wants me to be.

Suffering. This word, this activity, this state that we so hope to avoid. It is a season. Much like winter, it too shall pass. But while it's still here. Invite it in. Question it. Get mad at it. Ask God why? He will show you. He shows me daily, mostly in unexpected ways, but He shows me, sometimes just glimpses. One that I have learned is that beauty is not just found in the terrain of other's suffering and redemption, but right here in my very own life. Yes, Beauty found.


Christmastime is Here

Exactly 4 weeks ago I returned home. In some ways, these 4 weeks have seemed longer than the 4 months spent whirl-winding around the Near and Far East. I frequently wake-up at night and think - was that really me? Was I really there? Did I really see all that? Did I really meet all those people?

Re-entry is an interesting process and while you can anticipate it, you can never plan for how you will respond. While there is much rejoicing with the reunion of family and friends, there is also a lot of mental, emotional and sometimes physical adjustment that must be given room for. This has proven to be far more challenging than I could have ever have imagined.

When you are traveling you are living "presently" while of course planning for the next destination. When you return home, particularly if you have fallen ill as I have, the frenetic planning ceases. In my case, the steadfastness of Maine life is a comfort that is incomparable. And one for which I am extremely grateful. Being on a slow mend, I am allocated to spending a lot of time resting. A year ago I wished for nothing more than a week of uninterrupted rest. Now, every day is a "forced rest" which is quite a contrast to bumping along a dusty road in a rickshaw taking in the raw world around me. So many rich memories for which I am also grateful.

2010- what a year! As I am very much in the midst of processing it, there are thousands of things that come to mind. It's one of those years that seemed to encompass several years. So much changed. As I sit here in front of the wood stove staring out over the snowy bay, I am overwhelmed at the volatility of life. How one day you can be heartlessly plodding your way to a job that you know cannot be what you were made for and then months later you are taking in a world that you feel you are made for yet feel grossly overwhelmed at the thought of that reality. So while I'm stuck in that "now and the not yet", I am grateful for the momentum that pulled me up and out of a life that while "good" was not jiving with something bigger inside my heart.

I reflect back on packing up and moving out of a city that was my home for the greater part of my 30s, and how I really haven't processed much of that. I remember driving north on 93 peering in my rear view mirror for the last look at the Tobin Bridge or the John Hancock Tower. And I acknoweldge, I'm still saying goodbye to a life and city I really loved.

I reflect back on the experiences, stories and people that lead me to a place of "no return" - resulting in the planning and launching-out of an epic adventure to the other side of the world. Reading about the problems and solutions of human-trafficking wouldn't suffice, I needed to see it with my own two eyes. To meet the women, the talk to the intervenors, to observe, to weep, to rejoice, to learn, and to dream.

I reflect back on the white smiles, the deep brown-black eyes, the long black braids, the swirling saris, the dusty sandaled feet, the healed lives, the shared cups of  tea, the most earnest prayers, the babies held, the hugs embraced and the many, many inspiring human beings I met along the way. It's all too much. Really.

The raw humanity I experienced in 4 months has left me with a broken heart. Yet not a heart without hope. May it never be. Instead, my hope is full. I have much confidence that the trafficking of human flesh is something that can be ultimately ended. I have seen strong evidence of such. While the process may be long and certainly grueling, this battle is one that the mighty God I believe in is also against. And therefore He gives renewed strength and vision to those who step out and say, "Yes, I will fight".

And so while I wait for the healing, I wait with much anticipation for what my renewed strength and vision will be. Never patient in the waiting, but convinced that this is the only way to go.  Expecting something far, far beyond my meager capacity. Sure I can "do" some "things" with my given talents, but this is work that requires something much bigger. I need the Divine in this.

Now, I wrap my blanket tighter around me, beckon my warm orange cat closer to my always cold feet, sip another steaming gulp of tea. Yes, this will be a season of contemplation. A season of mending. A season of healing. A season of learning how to trust Love. A season of learning to receive. A season of entering in to God's rest. And then, well, we cannot fathom! But for today, I have today. And for this slow season, I give thanks.

Before signing off on this eve of Christmas, I want to include this:
I met Sue Ann Heutink in India while volunteering with Made By Survivors. She is a wife, a mother of 2 grown children, grandmother of 4 and lives a contented life in up-state Washington. Last year she read an article about human-trafficking and decided that she couldn't NOT do anything. She too needed to go! And so she joined up with our group of volunteers in Kolkata. I was blessed to have her as my roommate. I just received her Christmas card and I wanted to share a paragraph that was very profound:
"I traveled to Kolkata, India in August to volunteer with The Emancipation Network at shelters housing human trafficking survivors. It opened my eyes to the extreme poverty in the world and underlined the horrendous nature of trafficking. And just experiencing such a different culture, climate and language gives one a different perspective. I am so thankful for life in the USA. Though I was once an orphan like the girls I met at the shelters, I had the opportunity to be adopted, go to school. and have a career I enjoyed for 31 years. I wasn't captive to a caste system that determined my fate. I wasn't held back by male-dominated tradition that limited my education and career options. I didn't end up begging on streets because there was no other way to survive without a male relative to take care of me. I didn't go hungry because there were no social safety nets to provide for basic needs. Though I thought I had long understood that I was fortunate to live and worship in this country, knowing is one thing while experiencing it - even for a few short weeks - is quite another."

I too have a new appreciation for freedoms I have long taken for granted. And for that too, I give thanks.

There is so much for which my heart gives thanks. I am thankful for you all, my friends and family. Those that encourage me along the way. Those that inspire me with your lives. Those that love others and show me how. Those that open up your homes to near strangers. I have so much. And, I have so much to learn. And I'm grateful to have you in the world around me. We're in this together. And for that too, I give thanks.

Peace like a river. Love like an ocean.



Well, this is where my body fell apart so I have nothing to report about the fantastic organizations that exist in Thailand, particularly those that are combating sex-tourism. Unfortunately, I spent most of my time in Thailand wrapped up in blankets staring at the ocean or meeting various doctors in Bangkok. I guess it just goes to show that we are holistic beings and there's only so much you can do before you have to tend and mend.

One morning, I was walking along the beach feeling not so great and a little lonely. At the very end of the strand of white sand, someone had written, "You will never walk alone."This proved to be a huge encouragement in the last few weeks as I struggled and continue to be challenged by figuring out what's wrong with my body. I know the doctors will figure it out and I will heal, but it helped a lot to know that even if there wasn't anyone around that I knew, I felt the presence and comfort of something bigger than me walking alongside me.

Today I fly home after 4 months of a very intense and very wonderful journey. I will never forget the people I met and the incredible stories of heart-break and redemption. I can't wait to see where this will lead, but in the meantime, there are heroes out there working hard and working smart to change things for those without a voice. There are second-chances springing up all over. But there is much, much work to be done. We as citizens of the world need to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and insist that "standing by" is not okay. Daily, there are thousands of lives in jeopardy. Together, we can make a difference. So let's!

I will keep you posted as plans develop, in the meantime, thank you all for your support, your encouragement, your prayers, your shoulders and your emails. Thank you also to all those who opened up their lives, their homes and their hearts along the way. I will never forget you.

Soli Deo Gloria!

10.31.10 *FOUND | Innovation in Cambodia

There are so many interesting projects in Cambodia changing the tide for women, men and children in sex-work  in Cambodia. Organizations are dreaming up ideas to not only provide alternative income, but to nurture blossoming futures for the next generations of Cambodia.

Will elaborate as time allows, but in the meantime, check out the links below. Three cheers for social entrepreneurs!

Bloom // www.bloomasia.org/
Future Now Cambodia // www.futurenowcambodia.com/
Friends // www.friends-international.org
Justees // www.justees.org/
Bodia Spa // www.bodia-spa.com/
Daughters of Cambodia // www.daughterscambodia.org/
Goel Community // www.aac.org.kh/goel.html
Hagar // www.hagarinternational.org/
She Home // www.sherescuehome.org/
StopStart // www.stopstart.com.au/home

10.30.10 *FOUND | Wanderlust Cambodia

This is how it's done folks -- Elizabeth Kiester is my hero! Social entrepreneurial trail blazer.
Will write more details about the shop and the visit with Elizabeth. Check back soon.
Also, here's a great little blog about her story:

10.29.10 *FOUND | Daughters of Cambodia

A wonderful experience... check back later for details.

Cambodia | history

Lots to write about here... check back soon.