A Slave’s Story. Part One. Sold and Trafficked.


Hi, my name is Anna.

Привет, меня зовут Анна

I’m 15.  Up until the time that I’m telling you this story, I’ve lived with my mother in St. Petersburg, Russia.  This has always been my home.

Things have never been easy for us.  I don’t know my father, he’s not around, and my mother has had to work as a prostitute just to feed us.  She’s been doing this for as long as I can remember.  It’s hard on her.  There aren’t words for it, really.  She sells herself to feed me and my three younger siblings, and it breaks my heart.

I want more than this for her, for my family, and for me, but I’m not sure how to get it.  When I was 13 years old, I dropped out of school to work at a local bread shop.  It doesn’t make much.  Most weeks it barely feeds us…. but it helps.  That’s all that matters.  I wish I could do more.

I work every day.  It’s not a difficult job, I would never complain.  I just wish I could make more money.

One day as I was finishing at the bread shop, I was thinking… always thinking… about what I could do more to help.  I’m old enough now that this is partly my responsibility, too.  I walked home a little slower that day than I usually do.  I couldn’t tell you why, but I walked home slowly enough that as I was walking past a store I’d never really noticed before, I saw a sign in the window.

A free trip to America to work as a nanny.  It would pay $1000.00 USD per MONTH!  I can’t fathom that much money.  I’ve never seen so much in one place at one time in my life.  This would be unbelievable.  What my mother could do with $1000.00 US per month is unimaginable, I just couldn’t wrap my mind around it.

I stood outside the window for a long, long time.  I wrung my hands and I thought.  Hard.  It would break my mother’s heart if I left Russia for America.  Russia is all I’ve ever known.  Is this possible?  Could I really do this?  I was so nervous.  I started to tremble and I felt slightly nauseous.

I walked into the store hesitantly and was greeted by a storekeeper who helped me apply.  It felt too good to be true, the whole time.  It made me wonder what could possibly be wrong with this.  Was there a catch?  Are there no qualified nannies in America?  What use could I be?  A 15 year old Russian girl who speaks no English?  But I pushed the thoughts out of my mind as I finished my application.  Catch or not, it’s $1000.00 per month, and my family couldn’t afford for me not to try.  For that much money, my mother could end her career as a prostitute in search of something that made less money, but didn’t kill her soul in the process.  Something she could be proud of.

Two days later, I handed my passport over to a man who told me that he would take care of all of the details of my flight to America.  It made me incredibly nervous to hand over my passport.  I’d always been taught that it was precious, that it was mine and only mine, and that I should never let it out of my sight.  But if it needed to be done….

I showed up with one bag packed.  I didn’t own much, anyway.  I’ve never needed much.  Just a little bit more than what I’ve always had.  Saying goodbye to my mother and my siblings was agonizing.  It’s the most difficult thing I’ve ever had to do.  I knew though, that I had no choice.  I had to go.  It was this, or we would continue in this cycle that for many people in situations like ours simply never ends.

I burst into tears.  My mother hugged me.  My siblings begged me not to go.  I told them that I loved them, that I would write, and that I would send money, and we would see each other again.  I begged them not to worry about me.  Things were going to be different soon.

The man who’d taken my passport told me it was time to go, and I boarded the bus that was to take me to the airport, and then on to America.  I wasn’t alone, there were four other teenaged girls on the bus with me.  We started to chatter about what we thought America would be like, and what a difference we’d be making in the lives of our families.  We’d all seen the same posting in the same shop window.  None of us asked what I was sure we were all thinking… “Why does America need five teenaged nannies from Russia?”  We were just so thrilled.

It didn’t take me long to realize that this whole arrangement was, in fact, too good to be true.  The chatter on the bus stopped when we didn’t go to the airport.  When we crossed the border into China.  We started to ask questions, but we were ignored.  We were scared, we were hungry.  We asked for food and they gave us hardly anything.

My nightmare technically began the moment I walked into that shop, but the moment I realized that I was truly in terrifying trouble was when the Russian man driving the bus stopped, picked up a Chinese man, and handed over our passports in exchange for a wad of money.  The Chinese man was now riding at the front of the bus, staring at us intermittently, smiling in a way I’d never seen a man smile, holding our passports.  Something was very, very wrong.

To be continued……

So, here’s the deal.  As I’ve mentioned, I’m now a part of this blogging team for The Exodus Road.  I told you when I told you about this opportunity, one that allows me to write about something other than myself, that when I had more information from them, I would post.

They’ve given an opportunity in their most recent newsletter for their bloggers to take a few different angles at the information that they’ve given us.  One such angle is what I did above — telling Anna’s story creatively in four parts.  While I haven’t a clue what it’s like to be stolen from my family or taken advantage of at such a shocking level, I’ve done my best above (mostly through the information I was given) to try to think about how 15 year old Anna might be feeling as she was sold into the hands of a man in China, wondering whether or not she’d ever get home, when all she wanted to do was to go to America and try to find better circumstances for them.

It kills me to think of how often this happens.

One of the other ways they offered as a suggestion for us to post some of this information was to give you, our readers, some statistics and facts.

So here are some.  Because I found for me, being decent at creative writing, I can string a story together… I can work with the character I’ve been given… but it wasn’t until I got to the bottom of the email with the factual information about the modern day slave trade that my heart began to hurt.

Here are some links or facts you might find interesting.

About Asia and the Sex Industry:

According to the International Labor Organization, four Asian countries depend on the sex industry for 2% to as high as 14% of their economies. UNICEF reports in The State of the Worlds Children 2012, that out of the 2.5 million people trafficked in the world it is estimated that 22 – 50 percent of them are children.  Of those trafficked some studies show that most trafficked underage women are used in the sex industry. The UNODC’s report: Global report on trafficking in persons 2012 states that much of that activity happens in SE Asia.

– Facts compiled by a recent Exodus Road blogger who traveled to Asia and saw these things First Hand.  I have taken these facts right from the newsletter that was sent to me.  I’ve given credit where the links were provided to me.

{My inserted opinion:  That’s a shocking number!  That’s 550,000-1,250,000 CHILDREN being sold and trafficked.  If my math is correct.  Not that human trafficking is OK if it’s adults, or any less heinous… just… those poor children.  It makes my heart sad.}

About Trafficking in the US:

In the United States, the number of trafficking victims is roughly equivalent to the number of murders each year, according to “The Slave Next Door” by Kevin Bales. And while 90 percent of murder cases are solved, only 1 percent of trafficking cases ever reach prosecution. – CNN Freedom Project

About the Money Slavery Generates: (From CNN Freedom Project – The Facts.  {This is shocking.  These numbers are gut-wrenching.  I had no idea….})

freedom.number.t1larg.4.ok

Here’s where I’m at a loss for words.  And if you know me personally, you know that doesn’t happen often…. even if you only know me through my writing, I’m sure you can assume I can yammer with the best of folks…. but here I truly don’t know what to say, because I don’t know what to do.  For now, my job is to be a voice.  And a voice to you I have been… and will continue to be.  Want to find out what happens to Anna?  You’ll have to wait for parts 2, 3, and 4… I don’t have that information yet, or I would tell you right now.  I really want to know, and I can’t wait to tell you.

One way the people at Exodus Road have suggested we can do something is to buy a t-shirt.  I know, it sounds so trivial.  But 100% of the profits from the sale of this tshirt go directly into the field to help fund operations and rescue missions.  Check out a bit of a mission statement from Justin, a guy who is doing a ton of work with Exodus Road.

Check out the tshirt!

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Go to the link above if you’d like to get yourself one of these snazzy shirts.  Limited time only.

I’ll leave you with this.

Isaiah 58:1-14  The Message

I picked The Message because, while it’s not my favourite translation (you may have noticed that I favour the NLT), it packs a pretty powerful punch here.  Check it out.

1-3 “Shout! A full-throated shout!
Hold nothing back—a trumpet-blast shout!
Tell my people what’s wrong with their lives,
face my family Jacob with their sins!
They’re busy, busy, busy at worship,
and love studying all about me.
To all appearances they’re a nation of right-living people—
law-abiding, God-honoring.
They ask me, ‘What’s the right thing to do?’
and love having me on their side.
But they also complain,
‘Why do we fast and you don’t look our way?
Why do we humble ourselves and you don’t even notice?’

3-5 “Well, here’s why:

“The bottom line on your ‘fast days’ is profit.
You drive your employees much too hard.
You fast, but at the same time you bicker and fight.
You fast, but you swing a mean fist.
The kind of fasting you do
won’t get your prayers off the ground.
Do you think this is the kind of fast day I’m after:
a day to show off humility?
To put on a pious long face
and parade around solemnly in black?
Do you call that fasting,
a fast day that I, God, would like?

6-9 “This is the kind of fast day I’m after:
to break the chains of injustice,
get rid of exploitation in the workplace,
free the oppressed,
cancel debts.
What I’m interested in seeing you do is:
sharing your food with the hungry,
inviting the homeless poor into your homes,
putting clothes on the shivering ill-clad,
being available to your own families.
Do this and the lights will turn on,
and your lives will turn around at once.
Your righteousness will pave your way.
The God of glory will secure your passage.
Then when you pray, God will answer.
You’ll call out for help and I’ll say, ‘Here I am.’

9-12 “If you get rid of unfair practices,
quit blaming victims,
quit gossiping about other people’s sins,
If you are generous with the hungry
and start giving yourselves to the down-and-out,
Your lives will begin to glow in the darkness,
your shadowed lives will be bathed in sunlight.
I will always show you where to go.
I’ll give you a full life in the emptiest of places—
firm muscles, strong bones.
You’ll be like a well-watered garden,
a gurgling spring that never runs dry.
You’ll use the old rubble of past lives to build anew,
rebuild the foundations from out of your past.
You’ll be known as those who can fix anything,
restore old ruins, rebuild and renovate,
make the community livable again.

13-14 “If you watch your step on the Sabbath
and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
God’s holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’
making money, running here and there—
Then you’ll be free to enjoy God!
Oh, I’ll make you ride high and soar above it all.
I’ll make you feast on the inheritance of your ancestor Jacob.”
Yes! God says so!

That’s it… please follow and stay tuned for the rest of Anna’s story.

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The Chinese Food Mishap


So… in a recent blog post I talked about this book I’ve been reading, Made To Crave by Lysa TerKeurst.  I talked about how she cites 1 Corinthians 10:23 as her ability to remind herself that not all food choices are good ones.  “You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’–but not everything is good for you. You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’–but not everything is beneficial. (NLT)”

Another good one, 1 Corinthians 6:12, takes it a little bit farther:  “You say, ‘I am allowed to do anything’–but not everything is good for you. And even though ‘I am allowed to do anything,’ I must not become a slave to anything.”

I thought to myself… this is great.  I will use this.  I love it!

And in fact, I do.  I love the idea of it.  Until it comes to saying “that’s not beneficial” to something I want.

I’m getting stuck on the permissible part.  The “I’m allowed to do anything” part.  And I’m losing the “but it’s not beneficial and I can’t become a slave to it” part.

“I’m allowed, and it’s only this one time.”

Tonight, I wanted Chinese Food.  Actually, for the last probably week I have wanted Chinese Food.  Every single night.  The craving has not gone away.  I have prayed about it.  I have quoted 1 Corinthians 10:23 in hopes that that would magically give me some willpower… and it did, for a few days.  I gave in tonight.  Not out of some sense of rationalization that I’d work out later and it’d make it ok, or that I’d been good this week (I haven’t, really…. so that’d be a lie anyway), or that I had a bad day and I needed it (I had a pretty good day, actually).  I just really wanted Chinese food.  It tastes good.

But I forgot one little tiny tidbit that I ALWAYS seem to forget about Chinese food.

I feel like garbage within an hour of eating it.  Every.  Single.  Time.  No exceptions.  I can’t remember the last time I ate Chinese food and didn’t regret it.  It’s been years.

Granted, I know that a huge part of this is because I certainly don’t choose remotely healthy options at all when I order Chinese.  Chicken Fried Rice, an Egg Roll, Sesame Chicken, a can of Sprite, and a fortune cookie are a surefire recipe for gut rot.

And…. let me tell you…. I feel like garbage.

So my prayer tonight… as I sit in bed, feeling like I have a ball of gross indigestible lead in my stomach… with writer’s angst knowing that I won’t sleep if I don’t get this out…. is that next time I crave Chinese food, and I am able to ignore the craving for 3 days, that means that it’s not something I need… and I hope and pray that I can remember this unsettled, gross, headachey feeling that has come from my poor choice.  Natural consequences, peeps… I preach them at my students, and yet here I sit, suffering from them.  Irony, that’s what that is.

I can’t say that in avoiding what I was craving the past 3 days I’ve made better choices.  Kraft Dinner and hot dogs the one night sure didn’t win me any awards…  That choice I justified with “it’s report card food.”

Sure.  If I need mechanically separated chicken parts, pasta, and radioactive powdered cheese sauce to get me through report cards, I guess there’s more wrong with Ontario’s education system than I originally thought, haha.

But at least I didn’t feel like a trash disposal exploded in my insides.

Please, everyone reading this, never let me eat Chinese food again.

Except maybe egg rolls…. they’re worth the sore stomach.  BAD!

So here’s the application point of all of this.  I’m about halfway through the book, where TerKeurst is making a case for what to do when you’re on vacation/in special situations… do you give in?

Everything is permissible, right?

Well, sure… if you can have it without it leading to wanting more and more of it and the cravings coming right back.  I am realizing, as I did the first time I lost weight (but the wrong way and for the wrong reasons) that it is entirely possible, as much as I hate the idea, that there are some things I may just not be able to eat.

I feel like I should start an Instagram food diary and post everything I eat… haha that’ll make me think twice before I eat ANYTHING!  Also… that is the purpose of Instagram, is it not?  :p

Anyway, off to bed with me… I’ve said my piece.

Stay tuned Friday or Saturday for a slave trade blog like I said I’d be starting in my most recent post, Some Exciting News!  I finally feel like I have enough info to do the very first one justice, and I’m excited to see how it’ll pan out, but I want to give it more time than the chunk of time where you’re at that “I should have been asleep an hour ago” spot…. especially since I took the night off of report cards, to…. fall asleep in front of the television.  It was golden, let me tell you.  It was probably largely due to the Chinese Food Coma though, let’s be real here.

 

Some Exciting News


If you’ve been following my blog for any length of time, you’ll know that lately I’ve been feeling angsty (obviously this is not a word) about a lot of things.

Angsty for the most part about work — feeling like I’ve been stuck between a rock and a hard place in between the Province and my Union.  I’ve been feeling I should just give up teaching and write, because we all know I love doing this.

I know deep inside of me that this is not practical, that God has put me in these schools for a reason, and that I am doing what needs to be done — teaching and influencing the lives of children.  I’ve thought on numerous occasions about switching to private education, but I know that’s not my passion.  I know my passion is these kids in public schools who’ve had French teacher after French teacher after French teacher, who need someone who genuinely cares that they learn the language.  I’m not saying that the French teachers before me didn’t care, but I know that consistency is important when learning a language…. or anything, really.  Furthermore, I know that as a single income household, I can’t afford to pay my bills on what a private school pays, and I’m fine with that.  I know I’m where I should be, I just don’t always like it as much as I should.  But that’s more of an attitude check than anything else.  I like it a lot more when I’m giving it up continually and trusting God with EVERYTHING… every part of my job and my life.

So this exciting thing… a friend of mine posted a link to her Facebook wall — the story of a girl named Sarah (whose name I’m quite sure has been changed).  Sarah is a 15 year old rescued from a Brothel in Cambodia.  I’m not going to do the story justice summarizing it, you need to read it here.  Read:  need to read it.  What an incredible story about the movements of God and what happens when we trust His timing.

You see, I’ve been fooled for years.  I have a history degree, I’ve studied slavery.  I’ve read about human trafficking, selling human beings into slavery, and read about how awful it was, how peoples’ lives were ruined, and how people were dragged from their homes, from their families.  It was history.  I was studying it because it happened.  In my brain it happened a long time ago.  And I’ve lived in this comfortable bubble where things are OK, and I’m comfy, and I liked that.  But again, if you’ve been reading along with me these past few months, you know that I’ve been anything but OK with being comfortable, and that God is shoving me out of my comfort zone in about every way I can think of.

I watched the movie Lincoln in November, and I can remember thinking how glad I am that slavery is over (epic movie, by the way).  But it hit me in talking about the movie later with someone, that slavery isn’t over.  It still happens.  It still happens even in North America.  I’m just blinded to it because I’m comfortable and I’ve liked that.

Excellent quote from Lincoln himself that I found in my stash of Exodus Road resources:  “Whenever I hear anyone arguing for slavery, I feel a strong impulse to see it tried on him personally.”

And another:  “Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.”

Then I watched Les Miserables over Christmas Break.  And I know, it’s 18th Century France, and slavery was the punishment for crime in a country that didn’t have enough of a workforce to do the work they needed done, it’s “different.”  I don’t care.  Slavery sucks.  And it’s time it came into the light, was exposed, and goes away!

So I’m running around in circles here.  The exciting thing is that The Exodus Road has a blogger program.  They want bloggers with a passion for writing who also have a passion for bringing the issues of slavery and human trafficking to light to blog about issues they send us, and I applied, and was accepted to be one such blogger.  I am so very excited to have a reason to write other than to blow off steam, which, don’t worry, I’ll still do…. and I’m so excited to shed light on a topic that needs so much of it.  Please keep reading.  Please share my posts when they come up….. at least the ones about trafficking and slavery.

Stay tuned for info as I receive it, that Exodus Road wants me to share.

Singleness is not a disease, nor a curse, nor an affliction…. nor is it a problem of mine crying out for others to solve.


But this is the way it feels, sometimes, no?

“So, are you seeing anyone?”

“Nope, it’s just me.”

“Oh.”

There’s disappointment (very) thinly veiled in the voices and on the faces of some who ask.  It’s like they want to tell you they’re sorry, like you’ve lost a loved one, but different, because you never had the loved one in the first place.

I was on the phone once, I can’t remember who with, it was some company of some sort.  Insurance, I think, getting stuff sorted out when purchasing my home.  I had pretty much the above conversation…. but with a complete stranger.  Only she actually said “I’m sorry.”

I’d like to know why there are some people who feel sorry for me?

While it is not a choice I’ve made at present to be single, it’s not something I necessarily feel entitled to “get out of” either.  At some point, if it’s in the cards, I’d love to get married.  To a loving, God-fearing husband who’s willing to lead our household wisely leaning on God for full support, and me second, and who will love me the way Christ loved the church.  It’s a high calling.  I refuse to settle.  I’ve watched too many disasters that come of settling.

It’s become pretty clear to me lately that this is even something we struggle to talk about in the church.  I don’t like to talk about it to real-life people with faces.  (I’ve already shared that I clearly have no problem dumping myself out through writing but you’d never get this out of me in person.)  It’s tough, and I get why.  It’s not that there’s NO place for me, because that’s not true.  Any time that I’ve asserted that, it’s been me doing my own Israelite style complaining (see Exodus 14, what a passage to hit me with this week, goodness…).  There are plenty of places for me to fit, belong, do good, and to be done good for (that is some awful, awful sentence structuring… you know what?  I don’t care.  I’m leaving it.).  What I see though is that there’s a bit of a disconnect between people who are willing to talk about it and people who can talk about it.

Let me try to explain.

I don’t like to talk about it because I find it turns into this “what are you doing about it?” as if it were some affliction that I could fix.  It was suggested to me yesterday that a husband would be the solution to a bit of a financial hiccup I was talking about to someone else.  Stellar — get a husband to pay my bills.  Riiiight.

Here’s what I’m doing about it.  I’m keeping an open mind.  God works in weird, wonderful, and wacky ways sometimes.  I don’t necessarily expect that if this will happen for me, it will happen in a conventional way and I will as such keep my mind open to possibilities.  I am refusing to see my singleness as a curse.  It very much is not.  There are many things I can do while single that I don’t know if I’ll be able to do while married.  For example, I can make decisions that don’t require the input of another person regarding finances, life decisions, etc.  I’m praying about it.  I’m praying that God will make me the woman He wants me to be so that if He wants me married, I’ll be the wife He wants me to be.  I’m praying that if God wants me married, He would also mold my future husband into the man and husband He wants him to be.  I’m expressing the desires of my heart because I don’t think this is an unhealthy desire.  While I’m content with my life and I’m happy with what I have, I don’t think it’s wrong to desire marriage.

Here’s one other very important thing I’m doing:

I’m keeping my standards high.  I have seen so many times singleness in the late 20s and later start to turn into desperation.  “He’s single, I like him.”  Single with a job…. those are not enough for me.  Those are important, don’t get me wrong.  Any guy I would date must be single, and should have a job.  But is that where I should stop?  NO!  I imagine if my standards for myself were that low, I’d have no trouble finding a husband, in fact I’d likely already be unhappily married.

Does this make me picky?

Perhaps.

But when it comes to a husband, is picky (in moderation of course) a bad thing?

My take on this is:  Singleness is not a disease, nor a curse, nor an affliction that I need someone else to fix for me.  If God has it in His plan for me, then it WILL happen.  I have faith in that, a secure hope, knowing that God’s plans for me are good.  Do I expect though, as has been suggested to me, that if I don’t ever get married, that desire will just go away?  No, not necessarily.  I think the desire for marriage is good, as long as it doesn’t become an idol.  But there are so many things this could be said for.  Food is good, as long as it isn’t an idol.  Earning money is good, as long as it isn’t an idol.  Desiring marriage is good, as long as it isn’t an idol.  I do not desire marriage more than a deeper relationship with my Saviour.  Do I believe, as I’ve been told, that if I just get my relationship with God right, this will happen for me?  Not necessarily.  There are many people who have zero relationship with Christ, and yet still managed to get married.  This alone is proof to the contrary for me.  We were never promised marriage, nor were we ever given a checklist of things we must do before we can have it.  If I were to put aside my desire for a strong, Godly marriage and want a mere marriage, I could probably have one in the not-so-distant future, but I am not willing to compromise in this area.

What I wish I could see in the church, for myself, is women willing to be raw with this.  It’s painful for me sometimes, that it hasn’t happened yet.  Sometimes it does feel like a bit of a mourning for something I never had.  I don’t know whether that’s right or not, but it’s true.  What I don’t need is yet another “your time will come.”  What I don’t need is yet another “get your relationship with God in better standing, and it’ll happen.”  And what I really don’t need is advice that is poorly thought through, like “if you get a husband, then you’re not the only one paying bills.”  I need someone to just listen.  Someone to just understand that some days this isn’t fun, but that other days it doesn’t bother me one bit, and others still I’m perfectly happy with it.  After a long day at work where not a single kid has listened to me, let me tell you, it sure is nice to come home to an empty house void of anything alive but a wonderfully lovingly devoted dog who will curl up next to me on the couch and just snore her cute little snores while keeping me toasty warm.  I have no one else to take out the unwinding of the day on, no one’s feelings to hurt while I do so, and no one to ask more of me than I feel I have to give.  Some days, that’s a pure and true treasured gift.  Some days.

If I can be so bold as to give the church as a whole a little bit of advice on dealing with the issue of adult singleness, it’s this:  Listen to us.  Understand that some days it’s easier/harder than others, and understand that I’m not looking for a solution, I’m looking for love and friendship.

Unless of course, I’m being whiny and demanding like “where is God in this!!” which happens sometimes… then I ask that you give me a (respectful, of course) rebuking and remind me that you read this and that I’m just having a bit of an emotional day, and that I should go read Exodus 14 again.

That’s about it for tonight.  Maybe I’m alone in these feelings, but that’s sure what I could use.

Being Single….


A friend of mine sent me a link to this blog today… it’s written by a single mid-20s Christian guy, and I found it interesting to see it from a guy’s perspective too.

Interesting, interesting.

At any rate, I’ve had a bad day on the subject and don’t want to talk about it, but his blog is a good read and says pretty much what I would have but not quite so eloquently.

 

Made To Crave


So I’m reading a new book, called Made To Crave, and it’s by a great writer named Lysa TerKeurst.  The general idea of the book (while I admit I’m not that far in yet, I just started) is that we are made to crave.  I know, complicated, right?  God designed us to crave.  Not food, though.  We’re wired to crave and what we should crave is that relationship with Jesus that I know I need.  But because we’re messed up and we suck a little bit, and we’re not great at this life thing because our sin and our desires for “the flesh” (anything that’s not that relationship with Jesus but rather the things of this world) get in the way, we replace that need for Jesus with needs for other things.  For some, it’s food (that’s me.  I crave food).  For others, it’s other things.  Essentially, as Lysa explains, it’s anything that takes the place of that relationship… it becomes an idol then.

I’m enjoying this book, I’m getting a lot out of it.  It’s making me conscious of my eating habits.  It’s making me think.  Think BEFORE you eat.  BEFORE you bend to the temptation of that junk food, rather than feel regret after and hate yourself for succumbing to the temptation.

Normally, my biggest struggle is in the grocery store and in fast food.

And it hit me this week, not really be a ‘revelation’ or some big epiphany… but through a McDonald’s flyer full of coupons.  Check this out.

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I am MADE to Crave.  And McDonald’s knows that.  McDonald’s marketing team knows that everyone on this planet is wired to need to fill themselves with something.  So they’re trying quite ingeniously to convince me that I need to fill myself with McDonald’s.  As if I don’t want McDonald’s often enough, now in my mailbox at my home, I have not-so-subliminal messages TELLING me to CRAVE!  Look!  $45.00 of valuable coupons inside!  For crap that makes you feel disgusting the instant is starts to digest, when even though I’m pretty useless in the kitchen, I can make better food for myself.  I am made to crave, but not the Golden Arches.  I am made for something more than this.  I will not be held captive by those golden arches.  I put all $45.00 worth of coupons into my recycling bin.  I was going to take a picture, but it’s dark and cold and my recycling bin is currently full of snow *insert grumbling here*.

I’ve combined two “New Year’s Resolutions”….. but Ann Voskamp said something interesting in a recent blog post that stuck with me.  Don’t make New Year’s Resolutions.  Make New YOU Resolutions.  So I’m making resolutions for a new me.  Resolutions that I can’t keep without God’s help, and I’m professing them here, hoping, praying, etc. that it can work this time.  I’ve never done it with God before, I’ve always done it on my own.  So this is new.  New me.

New Me Resolution # 1:  Budget every penny so that I know where my money goes.  I spend too much time wondering where my money went.  Wondering how I can afford to pay everything each month.  But when I look at what I make and what I need to pay, there is no reason for that.  I can afford to do absolutely everything I need to do.  Note, need.  What I can’t afford is to recklessly spend because I’m not keeping track.  So I’m keeping track.  Of every cent.  Not that I don’t plan to have a little bit of fun and not that I don’t plan to eat or whatever… I just really want to know where my money is going… I’m sure no one likes the feeling that it’s slipping through your fingers.  As it turned out, the way that I budgeted, as long as things don’t go terribly wrong (car breaks down, whatev…), I have 200 a month going into savings as well as an extra 200 a month going to debt repayment above the minimum payments.  Who knew, if you budget, you can not only not burn through everything you have, but you can save too!  Lookit that!

New Me Resolution # 2:  I will make conscious decisions about what I eat.  This does not mean I will not eat any junk at all.  Let’s be honest, this is going to happen.  But it does mean that I will think before I eat.  I will ask myself:  Am I eating because I’m hungry?  If I’m not, I need to step away.  As Lysa TerKeurst quotes in Made To Crave, everything is permissable but not everything is beneficial.  I forget the scripture reference.  I believe it to be in 1st or 2nd Corinthians somewhere.  At any rate… so I’m allowed to eat chocolate… but is it beneficial?  No, not really.  Not when I feel like I am not where I want to be.  So here’s the thing:  Is my goal to get skinny, and wear skinny jeans and leggings and chunky sweaters and boots everywhere?  And cute skirts?  If you look at my Pinterest “My Style” board, that’s certainly what you’d see.  That’s what I have posted.  Would I love to not feel self conscious in a bathing suit?  Absolutely.  But I want those to be fringe benefits to making choices that glorify God because I’ll need to rely on Him to make them.  I am beautiful regardless, because I’m created by a God who doesn’t make mistakes.

I feel like my New Me resolutions go really well together — part of my endless spending without really thinking has been on fast food and junk and going out too often when I really couldn’t afford it.  So… budget.  Stick to that.  Watch where every penny goes.  Make conscious decisions about what I eat.  Save money for things like my March Break Georgia Road Trip.  Look good when I go.  Ultimately — draw closer to my Father as I am forced to rely on Him for the strength to succeed in either of these areas.

What I’m finding, is that this will not be simple.  It seems simple in its very basic ideology.  But it’s not simple at all.  We’re wired to fight this every step of the way.  At least, I am.  I’m wired to do this for myself, by myself.  I’m wired to lose weight because I feel fat.  And as a result of that, I’m wired to fight for control, count every calorie, and obsess.  I don’t want to go there ever again.

I went grocery shopping this afternoon, and I found to be true what I’ve always really known — eating healthy is expensive, and sale prices are strategically placed on all things terribly delicious.  I snapped some pictures.

Aaaaaand the pastries.  Cookies.  Etc.  Hello, all of my weaknesses.  You lost today, too.
The pastries. Cookies. Etc. Hello, all of my weaknesses. You lost today.  I am made for more than to crave you.  So I walked away… but not until after I snapped a picture to prove my victory, of course :p
The bulk candy section.  Walk.  Away.  And I did.
The bulk candy section. Walk. Away. And I did.
Like these!  I know they're all high fructose corn syrup and glucose-fructose and that there's zero nutritional value to Pop Tarts what-so-ever, but I love them, ok?  When they're on sale, I battle my inner fat kid.  Every.  Single.  Time.  Sorry fat kid, you lost today.
I have to ignore things in the grocery store…. Like these! I know they’re all high fructose corn syrup and glucose-fructose and that there’s zero nutritional value to Pop Tarts what-so-ever, but I love them, ok? When they’re on sale, I battle my inner fat kid. Every. Single. Time. Sorry fat kid, you lost today. All photos taken on my iPhone.
This is my lot of groceries from today.  It's not the best, I'm sure it could still be healthier, but wait until you scroll down and you see all the things I walked past and ignored, even though they were on sale.
This is my lot of groceries from today. It’s not the best, I’m sure it could still be healthier, but I feel a victory over the things I walked past and ignored, even though they were on sale…. and I have none but God to thank for that.  My own willpower is not strong enough to do this.
Europe's Best -- Produce of China.  That's some tricksy marketing right there.  I know, I know, Europe's Best is merely the brand name, and of course they have to get the Oriental Mix veggies from China... but I have some issues with buying vegetables frozen from China when I can buy veggies from Ontario.  I put them down, mostly because I didn't like half the stuff in them, but... wowzers.
Europe’s Best — Produce of China. That’s some tricksy marketing right there. I know, I know, Europe’s Best is merely the brand name, and of course they have to get the Oriental Mix veggies from China… but I have some issues with buying vegetables frozen from China when I can buy veggies from Ontario. I put them down, mostly because I didn’t like half the stuff in them, but… wowzers.

Anyway… there are my thoughts for today.  We were made to live for so much more.  So so so much more than being ruled by insecurity, food cravings, and poor spending habits.  I will conquer these two bad habits in 2013 (and beyond!  Because it’s new ME, not new year…).