Cold cuts, Subway Jared, and how my mission trip just got real

Dear Subway executives,

You knew. I could have still supported your restaurant chain after Jared Fogle’s sick actions were exposed, but then we find out that you knew, and did nothing. I have never felt strongly enough about the actions of a company to completely boycott a business, until now. Subway, I am done with you and your cold cuts.

In five days I leave for Thailand, where I will meet dozens and dozens of girls, children, who were trafficked and forced to have sex with men multiple times a day, but have since been rescued. Who knows, maybe some of the exact girls I’ll meet will have met your Subway spokesperson, the guy you knew had a sexual interest in young children.

“Sex with prostitutes between the ages of 9 and 16 years old in Thailand,” the USA Today article reads. I cried when I read it, and it makes me sick to my stomach.

You are the problem, Subway. You are the company that looked the other way when your own spokesperson was forcing himself on young girls in Thailand. Young girls who were stolen from their own families to then be forced to pleasure sick men, like Jared Fogle, for fear that they would lose their lives if they didn’t.

You are just as bad as Fogle. And you have supported an international group of sex traffickers who exploit children. I wonder if you have daughters. Child trafficking is on the rise in America. Who is to say your own daughters won’t be kidnapped and trafficked? What do you have to say about the American businessmen who would force her to have sex with them? Somehow I doubt you would just look the other way like it wasn’t happening.

These girls are real. Maybe it’s hard for you to see that because they aren’t American, or they aren’t white, but they are real girls. Maybe you are grossly misinformed and under the impression that the girls want to be prostitutes, but ages 9 to 16? Get real.

You knew. You have become a part of the sex trafficking system. You have had a part in destroying the lives of children. You have supported their “owners” monetarily, and thus continued the dirty cycle. This is why it continues, because people like you knew and did nothing about it.

I’ve never felt strongly enough about a company to boycott their restaurant because of corporate’s belief system (or lack of one). But this, this is too much. And unless those of you who knew about Fogle’s escapades are given the boot, I will not be eating at Subway. I know it’s not the workers’ faults, but I just can’t bring myself to give another dime to your organization.

I never imagined that “Subway Jared” would be at the forefront of my mind during my time in Thailand, but I have a feeling that he will be. And I have a suspicion that God will use it for something good. You will not win this battle, Subway executives. God will.

And while you, and Jared Fogle, and all the money you’ve made on those cold cuts have been used to destroy the lives of innocent children, I’ll get to experience the restoration of their lives thanks to Destiny Rescue. If you do anything to even attempt to make this right, you should be pouring thousands to millions of dollars into organizations like Destiny Rescue, organizations that rescue children from evil men like you.

May God have mercy on your souls. And may the rest of us someday forgive you for what you’ve done. Until then, next week I’ll be looking into the faces of girls like the ones you have tried to destroy. And although your actions are evil and inexcusable, you will not win.

Sincerely,
Natalie

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Who wins in the “my life is harder” competition?

enrapture logo with email
When I became a YL distributor and started my own business, “enrapture”, I found out quickly that I was in the minority as a single woman and as a woman with a full time job outside of the home.

I was at my first Young Living seminar back in August when I was surrounded by mothers, the majority of them stay-at-home-moms (SAHMs). We heard from many successful women, all of whom were SAHMs. Every “success story” I’ve read about Young Living distributors has been about SAHMs. So I was curious as to whether there were any great success stories of single women, with no children, who work full time jobs away from the home. I was looking for some encouragement and inspiration!

After I asked my question, I realized what was about to follow- a backlash of, “Stay at home moms work just as hard as people with full time jobs!” and, “Being a mom is a full time job!” And on, and on.

Totally misunderstood (no one could really even give me a good answer because they couldn’t get past what they THOUGHT I said), I crawled into a hole and died. I considered leaving the seminar. I held back tears. Part of me wanted to quit Young Living completely, but I stuck it out.

Then, the other day someone posted a similar question on a Young Living Facebook group. They had a friend who wondered about the success rate of women in Young Living who work full time jobs and are not a SAHM.

WOW. The responses were horrifying. One woman even said, “I know for a fact that stay at home moms work much harder than anyone with a full time job.”

Excuse me? Have you talked to every woman on the planet to know exactly how hard each woman works at her job each day? Who are you to tell another woman that her life is easier than another?

Who wins in this competition of, “My life is harder”?

How about we stop this competition completely?

Most of the time, we all work hard. We all want to be the best at what we do, and it’s a challenge for every woman. Whether its taking care of your children at home, taking care of children at a school, running a business from home, running a business at another location, etc., etc., isn’t it always hard work?

Some people think if you’re single, you’ve got it made. You get to come home from work and relax. You have all evening to enjoy life and not worry about a husband or children getting in your way. Well, do you know how many of us would love to have that “difficulty” of a husband and children? You might be stressed out because of your children and husband, but some of us are alone with our thoughts for hours on end. When is the last time you were alone with your thoughts? It’s not all it’s cracked up to be. It’s actually quite terrifying. So while you’re chasing your children around, trying to get them into bed and yelling at your husband for not fixing the dishwasher, there are some of us wondering why we don’t have exactly what you have. And on top of that, we have to fix the dishwasher ourselves.

Can we all agree that no matter what stage of life we are in, life is tough? As women, we work hard. We have to because there’s often something we have to prove. Instead of getting into a ridiculous debate about whose life is harder, we should focus on supporting each other, building each other up.

You may think you know someone else’s life, but most of the time you have no idea. SAHMs have struggles, and so do women who work away from the home. Both work very, very hard. Married women face challenges, as do single women. Mothers have hurts and broken hearts, just as women without children do.

We should be in this together. Let’s stop passing judgment on another woman’s life and telling her that she doesn’t work as hard as you do. You have no idea the struggles she faces.

And as far as Young Living goes, I am definitely in the minority as a single woman and as someone who doesn’t work at home. But I’m not going to let that stop me from trying to be successful in sharing products that have drastically improved my quality of life. Shameless plug: Follow my essential oil blog HERE! And “Like” my Facebook page HERE!

Five words I’d rather you not use to describe me…

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Don’t mind me! I’m just a religious, churchy, thick, photogenic, intimidating girl!

I started writing this post a few days ago. I had no clue how to start it, so I skipped the intro and saved it for last.

And then, the day after I wrote all about the five words I do not like to be labeled, one of my male co-workers called me TWO of the five words in one conversation.

“You just always look so happy. All your Facebook pictures are nice, you’re always doing stuff and going places. You’re super photogenic.”

Grrr… that was the first one.

“Most guys probably don’t want to go out with you because of all you’ve done and all you do. Nobody wants to try and measure up to that. You’re too intimidating.”

Grrr… that was the second one.

He also said if people don’t know me personally, they might think that I think I’m “high and mighty.” But that if you get to know me, that’s not the case at all. “High and mighty” borders “religious” and “churchy.” So he pretty much mentioned four of the five words I’m about to explain.

Here are the five words I’d rather you not use to describe me:

Word #1: RELIGIOUS

Definition: of, pertaining to, or concerned with religion

I’ve heard it often, especially from my non-Christian friends. They consider me to be very “religious.” I don’t identify myself with my religion. I am not a product of Christianity. I am a product of Christ. To me, there is a huge difference. Christianity is flawed, and I think God Himself would agree with that statement. Why would I want to identify myself with a flawed religion, as all religions are flawed? I find my strength from Christ. My faith is in Christ. I believe I have eternal life because of Christ… it is not because of my “religion.”

Word #2: CHURCHY

Definition: adhering strictly to the prescribed form in ecclesiastical matters

For some reason, if you’re a weekly church attender, follow Christ and talk about God, you’re considered “churchy.” This is different than “religious,” as it suggests you strictly follow the church “code of conduct.” To me, “churchy” is an insult, and people don’t exactly think it through when they say that about someone. I believe a “churchy” person is somewhat standoffish, judgmental, and closed-minded. I would hope that no one thinks that is a good way to describe me. I believe even the most involved person at church doesn’t have to be “churchy.” I don’t even consider my pastor to be “churchy.” Society has tied negative connotations to words like “churchy,” and unfortunately, sometimes I can see why.

Word #3: THICK

Definition: not skinny, with meat on your bones

I had to jump over to Urban Dictionary for this one. It’s a term I really pretty much only hear from black men. White guys don’t call girls “thick,” because to them they’re just fat or big. I guess because of the word’s double-meaning (which is often attractive in the eyes of one race, but not another), is why it bothers me. At least in Uganda they are outright with it. I have a number of friends who were told, “You look fat!” And it was meant as a major compliment. However, I think the word “thick” is insulting. If you like how I look, just tell me I look good.

Everyone be intimidated! I washed feet in Africa!
I washed feet in Africa. Apparently this makes me scary.

Word #4: INTIMIDATING

Definition: to overawe, as through the force of personality or by superior display of wealth, talent, etc.

I am so sick of hearing how “intimidating” I am, and I know a lot of other educated, well-traveled women who are tired of it, too. Sure it’s a copout for men sometimes, but even some of my male friends have told me that if they just knew me on the surface, I would be way too intimidating for them to ever ask out. It’s clearly not my looks, it’s everything else. I’m independent, I’ve done mission work, I volunteer, I’m educated, I have a fulltime job, I pay my own bills… all qualities one would THINK would make me desirable to the opposite sex, but instead it has only hindered my dating life. I’m not scary. I promise! Please stop saying I am intimidating. It is NOT a compliment.

Word #5: PHOTOGENIC

Definition: forming an attractive subject for photography or having features that look well in a photograph

This label has been thrown on me way before Instagram gave us filters that make our skin glow. Ever since high school, people have commented on how photogenic I am. If you have ever told me this, there’s a chance you’ve heard my canned reply of, “Pretty in pictures, ugly in person!” I know that’s not what people mean, but I like to see their reactions when I say that back.

If you’ve ever called me any of these words, don’t worry. I’m used to it by now. And I won’t go cry in my bedroom if someone calls me any of these things in the future. Luckily, the Bible doesn’t say I’m any of these words. But I’ll happily take some of the things God says I am, like forgiven, redeemed, born again, accepted, free, and loved.

Yup. I went and got all “religious” and “churchy” on you there.

Cookie-cutter Christians: Why some of us MUST be different

“I’m not like them.”

It’s a common thought I have around big groups of Christian people with a certain personality.

They raise their hands high and say, “Thank you Jesus!” throughout prayer and worship. I partially lift my hands, close my eyes, and silently shed a few tears as I feel the Holy Spirit.

It was at the Spiritual Retreat in October that made me question my abilities to reach the teens in my classes. But God showed me that He will use me for His purpose!
It was at the Spiritual Retreat in October that made me question my abilities to reach the teens in my classes. But God showed me that He will use me for His purpose!

They quote scripture and often pull it into their prayers when praying in front of everyone. I talk to God like He’s my friend, and I suppose I don’t quote scripture to Him because He already knows it.

After my thoughts of, “I’m not like them,” come the thoughts of, “So I must not be as good of a Christian.”

It’s a struggle I’ve had since college. And it’s a false struggle. It’s one that Satan loves to tell me over and over again: “You’re not like them, so you aren’t worthy.”

It hit me recently how incredibly terrible those thoughts are. I know better. I know that God loves me just as much as He loves them, and I know that I don’t have to be like them to be a good person.

But then a seriously disturbing thought hit me like a hurricane: what if some of my students feel the same way? What if I have students who look at some of the “super spiritual” students and staff at school and think, “I’m not like that. I’ll never be like that. So why bother?”

Some conversations with my students this year revealed that some of them have felt that way before.

I knew I needed to say something. God told me I needed to say something. Yes, even though I’m not walking around quoting scripture and raising my hands in worship, I do talk to God. A lot. He gets me. And He knew it had to be said. So on Friday I said it.

The main class I needed to say these things to were my seniors. They’re an interesting bunch. Yes, I teach at a Christian school here in Uganda, but not all of our students are Christian. Many are simply “Christian” only because they’ve been forced to be. There are two boys who don’t even believe in God and have serious issues with Christianity and Christians in general, there is a Hindu girl, some who have a strong faith in God but are not charismatic like a lot of their peers at school, and a few who are.

When I finished sharing, they clapped. That’s a huge thing for this group of ten 12th graders. Their enthusiasm is typically non-existent. But then one of my seniors, who detests most Christians, said, “I just got more from what you said than anything I’ve heard in chapel all year.”

Part of me didn’t want to post that. I don’t want to hurt our chaplain or anyone else who has spoken in chapel. They’ve put their heart and soul into presenting for these kids. However, the fact that he said that completely drives home the point I made to my students: the point they so eagerly accepted and understood.

My overall point was this: Christians are not all the same. We’re not supposed to be.

It’s tough. If the Christians you’re surrounded by all act the same way and that’s just not your personality, it can be discouraging. And from the discussions we had yesterday in class, I discovered that it can be especially discouraging for teens. They think, “I’ll never be like that. That’s just not me to do that or say that.”

And so the next types of thoughts are, “Maybe I’m not a Christian.” Their overly hyped-up Christian classmates also inadvertently make them feel inadequate. They attribute the problem to their “level” of Christianity, when in reality it’s more of a personality difference.

I’m not saying anyone needs to “tone it down” or anything- not students or staff. But the kids who aren’t like that need to know that it’s OK. You can still have an awesome relationship with Christ without being so eccentric.

I also shared with the students the number one way that I’ve shared Christ with people: love. Simply put, love. Love people. Forgive people. Show grace towards people. Have mercy and compassion for people. Love. Love. Love.

I’ve never had someone say to me, “Natalie, thank you for telling me that I need Jesus. It’s made me want to be a Christian.” But I have had people say, “Thank you for loving me and for loving others as unconditionally as possible. I know this is because you’re a Christian, and that helped lead me to Christ.”

 “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, since as members of one body you were called to peace. And be thankful.” Colossians 3:14-15

We’re different. God wanted us to be different. While Christian organizations tend to be flooded with similar personality types, sometimes you need a misfit like myself who can reach out to the people who are different.

Do your thing. Be the person God created you to be. Be a Christian and be YOU. Don’t change your personality to match those of people who appear to be “better.” God loves us all the same!

“I’m not like them” is a legit statement to make about how I feel when I compare myself to most of my co-workers. Thank God for that. If I was exactly like them, I wouldn’t have reached some of the students God used me to reach yesterday. The same goes for them- God has used those people to reach many students this year as well! God uses ALL of us.

I encourage you to read 1 Corinthians 12:12-26. Part of it says, “The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.”

I choose to reach people through love and compassion. What works for you? What do you do that brings people to Christ? As long as it does the job, well done! Use your God-given gifts to be a light for Him. And remember, just because you’re not exactly like the Christians around you, that doesn’t mean you aren’t as spiritual or important in the body of Christ. Do your thing. All that matters is what God thinks of you. And He thinks you’re awesome enough that He sent His Son to die on the cross for your sins.

“For God so loved the world that He sent His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16

Social media: not getting in my way

I’ve been journaling since the third grade. Yes, I literally record pretty much every moment of my entire life via written word and/or photographs. That’s just how I am. It’s really no wonder I became a journalist and started documenting other people’s lives.

Snapping a pic of my meal this evening didn't ruin any memories in the making.
Snapping a pic of my meal this evening didn’t ruin any memories in the making.

I love life. I love my life. I love seeing other people’s lives because I love people. I love people because I love God, and God tells us to love people. I enjoy seeing people’s lives on social media, and I equally enjoy sharing my own. I don’t believe it has in any way, shape, or form, had a negative impact on how I experience life.

There’s no question that many people spend too much time on social media. However, I’m tired of feeling attacked and seeing all these blog posts and videos and status updates about “missing life” because  you’re putting something on Instagram, writing a status update or Tweeting.

Excuse me… what?

If Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, whatever, are a problem for you, than that’s exactly what it is: a problem for you.

I’ve been in Uganda for almost 10 months now. One of my favorite things to do when I get homesick is look back through photos on my Instagram from when I was home. It reminds me of home, and it makes my heart so incredibly happy! Do I regret the 25 seconds I took out of my day to post a picture of me and my niece a year ago- a photo that would bring me happiness in the present as well as in the future? Of course not! I didn’t “miss” anything. If anything, I captured a moment so I could cherish it forever.

There’s no need to knock people who make the choice to not utilize social media to document their lives, but I also don’t see the reason to criticize those of us who do.

Life is beautiful. I love to share that life with my friends and family who want to see it. And honestly, I know a few people who have lost family photos and journals to house fires, hurricanes, tornados, etc., who would give anything to have those memories back. I love the fact that my memories are somewhere reasonably safe- on social media.

Getting a picture with my friends only helps me remember the fun we had this evening!
Getting a picture with my friends only helps me remember the fun we had this evening!

Isn’t it slightly ironic that the same people telling others to get off social media have invested a great deal of their time writing blogs and making videos about staying off social media? Not to mention the fact that social media will be what propels their very argument?

Tonight we went out to eat at a Mexican restaurant to celebrate Cinco de Mayo. We took lots of pictures, and I will post them on Instagram, Facebook, etc. I’ve even posted them with this blog post. For me it didn’t interrupt my moment or my memory. In fact, it will do just the opposite. I believe it will enhance my memories.

Don’t tell people they are “missing life” because they happen to live their life differently from you. If social media is getting in your own way of living life, then of course, you need to back off. But some of us love life, and we love sharing it. I am overjoyed with the blessings God has given me, and I’m not going to stop sharing that with the world.

I get it. But in a way, I don’t…

IMG_4833I get it. A&E censored a Christian from speaking his mind. It’s not the first time a Christian has been censored. It won’t be the last.

“Indeed, all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted…” 2 Timothy 3:12

I get it. It’s frustrating that everyone else in America can express their opinions, freely worship and denounce things they don’t believe in, unless you’re a Christian. In that case, the world wants you to be silent. But God never told us it would be easy. He flat out told us we would suffer.

“For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.” 1 Peter 3:17

I get it. The Bible says homosexuality is a sin. It says the same about drunkenness, adultery, fornication, gluttony, idolatry, jealousy, etc. etc. Everyone else’s sins seem so much worse than your own, don’t they? So you hate. You’re tired of rights being given to people who sin. You see these people as your enemies.

“But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” Matthew 5:44

I get it. I may not agree with you, but I get it. It’s ruined your week and maybe even your holiday to know that a Christian spoke his mind and was then persecuted for it. Now, your favorite television show might not be on the air anymore.

But I ask you this holiday season to open your eyes. Think about the things that are getting you fired up. Is it politics? Is it Obamacare? Is it A&E and Duck Dynasty? Is it Miley Cyrus? Think about the things that, as a Christian, make you the angriest. And then, think about these things:

InIMG_3875 September I met a little boy here in Uganda who survived child sacrifice. He’s been through multiple surgeries because his head was literally cut open with an ax. He was one of the lucky ones because he survived. Here in Uganda, witchdoctors sacrifice children. They spare no mercy when it comes to abducting a child, chopping them up for body parts and organs and leaving them for dead.

The other day I went with some co-workers to a local orphanage. The place is filthy. The playground is insanely dangerous. The orphans’ noses run with no one to wipe them. Bath time means fitting as many children in a tub at one time and hosing them down like they were dishes or something. Orphanages like this are all over the city of Kampala.

To the north of Uganda is South Sudan. So not only does the violence in South Sudan hit close to home because it’s literally close to home, but one of my best friends here is from South Sudan. She has family and friends there, and has to wonder each day whether or not they will fall victim to the violence.

I promised myself I wouldn’t do this. I wouldn’t be the one to say, “Look at what’s making you upset! And yet there are people dying because of such corruption and evil in the world!” But then I started to wonder… maybe that’s exactly what I’m supposed to do. Maybe part of the reason I’m here is to tell you about these things, to tell you that they are really happening.IMG_3976

As a Christian, what makes your blood boil? What gets under your skin? Is it the fact that your favorite reality television star was suspended? Are you going to let that ruin your day when there are people dying in South Sudan, children being sacrificed in Uganda, and orphans being treated like animals?

I’m not saying that it shouldn’t irritate you that Christians are so often censored and persecuted. I get it. It irritates me, too, but the Bible warned us about this, over and over again.

“Do not be surprised, brothers, that the world hates you.” 1 John 3:13

I get why Christians are upset about A&E. I get why homosexuals are upset about Duck Dynasty. I get it. But when I’m seeing the things I see here and experiencing the things I experience here, I really don’t get it.

Open your eyes. There’s so much more going on.

In defense of the “selfie”…

IMG_20131116_051646Annoying. Narcissistic. Those are the two words one of my Facebook friends had to say about people who take selfies. I know plenty of people who would agree with him. But I would like to defend the selfie-  the photographs we take of ourselves and post on social media.

Argument #1: You post pics of your kids. I don’t have any, so I post pics of myself.
The number one group of people I see knocking the selfie are those with children. The people who post photo after photo of their child doing this and that are annoyed by the rest of us posting pictures of ourselves. It makes perfect sense that a parent’s life would revolve around his or her children. It should. If you don’t have children, who does your life revolve around? Yourself. It doesn’t mean your selfish, it just means you’re at a different stage in life.

Argument #2: There’s a difference between posting a selfie and being narcissistic.
“I am looking so fine today! #gorgeous #beautiful #hotmama.” “Be jealous ladies! You don’t look this good and you never will! #Ilookgood.” Even Instagram posts like that make my skin crawl. There’s a huge difference between taking a nice picture of yourself and announcing to the world how hot you think you are.

Argument #3: What happened to promoting confidence?
Posting a selfie doesn’t mean you love yourself so much that you have to show everyone how you look all the time, but don’t we promote an attitude of confidence this day and age? Aren’t we supposed to be telling younger generations that they should feel comfortable in their own skin and not feel pressured to look like super models? If I feel confident enough to think, “I look nice today!” is there really something so terrible about posting a selfie? There’s such a false connotation with being confident these days and it being mistaken for narcissism. Taking selfies of yourself and posting them all over your room? Now THAT’S narcissism.

Argument #4: Believe it or not, some people do want to see selfies.IMG_20130911_101949
I moved to Uganda almost four months ago. My close friends and family members don’t get to see me except for the photos I post on Facebook. These people flat out tell me that they enjoy seeing my face and how I’m doing in Uganda. I’m sure there are plenty of other people out there who the only way people ever see them is on social media. Whether it’s a photo you took of yourself or one someone else took of you, what does it matter?

Argument #5: Who cares?
I take people off my Facebook newsfeed, Twitter and Instagram all the time when I get tired of their political and religious rants. If you’re tired of people’s selfies, I suggest you do the same.

As you can see from the pictures in this post, I do take selfies. Not on a daily or even weekly basis, but every once in awhile I will take a selfie. For me, this is actually quite a testament to how far I’ve come. Let me explain.

Throughout high school, college and in my 20’s, I never felt pretty. I never felt like I was even remotely attractive. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I truly realized I wasn’t all that unfortunate looking. For me to take a picture of myself and post it where people can see it shows how my confidence has grown, and it’s also a part of my testimony.IMG_20130724_181827

Like everyone else, I was created in God’s image. (Genesis 1:27) Once I truly accepted God’s love for me and found my full worth in Him, my confidence soared. I began to feel beautiful on the inside, and that confidence radiated to my exterior as well. I am confident in being the woman God created me to be. I don’t see what’s so narcissistic about that.

“Some boast in chariots and some in horses,
but we will boast in the name of the Lord, our God.”

Psalms 20:7