[Trigger warning: sexual violence]

Thirty-five. The number of years of life I am celebrating.

Thirty-five. The number of times she is forced to have sex with different men a day. She’s only 7 years old.

I can’t look away, knowing this happens. I can’t keep carrying on as if this isn’t true, for her or for the hundreds of thousands of other young girls and women in our world. (The United Nations estimates the total number of people trafficked every year is between 700 thousand and 1 million.  It also estimates that 79 percent of these victims are trafficked for sexual exploitation.) I can’t sit passively and not do anything about it.

Because I am a mother.

Because I have daughters.

Because I am a woman.

Because I am human.

You may not be a mother, a woman, or have daughters, but you are human.

What can we do? The forces and issues surrounding human trafficking are complex and multi-layered. Poverty, greed, lust – these all have a part. Freedom and healing also require complex and multi-faceted approaches. I am only beginning to learn about these things, so I do not have answers. But I am aware of people who are on the front-lines, doing incredible work – rescuing girls, rehabilitating them, bringing about justice.

A dear friend of mine recently travelled with The Exodus Road to Southeast Asia, where she witnessed first-hand the brokenness and emptiness of the red-light districts. The Exodus Road is doing some amazing work, training and equipping nationals in conjunction with cooperating with local law enforcement to document evidence, raid brothels, free the oppressed, convict the perpetrators and bring healing to those scarred by slavery.

International Justice Mission (IJM) also recently posted about Cambodia, and how things have changed over the past 10 years. From being “ground zero” for trafficking young children before, to now having passionate government and citizens fighting it, “the whole trajectory in Cambodia has changed.”

What feels like an impossibly big problem can actually be changed.

A lawyer friend of ours is heading to South Asia for one year with IJM to lend his expertise to the cause. He will be providing legal support and helping with prosecutions. Supporting him is one way for us to be part of the change.

So to celebrate my 35th birthday, I’m asking for a big gift of $3500. Not for me, but for our sisters and brothers around the world who are forced into slavery. I’m asking it of you, my friends and readers because generosity brings me joy, and I want to invite you into that joy. I also believe generosity is a practice that never fails to yield returns.

Here is the link to my fundraising page: http://justact.ijm.ca/olive. I know there are a lot of causes out there you can support, but this is what God has brought to you today. Please don’t look away. Learn more, give generously, raise awareness. And pray.

Seven-year-olds should not be sold for their bodies. Nobody should.

Dear Depressed Me,

I love you. But I haven’t always loved you like this. I used to struggle with accepting who you were. I used to love you partially—with some reservations and hesitancies. I used to dislike you. Resent you at times, even. But my love for you is different now. It’s deeper and fuller.
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“Are these tears of gratitude?” my counsellor asked as my eyes began to well up. I bit my lower lip and rivers of pain spilled down my face.

“No.” I answered. “I have no words for it yet, but obviously it’s something deep.” I was surprised by the sudden release of emotion. She had asked me a question about Tim and our marriage.
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At the start of each new year, we like to choose one word. A guide or theme for the year, so to speak. Something to give us focus in the ebb and flow of life.

Our word for 2015 was “Strengthen.” We wanted to become stronger; we also needed strength. In retrospect, it was a hard, dark year marked by the unexpected presence of Post Partum Depression, but we did receive all the strength we needed to get through it.

For 2016, we are choosing the word, “Moments.”
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Today I turn 35 years old. It’s a milestone birthday of officially being in my mid-thirties. Or as our friends pointed out to this morning, it’s halfway to “three score years and ten” (which is mentioned by the psalmist in Psalm 90:10 as the length of a normal lifespan). As I reflect on how I feel at 35 years old, I notice the tension I feel between disappointment and gratitude.

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I’m looking forward to growing older. One of the reasons is the potential for personal growth. When I reflect on the past year, I’m surprised by how much I learned. The idea of being able to continue or even accelerate that growth for the next 5, 10, or 25 years is very exciting. On the other hand, I know people who are older who seem to have stayed stagnant for many years – every time I see them they seem to be the same. The idea of not growing or changing over time is depressing to me.

The new year is a sensible time to make goals and plans. Do you have a personal growth plan for 2016? If not, here are 4 practical steps you can take to develop one.

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It’s our anniversary today. Seven years ago we celebrated the beginning of our marriage with friends and family. In the weeks leading to this anniversary we have been reflecting on some of the things we’ve learned about marriage since our wedding day. Here are 7 things we’ve learned in the last 7 years of marriage – most of them in this seventh year.
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There were many difficult things about the first year with two children. There was the adjustment of trying to split our attention to meet the needs of both kids. There was the challenge of trying to get sufficient rest when they’d take turns being awake during the day and then take turns waking us up at night. There was the strain on our marriage and trying to stay connected when each of us barely coped with our own responsibilities. There was the seemingly futile fight against germs as colds got passed around and around in the winter months. But as I thought about it, I realized that the hardest part of the transition for me wasn’t something external. It was asking for and accepting help.
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If there’s one lesson I am constantly learning and re-learning in my life with God, it’s how to rest. Every time I think I’ve got it, I am confronted with another application, another dimension, another depth or angle to which I need to learn to apply the lesson.
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Father’s Day is officially two weeks away and many people are thinking of gifts to get their fathers (or husbands, if their kids are too young to get gifts). What makes a good gift for a father? As I was thinking about what I’d like, I came up with three factors that make a gift superb.

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