The Fair Project: February

Well, it’s March now, but this post is for February.  It’s been a busy month for me with lots of projects, midterms, and fun in between!  My spring break started yesterday so now I finally have some time to sit down and tell you all about how I’ve been living fair this month.

I actually purchased a few items of clothing this month!  I picked up a tie as a gift from TurnStyle a few weeks ago–it was only $7.50 and was as good as new.  Fun tidbit for local friends: the TurnStyle in Coon Rapids is so much more than just clothes!  They’ve got tons of decor, furniture, and other home goods to expand your range of secondhand shopping.  The same day, I also purchased a somewhat-tacky blouse for an old lady costume I needed for an event for my dorm floor, and in the spirit of vulnerability, here it is:

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Luckily it was only $5, and I plan to donate or resell it, so if you’d like it, let me know!

I always say that my mom finds everything good in my life, and she continued to prove that to me by picking up an adorable blazer and peplum top–two of my favorite things to wear–from a huge sale that Clothes Mentor was having.  She knows my love for secondhand shopping and my inability to do so often because of my busy schedule, so she did a little for me.

My favorite purchase this month is easily my black-and-white polka-dotted dress.  Northwestern has an “online garage sale” group on Facebook, and it’s a great way for us poor college students to make a few extra bucks or buy something for very little money.  I love the idea of this because when we feel like our dorms from bursting at the seams, it’s an easy solution to getting rid of some of our unwanted stuff without throwing it right into the trash or having to figure out when and how to get to a donation center.  It also fosters connections between students whose paths wouldn’t ordinarily cross, and it’s a fun way to add to your wardrobe without your money supporting labor trafficking!

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Because February was too warm for its own good, I just had to wear this dress as soon as I got it.  It’s pretty simple, but one of the keys to simplistic living is having a few basic pieces that you can build off of using scarves, layers, jewelry, different color palettes, and ways to dress up/dress down.  It may feel like you’re wearing the same thing over and over, but if you’re really looking to downsize, save space, and not be a clothes-hoarder (preaching to myself…yikes), it’s a great decision to make.

One thing I could have improved on this month is my makeup purchases.  I had a mascara emergency one day: I opened up the bottle and it was bone-dry, so I made a Target run that night and picked up some Maybelline stuff.  It’s what I’ve been using for a while and I love it, but the company doesn’t align with the fair shopping path I’m on.  I’ll hopefully be visiting Minnesota’s one physical location  of The Body Shop soon–in the Mall of America!  Their products are bit more pricy, but they have a great pledge of not only trading fairly, but also not testing on animals and sourcing ingredients in an environmentally-friendly manner.  I think I’m willing to pay a little extra for a product that I know is kind to the world and the people in it.

February also brought National Human Trafficking Awareness Day, promoted by the #enditmovement, on the 23rd.  I was able to attend a special informational chapel session about it, and was glad to see the turnout we had.  To those of you who attended the chapel, drew a red X on your hand, or learned more about human trafficking that day, I challenge you to go beyond the red X.  Go beyond February 23.  Now that you have the awareness, it’s time to move to action.  Take the first step towards living fair: choose to purchase fair-trade coffee, chocolate, or tea.  Start buying your clothes secondhand.  Be conscious of how your purchases affect the world, because we don’t often realize how interconnected everything is.  There are 27 million individuals enslaved in this world–more than at any point in history.  There’s so much awareness today than even a few years ago, but we’ve still got a long way to go.  I get a lot of positive responses when I tell others about The Fair Project, but not many people have considered joining it themselves.  My question is, “why not?  What’s stopping you?”  A few common responses to this are:

  • “Fair-trade items are hard to find/too expensive.”  I completely understand that, but if you just look a little harder, ask around, and consider buying a little less of something to make up for the cost of buying something that supports fair labor, you’ll find a way that works for you.  The StoryChangers Facebook group for people who have signed the Fair Pledge is a great resource!  We post our fair-trade purchases frequently, making it easy to get informed on how and where to buy ethically-produced items.
  • “I don’t like the idea of wearing someone else’s clothes.”  Most consignment stores require clothes to be washed before being brought in, and they have very high standards of quality, so the items are like new when you purchase them.  If anything, maybe an inside tag has been cut off or a belt is missing from a dress, but those are really the only problems I’ve run into.

As we venture into March, I’ll be exploring the world of fair-trade beauty products, spending some time at the bridal consignment shop where I work, and hopefully introducing my mom to Whole Foods!  Let’s go change the world.

The Fair Project: January

I am so excited to announce that I’ll be partnering with Stories Cafe in The Fair Project!  Read below for the introduction and how you can make a change.

I’m Jenny.  I’m a nineteen-year-old first-year sophomore in college, studying Multimedia Journalism at the University of Northwestern–St. Paul.  I love Jesus and people, and He has given me a passion for using my words to tell other people’s stories.  I first learned about human trafficking when I was in eighth grade.  I was appalled that slavery still existed in this day and age, and even more shocked to find out that it was happening in my own backyard.  The thought of another person with a heart and a soul and a story, made in the image of God, was being sold for their body, being used like an object, broke my heart.

It wasn’t until about the last year that I realized the role I played in modern-day slavery.  No, I wasn’t supporting pimps and allowing twelve-year-old girls to be prostituted, but I found out that human trafficking is much more than that.  I found out that my love for shopping was robbing men, women, and children across the world of their dignity and forcing them into unfair and inhumane working conditions.  The clothing industry is one of the largest players in the worldwide game of the sale and purchase of human beings.  I couldn’t live with the fact that my desire for that $10 sundress at Target, easily purchased without second thought, supported this industry.  Towards the end of 2016, I decided to make a change.

I began only shopping at consignment stores.  Buying clothes secondhand slows the demand for new ones to be made, which slows the industry.  I became more observant of what I was buying, where it was made, and how little it cost.  If a dress only costs $10 after the store has marked it up from the original factory price, how much did it cost to make, and how much of that money did the worker see?  I found myself asking “do I really need that?  Is it worth supporting unfair labor for something that will just make my overstuffed closet more full?”  These questions quickly squelched my desire to buy whatever item I’d been eyeing.

I’ve never been huge on New Years’ resolutions; they’re often too vague and don’t last.  However, for 2017, I knew that I wanted to be intentional about my purchases.  My resolution had two parts: first, I would try to limit how much clothing I purchased in the first place.  As a college student living in the dorm and sharing a closet with two other girls, I don’t have much space be putting new clothes every month as it is.  Secondly, when the need for new clothing arises, I will continue in my trend of only buying secondhand (excluding socks and underwear, but if anyone knows where I can purchase those fair-trade, let me know!).  This doesn’t only apply to clothes, shoes, and accessories, but to nearly everything in my life, because not only does buying secondhand slow the human trafficking industry, but it also reduces how much stuff ends up in landfills.  Oftentimes we get rid of perfectly good items–be they clothes, furniture, electronics, or really anything else–because of small, fixable damages or simply because we found something new and better.  If we tried to fix the damages or gave them to someone who didn’t mind, we wouldn’t need to constantly buy new things.  Our reliance on convenience only fuels the system.

I would love to see you embark on this journey of justice and simplicity with me.  Over the next few months, I’m going to begin transitioning to more natural and fair-trade beauty products (check out The Body Shop), as well as making some of my own!  I will keep you all updated as to what works and what doesn’t.  Be conscious of your purchases.  Know where your items are from.  Slow the system.  Dare to live simply so others may simply live.

Agony, Suffering, and the Truth

All my life, I’ve heard people say “God is good despite our circumstances.”  For the longest time, that was an easy concept for me to grasp: God is above the ups and downs of this world and works all things together for His glory.  Even in the hard times I had throughout my life, I always knew He had a plan.

But what about when your earth shatters and life as you know it is suddenly a big black question mark on an empty white background?  In the moments when your heart drops and you come face-to-face with the deep, potent emotions that you desperately wish to shove back into their lairs in the rarely-opened parts of your soul, how do you respond?  When you can physically feel the wrenching in your heart and your only way of expressing the anguish you feel is through a stream of uncontrollable tears, when you cannot even find the simplest words to formulate a prayer, when you sit shaking from the pain of living in a bruised and tattered world, how do you lean on the Rock?  You know that God’s goodness is still alive and well and more real than ever, but so is your despair.  You feel as if saying “I know God has this all under control,” even though you do know that, ignores the agony that is still fresh and present.

I survey my surroundings and I see countless signs of God’s goodness.  The leaves on the giant maple outside the Robertson Student Center are just beginning to shift to the slightest tinge of yellow.  At the same time, its neighbors are lit up in a fiery blaze of reds and oranges, looking like a watercolor painting on the rain-dampened campus.  The sidewalks are carpeted with remnants of maple and oak, each leaf a testament to the creativity of the Creator.  I’ve heard of three engagements this week, and it’s only Wednesday.  I’ve laughed at the stupidest puns and stories even in the midst of a rough spot in life.  I’ve been blessed to be at school and learn more and more about my Lord each day, surrounded by peers and professors whose life goals are to know Him and make Him known.  I’ve heard stories of children of God who have overcome obstacles that they thought were going to knock them down for the rest of their lives.  Perhaps God’s goodness in the midst of our trials is the most evident in the little things–the seemingly insignificant daily blessings that bring a genuine smile back to a distressed face.

In the turmoil that comes with transition, in the campus conflicts, in the cancer diagnosis of someone you hold dear, in the feelings of loneliness, in the yearning to be surrounded by people who truly know your heart and soul, on the days in which you feel especially crappy, and in all the feelings that come with these trials and more, know this: God’s goodness, God’s plan, God’s love, grace and mercy do not change with our feelings.  He is still His majestic and glorious self even when we don’t know how to begin to identify our pain.  Open up your heart’s doors to receive your emotions to their full degree; do not bury your pain.  In this, still know truly in your heart that He is above our struggles and through that, you can rejoice.  We as Christians are always told to rejoice in our sufferings, so much so that it’s become a “Christianese” phrase that we don’t think about in its fullness.  It seems like a normal thing to do– that is, until you actually have to do it, because not only are we called to rejoice in our sufferings, but also because of our sufferings.  James goes far enough to tell us to consider it pure joy when we face trials of any kind (James 1:2).  That seems impossible and insane, but consider this: our sufferings are a humbling reminder that the world is not as it should be; that we are not where we belong. The season of confusion that we may be walking through today cannot begin to compare to the glory that awaits us in the land of the Lord (check out Romans 8, especially verses 18-30 for Paul’s beautiful and powerful writing on this).

So take heart, dear friends.  If nothing more, rejoice in the fact that your pain is temporary and that this world is strangely dim compared to our Heavenly home.  God is still good in the chaos and the pain and the unspeakable heartbreak, and His goodness doesn’t change just because we can’t feel it.  What a joy we have in knowing that truth!

To a Senior

I really need to update my blog more often.  My last post was about graduating, and here I am in my third week of college not having written anything.

Anyway, this post is for my good friends who will be starting their senior year tomorrow.  It’s a year of unknowns, hopes and dreams, anxiety, and excitement.  Hopefully you all can learn some lessons from the mistakes I made and take my advice for the things that went right.

People are constantly telling you to “make the most of your senior year.”  Listen to them.  Not only make the most of it, but approach it with a joyful attitude.  You will be hit with scary numbers, life-changing decisions, important dates, and big questions.  Make the decision now to have a positive attitude in the face of these carriers or anxiety.  I walked through all of these situations in fear, and it changed me as a person.  Put your trust in God and His eternal wisdom instead of worrying about the things of this life that come and go like the morning mist.

Something else I’ve heard often is that the friends you make in high school “don’t mean anything” once you graduate and that you realize that you were only friends because you saw each other daily.  While that may be true for some people in your life, I challenge you to defeat that stereotype for the people you’re closest to.  I made some excellent friends in high school and I’m already even a few weeks into college.  Not every high school friend has to be your best friend, but don’t give up on a friendship because life is changing.  It’s okay to “not close the yearbook.”

High school isn’t everyone’s favorite time of life, but I believe it is what you make it.  Your senior year is no exception.  I loved high school despite all its dumb rules and drama because I found ways to enjoy it–I made friends with great people, I got involved (even if it took me till my senior year), and I connected with my teachers.  You might be itching to get out and be on your own, away from a place that can feel restrictive or overbearing, but don’t wish your precious days away.  Life moves too quickly; take it all one day at a time because things will be done before you know it.

Junior year may have been difficult for you with the ACTs and hard classes and college tours and I’m sure you’re all looking forward to some degree of “senior slide.”  Senior year isn’t easy, believe me, but it’s a different kind of hard that junior year.  It’s emotionally stressful, but it won’t overcome you if you don’t let it.  Face every obstacle in optimism and every trial with determination, knowing that even in the darkest valley, things will get better.  I survived!  You have nothing to worry about.  I believe in all of you.  Utilize your advisors, your study tools, your admissions counselors, your recruiters, your friends, your family, your pastors, your mentors, and all the things you’ve been taught up to this point.  Then get out there and go conquer the world!  I cannot wait to see what you all do this year and with the rest of your lives.

 

Lots of love,

Jenny

From a Senior

Graduation party season is upon us!  Soon we’ll be spending our Saturday and Sunday afternoons eating crock pot meatballs and Costco sheet cakes, playing ladder-ball on someone’s lawn surrounded by streamers and plastic tablecloths in the school colors of the graduate.  While milling around with friends, you’ll eventually encounter the person for whom this party is being held, and without thinking, ask him or her the inevitable question: “So what are you doing next year?”  Everyone wants to know.  I understand–I want to know the future plans of the students with whom I’m graduating.  It’s an exciting time of life, and everyone does it differently.  However, I far too often feel that all seniors can ever think about is the upcoming year.  We’ve just finished a significant era of our lives, but all anyone ever wants to know is what we’re going to do next.

Here’s some advice from a soon-to-be graduate: when you go to those grad parties, make sure to acknowledge the last four years, not just the next four.  Ask the graduate what they were involved in during their time in high school and what some of their memories are.  Ask about teachers that have had an impact on them.  Ask about their favorite classes.  Absolutely ask about what they’re going to do in their future, but don’t forget about what they just accomplished.  I guarantee that they’ll be happy that they don’t have spit out the same answer to you that they told their great uncle ten minutes ago.  Help them celebrate the accomplishments of high school as well as the excitement of what’s up next.

The Weight of my Worry

Anxiety is probably my biggest struggle.  It creeps up on me unexpectedly, causing me to worry myself to a point of illogical thinking on whatever issue it decides to attack.  I’ve been a worrier for as long as I can remember, and it is not an enjoyable way to live.  The constant fear of not being good enough or not doing everything correctly or messing up my only chance at something haunts me with everything I do in life.  I live in a constant state of “what if”–what if I don’t raise my ACT high enough to get more scholarships?  What if my food is expired and I get sick and have to miss school tomorrow?  What if everyone in my choir secretly hates me for being so passionate about singing?  What if my friends are all truly annoyed with me all the time and just pretending they like me?–and so forth.  I don’t recommend it to anyone.

I’ve tried to conquer my worry many times over the years.  I’ve surrendered it to God in prayer, in tears, in screaming and shaking and sobbing.  I wrote it down on a piece of wood and burned it at church camp.  I stayed up late one night and scribbled “let it go” over a piece of paper until I could feel the weight lifted from my shoulders.  All of those things felt amazing.  I felt like I didn’t have to worry anymore.  I knew God was taking care of me.  For a long time, the anxiety stayed relatively at bay unless I had a performance or a big test coming up.  Fast forward a few years–I’m a senior in high school, I’ve applied and been accepted to a private Christian college, I’ve filled out the FAFSA, and I’m in a year-and-a-half long committed relationship.  College is freaking me out.  I have no idea how I’m going to pay for the education and experience I want so badly, and I also have no idea what my life will look like at this time next year, especially when it comes to my relationship.  A long distance relationship scares me, but there’s still so much undecided, so I’m just sitting here, left to the mercy of finances and parents and admissions officers.  I hate not knowing, and I hate the thought of shaking up the world I know and love.

I know this is a lesson in trusting God, and I’m trying to.  I know He knows better; He can see the future and has laid all this out for His glory.  I know that He is going to put me on the path that will glorify Him in the most beautiful way, even if I have to go through pain.  I know this is not about me and that there are so many things I can’t see due to my limited earthly perspective.  I know all these things logically in my head, but when emotions get involved and worry stomps its heavy foot down on my heart and crushes the strength I had built up by letting it go in the first place, my logic goes out the window.  I don’t know how to shed this beast that keeps finding its way into my heart and mind.  I feel like I’ve tried everything and it just keeps coming back.  Am I going to live with this for the rest of my life, constantly warring against myself for my own peace of mind?  I’ve given it to God so many times, but it always ends up attacking me again.  I want the feeling I had after I watched the stick with “worry” written on it go up in flames; I want to feel the freedom of letting God carry my burdens once again, but I just can’t seem to shed this weight.  I am burdened down tonight.

 

 

My mom warned me not to write about controversial topics on my blog.

…but I want to go into journalism, so I might as well get used to it.  Also, this is a topic that I just need to get out there.

Over the past year of my life, I’ve learned a lot more about feminism than I ever knew before.  For some reason, I developed an interest in it, but I didn’t start following its worldview.  It seemed too in-your-face, and many of the things it fights for go directly against my beliefs as a Christian.  As I learned more about feminism, especially the new version for today’s society, I began to notice the different issues they stood for–LGBT rights, equal pay, and body-positivity to name a few.  One of the most popular feminist buzzwords I noticed was “rape culture,” which consists of different societal norms, gender stereotypes, and expectations that the modern-day feminist movement believes  contribute to rape in today’s society.  An important issue indeed, but not always approached in the right way (that’s another post for another time, though).  However, in all my investigation of feminism, I noticed something a bit unsettling.  In all their outspoken rage against rape, they seemed to neglect one very important issue: human trafficking.  Millions of women and children all over the world are being bought and sold as slaves, forced into sexual encounters with no say in the matter.   It absolutely baffles me that the progressive feminist movement, despite all their concern about rape, doesn’t seem to show more concern for the victims of human trafficking.  I hear far too many rants about “freeing the nipple” and colored armpit hair, but rarely have I seen a modern-day feminist speak out against the sale and purchase of human beings merely for the purpose of selfish sexual fulfillment.

Please don’t get me wrong, I know many of you who call yourselves feminists are concerned about human trafficking and do want to do something to stop it.  My issue is with the liberal, progressive, radical feminists who scream that high school dress codes contribute to rape culture but don’t take the time to address the issue of the 27 million people in bondage throughout the world.  So I ask you, liberal, progressive, radical feminists: why don’t we hear more from you about human trafficking?  I’m in no way trying to play devil’s advocate or back you into a corner with this question; I genuinely want to know.  Why, being as adamant as you are about fighting rape, which is a very serious issue, aren’t you adamantly fighting for the girls being bought and sold all over the world (even in your own state!)?  I know my worldview varies drastically from yours, but one woman to another, can’t we rise up together to spread awareness, take action, and prevent the further exploitation of our fellow females?

 

If you would like to learn more about human trafficking, how to raise awareness, and what you can do, please visit http://hopeforjustice.org/ and http://storiescafe.org/why-human-trafficking