If you've seen the news recently, I'm sure you're well aware that more than 130 people died at the hands of suicide bombers in Baghdad, Iraq on Sunday. As I sat beside a friend and watched some of the footage Sunday night, I wondered what it would be like to see those images from his perspective. You see, I've never walked the streets of Baghdad, but he has. In fact, Baghdad, Iraq, is the place he calls "home."

Gabir* was a professional in the city, and as such, became a prime target for insurgents. On his way home from work one evening, he was abducted, brutally beaten, and eventually left for dead. Through an incredible series of events, he was able to move with his family to the U.S., where he, his wife, Sanaa,* and their three children now live as refugees. I can't imagine being forced to leave behind friends and family in exchange for safety, but this is the reality they live.

While they are thankful everyday for the opportunity to raise their children here in the United States, they are finding it difficult to make ends meet as he is unable to work due to his injuries, and his wife serves as his sole caretaker. After living in the States for one year, Sanaa is in dire need of dental care which is uncovered by Medicaid.

Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be selling hand-crafted earring holders to raise money for this family. If you or anyone you know is interested in purchasing an earring holder for a suggested donation of $20 (plus shipping if needed), one hundred percent of the proceeds will fund the dental work needed by this family. The earring holders are beautifully crafted, hand-made, and they make great Christmas gifts!

I will be taking orders for the next few weeks, and will have the holders in your hands in time for the Christmas season. I can't thank you enough for taking the time to read and consider this note. I hope it finds you well!

If you would like to help, please email Kristen.

*Names changed for security purposes.

My tear ducts runneth over

When I was in college, my creative writing juices flowed best at night. So I wrote many a paper in the wee hours of the night/morning. I like to believe that is when I write the best...or I could just be telling myself that so I don't feel quite as bad for staying up WAY past my bedtime (whenever that is).

I think part of the reason I write better at night is because that is when my mind seems to, unfortunately, run like wildfire. Thoughts that I haven't entertained all day, week, month, will all of the sudden pop into my head. Tonight is no exception. Though it may help me to be more creative, it is rather annoying not being able to shut my mind off. I like to be in control of myself, but the mind doesn't like to be controlled.

In my 26 years of life, I have experienced a lot - for that I am grateful. Though I'd like to say all of my 'lot' is good, there have been some bad, painful and disappointing occurrences, too. I am not sure what made me think of this tonight, nothing happened, no one said anything to me that sparked this memory - it just came to me. Maybe it's the Lord's way of using my awake-I-can't-sleep time for his liking? Maybe he wants me to deal with this difficult situation? Writing has healing power, even if I don't measure up in the eyes of some.

I am, for the most part, a non-confrontational person. I don't like to get in fights. I am not a thick-skinned person. I never will be, it's not how God wired me (I love who I am btw). And I don't like to "be in trouble." Most people don't like the latter, but some handle it better than others. I am one of the "others." Being the emotional person that I am, I have a superb talent of losing all control of the tear ducts in my eyes. I cry during movie previews, commercials (especially the most recent Goodwill ones), when music is really good (you know, where you feel it to your core), reading a good book, hearing a touching quote, story, song. Heck I even cry for people - if you are hurting (or happy), I can cry with or for you, whichever you prefer.

A perfect example of my overactive tear ducts is when I was pulled over for speeding (my only speeding ticket) in Dawson, Ga. I'd driven this stretch a million times. I knew there was a speed trap, but my mind was elsewhere that day. I saw the blue lights behind me and I felt the tears coming on, I tried my hardest to stop them. I had NO reason to cry. None. But I had no control over it. It was humiliating. As I handed the police officer my license and registration, I blubbered a million times that I was so sorry I couldn't stop crying. I'm sure he thought I was just some stupid woman trying to get out of a speeding ticket. Nope, not the case for me. I could NOT stop crying. It was terrible. And to make it worse, it was an ugly cry. You know what I mean, snot and all. I guess the snot kept him from being sympathetic because he gave me the ticket anyway. I looked ridiculous. Not sure if I would have had sympathy on me or just thought I was so pathetic that I deserved the ticket. My officer fell in the latter. Oh well, that was so 2005. :)

A couple years later, another "citation" was given to me. Episode of uncontrollable tears? Check. Looking back on this situation, I wish I had stood up for myself more than I did (more like didn't). I was accused of NOT doing some things that another thought I should have done. (NOTE: To this day, I stand by my decision of not doing what this person thought I should have done.) I went with my gut. I made the right decision, no matter what other(s) may think. I was called out on this in a pretty severe way. The "calling out" was based on what another, who was not present at the time of my decision-making, brought to the attention of someone else (who was also not present for the decision). Though I was asked about this, it was not until an opinion had been formed by the accusing. It didn't matter what I said. I felt out of control, not just with myself, but with the entire situation. Maybe even if I had defended myself better, it wouldn't have mattered? My tear ducts took over. I was transported to the 2005. I couldn't speak. I felt like an idiot. I was humiliated, again. Control...what control?

What's ironic, is this happened around the exact time as my previous post about "not measuring up." I was at my lowest. Some days I feel like I am still pulling myself back up, only to slip on some rocks and start falling down again. I do know one thing, something I believe with all my heart, but I (admittedly) struggle to claim as my own: everything happens for a reason and everything can be used at one time or another for God's glory. I haven't had the chance to use the events mentioned in this post and my previous to help others yet, but maybe one day. Unfortunately, many days its so much easier to believe that nothing good will come from this miry pit I feel I've been drop kicked into. I've gone through therapy because of this (how's that for transparency?). Some days I feel I'm healing more than others. Have you ever felt this way? Like you'll never recover from a "fatal" blow? Did you recover? What did you do?
I do I just wait for it to go away?

I love advice.

Hi, my name is "I don't measure up"

Life is so different from what it was one year ago. I have moved from Virginia to Tennessee, I've gone from employed to unemployed, and I've changed my surname from Travis to Delph. I also haven't written for myself in awhile. This is my attempt at rekindling what I loved for so many years - until recently.

It's been quite a ride so far - good but quite. Challenges I never thought about before, now face me on a daily basis: washing clothes for two people, cooking dinner every night, sharing a bed with someone who is 6'5", etc. Surprisingly, keeping my own house has been exciting. I have an extreme desire to keep it spotless - especially the kitchen. Married life is great - I highly suggest it.

My true purpose for writing is this. I'm struggling and have been for quite sometime.

A few months ago, one of the ministers at First Baptist Church of Hendersonville, Tenn., preached about "naming" one's self. In a nutshell, he went on to explain that he has named himself "manipulative," because he had a person in his past accuse him of that. Over time, he (with the enemy's help) convinced himself that he is, indeed, manipulative. Knowing this person, that is one of the last words I would ever use to describe this genuine, God-fearing man.

I realized during this sermon, that I too have named myself. My writing doesn't measure up. No matter what you or anyone tells me, I do not and will not measure up. Someone I once held to the highest regard paid me these hurtful words. From that moment on - almost a year and a half ago - I have lived with this statement: I don't measure up. Why does ONE person's statement have this effect on me? I wish I knew the answer to this question. I've pondered it on many, many occasions and sought the counsel of friends. They all have encouraged me to write again. But what if I can't? What if what this person said is true? I've wanted to be a writer since I was 14 years old. I knew I'd never make the "big bucks," but I didn't care, I lived to write. I am not writing this blog to complain, I am writing this for me. I've been encouraged by many, some whom I've worked with, that I need to write again.

So this is me, writing for - well, me.

The idea of blogging makes me feel incredibly vulnerable. I hate that feeling because when I'm vulnerable with someone it leaves me wide open to get hurt. It also leaves me wide open for Satan to remind me that "I don't measure up." I think it will take me years to overcome the hurt I've carried from those words, but I've healed some. I know I have.

I recently applied for a job as a staff writer at a publishing house in Nashville. For those who know me, that is a big deal, as I thought I would never write again once leaving Richmond - not because I didn't want to, but because no one would want me. I received an email from the publishing house saying they had received more than 300 resumes for the position and that they'd be in contact with me if they were interested. I knew for sure they'd eliminate me because I could never "measure up" to their standards, expectations and desires.

A week later I received a call requesting me to come in for an interview. Most would feel honored to be chosen out of 300, but I was terrified. I knew for sure they'd see the neon label flashing across my forehead stating "I don't measure up."

But this was different. I realized in the interview that I could do everything the job required, and I could do it knowledgeably. I walked out of the interview feeling somewhat confident - something I haven't felt in a long time. I want to write again. I want to prove that I do, can and will measure up.

I am in a valley, it's not pretty. I'm staring up at a mountain that is smocked in opaque cloud cover. The only way to see what is through the clouds is to climb up. The mountain is steep, but I know I can make it. I have to remind myself that I can make it.

Please pray for me as I struggle to overcome this hurtful name I have been given. I don't want to be known as the one who doesn't measure up. I want to write and use this talent God has given me. Pray for me to gain confidence in my craft and for me to completely forgive my name-giver. Pray that if it's the Lord's will, that I get this job. Pray that I will be able to use this situation for God's glory.

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