Seek and Find.

I just seriously cried.
And not for any self centered reasons for once.
But for the world.
For all who are searching.
For everyone seeking.
We all have.
Some still are.

It seems all too often that is the point and purpose of life.
To seek and search and finally find…
But what is it that follows those three small dots.
What are we hoping to find.
Some, dying to find.

There is nothing in this world that will satisfy that search.
It’s all a shadow that we just can’t seem to catch.
It’s all a mirage that we just keep missing.
We are literally chasing after the wind.
We will always be running.

Is this the life we were meant to live?
Is this the reason we were created?
To search and to never be satisfied?

There is only one thing we need to seek to find full life.
And when we search, we have been promised we will find it.

Seek and search and finally find…
The lover of our souls.
The one who gave us this life.
And the one who gave up His, so we could live it – fully.
Seek and find.
And finally be satisfied.

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Jeremiah 29:13

Cape Town, Together.

I arrived at the airport two hours before take off, my heart pounding, bags packed, but with no ticket.  I assumed I could approach the counter and tell the airline attendant I wanted the next flight available. I had seen it done in the movies and on TV shows all the time and thought I’d give it a try. I learned the hard way that in reality that’s not actually how it works.

I had been praying for a miracle, I had no money and the flight I was meant to catch was leaving in a couple hours. Phone call after phone call, finally God answered my prayers and before I knew it I was boarding a flight to Cape Town, South Africa.

Landing at the international gate, tears filled my eyes as I was getting ready to see my sister for the first time in a year and a half. Expecting to be greeted with screams of excitement, I watched as others embraced and walked away, leaving me to wait alone.
After wandering around in confusion, it clicked. It’s my sister we’re talking about, here. So I smiled and headed to the domestic gate.
There I saw the back of her dirty blonde, accidentally dreaded hair, the blonde curls of her boyfriend, the beautiful brunette waves of her best friend and a sign that said,
Welcome to Cape Town, Courtney.

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We finally saw each other. We screamed. We hugged. We cried. We were in Cape Town.
We were together.

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The next seven days were a whirlwind.
Waking up with the sunrise, morning prayer times facing the mountains, cruising the coast, wine tasting in Stellenbosch, hiking Lion’s Head, popping champagne at the summit, surfing for the first time in Muizenberg, market after market after market, making sandwiches for the homeless, assessing students in primary school, attending fundraisers at a salon to raise finances for a safe home, sitting on the Jammy steps with a bottle of red.
Life was full and these memories we made I will never forget.

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Cape Town reawakened my heart. It birthed something new within me.
As I reflect back on where I’ve lived and traveled, I begin to see how these places have shaped me. They’ve shown me more of what life is meant to be like. I realize more and more that receiving is a blessing, but giving is where greater joy is found. Full life is a balance of exploring, discovering, and sharing.

No matter my background, culture, or experiences, life is most beautiful when it’s shared. Seeing people’s faces, meeting their gaze, exchanging smiles – whether it’s in the crowds on Long Street, looking across the garden at the Backyard Cafe, greeting the car guards with a kind hello, praying over Cape Town from Chapman’s Peak… we are all people, put on this earth by our Creator, to seek full life and to share it with others.

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South Africa took hold of my heart and I have been wearing a ring of that beautiful nation on my right hand to remember the beauty I found there. I knew someday I would be back.

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That someday is sooner that I expected.
In a few short weeks I will be traveling back to Cape Town.

That city and culture filled my heart to overflowing and this time I have the blessing to give back. To serve, to volunteer, to love – I will be co-leading a team of ten students, coming together to bring the reality and the truth of full life to the people we have the privilege of meeting.

For five weeks our focus will be on those in communities who are impoverished, trapped in prostitution, and affected by human trafficking. For so many, their reality isn’t beautiful, it has become shattered and broken. In a place where beauty is so prevalent, the statistics seem to say otherwise. Poverty, unemployment, inequality, rape, violence, disease, division are all too real for several South Africans.

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We will sit with the homeless on street corners, we will climb mountains and walk miles to raise awareness of the evils of injustice, we will speak to schools and students to educate and advocate, we will keep our eyes and hearts open to every opportunity, every person placed before us. We will explore the culture together, discover the depths of beauty and brokenness together, and share the hope of full life and freedom with others, together.

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This story began as a miracle and as I go back, I’m trusting for more.
Together we will overcome.

Cape Town, here we come.

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Do Justice.

Injustice.

In just one day, while you are working your 9 – 5 job,
480 people will be trafficked internationally.
Every single minute
2 children are trafficked for sexual exploitation;
that’s 840 children
in roughly the 7 hours you spend at the office.

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The total market value of illicit human trafficking is estimated to be in
excess of $32 billion and the industry has a
revenue that exceeds that of Coca-cola worldwide,
being the fastest growing international crime.

Injustice.

In several countries it is difficult to even get a case to court.
In India, there are only 11 judges for every million people.
In the Philippines, the average judge has a backlog of 1,479 cases.
Kenya has only 63 lawyer prosecutors for a population of 30 million.

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What feelings do these statistics and these truths stir up in your spirit?
Sickened, shocked. Helpless, heartbroken.
Confused, overwhelmed. Compassion, concerned.
Disconnected, numb. Motivated, passionate.
These thoughts and emotions can either paralyze us into despair
or propel us into action.

Injustice.

What is it?
Webster’s dictionary defines it as lack of justice and equity;
violation of the rights of another or others; wrong; unfairness; imposition.

My personal definition of injustice…
stealing, killing, or destroying the life of another.

John 10:10 Part 1 :: The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy…
It is the thief who steals from wholeness to create brokenness, who kills relationship to cause isolation, who destroys life to lead to death.

This is injustice.

//

Shalom.

A greeting, a goodbye. A blessing, an expression.
May it go well with you. Peace.

Shalom.

It’s more rich and meaningful than just rest or quietness.
It captures the reality and the hope of completeness, wholeness.
Peace is only a part of it.

Shalom.

What is it?
It’s definition is deeper than simply peace.
It is wholeness, fullness, flourishing, thriving, inner and outer harmony, holistic.
Peace with justice, that is, life to the fullest, as God intended it.

John 10:10 Part 2 :: …I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
This is shalom.
This is the heart of God.
His heart beats for justice.

But on this earth, justice has not yet been served, it has been stolen.
The misuse of power takes from others what God has intended them to have.
Through deception, doubt, lies, greed, envy, manipulation, control –
the poor and vulnerable are being tricked and trapped into human slavery.
Our world is in desperate need of shalom.
For restoration, healing, and wholeness.
For life lived fully.

John 10:10, Jesus came and he came for a purpose.
And now here we are, and he’s called us to do the same.
To help create, restore and rebuild his Kingdom here on earth.
To live for, fight for, and if necessary, die for shalom.

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My God is good and is a Lord who loves justice.
Micah 6:8 makes it clear ::
He has showed you, O man, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To do justice,
and to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God.

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We have a purpose. We are called to do something.
To do justice. To restore shalom.
Let this purpose propel us into action.

Be an advocate.
Don’t shy away from issues of injustice.
Smile at a stranger, acknowledge the lonely and lowly, financially support local efforts to end human trafficking, know the facts and tell a friend, host an awareness event, volunteer your time with a team who is working for freedom, lobby your local politician, be persistent and persevere, always PRAY.

Seek shalom in all you do, let it be contagious, let it change the earth.

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My Sunday Afternoon.

After my heart cry a couple weeks ago and allowing thankfulness to take hold of my soul, I started reflecting on the truth that life is made up of the small things, the simple moments. It’s in those times when it’s most important to take a step forward, choose to smile, and say yes to what makes our heart beat. Making decisions despite situations or possible setbacks and shifting perspective to one that is grateful and just goes for it.

In that moment, I decided that although I didn’t have a full day to commit to making skincare and the farmers market was closed, I did have a sunny Sunday afternoon and I was determined to dream and create in the spare moments I had.

A trip to the shop, ingredient list in hand, I stocked up on sugar cane and coconut oil, apple cider vinegar and aloe vera. I could barely walk home fast enough to begin blending and creating organic skincare. The sun shone through the open kitchen window while the warm Australian winter air swept in.

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A facial toner was first. One to balance my skin and add hydration after experiencing serious climate changes from summer in California to cooler weather down under. Also having dry skin in need of exfoliation, I mixed together a scrub to slough off dead cells yet infused with natural oils to soften and smooth. Heaven. Sugar scrub and balancing toner, sweet and simple. I found time and I went for it. My products may not have cute, eye catching packaging, but they were made with love and my heart is happy.

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In the midst of my creative outlet, I had the opportunity to bring natural beauty benefits to more than just my own life. Currently, I’m living in a cozy home with twelve girls with whom I’m able to share my passion of all things healthy, whole, and beautiful. That afternoon they came into the kitchen questioning, inquiring – what, why, and how. Watching and learning, they wanted to know more and I couldn’t remain quiet.

It’s a part of me, it’s how I want to live my life, no matter where I am or what I’m doing. It will look different depending on the season that I’m in, but holistic beauty will always be there – because I want others to see it, I want others to want it. Creating and cooking are passions that are not meant to be kept in my kitchen – they are meant to be shared, expressed, given, taught, encouraged, blessed, and lived out by others.

This season, my students are my number one priority. Their well-being and their walk with Jesus – loving, serving, leading, and giving. As I take the time in the simple moments to create skin care, shop at the farmers market and make a turmeric omelette, the girls in my home will observe and ask questions and grow. I am committed to caring for their soul and spirit, and I am stoked to show them how beautiful holistic living can be.

Life is brighter and more beautiful when we are nourishing our cells, nourishing our souls, nourishing ourselves. Treating our bodies with respect and love with foods that give life and products that are pure and natural, the way it was intended – original, organic. When we begin to care for ourselves in ways that grow, energize, and give life, it’s absolutely amazing the beauty that radiates. And it’s not just from glowing skin, but from a soul that is whole, cared for and confidant.

I’m beginning to see how important it is for me to continue my dreams even in the simple moments. Skin care and beauty may seem insignificant or unimportant, but the truth is when we practice self-love, care and compassion, we are that much more capable to give the world the same. We are called to love our neighbor as ourself, and that Sunday afternoon, it started with skincare.

Honesty and Gratitude.

Honesty is something I appreciate and aspire to.

So here we go… My heart hurts a little.  I am absolutely loving my life, but my heart is longing for something I haven’t had since moving here.  Hectic schedules, unfamiliar places, and new priorities have kept my heart preoccupied.  Please don’t misunderstand me.  My schedule is consumed with incredibly lovely people, the places surrounding me are stunning, and my priorities are to serve and care for others – in this moment, my life is so beautiful.

But my heart still hurts a little.  Maybe this is a season where certain passions may have to be placed on hold…   But my heart beckons and sleepless nights still allow me to dream.

CBC summer essentialsI want to create.  I want to spend an entire day envisioning new skincare.  I want to put simple, yet perfect packaging together.  Small glass jars tied with twine, holding precious oils and organic ingredients bringing nourishment and beauty to the world – or at least to each person that takes a bottle home.

I want to cook.  I want to spend an entire morning at the farmer’s IMG_0822market and an entire evening in the kitchen.  Finding fresh, vibrant plants and cultivating creative ways of putting them together on a plate.  Experimenting with flavors as spices and herbs float into the air – I want to focus on nourishment and beauty, that each bite would bring a smile to someone’s face and a feeling of health to their heart.

 

My heart may hurt a little and my life may look a little different than described above, but I will be present where I am and the season that I’m in, and let gratitude guide me.

I am deeply grateful for my new home in Western Australia.  For the clementine tree in my front yard and five aloe vera plants on my porch.  I am thankful for every student on my school and their sense of humor and raw vulnerability.  For the twenty minute walk to Perth City Farm and the random winter rains I get caught in without an umbrella.  I’m so grateful for this privilege to lead and walk alongside others into closer relationship with our Heavenly Father.  For also being led and having others walk alongside me as I mature in faith and fear of The Lord.  I am grateful for the kitchen staff that prepares meals for hundreds of people on a daily basis and a crew that serves so diligently doing dishes after we’ve all finished.  For a community that cares about me and cares about the world we live in.

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I am full of gratitude for another adventure in my life, another opportunity to experience God’s pure love, and although creating skincare or cooking organically may not be a part of this season, my heart can still smile.

Thanks for listening and letting me write it out… My heart doesn’t seem to hurt anymore.  I guess that’s what gratitude does.

Thank you.

 

Light.

A Candle in my Carry On has been a new endeavor for me. An outlet for creativity, a place to paint pictures with words, an avenue to share pieces of my journey, of my life – of me.

I love language – especially names. Names give identity, hold power and possess an explanation all their own. I wanted the name for my blog to portray the essence of who I am and the passions in my heart. Reflecting on what I love, the life I’ve lived, and the life I want to continue to create, I was reminded of a dream my mom had when I was young. I have never forgotten the significance of that simple dream and the details came flooding back to me…

Growing up, I was given opportunities that stir up so much gratitude in my soul. Traveling across the globe and seeing our big, beautiful world, experiencing different and such diverse cultures, receiving immense generosity and hospitality from complete strangers – and having the privilege to serve, honor, and love those I meet. Mission trips consumed my childhood and molded me into the woman I am today. A lover of people, a seeker for new places, a follower of Jesus, a discoverer of beauty amidst the brokenness, a free spirit led by faith. I am meant to travel, I am meant to experience, I am meant to receive – but most importantly, I am meant to give.  To give love, to give light.

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…As my mom slept, she saw my sister and I standing in an airport. Bags packed, ready to take off. We were quite young, but excitement and our love for adventure filled our faces. However, the thing that caught my mom’s attention was what we were carrying with us – a backpack across our shoulders shone brightly from something inside. While the top zipper was left open, she was able to look to see what created such a spark. A simple, white candle. Burning, glowing, giving off such radiance and light. Two young souls setting off to see the world, but with a candle in our carry on.

My prayer is that dream continues to come true. That I may be one who travels with light, lives with light, and loves with light. Light completely dispels the darkness and my prayer is that as my life reflects The Light and as I give, love, and serve, that the world’s darkness will diminish and love will burn brightly.

[my theme song for life // click here to listen]

My Earthquake.

My earth shook in California.
Something shifted, something moved.
But nothing broke.  Nothing fell apart.
Instead, something was rebuilt.

I was warned, leaving the midwest and making the move to the west coast about the natural disasters to watch out for – especially earthquakes.  Some tremors small, others more intense.  A couple of times they did hit, and I would get texts from friends checking to see if I was safe.  But being hours away exploring California, I had completely missed the earthquake experience.

Well, not entirely.

My world was rocked in California.  In ways I am still trying to process and comprehend.  In my twenty seven short years, I have seen and experienced so much – yet something significant took place in these last six months.  Something I have never experienced before, and honestly never expected.

IMG_0550My sister and I came out to California with only a little bit of cash and a car full of clothes.  Naive, yet full of faith that God would make a way – even through the ice covered highways, high winds, flat tires, and the unknown of what was ahead.  We had dreamed of doing this drive and making this move since we were so young.  Yet through the years it never was a possibility until now.  Timing is everything – and God’s timing is perfect.

Maybe that’s why my experience in California and creating a life on the west coast seemed so perfect.  Of course, valleys, hills and waves are an inevitable part of the journey and mine was no exception.  But the breathtaking beauty and richness of relationship I found there grounded and strengthened me.  We rocked up as two midwest girls not knowing a soul, and now six months later, we are rad California chicks with a family that supports us every step we take.

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Every single step.  I was given such a solid support system that has, even from the early stages of starting a friendship, continually cared, encouraged, challenged, covered, loved, and done life with me.  They believe in me, they believe in my heart, they believe in the beauty of life, they believe in God and they believe in the beauty of life with God.  The way they have walked life with me has touched something deep in my soul – to the point of shaking.  Shaking off old beliefs, old ways of thinking, old misconceptions.

This was my California earthquake.  Things and thoughts that I came to California with were totally broken down and replaced with truth.  The truth of who God is – his goodness and love are written in the sky, the truth of what life is – a beautiful journey meant to be shared with others, and the truth of who I am – loved, valued, and always good enough.  For the first time in my life, not only did I have enough, but I was enough.

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My earth shook in California.
Something shifted, something moved.
But nothing broke.  Nothing fell apart.
Instead, something was rebuilt.

 

Life.

Life is stolen because of slavery.
There may have been a monetary exchange, but that life was taken and quickly quenched. The tragic conditions surrounding victims of human trafficking suck the very breath of life from their soul – leaving them hopeless and feeling lifeless.

Jesus walked this earth, loved radically, and died an unjust death so that his children, each and every person on this planet, can live in freedom and fullness. This truth is found in John 10:10 when Jesus tells us, “The thief comes only to steal, kill and destroy; I have come that you may have life, and have it to the full.” The life He lived and the life He lost was given to set people free, to give them full and abundant life.

I want to live like Jesus. I want to fight for life. That’s why I wanted to volunteer at The A21 Campaign. A21’s heart for human trafficking and their commitment to abolishing slavery is something I have been privileged to be a part of in their California office. Their excellence and passion is so evident as they work towards rescuing and rebuilding lives affected from this evil injustice.

My best friend, little sister, and current intern at The A21 Campaign has educated and inspired me to become more intentional and to get more involved with the issue of modern day slavery. The team at A21 is one that wholeheartedly serves and sacrifices to see freedom become a reality for millions across the world. I want to live like them.

Volunteering and serving with an incredibly courageous team has awakened me more to what life is truly meant to be. I am thankful for my experience and eager to continue this journey with all I’ve learned as I travel to Australia to work with Priceless. Embodying all that A21 stands for and what Jesus died for, spreading love, truth and freedom to our world – one life at a time.

Modern day slavery may seem overwhelming. The numbers, the facts, the stats – a billion dollar industry with twenty seven million bought and sold. But when you break it down, it’s a person, it’s a life – that has been traded for dollars and devalued. I encourage you to live for truth, live for freedom – giving back hope and life to those who have had it stolen.

You have one life.  How will you live it?

 

21 ways to get involved… Simple ways to make a big difference.
http://www.thea21campaign.org/content/21-ways-to-get-involved/gjf4co

Another freedom fighter’s story…
https://kelsiemaeoconnor.wordpress.com

My Morning.

I wake up just before my alarm goes off at 5:45am.
The blinds closed.
The sun barely awake.
Sister and I quietly get our bathing suits on, brush our teeth, take our coconut oil and out the door.
Grabbing sister’s brand new wooden board as we go, putting the VW Golf seats back and laying towels down to make room.
Rolling the windows down, turning the music up, we finally start to wake up.
As we rock up to Alta, two black coffees and our best friend are waiting for us at our table in the front corner.
We sit and listen and share and talk and laugh and take sips in between words.

Before 7am strikes, we’re back in the car.
It takes only a two minute drive until we pull up to the ocean.
Put in a few quarters for parking, apply the coconut oil, we suit up and wax our boards.
We walk through the sand to the salt water and pause to pray.
Praising God for this day, thanking him for all that’s around us, asking for safety, and committing our session to him.

 

 

And we start surfing.

 

 

 

The cool of the water, the rush of the waves, the strength beneath my board.
The calm in between rides, the conversations about life and love and Jesus, the beauty of dolphins swimming within arms reach.
Despite the wipe outs, swallowing salt water, and feeling exhausted, we try again.
And again.
And again.

The sun is now awake and high in the sky.
It’s rays remind me of what life is meant to be.
It’s meant to be shared and enjoyed and lived.
There will be waves. And it will be challenging. And it will be hard.
I might not feel like waking up at 5:45am, I might not want to paddle out, I might be too tired to try again – but staying in the water is always worth it.
Life is worth it.

The clock strikes on the pier and its back to reality.
Riding one more wave in before work beckons.
Wait. That was part of my reality. It really happened. It does happen.
On a weekly basis – we find time to take our boards out, grab a coffee, and talk about life in between catching waves.
Life is what you make it.
And it’s true, sometimes you can’t stop the waves of life that may bring trouble or sadness or pain… but you can put on your coconut oil, suit up, run across the sand, and learn to surf.

 

 

Trust me, it’s worth it.

Priceless.

Priceless /prīsləs/ (adjective) ::
So precious that its value cannot be determined.
So valuable you cannot put a price on it.

Sadly, values are determined and prices are put on more than 27 million men, women, and children in the world today.  Trafficked and traded for labor and sex, human slavery has become the largest growing criminal industry affecting every country across the globe.  The tragic realities of those taken or tricked into modern day slavery is one of constant abuse – physically and emotionally – as well as malnutrition and sleep deprivation on a daily basis.  This injustice gets my heart going.

Health, wellness and beauty also make my heart beat.  They have become my passion, my hobby, and my career.  Working in a spa for the last several years I have been blessed to help guests relax their minds, soothe their skin, and restore self-confidence.  I love absolutely every aspect of what I do… except for some reason, more recently, I have realized I feel somewhat suffocated.  I feel like my dreams and passions stretch further than the salon walls.  With a world in need of wholeness and healing, I want to help bring beauty to the nations – and now I have an opportunity to serve those affected by the ugly injustice of human trafficking.

In just a few short weeks,  I will be jet setting to Australia and joining a ministry that makes it their mission to work towards the prevention, release, and care for those enslaved.  Priceless is the perfect name for such a mission.  Restoring value, worth and identity to those who have previously been treated as if they had none.  Committed to seeing the abolishment of human slavery locally and internationally, Priceless is now starting a training school to raise up advocates and voices for freedom.  It is an intensive six month course focused on developing and deepening student’s relationship with God and gaining tools to serve those enslaved.

As a staff member, the next several months will hold unforgettable adventures, lots and lots of hard work, harsh realities of the world we live in, complete dependence on God, deep friendships and beauty like I’ve never known.  I honestly don’t feel prepared for this part of my journey, but I trust that God has brought me here and that this is a turning point in my life where my passion and my purpose will collide.  Spreading light and sharing truth to the world that people are PRICELESS.

My mission for the next six months!
http://www.ywamperth.org.au/training/priceless-dts/