Moldova Day 10: Find Your Purpose

What are you doing here?

Right now, write 3 sentences that describe your true purpose.

Was it easy? Most people I talk to are confused as to what their true purpose is in life. What does it feel like to walk around ONLY living from one event to the next?!? Well, I’m not sure how you feel, but I felt horrible for the decades I lived like that. Then, it all changed…

The majority of my life was spent under the radar. I didn’t want to draw attention or rock any boats, so I kept my head down and followed along. Actually, it was more like I just kept my head down and did nothing. So, each day was given to emotions that followed the events of the day. My emotional state was always in a roller coaster freestyle and it led to emotional eating and turmoil within my relationships. You cannot live one event to the next. It just doesn’t work.

THEN…I found fighting. How I came to it is almost a Cinderella story in itself :) I was teaching yoga at a gym and the kickboxing instructor was a no-show for her class. Since I was the only instructor there, I had to pick up the slack. So, I taught a barefoot version of old school aerobics to the few people who remained in class. Something changed in me then. For the first time in my life I decided to branch out and try something new. Not only did I want to try it, but I wanted to excel at it. This lead to taking kickboxing classes (along with buying every Billy Blanks DVD I could find!) and that eventually lead to boxing, which lead to MMA. I found myself through the challenges, not through staying put.

You will never meet a more even-keeled person than a fighter. This is what I am trying to teach the young lady I am working with here. It seems odd that somebody who enjoys beating the crud out of people would be so nice in real life, but it’s the truth! You see, fighters don’t just train physically. They train very hard, if not harder, mentally. This mental and emotional training is what is missing from many other sports. A true fighter is taught to harness emotions and not to live in the NOW alone. If we only live for this very moment, then we are prone to emotional outbursts, rage, anger, depression, etc. If we can train ourselves to live with PURPOSE, then we have control over our reactions to certain situations.

My purpose is clear: I was given a great gift. I was given a passion for fighting, not just hitting people, but training the mind and emotion to be a survivor. Because of this passion I learned more. Because I continue to learn more I can help more people. The people I help when I travel are people who have not only been governed by their own emotions, but young people who have been suppressed by the will of others. We are only limited by our own will and our own reactions to life circumstances. We all get knocked down, but we can choose whether or not to get back up again.

Live with PURPOSE.

Michelle

prepweek4

Moldova Day 7

OK, so I took a couple of days off :)

JUST FROM BLOGGING! Trust me, I’ve been working.

Sunday was spent in worship and service in the morning, then I had lunch with all my favorite girls and spent the afternoon with my trainee who is becoming more and more of a daughter to me. Then, my sweet boy Igor spent the evening hanging out and talking with us. It put me to bed a bit late, but was more than worth it.

Yesterday, we visited a village about 2 hours away. We were able to meet a young lady who had finished the rehabilitation program and is trying to make it on her own. She is living in part of a house and is blessed with heating during the cold months (it’s still cold here). She went to great lengths and made us some sweet bread and tea. Her children, 8 and 10 years old, were able to skip school (the influence I have!) and enjoy tea time with us…a very rare treat indeed.

In the villages, all the bathrooms are outside….as in, out houses. After a 2 hour drive, it was amazing how badly I did NOT need to use the bathroom once I saw them. What is heart breaking is the state of living. What is even more heart breaking is the fact that they showed more hospitality and joy then most of the people I know who enjoy indoor plumbing wherever they go…

So, what is making the trip hard now? Well, if I’m honest I will say social media. Why? I am living life with people in deplorable conditions. Girls who have been raped, beaten and horribly abused. Yet, when I look at the world where I was I read petty complaints that remind me how easily we all slip into our selfish bubbles. We may feel called to do something bigger, but most do not act on it.

In the first few days here, God put the whisper of a dream in my heart….it is so big that I dare not utter it aloud, but I do pray on it daily. My goal is to start seeking out those who are on a similar path, those who strive to be made uncomfortable for the calling they have received. To me, missions is just like my workout: if I do not strive to be uncomfortable, nothing will ever change…..

What have you been called to do? Better question: are you doing it?

Think BIGGER,

Michelle

Moldova Day 4: We really all have the same issues

Yesterday, I spent some time at the House of Change and was able to meet the workers and girls there. We even had lunch together :) It was a meager spread of fried eggs (very popular here as they are cheap), salad with peas, salted herring, and bread…of course.

We started the session off by getting to know each other and then we launched into some fitness talk. My intern, Doina, lead the majority of it and made me very proud. One thing that stuck in my mind is how we are all different in view points and language perhaps, but we share the same issues.

Can you guess what the #1 fitness question was?

“How do you get rid of the belly?”

That was quickly followed by 2 that I hear all the time:

“Can you tell me what I should and shouldn’t eat?”

“How do you tighten hips and thighs?”

So, if you think that going out if the country to help others is just too foreign to you….think again! We all suffer from something that can be shared…for many of us it is the belly that begs for attention. :)

Physically, I am sticking to my resolution to allow my body a “time out” from hard-core training and over the top expectations (probably the first in YEARS). I do 10-30 minutes of yoga each morning, then train with Doina during the day. I also walk everywhere and take the stairs :) Accidental exercise helps! I am indulging in the local fare, feasting on breads, potatoes, salads, pizza, etc. We even had some cookies.

The interesting thing about sweets here is that they are not nearly as sweet as in the US. We should take a cue from European cooking. When you have a pastry here, you can taste more than the sugar and it doesn’t send your blood sugar spiraling uncontrollably….you simply taste a bit of sweetness carried by more natural ingredients.

Another food difference is that eating takes time. If you go to a café here, expect to wait a minimum of 30 minutes for your food to hit the table…oh, and there are no chips or bread offered for you to fill up on first. Just about everything is fresh and nothing is made before you order it. Take the pizza my daughter loves so much: the dough is rolled out and laced with goodies only AFTER you order….novel concept.

These are just a few things YOU could look forward to if you join me on a trip here :) You will never starve or go without anything for long. And, if you happen to be a medical professional we could really use some help here. Most of the do’s and don’ts are reminiscent of old wives tales and need to be put to sleep permanently.

I will take tomorrow off from the internet to spend some quality time in church here and to spend time just hanging out with Doina. I look forward to seeing you here….but even more so in Moldova.

Stay healthy!

Michelle

Moldova Day 3: Changing the Thought Process

One thing I am becoming most certain of is the fact that we are all human in nature. We have dreams, but many of us truly act upon them. We live in fear and doubt, instead of living in a place of action.

In Moldova, there are biological orphans and social orphans (like there are in many places). Biological orphans are so because both parents are deceased. Social orphans come to be because their parents simply do not want, or do not have the capacity, to take care of them. So, for many youth here they have received the message that are not worth the time or effort. The messages of your youth carry into your adulthood.

Because of this issue with feeling unworthy, many young people carry the burden of low self-esteem, low self-efficacy and general low tendency to think anything could ever come from their existence. This is a state of mind that many across the globe must learn to overcome….

One of the best things about my job is that I am privileged to see potential in people. When clients cross my path, they often expect to be judged for the lifestyle and then to be beaten into submission by one who so obviously must have it all figured out. They could not be farther from the truth : ). What I often see in clients is an extreme amount of potential blocked by self-imposed limitations due to the lies they have been sold all of their lives. It amazes me the amount of trust we put into simple human opinion…..

At the end of the day, we are all humans. The girls here in Moldova experience similar pain to what you and I go through when beginning a workout program or seeking any kind of change. The valleys in their minds run deep because of what they have faced and the lies they have placed their full trust and faith into. There are walls built in the mind to protect these lies because we fear if they ever get out we will be judged. So what do we do to break down these walls and bring about LASTING change, for these girls and for ourselves?

  • First, we do no harm. We cannot turn over the field of the mind so easily as it was hard-won by the darkness and will not so easily give up. We must approach it with a love and gentleness that will gain trust.
  • We must shed light to the dark places. Instead of always fighting against the darkness (and losing) we must commit to shining a light in the dark places to displace those thoughts. There isn’t an experience on this Earth that has not been shared! In other words, there are other people who have suffered and have been rescued from the pit of the mind. We must make our stories available to help others.
  • If we intend to help others, we must free ourselves from our own self-hatred and judgment. We cannot make strides forward if we are always looking behind us.
  • We must ask for help. Thinking we have to fight all by ourselves is self-destructive behavior and creates a hardened heart. Turning to others for help will enable cracks to form in the hardened walls of the mind.
  • We realize that we truly are all human. There are none created superior to the others, yet we allow these thoughts to take over and take hold.

One of the most gracious and heart melting phrases said to me this week was this:

“Thank you. You are the first person who has ever made me feel like they believe in me.”

How hard is it to go through life feeling as though you have nothing to offer? You may be there right now. I am telling you that if you still draw breath, then you are far from done here. You have more to offer than anyone has ever told you. Remember that you and I are created the same: humans created to help each other and show the light of love in the dark places of the world…and in the dark places of the mind.

On a side note, I was able to attend the 20th anniversary of the Light of the World church yesterday. I never knew the exact reason I couldn’t come here last year until yesterday. Two of the girls I met yesterday were baptized and they looked completely different. The dark shadows that had once clouded their eyes were gone. They had better posture and broader smiles…the look of girls who had experienced pain, yes, but also the look of girls who had experienced real love. It was a day for true celebration and a day of light in a dark place.

Until tomorrow,

Michelle

Moldova Day 2: Training Begins

Hello ALL!

Yesterday morning (yes, I am a day ahead of many of you), I had my orientation and began training the beautiful young lady who will become the me in Moldova. We have pictures…and I’ll get them on here just as soon as I figure the whole technology thing out.

Her thirst for knowledge on the subjects of health, fitness, nutrition and self defense is awesome! She was alert the whole time (bonus) and eager to continue learning. Nutrition got a bit confusing, but who isn’t confused by nutrition. Today, we will begin training in fitness and working more on fitness education. She is more dedicated to learning than any others I have worked with so far. She has a true desire to help the girls in her community.

There are experiences and stories here that can never truly be read through the internet, but are better to be experienced with others. Prayers for the next few days:

  1. Pray for the training to continue going well.
  2. Pray for sleep! I have had trouble getting more than 3-4 hours each night.
  3. Pray for energy to do the work.

My daughter got to try placenta for the first time last night and immediately fell in love with this cultural dish. Perhaps it is because the one she chose resembles cheery pie :) .

I will attempt to get some pictures posted soon and I will keep you updated on the events here.

Michelle

Touchdown in Moldova DAY 1 Commencing

Hello people!

So, yesterday was a LONG day! My daughter and I boarded an extremely packed flight from Houston to Istanbul at 7 p.m. so we could sit on the runway until our final 9 p.m. takeoff. Everybody had a baby! Seriously, it was National Bring Your Baby on Your Flight Night….and they all cried until about 5 a.m. when we had given up any chance of sleep. It’s not all bad though :) Security was awesome in the Houston Airport, as they complimented my cool haircut and were super sweet and helpful to Debbie. We were sent straight through with well wishes for our flight.

Our flight itself was full of movies and food. It was a little like a movie marathon with your bestie. Turkish Airlines hands out Turkish Delight before you ever reach cruising altitude. Though it’s not my fave treat (um, hello, chocolate!), it was fun to eat Turkish Delight on Turkish Airlines. It’s the little things in life.

Since the flight was 2 hours delayed, we had a HOME ALONE moment of running through the airport in Istanbul. The doors to our flight opened about 8 minutes before boarding our connecting flight was to begin. We rushed through at a rapid pace…to the security check point. Again, security was awesome and nice, even though Deb had to have her first pat down. Happens to me all the time, so I figure it was a good initiation to missions for her. Once through security, we got our cardio on with sprints through various groups of people and stairs at every turn. Bonus: After sitting for 15 hours the workout felt good.

Once we arrived at our gate, I was thrilled to see boarding had not yet begun. There was a group of young Moldovans in front of us, who repeatedly took selfies with us in the background….”Americans”. Debbie thought it was awkward, I told her to get used to it. We touched down in Moldova around 9:30 and made it out of the airport quite quickly. We were graciously picked up by Vlad (who runs the BOL center: check it out here www.bol.md) and whisked to our hotel where I got about 4 hours sleep.

Now, I have had breakfast and I am seemingly pointlessly telling you about my flights…why? Well, some other things happen when you fly. Most of us fall victim to it, but I am trying to help you avoid it.

First, I feel “fluffy”. You know what I’m talking about? I feel like I’ve gained 20 pounds in 2 days. Now, the science nut in me knows that this cannot happen….however, the woman in me is secretly crying and wanting more chocolate. So, what do I do to help with this issue? Check it out:

  1. Positive self talk: I remind myself that I am here to serve a purpose, not walk a runway.
  2. YOGA! I did 40 minutes of yoga, focused on integrating my core back into place (we lose it on extremely long flights) and stretching out shoulders and hips. Plus, twists will fix everything.
  3. Eat. It’s simple, what I do takes energy. That “fluffy” feeling will not go away if I try to starve myself…however the people I am helping may want me to go away.
  4. Realize the facts: I am extremely sleep deprived, overloaded on stress (did you see the connecting flight issue), and already prone to bouts of inflammation….these things happen. I pack plenty of spandex and sweat pants and I get over it.
  5. Focus on the good. Even though I am fluffy and tired, I was told I look much younger than the last time (YAY for no makeup!) and I actually feel pretty decent. So, instead of focusing on the “feeling” of my body, I focus on what it can actually do.

In a few days, I’ll be feeling back to normal in my own skin. I have promised myself that the next 2 weeks will hold a lot of yoga as my personal workouts, since boxing and fighting will be on deck for training. This will promote balance in the body instead of imbalance which spurs inflammation. Always have a plan when you travel. Travel light and travel healthy! And remember, when the opportunity to enjoy a bit of Turkish Delight on Turkish Airlines presents itself….take it :)

Michelle

 

Moldova or BUST!

Preparations have been happening for months and it is finally here! Today, my daughter and I leave for Chisinau, Moldova.

We will hop 2 international flights to get there, and hopefully get all caught up on our movie watching.

I have a bag full of clothing for the next 2 weeks and another full of training supplies. I would say we are good to go :)

What do we do while we are there?

The first week will be spent training a young lady I met during my last trip. I will basically be training her to do what I do, only I’m going to try to scale it down a little! I’ll also be attending various church functions and visiting with the staff of the Beginning of Life Center. The second week, I will join a team of people who are coming for a vision trip. During this part of the trip we will visit at risk families, local high schools, and various prevention programs.

How can you help?

Thankfully, we have met our money for the trip itself. The biggest thing we can do now is to bring awareness. I’ll be blogging almost daily about what is happening on the trip and what we are trying to accomplish. Retweet, re-post, and share with friends and family so that people will become more aware of what is happening in Moldova and around the world.

Join me in fighting sex trafficking and human enslavement. Give a voice to those who have lost theirs.

Moldova 4

BIG NEWS: The Who, Where, What, When and Why

Hello Fit People!

It’s time for to let you in on a not-so-little secret of mine :) I’M HEADING BACK TO MOLDOVA!

Wait, what?

I’m going on another mission trip.

WHERE?

Moldova….pull up your globe, let’s check it out.

Moldova is a small strip of land bordered by the Ukraine and Romania. Check it out:

MOLDOVA

SEE? You really do learn something new every day!

Moldova is also the poorest country in Eastern Europe and its main EXPORT is WOMEN.

Wait, back up….WHAT?

Goods are exported to make money. In Moldova, women are exported via trafficking…to make money.

So, why am I going?

I work with the Beginning of Life Center in Chisinau, Moldova. The BOL helps with LOADS of things, top of the list being:

  • A safe place for those who are rescued from trafficking
  • Counseling
  • Spiritual healing and guidance (there really is only ONE who can heal)
  • Training for life after
  • LOTS of prevention programs

My goal is different from the last time I traveled to Moldova. The last time I was simply going to check it out. This time, there is much more to be done….

I’ll be leaving the comforts of home on April 28th (with my daughter in tow) to make the 2 flights to Chisinau. I’ll spend a week submersed in training a young lady there to do what I do. We’ll be training in self defense, health and wellness, taking care of one’s body, training others and even running a business. This will open a new form of income for her, a new revenue stream for the Beginning of Life Center, and new opportunities for the girls who graduate from the program. These are avenues and opportunities that have NEVER been available to women, so yeah, it’s important.

The remaining week of my stay will be spent in several ways. I’ll be working with staff members on stress relieving techniques (put yourself in their shoes and see if you’re stressed) as well as gathering information to bring back home. I’ll also be working with other girls, prevention programs and helping to set up a plan of how we can reach the goals set by the BOL staff to improve the quality of life as well as education in their area. PLUS, I’ll be hanging out with some AWESOME people who will be over on a vision trip. I’ll have the opportunity to cast the vision the BOL center has for the future.

Still not quite getting why fitness and health is a key component here?

For starters, nutrition education is not something 3rd world countries have much access to. You just eat what you can, when you can. Learning to garden, raise chickens, and make the most out of your ingredients can mean life or death over there. Also, Moldova is heavily influenced by Russian and Romanian cultures. Due to this, PHYSICAL STRENGTH is very highly valued. This is why women are seen as commodities…because they are seen as weak. Teaching them to see themselves in a different light and creating opportunities for them CAN change a culture over time. That is what we intend to start this trip.

Now that you have the information, how can you help?

For starters, you can talk about it! Share this post with your friends, give victims a voice and get involved by speaking up. Trafficking is horrific and the lowest of how any human being should be treated, whether you know them or not.

Second, commit to make a change. Who knows? Maybe I’ll see you over in Moldova one day!

Third, you can give. What I do takes money. Plane tickets, lodging, ground costs, transportation and translators (I haven’t mastered Russian yet!) add up to a couple of house payments. The cool thing is that all the small gifts (even $10-$20) add up greatly and MAKE A DIFFERENCE! Plus, you get to be a part of change….a change that cannot wait any longer.

Fourth, don’t turn a blind eye any longer. Speak up. Say something! Don’t just be grateful it’s not you, help those who suffer. Be the change you wish to see….then the change will come.

Thanks for being the awesome version of yourself today!

Michelle

Moldova 4

#missionNOLA Day 3

It’s nice to be back on my laptop…also sad that I can utter those words since I was equipped with a phone that allows me to do more than normal. Be thankful for the little things :)

So, day 3 in NOLA was a life altering day (it takes 3 days right?). The weather cleared and we were split into our groups to make a difference in the neighborhoods. Our group did clean up in a small neighborhood close to the seminary where we stayed. I took a group of them to the median on the street and all of them dove right in raking, shoveling and getting their hands dirty without complaint. This was one of my favorites as it enabled me to spend time with some people I normally don’t even see to be honest. We joked, worked and got a little dirty all together. This very service is something that many people volunteer to do on a weekly basis, so some may wonder if it even helped. I assure you, it did. There were people from the community honking and waving, a man came out of his home as well. I think the people most influenced were those doing the work though…impacting something greater than ourselves and expecting nothing in return.

In the afternoon, we loaded up and headed to the French Quarter for some homeless ministry. The youth had made bags for the homeless the day before and we were on a mission to pass these goodies along. Strange thing was we couldn’t find any homeless people in the quarter (we had split into smaller groups), so we had to trek about 15 blocks to find them under the bridge. Many complained about walking (yes, WALKING); however, those complaints silenced once we saw the people in need. We met a woman who thanked us whole-heartedly and praised the kids for giving of their Spring Break to help others. She also said something that really stuck with me. You see, it was going to get cold that night and the bags held a pair of socks…everybody who got a bag was super excited about the socks. She said we would never realize how many people would think of us that night because they had the socks they needed.

You see, serving isn’t about changing the whole world at once. It’s not about thanks or warm fuzzies. Serving, at it’s most basic, is seeing a need AND following through to fill that need. It may be a neighbor’s yard that needs raking, a median that needs the trash pulled off, or even a warm pair of socks for someone whose feet do not get to feel the luxury of warmth very often.

This week, I saw a group of teenagers do amazing things in selfless ways. Did they complain about comfort? Yes…BUT they never complained about the service. Lives were changed in NOLA this week and I hope that we have brought a small piece of that experience back so we can change more lives right where we live. I challenge you to think of ways you can help others in need this week AND have the courage of these teens to follow through.

Michelle