Over this past weekend I came to realize how unbelievably selfish I can be. It was a hard pill to swallow, not going to lie. I’ve always considered myself to be a pretty loving and compassionate person, which in turn made me feel like I was being selfless. And then I realized just because I think nice things toward someone doesn’t do anything for anyone except myself. It makes me feel better about myself. Notice how many times I said “I”, “me”, or “myself” in those last few sentences…When was the last time I reached out to lend someone a hand. Gave of myself with no expectation for anything in return? Truly loved unconditionally? When I started asking myself these questions, I sadly, came up short.
Love is a popular topic this time of year, with Valentine's day being tomorrow. Let me preface my next statement with; I do not hate Valentines day. I personally don't really have a stance on it. I've never been one to freak out over having a valentine or celebrating this "day of love". I will say, I like the candy! However, I think it's such a bummer that we only focus on love, one day out of the year. I think love should be celebrated year round. Why wait to tell your loved ones that you care about them, until February 14th? Now, I know there are people who DO express their love to others, on more than just Valentines day, and I salute you! I am personally making it an official "Holly Isely 2015 goal" to show more love!
Now, I am not a hugger. I've never been a hugger. However, here recently, I've decided I want to aspire to become a hugger. (What a weird clustering of sentences...). I'm not entirely sure why I don't hug, I just don't. Well, let me clarify, I will hug someone if they initiate the hug. But I am not a hug initiator. I think it stems from not wanting to make people feel awkward. Get caught in one awkward hug/dance combo and you'll know what I'm talking about. Also, how do you gauge whether the occasion calls for a hug or a handshake? I know people who hug upon their introduction...HOW DO YOU KNOW WHEN THIS IS APPROPRIATE? (please, if you know, tell me... asking for a friend). All this to say, what's the big deal with a hug? Nothing, right? Except that 99.9% of the time, you feel better after you get a hug, right? Well, then why don't I try extending this gesture more often? I'm not saying I'm going to start running around hugging every person I see (that would be weird) but I am saying I'm going to start extending love more often. And to me, a gesture of love, is a hug.
Other gestures of love are kind words, making someone laugh, listening intently, handwritten notes, and giving gifts. I want to become more selfless this year. I want to focus on others and help them to realize they are valuable, worthy, appreciated and loved. Let me interject here with, I'm not necessarily talking about "romantic" love, though I do believe all of those gestures are important to display towards your significant other, I'm talking about the people you interact with everyday. Your co-workers, your family, your friends, the receptionist at the doctor's office, etc.
This past weekend I was in Louisiana. My awesome friend, Jenny with Love to the Nations and with the help of The Hub Urban Ministry, 318Live, & Go Ministries (more info on these awesome ministries, below), put on "The Shreveport Gathering" where women from all over came together, worshiped together and did life together for 2 days. It was a BLAST, y'all! God is so good and I am so thankful I was able to be a part. While we were there, a handful of us got to do an outreach at a local motel, that is known for prostitution. I was overwhelmed and excited all at once. Overwhelmed because I've never seen or been a part of anything like it before. And excited because we were going to be able to go and show these women love. I am so appreciative I was able to be a part of this outreach - it opened my eyes and even more, my heart. My heart broke for these women, who sell their bodies and for these men, who are searching for something they think a random sexual encounter can remedy. We went with a few people from the Hub and it was amazing seeing what stopping and talking to these women, treating them like actual human beings, did for them. Even if it was for just a moment, someone was there that didn't want anything from them, but to listen to them. We weren't asking anything in return, just extending a hand and loving them.
We were only at the motel for 20 minutes or so, but those 20 minutes changed, well - everything for me. I realized, I live in a bubble. I medium-sized, self-centered bubble that quite frankly, I was comfortable in, up until this weekend. I have lived a blessed life, with loving parents who support and encourage me. I've been surrounded by friends who challenge and love me. I've never had to go without a meal or a place to sleep. I've never had to look to a man or a drug for validation, I truly have lived a blessed life. Seeing these women and homeless people living life right next to me, was such an eye opener. I can hardly put into words how it made me feel. How it shook me to my core. I know this all sounds so dramatic, but I have to tell you - I am changed. The Lord really did do a work in me, this weekend and I don't want to go back! I don't want to view people the same way. We're called to love one another as Christ has loved us. (John 15:12) So, that's my plan - to go out and just love people!
I plan to talk more about what went down at The Shreveport Gathering, in a future post, I just wanted to get this out there! As I said, above, here is some info on the awesome ministries/organizations that made The Shreveport Gathering, a reality ( All synopses are from their respective websites):
Love to the Nations - is committed to sharing the Love of Jesus Christ to the nations, both in word and in deed. To encourage believers to rise up and live the extraordinary life God has called them to live through the power of the Holy Spirit.
The Hub Urban Ministry - is a a Christ-Centered non-profit organization that exists to bring true to the poor, addicted, enslaved and exploited.
The Lovewell Center - is a facility specifically designed to address the endless cycle of poverty by encouraging participatory earning instead of a handout system. This program challenges the generational issue of entitlement and replaces it with one of biblical stewardship. The Lovewell Center is a place that views poverty as an unhealthy version of humanity (spiritually and materially), and it therefore address the needs of the entire human.
Purchased: Not For Sale - is a ministry designed to LOCATE, LOVE and MOTIVATE women in the sex industry and victims of sex trafficking. The desire of Purchased is to love women the way Jesus would, teaching them that they are enough, showing them that they have been created by God for a beautiful purpose and walking them to a healthy life both physically and spiritually. Through outreach, friendship, and biblical community we want to lead women to full restoration in Christ.
318live - is an areawide multi-denominational young adult ministry. They exist to provide opportunities for 18-30 year olds in the Shreveport/Bossier City area to grow in their relationship with God, build new friendships with other young adults, and change their city and our world through serving the less fortunate.
Go Ministries - is an internship program that focuses on training this generation to be leaders that make an impact for the kingdom of God in all areas of life.
And to finish out, here are some pictures from the trip:
All in all - this was the best trip I've had in a long time! I look forward to going back soon! Also, shout out to Beth and Brittani for sending me most of these pics!