By the time I finish writing this, it will be midnight here in  Nashville.  It will then officially be the start of December;  of Christmastime.  I could do a year-long blog dedicated to this time of the year and why I love it so much.  It is the one time I truly feel…. free.  It’s the one time of the year I truly feel….excited about every day.  I don’t mind the lines,  I don’t mind the crowds and, uncharacteristically, I don’t mind the general noise.  Rather, I thrive on the melodies, the cold weather, the bright lights and warmer colors.  This is the time of year I really just come alive.   For me, it isn’t about the gifts.  It’s about celebrating Christ but also it’s about giving.

The dictionary defines the word “giving” as “to freely hand over possession to someone or something else.”    The operative word there is freely.  Of course I immediately think of my girls, my mother and my sister.  I’ve been shopping for those loved ones since August.  I really wouldn’t care if there wasn’t a single present wrapped beneath the tree, as long as we’ve told the Christmas story, gone caroling, baked cookies and built gingerbread houses, but I do want to give as much as possible to those I love and care about.  Not because presents are that important but because one of the things that makes me the happiest is to see joy on the face of someone I love.  It isn’t about how many boxes are wrapped;  it’s about the care and thought that went into each.  It’s about what and how much each gift will mean to its intended recipient.  But, for me,  it’s important to give on a broader sense, too.  My family isn’t the only ones that are special or that need a wonderful Christmas:  in fact, there are hundreds of thousands of people for whom Christmas brings a sense of crushing hopelessness and sadness.  For others, Christmas Day is no more special or wonderful than any other day, because they don’t know about Jesus or because they are facing a catastrophic event in their lives that makes hope seem like a distant dream.  It bothers me that there is such a disparity between the passionate way I love this time of year and the despair it brings to some.   And this year in particular, the weight of the despair others’ are facing is intense.

Instead of just dropping some coins into a donation purse somewhere (I know tons of great organizations!), I wanted to try and get a little more creative;  I wanted to extend the reach of a warm, helpful hand as far as I could.   The problem with that is my reach isn’t really all that big.  So I’m coming to the readers and to my friends and to my family, in the hopes that maybe we can join hands and, together,  2,000 lives can be impacted this holiday season.   I have spent the majority of this year writing a new book.  It is about child sex trafficking.  Did you know that child prostitution was only recently outlawed in  Cambodia—so recently, in fact, that some shady hotels still post signs saying,  ‘No Child Sex?”   Did you know that girls and boys both are lured away, kidnapped and then brutally tortured before being forced to sell their bodies multiple times a day—twenty, forty, eighty times a day.   Maelea is 11 years old.  She comes from a loving and healthy home.  Her father fishes in the Mekong River;  her mother cares for Maelea and her little sister.  Life is secure.  Until one day the Mekong floods;  the rice is depleting and the little sister becomes deathly ill.   The parents believe she has contracted dengue fever, which can be lethal.  The father decides the only thing to do is go to the village and try and get a doctor to come.  He has no money, but he is trying to save his daughter.   When he comes back home, he has a doctor…. and a mysterious woman with him.  Soon, he tells Maelea that she is to go with the woman to work as a domestic servant.  It will be her job to pay the woman back for hiring the doctor.   Eleven year old Maelea has been sold.  She is subsequently raped, beaten ad tortured for two years;  she learns what real friends are all about and struggles to differentiate between good and evil.   I am proud of all of my books.  Each one is special.  But this story has captured my heart…. and my attention.  I will never, ever forget the mind-numbing research.  I will never forget the videos I have watched or the interviews I have read.  I will never forget the volunteers who spoke with me and told me things Stephen King couldn’t fathom.  Images and sounds and the look of utter hopelessness etched in the eyes of these girls and boys is burned into my consciousness.  I want to talk about it all day, every day.  And, more than that, I want to do something about it.  Voltaire once said,  “Evil exists because good men do nothing.”  It is outside my capacity as a human being to stand by and pretend I don’t know any different.

The Character and Broken are two books that also deal with child sexual abuse.  Anna is ten years old and her story has resulted in hundreds of conversations, e-mails, connections that mean something to me.  Anna has hope.  Taya, the fifteen-year-old in Broken, however, does not.  For Taya, self-harm and suicidal thoughts equal the way out.  Excerpts to both books can be found under their pages on this blog.  Child abuse is an issue that lights  the fire in me like nothing else can do.  It’s difficult for me to talk about, but I talk anyway because the idea of a child on my street going through this eats me alive.  Although there are lots and lots of great organizations and fantastic causes, child abuse in general and child sex trafficking in particular are what hurts me the most.   And they are the ones I so desperately wish to lend hope.

There are two organizations that do an amazing job of intervening in the lives of those affected by abuse.

The Abba House Foundation seeks to intervene in the lives of children who are directly at-risk or already steeped in child sex trafficking.  Experts in the field, such as Nicholas Kristof, a journalist for the New York Times and advocate of human trafficking, point to this foundation as worthy.  They have a residential treatment facility for young boys who are rescued from trafficking.  And they intervene in the lives of girls who are at-risk and affected, as well.  They offer everything from counseling to education to nutrition.  And, most importantly of all, they offer unconditional compassion and love to those who need it most.

RAINN:  Rape, Abuse, Incest National Network.  I am a volunteer speaker with this organization.  It has a hotline where girls who are in trouble and need help can call to get immediate assistance.  But RAINN is even more than an intervention organization:  it is an awareness program.  They send abuse survivors, like me,  out into the public to speak their stories and how abuse changed their lives.  RAINN has made a difference in my personal journey to healing.  They have treated me like a strong, good person despite knowing my story.  RAINN has an education program that gets awareness into schools and communities;  it has an online hotline and a telephone number for those who need it; and they continue caring for survivors by providing resources and opportunities like the Speaker’s Bureau.  This is a far-reaching organization for whose effectiveness, I can personally attest.

Together, these two organizations are leading two battles in a big war.  One battle is human trafficking;  the other is sexual abuse here in the U.S;  the war is on children.  Giving to these organizations fills me with hope and makes me cry.  Their efforts are saving lives and I want to help, particularly during a Season in which children everywhere on the planet should be singing Frosty the Snowman.  Little girls everywhere should be asking for baby dolls, not just for one uninterrupted night of peace.  Little boys should be playing in the mud rather than hiding from weapons.  And no child anywhere should ever, ever be a “survivor” of  this war.


Here’s the plan.

During the month of December, from December 1 to December 31st,  30 percent of all sales resulting from The Character and / or Broken will be donated:  15% percent to the Abba Foundation and 15% percent to RAINN.   Not only will lives affected by abuse be impacted but it is my prayer the reading of these two sensitive books will positively influence the life of the reader.  Maybe they will be the catalyst for someone getting help.

Please  feel free to read this excerpt of the new book, this one of The Character or this one of Broken so you might  get a feel for what happens to someone’s life when it is viciously and unfairly attacked.

To purchase a copy of Broken with free shipping for $12.99 you can click here.

To purchase a copy of The Character with free shipping for $9.99,  you can click here.

The goal is to reach $2,000 dollars donated  ($1000 to each organization).  If this gift-giving project achieves that goal, then I will enter the names of each person who purchases a copy of a book in a drawing; TWO gift-givers will be drawn to receive a FREE copy of the new book, Dance For Me, when it is released in January.     
Christmas is a special time of year.  It’s a time when you come together with those you love, you  bake and you open gifts.   Maybe you have other meaningful traditions.  We like to sit by the fireplace sipping hot cocoa and reading Christmas stories.   Whatever the tradition, it is a happy, peaceful time for most.   For me.  And it’s made even more exciting and fun for the children who have gifts to open beneath a sparkling tree.   Giving to those who survive by numbing themselves to any feeling, even joy, only enriches life for all involved. Plus, you’d have a Christmas gift!  Maybe you  could give the copy of the book to someone you think might need it, thereby impacting additional lives.  I hope you have a wonderful holiday season,  one that is peaceful and full of mirth.  If we all join hands, peace is possible.   
“Come to me, all you who are weary and heavy burdened, and I will give you rest.”   Matthew 11:28.