By Madi Vachuska
Today’s culture sends a lot of mixed signals that can easily distort our views about what makes us a worthwhile person. Society says our accomplishments, test scores, material assets we have, and others' perception of us determine our value.
In an overly contorted world filled with grey lines, belittlement, and media saying our original body and thoughts aren’t good enough...
In a society stamped as the most narcissistic of its time in which we must compare and out shine one another…
Let's be culture changers.
Let's be rebels together.
Let's conquer the percentages and rise above the crowd.
Let's be the generation that realizes our value is independent of merit, achievement, perfection, and performance.
I recently read an article about vulnerability in adolescent development and the findings left me speechless; research found that 92% of middle schoolers surveyed reported that they thought social vulnerability with their friends was inappropriate.
Think about this in your own life: when was the last time you honestly answered the question “how are you?” We are inadvertently playing into a culture that says we must filter our lives to seem perfect and flawless in order to be accepted.
Let's wipe off the worldly makeup. If we allow others to see our 'behind the scenes,' we can be culture changers and create an environment that invites us to dive deeper – beyond a surface of jealousy and comparison.
Don’t you think that if we were more open, we would become more united? If we begin to connote openness with strength instead of weakness, we can change the conversation about where our value comes from.
Value isn’t something you can earn; no one deserves it more than someone else. You are already declared valued and worthy. You are not named by what you create; you are named by the One who intricately created you.
By Jayson Bronkhorst
I am training for a half marathon at the end of May (no, that is not me pictured). Having never ran in training for something before, I am following a half marathon training plan that tells me how much to run each day.
Today I was scheduled to run four miles.
About mile two I started to hit a mental wall and wanted to slow down and walk.
As I turned the corner on the path I was running, I saw a large, full-grown rottweiler standing among some bushes sniffing. He was not on a leash, and there was no owner in sight.
As I ran past him, he looked up at me and started making growling noises. I just kept running. Then he started to run up behind me and next to me, making more noises and bumping into me. I thought to myself,
"Dear Lord, take me quickly."
I ran faster.
About a tenth of a mile up, I came upon an old man walking. As I passed him, he graced me with his reassurances:
"Oh, don't worry, he's never bitten anybody."
The rest of the run, as I was processing what had just happened, I was thinking about how much it relates to 30 for Freedom, the run I am training for, and its cause.
30 for Freedom began last year with the vision of a man named Brent Silkey: to see 30 of his friends run 30 miles on his 30th birthday to raise $30,000 to fight sex trafficking and the horrors that abound within it.
All told, hundreds joined and the amount raised was over $80,000.
This year, Brent wanted to do it again. But this time, the new goal is to get 750 people to run a 5k, half marathon or 30 miler to raise $250,000.
Human trafficking is largely an untold story in this generation. Upwards of 4 million women and children are caught in this massive market in our world today, and on average, a new victim every 30 seconds.
My run today was on a lonely path in the woods. It's likely that nobody would have even known if I got taken out by that dog, maybe not even the old man. And it probably would have taken a day or two for people to realize I was even missing.
I thought about the victims of human trafficking.
Many are just average people picked out by their oppressors. Some of them know what is happening, and some have no idea what's going on. But those who run the industry know and hunt like dogs - they are capturing and exploiting the innocent. This is modern day slavery.
But there is hope. It starts with awareness, and continues with a willingness to fight for those who cannot.
All funds raised from 30 for Freedom will go directly to the phenomenal anti-trafficking work done by Project Rescue, F.R.E.E. International and Venture.
I have set a goal of $1,000. You can back my goal or sign up for yourself.
What can you do?
By Jayson Bronkhorst
It didn't click for me until I heard a couple well-known artists talk about their work and personal lives. The interviewer asked the first how she balanced all her work with her family life. Her response was that to work, to create, she had to be in a state of play. All too often, with design and art work especially, I realized I get caught up in deadlines. It becomes dreaded, stressful work rather than life-giving joy to create.
The interviewer asked a second artist a similar question, as he had a wife and three children. His answer was equally simple: his work and home life often naturally mixed. He didn't take time away from his family to work, but for example, he often began the early brainstorm processes by building small Lego models with his kids. He gained fame from beginning to post short, 5-minute doodles that he did as he woke up in the mornings.
I realized I had lost both of these things with Valued, both my state of play as well as my work flowing through my life, thoughts, and experiences. As a result, Valued began to lose passion. I had to think back to the inception and the growth of Valued as a brand. It started as a college project, but it was always more than that, because I do really care about people. But where had that vision gotten lost?
Was it in maximizing the profit margins?
Or the pressure of picking a good nonprofit to donate to next month?
Or the jealousy when I looked at all the other brands around me?
I had become engrossed in the business and forgotten the purpose.
About half a year ago, I made the decision that Valued Clothing would give proceeds from every purchase towards a different cause each month. As an American, I am much more fortunate that many people in the world, and I believe that a core element of sharing value is doing what I can to help.
However, as Valued began to take a back seat in my daily life, it ate away at me. January passed, and I hadn't picked a monthly cause. Then February. Then March 1st.
I realized something important when I heard those artists speak: for Valued to succeed, it needs to be not just a brand or company that I run, but it needs to be part of me.
It needs to be something where every design that I produce, I do so because I love it, I am proud of it, and I believe it will help spread the message that every person has value. It needs to be something where I don't force myself into all the other clothing line molds, because I am not them. It needs to be something that flows out of my daily life and who I am as a person.
In my very first post, I wrote about my convictions that led me to take the beginning steps in the creation of Valued. At the root of it all is the principle of Christ-like love, and how I want to share that: spreading the message that every single person has value. Throughout the various design processes, social media posts, and shirt productions, I stuck to a rule I made: don't make anything openly Christian.
I wanted Valued Clothing to be a brand that anyone could relate to and support without hesitation, and I thought it would help the brand get popular faster. In reality, all it did was suppress my true convictions and passions, and in the process, Valued began to lose its conviction and passion.
I had to decide to no longer worry about that stuff, because I know that the mission and vision of Valued will not change. My passions and beliefs likely will not change, but if they do, Valued will change with them. And that's okay. Valued Clothing Company always has an always will be a company that focuses on spreading the message that every single human being carries value.
I consider working with youth one of the most important things I can do as a human on this earth. As an AG youth pastor, I have the privilege of being part of the most amazing youth district in the country.
Valued giving from the beginning of 2017 through the foreseeable future will go to Speed The Light, as STL is an extension of myself, and gives me life. Speed The Light is not a means to an end, but simply a step in the journey. I believe that every human has inherent value, and Speed The Light truly embodies that cause. You can read more about STL here.
I truly love and adore the heart and mission of every single person and organization that I have had the privilege of partnering with. Now, Valued is moving into a season in which I hope it will be give life to people as I am restoring life to it. I hope Valued Clothing Company will no longer be in stark separation from me, but rather a fruitful extension of my own life.
Valued will support STL from now on, but this isn't to say that we won't work with anyone different in the future. Maybe we'll partner with local youth nonprofit Fighting Chance again (love y'all). Or maybe we'll make a shirt with 100% of the proceeds furthering foster homes and orphanages. Or maybe we'll make a collaboration shirt for Winona State Chi Alpha. ;)
Exciting things on the horizon. If you're reading this, I'm real glad you've stuck around this long. Let's share some value with the world this year.