When It Falls Off, You Know You’ve Done Your Part

Do you know who the most oppressed group of people are in the world?

Girls.

All around the world, girls long to receive an education, to live without the absolute terror of violent sexual crimes committed against them at home, in their neighborhoods, as they walk to school. The cycle of poverty and violence and the unbelievable injustice in our world runs deep and we cannot ignore it.

Simply put, in many countries, it’s life-threatening to be female.

At Mercy House, we seek to break this cycle in the name of Jesus. And I’m convinced, this is done through prayer.

And so, we invite you to pray for the endangered girls in our world today with this simple idea:

It’s a bit of twine.

And a single heart.

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It’s a simple reminder to pray.

It’s an easy way to share their story.

It’s a bracelet that’s supposed to fall off.

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Get yours today. They are $10 each, free shipping and 100% of the profit benefits endangered girls in Kenya. 
How to pray for the oppressed girls in our world:
1. Pray for their salvation.
2. Pray for their safety.
3. Pray that the cycle of violence that goes hand-in-hand with extreme poverty would be broken
4. Pray for the end to corruption of governments that are unjust and oppress girls
5. Pray for the shattered, violated hearts of wounded girls around the globe
6. Pray that the strongholds of violence, oppression and hopelessness would be broken in the name of Jesus.

This is the perfect service project for you and your kids, family, and groups.

Order a Love Mercy Bracelet Kit (Makes 25 Bracelets):

This idea was inspired not only to raise needed funds to help more girls in Kenya; it was also inspired as a practical hands-on service project activity for families, kids groups or Bible studies to do together.

If you’d like to do a service project with your family, a church or children’s group, you can order a kit of 25 for $10 (to cover expenses and shipping) and serve Mercy House by putting the bracelets together. You can return them for us to sell or you can help by selling them to friends and family for $10 each. Kits are available here.

Service Project: Easy 3-step instructions and supplies to make 25 bracelets are included in each kit. We’d love for you to sell the bracelets to family and friends and we ask that any unsold bracelets or funds are returned within 30 days of receipt.

This instruction guide is included with each kit:

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Prayer is the most powerful tool we possess to empower oppressed girls in our world.

WFMW: thredUP

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Welcome to the weekly WFMW post where we help each other out by sharing useful life tips!

Last weekend I bought my son a new pair of tennis shoes. Again. He’s gone from a size 8 this year to a men’s size 11.

Hello, growth spurt.

I don’t know about you, but I find it’s expensive to clothe children. But I think I might have found an easy solution. I just ordered my youngest two gently used Spring dresses from thredUP because she keeps growing too.

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Have you heard of thredUP? Not only can you buy discounted gently used and new clothes, you can also sell your families clothes for cash.

Here’s how it works:

1. Order a thredUP Clean Out Bag, and fill it with like-new quality women’s, juniors, and/or kids clothing. The Clean Out Calculator can help you estimate your payout amount in advance.
2. Give the Clean Out Bag to your USPS carrier or drop it off at your local FedEx Kinkos. Your bag comes with a pre-paid, pre-addressed shipping label to ship back to us for FREE.
3. Our fashion resale professionals review your clothing and we pay up to 40% of the resale value. You can earn thredUP shopping credit, or simply cash out with PayPal.
4. Items that we don’t accept go to charitable partners or textile recycling companies. They can be mailed back to you as part of our Return Assurance program for a $12.99 shipping fee.

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I just asked for my first Clean Out Bag too. So, closets, you’ve been warned. And/Or you can shop for gently used and new clothes at discounted prices for your entire family.

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It’s a win-win-win.

And if you sign up today using my affiliate link here, you can get 20% off your total for your first order with code WURPOTJ.

It works for me!

I Think We May Be Missing Something Very Important

It was a hot February day in Texas. We only had a handful of volunteers and hundreds of needy refugees had already formed a line, so everybody had a job. Even our kids. Especially our kids.

From across the parking lot, I watched my 14 year old give directions to the handful of kids barely taller than her waist. This small army of children were  in charge of the mound of toiletry and hygiene items we were sharing with refugees in our city.

I blinked back tears as they divided the supplies into over 100 paper sacks.

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They sorted donations, led refugee families around the free garage sale, and collected their vouchers for needed items.

They worked for hours and never complained.

Earlier in the weekend, I felt guilty for roping my family into all this extra work. What started out as a simple yes, ended up being a time-consuming-several-day event that is now an on-going service project.

Volunteers helped us organize and sort a truckload of donations, spread out on our driveway. When my 6th and 8th grade kids got off the bus, their friends asked if we were hoarders.

I think that might be called Junior High persecution.

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As I watched my kids work hard in preparation for that day, jump in and serve refugees and navigate a language barrier, I quickly realized they didn’t need an apology for not making the weekend fun! filled with more stuff! just for them! all about them!

It reminded me how healthy a bit of hard work is for all of us and how rewarding it is to serve other people. 

As parents I think we’ve missed something very important in our culture. In an effort to make family a priority and give our kids what we didn’t have, we’ve become a child-focused culture. In many ways, we’ve lost our purpose. The sense of entitlement our kids exhibit is fueled by a parenting model that is obsessed with giving our children what they want and by making our kids the center of our lives.

In a way, we are just too into this parenting thing. We used to have birthday parties where A CAKE made it special and now it’s an EVENT. We used to pass out store bought Valentine cards, now we have them professionally printed with photographs and candy and goodie bags and mylar balloon bouquets. We used to play outside with sticks and get dirty; now kids have a variety of expensive game systems and a lot of technology at their disposal.

This quote by Jerry Seinfeld made me laugh because it’s so true. But then it really made me think.

The bedtime routine for my kids is a royal coronation jubilee centennial of rinsing and plaque and dental appliances and the stuffed animal semi circle of emotional support. I have to read 8 different moron books to my kids. Do you know what my bedtime story was when I was a kid? DARKNESS. My parents would yell “Go to bed!”

We’ve all probably done the bedtime dance. I remember one of my kids had to have a certain color of pacifier to HOLD in her hand before she’d sleep. So, clearly, I’m no expert here. I’m learning from my parenting mistakes, too.

But in centering our world around our children and giving into their demands, we foster entitlement.

Most entitlement begins because we lack the courage to tell our children no or because we don’t exhibit the strength to keep our no a no

We continue to enable entitlement by rewarding our kids for everything they do.

We may be taking away the sense of satisfaction and pride that comes from genuine achievement.” Jason Walsh, a special education teacher in Washington, D.C., witnessed this firsthand during his school’s fifth-grade graduation ceremonies. Some students received as many as 14 different awards. “The majority of the students didn’t know what their awards really meant,” says Walsh. The honors “didn’t reinforce a specific achievement—but a sense of entitlement and of being great.”

Kids don’t need more stars and stickers.

They need more hard work.

Kids don’t need more activities.

They need more unstructured time.

Kids don’t need more stuff.

They need more opportunities to give their stuff away.

Kids don’t need more store-bought or manufactured fun.

They need freedom to create their own.

Teaching our kids about serving

I looked at my exhausted, dirty children who gobbled down sandwiches in the car on the way home after our full day of serving, grinning silly and full and I didn’t feel bad at all. 

Because I realized I had given them something money couldn’t buy. I had offered them something more valuable than the latest technology or hottest brand. I had given them perspective. And opportunity.

A few days later, I wanted to reward my kids. I’m definitely not against a pat on the back. But as I offered a small token for their great attitudes and hard work, it occurred to me they didn’t need a sticker or star or reward from me for serving others. It was time for me to change the way I parent.

Because working hard and serving others was their reward. Just ask them.

I Just Might Have the Answer to All Your Problems

There’s yellow paint on my front left bumper near the dent from the handicapped sign I hit in my daughter’s school parking lot. Not my finest moment.  A couple of days later the power steering pump went out and when we took it in, they found an oil leak. $1700 later we picked it up and a few hours later someone rear-ended us on our way out of town. On our way back home, with two damaged bumpers, the battery died and we got home by begging a jump from a stranger.

At some point, my husband coyly said, “we are THAT family, you know.” I mustered my most evil eye and warned, “don’t even.”

And there are job stresses and parenting trials. There are fears about the future and mounting daily stresses.

I believe it’s called life.

And even though most are temporary, these first world problems are still frustrating.

You might be driving around with dented bumpers, too.

You might be wishing you had dented bumpers to drive.

You might need a job.

You might be suffocating in the one you have.

You might be stretched physically, financially, spiritually, emotionally.

You might be empty.

You might be full of it.

You might be sick.

You might be tired.

Or worse, you might be sick and tired.

We all have problems, big or small, we’ve got them all.

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And it may sound bold, but I finally figured out how to solve all my problems.

I woke up the other day with a head cold, filled with exhaustion and dread and a grumbling heart. But I’d committed to drive my damaged van, loaded with new and old friends 49 miles miles from my house. We spent the day serving others in a stinky, hot room filled with eager women, an epic language barrier and a lot of gratitude.

I met women like Dalma who is 26 years old and has seven children and is from the country of Bhutan. She spent twenty years of her life in a refugee camp in Nepal. She loves learning to knit and has a bright smile.

And women like Su Meh who is 38 and the mother of 5. She spent fifteen years in a refugee camp and can show me a thing or two about knitting.

I met Me Waeh with a baby strapped to her and three other little girls at her feet. She wore a worried expression and I learned her husband was recently fired and there was an ugly $3000 cell phone bill hanging over their head because they didn’t understand the phone contract they had signed. Her greatest wish was to have a double stroller.

I didn’t think about my car or my small problems one time. And not only that, when I climbed back into my van, dirty and tired and stuck in traffic, I felt sheer joy. I was about to burst with the high that comes from serving. I could honestly say, “The Lord has done great things for us! We are glad!” Psalm 126:3. And I was ready to cry from the dose of perspective I’d been given.

This is the key to joy. I’m sure of it.

This is the answer to our problems.

Because when we serve others, we serve God. And He brings peace despite our circumstances. This is it. When we are feeling down and our problems overwhelm, the temptation to gripe and complain is a real one. When we fill our lives and our homes with stuff, stuffing down our problems, we are only creating a deeper emptiness.

The best antidote for worry is work.

The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired.

One of the great ironies of this life is this:  He or she who serves almost always benefits more than he or she who is served.” -Gordon B. Hinckley

If you’re sad, find a place to serve. If you’re sick and tired, visit a hospital. If you’re struggling to make ends meet, find something to give away.

As I drove home, my problems hadn’t changed a bit. I still had them.

But my perspective was completely different.

I patted my old minivan and thanked God for it, dent and all.  Sometimes we need a yellow fender to remind us how to solve our problems.

WFMW: 3 Things You Can Do Today to Make Your Marriage Better

I know what strain on a marriage feels like.

And it’s easy to see how the big stuff can damage a union.

But the true danger for many of us lies in the small things.

The day-to-day strain that comes with busy schedules, sick kids, work stress, unexpected bills, broken appliances and parenting growing children in new phases (hormones in the house, yo).

So, you know normal stuff.

In these seasons (and we all have them), there’s a tendency to let life lead you instead of the other way around. There’s the temptation to get everything else done and forget about each other. And when you do that, you feel the pulling in your marriage.

This year, I will celebrate being married for two decades. Crazy, since I’m still obviously so young.

There’s a lot of water under the old bridge. I have shared the best days of my life with this guy and also the very worst. And I’ve learned this one thing is true: every day is a new chance to make my marriage better.

Here are 3 things you can do today:

1. Connect :: It might sound basic, but with busy lives, parenting, jobs and life filling every hour of the day, it’s too easy to go an entire day or even week without connecting with your spouse.

  • Talk.
  • Don’t go to bed without asking your husband or wife about their day.
  • Wait for them to answer. Last week I heard on the radio that you should wait 30 seconds after you ask your husband a question without saying a word. It’s harder than I thought it would be.
  • Turn off the late night TV shows and communicate. You might be surprised what your spouse will say if you ask them.

2. Compromise :: Oh, yes. This. Even after so many years together, this is still what keeps peace. We are two totally different people and we don’t see eye-to-eye on everything (or anything some days).

  • You don’t have to agree on everything. We don’t. Just last week we were on opposite sides and we agreed to disagree.
  • Love despite your differences.
  • Don’t pick or nag or insist on your way.
  • Compromising on the small stuff has a huge impact on your marriage. You don’t have to win every argument or be right about everything. Getting along for the long haul is about meeting in the middle.

3. Care :: If a friend needs a favor, I try to be there. It’s often easier to care for a sick neighbor or show love to a girlfriend than it is to show kindness to our spouse. Being kind, going the extra mile for our partners speaks volumes of love.

  • Be nice.
  • Be quiet. I’m bossy and sometimes it’s better to just hush.
  • Do the little things. I noticed recently my husband filled up my car with gasoline and plugged in my phone to charge when I forgot. These little things show just how much he loves me and it makes me want to care for him in the same way. If we make it our goal to show kindness to our husbands as we do others, they will notice.

The relationships in my life are good. But I long to make them better. Sometimes the most profound way to do this isn’t as complicated as we might think. Sure, sometimes we just need a good old fashioned counseling session. I’m certainly not against getting help when we need it, but often we can turn the tide in our marriage by simply treating our spouse like we want to be treated.

It turns strain into something stronger.

It works for me!

What I Want My Children to See When the World Comes Together

For the last week, we’ve piled together –too many bodies on too small a sofa– to watch the Winter Olympics.

We’ve become fans of sports we didn’t know existed last week.

We’ve tried curling on the kitchen floor.

We’ve ice-skated in our socks.

We’ve sighed at losses and fist bumped at victories.

We’ve held our breath in nervous anticipation.

The Olympics are so much more than a worldwide sporting event. They are about unity, about the world coming together. They are about endurance and hard work. They are about the defeat of champions and victory of underdogs. They are about finishing what you started.

More than 20 years ago, I sat in my USA leotard in my living room and watched a girl a couple of years older win gold in gymnastics. I never made it to a platform and gold never hung around my neck, but I’ve never stopped dreaming or doing the impossible. I traded a leotard for a laptop and now I watch my son practice archery for hours with Olympic rings in his  dreams.

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[Mom brag moment: this past weekend my son won his division for the state of Texas in Junior Olympic Archery for recurve. Here he is with Olympic Archery team member, Vick Wunderle, who autographed his winning target]

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I want my kids to dream to do the impossible. I want them to feel the spirit of the Olympics rise up within them. I want them to find their purpose and accomplish what they are called to do.

I’m proud to be an American.

But sometimes I’m embarrassed by our actions.

We’ve turned social media into a forum to complain about first world problems and mock others–even at the Olympics. I understand this is mostly fueled by ignorance. Not everyone has been exposed to extreme poverty, but I quickly tired of hearing about the missing doorknobs and unfinished hotel rooms in Sochi, in a country that has spent more money in the history of the Olympics to present perfection on the backs of a broken people. I want my kids to look past the complaints about the color of the drinking water in an oppressed country and remember the millions of people who will still have undrinkable water weeks after the venues are empty.

Russia spent 51 billion dollars on the Olympics.

51 billion.

1500 families were kicked out of there homes (some at gunpoint) to make room for infrastructure.

“As journalists and athletes began to check in, social media site Twitter exploded with “#Sochi” tweets sharing traveler woes such as hotels without lobbies, water outages, guests trapped in malfunctioning elevators, faulty plumbing, missing manhole covers, unfinished sidewalks, and showers without shower curtains. A Twitter account dedicated to sharing these tweets quickly gained 325,000 followers, while the official account of the Winter Olympics has only recently cleared 200,000 followers.”  source

This isn’t the first or last time a country will overspend to showcase an over-the-top show. Fences separated poor slum conditions from athletes in Bejing, too.

I know this is a global issue. I love my country. I am proud to be an American, but I’m more proud to be human.

And when the world comes together, I want to my kids to see what really matters.

It’s not winning. It’s not a medal. It’s not victory. It’s not building something beautiful on top of something broken. It’s laying down the flags and color and language that divides us and it’s having compassion for others, even if they live and believe differently than we do, especially then. It’s lending a competitor a ski when his breaks in the middle of the race; it’s speeding down a mountain for your down syndrome brother who can’t.

This is the Olympic spirit.

More than winning, I want my children to value the beauty of helping those behind us in the race. I want them to be the one to come along the injured runner, the limping skier, and lend a hand.

I want them to finish this race well, not necessarily first, but with dignity and integrity.

Maybe Sometimes Your Kid Just Needs a Hug

I ran out of threats.

I ran out of energy.

I ran out of the room.

Mothering can be exhausting and emotional and it can empty you.

It was one of those days where my patience was a thin rope and my child was swinging from it. I was barely holding on and she wouldn’t let go.

Go. To. Your. Room.

I sighed and paced. Consequences ran through my mind and I made my mental list of how I should handle her actions.

My head was foggy, but I heard it clear Go to her.

Just the thought diffused my anger. I laid down my need for control.

I put away my rules and my mental list of consequences. I set aside the threats and the lectures. I slowly climbed the stairs and stood at her doorway. She looked up, eyes brimming. Instead of seeing a defiant child, I saw pain. Instead of seeing anger, I saw my little girl. I walked to her bed and sat down. Without saying a word, I wrapped my arms around her.

 Sometimes our kids just need a hug

She bristled at first and tried to pull away. But I held on and slowly, she melted in to me. And we sat there saying nothing, but everything that needed to be said.

Maybe sometimes our kids don’t need another rule.

Maybe they don’t need another consequence or punishment.

Maybe sometimes we need to break our own rules and just go to them.

Maybe they simply need us to hold them long and hard.

Maybe every once in awhile, our kids need to know no matter what they are feeling or experiencing, no matter how hard they struggle against us or how hard they fight, we will be there.

Standing in the doorway, waiting.