Here’s Our Chance to Really See The World

The earrings placed in my hand made me stop in my tracks. I looked down at the neon pink crocheted earrings and was completely speechless. I looked up at Klaw Meh, one of our longtime students and smiled at her. This wasn’t the first time she used different yarn. We usually buy whatever we think we can sell, but for Fair Trade Friday, we are a little more selective. I called over a translator and asked why they were pink. “Does she have any neutral ones to sell?” I wasn’t sure we could sell neon earrings. I wanted to find out why Klaw Meh didn’t use the thread we gave her.

I wasn’t prepared for her answer.

The translator explained that Klaw Meh got on a bus and rode to a Walmart to buy the different thread.

She made the journey, spending her own money to purchase the neon thread so she could join the rest of the class. She chose pink because it was all she could see.

I looked into her cloudy eyes masked with cataracts and suddenly I understood.

My heart pounded in my chest as I grasped how desperate she must have been to participate, to see.

Isn’t this why we are here? This is why we come Friday after Friday to the cramped cold room, so these women who have been battered and abused and disregarded by our world–can see. So they might see hope and opportunity and mostly God’s love they cannot explain or even comprehend.

It’s a melting pot of color and countries, this apartment complex in the middle of Houston, that houses thousands of refugees from all over the world. The United Nations rescues them from refugee camps in Burma and Bhutan, Nepal and Thailand and plops them down in what we Texans know as Chinatown. But they don’t speak Chinese or English and most of the women were born in a refugee tent with open sides, a hard packed floor and a thick layer of dirt covering everything.

Governments give them refuge from genocide and religious persecution and then they wait for years in those campe-many are still waiting-to come here. To this dank apartment complex in the middle of the seventh largest city in the USA for a chance at freedom and opportunity.

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But there’s isn’t sadness on Fridays. No one complains about living in a two bedroom apartment with 18 other people. No one mentions their husband’s factory job that he works 6 days a week for minimum wage, providing barely enough to cover rent and food for the month. No one complains about reusing disposable diapers for their newborn babies because welfare checks don’t cover paper products.

No, there’s only gratitude and a lot of hope.

Click over to Ann Voskamp’s to continue reading the story (and about our BIG announcement!)

Friends, we have so much and it’s too easy to see the world through the distorted lens of our western culture. Sometimes God gives us an opportunity to see the world more clearly. Opportunities like this: For just $11.99 a month, you can get a pair of high quality earrings with our new Fair Trade Friday option: Earring of the Month.

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Each month features a different style of earring from a different country. We’ve partnered with amazing faith-based organizations who are helping women in Haiti, Ethiopia, Bangladesh, Kenya, Ethiopia and many more.

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And every pair of earrings come in a reusable bag that creates sustainable jobs for women in Kenya and Ethiopia. It just doesn’t get better than that.

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Sure, we probably don’t need another pair of earrings, but when our cute accessories have the power to provide a job for an impoverished woman in another country and help her see that she is not forgotten, perhaps this small way to change the world isn’t so small after all.

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If you sign up for the new affordable Earring of the Month option and come back here and leave a comment on this post, saying you did so, I will choose 25 commenters and send them this beautiful $25 paper bead necklace (color may vary) made by residents at Rehema House in Kenya in celebration of this new launch!

I Want My Daughters To Know What A Real Woman Looks Like

I waited until she came into my bathroom like she does most mornings before school.

“Here honey, let me help you,” I offered as I handed her a hair brush. “Hey, so I heard you were on a diet,” I said in a light-hearted teasing tone and I waited for a response. My friend had told me about our daughters’ conversation about dieting at school the day before. They are both second graders.

“Oh, I was just kidding, Mom,” she assured me.

I figured as much, but I pressed in, “You don’t need to be on a diet. You know that, right?” Lately, at 8 years old, I’ve noticed she cares a little more about her hair and what she’s wearing for the day.

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“I know. But I do need to eat healthy. You tell us that all the time,” she had me there.

I thought of all the eating out we’d done on our weekend getaway and the Valentine’s candy and her sweet tooth and those same words that had come out of my mouth. “Yes, but healthy eating isn’t dieting.”

We talked more about good food choices and about all our favorite desserts. It wasn’t an hour later when I read that girls as young as 5 years old are concerned about body image. And why wouldn’t they be with only perfect bodies, long thick hair, and clear complexions gracing every magazine cover at the grocery store? “I think there’s a lot of talk about teens and body image, and many parents become aware of that when kids hit puberty, but kids as young as 5 are already expressing a desire for a body that is thinner than their current self or future self,” said Seeta Pai, vice president of research for Common Sense Media and author of the report.

I thought about what I’d seen the day before at the Honor Roll Breakfast at the high school my daughter attends. Terrell leaned over and said, “No wonder our daughter changes clothes so many times before school. Look at how these girls are dressed.” He was right, it was like a fashion show. And with it comes pressure to fit in.

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“It’s crazy how we’re so inundated with these images of perfection and … we’re teaching young girls that that’s normal. So people are growing up now with these ideas of how they should look,” said Juliana Lyons, “It’s setting us up to fail because we’re not perfect. We’re not Photoshopped in real life.” Juliana is a teenager who has recently gained a lot of media attention for a song she wrote called Beautifully Flawed saying just that.

I think that’s why I gasped and clapped my hands out loud when I saw the image last week of supermodel Cindy Crawford looking well, imperfect. The viral photo was controversial because some said it was leaked while others said it was intentional. Either way, it wasn’t photoshopped. It was the body of a real woman- a mom whose body bares the marks of pregnancy and change. It wasn’t perfect and that’s what made it so beautiful.

Instantly, when I saw it, I felt better about my own soft rolls and thick middle. There’s something powerful about showing what untouched photos of real women look like and it’s exactly what our daughters need to see.

Odds are they won’t see it in their favorite movie or on the cover of the popular magazines. That’s why we have to show our daughters what a real woman’s body looks like and be okay with it. That’s not to say we shouldn’t try to improve our health, but accepting and loving who we are and what we look like is a great start to improving our health.

There is a real temptation to hide our imperfections, to cover our ample areas, to talk negatively about what we don’t like in the mirror.  But when we are unhappy with our bodies and verbalize it, our little girls pick up on it. “Five- to 8-year-olds who think their moms are unhappy with their bodies are more likely to feel dissatisfied with their own, according to Common Sense Media’s report.

In our culture, it’s hard for them to decipher what is real and what is computer-perfect.

I usually duck when someone tries to take my picture and my tendency is to avoid public swimming and I like to have everything “fixed” before I leave the house. My daughters pick up on all of these things and I’m determined to do better.

My husband’s favorite picture of me–it’s on his phone and computer screen saver and he’s always referring to it, is one of me in Africa with wrinkled clothes and skin, without makeup, very dirty hair, sitting in one of the poorest homes I’ve ever been in. He says it’s real beauty, the kind that goes far deeper than what I’m wearing or how I feel about what I’m wearing.

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We need to rock that swim skirt like a champ and go ahead and feel good in our skin. Our daughters need to see our imperfections and our insecurities. They need to know that real women have blemishes and bloating and that real beauty comes from within.

Because a real woman doesn’t always have the perfect spring wardrobe or all the good hair days.

She doesn’t always cook gourmet meals or pass the white glove test.

She can’t always hide the crows feet or chipped toenail polish.

Sometimes she laughs loud and cries often.

She is imperfectly beautiful.

If you ask a small child who the most beautiful woman in the world is, they will often say, “Mommy!” Their perception of perfection hasn’t been jaded by media or culture. They are looking past the tired eyes, yoga pants and three day hair-in-a-bun. They see beauty in the small acts of service-the hug, the extra cookie, the bedtime story.

We should, too.

It’s a great way to show our daughters what real women look like.