The Life-Changing Price of Gratitude

The musty room was stifling, a mixture of sweaty bodies and uncirculated air. I could hardly breathe.

The women were waiting their turn patiently, but the line was out the door. They pressed in closely towards the back of the room where we were buying.

It was Friday.

We were purchasing (super cute) items for our upcoming December Fair Trade Friday boxes (we provide the supplies for free for those who attend classes). My friend Taylor and I always carefully calculate how much money to bring so we can buy something from every lady in the room. There are now 65 ladies in our class, so it’s a lot of math. And even more money.

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Once we get thru the line, the room fills up again and the women hold up their creations and Taylor buys items for the The Refugee Project Store. And no matter how well we plan, we always run out of money. The women bring bags of beautiful items and are eager to sell so they can buy necessities like diapers and toilet paper for their families since most of their factory incomes go towards government housing.

I finally opened a window to let the breeze in and I took a deep breath. The money bag was nearly empty and there were still more than ten ladies in line, mostly women from Burma. I quickly did some figuring and realized for the first time since we started this class almost a year ago, we would run out of money before we were able to buy something from everyone. There is a lot of racial division in the class among the different people groups and I knew this wouldn’t help. Taylor and I looked at each other and tried to figure out what went wrong with our calculations. We asked the remaining women to wait on one side of the room, while the other side filled up with women who wanted to sell extra things they had brought.

The language barrier is huge and it’s hard to explain that you have enough for some and not for others.

We didn’t have time to get to a bank and we still needed $220 to buy from those still in line.

It was tense.

We asked the volunteers with us if they had money and we collected $222 from those serving in the room. I took a deep sigh of relief when we paid the last lady –with $2 to spare.

Taylor wouldn’t be able to buy extra items and so we told the group of ladies with all their gorgeous scarves and practical dish cloths we were out of money and encouraged them to bring their stuff back to the next class.  By that point, I had a splitting headache and Taylor was crying.

Because changing the world for another person is a hard kind of beautiful. And some days the burden is overwhelming.

This is an Art Business Class. It’s an opportunity for refugee women to learn a skill for free and earn a little extra money. It’s education and business.

It’s also community. And most importantly, it’s an entry point for The Gospel. And we are beginning to see some beautiful testimonies of that.

But something unexpected happened in that stuffy room last Friday.

Usually at the end of the class, when we are out of money, everyone says their goodbyes.

But many of the refugee ladies sensed our stress, saw our tears, and watched us borrow money from our friends. And they responded. Not as customers or students, but as sisters.

One by one, the women took the beautiful scarves out of their bags and walked up to each of us–and placed them around our necks and hugged us, faces shining.

They had purchased the yarn and supplies with their own money and instead of waiting the next week to sell their creations, they turned them into gifts.

Multiple language barriers, racism, economic divides and am empty bank bag can’t stop gratitude.

Taylor asked me later, “Do you think the women know that my husband and I spend hours each week winding yarn balls and selling their products? Do you think the young moms in Kenya and all the women empowered through Fair Trade Friday know how hard you and your volunteerswork?”

Probably not, I said.  God knows and that’s what matters.

But with a lovely new scarf around my neck, I think I will change my answer.

Serving cost us something.

But the life-changing price of gratitude is worth it.

And even though none of us left with extra money that day, we were all a little richer.

WFMW: 3 Ways to Help Your Kids Connect With God [The Ultimate Christian eBook Bundle]

YesWFMW

At my house, there is a window of time after dinner that is very important.

It’s imperfect.

It’s messy.

It’s my favorite.

It’s the pause in our day when we have meaningful conversation. Sometimes it’s a hilarious attempt at intentional time that ends in failure (like last week, with Bibles wide opened and something triggered a conversation about bodily functions and names for body parts. Yeah, we just had to scrap the whole thing.) And then sometimes, we uncover a gem of a moment, when we ask hard questions and press into our faith.

This is where we connect and grow. It’s also when we open the Bible together as a family.

There’s no perfect or right formula for breaking Bread together. We have tried a variety of options. Some have worked, others haven’t, but we continue to try.  Family devotions will look different for every family. But even in the messiness of our lives, we can uncover life-changing moments. Sometimes we read inspirational Christian non-fiction books. A few months ago, we passed out spiral notebooks-one for each person- and put our Bibles in a basket near the dinner table. A few nights a week, we each write down 1-2 verses (we started with I John), then we take turns reading what we wrote in the different translations. Next, we write down a sentence or two of what we think the verse is saying…what we observe. Then we write down and share how we will obey the Scripture. Something about this practice, for this season, has been very right for our family.

Saying Yes ebook cover

Other times, we do family devotionals like the companion eBook I wrote earlier this year with the launch of Rhinestone Jesus. It’s 30 lessons for around the table, with some hands-on activities and conversation starters, plus fun printables. I’m excited to announce that my eBook is included in the Ultimate Christian Living eBook Bundle that is available for a short time, starting today! (I’m including my author affiliate link)

This complete Christian Living Library includes more than 75 eBooks and several bonus gifts. It’s valued at $1141 and it’s on sale for only $34.95–a 96% savings!

There are so many great books in a variety of categories, from Business to Personal Finances to Children, Marriage, Parenting, Inspirational Fiction and more. Here are about half of the eBooks that are included:

Don’t miss out on this fabulous deal on an inspiring collection of life-changing eBooks!

We can’t leave our children’s Christian education up to the church or youth group. One or two hours a week isn’t enough. We can help them connect with God by connecting with Him ourselves. Reading the Bible together as a family and learning from inspiring books is a great place to start.

 

25 Intentional Ways to Enjoy Fall With Your Family

Fall is my favorite time of the year. I love everything about the changing colors, the cooler weather, the comfort food, and any excuse to wear boots. Oh, and I enjoy being outdoors with my family. The days are long, but the years are short. Let’s make them count. Here are 25 meaningful ways to enjoy them (some affiliate links included):

25 Intentional ways to enjoy fall with your family

  1. Our number one favorite fall activity for one-on-one time? We lay in this together. Oh my goodness. Every family needs a giant hammock. But an old blanket in the yard will work too. It’s the perfect place to whisper and read books and be together.
  2. Go on a walk, hunt for leaves, acorns and fall flare
  3. Get outside-toss a football or chase each other. We gave this very fun outdoor game to my husband for his birthday. It’s a favorite for all ages!
  4. Create this [framed leaf art] or make a nature garland with your finds.
  5. Have each family member write down what they are thankful for every night of November and put the secret notes in a jar on your table. Read them on Thanksgiving.
  6. Make applesauce or something apple-y. Apple crisp, bob for apples, This little toolmakes it easy.
  7. Read outside. (I love catching my kids doing this!) IMG_7322
  8. This activity is a huge Thanksgiving memory-maker.
  9. Visit a local farmer’s market. Eat fresh and choose a new veggie (our latest: Spaghetti squash. This healthy recipe.)
  10. Invite friends over for s’mores. I love this s’mores in a jar idea!
  11. Have your family devotion outside. (I love these printable family gratitude devotions for November) Anytime we can read a few scriptures or an inspiring story away from our normal routine, we engage so much more with our kids. Some days we lay on the trampoline or just take a long walk and talk.
  12. Rake the leaves just to jump in them.
  13. Go camping. I’m not much of a “happy camper.” I love my bed too much. But we try and go at least once a year and I’m never sorry when we do.
  14. Bake bread. Make bread bowl soup (kids love it!)
  15. Create a family tree (get messy) fall hand tree art.
  16. Go on a family bike ride.
  17. Make and play the Gratitude Game
  18. Collect acorns, put them in a simple jar and call it a centerpiece. Lovely.
  19. Create a thankful tree.
  20. Write in your Gratitude: A Journal
  21. Pick something from this list to do this season.
  22. Visit an orchard and pick apples.
  23. Bake a pie from scratch.
  24. Take a family picture (I just told my husband I want to keep the tripod in the trunk for impromptu photos on some of our fall hikes)
  25. Don’t feel pressure or guilt to DO anything on this list. Just be together and be grateful.

edited post from the archives

5 Things That Don’t Matter (In Parenting) As Much As We Think They Do

A friend of mine who is about to have her first baby asked me the other day, “So, what do you think I really need as a new parent?”

“Not as much as the baby aisles at Target will tell you,” I said as we talked about the overwhelming amount of stuff available for new moms and babies.

I have met moms from all over the world and I started thinking about how simple parenting is in other countries. The babies we help in Kenya don’t use pacifiers, swaddle blankets, breast pumps, or baby gear. They have a blanket, some cloth diapers and a few changes of clothes and their moms’ biggest worries for the future include having enough food and paying school fees. The refugee mothers I know don’t stress about birthday parties or the latest and greatest gadgets, they worry about providing diapers.

It’s always good to get a dose of perspective. It’s far too easy to compare ourselves to the people around us and think we’re the only ones not giving our kids everything. It’s good to remember most of the world just wants to give their kids something.

I think we’ve made parenting more complex for the sake of convenience and comfort. And it’s not all bad. Some things do make parenting easier and I’m grateful. But we spend a lot of time and money in the moment on things that don’t really matter longterm. I’m as guilty as anyone. I once bought a machine to vibrate my colicky baby’s bed and returned it. Total scam.

It’s good to step back and evaluate what’s sucking a lot of our time and resources. Here are 5 things that don’t matter in parenting as much we think they do:

5 things that dont matter as much as we think they do

 

  1. Things that plug in | Oh, we are a technology culture, aren’t we? We could spend ourselves into the ground trying to keep up with all the latest technology, hottest gaming systems, apps and electronic must-haves. It scares me to think about how all this screen time will effect the next generation. Technology is a part of our culture and it adds a lot to our lives, but this constant thirst to acquire the latest item will never be quenched.  Because the next big thing is always around the corner. It won’t kill our kids (or us) to use what they have until it breaks or just live without. We have a rule in our house that you have to wait until high school for a smart phone. Some days this is challenging for my kids, but it’s what we’ve set as our standard. And when we set guidelines, they are easier to follow. Teaching our kids to be content starts with being grateful for what you have, not waiting and wanting what’s around the corner.
  2. Things that are found on Pinterest | There were birthday parties and recipes and toy organization ideas before Pinterest, they just weren’t as pretty, and pin-able, right?  I’m all for good ideas (and I’ve found plenty online), but I think Pinterest can make us want to focus on our parenting imperfections…Recently, I talked to a new mom who was exhausted from spending like 20- something hours planning her first child’s first birthday party–which ended up being cancelled due to a nasty case of Roseola. She admitted to succumbing to the online pressure for a photo shoot, a wardrobe monogrammed with “first birthday” and a lavish party. I did some pretty great parties when my kids were little. There’s nothing wrong with that, but I’ve just learned that it’s not as big as deal as I once thought, especially to my kids.
  3. Things that other people have | This is a hard one, isn’t it? It’s difficult enough as adults to see someone showing off the latest and greatest and not feel a pang of the “gotta-have-its.” Kids are no different. But if we give them what their peers have –for this reason alone–we are teaching them that stuff matters most. We are affirming that in order to fit in or be liked it requires us to be like everyone else. In the long run, the fads will fade-they always do. My youngest struggles with this right now and we are trying to teach her that we won’t buy things to fit in or feel accepted, because in the long run, it will hurt more than help.
  4. Things that make us feel like a better parent | Let’s face it, getting our toddler into the “best” preschool or our 8 year old son onto the “right” football team, is more for us than our kids. Children don’t really care about prestige or influence. And it can be time-consuming and exhausting for parents living up to the pressure to do everything right all the time. I used think I had to help my kids find their “thing” early on. Life is teaching me that God has a plan for my kids. I can do my part and He will do the rest. Our kids learn through success and failure and they need both to be well-rounded. It’s good to slow down and ask ourselves  Am I working on something that will matter in a couple of years?
  5. Things | With Christmas around the corner, kids are already being bombarded with the hottest new toys and gadgets of the season. We just have to visit a Thrift store to see how long some of those trendy items last. Kids probably won’t remember their “big” Christmas gift or birthday toys next year. We usually give our kids 3-4 gifts. This year, one or two of them will be an experience and not another “thing.”  Because will remember the most important things, which aren’t things at all.

As a parent, I am constantly reevaluating what they need and what I should give them and I’m learning in order to really give our kids everything, sometimes it’s good to step back and realize giving them less is giving them more.

A Promise to My Teenagers

It happened. Just like that.

My oldest is a teenager in high school and her brother is just months away from being a teen.

I love this season that has brought independence and humor, late nights and grown-up conversations. Its also ushered in an exhaustion that reminds me of the newborn days filled with worry and uncertainty.

When kids are little, we exert our authority over them. We can assert our will or at least put them in time out. But at some point, our authority decreases and our influence increases. It’s shifts from telling them to do the right thing in front of you to trusting they will do the right thing away from you.

It’s hard.

After a particularly rough parenting conversation the other day, Terrell and I were talking about this next phase– about the good we see and the challenges we will face.  I miss them being little, he said. And one day, we will miss this, I said.

Our kids are changing. And I can see that I need to change along with them. Every day our children move one step away from us and by this point in the journey, they feel like leaps towards adulthood.

Change is uncomfortable, but it’s normal. And I can hold them too tightly and kick and scream to keep things the same or I can grow with them.

a promise to my teenagers

And so, I make this promise to my teens:

I will not beg, yell or force you to see things my way.

I will try to see things your way.

I won’t ask you to do something I won’t do.

I won’t pick a battle over things that don’t matter.

I will cry with you, even when you don’t see my tears.

I will wait up when I long to sleep.

I will pray when I want to worry.

I will give you privacy, when I want to intrude.

I will let you sleep until noon (occasionally).

I will hush when I want to talk.

I will apologize when I am wrong.

I will trust you.

I will get in your business if you’re in danger or if you make bad decisions.

I will ask questions that make you uncomfortable.

I will let you ask me questions that make me uncomfortable.

I will listen.

I will try to fight for you and not with you.

When the world expects you to fail, to fall away, to forget your roots, I will expect more.

And when you do fail, I will be the first one at your side.

I will love you no matter what.

Most of all, when I mess up and forget or break these promises, I will try again. We will try again.

No matter how tall you grow or how far you go, I am your mother.

I will be here.