Yes: One Year Later {Huge Giveaway}

Updated with Winners: Congrats to random commenters Leslie, Becky, Chelsea, Kendra and Lindsey

A few weeks after turning in my Rhinestone Jesus manuscript, my memoir about obedience to God, I visited refugees in Houston, relocated by the United Nations an hour from my home.

I was deeply moved not just by their poverty, but by their courage.

But I argued with God the whole way home.

What can I do to help them? I’m so busy. I’m already living out my yes.

But I’d been down that road before and I ended up with the question I couldn’t answer: How can I not help them?

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And so God used my own book about obedience to help me say yes again. 

That was over a year ago and that yes led to another and Fair Trade Friday was born and more than 1300 women are currently linking arms with Mercy House every month to empower and employ women all around the world like this Ethiopian artisan group we visited last week (they loved their Dayspring bags!)

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That yes led to my husband quitting his secure, well-paying job to lead the growing organization we started in 2010. It has led to helping more pregnant girls in Kenya.

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His yes led me to my next… a parenting book about gratitude and entitlement-possibly my most challenging yes to date. Because kids are hard.

A few weeks ago, I turned in my parenting manuscript and our family turned in an application to Catholic Charities to begin the process to foster an unaccompanied minor from a refugee camp–just typing those words–makes my heart pound.

But its been the small, daily yeses that have drawn me closer to God.

Yes, you can have more ice cream. Yes, I will forgive you for lying about cleaning up  your room. Yes, I will play Legos with you.

I keep thinking I’m done answering yes. But He keeps asking and pushing me deeper.

I’m not very good at faking brave. Every yes has scared me to death. Every yes has stretched me further than I thought possible. Every yes has drawn me to the feet of Jesus.

Every yes is without regret.

One year ago today, my book was released to the world. A few of you have sent words and stories about your yes to God. And it’s encouraged me to keep saying it. So, obviously, I completely blame you.

Here are 9 reasons other moms think you need to read Rhinestone Jesus today:

  • It will make you feel better about your messy marriage, motherhood and mission
  • It will challenge you to find that place where your passion and skills collide
  • It will inspire you to parent with intention and lead your family to find their greatest purpose
  • It might lead you to have a good cry (we all need that occasionally, right?)
  • Hopefully, it will cause at least one hearty belly laugh (and I’m not just referring to the scary picture of me with a home perm holding a doll)
  • It will stir up gratitude for what you have instead of disappointment for what you don’t
  • It will make you want to say yes to God today, right where you are
  • It will help you evaluate what matters most
  • It will support this ministry

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To celebrate, brave words and small yeses, big hopes and quiet dreams, I’m giving away FIVE prize packages: a signed copy of Rhinestone Jesus, Dayspring’s bestselling letterpress letters that spell the world “yes”, Dayspring’s gorgeous Micah 6:8 poster, a paper bead necklace created by the maternity home residents in Kenya, a bracelet from a Mercy House community outreach and Dayspring’s “Change the World” tablet decal.

To enter, tell me about your yes. (Remember, there are no big or small in Kingdom living. Every yes counts).

You never know who it will inspire.

God’s Mission for the Family is Expanding God’s Family

I wasn’t even home yet when I heard words that made me cringe.

“I love what your family is doing, but we could never do that. We are just too _______ [insert one of 1000 reasons].

The statement makes me uncomfortable, but I also understand it.

I feel the same way about 365 days a year. “I can’t do this mission. Our family is too human. We don’t know what we’re doing, I can’t even keep up with laundry. I yell at my kids. We are argue and live this grace thing out in ugly ways some days…”

My list of “I can’t and I shouldn’t” is endless.

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But living on mission doesn’t start with doing something for God. It begins with what He has done for us.

The question isn’t Is my family called to a mission?

That question has already been answered.

It’s simple really. God has called all of us-families included-to welcome others into His family.

God’s mission for the family is expanding God’s family.” -Ann Dunagan

We are called to GO.

Click to read in its entirety at (in)courage….

9 Ways Families Can Impact The World Right Where They Are

It only takes a couple of minutes of watching the nightly news to recognize our world is a scary place.

I was on my way home from Ethiopia with my daughter when 20 Ethiopian men lost their lives on a beach in Libya. Their crime? The same as mine. They were Christians.

I have to point out the elephant in the room and ask: Do we really care?

I loved walking the streets of Ethiopia and visiting groups of women we are partnering with through Fair Trade Friday. It feels safer than Kenya. It’s not as heavy or oppressive, I whispered to my daughter as we stood in a dump as tall as a mountain and held hands with children who were digging for food.

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Now, I’m sitting in my home safe and sound and one country I visited is in mourning and the other one is burying hundreds of college students massacred by terrorists.

And honestly, I don’t ever want to leave home again.

I’m finding my rhythm, catching up on hot baths, laundry and sweet tea. It’s easy to slip back into the comfort of easy living.

I know God is not safe. He asks us to go further than we think we can go and do things we think we cannot and believe in the impossible.

Sometimes following Jesus is scary as hell, even when God asks us to stay right where we are.

I find staying is as hard as going some days. I’m lulled into thinking I’m safe. I’m sucked into the culture of more stuff, bigger and better and I find it’s actually easy to forget how the rest of the world is living.

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Or dying.

And then some days, I’m haunted by the suffering of people around the globe. They aren’t really different from my family. There are moms wondering what’s for dinner. And dads who travel to look for work to take care of their families.  But what can my family really do to help the poor and oppressed, to remember the persecuted church suffering when my own government mostly ignores it?

And how in the world can I raise kids who are grateful for what they have when they don’t even realize the freedom they enjoy?

It’s a question we have to ask ourselves in our entitled culture.

Because while Christians are losing their heads in Libya, it’s too easy to turn off the news and pretend the most important thing on our list is shopping for summer clothes or deciding which Vacation Bible School to attend.

This week, Glen Beck (like him or not), said this and I agree, “So often we cry out for justice. We raise our hands on Sunday. We call for the enemy to be crushed, but then we retreat into our humble abodes, castles by global standards, and go about our daily lives. And we get busy, honestly busy, wrapped up in our own day and our own chaos, honestly busy, and we forget that the second part of justice is mercy and compassion. That’s our job, to show mercy, to have compassion, to kindle it in our heart and the hearts of others…. [Why do we do nothing?] We feel helpless and we don’t know what to do, so we do nothing.”

9 Ways Families Can Impact The World Right Where They Are

Some believers are called to go. Some are called to stay. But we are all called to do something. Nothing is not an option for my family or yours.  And there are many things we can do with our families to actively become a part of this story God is writing in our tumultuous world.

1. We Can Pray For The World :: Prayer is generally first on our list, but last on our lips. When we get up in the morning or lay down at night, when we eat or worship, walk or workout, prayer is the most powerful thing we can do. For years, off and on, this book has educated our family on how to pray for the world.

2. We Can Hang a World Map :: It may sound simplistic, but when my son was a baby, we wallpapered his room with an enormous world map. What started out as decor, turned into a resource. For years, we congregated in his room and searched the life-size map for countries we learned or talked about. And before I traveled across the ocean the first time in 2010, we all put our fingers on the word Kenya and prayed together. I have a globe collection and maps hang all over my house now. Hang a map in a high traffic spot in your house and refer to it. Pick a country and pray for it. You never know where it will lead you (without even leaving your home).

3. We Can Host a Global Party In Our Home :: One of the reasons I love Fair Trade Friday so much is because it is empowering and employing around 1000 women in 16 countries–all in the name of Jesus through on-the-ground faith-based non-profits. And now, Mercy House is expanding our home party line and taking applications to host a free global Fair Trade Friday party in your home, so you can see and touch and buy products made by women all around the world. I hugged and loved on women in two of those countries this week and with tears in their eyes, they thanked me for a job that is providing food and rent. This is a beautiful way to see the world and change it. Learn more about hosting a party today.

4. We Can Talk About World Events :: Our first inclination is to protect our kids from the bad in the world, but this doesn’t always mean we should shield them from current world events, especially if they are old enough to read, overhear the news or attend school. Silence can breed fear and ignorance. Educating them is different than scaring them. When we prayed for Ethiopia last night at dinner, we talked about recent events and cleared up misconceptions. I’d rather my kids hear the truth from me than be afraid of what they overhear from someone else.

5. We Can Eat a Meal to Remember :: Whether it’s rice or beans on Mondays, a visit to a global food market in your town or an attempt at a new recipe for something you can’t pronounce, we can remember the world (and experience it), through food. Last week, my daughter and I sat in homes of women and ate our fill of injera and shiro. Yesterday, we attempted our first coffee ceremony and just the smell of the coffee I brought home, took me back to the small home where I was served with great love. I dare you to expose your kids to the world through their dinner plate.

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6. We Can Complete a Family Service Project :: Last year, Mercy House mailed out 20,000 prayer bracelets as a reminder to pray for the most oppressed people group in the world: women. Your family can do something to support them! Order a kit for $10 today and share the bracelets with your family and friends. 100% of the proceeds go to help us reach women all around the globe.

7. We Can Redeem Consumerism :: Shopping is as much a part of our culture as tea is a part of Kenya. A couple of years ago, I would cringe when people referred to our consumerism.  Just look at the empty Lilly Pulitzer racks at Target. I can’t stop people from buying. I won’t even try. Instead, I want to challenge people to buy something that changes a life. Give a gift twice. Support a woman with a purchase. Teach your children that cheap things aren’t always free.

8. We Can Practice Compassion and Mercy :: When our family prayed for Ethiopian Christians this week, my husband reminded us we should also pray for the Islamic persecutors. We are tempted to ignore or be prejudiced against what we don’t understand. But we can show compassion and mercy to everyone. Especially those who are different than we are. Is there a better way for our family to shine Jesus than this? Child sponsorship is a beautiful place to start.

9. We Can’t Pretend For Another Minute That Our Freedom is Free :: Without a doubt, I believe perspective is the greatest gift we can give our children. If their only view is an entitled world where they get everything they want, we will most likely end up with entitled children. But if we are going to compare ourselves to those around us who have what we want, we also have to balance our view by comparing ourselves to those with less than us. This shift is eye-opening for our families. It’s where gratitude is born.

Do we really care? Can we really do something?

The answer is yes.

The One Thing We All Have In Common {Giveaway}

Congrats to the random comment #25 Misty and #151 Nicki!

I’ve met women from all around the world.

Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve been amazed at the differences-from the foods we eat, to the way we live.

Some walk with jugs of water on their heads, while others scoop it from a river or catch it in rain containers on their roofs.

Some cook at stoves with propane tanks sitting at their feet, while others lean over a jako and stir their pots over charcoal.

Some go to the bathroom in pit latrine, while others use a concrete hole in the ground or a bidet.

Some wear scarves covering their heads, while others wear bright traditional fabric or second hand clothes from the market.

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There are more differences than I can count.

And yet, we share important things in common: We have hopes and dreams and we would do anything for our children.

harmony bracelet-1This universal language of motherhood is breathtaking. It’s the dance of sacrifice and bravery and it’s the same in every language.

I met an Ethiopian woman a few days ago who had given birth the week before in her tiny hut. Her little 8 year old was in the sponsorship program we visited and told us her mother was very sick. When we visited her home balanced precariously on the side of a steep ledge, she was feverish and desperately sick with mastitis in her infected and swollen breasts.

And yet, in her suffering, she continued to feed her newborn baby, even when she wasn’t able to feed herself.

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Because that’s what mothers do.

We sacrifice.

We put our kids before ourselves.

We give them more than we had.

We risk our lives if it means giving our children the chance to live.

Love in any language is the same.

And that’s the one thing we all have in common.

state leather cuff webToday, The Vintage Pearl, a long time friend and supporter of Mercy House, is helping me celebrate this beautiful thing called motherhood. Join me in remembering our sisters around the globe and this precious thing we have in common.

The Vintage Pearl is giving away two $50 gift certificates. Please leave a comment mentioning a mother in your life that has inspired you.

Use code “WATF15″ for 15% off through 4/24. Today is the last day to order to receive by Mother’s Day.

The First Yes Is The Deepest

More than eight years ago we sponsored our first child through Compassion International.

We picked Bereket, a 5 year old boy in Ethiopia.

We chose him because we had a new niece from the country and because our son wanted a brother.

It was a big decision for our little family. And it turned out to be the best one.

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We spent most of our time inwardly-focused, trying to create a great childhood for our kids, a happy home and we chased the American Dream like it was our job.  So, sponsoring Bereket, sending money every month for his care and school fees, cracked open the door to compassion for others that would soon overwhelm us.

In so many ways, this was our first yes.

It led to my blogging trip in 2010 with Compassion that led to sponsoring more kids that led to meeting Maureen which led to starting Mercy House.

Yesterday, my daughter and I walked the jagged, dirty path that led to Bereket’s mud-walled home. He’s nearly 13 now, just like my son. I knew when we made our travel plans to visit some Fair Trade Friday partners is bordering Ethiopia, we would have to meet him.

His mother ran to meet us and threw her arms around my neck. Her family stood close by taking it in.

“I knew you would come some day. God told me,” Two minutes in and I was already speechless.

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We sat in their tidy home and the proudly pulled out every letter and picture we’ve sent for the past 8 years. They showed us what they’d bought with the annual family gifts we sent. Bereket’s mother never stopped smiling and his dad listened intently. As I looked at this beautiful family, I felt like I was home. Only God.

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Bereket had many questions about my son while we enjoyed the traditional coffee ceremony. The boys have shared letters for years now. They are the same age, they both love math, football and want to be engineers when they grow up. We gave him a new soccer ball and Legos. Bereket’s family has lived in their home for 15 years and the joy of knowing Jesus was palpable. I have never seen a more affection or tender looks passed between a mother and father and their children.

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(Right after I took this photo of my sponsored child’s mother, I realized I was standing in a mound of black ants. I jumped away and shook my shoes off. But about 3 minutes later, I could feel them under my jeans up and down my legs. I literally had ants in my pants.)

After our visit in their home, my daughter and I took them to their first restaurant. It was such a treat.

The family ordered traditional Ethiopian food (raw oxen and injera). Well, everyone except Bereket. He ordered this:

IMG_9138He really might be my son’s brother.

They asked many questions about Mercy House and I showed them pictures of the beautiful girls we are trying to help. They promised to pray for us.

As we said our goodbye’s, we took turns speaking from our hearts to each other. (Yes, I cried). They asked me to bring the rest of my family back to their home and they offered the most gracious thank you I’ve ever heard.

As we drove away, my 15 year old girl burst into tears.

We will hold this day in our hearts forever.

This first yes has led to countless others. Including meeting Kalkadon, our newest sponsored child through Caring for Korah (a Fair Trade Friday partner and a ministry very close to our hearts) this week. She pointed out the chairs and double bed, pillows and blankets filling her 8×8 home that our small family gift paid had purchased.

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Sometimes we wonder if the sacrifice is needed. Or appreciated.

We question our decision and our ability.

We try to squeeze a little more money out of our budget to share with others.

And sometimes we wonder if our small yes even matters.

God told me it does.

Getaway to Austin, Texas: Part Two

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Groupon Getaways for IZEA. All opinions are 100% mine.

I love old things- buildings, architecture, furniture. You name it.

I was excited to explore some of the history of Austin our Groupon getaway several weeks ago. The Capital did not disappoint.

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It was grand and it was so fun seeing it through my kids eyes. They had so many questions. My husband and I were born and raised in Texas and even though we spent the first ten years of our marriage in other states, we got back here as fast as we could.

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This was the view standing in the center of the room and looking up. Spectacular.

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We spent a lot of time exploring the old buildings, the basement, antique staircases and probably a lot of places we shouldn’t have gone. Oops. My girls took my phone and did a spontaneous photo shoot.

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They are so shy and timid. It’s funny because when I tried to get a great shot of my children on these epic courthouse stairs, this is what I got.

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After we finished our mostly legal exploring, we rolled down the great green hill in the front of the state building. And by “we” I mean my husband and two of my kids. My teenager and I are way too cool for that. We ended the day at Magnolia Cafe and ate our weight in gingerbread pancakes.

We headed back to the Omni Barton Resort and spent the last few hours of getaway at the beautiful pool. It was a great weekend away!

5 Things My Daughter Is Teaching Me About Changing The World

I emailed the principal at the high school and asked him what he thought about my daughter missing a little more than a week of school to go to Africa with me.

It will be life-changing, he said.

Yeah.

I thought of all the reasons it would change her perspective, remind her what really matters and shift her awareness.

Parenting is funny.

It turns out these are the exact things she is teaching me during this journey. I’ve learned so much about my 15 year old this week and mostly, from her. She’s more compassionate than I thought, more selfless than I imagined, more genuine than I dreamed and she has challenged me to be a better me. She has been to Mercy House many times, but with 6 flights this week to not only visit Mercy House, but also Fair Trade Friday partners in other places, it’s stretched our limits.

It’s like you pour love into your kids their entire childhood and then at the right time and in the right place, they overflow it on others.

Here are 5 things my daughter is teaching me about changing the world:

1. Selfies are okay when they focus on others | I’ve never been a fan of duck lips or selfies. I’ve taught my teen to know there’s a time and place for both. But she chose the right time and the right place because she turned a selfie into something about others and these girls, her peers in so many ways, fell in love with their girlfriend from America. I watched her put them first over and over again and I learned that sometimes selfies aren’t so bad.

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Don’t take yourself too seriously | We have shared a lot this week-a bed and a mosquito net, bottles of water and the same Kleenex a time or two. We’ve traded sweatshirts and soap and a good attitude when things go wrong and a nudge in the side when we needed it. If traveling across the world with your daughter will teach you anything, it’s this: don’t to take yourself too seriously. She reminds me when I’m too proud or frowning. She’s raised her eyebrows at my sighs and impatience. She tells me to smile more and give more. I’ve watched her hold hands and hug dirty children and wipe away a tear or too. She gets it.

Remember to have fun | Sure kids need to be rescued and loved and sponsored, but they also need to have fun.  My daughter is a child-magnet. They flock around her like flies. She’s always ready for a quick game to play. I laughed so hard at the Kenyan chanting slap game the Rehema residents spontaneously played in Kenya.  I stood back and watched, but my daughter jumped right in the middle of a popular game in a different culture and nearly won the bag of Skittles up for grabs.  She’s half little girl and half woman and she’s a constant reminder for me to loosen up and have a little fun.

You’re never too old to try something new | The minute the coffee ceremony started, so did my worry. The black liquid gold filled to the rim and I knew I would need to drink what was offered. My daughter eagerly sipped and nudged me. “But I like tea,” I whispered to her. “Mo-om,” she said. I took a drink and the sweet warm coffee tasted different than I imagined. I took another drink. “I love it,” I whispered. “I told you,” she said. I’ve watched her cross cultural boundaries in fearless abandon. We’ve stepped over rotting oxen heads and legs on dirt roads (the only parts Ethiopians don’t eat), passed out live chickens, and eat a wide variety of different food (turns out lamb is a new favorite for her), but we aren’t big fans of fried termites (yes, we tried them.) I want to be this brave when I grow up.

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Nothing matters more than people | I’m a doer. I’ve always got my nose in a book trying to figure something out or answering an email. More than once my daughter has reminded me to put away my resources and tools and live in the moment. It’s a powerful lesson and she’s a good example.

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Our kids will teach us so much.

If we let them.

 

What Goes Around Comes Around

They say what goes around comes around.

And we’ve been praying it would be true at Mercy House. 

It’s one thing to rescue a young girl like Pauline from an abusive and tragic background and help her safely deliver baby Melvin after she unsuccessfully tried to abort him out of desperation. It’s a whole different story for her to complete the program and be reintegrated back home to a safe and loving environment and be able to provide for her child.

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But the dream didn’t stop there. Since the first rescue in 2010, we have dreamed of the graduates giving back to the community by sharing what they’ve learned and what God has done in their lives with women just like them.

And today, we experienced exactly that.

Not only did Pauline complete the program (and some of you are her monthly sponsors), she moved back home and attends vocational beauty college 5 days a week while her 2 year old son attends a preschool nearby.  Today, she met us at her job.

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And it’s what she does on the 6th day of the week that leaves a lump the size of Africa in my throat.

She teaches women in a nearby slum how to make jewelry.

And she is a living testimony of what God can do.

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These aren’t just any impoverished women. This is the community outreach of Mercy House and one of our Fair Trade Friday partners. Every class, they Break Bread and then they work so they may buy bread for their families.

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There is something empowering about women working. These are proud mothers and they don’t want a handout. And oh my, they are so grateful.

This community of mothers are about to provide for their families, with Pauline guiding their hands and it is simply beautiful to behold. Coming full circle is a long and sometimes heartbreaking road, but eventually circles meet back up.

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Pauline is making enough money to provide for her son’s future. And today, we bought beautiful bracelets that will show up in a coming Fair Trade Friday boxes and every woman in the group left with the equivalent of $50 US dollars.

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One of the women asked me if the women in America would continue to buy the products. I said, “I hope so. I’m counting on them, too.”

Friends, let’s redeem consumerism. Let’s know who made our jewelry. Let’s provide rent and school fees, food and well, life with our purchase.

It’s a beautiful way to change the world.

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Buy a beautiful bracelet (on sale for $8 today) and support this Mercy House community group. Inquire about fundraising (adoption, missions) or wholesaling them to help us continue to support these women at mercyhousekenya@gmail dot com.

Join Fair Trade Friday and help us employ around 1,000 women and children in now 16 countries! Our waiting list is very short at this time!  (Or get a one time box and use code 4HOPE to get $5 off. We now have assorted, men’s, children’s, home and Mother’s Day options)