The Lessons We Teach Our Kids When We Buy Fair Trade

We stood at the mirror and I brushed her blonde hair into a ponytail. She still lets me fix her hair most mornings. I told her to grab a headband from the cabinet. It’s her signature school hairdo since she’s been growing her bangs out.

I tucked her hair beneath the new blue corded band and tied it under her ponytail. “Do you know who made your headband?” I asked.
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“Who, mom?” Our eyes met in the mirror. It was one of those obvious questions we don’t always ask.

And so I told her about the woman in Haiti who became an amputee in the earthquake that devastated the country 5 years ago. “There’s an organization who helps women with prosthetics and they teach them how to sew,” I told her.

My answer opened up a meaningful conversation with my 8 year old. For the next 10 minutes, I answered questions about earthquakes and amputations, prosthetics and mostly, hope.

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I walked over to the drawer that holds our headbands and held up a bright turquoise one made by my refugee friends from Burma and Nepal. I smiled remembering the day we prayed we’d have enough yarn. I looked a little closer at the kitenge headband from Rwanda, thinking about the girls at No.41 who are given sewing jobs instead of the street once they age out of the orphanage they grew up in. I ended up choosing my chevron print hairband for my hair. It was made by women in India, women who are no longer subject to the horrors of trafficking. Every one of these Fair Trade Friday partners do much more than make cute things that provide jobs for poor women–they do it in the name of Jesus.

When we buy fair trade, we do so much more than add another headband to our accessory pile or another beautiful paper bead necklace to our jewelry box. We offer more than a fair wage to a woman in an oppressed country. We get the opportunity to tell a story that is begging to be told.

When need to know the little bags that hold our fair trade items each month means food on the table for families in Kenya, Costa Rica and Zambia. And that’s why we include them- not just for reusable packaging, but for life.

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We all know we can’t always buy fair trade. And even when we want to, it’s sometimes a challenging, time-consuming option. But sometimes we can.  When we give a gift that empowers a woman, we are giving much more than something nice. We are giving something deeply important and receiving something even more.

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The other day Terrell and I looked at a small warehouse space down the street from us that we thought might be the answer to the Fair Trade Friday product that has taken over home and life. We have nearly 700 in our monthly club now and at just .33 cents a square foot, we had to consider this unexpected God-nod. When we told the property owner what we would do with the space, he asked, “What does fair trade mean?”

It means a child wasn’t chained to a chair to sew your clothes.

It means a woman can feed her family.

It means an amputee can work again.

It means hope for the hopeless.

Because it’s about the story behind the new blue headband.

The one our kids need to hear.

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Join the monthly Fair Trade Friday Club! February is full, but we are now taking names on our March Wait List.

But we do have One-Time Trial or Gift Fair Trade bags and today you can get $5 off. Check out our newest options for Home, Kids and Men’s  (with Limited Edition Mother’s Day boxes coming soon!) Or buy our Original One Time Trial or Gift Box with code: 4hope

6 Reasons Dads Should Date Their Daughters Before Anyone Else Does

She twirled around the house in her pink sparkly dress.

“Daddy is going to love it,” she said as she got another peek of herself in the mirror. “I look amazing.”

I walked away smiling and told my husband his date was ready.

He straightened his tie, bowed and held out his hand. “May I have this dance?”

She giggled and said, “Yes, we need to practice.”

And they danced in the kitchen.

It was their first Daddy Daughter Dance together and I think this picture an hour later says what I cannot.

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She will never forget this night with her dad. Neither will he.

6 Reasons Dads Should Date Their Daughters Before Anyone Else Does:

1. Dads have a profound impact on their daughter’s lives

A father’s role in his daughter’s life is one of the most important she will ever know. “Research clearly says that daddies make all the difference in the world,” says Kevin Leman, national speaker and author of What a Difference a Daddy Makes: The Indelible Imprint a Dad Leaves on His Daughter’s Life“I have tremendously more impact on my daughter than my wife does.”

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2. Dad sets the dating standard

“What you are doing as a man is prioritizing your time,” Leman explains. “Most kids grow up knowing Dad is a pretty busy guy. Your daughter needs to know the sacrifice you’ve made in your priority list; making sure she comes up No. 1. The fact that you affirm your daughter’s femininity and treat her special says to her, ‘Honey, seek somebody special in life. Seek someone who is going to treat you right.'”

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3. A dad makes his daughter feel special on a date

Many girls seek approval and attention at some point in their life. If dad is giving it regularly, it satisfies that craving. If he doesn’t, she might look for it elsewhere.

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4. Daughters might just open up with the one-on-one time

Our oldest daughter painted nails and applied eyeshadow and lip gloss to the girls who didn’t have moms present in the glamour room before the dance. Later, her dad took her out for a Starbucks and he just listened. She talked and then she really talked. Watching my 15 year old and my husband return to the house holding hands is something I won’t soon forget.

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5. It’s the perfect opportunity to just have fun

Dads are busy with work and the pressure of providing. A date is a great time to let loose and just laugh and have fun. At one point during the dance, my 8 year old said, “Daddy was dancing so hard, he had to get a napkin off the table to wipe his sweaty head!” She thought it was awesome because she knew he was having a great time with her.

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6. Regular dates with dad keep him involved in her life

One day, our daughters will date someone other than their dad. And as far off (and even difficult) as that might sound, it’s part of life. And when dad makes his daughter a priority and spends one-on-one time with her, even in the difficult stages and phases of parenting, it becomes a natural shift for when another young man enters her life. I love this from Desiring God: “Have her boyfriend in your home. And I don’t mean just once for dinner. I mean welcome him into your family with some regularity. Let him see you love your wife and children. Model manhood for him — the manhood you want to see in his relationship with your daughter. And remember that your home is probably the safest place for them to get to know each other, rather than out and about on their own without loving boundaries and accountability.”

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Dance, anyone?

If Dad can’t be present or chooses not to be, try to find a Godly man to fill his shoes-a grandfather, uncle, etc. And we don’t have to teach kids their fathers are flawed, they see that eventually. But we can all teach our kids that God is the perfect Father of all.

Photos by Lindsay Portugal & Taylor Robbins 

4 Things We Need To Do After a Long Day of Motherhood

I woke up at 6:30 to kiss my high schooler goodbye and I went back to bed- a rare luxury that only happens when you schedule a dental appt at 8:45 a.m. for two of your other kids.

I congratulated myself on my brilliance since I’d woken up with a headache. I set my alarm for an hour later.

I got my kids up and put frozen waffles in the toaster since we chose sleep over healthy food. I did put black beans in the crockpot for dinner, so there’s that.

They brushed their teeth for the third time because there’s nothing like preparing for a dental visit the morning of one.

Every Monday morning, we have 4-5 ladies (many young moms) come and serve at the Mercy House building in our backyard.  It’s a great way to start a new week and get a baby fix. They were coming to work on Fair Trade Friday stuff so I didn’t have time to wash my hair or shower. Choices.  Terrell agreed to run the kids to the dentist a couple of blocks from the house, so I could get the volunteers started.

Our new dog, Jane, which we rescued a week ago from the animal shelter has been acting sick for the past few days, so I reminded myself of the vet appointment at 6 p.m.. Lesson learned: Nobody just goes to “look” at dogs at an animal shelter.

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Terrell was back home by 9:45 with three cavities between two kids. But at least they didn’t find head lice (it’s a long hilarious story, but you know it if you’ve read  my first book.)

While volunteers stamped and licked 550 end-of-the-year statements and got February product tagged, I ran back into the house and took ibuprofen. We have more than 600 monthly members and every box gets 3-4 items. So that 1800-2400 items to tag every month.

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I took our youngest to school while he got to work on donor management software for Mercy House.

Somewhere in there my throat started feeling scratchy and I started coughing. Yay!

Our son had an archery tournament two days before on Saturday for the Texas Championship and as we were leaving home for the 3 hour trip, we noticed water pouring out of an overflow. My husband said this was bad news and he was right. Our water heater malfunctioned and water damage was already apparent in the garage. He called a plumber and I stayed home while they replaced it.

I watched them drive off and cried. Not just because of the $1000 check I was about to write.  I had to miss my son shoot. (He ended up getting second place for his age group.) He has had a hard time lately in the friend department (junior high can be brutal), so when he asked to stay home after his dental appointment, I said yes.

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I swept the house (it’s a daily compulsive habit for me), answered some email, wrote a blog post, unpacked new Fair Trade Friday product and at lunch time, my son asked me if he could spend his Old Navy gift card from Christmas. We ran to the store and he found some shirts and I picked up 5 shirts in the next size up for my youngest because they were $2.49 each. At this point, I was sure I was coming down with something. (Sorry, Old Navy).

I got back home by 2pm and got another hour of work done before my high schooler and youngest got off the bus. There was homework, laundry, a disagreement over something important like socks and dinner before 5:30 because it was also youth group night for my oldest. We wrote out Psalm 23 with only a few tears and only about 2/3 of us liked the new way I cooked the weekly pot of beans.

Terrell and the kids  helped clean up the kitchen (which is a polite way of saying there was some grumbling and complaining because my kids still gawk at the chore chart that’s been on the wall for 2 years) while I signed some school papers.

My husband took the kids to youth and my youngest and I took the dog to the vet. I was tempted to ask them to look at my throat. She had a cold, maybe kennel cough, and needed two prescriptions. We got back home and I spend 15 minutes trying to get Jane The Dog to swallow 2 pills. I was half tempted to take them myself.

My little girl had been asking for an hour if I would watch her new jump rope trick and I collapsed on the couch to do just that. After 3 jumps, she tripped and hit the hard floor with a smack. Twenty minutes and a bucket of tears later, she had her leg propped up with ice and Tylenol and was limping. Awesome.

That uncompleted foster care application on my nightstand mocked me.

When my husband got home, all three of us were piled in the bed debating who felt worse.  I asked my husband to look at my throat in the bathroom while my older kids took my spot on the bed, and he winced at the white pockets and streaks down my throat.

It felt totally redeeming.

My kids were impressed and scooted over to let me lie down in my own bed.

The crazy thing is–it was just a normal day of motherhood. Nothing big or bad happened. But it was long and hectic and I felt drained at the end of it.

A friend on Facebook posted a tired selfie and asked if there was a filter for motherhood, one that hides the dark circles and the exhaustion that comes with having little kids. I smiled at her wishful thinking. I think that filter might be called Pinterest.

I have to remind myself that it’s okay for not everything to be okay. That there is joy in crazy-busy-hard-but-overall-good days. We might have to look a little harder for it.  It’s good to confess our weariness and show off our tired eyes. It’s okay to ask for help when we need it and take time for ourselves.

Busted pipes and busted knees, sore throats and sores we can’t see, these are the days of motherhood. Older moms tell me I will miss them, today I want to survive them.

As I crawled into bed, I wrote down the 4 things I needed most on a piece of scratch paper.

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I’m determined to give them to myself. Maybe you should to:

  1. Rest-I took two naps the next day. And two hot baths. Yes, I was feeling crummy, but mostly I was tired. Moms don’t get sick days. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t take them. I asked my husband to take my share of carpool and a couple of things off my plate. He knows if I’m laying in bed in the middle of the day, I probably need to.
  2. Renewal-I scheduled a girls night out. Sometimes the best way to renew yourself is to surround yourself with other people who get it. I also ordered myself a book I’ve been wanting read–not for work, just one for me. I also thought about getting a pedicure, something that I usually reserve for a special occasion.
  3. Release-I had a good old fashioned cry. Yeah. Sometimes I can feel this building of emotions and worry and I know I need to let it go. Tears aren’t always the answer. Sometimes it’s exercise or a nice loud scream (those are harder to come by because you scare people have to death).
  4. Reflection-Sometimes the best way to face another day after a hard one is to look behind you. It’s easier to see how far we’ve come when we reflect on where we are. We don’t alway see growth when we are growing. Just a little perspective change can turn our grumpiness into gratitude.

Your Family Won’t Regret Doing This For The Next 30ish Days

I get it.

I know just how hard it is to get dinner on the table and five people around it who are all going five different directions at five o’clock.

On Monday night, my oldest two have church youth group and on Tuesdays my youngest has tumbling. Wednesdays are for meeting with other families for Bible Study and Thursdays, we have dental and eye appointments or –well, you get my point. Some days the window for all of us to be together is so small, it would be easier to just eat on the go or at least separately.

And other days when we have long moments to linger –that’s when the big kids irritate each other until an argument erupts and the youngest is picky and cries in her dinner and we have a big fat mess spilled all over our good intentions.

I’m not saying it’s easy. It’s not.

But that doesn’t mean we stop trying.

Because dinner isn’t really about food. It’s about connecting. (When our kids were younger, dinner wasn’t always an option for connection. We found the best time to intentionally have a devotion together was one-on-one, right before bed. Don’t give up. Find something that works for your family in the season you’re in).

It’s about pursuing intentional, meaningful conversation that your children will never forget. It’s about building relationships and communicating purpose and goals. It’s about going deeper. It’s about breaking Real Bread together.

We’ve been working on memorizing Psalm 23 and last night, we took turns quoting it in different accents-German, Irish, Redneck. Unconventional yes, but still a seed planted in our heart.

It’s about the best 10 minutes of your day.

This time last year, I wrote an e-Book that has 30 lessons to complete in however long it takes you. There’s no pressure in this easy-to-use guide that encourages family togetherness, conversation, connection and fun around the table. I wrote it for you and it’s only $1.99.

Saying Yes to God As a Family has a suggested icebreaker to get your family talking, a highlighted passage of Scripture to read, questions to ask, a suggested memory verse and a prayer to lead your family in.

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It’s designed to be read on a mobile device or printed into cute colorful cue cards. There are printables at the end to brighten your home and to go along with the daily activities.

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Practical Ideas to Make it Happen:

  • Plan a weekly crockpot meal so you aren’t overwhelmed once you get everyone at the table.
  • Keep a large family calendar in the kitchen and make sure at least 3 nights a week are free (even if it’s different every week.)
  • Keep a basket of Bibles near the table. Read them together.
  • Make the window of time interactive: This ebook Saying Yes to God As a Family: 30 Lessons for the Table from Rhinestone Jesus was created just for this precious 10 minute window during your busy day. Each short lesson has a suggested Bible passage and 3 questions to promote interaction and deeper-thinking.
  • Have fun. Painting our kitchen table with chalkboard paint was one of our best decisions to keep our kids around the table longer. Printing out paper placemats for drawing will also keep little hands busy (there are ones included in my ebook). Celebrate great nights together with ice cream!
  • Keep it short. Because kids.
  • Don’t get discouraged. Some nights I want to go straight to bed after dinner because it’s THAT BAD. But we do it all over again the next day. It’s worth it. Don’t give up!

When we persevere through the mess, we discover beautiful moments together, sometimes sandwiched between really bad ones. (That’s life, huh?) If we choose to be intentional, we have the opportunity to connect on a deeper level. We uncover glorious tidbits that carry us through the hard days. We giggle and laugh. We hear about one another’s day and learn more about each other.

We often find the best 10 minutes of our day when we look for them.

 

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We Were All Born to Ask This Question

It was an early Saturday morning when we loaded up the car and drove an hour to what we’ve been calling The Refugee Project for the past year. It’s really just a government housing apartment complex- one of twenty-two that line both sides of a long street, home to more than 50,000 refugees, relocated to our city.

It’s our Friday place.

But it wasn’t a Friday and we weren’t having class. Our husbands and kids  joined us to clean up the “clubhouse” and paint the place where our class has met the past year. It’s a vacant, musty three bedroom apartment filled with an assortment of books, broken chairs, dirty tables and walls.

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We were having a work day and it’s a good thing because there was plenty of work. We sorted and scrubbed and swept. We filled holes in the walls and shelves with books. We taped and painted, mopped and moved piles of trash to the dumpster.

Everyone had a job. The kids wrapped more than 600 crochet bracelets onto cards with the word Thrive. It’s our hope- that these displaced ones will find a place in Christ and thrive.

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I looked around the apartment and smiled at my husband painting a wall. He hates to paint (at least that’s what he tells me every time I ask).  I found my son wrapping bracelets next to my youngest winding yarn into balls. My teen was in the bathroom painting little faces and there was a long line of kids waiting their turn.

I stood in the center of that room and thought my children haven’t complained once. They haven’t ask for anything. They didn’t think of themselves while they worked hour after hour. They found a need and filled it. And the next thought hit me so hard I had to pretend something besides a tear was in my eye:

My family is at its best-our absolute best- when we are doing something for someone else.

Purpose is deeply satisfying.

When our hands are busy serving others, we aren’t thinking about what we don’t have. Instead, we are reminded about what we do have. We were created for more than filling our time and lives with more stuff and more space. We were created for a purpose to live our lives with purpose.

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Do good.

The words are written on the chalkboard in our living room. And friends, even family, have cautioned against a “good works” mentality. I’m not worried. I know there aren’t enough good things for us to do to earn our way into an eternity that’s been freely given to us.

But I hope when you add up my works, the grand total isn’t a list of good deeds–I pray the grand total is love.

“Love other people as well as you do yourself. You can’t go wrong when you love others. When you add up everything in the law code, the sum total is love.” (‭Romans‬ ‭13‬:‭10‬ MSG)

Because that’s why we go. That’s why we do. Love is a driving force.

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It was after 4pm when we piled back in the car. It was a comfortable kind of quiet as we drove home. Satisfaction was thick in the air.

I asked my kids if they remembered meeting the 16 year old refugee girl who helped us wrap bracelets. They did.

“She asked if she could learn to crochet too, like her sisters and mom and grandmother in our class,” I said.

“Doesn’t she go to school?” My 15 year old asked. I explained that she did, but she wanted the money for something special.

“She plays the cello and is very talented. She earned a scholarship for a music school, but she still needs money to make her dream a reality,” I said.

The car was quiet and I thought maybe my kids were thinking about how much they love music. Or maybe they were thinking about the instruments they own and love or the opportunity to take lessons. Or maybe they were wondering how to help a girl their age do the same.

“Mom,” my 12 year old son broke the silence,  “I loved today.”

His words were thick with emotion.

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I think we were all created to answer this question: What can I do that matters?

As a parent, my job is to lead my kids to ask it.