Monday, December 31, 2012

Good News for ALL // Testimonies from my India Travels

Since I was out of the country, in a rather tropical part of the world, and we didn't set up our tree or decorations until about one week before Christmas I am still in "gear up" mode. I realize it is after Christmas now but my anticipation of the season has just begun to grow. So for now it's still Christmas time around here.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all peopleFor unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
// Luke 2:10-11 //
(emphasis added)

     See min 1:06. "He is for all mankind."

The separation is great between the privileged of first world countries and the impoverished of third world countries. But, contrary to sub-conscious belief, we did not earn or privileged lives by good deeds, nor were the poor born into a life devoid of privilege because of the lack of them. Class and rank, caste and income have nothing to do with our merit. Jesus chose to be born in the lowliest place. Rich, white Christians do not "own" Him. The persecuted Christians of the Middle East do not "own" Him. He is for all mankind.

The classic characters of the Nativity scene are varied, from a carpenter and young virgin, to hundreds of angels, from shepherds that were weather-worn and dirty, to the magi who bore extravagant gifts... but are those the only people who would have been welcome to visit the newborn King? Certainly not! He is for all mankind.

{I am sure there are many families that could tell the same story but my Pastor told this tale of his fascination with the Nativity scene as a child...} Imagine a nativity scene, set up in a special place in a home with young kids, with all the original characters positioned to be looking on at the baby Jesus. As the days to Christmas progress additional characters are added to the scene: a batman action figure, a transformer, a few Veggie Tale characters, a teddy bear, and a T-Rex all appear on the scene, trying to catch a glimpse of Jesus. No one turned away, all welcome to come and see. He is for all mankind.

Nothing has changed. Everyone is welcome to come to Him, He came to provide a way to the Father for anyone who would take it. No matter who came to Him, they all had to get on their knees in a very humble place to see Him. So regardless of whether we are from wealthy America or from desperate India, we are all humbled before Him, welcome in His presence, and invited to be co-heirs with Him. He is for all mankind.

This heart, our King's heart, His Father's heart -- a heart that is for us! -- is something I was very aware of during my time in India. I felt the depth of His love for people I had never met... I experienced His heart for America. Like you can sense and feel the love of people in your life, I assure you that you can sense and feel God's love for you, and that love is beyond description, beyond comprehension. I am certain that I only experienced a drop of the ocean that is His love -- and that drop was enough to knock the air out of me or cause me to soar. You are welcome to the fullness of that love. It is what motivated Christ to leave His home in heaven and be born as a human, to live among us and die for us. It is the gift offered to us by His sacrifice. It is what we celebrate at Christmas. May you know the love of God! He is for all mankind.

For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
// Ephesians 3:14-19 //
(emphasis added)

--- --- ---

Happy New Year!
Happy, because JOY is not dependent on circumstance, only upon Jesus' presence.
He is for all mankind.

Sunday, December 30, 2012

The beauty of change... // Day Two

In our day and age there is very little job security and a certainty of change. We need to be adaptable and stop thinking that a 9-5 job that you can hold for your whole life is the same thing as "security".
This isn't a scary thing, its a beautiful thing! 
It means that I can get a job I love, that I am well suited for (not just able to do), that lets me work from home, that doesn't pay me for my time but for my results, and that doesn't require a college degree. A job that will allow me to be at home with my family, to travel, to write, to photograph, to breathe, to work hard and be creative (without having to give 40hrs a week of my precious time). While employment needs in this country will continue to change over the course of my life, there are things about me that are changeless and those things are going to shape my job, my job will not shape me.

Once again, all photos were found on Pinterest.

My life purpose is to be a wife, a mother and to care & advocate for vulnerable children. My passions are creating, sharing my heart, and travel.
How about you? Do you already do the work you love? In a world of constant change, what will remain changeless about you? I'd love to hear!

Saturday, December 29, 2012

When You Daydream... // Day One

I'm 20, I chose to spend my time traveling, serving and teaching rather than attending college, and I'm ready to start doing something I love for work. 
I began reading "48 Days to the work you love" by Dan Miller today. The chapter for Day One asked this question, "When you daydream, what do you see yourself doing?" Rolling my short-term and long-term daydreams about my "someday" into a photo collage, this is a glimpse of what I imagine. All photos were snagged from my Pinterest boards. Isn't Pinterest the best?

wifehood // county life // motherhood // travel // photography & design work // reading // 
adoption // cooking // cleaning // sharing our blessings with others // savoring moments // long walks //
fields & beaches // journals // tea // gardening // teaching // writing or speaking

Friday, December 28, 2012

I left my heart behind // Testimonies from my India Travels

I left part of my heart in India. It was so at home there, I couldn't convince it to return to the States.

For a girl who doesn't care much for change and gets stressed about the unknown, going to India, where the culture and climate is so opposite of my snug little Midwest life, should have been uncomfortable, stretching and maybe even miserable. There were uncomfortable moments, but they didn't last long. I was stretched, but in a slow and steady, almost unnoticeable, way, spread out over the entirety of the trip. I was miserable in body as I went from one physical ailment to the next over the two weeks we were there, but in spite of that I was so full of pure joy.

I loved waking up with the sun, watching the day become hot and hazy. I loved the cool concrete walls and tile floors of our guest house and the children's home. I loved the sound of prayers being chanted early in the morning (not to our God), thinking how many souls there are that are longing for my God -- the only true one. I loved seeing children's faces out our kitchen and balcony widows as they peered in, curious about the white girls inside, and tickled with delight when we smiled or waved at them. I loved getting in our quiet, faithful driver's van and waiting, with an excited expectancy, for his adult heart to let down its guard and surrender to the childlike yearning that stirs in him for the Father I have. I loved watching him observe us as we loved the people in our path, it was as delightful as seeing seeds planted and little green stems begin to sprout.

I loved walking into the children's home and feeling entirely in-place, not questioning that I belonged right there. I loved the exuberant and trusting embraces and greetings I was welcomed with each day by the kids. I loved to see on their faces a complete abandon to love. I loved seeing them light up when they recognized me, loved their hands sliding into mine, loved their contentment to sit on my lap and just be held. I loved giving all my attention to them one at a time, all my affection to each one who was in front of me, all my love for them gushing forth in prayers. I loved seeing the children learn and sing and play and create. I loved hearing them cry "Big Sister! Big Sister!" in Telugu over and over. I loved having my heart silently stolen by two young sisters at the home. I never got it back from them, and I never want to. I want them to have all the love I can give, forever.

I loved the chaotic traffic of those desperate Indian streets, and getting a peek into so many lives as we passed homes and shops and people headed somewhere. I loved every jaw-dropping glance of God's incredible creation. I loved feeling thankful from my head to my toes for every warm, delicious meal that was labored over for us three times a day. I loved being tired from my head to my toes every night to the point that even my hard bed with one blanket was truly warm and inviting. I loved every western toilet I encountered like you cannot believe.

I loved heart to hearts in our rooms with my team mates. I loved that God provided wifi for me to keep in touch with my family because He knows how important that is to me. I loved looking up at the moon and remembering how my mom, as she drove me to the airport, had said, "It's the same moon in India as it is here."

I loved the dirt that got on my shoes and clothes as I sat in the slums with children who spoke with me even though we didn't understand one another. I love that even now my flip flops are coated in red sand from our trip to the beach with the children. I love remembering that night on the beach at sunset, holding one of my darlings on my hip and having her lay her head on my shoulder, completely secure with me... And how on the ride home my other little dear was sitting in the seat beside me and nodded off so I scooped her into my lap and put my head back and we both slept the whole way back. I loved our goodbye, my darlings and me, how I hugged them tight, with one in either arm, they nestled their faces into my neck and I kissed their cheeks and they kissed mine and we all were FULL of hope and of peace. And as I said goodbye and whispered "I love you" in their precious ears, I was aware of a whole new level of love that one can experience. That is where I left a portion of my heart, and that is where it will stay -- there with my Beloved and our girls.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Door of Hope International // Guest Post by David

I never was one to want to take care of kids or want a future caring for them. In fact I asked God not to put me in that kind of ministry. Of course, God usually has different plans...

Two years ago, I took a trip to Kigali, Rwanda in Africa. It was my first trip overseas so naturally I was very excited! At the missions house we were staying in while in Rwanda there was a mother who worked there with a daughter about 2 or 3 years old and what a precious child she was. We spent a lot of time with her when we were at the base. One day the girls on our mission team told me that the mother of this child was trying to get us to take her little girl Angelina back with us. Angelina’s mother was dying from AIDs and knew her child would be motherless if she didn’t find help. Well, of course we couldn’t take Angelina back with us. But a few days later God asked me a question that would change my life forever. He asked if I would devote my life to rescuing children like Angelina and the other street kids and orphans we spent time with. This was a hard question to answer because I never really liked kids and they didn’t like me.  But cheerfully I said yes and I haven’t regretted it since then. Now, not only do I love kids, but kids now like me even the ones I don’t know. At the beginning of this year (so January) the Lord put it on my heart to start Door of Hope Ministries and here we are. 

Simply put, we love Jesus Christ, King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and do what we do for His glory alone in accordance with His word. It’s because of the Hope He has given us that we desire to bring the message of Hope, the Gospel, to all those who are perishing. We have an unceasing passion to see an orphanage, school, church and maybe even a hospital placed in every country in the world and millions of lives eternally rescued through this ministry. We want to go where no one else wants to go to deliver the poor that cry, and the fatherless, and those that have none to help them... to be eyes to the blind, and feet to the lame. To be fathers (and mothers) to the poor: to search out the cause which we know not, and to break the jaws of the wicked, and pluck the spoil out of his teeth. --Job 29:12-17 
  • Rescue - We rescue the orphan, the widow, the lost, the poor, and the needy, not just physically and emotionally but most importantly by giving them hope through the glorious gospel of Jesus Christ
  • Establish - We establish Orphanages, churches, schools, and Hospitals
  • Equip - We Equip indigenous leaders to become Pastors and Missionaries
  • Adopt - We make Adoption possible and Affordable
We are of course not doing some of those yet, but hope to in the future. Also, we have a passion to come along side other organizations and help them in anyway possible. We aren’t trying to re-invent the wheel here, but want to simply wash the feet of other organizations if the Lord wills. We are one body and we believe we must start truly working as one. It’s not a competition to see who can get the most missionaries, most funding etc. It’s for one purpose, to evangelize the world and bring glory to our King. 

I, David, personally am the founder of this little ministry and, thus far, have been to Mexico City on a scouting mission. There we visited 2 orphanages in Puebla and spent most of our time on the streets seeing the need there. Currently we have missionaries in China working at an orphanage and caring for little children. 
Since we are so young our impact isn’t very wide yet, but this mission to India may be a door to something great!

We have the opportunity in May of 2013 to go to India to help care for 57 orphaned children. These children are the orphans of Christian believers who were martyred in 2008 during the Persecution of Bhubaneswar. Right now they live in what is equivalent to a one-car garage and receive very little food. We are raising $20,000 to build a 2400 sq. ft. building for these children to live in. While there we will be caring for the children (laundry, cooking, teaching, etc.) and hopefully helping to build their new home! This is a big task and we need your help and prayers to make it happen!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The necessity and the gift of Family // Testimonies from my India Travels

family |ˈfam(ə)lē|noun ( pl. -lies)[treated as sing. or pl. a group consisting of parents and children living together in a household.
• a person or people related to one and so to be treated with a special loyalty or intimacy

   We are not made to be alone. It is amazing what you can get through, endure, and be content with as long as you have family. In India I met children who had been given up by their parents... but who were happy and secure because they had been taken in by a couple that became "Mom" and "Dad" to them. I saw kids who lived in a slum, exposed to the elements day and night, with little to eat, no sanitation, worn clothing, no toys, who spent their days begging... but they were happy and secure because they had parents and community; family.

   And as I returned home it occurred to me that growing up with a family is what has fostered security, confidence, and happiness in me. Where would I be without these people? These flawed, confusing, difficult, wonderful, beautiful, perfect people.

Never underestimate the power of family. Never take them for granted.
Family is invaluable.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Break my heart for what breaks Yours // Testimonies from my India Travels

It is Christmas time! For me that means snow falling, it means Christmas music playing in the background, it means the only light in the house coming from the kitchen where mom is hard at work and the tree all strung up with twinkle lights, it means marveling at "Emmanuel" and the gift of His presence. Christmas time means shopping when no one knows and wrapping special gifts to shower my family with on Christmas day, it means knowing the delight of giving. Christmas time means that the gift catalogs from World Vision, Compassion Intl., Gospel for Asia and Samaritan's Purse have come in the mail, it means I am spending my free time pouring through those pages looking for how I can best bless people who have so much less than I do during this time of sacrificial giving and abundant blessings.

I just returned from a trip to India. There is a lot of need in India, for physical things like food and water and shelter and medical care, for emotional things like rehab from trafficking or abuse or abandonment, for spiritual things like breaking free from the bondage of Hinduism. Everywhere I went we were bringing ourselves, bringing our time to pour out as an offering before the feet of Jesus, bringing our voices to sing songs and speak blessings and tell testimonies, bringing what we could to bring physical relief such as a meal for a community or first aid supplies for people with burns and no access to medical care. Everywhere we went, as grateful as the people were for our fellowship and our gifts, what their hearts gnawed with hunger for was prayer, was Jesus.

Here in the U.S. we sing, "Break my heart for what breaks Yours, everything I am for Your kingdom's cause" and while I was in India I prayed the Lord would show me what it is that truly breaks His heart. I was actually surprised to find that it is not the physical poverty these people find themselves in that breaks His heart... His heart is for the impoverished souls. I saw a lot of need, an overwhelming amount... but I was not overwhelmed by it. Far from it. What my senses (spiritual and physical) were overwhelmed by was the undeniable presence of God hanging thick in the air everywhere I turned. I was overwhelmed with a spirit of rejoicing as I saw hungry hearts for Jesus and open hearts for truth all over the place. I was overcome with praise as I saw so many who want to hear and believe and live in the Good News, and that no matter how few messengers of that News there are it is Jesus who mobilized them and uses them and makes them effective. Jesus is doing this work and whatever part He has us play in it, accomplishes His purposes.

So, with that reality burned into my heart and mind, I believe very strongly that the purchases I make from gift catalogs this year ought all to be Bibles. The request I would like to set before you, as my readers, is to pray about sponsoring a missionary. The workers are few, but Jesus does provide workers and they have needs to be met while they work. You can be sure that they are taking no thought for their life as they spend every day ministering Jesus, ministering life, to hungry souls all over the world. A small financial gift each month is hardly a sacrifice for us, but it would mean a world of difference to them. Take my word for that. I have seen the tremendous impact monthly sponsorship brings to lives. So there are two ways to get involved in the kingdom's cause this season once your heart has been broken by what is currently breaking our Lord's heart:
1) Purchase a print. One for one: each print purchased provides a Bible for a hungry soul!

2) Sponsor a missionary. GFA is at work in the desperate streets of India (and all over Asia) and your monthly gift is key to reaching hearts that are just waiting to hear Jesus' name!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Overland Missions // Guest Post by Leah

“Any Road, Any Load, Any Time”-- Overland’s Motto
By Leah Morford
*The information contained in this post does not reflect the opinions of Overland Missions as an organization, they are merely my own thoughts and opinions.
Can you hear them? Are you listening? Don’t you hear the cries lifted on high? It’s the sound of those who are perishing without the hope of Jesus. The cries that wake me up in the middle of the night, begging me to come and bring the Light. It is the desperation of hearts trapped in darkness, who do not know the way out of that dark place. A foreshadow of an eternity separated from the Father. Though they do not even know it, their soul cries out for deliverance. Do you hear it?

We call them the unreached. All over the world there are those who have never heard the precious name of Jesus. People walk in hopeless situations, overcome by their own weaknesses. And even if their consciences testify that they are lost, they have no idea where to go to become found. It is these people that my heart beats for, because the Father’s heart beats for them. Jesus’ final words before departing were, “Go into all the world…” Jesus paid the price for them ALL, and He longs that they should all know Him and come to repentance.

Though the Body of Christ has existed for over 2000 years, there are still SO many people who have never been touched by the Gospel. How can this be? As His body, we must fulfill His heart’s desire; we must preach the Gospel and make Disciples throughout the ends of the earth. 
This great commission, this calling is why I joined Overland Missions. Overland Missions was founded by Philip Smethhurst, a man from South Africa who has devoted his whole life to seeing the nations reached with the Gospel. Philip first caught this vision for ministry while serving in the South African military and was stationed in Angola. After serving in the military, he traveled throughout more than 40 countries in a period of 6 years, bringing the message of Hope to countless people. In 1999, Overland Missions was birthed by Philip and his wife, Sharon.
 The vision of Overland is to reach the most rural, neglected, and isolated people of the earth with the Gospel through evangelism, discipleship, and humanitarian efforts. Our mandate is “to reach 200 sectors by 2020”. A sector is a portion of a country (about 10,000 sq. km) designated to be reached until the Gospel has had its full effect in that region, leaving it sustainable and thriving. The ultimate goal is to leave no portion of the earth untouched by the effects of the full Gospel.
It is my honor and privilege to serve with such an amazing organization and family as Overland Missions. I have served with Overland in Zambia, Cambodia, and Vietnam. I have witnessed the glory of God touching the earth. I have seen people healed spiritually and physically. People overcome by evil spirits have been delivered by the authority and name of Jesus Christ. With Overland, I have walked in the footsteps of Jesus and seen Him faithfully fulfill His promises. I will never be the same, and I can never live any differently. As long as I’m alive, my life is about loving God and loving as many people as I can into the Kingdom of God, by His grace and power!

Interested in how you can be a part of this?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Some are celebrated, some forgotten. Why?

One of my dear friends is having a baby. I have prayed for and rejoiced over his little life since the day I heard he was conceived. Hundreds of people, family and friends, have waited expectantly for his appearance, they have been ready to rally around and support his parents and to shower him with blessings. This is how it ought to be.

Half way around the world a woman is pregnant with a sweet baby girl, perfectly formed by God's own hands and designed for great purposes. Her family and friends surround her with threats and pressure to abort the baby because it is a girl and they don't want the future burden of providing a dowry for her. No matter how much the mother wants to keep the baby, unless she leaves her family (which will make the rest of her life more miserable than if she stays), they will find a way to get her to abort the baby or they will beat her so she miscarries.

At home in the U.S. we happily buy gifts for new baby. As his community we want him to have everything that he will need, and plenty of extra things too. Toys and books and adorable outfits will fill up his nursery in no time. We will hold him very carefully and rock him gently to sleep, we will teach him to say "please" and "thank you", we will do what we can to keep him safe and out of harms way.

Over here in India children are being sold into prostitution by their own parents, kids are put to work as beggars and maimed to look more pathetic to passersby, there are children living (yes, it is their home, their nursery) in the city dump. They do not know they are loved, they do not know there is hope, they do not have anyone to raise them, they do not have their basic needs met and they certainly do not have anything extra or pretty.

--- --- ---

I don't know if you see something that I do not, but I just don't get why some children are celebrated and others are forgotten... why some children are prayed for and other are cursed... why some children are born into loving and safe homes and others will be sold or orphaned before they can tie their shoes (which they won't have to begin with). I am so grateful that there are people and organizations that care about reaching the forgotten, abandoned, trafficked, enslaved and orphaned children in the world. Let's stand with them.

In the near future a friend and I are throwing a baby shower for the forgotten children of the world. We are collecting donations to send to several different orphanages and ministries that are at work caring for and providing for children who have nothing and no one. We would like to invite you to attend the baby shower from right where you are! We will be registered at Target and Walmart. If you would like to shower "unwanted" children with love and blessings along with us please RSVP to Miss.Mills @ hotmail . com and we will provide you with the information you need to access the registries and the address you can send the gifts to. (As I am currently in India, and have little access to wifi, expect a delay in hearing back from me. I will be sure to respond to your email next week!)

There is no reason why we can't "expand our borders" and show our care for the orphan and street child much like we show our care for new babies in our circles in the States. Join me!

Friday, November 30, 2012

What I Wore // Olive + White

Amidst this season marked by dusty blue horizons and muted landscapes, a bright white shirt shines. Making good use of that vibrant canvas I layered on my green fashionABLE scarf...

Green is one of my favorite colors but some shades of it make my skin look washed out. This olive green is a great compliment to my skin though and I am very happy with it. With the contrast of a dark wash jean and the complimenting pop of color from my ballet flats, this outfit is lovely -- and so simple!

Shirt - Old Navy // Jeans - Target // Shoes - Target // Scarf - fashionABLE

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Noonday Collection // Guest Post by Wynne

Our passion at Noonday Collection is to connect you with the lives of artisans struggling for a better future while styling you along the way.  Fashion and design are a vehicle for opportunity and change.  You, too, can be a voice for the oppressed!

I was introduced to Noonday Collection & Jessica Honegger (the founder) at the adoption conference that changed my world.  It was in Austin, Texas in October 2010 and that weekend was the weekend the Lord grabbed hold of my husband and he said YES to adopt!  The conference was full of amazing ministries, and Noonday instantly grabbed my attention.  You see, I LOVE accessories.  I’m always drawn to them, but when I saw the beautiful items Noonday was selling, I had to know more.  They were both beautiful & had a story.  I wanted to know that story!  Since that conference, I have become a part of the Noonday family.  Some good friends of mine hosted a trunk show to support our adoption, and it did SO WELL that I got the amazing opportunity to be one of the first gals to become an ambassador.  What that means is I sell these items in peoples homes, but what it really means is that I tell these women's stories!

Noonday Collection sells jewelry, accessories, and home accents made from women (and some men!) from over 10 different countries around the globe.  Ethiopia, Peru, Uganda, Ecuador, Rwanda and India to name a few.  These artisans get paid a fair living wage for their work, and I can honestly say the work they are doing does more than pay the bills!  I have had the opportunity to go visit our artisans in Ethiopia, Rwanda and Uganda and see them at work and visit their homes.  I’ve heard their stories!  The work they are doing is not only helping them provide for their families, but it’s giving them a sense of self worth.  It’s teaching them work ethic & many times connecting them to Jesus!  It’s giving them a community of other women that are going through the same things they do.  They aren’t just making jewelry, they are making a life for themselves and their families!

This is my friend Embemebet.  She lives on Mount Entoto in Addis Abbaba, Ethiopia.  Mount Entoto has been said to have healing waters for people living with HIV.  Most of the artisans we work with in Ethiopia live here.

She is just ONE example of how lives are being changed through Noonday.  By purchasing the BEAUTIFUL items these artisans make, you are changing their lives.  You are teaching your friends how to shop responsibly.  You are letting people into the stories.  Since I told you before I am a self proclaimed accessorize-ista, I used to wear mainly items from Target or Forever 21.  NOW when people stop me to tell me they like my earrings, I can tell them proudly that they were made by a group of artisans in Ethiopia.  Y'all, the stories and the conversations that are started from simply wearing fabulous items is out of control.

I invite YOU to be a part of the story.  Shop our website.  Buy your sister or your mom something lovely & give it to them proudly on Christmas knowing that you are making a difference in the world.  

Noonday means a lot to me.  It was the primary way we raised money to bring home our two little ones from Ethiopia.  

I hope you fall in love as much as I have.

Monday, November 26, 2012

MUCH // given. expected.

Thanksgiving came and went and we gave thanks for our bountiful blessings, our families, our freedom to worship without fear...
Then Black Friday came and we went out and spent loads of money on great deals, stocking up for Christmas...

We are all geared up to spend, it is that time of year, but while we spend to bless our family and friends who already have the blessings of bounty and family and freedom like we do, there are people who don't even know what Christmas is! They beg for enough food to survive, their churches are destroyed and their pastors imprisoned, they don't have clean water, they sell themselves into slavery to provide for their family, many are orphans who have no one to care for them and are vulnerable to being enslaved and trafficked... tons of people the world over don't even have a Bible. I don't know about you but I am thinking about all the extra I have and don't need and the blessing it could have been if I had spent my money on sending Bibles to those who need one, rather than buying a third copy of Pride and Prejudice just because it looked lovely. Lets hold each other accountable this Christmas season to spending less and giving more!

--- --- ---

 And that servant, which knew his lord's will, and prepared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes.
But he that knew not, and did commit things worthy of stripes, shall be beaten with few stripes. For unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.
Luke 12:47-48 KJV (emphasis added)

Friday, November 23, 2012

What I Wore // Sevenly + Sweats

No reason why a day spent in jammies shouldn't be a day spent advocating for waiting children!

Sweatshirt - Sevenly // Pajama pants - Target // Tank top - Old Navy

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Calling modern-day abolitionists...

William Wilberforce
fought to abolish the slave trade in England

Abraham Lincoln
1863 // Emancipation Proclamation 
supported the passing of the 13th Amendment

13th Amendment 
// United States Constitution
Section 1. Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction.
Section 2. Congress shall have power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

2012 //
human trafficking is the second largest criminal industry in the world (including America)

"Despite its abolishment almost 150 years ago by the adoption of the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, involuntary servitude is far from a thing of the past. Now referred to as human trafficking, modern-day slavery takes many forms."

According to U.S. Federal law, human trafficking is defined as:
Sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such an act has not attained 18 years of age; or
The recruitment, harboring, transportation provision, or obtaining of a person for labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery.

Estimates from the 2010 Trafficking in Persons Report by the U.S. Department of State...
Globally // 27 Million slaves
Western Hemisphere // 6,681 (identified victims)

Where is our modern-day abolitionist? Human trafficking will not be solved by leaving it alone. It is a big thing to combat, but so was slave-trading and the retaining of slaves in the South. 
Great work is being done all around the world to free slaves of human trafficking, provide them with rehab and a good job. I champion the work of International Justice Mission, my heart for India throbs with the knowledge that there is SO much sex-slavery and forced labor in that country... but today I am thinking of America, of the trafficked victims right under our noses. There are victims in my own town. We choose everyday whether we stand for freedom and justice or for depraved indifference.

30 Days of Thanksgiving // Week Four Recap

I have been counting my blessings each day for four weeks now and I have found a pattern... Everyday I am thankful for: the food I eat, the faces I see, the water I get to use and the world I live in. The more I am grateful for these blessings the more I want others to experience them too. Starving children should have food, orphaned children should have a family, countries with poor sanitation should have clean water and proper latrines, and those of us rushing through life in a first world country need to slow down and relish the beauty of nature that God surrounds us with daily.

On Veteren's day I was thinking about how our country's freedom has never been free of charge. But then I thought about how our freedom in Christ didn't come free of charge either. The Son of God knew He was going to sacrifice everything to give us freedom from sin, and He did. The more I reflect on His great love, the more grateful I am just to live. 

How about you? What are some of the blessings in your daily life?

Monday, November 19, 2012

World Toilet Day // Being real...

  I don't really get into all the ridiculous "days" that people have created. I stick to the real holidays, you know, the ones on the calendar. I have made a few exceptions though... Orphan Sunday, the day of prayer for the persecuted church, and, now, World Toilet Day. As you may have seen in a previous 30 Days of Thanksgiving recap post, I do not take our American bathrooms for granted.
  It may seem silly but bathrooms are a big deal to me. One of the reasons I find camping so unappealing is the possibility of not having a proper place to relieve myself. Providing me with a bathroom when I need one is one of the ways that I know you love me. Sounds ridiculous but those are the facts. If you want me to question how much you care for me just disregard the "little" detail of a proper restroom.
  I am headed to India for two weeks and when I asked my trip leader to tell me what to expect for bathrooms I braced myself for the very worst. A hole in the ground. That is the reality that I am facing. While I am counting my blessings I can honestly say that I am glad there will be a hole, that I won't be expected to just go on the ground, but I am crossing my fingers for privacy (and I am praying for a seat of some sort). When I was in France early this year the public restrooms were similar to our American ones except that there were no seats on the toilets and there wasn't water in the bowl. Just those two differences make the smell worse in the bathroom so imagine not having a bowl to contain the waste and no water to carry it away. 
  Sometimes statistics can go over our head but this fact stopped me in my tracks: 2.6 Billion -- the same as the population of America 8x!! -- do not have anything more than a hole in the ground.

  I got a bunch of Christmas gift catalogs in the mail this past week. I love looking through them and dreaming of blessing people in need with bountiful generosity! In spite of all the needs that there are in the world and all the ways that you can give and help and bring relief we are most moved to give things that we relate to, aren't we? Well I am moved to provide bathrooms for the 2.6Billion that lack one. I know that if I was called to live overseas and there was not a bathroom available in the community I was serving and I told my family and friends that we could build one with just $50 I would have a bathroom in no time! As far as I am concerned the people in need around the world are worth investing in as much, if not more, than anyone I know who goes overseas! 
  This Christmas I will be giving money toward building latrines in Rwanda through Blood:Water Mission and in India through Gospel for Asia and I would like you to consider how thankful you are for your running water, your soft bath rug, your private powder room, and seriously consider giving the gift of DIGNITY and HEALTH to those who lack it. Even if you cannot spare the funds lets make a difference together through our influence. Facebook it, Tweet it, blog about it, and spread the word through everyday conversations. Your influence has more impact than you know. Let's put it to work. :)

Friday, November 16, 2012

What I Wore // Sevenly Tee

I have spoken of my love for Sevenly in other posts. I can hardly remember when I first heard about Sevenly but I know that I jumped on board pretty soon after I did. I own quite a few of their limited edition tees now but my favorite one is still my charcoal "Love the Orphan" v-neck.

This was my first or second purchase from Sevenly. The design is fantastic, the message is simple, and the fit is perfect for me. I paired it with my skinnies and my favorite accessory (a scarf!). It is great for lounging around the house or running errands (I'd wear my purple moccasin flats!), which is exactly what I did today. :)

Tee - Sevenly // Jeans - Target // Scarf - Target

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

International Justice Mission // Guest Post by Jessie

"One of these words just doesn’t belong here: shock, disbelief, disgust, grief, hope.  How can hope be mixed in among the reactions we have to the horrors of injustice that grip our world today?  In 2008, I was first confronted with the knowledge that more than 27 million people are literally enslaved across the globe, many of them women and children.  I learned that little girls as young as 8 years old are sold to brothels where they are abused by up to 20 “customers” per day.  I learned that boys my sons’ ages work in rock quarries 16 hours per day, 6-7 days per week, in blistering heat, beaten if they are ill, rather than going to elementary school.  I learned that widows in Africa are forced from their homes, leaving them with no livelihood to provide for their kids, while young men are illegally imprisoned, no longer able to provide for their families.  Twenty-seven million people, sons and daughters of the King, living under oppression, violence, corruption and darkness: I was shocked, disbelieving, disgusted and grieving.  And still, a ray of hope: a sliver to me then, a blazing beacon to me now…
International Justice Mission ( is a Christian human rights agency that brings rescue to victims of slavery, sexual exploitation, and other forms of violent oppression.  Since 1997, IJM's staff has stood against violent oppression in response to the Bible's call to justice (Isaiah 1:17): Seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.  They are extraordinarily strategic and effective, working with local officials to secure immediate victim rescue and aftercare.  IJM professionals are changing the justice equation in the darkest parts of our world, ensuring that public justice systems – police, courts and laws – effectively protect the poor.  IJM is made up of over more than 400 lawyers, investigators, social workers and other staff - approximately 95% of whom are nationals of the countries in which they serve.  They collaborate with local and state authorities to bring about not only rescue, but system-wide change to make their vision become a reality: To rescue thousands, protect millions, and prove that justice for the poor is possible.  God is using IJM to, quite literally, change the world.
I first learned of IJM in 2008 at a Leadership Summit through Willow Creek Church, and I wept for the victims whose stories broke my heart.  “It’s not okay, it’s not okay, it’s not okay” was my refrain as I gazed at the pictures and videos of beautiful young people being bought and sold like commodities.  I was also seized with the conviction that it would be equally “not okay” for me to sit on the sidelines in this battle for justice.  God had my full attention, but what could I do?  That is the question that plagued me as I prayed and wrestled with Him in the days and weeks after the Summit.   It is also the question that I inevitably get asked time and again when I speak about injustice and the work of IJM.  Fortunately, there is an abundance of good answers to that question.
Just as I have become increasingly convinced that God is at work in IJM, using them to blaze new paths to justice in our generation, I have also come to realize that each of us can do SOMETHING in this fight.  When confronted with an impossible task, feeding 5,000, Jesus said to his disciples, “Bring me what you do have.”  They brought 5 loaves and 2 fish, and HE did the miracle.  When we bring what we have to this impossible problem, HE does the miracle.  God multiplies our offerings, and when we join Him where He is working, people get saved, in every sense of the word.  What did I have to bring?  What were my 2 fish and 5 loaves?  Well, I have a big mouth…I could TELL people about injustice and about IJM.  I did that right off the bat.  I am blessed with a good job as a physical therapist, yielding financial flexibility for giving and providing connections to people who might care if only they knew.  So, I signed up to be a Freedom Partner and I told my colleagues and patients about it.  I love to run and have girlfriends who are caring and generous with their time and energy.  So, we decided to put on a run/walk event, the Just Us (ordinary people for justice) Run/Walk.  We’ve done that for the last 5 years, exposing literally thousands in our community to the problem of modern-day slavery.  I’m unafraid of the spotlight, so I talk about IJM wherever people will give me a microphone.  I can pray, so I signed up to be a prayer partner for IJM.  I had more than I realized that can be used against this “impossible” problem!
The list of ideas for “what can I do?” is limitless.  God has given each of us gifts.  He has made us the body so we can move on behalf of the oppressed.  We can be creative…ABCs for abolition:  Act, Blog, Cycle, Draw, Equip, Fast, Give, Hike, Investigate, Jog, Kneel, Lobby, Minister, Notify, Open, Pray, Question, Read, Shop, Tithe, Understand, Vote, Walk, eXamine, Yodel, Zeal…  I know of a small group who gathers monthly for a meal and “pays” the host what they would pay at a restaurant for a similar meal.  That meal money then gets donated to IJM.  I know of people who recruit teams for the Just Us run and get their company to match their donations.  I know of kids who set up lemonade stands and teenagers who act in skits depicting injustice.  As Christmas approaches, purchasing items made by freed slaves or those in preventive programs just makes sense.  
The options for seeking justice are limited only by our creativity.  We all have time, talent, treasure and influence—it’s just a matter of what we spend it on.   We can join God where He is already at work, through IJM or similar organizations that grip our hearts, through relationships, through prayer… we CAN do SOMETHING.  And the joy that comes from following Christ into this battle is the surprising side-effect, as He does the miracle with our loaves and fish.  The blazing beacon is the Son himself, and we get the privilege of being used for the good works, that he created in advance for us to do.  Pretty dang cool if you ask me!"

Monday, November 12, 2012

Operation Christmas Child // Packing Shoeboxes

This past week every order from The Next Step Store funded the packing and shipping of Operation Christmas Child shoeboxes. Three Country Paintings were sold and two friends simply donated money toward the cause and as a result I was able to pack and ship EIGHT shoebox presents!

Four little boys...

and four little girls!

Here is the break down of the cost. The boys' boxes cost a total of $7.75 to fill...

... and because I splurged on the dolls, the girls' boxes cost a total of $14.75 to fill.

Last year I bought everything for the shoeboxes at the Dollar Store and it was affordable to do so but I wanted to buy things that would last a little longer this year. I decided to experiment by shopping entirely from Target to see how far my dollars would stretch there. As you can see I averaged the same price per box shopping from Target as I did shopping for the Dollar Store!

Tip: Buying items in bulk (like socks or pens and pencils) and filling multiple shoeboxes is the most cost-effective way to go, but even if you are just shopping for one shoe box you can keep the cost to $10 by shopping the $1 section of Target or shopping at the Dollar Store.

Thank you for supporting this cause by your purchases from The Next Step Store!
Whatever the cost, it is worth it for this...