Favorite Five [Shopping] For Freedom

I’m no Oprah, but this girl can still make a list of favorites.  I’ve struggled in recent years with the stark contrast between my excess and other’s lack.  My plenty with another’s need.  And though I know our consumerism is part of the problem, I’m encouraged to find organizations that are creating equalizing opportunities through the very products we buy.  It’s a huge step in the right direction!  You’ve probably heard of organizations like TOMS (the one-for-one charity) or World Vision’s Gift Catalog, but in recent years I’ve connected with some other amazing organizations with crazy heart and a beautiful mission.

With each of the five organizations I’m listing below, I’ve either made a personal connection with a team member, or I’ve personally bought their items.  I can vouch for their work and mission and I’m excited to share them with you today:

1: IMAGINE GOODS

This is a fantastic company I stumbled upon during my involvement with Love146 which seeks to end child trafficking and modern day slavery.  Love146 realized that the t-shirts they sold to promote their organization might actually be perpetuating the very child labor they were seeking to end.  As a result, they partnered up with “Imagine Goods” which provides former victims of trafficking with sustainable employment opportunities.  When you buy through them, you know that the clothes you’re wearing didn’t come at the cost of unfair labor for someone else.  Here are some of the things I’ve bought from them!  (I hope you enjoy my cheesy selfie-modeling poses.)

(Top Picture: “the Kate dress“.  Bottom Picture: (skirt no longer sold) Shirt: The Empowerment Women’s T-Shirt–  SHIRT QUOTE: Empowerment is equipping an author with pen and ink to write their own story.)

AND Better yet, they’re running a sale through Sunday July 23rd! So now is a great time to try them out!

2: NEW CREATION- Design for Justice

I ran into this Harrisonburg, VA based organization through ImagineGoods actually.  While I haven’t ever been to this physical store (it’s on my to-do for one of our next trips south!), they have quite a unique story.  They call this place their “porn shop takeover” where they bought up a building that once perpetuated the trafficking industry and turned that into a powerful weapon against the evil it once stood for.  In their words, their mission is ” counteracting human trafficking through education, awareness, design, + the hope of Christ”.

 

And of course…I bought their “Justice and Coffee” shirt.

Next on my list to buy from them is one of their cool art prints or perhaps some survivor-made lip gloss that supports trafficked victims right out of Nashville, TN.  🙂  Win-win.

3: TRADES OF HOPE

Trades of Hope is very similar to the other two organizations in the ways that it empowers women to support themselves through the production and sale of products.  I love that Trades of Hope reaches out to a variety of women in multiple countries and addresses multiple reasons for poverty (disease, cultural discrimination, trafficking, etc).  But what I additionally love about Trades of Hope is that their sales approach also provides employment opportunities for “Compassionate Entrepreneurs” who sell largely through host product parties.  They sell jewelry, hand-bags, scarves, home-goods, and more- and for each item you can see a little bit of information about the artisans that created the product.  It’s a great way to combat poverty and start some conversations through the items you wear and have in your home!  I’m actually hosting my first Trades of Hope party this Thursday through my May Friend-Post Blogger, Sharon.  So if you’re interested in more information, please check her out!

4: NIGHTLIGHT DESIGN

Also during my time with Love146, we had a man visit and share about his heart to change the trafficking climate by addressing the very men who perpetuated the demand for trafficking.  Since then, he has shifted ministry roles, but he now finds himself working with a mission out of Bangkok Thailand which created “Nightlight Design” . This organization mirrors the others in the way it empowers the trafficking survivors right out of Thailand.  My understanding is that you can “host” a party with friends, church, etc, where Nightlight will send you a box of items to sell, and you return any unsold items and the profits from sales back to their team.  You can also purchase online!

5: AMANI YA JUU (Amani Africa)

Call me crazy, but one morning I woke up with the word “Amani” in my head.  Having no idea what it meant, I looked it up and discovered it means “peace” in Swahili.  So months later when I talked to a friend who worked with an organization called “Amani Ya Juu” I was understandably intrigued.

Amani also allows artisans to create sustainable income through the creation of products.  But Amani has such a unique focus on the communities established through each of their centers (Liberia, Kenya, Uganda, and Chattanooga, TN).  Each of these community centers uniquely reflects the women involved, and provides far more than just training or employment.  Especially in light of the refugee crisis of late, the stories you’ll read about the women who launched Amanai and the centers will truly inspire you.  They are bringing so much life where once was grief and pain.

AND I had the pleasure of visiting their Chattanooga storefront last November-

and was in love with their unique toy items, clothes, greeting cards, and more.  Here’s some pictures to give you an idea:

(This skirt has POCKETS!!! Yes, please!)

Such a great shop, and you can find many of these items and more online as well!


Thanks for hanging around to see a few of my favorite shops for freedom.  This is part of my promise to post about some cool ways you can be part of changing the world with your own “less to be more”.  I’m looking forward to sharing more hands-on opportunities with you soon!  What organizations have you worked with that are empowering people and changing the world?  I’d love to hear about them!

Be the Hydrangea

I have a confession to make: I’m in love with hydrangeas.  (I don’t care who knows it.)  My obsession started when my parents moved from their beloved CT home to distant Alabama.  My Mama, who passed her sweet sentimental genes on to me, had carted and cultivated a blue hydrangea, that had been transplanted from my great-grandmother’s plant, to various homes she’d lived in.  Though they moved in summer and the hydrangea was in full bloom (not the best time to move it), my mom couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her plant behind.  So she recruited one of our moving helpers, (bless his heart), to dig up that whole giant hydrangea plant, and pack it in all its uprooted strangeness into my mini-van.  I promptly taxied it to my own home like I was a flower ambulance driver, and dug it a new home with all my heart.

The spring after they moved, I watched that hydrangea’s signature green leaves burst forth in full health.  There would be life yet for this organic bridge of generations.

Or not.  The plant was alive, but its poor shocked system wasn’t ready to re-bloom just yet.  Not the first year.  Or the second.

I waited patiently.  One winter (remember that key detail), I went outside for the mail or one of the other two reasons you go outside in the frigid New England cold.  And there, blowing down the road like a frosty tumbleweed, was a dried up hydrangea blossom.

Call it the innocuous catalyst to a winter-crazed mind, but I latched onto that plant in a symbolic way.  Suddenly I had to know all about hydrangeas because how often does one casually breeze by your mailbox in the dead of winter?

Did you know hydrangea literally means “water vessel”?  (That’s one fact I found out in my hydrangea frenzy.)

Water vessel.  Water carrier.

These robust flowers are so named for their appetite and ability to draw up water and the bowl shape of their flowers. (*)

I believe we’re meant to be like these hydrangeas. (That’s right. Be the flower.)

Once Jesus sat at a well with a Samaritan woman who had gone all kinds of wrong in her life.  And even as she went to draw physical water for herself from the well that day, Jesus promised her “living water” which only He could offer.  He said “Everyone who drinks this [physical] water will be thirsty again,  but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:13-14)

Later, in John 7 Jesus says, ““Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. 38 Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.”39 By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive.”

This world has only satisfied me to a point.  After awhile, even the greatest physical experiences leave me missing something.  Whether friendships, food or family; vacation or vocation.  It’s temporary.  It doesn’t last, and I keep returning to the well each day, seeking a pure joy and hope, but never filling myself completely.

Yet when I realize my physical world isn’t everything and I thirst for something greater, I’m finding that God DOES offer that living water that somehow floods my soul, offers me lasting purpose and hope, and, yes, satisfies me when I allow myself to be transformed by it.

But when we begin to thirst for that kind of water, we’ll find its not meant to be contained.  No, I believe we become carriers of that water, like the hydrangea, overflowing with hope to others.

You are meant to carry water and spill it over in every place that you touch.  We are meant to be spreaders of Hope and Life to our families, our co-workers, those that seem to have nothing and those that seem to have everything.  When we thirst for living water we’ll find its an endless well and we’re not meant to hold it in but to let it flow, and this is the mystery of His Spirit.

I don’t know where you’re planted and drawing up water- I don’t know specifically where you’re meant to overflow with Hope.  But I do know, you were created for this.  You were made for the only Water that satisfies and you were made to overflow.

This world is struggling in more ways than we can count right now.  If ever there was a (political, social, racial, economic, resource-scarce, confused, unjust) time to seek God’s heart and let it spill over in compassionate action, now is that time.  And we are the water carriers.

P.S.  My hydrangea finally did blossom, and just this year my mom took a cutting of it to her new home, so the legacy lives on!


Stay tuned!! In the coming weeks I plan to highlight a few practical, tangible ways you can make a difference with issues such as human trafficking, poverty, and more!  If you’re currently involved with an organization or know of a group that is meeting physical needs and empowering the powerless, please pass along what you know!  I’d even be happy to have you guest post about your experiences. Thanks for joining and for all the ways you share hope.

 

*Hydrangea Meaning

You Are Here

My most philosophical lesson this week came quite unexpectedly from my three year old.

I picked him up from preschool and we went with a friend to New Haven CT to volunteer at Love146 for a couple hours.  (BTW, they are absolutely a fantastic organization, devoted to ending slavery and sex trafficking both in the US and abroad. Check them out!!)

Anyway, I had my friend drive because I’m not a city driver.  Not remotely.  Just this weekend I botched a simple parallel parking job in my tiny town and had people on the curb awkwardly giving me directions.  I played it cool and joked that I’d love to tote those lovely people with me to help in my next driving fiasco.  I don’t think they saw the humor in that.

But please, enough of me.

As my friend drove, my son inserted himself frequently into our conversation, and gave a running commentary of things he saw out the window.  At one point while we were a long way from our destination, my little man suddenly perked up.  “We’re Here!” He shouted in rapture, apparently believing that our shortcut off the main road meant we’d arrived where we intended to go.

And I laughed at my sweet kiddo, but my friend and I both agreed that in some ridiculously simple but profound way- YES, we are here.

We were there in a moment.  No we hadn’t made it to where we planned to go, but that didn’t mean that the present was unimportant.  That didn’t mean that we were exactly in the middle of a meaningful “here”.

Lately I’ve found my heart struggling with “here”.  I find myself waiting to get through the morning routine, the bedtime routine (who am I kidding…there’s no routine)…just so I can savor a minute of peace at the end of the day.  If I’m supposed to meet someone for coffee later, then I’m counting down till the “then”;  if I’m planning out my next tattoo it feels so far away till just then… or lately I find myself waiting while God incubates something new in me- I know it’s growing there because I feel it- but the waiting part hardly seems fun.  The “then and there already” would be much better.

But then I look at my three year old.  This kid is all. in.  No matter what he is feeling or expecting, he embraces each moment with every atom of his being.

If I tell him he can have an ice pop, the kid gasps in amazement; if we’re hanging out in line at Starbucks he is full-on dancing to the store music, making use of every spare inch of floor tile.  If we’re at Walmart he’s going to embrace being a ninja turtle while we’re in the toy aisle.

If he sees a friend, even one he just met, that friend better not need a space bubble, because my son loves handing out enthusiastic hugs in the moment.   Sure he gets mad- sure he throws a fit when things don’t go his way.  But even that is a reminder of how fully immersed he is in “now”.

I get the sense that, for him, life is something that is here. now.  And the beauty of that attitude is that whether he’s up or down, he’s engaged.  He’s happy if an unexpected treat comes along; he’s not thinking about where he’s going next so any context is a social context; he’s not worried about where he’ll be in five minutes because that wide open field is calling his name right now.

Maybe that’s what God is trying to teach me.  Matthew chapter 6 says “Don’t worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will worry about itself.”  “God, give us TODAY our daily bread.” (What we need for this moment.) Or how about Proverbs 19:21 “Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”  Why am I striving so hard for my way, my plans down the road, “later”- when there is rest letting go and believing God’s purpose will outlast, outdo, outweigh my own ideas.

Life is happening- now.  And I don’t want to miss it.  Even the hard parts- I’m believing there’s something now that is worth being present for.  Now is going to happen whether I like it or not…so I might as well soak it in.  Just ask my three year old…although, I wouldn’t take his advice on everything.


 

Quick Reminders!!!

  • Don’t forget to check in THIS Friday, June 23rd, for my next “Friend Post Friday”!!!!  You won’t want to miss hearing from my good friend Audrey Beatty.
  • AND the Gray Faith Study starts THIS Monday online!  Check back here for the first video and discussion guide or follow along at https://www.facebook.com/lesstobemore/  I can’t wait to get started!

 

 

 

 

Love146

Having children changes they way I think about everything.  Growing up I’d watch movies with my family and  during every sappy or emotional scene- (you know, when the couple finally makes up in the pouring rain or Bambi loses his Mom, or poor Old Yeller gets shot)- without fail I’d look over at my Mom and see her dabbing her tear-soaked face.  When you’re young you sort of think, “OK Mom, get a grip.  It’s not real.”  But since I’ve had kids I swear I’ve teared up at commercials…and don’t even get me started on the movie “Up.”  Having kids changes the way I see the world- it changes the things that break my heart because my world is pinned up and intertwined in the lives of two innocent children…and I can’t help but see the world, the good and bad, as if it could happen to them.

So it has changed the way I think about the issue of child slavery.  I’ve known that slavery exists…but I haven’t really WANTED to know.  I didn’t want to let my heart be too broken…to let it be too real to me.  Then it didn’t have to be my issue.  It is harder to ignore it now.

Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

See, the truth about human trafficking evokes in my heart painfully polar opposite responses:  When I read about children being sexually exploited again and again, I feel an anger and a passion to do something, and at the same time a numbness and helplessness to lift a finger-  I think of my own children and feel emotionally close to these victims, and in the same moment I feel galaxies away from the reality of their circumstances.  The sad truth is that sometimes I want so badly for the misery and evil that is human trafficking to be history- so guilty for my own freedom in comparison- that I close my eyes and pretend that the whole of slavery really is far enough away from me that I cannot help.

But that is simply. not. true.

An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

In the past year I have had the honor to be part of a “Love146 Task Force.”  Love146 is an organization that is dedicated to raising awareness about modern day slavery and human trafficking, and seeking to end such slavery through aftercare, prevention, and research.  Love146 not only works with other like-minded organizations, but they’ve also had the unique foresight to encourage groups of people from every walk of life to partner with them.  These groups of people form multiple Task Forces, like the one I’m part of, across the country.  I am small.  Our “task force” is not even ten people strong, and truth be told there is not a lot we can do on our own.  But each time we meet- each time we educate ourselves and other about the truth of slavery- each time we give our voice, time, or resources to collectively stand up to slavery- we are choosing freedom.

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable… Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Our task force recently put on an event for teens to raise awareness about human trafficking in our community.  We actually added members to our group that way…so momentum is building.  And we are putting on another event for those in the East Hampton, CT area:

  • On April 27 at 7:00pm at Epoch Arts youth from East Hampton and the surrounding area respond to the issue of modern day slavery through a collection of artistic media.  There is a minimum donation of $7.  All the proceeds will go to Love 146, an organization that combats slavery and human trafficking in the United States and abroad.  Come educate yourself about this urgent issue and find out how you can help!

Slavery still exists.  We have the power to end it.


If you are in the area I encourage you to come! It is an overwhelming issue to face, but you will find yourself among a sea of others who have decided that to do nothing is not an option- to simply become aware of the issue- to not overlook it- is a huge stride towards change.

You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know.” 
― William Wilberforce

The more freedom we enjoy, the greater the responsibility we bear, toward others as well as ourselves. — Oscar Arias Sanchez