Sunday, March 17, 2013

Dress for Change! Challenge

A friend posted a link to this challenge on Facebook, and so I want to extend the challenge to you!

So here's the rundown:
  • We all have PLENTY of clothes in our closets to wear, even on days when it feels like we have NOTHING to wear;
  • MANY little girls around the world, really don't have much to wear, which often keeps them from being able to attend school;
  • Sheyanne Root, a high school senior at Burns High School, has made "Dress for Change" her senior project;
  • Donate $5 and join the challenge!
  • Commit to wear one black dress for one week:  April 1-7; and
  • For each person who participates, Sheyanne will make a dress and send it to Little Dresses for Africa.
I will try my very best to be creative with my accessories (can we say Noonday?!) and blog each day to share my experience.  I actually have 2 Noonday Collection trunk shows and my daughter's 2nd Birthday party during that week!!  I've never done anything like this before, so can I be honest and tell you that I almost let fear keep me from saying YES, but more and more I'm refusing to be held captive by fear, so I'm committing to this in front of God and everybody.  Will you join me?  If so, hop on over to the website and register, and also leave a comment for me here!!

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Exciting News!

I may be stating the obvious here, especially if you've known me for a while, but can I just say it anyway?

Our trip to Ethiopia last January wrecked me.

Seeing poverty so close up, so unfiltered and uncensored, opened my eyes in a way that showed me I would never be the same.  For several months after we returned, I was overwhelmed and sad.  I knew the Lord had called me to respond, but I didn't know how.  Slowly throughout the summer and fall, He began to show me some small practical ways I could respond, but I always knew there was something more consistent He wanted me to invest my time in.

As I continued to pray about it, I began to see Noonday Collection everywhere I turned it seemed.  I would see people posting about it on Facebook or on blogs; I even ended up listening to a podcast Jennie Allen did with the founder of Noonday, Jessica Honegger.  And it was really through that podcast that I started to think, "Maybe I could be an ambassador for Noonday Collection."  What's funny is that I actually sent the podcast to a friend first and told her SHE should do it!  But the Lord had other plans for her and I began to quickly realize that Noonday might be something He might be calling me to.

Long story short, I contacted Noonday, interviewed with Jessica and now am an ambassador for Noonday Collection!  If you're not familiar with it, Noonday sells handcrafted jewelry, accessories, home and gift items made by artisans from around the world.  By providing a market for these items, Noonday is helping provide a pathway out of poverty for the artisans.  I've learned through When Helping Hurts that simply giving money for charitable purposes has its limitations, but work instills dignity and a lasting solution.  AND, in addition to helping create a pathway out of poverty, Noonday also helps support adoption.  Adoptive families can host trunk shows and a portion of the proceeds will be given directly to the family to help fund their adoption.  Are you starting to get why I fell in love with Noonday?   Helping alleviate poverty AND supporting adoption?  Sign me up!!

The name "Noonday" comes from Isaiah 58:10, which says,
and if you spend yourselves in behalf of the hungry and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, and your night will become like the noonday. (NIV)
The other night I read Isaiah 58 in the ESV.  This is how verse 10 is translated:
if you pour yourself out for the hungry and satisfy the desire of the afflicted,then shall your light rise in the darkness and your gloom be as the noonday.

When I saw poverty a year ago, my life felt gloomy - knowing something needed to be done, but not knowing what to do was a dark time for me.  But now, instead of darkness there is light; instead of gloom, there is Noonday.  And I am one thankful girl.

Here are some ways you can support Noonday Collection and our mission to help provide a pathway out of poverty:

1) Purchase items online.  Think about how you can use your purchasing power to make a difference in this world.

2) Host a trunk show with a Noonday Ambassador.  Invite your friends, neighbors and family to a night filled with fashion, fun and purpose!

3) Host an adoption fundraiser trunk show either for yourself or a family you know who is adopting.  

Click the button below to contact me!

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Is There Room?

This morning in church, we sang Joy to the World.  It's one of my favorites, but as I was thinking through the lyrics, a fresh understanding - and conviction - washed over me.  As we sang...
Joy to the world! the Lord is come;Let earth receive her King;Let every heart prepare him room,And heaven and nature sing,And heaven and nature sing,And heaven, and heaven, and nature sing.
I began to wonder:

"Is there room in my heart for Jesus?" 

"What does it look like to prepare room for Him?"

And then I remembered what Luke tells us about Jesus' birth...
And she gave birth to her firstborn son; and she wrapped Him in cloths, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.
And so I began to think about how maybe this issue of not making room in my heart for Jesus is not unique to me.  The world, Bethlehem, was not prepared for Jesus' arrival.  There was no room for them in the inn.  Mary and Joseph were relegated to a barn for the birth of the Messiah, the King.  I want to judge the inhabitants of Bethlehem.  I want to shake my finger at them with shame and condemnation.  They should have known better.  And yet...

Is there room in my heart for Jesus? Do I really make room for Him, or do I just fit Him in between everything else - or perhaps worse - just sprinkle a little "Jesus dust" on top of "my life" and ask Him to bless it?  Make me happy and comfortable.  And, if I'm going to be really honest, do I even know what it looks like to really give Jesus space in my heart - in my life?  What does it look like to clear out all the clutter and really let Him have full reign?  Honestly, I'm not sure I know.

I'm asking this question.  I need your help.  I'm asking you:  What does it look like to prepare room in your heart for Jesus?  What does it look like when you give Him space to do as He wills?  

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Idolatry. Part II.

As I mentioned in my previous post, the Lord first began showing me the idolatry in my heart as I began the task of identifying items to be sold at our garage sale.  Each day that week, the Lord hit my heart harder and harder with the revelation of these idols and the ways I had been bowing down to them for years.  At the end of the week I told my husband that I felt like my heart had been through an earthquake, with multiple aftershocks that didn't seem to have an end in sight.  The main earthquake uncovered the idolatry, but each aftershock uncovered more and more sin that had been ignored or forgotten and never really dealt with.  I was feeling completely exposed and raw.  And each time I began to feel slightly 'normal' again, another aftershock would come, leaving everything hazy and uncomfortable all over again. As difficult as all of it was, it's exactly what I needed!  It is by his grace that He uncovers our sin and leads us to repentance.

As it turns out, my words on Sunday night were a bit prophetic:
And that’s really just the beginning of the story, I think.  We still have lots of stuff in our house – lots of stuff I’m emotionally attached to, but rarely – if ever – use.  There are still idols, friends.  I can’t tie a pretty bow on this and tell you that the Lord has cured me of materialism and I’ll never be materialistic again.  But it’s a start and He’s working on it.
On Monday morning I read this post by my friend, Missy, and thought, "Hmm...  Approval.  I do struggle with that.  I should listen to those sermons."  And so Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday while I cleaned the house during my daughter's nap, I listened to The Austin Stone Community Church's sermon series entitled, Counterfeit Love.


The first sermon was an overview of idolatry:

  • The very first commandment God gave Moses was "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your might." (Deuteronomy 6:5)
  • King Solomon tells us that "...he has put eternity into man's heart..." (Ecclesiastes 3:11b)  In other words, He has given us a desire to know Him, and He is the only thing who can fill that desire.
  • And the verse I clung to falsely when I was single, "Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart." (Psalm 37:4)  It makes so much sense to me now:  When I delight in Jesus, He gives me more of Himself.  He is the desire of my heart.

The second sermon covered the 4 basic types of idolatry:
  • Power
  • Control
  • Comfort
  • Approval
I seriously was only listening to this series because it covered Approval, but holy. moly.  As it turns out, I want ALL of these things!!!  Seriously??!!  Gotta love the daily reminders of how deeply flawed and sinful I am because it shows me how much I need Jesus.

The third sermon covered healing.  
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. (Philippians 1:6) 
He wants to heal me of my idolatry!  I'm convinced that's why He continues to shake up my heart every week - and sometimes every day!  It's the way He draws me to Himself to know Him - reminders of my completely broken, wicked heart.  A heart that whores after other gods, a heart that would often desire comfort over sacrifice; idols over Jesus.  Lord, help me!  But I am thankful.  Thankful He does not condemn me, but like the woman caught in adultery, he says, 

"Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more." (John 8:3-11)  

Grace.  Unfathomable grace.  Grace that draws me near to Him.  Grace that brings freedom.  Grace that stirs a love in my heart for Him that changes who I am.  

He is good, Friends.  Know Him.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Idols and a Garage Sale

As I have come to know Jesus over the last couple years, He has begun to change my heart regarding many things.  One of those things is caring for the poor and the oppressed.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, seeing poverty in Ethiopia hit me hard.  It messed me up for months.  Now I’m at least able to think about it somewhat rationally, without being completely overcome with emotion, but I hope I never lose the ache in my heart when I recall what I’ve seen. 

After our second trip to Ethiopia in March, Rob and I began praying and talking about what we could actually do to help.  We have sponsored a little girl in Ethiopia through World Vision for the last 3 years, but it seemed like God was calling us to more.  As I thought about it, I realized there were no shortage of organizations to support; if we wanted to just give money to an organization to make ourselves feel better, it would have been easy.  And yet, I couldn’t shake the feeling that He had a unique opportunity for us.

One day, as I was thinking about our trip to Ethiopia in March, I realized what our opportunity was.  Before we took placement of our daughter, we were able to travel to Gondar, where she was born, to visit the orphanage where she lived for 3 months.  Bridge of Hope was amazing.  The kids we saw were happy and well cared for.  The housing was certainly adequate and each house even had its own garden.  They also have a cafĂ© that they run to earn money to support themselves.  I later ran across this video that also shows how they even support at-risk kids in the community.  Bridge of Hope is doing wonderful things.  But as we learned while we were there, although they have many ways to support themselves, they still need donations.  And specifically, children need sponsors.  As Rob and I thought and talked about it, we realized this was at least one opportunity we had to do our part in helping fight poverty.  However, we were kind of at a loss as to how we could really do that since we were down to one income and had just added a member to our family.

Shortly thereafter, we were in church one Sunday and our pastor was preaching out of Luke 12.  His actual sermon was taken from verses 13-21, pertaining to the Rich Young Fool.  I believe the sermon was about hoarding – or at least that’s what I got out of it – but it was what Jesus said in verse 21 that really caught my attention:

“So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.”

And I thought to myself, “what does He mean to be ‘rich toward God?’  I have no idea.”  So I kept reading.  In verses 22 through 32, He talks about how we shouldn’t be anxious, but instead trust the Father for our needs – particularly our physical needs for food and clothing.  And I thought, “OK, I get that, but I’m still not understanding how I should be rich toward God.”  And then I got there:

“Sell your possessions, and give to the needy. Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Luke 12:33-34)


But unlike The Rich Young Ruler’s response (and frankly, my own response any other time I’ve read this), I didn’t walk away sad, I finally said, “YES!!”  What the Holy Spirit said to me that day was that I was hoarding my possessions.  We have plentyway more than we need – and we could sell many of our possessions so that we had money to sponsor a child at Bridge of Hope. 

And so we started the process of selling some of our possessions.  Rob was able to sell his PS3 within a couple days of us making the decision; then we sold all of Lottie’s outgrown clothes and gear at a large consignment sale; and then we had a garage sale where we sold lots of other stuff.  We still have several things to sell – some books and electronics that we think we can get more money through other avenues – but the Lord was faithful to allow us to sell almost every single thing we have attempted to sell. 

So, in addition to really learning that the Lord would be faithful to complete that which He has begun, I also learned how stinkin’ materialistic I really am.  As I went through the process of going through my possessions, not to simply de-clutter, but to assess what I really needed, my hoarding heart was exposed.  For those of you who know me, you might be surprised at this.  I used to have a family member who was a bit of a hoarder.  When compared to her, I could never be called a hoarder, but with every decision, every piece of clothing put in the “sell” pile, I began to feel more and more raw, exposed.  I had come face to face with the fact that I found comfort, security and maybe even status, in my possessions.  It was then that the rest of Jesus’s words began to sink in:

“Provide yourselves with moneybags that do not grow old, with a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches and no moth destroys.  For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

See, I thought that we were just going to sell some extra possessions so that we could give to those who were in need, but the Lord knew my heart, and He knew what needed to be done.  He exposed my idolatry – because let’s call it what it is.  If I found comfort in my stuff, then I wasn’t finding comfort in Him.  And that’s idolatry.  One of many idols in my life, I suspect.

And that’s really just the beginning of the story, I think.  We still have lots of stuff in our house – lots of stuff I’m emotionally attached to, but rarely – if ever – use.  There are still idols, friends.  I can’t tie a pretty bow on this and tell you that the Lord has cured me of materialism and I’ll never be materialistic again.  But it’s a start and He’s working on it.

So how about you?  Do you find yourself, like me, storing up treasure which can be stolen, and moth and rust destroy?  How has the Lord taught you about storing up treasure in Heaven?

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Playing Church

What I didn’t tell you the other day about reading David Platt’s Radical was that I had actually bought it and tried to read it a few months before our church read it together.  I didn’t get very far in it before I just had to stop reading it.  It was “too much.”  At the time, I couldn’t really define what that meant, but by the time I picked it up again, I understood.  In short, it was legalism that kept me from getting more than a chapter or two into it. 

The version of Christianity I subscribed to up until a couple of years ago looked a lot like a to-do list:
  • Go to church most every Sunday
  •  Take an active role in church, such as participating in Bible Studies (or even leading them), be on a committee, or volunteer in some other capacity.  And the more you can do of these things, the better.
  • Read Bible daily
  •  Pray daily
  •  Don’t cuss
  •  Don’t drink excessively
  • Don’t have sex with anyone other than your spouse
  •  Take care of the house
  •  Be a good wife
  •  Be a good employee
  •  Be a good friend
  • Be a good neighbor
  • Volunteer with organizations outside of church

…and I’m sure the list could go on, but these are the things that immediately came to mind.  This was what consumed my life.  Some of it took work, some of it really didn’t, but I was busy enough keeping up with that list.  So when David Platt came along saying Jesus said things like:

“Anyone who does not carry his cross and follow me cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:27)

“Any of you who does not give up everything he has cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33)

“Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.  Then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21)

… it was just “too much.”  I already had a to-do list a mile long, I couldn’t add those crazy things to it.  So I put the book away.  I’m so thankful God had other plans for me and wouldn’t let me run from what He wanted to teach me.

What I learned between the first and second times I picked up Radical was that I had been trying my best to reconcile myself to God.  That, my friends, is the essence of legalism.  I don’t really remember being taught too much about legalism in church (ha-ha), but I think I always had a vague notion that it involved having to wear dresses, not being able to cut your hair or following a very rigid worship style.  If pushed, I probably would have said that legalists were people who felt like God wouldn’t be pleased with them if they didn’t do such-and-such.  But I don’t think I would have gone so far as to say they were trying to reconcile themselves to God by those rules.  And that’s where I was deceived.  I had a whole laundry list of dos and don’ts that were the rules I lived by – the rules that pleased God – the rules that, when followed, reconciled me to Him.  I realize now what blasphemy that was.  Now, I fully understand when Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, ‘I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” (Matthew 9:12-13)  I needed to learn the depths of my sinfulness and trust that Jesus was the only means of salvation, rather than compiling my own list of “righteous deeds” that could somehow earn salvation.

The other day I was reading Acts 5, and came across a familiar passage:  Ananias and Sapphira.  If you’re familiar with the Bible, you might remember that this is the story where Ananias lies to Peter about some money that he’s donating to the church, Peter rebukes him  for lying and then he just falls down, dead.  A little later, Ananias’ wife, Sapphira comes to Peter, corroborates Ananias’ story, and then she falls down, dead, as well.  Harsh, right?!  I always read it as a simple story about why you shouldn’t lie.  And, to be honest, I didn’t really get what it had to do with the rest of Acts, other than to maybe show Peter’s power.

But this time when I read it, I saw a story I’d never seen before.  If you back up to the end of Acts 4, you see the first Christians taking care of each other’s needs.  How?

There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles' feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.  Thus Joseph, who was also called by the apostles Barnabas (which means son of encouragement), a Levite, a native of Cyprus, sold a field that belonged to him and brought the money and laid it at the apostles' feet. (Acts 4:34-37)

Then what happens?

But a man named Ananias, with his wife Sapphira, sold a piece of property,  and with his wife's knowledge he kept back for himself some of the proceeds and brought only a part of it and laid it at the apostles' feet. (Acts 5:1-2)

Oh, I see.  Ananias and Sapphira want to look holy.  They want to do what everybody else is doing.  They want to be seen as self-sacrificial, generous.  But they’re not.  They can’t let all of that money go, so they hold part of it back and then… pretend.  Peter’s response just cuts to the heart of it:

“Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit and to keep back for yourself part of the proceeds of the land?  While it remained unsold, did it not remain your own? And after it was sold, was it not at your disposal? Why is it that you have contrived this deed in your heart? You have not lied to man but to God.” (Acts 5:3-4)

Ouch.  That really hurts.  Because that’s exactly what I used to do.  I looked around and saw what everybody else was doing and I copied them.  I faked it.  I had no idea I was faking it, but my heart looked a lot like Ananias and Sapphira’s. 

Remember my to-do list?  There’s nothing wrong with those things.  There’s nothing un-Biblical about them.  But when they come from a heart that’s trying to earn salvation, rather than a heart that loves Jesus and trusts in His grace, then, as Peter says, we’re not lying to men, but to God. 

The reason I’m so passionate about this is simple: I can’t believe I’m the only one who has bought this lie.  I can’t believe I’m the only one who, despite years of church and Christian education, thought Christianity was all about dos and don’ts, rather than Jesus’ grace.

I don’t expect any comments on this.  And at this point, honestly, I’m not sure anybody is even reading this.  But I beg of you: ask the Lord to examine your heart.  Ask Him to show you if you’re playing church like Ananias, Sapphira and me.   And if the answer is Yes, trust that by Jesus’ grace alone, you are reconciled to God.  Burn your to-do list and ask Him to show you what it really looks like to follow Him.  He is faithful.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Responding to Poverty

This is the post I’ve been struggling all year to write. 

When we traveled to Ethiopia in January to meet our daughter and go to court, my life changed forever.  Yes, I got to meet my daughter, but that’s not the change I’m talking about.  I’m talking about poverty.  Suffocating, overwhelming, never-ending, poverty.  I thought I’d seen poverty before, but living in the US had not prepared me for poverty that was so rampant and ran so deep.  Please don’t misunderstand, Ethiopia is a beautiful country filled with exquisite people.  Their history is deep and rich, and I believe their future is getting brighter.  But there are lots of people – families –  who still have a long way to go.

While I was there, I just took it all in, detached – probably because I knew that once I began to respond emotionally, the feelings would overwhelm me.  And they did for a while.  For a long while, actually.  For months.  I remember talking to Rob about it one day, telling him that I felt like we were somehow responsible for what we’d seen – responsible to tell people, or do something, although I had no idea what to do.  It still felt very overwhelming.  I remember telling him that I didn’t think I could like myself very much if I didn’t respond in some way.  Not long after that I read Ann VosKamp’s post after she returned from Haiti.  She articulated what I was feeling so much better than I had:

I’m angry that I’ve seen and I’m ashamed that I am angry and I’m angry that I’ve seen and now I am responsible. More than respons-able – we’re response-bound. Once we have seen the poor, we are responsible — we will make a response. As long as your heart is beating, there’s no such thing as unresponsive. We all look into the face of the poor and it’s either Yes, I will help. Or no, I won’t.

There’s no getting off the hook.

Faith cannot have a non-response.

We’re either responding with indifference or with intercession, either with apathy or aid.

You can’t look into the face of the poor and just plead the fifth amendment. Your life is always your answer.

Yeah.  What she said.

Before we went to Ethiopia in January, we had been told by our agency to expect that people would ask us for food or money, so we took lots of granola bars with us.  And boy did people ask us for food and money.  Actually, it was mostly Rob they approached.  I’m not sure anybody asked me for anything at all.  I mostly stood back and tried to discreetly take pictures.  I just wanted to make sure I didn’t forget – forget their faces or their gratitude.  I have struggled with whether or not to post these pictures because the last thing I want to do is rob anyone of their dignity.  My hope is that by showing you what I’ve seen, you will at the very least have a better understanding of the events that have shaped me.

This woman approached our car, asking Rob for food.  She was so grateful for the granola bar he gave her.

At the top of Mt. Entoto.  I can only assume she lives here.

Also at the top of Mt. Entoto.  This woman was filled with gratitude for what she received.

Also at the top of Mt. Entoto.

All the way up and down Mt. Entoto, we saw women carrying upwards of 150 pounds of firewood on their backs to make the equivalent of a few US dollars.

This is outside Korah, the town dump.  Many people live here.  This large hill is actually trash.  

This boy wanted so badly to wash Rob's shoes, but he didn't have any money with him this afternoon.  Even in the midst of extreme poverty, there is still such unspeakable joy.

After praying about our response for the last several months, I think the Lord has finally begun to give us direction.  We’ve stepped out in faith to do the things we know He’s called us to do, but I think there’s still more to come.  I’ll be sharing more of that in the coming posts, but for now, let’s talk.  

Have you seen poverty outside of the US?  If so, how have you responded?