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Imagine that you are a single parent struggling to provide for your children’s basic needs. Every day is a battle to get food on the table and clothes on their backs, let alone provide the emotional support they need.  You are tired.

 

A church from the other side of town learns about your struggles and a few members show up at your apartment with several bags of groceries and a gift card to a local Wal-Mart. You almost fall over with gratitude!  Your hope is replenished and you take a breath because this week you will be okay.

 

Members from the church keep coming to your apartment every week. Sometimes they bring groceries and money, but sometimes they just come to hang out. You continue to be thankful but sometimes they show up right after school when your kids are supposed to be doing homework, but you don’t want to seem ungrateful so you smile and allow for the visit.

 

Every day, new church members show up. Many of them are young and enjoy hanging out and playing with your children. They come and take selfies with them which makes you a little nervous, but you let it slide. There is something about coming to this side of town and hanging out with your children that make these church members feel good about themselves. You want to believe this is okay but inside you start to feel like your love is not enough.

 

It seems like you have lost control of your home and your 10 year-old daughter is sitting on the laps of well-meaning strangers now. So many church members have come with trinkets and toys that your 5-year old boy shows up at the front door with open hands expecting to get a toy.

 

You feel torn. Yes—you are getting money for groceries but after a year of these visits you notice that your children are a little distant from you now. Your son seems to attach to any smiling person that comes to the front door and your daughter has developed some disturbing behaviors to get attention from some of the young men. You worry because her dad took off when she was a baby and you don’t want her thinking that she has to smile and bat her eyes to get attention. It is not okay to grab phones out of strangers pockets and hug on random people’s backs. All the rules and etiquette you have tried to teach them have flown out the window!

 

But the Pastor at the church keeps sending people to do your chores and bond with your children. The more church members that feel “bonded” and that have “loved” on your children- the more likely you are to have groceries and clothes and gifts. And yet you feel empty and useless and trapped. You feel guilty for feeling ungrateful.

 

They are spending so much time with your children—yet no one has asked you what you need. None of these members know that you never finished high school. They don’t know that you struggle to read and that maybe if there was an opportunity to learn—you could get a better job. Maybe if there were someone who could help you with some of these long-forgotten goals of yours….just maybe……

 

The good intentions of this church from the other side of town has done something to your family. Something so bad that you can’t say it out loud. For what they have done is this:

 

They have forced you to pimp out your children to ensure their survival and no one in the church must ever know.

 

 

This scenario may sound extreme but the church unknowingly contributes to these behaviors every day. It is called volunteer tourism or short-term mission trips on its very best day but on its very worst, it is a contributing factor to the growing orphan industry in the developing world.

 

 

While I recognize the limitations in my analogy, I have witnessed loving nannies stand back and allow the children they care for everyday to be enchanted by strangers that will break their  hearts a few days later.

 

I was once at a hotel in Haiti and a mission team was telling me about how sad their last day with the orphans had been. They described how the children were crying and how they had to pry some of their arms open to let go of the team. I could only imagine the agony that could have been spared had the team set healthy boundaries before their arrival. The visitors go home to their families and their things and the nannies stay behind to deal with the aftermath.

 

Every day, well-meaning churches send gaggles of teams to “bond” with children living in residential care. There is no doubt that beautiful things can happen during these trips. God stirs our hearts in compelling ways as we witness the plight of vulnerable children and recognize how easy we have it in comparison with so much of the world. We are forced to break out of our bubble and confront truths about ourselves that we don’t like.

 

Sometimes these truths move us to establish long-term partnerships with the people we encounter. We can’t deny that children in residential care benefit from some of these trips—they get to go to school and have access to medical care because of the critical funding that comes in. Somehow, the church has contributed to this flawed system that forces many orphanage directors to repeatedly expose their children to unskilled volunteers just so they can make sure that they can survive.

 

But at what cost?

 

Repeated exposure to strangers in residential living has been shown to cause the following negative psychological effects on children:

 

  • Creates detachment disorders
  • Increases vulnerability
  • Disrupts boundaries essential to healthy child development
  • Develops & enforces negative behavior in children exposed to “trusted strangers” on a regular basis

 

The church unintentionally puts pressure on orphanage leaders to essentially pimp out their children in order to ensure their survival. It is a natural effect when orphanages become dependent on short-term mission trips to get long-term support.

 

I am not looking to cast judgement on any particular orphanage. I know many good people who care for the most vulnerable children and are doing the very best they can. Our partner orphanage, Grangou, strives to do what is right by their kids and ironically, they struggle because they are not willing to contribute to the existing flawed model.

 

I am also not proposing abolishing STM (short-term mission trips). As stated before, there is potential for beautiful, Kingdom-work that can occur but we must STOP being moved solely by compassion and engage our intellect and ingenuity when it comes to cross-cultural missions.

 

We must not contribute to unhealthy behaviors just because we are lost in the moment and moved by compassion. God gave us big, wrinkly brains to think our way to solutions!

 

It starts with an honest, humble conversation within the orphan care community.

 

I know this is a lot to think about and I’m not going to drop you off right here. There is a slow shift towards more sustainable and ethical practices when it comes to orphan care. I’ve included some other articles in this blog if you want to learn more. Next week, I’ll be addressing possible solutions and what experts are suggesting could be healthy alternatives to orphan tourism.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

There ARE also orphanages out there striving to do right by their kids and ironically, these are the ones that struggle most because they CHOOSE not to contribute to the existing flawed model.

 

I am guilty of all the above. I have unknowingly contributed to this unhealthy behavior and have been wrestling with this truth for years. Just like the mom in my madeup scenario—I don’t want to disappoint anyone. There are too many people out there polarizing the issue when the truth is there aren’t any easy answers.

 

Red Flags:

 

 

 

I will be sharing a little more about these organizations in my next entry as well as some of the reformations that I am proposing.

 

 

 

Please share this blog with

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Beautiful things happen

 

 

 

 

Part II

 

Proposed Reformation:

 

Plan scouting trips

 

Develop story tellers in your community

 

Mindfully Mission

 

Part III

 

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3 Trendy Jewelry Tips for Casual Moms

I’m not a style-guru by ANY stretch of the imagination, but I have learned a thing or two about jewelry trends and how to tame them a bit to fit my very casual-mom vibes. Here are  3 jewelry trends that will make you the master of combining busy (& tired) mom with a splash of style–hey! its a real thing. 

Color me Red

I love it in lipstick and nail polish but looking at my closet—I can’t say that I’m all that into rouge. With a busy non-profit and five even busier kids—buying a shiny pair of red pumps doesn’t quite make it to my daily to-do list.

But did you know that Valiant Poppy (an intense shade of red) is one of Pantone’s Top 10 Fall colors this season? I’m seeing it in shoes, blouses, coats and of course—in jewelry! Think red pumps and rubies! But for most of us—we don’t often have the occasion to wear expensive bling.  So here is my take on that Valiant POP of red for this season…..drum roll!!!!!

Red Tassel Earrings

These earrings make a statement even if the rest of me screams “more coffee please!” So if you want to save some shampoo and a little foundation, throw on a red baseball cap and a bold pair of earrings. Try it–I promise you’ll get compliments for being so casually cute:)

And you don’t have to do tassels—hoops, leather feathers, anything BIG and LIGHT so you don’t stretch those delicate darling lobes of yours.

#Arm Parties for Everyone!

I dare you to go into your jewelry drawer and start stacking bracelets indiscriminately.  Chances are you have the beginnings of an arm party. Although at this point it may be a little over-the-top flamboyant, a few adjustments will have you ready to roll in no time.

Rule #1—Choose a chunky centerpiece. Large Bauble beads, wood stretchies or a medium-sized cuff work.

Rule #2—Add a softer, thinner piece to balance “centerpiece”. You can make this a bold pop of color or keep it monochromatic like I did here.

Rule #3- A wrist wrap always helps the party along! Add volume and texture to your stack with a wrap—it’s like a stack within a stack.

Next time you hit another 2ndgrader’s birthday party, you’ll have your own little fiesta on hand….ha!

Layers of Love

Okay, so mamas like to go out occasionally and THIS is the time to go BIG and then go home to your warm cozy bed. But nevertheless, you can still GO BIG, you sexy kitten you.

Choker wraps are super popular right now and so very versatile. Like the Marcial Choker that I am wearing: I can leave it loose or can tie it to look like a cute boho bolo tie.

I then added a simple metal piece as my 2nd layer and an extra long cement pendant as the third. The trick is to have them jive together and not compete for attention. You can do this by making sure there is plenty of space between layers. You’ll get a tangled mess if they get up in each other’s space…nobody wants that.

3 is my lucky number when it comes to layers and this low-maintenance combination is as versatile as it is beautiful.

With so many amazing fair trade jewelry companies out there, you won’t have any trouble slipping in these trendy tips into your bijoux repertoire this season.

Tried out one of these tips? Send us a picture!

 

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5 Ways to Stay Family-Focused

34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
~John 13:34-35

After-School Rush

From the moment our family stepped foot in the house, the after-school bickering began. The oldest three went at it like a pack of piranhas picking at one another.  I threw in my standard “Ya’ll be nice to each other!” or “Can the two of you stop?” but soon another  conflict would ensue.

I knew Dan was getting home late that evening and I was determined to cook a decent dinner before school Open Houses, sports practices and parent meetings. But between breaking up arguing, turning off video games and putting the youngest two in time out; it was time to start heading out the door.

My head was spinning and what I wanted to do was pull out the lime and tequila and park myself by the pool for the remainder of the evening.

Eat a Meal Together

Instead, I took a deep breath and made the kids set the table and we ate dinner together. I didn’t care that we had to be at the school in 30 minutes and that my 10-year old needed to get ready for football practice. I didn’t care about the rat race—what I cared about was enjoying dinner with my family and THAT was what we were going to do!!!!

And that’s where John 13:35 comes in.

How are we supposed to be a testimony to the world if we act like flesh-eating piranhas within our families? We tend to brush these interactions off as normal and surrender to the fact that it’s just the way it is.  I know it’s normal.

Siblings are God’s way of teaching us to navigate relationships, but if how we love one another determines how others will view God then maybe its time to be a little ABNORMAL.

A few things I am not—

a planner;

a devoted homemaker;

a mommy expert.

I’ve forgotten (on multiple occasions) to take my kids to birthday parties and have shown up one week early to school events! I’ve recently said the S-word in front of my kids when one of them hit the car door on an innocent parked car—anyone else done this???

In spite of these imperfections, my husband I value family time and do our BEST to resist the rat race. We have to do things, that by the world’s standards, seem a little abnormal.  We’ve clung to these practices since the littles were homeschooled, but now that all five are in public school—we have to fight off the weekly crazies harder than ever.

Here are FIVE Family-Focused practices that work for us:

  1. Commit to a simple family devotional.

We chose a devotional that is low-maintenance, yet meaningful. Since we have been battling bickering—we chose Undivided. This devotional teaches family members how to live FOR and not just WITH one another. While we are loving public school (all two weeks of it), we realize that each grade level has its own ecosystem. It’s difficult to switch from that same-peer environment to the family environment where they have to deal with baby brothers and moody teen agers

We thought this “one another” based theme would help us navigate the dynamics of school with those of our family. The guide is split into 12-week devotions with short sections that involve short bible readings, discussion and easy-to-do activities.

When our kids were little, we did Long Story Short: Ten Minute Devotions to Draw Your Family to God by Marty Machowski—these short biblical stories were surprisingly insightful. What I loved most is how beautifully Machowski weaves the hope of a savior through each story. If your kids are little and you are making a mad dash to school–this is a good pick for you.

  1. Be deliberate about honoring family time.

 We looked at our schedule and saw that Monday nights were the only nights with no scheduled activities. We dubbed these nights Middlebrook Mondays. Now, if you know me, I am a notorious over-scheduler and double-booker.

For this reason, I’ve asked my family to hold me accountable to Middlebrook Mondays and to help me resist the urge to pounce on this open slice of space like I’m proned to do.

In addition to protecting Monday nights, we’ve commited to waking up together on Wednesday mornings and carving out 20 minutes of time on Sunday evenings. In total, we’ve set aside less than three hours for family time. It doesn’t take A LOT of time–just focused, quality time. For some of you, you can schedule a little less or a little more—the key is to be deliberate and treat these times like you would a work meeting.

  1. Honor Bedtime Routines.

Shhh-don’t tell anyone, but our older kids still like to be “tucked in.” It looks different for each of them, but our bedtime rituals are an important part of our day. For my 14 year old, it’s simply sitting on his bed and saying good-night. If he has anything to say, this is usually the time he will say it.

Not gonna lie—sometimes I’m exhausted and looking forward to hubby time, or my glass of red wine or maybe catching up on work.  Sometimes I even take tucking in rain checks for the olders, but I realize I’m investing in life-long relationships with these little people that live in our home.

Take the time now and reap the rewards later—you know, like when we become mother-in-laws and expect our grown sons to call us just to check in on us. I’d like to think that one day I’ll be able to trace those calls back to 5-minute bedtime routines:)

  1. Make Them Part of YOUR Daily Activities.

HandUp is an all consuming force that has required many sacrifices for my family. But instead of making it HandUp vs. my children, I have found ways to include them in this work. I admit my mistakes and give them updates on how the boys in Haiti are doing or will give them the heads up when a busy season is coming up. It isn’t perfect, but children are very understanding if you teach them to be.

Find ways to connect your children to your work and teach them the art of listening to others—even when it isn’t that interesting to them. Their future spouses will thank you for it.

  1. Take a time out.

Although these should be used sparingly, sometimes it takes a severe schedule detour to get back on track. I don’t regret having to miss part of my daughter’s Open House or driving 80 mph to make it to my son’s football practice on time—(sorry law enforcement and other innocent drivers). Those 30 minutes of dinner and discussion drove the point home to my children and they realized that they were not honoring the relationships God gave them.

Parenting is a never-ending opportunity of teachable moments.

If you want your kids to have successful families, we must be deliberate about teaching them how—both by example and through instruction.

These practices have made our family stronger but of course, they aren’t perfect. Just like anything else worth having–it takes work.  My husband and I understand that we are sewing seeds for our childrens’ future.

But in the meantime, we mustn’t forget that we have the potential to bring others to Jesus simply by how we love one another. So love well, my friends.

What do you do to keep your family centered?

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Why Abundance is Not Synonymous with Charmed

I live a life of abundance.

I reside in a great big house with a pool and have five healthy kids living inside its bedrooms.

I have an incredible husband who makes me coffee in the mornings and kindly dismisses most of what I say on my “woman-specific” days.

I have a thorough and honest housekeeper and my entire household gets to go to the dentist twice a year.

But none of these things—including the health of my children and a husband who provides well—are what make up my abundant life.

Sure—health and provision make my life exponentially better —but I don’t think these are the blessings Jesus referred to in His statement to bring us a life of abundance in John 10:10.

After all, He goes on to say how He will lay down his life for those who belong to Him. I don’t think He would have laid down his life so we could have healthy children, multiple bank accounts and live in excellent school districts.

If this is what He meant—then most of the world is royally screwed. Pardon my expression.

So what is an Abundant Life?

It’s inviting a little inconvenience and perhaps some chaos into our otherwise easy lives. It means saying “yes” to helping others when it’s not necessarily the right timing.

Inviting a life of abundance means relying a little less on your abilities and a little more on your faith. Of course, you’ll find that relying on faith cuts deep into your tight schedule, expectations, comfort zone and pocket book. It creates new headaches and new problems to solve.

I recently heard a mom complain that she couldn’t handle the stress of being a dance mom. While I want to be careful not to diminish the anxiety she was feeling, I did have to ask myself if our tolerance to difficult circumstances hasn’t gotten a little frail. That many of us have failed to flex our problem-solving muscles by focusing on trivial things that really aren’t problems at all.

Major inconveniences at best.

I admit that I wanted to grab that sweet, stressed out mama and say, “You need to come to Haiti with me and I’ll show you what real problems look like.” But I didn’t…because that would have been rude and self-righteous; but I did think it.

A life of abundance may mean looking down one day and wondering what happened to your pedicure-starved toes or realize you don’t remember the last time you had time to drive your car through the carwash.

Yet, in the midst of all the controlled chaos, there is a deep soulful satisfaction sustaining you. You begin to powerfully experience Jesus day-to-day, and there are moments where His presence is so undeniable that you vow to do whatever it takes for more of those moments.

Abundant living means fresh encounters, daunting challenges and a heart that is ALIVE.

I am a little embarrassed at the perception some people may have of our household. Just today I had someone sarcastically tell me how sorry they felt for me having to commute by foot to the HUGG office and navigate the motorized toys and grass to make it to work.

I laughed and had to resist the temptation to defend myself. I wanted to say, “Yes—it may seem like I live a charmed life but believe me—we’ve invited our share of heartache and hard work into our lives—ON PURPOSE!!! We are actually almost perfect. So there!”

But seriously—I can’t defend myself because at the end of day—

All of my good deeds are filthy rags before the Lord. At the end of the day, a charmed life leaves me lacking. (Isaiah 64:6) And that is when I realize that Abundance is Jesus. 

Your material blessings and the extra perks like health are given to you for a purpose.

Your house is given to you so you can open your doors to the broken hearted and lonely.

Your healthy children are future forerunners of faith that will carry on your legacy.

Your free time is given to you so you can sew good works in the lives of others.

I think that is why the health and wealth gospel is frowned upon by so many people. It makes us feel like our joy is measured by the things we have. And the things we have are given to us because we are “oh so deserving”.

Do some Christians get to experience health and wealth? Sure! And to God be the glory, but abundance isn’t measured by the good things we have- its measured by the good we give because of Jesus.

Jesus gave up His own life so you would have life to the fullest. Don’t glide through it simply enjoying your blessed life. This kind of life is what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called “cheap grace.”  It is boring and ineffective. Did I mention boring?

And if your life isn’t easy right now, don’t get lost in the struggle and remember that we all have seasons of simply receiving. Sometimes you just have to ask for help.

We were never meant to live fairy tales here on earth. Abundance doesn’t mean ALL easy, it doesn’t mean ALL hard, it means ALL Jesus. And that, my friend, should be more charm than any one of us could ever want.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Why Giving HUGGS is Saving Lives

Let me assure you that this is NOT a call for donations.

What I am asking is the following:

For you to consider carrying HUGG pieces in your church book stores, coffee shops, gift shops and lobbies.

For church leaders to learn more about a movement that seeks to create jobs in impoverished communities such as Haiti. We should be casting a vote to support artisans like Max by using our purchasing dollars for good. 100% of HUGG sales go back into our operations to create more jobs in Haiti. But more importantly, your purchase is saving lives. 

Let me explain HOW:

Two weeks ago, I had the privilege of meeting with the Association to Save the Children in Canaan and Onaville.

This committee was founded on the principles that all children have the right to shelter, education and access to food. Canaan is located about 10 miles outside of the capital city of Port-au-Prince. It is a post-earthquake, make-shift city settled on dry dusty hills with no plumbing nor electricity. It is a hard place for a family to carve out a living, but it is even harder for the children that drifted to this settlement without an adult to care for them.

Max, a HandUp artisan, knows just how hard it is to be an orphaned child in Haiti. He found himself a homeless teenager in Canaan. Although he loved his village, he knew that God was calling him to the city of Port-au-Prince. He didn’t know what he would find there, but he knew the answers were ahead of him.

After a few months of living on the streets of Port-au-Prince, Max was approached by a young man by the name of Patrick. Patrick had just aged out of an orphanage and was living with 6 other young men who had transitioned from the same boys’ home. Later Patrick would share with me the reason he was drawn to Max.

“I knew we needed someone like Max in the apartment. We needed someone to teach us more about the Bible and Jesus.”

After several visits with this young evangelist, Patrick invited Max into the tiny 3-room apartment he and the other young men shared. It wasn’t long before Max carved his place within this band of brothers. It would be months still before I’d show up in their apartment, asking these young men whether they wanted a job. These 8 would become the backbone of the HandUp program.

As soon as Max started receiving a steady income through HandUp, he went back to Canaan. It was simple at first. He started out by purchasing rice, beans and oil for a local lady to cook for some of the orphans there. Then it grew to him building a shanty for 16 parentless children.

Max’s shanty for 16 children.

He had very little resources and several of the other HUGG artisans started pitching in to help meet some of the children’s basic needs. Aside from taking care of the 16 most vulnerable children, he started working with other needy children in the community. Bible studies, crafts, singing and dancing all became part of a weekly program under Max’s leadership.

But it was too much for him to bear. He witnessed two little children die simply of infections that could have been prevented with antibiotics. After this incident, my Life Group in Conroe, Texas started supporting some of Max’s efforts by providing for food costs and allowing him to set aside some savings for emergencies.

These extra funds were the catalyst that Max needed to jumpstart his program. He formed a committee with HandUp artisans and local community members to bolster their efforts towards saving children from the grips of poverty.

Under Max’s leadership, the group has committed to taking care of 12 of the 16 orphans under Max’s care. The 12 boys will be living in a one-room house rented just for them. The rest of the group are girls and I will save their story for another day. We will continue to partner with the committee until we’ve placed each little girl in a loving home. But for now, this committee does the best they can to meet the needs of these children that God has entrusted in their care.

Max, Marcial and Richardson & the new home for Canaan boys.

Without HandUp Global Goods…

There would have been no job for Max and the other artisans.

Without a job, they would have been too busy surviving Haiti rather than helping Haiti survive and THRIVE.

Tools for Ministry

Max’s efforts to build a program in Canaan is a result of what he has learned under the leadership of HandUp staff. Education, spiritual discipleship, and mentoring are all things that have been poured into Max over the last three years. Without this holistic approach, Max would not have had the necessary skills to lead this ministry in Canaan.

A HandUp, Not a Handout

Because of one job, 16 orphans have their basic needs being met.

Because we give a handUp and not a handout, young men are experiencing a dignity attainable only through the work of their own hands.

Young Haitian men like Max must be employed, mentored, and trained so that they can be the ones to help their communities.

Once, these young men were destined towards the path of becoming orphan makers. Because of their jobs with HandUp, they’ve broken through systemic poverty and are being transformed into Opportunity Makers.

The Struggle is Real

Although our retail and wholesale orders are slowly gaining momentum; our donations are at an all-time low. Without these funds, we are unable to meet our operational expenses on the ground.

But I’ll be honest–it’s the sales that we need. We have beautiful pieces that tell an equally beautiful story. If we tell it right, God’s church WILL RISE to the occasion. I know God cares about the makers that make the things we wear and He desires to use the church to bless them, not to exploit them.

There are 23 young men in our program. Many who are also making an impact in the communities in which they live.  Would you allow us an opportunity to share their stories in your church?

THREE VITAL Ways to help:

  1. Host a Sunday Pop Up this Spring/Summer in your church.
  2. Invite us to come share the HUGG story at your next Event.
  3. Carry HUGG products in your church.
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Why #Blessed is Not Always Best

She wasn’t the first one to give me this feedback.

This buyer kindly shared with me that our pieces weren’t inspirational enough for her market. Christian shoppers want more crosses, inspirational sayings, more #blessed  please. I GET it.

I really do and at the end of the day we want to make our customers happy. If they want more meaningful pieces that tell the world about their faith, then we want to deliver! But I couldn’t walk out of that meeting without saying the following. “I believe that HUGG pieces are pretty inspirational. We are helping transform former street boys into craftsmen and because of this, they are changing their communities.” It may not have been quite that refined but I think I got my point across. 

I’ve been debating whether or not to post a couple of other thoughts that ran through my mind that day. They’re not ugly thoughts, just wanting us to rethink the whole Christian jewelry thing.

Not as Charming as You Think

Many of the charms, metal tags and inspirational crosses found in your typical gift shop are mass manufactured in uninspiring industrial buildings that may or may not be abiding by labor laws that respect the dignity of its workers. So even though the cute charms that dangle from our bracelets tell others about our faith—it may do so at the expense of another person across the world who is just trying to carve out an honest living.

The mission brand movement is exploding as more shoppers ask about sustainability practices, ethical sourcing and ecofriendly alternatives. It’s a really cool thing that people are wondering about whether the communities that make our products are impacted in a positive way. But here is the not-so-good news–we’ve spoken to many retailers over the years and surprisingly, it isn’t the Christian community that is as concerned for the hands that are making their merchandise. I know–it surprised me, too but it is the hard truth, my friend.

Perhaps there should be a little less emphasis on expressing our faith through cute dangly crosses and more on living out our faith through the way we spend our dollars….

Just saying.

What would Jesus Wear?

I know, I know….this sounds a little too Christian pop culturish for my palette, but really. If Jesus had chosen to humanize himself in this century, what would he have chosen to wear? Would he have accepted clothes given to him by friends or would he have purchased from a second-hand store? I think I can safely say that he would have been mindful of the hands that made his clothing. Think about it–If he could sense a hemmoraging lady touch a sliver of his cloak (Matthew 9:20)—I am certain he would have felt the wounds of the person who made the things he wore. And I believe it would have mattered to him.

I don’t know about you, but I picture him wearing faded jeans and a t-shirt–something super casual. As for shoes–a good pair of broken in Birkenstocks. So this sounds a little cheesy but I can also see him wearing HUGG simple macrames.  I’d give him one in each color and a few extra for him to give away. My point? What we choose to purchase matters in more ways than we think.

With so many ethical brands popping up, it shouldn’t be too hard to make small adjustments to your shopping. Check out @thefairleslie for ideas on how to get started. I’ve said this before—it’s not about perfection, it’s about direction. We shouldn’t leave our faith at home when it comes to shopping. In fact, we should keep our faith in our pocketbooks by thinking twice about some of the products we purchase. THIS is inspirational. THIS is living a life that is #blessed.

P.S—We DID listen to the feedback from our Christian retailer friends. Sign up for our HUGG Happenings and be the first to know when our new “Created to Inspire” Collection releases.

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The Lulls Between the Hustle

Congratulations fellow human! You survived Christmas!

Go ahead and take a deep breath. Jumpstart those post-holiday, oxygen starved neurons sluggishly making their way to your brain. Don’t worry. They have 365 days to pull together before 2018 festivities arrive. Breathe in……breathe ouuuuuuuuuut….

If you’re like me, you may have teetered between madness and magic over the last month. Let me paint a picture:

Endless sipping of coffee, white-knuckle clinging to the “Choose Joy” campaign on my local Christian station, reminding myself to take it all in, deep breathing through clenched jaws and perhaps coddling a mini-break down (or two).

Christmas concerts, teacher gifts, bonuses, holiday cookies, Amazon Prime Christmas delivery deadlines, hiding Christmas kittens, family gatherings and sneaky last-minute gift wrapping behind counters, in pantries and in cold garages.

By the way, our family holiday picture didn’t go out but I think they can double as Valentine greeting cards or maybe 4th of July? Be on the lookout.

But in between the bursts of madness, the magic seeps in. I’m not talking about elves on the shelves, Santa Claus or twinkling tree lights.

I’m talking about the magic that happens when we give of our resources, time and especially, when we give out of the joy of our salvation.

In spite of my own induced merry mayhem, I tried to take in the lulls between the hustle. I gift you THREE of these merry moments and hope that you will share one or two with me.

The Gift of Resources

About a month ago, I posted this picture. Several of our artisans in Haiti had recently opened up their home to a young man who had been living on the streets. His name is Guetchine and I had the pleasure of meeting him on my last trip to Haiti (2nd from the right).

One evening, I stepped out onto the HandUp house terrace to capture one of these lulls between the hustle.  Under the lamp post, Guetchine was sitting with a sandal on his lap. He was braiding the top strap while Patrick, stood over him helping him with his newly learned technique.

I silently watched as this depiction of generosity unfolded before me. Guetchine needed a place to live and some food to eat and some of our artisans provided that. Patrick knows he also needs some work to live. It brought joy to my heart to see him giving of his skills and experience so that another can have a chance to thrive.

The Gift of Time

This year because of tight budgets and limited staff, HandUp had made the hard decision not to make our yearly Christmas trip to Haiti. It broke our hearts that we wouldn’t be able to help Max deliver a Christmas blessing to the children of Canaan. That is…until Shelby came to me and asked how she could help. Before we knew it, a mission trip was on its way. My Sunday school class also stepped in and took on the purchase of Christmas gifts for the 16 children that Max supports in Canaan. In addition, Shelby and the other young women, collected money and gifts in order to provide our artisans with gifts for the season. NONE of this could have happened without their “yes” to embark on a trip just days before Christmas.

The Gift of Salvation

I had just sat down at our Christmas Eve dinner with family. It had been a wonderful afternoon with a scavenger hunt, a snow machine and we were about to enjoy a wonderful meal together when this text came through from the founders of our partner orphanage Grangou. 

“I just got back from Haiti with Carrie and thought of you guys. I know Haiti is hard and running a business there is hard but the payoff is such a blessing from God. This week, among other things, the Be the Change Guys had a Christmas party for 100 street kids. So these guys that we found 8 years ago with nothing, are now ministering to other street kids. We taught them Jesus and gave them a home. You guys gave them hope and a life and built their spirits. Now they are offering that same help to other kids.

The result from the Christmas Party: 22 of those street kids accepted Jesus as their Savior. No better example of why we fight through the challenges and why we celebrate.”

THIS is Christmas. We live for these moments. We FIGHT for these moments. It is this MAGIC that sustains us through the grind and toil of good works that don’t always feel so good.

So my wish for those of you recovering from the hustle of the holidays–May the magic of the Christmas lulls linger for you in 2018.

Happy New Year!!!!

 

 

 

 

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Have you Met Max?

A long time ago Max had a vision that one day he would be a leader in a village called Canaan in Haiti. His heart hurts for the people there, because of his role with HandUp Global Goods—he gets to do his part to bring relief to the fatherless children there.

He and two others (pictured below) from our program, are providing shelter, nannies and discipleship to 16 children. Max is in the center.

THIS is what happens when you think BIG about tackling problems like extreme poverty and orphan care.

Our formula, Job Creation + Spiritual Discipleship = Orphan Prevention comes ALIVE through the hands of young men like Max. He believes in the power of our formula and he invites you to become part of this story of redemption.

He wants you to know he believes in this revolutionary way of thinking—your investment in HandUp provides Max with essential training and tools to be able to guide his people in a more impactful way. 

He personally wants to make a piece of jewelry for every donor that donates to HandUp.

Donate today and let’s help them become the spiritual leaders God created them to be.

Learn more about Max here. 

 

 

 

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Revolutionize Your Giving

We’ve all heard the ancient proverb,

“Give a man a fish and he eats for a day. Teach him how to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” But what if I told you that together, we can revolutionize the fishing industry?

Have you ever wondered how much of a difference your donation makes in the lives of the people to whom you donate? Efficiently run organizations maximize your dollars to create deep impact for the people they serve. But often, good intentions fail to stimulate economic growth for the people in need of a handUp.

The irony is that most of the time it is the lack of economic stimulation in communities that keeps people relying on handouts. Although your donation helps for a day, months or even years—

Does it revolutionize entire communities & promote lasting change?

80% of orphans actually have living parents.

Up to 80% of children in Haiti are poverty orphans. Many of them have parents that love them but can’t scratch out enough of an existence to meet the basic needs of their sons and daughters. The lucky ones end up in institutions.

But many of these poverty orphans end up on the streets, sold as slaves, trafficked, exploited, the list goes on and on.

And who is doing most of the exploiting?

The broken men raised in these impoverished communities.

At HandUp, we believe we can equip former street boys to radically change their trajectories from broken men and future orphan makers to leaders and future hope makers. We do this through one powerful formula:

Job Creation + Spiritual Discipleship = Orphan Prevention

 When you say “yes” to investing in HandUp Global Goods—you forge new pathways for economic development in communities as we seek to:

  • Employ 100 Haitian young men by 2020
  • Diversify production in order to meet the demands of the global marketplace
  • Scale our current Spiritual Discipleship program to create a strong, replicable model
  • Expand both U.S and Haiti marketing efforts to create more streams for revenue
  • Seek to sustain Haiti operations through sales revenues

What does this all mean?

Each HandUp work day begins with a devotional.

It means less orphans, less extreme poverty and more strong men making a positive impact within their communities. Let’s stop settling for handouts and give them a HANDUP together.

Do you want your resources invested in this kind of revolution? Learn more here!

DONATE TODAY & we will send you a handmade gift from Haiti.

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Here’s a Coupon for your Support!

Because you said “yes” to giving a “handup”; he can say “yes” to lifting himself out of poverty with the work of his hands.

Here is how YOU changed the harsh reality for these teens through your purchase or donation:

  • 23 young men who were facing life on the streets are part of the HandUp program
  • 10 new teens in transition are under the loving guidance of our new TNT House Parent
  • A new Program Director oversees production and programming
  • 16 former street boys work at HandUp & earn a fair wage, health insurance & more
  • We achieved highest monthly sales to date this November
  • An artisan microloan system has been implemented into our savings program
  • All 3rd year artisans were able to pay their housing this year
  • HandUp artisans founded two ministries; Be the Change & Ti Moun Canaan

The good that you’ve poured into these young men is spilling out into their communities and fueling social change one bracelet at a time!

Thank you for supporting our work. We can’t wait to see what we can do together in 2018!!!

Donate today and help us create jobs for 7 more teens in 2018!

$5 off your purchase of $25 PLUS Free Shipping:  Use Code THANKYOU

There’s still time to do your holiday shopping HERE!