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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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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!

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How One Shirt can Make a Difference

Over the last year and half of blogging for HandUp Global Goods, I have come across so many amazing companies. The fashion industry, while it still has a long way to go, has made significant strides to protect their artisans. What I really love, however, is a company that not only focuses on fair and ethical sourcing but also gives back.

Girl Set Free focuses on fighting against human trafficking by working alongside many reputable human trafficking advocates. Human trafficking is just a new name for slavery, an issue that is still very much alive within all societies. With an estimated 27 million individuals in slavery today, human trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes. Each purchase you make with Girl Set Free goes to stop human trafficking.

I bought this cute shirt to add to my fair-trade capsule wardrobe (read more about that here) from Girl Set Free. This super cute and soft shirt has been perfect this summer. I love the wider cap on the shoulder and the simple but beautifully stated “By Grace” on the front. The Grace Tee is perfect for a capsule wardrobe because you can easily add layers as the seasons change. It will be summer here until November, but I am looking forward to pairing it with some cute fall outfits once the weather starts to change. It is also a perfect backdrop for all my HandUp Global Goods jewelry!

Summer casual
Dress it up with a skirt and cute shoes
My favorite way is to pair it with my go-to jeans

Girl Set Free just launched a new website where they are offering all kinds of super cute and ethically made products. They have beautifully hand-woven cross-body bags, hand turned pens, and t-shirts with a message I can stand behind. I have fallen in love with the heart of this company.

Simply stated, I trusted and obeyed and have the most amazing tribe that believed in me but believed in God more and they never let me lose sight of that. Girl Set Free started with my personal redemption story. Little did I know, saying yes to hard and holy things would lead to so much freedom and healing for others. Not only for our artisan partners but for me personally. God called me to rest this year after a long season of healing and years of striving. You see, I felt my worth came from my work because I held onto lies from the enemy. It was time for me to lay that all down. I’m humbled and have cried many tears since we started this journey but the growth has been beautifully hard and I’m counting the fruit now. Ephesians 3:20 – “Now to him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to his power that is at work within us.”  -CEO Amy Kratzer

Check out their new website, purchase some amazing items and let me know what you think.

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Adorn a Child with Hope and Love: Home Décor

It always amazes me how God works in all of us separately but at the same time can ignite the same passion and vision in us. Today’s organization is both fair-trade and missional-minded whose passion is for sharing the love of Christ with orphanages in Kenya. Similar to the vision of Hand Up, Pamba Toto came into existence because of the heart God gave them for orphans. Pamba Toto sells beautifully hand-crafted pieces to raise money for 2 orphanages in Kenya called Sanctuary of Hope #1 and #2 through Hope’s Promise Orphan Ministries.

When you go to Pamba Toto’s website, you can meet all the artisans that make each piece of their beautifully hand-crafted items. They range from scarves and other accessories to home décor and kitchen ware plus much more. They have so many items to choose from that it was hard to decide what to buy. If you are looking for a beautiful piece of home décor, you need to check them out.

I did fall in love with their beautifully hand-carved and hand-painted wooden bird mobile (Please forgive my amateur picture taking skills). My girls had a hand at helping me pick out this piece as well. They love birds and this mobile has several types of birds that are super colorful. They were as excited about it as I was. I also love their aprons and placemats. As we are nearing summer, it is fun to bring some color in to the house. I say play with some fun textiles and look at their home décor and kitchen ware.

Check out Pamba Toto and let me know what you think. What was one of your favorite pieces you found in their online store?

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Our New Spring Line Will Have You Looking Sustainably Chic!

New clothes, new jewelry, new home décor—I love them. I love the excitement of wearing something new or having a new piece of furniture in the house. Who does not love that? We may be in a world where fashion and style varies from person to person, but I think we can all agree that we all feel some sense of excitement when that new item we worked hard for comes in.

Over this past year, my journey has shifted. I still enjoy new things, but at what cost? I want to know where my items are coming from. Are the items I am purchasing helping the artisan that developed it or are those items aiding to the ever-growing issue of forced labor?

The good news: I am not the only one asking these questions. There are so many wonderful and progressive companies and individuals out there that have also asked these tough questions. These companies and individuals are the trailblazers in a whole new world of how we should shop. This is one of the many reasons why I am so thankful to be a part of the HandUp team.

This past week we launched our new spring line! If you have not checked it out, you can here. An amazing innovator in the world of ethical and sustainable living, Natalie from Sustainably Chic, did a write-up about us and introduced our spring line launch! We are beyond thrilled that she has shared with her audience about HUGG.

Picture by @sustainablychic wearing our new Ombre Pendant, Katelyn and Akolad bracelet

If you do not know about Sustainably Chic, I highly recommend you check her out. With a background in fashion, Natalie decided she did not want to work in the industry unless she could see a change in the way business was done. She has since started a blog to build a community of fair trade and sustainable fashion. You can truly see her heart in all that she promotes and we are in love with the write-up she did about us. If you missed it, you can check that out here.

Picture via @sustainablychic. Did you know that each purchase comes with a picture of one of artisans?

If you are as passionate as we are about fair trade (and I know you are), check out Sustainably Chic. You can follow her on both Facebook and Instagram @sustainablychic. From all of us at HUGG, thank you so much Natalie!

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Why Helping Men Helps the Women

I never imagined that I would be working with young, black men. Really! It was the stories of the women and children who beckoned my heart to bring aid to the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Yet, through a series of connections, our church ended up partnering with a boy’s home by the name of Grangou in the capital city of Port-au-Prince. The women and children would have to wait…or so I thought…

But first, let me go back….

My husband and I facilitate an orphan care ministry at West Conroe Baptist Church.  At the time, we were walking with other families who were in the midst of fostering. Fostering did two things for our family.

One—it brought us our 4th child, a little boy whom we adopted at two years old. His name is Daiton and he is about as cute as a 4-year old can be!

Two—it brought us a keen awareness that there are 153 million orphans across the world and God was calling us to do something about it.

So, we invited one of Grangou’s board members to speak to our orphan care group. I clung to his every word as he described how the street children were treated worse than the dogs in Haiti. He talked about his own daughter and son-in-law and how they cared for nearly 100 children, mostly boys, in Grangou. Dan and I knew we needed to go and so Dan did.

We yearned to help the tender faces and big brown eyes that we had seen in photos….

But as it turns out, it was the working hands and hearty spirits of the young men who had aged out that captured our attention. Watch the story here.

From the moment that Dan handed me the survival souvenirs that the young men had made, I knew I wanted to become part of a solution to transform these street bracelets into tokens of success. I knew we could cultivate their spirit of survival into something that would powerfully transform the lives of these boys. HandUp Global Goods is a result of this partnership. We offer jobs, spiritual discipleship and education to these former street boys and thus, we’ve discovered something extremely special…

My desire to help the women and children in Haiti didn’t have to wait.

By engaging the men, we see potential for the lives of the women and children in these communities to improve. This belief has lovingly guided our social enterprise to invest in the lives of former street boys by continuing to develop programming that instills a healthy sense of who they are. While doing so, they also learn how to view the women and children in their spheres of influence. We consider this investment in these young men one that will perpetuate goodness in all facets of not only their lives, but the lives of others around them.

Most social enterprises like us specifically work with women.  While we recognize this is vital, we are less likely to achieve lasting change if we fail to engage the men.

THIS is what makes us different.

Their stories have been weaved into my story along with many other people in this community. Every time I come home from my trips to Haiti, my passion for this movement is refueled.  I see the change stirring in this little corner of the world.  You’ve GOT to see it for yourself.

I invite you mamas and wives and sisters to be part of this story that invests in the lives of young men… who, in turn, will invest in other mamas, wives and sisters living in Haiti.

Want to volunteer and help package incoming products? Ask Gretchen about hosting an online bracelet bash? Share this ministry with your pastor? Check us out here and here.

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Sneak Peek into Spring

I am not sure about the rest of the world, but Spring is in full bloom here in the great state of Texas. Bluebonnets, Indian Paintbrushes, and various other beautiful wildflowers are popping up all over. I will admit, as much as I love the winter, there is nothing more beautiful than springtime in Texas.

Not only is the weather awesome, but spring also blows in the new HandUp Global Goods spring line! Next week, the full line will be available for you to purchase. We also have a blogger who I have been fangirling for a long time to introduce our new pieces, Sustainably Chic!

Today is just a tease. A small peek at what our artisans have been working on diligently. Each piece of our new line is an extension of our HandUp team. We work together to collaborate on developing new designs so with each design you see, you are really seeing a piece of each one of the team members.

Our new Filigree Earrings


Our new Ombre Pendant

I hope you enjoy this snippet of our newest line. Remember to stop on by next Monday for the launch. Until then, I hope the start of your spring is filled with all of the Bluebonnets, your closets are ready for new spring lines of ethical fashion and daylight savings time does not destroy us parents. 

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These are a Few of My Favorite (Fair Trade) Things

I have had the privilege of blogging with HandUp for over a year. Over a year now! That is crazy! I have loved blogging for everyone and I am thankful for each of you who read my posts each week. Thank you for growing with me through this process. I have learned so much about fair-trade, ethical business practices and American-made products. I love supporting these companies and below I have compiled a list of some of my most favorite products:

1.       Mata Traders

I love clothes. I love patterns. Mata Traders provides both of my loves in one super cute package. What makes this clothing brand even better is how they support those who make their clothes. You can read more about them here or here.


2.       LUSH

LUSH has made me like baths! I know I am a grown up and I am not supposed to care about some of this…but give a girl a bath bomb that makes your water fun colors and has glitter and you have won her heart! This company rocks. 

I have also fallen in love with LUSH make-up. I have talked about this before, but I am a creature of habit when it comes to my make-up. I am pretty low maintenance when it comes to what I put on my face. I just ask one, yes ONE, thing of my make-up: that it STAYS on! Come now, is that too much to ask? Well clearly those at LUSH want the same thing because their make-up does. It stays on! I could go on and on. Just trust me on this. Try it and you will be in love. You can check out more on them here.


3.       Dr. Bronner

This is my most favorite body wash. It smells good, it makes my skin feel awesome. Not only is this product ethically sourced, it is available at just about any grocery store which makes it super convenient to pick up. You can read more about them here.


4.       Coconut Sugar

Yes. It is true. I am totally on the coconut oil/sugar bandwagon. I cannot help it. I love it! My newest obsession is coconut sugar. I have a major sweet tooth and it must be feed daily. If not, I am not responsible for what happens. Now, I am not saying that coconut sugar magically turns into chocolate cake, however it does help curb the sweet I am craving. Put coconut sugar on top of any fruit (my personal favs are strawberry and bananas) and you will be blown away. Promise. Do it! You can read more about this brand of fair-trade coconut sugar here.


5.       Sweet Maria’s

My husband loves to roast his own coffee and I, being the team player that I am, love to drink freshly roasted coffee. So if you are looking for ethically sourced green coffee beans, Sweet Maria’s is a fantastic choice. You can check out more about them here and here.


6.       Texas Sweet Tees

This American-made t-shirt company has become one of my favorites. Their t-shirts are soft and comfortable, they fit great, and they are super fun. They always have the cutest and funniest sayings. I currently own 3, but that will be greatly increasing as I add to my capsule wardrobe. My favorite is pictured below.


7.       TOMS

I have been a huge TOMS fan since before I was even really aware of what fair-trade was. I just loved the concept of this company: that for each pair of shoes I buy, they donate a pair to a kid in need. I loved that missional-mindedness of this company. Now, of course, it has since grown and now encompasses so much more, from eye glasses to safe baby deliveries to coffee. While the fair-trade stamp is not on TOMS, they do adhere to California Transparency in Supply Chains Act and they are committed to fair labor practices within their supply chain (you can read more about that here).

8.       HandUp Global Goods

Saving the best for last: my most favorite fair-trade jewelry company is HandUp Global Goods. I love our story. I love our artisans and how hard they work on their craft. I love each and every person that works and volunteers for HUGG. Our Spring collection is getting ready to debut and you do not want to miss out!


Hope you enjoyed. Try these companies if you have not and message me about any other fair-trade and/or American-made company you love.

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Thank You for “Getting” What We Do!

Deflated. That’s how I felt when I walked into Market Hall in Dallas for one of the biggest shows of the year.   As I headed to our tiny booth, I took in the lavish displays of our competitors.  My thoughts went something like this—“Holy crapola!  There’s a lot of jewelry here!”

It quickly became apparent that our efforts to go “all out” for this show seemed to pale in comparison to the gloriously shiny booths that stuck their tongues out at me as I rolled my cart through.  It made me feel like yuck, much like the bottom of my muddy rain boots.

So I did what I always do when my optimism is viciously attacked by outside forces.  I pulled out my little cheerleader angel and she whispered what I wanted to hear:

“Our product is unique and crafted with love.  Surely shoppers will “get” our story.  It is unique and crafted in love….ra ra ra!”

Still feeling a little crappy.

Once the jewelry was laid out, I began placing photos on the white walls of our booth and slowly, ever slowly, the magic of our ministry began to unfurl before my eyes.  There were pictures of bright pink bougainvillea and beaches that boasted the beauty of Haiti. There were also pictures of trash and filth that revealed the brokenness from which our artisans come from.  There were dark, beautiful hands knotting bracelets—white faces, black faces, laughing, praying, working, playing.  This is us!

This is what sets HUGG jewelry apart!


vtav3906                                                vqtd1208

We didn’t have three glorious booths side by side or bounties of overflowing stock on our tables. We had us.

We had honest to goodness hand-made products that honestly empower young men in Haiti and that, honestly, is something that we are straight-up proud about.

We have Lindsay who designed and put together an amazing global chic display for us.  Robin, our in-house “jewelry lady” crimped and braided and beaded and hung chain on our demos down to the night before we left for market.  Kiley crunched numbers and cranked out pricing for our new pieces and Valerie photographed and curated a last-minute spring insert that we literally picked up from the printers on the way to Dallas.  This is the incredible story that I get to be a part of and I share it proudly.

I’d like to say that we had some killer sales and we had the ONE retailer who  thrust us into mainstream markets and now we can hire a hundred more teens aging out of orphanages.  But that is not how it works, does it?  I can say that we are now in several more stores than we were before we got here.  And for those people that did “get” us; please know that your joy over your purchase makes us feel successful because we know there are people out there that share our belief in our purchasing power.  It IS possible to positively impact the lives of people because of what we choose to buy for ourselves.  Now that is worth cheering about….ra ra ra!

Dallas Market….get ready for Round 2.

kiley-and-valerie-dallas-market         dallas-market-lindsay-and-natul

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Why Fair Trade is Not Just for Hippies and Hipsters

A couple of weeks ago, I introduced you to Priya. I invited you to follow her along a single evening of her hopeless life. While I would like to tell you that 100% of Priya is made up; the truth is, I based her off books, documentaries, and articles I’ve read over the past couple of years.

There are real, live Priyas out there and we pay more for one of the blouses they make than they earn in one month. The injustice is hard for me to swallow. Ugh!

You might sigh and resign yourself to thinking that this is JUST the way it is and that these circumstances can’t be helped, but I invite you to take a glimpse into what life COULD be like for Priya.  She could work for another kind of enterprise.

One that honors her as a human being and backs it up with simple principles:

  1. Workers receive a livable wage that allow them to access shelter, food, clothing and medical care.
  2. Work environment is safe and healthy.
  3. No child labor.
  4. No gender or race discrimination.
  5. Company cultivates a more environmentally friendly stewardship.

People like Priya aren’t asking for elaborate employee benefits or mid-morning coffee breaks! Let’s just start with paying them more than $2 a day because trust me, $2 a day is NOT a livable wage anywhere.

Remember when Organic Food was Fancy Yuppy Fare?


Do you remember when the organic food movement started to hit the shelves across the country?  In the early 90s and only stores like Whole Foods and Wild Oats offered these healthier alternatives. As an under-privileged teenager, I imagined organic produce a thing to be had by well-dressed yuppies that lived in three-story townhomes in the city.  But as the years went by and people started asking more questions about where their food came from, more and more stores felt the social pressure to make organic available to their customer base.  It wasn’t just yuppies anymore.  Rather, it was moms trying to balance the benefits of healthy living with their pocketbooks. It was a slow but steady awareness that these large food companies didn’t really care about the long-term effects that 7-syllable ingredients have on our bodies.  Now you can walk into a Wal-Mart and find a decent selection of organic food options.  Walk-Mart and organic is an unlikely surprise, indeed.

I believe the same to be true for the Ethical Shopping movement.  Fair trade may seem like this elusive pipe dream reserved for those that wear crocheted hats and hemp culottes.  But in the last five years, this “bring back the artisan” revival has exploded. I noticed the other day that James Avery now has the word “artisan” in it’s signage.

Empowering global artisans through the power of our purchase is more than a trend. It is social justice catapulted by the power of commerce.

And it is here to stay.

I wanted to learn about companies in Bangladesh that are upholding the principles listed above. Although I found several, I’ve chosen to highlight a few.  I challenge you to buy one item from one of these resources.  Yes, I know, I know, it’s not Target but I think the trends and style from some of these companies may surprise you.

In fact, I will make it easy for you.  I’ve purchased a couple of really cool market bags from Apolis.  I love that the Apolis brand empowers women even though their goods are primarily for men.  They source these amazing jute bags from Saidpur EnterprisesPeople Tree  is another company worthy of note.  They too, work with various Fair Trade networks in Bangladesh to bring classic pieces to socially-conscious shoppers.

I am eager to give TWO of these Apolis Market Bags away this week!


Here is how to enter the giveaway:

  1. Subscribe to our newsletter
  2. Like us on Facebook and or Instagram
  3. Tag 3 Friends on Facebook or Instagram in the comment section

Winners announced Wednesday morning at 10:00 am

*Bonus entries when you tag a stylish friend on Instagram and/or Facebook!