A letter to my teens this year.

Hey Guys,

We’re on the verge of a new year. The long summer days have looked a bit different this year, not all beaches and lazy days but packing up and moving countries and figuring out how to live and breathe and just be here in this new place.

It hasn’t been easy, I know. Living out of suitcases for a time, not having normal groceries in the cupboard and a general state of upheaval was looming wherever you looked. But we’ve come so far in 4 weeks. Your clothes have a home, you have your very own sheets on your beds and the quick snacks that make anywhere feel like home have been stocked and restocked.

You aren’t heading back to school this year but no matter, the last long weekend of the summer is fading to black and that means a new season begins. One that will involve online logins and classes taught by teachers so many miles away but in the same way we do every year we’ll sit and we’ll set goals and we’ll dream and hope for the year to come.

My dreams for you this year involve so much more than what you’ll learn in those classes though. My hopes for you won’t involve letter grade achievements or making the sports teams of choice. No, this year my heart is yearning for something different.

The thing about moving, be it across provincial lines or country borders or vast oceans is you take all of you right along with you. We take the very best parts of who we are, we carry our insecurities and fears and we take the hidden places of our hearts that we want to hide away. We take our weaknesses, our idols, our bents towards ease and we package those right up with our luggage and they arrive exactly wherever we do, front and center.

It’s easy to think just because we’ve moved countries so much will change but the truer part is we can be exactly who we were before in any country. If we don’t stop to think about it we can wake up next year, or ten years from now,  in the exact same heart space with the exact same mind set.

But I’m your mom and I will never stop fighting for you in every way. This year I’m fighting for you to have eyes that see things you’ve never seen before. I’m praying for hearts to crack open and soften a smidge more than they were this time last year. I’m praying  you’ll learn what it means to be right where you are without the pull of distraction because let me tell you, distraction is our greatest enemy to living a full and beautiful life.

For some strange reason I thought parenting would be different at this stage of the game. Easier, maybe. Like it would take less time, less intention, less – well, everything. But this is my lie, my distraction, my bent towards the selfishness of my time. Because you’re older now and the things we’re tackling on a daily basis have so much higher stakes. This isn’t about making it to the potty on time or cleaning up your toys (though sometimes there’s still a bit of that!)

This time of life is about discovering who you are and who you want to be, even when Dad and I aren’t around. It’s about learning where your own convictions lie when no one is watching. It’s figuring out the sort of life you want to pursue and where on the globe you might want to do that. It’s learning to nurture the hearts of those you’re in relationship with. The stakes are higher because when we mess these things up it’s so much bigger than when you stole a toy from that other kid before he was done with it.

But also – not really. The things you learned in those moments are the same today. Pay attention. Treat others with respect. Hold fast to what you believe. Be quick to say you’re sorry. These will still get you far.

This year I pray we’ll push the boundaries. I pray the things we’ve talked endlessly about late into the night, we’ll be able to put into action. I pray your idea of ‘needs’ would be challenged. I pray your contentment would grow. I pray the borders around your heart defining family would spread wider. I pray your eyes would see temptation coming from so far away and you would have strength to turn and run. I pray the word compassion would not just be a word but a deep understanding. I pray your eyes would see needs and your hands would be swift to fill them. I pray your hearts wouldn’t know an us and them but deep relationships where we serve each other because that’s what friends do.

Boys, we didn’t move countries to stare at phones in a new location. We didn’t bring you here because the internet connection is stronger so you can get a faster game of fort nite. We didn’t pack everything up so we could stay the exact same people.

We packed up because we believe in obedience and we believe it for you, too. We packed up because we think the Lord has big things for you here if you have the courage to keep walking forward in what he calls you to. We packed up because sometimes God calls us to see things from a new perspective and to be challenged in big ways for our faith to grow. Trust isn’t something that just happens but something built over time. For our family, from our comfy couches and stable jobs it was harder to build. We needed to step out into unfamiliar waters. In these waters we can continue to trust in ourselves or come to a deeper reliance on Him. I’m praying for the latter.

It was right before we visited this place for the first time just over one year ago God laid a prayer on my heart.

Bring us closer to the end of ourselves so we can see more of you.

That’s my continual prayer for this next year for you, boys, and for me too. That God would continue to grow you, to shape you, to mould you into His own. That He would lavish his grace upon you, that you would know His love in deep and profound ways. That your hearts would become tethered to Him because to whom else will you turn?

This has always been my prayer for you, but often coupled with extras. This year I’m coming in with no extras.  I pray to your faith would be added goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, affection; and to affection, love.

I pray you would have minds that are alert and that your hope would be set on the grace of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

These are my prayers for you this year, kiddos.

Always praying, forever advocating, and continually laughing at your nonsense,

Mom

 

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Where is home?

I don’t know about you but I’m not super great at listening. It turns out I need to hear things an average of 3.7 times in order for me to actually hear it. And when it comes to implementation of actual words being heard, I  assure you the number is much higher than that.

I use to think I could read the bible and have it. Like, get it, know it, understand it. Because words are just words and I can comprehend words, I would store all of those little truth nuggets somewhere in that inside pocket of my backpack – the one that was protected from could-be thieves. If it was in that pocket, all zippered in, I assumed it was safe.

Turns out our hearts and minds aren’t like that pocket at all. Instead words go in and distractions come and these words that meant so much just vanish. Gone. Never to be recalled.

How is it that what we can deem so important in a moment can disappear so quickly?

I don’t have the answer but I do know this is why we need to keep coming back to scripture. Lest you think otherwise, we are no different than the Israelites who walked across parted waters one day and were grumbling just a few later. We are the same. Quick forgetters. Easily distracted. Unfocused. Not to mention a target of one who wants to steal all of the thoughts which we vow to take captive.

And so I’ve learned that scripture needs to be constant in my life. In making it so I’ve learned a great many things, not the least of which is the Holy Spirit illuminates for us the very things we need in certain seasons. Not always, of course. Sometimes we just come back to it for our dose of daily bread, our time of communion with the One who inspired every word. It’s not always fireworks and grand aha moments but it is always good. (Tell yourself that as you’re slogging through the Levitical laws!)

In this season of life where we’ve listened to the Lord and packed up our family and moved to a foreign land the Holy Spirit has been so gracious as to pad my days with a theme so I can not forget.

We sat around last night, the 5 of us, talking through our first weeks here. We let everyone whine a bit about what isn’t working, we brainstormed solutions on how we could make these better or help to smooth things out. We shared from our hearts about what’s been hard and what we miss about home. We never want our teenagers to think  uprooting is easier for us than it is for them. We don’t want to plaster on our constantly smiley face and tell them this is what the Lord wanted and so it’s all rainbows and unicorns. Of course we believe it is what the Lord wanted and so it is good but that doesn’t mean ease.

Familiarity is what everyone is missing most. Knowing the neighbourhood and the streets and bumping into people we know in the grocery store. Being able to worship in a language we know and being surrounded by people who love us and want to lunch together after church. Understanding what the label on the meat says and knowing how it’s seasoned. Having a rhythm to life that means we know what to expect of a Tuesday evening or a Sunday afternoon. All of the things we just knew and operated in are now different and unfamiliar. They aren’t bad or worse. Just not our usual. And we will never tell our kids this should be simple or to suck it up cause it could be worse.

Transition is rarely easy for us human-folk. We tend to fight it with all we’ve got. We long for words like safe and stable and comfortable. We like familiar and easy. Order and routine. Or at least I do!

It’s not shocking to me that the Lord has given me a theme in this season. It’s come up in the words I hear, the scripture I’m reading, the podcasts I’m listening to and it’s resonating with every fibre of my being.

This world is not my home. We are not citizens of this earth. We are named as sojourners and exiles who are not to be conformed to the patterns of this world.

Right.

I have a new perspective as to what those words mean. It’s easy for me to say – oh yeah, I’m not a citizen here – when I live in the land of my birth and I speak the same language, watch the same tv shows, and can navigate 6 different routes to the same place because I truly don’t grasp what not being a citizen looks like. I’ve been a citizen of Canada my entire life. I’ve barely ventured outside of it for vacations. I couldn’t possibly have grasped the concept of not fitting in, not belonging, not conforming.

The Lord knew this in me and thankfully chose to pluck our family out of the familiar to teach us truths about Him and His word.

In just a few short weeks I understand so much more clearly that this world is not my home because right now I don’t know where home is. Someone asked me on the weekend where I was from and my answer was, “I don’t know!” I’m a Canadian living in Mexico but was currently in the United States. I have no idea where I’m from. But I have a grasp in a new way that it doesn’t matter where I’m from or where I am because my citizenship is not determined by what the cover of my passport says but by what God says.

I am a citizen of heaven. This world shouldn’t feel altogether familiar or altogether comfortable. I shouldn’t have a fear of leaving one place for another because it should all feel somewhat strange. We are not to fit in here. We are not to assimilate to such a degree that we aren’t longing for heaven because we quite like it right where we are with our expensive couches and espresso machines.

I’ve never felt like a sojourner before. The word is simple – it means a temporary stay. In our culture we talk about putting down roots and building community and these are good things but let’s never forget that our roots aren’t to be pulled down deep into this earth but are to be grounded deeply in our heavenly home. If we lose the focus that our grounding is in Christ, our roots sinking deep into the soil of His word and our eyes cast in the direction of our permanent home, we so easily make our time on this earth about us. What are my needs? What makes me feel comfortable? What can I acquire that will make me happy?

When we understand we are just stopping by here and our time is but a vanishing vapour, does it not give a sense of urgency as to why we’re here that we may not otherwise have if we feel like we’re pouring concrete in this land and building a home that is forever.

We are exiles here. Banished from our home for but a time. But our citizenship remains there. Our hearts are to dwell there. Our eyes are to be fixed there because it’s where our home will be forever!

Canada or Mexico or wherever we are – it doesn’t really matter. We’re sojourners just passing through eating a whole lot of chips and salsa along the way.

Let’s Walk Alongside Actual People, Not Just a News Story

There are a million things going on in the world just now. There always has been and I suspect there always will be.

If we think back over the decades, over the centuries – there are injustices, atrocities, divides, splits, anger, backlash – multiple times over in every generation.

In every country there are massive issues. In each city, atrocious events. In schools, constant contraversy. In homes, hurt. In our hearts, tension.

We can ask smart sounding questions. We can argue over social media. We can highlight one particular area of devastation for a time. We can get riled up, and rightly so, but where does that leave us?

Right now in our area, in our social media feeds, in all of the news it’s children at borders. Also right now there are children wearing numbers being chosen from a menu to be bought for sex. And women having their genitalia mutilated because of  cultural tradition. And there is genocide. And civil wars. And millions displaced. And bloodshed over drug turf. And earthquake devastation. And contaminated water. And corrupt leaders. And nuclear weapons. And guns in schools. And scars left on skin and hearts.

It’s all too much.

Devastation and hurt has been a part of our world since the beginning which tells my heart it isn’t going away anytime soon. We can lobby for change (and we should!), we can give our money, we can raise awareness but at the end of the day there will only be more – so what then?

My heart hurts with the weight. My cheeks soaked from the tears.

What are we called to in it all?

So far this morning I’ve read slander and name calling, condemnation and vindication, I’ve heard threats of justice being taken into human hands. Mud-slinging, intimidation, aggression, defence, excuses and accusations on every side.

Where are our hearts? How are we operating? What in the name of it all do we even do?

My faith is tested in massive ways in moments like this. Who do I believe in and what does that mean? I think it’s a question we should all ask ourselves in times like this.

How are we to behave in the face of all tragedy, not just close tragedy? How are we to use our voice and not add to the chaos? How are we to gain knowledge that is true? Whom are we to trust? How do we process things we disagree with? Are we arrogant? Opinionated? Right? Are we lazy? Out of touch? Complacent? Ignorant? Do we trust the Holy Spirit? Do we believe in a sovereign God? Are we making use of our time? Are we using our talents for the good of those around us? Are we lining our pocket books? Are we sharing what we have? Are we being merciful to all? Are we praying for those who harm us? Are we seeking truth? Do we know what freedom even is? Are we walking with the Lord? Are we easily swayed? What is worthy of our stake in the ground? Where have we found our roots? When pressed on every side what comes out? Do we even care?

My heart wrestles with all of these. I’ve seen battered faces with my own eyes. I’ve sat with girls weeping as they remember hiding every time cops came to the door. I’ve brushed the hair of one who couldn’t do it herself – the trauma so deep this simple task an impossibility. I’ve seen the flinches at touch. Heard the weeping of loss. Seen the fear deep set in eyes. Heard the wavers in voices as memories of regretful choices bubble to the surface.

I’ve seen pupils so dilated from all of the drugs taken trying to numb the pain, dull the noise. I’ve seen the cut marks on arms. The vacant stare of loss. The sobs from fear. The withdrawn looks from betrayal. I’ve sat in prisons, held orphans, and cried with both. I’ve sat across kitchen tables with both the harmed and the harmer and agonized with both.

Trauma isn’t a new word.

I promise you one thing, when we really care life gets confusing and hard.

When we walk alongside actual people, not just a news story, there’s no forgetting.

When we look into eyes it changes us.

When we recognize we are no different, that’s when the whole story changes.

When we can say:

Yes, I’ve been hurt and also I’ve been the reason for much hurt.

Yes, I’ve been betrayed, and I’ve also been the betrayer.

Yes, I’ve been hurt by arrogance and also I’ve been arrogant.

This is where our posture changes. This is where it goes from not just accusations on “them” but becomes also about us. This is where our voice becomes one that can be heard, our hearts begin to operate from the places they ought and it’s when our hearts and our voice and our story and our understanding intersect that we can even begin to think about becoming a place of help.

And so I plead with you, seek faces to look into that challenge the very core of what you believe. Sit with people who disagree completely with everything you know to be right and good. Advocate for people right in your neighbourhood. Allow really hard questions to be raised without thinking you have to know all of the answers. Listen and listen well. Stop judging without being willing to enter into the story. Ignore the rumours. Get into lives. Share stories. Look into eyes. Stop thinking you know everything. Believe there is hope. Remember every single person was made in the image of God. Repeat that as you sit across a diner table and listen to what they’ve endured. Repeat it a thousand times as you look into the eyes of someone you think is completely wrong. Now go and care and care big. Because you have a heart and a mind and a voice and beliefs and you’re willing to listen and actually enter into the journey with your time, money, and talents.

It probably means you’re going to be tired. It definitely means you must sacrifice. And I one hundred percent assure you that you’re going to want to walk away a thousand times because it’s hard. Do it anyway. Because what else are we even here for?

 

 

Getting In On The Secret.

There have been a handful of people I’ve met over the years who have something I can’t quite put my finger on – but I know I want it. The kind of people who when I meet them I somehow have this longing to be nearer to them, to learn from them. There’s something about them that’s contagious and it draws me in instantly. It’s a bit like they’re always in on some sort of secret just on the cusp of being revealed. There is a joy, an understanding and a twinkle in their eye.

I want it. I want in on the secret.

As I’ve met these people along my path of life I ask them one question, “How?” How is there a constant bubble of joy just right there at the surface. How is there time to look each person you meet straight in the eye and make them know that you see them and value them. How did you come to this place?

It’s far more than just a bubbly personality or an over the top greeting. It’s a way of life that these precious people know.

Each time I’ve asked I’ve received the same answer.

The mode of our heart is a choice each day.

Each of these people know something I often forget. They know every single day they can let self-pity creep in. They can let pride take over. They can give their hearts over to self importance, which makes us so inwardly focused we become haughty, unable to see those around us or just plain rude. They know anger is a real emotion which can overtake. They know belittling words flow off the tongue much easier than words of praise and encouragement. They know if we don’t make a choice for something different, our hearts will so easily wander and lead us astray, down paths that are destructive and dangerous.

So, each day they choose Jesus. They choose a heart mode that says you above me. Service over self pity. They realize playing the victim because life is hard leads to wallowing, bitterness and blame, and these are not the ways of joy.

I’ve learned time after time, the people who seem to know the greatest joy, have walked the most difficult roads. These aren’t happy people because life has shown them an easy ride. They are joyful people because amidst the trials, the loss, the grief, they’ve sought a different way. They’ve made a deliberate choice to say Lord, if this is what you have for me today, help me walk through it with my eyes on you.

The thing about people who make this choice, who walk through their life this way, is they make me cry. Every dang time they look at me. And if they pray for me? I’m a puddle on the floor.

It’s been on my heart lately to consider how I receive people. When they’re near to me do they feel valued and respected and seen? It doesn’t really matter the who of it all. I’m talking the mail carrier who knocks on my door with a package I have to sign for, or the person bagging my groceries, or the family sitting behind me at church that I don’t know. The kid kicking the back of my seat all through the movie, or the person I pull up to at border patrol or my best friend in all the land.

I’ve asked myself the question on repeat – am I a receiver of people or a pusher of what I want – my will, my way, my agenda. I have to admit, the latter is often true.

As I’ve spent the last week amongst the most amazing receiver of people I think I’ve ever met, I couldn’t help but want what he has. Each time he looked at me, straight into my eyes and asked if I was okay, my eyes began to well with tears. It started to feel silly after a time, to say I was good – great, in fact – with glossy eyes but it was true. The way I was received only made me teary because I felt like I had never been so close to Jesus as I was when I was with this person modelling His care.

How would Jesus receive the people we pass by each day? I think it’s worthy of our time to consider. Would He rush by in the manner we do or would He sit right down, look straight into each ones eyes and say, “Are you good? Because I really care if you are or not.”

Having someone near who loves the way Jesus loves means you can’t help but want to love that way too. Being cared for by humans who care like Jesus cares shows me how I want to care for the people around me better. Being received by someone who makes you feel like you’re being received into the arms of Jesus, and to realize this is but a glimmer of the goodness of God right here on earth – well, it just about changes everything about how I want to live my days.

I want to receive people in the way Jesus would. I want them to feel His love through me. I don’t know how to accomplish this on my own but I’m willing to ask Him to do it in me. If the people who love Jesus loved like Jesus and each person we encountered felt received in love the way we feel received by the grace of God, no matter how much of a mess we are, I really believe we could change the world.

Let’s change the world. Not because we’re smart enough or made really wise choices. But because we love in such an extravagant way people can’t help but see Jesus. I want the world to see Him – don’t you?

 

 

 

To Live Out Multi-faceted Kindness

It’s so exhausting to think about where all of our products come from.

It’s tiresome to even try and have a conscience about all of it.

We can’t know everything, so why bother at all.

The alternative is women not having a job and that’s even worse.

Is it?

All of these statements arise every single time I open up a dialogue about the fashion industry. Or the harvesting of chocolate. Or talk about how watching pornography is linking you to sex trafficking.

I wonder how many other things we would say this about?  

If we’re buying a car would we be exhausted by the research it takes to know which one is our best spent dollar?

When planting a garden do we stop ourselves from putting carrot seeds in the ground because we don’t know the mechanics of how a tractor works?

We get a bit uncomfortable when our choices are challenged, defensive even.

So we’re not here to tell you where to shop and where not to (though we do have some super cute links at the end that you should definitely check out) what we’re here to talk to you about is kindness.

Rarely do people get up in arms about kindness. Guilt and shame don’t get piled on when we speak simply about the basics of how we should treat one another. We learned these things from our mama’s long before we ever stepped foot into a school and decades before we made a purchase from a clothing company.

So let’s start there, as we should, with kindness and see where it takes us. A journey of kindness isn’t scary, or exhausting or elusive, right?

We’re Jena and Rhonda – Jesus lovers, wives and mamas, bloggers and a million more things – including kindness advocates! Below is simply a conversation we want to bring you into. We hope you join in the dialogue!

When did you first give more thought to the things you were purchasing?

Jena: I don’t remember when I started waking up to the reality that my purchases impact other people across the globe. A few years ago the term ‘fast fashion’ caught my attention and conscience. Maybe it was sitting at a friend’s Noonday Party watching a video on how their goods are handmade by artisans in developing countries receiving fair wages for bettering their families and communities. Perhaps it was news of the Rana Plaza building collapse in Bangladesh in 2013 where over 1100 people lost their lives working in unsafe conditions in a garment factory. It could be because most employees in the garment industry are women, and I’m raising three daughters of my own.

Rhonda: It all started for me when I ‘accidentally’ watched a BBC documentary on the chocolate industry and the harvesting of cocoa beans. I had no idea what I was getting myself into when I clicked ‘play’ but after watching, I knew a great shift had occurred in my heart and my perspective. I could no longer close my eyes and just consume. I had a desire to know what the effects my personal wants had on others. What I found was that my choices didn’t align with what I had long been teaching my kids – be kind to others, always.

How do we balance owning our part of the responsibility?

Jena: Over time, it’s all added up to an evolving belief about purchase power. How we spend our money matters. Is it my fault that women are suffering in oppressive work conditions in countries thousands of miles away from my billing address? No. Do I have a responsibility to educate myself and daughters on the realities of a broken supply chain so we can support people working to fix this cycle of oppression? Yes. Do I have a responsibility to “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8 ESV) as it applies to people sewing my t-shirts? Yes and more yes.

Rhonda: I’ve wrestled with this for over a decade. The place I’ve landed is one step at a time. In so many areas of my life I’ve made choices to change just one thing. Whether it’s eating healthy and exercising or making changes to the chemicals that come into our home – I can’t know everything all at once but that doesn’t mean I should just sit back and do nothing. If we simply commit to learning, to researching what we can instead of living in ignorance, and make small adjustments bit by bit – it’s truly amazing how far we can go and the differences we can make over the years.

Start where you are and do what you can is a brilliant slogan. So you can’t shop exclusively at fair trade shops? Start with t-shirts. Commit to that. A year later it will be so normal you won’t even blink at it. And once that’s in place, maybe tackle jewelry.

It’s the small consistent changes over time that have massive repercussions in our world!

Where do we even start?

Jena: I have to be honest with myself. I’m not a front line pioneer of labor reform practices. I’m a elementary homeschooling/ public high school mom of three daughters. I’m wife to a corporate road warrior. I don’t shop often, but when I do I’d like it to be enjoyable and uncomplicated. I prefer quality over quantity in my closet. Cost per wear is something we talk about often in our family. In light of all that, evolving into a more conscientious shopper comes down to three key elements for our family:

  1. Know what we believe – What does the Bible say about how we’re to treat others? Are our actions consistent with our beliefs?
  2. Get informed – What are current industry standards for the companies we’re supporting? Are they transparent about their sourcing and labor agreements?
  3. Compile a list – Find companies selling what we need and like. In an age of convenience where it’s tempting to shop in one-stop-shop box stores, having a list of go-to companies can prevent compulsive buying of fast fashion ‘sale’ items. Many online stores offer free shipping and returns, so take advantage of planned shopping from the convenience of home.

Rhonda: We can overwhelm ourselves with all the questions of where to start and how to research and give up before we’ve even begun. I think the most important step towards kindness in the fashion industry is to just start. Find one company whose mission is to care for their employees from harvesting to your closet. Choose one item to change in your closet. Rarely is anything in life sustainable if we feel overwhelmed from the start. But like I say to my kids when I drop them off at school each morning, “I love you. Be kind to someone today.” If we simply adopt that approach in our consumption, of being kind to someone today, just one person – it will be the tiny bit of momentum we need to make the changes we want.

We think this is an important conversation and we don’t want it to end with just one blog post. What are your thoughts? We’ll be honest and say that $4 t-shirts at certain shops are enticing and we’re not saying we will never fall prey to it. But we do commit to loving the Lord by loving our neighbour insomuch as it depends on us – knowing who we’re buying from is just another way to do that!

And now – onto the good stuff! We’re here to help! Check out these amazing shops with clothes you’ll want to wear! And some are just as affordable as where you’re shopping now. Check them out!

Brands we love:

Everlane

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At Everlane, we’re not big on trends. We want you to wear our pieces for years, even decades, to come.

Each factory is given a compliance audit to evaluate factors like fair wages, reasonable hours, and environment. Our goal? A score of 90 or above for every factory.

We believe our customers have a right to know how much their clothes cost to make. We reveal the true costs behind all of our products—from materials to labor to transportation—then offer 
them to you, minus the traditional retail markup.

Krochet Kids

Our products, our non-profit partner, and our community work in unison to help people break the cycle of poverty.

We provide life-changing job opportunities to women in need. With each purchase you make we introduce you to the woman who made your product and invite you to visit her online profile to learn more about her.

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People Tree

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ABLE

The goal was to provide an alternative that would provide these women with the opportunity to earn a living, empowering them to end the cycle of poverty that kept them trapped. Armed with multiple studies illustrating how the employment of women benefits and strengthens an entire community, the ABLE team set out on a mission to end generational poverty, one job at a time.

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DL1961

We’re on a mission to rewrite the way denim is made. It’s no secret that traditional denim production is considered to be one of the most polluting processes – but we don’t believe it has to be that way.

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And a few more:

PACT Apparel

Patagonia

Fair Indigo

Raven and Lily

 

To Bestow On Them a Crown of Beauty

We wander back to our temporary home on the base and we begin to unravel. We sit in silence and just let the streams fall from our eyes down our dusty cheeks. There are no words to speak. Without knowing it at the time, it was in this moment that God lovingly and gently began to nudge us closer to a new mode of our hearts and a new path for our lives.

My boy who is strong and stoic, logical beyond what I’ll ever be looked at me, his cheeks a mess of dirt and tears. In his eyes I could see that he’ll never see the same again. His words tell me the truth of what I’m feeling.

“I’ve been traumatized, Mom, but in the best way.”

Quiet decisions were made right there. Resolutions that life simply couldn’t be the same. An unspoken conclusion of what following the Lord looks like.

“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor.”

This was the day we set out to find our girls. If you’re new here or missed it you can get the backstory in this post.

We had no clear idea of how it would go but we prayed and pleaded with the Lord that He would lead us to where they were. We trusted His timing. We trust that He loves them even more than we do and so He would lead us.

As we bumped up and down in our hard seats, navigating deep grooves in the dirt roads we were quiet save for the constant rattle of the broken latch on the window. It was the theme song of our day. It was the reminder of our own lives. Broken. Unhinged. Apart from our Saviour who binds us to Himself we are the latch, swayed by every rut in the road, clattering with every change, finding no steady rhythm rather tossed by whatever comes our way.

Our skin crawled with the feeling of darkness that was over the area. My thoughts dashed between wondering about my own safety and fearing only for the girls. All the while the words in my head were a constant plea to the Lord. Lead us.

We pulled the van over at the first person we saw and asked if they knew the family. They gave directions exactly to where they believed them to be and we continued on our way passing homes unfit for any child. Unfit for anybody.

Arriving at the given destination I began to doubt. Like Peter, we had stepped out of the boat and put our foot on that water but once there, the fear creeped in and the doubts came and my heart began to sink. Surely, it couldn’t be that easy. One person. One set of directions. Did Peter feel the same thing? Surely I couldn’t actually be on the water. Surely you can’t sustain me here. Surely you can’t keep me from drowning.

A little head peeked around the corner of the dilapidated trailer. Then another and another until we saw three beautiful faces, three heads of thick dark hair, three pairs of beautiful little eyes looking straight back into ours.

Dear Lord, was it them? Their sunken cheeks and disheveled hair made us question if these were the same three. Their once smooth skin was now peppered with marks. The spark of joy we had known in their eyes now a more vacant stare. And then we saw a smile and it was all we could do to not fall to the dirt and break right there. Lord why? Why would you do this? Lord they are so hungry. Lord what are those bites, that rash? Lord where is the joy we once saw? Why would you let this happen? Why?

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The questions came at a rapid pace, one more tumbling on top of another. Before I even had a chance to think a thought another came crashing. And as the questions started piling up deep and those precious girls piled into our arms and onto our laps, I knew.

“He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners.”

We boarded a plane for home the very next day. We came back to every comfort we could ever want. Outside we may have looked the same as before we left, but each of us knew something very different. We had images – lives and hearts and eyes and smiles –  lodged in our minds and our hearts and woven so intricately into the very fabric of what now made up our family. God, in his goodness, was answering our prayers to give us new eyes and new hands and new feet and new skin and new hearts that pumped blood that was just a little different then it was before. He had heard my cries to bring us to the end of ourselves so that there was space, abundant space for more of Him.

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These girls are just a glimmer of why we’re going, moving our family. Their story is not unique in the area. Their need for safety is imminent. Their need for the most basic provision of food is urgent. The need for a community to come alongside this family and journey with them through the struggles of addiction, loss and trauma are so necessary. No one in their position could make it alone.

These three have captivated our hearts but more than that the Lord has captured our lives. To follow Him to the place He calls. To be His village to those who don’t have one. To use our hands and our feet to show tangibly His love and to use our mouths to proclaim the hope that we have in Him. And for those girls…

“…to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair.”

 

 

 

 

Learning Who I am from I AM.

I’m a mess. Chaotic. Muddled. Disorganized.

I’m weak. Unsteady. Uncertain. Definitely not brave.

I’m imperfect. A lousy friend. An agitated mother. A heartless wife.

We say these things about our lives with a shrug and a laugh. We wear our self-deprecation like a crown and hail the almighty voice of sarcasm where we put ourselves down and sneer against those who seem like they might just have it altogether.

I’m not sure when it happened but at some point striving became a character flaw and honest and authentic meant taking up a this-is-just-how-i-am mantra.

In recent days I’ve noticed it seeping into my own repertoire, this script of self belittlement. I can’t help but think it’s soaked into me from the culture at large. That this is how we’re expected to speak. Because heaven forbid we actually admit we’re good at something. The words arrogant and self-promoting quickly follow behind the backs of anyone who might actually dare to speak that.

We’re a culture so quick to judge. Sure, we hide it behind the guise of our instantaneous wit but it’s there in our hearts, nonetheless.

This judgment saturates our minds. Infiltrates our thoughts. And soon enough we’re speaking these unkind words, not only to others, our kids, our spouses, but to ourselves as well.

Are we a people known for encouragement and support? Unfortunately the answer to that is rarely an exhubarent yes.

Are we individuals who allow the words of the Lord to permeate our own thoughts about ourselves? If you’re like me – not really.

But here’s the thing. Scripture doesn’t call us a mess. It does mock us by holding up the worst picture of ourselves and comparing it to Suzie Sunshine down the street. It doesn’t shame us for our imperfection. Weight us down with the guilt of not measuring up.

I don’t mean to get all #itstime on you, but I think it’s time. Not for women to fight men. Not for belittlement of those who may have done wrong. Not for our voices to be the loudest in the square. I think it’s time for us to believe who we are in Christ. To bathe our minds and our hearts in the words Scripture speaks over us. To let them wash over our very soul until we can no longer make jokes of the fact that we’re angry mom or lazy lover or the most unpinteresting human on the planet.

Do you know who we are, Church?

Isaiah 62:4 says, “You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight Is in Her…”

My Delight Is in Her. If only we could believe it.

When we think of our position before the Lord is that what we see? Do we stand knowing that He delights in us?

More often than not we take the position of messy and broken and not enough. We carry the weight of must try harder and must pray more and must use bigger theological words.

It is crushing our souls to hold the position of grimy. It crumbles away at our hearts to hear our own voices speak that we are smudged and spotted and stained. The heaviness of these lies become too cumbersome to carry and they bring out the very best in our cynicism, bitterness and doubt.

Do you want to know what Scripture actually calls you?

A delight. (Isaiah 62:4)

Accepted. (Romans 15:7)

The Righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21)

What might happen if we speak these over ourselves instead?  There’s more.

We are Chosen (John 15:16), Holy (1Peter 1:16), a Child of God (1John 1:3).

How often do we think of ourselves as Royal, Holy, a Special Possession of God’s. (1Peter 2:9)

Do we ever feel as though we’re Treasured, Blessed, Set Free, Complete, Beloved, God’s work of Art and oh so Valuable. We are a Light, a City set on a hill, a Citizen of Heaven, a Saint and a Servant.

How might our perspective of ourselves, our lives, our world change if we soaked these in each day? How might we combat the enemies lies that we believe if only we knew exactly who we are?

We are Heirs of a King, friends. And while that makes me want to talk like Lady Mary and Dress like Her Royal Highness, the Duchess of Cambridge – the truth is, all I need to do is live my life, the one I’ve been given, believing these things are true and encouraging my brothers and sisters to believe them, too. They are the most empowering words we could ever hear.

We don’t need to do more to change the world. We simply need to take God at His word and believe we are who HE says we are. That’s the world changing stuff, right there.

 

 

The Power of And

Over a decade ago we lived in a little apartment building in the middle of our suburban ‘city’. We somehow felt like if we lived near the heart of it all it would somehow be reminiscent of the days we lived in the actual city. It was and it wasn’t, but none of that is the point.

I got into the elevator one day and a neighbour who I had spoken with many times before said hi and asked if I was new to the building. I looked at him puzzled. Was I that unmemorable? We had for sure had actual conversations.

I laughed and shrugged it off and stated I was in 403. You could see his confusion and surely mine was evident. I couldn’t fathom what was going on in this painfully awkward moment.

I’ve since realized that the world is distinctively more comfortable being just one thing. Having just one look, one passion, one voice.

Yes, he usually saw me in yoga pants and nikes surrounded by children and this day my hair was actually blow dried, I had jeans on and maybe even glasses, with not a child in sight. But did he not realize there’s more to me than work out gear and kids?

This focus happens in our online spheres as well. Beautifully curated feeds using just one filter, just one colour scheme, or just one way of living. It’s like there’s this feeling of having to choose. Are you whole30 or coffee first? Nikes or blunnies? Yoga or fashion? All white or vibrant colours?

It seems that multiple feeds are needed for the various facets we wish to portray as well. Because heaven forbid you give voice to the product you sell on your personal feed or share about your family gathering on your health feed. (what the…?!)

Have people never had a salad and chased it down with a few gummy bears? Just me?

What I’ve found is that I’m really terrible at being just one thing. I have no basis if this is a positive or negative in my life – it just is.

I can’t just be work out girl or eat healthy girl cause I also want to be sit on the couch girl and let’s eat a lot of cheese girl. I can’t just be one filter on instagram for the perfect looking feed because some photos need to be dark and brooding and others bright and eclectic. My house will never look cohesive because the truth is I like modern, and rustic and really really old things that tell tales of years gone by. And I can’t be ripped jeans every day and nor can I be all of the heels.

Of course I’d love to say that I’m party mom but the truth is I’m way more quiet and thoughtful than I am fun, but that doesn’t mean I won’t die laughing when I freak someone out on their way out of their bedroom. (try it. so funny.)

I use to feel a bit chaotic about this multi-faceted nature of myself. Like I was doing it wrong because I lacked focus on just one thing.

But then I realized it’s okay to like books AND tv. Kale AND cheesecake. Rap AND worship music. Missions work AND fancy date nights. White AND red. Broadway AND sports. Crowded cities AND forest hikes.

This world makes us feel like we have to choose. Pretty feeds make us feel like we aren’t worth a follow if we aren’t cohesive. But they’re wrong.

I prefer real to curated any day of the week and so as I did my New Years “unfollow” (do it – unfollow anything that makes you crave more, feel judgy, or jealous) I looked at each feed and thought about what they brought to my life.

My criteria was not beauty or perfection but diversity. Can this person inspire me to try something new, watch something different, think about something in a way I may not have before. Are they honest enough to show the joys and the hard places, the perfect meal and the time the edges got a leeeeeetle bit crispy. I really wanted to ask – is there a heart and a human behind the feed or just a bunch of perfect photos?

While I’ve wrestled with my own heart on being okay with multi-faceted (my word for ‘all over the place’) I spent some time thinking about who Jesus was and how He lived his life.

Jesus didn’t ONLY hang out with prostitutes and tax collectors. He spent time with the religious elite in the temple and had a close community in a few of his disciples. He went to the places that were edgy AND safe. He had emotions that were angry AND gentle. He spent time with crowds AND in solace. Went to big parties AND gathered quietly in homes. Knew joy AND sorrow. Happiness AND tears. Fought for people AND called others out.

He wasn’t just one thing. Wasn’t only one filter. Only one emotion. I can only imagine that had He taken photos along His journey that He might have had one of the most eclectic feeds that ever existed and I love that.

We’re very quick to judge a person by the places they shop, the church they attend, the circle they roll with. But what I’m finding is that there is never ending joy in the surprise of being proven wrong in our judgements. When the people you least expect to like show you the beauty of their heart and soul and you can’t help but scold yourself for the fact that you had already categorized them.

Our God is a masterful creator as evidenced in the big and beautiful world He made. I can only imagine that we’re but a tiny reflection of that. Not all oceans or all trees but deserts and jungles and great underwater reefs and every other thing in between.

Let’s live boldly into the many ways God has created us to be, the things He’s laid before us to do, the passions He’s impressed on our hearts and allow others to do the same. For the kingdom of God is not North American, not city or suburban, not pentecostal or baptist. It’s every tribe and nation. I can’t imagine a more chaotically beautiful sight.

 

Christmas: it’s more than a feeling

CD68D912-51AF-4E19-817A-353BD604AD09.jpegIt just doesn’t feel like Christmas.

I’ve heard this thought on repeat since the first carols began somewhere near the beginning of November.

It came from everywhere. All around me. The grocery store clerk, all amidst my social media feeds, even from within my own home.

It doesn’t feel like Christmas.

We live in a culture hooked on a feeling. Transfixed by what feels right and good. So much so that we’ll go to great lengths to follow what we think will produce the feeling we long for.

Spoiler Alert:

it never does.

I began to question all around me, friends and strangers alike – what does Christmas ‘feel’ like?

Oh, the pat answers came quickly. Joy and wonder. Cozy warm vibes with family. The right cookie that mom use to make.

But as I pushed further for the answer, the ‘feeling’ it seems that everyone is chasing is more.

More family. Missing the ones who’ve left or wishing for a spouse or child.

More traditions. Maybe if we see one more light display, make one more gingerbread house, play one more Christmas album or host one more party – that’ll do it.

More stuff. Perhaps a few more decorations this year, a bit more twinkle, more gifts will surely get the kids fired up!

It seems, as a culture, that we’ve tapped into very specific aspects of the Christmas feels – none of which can be remotely true.

Let’s be honest, we are not giving our children more gifts because the wise men brought such luxurious ones. We can’t even compare what we do to that. Sure, it’s a nice excuse to up the Christmas budget but Jesus wasn’t a child with a room already full of toys. He wasn’t a teen connected to every electronic on the planet. He wasn’t a woman with a perfect kitchen and just the right wardrobe or a man with … I dunno a garage already packed with toys?! (Forgive the stereotypes)

Jesus was a newborn baby and the gifts were not to surprise him. They weren’t to build excitement. There weren’t more so he’d feel more appreciated. They weren’t luxurious to bring about that wonder and joy.

They were gifts of worship. I promise you, in our culture, our kids are worshipped enough. It is not another gift they need.

And mamas, hear me for a second while I explain the Instagram cycle.

1. Oh, the wonder of Christmas! Tie up all those presents and put them under the tree! This will be the merriest of christmases!

2. Christmas morning comes and hot cocoa and matching jammy’s abound. THIS! This is Christmas!

3. Someone cries. Someone wants what their sister got. Someone sleeps in too long and doesn’t respond to their gifts with the joy we thought they would. Someone says something rude. Someone didn’t even say thank you.

4. Ah, the food will make up for it. The traditional breakfast. The working tirelessly to have all ingredients on hand, to whip up the meal to perfection. All of the effort put forth to have that moment of joy. The laughter around the table. The heart felt appreciation from your family around you. But more likely someone spills all over the perfect white setting, no one is hungry because they snuck all the candy from their stocking, someone’s over tired because naps don’t happen on time and right in the middle of it all someone throws up.

5. Fast forward 2 months: the same gifts that were perfectly ribboned and wrapped under the tree and were to bring such joy are now cluttering up every corner of the house and your kids rooms are making you crazy because #minimalism and you get all of the Instagram applause when you pack it all up and ship it off to goodwill and have a spotless house back!

It’s madness, this search for a feeling. It’s illusion and it’s destructive and it’s making us all sorts of crazy. (Merry Christmas?!)

Christmas isn’t a feeling. It’s not something to strive for and chase.

Christmas is a truth. A truth!

A historical happening.

A, bust out the history books and study when Quirinias was Governor of Syria, kind of deal.

Its not a fantastical story that makes for a great movie script. It’s actual events. Actual timelines. Actual humans – some good, some evil, many confused.

I’m not really sure when this Christmas ‘feeling’ became our goal. I can guess it might be around the same time that Coca-Cola hijacked St. Nicholas but I don’t know.

Christmas can’t be about snow because much of the world doesn’t have it. It can’t be about shortbread because vast nations have no concept of what that is. It’s not about gifts because the majority of the human race can’t afford the luxury of one gift, let alone the masses we North Americans place under the tree. It can’t be certain songs with a jingle bell beat, or a weather pattern or how many family members gather together!

When we view Christmas for what it is – a truth and not a feeling, when we study deeply the time and the place and the events that went down, it’s here that we find wonder and awe and joy.

Angels appearing. Prophecies of old happening. Stars guiding. Humble hearts willing. Long treks. Birth pains. Angry rulers. New mothers – young and old. Faithful husbands. A baby born to save us from our kingdom of self. Born to save from all the ways we’ll chase feelings instead of truths. Born to set us free from striving and performing and working so hard to attain.

Find the joy, find the wonder, find the awe in our Saviour. Not a moment, not a feeling, not another trinket under the tree.

I promise when you do, the instagram pictures may not look quite as good, but what our hearts get, how it changes our lives, will be worth so much more.

Merry Christmas.

From our family to yours.

How Do You Wrap Up Your Heart?

When I asked them this year what they wanted for Christmas they shrugged. “I don’t know, Mom,” they floundered. “There’s nothing we need.”

And it’s true. There’s very little any of us actually need in terms of material possessions, but there’s so much that each of us need beyond what can be wrapped in plain brown paper and tied up with the simplest of bows.

How do we wrap up  love?

How do we give honour?

Can we put a bow on eyes that say, I see you?

A pretty little tag that says, you are enough?

There’s no box big enough in all the world for the forgiveness we all so desperately need, I know that full well.

But the wise men came with the finest of gifts for One who needed nothing.

The woman used her hair and tears to wipe the feet of the One who had no use for gifts.

It’s our very human nature to want to give something tangible to show what’s in our heart, though it never quite encompasses it just right.

So my children need nothing this year. I still love them beyond ways there are to show it, so what do we do? How can I take out my heart and wrap it and place it under the tree to show them just how valued they are, how respected, what a gift they are in my life each day?

To the hurting in our world to which a trinket from the mall can never bring back the spouse they loved or the child they never got to meet – what can we give?

To the lonely, the weak, yes even the bitter and angry – is there a store from which we can purchase a golden ticket that will take it all away?

God gave us the only gift we’ll ever need in his Son. Wrapped up as a gift cradled in His mother’s arms that night and later wrapped again, bloodied and scarred, after He gave the gift of His life and was placed in a tomb.

When we’ve been given the greatest gift what more could we possibly need?

God gave Himself and the only way I see it is that we give the same. We give ourselves.

To the hurting, the weary and broken, we give ourselves.

To the orphan, the abandoned, the alone, we give ourselves.

To those struggling with questions, why disease, why loss, why me? To the ones shaking their fists, we give ourselves.

To our own kids this Christmas let’s give just the same – let’s give them us.

Yes, presents that will make them smile but also being present with them.

Let’s give the gift of pursuit, the way our Heavenly Father pursues us. Let’s pursue their hearts and their minds and foster relationship in new ways. Asking the questions and listening attentively for the answers, relentlessly chasing them and where they’ve gone astray woo’ing them back.

Let’s gift them eyes that say I see you and you are enough. Can we put aside the ways they’ve let us down, the ways they’ve messed it all up, the ways they never seem to learn? It only takes one quick look at my own wretched heart to see I’m just the same. Yes, they’re likely different than you thought they would be and life might look far from the way your mind imagined it – but this is it. These are your gifts, these children. Do they know that you see them with the same eyes the Lord see’s you with? Not disappointment or frustration. Only love. Always love. Patience. Kindness. Overwhelming goodness.

If each of us gave the gift of ourselves, to the Lord, to our families, to the neighbourhood we live in, across the oceans far and wide – consider what that might look like.

It might look like shoeboxes stuffed to the brim, or donations to clean water. It might be adoption or fostering or making meals for those without family. It might look like new shoes on feet that have never worn any or safety and counselling for the children just rescued from violence or slavery or trafficking. It might look like a plate of cookies brought next door or a simple smile in the grocery store line. A kind word on facebook instead of harsh. Making one more invitation instead of exclusion. Making eye contact with that person ringing the bell. Answering the door. Kneeling at bedsides in the quiet of the night. Washing feet. Serving meals. Going. Serving. Staying. Giving.

Would you dream the dream with me this Christmas season? Find one small place to give yourself. Buy all of the gifts and decorate all of the things and laugh and be merry at all of the parties. And give yourself. Somewhere. Anywhere.

The impact of God giving God is so much greater than anything we can fathom. I have a feeling that if we all gave ourselves, the same might just be true.

Looking for a place to give this season? I have some ideas…

Casa De Luz Scholarship Fund – Help single mom’s finish their education and break the generational cycle of poverty ($2000 of $5000 goal currently raised)

Operation Christmas Child – Fill a shoebox with toys, love and the gospel of Jesus

The Salvation Army Centre of Hope – Provide food hampers, emergency shelter, gifts for children in need and Christmas dinner for those who would never otherwise have it.

Mercy Canada – Help young women break free from life-controlling issues, including eating disorders, self harm, drug and alcohol addictions, unplanned pregnancy, depression, sexual abuse, and trafficking.