Ivy Reine, our sixth babe!

She's here.  Our Ivy Reine.  And traces of glory still cling to her, our surprise gift from God.  I can almost smell heaven when I hold her close, can almost see it's pure beauty reflected in her eyes.  God waited until the last month to whisper her name to us.  And when He did, I wasn't at all surprised.  The name "Ivy" puts me in mind of green summers, fragrant springs, and decadent autumns; of whimsical woodland walks and lush valleys.  God must have made her out of these very things.  I was so vibrantly aware of the beauty around me while carrying this womb baby.  I craved freshly picked flowers and overripe peaches, I dreamed of moss covered baby beds made out of twigs.  Ivy means "faithful" and Reine (pronounced "ren") means "queen".  She's full of grace, this wee babe--from the tip of her delicate nose to the bottom of her little toes.  And my utmost prayer for her is that she will indeed be faithful to the God of grace, for His faithfulness to her is as sure as the rising of the sun.  

She was born in the blustery cold second week of November.  I had prayed and cried the night before she was born, my heart set on a natural birth, but my history of big babies with broken clavicles had everyone worried.  But God gave me a verse to hang my heart on, that he had not given me a spirit of fear, but of love, power, and a sound mind.  I rested in that and refused to let my heart be troubled again over her birth.  It would happen as the Lord willed it to.  It turned out to be one of the easiest deliveries I've ever experienced!  I went into active labor sometime around 12:30 in the afternoon and Ivy was born at 1:40!  I was so surprised and shocked and exhilarated.  She had this full head of dark hair and I remember thinking "She's perfect.  Just like a little queen."  She weighed 8 pounds and 12 ounces (mostly in her cheeks), and was 21 inches long.  I had asked for no Vitamin K ointment to be put in her eyes (as I always have requested for all my children) so she could see me clearly and that first glimpse of her world would be of those who would always love her most.  She stared into my eyes so calmly, held my gaze so steadily.  She nursed for two hours immediately after she was born.  And then Daddy swaddled her tight and wouldn't let her out of his sight.  I love watching my husband with his newborn babes.  His face is always so enchanted, so awe-filled and lost in love.  

A week before Ivy was born, I envisioned her surrounded by ivy vines and I couldn't wait to capture what I had dreamt.  There were vines growing on our trees beside the house and they were turning deep colors of russet and gold.  I picked a few one day and even took a picture of them in a photo arrangement for Instagram.  A couple days later, I awoke to a terrible puffy red rash spreading across my face.  I thought I was breaking out in pregnancy hives and slathered coconut oil all over my irritated skin.  I mentioned it to my midwife, but she thought it must be hives as well.   I was still suffering from the rash when I went into the delivery room, it was spreading to my arms by then.  One of the nurses took one look at it and exclaimed "It looks like Poison Ivy!  I'm almost sure of it!"  And yep, sure enough, I had picked poison ivy!   And what are the odds that I would have poison ivy while delivering Ivy.  We laughed so hard and I itched even harder.  You can imagine the stories she'll hear of her birth.

We brought her home in the fog and drizzling rain to a warm house full of excited and enamored brothers and sisters.   They all clamored to hold her and the look of awe and amazement in their faces was enough to fill my heart forever.  I don't think there's anything on this earth as beautiful to a mother as the love of her children for one another.  Story is constantly by her side, begging to hold her, kiss her, hug her.  A few days after we brought Ivy home, we called for Story and we couldn't find her.  We looked everywhere, started to grow frantic.  We finally found her in Ivy's cradle, holding her.  Needless to say, we can't let her out of our sight.  

She sleeps in a little corner of our bedroom, in a cradle I painted and skirted for her.  In the months before her birth, I had such a creative burst of energy and was sewing and painting and starting all sorts of handmade projects in anticipation of her arrival.  I made her a little dress and hung it above her bed.  I invited friends over for a "Quilting Bee" for Ivy's quilt and several friends lovingly made her quilt blocks.  I stayed up late into the night fashioning her headbands out of moss, lace, and twine.  I kept my hands busy because I knew that once she was here, my hands would be full of her and all else would become less than important.

And it's true.  She fills my every waking hour.  My hands are full and my heart is overflowing.  I had worried before she was born, worried about how I would manage a house of six children on very little sleep.  But I forgot, as I am sheepishly prone to do, to take God's grace into account.  His grace has been on our home, in my bones, carrying me through each day.  He smiles in the face of my doubt and says "Trust me.  I don't give good gifts without the means to care for them."  And she's on loan to us for just this little while, this Ivy Reine, His faithful little queen.  And with her here in our home, filling every nook and cranny of our hearts, our family feels that much more complete.

P.S.  A very lovely friend of mine (that I met on Instagram) came and took pictures of our family after Ivy was born.  She captured this last picture, a precious moment of Ivy in her brother's arms.  I can't wait to share more of her photos! 

photo credit:  Above and Beyond Photography


Asian Pho Noodle Soup (our favorite recipe)

I love soups.  Soups make my world go round.  Simmering, savory, sublime....soups.  

I would serve soup for every meal.

But my family would not be so thrilled.  It's rare that I find a soup everyone loves.  So imagine my complete excitement when all seven of us finished off every lost drop and begged for more.  I was ecstatic people.  And my family is in LOVE with this absolutely delicious, warm, fragrant, pho noodle-y goodness of a dish.

It would be cruel not to share.


So here's the recipe...

Asian Pho Noodle Soup
Time: 35-40 mins

Boil bone-in chicken breast (or leg, whatever's handy) in large pot with about 4 quarts water 
2 tsp freshly minced ginger
3 pods minced garlic

Bring broth to boil and let simmer for about 20 mins.

Remove chicken. (You can save this chicken for another recipe and add sesame chicken with directions below) 

Add to broth:
2 Tbs soy sauce
1 Tbs hoisin sauce
A dash of sesame oil
1 Tbs natural sugar

Let this simmer while you prepare the chicken:

Sesame chicken:
Slice one chicken breast into thin strips about 1 1/2 inches long
Add to skillet with 1 T sesame oil
Cook until chicken is no longer pink and add to the broth, scraping pot into the soup
(this was my husband's idea and he sauteed it while I worked on the soup--it turned out delicious!)

Finally add to soup:
2 Tbs chopped green onions
1/8 tsp salt (test soup first to see if this is necessary)
1 Tbs fresh lime juice
2 c. thinly sliced strips of Napa Cabbage
1 box flat rice noodles 

Let flavors mingle and noodles soften for about 10 mins.  
Then turn off the heat and let it set and do it's magic for another 5 mins. or so
Serve with cilantro and wedge of lime.  
I also served mushrooms in a separate dish for those of mine who like their flavor.

And then prepare to fall in love...


i give up...

Dear Jesus,

I    G  I  V  E    U  P .

I give up...on living safe,
on not taking any risks when Your Word clearly tells me that to play it safe and love my life is to lose it.  Nothing hinders my soul as much as being comfortable.  I want to love you more than my life.

I give up...on holding on too tightly to anything other than you, Jesus.
Things...dreams...expectations....opinions....the admiration of others...my own self-image.  If it's hard--painful even--for me to let it go, than it just might be what's keeping me from embracing the dreams you dream for me, the places you long to take me, the lives you want to love through me.

I give up...on excuses.
I've become overly accustomed to their ease of use.  When confronted with a flaw in my character, how easy it is to exclaim, "But God..." and to blame it on my personality or "the way I was made".  Yet you are the very One who created me and you know me inside-out.  And the goal of this life is not to become the "best version of myself" but to be full of you, Jesus-- to allow your life to be exalted in me--to become less as You become more.

I give up...on becoming so absorbed with my own problems, my needs, my wants, my insecurities...my self...that I fail to see what you're doing around me.
Your Word says it best, "obsession with self in these matters is a dead end; attention to God leads us out into the open, into a spacious, free life. Focusing on the self is the opposite of focusing on God.  Anyone completely absorbed in self ignores God, ends up thinking more about self than God. That person ignores who God is and what he is doing.  And God isn't pleased at being ignored.  But if God himself has taken up residence in your life, you can hardly be thinking more of yourself than of him. Anyone, of course, who has not welcomed this invisible but clearly present God, the Spirit of Christ, won't know what we're talking about.  But for you who welcome him, in whom he dwells - even though you still experience all the limitations of sin - you yourself experience life on God's terms. It stands to reason, doesn't it, that if the alive-and-present God who raised Jesus from the dead moves into your life, he'll do the same thing in you that he did in Jesus, bringing you alive to himself? When God lives and breathes in you (and he does, as surely as he did in Jesus), you are delivered from that dead life. With his Spirit living in you, your body will be as alive as Christ's!  So don't you see that we don't owe this old do-it-yourself life one red cent. There's nothing in it for us, nothing at all. The best thing to do is give it a decent burial and get on with your new life." Romans 8: 6-13

I give up...on trying to be good enough (trying to earn grace).
Grace is a gift.  And it's something I will never deserve and cannot ever earn.  It's not about rules or religion...."don't touch that"..."don't do this".  We love to make rules only to feed our pride in keeping them.  Jesus, you are never as concerned with our rules and rituals as you are with our relationship with you and with each other.  It's not about trying to earn your favor.  Your favor, love and forgiveness are freely given to me based on what you, my Lord and Savior, have already done and "all my righteous acts are as filthy rags" compared to the sacrifice you made.  It's not about me.  It's about what You've done for me.  It's about living life according to your Spirit, walking in step with You, and responding to Your leading, Lord.  It's about obedience.

"Obedience is better than sacrifice." -1 Samuel 15:22

And so I give up...give everything up to You.

And I give in...to life according to your Spirit.

"God's Spirit beckons. There are things to do and places to go! This resurrection life you received from God is not a timid, grave-tending life. It's adventurously expectant, greeting God with a childlike "What's next, Papa?" God's Spirit touches our spirits and confirms who we really are. We know who he is, and we know who we are: Father and children. And we know we are going to get what's coming to us - an unbelievable inheritance! We go through exactly what Christ goes through. If we go through the hard times with him, then we're certainly going to go through the good times with him!"  Romans 8:14-17

So, what's next, Papa?

I'm "adventurously expectant"!

Giving up is only a beginning.

Your girl


An Art Party...and the twins turn six!

Well, the twins didn't technically have a birthday this year.  There was no 29th of February.  But my leap day babies turned six anyway even though for once I wished the calendar was right.  I love watching these two become such wonderful individuals.  They've always been unique.  And even from birth we could tell they were polar opposites.  From that first night we held twin babies in our arms, amazed at God's grace and the miracle gift they were, we noticed and celebrated their differences.  Boston's eyes rarely closed, big and bright and expressive, he studied our faces intently.  Astair was content and peaceful, relaxed and trusting in our arms.  And now at six, those birth traits have not changed.  Boston is all heart and passion and fierce determination.  He's an expressive extrovert who has never met a person he didn't love and has a knack for remembering everyone's names.  He loves big and deep.  Astair is sunny, soulful, and quietly confident.  She's independent and creative, strong and kind.  She has such a warm and easy manner and quickly befriends people.  Every now and then I'll see glimpses of the womb bond they share.  Boston will always be Astair's champion.  He encourages her, loves to brag on her.  And Astair will always be his faithful friend.

For their birthday this year, we decided to have an Art Party.  These two love art (and their mama does too) so it was the perfect idea.  I let the kids paint the backdrop for the party on a white sheet I bought from the thrift store.  And as a tradition, they each got to choose their cake design and I baked my heart out all day long.  They helped me make the rice krispy paint brushes and the marshmallow paintbrushes, too.   And their daddy cut and whitewashed boards to use as 'canvases' for each guest to paint.  It was the perfect day for painting on the lawn.

I really love making memories like these for each of my children.  And while I'm still a fan of low key, relaxing family b-days, my kids love parties and I really enjoy decorating and baking and all out celebrating these wildly precious kids of mine.  I just recently read a quote that "we have only 940 Saturdays with our children before they graduate" and it makes me treasure these fleeting weekends, weekdays, week-moments with them all the more.

I love you, Boston and Astair!  God dreams big for you!  Don't ever forget that you're His masterpiece.  His work of art, His labor of love.


Why Pray? Answers to questions kids ask (and us grownups, too) Pt. 2

 "Why do we pray to God to take care of the children?"  Bobby asked, "I should think he would want to do it."... -Tell Me About Prayer, pg 47

Have you ever tucked your child into bed at night and somewhere in your hushed prayers, God brought  another picture to your mind, of a child with no one to tuck them in at night? No one to kiss their cheek and whisper an "I love you"?  Did it unsettle you as much as it does me?  Or maybe your little one asked to pray for all the kids that are cold and hungry and don't have a home to live in and in their voice you heard a sadness that echoed your own?  Were the words to these prayers hard to form past the lump in your throat?  And did your prayers seem like they were inconsequential compared to such incomparable darkness?  This story from the book Tell Me About Prayer by Mary Alice Jones has such a heartening (and quickening!) answer to those questions that can haunt us the most about the pain and desperate needs of this world. 

"Bobby and Mary and their mother and daddy were coming home from their church.  A visitor had been there.  He had told the people about some children who were hungry and cold and sick.  All the people at church had prayed that God would help the children.
  "Why do we pray to God to take care of the children?"  Bobby asked, "I should think he would want to do it."
   "That isn't really what we prayed for, son," his daddy said.  "Do you remember? We prayed that the children would know God was loving them.  We prayed that God would help us to want to share with them."
   Bobby remembered.  "But why do we have to take care of them?  Why doesn't God do it?" he wanted to know.
  "Would you like to live in a world where people did not love each other and help each other, Bobby? Where there were no kind people to help sick children be well?  Would it be a good world if nobody thought of anybody else?  But everybody thought only of what he wanted and of how to get his own way?"
  Bobby thought about that for a minute.  "And nobody took turns or gave presents or shared?  No, that would not be a good world," he decided.
  "God knew when he planned our world that people would not be happy unless they thought of each other and helped each other.  And so he planned it that way."
  "Tell me more about it."
  "He left some things for people to do for each other.  Mothers and fathers and teachers and doctors to help boys and girls to share with one another.  And people in all nations to help each other.  If people are selfish or mean, others suffer.  That is the way the world is made." 
  Bobby thought some more.  "And if we pray, does God make us remember to help other people?  Is that the way he takes care of them?"
  "That is not the only way God takes care of them, Bobby, but it is one important way.  When we pray for other people, God helps us to think of ways we can help them.  He helps doctors to think of ways to take care of children.  And he helps the people we pray for to be better because they feel that we love them and are praying for them."
   "I think God has helped us to know ways we can help take care of the children we heard about at church," Mother said.  "I know we could send them some cereal."
  "And I could send them one of my sweaters," Bobby said.
  "I could send them one of my sweaters, too," Mary said.
  "And I could take some money out of the bank and give it to the man to buy some milk for them," Daddy said.
  "But the man said there were so many children," Bobby remembered.  "I think we should ask God to help lots and lots of people to want to send them something."
  "And to help the children to know that he loves them always," Mother added.
  "And to help the children to know that we love them, too," Mary said.
  So they prayed for the children who were hungry and cold and sick.  And they made some prayers for other people who needed help, too."    Tell Me About Prayer, pgs 48-49

After my husband read this story to our children, their faces lit up as they offered to give their treasured possessions to someone who might be in need of them.  Astair said she would give her piggy bank, Boston wanted to give his baseballs (and teach them how to play), Legend offered to give them his pillow, and Thaddeus wanted to invent something for them that would make their life better.  It tears me up to think about it.  But I don't want it to be just another tear jerker.  Honestly, it has fanned a flame that's been burning in my soul for a long time.  The burning of a love that consumes every shadow of darkness, and won't be contained, can't be restrained, and although it sputters, it refuses to go out.

I remember that year my husband was preparing for a mission trip to Haiti.  We found the small half of an island on our globe and talked and prayed with our kids over daddy's upcoming trip.  We prayed that daddy would be the hands and feet and hugs of Jesus to little orphans so in need of love.  And my oldest, then six years old, had deep questions to ask about orphans and when we explained that orphans had no mommies and daddies, he stated so matter-of-factly, "Well, why don't we pray that daddy can bring them mommies and daddies?"   I'll never forget the look my husband and I shared over the top of a spinning globe that was blurring as our eyes spilled over it.  That prayer was so right.  

And I remember our conversation afterwards... the one in which we prayed we would always be willing to be the answer to the prayers we pray for someone else.  

I remember that prayer and my heart wants to beat down every excuse I've erected since then...every opportunity to be the answer God wanted to use, that I might have missed, or I put off until tomorrow.

And love isn't something I can put off until tomorrow....when prayer becomes not just words we say, but a way we love.

"My brothers and sisters, if a person claims to have faith but does nothing, that faith is worth nothing.  Faith like that cannot save anyone.  Suppose a brother or sister in Christ comes to you in need of clothes or something to eat.  And you say to them, "God be with you!  I hope you stay warm and get plenty to eat," but you don't give them the things they need.  If you don't help them, your words are worthless.  It is the same with faith.  If it is just faith and nothing more--if it doesn't do anything--it is dead." -James 2:14-17


P.S. Thank you to all who entered the giveaway! The winner was Jamie H. and was notified by e-mail :)


Why Pray? Answers to questions kids ask (and us grown ups too)... Pt. 1


"I'm not going to pray anymore," Bobby announced.  
His mother looked at him.  "Aren't you, son?"
"Just look at that rain," Bobby went on. "I asked God to send a nice day today for the school trip.  I asked him two nights,  And he didn't."
"Is that why you pray, Bobby?  To tell God what He should do?"
Bobby thought a minute.  Then he looked uncomfortable.  "That doesn't sound right, does it?  That I should tell God what to do?"
"Not if you trust God, son.  This is a very great world.  There is a great deal about it that we have not learned to understand.  We might make some bad mistakes if God let us tell Him what to do....Right this minute I know some people are glad it is raining.  I think they are saying, 'Thank God for the rain', because their fields need rain to make the grain grow."....
"You can always talk with God about whatever you want to talk with him about, Bobby.  But I think it is not good to tell God what to do, and be angry when he does not do it.  I think it is better to ask God to help us know what he wants us to do with what we have."  
-Tell Me About Prayer by Mary Alice Jones

When a children's book can comfort, convict, and inspire and answer those questions the harbored child in your heart asks, and you can't put it down, but re-read every single page...you know it's a good one.  There are those books that are written once in a century whose words never grow old, they are timeless tomes of wisdom.  They are not written in wordy, flowery, exhaustive sentences, but in simple profound truth that has more power to change lives than one thousand theological expositions.  Tell Me About Prayer by Mary Alice Jones is just such a book.  (an interesting side note:  Mary wrote this book in 1949 and she spent most of her life educating children about God, she also received her Ph.D. from Yale and became the first woman teacher at Yale Divinity School).

It was Sunday night.  I heard the steady cadence of my husband's voice reading to the kids upstairs and I wondered at how still they had become.  Usually we read and a circus troop of acrobats perform.  But this night was different.  Afterwards, my husband came downstairs, excited to share with me the treasure he had found nearly forgotten on a bookshelf.  And I was all eyes and ears, not remembering the last time he was excited about a book.  I'm the one that gets all giddy over written words.  I was surprised to find my name written on the first page, in my Grandma Ruby's script.  How had I missed this gift?

We both read the story again, and then a third time, savoring the deep of it, wondering at the wisdom of it, thankful for the way it spelled out the questions every child's heart wonders and then gave a carefully considered and heavily weighted answer.  This is gold for every parent, every sunday school teacher, every person whose questions still nag at their heart or who have wondered how to give an answer to those who seek.  Because sometimes we honestly don't know.  There are things about God that are too deep for our shallow minds.  And I love how the author, Mary, reaffirms this.  It's not our lack of knowing the answer that makes the question burdensome, but rather our lack of understanding the character of God.

HE is the answer.  He has not hidden WHO HE IS from us.  He has displayed his character for us throughout Scripture.  There is much about the world and the way God governs it that we may never understand, but God invites us to know HIM intimately.  And prayer is one of the ways we do that.

"Then you will call on me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you.  You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." Jeremiah 29:12-14  

"My heart has heard you say, 'Come and talk with me.'  And my heart responds, 'Lord, I am coming.'"  Psalm 27:8

Something beautiful happens when we pray, when we seek God, when we respond to his eager invitation.  It becomes an honest conversation in which God reveals to us not only His own heart, but ours as well.

"One day Bobby was reading a paper his teacher at church had sent him.  He read, "God knows what you have need of before you ask him."
"Is that true, Mother?"  Bobby wanted to know.
"Yes, I think that is true, Bobby."
"Then why do we say our prayers?  Why should we tell him when he knows already?"
"Let me ask you another question, Bobby.  Do Mother and Daddy know what food is good for you to eat, and do they plan it for you?"
Bobby nodded his head.  His mother went on.
"But what would happen if you didn't eat the good good?"
"I would not grow.  I would be hungry."
"It is something like that with praying, son.  God plans for us to have the things that are best for us and to live the way that is best for us.  But if we do not know what he plans for us, we often get into trouble.  Or we do not get something good that God would like for us to have.   Or we do not do something good that God would like for us to do.  So we need to talk things over with God."
"Like with you and Daddy?"  Bobby asked.
"Something like that, Bobby.  God is very great.  We do not understand all about his plans for us.  But if we talk things over with him, he can help us understand."
"How does he?  How does he help us know?"
"Some good ideas which we had never thought of, we will think of.  Some good ways of doing things that we had never tried, we will decide to try.  Some good plans which we had never made, we will make."
"I thought praying was telling God about things," Bobby said.  "Is it letting God tell us about things?"
"I think God wants us to tell him everything we want to tell him, Bobby.  But sometimes we are so busy telling God things that we do not stop to listen.  He wants us to listen, too.  There is so much we need to know."...
And so Bobby and his mother prayed a listening prayer.
-Tell Me About Prayer by Mary Alice Jones, pages 53-54

And it really is that simple.  Talking to God and listening for what He would tell us as well.  Waiting on Him.  Just being with Him.  And most of all, trusting Him.  Trusting that He hears and that He cares.  That he has a plan for us to partner with Him.

And then you can ask your kids (or yourself) these questions and let God be the answer....

Are you lonely?
Are you doubting?
Are you angry?
Are you scared?
Do you need understanding?
Or maybe just a little light for tomorrow?

You can pray and "talk things over" with God.
He'll listen.  He always does.
And you might be surprised by what He'll show you when you take the time to listen, too...


Valentine's Day Giveaway!!!

V  A  L  E  N  T  I  N  E '  S     G  I  V  E  A  W  A  Y  !

Just as a way to say "thank you" to all my dear friends who have faithfully read my ramblings here and stuck with me through my sporadic blogging adventures!  I am so thankful for every single one of you, friends near and far, many that have known me since childhood and others I have never seen but still love and know just as dearly.  You have blessed me with your words, with your e-mails, with your friendship, and I pray this day you will know that you are loved.

I'm excited to introduce three shops to you that are close to my heart.  The women behind these shops inspire me daily and I know you will be just as blessed by their creative and genuine hearts as I have been.  At the end of this post will be the entry form and you can receive multiple entries for each direction you follow.  I'll announce the winner next FRIDAY!  xo

My dearest friend, Erin Stargel, is giving away a $125 custom video editing package from her new esty shop Leigh Star Editing!  I am so excited about this gift!  Just think of all the photos and videos of your little ones that you have laying around and have always wanted to make a video of!  Or maybe you're like me and your wedding video was less than stellar (so dark we could hardly make out our faces!) and you would love to re-create a keepsake video for the two of you.   Erin has also created meaningful timeline videos for loved ones that have passed away, for graduates, and for birthdays.    Erin has been editing videos professionally for Sonburst Communications for many years.  She decided to work from home when her sweet daughter Grace Ann was born over a year ago and her newest little baby girl Ella Mae was born in January.  Erin is close to my heart.  We were roommates in college and while I was always on the phone talking to Joel (now my husband) she was hard at work on her multimedia degree.  She's been a source of encouragement and support and just real, genuine friendship to me for so many years.

You can view her work under the product description in her etsy store and here is a link to one of her latest videos:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bLjPxayV99Q&feature=youtu.be

Don't you love when you get cards in the mail?  I just received a letter from a friend the other day and I couldn't stop smiling.  There's something so personal about snail mail, in reading the scrawling script of a friend you miss and knowing they poured their heart into something you could hold in your hands.  This is exactly how I feel about Aneta Nina's sweet little stationery shop Give With Joy.  She makes adorable cards that will inspire you to sit down and write a note to that friend who's been on your heart.

Her shop in her words:
"When  I was young, I would sprint to the mailbox in hopes that someone sent me a letter or a package. I usually came inside with bills for my mom - she loved getting mail :). Yet, that never hindered me from running back to the mailbox with the same hope each day.
Fast forward to today, well, you will find me hoarding the mail key from my husband so I can be the first to check the mail. I love receiving and giving gifts in the smallest form. Who doesn't feel loved and overwhelmed with joy when they get a little "hello" card on a Wednesday! 
That's why I started 'give with JOY'. I wanted to bring joy into many homes and inspire you to do the same. Let's give someone a reason to smile when they open their mail. "
Aneta Nina is also offering 15% off everything in her store to my readers.  Just visit her shop and enter JOYE14 at the checkout!

Have you heard about No. 41??  This ministry is on my heart daily.  I love the hearts of the women behind it.  They inspire me to dream big, love bigger, and that with God anything is possible and we can change the world.  This is love in action.  I really can't describe it any better than what Tara wrote on the No. 41 blog:

"In December 2010, after a two-week mission trip, I followed my little broken heart back to Rwanda, begging God to use me in any way He saw fit. I didn’t have a plan, but I trusted that He did.

In June 2011, I moved into the Noel Orphanage, home to 500+ children ranging in age from a few weeks to their late 20’s. While I got my feet on the ground, I loved on babies, played countless games of soccer, and taught English. By December of that year, I had a list and a plan. So many things I saw going on around me bothered me, but I decided to zero in on two, the oldest girls and the local school lunch program (or lack thereof).

At the time, there were, roughly, 100 young adults over the age of 18 living in the Noel Orphanage. With no family and limited resources, the prospect of university or becoming gainfully employed was low. Along with that, confidence was low, dreams were small, and hope was almost non-existent. It was important, not only to provide a means of sustainable employment doing a culturally relevant trade for these girls, but also to remind them that they were created for a great purpose, by an even greater God. We all have been given gifts and talents and, once realized, we should spend those helping others. That is where the feeding program came in.

In our village there are three secondary schools, grades 7-12, and these students go to school all day, most without eating. The schools, generally, offer a 20-minute break for lunch where children who live close enough or have money, may go home to go to the market to eat. Most do not.

No.41 started on a whim and a prayer in March 2012, with 16 girls from Noel. The girls would be earing a fair wage sewing bags and selling them, mostly in the US, with 100% of the profits going to feed students at local schools. The idea was: FOR ONE child. FOR ONE meal. FOR ONE year. For just $75, a young woman earns a sustainable income and a child receives a hot, healthy lunch everyday at school. By the end of April, No.41 employed 32 girls, with a fairly substantial waiting list, and by February 2013, the No.41 girls were feeding 870 students and 36 teachers, from their own community, every day.

All that has transpired at No.41 is beyond my wildest dreams. We have had ten girls move themselves out of the orphanage and we now have 19 enrolled in university. We have career fairs and business trainings, Bible study and English class. I never believed this couldn’t happen, but I never imagined it would happen like this. No.41 is a testament to all that God wants to do in you and through you, if you’ll just say, yes."

Pretty incredible, right.  God can do amazing things with a willing heart and eager hands.

The winner gets to choose one item from their shop.  And I love every single item listed.  So go show them some love and support!

H A P P Y   V A L E N T I N E ' S   D A Y  !


Related Posts with Thumbnails

Do ask. Do tell.

Page copy protected against web site content infringement by Copyscape