Word of the Year 2018

The last few weeks I was asking myself the question, What’s the opposite of fear?

God answers a question in funny ways sometimes. It wasn’t the answer I expected, but it was the answer that was right in front of my face.

I had tried to answer the question on my own, going down a rabbit hole of online thesaurus entries. I had gone to Google instead of God.

Google makes me feel like I’m somewhat solving my problems, because isn’t research the first step to a solution? When I need an answer, I sometimes go to God, but I almost always go to Google. My safety net when I’m stressed is Googling, planning, and worrying. Google always has an answer, even when that answer is buried in a message board, contained in a comment made by someone who most likely has no idea what they are talking about.
— Amena Brown, How to Fix a Broken Record

The reason I wanted to know the opposite of fear was because I thought it would make an excellent word of the year for 2018. (Yes, I still haven’t settled on a word yet, and it is almost March. Better late than never.)

Last night, attending my IF:Local, God gave me the answer so clearly that I felt almost silly that I hadn’t found it. I also felt so loved and seen. God hears our unspoken questions.

When God’s Word hits you smack in the face, sometimes it doesn’t hurt as much as it feels like an overpowering hug from a toddler without knowledge of his own strength.

At the beginning of the year, I was trying to figure out what word I should use for my word of the year. I couldn’t tell you. I could tell you what I didn’t want for 2018. I didn’t want more fear-driven good behavior, fear-driven people pleasing, or pride-driven good works. I have been working on letting go of those things so hard that I wrote a book about it

I knew I didn’t want fear driving my year in any way. Thus my search for the opposite of fear.

The key verse for 2018’s IF:Gathering was 2 Timothy 1:7, and it says this, “for God gave us a spirit not of fear, but of power, love, and self-control.

God just flat out told me the opposite of fear in that one Bible verse, and I laughed in delight and wonder.

Here’s the hilarious thing. I’ve been podcasting about the opposite of fear this last month, and I didn’t even recognize what I was doing.

In my Quiet series for the DevoPod, I dedicated part of the study to breaking out of quiet through serving in God’s dynamite power.

God’s power is absolutely the opposite of fear. God’s power is full of love and it comes more easily if we are connected to our source of self-control or a sound mind, His Word.

It is so clear what my word for 2018 is because I’ve already been thinking about it, writing about it, and trying to live wrapped up in it. It is dynamite.

Eat your heart out J. J.!

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I shared this on Day 11 of the Quiet series on the DevoPod.  The Greek dunamis loosely refers to “strength, power, or ability.” It is the root word of our English words dynamite, dynamo and dynamic.

We can take comfort that we can serve in God’s dynamic, dynamite strength.

If you are one of those people who know a lot about God’s Word or maybe have the Logos app, you might say that the word Paul used for power in this verse is actually translated from the Greek word dunameos, meaning miraculous power, might strength from the root dunamai. I would say, why are you being a party pooper? And it is a verb related to the cognate-noun dynamis. And please be nice to me because I’m not a Bible scholar, and I’m being upfront with that. I’m just a girl studying God’s Word, like we all are empowered to do.

If you are one of those people who know a lot about science, you might say that dynamite wasn’t invented in the first century when Paul wrote this letter to Timothy. I would also say, why are you being a party pooper? I am not one of those people who know a lot about science, but I can Google it and see that Alfred Nobel invented it in 1867. He named it from this greek word dunamis calling it Nobels Extradynamit, and “J.J.” Jimmy Walker didn’t make it fun to say until 1974 so what of it?

So that’s my word for 2018: Dynamite

It’s already been an amazing year! Check out our adoption update!

What about you?  Have you chosen your word for 2018? Do you have dreams and struggles coming up this year and need some focus? It's not too late to do this fun, focusing exercise. Sign up to receive my Word of the Year Worsheet by email if you need a little help finding your word.

This song is so stinkin' good! So many of our fears are silly in the light of eternity. It's such a good reminder to love, love, love.

Was it for me?

I want you to read a section of Scripture that you might not be familiar with. I don't think I've ever heard a sermon preached on this. I know I've never read it and comprehended it until this year, but this section of Scripture has been weaving around my brain for two solid months now, and I've been so affected by it that I want to share it with every person I know. It has broken me. It has led me to confession and repentance. It has comforted me in times of distress. It has become a value I use to make decisions. It has helped me to better understand God, and that's no small thing.

In the fourth year of King Darius, the word of the Lord came to Zechariah on the fourth day of the ninth month, which is Chislev. Now the people of Bethel had sent Sharezer and Regem-melech and their men to entreat the favor of the Lord, saying to the priests of the house of the Lord of hosts and the prophets, ‘Should I weep and abstain in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?’

Then the word of the Lord of hosts came to me: ‘Say to all the people of the land and the priests, ‘When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted? And when you eat and when you drink, do you not eat for yourselves and drink for yourselves? Were not these the words that the Lord proclaimed by the former prophets, when Jerusalem was inhabited and prosperous, with her cities around her, and the South and the lowland were inhabited?’

And the word of the Lord came to Zechariah, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.’ But they refused to pay attention and turned a stubborn shoulder and stopped their ears that they might not hear. They made their hearts diamond-hard lest they should hear the law and the words that the Lord of hosts had sent by his Spirit through the former prophets. Therefore great anger came from the Lord of hosts. ‘As I called, and they would not hear, so they called, and I would not hear,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘and I scattered them with a whirlwind among all the nations that they had not known. Thus the land they left was desolate, so that no one went to and fro, and the pleasant land was made desolate.’
— Zachariah 7:1-14 ESV

Let me try to clear up what is going on here because there are some words and backstory that I didn't know. After the Israelites were taken into exile, they had no temple and therefore no place of worship. They began the religious observance of fasting on four significant days around their exile. They fasted on the day the siege of Jerusalem began, the day the wall of Jerusalem was broken through, the day the temple was destroyed, and the day their high priest was murdered. In my mind, I've always pictured Jerusalem's fall happening in a slow-motion movie sequence that lasts only a few days. The reality of these events recorded in Scripture shows that the destruction of Jerusalem and exile of God's people was a series of horrific, traumatic violence that lasting at least 10 months.

The word Chislev in the first paragraph is the name of a month in the Jewish calendar, the third month to be exact. At the beginning of the fifth month was when the Jewish people would fast in remembrance and mourning of the destruction of the temple. 

You also need to know that the exile had ended, many of the Israelites had returned to Jerusalem, and the temple was in the process of being restored.

When the men came to ask the priests, “Should I weep and abstain in the fifth month, as I have done for so many years?” what they were asking was could they stop fasting in mourning of the destruction of the temple now that the temple was being rebuilt?

The people had just fasted the month before in remembrance of the destruction of the wall. The was not yet rebuilt, and it wouldn't be rebuilt for another 70 years. The people didn't really want to fast, and they thought they could get off the hook for one of the four fasts since the temple was now being restored.

God cut right to the people's heart issues when He gave Zechariah these prophetic words: "When you fasted and mourned in the fifth month and in the seventh, for these seventy years, was it for me that you fasted?"

God sliced away every bit of the outside, surface, distracting baggage, and He shined a spotlight on the heart of His people.

Was it for me?

With these words, God swept away the religious acts, the busyness of their hands, the pious physical actions, the empty observances, the outwardly sacred, the pride-building sacrificial compliance, and He uncovered the barrenness of their feelings towards their God.

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Was it for me?

Here's where this account of our God becomes so beautiful to me. God doesn't do what I would expect Him to do. He doesn't lecture His people on how they need to actually love their God. God points to who He loves, and says love these people. 

These are the words God gives. “Thus says the Lord of hosts, Render true judgments, show kindness and mercy to one another, do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”

God cuts deeper into their already exposed hearts, and He points out their lack of justice, love, and mercy. He reminds the people of the lawless, heartless sins that lead to hard-hearted people that were allowed by God to be exiled.

This is where my heart shatters. I look around at our American church and I don't see a focus on justice, love, and mercy. I see a focus on religious acts, busyness of hands, pious physical actions, empty observances, outwardly sacred, and pride-building sacrificial compliance. I see a focus on defending political views as if they are sacred while ignoring the sacredness of showing mercy to the sojourner (which would include foreign refugees.) I see a focus on following rules while distancing themselves from those who are poor or oppressed.

I look at my own heart that is exposed. I see pride, selfishness, and hurry instead of love, mercy, and seeking justice.

I look at my religious weekly activities. I let God ask me, "Was it for me?"

Sometimes I don't like my answer.

I think of the praise song we sometimes sing when we join with other parts of our Church, "Break my heart for what breaks Yours." Here we have God plainly lining out what breaks His heart: lies and corruption in justice, people who don't show kindness and mercy (giving others more than they deserve), oppressing the vulnerable, not caring for the temporary stranger, and not caring for the poor.

My heart breaks for these things, and I feel unbelievable comfort when I realize God cares more than I do about injustice.

My trip-ups in my twenty years of ministry haven't always been neglecting the poor or seeking justice. I've been serving in urban, missional church in the heart of my city sharing the love of Jesus with the vulnerable.

My heart issue comes when I allow God to ask me that question about my ministry: "Was it for me?"

Was I feeding children for God's benefit? Was I serving the poor because it was God's will, and was I serving each of those faces because Matthew 25 tells me that those faces were Jesus himself?

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If I allow God to slice into my human heart, I see emotions that shouldn't be present in these religious actions with my hands. I see pride. I've gotten something out of the service, and I am not honest with myself when I don't recognize it and repent of it.

It feels good to serve. Look at me. Look at the sacrifices I am making to love and care for the overlooked, vulnerable, hurting people of my city. I read the end of James, chapter one, and I boast that I'm doing religion right. I feel sorry for the suckers sitting in "regular church."

And God says, "Jennifer, was it for me?"

I can care for the poor, the refugee, the widow, and the orphan, and still, I am not God. I don't deserve the praise.

I can give up comfortable church to serve in a missional church for twenty years, and still, I am not God. No one should pat me on the back.

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If our motivations are wrong (if you are human, your motivations will be wrong), we should stop what we are doing and figure out what God is doing.

This doesn't mean we cease to care for the vulnerable. Instead, we daily take a pause to repent of our pride and ask God what we can do for Him.

He daily asks, "Was it for me?"

We honestly answer. We hope we can answer that we acted out of love. We hope we can answer we did it for His glory and not our own.

Word tbd

The last few years I've participated in the practice of picking a word of the year.

This year I'm stuck in the process, and it just isn't happening.

Maybe it is because I feel like I completely failed at 2017's word. I failed so badly that by summer I couldn't even tell you what my word was because I couldn't remember. Not even knowing what the word was, I knew for sure that I hadn't lived into it. How could I have? My life was a mess.

Some healing happened in the fall, but healing doesn't mean fixed. The last few days of 2017 I may have physically been going through the motions, but emotionally I was flat on my face.

I looked this morning to see what my 2017 word was because I still couldn't remember. It was confidence.

When I think of living in confidence, I picture those cute little toys I loved as a kid, Weebles. Remember "Weebles wobble but they don't fall down?" Weebles had these rounded bottoms that were weighted in the way that they bounced back up.

That was not my experience in 2017. I weebled, I woobled, I fell down. I didn't live in confidence in anything.

I failed at ministry, parenting, trust in God, family relationships, goals. We had a failed adoption referral in February, and we started over with a new referral in April.

I was so grateful to start a new year. 2018 is here, and it has got to be better! After recovering from strep, I began all the new year goal-building exercises. I reviewed my 2017 planner, made lists of what worked and what didn't, downloaded Jennie Allen's Dream Guide, and started my word of the year worksheet.

I've filled out half of my word of the year worksheet, and I'm stuck. I'm reluctant. I failed so badly at remaining confident in God and myself in 2017. Was I just bad at knowing my situation or self at the beginning of last year or was I just bad a knowing the future?

2018's word is still to be determined.

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I don't know what God has for me in 2018, and I'm going to need more time getting quiet.

What I do know is that I ended 2017 on my face, and when I look at Scripture, being on your face wasn't a bad place to be. It usually meant something good was happening. It usually is done when a person is in the presence of God (Genesis, 17:3, Numbers 20:6, Ezekial 1:28, Luke 5:12, Revelations 7:11) or expressing worship (1 Kings 18:39, 1 Chronicles 29:20, Matthew 2:11, Matthew 17:6).

It also could mean something bad had happened. Face down is an expression of fear or mourning (Isaiah 15:3, Joshua 7:6).

I am in mourning of the losses and changes our life is going through. I am in fear of the changes that are inevitable in 2018. I feel very unsure of what 2018 holds.

I've repented of the times I lost confidence in the love, sovereignty, and goodness of God in the past year. I'm forgiven. I'm loved. 

Right now I'm staying on my face for a little while longer. I'll let you know when that changes.

I'm on my face in mourning. Mourning doesn't make people comfortable, but it is a necessary part of healing.

I'm on my face in worship.

I'm on my face listening and asking for healing.

While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy. And when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and begged him, ‘Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.’ And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, ‘I will; be clean.’ And immediately the leprosy left him. And he charged him to tell no one, but ‘go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to them.’ But now even more the report about him went abroad, and great crowds gathered to hear him and to be healed of their infirmities. But he would withdraw to desolate places and pray.
— Luke 5:12-16 ESV

Want to pick a word for 2018? Subscribe to my email newsletter, and I will email you the worksheet.

Merry Christmas from the Lane family!

Merry Christmas!

Our two boys had fun making this silly greeting for you and your family. Gabe has been obsessed with Nutcrackers since I took him to see the ballet with friends a few weeks ago. That was the inspiration here.

On a more serious note, I wanted to share this illustrated poem that James, my poet-at-heart husband, wrote. He produced it for the tv show for Citychurch. He hired a voice actor to bring it to life, and he used his video production skills to make it very cool. James is so good at portraying emotions. This poem is the Christmas story from Joseph's point of view.

I wrote and produced this for our upcoming Christmas show. Check it out. Merry Christmas!

Posted by James Lane on Monday, December 18, 2017

I hope you enjoyed our silly and serious Christmas videos. We are praying your Christmas is filled with love, joy, peace, and hope!

We love you all! Love, James, Jennifer, Lucy, Andrew, Gabe, (and soon Hezekiah)!

Fall Lessons

The week before Thanksgiving, I went to a week-long ministry retreat with my husband. It was amazing to get away from day-to-day life for that long. The only time my husband and I have been away from home that long is on short-term mission trips. Being away to rest and renew in the mountains was a completely new experience.

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You may never have an opportunity to have that experience so I want to share some things I learned. (The retreat was called SonScape. If you're interested, email me and I'll give you more details.) 

Here are five things I learned in my week of retreat:

1. I learned that I'm better at knowing other people than I am at knowing myself.

I learned about Myers-Briggs personality types, and I learned that I am an INFJ. That means I am: introverted (I prefer to focus on my inner world), iNtuitive (I focus first on the big picture), feeler (I think about people and feelings over logic), Judging (I get satisfaction from completing tasks and long for closure to all problems.)  Because I am an intuitive feeler, that means I have deep thoughts and deep feelings.

It was much easier to spot how other people in my life might fit into one of the sixteen personality types than it was to know that my personality type fits me. I am also actually less introverted than I thought I was. I am only slightly-introverted. I enjoy being around people more than I thought I did. I am just picky about who I want to spend time with because I am such a deep feeler, I don't want to spend time with people who can't go deep with me or I don't feel they are safe to share my deep feelings with. The problem with this is that my personality type is the rarest, meaning there aren't a lot of people who like to go deep like I do. INFJ is only 1% of the population. That means I would have to meet 100 people before I would find another INFJ. My husband has a more frequent personality type. He could meet 11 people, and chances are one of those people would be the same personality type that he is. We even have more than one of his personality types in our immediate families. So I'm on a mission to find another INFJ to be friends with. If you are reading this and you are an INFJ, let me know!

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2. Play is part of Sabbath

Sabbath was made for us. We need it. God does not need Sabbath. (Mark 2:27) The purpose of Sabbath is not a religious testing to see if we can sit still for 24 hours. It is a time of putting down our work. That's really the only requirement, we are to not work. (Exodus 20:8-11)

In God's Word, we are never called the adults of God. We are children of God, and just like play is an integral part of child development, playing is necessary for children of God too. Beautiful times of pure worship can happen in the middle of play.

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3. An awesome definition of fear

Our retreat leaders suggested we listen to a Brennan Manning sermon that was on an iPod in our cabin. The sermon was so wonderful. One of my favorite parts of the sermon was Brennan's definition of fear:

Fear - silent wonder, radical amazement, and affectionate awe at the infinite goodness of God.
— Brennan Manning

So often we associate having fear of God with the idea that God is dangerous, likely to cause us pain or that God is a threat, but this isn't the emotion of fear that God demands from us. Brennan's definition of fear is a relief for an anxious person such as me. 

4. Emotional health affects our spiritual health

Much of my quiet times at the retreat was focused on the work I've been doing in therapy. Getting my head and heart to a healthy place is very important to ministry and my Spirit, my relationship with God.

Getting healthy will require us to pull back the veneer. It won’t happen until we’re serious enough to get honest, own our stuff, and take responsibility for our soul care. We’ll need to go to some of the most private corners of our soul... dark places where personal ambition, insecurity, fear, and brokeness reside. These and other lurking soul predators would love to devour you, those you live and your ministry.
— Lance Witt, Replentish

Emotional health pursuits like therapy, journaling, meditating, breathing, reading self-help books, creating quiet, leaving margin, and having boundaries might sound like it has nothing to do with your spiritual life, but it is crucial to your relationship with God. You are a whole person, and God has called you to love him with your whole self (mind, body, and spirit.)

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5. We need all need healthy, weekly rhythms of rest and quiet.

Our retreat journal said this, "It is not the people around us that are holding us back from a life of deep intimacy with Jesus. It is not the people around us who are keeping us addicted to busyness and noise. It is ourselves." 

We have to take responsibility for our choices. We need to make decisions that will plan times during our week that allow us to get quiet and ask these questions: 1. Who is God? 2. Who did God make me to be? 3. What is God doing in my world? 4. How can I be a part of what God is doing?

Here’s what I want you to do: Find a quiet, secluded place so you won’t be tempted to role-play before God. Just be there as simply and honestly as you can manage. The focus will shift from you to God, and you will begin to sense his grace.
— Matthew 6:6 The Message
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I learned so much more than these five things, but these were my favorite new lessons I couldn't wait to share with you. It would be impossible to fit all seven days into these few words. If you are in ministry (whether you are feeling burnout or not at that point yet) I know a SonScape Retreat will impact your ministry life for the better.

If you want to share what you've learned this fall, check out Emily P. Freeman's What We Learned Link-up.

Christmas Shopping Guide - Ethiopia Edition

For several years I've made a list of great gift options that were fair trade and/or sourced from small businesses.

This year, I'm not even going to pretend I don't have a favorite gift source. It's Ethiopia. If you have a chance during your holiday shopping to send some love to that beautiful country that has part of my heart, do it.

Here's some good gift giving options:

 

1. Happy Car Baby Blanket, $89, from Little Gabies, purchase on Yogaso Site or Amazon.

2. Ethiopian Coffee from Story Co., $16, purchase here.

3. Ammo Bracelet, $14, from Addis Jemari, purchase here.

4. Burlap Christmas Stockings, $20, from Carry 117, purchase here.

1. Handmade Tan Korah Tote, $199, from Carry 117, purchase here.

2. Confidant Necklace, $68, from Noonday Collections, purchase here.

3. Peppermint Lip Balm, $3, from Mare Naturals, purchase here.

4. Men's Nkrumahs Brown, $220, from ENZI Footwear, purchase here.

1. White & Blue Striped Cotton Kitchen Towel, $20, from Sabahar, purchase here.

2. Eyerusalem Passport Wallet, $35, from Able, purchase here.

3. Azeb iPad Sleeve - Slate, $23, from Raven and Lily, purchase here.

4. Kyah Baby Shoes, $36, from Parker Clay, purchase here.


So there you have it! Twelve beautiful things you can gift this holiday plus show some Ethiopia love.

Happy shopping!

Still need ideas? Previous years' Christmas gift guides: 2016, 2015, 2014, and 2013.

Merry Christmas!

Need a Calendar?

Uncovering from a shame blanket and relishing the robe of righteousness

I have been buried in emotion, and I've been seeing an emotion pro (otherwize known as a therapist) to help me dig out.  One thing that happens to me when I have deep feelings is that my brain gets hijacked.  I am overcome with feelings of rejection and I cannot think clearly.

We've identified a few triggers that send me into panic.  Anytime I perceive I'm being ignored, feel unwanted, or feel rejected, I believe that I am unsafe.  I am sent into flight mode, and I withdraw myself from the situation that is causing me stress.

My therapist has also told me that I have a shame blanket.  This means that almost every feeling I have has an element of shame linked to it.  I feel like I've done something wrong to cause the stress.  I've caused others to reject me.  I don't even think about it.  Whatever the feeling I'm having or feeling I perceive others have about me, I immediately feel:  it is my fault.

Just knowing I have a shame blanket gives me even more shame.  What is wrong with me?

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As I've been working towards healthier thinking, I can clearly see God working in my life.  This summer I decided to join a weekly, interdenominational Bible study called Community Bible Study.  The books of the Bible we are working through are not heavily read portions of Scripture.  We just got through studying Haggai and we are now working our way through Zachariah.  I would have never guessed that these books of the Bible would have had such an impact on my life, but they have.

Studying the prophetic visions in Zachariah was tough work mentally.  Trying to understand Bible prophecy is like sorting wet spaghetti, nothing feels firm or graspable.  In the midst of this study, I found something that felt as though it had been written directly for me.  Zachariah was describing one of the visions he had about their high priest Joshua.

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the Lord, and Satan standing at his right hand to accuse him. And the Lord said to Satan, ‘The Lord rebuke you, O Satan! The Lord who has chosen Jerusalem rebuke you! Is not this a brand plucked from the fire?’ Now Joshua was standing before the angel, clothed with filthy garments. And the angel said to those who were standing before him, ‘Remove the filthy garments from him.’ And to him he said, ‘Behold, I have taken your iniquity away from you, and I will clothe you with pure vestments.’ And I said, ‘Let them put a clean turban on his head.’ So they put a clean turban on his head and clothed him with garments. And the angel of the Lord was standing by.
— Zechariah 3:1-5 ESV

 

This vision has direct meaning to God's people at the time it was written. Joshua was a real person. He was actually the high priest of God's people who have left exile in Babylon and are back in Jerusalem working on rebuilding the temple.  

This vision also is a prophecy of the coming Messiah. It is a clear illustration of the atonement Jesus Christ would offer.

So when I say that these verses felt very personal to me, I am aware that they were written for His people then. But they also can be an encouragement for His people now.

The enemy loves my shame blanket. He loves that I feel guilt over every feeling that God created me to have. Feelings are not sin, but the enemy loves that I feel like every emotion gives me the shame and guilt that sinning would envoke.

Do you know who doesn't love my shame blanket?

Jesus.

looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
— Hebrews 12:2 ESV

Jesus endured the cross.

Jesus despises shame.

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As I sat with my Bible study book, unconfidently trying to understand the book of Zechariah. A book written by a priest and prophet around 520 B.C., I was stunned to read this passage and feel how palpable God's love for me was in these words.

This man was standing before the Angel of the LORD, who many believe is Jesus in a temporary form. To his right is Satan, acting as an accuser or a prosecutor. He has a strong case for accusation because Joshua is clothed in filthy, excrament-smelling garments.

Joshua doesn't have to defend himself. He couldn't if he wanted to. He has no defense. Instead God defends him and all of His people that Joshua represents as high priest. 

Not only does God defend Joshua. He commands that Joshua's filthy garments be removed, and he is clothed in a pure robe. He is given a clean turban for his head and clean garments.

Joshua wasn't told to go clean himself up or to wash his garments on his own.

Joshua didn't deserve to have his filthy garments replaced with pure clothing.

Here I am, a child of God who has been adopted into His family. I have been covered with the atonement of Jesus. My sins have been forgiven, and my God sees me clothed, not in the filthy garments I have created for myself, but in the righteousness of Christ.

But I wrap up in my shame blanket anyway.

I think I'm not loved.

I think I'm not worthy of love.

I think my feelings are wrong.

I think my feelings are bad.

I think I am bad.

All of this thinking is tearing me up and paralyzing me. Meanwhile, God wants to wrap my head in a clean turban. He wants me to think of myself the way He thinks of me.

He loves me. He sees me as worthy of love. He chose me. He sees me as good. He sees all the good things he created me to be and do.

How do you let go of a shame blanket?

God is going to have to do the work of prying my hands off of the security of being wrapped in bad thoughts about myself. Shame feels right because I am a sinner, and it doesn't take much to convince me that I am the problem.

Shame feels right and grace feels wrong.

Our flesh will never feel like grace is right because grace isn't fair.

Joshua didn't deserve clean new garments. Joshua deserved the accusations.

I don't deserve for God to take my shame blanket and cloth me in a robe of Christ's righteousness. I deserve the accusations, and my head is full of them.

I will greatly rejoice in the Lord;
my soul shall exult in my God,
for he has clothed me with the garments of salvation;
he has covered me with the robe of righteousness,
as a bridegroom decks himself like a priest with a beautiful headdress,
and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels.
— Isaiah 61:10 ESV

Today I have the assurance that my Abba Father is being a good parent to me at reaching down to take something dangerous out of my clumsy, unknowing hands. He is pulling away the comfortable blanket of shame that I have grown accustomed to living wrapped up in. I am crying like a toddler who wants that thing in her hands and doesn't understand my parent is trying to protect me from hurt. Like any good parent, He is placing something safe and good in my hands and hoping I will forget about the dangerous thing that He has taken from me.

Lord, help me to not want my shame blanket. Help me to capture my negative, accusatory thoughts and replace them with the thoughts you have about me.

Help me to feel secure in this robe of righteousness that you have placed on me, even though I don't feel like I deserve it because I don't deserve it.

Jesus told us to pray, "Your kingdom come." And in God's kingdom, we are all clothed in white robes forever and ever.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, 10 and crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!’
— Revelation 7:9-10 ESV

When His Kingdom does come, I will be able to physically see my white robe, and will never ever see or feel my shame blanket again. So I fervently pray that His Kingdom comes, now, here on Earth as it will be in Heaven.

Lord, uncover me from this shame blanket and guide me in relishing my robe of righteousness!

Thank you, Jesus!

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Here's a song for you, because I like sharing songs with my friends.

Write 31 Days Project - DevoPod, devotional podcast

For my third year participating in Write 31 Days, I'm going to do something a little different. I'm going to launch a new podcast. I'll be writing devotional content for each of the podcast episodes so just because I won't be typing out words here on the blog page, that doesn't mean I won't be writing my little heart out.

The introduction episode and today's episode, day one,  is now on my website if you'd like to listen to them both. The links are below. I will continue to add links to this page as I release episodes each day this month. 

You can listen to the DevoPod on iTunes, Stitcher, or Google Play.

DevoPod is a daily devotional in podcast form. My goal for the podcast is to make taking time to really be in God’s Word easy for listeners. Each day this month, the podcast will lead the listener through a short Scripture reading straight from the Bible, a prayer, and a question so that you can make His Word personal in your heart and life. The episodes will be about five minutes long.

We will be concentrating on a different Beatitude each week; week one will examine, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven."

Links:

 

Introduction:

Day One:

Poor in Spirit; 2 Corinthians 12:5-10

Day Two:

Poor in Spirit; Philippians 2:1-11

Day Three:

Poor in Spirit; James 4:1-10

Day Four:

Poor in Spirit; Eph 4:1-7

Day Five:

Poor in Spirit; 1 Peter 5:6-9

Day Six:

Poor in Spirit; Matthew 11:25-30

Day Seven:

Poor in Spirit; Luke 21:1-4

Day Eight:

Day one of Those Who Mourn; Romans 8:38-39

Day Nine:

Day two of Those Who Mourn; John 11:17-27

Day Ten:

Day three of Those Who Mourn; John 11:28-37

Day Eleven:

Day four of Those Who Mourn; Romans 5:1-5

Day Twelve:

Day five of Those Who Mourn; John 14:1-4

Day Thirteen:

Day six of Those Who Mourn; Romans 8:26-27

Day Fourteen:

Day seven of Those Who Mourn; 2 Corinthians 7:7-13a

Day Fifteen:

Day one of The Meek; Psalms 37

Day Sixteen:

Day two of The Meek; James 3:13-18

Day Seventeen:

Day three of The Meek; Numbers 12:3

Day Eighteen:

Day four of The Meek; Jeremiah 39:9-10

Day Nineteen:

Day five of The Meek; 1 Peter 5:5

Day Twenty:

Day six of the The Meek; Zeph. 3:11-13

Day Twenty-One:

Day seven of The Meek; 1 Peter 3:13-17

Day Twenty-Two:

Day one of Satisfied; Genesis 15:1-6

Day Twenty-Three:

Day two of Satisfied; Jeremiah 23:5-6

Day Twenty-Four:

Day three of Satisfied; Matthew 5:17-20

Day Twenty-Five:

Day four of Satisfied; Matthew 6:25-33

Day Twenty-Six:

Day five of Satisfied; Romans 1:16-17

Day Twenty-Seven:

Day six of Satisfied; Romans 4:1-8

Day Twenty-Eight:

Day seven of Satisfied; Romans 8:9-11

Day Twenty-Nine:

Day eight of Satisfied; 2 Corinthians 5:16-21

Day Thirty:

Day nine of Satisfied; Galatians 2:15-21

Day Thirty-one:

Day ten of Satisfied; Galatians 3:10-14

<<< a song for you >>>

Introducing Myself

I am off to a writers conference in just 10 short days.  I will be attending the Declare Conference in Dallas, Texas, and I'm introducing myself for a fun pre-conference blog link-up.

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Whether you are a conference attendee or just reading my blog, I have now recruited you as a friend and you should know some things.

When did you feel called to be a digital evangelist, what’s your main medium (podcast / blogging / books / speaking / social media / etc.), and how long have you been doing it?

I fell in love with writing while blogging about a mission trip to Ethiopia in 2014.  I had been blogging about our adoption experience before that, but this was a whole new heart-tug to write about so much more.  I have written two eBooks, Faith Adventures and a new eBook I will be releasing this month titled Paper Tigers and Impressing God: How To Be a Doer Who is Free.  I have dabbled in the podcast world, and I have a new podcast on the horizon.

 

What is your life scripture?

"But he said to me, 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me." 2 Corinthians 12:9 ESV

 

What are your passions?

Encouraging you to put hands & feet to your discipleship, so you can seek justice while you grow spiritually, is what delights my heart.  I'm passionate about the Great Commission, loving my husband, and loving my 3 (soon to be 4 through adoption) pretty great kids.

 

What is your favorite candy and / or food?

Dark chocolate, it's like normal chocolate at prescription strength.

 

Where is your happy place and what’s it like?

Standing in front of a stage, hearing live music. My brain is alive, and it is marvelous.

 

Are you working on any exciting projects that you can share about? If so, please share!

I have signed up for Write 31 Days, which begins October 1st, and I am using the challenge to launch a new project - a devotional podcast called DevoPod.

 

How can we pray for you as you prepare for this year’s conference?

Pray for my anxiety.  As an introvert/people pleaser, I get nervous!  Instead of being in my head, I want to be present and open to new opportunities and friendships that God will lead me towards.

 

Your turn!  What are you passionate about?  I'm dying to hear! Please comment & Let me know.

      A song for you as you go.

Meet Hezekiah - Adoption Update

It has been months since I’ve posted anything about our adoption on my social media or blog.  I apologize for keeping quiet.  

I have some news I’d like to share with you.  We have been referred a sweet 2-year-old boy.  He is not yet ours, but we are doing everything we can to get a chance to go to court in Ethiopia and make him our son.

MEET HEZEKIAH

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HERE’S THE SHORT VERSION, THE ANSWERS TO THE QUESTIONS I GET ASKED MOST OFTEN.

We don’t know when our court date might be.  The most likely guess is sometime between December and March, but it could always be longer because we are dependent on the Ethiopian government and that is unpredictable.

We have paid all of our agency fees.  We were able to fundraise and save all $26,000 we needed to pay our agency.  There were so many people who gave generously to our adoption.  Our adoption wouldn’t be happening without those donations and the provision of our Faithful God.

We still will need to pay for our travel.  When we travel for court, that expense is completely up to us to provide.  We estimate that it will cost around $8,000.

We will be able to bring Hezekiah home when we travel for court.  Whenever we are finally able to travel, we will be bringing our son home with us when we come home.  We will need to be in Ethiopia for three weeks.

This little boy is not the same 4-year-old boy, “A”, that we were hoping to adopt at Christmastime.  You can read more about that below or in our last blog post.

Thank you to everyone who has prayed for us, shared about our adoption, let me know you were praying for us, donated to our adoption, or participated in one or more of our bazillion fundraisers.

I really am appreciative.

HERE’S THE LONG VERSION OF THE STORY, FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO LOVE MORE DETAILS.  

The weekend after Thanksgiving, we were driving home from visiting my family in Ft. Worth when I pulled up a waiting child list and saw a precious little face.  The waiting child list was on a private webpage and it included children that they had not been able to find a family for from among the families adopting through their agency.  This little boy was just the age we had hoped to adopt, and we knew we could be a home for him.  We emailed the agency (which was a completely different adoption agency that had been using and paid all of our fees to) to see if this little boy still needed a family.

A week later we had found out that this sweet little boy was still waiting for a family, and we were trying to make the difficult decision of switch agencies to try to adopt him or stay with our agency with no end in sight to our waiting.  The biggest factor was money.  We had paid our current agency about one-third of the money required for an international adoption, and we wouldn’t get any of it back if we switched agencies.  Also, we would need to pay over twice the amount we had paid thus far and pay for yet another home study for the new agency.  It was money we didn’t have, and we would have to trust God to provide it.

We took the leap.  I have the conviction that God does not view money the way we people do, and I never want to make a ministry decision based solely on money.  We switched agencies and began fundraising.

From the first week of December until the last week of February we fundraised like mad people.  We did bake sales, present wrapping, garage sales, barbecues, craft sales, and online auctions.  We downright asked for handouts.  We made a video asking everyone to give $2 and invite 10 friends to do the same.  Our Paypal account was flooded by generous people.  After a few months of constant fundraising, we were still about $7,000 short of paying all of our new agency’s fees.  Paying off those fees would allow us to sign the contract that would make sure that we would be the family that would adopt this sweet boy.  We were so sure that this was the boy God had in mind for our family.

One afternoon the last week of February, I was pulling into the craft store parking lot.  I was in the middle of making more crafts for yet another fundraiser, and my phone rang.  It was our new social worker on the phone.  She had some tough news to share about “our boy.”  My first thought was that he was sick or worse.  She shared that without their knowledge, the remote orphanage that our sweet boy was at had contacted a different agency to advocate for finding a family.  Another family had stepped up to adopt him through another agency.  They had already completed their home study and all of their paperwork.  This family had paid all their agency’s fees and signed a contract of adoption with the orphanage.  All of this had been done weeks ago without our agency’s knowledge, and the orphanage had decided to let this other family proceed with the adoption.

This news was devastating.  I mourned this loss hard.  In the middle of grief was tremendous guilt.  Wasn’t I happy that he was still healthy and still was going to be adopted into a family?  Hurt mixed with guilt is a recipe for some awful thoughts about yourself.  I felt so selfish for being so upset.

I just kept thinking, but we had worked so hard.  We had spent every free moment for months fundraising, working on our new home study, and rebuilding our adoption paperwork from scratch, every single paper had to be resigned because our old paperwork was too outdated.

I was also so confused by this news.  We had felt so sure that this boy was the reason our family had been called to adoption.

It took a few weeks before the hurt began to subside in my heart.  We could have easily walked away from the idea of adoption after this huge disappointment, but we didn’t.  Both my husband and I had seen the faces of children in the orphanages we had visited.  We had held the babies and played games with the children.  We knew we had to keep going.  We had to trust God that He still had a plan.

About two months later, we received the phone call I had been dreaming about for four years.  Our new agency called to say there was a little boy they would like to refer to our family, meaning that if we were ready to adopt him, they would help us do it.  She didn’t give us any details about the little boy, other than his age.  She said that the agency would email us his file in a few days that would have all of his pictures and information.

We were so anxious to receive that email.  Two days later, we received the email.  We were blown away at how precious this little boy was, and we were in shock that we were going to get to adopt him.  Our giddiness lasted only a few hours because by that evening we had learned that the Ethiopian government had suspended international adoptions with no reason given or timeline for the suspension to end.

It was the 21st of April, and the spring and beginning of summer is a blur of setting in my backyard trying to focus on anything besides the adoption suspension.

I’d like to tell you that during that season, I completely leaned on the Lord, but many times I leaned on Dunkin Donuts frozen coffees.  Worry was so present in my mind those days that it would completely fog my brain, and the only thing that seemed to make me feel like a human was a big dose of sugar and caffeine in the form of a blended corporate concoction.  It was also clear to me that my vitamin d levels were suffering from the inside life I lived all winter.  A typical day this spring included me doing the minimum school work to finish up our home schooler’s first-grade year while taking every opportunity to refresh my email, search keywords “adoption and Ethiopia” on Twitter, and stocking all the adoption Facebook groups for any clue of what was going to happen with our adoption.

By the time James came home from his work at the church, I was a mess and we would get in the car and get our frozen coffee fix for the day.

Sure I prayed and I would tell you that God was in control, but if someone else said that God’s timing was perfect one more time I would have thrown my frozen coffee in their face.

Would God give us a picture of a beautiful boy who needed a home and then tell us our adoption journey was done?  I honestly didn’t know.

I kept telling God that this whole adoption was His idea, not mine.  Why would He give us this calling, allow our hearts to be fully devoted to the idea of bringing an Ethiopian child into our family, and then threaten to let us fall on our face?

The hard questions weren’t just directed at God.  I accused myself of not really caring about this adorable little boy but really being upset because I would look like a failure if this adoption I had so publicly pursued would end without success.

I spent a lot of time in my Bible that spring reading the words of the prophets Jeremiah and Isaiah.  God’s promise of redemption through His Son was centuries away from those generations, but God was determined to give His people hope.

I needed hope more than frozen coffee.

Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him.
— Isaiah 30:18 ESV

I hit some real low points in my faith life during that season.  I feel shame for these low points asking ugly questions about God and doubting His sovereignty.  I also feel thankfulness for these low points.

I was completely empty.  I was completely powerless.

I had nothing but Jesus to hang onto because each of those low points let me see God better.  The answers would come with tears and the Spirit.  God was loving and sovereign.  God was present in my troubles.

As the calendar turned to July, we began to see the light at the end of our waiting tunnel.  Good news about the future of Ethiopian adoptions began to trickle in, and we were able to continue on our journey.

Our newly redone paperwork was sent to Ethiopia on August 17th, and our last immigration application was received by Homeland Security on September 7th.

The application process with immigration will take about 3-6 months.  Along with this approval from the US government, we are waiting for an approval letter from the Ethiopian government too.  There is no estimated timeline for that letter.  We are just hopeful that we will receive the letter in the same 3-6 months that the immigration approval will be approved.

There is a decent chance that this could happen, but there is also a chance that we could be waiting longer than that.

We definitely need prayer.  Continue to pray for our Hezekiah and our family.

I will update the blog as we know more, but it could be months before I have anything to post.

Thank you again!

Adoption Update - He Restores Our Soul

We have some disappointing news about our adoption.  Monday we got a call from the case worker at our new agency.  She called to let us know that because of the breakdown in communication in rural Ethiopia, something unexpected had happened.  Because little "A" that we had been working towards adopting the past 3 months was on the waiting child list for so long, the orphanage directors had reached out to other adoption agencies to advocate for him.  One of those agencies found a family wanting to adopt "A."  This family already had their dossier complete and updated, and they had all their agency fees paid and were able to sign an official referral with their agency.  It had already been two weeks before our agency knew this had happened.  Our agency told the orphanage that we were working hard to adopt "A" and very, very close to having our dossier (fancy word for official adoption paperwork) updated, but the orphanage made a judgment call.  The orphanage decided to allow this other family to proceed with adopting "A."

This isn't something that happens often in Ethiopian adoptions.  These were unusual circumstances, but after visiting orphanages the last three summers, I could see how this communication breakdown could easily happen.

We were very disappointed to hear this news Monday, and it has been a rough week dealing with all the feelings that bubbled up after hearing this news about our adoption.

We know we cannot give up, and we are not supposed to quit trying to adopt from Ethiopia.

Our friends and family have been so generous helping us raise money to pay the adoption fees to adopt "A."  We were so very close to having all of our agency fees paid.  We have raised $20,600 since the last week of December!  We were only short $7,000.  That is amazing!

Our home study should be finalized any day now, and our dossier only lacks our final home study copy and about 5 other documents.

Being so close to having everything we needed to adopt "A" made it really hard to accept that we were not going to be able to adopt him.

We are honestly happy that "A" will have a forever family.  He will have a home.  That is what we wanted for him all along.  We are just disappointed that home won't be our home.

All of the money we raised and work we have done updating our home study and dossier can be used to adopt a different child through our new agency.  Our agency has given us a time line that we can expect to be matched with a new child in the next 6 months.

We are going to continue to gather the last of the paperwork needed to complete our dossier, and we will continue waiting for the child God has to place in our home.

It has been hard finding our confidence that the Lord has a plan when we felt so sure that "A" was the boy God had chosen to add to our family.  But God has been slowly speaking into our hurting hearts this week.

On Monday, when I got the heartbreaking call from our agency, I was sitting in the Michael's parking lot about to buy paint.  The plan had been to make as many wood signs as possible this month to sell at a craft show this weekend.  I had just started a new sign.  I picked a Bible verse completely randomly.  I was looking for a Bible verse that was universally loved.  I didn't even think about what the verse or sign said on Monday when I started making it, hoping to make several to sell at the craft show.

On Tuesday, when all I wanted to do was watch mindless television and eat Captain Crunch, I realized that God had given me this verse that I would need before I even knew I needed it.

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He makes me lie down in green pastures.
He leads me beside still waters.

He restores my soul.

He leads me in paths of righteousness
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death.
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
— Psalm 23:1-4 ESV

God is restoring our soul.  God is planting dreams in our hearts and reassuring our family that He is leading us.  He has a plan.

4 Books You'll Love

I shared a list like this at the beginning of 2016, and it was fun.  When things are fun, sometimes you do them again.

The hero of this list is the Amarillo Public Library.  Of my four books, 3 of them were checked out from that wonderful place.  In fact, of the 54 books I read last year, 30 of them were loaned to me, physically or virtually, from the best-we-spend-taxpayer-money-on-in-my-opinion, the public library!

I said virtually in that sentence because, miracle of all technological miracles, I can check out e-books AND audio books on my iPhone.  Thank you Uncle Sam AND Steve Jobs!

The other hero of this list is the webpage Goodreads.  I love my little Goodreads app where I can keep track of what I read, because I know I wouldn't have remember all 54 of those books.  It helped tremendously in making this list.

I love me some goals, and Goodreads has an annual reading challenge.  Last year I set my sights on the goal of reading 52 books, and I crushed reading in December and surpassed my goal by 2.  Go me!

Here's 4 books that really got me in the gut, mind, or heart.  These books changed me a little, and I think they are well worth your time.

1.  Unashamed by Lecrae

 

I was touched by Lecrae sharing the truth about his childhood. I've been working in inner-city ministry for about 20 years. When you've had a middle class upbringing, you might read Lecrae's story and assume that he is the exception or unique. I think most of the kids I've encountered in our ministry would relate to Lecrae's early years, the physical abuse, the sexual abuse, being handed off to grandparents for months, the hurt of being fatherless, and/or the pressure to find your place in a violent culture. There are kids just like Lecrae in your cities and towns, with just as much potential!

I also admired Lecrae's honesty about his early Christian years, becoming very legalistic. I recognize myself in that struggle. It just took me longer to figure out I couldn't be good enough, because I am such a good girl. 

I had made the same mistake a lot of Christians make: I saw my connection with God as a contractual relationship, rather than a covenantal relationship. All contracts have terms, but covenants don’t. They last forever. In a contractual relationship, you’re always worried about breaking the rules. In a covenantal relationship, you’re only concerned with loving the other party as much as you can.
— Lecrae Moore, Unashamed

I think the reason Lecrae has found an audience is because we all feel like an anomaly, we all don't fit in on this Earth. I look forward to Heaven, when we will all be fully ourselves and fully the Bride of Christ. On that day, I'll be happy to stand beside brothers like Lecrae as well as brothers and sisters from every nation and worship The Lord as one. Until then, we can learn so much from audio-biographies like this one that help us understand cultures different from our own. If you had a childhood similar to Lecrae, this story can help you process your own grief, but if you didn't it can bring you understanding. Either way, this book can lead us to be a better version of His Church while we are here on Earth.

2.  Falling Free by Shannan Martin

 

I thought I knew what to expect from this book because I had read quite a bit of Shannan's blog and listened to interviews from Shannan, but this book surprised me in all the best ways.  I didn't expect to be so challenged.  I had to rethink some ideas that I thought I had already pushed so close to Jesus, they had to be right.  Shannan's stories draw me even closer to that every pressing goal of thinking, talking, acting, and living more Christlike.  She shows the grey, the not easy, in the pressing on and pressing in.  All of this idea-wrestling is done with lovely, kind, poetic, beautiful words. Her book is a friend that isn't afraid of the hard days.

Shannan's writing is relatable, kind, interesting, inspiring, and down-right challenging.  If you read it, like I did, I know you will love it.  My copy is getting a good re-read, as currently I am going through this book with a group of ladies who are meeting monthly to discuss it.  In re-reading this, the Lord has already used Shannan's words to push me farther into freedom and trusting Him.  

The chapter that has really was a lifeline for me during this crazy time of trying to climb the mountain of international adoption is chapter four, Unplan.  Listen to this quote.

He (God) chooses discomfort, challenges common sense, and promises pain in exchange for our very lives and all they harbor - our dollars, our hours, our homes, our families, our closely held dreams of a rosy future. This is the God we say we love. This is the God we signed up for. He kept nothing from us, made no false claims, hid zero agendas, and we said yes. We said we wanted the life he had to offer, and that we would follow wherever he led in order to find it. And yet we often feel all baited-and-switched when those dusty roads don’t lead us back to ourselves as planned.
— Shannan Martin, Falling Free

Yep.  That's truth right there.  And thank the Lord that he doesn't just lead me back to myself.  I would make an awful, horrible, no-good god.

3.  The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander

 

This book pushed me WAY out of my comfort zone, but I will never look at this country of ours the same again.  I thought the constitution protected our citizens.  Now I know it doesn't.  I know that sounds dramatic, but there is great misuse of the 4th amendment and abuse of the 13th amendment in our country right now.

I think stories speak louder than political debates, so I will share this quote with you.  It is a long one.

Imagine you are Emma Faye Stewart, a thirty-year-old, single African American mother of two who was arrested as part of a drug sweep in Hearne, Texas. All but one of the people arrested were African American. You are innocent. After a week in jail, you have no one to care for your two small children and are eager to get home. Your court-appointed attorney urges you to plead guilty to a drug distribution charge, saying the prosecutor has offered probation. You refuse, steadfastly proclaiming your innocence. Finally, after almost a month in jail, you decide to plead guilty so you can return home to your children. Unwilling to risk a trial and years of imprisonment, you are sentenced to ten years probation and ordered to pay $1,000 in fines, as well as court and probation costs. You are also now branded a drug felon. You are no longer eligible for food stamps; you may be discriminated against in employment; you cannot vote for at least twelve years; and you are about to be evicted from public housing. Once homeless, your children will be taken from you and put into foster care. A judge eventually dismisses all cases against the defendants who did not plead guilty. At trial, the judge finds that the entire sweep was based on the testimony of a single informant who lied to the prosecution. You, however, are still a drug felon, homeless, and desperate to regain custody of your children. Now place yourself in the shoes of Cliffard Runoalds, another African-American victim of the Hearne drug bust. You returned home to Bryan, Texas, to attend the funeral of your eighteen-month-old daughter. Before the funeral services begin, the police show up and handcuff you. You beg the officers to let you take one last look at your daughter before she is buried. The police refuse. You are told by prosecutors that you are needed to testify against one of the defendants in a recent drug bust. You deny witnessing any drug transaction; you don’t know what they are talking about. Because of your refusal to cooperate, you are indicted on felony charges. After a month of being held in jail, the charges against you are dropped. You are technically free, but as a result of your arrest and period of incarceration, you lose your job, your apartment, your furniture, and your car. Not to mention the chance to say good-bye to your baby girl. This is the War on Drugs. The brutal stories described above are not isolated incidents, nor are the racial identities of Emma Faye Stewart and Clifford Runoalds random or accidental. In every state across our nation, African Americans - particularly in the poorest neighborhoods - are subjected to tactics and practices that would result in public outrage and scandal if committed in middle-class white neighborhoods.
— Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow

If these heartbreaking injustices don't hit close enough to home, I was not surprised to see that the Tulia drug bust debacle was mentioned on the first few pages of The New Jim Crow.

I know the idea that our wonderful, glorious country could have such a huge flaw in our justice system is extremely uncomfortable.  I know as a white girl, I have the luxury of ignoring the problem or believing the criminalization of people with brown skin is warranted by bad decisions and actual criminal activity.  It isn't always true.

I pray that our justice system becomes more just.  I pray we all will get past our preconceived ideas and just try to understand the ideas in this book. 

4.  The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

 

Ok.  That last book was intense.  Here's some fun, easy, enjoyable fiction.  I had way too much fun reading this.  I especially loved that the author cashed in on the nordic obsession starting to find its way into our culture (Ikea, hygee, biking, danish food becoming more mainstream.)

To be honest, this wasn't the best fiction book I read last year, but it was the most fun.  Sometimes when the world is a little dark, fun is just what we need.

I love ports. I love the smell of tar and sea air, and the scream of the gulls. Maybe it’s years of taking the ferry to France for summer holidays, but a harbor gives me a feeling of freedom in a way that an airport never does. Airports say work and security checks and delays. Ports say... I don’t know. Something completely different. Escape, maybe.
— Ruth Ware, The Woman in Cabin 10

I hope you found a book you want to add to your "to-read" list from my list.

If not, I'm on Goodreads updating what I'm reading all year long.  I'd love for you to be my friend on Goodreads.  Click here to view my profile, and click "add as a friend."


My favorite band had just released a new album when I did my "4 Books I Loved in 2015," and now one year later, they have another new album.  It feels like the happiest of accidents or just a mid-level band with incredible work ethic.

Hexagons, IF, and Faith Adventures

This weekend was the IF:Gathering, and like the previous two years, leading an IF:Local in my city kind of took over my life.  I know that sounds like a bad thing, but it really isn't.  I love serving my city and the women in my small church that get to attend our big event in this way.

This year's IF:Gathering decor was full of the hexagon pattern.  It became so much a part of my life, as I built big hexagon art for the stage and stamped programs and table runners, that my son was convinced it was my favorite thing.  Like this SAT analogy:  my son Gabe is to Star Wars as mom is to hexagons.  Monday was my birthday, and at the dinner table, Gabe wanted to know why everyone in the family hadn't drawn me a hexagon picture.

The truth is that Gabe isn't wrong.  I have been a little in love with the hexagon shape for a while.  I even used hexagons in my writing when I wrote my eBook Faith Adventures last year.

I want to share the chapter with my hexagon scripture analogy.  Here it is, my chapter on the Great Commission.  Enjoy:


GREAT COMMISSION

And Jesus came and said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
— Matthew 28:18-20 ESV

When my father-in-law was on his deathbed, I was pregnant with my youngest son Gabe.  The hospital had us put on paper scrubs and gloves because Don had developed a virus.  All garbed up, I went into that room to say goodbye to this man who had been such a huge part of my life.  What do you say?  I’ll tell you what we said.  “I love you.”  He was very weak, but we knew what was important.  We both wanted to make sure we knew that there was nothing but love between us.

Last words are important.

The words Jesus gave us before He ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, those words are crucial.  We call those words, the Great Commission.

These words are our parting instructions and our biggest job as the church.

There are a lot of action words in this command.  Sometimes we can get bogged down on just one of them.  

This is not unlike when I ask my son to do multiple chores at once.  Sometimes his ears hear only one command.  I'll say, “Take these dishes to the sink, rinse them off, take the trash out from the kitchen and from the bathrooms, and put new trash bags in.”  Ninety-nine percent of the time, what happens is the dishes are sitting on the counter not rinsed off and the trash is in the dumpster, but there is no trash bag in any of the trash cans.

It isn't because my son is a bad, disobedient kid.  It's because our kid ears don't always input information in.  (Unless it has to do with cheat codes to video games.  Then our kids become Rain Man all of the sudden.  Unfortunately, there are no Rain Man powers for our dishes.  Just once, I'd like my son to walk up and tell me, “There are 32 clean dishes put up in the cabinet, and I put 8 cups, 5 plates, 9 forks, 2 bowls, 6 spoons, and one knife in the dishwasher that I added soap to and started.”  If that happened, I might faint.)

I know about this kid ear problem because I remember having it.  My parents would give me instructions, but I would be busy being glued to a tv set watching something like Small Wonder or Pee Wee's Playhouse.  I wouldn't hear one word.

The genius comic strip writer Charles Schulz nailed it when he coined the adult to kid, “Mwa-Mwa-Mwa” muted trombone sound.

As we look at all the verbs in the Great Commission, let's try our best to not tune out any of the command.  He tells us to go, make, baptize, and teach.

The second thing that my human immaturity sees as I look at that list, is time.  I start to think what a long term project this sounds like Jesus is calling us to do.

But we aren't alone in this endeavor.

Jesus promised to send a helper, the Holy Spirit, to never leave us and to dwell with us.  The greek word Jesus actually used was parakletos which means “comforter” or “counselor.”

My brother-in-law Donnie Lane often points out that we get our word for parrot from the same greek word parakletos.  The same way a parrot would sit on its owner's shoulder and come along for his day of pirating or whatever else parrot owners do, the Holy Spirit comes along side us while we live this life of faith adventuring.

In my kids' home school co-op, this amazing, creative mom planned a whole class math and science that involved a weekly bubble station.  I was unsure of how we were going to play with bubbles all year long and learn math and science, but I was excited about it.

Guess what.  I did learn something.  One lesson in particular stuck with me.  We learned about bee hives by playing with bubbles.

I had always kind of wondered why and how bees make their hives into those perfect little hexagons, but I had never been curious enough to research it.

Maybe my kid brain thought bees could count to six, and that they liked making little line patterns with their wax.

Hexagons are actually a naturally occurring shape in nature that forms with flexible circles are pressed into each other.

In the bubble station we did this experiment.  We took two 10” x 12” pieces of plexiglass that were fashioned together with an inch gap between them.  Then we took a plastic straw and blew bubbles to fill the space in between the plexiglass.

As the space filled up with bubbles and room became precious, the packed in bubbles pressed against other bubbles and began to become hexagon shaped instead of circles.  Each circle was pressed against six other circles, and the slight pressure of competing for space formed a side, which means that each bubble had six sides.

The bubbles naturally did this as they existed within the group of bubbles.

As the church, we are in community together trying to fulfill this Great Commission that Jesus left us with.

As we gently press into each other, we form one united thing, His church.  As we work together, sharing the space God gives us to do His work, we all become shaped a little different.  We all become a little more like Him.

As we look into a beautifully formed beehive with hexagons brimming with sweet honey, I think that is a picture of what His church can be.

I pray we press into our place in His Church and appreciate the sweetness of unity.

The command of the Great Commission is a little less overwhelming when I know I have the Holy Spirt and my fellow believers working together to accomplish it.

Lord, help us to feel the importance of your command in the Great Commission.  Help us to constantly see ways we can do every verb in that command: go, make, baptize, teach.  Thank you for sending the Holy Spirit to help us, comfort us, and counsel us.  Give us ears to hear His promptings.  Lord, help us to remember that you have made us Your temple.  Help us to be unified with other believers so that we can be the one church, one, body, one bride that you intend us to be.  Help us to have grace and love as sweet as honey towards our fellow church members.  We long to work together to accomplish your commission.  In Jesus' name, Amen.

 

Reflection:

  1. Which verb in the Great Commission have you put the most focus on?  What would it look like to concentrate on actively follow through with Jesus' whole command?
  2. How has the Holy Spirit been a helper to you in the past?  Has he ever helped you as you made disciples?
  3. Have you thought of the global church as one item, like one beehive, before?  How can you bring more unity to your local church and/or the global church?
  4. How have other Christians pressed into you and caused you to look a little more like Jesus?
  5. Read the Great Commission again.  What is the Holy Spirit prompting you to do right now, this week?

The following chapter was an excerpt of the eBook Faith Adventures by Jennifer L. Lane.  It can be purchased on Amazon for just $2.99.


I loved singing this with our IF:Local, IF:Amarillo, this weekend.

Word of the Year: Confidence

This week I posted that I was having trouble deciding on a word for 2017.  I made a cute, helpful worksheet for you and I to use in deciding on our word.  (Just subscribe, and I'll email it to you.)

Well, my worksheet worked.  I picked a word using my worksheet this morning, and I'm thrilled.

My word is confidence.

It's beautiful because it has two meanings that fit perfectly with the two big themes I see emerging for my life this year.  Let me explain.

First is this definition:

Confidence (n) 1. belief that one can rely on someone (GOD); firm trust

There are so many things that God is doing that I have no control over.  

We are in the process of raising $27,000 to proceed with an adoption of a little boy who is 8,000 miles away, who we've never met.  We have so little control over whether or not this adoption happens, but we are putting every bit of energy we can spare into making it happen.  We have 1/3 of the money we need so far, and we are filling out more paperwork and grants.  We are planning fundraisers and doing everything we can to adopt our little "A."  It is ultimately up to God.  He is going to have to provide financially, emotionally, and spiritually for this adoption to happen.  At any moment, the Ethiopian government or the regional government where he is from or the United States government could stop this adoption for whatever reason.  At any moment, our health or financial situation could change and put a halt to this adoption.  At any moment, a number of things that I can't even think of could stop this adoption.  I am going to have to trust and trust hard on the God who called us to adoption years ago.  We have been faithful to His call, and He is always faithful, more faithful than I could even imagine.  I will need to have confidence in Him or I might lose all my marbles this year.

I have other things in my life that are going to require trusting the Lord.  I've got a daughter graduating high school and going off to college this year.  No big deal.  I'm not freaking out about it at all.  Yeah right!

The second definition of confidence is this.

Confidence (n) 2. Feeling of self-assurance from one’s appreciation of one’s abilities or qualities.

There are a couple things I wrote down for things that make me come alive.  I wrote teaching about Jesus and writing.  These are things that God has gifted me to do, and if I don't have confidence in my ability to do them (because of His strength), then I won't be able to try all the things that I want to try this year.

I had a dream the other night that I was getting up to teach a room full of women.  I was so terrified and so moved to be authentic in my talk that I cried all my make up off, frantically searched for my Bible, and then got up to teach.  It was the most frightening and exhilarating dreams I've had in years.  When I finally began my talk, it all came together.  I could have woke up from that dream, got up to a podium, and gave that speech.  I know exactly what I would say because God has been building this message in my heart for years.

This dream may never come true, but I'm going to keep on writing and teaching just like it is going to happen tomorrow.

What about you?  Have you chosen your word for 2017?  Do you have dreams and struggles coming up this year and need some focus?  Comment below!  Sign up to receive my worksheet by email if you need a little help finding your word.

Some verses about confidence.

And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.
— Philipians 1:6 ESV
And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.
— 1 John 5:14 ESV
Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
— Hebrews 4:16 ESV
Be strong and courageous. Do not fear or be in dread of them, for it is the Lord your God who goes with you. He will not leave you or forsake you.
— Deuteronomy 31:6 ESV

A song for you today.

What's Your Word of the Year?

Last year was the first time I participated in the Word of the Year.  I found my word reading a book about Alexander Hamilton, and I knew it was something I needed in my life.

I love the idea of picking a word for the year.  It helps you focus your goals and actions all year long.

This year I am having trouble deciding on a word, so I created this nifty 2-page worksheet to help you and me decide on a word for 2017.

All you need to do is subscribe to my blog, and you can download the worksheet that will take you through 6 steps to finding your word.

If you've already got a word for 2017 or if my worksheet helps you discover one, let us know by commenting below.  We can cheer each other on as we find our focus for 2017.

I'm going to post my word on Thursday, and next week, I'll be sharing some things I learned because of my 2016 word.


Once you've found your word, there are so many ways to display your word to keep it on your mind.  

Fun word display ideas:

  • A Giving Key - Custom words are free right now (regularly $5.)  They give meaningful employment to homeless individuals in California.

  • Get yourself some marquee letters & spell out your word in your home or office.

  • Check Amazon for your word.  They may have vinyl wall stickers or metal wall hangings with your word that would look just right in your home.


Join the fun.  Find your word.  Go ahead and enter your email to subscribe to my blog, and I'll send you the Word of the Year Worksheet right into your inbox.

Peace this Christmas

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
— Romans 5:1 ESV

Due to the cold war and hippie movement of the last mid-century, our view of the word peace has been skewed.  The word most associated with peace is war.

When Jesus was born in that stable 2,000ish years ago, the world did not automatically become war-free or even conflict-free.

King Herod sat on his throne and commanded assassinations and massacres, and Ceasar Agustus still commanded the roman military forces.

War has just got uglier as history and science progressed.

Unfortunately, the hippie version of peace was not what Jesus came to bring us.  Fortunately, He instead was born and died to bring us peace with God.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

’Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!’
— Luke 2:13-14 ESV

We can have peace with God.  Because of Jesus, we can be right with Him.  Through faith, and faith alone, we can be justified and we can be someone that God is pleased with.  Because of Jesus, God can be pleased with us and at peace with us.

Glory to God in the highest!

This is the gift that Jesus lived and died to give, peace with God.

We cannot earn this peace and rightness with God.  We are unable to deserve this gift, and righteousness with God depends on faith in Christ.

Merry Christmas this morning.  This is the good news of the gospel: you can have peace with God!  You can feel the glorious grace and none of the shame that would keep us from entering a relationship with our God.  Because JESUS!

Advent: Great Joy

I've been waiting for joy.  Patiently searching my heart and my life for a tangible picture of joy or even an overwhelmed heart to tell you about here in these words.

Advent the expectant waiting for the arrival of a noble person and preparation for celebration.

I've been expectantly waiting for joy.  I prepared my heart for it.

Joy came on my cell phone yesterday in the form of a message, of which I cannot share a single detail.  It was a message full of the most beautiful good news interwoven into a story of heartbreak.  It was a message of answered prayers that was so unexpected it took time to sink in what had even happened.

Joy might be the fullest human emotion we can ever experience.  It is complete goodness amid the constant struggles of this human life.

And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’
— Luke 2:10-11 ESV

Joy is a savior laying in a manger as a baby with all the needs of a newborn and a mother recovering from childbirth among the hay and animals.

Joy is an answered prayer that has an answer that looks completely different than you could ever imagine.

Joy is complete surrender to the Lord who knows you because He made you.

Joy is a new liver while retaining the virus that killed the first one.

Joy is never doubting your brother is in Heaven but still missing him here on Earth, wishing His life could have been different.

Joy is when God asks you to do something that requires finances completely out of your means.

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
— James 1:2-4 ESV

I am full of joy this Christmas Eve, and just like Jesus's birth, it came unexpectedly from the last places I would have ever imagined.

Let us be thankful that we serve a God that isn't limited to our solutions or imaginations.  Let us enjoy the joy brought to us this day, wherever that joy springs from and however that joy is intertangled with our human condition.

Put on the Full Footie PJs of Advent: Love

Last week I wrote a post about how much I needed to let my armor down, have a soldier's reprieve, and slip into the warm, comfort of advent.  I want to bask in who Jesus is and long for His coming.  I wrote about how much we need hope and how God gives us hope, even though we don't deserve it.

Today I'm going to talk about love.  We need love, and one of the greatest challenges of our Christian life is oftentimes loving other people.  People can make it easy not to love them.  We can sometimes make it easy not to love us.  Why do we do it?  Why is accepting love often harder than giving it?

I believe that it is easy to slip into the human, fleshly belief that we don't deserve love.  If it wasn't, suicide wouldn't be the second leading cause of death of young people aged 10 to 24.

I know everyone reading this has had that moment or several moments in their life where they didn't believe they deserved to be loved.  I know I have.

This is the worst lie the devil has up his sneaky sleeve, that we are not loved.

 

You are loved.

You are loved

You are loved.

So we have come to know and to believe the love that God has for us. God is love, and whoever abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him. By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. We love because he first loved us.
— 1 John 4:16-19 ESV

Fear can easily turn into my main mode of operation, as a mother or just as a human.  This time of year, I see more car accidents and people honking than all year long.  I just want to yell at people to go home and drink some hot chocolate.  Whatever they are rushing to can't be worth it.

Fear is the easy voice to find in your head.  It's loud and urgent.

Love is there too, speaking softly.  If we push it away and decide we are not worthy, it gets so muffled that we can barely hear it.

Guess what?  We aren't worthy, but God loves us anyway.

We aren't worthy, but our family loves us anyway.

Your kids aren't worthy, but you love them anyway.  (If your kids are new and still smell like a mix of baby powder and Heaven, just wait.  They will do something you don't approve of in a blink.  You'll be disappointed, but then you'll love them through it.)

Love isn't about earning.  Love is freely given and never deserved.  And God's love is the best.  It's top-grade, pure, and good to the bone.

It is hard to believe that we are allowed to receive the pure, unconditional love of God.  But He gave it to us before we could even know to ask for it.  He gave it to us before our cells formed into the DNA that makes you, you.  He loved you first.

The sending was from this love.

Jesus came to Earth only because of this love.

Receive it.  Come to Him as a child and hold onto it with confidence.  Hear it.  Keep it close.

We share it all year round.  Just for a moment, get cozy with that overwhelming love that only God can give.  Savor it and know that this love was poured out just for you.

Put on the Full Footie PJs of Advent: Hope

I don't know about you, but this Christmas I need a little extra focus on Jesus.  I need Him close.  I want to wrap myself in those four advent words:  hope, love, joy, and peace.  I want a grown-up sized footie pajama of hope, love, joy, and peace to step into and zip up.  Life as a Christian isn't usually cozy.  We spend it putting on our full armor, which also includes those boots of peace, and fighting the spiritual battles of our lives.  

Just for this time of year, I need a soldier's reprieve.  I need to retreat, put on the full footie pajamas of advent, dust myself off, warm in the glow of His hope, fill up in the fullness of His love, bask in the completeness of His joy, rest in the goodness of His peace, ready myself for another year of the ongoing war.

I'm going to post an advent post each of the next four weeks.  Today's topic is hope.

How much do I need some hope today?  I can't even measure it.

The Old Testament ends with prophet Malichi's words.

For behold, the day is coming, burning like an oven, when all the arrogant and all evildoers will be stubble. The day that is coming shall set them ablaze, says the Lord of hosts, so that it will leave them neither root nor branch. But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings. You shall go out leaping like calves from the stall. And you shall tread down the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day when I act, says the Lord of hosts. Remember the law of my servant Moses, the statutes and rules that I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.
— Malachi 4 ESV

I'm sure every Israelite read those words and was completely ready for His healing wings.  They probably wanted Elijah to start ushering that day in right away.  These passages bring a promise, a promise that gives hope.  But oh how God takes His time!

Four hundred years pass.  Four hundred years!

It feels like four hundred years since we started this adoption journey.

I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that waiting does not naturally produce hope.  Waiting produces a lot of things: impatience, discontent, second-guessing, frustration, anger, and even numbness.

Standing in the Hobby Lobby line yesterday, I knew that I was going to need to just shut off my brain and wait or I would be downright angry about it.  I went numb and studied their candy collection.

If I'm honest with myself, I know I have let myself grow numb at times over our 3 years of waiting for our adoption.  Numb seems much better than anger, easier to hide in.  It doesn't stand out in a church service or Bible study like anger would.  I thought I was doing everyone a favor by choosing numbness.  The problem is that numbness is no more holy than anger, discontent, or impatience.

I need some hope.

I know there is something in your life that is a source of suffering that could easily produce anger or numbness.  We all have some kind of struggle we are dealing with.

How is this hope produced?  Romans 5 gives us the formula.

Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
— Romans 5:3-5 ESV

Hope isn't made by losing our temper or numbing out.  Hope is the reward for enduring the struggle.

Numbing out will never produce hope.

How easy is it to numb out in our culture?  How easy is it to numb out in our churches?

This advent we get a short cut.  We get to come to Him and get all the hope our little hearts can carry.  He's not checking our endurance cards at the door.  Because guess what?  Jesus is all about short cuts.  He came died and rose again to give us the biggest short cut this world has ever seen.  We cannot earn our place in Heaven, but our citizenship stamp was given when we accept His free gift of forgiveness.

Jesus isn't worried about whether or not we have persevered like an Eye-of-the-Tiger champ.  Jesus isn't going to quiz us on the ratio of time spent on our knees versus time spent in front of Netflix.  Praise Jesus!

This advent we come empty handed to the beautiful story of His birth.  The birth that was anticipated for not just four hundred years, but for all time.

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
— Galatians 4:4-5 ESV

Come.  Accept your gift of hope as a son or a daughter.

We have done our best to preservere during those heavy struggles this year, but we don't always get it right.  We take some hope today anyway.

Let the glow of His hope warm your weary hearts.  Lord knows we need it.

A song for you today.

Shop Sweet 4

The last three years I have posted great ways that you could spend your Christmas money in wonderfully sweet ways, supporting vulnerable communities near and far.  I've got a new list for Christmas 2016 that includes ideas from fair trade companies, give-back companies, and supporting missions.  

Your dollar can be powerful.  The average household spent $830 on Christmas gifts last year.  If we all took a  percentage of that chunk of money and purchased from places that make a difference in our world, imagine the good that could be done.

I am continuing my conviction to make my dollars count in a more meaningful way.  I'm going to buy many of my Christmas gifts from companies who employ under-resourced workers, companies who cycle profits into vulnerable communities, retailers making a difference, local small businesses, and from families raising money for international adoptions.

Before you head off to the mall this Christmas, consider purchasing some of these gifts that will give back to communities that need our support.

Bonus sweetness:  When you buy a present from Amazon (most of us will), use AmazonSmile.  All you have to do is click a link to AmazonSmile before you shop, and a percentage of your purchase is donated to the charity you choose to support.  Personally, I have been supporting our adoption agency AWAA who needs funds to continue caring for orphans in their transition home in Ethiopia.  This is link to support AWAA through AmazonSmile.  Use the link every time you shop at Amazon this holiday season.

You can find adoption fundraisers to support this Christmas by searching "adoption fundraiser" on Etsy or you can join the FaceBook group "Gifts for Adoption."

2016 gift ideas:

1.  Horn Vessel - Dark Horn Vase, $68, ravenandlily.com, empowering women in Kenya.

2.  Vintage Gold Leather Bucket Bag, $159, ssekodesign.com, empowering women in Ethiopia.

2.  Phrase Necklace, $48, livefashionable.com, personalize it - which is so in right nowcreates sustainable business opportunities for women locally and globally.

4.  Colornation Gloria Tote, $145, manoszapotecas.com, handwoven, fair trade, handmade according to time-honored traditions by Zapotec weavers in Teotitlán del Valle, Oaxaca, Mexico. 

1.  Great Expectations Necklace, $58, noondaycollection.com, empower women in Uganda, photo from @msrachelhollis's instagram, contact Nikki Pool.

2.  Trade T-shirt, $15, fairtradefriday.club, support the women Mercy House supports around the globe.

3.  Nautical Fringe Hook, $25, part necklace/part scarf/all cute, banded2gether.com, provides 3 meals in Uganda.

4.  Love God & Serve Others Raglan, $42, persimmonprints.com, small business, gives a percentage back to the good shepherd agricultural mission.

1.  Bethlehem Nativity, $35, marketcolors.org, handmade in Kenya.

2.  Slate Stone Serving Board, $28, tenthousandvillages.com, Authentic Fair Trade Product. Ethically sourced. Handcrafted in India.

3.  Hope Bowl, $26, Trades of Hope, contact Rachel Clark, women who make these beautiful bowls are able to earn an income to feed their families and send their children to school.

4.  Charcoal Soap, $20, theadventureproject.org. Buy a charcoal soap for your loved one, and one woman in Kenya will receive a new charcoal-efficient stove.

Dudes:

1.  PowerLight Bundle, $79, bioliteenergy.com, reinvests funds to bring clean energy to the world.

2.  Wooden Earphones, $15, youwood.org, percentage given to feed hungry, free slaves, and care for the orphan.

3.  Toiletry Bag, $15, carry117.com, empower women in Ethiopia.

4.  Waxed Canvas Tool Bag, $180, kithandkinshop.com, local, small business.

Kiddos:

1.  Rainbow Fish Zooties, $25, cometogethertrading.com empower communities in Kyrgyzstan.

2.  Be a Nice Human Kids Tee, $17, unlockhope.com, supports Think Humanity, an organization that runs a hostel in Hoima, Uganda for young refugee girls from all across Africa, many of whom are orphaned.

3.  3-Car Garage, $30, thehungersite.greatergood.com, funds 50 cups of food.

4.  The Hoot, $28, krochetkids.org,  supports sustainable cycle of employment and empowerment in Uganda.

1.  Take a Walk in My New Shoes children's book, $10, solehope.org, supporting hope, healthier lives, and freedom from foot-related diseases through education, jobs, and medical relief in Uganda.

2.  Bear Felt Rug, $76, globalgoodspartners.org, made by formerly trafficked women artisans in Nepal.

3.  Reading is My Favorite Youth T-Shirt, $20, readerlyshop.com, portion of profits go to eradicate human suffering caused by illiteracy.

4.  Stuffed Alpaca Hammerhead Shark, $32, globalgoodspartners.org, empower women in Peru.


HAPPY SHOPPING & MERRY CHRISTMAS!

 

Don't forget about AmazonSmile!  Use it every time you shop at Amazon.

This is the link to support America World Adoption Agency.  

 

Other places on my blog to find gift ideas:

2015 Shop Sweet list

2014 Shop Sweet list

2013 Shop Sweet list

I like to include music with my blog posts.  This week we lost Sharon Jones.  She had an amazing voice.  I had a chance to see her sing once, and it is a beautiful memory.  You will be missed, Sharon.