In My Shoes

This week, I will be attending Catalyst Conference for the first time. I’m really excited to be able to get to know a few new people and to put some faces with folks I’ve only “met” via email. Today, we received an interesting email from one of the event’s sponsors, Toms Shoes, asking us to tell them in 200 words or fewer why we would like to go on a Toms giving trip–where they distribute their shoes (free of charge) to kids who are in need.

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I thought, “Hey, a writing challenge! Let’s go for it!” It was fun to consider the issue from a new angle—from the bottom up as it were. My entry read as follows:

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I am a woman with size 11 feet, so finding shoes can be a bit of a struggle. Stores usually stock only one pair that will fit my tootsies, and another gal who’s in the same predicament I am often beats me to them. Either that, or they’re wide width. The problem? My feet are narrow. So, like Goldilocks, I’m on a perpetual hunt for something that fits “just right.”

My frustration, however, is of little consequence compared to what children around the world face. Their shoelessness is not a mild inconvenience, a lack of trendy, comfortable kicks. They’re fighting a battle against disease, and that’s a struggle we can spare them with a few strips of canvas and latex.

I would love to participate in a giving trip, to wash the feet of God’s beautiful creations and watch their faces light up. As they wiggle their toes inside those new shoes—ones that fit and will last—they’ll realize they’re one step closer to a better quality of life. They’ll know that they matter to me and, more importantly, to God. Having size 11 clodhoppers hardly matters in the face of something as grand as that.   

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I’ve had a lot of little things go wrong this week. Our health insurance was impacted by Obamacare (more on that later), and my car broke down on the way home today. However, when I think about the fact that I have a car to break and the money to fix it again, it makes me much less angry about it. Even in my problems, I am blessed.

What about you all? Has something reminded you to be more grateful lately? What are you thankful for?

Leaving on a Jet Plane….Sort Of

I just received my first update from charity:water since the fundraising phase of my  project began. The $1,000 we collected has now been sent to Ethiopia along with that collected by other projects, and the work will soon begin on the well.

I’m pretty sure all the wonderful, amazing, benevolent, swanky, hip, funky-fresh-for-the-nineties folks who donated will be getting these updates, but I also want to share them here so everyone can see that this charity works in a tangible way. In a year or so, we’ll actually have the GPS coordinates where the well can be found as well as pictures of it and the people it has blessed. I don’t know about you, but I’m stoked!

**FYI, if you click on the images, they are easier to read.**

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Eight Days and Counting

Okay, I’m not a procrastinator. I’m detail oriented. I have three calendars to keep track of work, home, and school. But somehow, I misread my account information over at charity:water. YIKES! I thought I had until a week before my birthday to raise the $1,000 I was hoping to donate, but I actually only have a few days. Eight to be exact. So I need some help if I’m going to meet my goal!

The first thing you need to do is watch this:

Then you need to check into charity:water to see just how amazingly legit they are.

You can read about their mission.

You can learn about their 100% Model. Yes, all your money goes to building wells. All the overhead costs, salaries, and other little evils are covered by private donors.

You can even read their latest annual report. They have a four star rating AIP rating, which is pretty amazing.

The founder and CEO even has a great talk on YouTube if you have 40 minutes to spare.

Finally, you need to head on over to my donation page, which is here, and give whatever you can to help build a well in Tigray, Ethiopia. 

In about eighteen months, everyone who donates to my birthday project will get an email with GPS coordinates showing where the well was built as and photos from the construction project.

Image courtesy of Wikipedia.

Tigray is in the northernmost region of Ethiopia and is home to 4,316,988 people, only 54% of which have access to clean drinking water. According to the CSA, “31.6% of the inhabitants fall into the lowest wealth quintile; adult literacy for men is 67.5% and for women 33.7%; and the regional infant mortality rate is 67 infant deaths per 1,000 live births, which less than the nationwide average of 77; at least half of these deaths occurred in the infants’ first month of life.” You can see some gorgeous shots of the country and its people here.

I’m really looking forward to seeing where the money goes, so much so that I wish I could raise the entire $1,000 by myself. But alas and alack, I am but one humble person who works for a non-profit organization. 🙂 That means I need all the help I can get. $5 to $500–every bit of it makes a difference. As of right now, I’m just shy of the halfway mark.

I’d be happy to do something painful or embarrassing if I knew it would help. I’ll gladly take suggestions!

Walking Intentionally

I don’t usually go in for resolutions, but this year, I felt prompted to have a goal for 2013. The word that sums it up is Intentional, which means  “done with  purpose.” All too often, life gets busy and in the way of the things I mean to do or to say. I end up missing so much because I’m fighting to keep up. My goal for this year is to slow down, to observe rather than glance over the people, events, and moments in my life. I’m going to follow the advice of Henry David Thoreau and “Simplify.”

I know God has something to show me, and I don’t want to miss it.  I want to serve where He wills it and to be fully present in the moments He has handcrafted for my sanctification and, more importantly, His glory. That’s why I chose Micah 6:8 as my Bible verse. It reminds me that God isn’t complicated, and serving Him shouldn’t be either. It says:

“He has told you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

The last five years have been rough financially, spiritually, physically, and professionally. Pretty much anything negative that could happen (short of death) did. But I’m on the other side of it now, and I am not the same person I was then. I know what it is to feel lost and helpless, like a boat without a rudder that drifts from one place to another with only the fickle wind for company. But I had something that many people don’t–a family to love and encourage me. And now that I’m on the other side of that long, dark valley, I understand why God had me walk through it.

I now know what it feels like and, more than anything, I want to be for others what my family was to me. That’s why I pledged my birthday to charity:water this year and began supporting my first child through Compassion International. His name is Edmond, and he lives in Burkina Faso–a country I couldn’t have pointed out on a map before this year. I received my first letter from him last week, complete with an artistic scribbling that could either be a seashell or a diagram from Dante’s Inferno, I can’t quite tell.

He also asked me a question—“Do you love children?”

I held that letter, written in both English and French, in my hand, and realized that he had asked me a very intentional question. Do I? Do I love children? Do I love them the way Christ loves them?

The answer five years ago would have been a very non-committal “yes.” I did in the general sense, but now, something is changed within me. I want to provide justice and kindness for children. I look at Edmond and Paromika (the little girl my husband sponsors) and I think about what life must be like for them. I think about how much I have been blessed with. I don’t want to give because I feel guilty or pushed into it for legalistic reasons. I want to share for the simple joy of it, to know that in some small way I am intentionally giving to someone who’s life will be improved by a few dollars…or a few words I write on a blog. It is one way I can do justice, love kindness and, above all, walk humbly with my God.

By the way, if you liked this or you want to know more about other Compassion bloggers, join the blog hop using the links below!


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Of Generosity and Snooty Norwegian Water

Imagine my surprise Thursday morning when I looked in my inbox and saw that I had not one, but two donations to my charity:water project, Aqua Jade! I saw the two were for the same amount and from the same person, so I figured there must be a glitch in the notification system. However, when I logged on later, I saw that the person had, in fact, donated twice. Now, this may still prove to be a clerical error, and that’s just fine with me. I’m still stunned by her generosity.

Why? Because I have no idea who “Shawnee M” is. Literally no clue at all. And she gave me $100—my biggest donation yet.

She and I could pass one another on the street, offer to hold the door for each other, or even have a moment of polite conversation while waiting in line and never know that we are connected in one of the most intimate and wonderful ways possible—love and kindness.

This is the second donation I’ve gotten from someone I have no way to thank. Like Blanche DuBois, I’m “depending on the kindness of strangers” for this little attempt at helping others because there’s no way I can come up with that kind of scratch on my own. (I work for a non-profit for goodness sake.) And two people have already stepped up, one of them doing more than double what I did for the cause. She helped not one but four people gain access to clean drinking water by giving to someone who can never repay her for her kindness.

Shawnee M—whoever you are—know that you blessed me in a way you can never imagine. I can only give so much. But if my campaign and my story can get just a few wonderful people like you to help out, we can change the lives of an entire village full of people in Ethiopia. These are people who will never know the prosperity we enjoy every single day. It’s a privilege to serve them alongside you.

A project like this compels a person to see the world in new ways. What could easily be taken for granted are cause for introspection, a reason to question the “why” of things. Honestly, I don’t buy bottled water. Not because I’m against it for ecological reasons (though that thought has crossed my mind) but because, at home and at work, I have access to clean, cold, filtered water any time I want. I put it in cups or my wicked cool Marvel aluminum bottle that I got on sale for $2.50 at the Disney Store. (Yeah, I’m grown. What about it?)

So it’s only natural that I can glide on by the wall of water bottles at the local grocery store every time I run in there. (I don’t know about you, but if I don’t need something, I’m not wasting the time it takes to walk down the aisle.) Today though, still thinking about that $100, I took a look at the endless supply of bottles and thought about just how blessed I am.

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I counted fifteen brands. Spring, drinking, purified, and even fluoridated. Flavored, flat, and sparkling. It comes in plastic bottles, ones made of glass, and even aluminum cans. It’s topped with everything from sport lids to screw-on tops. Man, we are truly spoiled for choice.

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And this is something about which I must rant.

Of all the bottles on the shelf, which were arranged in order of price, Voss took the grand prize for cost. Two glass bottles of water for $5.00 (at a savings of $.50 mind you!) Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure it tastes great…you know, like water. And the bottle is quite well designed. It’s clean and simple, like something out of Tron. And, to Voss’ credit, they do have a foundation that supplies clean water to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa.

But there’s something in me, call it common sense, that just can’t fathom paying $2.50 for a bottle of water. Even if it is, in their words, “taken from a virgin aquifer that… has been shielded for centuries under ice and rock in the untouched wilderness of Central Norway.” It sounds like Superman’s Fortress of Solitude, not a bottle full of hydrogen and oxygen.

Image from comicvine.com.

The money someone spends on eight bottles of this stuff could buy a lifetime of clean water for a person in need. Eight bottles is…counting on fingers….168.8 fluid ounces. A gallon is only 128. So for $20 you get less than a gallon and a half of water. Foundation or not, that’s ridiculous, Norway. You have some lovely fjords and were the birthplace of both Edward Munch and Henrik Ibsen. The Vikings were pretty awesome, too, as is the Nobel Prize.

A-ha wasn’t bad either. In fact,  if I were an evil overlord bent on destruction, I would spare your frigid nation only because of “Take On Me.” But you can keep your snooty water.

Water, Water, Everywhere

If you look through the Bible, you’ll find that God has done some amazing stuff with water.

It was there at the beginning of the world.

God used it to save Moses and deliver His people from Egypt. Men like NaamanGideon, and Elijah employed to prove His might.

Jesus walked on it, turned it into wine, used it to teach a Samaritan woman, and–most importantly–to make all things new.

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According to howstuffworks.com, “There are 326 million trillion gallons of water on our planet,” only a fraction of which we can drink. But it’s more than enough to support all living things.

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If you’re like me, you have an endless supply of it in your house to drink, cook with, and bathe in. It keeps your lawn green and your car clean. You play and swim in it. And the only time you even think about it is when it stops working. However, there are billions (yes BILLIONS) of people around the world who don’t have easy access to it and die because they are forced to drink from unsafe sources. According to the World Health Organization, “90% of the 30,000 deaths that occur every week from unsafe water and unhygienic living conditions are children under five years old.”

90% = 27,000 children who won’t get a chance to live full lives because they can’t get to something that God created in abundance.

160x600_jerryIn my mind, that’s inexcusable.

God has blessed us with amazing resources, and we should be putting them to use to help. Isaiah 41:17-18 says, “The poor and needy seek water, but there is none. Their tongues fail for thirst. I, the Lord, will hear them. I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open rivers in desolate heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys. I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water.”

It’s up to us, His people, to be the tools He uses to open those rivers in desolate places and free fountains hidden in the valley. He’s placed it there, and it only takes a little work for us to bless others with fresh water (and to be blessed ourselves in the process).

I discovered all these facts when I read an article by Craig Borlase on his website. In it, he profiles Scott Harrison, founder and CEO of charity:water. He was a believer who walked away from God for a time but came back to faith. He is now using his talents to bring about positive change. As a photojournalist, “he saw in the stagnant ponds and arduous, dangerous journeys lugging dirty H20 back to the most basic of homes, an issue that was right at the heart of so much suffering: water. Fix that, he realized, and life is almost instantly transformed.”

They’ve created a pretty impressive video that explains all the ways clean water changes lives.

All the research I’ve done revealed  charity:water is a 100% legit operation–totally transparent and above board. When you give, all of your money goes to a project, and you get the chance to see where your donation went. Once the well you helped pay to construct is complete, you receive GPS coordinates and photos from the building site.

2012 was an amazing year for me, one in which I was blessed in so many ways. I have an wonderful family who loves and supports me as well as a kind and godly husband who has cared for me for thirteen years. I go to work every day at a job I love and come home to a beautiful house we just purchased. I have an amazing church family and friends. However, I realize that God didn’t give me these good things just so I could keep them to myself.

To tell you the truth, I’m tired of building bigger barns. I feel like it’s time to love God and love my neighbors on this great big beautiful planet like I love myself.

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One of the ways I want to do this is by donating my birthday to charity:water. I’ve had a lot of awesome birthdays, so it seems only fitting that on my 35th, I help children so they can celebrate beyond their 5th.

Basically, rather than people sending me gifts or cards, taking me out for meals, or spending money on something I don’t really need, I’m asking them to donate that cash to my water campaign. (Though wishing me happy birthday on Facebook is still okay. It’s free after all.) 🙂

You can access my campaign–Aqua Jade–by clicking here.

$20 is enough to help one person gain access to fresh water, and it will change his or her life in ways you never dreamed possible. I’ve already made my donation, and I’m going to keep studying Scripture and blogging about the issue until my birthday on April 21, 2013. If you can, please consider donating….or better yet, start a project of your own!

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“And whoever gives one of these little ones only a cup of cold water in the name of a disciple, assuredly, I say to you, he shall by no means lose his reward.”—Matthew 10:42

If you’re interested in donating, starting a project of your own, or telling me about your own experiences with this charity or others that are near and dear to your heart, I would love to hear about it. Share your stories and ideas in the comments section below!

Welcome In, Reach Out

Well, feed me peanuts and call me Dumbo…

The July issue of In Touch Magazine hit homes last week, and I was blessed and honored beyond all measure to be one of the feature pieces! You can read the article online and leave comments by visiting here, read it via the pages posted below, or (best of all) sign up here to get In Touch Magazine sent to you free of charge every month!

For this one, I explore the methods of evangelism practiced by the ancient Celtic Christians and how we might be able to apply them (and enjoy the same success they did) today. I hope you enjoy. Please leave comments and let me know if you are already using any of the techniques discussed and what your results were. I’m interested in seeing how it works in different communities.