Choosing to be grateful

The weekend before Thanksgiving, I decided to bake up a batch of Chocolate Chip Toffee Bars to share with some friends we were going to be seeing the next day. I turned on the oven and pulled out all the ingredients to start putting this yumminess together. Once I had the bottom crust ready for the oven, I saw that the oven was only at 123 degrees.

There was no way this recipe was going to bake in an oven at that temperature!

So I sent a text to a neighbor, who thankfully was home and willing to let me use her oven. Meanwhile, my husband started checking into what could be the problem with the oven.

I was able to get my baking finished, but the conclusion was...the oven was not working!

Now you have to understand a couple of things...we are a 'if it can be fixed, fix it' type of family. We still have a dryer that is about 20 years old, because it works. We are probably the last family in the country who purchased a flat screen TV because our big, heavy one was still working until just a couple of months ago.

But the biggie right now for me...I love to bake!! And to not have an oven right before Thanksgiving...baking is how I survive the cold weather!!

{taking a deep breath}

However, I was not hosting Thanksgiving...

My neighbors were willing to let me borrow their ovens for the couple of items I was bringing to Thanksgiving at my sister's house...

I have other ways to prepare and cook food for my family...

Then I received a big surprise last week...I am one of about 400 people who have been selected to be part of the launch team for Kristen Welch's new book, Raising Grateful Kids

If I want my children to choose to be grateful, I need them to see me embrace being grateful, whatever the circumstances. 

Yes, it stinks that my oven is not working. But I have seen more joy on the faces of people who have much less than I do. And when I remember what I have been blessed to see and experience, I need to not give into my selfish tendencies and choose to live differently.


Now, I am not perfect. My ugly self rears itself more often than I would like.

But this life is a journey, and on this journey we have much to learn.

Moment by moment, we can choose to be grateful.

Meet Sarah from International Blessings!

In our age of technology and social media, I love how we can connect with people across this big spinning globe of ours who have similar interests. Recently, I have been learning more about the fair trade industry and one small business here in the United States that is helping to make a difference in the lives of families around the world.

Let me introduce you to Sarah!

Sarah graciously allowed me to interview her for my blog so that I can share with all of you the great work and products she has to help each one of us make better choices as consumers.

1. Tell me a little about you and your family.

My husband and I have been married for 5 years. We have 2 kids - Nora is 3 years old and Nate is 20 months old. We live in a small rural community near my parents farm. Both my husband and I grew up on farms so agriculture is a big part of our lives. We are also active in our church and community.  My husband works for the University of Missouri as a Beef Research Specialist. I am a stay at home mom and business owner. I love to travel internationally, and have been blessed to have served in 24 countries around the world.

2. When you were a little girl, what did you dream about doing when you grew up?

I dreamed of being an agricultural missionary for as long as I can remember. I specifically remember wanting to go to Brazil on a mission trip while in the 8th grade. But my parents thought I was too young and that maybe it was just a phase!  I desperately wanted to see & experience the world, while serving and sharing the love of Christ.

3. How does International Blessings fit into that dream?

International Blessings keeps me connected to the international world. It gives me opportunities to make a difference by serving impoverished people and to connect 2 worlds, 2 lifestyles, 2 cultures so that they can support each other. And this year, it has led me back to my roots as an international missionary by taking me to Peru to visit artisans and to serve the Peruvian people. In Sept, I will also be going to Haiti to visit artisans I currently work with, create new partnerships, and to serve alongside ministries that are already impacting the Haitian people.

4. Tell me a bit more about International did you get started, why did you start it?

My first mission trip was in 2003, and I had just finished my junior year of highschool. It was to Ecuador, and I then proceeded to serve in Panama, Bali, Burkina Faso, Belize, Mexico, and India. While I was in Burkina Faso, I made friends with a local girl and hung out with her family. She taught me how to macrame (crafting with knots) bags and/or purses. It was here that God laid on my heart a desire to help families like hers. I saw those creative, handmade bags and thought about the impact that selling those bags in the U.S. could make on families in poverty. But it took me awhile before I seriously pursed this dream. After graduating from College of the Ozarks near Branson, Mo, I went on the World Race in October 2008.  The World Race is a life changing experience, serving in 11 countries in 11 months, sharing God's love through children's ministry, construction, prayer walks, etc, living out of a backpack, and pushing every comfort zone you have.  

Shortly after arriving home, I married my husband (we dated before and during my trip, well, as much as you can when you are thousands of miles apart with little communication!!).  It wasn't until I was married with our first child that I decided I needed to start that dream that God had laid on my heart so many years prior, and International Blessings was born.

5. How do you form partnerships with your artisans?

A few of my partnerships came from contacts that I made while doing international mission work or through the mission networks that I am a part of. I have also done a lot of research through google and social media looking for small artisan groups, specifically Christian ministries that work to break the cycle of poverty. The connections that I have made have also led to new partnerships. I went to Peru in January to visit a group called Sanyork Fair Trade, and this trip led to meeting 2 more artisan groups. And I will be going to Haiti to visit 2-3 artisans groups as well!  I am so excited to see what God has in store for International Blessings and the impact that we can have on empowering impoverished people around the world.

6. What is your goal for International Blessings?

My ultimate goal for International Blessings is to build relationships in the poorest of the poor places, to teach life & business skills, and to provide impoverished people around the world the resources necessary to start their own businesses that will transform their lives. 

International Blessings is my passion and my purpose. My heart was broken over and over at the sight of poverty, of hopelessness, and of desperation in the eyes of the smallest kids. I want to change that!  I want to give those families hope, dignity, and possibility that has a lasting affect.  This business is creating sustainable livelihoods and breaking that cycle of poverty. As Mother Teresa said, "Not all of us can do great things. But we CAN do small things with great love." And if we each commit to doing those small things, then those small things become great things that we accomplish together.

Thank you so much Sarah for the interview! And hey my friends, be sure to like her Facebook page where you can see a few videos from her recent trip to Haiti where she has been visiting with artisans and purchasing products to sell here in the United States.

Life is so unfair

We get frustrated at so many things in this life. I know I do...

Costco stopped carrying frozen orange juice concentrate

It is Monday which means I need to do laundry, meal plan, and grocery shop...again!

There are potato chip crumbs on the couch

We need a new roof and currently don't have any funds available to pay for a new one

But then, I watch a documentary like 'The True Cost', or read a book like 'Jesus, Bread, and Chocolate', or receive a letter from one of our Compassion kids...and it makes me wonder...

What about my life is so unfair?
Why do I feel I have the right to be frustrated?
How can I even try to make a difference?
I am only one person, so why should I even try to make a difference?

I understand that many of the problems in this world are really too big for any one person to tackle...

and I believe that God orchestrates and plans for each person to be on this planet at just the right time for His purpose...

So where can each one of us begin to make sense of this unfair life?

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

Educate yourself - read up on topics that stir your heart, make your blood boil, and that you deeply care about.

Educate others - share quotes from books you read, share statistics about the impact of organizations you are involved with

Volunteer - seek out volunteer opportunities with an organization you can partner with

Life is so unfair

Yes, life is so unfair...but each one of us can use our voice and our actions to make a difference in the lives of many who are less fortunate than we are.

Our First Launch

When your children are little, many older moms always tell you to enjoy the moments you have with your children because the time goes quickly.

My children playing pirates

The days turn into months, and the months turn into years. After all the good times and hard times, you finally arrive at that moment.

You know the one, the moment when your first child is ready to leave home.

Working at the Compassion Mobile Experience

Over the past few years, we have had the opportunity to volunteer at many Compassion events. Concerts, conferences, and the Mobile Experience, Matthew has graciously come along side me to be my traveling companion.

Then, an incredible opportunity came about for Matthew. One that would give him an opportunity to travel around the country, and be a part of making a difference in the lives of children waiting for sponsors with Compassion.

Matthew heading to Nashville

On Sunday, we dropped Matthew off at the airport so he could fly out to his new job! He is now employed at Brewco Marketing Group as a Brand Ambassador for Compassion with their Mobile Experience!

I am over the top excited for him, but I have definitely had some weeping moments over the last couple of days. So much of my life has been poured into my children. I am not sure if there is anything that anyone can say or do that makes this any easier.

But I do know one thing...I completely trust in the Lord that this is His plan for Matthew at this point of his life. As much as we will miss him while he is not in our home, we know that he is going to be making a huge difference in the lives of many children around the world.

"For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." - Jeremiah 29:11

Good News Still Comes in the Mail

Back in October of 2011, my daughter became the correspondent sponsor to a young lady in Uganda. Since that time, Kelsey has been a faithful letter writer and prayer warrior for Alesi.  In her letters to Alesi, Kelsey shares with her little things about her life and Bible verses to encourage her. 

Today, she received the best news in a letter from Alesi!

Good News Still Comes in the Mail
"I have accepted Jesus into my heart and I have accepted Him as my personal Savior in August 2014"

Everyday, we get really excited when cream colored envelopes from Compassion arrive in our mailbox. But this one letter, from one young lady in Uganda, is an extra special letter.

Because of one faithful sponsor providing the financial portion of Alesi's sponsorship, and because of the faithful workers and volunteers at the center Alesi is attending in Uganda, and because of the faithful prayers and letters of a 15 year old young lady, Alesi now has an eternal home.

"For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" - Romans 6:23