Saying Thanks & Giving Hope

I am realizing that I need to consciously and intentionally be thankful. What I mean is that I’m coming to see that to live in joy, I have to stop in the middle of a hectic or emotional moment where things just feel hard – and remember how much I have to be thankful for. Why? Because some days I just don’t naturally dwell on the good. It’s far too easy to think about what isn’t going right, rather than simply being grateful on a daily basis for what is. And for as unnatural as that can be in a disappointing or difficult situation – I want to be filled up with little tangible reminders of God’s goodness.

So when I see a great idea like Donate Hope, I get really excited for the good things it can bring. This social media campaign has a simple message. Be thankful. And do something about it. DonateHope asks you to post a video of something you’re thankful for, and then donate to vulnerable kids in Haiti (with Loving Shepherd Ministries.) The goal is to get us thinking about the things we have to be thankful for – and giving so that children around the world can have those same opportunities…

My roommate and I joined up and did a video together- and had so much fun sharing our thanks with friends and mentors who have touched our lives. Check out our video here:

You can jump on board too. What are you thankful for? And how can you share your thanks with others?

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Giving Back with Your Gifts

I love Christmas. And as I sit here with the twinkling lights making my little house so cozy, I’m just reminded how grateful I am. Grateful for the Savior we celebrate. Grateful for the family and friends who make this season so special. And in the midst of the holiday flurries, grateful for purpose in the little things. You see, each Christmas, I ask myself: How can the gifts I’m giving make a real impact and show the people closest to me how much they mean to me?

I’ve come across some great organizations that are empowering people worldwide. I’m making really simple homemade gifts that are meaningful and personal. And for me, it becomes part of what makes the holidays so special.

Here’s a few ideas that can make gift-giving a meaningful experience this Christmas: 

Give a Gift that Gives Back: 

Gifts with a Purpose: Jen Hatmaker // She’s compiled a great list of companies and organizations that are giving back with each purchase. It’s a great list – and I’ve boughten more than one gift off of this list.

Christmas Giveaway: Sarah Flying Kites // Sarah’s a personal friend of mine and she’s highlighting three organizations (one of them is LSM which is a shameless plug). But she’s also got some great sources that you should check out for Christmas gifts.

Yobel Market // High quality products that are empowering local artisans worldwide.

Live Fashionable // Their scarves from Ethiopia are AMAZING…

LSM: Gifts of Hope // Give a life-changing gift to a vulnerable child this Christmas in Haiti or Ethiopia. Check out LSM for options.

Try Something Homemade: 

Pinterest is full of some great ideas, and there’s no end to the cute holiday goodies you can assemble. Maybe I’ll share more about my family’s homemade gifts after our Christmas (so the secrets don’t get out), but these homemade gifts have become a well-loved tradition for my family. Or if you’re not so creative yourself, simply gift from ETSY or another vendor site from small businesses.

Homemade Biscotti

I’d love to hear your ideas for gifts as you’re preparing for Christmas. What kind of creative gift-giving do you do? How do you show your family and friends that you love them? And how do you give back during the holidays?

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Recognizing Beauty

There was a movement a while back on Facebook where you were supposed to share five pictures that made you feel beautiful. I thought about that – about how much we as women just need reminders that we are beautifulWe need to embrace the natural qualities that make us lovely, instead of constantly comparing or tearing apart the details of our bodies.

picture source: gracieloo.tumblr.com

I have found that some of the most beautiful women I’ve met strike this simple balance. They embrace their personal beauty elegantly, but are not afraid of their flaws. They also have a deeper strength and gracefulness that flows out of them and spills life into their face. They are lovely. They are confident in the natural ways that they have been created to be. They are the women I want to be like. 

This is a journey for me, and I suspect many others. So I’m doing some things to surround myself more with those lovely women that I admire. Things like “Thankful Parties” and nights with my grandma, and grabbing coffee with mentors and finding those elements of truth in each experience.

I think maybe this is a step closer to true freedom. Freedom to embrace life and recognize that what He has created is beautiful. For its not until we truly embrace it for ourselves that we can ever hope to spread that dignity and life to others.

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Build Your Life Like a Work of Art

A friend shared this quote a while ago, and I’ve had it saved since then. It speaks volumes to my soul, full of things I want to remember and embrace. Does it speak to you too?

“Faith is not the clinging to a shrine but an endless pilgrimage of the heart. Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement, [to] get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted.

Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.

Prayer begins at the edge of emptiness. Wonder rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge. Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy. We can never sneer at the stars, mock the dawn, or scoff at the totality of being.

Self-respect is the root of discipline: The sense of dignity grows with the ability to say no to oneself. The primary purpose of prayer is not to make requests. The primary purpose is to praise, to sing, to chant. Because the essence of prayer is a song, and man cannot live without a song.

When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people. Know that every deed counts, that every word is power… Above all, remember that you must build your life as if it were a work of art.”

~Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel
(January 11, 1907 – December 23, 1972)

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We’ve All Got Stories

I love cities. Hip cafes, endless art and shops to explore on every street. But what I really love is watching people. Business women power-walking several blocks in heals, homeless men with wet cardboard signs and their heavy dark winter coats, stained with experience. Dog-walkers, workers precariously high on scaffolding, valet parkers in velvet coats, shoppers laden with packages, food truckers in dirty aprons, tourists with those dazed expressions of “where am I?”. They’re all people with unique stories.

There’s a sense of connection for me there, amidst such diversity of occupation, race, stature and age. Everybody has a place and a story that just for that moment landed them in that particular city, right there on the same street.

Do you ever wonder what their stories are? 

Photo Source: http://www.chicagodetours.com/about/chicago-tour-guide-employment/web-people-walking-tour/

photo source: http://bit.ly/1sleNRz

Last week, I went to Storyline and after a day in downtown Chicago (for another conference), I headed to the suburbs for three days learning to write better stories. It was awesome – although I confess, I think the significant time spent on thinking about and writing your own story was the most powerful.

Why’s that? Because I’m entirely convinced that when we have the courage stop people watching and turn inward –  to face the dark, untouched places of our mind and heart – we’ll come out much braver for it. Braver, and confident and able to live like God intended.  Bob Goff put so concisely at the conference:

“God wants us to live right on the edge of yikes.”

I want to be there – right on the cliff – thrilled beyond measure to be following a Master who is guiding those amazing stories. And when I stand before Him at the end, I want to hear something like this: “You SAW people, and the more you got to know Me, the more you saw them and their needs, their struggles and their stories. The more you saw, the more you entered in with them. You were constantly on the edge of yikes – and it’s right where I wanted you because you knew it wasn’t your effort, but my Spirit moving in you. Well done, my daughter. You lived in grace and you walked in love (2 John 1.6).” 

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Keep Your Feet Grounded

I met a woman on the plane this morning who just lost her husband to cancer a mere three months ago. She was traveling to Scotland for holiday with her cousin, a chance to get away and heal. We talked the whole flight – both tearful by the end – acknowledging the hardness of life, the resiliency and wholeness of life with faith amidst that pain, and the incredible gift of people.

This woman has a story. And it makes me want to step back for a minute. Because somewhere in that pain, she was at peace. She had hope and strength that doesn’t just come on your own.  This woman reminded me of a simple and profound life choice: keep your feet grounded on the Rock. 

She is ok. This woman shared deep abuses from her past, the tragic – and slow – death of her husband, and the incredible things she’s overcome in life. How could a woman like that have so much strength? In incredible weakness, Christ made her strong. He showed up in her hard times (sometimes in the form of dreams, sometimes in the form of friends) but there was always someone or something there to carry her through.

I think about the myriad of people I’ve met in the course of my life who exemplify that same message. They give me courage. Courage that we can get through incredibly hard things in life when we have Christ as our Rock. Courage that we can weather storms with each other. And courage to believe that this kind of strength and peace is possible through tragedy.

I sit here thinking about her smile, I’m reminded of the opportunities we have to touch the lives of people around us every day. May we be firmly planted on the Rock so we can boldly weather the storms together.

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Walking with Burdens

I look at this and think about how much I try and carry on my own sometimes. Does it look as ridiculous as this?

Found on flickr.com

Found on flickr.com

I’m in a season of realizing the load I’ve been carrying is too much for just me. I need those who can help shoulder the load and walk with me. And as I confess that with trusted friends, I find there are others… many others, who feel the same. Put simply – we are recognizing that we need each other. 

Ecclesiastes 4:9, “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.”

When I first saw the picture, all I saw was the huge load of baskets. And then I realized… there were three of them, sharing the load, walking together – a load made a bit more manageable. 

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