Change the World. Look Good Doing It.

I think I first became aware of fair trade products in college. My circle of friends consisted of political scientists and social-justice minded people who thought deeply about their purchases. As we talked about changing the world over cafes and wine, sustainability, fair wages, and intentional purchasing peppered our conversations.

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Image courtesy of Fair Trade Friday.

Once I had my first job and steady income, I set to budgeting out my expenses. I had a monthly clothing budget set aside and, once I had a more professional wardrobe built, found that I was able to spend it on more expensive fairly made items. The thought of buying less but buying better was something I worked hard to live out. I shopped locally as much as possible and sought out fair trade items.

When Frank proposed, he purposefully sought out an ethically sourced engagement ring, knowing how important the story behind the purchase is to me. Most of the artwork in our home is from travels, artists we know, or fair trade sources. We are by no means perfect – I just bought some pajamas at Target, knowing I probably should have gotten another pair of Punjammies. Most of Bea’s clothes are disposable, as she plays hard and it’s tough for me to justify purchasing expensive items whose knees will be worn through by the end of the season.

Jewelry and accessories seem different, though. These are items I wear time and again and whose stories often serve as conversation starters. I recently googled “what to wear to a networking event” and a suggestion was a piece of jewelry with a story behind it. People will remember the story more easily than your resume. Most of my jewelry comes from my travels or has a story behind it. I think I only have a handful of items that I bought at chain stores.

Stunning earrings from Earring of the Month Club

Stunning earrings from Earring of the Month Club

When given the opportunity to join Fair Trade Friday’s blogging team, I jumped at the chance. I had heard incredible reviews about this high-quality company, whose mission is to empower women across the globe. A couple weeks ago, I received a pair of earrings from their Earring of the Month club. They are beautifully made, lightweight, and versatile. Mine came from Ethiopia, and I loved knowing a bit of the story behind my jewelry.

Fair Trade Friday is a ministry of Mercy House Kenya, an organization formed to support mothers and their babies. Mercy House not only provides maternal education to young mothers, but also aides in giving them skills to support their new families.

In just a year, FTF has grown to include over 1,000 women in 16 countries, giving them opportunities to grow their businesses by selling their products through The Mercy Shop. There are several ways to support the vision of Fair Trade Friday. A perfect starter option is the Earring of the Month Club. Each month, a pair of chic, high quality earrings are delivered. A detail I love is that gift tags are included. Because styles, colors, and products aren’t guaranteed, the option to gift anything that doesn’t go with your personal style helps spread the love of this organization.

GIVEAWAY! I received an extra pair of earrings from Fair Trade Friday. Leave a comment about your experience with buying fair trade – Do you do it already? Have you thought of it but have never taken the leap? I’ll pick a winner on Friday, July 3.

I received a complimentary pair of earrings as part of the Blogging Team. All opinions are my own.

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Letting Dreams Simmer

We have friends who recently sold their house and many of their possessions to pursue a dream. They have a few short term plans, but are long-term open to wherever life leads. They are dreaming big and are taking big steps to follow that dream.

My sister-in-law is pursuing a career as a motivational speaker. She jumped in with both feet, quitting her job to pursue this dream. She is learning as she goes and is taking big steps to make this big dream a reality.

We have other friends who have had a dream of opening their home to missionaries in transition. After over fifty years of serving as missionaries themselves and encouraging others, their dream has just become a reality. They waited and saved and prayed and quietly pursued this dream.

Dreaming of more family time

Dreaming of more family time

Work has been insane lately for Frank. This is tough as we anticipate a change in our family dynamic, but also because summertime is supposed to be a quieter spell at the business and it has felt similar to a tax season schedule. (Maybe not that bad, but still long, hectic hours!) We’ve been dreaming about how we can make changes to this schedule to allow for more family time and flexibility to pursue more life-giving dreams. The reality is that we’ll have to dream and save and wait for a few years before making this change. It’s not just about us, but the employees and business model that depend on Frank’s hard work.

It’s easy for me to look at big, loud dreams and wish for immediate change and results for our own family. And, sometimes those big dreams are exactly what is needed to make a change or pursue a vision. But, I need to remember that dreams often simmer for quite some time. That as they simmer, we shift and prepare and become open to possibilities that the initial dream may not have been.

On the busy days, I want our dream to happen right now, but I’m learning to be content with letting our ideas simmer, knowing that we’re making small changes toward a bigger goal.

Are you a big dreamer or do you let ideas simmer?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

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Acknowledging Privilege

I’ve never really been into family history. I know vague details – my paternal grandmother’s family came over from England in the early Mayflower-ish days; my paternal grandfather’s family came over from England around World War 1; my maternal grandfather’s family came from Germany…. I have access to more details, but just have never really researched it.

Both sides settled in the midwest and consisted of business owners. They never owned slaves or explicitly participated in systems of injustice but they certainly benefited from being educated, white, Anglo-Saxon immigrants. As a result, I have benefited from coming from generations of educated, white, “upwardly mobile” people.

Last week, as I grappled with the events of Charleston, I posted an article about how we label shooters of color differently than those who are white. As a result, someone suggested I was spreading racism – that this isn’t about color; that we need to stop seeing differences; that until we do, nothing will change. Another friend and I have had a few brief conversations about privilege. She has said that I can’t apologize for my privilege – it’s  not something to be ashamed of.

I agree with her on some level. My privilege is not what’s going to change the systemic issues that are in place. However, by not acknowledging my privilege, is my silence continuing these systemic injustices? By recognizing my own benefits and apologizing for my part a system of injustice, I don’t think I’m negating the positives of privilege, but simply acknowledging the unfairness of the world we live in.

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My friend, Adrienne is someone who exemplifies using her privilege to graciously make changes. At the Pride Parade here in Denver, she has worn a shirt a shirt reading, Hurt by the church? Get a straight apology here. Adrienne is one of the kindest, most loving advocates to the gay community that I know. She has nothing to apologize for. Yet, she recognizes the importance of apology, that bridges are slowly built when we recognize our global privilege. By offering an apology to individuals hurt by the church, she is not taking on the atrocities committed against the gay community herself, but she is recognizing the privilege straight people benefit from on a daily basis.

In his book Blue Like Jazz, Donald Miller describes a similar idea. He and his friends set up a confessional, apologizing for the church’s role in such global atrocities as the Crusades, Inquisition, and slavery. By confessing these sins, Miller is not negating all the good the church has done over the centuries, nor is he personally taking on the sins of the church. He is recognizing that the church has made some big mistakes – mistakes from which we are still experiencing repercussions – and he is apologizing on behalf.

As I am confronted with my own privilege, and as I read story after story of the inequality that still pervades our justice system and our country, I apologize – not to negate my own privilege but because I recognize my privilege plays into this system of inequality. By apologizing, I am not condemning all white people as racist, but I am recognizing that I have benefited from systemic racism, whether or not I agree with it or like it.

I feel like our country is still grappling with how racism pervades our society and how we, the privileged can confront it. I have no answers for that. I have heard that we need to listen and I have also heard that our time for listening is over and that we need to act. What I know for myself, is that I need to recognize my part – whether it’s explicit or not – in the way our system works. I’m messily fumbling along with it, but I hope that I can be like Adrienne – someone who puts aside my own perceived role and simply offer an apology and a hug. Sometimes that’s the best place to start.

How do you acknowledge your own privilege? What are some “next steps” you suggest?

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Listening to All the Questions

We were at the pool the other day and Bea started asking a random woman about a million questions – What are you wearing? Why? What are you doing? Why? Do you want to swim with me? Why? The woman, who was trying to relax, was incredibly patient and answered Bea’s questions with a laugh. Midway through, she asked me if Bea was about three years old.

Why yes – how did you know? The stream of questions fills our day and it can be both amazing to play a part in helping Bea discover her world and equally frustrating when I just want to pack up and get in the car.

Taking notes on her questions

Taking notes on her questions

Some questions I take the time to answer correctly and with reason, even if we’re in a rush. These are the bigger questions – the ones about how our world works, why we as a society do things a certain way, and why we as a family have chosen to do things. (Not that Bea asks in those terms, but I have learned to quickly categorize the nature of her questions.) Other questions, like why we have to wear shoes in the store, are quicker answers. I’ll admit, I’ve even resorted to the Because I said so answer – one I vowed I would never give to my children.

Being part of this process has been amazing. When we explained why a man was holding a sign on the side of the road, we were able to link it to the time we gave our leftover dinner to a hungry man and then link that to the reason daddy goes to work every day. And now, weeks later, Bea is still making those connections. It shows me how worth the time and effort it is to stop and really answer the big questions.

I realize that, even though I attribute constant questioning to preschoolers, I have never really stopped questioning. Perhaps I don’t do it aloud and I find most of my answers through books, articles, blogs, and trusted friends, but I still am always questioning my world.

I credit my parents with this trait. While I’m sure it was exhausting, they always made space for questions well beyond our preschool years. When I would come home from high school Bible study, filled with more questions than when I arrived, my parents would listen. Sometimes they’d offer an answer; sometimes they’d let me grapple with it myself; sometimes they’d process with me. When I would come home from the Sunday sermon, my prayer request form filled with questions and (what I felt to be) discrepancies in the sermon, my parents would listen. Every morning, I’d read the newspaper with my dad (the morning person of my parents) and we’d question the politics, letters to the editor, and local policies covered each day.

What I learned from my parents, now that I’m a parent myself, is the power of listening to questions. Most of my questions were not good questions. They were typical adolescent questions, helping me develop my own opinion apart from my family’s and my church’s. This process was awkward and filled with mediocre questions. But, by allowing me to ask all my questions, my parents helped me weed through the poor ones and hone in on the good ones.

I still ask too many questions. Most of them aren’t world-changing, big important questions. Most are just me processing through the most recent news story or book I’ve read. I’ve learned, though, that asking a lot of questions leads us to asking good questions. As I ask more and more, I pay attention to the good ones – the ones that have the possibility of changing the world, even if just a little bit.

And, as Bea questions more and more, I want to encourage her to keep asking. Many of her questions are unanswerable, but I will do my best to help her discover answers to the ones that can be found. I want her to begin learning to weed out the good questions – the ones that help her change her world.

Are you a questioner? If you’re around littles, how do you answer all the questions?

Linked with the High Calling’s community theme: The Power of Good Questions.

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Embracing Physical Worship

A couple weeks ago, we drove two hours north to the Abbey of St. Walburga. This beautiful Benedictine abbey is surrounded by the wild landscape that reminds me more of Wyoming than Colorado. On the way up, we listened to an NPR story about the nuns and a mountain lion was mentioned. From that point, Bea’s only goal was to spot a mountain lion “up close, not far away.”

The Abbey was celebrating its 80th birthday, so after Mass, we were treated to hamburgers and hotdogs and hayrides into the cloistered areas. After attempting to start a dance party up front, Bea and Frank spent Mass outside playing with the other kids, but I was seated in the front row, right next to the nuns.

Wet hayride

Wet hayride

Something I have always loved about attending Mass is its holistic nature. From feeling the hard tiles under my knees to the smells of incense and chimes of the bells, all my senses are engaged during the service. Singing in Latin, though I don’t understand the words, reminded me of a connection to the greater church across the world.

Even the architecture tells a story. The Abbey just completed a new guest wing modeled after Bernini’s colonnade at St. Peter’s Basilica in Vatican City – the arms of the church embracing the world. Growing up in an auditorium-like worship space, I love this physical embrace of the building as I walk in.

Arms of the Abbey embracing the world

Arms of the Abbey embracing the world

I just finished reading Tara Owens’ book, Embracing the Body. I had been a bit reluctant to pick it up, in spite of rave reviews. While I’m no stranger to insecurities around my body, I’ve never had real body issues. In high school I was always too tall and too thin, now I wonder if I’ll always be a bit squishy. But, my pragmatic self has always remembered that models are tall and thin and that mothers are meant to be soft and snuggly.

While Owens touches on the body issues that affect so many, her book is so much more. It’s about the way we’ve separated ourselves from the physical instead of remembering that our senses and desires are good. She spends time recognizing that, while paying attention to our intellectual and emotional spirituality is good, ignoring our physical spirituality means missing out on a large part of who God created us to be and how we can experience the world.

One of my favorite parts of the book is that Owens ends each chapter with a “Touch Point,” an activity to bring the intellectual reading of the chapter into physical practice. Some touch points are easily done, others require certain levels of vulnerability, both with my own body and with my community. I appreciate this practical aspect to her book – Owens realizes we live in a culture where embracing the physical does not come naturally and she helps the reader discover a level of comfort in the physical experience of God.

Between reading Embracing the Body and experience the physical worship up at St. Walburga, I am trying to be more aware of my physical space. In some ways, it’s easy to notice my body right now. We have about 5 weeks left in this pregnancy and a very active little girl is growing. There aren’t many moments when she doesn’t remind me that she’s here and part of this family! But, with another active kid, it’s easy for me to push aside my own physical needs or to even stop and notice the physical world right in our backyard.

In these next five weeks, as we nest and prepare for this new little girl, I’m trying to cut back on our schedule, on activities and on life in general. My go-to summer mode is relaxing in the hammock, so this season comes naturally, but this year I want to be more intentional. To stop and really feel the fabric of the hammock, to smell Bea’s chlorine-and-dirt filled hair (that quintessential kid-summer smell), to embrace the whir of the fan as I fall asleep. To really notice my physical world in ways that are easy to pass by.

How do you interact with your physical space? Does it come naturally or do you have to be intentional?

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Poets Anonymous: Book of Hours

Welcome to our monthly Poets Anonymous!

On the 15th of each month, I’ll post a poem. If you have a blog, post a poem on yours and share your link in the comments. If you don’t have a blog, feel free to share part of a poem in the comments. Or, I encourage you to simply read a poem today.

I believe in all that has never yet been spoken.
I want to free what waits within me
so that what no one has dared to wish for
may for once spring clear
without my contriving.

If this is arrogant, God, forgive me,
but this is what I need to say.
May what I do flow from me like a river,
no forcing and no holding back,
the way it is with children.

Then in these swelling and ebbing currents,
these deepening tides moving out, returning,
I will sing you as no one ever has,
streaming through widening channels
into the open sea.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Share a favorite poem (or segment of one) in the comments!

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Shaping a Broad Worldview

When I was four – just about a year older than Bea – my parents packed us up and moved to Germany for two years. I’ve always admired them for this move and I recognize how significantly it shaped my worldview. Living abroad, doing daily life, travel – this all played key roles in how I chose to spend my money, look at colleges, and read the newspaper.

Sledding behind our house

Sledding behind our house

Now, as a mom of almost two, I appreciate this even more. We moved six miles across town and it was exhausting. (In many ways, it still is.) I cannot imagine how tough it was moving and getting settled across the world, especially without email, Skype, even cheap phone calls.

The majority of our time in Germany was normal – I went to kindergarten, my dad went to work, my mom stayed home with my brother. But it wasn’t at all normal. My mom had to navigate grocery shopping with a toddler in an area where the idea of one-stop shopping was non-existant. They brought us on trips across Europe, but it was a far cry of hopping on a train with a backpack for a weekend. Toys, comfort items, nap times all had to be considered.

Frank and I have talked about shaping a broad global view for our daughters. How do we intentionally bring global awareness to our home? Part of me wants to emulate my parents – let’s just pack up and move somewhere for a few years! And part of me is so hesitant. When I did that in college, I had the luxury of only caring for myself. (At times, that seemed awful, but in reality, the ability to only focus on myself is nothing compared to dependent children.)

I hope that if opportunities arise, Frank and I show the courage that my parents did, to put comfort and security aside and expose our kids to the adventures the world has to offer.

How did your parents shape your worldview?

Linked with Kate Motaung’s Five Minute Friday, a time to write without editing.

Posted in Five Minute Friday, Parenting | Tagged , , , , | 12 Comments