Archive | christmas

Christmas Gift Guide to Empower Women

ChristmasGift Guide

I am so excited about this year’s Christmas Gift Guide! I know we’re all choking on gift guides these days – there’s one for mothers who love video games, one for children who are obsessed with Minecraft, another for the boss who has everything. I get it. So I wanted to offer up to you a different sort of gift guide: when you purchase something from these shops, you empower vulnerable women. 

When we empower a woman, we empower a community. Every one of the shops listed here empowers, educates, affirms, supports, or employs women all around the world. They range from large organizations to small grassroots shops.

I picked a favourite from each shop myself but don’t let my pick fool you – there’s a lot of good stuff in each of these shops, including for the men in your life!

Help One Now Legacy Haiti Necklace

If you’ve read any of my books or posts over the years, these folks are familiar to you, I know. I’m on the board of Help One Now and I believe in our work with all my heart. We are a collective group of churches, businesses, communities and individuals from around the world, all dedicated to using our gifts, talents and resources to help end extreme poverty, care for orphans, rescue slaves, and see communities transformed by serving our international partners through Help One Now.

You can help us sustain a community by purchasing this 2015 Legacy necklace made in Haiti: hand-punched leather sequins and brass accent beads. The funds raised by this necklace will go towards funding 12 classrooms, hiring new Haitian teachers, providing supplies, everything.

The necklaces are designed and made by the artisans at Haiti Design Co-op (another great place to buy Christmas gifts).

Imagine Goods

Imagine Goods partners with vulnerable and marginalized people around the world to make products that, in many cases, give them the first fair wages they’ve ever received. Imagine Goods takes a close look at the entire chain of people who are involved in making their products, particularly in Cambodia. Their tag line is “Sustainable Supply Co.” because they believe that when we buy a product, the cost of the item should be able to sustain every person connected to it with a living wage.

We worked with Imagine Goods to create the Jesus Feminist Collection about a year ago. 100% of the profits – yes, that’s all of them – from this line go towards Heartline Maternity Centre in Haiti and towards Help One Now.

My Pick:

Jesus Feminist Necklace 2Jesus Feminist Necklace

This simple circle necklace stamped with “Jesus Feminist” makes a statement with class. Made in Cambodia by disadvantaged artisans of brass recycled from old bombs, and hanging on an 18″ brass cable chain, it arrives in a 100% recycled jewelry box—perfect for gift-giving!

Another Pick for the woman of valour in your life: this Eshet Chayil print.


House of Light Goods

House of Light is a joint partnership between my church and a family centre in Mexico. The goal is to keep families together by supporting and empowering single moms, allowing them to break the cycle of poverty, abuse and despair and live lives of wholeness and hope. Their work includes a Children’s Centre, focused on single and impoverished families, a pilot micro loan program for education and business development, an ongoing partnership for home ownership within the community, and a deep local commitment to the spiritual growth, empowerment and development of the community. Each scarf from House of Light Goods is handmade by single Moms and friends of Casa de Luz, with all of the profits going towards supporting single moms and children at risk.

My Pick: The Justica. I have this scarf and every single time I wear it, it’s all I hear about! If you are dreading a freezing cold winter, this scarf is going to be your best friend.

Krochet Kids

Their mission is to empower people to rise above poverty. Through their efforts, over 150 people in Uganda and Peru are working, receiving education, and being mentored toward a brighter future.  The products created abroad have been well received here at home and the collaboration of our staff and beneficiaries around the globe has created a sustainable cycle of employment and empowerment. Plus each piece is signed by the person who made it – which I love. My dear friend, Sarah Goodfellow, and her husband, Blake, pioneered Krochet Kids in Peru.

My Pick: Everyone loves Krochet Kids for their gorgeous hats, of course, but my personal favourite is this bag. I love a great big glorious bag like this one for carrying around a hardcover book in addition to the usual mum-stuff like diapers and changing pads and sippy cups and permission slips and snacks. Oh, and my wallet.

But I’ve also got my eye on this sweet little fox hat for one of the tinies….


Noonday Collection

Noonday offers you the opportunity to use your purchasing power to create change in the world while looking really good along the way. Your love of fashion can restore dignity to abandoned women in Ethiopia, empower communities in Ecuador, and create business opportunities for Ugandans. Orphan care and prevention remain a core value. Noonday believes every child belongs in a family and they work to alleviate poverty and economic orphan crisis through entrepreneurship.

My Pick:  these sterling silver Constellation Earrings – both edgy and delicate.


The fashionABLE mission is to create sustainable business for Africans so they will not become dependent upon charity, but instead earn the dignity of a job. While FashionABLE offers opportunity to everyone, their primary focus is on empowering women.  Through your purchase, you are ABLE to provide opportunity, and a woman is ABLE to have a new choice.

My Pick: Really, their entire 2015 Gift Guide is phenomenal. So many gifts for everyone on your list. But I chose the Kalkidan wallet for men because my husband loves to grab just one or two cards for the day instead of carrying around the whole big wallet for everything and this slim-line minimalist leather wallet is just perfect for that. It comes in three colours but I’m loving cognac.

Trades of Hope

Trades of Hope empowers women to create sustainable businesses worldwide. They want women to realize their potential as world changers, business owners, dream creators, and heroes of their own stories. So many women live in poverty, not because they lack abilities, but because they lack opportunity.  Some women have been rescued from sex slavery. Others are raising handicapped children alone. Some are in war torn countries and others have AIDS. These women have never had the chances we’ve had, yet they are just like us in so many ways. They love their families and hope and dream of a better life for them.

My Pick: The Erin Scarf. I wear a scarf almost every day of my life – lightweight, preferred – and this is so beautiful. It would go with everything.


Sudara advocates for women enslaved in prostitution in India, restores their broken lives, and empowers them to live free. What started with just six women sewing in a single room has grown to over 150 women and girls employed by one of Sudara’s three sewing centers in India. PUNJAMMIES are made from hope and made for comfort.

My Pick: The Dhana punjammies bottoms. But really, they’re all gorgeous and jammies are my love language.

Stitched Together Uganda

This shop features goods made by seamstresses employed by Abide Family Centre in Uganda. They design their own products and buy all materials locally, supporting the local economy and allowing for sustainability as seamstresses graduate from their programs and begin working from home to build their own businesses.


My Pick: The Sumi Headwrap. For those days when you didn’t quite manage to get your hairs done before the day began – you’re welcome.

out of sorts pics

And of course, shameless self-promotion moment —- with all of these gifts, you could include a copy of my new book, Out of Sorts: Making Peace with an Evolving Faith along with one of these lovely free printables based on the book.

Happy Christmas shopping!

Let’s do a bit of good with our spending this year, eh?

P. S. If you would like to share some  info about a shop that empowers women in the comments, please feel free!

Image sources via shops


Continue Reading · christmas, Haiti, social justice, women · 12

My preschooler is actually Buddy the Elf

I have a theory: Buddy the Elf was created by someone who hangs out with toddlers and preschoolers.

More specifically, Buddy the Elf just might be my little preschooler in disguise. Or she’s Buddy in disguise. Whatever. Watching that movie opened my eyes to the truth: I live with Buddy the Elf and she’s pure magic when she’s not pure innocent trouble-making mischief.

Here’s why:

1. When confronted with the mall Santa, she ran at full speed straight to him and launched herself into his arms: SANTA SANTA SANTA. She held onto Santa like she was Amy March and Papa had just returned from war to his little women. She hugged the elves. She hugged the trees. She nearly wept with joy at the sight of him.

But here is the thing: we don’t even really do the whole Santa thing. Santa fills the stockings at our house but even with that, all the tinies know it’s a fairy tale game that Mum and Dad play with them for fun at Christmas (because my husband can’t abide the thought of lying to them and having to experience this moment):

And yet she does this at the mall:

2. This exact thing has happened in my real life with my real child at a real airport.

Omaha, our apologies.

In her defense, her six-year-old brother totally participated in the fun.

3. “Hey, Evelynn, what do you want to eat for breakfast?

Hey, Evelynn, what do you want for snack?

Hey Evelynn, what do you want for lunch? for supper? for Christmas supper?

4. This is how we cross the street.

And walk on the sidewalk.

And really this is how she moves in general.

5. Us, at the mall, yesterday:

6. Christmas morning at my house.

Actually, scratch that: this is most mornings at my house. If we could harness her joy and energy at EVERY! NEW! MORNING! we could power a continent.

7. Not only have we actually experienced this moment in an elevator (thankfully it was only 28 floors and not the Empire State building), but she finds beauty in the most unexpected places. The other night I was scrubbing the washrooms – not the most glamourous of jobs, you must admit – and yet she unrolled the paper towels and clapped with delight over how it was SO PWETTY, MUMMY! SO PWETTY!  Paper towels, folks. Don’t waste money on Christmas gifts for this set – a cardboard box, paper towels, and a roll of Scotch tape will keep them happy for daysssssss.

8. I can’t keep up with the fresh new ways she invents to make trouble. Just when I think I have her figured out, we have had days like this. I can’t stay two steps ahead of this one; she’s too busy blazing unseen trails. And so this conversation happens on the regular, and by the time she’s done repenting for some wrong-doing with tremendous crocodile tears and sadness, I’m the one who feels like a big jerk.

9. She takes whatever we all say very literally. At the Dollar Store, she asked our cashier why she had so many keys on her necklace. The lady – no doubt worn out from a long shift – sarcastically dead-panned that they were the keys to the castle. Evelynn shrieked, “YOU HAVE A CASTLE?!? THAT IS AMAZING! YOU ARE A PRINCESS!”

10. All she wants in the whole world is to be with her family and to have fun together. This is her idea of a perfect day. And it’s my life mission to make this happen for her:

Resistance is futile, my friends.

This is her core emotion about her family and friends and, really, life in general.


And who am I kidding? It’s totally how we all feel about her, too.

Continue Reading · christmas, Evelynn, parenting · 11

Too Much to Ask: Lighting the Peace Candle for Advent

advent peace :: sarah bessey

I woke up early with the tinies this morning. A cold has been steadily passed around since we travelled to visit my husband’s family for American Thanksgiving so we’ll likely be staying home from church to spare everyone else a miserable week or two. Instead, I brewed the tea and made porridge, we settled into the couch with books and Doc McStuffins. Soothing small wounds, feeding hungry bellies, setting the house to right again, running fingers through their hair, this is ministry, too.

Sundays are ‘candle days’ as the tinies call them because it’s another Sunday before Christmas. They will probably bicker about whose turn it is to blow the candle out but whatever we’ll get there. They asked which candle is for today: “Peace,” I said. “We’re lighting the Peace candle tonight.”

Talk about a radical act of faith.

The world’s relationship with peace feels complicated right now, I know. The prophet Jeremiah cries out from the Old Testament like so many – too many – of us around the world right now,

They offer superficial treatments
    for my people’s mortal wound.
They give assurances of peace
    when there is no peace.

Or as the old King James version says, we are ones who say “Peace, peace; when there is no peace.” (Jeremiah 8:11)I tried to sing O Holy Night the other day. I broke down into tears: “A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices, for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.” Weary, yes, that’s the word for it.

In his name, all oppression shall cease.

O Holy Night, like so many of our advent songs, is beautiful, yes, but it’s also prophetic and subversive, protesting with what C.S. Lewis called “biblical imagination.” It’s a speaking-out-ahead of the truth, it’s a declaration. The very thing that makes it holy is the thing that most of us want to forget in this season: the presence of oppression and grief, weariness and weakness, how desperately we need his law – love, and his gospel – peace.

I’ve learned by now that faith isn’t pretending that the mountain isn’t there. It isn’t denial of the truth, or the facts, or the grief, or the anger. It’s not the lie of speaking “peace, peace” when there is no peace. It’s faith because it is hope declared, it is living into those things that are not yet as they will be.

I hold space for the righteous anger and the grief, I join in the lamentations of the weary world.

And at the same time, I will light a candle tonight and declare that the Prince of Peace is among us again.

Lighting candles is fitting for Advent. We live in an electric light world. At Christmas, we are overwhelmed with the bright lights, the sparkle is never-ending. We dazzle and distract ourselves with glitter until we leave no room for the longing and the waiting that still resides within the grief of being human. I love the sparkle of Christmas but I also need the quiet light of a candle on my old kitchen table to illuminate my faith. Here is the darkness, here is the truth, and so we light a candle.

I was reminded of a poem by my one of my favourite poets, Luci Shaw, this morning. I went to my rickety Ikea bookshelf, swaying with the weight of books, and pulled out the slim volume of poems for the Incarnation called “Accompanied by Angels.” This book has been my companion for eight years of Advent now, for some reason I find more solace in poetry during times of longing than in any well-delivered sermon or point-by-point systematic theology argument.

The poem I was thinking about is called “Too Much To Ask” – the pages are dog-eared and so I found it easily.

It seemed too much to ask
of one small virgin
that she should stake shame
against the will of God.
All she had to hold to, later, 
were those soft, inward 
and the remembered surprise
of a brief encounter – spirit
with flesh.
Who would think it
more than a dream wish?
An implausible, laughable 
And it may seem much
too much to ask me
to be part of the 
risky thing – 
God’s shocking, unconventional,
unheard-of Thing
– to further heaven’s hopes
and summon God’s glory.


I’ll light the candle tonight and I’ll pray for peace with the Church worldwide, even if I have to do it here with a bunch of sick kids wiping noses on their sleeves in the darkness, even if it feels too small of an act.

And then I will seek ways to embody those very prayers, to incarnate them, to further heaven’s hopes and summon God’s glory in ways big and small, seen and unseen, mundane and holy.

Skeptics, each of us, when it comes to the thought of peace. It’s too much to ask and it is that very thing that makes it worth doing, the very impossibility of living into our Advent songs and declarations. His law is love and his gospel is peace.

image source, aff link

Continue Reading · advent, christmas, peace · 12

In which all is calm, all is bright

Sarah Bessey Xmas Card

Just a quick note to say happy Christmas, friends.

I’m taking a week or two off from blogging for Christmas holidays and won’t be as available on email or social media so thank you for your grace in those areas.

To every thing there is a season, and right now I’m feeling like my season is for Christmas cookies, reading, old movies, long walks in the sloppy snow, and a bit of slowing down in the online spaces.

As a family, we pray that this Christmas is a season of love, rest, generosity, and joy for you and your loved ones.

Love to you, my friends.





Continue Reading · christmas · 9

In which there is joy in enough

It seems that we always need to get through the details, the mundane daily stuff, of who is doing what and when and why before we can get to the really good heart stuff. My mother’s blue eyes are the same as my youngest daughter’s blue eyes.  She laughs too loud (so do I) and she’s an incredibly beautiful woman, even more so as she ages. Her lines are falling in pleasant places and she looks so much like her Dad, it’s uncanny sometimes. I can see the grey at her temples and the bones in her hands are tiny like a bird’s. We talked a mile a minute, cramming a lot of laughter and weirdness into a short amount of time, diving straight in.

She listened to me (Isn’t it such a gift to just be listened to?) as everything in my heart spilled out about how tired I am sometimes, about how physically and emotionally exhausting this mothering thing can be with its sheer constancy. I jumped from yammering about homeschooling and my many thoughts on true education and spirituality and then I was telling her that we kind of want to sell everything and move to Africa or India to make some sort of a difference—maybe I could be a midwife!—and have you heard about this, that and the other thing? How this person did this thing and I thought it was awesome or terrible or hurtful, and everything that I want for myself and all the time I want back and money concerns and how I kind of need a minivan because three car seats don’t fit well in our car  but if I have to drive an ugly vehicle, then I want it to be weird-ugly not boring-ugly and on and on and on.

I made a bit of a fool of myself, to be honest.

When I was little, the primary emotion in our house was joy. My mother was happy and we knew it (clap your hands!). She loved us and loved my dad and loved her life and we all knew it. We weren’t rich. We didn’t have a lot of stuff. We didn’t “change the world” and no one knew about us, but we were really, really happy together.

I looked at her and remembered her joy, and was hit by the knowledge that my own tinies perhaps wouldn’t describe me (yet) as a person of joy.

“So what did you do, Mum?”  I was really, truly asking her because I didn’t feel simple or restful or joyful. (One of her favourite things to tell me is that a woman can definitely have it all—just not all at once. Most of the time, she thinks I need to chill out.)

“How do you calm down your mind and heart of all the mundane daily things that somehow sap the energy and time when there is all this world to save, all this difference to make, all this stuff to do and become? How do you have the joy in all of this? It always feels like I’m not enough. I’m not doing enough or being enough for the tinies, for my husband, for my home, for my community, for my world, let alone for myself. I just never feel like I’m enough.”

Read the rest of this post at SheLoves Magazine...

This month, we’re talking about joy. There’s a link-up for you to add your voice.

Continue Reading · christmas, enough, family, gratitude, Mum · 0