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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.

S.

 

 

 

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

In which heaven breaks through

We lit the candles after supper on Sunday, the table covered with the remnants of spaghetti and meatballs. The tinies bickered over who gets to blow out the candles at the end, and we were all “BLOWING OUT CANDLES IS NOT THE POINT OF ADVENT” and I read our devotional off the laptop screen. Evelynn kept interrupting, wanting to talk, too, and so we shushed and quieted and started over and over and over. Moment of peace and reverence, indeed, I huffed. But then Brian asked a few questions, and their eyes were big as they answered: this candle is peace! this one is hope! this one is joy! it’s because Jesus came to give us those things! Yes, indeed, I guess we’re getting it together, heaven forgive me for not noticing it. God, the mess and the reverence all gathered together is so beautiful.

Earlier that day, I had pulled up the school gymnasium and flung open the car doors: run! run! go to the music room! you’re late! Anne and Joe were off like a shot, galloping in their boots for the last kid choir rehearsal before their performance at 10:30 that morning. I parked the car and followed them into the dark gym. It was filled with empty chairs and Christmas lights, and there in one far corner, a gathering of parents stood smack right in front of the risers filled with children in their Christmas best. We bundled like penguins, shuffling shoulder to shoulder, iPhones up to record the actions, DSLRs set on automatic settings clicking away, our feet tapping with the songs we had memorized along with our tinies. I stood in the dark, hugged a few friends, snapped blurry pictures with my iPod because I’d forgotten my camera, sang along “doo-doot-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo it’s Christmas” and became the full sense of sight, drinking the sight of them standing on the risers right into my frazzled soul. God, they’re so beautiful.

We sang for nearly an hour and a half. Oh, there was other stuff, too – a spoken word poem, a dance, a choir, the kids singing, but we sang and sang and sang in the darkness, packed in beside each other with all of the grandmothers and grandfathers and in-laws who came to witness this moment. God, we were so beautiful.

Near the end of the service, a loud hum kicked in right above our heads. We looked up and fake snow began to fall through the blue lights while the girl on stage danced and twirled. The machine kept humming and spilling fake snow onto the low stage. The last song was a loud and boisterous celebration and all of a sudden all the kids, as one, without prompting, just began to head for the scaffolded stage, climbing the step and they began to dance. Joe and his buddies stomping and jerking, trying to imitate the break-dancers, Anne and her friends twirling and leaping in the back, Evelynn and all the toddlers flapping their arms and grinning. It was chaos and it was beautiful, the blue light illuminating the children, the grown-ups clapping along and singing at the top of their lungs while the snow drifted down through the darkness inside to gather in our hair. God, that moment was so beautiful.

My friend’s husband negotiated freedom for wrongfully imprisoned women this week. We talked about it, about the real tangible moment of Jubilee happening right this blessed second – captives! released! exiles returning home! – and we cried together for these women. God, my friend and her husband are so beautiful.

Someone told me about their church holding a Blue Christmas service for those in their community who are grieving and longing at Christmas, unable to fathom the joy perhaps, and so they make space for prayer, for communion, for quiet, to hold each other, to light candles for their grief together for just an evening in the midst of the shopping and the wrapping and the bright tinsel. God, what a beautiful way to minister to each other.

Our Legacy Project in Haiti is still going strong. We’re filling backpacks with hope for a Haitian community and even right now at a busy Christmas season, people are clicking and giving their money away, sowing seeds that will last for generations. We’re already at 50% of our goal. God, generous people of hope are so beautiful.

A hundred times a week, in the small daily moments of my life and the big borderless world of believers, one lighted candle after another, here are the moments when heaven breaks through.

Sometimes every one can see it, sometimes no one sees it but you: the light is breaking through.

I love the phrase “heaven breaks through.”

I love it because it means that we’ve set up an outpost for the Kingdom of God, it means that the God-way-of-life has been established for even just a moment here on earth, it means that for just a while there we saw the way we were always meant to live. Redemption, wholeness, beauty, love, peace, goodness.

It means that for a second everything fit into wholeness and we caught a glimpse of true intended humanity. It means that something rises up in our soul when we see it, and we offer the only response: God, that is so beautiful.

***

I’d love to hear about a moment or two when you found heaven breaking through in your life. Look forward to reading about it in the comments.

Oh, and to donate to Backpacks of Hope, which is part of the Legacy Project in Haiti that we helped to fund last year, you can click here for info.

 

Continue Reading · advent, christmas, church, community, family, Haiti · 27

In which this is a Christmas Gift Guide to Empower Women

Gift Guide to Empower Women

when we empower a woman,

we empower a community.

According to Half the Sky Movement, “putting money in the hands of women can have a positive long-term effect on the whole family…Women comprise 70 percent of the world’s poorest people and own only 1 percent of the titled land. They suffer not only from unequal access to education and training, but also from discrimination by their employers. The majority of women earn on average about three-fourths of the pay that men receive for doing the same work, outside of the agricultural sector, in both developed and developing countries.

But if greater income equality was achieved across gender lines, this could help decrease poverty through the generations. Studies have indicated that when women hold assets or gain income, the money is more likely to be spent on nutrition, medicine and housing, and consequently their children are healthier. For every dollar a woman earns, she invests 80 cents in her family.”

So with that in mind, this year I’ve decided to focus my annual Gift Guide on empowering women. 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, even for the men in your life!

Hill Tribers

My friends Jessica Goudeau and Caren George run Hill Tribers along with Burmese refugee women. Hill Tribers was born out of friendship and grew into informal meetings, ESL classes, children’s activities, mentorship, education, support, and a gorgeous shop filled with hand-woven fashion and jewellery. Hill Tribers have helped more than 30 refugee women and families earn a combined total of more than $25,000 of supplemental income.

My pick: Kachin Earrings Tatted Paisleys in Gold $23.93 I have the orange style of these earrings and I cannot wear them without being stopped on the street by people asking where to buy them.

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 in creating gifts that give back.  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. My friend, Sarah Goodfellow, and her husband, Blake, work with Krochet Kids in Peru.

abbot

My pick: The Abbott overnight bag $79.95 Features some great details such as leather straps, and incredible patterns that make this bag an instant classic. I have had my eye on this bag for a year now and it is time.

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 fashion sense can now 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: Annie’s Feathered Earrings $32 Hand cut leather in festive feathered shapes lend a breezy feel to your look. Made in India. Also loved the Crescent Moon Earrings.

My pick: Nahuala Rectangle Trays (set of 3) $36 Made in Guatemala. A set of three trays made by a family operated carpentry shop in Guatemala. Add a rustic touch to any room. Their use is as versatile as your imagination!

fashionABLE

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: Eden Scarf $52. Heavier weight  scarf. Super soft scarf with traditional Ethiopian-based pattern throughout. Handmade in Ethiopia. Ridiculously soft 100% cotton

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 picks: Baja Bible Case $24 Comes with a great handle for carrying your Bible, and is nicely lined for all the little bits of papers. This product is made by Guatemalan women who have pasts telling of abusive and poor conditions, now owning their own businesses and working towards an amazing future.

Vibella Jewellery

I was introduced to Vibella through my friend, Jennifer Dukes Lee, who shares my passion for Haiti’s women.  ViBella artists have created beautiful necklaces and Christmas ornaments and purses — all of them beautifully handcrafted as Christmas gifts for your mamas, daughters, aunts, teachers, next-door neighbors … or yourself. 

DISCOUNT CODE: newhouse. <——That is really important!

maddy

My pick: Maddy Necklace $$29.95 The Maddy Necklace is an incredibly unique piece asymmetrically designed with a gold upcycled plastic bead, multifaceted black beads, copper accent beads and large leaf pendants on a copper chain. Pair with the Maddy Earrings. Length: 17.5″ Handmade by women in Haiti.

Global Mothers

Global Mothers seeks to strengthen the connection between women in North America with women in the Global South through the shared bond of motherhood. When a mother in North America purchases a product to care for her child, she is in turn caring for another child in the Global South by providing valuable income for that child’s mother.

My pick: Pixie Rattles. $17 These bright crochet pixies brighten any nursery! Choose from an assortment of colours. 100% Cotton, Machine washable and Handmade in Bangladesh.

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. Are they earning a living wage (enough to meet their basic needs)? Are they being empowered? 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. 

My pick: The Lucy Skirt $34. The Lucy skirt is reversible! A wrap-around skirt with a super-flattering line, it falls just right and can be adjusted to fit you perfectly. This fabric is hand-picked from locals in the open-stall markets of Phnom Penh — one more link on the sustainable (and dignifying) supply chain.

Open Arms Shop

Every year, thousands of refugees flee oppression around the world and face resettlement. To help them avoid the trap of poverty, Open Arms employs them at a living wage and uses repurposed t-shirts to create one of a kind scarfs and skirts for sale.

openarms

My pick: The Claudina Long Skirt $42 I adore long skirts – so comfy and a step above my usual yoga pants while I’m running around with the tinies all day. Repurposed jersey knit, lined. Featuring modern-cut construction with a contemporary feel. Pull-on styling with flattering lettuce hemming. Designed with a figure-enhancing wide waistband with built-in elastic. Made in USA.

International Princess Project

The International Princess Project avocates 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 International Princess™ Project’s three sewing centers in India. With every PUNJAMMIES™ purchase, the dignity and freedom of a woman is reinforced and the future in India gets a little bit brighter. The vision is for thousands more! Together, we can bring light to some of the darkest corners of India.

punjammies

My pick: Leela Punjammies  $25. I adore pajamas and these are gorgeous. Super-soft, light-weight cotton pajama bottoms with printed border. Made with hope in India. (I adore pajamas).

Raven + Lily

Raven + Lily currently helps employ marginalized women in Ethiopia, India, Cambodia and the United States at fair trade wages to give them access to a safe job, sustainable income, healthcare, education, and a real chance to break the cycle of poverty for themselves and their families. Every product from Raven + Lily is handmade, fair trade and eco-friendly.

My pick: Teavy Upcycled Black Pocket Cardigan $119

 

And now: a few books…

2013_Jesus_Feminist_LA_signing_087-L

Here are a few – of many more I could name! – books that will empower, educate, affirm, or support the women in your life.

Jesus Feminist by yours truly….

A Thousand Mornings: Poems by Mary Oliver

Harvesting Fog by Luci Shaw

Bread & Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table with Recipes by Shauna Niequist

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

Carry On, Warrior: Thoughts on Life Unarmed by Glennon Doyle Melton

Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead by Brené Brown

Talking Taboo: American Christian Women Get Frank About Faith (I SPEAK FOR MYSELF) edited by Enuma Okoro and Erin Lane

A Homemade Year: The Blessings of Cooking, Crafting, and Coming Together by Jerusalem Greer

Pastrix: The Cranky, Beautiful Faith of a Sinner & Saint by Nadia Bolz-Weber

A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master” by Rachel Held Evans

Half the Church: Recapturing God’s Global Vision for Women by Carolyn Custis James

Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide by Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn

In the Sanctuary of Women: A Companion for Reflection and Prayer by Jan L. Richardson

What gift would you add to this list? What gifts do you buy with an eye on empowering women?

Continue Reading · books, christmas, Jesus Feminist, social justice, What I'm Into, women · 29