Gifts That Make a Difference

Today is Black Friday, which means people are losing their minds over sales. But what if we decided to buy gifts this year from companies who are making a difference in the lives of their employees? How about we help struggling communities around the world with our dollars?

Here is a list of some amazing companies. Happy shopping!

Mercy House Kenya

Three Cords Haiti

Yobel Market

Ruhamah Designs

Batik Boutique

Sak Saum

107 Market Street

Back to Africa

Eternal Threads



The Refugee Project

Hands Producing Hope

Grain of Rice Project

Threads of Hope

Clothed in Hope

No. 41

Rahab’s Rope

Village Artisans


Linking with Holley Gerth

Teaching Our Kids the Art of Walking Away

While cleaning the house for a guest, I had to stop and start writing. (I know, I was devastated too.) I need to be inspired as the holiday season starts ramping up and couldn’t lose the thoughts!

My mind went back to this weekend when I was selling makeup and books in a neighborhood event. (Yes, I was selling makeup at one end of the table and a book about spending less on the other. It is about balance!) The girls came to “help me” set up and saw the lady behind me with cute jewelry. Lauren showed me a bracelet she wanted that cost $15. Problem was she only had $2. It is because she keeps giving her money away, but still. They have been doing well with using their own money on toys. I told her we could let her earn the rest. By the time their daddy came to pick them up, she had decided she didn’t want it that bad and left it. I texted James later to ask if she still wanted it and he said she was good. Why didn’t I just let it go when she originally put it down?

The truth is we all want our kids to be happy, and we get tricked into thinking that means more stuff. I continually remind myself not to try to buy my girls every little thing they want, (not that we could come close to that.) It is a battle that I have to stay ahead of.

The sooner kids learn to walk away, the better they will be with money as adults. If we can show them how to be content with what they have, they will have so much more peace. That’s right, they need to see us do it too. They should see us admiring something and then putting it back.

I am not sure when this mentality of “more is more” began to not be a phase to grow out of. When it became acceptable for adults to “get the gimmes,” to borrow a phrase from the Berenstain Bears. People used to not decide they HAD to have something, and I would love to see us go back to that.

There is nothing wrong with simple. Having a house that is not stuffed is nothing to be ashamed of. Liking something and then walking away really is an art. It needs to be practiced to be perfected. It has to be shown to our children and not just told.

Our girls have learned a lot this past year, right alongside their parents. We are all growing and figuring out how to use our money properly without letting it use us.

Money will have a life of its own if we let it. Let’s model for our kids how to say no. Let’s teach them to walk away happily. The month before Christmas is a great time to learn we don’t need more stuff to be happy.

Let’s demonstrate the art of walking away to our kids.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Who We Are Made To Be

Over the weekend, I told the girls about what happened in Paris. The 7 year old wasn’t too affected by it and pretty much went on her merry way. I hope she stays that way for years. The 9 year old was a different story, and I knew that going in. Through her tears, she told me she was glad I told her before someone at school did.

Early in the week, Lauren asked me if the king had been killed. I told her no, but he had been at one of the events. Her mind was trying to process what happened.

Wednesday night at bedtime, I could tell she was upset. I asked her why, and she mouthed “Paris.” We got her sister to bed and then went to talk in her room. We talked through her sadness. Big fat tears kept rolling down her face. I talked to her about how she should look for the good people in these situations and focus on them. She nodded. I told her (again) that she is going to do big things one day with her huge heart. She always nods when I say that. I explained that it is hard being so sensitive, but it is what is going to make a difference.

Then I told Lauren the story of when I was in high school and a good friend lied and really let me down. It hurt so bad. My Dad told me my trusting nature is one of the best things about me. It makes me who I am. The next day, my Mom told me I am too trusting. The truth was never lost on me: the big things in our lives that are the best parts of us may also cause us lots of pain. Sure, I am often let down, but I see the best in people. I give them chances.

Lauren will grow up sensitive to pain and she will cry and be heartbroken more than others. I know that feeling well. But it will be what shapes her, pushes her, and defines her. All the feelings will be worth it.

After we talked, I prayed. I prayed more about protecting Lauren’s heart and giving her peace than anything else. Then she prayed. Through her tears, her sweet voice prayed for Paris. And she said, ” Thank You for giving us more good than bad.” The words and moment were so profound, I finally let loose the tears I had been holding back.

God is good. There is bad in the world, but God is bigger. And He is the good we need. Let’s focus on Him and who He made us to be.


Linking with Holley Gerth

We Adore You

Many years (and one kid) ago, back when James and I were in a finance class, I had an experience that sticks with me to this day. Every week for 12 weeks, we filled in our work book and learned a verse at home. It was challenging and rewarding. This study marks when we first started tithing on everything and when we first began talking opening about money. Scary stuff.

But what I remember best was the verse 1 Chronicles 29:11-12. My little brother was having financial problems and I met with our leader (our Pastor of Stewardship). I laid it all out for the poor man in all my manic sisterly worry. In my mind, I had to figure out how to fix it for my brother. Poor Jamie told me two things: 1. to talk to his wife and 2. that the verses we were learning were ones to remember in this situation.

1 Chronicles 29:11-12: Everything in the heavens and earth is yours, O Lord, and this is Your kingdom. We adore You as being in control of everything. Riches and honor come from You alone, and You are the Ruler of all mankind; Your hand controls power and might, and it is at Your discretion that men are made great and given strength.

I had lunch with Jamie’s wife, Kelley, (which began our friendship) and laminated the verses. We were learning them as they relate to money, and yes, we went around the room and said them out loud individually. Talk about pressure! After memorizing them, I began to apply these to all of my life. I had to learn to lay down my pride and humbly ask for God’s help.

Everything truly is God’s and I adore Him for that. The world is a crazy, unpredictable place, but when I choose to worship God, the manic, hysterical side of me fades away. What is left is peace. I know God is taking care of us and that means I trust Him with our lives.

Do you trust God? Are there situations where you run around trying to fix them and instead just end up wearing yourself out? Or do you worry about what is going on in the world and lose sleep over it? God wants you to remember He’s got this. Instead of worrying, focus on how much you adore God and let the peace settle over you.


Linking with Holley Gerth

It All Adds Up

As we are entering the holiday season, I am going to continue talking about giving. It can be so easy to be consumed by the commercialism that we have surrounded Christmas with, that we forget we are here to make a difference. We are here to give to others things they need to survive.

Oftentimes, we don’t think we can give. We see all the money that goes out and not enough coming in. There is an easy solution to this. Start small: $10 the first month, if that is all we can. I guarantee anyone reading this will want to give more after that. If we all give small, but consistently, it will add up.

Once we start down the path of giving more, there is a snowball effect. We give a little the first month and then a slightly higher amount the next month. Our outlook begins to change and we see eternity more clearly. Our eyes open and we see what those amounts are doing and how lives are being changed. $5 a month feeds a child with No Hungry Children. Through Food for the Poor, $3.65 a month feeds a child. The Hope Effect is changing the way orphans are being cared for, and you can be a part of it for $10 a month. There is always Compassion International. You can sponsor a child for $38 through them. Your church will change lives with whatever you give them! There are so many price points, and many of them are low.

If you are telling me you don’t have enough to be able to give extra, that you are barely making it with what you have, I will tell you there is always a little more. Even if you can’t give up something you normally buy to free up money, you have some to give. Think about the story Jesus told where the widow gave all she had. Mark 12:41-44: “Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents. Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

A quarter here. A dollar there. It all adds up in God’s economy. He knows the state of your heart and values it over the size of your wallet. Trust that your giving is enough and never stop doing it.

Linking with Holley Gerth

Give More, More Freely

“I need that sweater.”

“I deserve a new car.”

Do you think we have misunderstood these words? I think that, unless we have no other shirts, maybe we don’t need that sweater. And, quite possibly, the car (or cars) we own still run. Working hard does not give us carte blanche to whatever we want.

Yes, we are all guilty of this entitlement behavior. (If you are shaking your head at me, let’s add lying to that list.) We may try to avoid it, but the attitude is so pervasive in our culture, it can be subtle and appear harmless.

I have really grown to dislike hearing people say they deserve something, yet I catch myself thinking it. It can be easy to justify a want and disguise it as a need. When I started my job in August, I bought myself a new water bottle despite the fact that we already own several. (But this one keeps the water ice cold and doesn’t sweat.) And I told my husband I need some new makeup for his work Christmas dinner. Good thing I sell it! I find myself so steeped in the “deserve” mentality, it takes constant work to break free from it.

You know what is helping me? Giving more, more freely. At first, this takes effort and intentionality. I don’t naturally want to give money away, but the more often I do this, the easier it becomes. It is so true that where your money goes, your heart will follow. The more I learn about struggles around the world, the clearer I see how much I already have. The more pain and suffering I see, the more I want to help.

When I put my money where my heart tells me, I begin to want it more. If I give to someone who has far less than me, the desire to keep helping begins to take over the desire to buy new things for myself. I find myself satisfied with what I have. Of course, I still want things, but giving keeps that in check.

Finding causes that break our hearts and bring out our passion is integral to coming out of the spending comas we are in. Some people have a heart for orphans, and that is so noble and admirable. I think my desire is to keep families together. So many fair trade companies employ women, which in turn allows them to keep their family intact. What a blessing I am given that I can be a part of that! I can help women have a paycheck and to keep their self-worth. I can help keep their kids fed, clothed, and safe.

That is my need. That is what I deserve. How about you?

Linking with Holley Gerth

Peel the Onion

In my last post, I talked about how no one was created like you. You are unique and here for a reason. Today, I want to talk about purpose.

Recently I have been having lots of good talks with my 9 year old, who has always been more like a 30 year old. A friend of ours has been very sick and my Lauren has cried with me. We talk about heaven and and my Mom and grandparents up there.

This Sunday in church, we heard an incredible story about a man and his wife and the impact they had on a young man. The video is incredible and worth watching here. That afternoon, Lauren wanted to talk. She asked about purpose and what mine is. Hard to put into words, isn’t it? I told her part of my purpose is raising her and her sister. Another part is the desire to give more to help other people. Writing my book. After thinking about it, I realized the giving part had been there but wasn’t really activated until recently.

That is the amazing part of life. We keep figuring out and learning new things about ourselves along the way. My sweet girl is decades ahead of most of us with all she has discovered about herself, but she will keep learning and growing. I told her that each of us have the same mission, but we do it in different ways. We are here to help others, but that looks different from person to person. She is coloring pictures (a talented artist) to sell and having lemonade stands to help others. I am using words to encourage people to give. Both methods accomplish the same goal.

While we are on this earth, we will be constantly peeling back layers of ourselves to reveal hidden treasures. We are onions and the layers will keep coming off until the day we die. Some talents will emerge and others will be strengthened. Some will only be used briefly while others will keep coming into play.

If you haven’t felt this in your life, take heart. Not all of us will begin our purpose in the first decade of life (most won’t.) Keep living your life knowing great things are coming. Your gifts and talents are there waiting to be discovered and used at the right time.

Linking with Holley Gerth.

If you are on Facebook, I would love it if you liked my book page, Intentional Spending!

Only One You

Do you wonder about the impact you are having on the world, or if you have one at all? You aren’t alone. Everyone faces the fear that they don’t matter, but they do.

You were created to be one of a kind. There is no one exactly like you. There never has been and never will be. You have quirks and strengths and weaknesses that all work together. They make you stand out and shine. Please don’t think your presence doesn’t make a difference, because it does.

You also have had experiences no one else has had. All of the range – joy, sorrow, anger, confusion, contentment – all of those emotions make your experiences leave a mark on your memories. You can instantly go back to that day and relive it. Please don’t believe the lie that none of this matters, because it does. Because of your experiences, YOU are just who someone will need when they go through a similar experience. You may be the only one who can understand what they are going through. Don’t minimize that!

You are surrounded by certain people right now. They are here for a reason, as are you. None of your personality traits or experiences are wasted. They come together and shape who you are now. The people around you have been shaped too and you are here to affect each other. Maybe you need them or maybe they need you.

So many times, you change a person’s life and don’t know it. They may tell you but they may not. Don’t assume you don’t have a place in this world because you do.

Be you. Love others the way you do best. Help others the way you are wired. Show them how important they are to you and remember you are needed.

There is only one you.

If you are on Facebook, I would love it if you liked my book page! Right now, I have 25 days of giving going on. Thank you!

Linking with Holley Gerth

Friends With More Gray Hair

My whole adult life, I have gravitated toward older people. (Calm down, people I hang out with. I said older, not old.) I think I probably assumed they had it all together, and it would rub off on me. I have definitely absorbed some wisdom, but let’s not get carried away.

The older we get, the more secure we are in our identity and the less we care what others think. Can I get an Amen? I just love hearing people’s stories and the amazing twists and turns their lives have taken that they didn’t see coming.

Growing up, I saw my parents’ friendships and have emulated them. (Several I consider my friends now too. What a cool transformation!) My parents showed me it is important to have friends that are like you and ones that are different. They had a wide variety.

When I think of older friends, one lady comes to my mind who God sent me for a season. Right after college, I started attending a church and sat near this woman, Dorothy. We found out Mom was sick again, and Dorothy reminded me of her. I began confiding in her after services and she would hug me while I cried. We formed a friendship that was, of course, just what I needed. I only went to that church a few months, but God knew I could use someone who wasn’t close to the situation or close to my age. I needed someone who had more life experience to help me navigate the murky waters of my feelings and fears. Friends my age were nervous around me because they didn’t know what to say. The fact that I let myself cry with Dorothy shows how comfortable she made me instantly. We lost touch but I think of her and smile.

Then there are friends who are just a few years older and have kids who are slightly older than mine. The advice they have shared has been priceless over the years.

I have hung out and volunteered with many people over the years whose kids are my age, and I love it! They have seen God come through and can reassure me He will again. I adore the time I spend with them, but I am wondering one thing.

Is it time for me to befriend someone younger than me?


I really do prefer the company of those who are older than me, but at what point do I consider it time to start passing down what I have learned? I don’t want to be greedy and soak up all the goodness myself. I want to be more of a sponge that gets wrung out over others who need it. I want to be used to pass on peace, wisdom, and joy when they need it.

God will bring people in my life at the right time. I hope I am paying attention when that happens!

If you are on Facebook, I would love it if you would like my book page!

Linking with Holley Gerth

Cleaning the Mirrors of Life

Back when I was young, Mom made us help around the house. I didn’t want to clean (still don’t like it by the way.) I wanted to play outside or read or pretty much anything else. This desire to be finished before I even started meant I rushed through the job at times. I wanted it to look like I did it, but I was no perfectionist.

With the mirrors, I performed exceptionally bad. Hey, it looked finished to me! Pretty much without fail, Mom would bring me back in and show me the spots that magically appeared. I swear, they weren’t there before! She taught me that you have to step back and look. You can’t see those places you missed when you are up close to the glass. It takes coming away and seeing the whole thing. Suddenly the glass that looked clean has a plethora of streaks and spots pop out at you.

It was years before I thought about this concept in my life. Instead of a lesson purely relating to house keeping, this is an idea that translates to every situation we face. We can’t see the truth when we are so involved and need to step back. The picture is bigger than the 8 inch square we see in front of our face. If we stay in that position, things will look the same. When we back up even a little, the situation becomes clearer. We can be more aware of the actual issues and maybe even come up with solutions. But nothing will be solved with our noses inches from the glass.

How does this look in real life? I have to step back and see the issue with fresh eyes. I need to take in people’s perception and what is going on in their lives at the moment that would make them act this way. I should see how it is affecting those I love around me- is it harming them? I really have to see past my own feelings and gain a bigger perspective than I had.

None of these things are easy. When storms of life blow at us, and they will, the best thing we can do is take a breath and step back to evaluate. Things become clearer when we see who and what are involved and how it all fits together. Some things we may never understand, but we need to remember that it does all fit together and there is a reason for it. If we step back and don’t immediately know what to do, we may just need to wait a bit longer for things to fall in place.

No, backing away from a situation doesn’t come naturally to us. We tend to want to run in and fix every problem. But if we don’t know what the real problem is, how do we know where to start? I hope we can all take a lesson from Mom and step back. Figure out where the spots are and wipe them out.

Linking with Holley Gerth