Shop Locally. Impact Globally. (BIG Giveaway!)

photo by Allyn Lyttle of World Help Organization

photo by Allyn Lyttle of World Help Organization


by Allyn Lyttle of WHO

by Allyn Lyttle of WHO

by Allyn Lyttle of WHO

by Allyn Lyttle of WHO

by Allyn Lyttle of WHO

by Allyn Lyttle of WHO

by Allyn Lyttle of WHO

by Allyn Lyttle of WHO

 (*Please note, friends: This post is long. But, would you take time read it, for me? For all the precious Ugandan mamas who need your help? And then, would you consider sharing the post so others might help too? Thank you. From the bottom of my heart.)


She walked for four hours just to meet me.

Her soles were red from Uganda’s earth and she didn’t break a sweat in the high heat. Her eyes shone but she lowered them, looked at her sandals, even as I reached out a hand to touch her shoulder, and I could feel the strength in this peasant farmer’s arm.

She’d lost her husband just weeks earlier to HIV/Aids, an illness people still talk about in hushed tones because of the shame associated with it.

She’d lost her children long before that to this children’s home I was visiting–because she had a sick husband to care for and a farm that wasn’t bringing in money and no way to feed her sons or daughters.

And here I was, able to pay for her kids’ clothes and education while she wasn’t. And not because I worked harder. No, she worked sun-up to sundown and had callouses across her hands and feet. No, it was because I came from a first class country overflowing with food and privilege while the rest of the world is forced to feed from our trash cans.

I smiled at her, but I felt sick.

I am a mother. Every night I walk into my boys’ room and ache for them lying there in their beds, because they’re tucked deep in my womb. I cannot imagine how humbling, or humiliating, it would be, to have to ask someone else to take care of my children. To not be able to give them food or water, to not be able to keep them under your own roof-and THEN, to walk four hours to meet the woman who can?

Our Father weeps. He anguishes over every single mother–because there are hundreds of thousands of them across Uganda in the same situation–who has to lose her child, who cannot take care of her children.

And He’s asking us to do something about it.

Sponsoring a child is good, don’t get me wrong. I sponsor as many children as I am able.

But standing there with this beautiful woman in her brown hat and her downcast gaze, her son’s eyes shining as he looked at me, I thought, No. Enough. There has to be more.

I want this son to look at his MOTHER with adoration, not me–a stranger.

I want him to look at HER to provide his needs, not me–an outsider who didn’t birth him without an epidural, who didn’t weep and pray over him every night of his childhood, who didn’t spend every minute of every day trying to earn enough money to buy him a bowl of Matoke (cooked banana) so he wouldn’t starve to death.

So, I went home and founded a non-profit called The Lulu Tree. I didn’t intend to found a non-profit. I didn’t–and still don’t–feel qualified to start one, I just wanted to partner with someone who was doing what I wanted to do. But no one was.

Our vision at The Lulu Tree is to work with HIV mothers in the slum of Katwe, Uganda (the worst of Kampala’s eight slums), equipping them to be care for their own kids. Our slogan is “Preventing tomorrow’s orphans by equipping today’s mothers.” Lofty, I know. But you have to dream big, right? Shoot for the moon and you’ll land somewhere among the stars?

So we’re shooting for the moon.

We’ve hired a beautiful Ugandan social worker named Esther Natakunda Tendo (Esther–is there more anointed a name? She has been called to free her people from captivity). We’ve also hired a national coordinator named Carol Masaba.

Esther Natakunda Tendo, and her son

Esther Natakunda Tendo, and her son

Esther is a 29-year-old married mother of two who has received education in Sex and Gender Based Violence, computer application and project planning and management from the African  Population Management. She has volunteered for years through the children’s home where she was raised, and has extensive work experience both in banking and in communications. Esther speaks several dialects, and is a strong believer in Jesus Christ. Her heart beats passionately for women and children suffering from AIDS,  and it is her heart’s desire to help those who are impoverished find hope. As her name suggests, Esther has responded to the call to set her people free from poverty and despair.

Carol Masaba

Carol Masaba

Carol Masaba is the national coordinator both for The Lulu Tree and for the African Evangelistic Enterprise in Uganda. She partners with churches across the country to bring the hope of Christ to various parts of the nation. Carol has over 20 years experience in integrated community development work, during which she has worked with poor and marginalized communities to improve the well-being of children and youth. She is in charge of hiring and mentoring Lulu staff and volunteers and overseeing the ministry as a whole.

Both Carol and Esther will be working with the mothers in the slum of Katwe. Our goal is to equip them holistically–spiritually, emotionally and physically. This involves connecting them with the local church, providing HIV treatment for the mothers and children, and teaching the mamas a trade–to how to sew, or cook, so that after two years of being sponsored, these mamas will be self-sufficient.

(You can read about how to sponsor a mama HERE).

And … we’ve got some EXCITING NEWS! If you have Christmas shopping to do, and want to help people at the same time, look no further!!

We’re launching THE LULU TREE BOUTIQUE this week, with the ultimate goal of creating a market for these precious mamas to selling their beautiful work through, once they’ve been trained. SHIPPING IS INCLUDED IN THE PRICES. All proceeds go towards The Lulu Tree.

A friend of mine, dear Jodie Vanderzwaag, HAS GIVEN UP her very successful business a few months ago to run this boutique. Pretty amazing.

We are also partnering with The House of Belonging, Funky Fish Designs, Krafty Kash, and Little Dragonfly Boutique, as well as a number of individual artisans who have donated their products to this shop. My dear sister Christy Stewart Halsell of Sandy Feet Media has volunteered long hours to set up this website and boutique (I HIGHLY recommend her web services!), and countless others including photographer Leanne Doell have donated time and energy to Lulu. To see a full list of everyone who’s helping us, please visit HERE.

So, let’s get shopping! We’ve got cozy slipper boots, slouchy beanies for kids and adults, little girl dresses, cowls and jackets, infinity scarves, dolls, darling Lulu headbands and artwork, jewelry, and more. See below for some sneak peeks.
10656310_10152863376778296_2098000950_n jordyn-7089akikilulu4 barefootsandals headwarmer infinitycowl (1) woolswingcoat woolzippercoat IMG_0560 myliecloche  Lulu bracelet

KraftyKashnecklaceLuluTree EmilyWierengaScarfSecoya

Would you consider doing some Christmas shopping at our boutique, and helping us help these mamas? We would be so grateful. Click the button below, or just follow this link:

lulu tree boutique

On behalf of women like Harima, below, who is our first Lulu Mama–THANK YOU! For helping us bring DIGNITY and LIFE to these dear women!

Harima, Lulu's first Mama

Harima, Lulu’s first Mama

For those who help us share the post or do any of the following, we’d like to give you the chance to win some extraordinary products including:

An infinity scarf made by The Lulu Tree from African cloth

An infinity scarf made by The Lulu Tree from African cloth

A copy of the novella Mom's Night Out, by Tricia Goyer, inspired by the popular movie

A copy of the novella Mom’s Night Out, by Tricia Goyer, inspired by the popular movie

A Lulu Tree headband designed by Little Dragonfly Boutique

A Lulu Tree headband designed by Little Dragonfly Boutique

A beautiful tank from Cross Training ~ Couture

A beautiful tank from Cross Training Couture

A DaySpring Scripture Bangle

A DaySpring Scripture Bangle

To win the above products, just follow this link (or copy/paste this link: scroll down and enter the Rafflecopter.

PS. Friends, if any of you wants to get involved with The Lulu Tree, we’d LOVE to work with you. We are a non-profit that exists only due to the generosity and compassion of people like you. Please visit HERE to find out how you might change a life today through Lulu.


Emily Wierenga

Your Back-To School Body: Healthy Tips for You and Your Family!

If it hasn’t already started, it will soon. Our kids will be back to school and whether you public, private, or homeschool, all of our routines will be changing! Part of those routines will be how we re-work the way we keep our families (and ourselves!) healthy during the school year. I’ve found it advantageous to take a couple hours when the house is quiet (which in my case, means a coffee shop!) and outline/list a few things that will help me before the crazy schedules start. Here are some of my top tips to help you hit the ground running and prepared for this year!

Your back-to-school body: Healthy Tips For You and Your Family | The Better Mom

Healthy Eating:

1) Get reacquainted with your pinterest boards!

Re-organize it if you need, but make sure you have some boards that are easy for you to access such as “crockpot,” “after-school snacks,” “healthy family meals,” and more. When I am having a crazy week, it is so nice to click one of my boards and locate a recipe I’ve already pinned!

2) Figure out when your meal prep and planning night will be. (Not necessarily the same day)

Every family will look a little different here as you may not need or want to meal prep as much as another family, but to some extent, having fresh cut veggies and portioned out nuts really helps when you are ready to run out the door. Meal planning is also a huge key to my ease during the school year. If you can’t nail down a specific night that you will have certain meals, at least keep the ingredients and recipes for 3-4 meals handy so you can quickly grab them when you need to.

3) Include your family

Sometimes I forget that as each year passes, my kids’ age also increases which means they can help me out more! I involve them in some of the food prepping and have even begun to have them help me choose what we should eat for different meals! This might be the year for you to have some extra hands in the kitchen!


4) Outline when and where you will do your workouts

Be very realistic here. If you can only do 3 days a week, then do those 3 days with confidence! Make the phone calls to the gym or local churches to find out when and how much their classes are. Call a FRIEND to meet up with you. I’m telling you–you will never just “fall” into a workout. I love working out and I still don’t have that happen! A little effort on the front end will help you as you are going through it.

5) Put those pinterest boards to use (again!)

I’m sure you have a board with tons of pins waiting to be used, right? Well, now is the time to print some of those things off and implement them! Get a cute little notebook, or screenshot the pics from your smartphone so that you have a little database of things to reference. Come October, you’ll be looking for something to revive your routine! (Of course, you can always keep in contact with my site to keep you inspired!)

6) Get fit with the family!

As I mentioned before, with a new season of life, our family dynamics change, so this may mean that you can do some fun activities with your family! Keeping them fit and active is very important too! Are your kids old enough to train and run a 5K with you? Find one you can all sign up together! Is there a free night you all have together? Huddle in the basement and have the kids put you through a 20 minute workout! If your kids are training for their own sports–PERFECT! Join them! What better time to connect with them, than during a run outside, some sprints, or an ab routine. Show ‘em that mom can keep up!

Spiritual Health

7) Consider reading or leading a Christian book/study on spiritual health

Try Candace Cameron Bure’s, “Reshaping It All”, or Lysa Terkeurst’s, “Made to Crave”. If your church isn’t able to lead these up, then pray about starting this with a couple of your friends. Keep yourselves accountable spiritually and physically! (Be on the lookout for my 5-week “Living and Active” challenge which will do just this, towards the end of September!)

8) Commit to praying or reciting scripture during your workout

I run through a lot of scriptures–and say lots of breathless prayers during my workouts! Maybe it’s time for you to consider your workouts more than just a time to beat your physical body. Maybe it’s time to amp it up and enrich your soul!

9) Be intentional about letting your kids see the reason why you are taking care of your health

Maybe we need to back up a bit. Maybe you need to put some thought into why you have decided that you and your family’s health is important! Once you’ve figured that out, be open about the real reasons you choose to wake up and workout, or prefer them to eat veggies over chips. They are going to learn a viewpoint about health and their soul from someone–why not have them learn it from you?

If you have any other back-to-school tips that you could share, please do so below! I am always learning and am ready for some new ideas, myself, so don’t be shy!

Press on!


When obedience to God includes running shoes and weights

It was the last session of the fall Bible study. God and I had been wrestling with a few things for the past couple months and while I kept saying, “I’ll be obedient to where God guides”, I really had made my mind up. However, that week’s homework had me in Nehemiah. Both Ezra and Nehemiah made lasting impacts on the lives of God’s people. It stirred something in my heart, but not enough to make any big changes. This quote in the last chapter of the Bible study stood out to me though:

“You cannot experience personal revival in your relationship with Jesus Christ and do nothing! If you truly have awaked, opened your eyes, tended your heart, bent your knees, and said yes, then it naturally follow that you must move your feet!” I Saw the Lord, p. 155

When Obedience to God Includes Running Shoes and Weights : The Better Mom

Anne Graham Lotz was tying up the chapter we had read for the week, “Move Your Feet!” from the book, “I saw the Lord” during our last DVD session. You know the typical courtroom scene when the closing arguments are being displayed…well, that’s what I feel like God was doing with this DVD. He was giving me His closing arguments–and man–was He good!

» “PAY ATTENTION: What need has grabbed your heart?”

Burden is the first step to vision. Step through the open door.

“Well, God, I know you’ve given me a passion and desire to help women with their health, but there’s no way you mean this for RIGHT NOW! Those women that open their hearts about eating disorders, food addictions, and exhaustion -I’m sure they would tell that to anyone. And those open doors you’ve been swinging open in front of me over the last 2 months–I’m sure it’s just coincidence.”

» “PUT on the clothes for the call. How has God equipped you to serve Him?”

When it gets hard, doesn’t mean I’m not in God’s will. Don’t look at what you had before He calls you to do it. Obey with the smallest thing.

“The 7 years of teaching aerobics and pilates were certainly convenient, along with the many years before that of unofficial training of many friends. But now–a blog? I have no idea how to do a blog! I mean, I love Facebook and all–but seriously–a blog? Did you forget that I have an 18 month old and a 4 year old?”

» “Putting your faith into practice”

What does God want to accomplish through you? Obedience unlocks heaven. HE equips you.

*tears* Uncontrollable. OK, God. I get it. I will walk forward in obedience and faith, but let it be known–I’M SCARED TO DEATH!


A copy of my notes from that session.


This was my experience in the fall of 2010 as God was preparing my heart to open up my blog, Peak313. Never did I think that walking in obedience and leaving an impact on those in my generation  would have included running shoes and weights! God took a passion, burden, and talent of mine and has used it to bring glory to His name and good to His people. I’ve found that many women–and especially young mamas–struggle with their health and not just in context of losing weight, getting rid of muffin-top, and making time for exercise, but also how to work that into every day life while keeping an eternal perspective. It is an honor each day to help women live in GRACE and not GUILT in regards to their health—something I can only do via the Spirit of the Lord!

My blog has been such a ride in my faith and I’m convinced that He gave it to me not only to use my gifts for those who may need encouraged, but also to take me deeper into my walk with Him! So when God was ending that Bible study saying, “Move your feet!”, little did I know that it was the beginning of a long race ahead! To Him be the glory!



This post is a part of our “Who We Are” Series. For all posts visit,

“Who We Are: The Stories Behind TBM Writers”

Who We Are at The Better Mom

More T-Shirt Designs!! (for you and your hubby!)

A couple of months ago I was soooo excited to show you our brand new t-shirts for our community here at The Better Mom!! Now we have three more designs and I LOVE them! Check them out below. To view the entire collection click here—> The Better Mom Tees

Note: When your tee/tees come in the mail take a picture of yourself wearing your tee and tag The Better Mom on Facebook (@thebettermom) , Instagram (@ruthschwenk), or Twitter (@thebettermom) and hashtag #momtees!


 Buy Now —-> My Husband Has My Heart


Buy Now —> My Wife Has My Heart


Buy Now —> I’m Raising a World-Changer

Woohoo! Don’t you just love these?? We can’t wait to see you or your hubby in one of these tees so be sure to tag us!


Ruth Schwenk

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