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: http://thelulutree.com/shop/.

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 http://www.facebook.com/crosstrainingcouture

A beautiful tank from Cross Training Couture http://www.facebook.com/crosstrainingcouture

A DaySpring Scripture Bangle

A DaySpring Scripture Bangle

To win the above products, just follow this link (or copy/paste this link: http://www.emilywierenga.com/can-change-world-one-mother-time/) 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.

Blessings,

Emily Wierenga

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!

My-HUSBAND-has-MY-HEART

 Buy Now —-> My Husband Has My Heart

My-WIFE-has-my-HEART

Buy Now —> My Wife Has My Heart

Im-Raising-A-World-Changer

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!

Blessings,

Ruth Schwenk

Our Very Own T-Shirts!! {I’m not “just” a mom…and more!}

I am soooo excited to show you our brand new t-shirts for our community here at The Better Mom!! I have been wanting to do this for awhile now and alas here they are…. Let’s wear them with pride my friends!!!

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!

Im-not-just-a-mom

This is my favorite one!!! I LOVE it! Being a mom isnt about your place in life right now; its about your purpose in life. There is no such thing as “just” a mom! Click here to purchase the I’m Not Just a Mom tee.

Raising-Arrows

You are raising and releasing weapons of life, joy, truth, and light. Dont just raise kids; raise arrows! Psalm 127:3-5 says, “Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. Children born to a young man are like arrows in a warriors hands. How joyful is the man whose quiver is full of them! He will not be put to shame when he confronts his accusers at the city gates.” Click here to purchase the Raising Arrows tee.

I-Love-Being-A-Mom

No shame, so shout it out! I LOVE being a mom! Click here to purchase the I Love Being a Mom tee.

So which one is your favorite that you are going to order?? And…what are some other quotes for our future designs that you would love to see on a tee??

Blessings,

Ruth Schwenk

Thank you thank you thank you to my friend Kathleen Miller who designed these beauties for us!!

How You Can Have Your Own Personal Stylist

I have shared this little secret with you before but for those of you who weren’t around when I first shared it….

You can have your own personal stylist…and yes I am serious

For those of you who have not heard of StitchFix let me introduce you to my new “best friend”. ;)

Over the holidays Stitch Fix sponsored a fun party for me and my friends!

Pre-party pic— gift bags and our Stitch Fix boxes ready and waiting!!
Pre-party pic

Woohooo we are excited!

Your own personal stylist - StitchFix
My friend Abby had this really cute navy top in a previous fix she got! (Cassandra’s top isn’t from Stitch Fix…but it is really cute too :)!)

Abby and Cassandra
 

My friend Casey and I loved our tops!
Casey and me

Here are a few of the styles I especially loved from the night!

a few styles

and I LOVE how they put outfit suggestions with each piece!

outfit suggestions

LOVED this sweater!

StitchFix Outfit

and this one..

Another StitchFix Outfit

So you may be wondering:

What is Stitch Fix?

Stitch Fix is a service where you are assigned your own personal stylist who chooses clothing, jewelry, and even cute bags/purses for you.  When you sign up, you fill out a style profile so that your stylist has an idea of what you like to wear. After you select the first date you would like your fix, you will receive 5 items in the mail (in a cute box :)). You are not obligated to purchase any of them, but you are charged a $20 styling fee. This $20 is refunded if you purchase any one item. I LOVE that with each piece of clothing they include a card that gives you ideas on how to style that particular piece. Once you try your items on, select what you would like to keep and then return the rest in a pre-paid envelope.

So if you find yourself wanting to try new styles and could use a little help from a stylist you will LOVE Stitch Fix!!!

Overall I love the variety of the items they send me.  I have learned it is best to be specific if you are hoping to get certain items in your fix. For example, I have asked for a Maxi Dress, a big slouchy bag, and a cute jacket and loved all of them!!

If you would like to sign up and try Stitch Fix you can click here to sign up!

Blessings,

Ruth Schwenk

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