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

When You’re Overwhelmed With The Bad In The World: Five Things That Actually Help

overwhelmed 2

Now, look. I just had a baby. I know I’m tired and hormonal.

But is it just me, or are things seeming a bit bleak these days?

If you’re like me, you don’t need me to recite the world’s tragedies… you know them already. You read them in the paper. You see them in your Facebook news feed. Ebola outbreaks, the genocide of Christians, suicide, mental illness, riots and racial fighting, incurable diseases, little kids battling cancer…

It can feel extremely overwhelming.

It can make you want to cry, and shut your eyes to it all. You feel so guilty, tense, powerless, and confused.

Where is God, exactly? What in the world can we do?

When I was in college, my professor said something really profound. Don’t zone out here. This is really good. In fact even years later, it’s stuck in my head.

Things are different now that we have mass media, he said. A long time ago, in Biblical times, even our grandparents’ time, if you heard of something bad, you could help, because it was local.

If you knew someone was sick, or who’d lost their house in a fire or a child to sickness, you could help them, because they were nearby.

These days? These days we are literally flooded with tales of evil and tragedy. Even if we can help some of those suffering, we can’t help them all. There are too many.

So we are left feeling depressed, cynical, and powerless.

Is there a cure? I think there is (sort of). Here are some things I’ve thought of to do – when you start feeling that tense, overwhelmed feeling with all that’s going wrong in our world.

  1. Help the people in front of you. Really basic, I know, but do it. Who is suffering around you, that you know? Who that God placed in your life – family, church, neighborhood – needs a meal, a card, a hand? It sounds cliche, but when you feel overwhelmed by the bad in the world, do something good. Think of one person you can actually help, and do something – today. I think one thing my professor was criticizing about our modern culture is that it gets you in a mindset of not helping. Today, do something small.
  2. Think about good things. Okay, so again, I’m sounding cliche. But isn’t it what God says to do? Whatever is good, whatever is true, right, noble, honorable…think about these things. In plain English, here’s how you do that today: The Lord IS doing good things in our world; tell yourself these stories. Remember that miracle he performed in your family? Tell yourself that story again. Stop scrolling through the litany of tragedies and read stories like this one, about the baby they thought might not survive, but did, and this one you’ve heard, about how God saved the doctor’s life, or even read my story from three weeks ago, when God answered my desperate prayers by a hospital bed. Think about good things.
  3. Stop in-taking and start up-lifting. Again, in plain English: When you have reached your “max” of hearing depressing stories, get off Facebook for the day, and refuse to watch the news. Instead, make a list of all the prayer requests you can think of. Write them on index cards if you need to. And then, pray through these things. Once a week I take the day off from the internet (read more about that here), and it is so refreshing. It’s literally one of the best decisions I’ve made. And especially when you’re on overload – step out from the noise, and spend some time praying for what you already know.
  4. Evaluate where you’re spending your money. Sometimes our vague, negative feelings are just guilt speaking to us. Stop, and ask the Lord if there is a cause he wants you to get behind. Compassion International is a great one. Already have a child? Get another.
  5. Thank God for heaven. No seriously, guys. Don’t glaze this over.

One day, there will be no burying our loved ones. One day, there will be no deep-sinking-feeling in your stomach from hearing about suffering brothers and imprisoned believers. One day, little ones won’t die young, leaving heart-broken families behind.

One day, All Will Be Right.

We will be safe. We will be truly, and wonderfully, at peace. One day He will wipe away every tear, for good. Spread the Word, friends. It’s Friday now, but Sunday’s coming. It’s dark out now, but morning’s coming.

 Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the negative noise? What helps you regain your focus?

Blessings,

Jessica 

 

7 Small Ways a Faithful Mother Can Make a Big Difference

7 Small Ways a Faithful Mother Can Make a Big Difference

I want to make a difference.

You might not think a stay-at-home, work-at-home, mom like me would be aware of what is happening out there, but I am.

I can see far too clearly the world falling apart and feel much too deeply the relationships crumbling around me – and it nearly breaks my heart.

No, my head is definitely not buried in the sand. We can all read the headlines. Nor do we have far to travel to find heartache or hopelessness.

But this home-centered mom wants to do something about it . . and you?

I want to raise a family who loves the Lord and who will be a light to an ever-darkening world, a family who will offer hope to the aching and the anguished.

So how can one faithful mother make a big difference?

1. Fill our home with joy and laughter.
As the mom, we get to set the tone for the home, so begin the day with a loving smile and a cheerful greeting. And if you don’t “feel” like it? That’s okay, just fake it! Then keep right on smiling until the warmth becomes genuine and shines down over your entire family.

2. Offer grace freely.
Mistakes, mess-ups, mix-ups – it’s all part of being a family. Let them know that you can overlook their faults and you love ‘em like crazy anyway. Don’t be devastated, or even surprised, when your people let you down. Consider the abundant grace showered down over you and me and then offer the same to their tender hearts. They need it at least as much as we do!

3. Share meals together daily.
If our lives are so busy that we don’t have a moment to dine and discuss around the table together, then we are dangerously too busy. While it doesn’t always seem worth the trouble to gather everyone for this daily event, it does add up over time and one of the greatest investments you can make for your family.

4. Be willing to take a strong stand.
It’s a fact: we moms get less grief if we say “yes” than when we say “no”. But, if your spirit is troubling you then don’t compromise for the sake of peace – it’s simply not worth it. Stay true to what you believe is right and stick to your guns. We have to be more concerned about our children’s character than their temporary “happiness.”

5. Take the time to talk it through.
Talking things through takes a gargantuan amount of TIME. Sometimes this means discussing issues late into the night (especially if you have teens!).  No such thing as a shortcut to this critical process – unless it’s sweeping it under the rug which only results in distant, painful relationships. So what are a few bleary nights compared to close, loving relationships?

6.   Ask forgiveness – and grant it fully
If someone sins or hurts another family member in any way, he – or me!- should be swift to humbly seek forgiveness.  And the response should be as quick and wholehearted as the request made.  Don’t let any bit of relational garbage linger to rot and decay! Keep all your hearts clean and bright.

7.   Celebrate the uniqueness of each child
Enjoy each child’s special qualities and embrace every unique individual. Teach your children to appreciate one another’s differences too. Don’t allow anyone to despise or belittle a brother or sister because they happen to have their own giftings, their own particular style, and their own way of doing things. (For more ways:  32 Tips I’d Like toPass on to Moms with Younger Children.)

Although I don’t always feel much like a world-changer, like it matters all that much, this mom would like to think I’m making a world of difference.

And you’re making a big difference too.

Because we mothers can impact more lives than we ever thought possible through our sometimes simple, often hidden, but meaningful ministry at home.

Cheering for you!

Lisa Jacobson, Club31Women

The Hidden Years of Being a Stay-At-Home Mom (Giveaway!)

hidden years

We were in a garden of peonies, bursting pink and rose and ivory on dozens of bushes and the air smelled like my grandmother’s perfume. I was leaning over the blossoms even as my three-year-old fingered their soft petals and my mother in law, standing there, pointed to a blossom that hadn’t opened yet. Rolled tight into a pink ball, and tiny ants crawling across its surface.

“Peonies can’t open without the ants,” my mother in law said. “See how they’re moving across the surface of the blossom? They’re opening it so that it can bloom.”

I just stared as these tiny ants, who appeared to be doing nothing, worked the miracle of unfolding one of earth’s most extravagant flowers.

And it reminded me of us, as mothers, working tirelessly each day so that one day, our children might blossom.

As mothers we live largely in the hidden years, in the years of the unfolded bloom. We spend hours doing tiny, mundane things like wiping noses and bottoms and tables and chairs and cupboards and floors, and getting on our hands and knees to look into the eyes of a child and disciplining and comforting, potty training and bathtub-scrubbing, mountains of laundry-folding and us, on the couch, crying into a mug of coffee because today of all days, the kids refuse to nap.

hidden years2

And then we walk wearily down the stairs and pick those little ones up and rock them and read them the same stories, over and over, until it’s time to make supper.

And that’s when we realize we’re still in our pajamas.

Life, for a mom, is largely ordinary and unseen and we wonder if anyone cares or if any of this counts towards anything at all?

But God sees. And there is nothing that delights him more than love done in secret.

We live in a world that says it doesn’t matter if no one witnesses it—that unless it’s recorded on YouTube or tweeted or made into a status, or posted on a blog, it doesn’t count.

But we also live in a world that is disillusioned by fame and hungry for unannounced sacrifice.  

I listened to a talk, recently, by a former atheist who now speaks about the life of Christ and all of the years the Bible doesn’t talk about—the “hidden years” she calls them, leading up to his ministry.

God didn’t love Jesus just because of the way he served him in public.

He loved him because of the way he served him in private.

love done in secret

For all of the ways he served his Father in the quiet of the thirty years prior to his ministry. All of the little, ordinary choices he made as a carpenter—the ant crawling across the bloom of the flower, believing one day its work would be honored, but content until then to keep working at what it has been called to do.

As mothers we have been called to serve our husbands and children. To do those small, unseen things that don’t get a lot of praise or exclamation, that leave us some days weeping into our coffee for the longing to be noticed.

But oh, how your Father notices.

And may you hear, as Jesus did, when he emerged from the water prior to starting any kind of ministry, God’s voice declaring proudly from heaven, “This is my daughter, with whom I am well pleased.”

Even as the peony unfolds.

268386_Wierenga_WB

 

It’s my birthday today friends, and to celebrate, I’m giving away a signed copy of my memoir, #AtlasGirl, as well as a beautiful piece of art (see below) by my friend Dee Kasberger (Red Letter Words) over at my blog today. Just click HERE to enter the Rafflecopter!

she knew she was worth

Also, Atlas Girl winners from last month include: Mary-Margaret Brown,  Erin Yeung, Melinda Elam and Debi Schuhow. Bless you! e.

 

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