In 1985, Dr. Kevin Leman published The Birth Order Book. It’s a good read. My favorite part is the opening sentence in the chapter on only children; “You can always tell the only child; he takes his briefcase to kindergarten.” As the mother of an only, I can tell you it’s true. Only children live with just adults, and sometimes they think they are adults.

My son fit this profile. When he was a preschooler he stopped taking naps, and those over tired days were hard. When J got overly tired, he would fixate on adult-like concerns. I remember him sobbing, “but mom, what will I do? I need a car to get to a job, but I can’t get a car until I get a job!” and “what if I get in an accident, and I don’t have money to fix my car?” After that one I made the mistake of explaining insurance. I thought it would comfort him, but over tired preschoolers are not easily consoled. “Mom, what if I can’t pay for insurance? If I don’t have insurance I can’t drive my car!” No matter how many times I told him that his dad and I would be there to help, no matter how many times I explained things, he just worried. He was tired. And four. (Ironically I blinked, and here we are providing the promised help as he works his first job and learns to drive. But that’s a different story.)

Sometimes I feel like that ridiculous overly tired preschooler. I look at the statistics, and I just want to wail that I can’t handle it!
1 in 9 people doesn’t get enough to eat.
1 in 4 children is stunted by malnutrition.
21,000 people die each day from hunger and hunger-related illness, many of them children.
A child dies from hunger or hunger-related illness every 10 seconds.
I just can’t do enough to put a dent in those staggering numbers.*

But maybe like my preschooler, I’m overwhelmed because I’m biting off more than I’m responsible for. Maybe I can’t save the world. But I’m not called to change the world. I’m called to change me. Think about the fruits of the spirit from Galatians 5: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  SELF-control. My goal is to improve the only person I can control – Me.

Maya Angleou wrote about this:
As I started my journey to being happy on purpose, I realized very quickly how little in my life was within my control. I had no power over other people; others will do, think, and feel what they want and there’s little I can do to change or even influence that. I could only manipulate my environment and the things that happened to me to a certain degree.

I started to wonder if I could control anything in my life at all and I realized that I can only control myself. More specifically I had control over my attitude and my reactions to what the world throws at me.

Mother Teresa understood this as well. She said, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” And I’d say that served her pretty well! One person at a time she made an incredible difference for the hungry, and her legacy continues to inspire difference-makers today!

The systems that lead to hunger and inequality in this world are huge, and they’re beyond our control. But we can have an impact. We just have to fix our eyes on what we can control, ourselves, and work diligently to live our lives in a more mindful way.


*Quantifying these statistics is challenging. I chose to take this information from the UN World Food Programme, and the BBC. “Hunger related illness” means that an individual did not literally die of starvation, but that his or her immune system was compromised by inadequate nutrition, leading to death from some other illness, like measles.


Dear Younger Me…




A while back, a friend of mine posted a challenge question in our private Facebook group. The question was, ‘If you could go back and tell your 17-year-old self just FOUR words, what would you say?” My first reaction was to think what I could spare myself, but the more I thought about the hard things I’ve faced in life, the more I realized that the hard things were good for me.

Challenges in parenting, work, and school made me stronger and gave me confidence.

My experience with debt made me wiser about spending.

Difficult relationships taught me patience.

The only thing I could think of that didn’t make me better in the long run is my long-time battle with my weight. So I decided that my four words would be, “Your metabolism WILL fail.” Maybe coming from my own mouth in four strong, declarative words, seventeen-year-old Karah would believe it and do something about it. But I know me. Young Karah would roll her eyes, crack open another can of soda, and go on believing that she wouldn’t have to deal with that for a long time yet.

But the question made me wonder. What if 70-year-old Karah could say four words to 30-something Karah? Or what if Karah spending eternity in heaven could come back and tell earthly Karah just four words. I can guarantee you she wouldn’t be warning me about my metabolism.

Hug your loved ones.

Love like Jesus did.

Give more to missions.

Live to serve others.

Foster or adopt children.

Live your faith openly.

Tell people about Jesus.

This is the message that Jesus left heaven to give us:
Matthew 22:34-40 – Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

I know that most of my blog readers are Christians. But if you’re not, or if you’re not sure, I want you to have a chance to hear about Jesus:
– Jesus is the son of God himself, and he came to earth willingly to take on the form of a man. As fully man and fully God, he lived out a perfect, sinless life, and then willingly died on a cross, the death of a criminal, to pay the price for the sins of all mankind. John 3:16-17 says, “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.”

– Saved from what? From sin that separates us from God. The day will come when you will die, we all will, and you will stand before God the judge. You don’t have to earn God’s forgiveness or be “good enough” for God. In fact, we never can. Jesus covered our bill. We just have to accept it. Romans 6:23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord.”

– So what do you do? It’s pretty simple. If you accept that you are a sinner who needs a savior, and you understand that Jesus is that savior: that he came and lived a sinless life and died to pay the price for your sins, all you have to do is believe in your heart and confess it with your mouth. Romans 10:9-10 says, “If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you profess your faith and are saved.” It’s really that simple, but it will change your life.

-If you would like to pray today to accept Jesus, say this simple prayer (or put it in your own words. The words themselves don’t save you, only faith in Jesus can save you): God, I know that I am a sinner. Thank you that your son, Jesus, died on the cross to pay the price for my sins. I accept your free gift of salvation. Thank you for your forgiveness, and for making a way for us to be saved. Amen.”

If you decided to follow Jesus, and you prayed to accept his free gift of salvation, you are saved! Drop me an email at connect@foodshelffriday.com and I will get you some information to help you begin your journey as a follower of Jesus!


Book Review: Wear No Evil by Greta Eagan

wear-no-evilI know I’ve been on a kick lately talking about Fair Trade, but I really feel that opportunity is the key to poverty and hunger alleviation. And I think that there is something we can do about it. During the month of October, I will be posting daily on the Food Shelf Friday Facebook page about different resources to help you with your holiday shopping. I’ll be showcasing fair trade companies and ways that your spending can do good. Follow Food Shelf Friday on Facebook (be sure you turn on notifications!), or search hashtag #FSFShoptober.

In addition to that new resource, I also have a quick book review for you – Wear No Evil by Greta Eagan.

Greta Eagan is a fashion insider. But the more she learned about the industry, the more she became alarmed at what a broken system the fashion industry has become. In the past, most people owned just a handful of outfits, and cared for them to get as much out of their clothing as possible. Clothes were handed down, altered, and fabrics were repurposed. Today, we own tons of clothing items, and we freely toss them when they get worn, or when we just get bored of them. Clothes used to be made by artisans, from quality materials (especially designer clothes). Today they’re made of cheap materials, artificial dyes, and toxic synthetic fibers by underpaid workers in unsafe conditions. Even high-cost designer clothes are made this way. Manufacturers’ standards have fallen in order to keep profits high.

It’s more than just fair trade labor practices. Our wasteful fashion choices use tons of water, fill landfills with waste, and pollute the environment with burning fossil fuels and toxic dyes. Wear No Evil identifies sixteen factors we should look for in our clothing choices:

– Natural/Low Impact Dyes – Dyes that are not toxic to the environment
– Natural Fibers – Synthetic fibers don’t biodegrade
– Organic – Fibers grown without using chemicals like pesticides and synthetic fertilizers
– Fair Trade – The growers and workers were paid a fair wage at every stage of the production process
– Recycled/Upcycled – An item made from recycled fibers or repurposed parts of an old item
– Secondhand – An item that has belonged to someone else
– Local – Produced in the United States or sold by a local small business
– Social – A portion of the proceeds benefits a social cause
– Zero Waste – The production process is efficient so there is no waste
– Convertible – The item can be used in more than one way or for more than one occasion so you get more use out of it
– Vegan – There were no animal parts involved in the production of the item
– Low Water Footprint – Water-saving measures were used to minimize the amount of water required to grow the fibers or produce the item
– Transparent – The company is upfront about their process/supply chain/etc.
– Cradle to Cradle – The company has a plan for the item from production to recycling/repurposing
– Slow Fashion – The company values artistry and a well-thought out process
– Style – Do you like it? Does it fit your life?

That’s a lot. I know. You won’t find a single item that hits every goal, and quite frankly you probably don’t care about all of them anyway. Eagan suggests you start every purchase with the style questions: Do I love this? Does it suit my lifestyle? Then she suggests you pick three other goals that are important to you. When you consider a purchase that passes your style question, you can then consider if it meets your other top goals.

My top considerations, after style, are fair trade, second hand, and social. When I find an item I love, it has to be either fair trade, secondhand, or raise money for a cause I believe in. The more goals an item hits, the more likely I am to purchase. For example, I recently needed to buy some socks. I’m not getting socks secondhand, so I went looking for the style and size I needed from a company that uses fair trade practices. I found them at Pact, and in addition to being fair trade, they’re organic, natural cotton fibers, and my purchase supported the company’s social giving as well. Bonus!

The book gives you a really positive way to consider ethical shopping without getting overwhelmed. Eagan suggests that you keep the items you have and love, and care for them as well as possible. She recommends doing less shopping. And she recommends that you shop your priorities rather than getting hung up on the impossible search for the socially, environmentally, and economically perfect item.

The downside of this book is that the first half, talking about the goals and the importance of each one, is timeless, but the second half, a look at current fashion and designers, won’t be up to date for long (it came out in 2014). There are lots of great designers and websites suggested all throughout, but that info will get outdated.  If you’re looking to make some changes to your buying habits, it’s a great starting point. But it’s going to show its age in just a couple years.

What are your favorite ethical retailers? Share in the comments!


The Great Wardrobe Purge: Thoughts on Fair Trade and James Chapter 5


I learned something about myself this week. For a long time I have prided myself (and I use the word “pride” intentionally) on the fact that I’m not a “stuff person.” I don’t like clutter. I didn’t keep every art project my kid brought home from school. I clean out my crawl space and shed every year. We go through my son’s wardrobe and his room twice a year. I’m just not about the stuff. But lately I’ve been feeling like my wardrobe was getting a little full, and I decided to do a full clean out.

I literally removed every stitch of clothing and every accessory from my closet, storage bins, and dresser. I washed every piece of laundry, too, so I knew exactly what I was dealing with. As I pulled each item out of its home, I considered if I really wanted it. Does it fit my body? Does it fit my lifestyle? Do I wear it? It was astounding. I filled a huge Amazon Prime Pantry box with rejected clothing and accessories, and my bed was still covered! Hoodies, cardigans, leggings – up and up the piles grew. I had no idea it was that bad.

The reject pile

I came to a realization: I have wardrobe bulimia. I binge shop and then purge, over and over. Stores worth of clothing pass through my hands, and it’s rare that I keep anything long enough to wear it out. I’m a stuff person after all, not a stuff keeper, but definitely a stuff waster. I’m embarrassed and ashamed of my wastefulness. I’ve been so proud of myself when there was nothing to be proud of!

For a while now I have been learning about the importance of fair trade manufacturing, and have been working toward a fair wardrobe based on minimal purchasing, certified fair trade choices, and secondhand shopping. This purge and inventory taking was part of that process. You have to know what you have in order to make good decisions about future purchases! Ironically (though no coincidence to God, I’m sure…), my purge landed on the same day that I read James 5 as part of my time in the word.

James 5:1-6:   Now listen, you rich people, weep and wail because of the misery that is coming on you. Your wealth has rotted, and moths have eaten your clothes. Your gold and silver are corroded. Their corrosion will testify against you and eat your flesh like fire. You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workers who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence. You have fattened yourselves in the day of slaughter. You have condemned and murdered the innocent one, who was not opposing you.

Some of the evidence stacked against me

My piles of clothing testify against me; I live in luxury and self-indulgence. And I know that the farmers and workers who created my piles of clothing cry out because of oppression and failed wages. And the Lord hears their cries!

On one level, I feel bad that I have been an active and willing participant in this broken system. But I don’t blame myself for the things I didn’t know. And I’m not blaming you either. Until a few years ago, no one talked about international labor practices. We learned about workplace disasters like the Triangle Shirtwaist factory fire (New York City, 1911) as history, and celebrated that American labor laws were fixed last century. Meanwhile, we went on wearing cheap t-shirts and tennis shoes made by children in other countries who were paid pennies to work in dangerous factories where they face abuse every day and don’t have an opportunity for a basic education. We didn’t know. In fact, most of us thought we were being responsible if we bought the cheapest clothes possible!

But now that I know better, I feel responsible to repent for the lives that were hurt for my “stuff” and to do better. In fact, my first instinct was to start replacing the things I own with fair trade replacements. But that’s not the answer! It just adds to the waste, filling our landfills and my credit card balance! Fair trade is expensive; it has to be if everyone along the way is getting a fair wage for their work. The real answer is to use up what I have, that damage is already done.

But if this purge taught me anything, it’s that I do not need more stuff. I probably have something that will fill whatever need I have: from work wear I can paint in to a formal gown – including jewelry, handbags, AND shoes, I have at least one thing in my wardrobe to meet any need possible. I don’t usually shop from need; I shop from boredom, and I’ll bet a lot of you do too.

If I shop from need and not from boredom, I can afford fair trade.
The world can’t afford anything less.


Service Project: The Loved Bible Project


Recently a couple of friends of mine (Kelli and Tracy of All Your Heart Ministries) told me about a cool new service project. It’s called the Loved Bible Project, and it is right up my alley! Basically you start with a new bible, love on it, and hand it off to someone in need (need is relative: They could be in need financially, or just in need of hope and comfort. I’ll get to that later…). They receive God’s word, pre-highlighted, hand-annotated, and filled with encouraging notes, just as if they had inherited a much-loved bible from a loved one. I love to doodle and write, and I love God’s word, so I knew I wanted to be a part of this.

Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light on my path. Psalm 119:105

No sooner had I decided that this was a service project I wanted to do, then Christian Book Distributors emailed me about a sale event and free shipping promo. I scoured their website and found a number of bibles in various translations for under $5 each. I went with the NIV version, because that’s a common and trusted version, and one I’m familiar with. I got two plain bibles and two with huge pink daisies on their green, faux-leather covers. I don’t know if it’s just because I’m a boy mom or if it was God’s leading, but I was smitten with the idea of using lots of color and pretty doodles and sending it off to a girl or young woman.


The cool thing about this project (well, one of the cool things) is that God already knows the young woman who will own this bible. He knows her needs now and in the future. He knows what verses she will need to cling to and what encouragement she will need to hear. It is not in my power to minister to this stranger because I know nothing. But God knows. So I started this project by praying for her. I prayed for inspiration and direction as I prepare this bible for this stranger. And I continued to pray as I added to the bible.



I’m a scrapbooker, so I had lots of fun things to use to decorate the bible! I used stickers, craft tape, markers, metallic gel pens, and more!I found this cool assortment pack of sticky notes at Dollar Tree. I especially love the little flag/arrow notes for pointing out special verses.


I got this set of special highlighters from my secret sister last year. They don’t bleed through the thin pages of a bible. You can find them on Amazon.

As you can see, I had a lot of fun with this project. I want to add a few more things to it, but when it’s done I’m mailing it to my friend Renee at ReBuild, a ministry to the down and out of the Huntington WV area. Figuring in the cost of the bible, shipping it to Renee, and the few supplies I bought to supplement my scrapbooking stash, I completed this project for about $10. It is my prayer that God would take my little investment of $10 and a couple hours and turn it into something priceless!

If you are interested in more information about the Loved Bible Project, check out the Loved Bible Project website or the All Your Heart Ministries website. There is a ton of inspiration there, pics of projects, etc. You can also search “scripture journaling” or “loved bible” on Pinterest to get some ideas. I did my first bible without a theme, but they can be specific as well. For example, you could love a bible for a single mom friend, someone in cancer treatment, or someone experiencing a loss. You could gather with a group of women, share supplies, and love bibles together as a church or bible study women’s event.

Finished bibles can be sent to the Loved Bible Project (see their website for info), and they will be distributed to the homeless, or you can send them to ReBuild – Renee says they’ll take as many as they can get and will distribute them to the people they work with. Other ministries local to you may be interested in taking loved bibles as well. You just have to ask!

Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God. Matthew 4:4