Category Archives: Family

Ethical Gifts for Last-Minute Shoppers

I feel like a broken record repeating this over and over, but it’s simply the truth: the only meaningful and permanent solution to poverty and hunger is the opportunity for fair and meaningful work. If workers are paid a fair living wage, products will cost what they should (which is more than we’re used to paying for the kind of fast-fashion that uses child labor and unsafe conditions). If products cost what they should, we’ll do less impulse buying and be less wasteful, which is better for the environment. It would also make us more particular about quality, and more likely to maintain the things we have rather than throwing them out and replacing them.

So let’s say that you’ve committed to do your part and buy things that were created by workers in safe conditions who were paid a fair wage. *Taps microphone* Um, ladies and gentlemen? We’re down to just ten shopping days before Christmas…

A lot of ethical brands are online, and unless we’re talking about Amazon, which owns the American package delivery industry, you might not be able to get online orders in time for Christmas. So what is the last-minute ethical shopper to do?

  • Gift Cards – the obvious first idea is gift cards. They’re probably the most popular gift to give over the holiday season, and many retailers let you buy them online, some even offering e-delivery.
  • Chocolate and Coffee – Chocolate and coffee are products that make great gifts and which are widely available. Even your local grocery store probably has Endangered SpeciesEndangered Species chocolate and a number of fair trade coffee brands. Look for the fair trade logo on the packaging. Similarly, if your favorite local coffee shop uses fair trade beans (and Rainforest Alliance certification DOES include fair trade in their requirements!), a gift card to their location is another great option.
  • Search up a brick and mortar store near you – There are physical shops that specialize in fair trade merchandise. Search the internet, or check out this list.
  • Buy American – Items made in the United States have to adhere to American labor laws, so those products are made by employees who meet American safety, child labor, and minimum wage standards. Whether those things are enough is a different debate, but at least you know your American-made products weren’t created by children in a sweatshop.
  • Buy Homemade – Your friend who knits, the lady who sells jewelry at the craft fair, and your neighbor who makes her own soap are all retailers who set their own prices and pay themselves what they think is a fair wage for their materials and time. Supporting hand crafters and local small businesses keeps money in the community and helps them build their business. Don’t forget to leave reviews and comments on social media, too.
  • Don’t throw out the big box – There are fair trade options at big box retailers. Amazon can ship Prime products up to the last minute, and they do carry fair trade items. Just search the site for “fair trade” and be sure you check estimated delivery dates.

Wishing you the best of luck on your last-minute shopping. Merry Christmas!

It’s a Small World, After All

Happy Food Shelf Friday morning! It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year since I wrote a blog post. As you can imagine, a lot has happened since I last wrote. My son turned eighteen, and we went through his senior year of high school with all that entails – ski season, orchestra concerts, and college decisions. I took on a second job in the spring managing the social media accounts for a small business. We did some traveling over the winter. Next came Jacob’s graduation and the big grad party. After a busy summer, we moved him across the country, to the Seattle area, for college.

I could not be more proud of the man Jacob is becoming. My son is studying to be a pastor. He has a tremendous heart for God and a desire to love and serve people. It’s exciting to watch him step into his adult life. He’s having adventures out on the west coast, making new friends, and doing great in school.

It’s also the most terrifying thing I’ve ever experienced. My barely-adult man child and his twenty year-old car are over 1,600 miles away, on the other side of two mountain ranges, and I know exactly zero people there. Or I should say I did know zero people out there. Every single step of the way, God has shown me that although my husband and I may be far from our son, He is right there with him.

  • Over the summer we got information about Jacob’s roommate, and the roommate’s mom works right there on campus. They also have other kids who live far from home, so they know how we’re feeling.
  • Modern technology makes instant communication free and easy.
  • One of Jacob’s high school friends moved to the exact halfway point of the long drive he’ll be making to get home in the spring.
  • The university helps connect students with jobs, and Jacob got hired at a local church within a week or two of arriving. That gave him a job, but also a church home.
  • His professors and advisor have been amazing. So have his RA’s and his new friends.

The icing on the “small world” cake came a few weeks ago. I was on Facebook, and I saw that a young family from our church had an incredible job offer and were moving to Seattle. I thought that was interesting, so I clicked on the comments, where I saw that they’re not just moving to Seattle, they’re moving to the same suburb where Jacob lives – within walking distance of him. We’ve chatted, exchanged phone numbers, and talked about churches and things. When we visited Jacob over Thanksgiving and attended his church, it was absolutely surreal to greet another member of our church family. It made the world feel a lot smaller!

Joshua 1:9 (ESV)  Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.

As a mom, I’m used to feeling like I’m the one in charge. I’m used to doing the research, and making the decisions and purchases. I always knew that God was in control of my family and our futures, but I also felt responsible. When your child gets on the school bus, you lose some of that control. When your child drives, you lose even more. When your child moves across the country, you have a whole new awareness of how powerless you are.

Thank God He’s not powerless.

When I am weak, he is strong (2 Corinthians) – but even when I am strong, He is stronger! God is all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful. In this season of my life, I am grateful for the many ways he has reminded me of that and showed Himself to our family.

 

I’m glad to be here again, blogging and sharing life with you. I’ll be back every Friday with inspiration, information, and resources. You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram (@foodshelffriday), Twitter (@foodshelffriday), and Pinterest. Thank you for caring about the world’s hungry and going on this journey with me!

Run Your Race

I am NOT a runner. I used to make jokes about it, like calling Proverbs 28:1 (“A fool runs when no one is chasing him”) my “life verse,” or saying that if you ever see me running you should run too, because it means that something bad is chasing me. But my husband is a runner (3 marathons and counting, #ProudWife), and now so is our son. So as I recovered from knee surgery and started making progress on my personal fitness journey, I had a nagging thought that I wanted to know if I could run.

The short answer is no. The long answer starts with “well, kind of…” Back in February, in a burst of carb- and coffee-fueled enthusiasm, I registered for my first 5k. Then I jumped on a treadmill and told it to do a 5k. I took 54 minutes. So I set a goal to finish my first race in 45 minutes, and started training. I started a couch to 5k program and got sick with a nasty and lingering cold. Then we did some traveling. Then the weather turned full-on winter again. But I had paid for this race and committed to doing it, and I was going to do it come hell or high snowbanks…

In a last-minute attempt to derail we had a little “adventure” finding parking on race day. My husband hadn’t brought his wallet along, and after he dropped us off near the starting line, we realized that he was going to need me to pay for parking. My son and I walked well over a mile to where my husband was, paid for and found a parking spot, and walked back to the start line with only moments to spare. It was tense. I was more than a little crabby about walking a 5k before the race even began. You see, I had worked for this. I had trained in spite of everything. I studied the race map. I carefully planned my outfit. I created a custom playlist for the race. I had visualized myself crossing the finish line in under 45 minutes as I tried to fall asleep each night.

I was stubborn.

My sweet, contrite husband, experienced runner and veteran of many many races turned to me and said, “Do you want me to stay with you?”

Insert record scratch sound

Stay with me? No way. My training prepared me to do this at my pace, not at his pace. And even though I’m sure he would have dialed back to my level, I would have been so self-conscious the entire time. I would have pushed myself too hard in the beginning and run out of steam before the end. I would have spent every step agonizing over what my husband thought of my form when I ran and my lack of stamina when I walked (I’m still speed walking over half of my “runs”). The only way this was going to work was if I could lose myself in my music and do this my way. So I thanked him for his thoughtful offer but suggested that it would be best if we each ran our own race.

That’s a familiar phrase – run your own race. I always thought it meant that we should do what is set before us and not get caught up in comparison and trying to do what God intended others to do. But running the 5k, I realized that trying to run someone else’s race doesn’t just mess with you, it messes with them as well!

Hebrews 12:1-2 says “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the pioneer and perfecter of faith. For the joy set before him he endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

  • Throw off those unexpected setbacks. The enemy wants you to fail. You will face challenges. But hold true. Stay firm. Persevere.
  • Stay in your lane. Don’t get in the way of the person God called to a certain role, and don’t get caught up comparing your role to anothers’. He needs us all, but He doesn’t need us tripping each other (or ourselves) up!
  • Fix your eyes on the goal, not the other runners.

At about mile two of my 5k, I was passed by the tuba section of the University marching band, instruments and all. At about 2 and a half miles I passed a toddler in a Spiderman costume (passing a toddler is obviously not the story here, the story is that he stayed in front of me for most of the race!). I rounded the corner and headed into the final stretch, crossing the finish line in 45 minutes and 6 seconds. My husband was at the finish line, waiting with his camera ready.

I threw off the setbacks. I ran my own race. I finished strong. And though I still don’t consider myself a runner, I’ve registered for a few more opportunities to get that time under 45 minutes…

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Filling up on Cotton Candy

Last week we went on the mother of all road trips. We were away from home for six days, and four of those days we spent driving at least 11 hours per day. The other two days we spent on a college visit and playing tourist in Seattle. It was exhausting, and I still feel off my schedule and behind on everything after four days back at home.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I’ve been revamping my eating and exercise habits lately. But eating healthy and getting enough exercise when you’re sitting in the car all day, feasting on gas station snacks and fast food meals, is nearly impossible. One thing I noticed during this trip is that the more junk food was available to me, the less and less it satisfied me. At home, eating a clean diet and getting regular exercise, a rest day feels restful, and a treat is, well, a real treat. But a steady supply of laziness and junk stops satisfying.

On the way home I found myself standing in a truck stop in Montana, looking for a snack to tide me over so we could keep moving without a lunch break. I looked at the candy and chips, but nothing appealed to me. I looked at the beverages, but I just didn’t want another soda (or the ensuing potty break it would necessitate). I could have anything I wanted, and I just didn’t want any of it.

Since we’ve gotten home I have felt the same way about my behavior. I have so much that I need to do to get caught up – laundry, grocery shopping, getting back to the gym, etc., but as soon as I get a spare minute, I waste it playing games on my phone, drawing/coloring, or reading. The whole thing came to a head yesterday when I was praying about what to post this week. I confessed to the Lord that I just felt sluggish and out of touch with writing and with His heart. As soon as I confessed that, I began thinking of the ways I’ve wasted time lately. No wonder I’m unsatisfied, I’ve been filling up on cotton candy.

I’m not saying that you should strictly schedule every second of your day full of practical and efficient busyness. Down time and rest are imperative, and hobbies are wonderful and fulfilling. But it’s just like the treats I ate on the road. When it’s truly a treat, it’s fun and special. When you fill your life with fluff and junk, it stops satisfying.

1 Corinthians 10:31 says “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.”

Rest when you need rest. Engage in hobbies that allow you to have a creative outlet, physical exercise, or just a good laugh. But don’t fill up on the cotton candy. Fill your days with things that bring glory to God and bless others so your treats can be a treat.

Forget the Frock

Ugh. I prepared this post for you a week ago, and then didn’t post it on Friday. I’m blaming the cold medicine…

Easter is coming up in just a couple weeks. Have you shopped for fancy new dresses and ties for your family? Would you like to save some money and make a lasting difference instead? Forget the Frock is a national movement to trade in those one-time holiday purchases for tee shirts that make a difference in the world.

Forget the Frock and our Preferred Partner, Feeding the Orphans from Forget the Frock on Vimeo.

 

This will be my family’s first time participating in Forget the Frock. I ordered this year’s “Preferred Partner” shirt from Feeding the Orphans. They came really quick, in less than a week, and they’re taking orders until the week before Easter, so there is still time to order.

The shirts are made of American-made fabric, and are fair trade produced by men and women who aged out of orphanages in Haiti and were taught garment-making skills. The money I spent on the shirts will provide education, healthcare, and opportunities for orphans in Western Africa. So from seed to Easter Sunday, this shirt provided fair-paying, meaningful employment for American farmers, American fabric producers, Haitian garment workers, the artist who designed the logo, and the staff at Feed the Orphans, plus the proceeds provide for African orphans. That’s a lot of good for just $23 per shirt!

There are other shirts from other partner organizations. Check them all out on the Forget the Frock website. Or pick up a shirt from one of your favorite non-profits!

Have you participated in Forget the Frock? What organization(s) have you supported with this initiative? Comment below to share your story!