Archive | thoughts

q & a day

q&a For the next day or so, let’s have a Q & A. Feel free to ask me any question in the comments and I’ll respond back as a reply to your comment.

Let’s imagine we’re sitting together over a cup of something delicious watching our rambunctious children and having a real life conversation (except without the inevitable interruptions from said children). No topic is off limits and I’m a fairly open and honest girl … so … ask away!

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speaking your child’s language

We just returned from a weekend away at our favorite beach house on Whidbey Island. I’ve written about this magical place several times before, and posted a million IG photos (#theboathouse). Our good friends are gracious hosts and their hospitality provides the most cherished and memorable adventures for our kids. It is for sure their most favorite place to be.

whidbey-morning

I love the boat house for many reasons, but lingering at the top is watching the boys be boys. They have complete freedom. They can roam the endless beach collecting shells and digging for sea creatures. They cut down branches and make paths through the woods and whittle sticks with their pocket knives. They shoot bb guns and practice with their bows & arrows. They kayak or paddle boat and swim in the freezing cold water.  They build forts and bon fires and swing on a hammock.

whittling-sticks

See what I mean? It’s a boy’s delight.

whidbey-teepee

Usually, after breakfast is over and with the kids happily occupied, I spend my days lounging on the deck or beach chatting with our friends, occasionally glancing through a magazine or reading a book. It’s a pretty dreamy day for me as well.

sitting-on-beach-

But every once in a while, I make an effort to play with the boys. Since Audrey is the littlest and basically my shadow, I find I get lots of time with her, but the boys don’t always get undivided mom-time doing what they love to do.

And the number one thing they love to do at the beach?

digging

Dig.

Dig deep holes. Build dams. Divert the stream.

With shovel in hand, these boys are happy for hours.

And so, on this particular day, I dug.

Dug deep holes. Built dams. Diverted the stream. Dug until I had blisters on my hands and had completed the best sand fort ever.

Midway through our digging, No.1 looked up at me and said, “mom, thanks for being this kind of mom.”

whidbey-digging

And that made missing out on deck-sitting time and those blisters on my hands totally worth it.

Sometimes speaking your child’s language looks like wielding a shovel with jeans rolled up and bare feet.

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currently (home from rwanda edition)

  currently

I am home now from Rwanda. The flight was loooong and jet lag is winning, but I’m trying to get back into regular life and this blog post is attempt no. 1.

How do you share all that was experienced? There are no words. We had three talented photographers with us to capture the trip in images and I can’t wait to show you them. For now, I’ll just wrap things all up with my current thoughts as prompted by a blog post series I call currently. (here are a few previous versions, if you’re interested). Here it goes …

LOVING // The girls I traveled with. I mean, could you get a more talented, driven, beautiful group of women?

styleforjustice-team

These women are passionate, kind, funny (so funny) and it made our time extra amazing to have each other to share life with. Paige, Jan, Jennie, Wynne, Raechel, Jessica, Jen, Melissa, Meredith & Kelle – you are the best.

READING // The new Justice study starts today on She Reads Truth (a bible study app that I adore). I’m excited to begin to dig in deeper to learn what the Bible has to say about justice. It is a word with sort of a harsh connotation, so it will be good to get a new perspective in light of our work last week exposing us to injustices beyond thinking.

To keep things light, I’m also reading The Guernsey Literary and Potatoe Peel Pie Society.

WAITING FOR // It all to sink in.

EXCITED ABOUT // the pretty handmade items I brought back with me.

handmade-in-africa

True to my love of neutrals, I came home with black, white and wooden objects – all of them beautifully crafted and little reminders of the beauty of the people and country of Rwanda.

TRYING TO // figure out what’s next. Where do I fit in to making a lasting difference in the lives of the vulnerable? Like I said in this post, now that I know, I can not un-know. What do I do with my life that will make the most impact?

WORKING ON // a new art print with this verse:

He has shown you, O mortal, what is good.
And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
and to walk humblywith your God.
- micah 6:8 -

ENJOYING // my husband and kids. I missed them. They missed me. Thankful for the good life we live.

family

USING // a lot of ice. It was one of the main things I missed with being out of country. Water, unless bottled, is not safe to drink, which means ice is also not safe. Ice is one of my deepest loves. Therefore, I missed it. And now I’m eating a lot of it.

WEARING // this new bracelet. It’s totally touristy and cheesy, but it’s beautiful and meaningful and I’m embracing it.

rwanda-bracelet

PLANNING // a noonday party. I’ve never hosted a trunk show and now that I have learned so much more about the company, I can’t wait to spread the word to my friends. The new fall line comes out in a few weeks and from the few sneek peeks I saw, it looks gorgeous. Plus, we designed a new #styleforjustice collection with the artisans and those will be debuted and voted on August 7th!

NEEDING // first instinct answer is nothing. The friends I met in Kigali have so little, and yet they are so generous and grateful. Just a big reminder that stuff does not equal happiness. Safety, provision, relationships, love – these are true needs and all are met in my life. So now, what I need most is generosity and gratitude.

LEARNING // So many things. And I’m still processing. But here’s a short list:

1. Relationships is where change is made and relationships with those who are different than me are so valuable.
2. Life is unfair.
3. Hope is absolutely necessary.
4. The seats on Brussels airlines are very uncomfortable. Take a different route to Kigali next time.
5. People in Africa use facebook. I now have Rwandan facebook friends. Such a strange world we live in.

DOING // Becoming a Freedom Partner with IJM. This organization is so professional and doing good work, I am honored to take a tiny part in partnering.

freedom-partner

To learn more about the work of IJM, read Jen Hatmaker’s well-written post. That girl has a way with words.

DREAMING OF // Returning, of course. With my family. I want them to meet my new Rwandan friends and see for themselves what a resilient, forgiving, hopeful, beautiful country it is.

artisans

Such a beautiful country.

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twirling in Africa

My best friend prayed for me before I left for Rwanda. She prayed that as I rode on the rollercoaster that the trip would be, I would always hold fast to God’s promise that he loves all of His children and wants to do His work through us.

The first four days were high highs. Even in the midst of visiting the genocide memorial and a church where the killings took place (I haven’t even begun to process), in hearing about the amazing efforts IJM is making to stop child sexual abuse and in meeting and creating with the women at the co-op, there was profound hope. My heart felt open, not broken.

And then came yesterday.

It all started to weigh heavy on me.

One of our translators – a good, good man who lost his wife 2 weeks ago to sickness – was ousted from his previous journalism career because he spoke his mind, is struggling to piece together odd jobs to provide schooling for his two daughters. He is bright and friendly, educated, intelligent and kind. And he can’t find work. It feels so unfair.

translator

We met a 14 year old IJM client who has endured the unthinkable – physical pain, mental trauma, rejection, hopelessness – and although she is a walking miracle, I just grieved for the suffering she has been through. It happened when she was 10. My oldest is 10. I can’t even imagine.

jamie

I had the honor of visiting the home of one of the co-op partners, Solange.

solange

She is a genocide survivor, but lost all of her family. Her husband left her with 5 children, the oldest of whom is 23. Jean-Luc is his name. He is a high school graduate, was the president of his English language club and was so enjoyable to visit with. We sat in their small rental home (one living area with a bedroom they share. It was clean and open and despite the fact that it was a very poor house, I felt comfortable and at home. Their hospitality was inspiring). Jean-Luc, a translator and I had a long visit where we laughed and asked questions and got to learn more about each others’ countries. He is a sweet, handsome, smart young man. He wants to go to University, but he will need to pay his own way and can not find a job.

solange-and-family

Note: when I say he can not find a job, it literally means, there is no job for him. It’s not like he is being picky or lazy. There just are not enough jobs in Kigali. Not even for a bright, hard-working, goal-oriented man like my new friend Jean-Luc.

Totally unfair.

We have many of these same problems in America – violence, unemployment, corruption and coercion – but we have fairly functional systems that make dealing with the issues somewhat easier.  Welfare, unemployment benefits, legal representation, a developed justice system.

The people of Rwanda do not have such luxuries. The government is doing all it can, but it is still in its infancy. Keep in mind that the country was absolutely destroyed 20 years ago after the genocide. They are starting over. Things are progressing, but not yet there. There is no unemployment, food bank, free public education, medical benefits.

These are not issues I was passionate about 1 week ago. I knew nothing of the country of Rwanda other than a few facts about the genocide. I knew nothing of the people, the culture, the resiliency, the strong community, the hardships, injustices and need. Now that I know, I can not un-know.

It all came to a crashing low yesterday. I felt like I just wanted to curl up in a ball in the corner and cry. Cry for the sadness. Grieve for the loss. I had to hold it together, but my heart was busting with emotion and I barely made it through the morning.

One of the things I know about myself is that I am tender. I cry easily. I empathize with everyone. I am sensitive and emotional. So it’s no surprise that I fell apart. It was only a matter of time before all of the heaping stories of injustice caught up with me. So much hardship.

But God didn’t let me stay there. He never does. He is a God of hope.

sunset-norbert-house

Later in the afternoon, after the enjoyable visit with Jean-Luc and the sweet hospitality of Solange, we said our goodbyes. The neighborhoods here have the most amazing community feel, so all of the neighborhood children were out playing and interested in meeting the foreigners. We hadn’t been around a lot of children until this point, but playing with little ones is one of my greatest joys – I was so excited to see those sweet faces. Communicating with children who do not speak English is difficult, but the wonderful thing about children is that you don’t need language. Hand clapping games, Polaroid photos, hugs – they respond to it all.

I’m not sure how it happened, but with 20 or so children gathered around me, we held hands and hopped. Hopping is universal, I supposed.

hopping

So we hopped, saying the word hop each time.  Hop. Hop. Hop. 

playing-with-kids

Their little accents made it sound more like another word: hope.

With each jump, hope. Hope. Hope. Hope.

twirling-in-africa

And then we twirled.

Twirling is my thing. Twirling is dancing, yes, but more importantly, it is just being who God made me to be. Sometimes it might look like crying with those in pain. Sometimes it is playing with children on a dusty dirt road. But always it is loving. Loving through tears, through creating, through helping wash beans or folding mounds of laundry at home. Through reading a book to my children or giving our money in support of organizations like IJM and Noonday.

We can not solve all injustices and pain on our own. I can not give our translator a job or ensure that Jean-Luc has a future. I can not bathe every one of those babies and make sure they have a meal tonight.

But I can love. Love in the best way I can at the moment.

And sometimes that looks like twirling in Africa.

twirling-with-sunset

(all stories and photos are used with permission. Photos by Paige Knudsen and Kelle Hampton)

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on being a working mom

I am a working mom.

This is something I never would have expected to say about myself 15 years ago.

And yet, here I am, happy and fulfilled (and often a little overwhelmed) by being a mom and a working woman.

learning-to-sew

I’ve been coming into this title, beginning to both admit and embrace it. It’s taken me a while, honestly. If you were to ask me last year what I do, my answer would always be “I’m a mom.” Not that there is anything wrong with that, but the truth is, I’m a mom and I run a business. And there’s nothing wrong with that, either.

pattern-making-with-the-ladies

I’m in Rwanda with a group of 11 other American women, all of whom work. They are smart and beautiful and talented beyond measure. Those who have kids, adore them. They are lovely moms and also do their work with excellence. It is so inspiring to be with these women.

I was lovingly scolded at dinner the other night because I was dismissing my business side. Not taking credit for the hard work I do. No more.

I am a working mom.

ladies-sitting-on-steps

We spent our day yesterday visiting with a group of working moms at the Umucyo co-op. They started their business just over three years ago, going through sewing school to learn a trade and joining forces with one another to create jobs for themselves. They did not do this on their own; a profoundly compassionate and intelligent woman named Jennifer (an American living in Rwanda while her husband started a business here) lived in their poor neighborhood and became their friend. They began to trust her, she saw their great need and knew that while sharing her food and buying them eye glasses were necessary and important, these gestures were not sustainable. Someday she would move away and she would no longer be able to provide snacks and school tuition and wanted to offer them a way to provide for themselves. She met Jessica right at the beginning of Noonday, they dreamed together and empowered 11 women to start a company who created products that noonday could buy.

These women, who were sad and hopeless struggled to provide food for their families and could not send their children to school (p.s. the ability to send your child to school is the best indicator in a developing country that you are earning a living wage. If you can afford tuition – about $8 per semester – it means you can handle your basic needs.) So these original 11 women were in need of work, in need of purpose and most of all, in need of something sustainable to pull them out of their desperate situations.

sewing-machine

I wasn’t sure what to expect from our visit. I hoped the shop was clean. I wanted to believe the hours and pay were generous. Mainly, I needed to know that the women were happy.  But I wasn’t sure. You never really know what it’s like and I felt excited and nervous to see for myself.

My friends, it so much more beautiful than I could have imagined.

First of all, their studio space is wonderful. Light and open with fluttering curtains and old-fashion pedal sewing machines set around the perimeter of the room. If I could build a studio, it would be this one.

Because they collectively run their co-op, the work hours are decided as a group and they set wholesale prices based on cost of materials, labor requirements, shipping and taxes. These women, who once were jobless and hopeless, are not only seamstresses, they have become business women.

emily-and-mary-sunshine

And it has changed their lives.

working-on-patterns

Just three years after their sewing co-op began, these women are thriving. They are able to send their children to school. One moved out of her one room home to one with three. New women have been interviewed and welcomed into the group. They have supported one another with loans when needed. They have purpose.

They still face challenges, of course. Challenges unlike anything I face as a working woman in America. They live in a country where there is little economic opportunity. They worry their children will finish school but will not be able to find work (a very real problem in Rwanda). Tariffs are high and so it is expensive for foreigners to do business here. Violence is common and an everyday worry. All have been impacted by the unthinkable genocide 20 years ago and many have taken in orphans to raise along with their own children. Life is not easy for these women, but it is no longer hopeless.

braiding

Our lives are very different, but our human spirit is the same: we are creative women who love our children, we find joy and purpose through our work, and we take pride in how we can use our talents to make our lives better.

We are working moms.

I have never been more proud to be in that group than now.

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