"Made Like Martha"

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A few months ago, we got an email from an adorable author in Michigan.  Katie Reid is a self proclaimed "Martha" who is looking to find grace and peace in the uncertainty of life.  She stumbled upon Same Cloth and our Mary & Martha tees while preparing to launch her new book Made Like Martha.  

Gettin’ Stuff Done and Changing Lives…Together!   

From Katie Reid:

For years, I felt like there was something wrong with me because I identified more with Martha than Mary, from the Bible. Martha was busy working in the kitchen, preparing for her company, while her sister Mary sat listening at Jesus’s feet. Martha was stressed out about all the preparations so she asked Jesus to tell Mary to “help a sister out.” But instead of doing that, Jesus reminded Martha that Mary had chosen the better thing.

This account (in Luke 10:38-42) used to frustrate me. If nobody works, nobody eats, right? But as I took a closer look, I realized that Jesus wasn’t asking Martha to change her temperament to be more pleasing to Him. He was inviting her to exchange her striving and fret for settledness and peace—knowing that He was enough for her.

I don’t think Jesus was asking Martha to sit physically but to take a seat on the inside—to rest in His love for her—whether or not all the items on her to-do list were checked off.

Martha’s to-do list had value but it did not determine her value.

Jesus wasn’t asking Martha to shed her efficiency, but to relax in His presence, even while her hands were busy. For centuries those of us who are made like Martha, have felt guilty for not being more like Mary. But I have good news for you! Jesus never asked Martha to be Mary, but He did invite her to remember who He was and who she was in light of Him—a beloved daughter, not because of what she did, but because she was His. Martha was designed to be a doer and so I am. Getting things done is admirable, but it’s not what makes us more pleasing to Him.

Jesus settled His loved for us on the cross—and His grace is a gift we receive not a prize we earn.

When we believe and receive that good news, we are freed to serve from a place of strength and peace, knowing that our works aren’t a means to earn His love but a response to already being loved by Him.

Ephesians 2:8-10 says:

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Whether we relate more to Martha or Mary, God has created us to do good works. These works are a way to honor Him and change the world—or at least our little corner of it. I have chosen Life Choices of Central Michigan as the recipient of the Martha and Mary shirt campaign because they exemplify both characteristics of these sisters.

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Like Martha, Life Choices helps meet the needs of those around them from a practical standpoint, through: student education, medical services (like pregnancy tests and ultrasounds) and parent support. Like Mary, they provide emotional support through: listening, encouraging, and valuing their clients (with respect and gentleness). We can do great things when we combine our strengths with the strengths of those around. Like Martha and Mary, we are better together—so that the world may know His power and love.

Consider purchasing whichever shirt you most relate to—Martha or Mary—then buy the other one for a friend who is the opposite. Thank your friend for being fantastic, just the way she is. We’d love to see a picture of the two of you together!

-Katie

 

Katie M. Reid encourages others to find grace in the unraveling of life. She is a devoted wife, mom to five loud children, and a fan of cut-to-the-chase conversations over iced tea. She is also a national speaker and author of Made Like Martha: Good News for the Woman Who Gets Things Done (which includes a bonus 5-week bible study). Subscribe to Katie’s blog for weekly encouragement to help you breathe deeply and walk freely.

Same Cloth Project is delighted to partner with Katie to help celebrate the release of her book, Made Like Martha: Good News for the Woman Who Gets Things Done and to give to Life Choices of Central Michigan.

Your shirt purchase will help change lives…thank you!

Visit our online shop here to purchase yours now!  HURRY! Sale ends Friday, June 22!

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Camp Hope

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“Grief is the last act of love we have to give those we loved.  Where there is deep grief, there was great love.”

Great love is what kids who attend Camp Hope knew.  As adults, its sometimes hard to understand that our children have the same feelings we do.  The difference is that we have the life experience to navigate through those deep emotions. Camp Hope, a one-day ‘retreat’ in Limestone County, is working to make these children feel safe, heard, and loved. At Camp Hope, it okay to laugh and be silly. It’s okay to be sad.  It’s okay to be scared or even angry, because the mission of this camp is to help these children learn to deal with these emotions in a positive way. Each child is paired with a “buddy” at the beginning of the day.  These are volunteers who selflessly give their time…maybe because they’ve been there before, but mostly because they realize the impact that just one day can have on a grieving child. Throughout the day, kids and their buddies play games, read books or sing songs, make memory books; and at the end of the day, each child has an opportunity to write a note to their loved ones and send it up on the end of a balloon…a truly lovely act, that for some brings closure or a small sense of peace.  Death can be scary for kids and at Camp Hope, these children begin to realize they are not alone.

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Camp Hope is a division of Hospice of Limestone County, so this camp fully depends on donations, grants, and gifts to make camp a free, full event for campers.  We were recently approached by our longtime friend and Camp Coordinator, Emily Sandlin, to “update” the Camp Hope tees. We immediately said yes because of our love for this local mission. In the days leading up to turning over the new logo to Emily, we were told that funding for these shirts fell through. So we knew that we needed to help.

 Camp Hope shirts are usually only given to those who serve or attend this camp, but for once, you'll be able to purchase your own Camp Hope tee! Each purchase provides a camper with a tee of their own. 

We have had so much success with our “give one” campaigns that we are bringing it back! Buy a shirt for yourself, purchase one for a child who will attend, or both! Seems like a win-win in our book! Camp Hope has between 50-70 campers so please join in helping us put a shirt every one of these children. Giving a child a shirt to wear and take home is a small way to remind them of this very special day.

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Click here to shop now!

If you or someone you know is interested in volunteering or signing up a camper, visit www.hospiceolc.org and click “Camp Hope”.  Registration ends Saturday, June 2.  

Kelly's Story

It was the early morning hours, not long before shift change, when a nurse entered my room, pulled a chair up to my bedside and said these eleven words that would cause my whole world to shift. “Mrs. Armstrong, I need to talk to you about your baby.”

The night before at 7:54pm, we had welcomed the sweetest 8lb. 2 oz. baby boy into our lives. I had a near perfect pregnancy, no complications, and the delivery, while long, was routine. My baby’s APGAR scores were 9 and 9. He was big and healthy. My husband and I cuddled and snuggled him until around midnight when we finally let the nursery staff take over so I could get some much-needed rest.

I only remember words and phrases of what that sweet nurse, who had the sad task of delivering bad news to us, said after those first eleven words. I remember hearing respiratory distress, oxygen, infection, IV, NICU, neonatologists, and her apologies. While we had been sleeping, our sweet baby had begun to struggle to breathe and had spiked a fever. We had to wait until the doctors made their rounds, but what we learned from her was that we had a very, very sick baby who was fighting for his life.

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The doctor didn’t bring any good news when he came by either. He was very matter of fact with us. Our baby had pneumonia and sepsis, meaning the infection had already entered his bloodstream. The next 48 hours would determine if he lived or died. He was on 100% oxygen and would need a spinal tap to rule out meningitis. If he lived, he could possibly have cerebral palsy, deafness, blindness, and developmental delays.

Our hearts were broken and our minds tried to keep up with all the details. Through it all, the nurses working in the unit carried us. They cared for and about our little guy. They encouraged us and supported us. They celebrated his good moments and worried with us over the scary ones. When his little arms and legs could no longer support the IVs, they explained that the best place for the IV was his head. The next time we saw him, there was a “My First Haircut” certificate next to his bed with the hair they had shaved so they could place the IV.

The days of a NICU stay are hard. Leaving the hospital when your baby stays behind is one of the saddest days. You leave a piece of your heart inside each day. Watching an innocent baby fight to live will nearly break you. You bond with your baby while nurses do their jobs 2 feet away, and you say goodnight to your baby when all you want to do is sit by their crib and watch them sleep.

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Over the next couple of weeks, our baby would endure invasive tests on his little body. Brain scans, lumbar punctures, central lines, and countless IVs. His oxygen levels would fluctuate. There was talk of sending him to a bigger hospital in case he needed to be placed on ECMO. And then one day after many prayers and excellent care from the NICU staff, he turned the corner. They began to wean him off his oxygen. One IV was removed, and then only the 2nd IV port remained but the tubes were gone. We got to hold him like a normal baby! After 18 long days, we were finally able to take our baby home.

The nurses, doctors and that special place known as the NICU had saved our precious baby boy’s life.

-Kelly

 

To learn more about what Bundles of Hope does and the inspiration behind these shirts, visit our blog post here.

Support The Bundles of Hope Fund by purchasing your "Carry Each Other's Burdens" shirt, our limited edition "Beautiful & Beloved" tees or the children's "God is so Mighty" tee in our shop!

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Leslie's Story | Reid

           I was thrilled to find out I would be expecting my first child, especially since I was in my early 30s. However, it was not a picture perfect pregnancy. I was nauseous from the beginning. By the 2nd trimester, I had high blood pressure and was put on blood pressure medicine. I ended up on bed rest with 5 weeks left in my pregnancy. Throughout the nine months, I had numerous doctors’ visits to be monitored and sent to the hospital to listen to Reid’s heartbeat. The doctors never mentioned that Reid was in danger though. They never made me worry that I was in danger either.  Due to my blood pressure, my doctor scheduled me for a c-section for week 38 but that ended up not being God’s plan for us.

           On the night of July 25, I began having severe pain in my side (liver area) and my blood pressure was 200 over 120 (stroke level). I told Trey to take me to Huntsville Hospital. When we got checked in, the doctor on call was hoping to get my blood pressure down and I could be induced the next morning. The next thing I knew they rushed me to the operating room for an emergency c-section. I remember music playing and the nurses were talkative. I was calm but confused because I knew I needed help from the pain, but I could not believe Reid was about to be born!

           Reid was born at 1:16am on July 26, 2011. Reid was not crying. The doctor put Reid up next to my face to let me quickly feel him. Reid was pale and limp. His breathing was shallow and barely there. Trey and the doctor rushed out. No one said a word to me and I was confused. I no longer heard laughter, or talking or music. It was an eerie feeling, but I could not form questions to ask. I was in shock.

           A team of nurses surrounded me and wheeled my hospital bed to the NICU to see my baby. He was surrounded by NICU nurses. I touched his hand and then I was taken to recovery. It would be 48 hours before I saw my baby again. I continued to struggle due to preeclampsia and HELLP syndrome. Thankfully, my husband was able to hold Reid, bond with him, and give me updates. Finally, the nurses took me in a wheelchair to see him and hold him for the first time! He was perfect!

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            Reid had breathing episodes during his NICU stay. He was over 5 pounds but needed to learn to suck, swallow and breathe all at once. They called his episodes turning “dusky” and if he had one of these episodes the countdown to come home would start over for an additional 5 days. As a NICU parent, you have to go through the same routine every visit: check the vitals, unhook the machines, record their temperature, and then finally get to hold your baby. Trey and I gave him his first bath at a baby bathing station in the NICU right next to other NICU families. Visiting my baby from my wheelchair became my routine for the first week. The day I was discharged and left my 6 day old at the hospital and went home without my baby in my arms was devastating.

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           The second week of his life was a similar schedule. Only this time I had family and friends that graciously drove me to visit him during his NICU visiting hours, because I was released to go home but could not drive. Reid continued to have a couple more dusky episodes but by day 14 he was supposed to come home. On what was supposed to be his last night in the NICU, Reid was running a low fever. Mommy instincts kicked in and I had this overwhelming feeling that he was not coming home the next day.  The nurse reassured me that everything was ok, so I gave him my love and yet again left one more time empty handed.

          The worst missed phone call ever came in the middle of the night on August  8 when I got up to make bottles, and the NICU nurse said call us immediately. They said, “Mrs. Jennings we need you and your husband to come in as soon as you can. Reid has a 102 fever and a red rash all over his body. He is very sick.” Two doctors met us at the NICU door. One hugged me with a tear in her eye and told me we almost lost your son during the night. Dr. Dworsky met my husband and told him to sign papers for a spinal tap. They were concerned it was bacterial meningitis. This was a gut wrenching heartache. We were stunned.

         We walked back to intensive to see Reid’s hands and feet drawn in and an IV attached to the top of his head. We reassured him that his mommy and daddy were there and then we had to go make phone calls. We sat on the curb of the hospital, called family and cried. We felt helpless and lost and did not want to leave the hospital.

        I took Trey by the hand and we went to the hospital chapel and prayed for our baby! We prayed for God to give him the strength to fight through this sickness!   

             Our family came for support and provided us with a hotel room near Huntsville Hospital. We received so much love, support, gift cards and most importantly prayers for our baby! We spent the next 48 hours praying that the test would come back negative. For 48 hours we were told that no news is good news, and the longer it took the results to come back the better news it was for Reid. Visiting hours were even more restricted and I could not hold my baby for a few days once again. I sat by his bed crying and telling him I was sorry that I hadn’t protected him, but that we had lots of people praying. I continued to hope and pray God would protect him. Once the 48 hours cleared, we counted each hour as a blessing of good news. They decided it must have been something viral. On day 21 we were finally able to bring our baby home on August 15. God answered our prayers!

            My miracle baby is now a healthy 6 year old in Kindergarten. He is full of life and personality. I am thankful God made him a fighter! I am looking forward to watching the life God has planned for this NICU baby of mine!

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           NICU experiences are lonely and scary. When Amanda asked me about Bundles of Hope, I did not hesitate to say yes because this is my opportunity to pay it forward. Bundles of Hope gift cards and warm meals at the NICU waiting area help these families feel like they have the support system that we were so blessed to have. It gives them a few moments of relief from their reality. I was surrounded by family and friends from the day I was put on bed rest to the day we brought him home. I thank God for that support system for lifting Trey and me up and praying for our son! Some people do not have that support and Bundles of Hope is our way to give back.

-Leslie

To get your tee benefitting The Bundles of Hope Fund, visit our online shop here. All "Carry Each Other's Burdens" tees, "My God is Mighty" tees, and the "Beautiful and Beloved" tees will benefit this precious cause. Last day to purchase from this pre-sale is Sunday, April 29! 

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Amanda's Story | Charlie

We became members of the NICU family when our 4th little boy was born.  Charlie was born on July 22, 2015, 6 weeks early and delivered by emergency c-section.  My other 3 pregnancies were not walks in the park but they had not been emergencies. 

I had my weekly doctor’s appointment earlier that day.  My husband, Will was with me and I am so thankful!   The past few weeks of my pregnancy had been a little more stressful.  Two weeks before his birth, my amniotic fluid appeared lower than it should be.  I was drinking a gallon of water a day those last few weeks.  At the appointment, everything looked good, but right before we left the doctor decided to check my fluid levels again via ultrasound.  We quickly learned that my fluid was dangerously low and I needed to head straight to the hospital.  

I was nervous when we arrived because my doctor informed me that once I got there I wouldn’t be leaving until he was born.  We were hopeful I would have a little more time for him to cook but that didn’t happen.  After a more intense ultrasound, it was determined that my fluid was too low and I would deliver that day.  The doctors believed that Charlie was holding fluid in his chest and they didn’t believe he would be able to cry.  He would be whisked away from us as soon as he was out. 

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I had never had a C-section before let alone an emergency so this was a whole, new experience.    There was a peace in the room leading up to the surgery that we all felt.  Will and my Mom were able to be there with me. We cried and prayed.  And then it was time for our boy to be born.  Charlie arrived at 6:35pm about 2 hours after we arrived at the hospital.  He weighed 4 lbs. and 3 oz. and was 16.5 inches long. And he CRIED! He was red, mad and crying!  I got to see him, which they prepared me that I wouldn’t.  Will rushed off with him and our NICU journey began. 

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The NICU experience is a roller coaster. Your joy filled visit could quickly turn into devastating news.  We joined a club that no one wants to enter.  It's the NICU club.  This club brings heart break and joy.  So many Moms have said to me,”Oh my baby was just there a day or 2, I didn’t have the days and weeks that many have.” I quickly remind them that if they graced those doors to see their baby, then they officially joined the club.  With this club, you have to fight those motherly instincts and give over all control of your baby. The baby you just grew inside you.  You rely solely on those amazing, angels on earth nurses. I could write a book on the nurses. They are your strength. The love and support they give to you and your precious one is something that is directly from God. 

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The next 20 days were a blur.  We learned that the fluid buildup was in his belly not in his chest like the ultrasound suggested. That in itself was our first true blessing.  Charlie struggled with trauma from lack of amniotic fluid.  He started to swell. It started at his feet and went up his little body.  

The first week and a half he was improving little by little each day. It wasn’t huge, but it was progress.  He was getting bigger and taking bottles.  

Day 9 he was moved over into the progressive side of the unit.  My Mom gut sensed something was off. I disregarded it because on the intensive side every nurse cares for one maybe two babies and on the progressive side one nurse may be watching over 4-5 babies.  I think the change of more noise and babies everywhere shook me from what we had experienced the week and a half before.  I know now that Charlie was getting sick.

On the morning of his 10th day, he turned a sickly gray and was quickly sent back to the intensive side. The next few days were definitely the hardest of my life.  Seeing my baby sick and no one really knew what was happening.  He endured a heart echo and X-rays.  Will and I watched while a brain ultrasound was performed.  There were days and moments that we were unsure of Charlie’s future. 

I want to say we were strong and fearless in those times, but that would be a lie. 

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We relied solely on God’s plan for Charlie’s life and for ours.  We prayed and prayed for God to be with him and us.  With each moment, we felt God there. He met us there every day and every night.  He traveled those miles to and fro.  He gave us peace and joy when we didn’t know we could have it anymore. God was there. And I know as you read this, he is also there with all those families going through those same unit doors. 

We were blessed beyond anything we deserve. At every turn of the road, our journey proved good.  My heart broke and still breaks for the families that don’t receive the news we were blessed to hear. 

On Day 20, our precious boy came home to his 3 big brothers and our waiting families!  It was a day I celebrate every year! A fellow NICU mom shared with me that their birthday is special but their "come home" day is really the day to cerebrate! I couldn’t agree more!! 

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This road we walked has changed us.  Bundles of Hope is a way to continue to show our gratitude to the place that saved our children and to love on the families that are walking this journey, too. Regardless of what news they receive, we hope to lighten their load.  We were overwhelmed with so much love and support during Charlie’s stay.  Our family, friends, and church were showering us with cards of encouragement and with gift cards for food and gas.  We live in Athens and it is close to Huntsville, but it also isn’t just a few miles away.  It was 40 minutes to the hospital and 40 minutes home.  When we were making those trips back and forth, we were also leaving 3 children at home.  When we would leave the hospital to go home to those 3 sweet boys, we were leaving our little fighter there. 

Our hearts aren’t meant to be in two places at once. 

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It was very hard. There were times we would see families have to decide when they could come back to visit their babies in the unit.  There were discussions of work and gas money and real life issues.  When you are going through this, the money to drive to the hospital or money to eat on the way shouldn’t be a factor.  I hope through Bundles of Hope we can continue to help those families without the support of family or church. 

And Bundles of Hope is also a way for us to heal. For us to move through those difficult moments in our life and to be thankful for our miracle babies. And God will always be there to provide hope for us and for the NICU!

-Amanda

 

Purchase your shirt to benefit this precious ministry here. Read the original blog post explaining the inspiration behind the design here!

 

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His Flock

A couple of weeks ago, on a random weekday, five women left their busy (and I mean BUSY) homes (and about thirteen children total) to sit down with a warm cup of coffee and chat about their ministries. Ashley and I met with Amanda, Leslie and Kelly, the trio behind the fairly new and local non profit, Bundles of Hope

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Bundles of Hope ministers to families who have children in the care of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit in Huntsville Hospital. When we sat down with these three amazing women, I already knew that they collected and donated restaurant gift cards, since these parents would be away from home during so many meals as they visited their sweet babies. I also knew they helped to provide gas gift cards, which would allow parents transportation from home to hospital. Some families living over 60 miles away from their dear children who had not been able to leave the place where they first entered this world. 

What I didn't realize, though, is that this triad of women are often times providing the very glue to hold these parents together. They not only donate gift cards for families to eat with, but they often serve warm and delicious meals with their very own hands. They told us stories about how they would sit and hold a mother as she cried in fear of the future. Leslie recalled a time when she bonded with a man whose grandchild was fighting for his life in the NICU. This man not only ached for the sweet child, but for his own children who were dealing with the pain of watching their new bundle of joy battle his way out of the hospital. 

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These women not only take the burden off of these families so they don't have to think about where their next meal is coming from, but they help carry the load of anxiety and worry by listening to their fears and providing words of hope.

Why? Because Amanda, Leslie and Kelly were all once there, sitting in the same chairs, pacing the very same halls. They each had children of their own battling, surviving and fighting their way back into their parents' arms. They know they are the lucky ones. They realize not all are so blessed to bring their children home to their houses. Unfortunately for some, a few sweet angels are carried by their Savior's tender arms to the gates of Heaven.  Whatever the outcome, this ministry never lets these families lose hope, and reminds them that, no matter what, Christ will never leave them to carry this weight alone.

My son and I walk to school most mornings and pass a small pond along our way. It's a popular resting spot for geese as they are migrating one way or the other. Liam loves to hear them honking and he giggles and tells me that the geese are fighting with one another. I agree, since I'm no wiser. One day he asked me why geese always fly in a "V" while other birds fly alone or in bunches. I didn't know the answer, so he tasked me with researching geese while he was busy at school. 

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A quick google search and I had all I've ever needed to know about geese right before my eyes.

Goosebumps swept up my arms. Immediately thinking of Amanda, Leslie and Kelly as I read about geese and their amazing display of teamwork, loyalty, encouragement and compassion. 

For you scholars who already know everything there is to know about geese- bear with me. For the rest of you, who like me, let geese be without scrutinizing their every move... GET THIS-

Volunteers serving dinner to families of NICU babies. 

Volunteers serving dinner to families of NICU babies. 

Geese fly in a "V" because it conserves their energy. Each bird flies slightly above the bird in front of him, resulting in a reduction of wind resistance. The geese take turns being in the front, falling back when they get tired. Therefore, the geese can fly for long periods before they must stop to rest. These women were once tending children in the NICU, tired and weary. Now that they are in the next chapter, they have moved to the front of the flock to carry the load and help relieve some of the stress from those that are now in the chapter they once knew. 

Geese honk at each other as they fly to encourage one another. They are constantly letting the ones in front know that they are still behind them, still in the journey and encouraging one another to keep flying. Bundles of Hope not only sits with these families and shares stories of struggle and triumph, but they pass along hand written notes from former NICU children. Physical proof that hope exists. 

My favorite fact about geese is the one that surprised me and touched me the most. Scientists have discovered that if one goose becomes ill, is shot or injured, and drops out of the formation, two other geese will fall out of formation and remain with the weakened goose.  They will stay with and protect the injured goose from predators until it is able to fly again or it passes away. Then the two geese will again take to the sky to find another flock to fly with, encourage and support.

A beautiful picture of the Body of Christ found in something as simple and ordinary as a flock of flying geese. 

Supporting each other, encouraging and serving one another when one is weak and never leaving one of our brethren behind as they fight their own battles.  

"Carry each other's burdens and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galatians 6:2.

Leslie, Amanda, and Kelly

Leslie, Amanda, and Kelly

These three women, and the Bundles of Hope ministry, may not be sharing the gospel to each of the families with words, but they are the Body of Christ made tangible within the walls of Huntsville Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Waiting Room. And making those sometimes scary halls a heck of a lot brighter with their shining, smiling faces.

Hop on over to our shop to purchase your tees to benefit the Bundles of Hope fund. All "Carry Each Other's Burdens", "My God is Mighty" children's tees, and the limited edition peach "Beautiful and Beloved" tees will benefit Bundles of Hope. 

Want to do even more? Volunteer to serve, donate a food or gas gift card by emailing Bundles of Hope at bundlesofhopefund@gmail.com or visit their Facebook page! 

Love and Blessings, 

Anna

Happiness is a Warm Blanket

“Happiness is a warm blanket”.     -Linus.

When I was pregnant with our first little girl, I looked everywhere for the perfect blanket. I had dozens. Gifts from showers, blankets that I’d pick up here and there, I even had a couple of blankets that I used as a baby that my mom had kept.  I had two dresser drawers full of blankets for our new baby girl. However, I still didn’t have that one…That special blanket that I could picture her carrying around as a three year old. That favorite blanket that she would take everywhere she went.  Then one day, I found it. It was a white cotton square blanket with an embroidered lamb in one corner. It was simple, girly, and perfect; and I paid way too much money for it.  Every night as a baby, i put the blanket in the crib with her, just knowing that she would eventually need it. Every night for 3 years, I forced that blanket in her bed. Sometimes I would see her ‘twitching’ it and I just knew my plan was working.  

One day, when Ada was almost three, my mom took her to Target.  Since it’s impossible for ‘Granna' to take that child anywhere without buying her something, I gently reminded my mom that she had more toys that she could play with and none of her crayons were broken…so we were good there too.  About two hours later, Ada ran through the front door and screamed, “Mama! Granna bought me a Frozen blanket!” With the widest smile on her face, she pulled it out of the bag that she was dragging behind her.  Out came a large, brightly colored fleece blanket, with Ana and Elsa smiling just as wide as she was. Fantastic. I knew exactly what was happening.  That night, when I walked into her room to tuck her in, there were the two beloved Disney sisters, spread all the way across her bed, smiling as if to say “you lose”. Then I looked over and saw that sweet, embroidered blanket, tossed to the floor. I folded that blanket neatly and placed it in a drawer…where it still is today. 

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When Anna and I started scheming our newest project, the word “covered” kept coming up in conversation.  We played around with some catchy phrases for a shirt, but then it was clear that we just needed to get to the point. No matter what we do, as Christians, we are always covered by God’s amazing grace.  Our blankets may not be what we plan.  All of our blankets are different. But we all have one.  

Each night as I tuck Ada in, the last thing she says before I leave the room is, “Fix my Frozen blanket”.  This means that it needs to be completely straight on her bed. All four corners are perfectly fixed and straight, and there are no wrinkles or creases.  Every. Single. Night.  It has to be perfect. Lucky for us, our covers are already perfect.  They are exactly what we need.  What’s on your blanket? Maybe God covers you in a blanket of reassurance.  Maybe your blanket is peace.  Maybe your blanket is confidence.  At times, we may try to kick the blanket off.  We may try and fold the blanket and put it away. When I do this, I eventually feel that gentle feeling of God “fixing my blanket”.   No matter what God covers you with individually, we are all covered by Grace.

We found Project Linus about a year ago and it’s been stashed in our files ever since. It was a mission we both fell in love with, but we knew that to do it justice, an idea needed to come organically.  A few months ago, I got a call from Anna that she was on the way to the hospital with her youngest. As a parent, something bad happening to your child is your worst nightmare.  I’m here to tell you, something bad happening to your best friend’s child comes in a very close second.  I got a call a little later saying everything would be fine, but they would be in the hospital for a few days.  The next day, I got a text from Anna..  When I opened it, there was a picture of a familiar logo that I had almost forgotten about.  While Anna’s son was in the hospital recovering, he was gifted a blanket by “Project Linus”.  Talk about a ‘God wink’.  So we got to work. 

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Project Linus provides love, a sense of security, warmth and comfort to children who are seriously ill, traumatized, or otherwise in need through the gifts of new, handmade blankets and afghans, lovingly created by volunteer “blanketeers.”  With chapters in all 50 states, The Linus Project’s blankets are collected locally and distributed to children in hospitals, shelters, social service agencies, or anywhere that a child might be in need of a big hug.  (www.thelinusproject.org) 

We'd love to help give even more than the monetary donation from the sales of our shirts. So, in addition to the shirts representing our "covering of grace" we will be selling blanket kits for you to be a part of blessing a child in need. If you can cut a semi-straight line and tie a knot, then you can be part of bringing comfort to someone who needs it.

 

 

The Simple Life

Here in the south, we never pass by an acquaintance without speaking. Well, unless you are alright with the possibility of being labeled downright rude.

It's always the familiar... 

-Hi! How are you?

-Good! You?

-Good! 

We learn this little exchange quite early in life. I often hear my own six year old through the screen door talking to someone in the front yard having this very conversation with neighbors on their afternoon strolls. Some comment that he's polite- maybe. But really, he's just heard his mama say this one hundred million times a day. 

It's the phrase that always comes right after that initial exchange that, as of recent, has me cringing. Nowadays I anticipate the next statement, slightly hoping it's something else.. but nevertheless the words come.

"Just busy!"

And I agree,

"Yep! Busy!"  

I find myself now replacing "busy" with "crazy!", because it paints a more truthful picture of my own household right now. 

I've begun to crave simplicity. In my life, house, daily routine, pantry, clothes, schedule, everything.

More things = more mess. More commitments = more anxiety. Which ALL equals less time with the family and friends that I love. 

God was moving me to make a change in my life. And then Carla and Hannah contacted me about a fundraiser for their church's mission team and their ministry. It was the proverbial straw dropping onto the maximalist camel's heavy ladened back. Straws went everywhere. I knew then God was telling me to make a change. 

If two completely normal people, just like you and me, can live with the bare necessities to save lives, surely we can simplify to save our sanity

Here is more from Hannah Lawrence Smithabout these selfless missionaries ....

Mack and Marilyn Locklear's motto for life is to “Live simply, so others might simply live.” 

At 58 and 60 years old, while most of their friends were retiring to vacation homes and
spending time with their grandchildren, Mack and Marilyn headed for Jamaica. Most
people picture sandy beaches, palm trees and crystal clear waters on the edge of a Sandals
resort when they think of Jamaica. However, the Locklears did not go to vacation. They left the
comforts of home and everyone and everything they knew and loved to travel to a part of
Jamaica that vacationers rarely see. They desired to fulfil the Great Commission (Matthew
28:19-20) by sharing the gospel in a Third World country. In September of 1996, Mack and
Marilyn landed in Jamaica, committed to following Jesus by loving and serving the last, the least
and the lost.

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After moving around a few times and serving with other missionaries on the island, the Lord led
the Locklears to a small town called Martha Brae, located in Trelawny Parish. God let them find
favor with a landowner who allowed them to purchase some land adjacent to the Martha Brae
River. It was on that land that they built Riverside Baptist Church, and eventually, a home large
enough to accommodate mission teams for short-term mission trips.

In 2007, when Mack and Marilyn were on the shady side of 70, God gave Mack a vision for a
children’s home. He knew there was a growing need to help the many abandoned and abused
children all over the country. The Locklears witness firsthand the cruel conditions in which
many children live. Mack struggled with the burden on his heart to build an orphanage, and he
prayed about it for almost a year before sharing it with Marilyn. He knew they were getting
older, and that they would not be there forever.

When Mack shared with Marilyn the desire that God had laid on his heart, there was a moment
akin to Sarah’s laughter when she was told God would give her a son (Genesis 18). Marilyn
looked at Mack and said, “Do you know how old we are?”. But just as God fulfilled His promise
to Abraham and Sarah, the Locklears saw His vision for a children’s home come to fruition in
Martha Brae, Jamaica. Mack and Marilyn supplied much of the financing for the children’s
home themselves. God provided the rest of the money and resources through a few supporting
churches and individuals, and in 2010, the Locklears broke ground on Noah’s Ark Children’s
Home.

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Mission teams from supporting churches and Christian schools came and helped with the
construction of the home and a retaining wall on the edge of the river and around the property.
Construction was finally completed in 2012, and after two years of paperwork, inspections and
red tape, the first four children came to the home in 2014. Noah’s Ark Children’s Home now
houses ten young boys, with hopes of offering a loving Christian home to more children in the
future. Costs to run the home, including workers, food, school uniforms, and basic necessities
can become overwhelming at times, but God has never failed to provide their needs.

The Locklears live a simple life in Jamaica. They do not have cable television or even air
conditioning. They do not drive new cars or wear fancy clothes. Marilyn teases that her
“perfume” is called “Off mosquito repellant”. Mack and Marilyn Locklear sacrifice the luxuries
of this world, and even time with their own family, just so they can help the boys of Noah’s Ark Children’s Home have a life worth living. More importantly, they live a simple life so that they
can share God’s plan for eternal life with those they come in contact with in Jamaica.

"And some have compassion, making a difference." – Jude 1:22 (KJV)

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So we've helped them create a shirt to represent this message and to remind ourselves that the life Christ wants us to live can truly be simple. The proceeds will benefit the Locklear's ministry in Jamaica, The Noah's Ark Children's Home. You also have the opportunity to "give one" to a volunteer or resident of the Children's Home. Simply add the "give one" option to your cart before proceeding to check out. 

Click here to start shopping!

Love & Blessings, 

Anna

 

Recalculating...

The U.S News ranks Holland eighth in the category of "Quality of Life".  It's not top 3, but considering there are 195 countries in our world, I'd say that's pretty good. 

When I first read the Holland poem that Sarah shared in her blog earlier this week I remember thinking "Really?! Italy?!  I'd much rather vacation in Holland."  

Maybe your "Holland" is actually someone else's "Italy". That's pretty much what happened with my friend, Grant. 

It's safe to say most people have the long term goal in their life to find someone and settle down, one day. Most people

Grant actually avoided that path for some time until God hijacked his GPS and set him on the right route. 

Here's his story...

 

Recalculating.

Nope. It’s not for me. I’m too selfish. I like things a certain way. I want to go to a concert every
night and I don’t like people telling me what to do. I can’t handle being interrupted and I’m an only child, so it’s always about me. I’ve been told I’m not worthy of someone else’s love.  I don’t
want to share my time. I… I... I...

Recalculating.

Why would I think love and marriage was for me? Past relationships revealed my shortcomings, as though my thorns and bruises were displayed on a billboard. The movies and the glossy
magazines tell us it’s supposed to be a certain way… over this candlelight dinner… over this morning cup of coffee… over this romantic getaway… along with the perfect soundtrack and studio lighting.
Unfortunately, there’s layers of stage make-up, and often times the record player skips. But no one tells you that. That’s the part you have to figure out on your own.

Recalculating.

Maybe being alone is the path for me. Maybe the idea of ordained ministry is the right plan and pilgrimage instead. Maybe I’m not supposed to love someone, but instead serve
others
with the sacraments of God’s love for us all. Maybe the rocky roads I’ve traveled before
will give way to soil that’s fertile for something of my own choosing. I’ve got this plan figured out.

Recalculating.

When you’re listening too hard, you can’t hear anything. That’s been my experience, at least.
And when you anticipate, when you believe you’re in control, when you think you have it all
figured out, you’re going to miss what you’re looking for. If I hadn’t been disappointed in the
past and hadn’t learned the lesson of the teachable turns in the road, I wouldn’t be able to soak in the destination I never knew I wanted to visit. And not just visit, but to stay.

Recalculating.

First dates always come with butterflies, and sometimes dead flies. But my past told me I
needed to put down my own map and stop steering away from the path that’s laid out before me.
My past told me I’m not the only one with the thorns and bruises. Some are inside, and some are outside. But when you allow yourself to be vulnerable and be the person God has created you to be, you realize all the pebbles of the past that find their way into you boots have made your feet more tough. And it makes the journey, and ultimately the destination, more rich with love that can only be from something bigger than us.

I needed a recalculating. My journey, while not the one I imagined for myself, is filled with
attractions I never imagined I would love. Or ever see. The site of the finally positive pregnancy test. The sound of a daughter screaming along to “I Am The Walrus”  and the smell of the other
one’s hair covered in spaghetti and ice cream. 

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While the other journey may have been good and fine, it was not my journey. To think you can control your journey is a bigger laugh line than you’ll find in a sitcom. We may have our hands on the wheel, but we need to do a better job at asking for directions.

On Oct. 17, 2008, I did.

-Grant

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Maybe your Holland isn't something shocking like a death or diagnosis. Maybe your Holland is a beautiful relationship that changed your course or a child from another womb that was chosen to complete your family. 

We'd love to create a shirt for you with a custom stamped "date of arrival" that displays your own Holland story. We all have one. 

Purchase your tee here to help support The Spina Bifida Association of Alabama and help get necessary equipment to children who need it. 

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Wear your tee proudly and remember your Holland story and the beauty within it. 

Share your Holland story via Facebook & Instagram with a pic of your custom tee (when it arrives). You never know who else is on the same flight and in need of encouragement. 

Love and Blessings, 

Anna

Welcome To Holland, It's Beautiful Here

I've made at least twelve attempts at the introduction of today's guest blogger and I keep falling short. I have no words. She has them all- and they speak volumes. So here are the two things you need to know before reading on...

1. Her name is Sarah Wilder

2. If you can't relate to this message about God "redirecting your plane" in some way or another- then you better hold on to your seats... cause your time is a comin'.

Without further adieu, here's Sara...

"Defining moments are a funny thing. Sometimes they sneak up on you when you least expect them. And other times, you know full well that something big is on the horizon. The trick is, neither option prepares your heart any better for how to react. 

In early 2015, my husband J.B. and I were over the moon with the news that we were expecting our second child. We found out we were having a girl this time, and our three year old son Jake was so excited to be a big brother! Jake had quite a few medical complications his first year of life, and we were happily anticipating the opportunity to finally have a nice, "boring" baby experience with this second kiddo (Boring in the very best, healthy baby, sort of way). We couldn't wait to meet our sweet Eliza in August. 

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But only a week after our gender reveal, at 17 weeks pregnant, I received a startling call from my obstetrician's office. Some blood work had come back with a concerning marker. They wanted me to see a high risk obstetrician the next day to find out exactly what was going on with the baby. I remember the nurse practitioner telling me not to worry. That based on my results the odds of everything being fine were over 98%. False positives were very common. 98%. Pretty good odds, huh? 

But I didn't sleep that night, and in my gut, I knew the next day would be big. 

The following morning, March 17th, 2015, J.B. and I arrived at the specialist's office and were immediately ushered back for an ultrasound. You could hear a pin drop in that exam room as the technician made sense of everything she could see on her screen. It wasn't until she brought the doctor into the room that we received the news:

The blood work results the day before had revealed that our baby had an elevated risk for a neural tube defect. The ultrasound just then confirmed that she did, in fact, have a condition known as spina bifida, along with secondary conditions called hydrocephalus and Chiari malformation. 

I remember doing a lot of nodding, but honestly, I had no idea what this kind man was talking about. I didn't know what questions to ask or how to even wrap my brain around this news. All I could think of was, "What do we do next?" 

The answer was simple, "You go to Vanderbilt Children's Hospital." 

Over the coming weeks and months, we became associated with the neurosurgery and fetal medicine teams at Vanderbilt. We learned what spina bifida was, and what this news meant for our daughter. We understood that as her little body was formed, her spinal column didn't fully close in one spot. At that point, the nerves of her spine became damaged, much like someone who suffers a severe spinal cord injury. There are no cures for severe spinal cord damage, only the management of it. We should expect her to have full paralysis from the waist down, along with a slew of other complications. She would need an intensive surgery just after birth to close the opening on her spine, along with several brain surgeries for the secondary conditions. Spina bifida is complicated, and no two cases are the same. 

The medical demands were scary. The jargon was foreign to us. And the anticipation was nerve wracking at best. But this was our Eliza. She was our precious, dearly loved baby girl that was fearfully and wonderfully made by God. Amidst so many appointments and so much planning, we met our girl on August 12, 2015. And boy, was she ever beautiful! 

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During our stay in the Vanderbilt NICU, another mother shared this incredible poem with me called "Welcome to Holland". It so perfectly outlined my own story and how the early preparations for my "boring" new baby girl had quickly spiraled into a whole other reality. That reality that is only understood by few.

'When you're going to have a baby, it's like planning a fabulous vacation trip - to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It's all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, "Welcome to Holland."

"Holland?!?" you say. "What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I'm supposed to be in Italy. All my life I've dreamed of going to Italy."

But there's been a change in the flight plan. They've landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven't taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It's just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met. 

It's slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you've been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around.... and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills....and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy. And they're all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say "Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned." The pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away because the loss of that dream is a very significant loss.

But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things ... about Holland.'    - Emily Kingsley

This poem is often depicted as the anthem for special needs parents, who's lives have been dramatically diverted from where they thought it would be going. Processing the loss of an old dream is unbelievably difficult. It hangs with you forever. There are so many things that my baby girl just won't be able to do, so many ways she is different. That concept will crush a parent's heart. But in the same place, there is redefined beauty and the overwhelming appreciation for the goodness of life. Special needs parents acknowledge without hesitation that this life can be hard, but just as quickly, they assure you that it is oh so worth it.   

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A few weeks ago, our Eliza turned two. Two! She is a spunky, sassy toddler with a hot pink wheelchair and a scrunchy nose grin! She is smart as a whip and has her poor daddy tied around her little finger. Eliza is learning to walk with the help of a walker and leg braces - an amazing feat!! But that hot pink chair is how she explores the world. 

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We live in our own version of "Holland" now, where we search for accessible playgrounds, shoes that fit over braces, and have more physical therapists than you can shake a stick at. Life can be tough. But oh my, life is lovely, too. Long roads build up courage. We can appreciate God's goodness and choose joy every day. Eliza is an incredible gift to us and "Holland" is much more than we ever dreamed."

-Sarah

What's your Holland?

A diagnosis?  Surprise baby?  Sudden career change? Maybe you have lost someone near to you and you've found your plane has landed among the tulips. There are so many ways in which God can redirect our paths and even though it seems scary in the beginning, we find that it's actually quite beautiful. 

So we've created a shirt to represent this notion. That we all have or will stamp that passport to Holland once, twice or many times in our lives.

Think of a date, whether it's a month and year or a specific day in your past. A date in which you realized God was taking you on a different route through life. 

When you purchase this shirt, you will have the opportunity to tell us that date and it will be lovingly hand stamped on the "DATE OF ARRIVAL" portion of your tee.  As we do so we will pray for you. Pray that you can find beauty right where you are and know that God will never ever ever ever leave you.

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This tee benefits The Spina Bifida Association of Alabama in honor of mighty little Eliza. This organization helps to provide children like her with the necessary equipment to live, explore and thrive.

Purchase a tee to support these precious little warriors. Click here to shop.

Wear your tee proudly and own your own Holland journey.

Share this message- when you receive your personalized tee, we'd love for you to take a pic and share it with your own story via social media. You never know how many have stood where you have and can be encouraged by your sharing. 

Love and Blessings, 

Anna

 

 

 

 

 

Frumoasa si Lubita

In choosing charities and organizations to partner with, Anna and I look at several things.  The very first shirt we created, "Beautiful and Beloved" was designed to benefit The Well House in Birmingham, AL. We felt as though human trafficking was an issue worth talking about. You hear a lot about global trafficking, but after doing some research I think we were both shocked at how prevalent human trafficking is in our sweet, southern state of Alabama. 

Several weeks ago, I got a call from my husband’s aunt. “Aunt Meg” told me that she and a group of 7 other ladies from her church, Shades Mountain Baptist Church, in Birmingham, AL were about to embark on a mission trip to Moldova.  Moldova is a small country surrounded by Romania and Ukraine.  It is a primarily a source country for victims of human trafficking. It is estimated that 1 in every 100 has been trafficked to date. Moldavian victims have been identified in more than 40 countries in the Middle East. 

As Aunt Meg and I were talking about this trip, I knew what she had in mind. These ladies want to take women in Moldova Beautiful and Beloved shirts. The only problem is, they do not speak English.  So after speaking with the interpreter, our very first shirt quickly became “Frumoasa si Lubita”, Beautiful and Beloved in Romanian.  The mission group wanted to make sure that at the end of their trip that these Moldovan women know their worth.  They will leave them with these shirts as a reminder. 

While there, the mission team will working with women who have been trafficked and are with children now.  Many of these women have been ostracized from their families and need work.  They will also be working with women and girls who are at risk of being trafficked.  The mission is to provide a means to make a living so they won’t be tempted by prostitution to make money.  The mission team from Shades Mountain will be teaching these Moldovan women sewing and cooking lessons. In addition to helping these women domestically, they will also be spreading The Gospel.  They will be traveling with the theme “Fruits of the Spirit” and each of the 8 ladies have selected a Biblical woman to share with the Moldovan women. 

Please join Same Cloth in praying for these women and their mission.  They will be leaving June 9th and returning on the 18th. They are currently taking donations to purchase sewing machines to take and leave with the Moldovan women.  If you are interested in helping this team, please let us know at info@sameclothproject.com.   

No Boundaries

The Merriam- Webster dictionary defines border as a “boundary”.  So I hopped over to the definition of boundary and it says this,

“Something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent.”

We see “borders” or “boundaries” everywhere around us. You’ve seen the obvious ones when crossing state borders with signs emblazoned with welcome wishes and explain why their state is so great.

Even more obvious are the borders that line countries making sure citizens of each stay on their respective turf. Some are natural boundaries like oceans or lakes then there are some made by man’s hand like walls or fences.

But the ones that are even more dividing are the invisible borders. Whether they be within our communities between social classes, school districts, or churches. Or even on a grander scheme of religion, race and gender.  Watch the news for 30 minutes and you see that most of the dissention and crime in our world is rooted with division. Boundaries. Invisible walls we put up around us.

I realize that genders, races and religions aren’t going to just go away. Our separate countries aren’t going to all peacefully mesh into one giant nation before Christ returns to this Earth. I’m not completely delusional.

But I do get frustrated when it seems that we are more concerned about keeping everyone in their respective “territory” while also boasting about how great and green the grass is on our side of the fence.

Christ calls us His body. He doesn’t call us His estate. Bodies work for the good of the rest of the body. Bodies are held together by muscle, bone and veins that all serve a purpose to sustain the rest of the body. Estates are divided by hedges, fences and walls to differeintiate what is mine and yours, right and wrong, better and worse.

The most well known verse of the Bible is John 3:16.

“For God so loved the world, He gave His only Son.”

No boundaries. No borders. No hedges. No fences. No walls.     

THE WORLD.

Until we find life on Mars, I believe that covers pretty much everyone. Am I right?

I’m not saying that God says “EVERYBODY’S IN!”  What I truly believe God is saying is,

“Everyone is invited”.

His blood was our ultimate gift. It was shed for all. Not everyone will accept this gift. Some will notice the gift as it was dropped off on the front porch and leave it there unopened. Some will tear open the contents and then reject the precious gift inside and move on to something else.

But the people I worry for the most, are the ones whose addresses and houses that the postman can’t find. The poor souls who never get the chance to see the gift, know that it’s there. The ones who will never hear about Him and the love He has for them- to be told that all they need to do is accept this good and precious gift from our Savior to experience and live an abundant life despite their circumstances. The ones who do not even have the chance to reject it or accept it.

This month we have decided to go global.  We recently heard from some precious friends about the amazing work they are doing by winning over souls for Christ in Latvia.

"Friends of Latvia" is a group that was founded by a few members of the United Methodist Church.  The idea came while on a mission trip.  Latvia, located on the Baltic Sea, first proclaimed it's independence in 1918, but was quickly occupied by Soviet Russia.  Independence was finally regained in 1991. Out of a population of about 2.3 million, it is estimated that only about 50,000 individuals are Christians.  "Friends of Latvia" built a youth camp on land purchased in Latvia and has been in operation, helping Christians there spread God's love throughout their poverty-stricken nation. From this camp, 12 active United Methodist churches have been founded throughout Latvia.  

In giving the proceeds from this shirt to "Friends of Latvia", it is our hope that we will aide in spreading God's love to those who may have never heard the Good News. 

What boundaries are you putting around your love?

Is your love limited to a certain kind of personality, race, gender or religion?

Or is your love tearing down walls and boundaries?

Love and Blessings, 

Anna

 

 

 

Pass it On

Last week we held a giveaway for our "Love Thy Neighbor" shirt. We had lots of people sharing the shirt with their friends on social media and tagging friends they thought would love the shirt as much as they did. 

One entry, though, stood out from the rest. A high school student from Florida named Maya responded to our post and said...

"I would love to give this shirt to someone. There's this girl. Her name is Adena. She's really nice to me. I don't have a lot of friends, and a lot of people don't talk to me much. But everyday she sends me proverbs, Bible verses, and encouraging messages. She's always telling me how precious I am. And she's just an overall genuinely kind sweet person. I can't afford to get her anything for Valentine's Day. I just paid senior dues. But I would love to give her something that would mean a lot to her. She's absolutely amazing."

Before we even saw this post, we had a customer and friend message us that she wanted to make sure Maya got that shirt for her friend. We argued that we would send the shirt on our dime, but Laura insisted to pay for it. She said that if we wouldn't let her pay, then she was going to donate in Maya and Adena's honor. That's just the kind of person she is. So we let her.

Saturday morning, we mailed Maya two shirts. One for her friend Adena and one for herself. We asked Maya if she would share a little more about her dear friend and this is what she sent us...

"Adena was always that girl in class that everyone was kind of drawn to.

She still completely is.

I'm always friendly but people seem to always find something wrong with me really quickly and tend to stop being my friend.

Adena is one of my mom's patients at her job (she works at a doctor's office) and it so happens to be she is also in my culinary class. She is honestly the biggest bundle of sunshine in the world. It's so hard to find people who are genuinely sweet and genuinely nice, and believe me she's one of those people.

She's always the person that as soon as she sees me she hugs me and asks how I am. Shes constantly sending me bible verses and encouraging messages to help me keep going. Adena, has honestly been such a great inspiration to me. I consider myself a good person, and I consider myself very nice. However, I'm not always positive. She continues to see the bright side even when not having a good day. She's such a sweet caring individual and a lot of us can learn from her.

With a bright smile and her sweet words, she's able to make ANYONE'S day."

Adena and Maya proudly wearing their "Love Thy Neighbor" shirts. 

Adena and Maya proudly wearing their "Love Thy Neighbor" shirts. 

Adena, we can definitely all learn from you. Spreading love and truth to those around you at your age is a gift that can only come from above. You may never know how much impact you have on so many with your kindness, but we hope you realize now how important you have been in Maya's life. 

Maya, you may not feel loved by everyone around you, but we know that the One who created you is absolutely crazy about you. We are thankful that Adena takes the time to show you that truth through her kindness. Do not ever doubt how valuable you are. May you always see the beauty in those who are kind to you and appreciate those acts of kindness like you did this week.

What's even more awesome is that this story doesn't end here-

On Monday, only two days after we mailed Maya and Adena their shirts, we had someone reach out to us asking if there were some way we had any samples of the "Love Thy Neighbor" shirts left over from our photo shoot. She had a friend whose birthday is today and she wanted to gift this shirt to her friend knowing that she is a perfect representative of Mark 12:31. She didn't want to wait until the preordered shirts arrived, and we couldn't blame her. We had 2 shirts left and one was the exact size and style she needed.

You know who that friend was?    Laura.   

Our photo shoot last week was themed as "Random Acts of Kindness".  We left flowers around downtown Athens, on tables in The Square Clock Coffee Shop and on car windshields parked in front of stores, with cards letting them know how much God loves them. The cards indicated that they were a recipient of a Random Act of Kindness and encouraged them to find a way to pass it on. 

Photos courtesy of Carla Lawrence Photography

Photos courtesy of Carla Lawrence Photography

Adena, Maya, and Laura are all perfect examples of passing on love without even knowing how they are all connected. 

God moved them to love and they were gifted with love in return.

It's not karma.. it's God. And Ashley and I are so blessed to get to sit back and watch these God moments unfold. 

We want to do the same for our neighbors at Tent City. Help us by visiting our shop and purchasing your shirt, or a shirt for a friend, today! Not only are you supporting and loving our homeless community, but you will be spreading an important message every time you wear your shirt!

With every purchase we'll also be including "Random Act of Kindness" cards for you to leave around in your own community, letting those who find them know how precious and loved they are. Be part of a positive impact in our world when hate is so prevalent. 

Love and Blessings, 

Anna 

Love Thy Neighbor

“Love your neighbor as yourself, there is no commandment greater than these.”  Mark 12:31

Carla Lawrence Photography

Carla Lawrence Photography

I’m certain that when it comes to loving those who are different from us, oppose us or despise us that it boils down to one key word.

Pride.

C.S. Lewis says this about pride:

“There is one vice of which no man in the world is free; which every one in the world loathes when he sees it in someone else; and of which hardly any people ever imagine that they are guilty themselves. There is no fault which makes a man more unpopular, and no fault which we are more unconscious of in ourselves.”

This past Wednesday night we had a new face at our church dinner. He was definitely different from the rest of the diners gathered around the tables. You could tell he was in need.

He hung around the church while everyone packed up and went home, many speaking to him and wishing him a good night as they left. Naturally, my family was the last to finish dinner and clean up our area. As we were leaving, my husband started up a conversation with the man named Johnny and before I knew it, he had made plans to take Johnny to a hotel for the night.  

When Andy returned home from getting Johnny settled at the hotel, Andy kept questioning whether or not he had done a good thing.

The manager at the hotel claimed Johnny had stayed with them before and trashed the hotel room. At this point Andy just couldn’t leave the man stranded. He talked with the hotel manager until they agreed to let Johnny stay. We will never know if this claim was true or if the hotel just didn’t want to fool with someone off the street. Andy was fearful it was true and that he may have made the wrong decision by putting him up for the night.

After much discussion we came to the conclusion that all we can do is trust God and do what we feel he is leading us to. We cannot carry the worry of what the recipient does with our generosity. I battle these feelings each time I give and am reminded by mentors and friends that we can only hand it over to God.

Christ never commanded us to trust others, he commanded us to love others and trust Him.

Wanting to control what someone does with our good deeds is only our pride creeping in.

Why do I care if a man buys alcohol with the money I hand him on the street? Because pride wants to be sure that deed was truly a good one and not wasted. Love just wants the man to know someone is thinking of him and will spare a dollar for his needs.

Why do I care if someone appreciates the work we do on his home? Because pride wants to know someone is thankful for our hard work. Love is satisfied to know that someone’s home is just a bit more livable.

Pride wants to see the reward of your effort, the benefit of your generosity and the appreciation of your sacrifice.

But when you choose to love someone that you differ from, oppose or who despises you, there is often no reward, benefit or appreciation.

“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds you plant.”  -Robert Louis Stevenson

Several years ago, I had some disagreements and issues with a fellow Christian. I was disappointed and hurt by their actions and my spiritual life suffered, consequently.

Since then we have taken different paths and I don’t have very much interaction with them, anymore. After a year or so removed, I was able to heal and actually learned so much from the situation. I could even claim that I have grown closer to Christ because of those trials within my Christian community.

After much prayer and deliberation I also realized that this person had hurt and pain in their life that was unresolved. That was the only reason I could fathom that they would feel the need to bring hurt, pain and fear upon others. So I wrote them a letter letting them know that no matter what had happened in the past, I was praying for their wellbeing and happiness and that I truly wished the best for them. And by this point, I truly did mean that.

I never received a response. My letter could be tucked away gently somewhere, saved as a kind gesture or it could have traveled through a paper shredder and now resting at the bottom of a landfill. For a while I battled inside whether or not it bothered me to get no response.

Then I finally realized: pride wanted the response, love needed no answer.

“But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked.”   Luke 6:35

This month’s tee will benefit the residents of Tent City in Huntsville, Alabama. To learn more about Tent City and the homeless community in that area, visit this website here. With the money raised through this effort, we plan to purchase essential supplies for those living in this community.

You may think you know the homeless community but I don’t think any of us can grasp the array of people who have found themselves in this situation; there are veterans, some disabled, those who are down on their luck, and the mentally ill. 

Often times we come to the conclusion that the homeless are just products of their poor decisions. Which could be true in some cases. We may never know if our tiny acts of service will help them out of their poverty stricken situation, but we can know that we loved another when given the opportunity.

No one deserves to be living a life on the streets, but what we all DO deserve is love.

BUY A SHIRT- love your neighbor by supporting this cause and helping us distribute necessities to those living without.

WEAR YOUR SHIRT- wear your shirt to remind yourself and others that love covers all and everyone deserves love.

WANT TO DO MORE? We are putting together a list of items that you can donate to add to what we raise through our tshirt efforts. Once we gather the list of items and drop off locations we’ll post it on social media.

Love and Blessings, 

Anna

Meet Gracie

Meet Gracie. Gracie has been touched by Give Kids the World and when she shared her own experience and how much seeing her star years later touched her, we had to share it with you.

My name is Gracie Holland. I am 21 years old and I have a rare genetic disease called Crouzon Syndrome that affects the bones in the skull when they are fused together. I have had 35 surgeries, most of which have been at Children's Hospital in Birmingham, Alabama. I have a VP shunt in my brain that starts in my brain and drains all the way down to my pelvis. In 2000, when I was 5 years old, I had a particular surgery that I wasn't supposed to come out alive in.
Obviously, I did. I don't remember it, but I do remember being in the hospital room and having a lady come in that said she was from a foundation called "Magic Moments". She proceeded to ask me if I could have any wish at all, what it would be. Thinking back, I probably would've chosen something else besides what I did; but, because I was only 5, I told the lady that I wanted to meet Winnie the Pooh. He was (and still is) my favorite Disney character. Clearly, the only place to be able to do that was gonna be at Walt Disney world.
I was able to go with my family and we got to stay at Give Kids the world Village in Orlando, Florida. When you get your wish granted, you can only stay in the village one time, but you can visit the village as often as you like. Sadly, I don't really remember a lot about my experience aside from pictures we took, because I was so young.
Last month, I took a trip to Disney world with some cousins, my aunt, and grandmother. On the first full day we were there, after we explored Disney, we were gonna go get something to eat. It wasn't to my knowledge that they were taking me back to Give Kids the World Village to find my star and surprise me. I was very surprised and cried tears of joy.
-Gracie Holland

To learn more about the meaning behind the stars at Give Kids the World, read more here. 

 

The Real Stars

In June of 2012, I kissed my sleeping 8 month old and walked out the door to leave him behind for an entire week. It was the first time I'd left him overnight since he was born. It was extremely hard, but I had no idea the experience that was about to unfold. 

More than 20 youth and adults boarded vans and cars destined for Orlando, Florida where we planned to spend our week long mission trip. We were set up to volunteer at a 79 acre resort called Give Kids the World. This amazing place allows Make a Wish children who are facing life threatening diseases and their families to stay at their wonderful resort free of charge.

All of their rooms and facilities are hospital grade and they are prepared to handle many of the health emergencies that can happen with the array of illnesses that come through their facilities. They even provide these families with tickets to nearby theme parks to enjoy while they are there, but with all the amenities of Give Kids the World, I can't imagine how they have time to even leave the premises. 

For example, they have a massive swimming and water activities area, a large carousel, and an ice cream parlor offering the children ice cream whenever they feel like they need some. Literally, you guys. "Have ice cream for breakfast!" is one of their catchphrases. They have cafeterias, a movie theater, amusement park style rides, a putt putt course, a train traveling throughout the resort and even a spa where the kids can get dolled up and pampered like a star that Give Kids the World truly shows them that they are. 

Every single Thursday they transform their "Avenue of Angels" into a winter wonderland. They have a Christmas Parade which brings in the one and only Santa Clause. They do this weekly so that every child has a chance to celebrate Christmas while at the resort, just in case it may be their last. Yep. Every single week they transform their resort into a Christmas Dream for these dear children who know not what the future holds for them. 

We were able to volunteer in all sorts of ways and at most of these different venues. We served meals in the cafeteria, scooped ice cream at all hours of the day, painted fingernails and fake tattoos in the "La Ti Da Spa" and even dressed as toy soldiers and elves for the Christmas Parade. I can't imagine how magical it is for someone visiting as a guest, because it was quite the enchanting experience as a volunteer. 

But there was one event at Give Kids the World that was by far one of the most touching experiences I've ever known. This occasion takes place in the Castle of Miracles. 

Every Make a Wish Child has the opportunity to come into the Castle of Miracles and write their name on a small shiny star. After decorating a star with their very own signature, they drop the star into a special box that delivers the iridescent object to a magical fairy who will, while everyone is sleeping, place this special star on the ceiling in the castle's tower. The families are then instructed to come back in the following days for a special presentation to reveal where their star has been placed.  

Design students at a nearby college designed a special iPad application to be used for this specific purpose and occasion to show these children their specific star. I so looked forward to assisting families into the tower for their own private show and special moment together. 

I followed the first family in that arrived during my shift at the castle. It was mother and father, followed by a teenage son, an adolescent daughter and the "Wish Child", a little girl no older than 5. I handed the iPad to the small little girl with straight black hair who, to the naked eye, didn't look to be "sick" at all. Her eyes were bright and filled with excitement as the fairy on the screen instructed this sweet girl to follow along as she would reveal where the star was located. She was in full concentration and did everything as instructed. As soon as the star was revealed and she zoomed in to see her very own handwriting on the iridescent star, the lights in the tall tower flickered with colors bright to suggest fireworks and magical music filled the space. She was beaming, her siblings were in awe and I was brimming with joy to be a small part in this beautiful event. I looked over at mom and dad and noticed that while they both wore smiles, their faces were also stained with tears. 

All at once my heart realized that as joyous as this occasion was, it was ever so slightly wound with fear of the unknown. Sadness that their dear child's future is yet to be determined. The father had to turn away and leave the room as not to upset the children. I followed him out to see if I could get him anything and he gratefully declined. He went on to say, "This is so bittersweet- knowing that if my child leaves us on this earth that we can always come back to visit this star and reminisce of this special moment." 

It took every ounce of will that I had to keep the tears from spewing over. I bit my lip, gave him a reassuring hug and left him alone to gather his emotions.

I've always felt for families that had to deal with awful things like cancer, illness and death. But to see it first hand as a new mother was more overwhelming than I could have ever imagined. 

We weren't allowed to openly share our faith at Give Kids the World because they accommodate people from all over the world and want their time to be about the child and the family, not a battle of faiths pressed upon them during this escape opportunity- which we completely understood. There was, though, a chapel that we were able to go to and pray for these families. It was a growing opportunity for us because we were challenged and reminded that sharing Christ isn't always about our words. 

Someone, a long long time ago, proved that light travels at a faster speed than sound. Sharing Christ is much like those beautiful stars that grace the Castle of Miracles and the star that brought wise men and shepherds to our newborn Christ. The light and presence are enough to fill the hearts of anyone who seeks them. Stars need not sing, dance or preach- they merely shine light to guide the way to the Savior and offer hope to those who follow them. The star of Bethlehem still hangs atop trees and in windows and homes guiding all to remember the Christ child that came down to rescue us, as do the stars of every child who has visited Give Kids the World, hanging high in the Castle of Miracles as a tribute that will last forever. 

"In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your father who is in heaven." Matthew 5:16

This month, instead of shirts, we are honored to offer beautiful and brilliant star pendant necklaces to honor  and remember the real stars in our world. The children who beam brightly and fight for their lives showing us that Christ never leaves us nor forsakes us. 

20% of the purchase of these star necklaces will be given to Give Kids the World, so that they can continue to give these magical and unforgettable experiences to children and their families for years to come. 

PURCHASE a star pendant necklace to monetarily benefit Give Kids the World and their mission to bring joy to those in the scariest of situations. See them in the shop here.

WEAR the star to honor and remember those who are fighting for their lives while battling cancer and life threatening illnesses. 

WANT TO DO MORE? Consider volunteering at Give Kids the World on your next family vacation to Orlando, Florida. Spend quality family time at the parks and then give a day or two back to this precious place. I promise it will be a highlight of your trip. 

Love and Blessings, 

Anna

 

Full Tummies, Full Hearts

Let me introduce you to Nikki. She's the coordinator and backbone of The Full Tummy Project. With a desire in her heart to serve children and a vision to make a difference the project began small and has grown into something that schools just couldn't do without. 

Nikki is as sweet as she is spirited. Friendly to everyone she meets and glowing with Jesus' love. It's no wonder she pours her heart into this project. It's just her nature. 

Read below the words from Nikki, telling more about The Full Tummy Project, how it came about and how it serves the children who so desperately need it. 

If you feel like your community and school system could use a program like Full Tummy, Nikki would be a wonderful resource about how to get started. Visit their website here.

From Nikki-

"Let me start with a quick introduction: My name is Nikki and I LOVE food! I am the kind of person who can describe a dessert I ate years ago down to every last sprinkle because food makes that big of an impression on me. My passion for food has led to a calling to care for those in our community who go hungry. This passion ignited when I was in elementary school. That’s the first time I can remember my own father telling me about how hunger impacted his life as a child. One of my favorite stories to listen to him tell was about how he came to love brussel sprouts. As one of 8 children with parents who struggled to find steady work, there never seemed to be enough food to go around in my father's childhood home. Lunch at school was his favorite part of the day because friends around him would be too picky to eat everything on their plate, so my dad would always have something to eat. Brussel sprouts day was the best because no one liked the school lunchroom's brussel sprouts. My father would joyfully eat all the brussel sprouts from his friends' plates, and he would finally experience the satisfaction of being full for a few hours. While I often giggled at the thought of my father as a 10 year-old eating a mountain of brussel sprouts, something inside me also shouted, "That's not right!" every time I heard this story. Even then, I hated the thought of a child ever going hungry and knew that someone should do more than hand over a pile of unwanted brussel sprouts.

Five years ago, God made it clear that I was to be one of those someone's. I had the awesome privilege of serving in the recovery efforts after the April 27 tornadoes  struck our community. I spoke to many people from all over the county who needed various types of assistance, but one grandmother still stands out in my memory. She was seeking help not because her home had been hit or even because she went without electricity for extended periods of time; in those regards, she continually acknowledged that her family had been blessed. She needed help simply because her grandchildren who lived with her had been out of school unexpectedly for over week. This family depended on the meals provided to the four children at the school to make their weekly grocery budget stretch. Now they were out of food because the children had not received those school meals. Thankfully, we were able to assist this family, but once again that little voice inside of me was angered that a family in our community would struggle just to feed its children when school is out. So I prayed that God would lead me toward doing more for families like these, and in that time of prayer I learned some startling statistics about hunger in our community.

I learned that in Alabama, 1 out of every 4 kids lives in a home where their parents struggle to put food on the table and the family does not always have enough to eat.

Not only is it heartbreaking to think about children going without meals, it is absolutely devastating to their future. The elementary years are absolutely crucial to a child’s future success. Researchers have noted a stunning array of physical, academic, and emotional effects of childhood hunger. You see, the child who doesn’t eat enough isn’t going to do as well in school. Even missing one meal can prevent a child from being able to focus and perform well in school, and 9 out of 10 teachers say that eating a healthy breakfast is key to a child’s ability to learn in the classroom. School nurses also report that more children are sent to their offices on Mondays from stomach aches than any other day of the week. This is the result of not eating enough, or not eating well, over the weekend, and these trips to the nurse cause them to miss valuable instruction time. Additionally, children who do not receive proper nutrition get sick more often and recover from illnesses more slowly. Children who regularly do not get enough nutritious food to eat tend to be more aggressive and anxious and are more likely to be suspended from school and have difficulty getting along with other kids. Ultimately, a child whose family struggles with food insecurity is less likely to graduate from high school. And a child who does not graduate from high school will struggle to feed his or her own family later in life.

 

To put it simply, hunger keeps kids from reaching their full potential. It’s an epidemic, worldwide and right here in our own community. But this is the exciting part. Hunger is an epidemic that has a cure! Do you know what that cure is? Food! It’s that simple! Good, nutritious foods cure hunger! And I believe that by providing food to a child who is going hungry, you doing more than filling a tummy; you’re changing a life.

 

6th graders at First United Methodist Church of Athens filling bags for The Full Tummy Project during their Wednesday Night Activities.

6th graders at First United Methodist Church of Athens filling bags for The Full Tummy Project during their Wednesday Night Activities.

That’s where the heart for Full Tummy Project came: a desire to change the lives of children and help them live the life God created them for. This community ministry started five years ago with only 20 children at Cowart Elementary, and since then God has brought more and more people on board and continued to increase the vision of this ministry. Now, more than 175 children in Athens City Schools are being served by the Full Tummy Project and every school in Limestone County is also served by local churches. We serve these children and their families by providing a small bag of food each weekend. These meal bags are delivered to the schools and sent home discreetly tucked into the child's backpack on Friday afternoon. As a ministry, we don't know the names or faces of any of the children who receive these bags. We are simply told by the schools how many children need the help, and we provide it. What we do know is that many children come to school on Fridays excited to receive their bag of food. We know that many parents contact the schools and let them know how much they appreciate the help. We know that the children who receive these bags come to school on Monday with the benefit of having been well-fed over the weekend. We know that these simple bags of food are filling tummies and changing lives.

-Nikki Colwell

Get your shirt to benefit The Full Tummy project here

Cup Runneth Over

One thousand dollars divided between 5 different charities just for October. It was definitely the best month our little project has had since "opening its doors" in February. With the overwhelming response came overwhelming work. We were shocked (as were our suppliers and printer) by the amount of shirts we had to order, sort, print, ship and deliver. 

There were shirts to be returned to suppliers for blemishes, mixed up orders, shipping malfunctions.. you name it- it happened. Several times Ashley and I would ask ourselves, "Can we handle this? Our plates are FULL!" 

Ashley teaches school full time at a local elementary school. She may not admit it, but I hear she's pretty darn amazing. She was even nominated for teacher of the year recently. She pours her heart and soul into her children. With that and a cute & feisty 2 year old, I'd say she stays pretty busy. She uses her spare time at night when Ada's snuggled in her bed to summon what is left of herself to help manage this project. 

I spend my days tending to 2 crazy children, preparing for our 3rd little bundle due in March and teaching the music class at my children's preschool. You'd think I'd have oodles of spare time, but I'm a sucker for anyone who puts the word "volunteer" into a question directed towards me. I'm a "yes woman", I admit it. I'm definitely more flexible during the weekdays, so I try to tackle the day to day business details of Same Cloth while Ash is busy molding the future of our country. 

Sometimes we wonder if it's crazy to take this on because our plates are so full. 

Then we remember the relationships we have made throughout this journey. The spiritual growth we have had while studying scriptures to find just the right verse or meaning for a design. The tears shed with those who we met at The Fiddler's Convention when telling them of a cause we support and it touched a special place in their heart. We read over handwritten notes from the non profits benefited from the sales and the videos of children thanking us for their t-shirts we were able to donate to them. 

It's then that we realize that our cup runneth over. 

A dear friend of ours gave a talk once about priorities. She described what all men, women, dads, moms, students, business people face on a daily basis- a full calendar and a never ending to-do list. She challenged us to look closely at our "to do" lists. How many things on that list are truly important? God gave us an innate ability to decipher what is between what is a true priority and what is just another meaningless task to frustrate and overwhelm us. Her suggestion-

"Don't let your to-do list get in the way of your priorities."

Yeah, I'm 3 episodes behind on "This Is Us". I desperately want to shut this computer off and catch up on them right now while Vivi naps and Liam out on an adventure with his daddy. But as much enjoyment as that show gives me, it's definitely not a priority. These causes we support, the products we make and the community we've built are the priority. It's a daily battle. To separate my to do list into what gives me pleasure and what gives me life. The pleasure of the t.v. show ends with the credits, but the life and blessings that this venture gives me will last forever. 

This month we though it was very appropriate to support The Full Tummy Project. This non profit packs and delivers bags of food to over 175 children at 6 different schools every single Friday. Since the children are assured at least two meals at school during the week (breakfast and lunch), they wanted to make sure these underprivileged children had a bag full of something to eat throughout the weekend. For each shirt sold, we will be able to cover the cost of one bag for a hungry child. 

Buy a shirt to monetarily support this worthy program who are helping to end childhood hunger. Purchase the t-shirts here.

Wear the shirt to raise awareness of this program and it's awesome mission. Take a picture share it on Facebook and Instagram and tag us to help spread the word!

If you are reading this I pray you realize how overwhelmingly blessed you are. I pray you have the ability to prioritize your "to do" list and focus on what's really important. 

"May your plates be full, only because your cup runneth over."

Love and Blessings, 

Anna

 

 

Hand in Hand

Dancing to a favorite song.

A journey or hike to a final destination.

Playing "pairs" in tennis against the things of this world. 

I've heard many metaphors used to describe relationships with Christ and walks in faith, but I've always viewed mine as a leisurely walk. Hand in hand, just chatting about the good and the bad, the worries the fears and the praises. This could stem from a poster I vividly remember hanging in my church's youth room while growing up. The familiar "Footprints" poster and poem. It became more real to me, though, after hearing Matt Maher's gorgeous recalling of the fall of man in his song, "Garden". 

"In the cool of the day
You come and meet me
All the blue fades away
The stars are winking
Your love's so strong
I can't recall
What was this thing
They called the fall?
And You walk with me
You never leave
You're making my heart a garden
Oh, why would I hide
Away from Your face
When the light of Your love
Illuminates?
Your hand in mine
A steady line
Drawn on my heart
And deep in my mind
And You walk with me
You never leave
You're making my heart a garden"

I was walking my children to the park one evening. The air was beginning to cool and traffic was slowing as families were surely gathering around dinner tables and winding down after a long hot day. My youngest has been walking for several months, but she is still terribly clumsy. Even though she desperately wants to be independent and make her own choices of direction on our path, I still long for her to hold my hand. Not because I want to be in control, but because I fear for her falling, fear her getting hurt. She doesn't always agree to hold my hand but when that little hand is safe in mine, I can breathe easier. Not only does it give me relief that she's taken care of, but there's not much sweeter than the sweet grip of a child's hand.

It hit me all of a sudden, when her little pigeon toe hit a rock and she lost her balance. I had her hand and pulled her back up before her dimpled knee hit the pavement.

I realized that this is exactly how Christ feels about us

He always wants to hold our hand, walk with us, commune with us. We don't always want to follow His path, though. We often drop His hand without realizing because we want to do life our way. Stumbling while holding His hand, though, makes for a much easier fall and to surely have strong and sturdy arms to pull us back up. 

You know what, though? I also realized that if my children drop my hand, too big to need mama's help, and stumble along our course, I would never leave them there to cry alone. I'd run over, make sure they weren't hurt too badly, grab their hand and pull them up.

Why wouldn't our God do the same? 

Even when we think we can do things on our own and navigate our own way, once we stumble, which we will, all we need to do is call on Him. He'll be right there with an outstretched hand ready to pull us up. 

"Though he may stumble, he will not fall, for the LORD upholds him with his hand."  Psalm 37:24

Yesterday, we found out that the Celebrate Recovery, here in our hometown, has been approved to enter into the local jail and lead a Bible Study with the women incarcerated. They need money to buy the study materials and Bibles needed to carry out this amazing ministry. 

What a beautiful picture of what this shirt truly means. Celebrate Recovery is giving these women the tools to call upon Christ and allow Him to pull them out of their predicaments. They have a chance to make a comeback, but they need to know Him. 

This is what we do, friends! We get shirts onto the backs of children who go without. We can get Bibles and study materials into the hands of women who desperately need someone to take a chance on them, need to know that Christ can be that someone. 

Buy the shirt- reach out a hand to these women so they can know Christ and let him guide their new paths.

Wear the shirt- spread the message that no matter what life deals us, with Christ's help, we don't have to stay down.

Love and Blessings, 

Anna