Archives For Friendship

For The Love of Community

August 17, 2015 — 8 Comments

FORTHELOVEpicThere are few things in life that end up working out the way we envisioned them or had hoped they’d turn out, right? I mean think about it; did marriage, parenthood, complete financial freedom by the age of 40 work out the way you expected & dreamed when you were 18 and knew it all? How about that waistline? If you still have your 18-year-old-body after birthing several children, you’re a freak of nature. I mean, I love you, but you’re barely human.

I’ll be the first to admit, I’m a big dreamer. It’s gotten me into more than a few pickles in my life… because reality often wins out over dreaming big… and blah, blah, blah… whatever, man. I think I’m finally figuring out how to dream without being devastated when reality happens in the midst of the dreaming.

A few months back I prayed a big prayer for God to enlarge my territory & that His grace would empower me to be who He created me to be… to create hope & inspire others to know Him simply by loving them. earth-shattering, right? 🙂

Welp, the Lord answered that prayer but in exactly ZERO ways I thought He would. Of course. Yet His plan worked SO much better than my dreams! Imagine that!

I’ve had the opportunity to be involved in Jen Hatmaker’s Launch Team for her new book:

‘For the Love’. Y’all it releases TODAY, the 18th.

As part of the Launch Team, I knew there would be perks like an advanced copy of the book, the opportunity to write an endorsement, getting to be in a private FB group with the other #499 Launch Team members & Jen herself, but what I didn’t see coming has perhaps been the greatest gift…

Community. Authentic & Grace-filled Connection. I mean, as close as you can be to people online, that is what our band of #500 have become… a tribe, a community, a safe haven in which to blossom & be messy. No religious requirements. No hoops. No judgments. Turns out, it’s possible. 

And it’s crossed from just being online to truly developing friendship in ‘real life’ through meet-ups & such… for many of us I believe we’ll be friends long after the Book Launch dust has settled.

Rebecca Beckett said it best: “Jen didn’t just write a book; she wrote a community.”

These ladies & Jen have opened their hearts to each other. It’s a place to practice what the book itself is all about… giving grace, removing the impossible standards we place on ourselves so we can truly love our neighbor as ourselves… no matter how different we may be from one another.

This book is a melting pot of hilarity & practical wisdom. I’ve often talked about how funny it is, but one quote I want to leave with you, that I believe sums up not only the point of the book, but the point of the Gospel:

“Maybe we can lay down our fear and criticism, self-directed and otherwise. Maybe if we let ourselves off the hook, we can let others off too, and discover that God was in control all along, just as He tried to tell us. He is good at being God! Hooray!” ~ Jen Hatmaker, For The Love

Give it a whirl… the book AND laying down the fear & criticism… there’s so much freedom & peace in grace, y’all. So much.

If you haven’t already purchased your shiny new book with shiny new words, in honor of the book launching today, I’m giving away one of my ten copies (hey, no snickering! yeah, I ordered TEN! hush it!) Entering is super easy because complicated giveaways give me a headache and multiple instructions are sometimes hard to follow! Bless our hearts. 🙂

Share this blogpost. Then comment below OR on my Facebook/Twitter post telling me that you shared it! #BOOM you BOSSED it! 

Contest starts NNNNNN…NOW & runs through next Monday, the 24th. 

Thanks for sticking with me, readers! Thanks for letting me be a dreamer… sometimes a flaky one… okay, a lot of times a flaky one. I’ve received so much grace and you know what it feels like? It feels like Love.

Shine On… For The Love! 

Danielle 
Ps. Now go share this post with your friends, then let me know you shared it by leaving a comment here OR on my Facebook/Twitter post. Then, you are entered! Capeesh?

Could I have about 7 minutes of your time today? I want to tell you about some friends of mine, who just happen to live on the other side of the world.

One of the sweetest girls on the planet, my friend, Siphiwe.

One of the sweetest girls on the planet, my friend, Siphiwe. This moment when she put her arm around me: Priceless.

There’s about 150 kids who are not only my friends, but I am their friend. I genuinely believe they know the Browers and hundreds of others in North America as their friends. We’ve laughed, danced, ate & cried together. (If that doesn’t define friendship, I don’t know what does.) Isn’t friendship built on a common bond of interest in each other’s lives, trust and concern for each other’s well-being? Yes. I love the kind of friend you can call in the middle of a crisis and you KNOW they’ve got your back, no questions asked. We all need people like this in our lives, that show up saying ‘I am pulling for you! Your joy is my joy! Your pain is my pain! WE are gonna get through this.”

This is the kind of friendship that has formed long-distance between our connect community of sponsors through Children’s HopeChest and the children of the Bheveni community in Swaziland, Africa. A partnership. It truly isn’t one-sided. And we truly aren’t the heroes. Ask any member of one of the teams my husband & I have led… the kids & their caregivers are the heroes of their own lives. We’re the loud, obnoxious, over-zealous cheerleaders.

The B-Team worked tirelessly to paint the playground! The children LOVE it!

The B-Team & discipleship team worked tirelessly to paint the playground! The children LOVE it!

 

The children help tend the garden everyday. We were blessed to help a little while we were there.

The children help tend the garden everyday. We were blessed to help a little while we were there.

 

There are several ways we maintain this long-distance partnership:

Sponsorship impacts everyone's lives!

Sponsorship impacts everyone’s lives!

1. Sponsorship – through sponsorship a child in the Bheveni community is guaranteed a hot, healthy meal, clean water, discipleship & life skills training. Through sponsorship, they know they have a friend in North America who knows them by name, prays for them, and wants them to have a successful, fruitful life both here & into eternity. It’s $38 a month per kid, but all the money is pooled for the entire community so no child is left without their needs met, even if they don’t have a sponsor. We often say as a Children’s HopeChest sponsor, we get to mentor a child, but sponsor an entire community of children to band together & lift themselves out of poverty. It’s brilliant & God-inspired because it works – we see the fruit of sponsorship and it’s a beautiful thing, y’all! We currently have 30 new kids who have started coming to the carepoint who need a sponsor.

2. Dreaming Together – And we Dream BIG! Our online community of sponsors, advocates & supporters listen very closely to the vision the Bheveni community members have and do what we can to assist. We don’t do it for them, but assist and simply provide opportunity; whether that be through paying school fees (they have to pay to go to school! I still shake my head at this one. If they don’t have parents and barely have food, how are they to pay for tuition? ugh.) or giving a little bit extra during the holidays so they can build a new, safe community center and finally get electricity, it’s a complete joy to watch their dreams blossom & their futures brighten!

The Dream Building is going up!

The Dream Building made possible by GIVERS like you!

This multi-purpose building will be complete soon and will have electricity!

This multi-purpose building will be complete soon and will have electricity!

3. Visits – We’ve been to visit our friends in Swaziland four times since 2010. We’ve watched them grow up. We’ve led 4 incredible teams. I mean, I can’t even describe to you how amazing our team members are… they are just ready for it all & love the kids as if they were their own. It’s beautiful each & every trip to see the bonds of friendship forged and deepened.

This year, 2015, we are not able to send a team to physically be with the kids, or to physically pray & laugh & dance with the bomake who cook for hundreds of rambunctious kids everyday over an open flame. And it’s sorta crushed us to know a team trip isn’t happening. I pray that the children of Bheveni understand, but I have to put that in the Lord’s hands because otherwise it breaks my heart a little to think they may think we don’t care anymore. One blessing in this? We no longer have to put our time & resources towards funding a trip, but now we can JUST focus on supporting their dreams! Hallelujah for that! It would’ve cost the team a minimum of $20,000 to fly there for 10 days. Let’s imagine this money instead going into the long-term development of the children in a variety of other ways. And it can happen easier than you think.

Even though we aren’t having a team trip, we can & are still being a support to the Bheveni Community… and that’s where you come in.

Today, besides sponsorships, the one way my readers can help is…. drum roll, please…

Buy A T-shirt.

Really.

When you buy a Create Hope T-shirt, the extra funds will be invested into the kids’ lives. And the shirts are rad. Really. One of our 3-time team members designed it and she did a great job! So you’ll get a fashionable Tee and DO GOOD IN THE WORLD at the same time.

A rainbow of gorgeous, tangible hope.

A rainbow of gorgeous, tangible hope.

Your T-shirt will help ensure the kids stay in school, have the necessary school supplies & uniforms, have medical attention when they need it, and who knows, we may even surprise them by having the staff bring a meal with meat in it!

There’s a meal called ‘Chicken Dust’ – it doesn’t sound good but it makes my mouth water just thinking about it . Because meat is expensive, the kids only get this meal when our team comes. Once a year. And if we’re not coming… we gotta get them their Chicken Dust somehow, y’all! The hype around Chicken Dust rivals that of Chick-Fil-A. Now you get me. For all the kids to have a meal with MEAT, it costs appx. $600 US.

And if we raise another $400 beyond that, we can have the staff show up with a 30-day supply of food to the local homesteads. Often these are child-led or grandparent-led homes that are struggling the most. Two years ago we took one of these 30-day supply bags to Grandma Dlamini raising 5 grandkids (because all their parents had died). She burst into tears and said just that morning she begged God for a miracle. They had run out of food that morning. THAT morning… and THAT evening God sent some clueless Americas to show her His faithfulness.

The faith of a grandmother is a powerful thing.

The faith of a grandmother is a powerful thing.

Buy a Create Hope Tee, y’all. 

It’s $30 total shipped to your door. There’s even kid sizes. If you don’t want another Tee but wanna help the Bheveni kids out, click my paypal button on the top right column, and your donation will go towards providing some of life’s most basic needs (like food & education) for my friends.

We need to sell at least 100 Tees. As of yesterday, we’ve sold precisely 11. Eleven. So yeah, we’ve got some catching up to do. Shirt sales end July 27th.

I’m gonna choose to have the faith of Grandmother Dlamini. I’m praying the audacious & desperate prayer for our God to show up STRONG on their behalf through broken, yet willing vessels such as ourselves.

Thank you!!!

Shine On!

Danielle 

#createhope2015

If you love drama as much as I do, here’s some solid advice on creating it & keeping it!

Screen Shot 2015-07-09 at 6.46.26 PM1. Be a fixer. Get up in everybody’s business. Hear somebody has a problem? Go get your cape… SuperFixer to the rescue! Your immediate family can just wait. Kids these days have gotta learn patience anyway, right?

2. Don’t just read the countless online posts about religion & politics. You simply must take time to read the comments as well. You’ll have certainly found drama & a multitude of opinions…. and possibly a few new vulgar words you didn’t even know existed. The comment section is not only very educational, you can bet your butt you’ll get a great dose of humanity in all its dramatic flare. You went looking for drama and boy, you went to the RIGHT place! #fistbump

3. Be easily offended hurt & hold a grudge. Don’t sleep tonight so you can play over & over again in your mind how this person has wronged you. And they THINK they’ve gotten away with it! Pfffttt! Being offended (aka pissed off) creates its own form of drama; the over-emotional, angry, manipulative kind of drama because people won’t see it coming! {Cue sinister laugh. See I got your back, DramaLover}

You need to give them a piece of your mind, girlfriend. You’re tired of rude people in the grocery store, on the highway, in your house & at Christmas dinner.  I say if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! After all, you can’t just let people walk all over you. That ‘turn the other cheek’ thing Jesus said, that was just conjecture or a parable or something. You’re the victim here, and it’s time everybody knows it!

4. Stay glued to CNN, FOX news, and MSNBC which I’ve heard stands for More Snooty Nonsense by Creeps.  And if this isn’t enough, by all means, please keep dear Nancy Grace & her adorable southern charm blaring through your house all day, bless her heart. It’ll create just enough tension in your home sweet home to send at least one kid crying to their room. You’re welcome.

5. Be a narcissist. Wikipedia (a trusted news source) defines a narcissist as one who is excessively preoccupied with personal adequacy, power, prestige, is vain and mentally unable to see the destructive damage they are causing to themselves and others. Yes, definitely strive to be one of these people.

6. On the other end of the dramatic spectrum… Try to make everyone like you. Because as a narcissist you know deep down they adore you. I mean, who couldn’t, right?

Say yes to every volunteer opportunity both at your child’s school & at church. Oh, and volunteer to lead a committee which will plan every single detail of your town’s upcoming Friendly City Days. You simply must do these things so that people will KNOW beyond a shadow of a doubt that you are a good person! Be prepared though by purchasing lots of Kraft Mac & Cheese, frozen pizzas and canned peas because your family won’t be seeing much of you. That’s alright, they love you no matter what.

7. Go into debt. Big debt. This is America, right? Home of the Free? You bet your Chase Credit Card it is! You are meant to live the American Dream, so why wait til you can afford it. That’s what credit card companies are for. Duh.

8. Spend your hard-earned money on you & yours. All of it. And also some you don’t have. See #7. You worked your a$$ off and hell will freeze over before you consider giving it to those who most likely will buy booze with it. They got themselves into the mess, let them get themselves out. And seriously, are kids really starving in Africa? It’s a marketing scam to make non-profit CEOs richer. CNN said so.

9. Be impulsive. Say whatever comes into your brain before you lose the thought. People love people with no filter and talk incessantly.

10. Hang out with people who love drama. Birds of a feather, man. Birds of a feather.

Here’s me again in my non-sarcastic self. It doesn’t last long so I’ll say this quickly (oh, see what I did there? darn it!) Seriously I hope you’re enjoying these Surefire blog posts and reading them with a light heart. I would LOVE your input and ideas! How do you avoid create drama in your life? We all do it! We might as well laugh at ourselves… or each other. That works too.

Shine On!

Danielle 

ps. stay tuned. My next post will not be satirical. But I do want to share a huge opportunity with you to help make some big dreams come true for some of my friends. No, it’s not an MLM. #pinkyswear

Celebrate with Me

July 7, 2015 — 6 Comments

Celebrate with Me!

No, I’m not having another baby. Gotta clear that up right away, because heaven help us.

You’ve probably heard me mention here & there that I am a part of the 500 member launch team for Jen Hatmaker’s New Book, For The LoveIn May, I briefly wrote about it in For The Love of Audacious Prayers. In that post I referenced a few things were sorta big deals. Okay, big deals for a gal whose hobbies include shopping for belts and avoiding nature at all costs.

Anywho, turns out I really, really enjoyed the advanced copy of book (thank heavens! wouldn’t that rot if you were supposed to be promoting a book and you think it sucked? shew.) One of the perks of being on the LT was the opportunity to submit a genuine (pronounced JEN-U-WINE, thank you very much) endorsement that may or may not appear in the book.

Outta 400 submissions only 20 got chosen and mine is one of them! Not only that, it’s the 2nd one on the inside cover! What the what?!?!?! Cue the girlyest, goofiest, giddiest snaughter – snort/laughter – you can think of. That’s exactly how I acted when I found out my endorsement got chosen to be in the actual, literal book. And finally I can share with you what I wrote, as if it’s going to end world hunger or something…

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 10.44.27 PM

Obviously, I was given a revelation from heaven.

This is only a snippet that fits in the book. My full online endorsement reads…

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{Also the way I’m acting you’d think I’d written the book myself. Geez. Y’all pray for my humanity.}

If you go to Jen’s website you can see all 400 of the real-talk, real-women endorsements. They just wouldn’t all fit in the book, but they are delightful & I hope at least a few will resonate with you enough that you’ll go buy it.*

You know what’s great about this Launch Team, it’s not all about me. It’s not even all about Jen. Y’all it’s about loving Jesus & loving each other & doing life together without fear of being who I AM created to be! It’s okay that I’m celebrating the fact that my endorsement’s in the book. The rest of the LT is celebrating it too – there’s no jealousy, no ‘poor me’, no ‘I’m chopped liver’ attitudes. It’s just all love. All the time. I don’t even understand how, but it is.

We are a very diverse group from all different backgrounds & religions & cultures. The book has brought this group of 500 weirdos (I mean this with the most sincerest of loves) together and caused us to reflect & let Christ’s love flow through us. I pray that you are able to get a copy of the book when it drops on August 18th and that it has the same impact on you.

In fact, you don’t even have to wait til August 18th. Stop the presses.

I’m as serious as a squirrel is about his nuts.

*You can go to this link, order a copy, or 5 or 10 before July 15th and get all sorts of freebies.

**PRE-ORDER HERE & NOW Jen Hatmaker’s New Book, For The Love**

The best freebie is the FREE IMMEDIATE FULL PDF DOWNLOAD OF THE ENTIRE BOOK! So stop reading this & go get your book… For The Love! Then we can actually discuss it and I can stop being all 007 secret-agent like when I talk to you about it. We can snaughter together like good friends should.

Thanks for celebrating with me!

Shine On!

Danielle 

Not that long ago I wrote 10 Surefire Ways To Be A Christian A-hole. Yes, I did. If you read it, you’ll see I’m very aware of my own shortcomings. Such is the case here. I’m not the perfect friend, which is how I so easily came up with this list in the first place! So read on… with sarcastic non-judgmental eyes. Yes, that’s a thing.

Screen Shot 2015-07-07 at 1.08.24 AMSo, how about you? Looking to lose a good friend? Herein lies 10 surefire ways to make it happen! You’re welcome! Also, satire, people, satire. #lightenup 

1. Gossip to her & about her.  Tell her what’s wrong with all your other friends. Tell others what’s wrong with her. Ugh. She can be SO annoying because she’s SO nice. All the time. Play mind games. Girls love this stuff. I mean, she’s such a ‘goodie-goodie’ she certainly won’t tell anybody & you can get it the juice details off your chest. Shew! You already feel better, don’t ya?

2. Don’t return messages. Like ever. Everybody slips up ‘once in a while’, and this friend of yours totally knows that you got her text – why should you have to actually respond? And she knows you. She no longer expects to you respond, right? Not everybody can be Miss Congeniality or Polly McPlannerstein. You’re playing Level 725 on Candy Crush – the girl can WAIT!

3. Forget her big day.  You’ve gotten so caught up in school, work & Pinterest that you just completely slipped up. Rats! Rather than admitting that you screwed up though, just go ahead and pretend the big day didn’t really exist next time you see her and well, talk about…

4. Only talk about yourself. What you did last night. How stressed you are about your future. Where you’re going on vacation & how you just like totally have to get rid of these tan lines before hitting the beach. All the foods you can & can’t eat now that you are gluten, dairy, GMO, lactose, and flavor free. Oh, and you just must have a sounding board for your relationship issues. She is SUCH a great listener!!! (and between you & me, her life must be boring because she like never talks about it! Go figure!)

5. Cancel plans. Regularly. I mean, hey, you’re a busy, spontaneous kind of girl! She needs to just understand that sometimes things are gonna get in the way of your friendship & you might just have something better to do. She’s your friend, she knows you’re a flight risk, so she’ll get over it. Again.

6. Lie. Lie because like Tom Cruise she can’t handle the truth, even though she’s asking for an honest answer. You know her better than she knows herself, right?

7. Send her on a guilt trip. Be sure to call her names, cry actual tears if you have to, but THIS TIME she needs to know what an awful person she is for not doing what you wanted her to do. Give her a taste of her own medicine. That’s right, teach her a lesson. Haven’t heard from her when you thought she should call/text you? Didn’t like her opinion? Definitely let her know how hurt you are by screaming at her.

{word of wisdom because I can’t help myself: if you want your friend to talk to you when you’re struggling, swallow your pride & CALL HER YOURSELF! Actually SAY the words, “Girlfriend, I need you right now, like, for real.” Then if she doesn’t respond – see Point #2 – you’ll know she’s just really not into this relationship or is very possibly going through her own crisis. Remember to give the grace you want her to give to you. Nobody likes a relationship where you have to jump through invisible, constantly twirling hoops to maintain it. Also, don’t be a meanie when you don’t get her attention. It will backfire. Backfire is never a good thing.}

9. Don’t compliment her, for heaven’s sake. Sure she’s down on herself, but complimenting her outfit (that you secretly adore & know would look better on you) will go to her head & she’ll probably become all stuck on herself and forget you exist. Definitely keep compliments to yourself.

8. Give her the silent treatment. Make her wonder why she doesn’t deserve your attention. If she doesn’t know, she should! Ignoring her at the party will certainly help her figure it out. Duh.

10. Never say I’m sorry. In fact, don’t admit that you had any part in hurting her, even when she says you did because it’s just her insecurities. Tell her to suck it up, buttercup. Life’s hard.

So do you agree with this list? What would you add?

We all know there comes a point where friends just grow apart, have different interests, different schedules, etc. Do your best, however, when you do see each other, to pick up where you left off. It doesn’t have to be complicated!  Just enjoy each other’s company, for the love. If both of you can do this, you’ve got yourself one heck of a friend and you should tell them so!

Shine On! {and go hug a friend}

Danielle

 

Created to Inspire

June 21, 2015 — 2 Comments

FullSizeRenderFor years now, the words ‘Create Hope’ have been a passionate force which helps me live my life. What else are we here on this big blue ball for other than to create hope & inspire others, and to do it all for the glory of God?

All. Everything we are, everything we do, every talent, even every tragedy can somehow inspire others and ultimately show God’s love. I truly believe this. It’s the way I try to live my life. I don’t always succeed & I get it wrong often, but I want to briefly share with my readers & this community how the Lord has given me a new avenue to inspire people!

I work with elementary-aged special needs children during the school year. Knowing I’d need a summer job, I began searching & praying. I wrote in my prayer journal, “God, how am I gonna juggle everything? I can’t leave the kids alone all day, nor do I want to. You are the Father of creativity. Will you share some of it with me so I can have income and still spend the summer with my family?”

So, that prayer sparked a series of events that has led to this. Live4ChangeArt.

My family & I (and a portion of our town, ha!) are constantly on the search for old leather belts. Why? Because I’m upcycling them into leather cuff bracelets to sell locally & on Etsy. Yep, we are having a blast with this summer gig. And guess what? Somehow God is blessing it – people actually like my bracelets and are buying them almost as fast as I can make them. Even a well-known jewelry maker, Beki Hastings of The Rusted Chain whom I greatly admire shared our bracelets on her Facebook Page last week! Thanks Ingrid Olson for that connection!

What makes Live4Change Art Leather Cuffs different from the rest are the personalized inspirational words I inscribe into each of them. I’m thankful to say not all of my training came from google, youtube or Pinterest!! Through some trial, error & prayer, God showed me a really cool way to add lace & jewels; a technique that is all my own. Hallelujah for creativity! Even had someone try to copy it from my page, so imitation IS the highest form of flattery! ha!

I love the entire process – finding the belts with my family, recreating them into bracelets, added just the right inspirational words, sharing my story, selling them and providing income for my family!

One thing I haven’t shared with anyone is that 10% of Live4ChangeArt proceeds are going to our beloved Bheveni Community in Swaziland, Africa. The proceeds are going to their education fund. In Swaziland, tuition must be paid in order to learn to read & write. If a child is orphaned or multiple children being raised by a single mother, how can they afford literacy when meeting life’s basic needs are already a challenge? So our B.E.S.T. (Bheveni Educational Scholarship Trust) Fund is set in place & is helping to keep nearly 200 kids in school every year! Praise the Lord!

So each time you buy an inspirational bracelet, not only is it inspiring YOU, it is teaching a child to read & write & to value their potential!

See why this is bracelet making gig is so fun!?!? 🙂

And the idea was God-given, He helped me find a talent I didn’t even know I had, and He guides my hands through each step of the process. Leather stamping isn’t easy & sometimes my fingers get pounded instead of the stamp (ouch!), or a snap flies off & hits me in the eye, but hey, I’m still loving it!

One more thing: I’ve been blown away by how many custom/personalized orders coming in. Nearly 75% of my sales are all custom orders. Wisdom. Serenity. Radiant. Shine Your Light (for a whole family!) Proud of My Marine. Attraversiamo (Lets Cross Over). Worth more than Gold. Be still & know I am God.

All words chosen by people who want to wear inspiration on their sleeve. Because we all need reminders of loved ones, reminders to keep moving forward, reminders to pray, reminders that we CAN live this life and all its fullness. Words are special. Just ask God, that’s how He’s chosen through the ages to communicate with us – through His Word, both written & spoken. So yeah, words have power. And meditating on the right words have even greater power.

Did I say this was going to be brief? 🙂 Ha! Impossible.

So that’s my exciting news. Bracelets that create inspiration & bring education!

If you like what you see in these photos, check out my ETSY store. Want a custom order, there’s an option for that too. And be sure to like Live4ChangeArt on Facebook!

 

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Thanks for going on yet another adventure with me!

Shine On!

Danielle

I’m a bit giddy over this guest blogger, y’all. I sorta have a blogger-crush on her. Andrea & I have become fast friends through the Launch Team for Jen Hatmaker’s new book, For The Love, coming out in August. We are thoroughly enjoying all aspects of this journey within the Launch Team of 496 gals & 4 guys we call the #bandoffour (bless ’em, Lord for they are indeed strong, secure men!). I’ll be talking more about all that on another post. But for now, read this incredibly insightful, inclusive & sincere post that had me saying, “ABSOLUTELY, GIRL, AMEN!” a few times. Thank you Andrea! Shine On! 

hypocrite

This morning I woke up in sort of a panic. I usually have my best ideas, most important thoughts or take care of unfinished brain business from the night before right as I wake up. This morning the unfinished brain business panicked me a little.

I started this blog just a few days ago and am feeling a bit insecure about it all. I’m writing stuff here that I know is true, but I woke up wondering if I really believe it… if I really live it. You know those people you live with who really see you ALL the time and then read what you write or listen to what you say and shake their heads wondering who you are because you’re not the same person they know? You know those people?

Well, that’s how I felt this morning. Like a big ol’ smeared mascara-eyed, bed-headed hypocrite. Because… well… I am one. So I felt like I needed to put this out there for anyone reading. Well, if anyone is reading, I try not to write what I don’t live out or at least try really hard to live out. I try to tell a part of my story, what’s going on inside of me, and it not seem like I have it together and or know it all because I certainly don’t. Just ask the people I live with. They’ll be happy to tell you I don’t have it all together. On second thought, maybe don’t ask them… just take my word for it.

I’m a professional mask wearer at times and in certain situations. I rarely let my guard down. My vulnerability braveness level is incredibly low. I’m a perfectionist in a lot of areas and wearing my mask is one I quite competently excel at with very little effort. Most of us do. Isn’t that what a hypocrite is? The word hypocrite comes partly from the Greek word, hypokritḗs, referring to a stage actor, hence one who pretends to be what she is not. Oh, did I step on some toes there? Yeah, mine hurt too.

A former pastor, who shepherded us so well in our early years and who we still love dearly, has given us some of our best quotes and sayings over the years. One time he was preaching about being called a hypocrite and he boldly said in his Texan accent, “Well, we’re all hypocrites! And I’d rather be in heaven with ’em than in hell with ’em!”

Let’s face it (pun intended), we’re all hypocrites. It’s a human condition for which there is no cure this side of heaven. Thank you, Eve… We’re all fig leaf wearin’ fakes. Hiding behind something. Not wanting to be seen or fully known. But wanting so desperately to be seen and fully known at the same time. Yeah, thank you, Eve… Some of us have our masks plastered on so tight that it would take a high-pressure power washer to get it off. So… if we’re going to do it, let’s do it together. Let’s be hypocrites together, shall we? Authentic, call it like we see it, mask wearin’ hypocrites.

But let’s at least be hypocrites who try. Hypocrites who love other hypocrites. Hypocrites who love Jesus. Kind hypocrites… always kind! I’ll write what’s on my heart. It will all be as true as I know it to be. I will try to live it out as best as I can and I hope that you will too. If you catch me being a hypocrite, point it out to me in love but expect that I’ll do the same for you because after all, it takes one to know one. Oops… did I get your toes again?

On wearing masks… I recently started reading a book by Jamie George, Love Well. He wrote this in the introduction,

“Stuck, unsure, and without direction, we live out a masquerade, hoping desperately that someone will love us and accept us when we pull the mask off.

Until we tell the story of the mask, we will never take it off.

Until we find someone who is fully present, who listens to understand, we will keep hiding.

When we tell our stories, and when we are truly heard, we begin to clean out the compost of our souls. We then begin a journey of subtraction. We courageously begin to take off the emotional armor that we have collected until we can find childlike wonder again.”  ~Love Well, Jamie George 

If we are going to be hypocrites, if we are going to wear masks, then we are still better together. But let’s also work towards pulling them off. Together. Let’s empty our plates and tell our stories. I think, no I know, that there are hearts out there that need a fill-up. I know this because mine is one of them.

Empty. Fill. Repeat.

~Andrea

Please read more from Andrea here —> Empty Plate Full Heart

In light of recent public events surrounding the Duggar family, I encourage you to also read this beautiful, gracious post by Andrea’s daughter. These girls can WRITE! —> Grace and Social Media

 As it is written, There is none righteous, no, not one. Romans 3:10

andreastunzI’ve been a wife for 26 years. My husband, Tommy, and I did some of our best work in our 3 amazing gifts from God. I’m a mother in law of 2 stellar humans beings and a Gimi of one adorable little dude. I’m a homemaker, a traveler, a seeker, a writer, a pilgrim. I love cooking and sharing good food with others who love good food. I take pictures that tell a story, my story, God’s story. An almost empty nester. A fellow struggler. A fellow stumbler. In need of God’s grace. Oh, and coffee. Grace and coffee. Then I’m good. Oh, and a sunrise. Grace, coffee and a sunrise. THEN I’m good. Oh, and my grandson. Grace, coffee, a sunrise and my grandson. … you get the picture. 🙂 I have many favorite scriptures but my “go to” scripture which seems to encompass all I may be stumbling through or rejoicing in is always this: “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

 

 

 

Screen Shot 2015-05-23 at 10.50.45 PMLots of heavy, heavy talk in the Christian blogosphere this week. Rather than weighing in on all the drama, of which I have no business pretending I know the answers, I’ll use this little blog to put something light-hearted in your newsfeed. Come along with me down a little path we’ll call ‘For The Love.’ Stay with me, we’re skipping along the path at break-neck speed.

Several months ago, a thought just popped into my head. Like, out of nowhere!

Most of the time, I think it’s the Lord doing the popping, except for maybe that time I listened to the popping thought and ended up accidentally drunk at a Hibachi Steakhouse because the entertaining chef, whom I thought was shooting a ketchup-like bottle of water into my mouth was actually filling me with POISON (also known as Sake!) Holy Moses, Grammar Nazis, yes I KNOW that was a Guinness level run-on sentence! Heel. A couple ‘shots’ later and this never-had-a-sip-of-alcohol girl was blurting out ‘why does my fork feel so heavy???’ and crying because well, I’m an idiot.

Whoa there, Sloshed Sally. That was indeed a rabbit trail. Back on the “For The Love’ Path.

A few months back, a SMART thought popped into my head. I was reminded about a guy named Jabez. No, he’s NOT an old boyfriend, but a guy from the Bible (OT) who was born to fail. I mean, his mom decided to name him ‘Pain & Sorrow’. Let’s just say he didn’t have a lot of hope toward becoming a happy-go-lucky, successful, trusted guy. Imagine introducing yourself to the ladies, ‘Hey girl, my name is Pain N. Sorrow {get it?}. Wanna go out to pasture with me?’ I’m sure his dating life suffered. Thanks a LOT, Mom.

But you know what he had besides a super sad name? He had boldness. He had AUDACITY! So much audacity, he prayed to the God of Abraham, Isaac & Jacob. With incredible faith, he prayed against his birth name,

Jabez cried out to the God of Israel, ‘Oh, that you would bless me and enlarge my territory! Let your hand be with me, and keep me from harm so that I will be free from pain {not cause pain}.’ And God granted his request.” 1 Chr. 4:10,NIV

I remember when the The Prayer of Jabez became really popular among the Christian community around the turn of the century. The premise was wonderful, but soon it was everywhere… on books, bracelets, flannel boards, and baby onesies… It became the Genie-in-a-bottle prayer. ‘If I stand on my head and simultaneously repeat this prayer 245 times a day, God will HAVE to hear me and BLESS ME INDEED with everything I ever wanted… I mean so I can turn around and give it back to God’s people, of course… and maybe even some to the helpless orphans in Africa.’

I’ve been a Christ-follower for a long time now. Oh about 40 years, give or take the 10 months I was in the womb… #sarcasm {I have to hashtag that because sometimes people take the things I say way too seriously. sometimes.} Anyhow, I get weary when the Body of Christ overuse a verse. It usually is taken out of context & used for self-gain. I had long put the Prayer of Jabez out of my memory.

When I re-read it this time, I saw Jabez with fresh eyes. You guys, he just wanted to please the Lord and BE A BLESSING. And you know what, it’s hard to be a blessing when everyone thinks you’re a doof, and you feel like you have no voice because you’ve been labeled a doof since before you were even born.

I found the balance between the Genie-in-a-bottle prayer & dismissing the guy completely. And as I studied about Jabez, I fell in love with him and his heart. I began seeing him as a man with audacity & strength of character & as a man who wanted to glorify God. There was NOTHING selfish about him! He wanted to know God & make Him known.

Guess what? Me too. I’ve found myself scared of success, scared of telling people my experiences with the Lord, as if I have any right to think I know God’s heart better than the next guy. I don’t ever want to give pride a foot in the door. I stopped worrying so much and decided it’s okay to pray, believing God can and will enlarge my territory of influence, to keep me from harm to myself and to others. I prayed He would expand my desire to bring Him glory and bless me to be a blessing, whatever form that would take.

I began praying this prayer on March 7th. I know because it’s in my prayer journal. 

No joke, three days later my territory got expanded big time. Jen Hatmaker is an author, speaker and crazy-funny person. She has a new book coming out on August 18th called ‘For The Love’. GO PRE-ORDER IT!!! Over 5,000 people applied to be a part of the Launch Team. Only 10% got in and to my utter shock, I’m one of them! You may have heard me shouting it from the rooftops. I received an early copy of the book and it’s such a refreshing mix of down-to-earth comedy & heavenly encouragement. I was greatly relieved when I actually liked it. It’d stink to promote a book if it was no good. #bless

11062554_10205996882788713_8839148486045733658_nThis Launch Team has its own Facebook Group, of which Jen actually gets involved in the conversations that range from religion & parenting to crotchless yoga pants. (oh Lord, don’t google it! CYP are simply maxi skirts. Seriously don’t google it. Trust me. I may have had one of those ‘thoughts-popped-into-my-head’ moments that ended in horror & the need for a shower.)

*Jen has casually invited all 500 of us to her Texas farmhouse for a Launch Party. Also she’s nuts. But this means we’re BFFs now. What else do BFFs do besides get together to giggle & wear matching clothes? So that’s what we’re gonna do. Our T-shirts, designed by my amazing SIL, Melissa will be arriving in the mail in a few weeks! {Insert giddy girl scream!}

*We’ve also been given the chance to enter an endorsement for the book. I have it on good authority that mine has been chosen and will be IN the book!!! I can’t tell you what I said and it’s CRUSHING ME!!!! AHHHHHGGGGG!!!!

~~~~~

Okay, so I shared that story because God has indeed expanded my territory and given me a bit of a new sphere to experience His grace through, of which I’m learning so much! Though I’m not allowed to share content yet, the book, For The Love is all about fighting for grace in a world of impossible standards.

Right up my alley, because like Jabez, I’ve never quite measured up to what I thought I needed to. I’ve always been so hard on myself. Thank God, because of His grace, I don’t have to! I can keep right on being me – my accidentally-drunk, sometimes flighty, run-on-writing self. God is so good like that. He takes our labels, our mess & turns it into a beautiful grace-filled path, if we’ll trust Him enough to just keep walking.

Today I encourage you to pray audacious prayers, like Jabez – that seem beyond what you could fathom.  You just never know what path they may lead you on & who will be encouraged by your journey! #ForTheLove

Shine On!

Danielle

*Read these paragraphs using your best Valley-Girl voice! Seriously, it’s like TOTs better! Also GO BUY THE BOOK!!, it’s like TOTs better than this blog!

 

 

The Pickle of Authenticity

February 23, 2015 — 5 Comments

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 10.25.30 PMRecently, someone said to me, ‘I dunno Danielle, you might not wanna share all that.’ Which obviously led to my next thought, “I should TOTALLY share all this!”

See, I have a gift. A. Very. Special. Gift. Actually, I see it as raw vulnerability & authenticity.

That I can’t seem to control.

Even when I want to…

See, while I don’t do small talk, and I thrive on seeing others live out their potential… Sometimes being REAL with my passionate gifts well um, leads me astray from what may be considered… common sense.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 10.37.30 PMSometimes this ‘gift’ serves me really well. Orphaned kids around the world need a safe haven, education & an opportunity to hear about Jesus? How can I help? It’ll cost around $35K? Oh okay, no problem! My friends & our online connect community through Children’s HopeChest are simply THE MOST generous people in the world. $35K In six weeks? Cool! God can do that!!! (and HE did!)

But this gift of authenticity & vulnerability has also gotten me in more than a few pickles over the years. Don’t believe me?

maybe I shouldn’t tell you about the time…

… I went to Red Lobster with some girlfriends. I really wanted to order shrimp cocktail, but having never had alcohol, I just had to make sure. “I would like shrimp cocktail, please, virgin shrimp cocktail.”

Yes. I did.

I remember actually being proud of myself for a split second. I mean, hey I didn’t have to say nonalcoholic – I was totally cool because I knew to say ‘virgin’. My girlfriends were so kind, they stopped giggling about an hour later.

and maybe I shouldn’t tell you about…

… my mom’s favorite story to tell over and over. and over again… (well it’s a close 2nd to me being born 11.1lbs). When I moved from home at 18 for college, I did not know how to boil water. And I proved it by calling her to ask, ‘Soooo how do I know when the water is boiling? I wanna make mac & cheese.” I’ll never live that one down, will I, Mom?

Yes, I lived a very sheltered childhood existence in the backwoods of Kentucky.

Oh dear, I wish I could say I’ve matured. But this gift, y’all, it just keeps on giving!!!

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 10.24.00 PMAbout 6 months ago, while shopping at Sam’s Club, I went for the eggs at the same time as a fellow shopper did. Unfortunately, there were only a few cartons left to choose from. It wasn’t until he said, “No, you go ahead.” that I noticed his um, ruggedly handsome good looks. I’ll refer to him as SAL (Scruffy Adam Levine). It was that moment that I turned into a 14 year old girl, flipped my hair and subconsciously decided to be charming, “Well thanks! Looks like all the chickens went on strike, right? hehehehehehe”

#facepalm

He flashed his brighty-whiteys and said ‘Yep!’
Swoon…
you know, in a non-adulterous way, cuz I love my hot hubby. See picture below.

I turned around, put my eggs in the cart & we departed ways. I honestly thought I was so clever. I mean I love talking to strangers! Can I help it that the guy in the egg aisle is a cutie-patootie? I don’t discriminate; even if SAL was kinda/sorta/alotta handsome. I had merely been friendly. I can’t help it. I’m Southern.

I pushed the cart into the next aisle, looking waaaaaay too happy to be shopping, I’m sure. I was shocked when 90 seconds later that same guy started to walk up to me. Gulp, I wonder what he wants. Uh-oh, he’s a creeper. Oh no! A creeper! I’m such a dork. Why oh why did I have to be so charming!?!?

As my heart began to race, SAL got a little too close & quietly spoke surely to save me from impending embarrassment,

“Um, excuse me, but that’s my cart you’re pushing.”

For real. I subconsciously stole his cart.

Yes, I did.

While all the blood drained from my face… all I could muster was a jumble of words that included “this is one of the most embarrassing moments of my life… I’m sorry…” and something else I don’t even remember but I’m sure was very eloquently stated.

I grabbed my eggs out of his cart as quick as I could. Sure enough, my walk of shame led me to the end of the last aisle where my beast of a cart sat smiling, just waiting to humiliate me. I had left my cart at the end of the last aisle, like I always do when I have to grab something quick… I mean, Sam’s Club. Those carts are Beasts when they are full! I just wish I had remembered it before I decided to be so Southern.

Screen Shot 2015-02-23 at 10.38.15 PMWhen I told my husband this story (doesn’t matter that it was a few weeks later), he shook his head, not even shocked that it happened because well he’s grown used to me embarrassing myself in front of random strangers… and his family… and the internet.

Yep. I’ve got a real gift, people. My gift of authenticity & vulnerability has followed me all the days of my life… even to the point of being accidentally drunk (hey, it was the Chinese guy’s fault). But alas, I believe I’ve shared enough of my gift with you today. 🙂

What are your gifts? Have they ever gotten you into a REAL pickle? Do they reveal both the best of you & well, the not-so-best? There should be no shame, for these are the gifts that make you unique.

Whoever you are, BE FULLY YOU! No one else can do it like you. Recognize your gifts, learn to love your quirks & embrace your vulnerabilities. In other words, celebrate the glorious creature that you are and…

Shine On!

Building Hope

July 11, 2014 — 1 Comment

Have you ever seen hope? I’m going to show it to you…. but first I have a huge announcement that has been years in the making!

One of our main goals in partnering with the Bheveni Community in Swaziland, through Children’s HopeChest, is to only take actions that will benefit the children & community long term. We prayerfully look for opportunities (such as health, education, discipleship, etc.) that will empower & create self-sustainability. Soooo….

We are Building: Bheveni Together! God has moved on the heart of a donor to pledge $25,000 to provide a Multi-Purpose Building at Bheveni! Hallelujah! The completed project cost is $30,000 —> we are SOOOO close! Once the project is 100% FULLY funded, we can begin construction.

The community around the carepoint is excited – they have enthusiastically agreed to help do the ‘grunt’ work! Which is wonderful, because this will be their building that will be used in many ways – preschool, library, grief counseling classes, lifeskills training classes, health classes for the teenagers, and perhaps at some point church & further schooling for the older kids. Once the building is complete, we believe there is a way to get electricity to it and only cost about $2,000 more! THIS WOULD BE A HUGE, HUGE Blessing!!!

If you’d like to be a part of ‘Building: Bheveni Together’ let us know! We can hardly wait til this project is fully funded so construction can begin! In fact, here’s a link to give: Building: Bheveni Together. At the link you’ll need to include this info:

Designated/One TIme Gift: {Enter your donation amount}

Reference Number: SZ3006000

Notes Field: Building

Please let me know if you gave, as I do not personally have access to the individual donations. The picture is an example of a similar structure that would be built on the Bheveni property. It is much, much larger that what we have now!

BuildingExample3pics

 

I said I would show you what hope looks like… Next week we are hand-delivering these letters & pictures (and more!) to the children of Bheveni Carepoint in Swaziland, Africa.

These letters & pictures are why I posted this:

Screen Shot 2014-07-11 at 12.37.09 PM

 

Really though, get your tissue ready because these are precious.

The 7, almost 8 year old Bella made an incredible self-portrait! Her eyes & smiles are REALLY that big! Thanks Bella!

The 7, almost 8 year old Bella made an incredible self-portrait! Her eyes & smiles are REALLY that big! Thanks Bella!

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A Minnesota day care full of happy kids decided to share the JOY with kids in Swaziland! Thanks guys!

Loving the bright colors!

Loving the bright colors!

Can you say WOW?!? These kids have raw talent!

Can you say WOW?!? These kids have raw talent!

The Lollas were so thoughtful to make Banele his own bookmark!

The Lollas were so thoughtful to make Banele his own bookmark!

This goes down as one of my favorite sponsor letters ever! Thanks Isaac!

This goes down as one of my favorite sponsor letters ever! Thanks Isaac!

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Ciniso is going to love this tiger and acrostic sign! He will feel so special!!!

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A dragonfly, a cliff, sunshine & a rocket… its the stuff boys dreams are made of!

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This is the kind of care package that will make any one feel loved by this family! I mean, who can resist a polar bear & a puppy!

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I hope you take time to read this letter. The lost art of actual letter writing… perhaps it will inspire you to write a letter to someone special!

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The 2nd paragraph has tear stains on it, sorry! *sniff sniff*

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If Meluleki ever thought he was alone or unloved… there’s no way he can now.

Now see, these letters aren’t even written to you, these pictures aren’t even drawn for you, but don’t you feel like you just received a ginormous hug from a long-lost friend? Doesn’t it restore your faith in humanity? Doesn’t it inspire you to go create hope in someone’s life?

Shine On! (and go write a letter!)

Danielle

ps. Here’s that link again to invest in Building: Bheveni Together.

At the link you’ll need to include this info:

Designated/One TIme Gift: {Enter your donation amount}

Reference Number: SZ3006000

Notes Field: Building