NOBODY WEARS SHOES IN AFRICA?

There is an old story, that at the end of the nineteenth century, just as colonial Africa was opening up to westerners, all the manufacturers of shoes in Victorian England sent their representatives to Africa to see if there was an opportunity there for their wares. All the reps came back with the same report: ‘There is no market here for us. Nobody in Africa wears shoes.’

All, that is, except for the Bata Shoe Company rep. He reported back something else: ‘There’s a huge opportunity here! Nobody in Africa wears shoes.’ To this day Bata appears all over Africa, even in the remotest of spots. Bata’s shoes are known as the shoes of Africa.

I tell this story not to make a point about economics or marketing, but because in it three images come together at the same time that orbit around me very closely as our trip to Uganda is on the horizon: (1) the need for us to flip our perspective, (2) an opportunity to provide for people without, and (3) ... shoes.

First, a flip of perspective. Most of us drift through the world seeing and experiencing it on one level. We see people without shoes and say "Hmmm, that's just the way it is," and we go about life. I am like that, but once in a while by God's grace I see behind something. I stop and feel something else, like that Bata rep, that flips my perspective. Our trip to Uganda with my three girls in two weeks is already doing that. There are people in the world that aren't supposed to just be turned around on, but loved, and helped and seen.

Second, an opportunity to provide. The African people in the story didn't have something they desperately needed, and the Bata rep saw an opportunity to provide it. Now, for them it was about money, and market-share and all that, but I am using it as an image for something else as I ponder it: me and my girls, and our fellow travellers, Sylvia and Linda have an opportunity to provide for those without when we leave in two weeks, and we aren't going to pass it up. What is the opportunity that we're presented with?

The third, and final image the story gives fills in the picture, and brings me to my point: shoes. Part of the trip we are going on has us working in an amazing school in Kibaale, Uganda with 1200 students, most of whom have one massive, tangible, and totally solvable need that we are going to try to meet: they don't own shoes or their shoes are worn out. Some of these kids walk one to two hours a day to and from school, not to mention the wear and tear of their work lives, etc., So, we are going to bless them with shoes. Boat loads of shoes. For all of them! The numbers break down like this:

 

•    1200 students

•    $25.00 = 2 pair of shoes for each child (indoor and outdoor)

•    $750 = a full classroom of 30 children

 

So, the total goal is $30,000 overall, which is not much at all when you realize it is serving and changing the lives of 1200 children! 1200 kids just like yours and mine. The girls and I, and our team, have been presented with this unique challenge and we want to do our best to meet it head on. You can give here: https://www.canadahelps.org/dn/29826

No guilt if you can't help, but do what you can, and if you do, let me know, as the girls and I we will sizing up the kids feet, and handing them their new kicks personally! Get your kids involved, we can take pictures to show them the personal impact their money can make.

So fun, and humbling, to bless and serve others in the name of Jesus,

Sincerely,

 

 

A Heart for Missions

Ever since I was a child I have dreamed of going on a missions trip to Africa. I even tried to convince Mark to move there for a year after Sienna was born. The timing just never worked out and I assumed it would be on pause until after the kids were grown.

We have always tried to instill a heart for missions in our home. We sponsor many children in India and Africa, and read novels about missionaries and others cultures, but I never allowed my mind to think that we could do missions with our young girls.

This fall I read the book, Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World. I was convicted, I realized that I had compartmentalized missions in my life. I was willing to put my money and time towards missions and encourage my kids to be missional, but was hesitant to take my girls; 10, 8 & 5 on a missions trip. I gave that portion of my heart to God and asked him to open up an opportunity if it was His will.  At that time we began Step Into My Shoes and our hearts grew for the people of Uganda.

Less than a week later I received an invitation. Our friend's daughter lives and works at the school in Kibaale alongside Jeff and Shannon Dyck through Pacific Academy Outreach Society. Sylvia was planning a trip this February to visit her daughter and serve at the mission and was led to invite me and my girls to join her. My prayer could not have been more clearly answered. I said yes immediately without thinking any variables through. How would we pay for such a trip? How would Mark react to me taking our girls to a third-world country without him? In my mind it was so clear that this was God's calling on our lives that I knew it would work out.

Jeff, Mazzy, Shannon, Avin, Joel, Finn & Gabriella

Jeff, Mazzy, Shannon, Avin, Joel, Finn & Gabriella

When I first brought it to Mark he asked logical questions that needed answers and I kept responding, "I don't know. I just know God wants us to go". He fully supported this calling but was tentative.  The next day we had a prayer and pizza night with our girls. We brought up the opportunity that presented itself and each took turns praying over the possibility. We prayed that God would make it abundantly clear and that we would be able to save the money needed for the trip. I asked each girl how we could raise the money needed. They selflessly decided to put their grandparents' Christmas money toward the trip and start a babysitting business to earn the money.  That night will go down as one of the most special nights of my "parenting career".  This was a personal family time only shared between us and God; no one knew of this opportunity yet. Later that evening I received a message that a major portion of our trip had been donated. What?!? I began weeping; it was so beautiful to be able to tell my girls that their prayers had been answered. What an example to my girls about faith and what God can do.

Sometimes I will wake up in the night in fear of this adventure. I let the chatter around me influence my heart. I think, 'Am I crazy? I should cancel.' And then I remember how God has orchestrated this trip from the start and I give it over to Him again and God gives me peace. There are so many unknowns but I am trusting that God will lead. Rachel at Pacific Academy Outreach Society has been amazing to work with and has taken care of all the details around booking flights and visas.

Shannon and Jeff have made a life in Kibaale with their four children and as I follow their blog, I don't see the fear or danger that we as westerners often equate with foreign countries. Instead, I see joy and teamwork that my girls and I can learn and glean from as we serve the people of Uganda. My goals for this trip are that we will be a light to the people we come in contact with, an encouragement to the missionary families that serve in Kibaale, and -even more- that a seed will be planted in my girls' hearts of gratefulness and justice that will never cease.

The girls and I will have the opportunity to help in the preschool and kindergarten classes, the Awana program, delivering special gifts like food, goats, water, etc to families. Together, we will lead devotions for the students, mud a new home for a student in the school and I may speak to the high school girls. Many opportunities to serve and show God's love.

Kibaale is in a famine right now, as there was no rain between May and October. Because of this, the community is in great need. If you would like to help with the famine relief, a $30 donation is a huge help to a hungry family, giving them food to last a month.

I know with all the Christmas festivities, budgets are tight; trust me, I feel it too. But this is more than getting the newest gadget or flocking the tree: the people of Kibaale need food to live. So as you think through your last minute gifts, why not add one more: the gift of maize flour for a family in need. Here is a link to donate today.

Please pray for us as we prepare for our African Adventure,

Lights, Camera, Action

Sienna and I had a blast shooting this commercial trailer at the Tsawwassen Mills Mall. Thank you 3DWD and Video for Commerce for this fun opportunity. It's been years since I've done a commercial and was extra special to do it with this beauty.

Our Classroom

I have never been a person who works well in chaos. I knew that if I was going to be able to home school well I would need to organize my home in a way that our classroom could be separate from our living space. With the help of IKEA I transformed my office into a classroom. Here is how I've set up our space to make it both pretty and practical.

I wanted a glass door for the classroom to create an open space and to give the girls a feel that I am present even if I'm folding laundry, cooking or whatever. What I didn't consider is glass doors are not cheap and need to be specially ordered.  Solution: I removed my glass pantry door and replaced it with the door that used to be for this room. I love that I can close the door so the girls can focus but still have full sight from our living space.

I spray painted a cork board gold and hung it just outside the classroom so the girls can showcase their work.

I got these desks at IKEA during the 15% back to school event. The drawers are essential for organization. They each have a drawer for each subject to hold textbooks and unfinished assignments. I purchased the chairs for $12 and spray-painted them gold to match the decals.

A couple more IKEA pieces: The bookshelf was a steal for $30.00 and matches the room perfectly. The utility cart holds art supplies for easy access and can easily be moved from the classroom to the kitchen where we do art and science.

This storage unit has the addition of a filing cabinet. It holds our calendar cards, classroom supplies and folders for each subject. I will touch on the colored bins in a future post.

I moved my office to a nook outside the classroom. I can easily work at my desk while still checking on the girls.

At first, I wasn't sure where I was going to put my office, but I'm really happy with how lovely this space turned out. Not only can I keep an eye on the girls in the classroom but it has full sight of our front yard so the girls can roller blade while I prep for our next subject.

                                                      Excited for the days ahead,

First Day of School Remixed

First day of school! The hustle and bustle to get a healthy breakfast served & lunches made, waking up kids who, all summer were up at the crack of dawn but now that school has resumed are un-wakeable.

Find every child's lost uniform piece, even though I reminded them the night before to lay everything out. Somewhere in there, I shower and make myself presentable to begin the day. Rush out the door by 8:10 at the latest, which always ends up being 8:16, guaranteeing the walk of shame to the office to get a late slip.

Walk my younger girls to their classrooms where one of them chooses to be clingy and needs to be physically removed from my being. Head outside to chat with my mom friends until 9:30am. Drive the 15 minutes home, clean up from the morning chaos. How is it possible that my house looks like a bomb went off in the 30 minutes between my family finally waking and walking out the door for school? Oh no, totally forgot I was supposed to be volunteering in one of my 3 girls classes. I leave my kitchen half clean and race back to school apologizing for my tardiness.

Leave the school after reading with 25 kids (the cuddle with my little one made it worth it) to get to my lunch meeting, 15 minutes late, apologizing for my tardiness (notice the trend). Receive a call from Mark asking if we can have a new family for dinner. Sure, no problem. Race to the grocery store to grab a few items; why don't they have what I need, run to a different grocery store. Text my friend apologizing and asking if she can wait with my younger daughters at school as I'm running behind. Finally, arrive at the school, exhausted, don't want to get out of the car.  Need to recharge.

Not now, I hug my girls and talk to the moms at school. My oldest is now out of class, but I continue to talk, girls continue to play. A mom has an appointment and needs help with her kids, I offer to take them home with me. Somehow, I end up with 10 kids at home with me. I love it! I wouldn't have offered if I didn't.

We get home at 4:30pm to the unfinished kitchen, people coming to dinner in an hour. I scramble around, cleaning, cooking, trying to make my home presentable for a new family all the while 10 kids are running back and forth. By the time people leave, my house is back the way it started, a disaster, past bedtime, kids remember they have homework and one of them needs to have a heartfelt talk with me. I give all I have left, and I leave her room exhausted. Can't slow down because there is a field trip tomorrow and bible study, and I'm double booked.

And the cycle continued. Day after day after day.

I realized that I needed to make a change. I was exhausted. I started to pray and seek what I could give up to simplify our life a little. God made it very clear that I am to continue to open up my home, spend time with women studying the Bible each week, and pouring into my girls lives - teaching them about God, friendship, character, womanhood, etc. We have been so blessed by our school, my girls loved their teachers, we all had great friends, but I felt God telling me that we needed to pull back from a school setting to simplify. I am trained in Early Childhood Education and have the ability, creativity and patience to teach my girls, but battled with God. What would people think? What will people say? Will I hurt the school's feelings? Will we lose friends?

I was listening to Julie Richard from Fearless Moms and she said something that God used to speak to my heart. She said, "The chatter doesn't matter. The vision makes the decision." I realized, our family's vision to care for our community, to share Christ's love and truth to those we meet, to raise my girls to love God, his church & his ways could be met in a more powerful way if I slowed down the running around and homeschooled. The chatter of the world's norm or our peers opinions don't matter if homeschooling fits our vision.

We spent a week at a family camp this summer. With this calling in my mind, I was encouraged to spend time with a couple friends that I only see during this one week each summer. Seeing these beautiful women who's girls are now teens fulfill the call of schooling in their home were a timely example of obedience and grace.

At this point I still had only shared my thoughts with my best friend as we drove home from an evening out. I felt I was at a crossroads but didn't want to disrupt our family if it was my desire and not God's.  I came home and committed to fast and pray until God spoke to me. That Sunday morning I sat in church and listened to Mark share about how we can't negotiate with God. If God asks you do something you can't say, "Well, I won't do that, but what about this instead?"

 In that moment, again I felt God's nudging, that I am that person. He's making it clear, and I'm giving him alternatives. I knew that God was calling me to homeschool my girls. I went to Mark that afternoon, assuming he would bring me to my senses and tell me I'm crazy. Instead, he confirmed that it would be best for our family. Later that day, we mentioned it to our girls explaining my process of prayer and seeking the Lord on it.  Our girls, who love their school, unanimously agreed. That's when I began to panic: now I would have to actually act on it.  

"The chatter doesn't matter," even when it's my own! ... "the vision makes the decision."

First Day of School Today! It was exactly how I envisioned it, peaceful, life giving for both my girls and myself and feeling energized for the days ahead.  I have worked tirelessly to make this year of learning a success. I will post about how homeschooling looks for our family - our curriculum, our classroom and everything in between in the coming days/weeks.

Do I think homeschooling is for everyone? No. What I've realized as I'm getting older is that everyone's capacity is different. I was exhausted by taking on too much but was not willing to miss a field trip or an opportunity to volunteer at the school, not because I wanted to please the school or the teachers but because I wanted to be with my girls. I wanted them to know that amidst the busyness of ministry life, speaking engagements, meetings, travel, and everything else our life consists of in this season, that they are my priority.

And before God I want to know that I used my God-given gifts to serve Jesus, his church and my family well. So here goes.

Prayers appreciated!!

The girls were excited to shop for back to school clothes that weren't uniforms:)

The girls were excited to shop for back to school clothes that weren't uniforms:)

 

 

High 5 for the Give Jar

Since beginning our weekly allowance I’ve been trying to find a practical way for the girls to donate their give jar money.  (Check out "Teaching My Kids How to Spend, Save, Give" to read about how we do allowance in our home.)  I want the act of giving to be a consistent practice so I’ve been struggling as 10% of what they receive each week is so minimal and will take a long time to accumulate into a useful amount. 

A couple weeks ago I had the privilege of sharing the evening with a beautiful woman Bettina who has spent decades travelling the world helping the poor and oppressed. She shared with me her vision for providing young people to give from what they have. It began with a five dollar bill. This is Bettina’s story:

I believe the Lord prepares our hearts long before He reveals His plans for us. As a director of an International feeding program for impoverished children for over a decade, I have seen first hand the difference a gift – even the smallest gift – can make.

High5Give5 began with a five dollar gift. A colleague’s (rather entrepreneurial) 7 year old son went out and sold some of his toys door to door. After making an impressive 17 dollars, he said he didn’t feel right about keeping all the money for himself. Without hesitation, he decided to give me 5 dollars (along with the sweetest hand-written note) to help feed the “poor kids.” I was so touched by his pure heart and simple faith – Like the young boy in the gospels who gave Jesus his three fish and five loaves of bread – a simple offering which Jesus multiplied and fed over five thousand people!

I started sharing this story with friends, and it wasn’t long before another child – this time a little girl – sent me another 5 dollars writing: “Take a chance on 5 and see how much more arrives”
With that simple challenge of faith, our mission came into clear focus. Soon, more people (from New York to Kosovo) were giving me more five dollars, because they too wanted to help the poor.

It is a common belief that this “selfie” generation has become so self absorbed that they are numb to human empathy and caring about the needs of others. But I believe that when given the chance and the right tools – young people can be a powerful force for Christ’s selfless love and healing. 

The world’s problems are complex, and the needs of the morbidly poor are endless. But at High5Give5, we take to heart the Lord’s words: “Do not despise these small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” (Zech 4:10a)

Join us in our mission to help those in need; and to raise up a new generation of young people who are ready, willing, and able to extend a hand – a “High 5” to love!

As Bettina shared with me her vision it became clear that this is how my girls can give the money from their give jar.  Every time they get to $5.00, I will walk them through the steps to give $5 at High5Give5, then I will remove the money from their give jar and put it back in the family “bank”. I love that I can take them to the High5Give5 website and they can see how their money is helping children and families all over the world through Bettina's blog updates. I hope to build into them a joy for giving and as they grow and make more money that they always make giving a priority.

Make Every Moment of Chaos Count

As I sit and write I am filled with anticipation, fear and uncertainty.  When you hear the reason you may think I'm being a tad dramatic but it is my reality.  I was just confronted with the realization that my girls start school next week. Most moms I know are doing the happy dance, cheering with a joyful anticipation. I sit here with dread and a heaviness.  I'm starting to process our summer of vacation and fun and questioning if I've used our summer wisely. I have the uniforms and shoes in order, backpacks and lunch kits ready on their hooks, school supplies purchased. I have everything for back to school ready, except I wonder, have I done enough this summer to shape my daughter's characters so they are equipped for the year ahead. Beyond the school supplies, are they ready for the year ahead. I begin to cry as I feel I have failed them. I've sat this week listening to them bicker and run to me with every conflict. Instead of working through the fruit of the spirit with them, I yelled, sent them to their rooms and was frustrated over and over again, thinking, "I can't wait for school to start!!!"

But now I sit thinking of missed opportunities to teach my girls about love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness & self control.  They are about to go out into their school where they are going to be confronted with choices everyday; to yell at the boy who teases them or to have self control; to leave someone out of their group or show kindness. I'm not confident they have the tools to choose the latter.  Have I done enough to instil God's purpose and plan for them in their heart?

I was praying about this today and was reminded that school hasn't started yet. I still have 11 more days to pour into my girls, to teach them the character in which God calls them to without the distraction of peers and homework.  We still have 11 days to build in our family the habit of family devotions. Of not just praying together but teaching the girls how to pray. Of not just building their character but teaching them the meaning of character and why it's important to have good character.

There is an amazing book by Kara Durbin called Parenting with Scripture. It is a great resource to get started. It is a topical guide to equip you as a parent to instil God's principles into the everyday lives of our kids.  The book offers topics from A-Z and with each topic provides scripture, discussion questions, take action activities and a challenge or parenting tip. When one of my girls speaks harshly to her sister, my response is often, "Speak kindly". When they sass me, I say, "Be respectful". When my oldest complains about something I feel is entitled, I say, "have an attitude of gratitude".  All good things to teach them, but unless they understand what it means to be kind or respectful, the action is never going to get to their heart and stick.  I need to not only tell them the trait I want them to possess but I need to teach them what it means and how to posses that specific character trait.

My goal for my girls is that they love God, His church and His ways. I want them to think through and apply God's instructions for them and go to the Bible for answers. I can't accomplish this goal without toiling with them proactively, teaching them how to use God's Word as our guide.

This school season doesn't have to be looked at in dread of what I haven't done but to be encouraged of what I am doing and be hopeful of how God will work in my girls as they grow in their faith. Every day is a new opportunity to teach, guide and lead by example. I'm choosing today to make every moment of Chaos count.