Friday, April 24, 2015

Mother's Day ethical gift guide

It has been 2 years since the garment factory collapse in Bangladesh raised our consciousness about the price of cheap fashion.  I remember being heartbroken for the devastated families in Bangladesh just trying to make a living who do not have the same assurance of safety and fairness that we take for granted in our country. We can argue about equal pay or racial injustice to be sure, but I don't think there's any argument that what happens to women and ethnic minorities in third-world countries is far more dire.

For the last several years I've requested gifts from the companies I've listed below.  Why? I don't know about you, but I don't need more "stuff". I want my purchases to make a difference. I want my consumer habits to help others, rather than take advantage of them. And for Mother's Day especially, I'd like to know that my purchased helped another woman/mother somewhere out there. 

Here's a round up of some of my favorite places to shop and some gift ideas for your favorite mom:

Gifts from companies that give women financial stability and dignity through work:

The Root Collective
Better Life Bags
The Shine Project
Thistle Farms
Mata Traders
The Giving Keys 
Work of Worth 

Note: I own items from Noonday, The Root Collective, Better Life Bags, The Giving Keys, and Sseko and can personally vouch for their unique beauty and quality.  You will not be disappointed in your purchase.

Gifts from companies owned and operated by women/moms:

Nickel and Suede
Barn Owl Primitives
Mommy Mailbox
Ava Anderson Non-Toxic 

Books by women authors (just a few of my favorites):

Pioneer Woman (Ree Drummond)
Brene Brown
Glennon Melton
Amber Dusik
Shauna Niequist
Rachel Held Evans
Jen Hatmaker
Bunmi Laditan
Lisa Jo Baker

Too many choices? How about a subscription to a service like Blue Apron or a local CSA box?

What companies would you add to this list?  Comment below!

Happy shopping, and Happy Mother's Day!

Monday, April 20, 2015

Know better, do better.

Image by Whimsy+Wild.

Above is one of my most favorite quotes from one of my most favorite writers, Maya Angelou. It so beautifully encapsulates my parenting style--to do the best I can until I find a better way. 

This philosophy can also apply to us as we learn to better care for our Earth. I've compiled a list of links, articles, and simple ways you and your family can help make Earth Day every day and better care for our shared land, air, and water. 

The 4 areas of interest I'm writing about--sustainable food & land use, water preservation, energy & climate change, and advocacy--are the 4 program areas of Faith in Place

Sustainable food & land use:

Know better: Did you know that for every burger you skip you can save enough water to shower for 2.5 months?  Or if the world reduced meat consumption 15%, it would have the same greenhouse gas reduction as taking 240 million cars off the road each year? It takes A LOT of water to feed and raise livestock. 

Do better: Go meatless at least one meal a week. Meatless meals decrease water usage and greenhouse gasses. Buy local, in-season produce when possible. But don't try to trick anyone: mashed cauliflower is good, but it does not taste, look, or feel like mashed potatoes. Instead, explain why you're trying a meatless recipe. Get the kids involved in selecting and preparing meatless meals.Take a trip to your local farmers market, let your child(ren) choose something that he/she would like to try, then look for recipes.  

I've done this with my own children during summer break. Some recipes were great, some were flops. But we've always had fun and learned something new in the process. 

Water preservation:

Know better: The UN expects 3.4 billion people will be living in countries defined as water-scarce by 2025. When water is scarce, people are forced to consume contaminated water. Fighting can break out in areas of scarcity, putting women and children at risk of violence. I encourage you to read the UN's full report on water here

Do better: Like cold drinking water? Instead of running the tap until the water is cold enough, keep a water pitcher in your fridge. Don't want to shorten shower time? Get a high efficiency shower head. Don't let rain water go to waste! Build a rain barrel.

Energy & climate change:

Know better: My area of work for Faith in Place is energy use. I educate consumers about the smart grid and the new smart meters being deployed by Ameren across Illinois, and how this new technology can help energy users have better control of their energy bill and consumption. 
Here are a few sites to explore:

Do better: Become an educated consumer! There are many ways to decrease our energy consumption and our energy costs. Use the links above, or invite me to come to your place of worship or group to give a presentation about smart energy use. 


Know better: Did you know the clean energy industry in Illinois added its 100,000th worker in 2014? The clean energy industry is growing.  But it's survival and growth depends on support from you!

Do better: Advocate for clean energy jobs. Or attend an Earth Day rally.

Happy Earth Day!  

If if you have any questions, please contact me at!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Searching for Sunday

I ask a lot of questions. It's in my nature to be skeptical, I guess.  There's very little that I accept at face value--and my faith is no exception. It's one of the things I usually put in the "negative" column when listing my Christian or pastor's wife or parenting character traits.

But not any more.

I've occasionally doubted the very existence of God, even though I really haven't ever endured any hardship that might make me feel that God isn't present in my life. I grew up going to church and would consider myself and my family "all-in" when it comes to following Jesus. But still, I know I'm not alone in my occasional doubt.

In her new book, Searching for Sunday: Loving, Leaving, and Finding the Church which is being released today, Rachel Held Evans (I KNOW HER) addresses fear, doubt, and unbelief because she's been there. Raised in an evangelical church, she thought she had all the answers. She memorized and catalogued scripture and used it to correct and instruct her friends and classmates. She attended youth groups and retreats. But as she grew up and began to sort out her future, she was reminded that even though she clearly possessed gifts to preach and teach, women weren't meant to be preachers because the bible says so. 

That didn't sit right with her.  It raised questions--questions not easily answered by her pastor, peers, or parents. Her questions led to doubts. Her doubts led her to search for answers, and as a writer, she bravely shared her struggles in her blog, which I started following several years ago. 

Evans writes about her search for a faith community where she felt she belonged. What she (and her husband, Dan) were searching for was authenticity. And this authenticity can be found in the sacraments: baptism, confession, holy orders, communion, confirmation, anointing of the sick, and marriage. These are the ancient mysteries that founded, grew, and sustained Christianity, and they are still what brings us into community today through our varied traditions and denominations.

Evans' book is organized around these sacraments. Each chapter is a series of vignettes around themes like water, bread and wine, confession, breath, and healing. This is a book for those who are perhaps fearful of the church, those who may have be hurt by the church, and those who unashamedly and wholeheartedly love the church. This book helps stretch us to think about how everyone might be included--sinners, saints, doubters, faithful, young, old, gay, and straight.

A passage that particularly resonated with me was when Evans mirrors Barbara Brown Taylor's "spiritual practice of wearing skin", whereby you (literally or  figuratively) strip yourself bare, gaze in the mirror, accept yourself simply as you are, and stand in awe and gratitude at your fearful and wonderful creation. Evans turns this same practice on the church:

"This is the church. Here she is. Lovely, irregular, sometimes sick and sometimes well. This is the body-like-no-other that God has shaped and places in the world. Jesus lives here; this is his soul's address. There is a lot to be thankful for, all things considered. She has taken a beating, the church. Every day she meets the gates of hell and she prevails. Every day she serves, stumbles, injures, and repairs. That she has healed is an underrated miracle. That she gives birth is beyond reckoning. Maybe it's time to make peace with her. Maybe it's time to embrace her, flawed as she is."

If you, too, are Searching for Sunday, or are asking hard questions, I encourage you to read this book. You are not alone. 

Searching for Sunday would make an outstanding small group study. If you're in the Neoga, IL area and want to read and discuss the book, I'd love to put a discussion group together!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Glow in the Dark

My Mothers of Preschoolers (MOPS) group held a glow in the dark Easter egg hunt this evening. I gave a small lesson before sending the kids off with their buckets and flashlights to grab eggs and glow bracelets. We had a better than expected turnout. It was a really awesome evening.

But back to my lesson. I had originally asked my husband (THE PASTOR) to do it. After some back and forth, it was decided that I would give the lesson. After 10 years of classroom teaching and still more of Sunday school, I didn't think it would be that big of a deal. How hard could it be to speak to a bunch of kids about Jesus, right?

As the families filed into the sanctuary, my palms got damp and I kept nervously touching my hair. It seemed like half the town was there! I didn't want to back out, but I did want to do my best. As I gathered the kids around me, I launched into my message, adjusting a bit here and there to match interest level and attention span.  

Here is what I had prepared to say:

Who is afraid of the dark?

It's ok to be afraid of the dark.  The dark is scary. But what comes after night?

So even when we're scared, we won't be scared forever, we know that things are going to be OK, eventually.

The Easter story is kinda like that.

On Good Friday, Jesus died. His friends pretended not to know him. 

Some people, who one week ago, on Palm Sunday, were shouting with joy at his arrival in town, were suddenly calling for him to die. Some people were scared and confused about what was happening around them. Jesus died in a scary and shameful and painful way.   

So if Good Friday makes us sad, why do Christian's call it "good".  

Because after three days of dark and sadness and shame and fear, there was light, and hope, and joy again when Jesus rose from the dead. 

His friends, who had felt so sad that they hadn't been able to save Jesus, their friend, were amazed that he was risen. The women, who were first to see that Jesus wasn't in the tomb, were overjoyed. And they all didn't feel so sad and ashamed and fearful anymore.

They felt God's love instead, experienced through Jesus. 

So why are we doing a glow in the dark Easter egg hunt?  

The lights among the setting sun outside remind us that Jesus is the light, so we don't need to be afraid. You can keep the glow bracelets that you find to remind you that Jesus is the light. I bet they'll glow until you fall asleep, so you don't need to be afraid of the dark tonight.  But by morning we will celebrate Jesus' rising from the dead on Easter Sunday. 

(Invite everyone to tomorrow's services and MOPS meeting.)

Now, I'm pretty sure that all those things didn't come out of my mouth. I think I may have even forgotten to introduce myself. But no matter what, I know my message was heard. And most of the kids knew all about Easter, which is awesome! 

My favorite part about the lesson is how Jesus is our light. Light drives out fear, and doubt, and despair, and shame. And if some glow in the dark bracelets from the dollar store can help illustrate that point for our children, then I'll start stocking up for next year.

Maybe it wasn't my words tonight that touched someone (it probably wasn't), but the welcome of our congregation. I really felt like something special happened tonight. 

And something even more special will happen in the morning. Light wins. Love wins. 
Happy Easter, everyone.