I’m happy you’re here. I’ll go first: I’m a full-time journalist turned work-at-home writer. I’m hitched to a shaggy-haired pastor and we’re smitten with two wild + crazy boys: Joseph (4) and Asher (1). I drink strong coffee, I like pretty things, and I believe there’s beauty in the broken.
I hope this little space will encourage you to find worth and live a story worth sharing.
What is Many Sparrows?
This little corner of the Internet aims to encourage women, spurring them on to find worth and live a story worth sharing.
God tells us He cares about the little things — even down to a teeny, tiny sparrow. And if He cares about a little bird, how much more does He care about us — who are worth far more than many sparrows? Let’s dwell in the truth that He loves us with an arms-stretched-out kind love. Let’s rest easy, knowing we’re valued, loved, and worth more than we can even fathom.
I’m a person who’s blemished and blessed. All good things in my life flow from Jesus. My mission is to reflect his generous, grace-filled love with all my heart, soul, and mind. I’m passionate about shedding religious cliches and living an authentic, Kingdom life. Sometimes I get frustrated and often times I fail. I’m a work in progress.
Find Your Worth & Live a Story Worth Telling
My heart is to use this corner of the Internet to make much of Jesus. To use my words to reflect the creator of all things who gives extravagant grace, who radiates beauty and light in a very dark world.
I’m a mama of two little boys, and sometimes I just need a space to talk about things like shift dresses and wedge booties and dry shampoo. Let’s share our secrets, shall we?
Motherhood is messy. My hope is that my words + stories can be an encouragement to you in your parenting journey.
I’m not what you’d call a morning person.
A typical rise-and-shine routine for me looks something like this: I fall out of bed and manage to see a few fuzzy shapes on my way down as I fumble for my Coke-bottle glasses. I stumble past the mounting pile of laundry, narrowly avoiding waking up my four-year-old, who has snuck into our room and is drooling on my pillow, again. I avert my eyes from the mirror, because my morning hair is Marge Simpson meets Medusa. I open the door and it squeaks ever-s0-slightly, but I feel victorious, because I have escaped unscathed. I shuffle down the hall in a sleepy haze only to be enthusiastically followed by a now-wide-awake preschooler. Dumb door! I rub my eyes and trip face-first over a Lego while receiving orders for hot oatmeal and apple juice.
It’ll come as a surprise to approximately no one that sweet, glorious coffee helps this tired mama come out of her snoozy, stumbly state. I rarely get my morning quiet time in before the little people need to be watered and fed, but that sweet little spot in the morning comes after the kids are eating breakfast.
I’ve been sneaking in front of the tree, hot coffee in hand, with Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Advent devotional. Five minutes of peace? Joy to the world.
One of my favorite things about my coffee is that I can make it in less than a minute. Before we got our single serve machine, I’d make a pot and never have time to drink it all before it cooled off. (I once tried to microwave it and let me tell you, that was not a high point in my motherhood journey.)
I was approached by Cameron’s Coffee, a specialty coffee roasting company based out of the Twin Cities (Minneapolis/St. Paul, for all you non-Midwest dwellers!), to try their new single serve line. They’ve done some rebranding, and with it, have released a pretty impressive line of single-serve coffees. Instead of the typical plastic cups, they’re actually little pods with coffee filters.
There are 12 Single Serve Filtered Coffee flavors to choose from, but I stayed classic and chose to try the Kona premium roast.
I appreciate that it allows the machine to brew coffee through a filter, cutting down on plastic waste and that chemical taste (ew!) that sometimes happens with plastic cups. (And, these soft pods are BPA free and polystyrene free!)
Cameron’s Coffee is actually running a pretty fun campaign right now to spread the word about their line of single serve coffees (which are sold in packages of 12 for around $7.99, but I snagged some at a local grocery store for $5.99!).
Free coffee, free coffee!
The #crushthecup campaign: Make a super quick video on your phone “crushing” a plastic single-serve cup and upload it here. Each person who does it will get a free (yes, free!) box of Cameron’s Coffee, shipped to your door! Yes, please.
Here’s Joseph, who thoroughly enjoyed getting to crush a cup. (What four-year-old wouldn’t?)
Disclaimer: Cameron’s Coffee sponsored this post, but reviews and rambles are my own, of course!
Where am I going?
When I was staying in Nigeria, when it was just me and a chubby little one-year-old, waiting for a consulate to issue a visa so our family could be whole, I was scared. I was in an unfamiliar place with unfamiliar people and I wondered if I could do it. If I could really be brave. But as I wrapped Joseph’s soft and squishy toddler body onto my back, I felt it. I felt what it’s like to be woman who walks bravely. I laced up my shoes and I triple-locked the bullet-proof doors and set shaky feet on the red dirt road. I breathed in foreign air and started walking toward the consulate. I wasn’t scared any more. Because my son was a living reminder in hope and grace and love overflowing. He needed a mama to be brave for him and I needed him to find my bravery.
I knew where I was going.
I’ve been asking myself that Where am I going? question again lately. As I kiss my husband goodbye, as I pull covers over my sleeping toddler, as I hang up my preschooler’s backpack.
Where am I going?
Today is the last day of my 26th year. For some, probably silly reason, turning 27 makes me feel a little sad. I don’t know why. For all my life, I’ve wanted to be older. Wiser. More mature.
But now I’m inching my way toward 30 and I’m pretty sure that qualifies as an adult, but I’m not sure how to feel. I’m seeking strength that says I’m brave to be the woman God created me to be. That confidence that says we all have a part to play and I’ll be damned if I don’t play mine.
I’m stuck in this swirling symphony, and I’ve forgotten to play my part. I don’t even know which section I’m sitting in, let alone what instrument I’m supposed to be playing. I’m in the middle of the melody and I’m searching for the conductor.
There’s beauty in the chaos, though.
I have some goals for my 27th year. People I want to love. Things I want to do. Dreams I want to chase. Grace I want to live.
For years, I’ve watched women who shrink and women who grow. Women who retreat into themselves and women who step into the unknown.
I want to be the latter.
And I know I can be. I know that I can do hard things and I know that I can take risks because I serve a God who knit me together and promises to light the darkness. I don’t have to be afraid of others or scared to live a life that looks different because that’s exactly how it’s supposed to be.
In this advent season, I’m dwelling in the reminder that God came in the form of an infant. He entered into this world in the midst of dirty animals and hay bales. He left his perfect Kingdom to turn the kingdoms of the world upside down and inside out. He came to serve the poor and eat with the oppressed and heal the hurting and set the captives free. What kind of a King does this?
The kind of King who says, Be still and know that I am God. The kind of King who says, Behold, I am doing a new thing.
So in my 27th year, I want God to refine me. I want him to speak into my heart and I want to be so in-step with him that I can’t help but follow where he leads. I want to fight against temptation to find approval and affirmation in this world. I want to wrestle from worry and weakness and I want to be filled with the fruits of his Spirit — the fruits of a life lived whole.
On this last day of being 26, I stop to reflect.
I’m humbled and brought to my knees in gratitude that I get to walk through life with a husband and two little boys that provide me with belly laughs and bear hugs, every single day. I’m thankful for so much joy. For family formed in ways that only points to the power of the cross. I’m thankful that I get to be a woman in this time and place in history who gets to use her voice without the fear of oppression. I’m thankful that I have the privilege of standing with brothers and sisters in my country and throughout this big world of ours who see injustice every single day.
I’m thankful that life isn’t a fixed point, but a fluid journey that takes us places we never even knew existed.
I’m not the woman I was a year ago, and I hope, in a year from now, not to be the woman I am today.
27? Let’s do this thing.
Christmas shopping doesn’t have to be stressful! I’ve handpicked 9 beautiful items to highlight in this year’s give-back gift guide, and it’s a joy to share them with you!
From hand-poured candles to hammered art from Haiti to handmade ballet flats, these are gifts I’d love to see under the tree. They’d make thoughtful Christmas presents for the women in your life, too.
What we purchase directly affects others. Whether we impact others for better or for worse? That’s up to us. We say what matters with our wallets. When we’re intentional with our purchasing power, we contribute to dignity and respect for those in our little communities and in our big world. We take a stand for women and families, for the marginalized and the forgotten. When we’re intentional, we can influence lives for the better. It’s such a gift to give as an outpouring of gratitude and generosity, and when you purchase these items, you give twice — to the recipient, and to the heartbeat behind these social enterprises and small businesses.
All of these items can be easily purchased online. As a bonus, I’ve partnered with each of these shops to provide exclusive discounts to Many Sparrows readers.
And, at the end of this post, you have a chance to enter to win a Purchase-with-Purpose package that features four of the items in the guide: The African Soapstone Box, ‘Get Them Here’ shirt, Nativity Metal Art, and ‘Salt & Light’ hand-lettered print. Perfect to share with others! (And okay, maybe keep something for yourself!)
Happy shopping, enjoy the gift guide, and merry everything!
1. Ballet Flats: The Root Collective
- What it is: These swoon-worthy Ballet Flats are made in Guatemala by a man named Otto in the slum of La Limonada, Guatemala City. They’re constructed with handwoven cotton fabric upper, made by Mayan women in rural Guatemala. They have a genuine leather lining…and they’re basically a wardrobe staple.
- Why I love it: I actually bought the Mustard Diamond Ballet Flats and I get compliments every time I wear them. They’re comfortable and versatile and nothing like you can get at the mall. (I love the gray fabric adornment on the back of the ankle/heel.) The Root Collective partners with small-scale artisan businesses in marginalized communities to promote change through dignified jobs. Their partner artisans own their own businesses, and set their own pricing. They are often receiving business training through the nonprofits working in their communities and have come to understand how to set their pricing to ensure fair payment to their employees.
- How much: $83. Use special code “SPARROWHOLIDAY” for 10 percent off any purchase from The Root Collective.
- Learn more: The Root Collective has strong nonprofit relationships in the communities where their artisans live. 10% of the profits from each sale is donated back to these nonprofits to support their programs — and when you make your purchase, you get to designate where your 10 percent goes. How cool is that? Each nonprofit has the goal of not being needed one day. (On Instagram? Check out #ottomademyshoes. Also, I’ve teamed up with The Root Collective’s affiliate program, so if you use my link, I will get a small percentage!)
2. Nativity Metal Art: Vi Bella
- What it is: This nativity is handmade out of recycled metal by artisans in Haiti. It’s incredibly detailed, and I love the redemption represented in this piece. What were discarded oil drums are now stunning, intricate pieces of art. It’s truly beauty from the ashes. (15′ x 7.75 Inches)
- Why I love it: I really want this for myself! It’s so detailed and I just love the look of the piece. How amazing to be able to pull it out at Christmastime, and be able to share the many layers of beauty it represents? Vi Bella artisans upcycle discarded plastic and glass bottles, metal bottle caps and paper, transforming them into unique, handmade jewelry and art. They then invest the profit back into the artisans’ communities, which brings the transformation full circle.
- How much: $29.95. Use special code “SPARROW15″ for 15 percent off any Vi Bella purchase. And, for the month of December, you’ll get free shipping with a $50 purchase. (You can win this in the Purchase-with-Purpose giveaway at the end of this post!)
- Learn more: Be sure to shop the 2014 Holiday catalog featuring fabulous holiday jewelry, unique handmade Christmas ornaments and exquisite tin wall hangings and home decor items. Start your Christmas and holiday shopping early to get gifts that give back!
3. The Forever Candle: Prosperity Candle
- What it is: This Amber & Orchid Forever Candle is artfully hand-poured by women artisans building a brighter future. Prosperity Candle employs women refugees, who earn a living wage while practicing the art of candlemaking. This soy-blend candle smells amazing -- I have this scent, and it’s one of my favorites. It has soft florals warmed with rich amber. Bergamot, patchouli, and clary sage complement the gentle orchid top notes.
- Why I love it: The Forever Candle is meant to live again and again, filling your home with light, beauty, and purpose. Whenever your Forever candle burns low, return it for a complimentary refill. How cool is that? All you pay is shipping: $12 to cover your votive’s journey to and from our production studio. Your candle will return to you cleaned, newly poured, and ready to light your world all over again. Your candle comes elegantly gift boxed with the portrait and story of the woman who made it. Illuminating the connection between candle artisan and candle lover. Fill your home with light, beauty and purpose.
- How much: $65. Use special code “manysparrows” for $10 off your purchase until Dec. 21.
- Learn more: Prosperity Candle is a socially conscious company focused on design, fragrance, and stories that brighten your heart and soul. They believe in contributing to the common good, prioritizing purpose over profit, and striving everyday to help end poverty. As a social enterprise, Prosperity Candle works at the intersection of business and philanthropy, seeking sustainable market-based solutions to today’s challenges.
4. The Erica Necklace: Starfish Project
- What it is: The Erica Necklace is a natural stone pendant and gold-toned chain necklace. It’s hypoallergenic, and lead/nickel free. Because Starfish Project uses high quality natural stones, no two necklaces will be exactly the same. (Length is 18.5 inches.)
- Why I love it: This necklace is even more stunning in person. Hard to believe, right? I recently had the chance to have coffee with one of the main leaders of Starfish Project, and I’ll never forget the stories of the women behind Starfish Project in southeast Asia. Starfish Project developed a socially responsible jewelry business in order to provide exploited women in Asia with alternative employment and a range of holistic care services. Starfish Project provides opportunities for women to heal and grow through counseling, vocational training, language acquisition, family education grants and health care access, as well as providing housing in a women’s shelter.
- How much: $34.99, Use special code “IM7MHH2H” for 10 percent off any Starfish Project jewelry until Dec. 26!
- Learn more: The Starfish Project has grown to support 50 women, primarily through the jewelry company where women have taken on new levels of responsibility and leadership, and are able to provide for their families through meaningful employment. After successfully developing a business model and holistic care program, Starfish Project is expanding into other cities in order to help even more women. The Project now operates and offers employment and care to exploited women in 3 different cities in Asia. You can see more of their stunning (and unique) pieces of Fair-Trade jewelry here.
5. Storybook Bunting: December Caravan
- What it is: Custom Storybook Bunting Order. This darling and whimsical handmade bunting (6 ft. long!) is made from vintage Christmas books, mounted on paper and strung together with twine.
- Why I love it: How charming and nostalgic are these? December Caravan gives a portion of all of its proceeds to SEEN Gathering, a chronic illness ministry. One of the programs of SEEN Gathering is the 526 program, which is a free initiative that allows those with chronic illnesses to sign up to receive a crate full of encouraging (and practical items) delivered to them.
- How much: $16. Use special code “manysparrows” for 10 percent off anything in the December Caravan Shop.
- Learn more: December Caravan “matches” a journal and a scripture bunting for every one sold and adds them to the Crate 526 boxes. Another small portion of proceeds goes to Adopt a Platoon.
6. Goat Milk Soap: Sparrow Soaps
- What it is: Thieves Oil Goat Milk Soap would make an awesome stocking stuffer. Goat milk contains over 50 nutrients, minerals, acids and enzymes that help nourish and revitalize dehydrated skin. This handcrafted goat milk soap is made in small batches, and each bar is unique. Sparrow Soaps are always cut into hefty 5-6+ ounce bars.
- Why I love it: Skin gets in the winter months, and I love the natural germ-fighting properties of the essential oils. This soap is infused with an essential oil blend based on research of four thieves, who, during the 15th-century plague, used cloves, rosemary, and other aromatics to protect themselves while robbing plague victims. This “Thieves Oil” blend of clove, lemon, cinnamon, eucalyptus and rosemary essential oils has been used for centuries as a remedy for purifying the air as well as its healing properties internally and externally. Plus, it smells like Christmastime.
- How much: $5. Use special code “manysparrows” for 15 percent off any soap.
- Learn more: Sparrow Soaps was created when two God-loving farm gals decided to join efforts and create awesome soap, made the good old-fashioned way. Sue Barry owns Misty Highland Farm, a small family farm in Connecticut, where they raise Nigerian Dwarf, LaMancha and Mini-LaMancha dairy goats. They strive for correctness in dairy character in raising healthy, friendly goats that will bring many years of usefulness and enjoyment to whomever they find homes with. Michelle Lyon, from Kingdom Kids Family Farm, recently moved with her family to their new 85 acre farm right down the road. Sparrow Soaps help make these ethical farms a reality. I love this quote from Sparrow Soaps: “God takes care of sparrows, the smallest and least valuable of birds. Sparrows were the cheapest commodity sold in the markets as food for the poor … Yet as worthless as sparrows were to people, God watched over them.” Visit SparrowSoaps.com.
7. Beauty in Risk Shirt: Adoption Fundraiser
- What it is: The “There Is Beauty In Risk” graphic design is printed on a marbled maroon Canvas soft short-sleeved t-shirt. The shirt is 91/9 polyester/cotton. T-shirts are unisex and run true to size. (If you find that they’re out of your size, please send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. They’re open to making more!)
- Why I love it: 100 percent of the proceeds go toward my friends Dan and Natalie, and their adoption of twin toddlers from central Africa. Though we’re hoping the 2-year-long process is coming to an end, Dan and Natalie pay each month for the boys to be in foster care instead of an orphanage until the adoption can be completed. This shirt is a beautiful reminder that even in the midst of risk and unknown, there is hope to be found.
- How much: $25. Use special code “MANYSPARROWS” for 10 percent off. (You can win a “Get Them Here” fundraiser shirt in the Purchase-with-Purpose giveaway at the end of this post!)
- Learn more: Visit Natalie’s blog, Little Things Big Stuff, to learn more about their adoption. Buy a shirt here.
8. Salt & Light Print: Heavens to Betsy
- What it is: Drawing inspiration from Matthew 5:13, this print reminds believers that we are called to be salt and light in the world. Frame it, hang it on a wall, use it as a daily reminder! It’s hand-lettered print and printed on high-quality card stock — ready for you to frame or display. Available as an 8.5×11″ or 8X10″ print. Besty is happy to customize font colors for you!
- Why I love it: A portion of all sales goes to support Kingdom-building work around the world through organizations such as The Mocha Club, local and foreign missions, and Project Rescue.
- How much: $15. Use special code “manysparrows” for 10 percent off any item in the shop. (You can win a print in the Purchase-with-Purpose giveaway at the end of this post!)
- Learn more: From prints to scarves, you’ll find a little of everything in the shop, all inspired by the beauty of words and the ability to create. Visit Heavens to Besty Handmade.
9. African Soapstone Box: World Vision
- What it is: New to the 2014 World Vision Gift Catalog, the hand-carved African Soapstone Box is a safe place to store necklaces and rings. Coated in light blue with an image of a giraffe, this ornate box features pretty details that will complement nearly any decor. Donations go toward the Kenyan artisans who crafted the box to help provide medical care for their families.
- Why I love it: Since it began in 1996, the World Vision Gift Catalog has grown in popularity as a gift-giving alternative. Last year alone, more than 822,000 people were helped through the Catalog. More than 250 items, ranging in price from $10 to $39,000, are available online and in the print catalog to help improve quality of life for women, children and families in the U.S. and around the world. Give help where it is needed most and receive handcrafted gifts that are beautiful accessories.
- How much: $85 donation. (You can win this box (which is amazing in person!) in the Purchase-with-Purpose giveaway at the end of this post!)
- Learn more: This year more than 50 percent of holiday shoppers plan to purchase holiday gifts online. Look into new gift ideas that give back with just a few clicks of the mouse from the 2014 World Vision Gift Catalog. To order from World Vision’s Gift Catalog, visit www.worldvisiongifts.org or call 855-WV-GIFTS.
So, who’s ready for a giveaway? I’m so grateful for those who are sharing the love and contributing to a little gift package exclusive to Many Sparrows readers. (Thank you to Heavens to Betsy Handmade, Little Things Big Stuff, World Vision, and Vi Bella!) I’m also adding a gift wrap package from TOMS with 1 sheet of wrapping paper that says “Give Gifts That Matter”, 2 gifts tags, and 4 yards of twine.